Sweetie the Alligator has been Deputized by Florida Sheriff’s Office

This video of an Alligator being carried into a Key Like Pie store, in addition to being the most Florida thing ever, when viral when it was shared a few months ago. Sweetie is a rescue Gator that lives at Jungle Adventures park… when she’s not visiting schools or hanging out at the Key Like Pie store. You can read more about the background of “Sweetie” the Alligator in this story by Craig Pittman.

Sweetie became such a hit, that Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey decided to swear her in as a “resource reptile”. You can see Deputy Sweetie most weekends at the Key Lime Pie store on Cocoa Beach, when she’s not back at jungle adventures!

Sweetie being sworn in

Gambling Granny Killer Lois Riess Pleads Guilty Again

Lois Reiss mug shot

Lois Riess, who has already pleaded guilty to murder charges in Florida and received a life sentence in exchange for avoiding the death penalty, has now pleaded guilty to the murder of her husband in Minnesota. Riess, dubbed “Losing Streak Lois” by law enforcement that pursued her on a multi-state manhunt after she committed her second murder on Fort Myers Beach, had come to Florida after this murder in Minnesota. She targeted, befriended, then betrayed and killed a woman she met on Fort Myers Beach to assume her identity, take her car, and then spent several days on the lamb. She was caught on video gambling in a casino, hence the nickname, before being spotted and turned in by an observant civilian in Texas. Riess was already going to spend the rest of her life in prison, thanks to her plea to the Lee County, Florida murder charges. This resolves her remaining murder, and she will likely serve out her sentence in Minnesota.

Arrests Made in Polk County Triple Murder

Polk County Murder Defendants

Three people have been arrested in the triple murder of three friends who were killed on a fishing trip in Frostproof. The alleged shooter, Tony “T.J.” Wiggins, allegedly accused the victims of stealing his truck and then shot all three of them. Wiggins has multiple prior felony convictions (though the

Tony Wiggins via DOC

200 quoted in the article is unclear- it likely includes duplicative arrests), and has been to prison multiple times at only 26 years of age. The other two co-defendants are charged with accessory and tampering. The report doesn’t seem to indicate that they were directly involved in the killings, and the state will likely try to use their charges to pressure them to flip on the accused shooter. The brutal nature suggests that this is a case the state may seek the death penalty, but that decision likely won’t be made for a few weeks. First degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.

Michael Cohen Recommitted to Federal Custody

Michael Cohen has been returned to prison today. According to reports, he went to sign paperwork converting his furlough to home confinement. According to statements attributed to his lawyer, the paperwork included a prohibition on several first amendment protected activities, such as speaking to media, engagement on social media, and publishing things like books. Cohen had been working on a book about his history with Donald Trump, which dates back years before Trump ran for president.

This is troubling for a couple reasons. First, it appears the prison is arbitrarily adding conditions to his sentence that were not ordered by the court. Second, those conditions seem pointedly targeted to silence him from speaking out, which is normally protected by the first amendment. While he gives up some freedom when convicted and confined or supervised, his first amendment rights do not generally go away. There may be exceptions, such as when his crime directly relates to his speech (such as if someone who had sent a threat might be restrained while on supervision,) but such conditions would not be expected in this case. The unique conditions, sprung on him without notice, suggest ulterior motives.

Some People are Taking #COVID Precautions Very Seriously

With coronavirus cases on the rise, and Florida courts trying to safely reopen, there is a tension. That’s in particular contrast when it means zealously advocating for your clients. Miami attorney Sam Rabin had a sentencing hearing. According to fellow attorney-blogger David Oscar Markus, he had the option of attending by Zoom, but did not want to have his client appear without being able to be there for him. He made it to court, in full protective gear, to represent his client. Great work!

Markus also points out that an elderly Defendant awaiting trial just passed away from #covid while awaiting trial in federal custody in Miami. He was facing charges for a non-violent drug offense.

Cocoa Beach Man Threatens to Blow Up Probation Office to Avoid Violation

The state probation office in Brevard County received a call on Wednesday that included a threat to blow up the office. The office was quickly shut down, and BCSO and the FBI came in to investigate- they had a K-9 unit sweep the office for explosive devices. Fortunately, none were found.

