Category Archives: Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL

Murder Trial Underway for Babysitter Accused of Murdering Child

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Rafael Carrion

Jury selection started this morning in Fort Myers in the trial of Rafael Carrion, accused in the death of a neighbor’s child that was in his care. He told investigators that the child must have fallen or something, but the injuries were severe and consistent with a violent beating. We broke the news that Carrion had just been released from prison at the time he was arrested. The child’s father told Fox 4 that he felt the mother should have been arrested, too… but there is no indication that she has been charged. Carrion is charged with second degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse, and is facing life in prison.

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Alleged Cop-Killer Desmaret Indicted for First Degree Murder

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Wisner Desmaret

A grand jury has returned an indictment for First Degree Murder against Wisner Desmaret, the man accused of killing FMPD Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller. A grand jury indictment is a necessary step in Florida to proceed on First Degree Murder charges, and may be the next step toward the state seeking the death penalty. The grand jury found evidence that he killed Jobbers-Miller with premeditated design or in the course of committing a violent felony (resisting an officer with violence), in addition to additional charges of Resisting with Violence, Robbery, Depriving an Officer of Means of Protection, Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault on other officers, and Burglary and Grand Theft. The police report indicates that Wisner, a former boxer, knocked Jobbers-Miller down, took his gun, and shot him in the head while he was still on the ground. He then fired at two other officers, one of whom shot Wisner before he was taken into custody.

Wisner is set for arraignment on August 27, though that may be moved up, since the indictment has been filed. Chief Assistant State Attorney Amira Fox was the prosecutor who obtained the indictment, and will likely be handling the case.

What to know about the Chris Crowley Arrest

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Crowley: in flagrante delicto

State Attorney Candidate Chris Crowley was arrested and charged with two felonies yesterday. He’s trying to mislead on what that means. Here’s what you need to know:

Crowley committed a crime… two, actually. His offenses were on tape. He has admitted guilt for his crimes. One charge was for holding a raffle: only registered non-profits can hold raffles. The other was for illegally soliciting campaign funds. That’s why Crowley went to jail.

There is no law enforcement corruption here, quite the opposite. The local State Attorney did not handle the case, so there would be no conflict. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) handled the investigation, and the State Attorney’s office for the 10th Judicial Circuit (out of Bartow), handled the prosecution decisions and the negotiations. When Crowley claims corruption, he is lying.

The amount of money does not matter. The crime was not how much money he raised, but that he solicited it and raised it illegally.

It is also irrelevant that he gave the money back. The robber is not exonerated if he gives back the purse when he is caught. This is a mitigating factor, but it does not excuse the fact that he committed two felonies. Nor is it a defense that the illegal raffle was done ‘in good faith.’ It is the duty of the candidate to follow the campaign laws.

Crowley says “Amira Fox had me arrested.” That is also a lie. He was arrested because he committed felonies. The office that Ms. Fox works for, the State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit, did not handle the case. Crowley has provided zero evidence that Ms. Fox had anything to do with his arrest. Crowley says he wants to be tough on crime, but he does not want to be truthful about his own crime that put him in jail today.

Finally, the case has not already been ‘effectively dismissed’ with just a fine. Crowley has signed a pretrial diversion contract. That means that when he completes certain requirements, the charges will be dropped… but it hasn’t happened yet. He likely will be supervised by the State Probation department for at least six months, in addition to fines and other financial obligations. This is a common resolution for a first time offender. It does not suggest that the charges are not appropriate, but that Crowley is getting a break since he doesn’t have any history. He’s lucky that the 10th Circuit prosecutors did not try to make a “tough on crime” example out of him.

Chris Crowley Arrested! Charged with Felonies

  • Chris Crowley has just been arrested for two felonies for his campaign activities.
  • Crowley is running for State Attorney.
  • Crowley has been stating his will be tough on crime.
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Crowley, illegally selling raffle tickets

NBC-2 is reporting that State Attorney Candidate Chris Crowley has been arrested and charged with two felonies. A warrant was issued and Crowley turned himself in. We covered the alleged illegal activity several weeks ago on Crimcourts. The case is going to be handled by another circuit prosecutor, due to the possible conflict of interest. He is charged with operating a lottery and violating campaign law.

Crowley was seen at a campaign fundraiser promoting 50/50 raffle tickets to raise money for his campaign. He later posted the video of the activity himself, which is an illegal lottery and a campaign violation. When interviewed by NBC-2, he admitted the 50/50 raffle, and said he didn’t deposit the money. For the record, ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially for someone running to be the chief law enforcement officer.

Our previous story on Crowley’s illegal campaign activity is here, and we did a story on reports of his incompetence as a prosecutor here.

