Lee County ran an undercover prostitution sting over the weekend and picked up a hooker… Brianna Hooker. There were 14 more arrests from the operation, in addition to Ms. Hooker. The undercover detective invited her to a location where he was staying, whereupon she agreed to have sex with him, then asked if she could smoke up before she performed for him. She has an extensive history of drugs and theft related offenses, and is facing drug possession charges as well as a violation of her earlier probation for this new charge. As is so often the case, the drug abuse likely led to the theft and prostitution as she tried to feed her addiction. That’s likely the case for several of the co-defendants from this operation.
Diana Alvarez, still missing
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has filed additional charges against Jorge Guerrero, but not yet for her disappearance. LCSO has filed additional sexual felony offenses against Mr. Guerrero, which are based on the charges for child pornography for which he was convicted in Federal court. Undersheriff Carmine Marceno spoke at a press conference this afternoon, and stated that investigators feel confident that Guerrero was involved in her disappearance, but they are going to continue to investigate. There are two very good reasons for them not to rush kidnapping or murder charges: First, Guerrero was tried and convicted in Federal Court, and has now been sentenced to 40 years in prison. He’s not going anywhere, there’s no need to rush. Second, once he is arrested, the clock starts running for his speedy trial right, and LCSO does not want to give him an out. LCSO indicates they are still investigating the disappearance of Diana Alvarez, and Marceno says he expects more charges to be filed.
The search still continues for Diana Alvarez, but as time goes, it is increasingly unlikely that she will be safely returned. At this point, it is not clear if kidnapping or murder charges are appropriate, and hope remains. Meanwhile, the investigation continues. Marceno indicated the LCSO Detectives are going to speak to Guerrero this afternoon, potentially finding a loophole in that since his Federal case is closed, that he does not currently have an attorney appointed. Whether or not he says anything actionable, remains to be seen.
- Prosecutors have indicated an intention to seek the death penalty
- Mark Sievers’ attorneys will need assistance
Mark Sievers was back in court last week, as the court considered whether his attorneys can stay on the case. The judge ruled that they can, for now, but they will need to get assistance from an attorney who is qualified to handle death penalty cases. Florida law requires that an attorney working on a death penalty has special qualifications to do so, including previously working on a death penalty trial as second chair to a death-qualified attorney, and neither Mr. Faga nor Mr. Mummert has that qualification. However, they indicated to the court last week that they have been in contact with the death penalty unit, which has agreed to help out. Judge Kyle has agreed to let them stay on the case at this time (provisionally).
Jimmy Rodgers, “The Hammer”
Co-defendant Jimmy Rodgers, aka “The Hammer”, was also in court for a case management hearing as well. He is represented by attorney’s for the public defender’s office, who indicated that they are in a holding pattern due to the concern over the qualifications of Sievers’ attorneys. Normally, it would be time to start setting depositions at this time, but it’s important to have a death-qualified attorney, as there are specific death-penalty inquiries that need to be undertaken. For instance, a few years ago a local attorney took over a case that had been handled by a non-qualified attorney, and had to redo many of the depositions to cover additional issues. That’s a waste of time and resources that judge Kyle is being cautious to avoid.
How did we get here? After the third co-defendant, Curtis Wright, pled out to his second-degree murder charge, he gave a proffer (statement) regarding his involvement. Mark Sievers was charged after the State gained Wright’s cooperation. Subsequently, the State presented the case to a grand jury and obtained an indictment for first degree murder. This process is necessary before they can seek the death penalty. The state then filed their notice of the intent to seek the death penalty. Sievers’ attorneys have filed a motion to strike the notice of intent (alleging untimeliness, but the state contends it was filed in a timely manner under the law.) There are many other pretrial issues that remain to be decided, and much investigation and depositions to be done.
