Howell Donaldson III
The state has charged Howell “Trai” Donaldson III with four counts of murder for a string of killings in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa in the last few weeks. The State then subpoenaed his parents, Howell Donaldson, Jr. and Rosita Donaldson, to ask them about his history, including criminal, mental health and so forth. His parents, who were concerned that the State may try to use any evidence they provided to put their son to death, refused to answer the State’s questions or to cooperate. While the concerns may be sympathetic, there is no parental privilege applicable in this circumstance.
The State moved to hold them in contempt, and a hearing was held today in court. The Judge ruled that they would have to comply with the subpoena and to testify. He has given them until January 5, 2018 to answer the prosecutors questions or risk being found in contempt of court, which could include jail time.
This is fascinating, from a legal perspective, and the first time I’ve seen something like it. They were lawfully served with a subpoena (probably an Instanter), and the judge probably correctly orders them to comply under the law. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The serial murders he is charged with are shocking, as four seemingly unconnected, innocent people were killed. The young man accused was a college graduate who was apparently polite, even with the cops that arrested him. This case will be in the headlines for some time.
Posted in 10-20-Life, 8th Amendment - Bail and Punishment, Criminal Law, Florida, Tampa Bay area
Tagged contempt, howell donaldson iii, murder, privilege, seminole heights, serial killer, subpoena, tampa
In the last month, a circuit court in Tampa held a Stand Your Ground hearing on the case of Curtis Reeves, a retired police officer. Reeves shot and killed a man named Chad Oulson after a heated argument in a movie theater. There is some dispute about the factual details, but the general case is based on an argument that began verbally, but became physical. The two exchanged words, and at some point, Oulson snatched a bag of popcorn out of Reeves’ hand, and threw it back at him. Defense lawyers allege that he also threw a phone at Reeves. Reeves pulled out a handgun and shot Oulson: CNN has the surveillance video of the incident.
The court held about two weeks of testimony. In her ruling, the judge found some of Reeves’ testimony to be contradicted by the evidence, and questioned his veracity. Under the current iteration of the Stand Your Ground law, the burden is on the Defendant to prove up his motion, but that could be changed down the road. Reeves can still argue that he was justified in defending himself to a jury, if he can convince them that he reasonably thought he was in fear of death or great bodily harm. Generally speaking, that’s hard to show when the other party is unarmed… Reeves brought a gun to a popcorn fight. Given that he’s in his 70s, I fully expect this case to end up going to trial, though it could still be a while.
- It was a real Shuffle-scuffle!
- 81-year Old charged with Battery
Herbert Hayden- 81
Herbert Hayden, 81, a resident of St. Petersburg, got in an altercation at the Pinellas Park senior center over a game of shuffleboard and was charged with battery. Police allege Hayden struck another man, and that both of their sticks, or cues, as they are known amongst shufflers, were damaged. Unfortunately for prosecutors, officers indicate the “weapons” were not seized for evidence. I do not know how old the victim was, but if he is over 65, Mr. Hayden could potentially be facing a felony for battery on a senior citizen. I have seen prosecutors charge the felony on other senior citizens, but hopefully cooler heads will prevail.
This is the first charge I have seen using a shuffleboard cue as a weapon! #weirdbattery #graymenace
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Gray Menace, Tampa Bay area, Uncategorized
Tagged battery, cue, gray menace, herbert hayden, only in florida, shuffleboard, st. petersburg, weirdbattery
Authorities in Clearwater got a tip that a Pinellas County inmate, Scott Lambert, was trying to dig out of his jail cell. When they searched, they found that he had in fact started a hole under his bunk, though it was only 6 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep. He was quite a way from Shawshanking out of there like Andy Dufresne.
Only in Florida! The Tampa Bay Times already trumped me with the best possible headling to this story: “They must have been trashed.” Then, “When you wake up trapped in the back of a garbage truck, it’s a good time to review some of your life decisions.” Hope they had a good time!
Thanks @ErinOnTV for pointing this one out!
DOC photo of Debra LaFave
You may remember the story of Debra LaFave, the Tampa area teacher who got busted for sexual relations with a 14-year-old boy. She made a lot of headlines in part for being awfully attractive. Even her probation photos look good. She ultimately pled out to a couple of counts, convicted as a sex offender, and was sentenced to 10 years of supervision: 3 years of Community Control followed by 7 years of sex offender probation.
In her plea deal, she had stipulated that she would not apply for early termination of her probation. Yet, with several years remaining, she filed a motion to ask the judge to terminate her supervision early. In spite of the stipulation, the judge agreed to terminate her, and the state appealed.
Debra LaFave, via DOC
The Second District Court of Appeals overturned the judge’s order, but certified the question to the Supreme Court of Florida: which means they asked the Supreme Court to review it. The Supreme Court overturned that decision, 5-2, in an opinion released yesterday. The Court’s reasoning relied on jurisdiction: basically that the State does not have the right to ask for a review of a judge’s decision to terminate probation. While it seems incongruous to allow an early termination when it has been bargained away, that is not inconsistent with case law that that grants great deference to judges on how to handle probationers in front of them. The will end Ms. LaFave’s legal case, but she will still be required to report as a sex-offender for many years.
Florida Supreme Court Opinion: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2014/sc12-2232.pdf
A few weeks ago, I posted about what I believe to be the dirtiest trick utilized by law enforcement in their poorly-run internet sting operations: using pictures of OLDER decoys to supposedly catch pedophiles. I have personally seen cases where decoys of legal age were used to entice would-be consenting adults. I got an email yesterday that in another sting operation, in Orange County, agents were using images of decoys as old as 25 to entice their targets. I wish I could say that I was surprised. The sad truth is they claim to be chasing pedophiles, but they are using adults to lure people. There’s nothing wrong with meeting a 25-year-old on the internet, it’s the lie they slip in claiming the decoy is much younger that they use to arrest the sucker. While we don’t want adults traveling to meet underage children, our law enforcement resources are being misspent if we are pursuing people who are not actually looking to meet underage partners. The reality is even more harsh, as Florida’s draconian sentencing laws often don’t fit the crime. (See Marissa Alexander re: 10/20/Life)
Here’s a link to the image of the 25-year-old decoy: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzLomEB8bi2PTjZra3gtSFRyc0E/edit
Commentors have pointed me to the governingus.com blog that specifically follows these cases. It’s worth checking and they recently linked to a story out of Tampa by a reporter who really does some journalism and challenges the authorities. Noah Pransky used to work in the Fort Myers market, before moving on to a bigger market. We’ve linked to his stories on before on crimcourts, when he did a great expose on misuse of red light ticketing. Imagine that, the Fourth Estate keeping an eye on government intrusion.
Pransky, who is not on the defense side, unlike the author of this blog, says it perfectly, “Law enforcement may have crossed the line in going after some men who weren’t breaking the law at all.” He continues, “While many of those arrested will ultimately get well-deserved time behind bars, even if a few men were wrongly targeted by officers who were abusing their power, that’s too many victims. Those men will never be able to fully clear their names, even if their found not guilty, which is why we’re fighting for transparency, and your right to know that police aren’t engaging in entrapment.”
That reporting is especially important as the government goes further and further to invade our lives, and to keep secrets from our citizens: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/feds-seize-stingray-documents/
Posted in 10-20-Life, Criminal Law, Entrapment, Florida, Police, Sarasota / Southwest Florida, Tampa Bay area
Tagged entrapment, noah pransky, orange county, public information, safe summer, sexcrime, spiderweb, sting, tampa