 

The First ‘Lake Boyz’ Racketeering Trial is drawing to a Close

Closing arguments are under way in the Racketeering trial of four men who are allegedly members of the “Lake Boyz” gang that have been charged as part of a major organized crime case in Fort Myers. There are so many co-defendants, that the court decided to separate them into multiple trials, and the first group is facing trial, four men, who all have trafficking charges, and one of them has additional drug sale charges. To prove racketeering, that is “RICO”, similar to the type of case that you might see from a mob or other organized crime prosecution, the State has to prove that there is an ongoing criminal operation, and that each of the defendants committed crimes in furtherance of that ongoing criminal operation.

The challenge for prosecutors, which was apparent from the initial warrants in the present case, is that while the State can prove that these defendants have committed prior crimes, there is a challenge in proving that the crimes were in furtherance of the criminal prosecution. Some of the prior offenses are as insignificant as marijuana possession, and it’s hard to demonstrate that simple possession is in furtherance of a criminal enterprise. A lot of crimes can be in furtherance of a criminal episode: drug sales, stealing for profit, violence to support gang activities: the challenge for the state is to prove to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt that these crimes were committed in furtherance of the criminal activity.

Many times to make that showing, the government will use an informant. Sometimes they are able to embed an undercover agent into the criminal enterprise, which is nice as they are generally able to give more credible testimony (think Donnie Brasco). However, that’s difficult, dangerous and expensive. Other times, the government will rely on a criminal informant, who may be willing to cooperate due to facing their own criminal charges, or because they are being paid for their assistance. Either way, informants can be less reliable witnesses, but they can be important for the state to prove that there is a criminal enterprise, and that crimes were committed in furtherance of the enterprise… in this case, a gang.

The State utilized several informants in their case against the alleged Lake Boyz on trial the last three weeks. However, the testimony of the informants was not as strong as they likely would have hoped. Listening to the closing arguments, it sounds like they denied knowledge of any of the Defendants being in the gang, working for the gang, taking orders from the gang, or doing things for the benefit of the gang. The State flipped one of the co-defendants as one of their informants, and he denied being a gang member. I didn’t get to see all the evidence, and I’m not on the jury, but the State has a big hurdle to clear in this case, in spite of the gang signs and rap videos. They have a problem trying to prove the enterprise, and the furtherance of the enterprise, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Closing arguments will wrap up this evening, and then it will be in the jury’s hands. I’m sure they will try to wrap it up tonight, but the judge has indicated he’s willing to come back over the weekend to finish the trial.

Reports: Chris Crowley was an Incompetent Prosecutor

  • Crowley was fired for poor performance at the State Attorney’s Office.
  • Crowley was also asked to resign from the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office when he lost the confidence of law enforcement.
  • Now Crowley is running to lead the State Attorney’s Office.

The Naples Daily news and News-Press have obtained public record information about State Attorney Candidate Chris Crowley from his time at that agency, and at the Statewide Prosecutor’s office, and the records do not paint a good picture. Crowley was asked to leave Statewide after numerous complaints, including concerns from experienced detectives about his competence on the job. Office head George Richards, who is now a circuit judge, expressed concern to his supervisor in Tampa that Crowley’s poor performance on the job would harm the office’s good working relationship with local law enforcement. He said the general consensus among law enforcement was that “Crowley did not inspire a lot of confidence as a prosecutor.”

The paper also obtained documents from his personnel file from his days working for current State Attorney Stephen Russell. According to a note in his personnel file, he was dismissed for poor performance. Another website has anonymously published additional information purporting to be from Crowley’s personnel file that his supervisor found that his trial preparation was poor, his understanding of the law deficient, even in the specific area he was assigned, and that he was difficult to work with, prior to his being let go for failing to meet the expectation and standards of the office for an attorney of his tenure.

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Crowley selling raffle tickets

The “This is Chris” website, was anonymously published, but Patrick Riley’s reporting has verified much of it. Further, the court documentation referred to is verifiable, and the other documents appear to be legitimate copies from public record inquiries. There growing line of serious questions about Crowley’s competence as a prosecutor. The new complaints follow the concerns about his judgment that we have previously covered, when he may have committed a felony and campaign violations at a fund raiser. These are all red flags that indicate Crowley is not a good candidate to be the top law enforcement officer for Southwest Florida.

 

State is Seeking the Death Penalty Against Murdering Granny, Lois Reiss

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Lois Riess at Lee County Jail

The state has filed their notice that they intend to seek the death penalty against Lois Reiss, who allegedly befriended then killed a fellow tourist on Fort Myers Beach. Reiss was wanted in relation to the death of her husband in Minnesota (though at the time, only theft charges had been filed), and it is alleged that she targeted a woman who resembled her so she could steal her identity as she evaded authorities. She is alleged to have killed that woman, stolen her car, and was eventually captured in Texas.

It is not surprising that the State is seeking the death penalty, as they had obtained an indictment for first degree murder a few weeks ago. That is a precursor for seeking the death penalty. Further, the allegations include some aggravating factors, for instance, alleging that the murder was for pecuniary gain and was done to aid the flight from another crime. CNN picked up the latest story, as ‘Losing Streak Lois’ as garnered some national attention, both for the dramatic crime, and the nickname she was given by U.S. Marshall’s for her gambling habit.