Juan Christian, via DOC

Officers were able to trace the call, even though it was from a restricted number, and it led them to Juan Christian, a 38-year-old Sanford man. It just so happened that not only was Christian on probation, but he had missed his appointment that day for his drug test. He is on probation for drug sales, false imprisonment and battery. Officers met with him and he admitted to calling in the threat because he was afraid of being violated. Now, not only is he facing a probation violation for additional reasons, he has new felony charges for the terror threat.

It’s not the first time, and there was a case several years back in Fort Myers where a man actually burned down the probation office. That case was even more tragic, as the fire also burned a kennel in the building, killing several dogs. I was unable, and I can’t remember, if that culprit was ever caught, but it didn’t destroy many probation files, since they are digitally stored in a central location. In researching that, I came across a story I was unfamiliar with, where the Fort Myers DEA office was bombed. That was in retaliation for a man who had been indicted, and Jeffrey Matthews, the “Fort Myers Bomber” was caught and sentenced to life in prison for those and other offenses. As usual, the cover up is often worse than the underlying crime.

Cape Coral Woman Charged with Stabbing Her Own Mother to Death

Mariya Kelly

Mariya Kelly, 21, of Cape Coral, has been arrested and charged with manslaughter for stabbing her mother, who died at Cape Coral hospital. The police have not released any details of what led up to the incident, though the manslaughter charge in lieu of a murder charge is curious. More details will follow as the case progresses.

Update on the Bass Pro Diver

Law enforcement are still looking for the man who dove into the Bass Pro fish tank last week. I left his name out of the original post because I don’t think he has committed a felony, but the man they think did it has gone on social media to speak out. Daniel Armendariz posted on his Facebook account confirming that he is the one in the Bass Pro video, and proceeding to eviscerate Bass Pro for trying to charge him with a ridiculous felony. Multiple media outlets are referring to his post as a ‘confession’… but it’s only a confession if what he did was a crime. I’ll reiterate my previous post, it is not criminal mischief to jump into a giant fish tank. He did not willfully destroy any property, and it really shouldn’t be considered a felony, regardless of how mush Bass Pro claims they paid to disinfect the tank.

Mr. Armendariz says he will turn himself in… but not until he is ready. It’s also worth pointing out that Crimestoppers mentioned his previous charges for some serious offenses, but he says he beat those charges. It’s like they were trying to make him look bad as they are trying to sell the idea that his silly prank is a serious crime. Again, not a good look. You can check out his rant, but be forewarned, mature content:

 

Man Exposes Himself to a Woman trying to drink her Coffee

Florida gonna Florida. (It’s a verb now.) Man, you gotta respect someone when they need their cup of joe.

Jousua Echezarreta

Naples Police reported a man was pantsless and playing with himself when a woman came out on to her condo balcony to drink her coffee. He yelled up at her, insinuating that he had been watching or stalking her, then he laid down on a lounge chair and played with himself. Naples Police identified and arrested the suspect, Jousua Echezarreta, and charged him with exposure of sexual organs, loitering, resisting and officer and stalking. Creepy.

 

Dude Jumped in the Bass Pro Fish Tank and Now They Want to Charge Him With a Felony

Man Diving in Tank

You might have seen the video going around of the guy who jumped into the giant Native Fish Tank at the Fort Myers Bass Pro Shops. If you haven’t been, Bass Pro has a huge tank with fish from Florida- it’s a centerpiece of the store. It made all the local news, and got shared all over on social media, and everybody had a good laugh about it. Now, local crimestoppers is claiming they have identified the man, and that he is wanted for felony charges!

That’s the kind of overblown hooey that frustrates people about cops.

Apparently, LCSO is claiming that it cost Bass Pro $3000 to ‘decontaminate’ the tank, and that makes him a felon. I call garbage- both on the cost and the felony.

They are alleging that the cost makes it a felony criminal mischief. Unfortunately, whoever is alleging that has not read the criminal mischief statute. To qualify, an individual must “willfully and maliciously” damage property. I have been out there to check it, but it certainly doesn’t look like any damage was done. On top of that, for it to be willful, he’d have to know that jumping in the tank would cause a $3000 disinfecting bill, which of course he didn’t, because it’s ridiculous. This might be some trespass of property, but to charge this kid with a felony is willful and malicious prosecution, and the authorities should be ashamed.

Here’s the story and video on the news:

The News-Press indicates some high school kids got in trouble for doing that in 2011… it doesn’t indicate that they gave a bunch of kids felonies, though: