Category Archives: Florida Cases

The Jimmy Rodgers Trial is Underway, Opening Statements were this Morning

Jimmy Ray Rodgers

Jimmy Rodgers, one of three men charged with the murder of Dr. Teresa Sievers in her Bonita Springs home in 2015 is on trial in Fort Myers. Jury selection began last Monday, and this morning the attorneys gave their opening statements. The State argues that Rodgers traveled here with Curtis Wayne Wright, who had allegedly been hired by the third Defendant Mark Sievers, Teresa’s husband. There’s substantial evidence to show that Rodgers and Wright traveled to Southwest Florida together from Missouri, and that they were here when Sievers was beaten to death in her home.

Curtis Wayne Wright has already pled guilty to his involvement, and agreed to serve 25 years in prison in exchange for his testimony for the state. That’s obviously something that the Defense will attack as to his credibility. Further, he gave several differing statements, at least eight, according to the Defense in their opening statement. The challenge will be for the State to use Wright to prove not just that Rodgers was present, but that he participated in the crime. The State also plans to use the testimony of Rodgers’ then girlfriend, to whom Rodgers allegedly admitted to killing Dr. Sievers. However, Rodgers’ girlfriend has been paid by the state about $400 per month for the four years since the crime, so the Defense will attack her credibility as well.

Crime Scene tech Van Waus testifying

The Defense conceded in opening that Rodgers traveled to Fort Myers with Wright, but deny that he was involved in the conspiracy with Mark Sievers to commit the murder. The State’s only evidence that directly ties Rodgers to the murder itself is the testimony of Curtis Wright. Not only is there a strong attack on Wright’s credibility, but Wright admitted that he was the first to attack Sievers. He says only after he struck her a couple times did Rodgers jump in to actually kill her. Wright’s testimony will be must-see viewing. Rodgers faces the death penalty, as does Mark Sievers.

Casey Anthony Breaks her Silence

casey anthony

Casey Anthony in Court

Casey Anthony spoke publicly for the first time about her case, in which she was accused and acquitted at trial in the death of her infant daughter, Caylee. The case and trial were  media sensation, not just here in Florida, but across the country. She gave a multi-part interview to the AP, which really leaves more questions than it answers. It sounds like she has not maintained a relationship with her parents (her attorney suggested at trial that her father may have been responsible for the death of her child), and she has been living in West Palm Beach, working for the investigator that worked on the case.

 

This is the second time she’s been in the news lately. Last week, Hon. Belvin Perry, the retired judge who had presided over the case and trial, was in the news prognosticating that she may have tried to give the baby chloroform and accidentally caused her death. He concluded it was accidental, in light of no evidence of abuse of the child. That’s just his best-guessing after the fact though, there are no definitive answers as to the real reason for the tragic death of Caylee Anthony.

Curtis Wayne Wright Booked in Lee County Jail, 1st Suspect in the Theresa Sievers Murder

Curtis Wayne Wright's Lee County Mug Shot

Curtis Wayne Wright’s Lee County Mug Shot

Curtis Wayne Wright was booked into the Lee County Jail last night, and is being held without bond. He was recently extradited from Missouri to face charges in the murder of Dr. Theresa Sievers, who was found killed in her Bonita Springs home, June 29. The other suspect who has been charged, Jimmy Rodgers, is serving a Federal violation of probation sentence, and will be brought down to Florida after he completes that sentence.

Wright’s arraignment is set November 16, though all that will happen then is he will enter a not guilty plea. In the meantime, the state could call a grand jury to consider an indictment for First Degree Murder, if the evidence supports it: which could lead to a possible death sentence. Sometime after the arraignment, the discovery will be released, which will finally make more of the details public record.

My Thoughts on the Baby Chance Investigation

I spoke with Fox4 in Fort Myers the other day with some thoughts on the investigation to the missing infant from North Port, and the challenges the prosecutors will face in proving a case against the parents.

North Port parents Joseph Walsh and Kristen Bury

North Port parents Joseph Walsh and Kristen Bury

So far, the parents have been charged with Child Neglect, but investigators will certainly continue their investigation to see if more charges are appropriate. They may decide to file homicide charges if the determine Baby Chance was killed: but they have a proof problem not only proving who is responsible for the death, but that the child is even deceased. The parents will be extradited soon to return to Florida on the Neglect charges.

There are a lot of parallels between this case and the Casey Anthony case that went to trial a few years ago. While she was charged before they found a body, even after they found a body, she was acquitted at trial. It’s too early to tell what will happen here, as we don’t even know what happened to the Baby Chance.

The story on Fox4: http://www.scrippsmedia.com/fox4now/news/Attorney-sheds-light-on-investigation-into-the-disappearance-of-baby-Chance-331846751.html

Florida Supreme Court Examines Stand Your Ground Procedure

The Florida Supreme Court heard a case on Tuesday that takes a novel look at the Stand Your Ground Law. The current status of the law is that a defendant can file a motion for immunity, and will be entitled to a hearing on it. At that hearing, the burden is on the Defendant to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he was justified and therefore immune from prosecution. It’s an evidentiary hearing, with witnesses subject to cross examination, evidence, and argument. It very much resembles a trial without a jury.

The law currently places the burden on the Defendant to demonstrate his immunity. Jared Bretherick’s attorneys argued this week that the burden should not be on the Defendant, rather it should be up to the state to demonstrate that the Defendant is not immune from prosecution. It’s an interesting procedural argument. For comparison, when a Defendant raises a motion to suppress based on an illegal sesarch or seizure, the burden is on the state to prove that there was legal justification for the intrusion. However, the current procedure has been in effect for a few years now, and the court may choose not to disturb it. It may be several weeks before the court issues a ruling. Bretherick faces prison for the Aggravated Assault charge, but still has a right to fight the case at trial if the appeal is unsuccessful. Ironically, it appears the alleged victim has previously served a prison sentence for a road rage incident.

The lower, District Court ruling can be found here: http://www.5dca.org/Opinions/Opin2013/102813/5D12-3840.op.pdf

 

Has FWC Been Lying to US About Alligator Harassment Laws?

  • The Haligator, Hal Kreitman, the Alligator Whisperer, arrested
  • FWC is misrepresenting the law regarding alligator harassment
  • The Alligator Whisperer should not be facing a felony
Alligator Warning Sign

Alligator Warning Sign

FWC, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Comission, has been telling everyone for years that it is illegal to harass alligators, Florida’s official state reptile. Signs like the one on the left warn people against feeding or molesting (which means to bother them, not in a sexual context). So it came as no surprise a week or so ago when FWC arrested Hal Kreitman, the “Haligator”, the self-proclaimed ‘Alligator Whistperer’ for “harassment of a protected species” according to their press release on Facebook. However, after a review of the laws related to Alligator protection; I’m not sure that FWC is right about the charges they have leveled.

Hal "Haligator" Kreitman, courtesy FWC

Hal “Haligator” Kreitman, courtesy FWC

Who is the Alligator Whisperer? According to a profile by Kyle Swenson of the new times, “Florida’s Best Alligator Whisperer is a Sex-Partying, Bodybuilding Felonious Chiropractor.” Having been convicted of multiple counts of fraud related to an insurance-fraud scheme at the chiropractor’s office where he worked, Mr. Kreitman was in a low place when he ventured out into the Everglades and decided to get close to alligators. He started interacting with them, and then began advertising an “Alligator Experience“, where he would take tourists out into the Everglades for an exceptionally close encounter with wildlife. Unfortunately for him, the ads and media coverage caught FWC’s attention, and he was arrested after an undercover operation, as documented by the local CBS affiliate.

Kreitman has been charged, among other things, with a felony, under the statute prohibiting “Illegal killing, possessing, or capturing of alligators…” Here’s the problem… he did not kill, injure, possess, or capture any alligators, nor attempt to do so. FWC thinks that “harrasing” alligators is a crime, but it’s not according to the statutes. FWC claims in its “case of the week” press release that interacting with alligators “in this manner in the wild is considered harassment of a protected species, and it is illegal under Florida Statute.” Except, it’s not. The law does not say what FWC claims it says. The statute is written to prevent poaching of alligators, at no point does it say anything about the “harassment” of alligators. The FWC wants the law to read how they interpret it, but the plain language does not prohibit interacting with alligators, and the State has improperly charged Mr, Kreitman with a felony. The FWC is wrong, and they have been misleading us the whole time.

There is a separate law against feeding alligators, or enticing them with food. So far I haven’t read any news reports that indicate that anyone saw the alligators being fed. Reports indicate that a quantity of raw meat was found in Mr. Kreitman’s vehicle, though Mr. Kreitman has indicated on his Alligator Experience Facebook page that there was no warrant when the vehicle was searched. Another violation of Mr. Kreitman’s rights by FWC, who apparently is not that up to speed on either the alligator statutes or the Constitution. The feeding alligator charge is only a second degree misdemeanor, the lowest level of criminal offense… much less serious than a felony.

Haligator in Action, via his Facebook page

Haligator in Action, via his Facebook page

Mr. Kreitman has apparently responded on his Facebook page, “if there’s anybody that thinks I did anything wrong legally or not please express your opinion. FWC keep your dukes up because we’re going to have a fight and you’re going to lose you drummed upl malicious charges. intent to kill capture or possess an alligator and or its eggs you have nothing to charge me laugh but make up one charge give me an ROR on that and laughed at it too..you don’t realize I’m doing good out there but I can’t wait to see you in court so I know you’re reading this I love how you said you had an intense sting operation I was expecting you you didn’t think I knew that girl that called me wasn’t one of you.”

The government has sought to revoke Mr. Kreitman’s bond based on the charges, but according to his attorney, Ed Salantrie, the judge has not revoked it at this time. Kreitman also spoke to Sky News, and denied doing anything wrong. Even Good Morning America has gotten in on the story. After reading the felony statute, and not the FWC ‘company line’ claim that harassment is a crime, I have to disagree with FWC. The felony charge appears to be wrongly filed.

For more info:

  • check out the original bio: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2014/10/hal_kreitman_is_having_a.php
  • Definitely read and watch the CBS story: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2014/10/31/journey-into-the-everglades-with-the-alligator-whisperer/
  • And Mr. Kreitman, the Haligator, has been updating responses on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gatorexpierence
  • The FWC has resources, but check out the actual alligator statutes, which FWC has conveniently compiled here: http://myfwc.com/media/1531908/alligator_rules_booklet.pdf

Now, even though the law may not prohibit interacting with alligators, it is still a bad idea. When alligators lose their fear of humans, they are more likely to approach, and become more dangerous. The next person who comes along could be more likely to be attacked, it might be some kid, and the alligator could end up being destroyed. Also, alligators are dangerous and you could lose a body part, or as they say on Gator Boys, you “could be consumed (consumed means eaten.)” Please enjoy our wildlife at a distance.

Dane Eagle’s Arrest Video was Released

Dane Eagle's Arrest

Dane Eagle’s Arrest

I missed these reports when they came out last week, but a couple of news outlets have obtained the arrest video from Dane Eagle’s recent charge; Tallahassee.com has put the whole video online. Neither of them show much, as Eagle refused to participate in field sobriety exercises. The driving pattern is pretty bad, nearly striking the curb several times, and absolutely blowing a red light. Of course, Eagle could have been distracted, possible by the tasty Taco Bell *Gordita he had just purchased [*I don’t know what, if anything, he really got at Taco Bell.]

You can’t see Eagle while the cop is talking to him. He actually denies drinking twice, and blames the odor of alcohol on people that had been in his car. The cop does stand him in front of the camera to go through his pockets, and he does not noticeably sway or stagger. There’s nothing on camera after the stop to support impairment, though he doesn’t sound great. It is a typical double refusal case, which is difficult for prosecutors to prove, as the evidence is fairly limited.

I did not know that legislators got special plates for their cars. The officer notes it right at the beginning of his stop. These prestige plates ensure that any legislator who is stopped has made the officer aware of his political position. Must be nice, but it clearly didn’t have any impact on this officer.

full video here: http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20140502/NEWS01/140502006/Video-released-Rep-Dane-Eagle-s-DUI-arrest

NBC-2 has a ‘highlights’ video: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/25417103/cape-state-rep-dane-eagles-arrest-caught-on-dashcam