We previously covered the story of former Miss Hialeah and Miss Miami Lakes, Vanessa Barcelo. Barcelo was initially arrested for aggravated battery for threatening a man who refused to leave her party after causing a serious disturbance. The state determined that she did not strike anyone with the bat, but proceeded a misdemeanor battery charges as Ms. Barcelo slapped the man at the end of the altercation. After a 9-hour hearing, the court found that the man’s refusal to leave, and since he had taken the bat, meant her fear was justified, and dismissed the case under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
Now Barcelo is suing the cop and the Hialeah Police Department for the arrest, and for propagating the story that she beat hit the guy with a bat. While police are generally immune from suits, this suit alleges that the officer was grossly negligent, and relies on language in the stand your ground statute that compels police to investigate and determine whether there was justification for the force used. Working against the civil defendants is that Barcelo indicates the officer would not even take a statement from her, there were multiple witnesses who stated she had not struck him with the bat, and the alleged victim was drunk, and initiated the incident when he refused to leave her house when it appeared had had attempted to assault her cousin.
One of the less discussed aspects of the stand your ground law is that it is supposed to help prevent charges like the ones on Ms. Barcelo. It is explicit that officers are supposed to do a little more digging, and to be very sure that force was necessary before they make any arrests. They could be in trouble here, in light of the facts and the sloppy investigation. This is one of the rare circumstances where the cop and the police force may face consequences for their wrongful arrest.
Victim Elord Revolte
Federal prosecutors in Miami-Dade have obtained a federal civil-rights violation indictment against former juvenile detention guard Antwan Johnson. After a three-year investigation, authorities found that Johnson used honey buns and other rewards to encourage other juvenile detainees to attack one of the minors being housed there, Elord Revolte, who died from the beating. Johnson faces several federal criminal charges that could result in a sentence of up to life in prison. The Feds apparently picked up the case after the State failed to pursue charges.
Somehow, the Johnson was still working as a guard at the detention facility, as authorities arrested him as he was arriving for work. More troubling, the information in the indictment indicates what the Herald reported months ago: that the bounty system used by Johnson was commonly utilized by other guards as well. Johnson is now charged with violating the civil rights of the young man, resulting in his death. He’s charged with orchestrating the attack on one of the children he was paid to protect. It remains to be seen if there will be action on spate of adult prison deaths that the Herald has similarly covered.
This week the Miami Herald dropped a bombshell on Florida’s juvenile justice system and the Department of Juvenile Justice. They spent two years researching the last 10 years of juvenile justice history to prepare a report they call “Fight Club.” It’s a devastating read.
The Herald found multiple instances of violence against juveniles. Some from the guards, and others from inmates, sometimes at the behest of guards who would reward them with Honey Buns or other items from the commissary. The article points to low pay, inadequate personnel screening and standards, and tolerance for cover-ups. Indeed, Time and again the Herald found that guards involved in the violence, including juvenile death, were not criminally charged (much like the adult guards in the CCI homicide a couple years back.)
One of the facilities highlighted was here in SW Florida, at the Fort Myers Youth Academy. The Herald says the Youth Academy is a microcosm, “steeped in violence and a culture of coercive cover-ups.” It details guards that were hired, even though they’d been fired from previous prison guard jobs for sexual harassment and bribery to hide abuse. It sounds like the troublemakers cited in the report no longer work there, but the account is troubling.
DJJ filed a lengthy response. Unfortunately, the lives lost by years of abuse cannot be brought back, but hopefully a true culture change can prevent such abuses in the future.
Front Page of the Sun Sentinel in 1990
In 1990, Marlene Warren was celebrating her birthday when the door rang and she went to answer it. Standing outside with a person dressed in a clown suit carrying balloons and flowers; apparently in celebration of her birthday.When Marlene reached for the gift, the clown pulled out a gun and shot her. She later passed away from the injuries and detectives began an investigation. They initially looked at Marlene’s husband, as they hear there had been marital difficulties.