Another issue is the validity of the Death Penalty in Florida. The Supreme Court invalidated the procedure for the death penalty, and the legislature promulgated a new law for the procedure. That law was invalidated by a couple judges, but it was reinstated on appeal. The issue will reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, and it may end up going back to the Supreme Court of the United States. Florida heard arguments in June, but has yet to rule.
Mark Sievers & Jimmy Rodgers
Yesterday the State Attorney’s office filed a notice that they intend to seek the death penalty against Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers and Mark Sievers for the death of Sievers’ wife Theresa. That the state intends to seek the death penalty is not altogether surprising, as there are potentially several aggravating factors present that could justify the death penalty if proven, including the brutal nature of the killing, that it was premeditated, and that it was done for financial gain. On the other hand, the State has been unsuccessful in the last several attempts to seek the death penalty in Lee County.
To further complicate matters, the death penalty is very much in flux in Florida. Florida just amended its death penalty procedure, after the previous procedure was rejected by the Supreme Court in the Hurst decision. The new procedure, which increases the number of jurors that must vote to recommend the death penalty to 10 of 12, instead of unanimously, has already been rejected by some circuit-level judges. That matter will certainly be reviewed by the State Supreme Court.
This also means that Mark Sievers will have to get another attorney on his legal team, as his current lawyers are not death-penalty qualified. They can still represent him, but he will need a death penalty lawyer to join the team. Also keep in mind, the State has flipped Siever’s friend Curtis Wright to have him testify in the other prosecutions.
Jimmy Rodgers, “The Hammer”
Mark Sievers and Jimmy Rodgers, who were recently indicted for 1st degree murder charges in the death of Dr. Theresa Sievers, had their most substantive court date so far on the criminal cases. Today’s hearing is a Case Management conference, basically a scheduling hearing to determine the progress of the case going forward. Sievers’ attorney waived speedy trial, and continued the case a couple months out- to July. Rodgers attorneys, however, declined to waive speedy trial yet, as no all of the evidence collected has been disclosed yet. The state indicated their investigators are still going through it. Rodgers is set for a pretrial conference next month: it is still likely his case will also be continued beyond that date, but the evidence is so voluminous that it hasn’t all been processed.
The 1st degree murder indictment means that the state can seek the death penalty. The judge asked the prosecutor if that was a possibility, and he indicated that they are still considering all options. That means they may decide to seek the death penalty. That’s a decision for a later date.
UPDATE: Mark Sievers has been arrested for the murder of his wife, Dr. Theresa Sievers.
A warrant for the arrest of Mark Sievers was issued this afternoon. NBC-2 reports that deputies are at his home, now. Curtis Wayne Wright, one of two men charged in the murder of Dr. Theresa Sievers, entered a plea earlier today to second-degree murder, and prosecutors agreed to a 25-year sentence. The timing is likely not a coincidence, as Wright’s plea may have freed him up to talk to investigators… and that may have been the final evidence they needed to link Mark Sievers to the murder of his wife. We don’t have any details yet, but that is a very logical chain of events: the arrest on the same day as the plea deal is almost certainly related.
Jimmy Rodgers, the other man charged, just arrived in Lee County this week to face the charges, after being extradited from Missouri, where he was picked up.
The News-Press is reporting that Mark Sievers has been arrested, and that there is a substantial assistance (testifying) component to Curtis Wright’s plea deal.
Former Lee County Deputy Michael Ronga was sentenced this week to six years in Federal prison (he also worked for Fort Myers PD, at an earlier time). He was convicted at trial a few weeks ago for beating an robbing man he had given a ride while he was on duty in his patrol vehicle. Prosecutors pushed for 10 years, which was in line with sentencing guidelines, though the court opted to go below the guideline sentence and he was only given the six years. His attorneys argued for home confinement. The sentence was surprisingly forgiving, in light of the breach of trust to the community for it to happen by an on-duty officer.
Posted in Bonita Springs / Southwest Florida, Criminal Law, Federal, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Police
Tagged badcops, federal, fmpd, lcso, michael ronga, robbery, theft