The investigation soon centered on Sheila Keen, whom detectives discovered was having an affair with Michael Warren, Marlene’s husband. Not only that, witnesses stated they had seen Ms. Keen buying a clown suit two days before the murder and she was also seen purchasing flowers at Publix. In spite of these connections, detectives did not feel confident that they would be able to prove their case and did not make an arrest, and the case went cold
Sheila Keen Warren mugshot
Fast forward 24 years to 2014, and the Cold Case unit of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department reopened the case to take another look. New technology allowed them to uncover DNA evidence that was able to able to affirmatively link Sheila Keen to the crime. Detectives also discovered that she had since married Michael Warren, and that the two were living together in Tennessee. Detectives arrested Sheila Keen Warren on a warrant for murder this week in Virginia. Her husband was reportedly with her, but has not been charged with anything at this time. Sheila Keen Warren is notably smiling in the mug shot when she got arrest. There is no indication if she gave a statement to law enforcement when she was picked up, but she’s probably impressed to have gotten away with it all these years.
Vanessa Barcelo, the 2017 Miss Miami Lakes that competed in the Miss Florida pageant, had been charged with battery from an incident that occurred at a party at her home several months ago. She hosted a party to promote her baking business, One Love Cakes, and her cousin over-indulged. She and other party-goers became concerned that the DJ was going to take advantage of the cousin, and grouped together to escort him out. That’s when the real trouble started…
Vanessa Barcelo, via facebook
Barcelo said she took an aluminum baseball bat and brandished it to intimidate the DJ, though she never touched him. She says he proceeded to grab the bat out of her hand and swing it around, before he handed it to a community security guard. A friend of Barcelo’s then struck the DJ, knocking him to the ground, at which point Barcelo jumped on top of him and slapped him. She testified in court that she did not know if he still had the bat, and she was afraid for herself and her guests. The court found her actions to be reasonable, and dismissed the battery charges against her.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law gives the Defendant a chance to have their charges dismissed at a hearing prior to having to go to trial. Governor Scott recently signed a new law that shifts the burden to the State to demonstrate they are justified in going forward at that hearing, a change opposed by prosecutors, for obvious reasons. A judge in Miami found the law change to be unconstitutional, but that won’t affect other cases until it is subject to appellate review.
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Miami / South Florida, Stand Your Ground
Tagged baseball, battery, miami, miami lakes, self defense, stand your ground, vanessa barcelo, weirdbattery
Tails Seized by Monroe SO
A Miami man caught with a bunch of undersized lobster tails was arrested and given bond totaling 1.4 million dollars in Monroe County. Now, to be sure, he got caught with a lot (246) of undersized lobsters, and he has actually been caught stealing undersized lobsters before, so this isn’t his first rodeo. Still, a bond as high as the annual salary for an NFL player might be a little on the high side.
Unless this guy, Jorge Vargas, has massive independent wealth (which I doubt, since he’s stealing seafood), this is essentially a no bond hold. The court is directed to take into account a lot of things when setting bond, including his means to pay, his likelihood of showing up to court dates (he’s apparently missed them before), the threat to the community, and prior record. While his record of similar offenses, and especially if he’s missed a court date on criminal charges, would suggest a higher bond, that is an awful lot of zeros to put up there on a fish case. To be entitled to a no bond hold (pretrial detention without bond), the state has to make a showing of the strength of their case, and why no bond could protect the community. There’s no indication that this guy is violent or anything like that, so the bond is likely too high under Florida law.
This case may be ripe for a habeas corpus, essentially an appeal to the higher court to order the lower court to reevaluate the bond on the case. Even if he gets the bond lowered, it will still be relatively high due to his record, and the volume of lobster he had taken. And even if he can post bond, that’s just to assure his presence in court… he may be facing some substantial incarceration if he is ultimately convicted of 246 counts of possession of undersized lobsters!