Tag Archives: miami

I was quoted in the Miami Herald Exposé on the Prison Death Crisis in Florida

  • More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than any year in history.
  • The death rate spiked 20 percent.
  • Charlotte Correctional Institute has had a spate of questionable inmate deaths, most recently Brodrick Campbell.

cciYesterday, reporter Sarah Blaskey at the Miami Herald published an in-depth exposé  on the recent spike in prison deaths among inmates of Florida’s Department of Corrections (DOC). More inmates died last year while incarcerated in Florida’s prison than any year on record. The increase in deaths is particularly shocking, in that Florida’s crime and incarceration rates have been on the decline for several years. Charlotte Correctional Institute (CCI), just south of Punta Gorda, has been one of the leading facilities for inmate deaths.

There are not answers for the increased death rate, and many of the deaths are still under investigation- or the results have not been published. One possible explanation proposed by DOC that many of the deaths are caused by drug overdoses in prison. Drugs and contraband in prison have always been a problem, and addiction and overdoses have been on the rise outside of prison, as well. Unfortunately, there are few rehabilitation programs in jail, and drug addiction frequently goes untreated, though drugs are quite often a factor in the underlying crime that lead to incarceration.

ID Photo

Brodrick Campbell

One of the cases discussed was the death of Brodrick Campbell, an inmate we’ve discussed here. This young man was found dead under curious circumstances at Charlotte Correctional last year. The case is still under investigation, and the official word is that he committed suicide, which immediately struck me as odd for such a young man. A review of his case discovered that he was only sentenced to prison for three years, was a minimum security inmate, and had less than two years remaining. His family has since described a family man, who had young children who would often visit him. The explanation of suicide doesn’t make sense, and his relatives certainly don’t believe it. Based on previous history, there is a real fear that this or other deaths have come at the hands of guards.

Answers for this crisis are difficult, as it is for the problems at Juvenile Justice. DOC guards are underpaid, and for that reason retention is low. That means DOC trains them, but the good ones don’t stay, and often leave for other job: often better paying jobs in county jails, and DOC has to start all over with new hires. Accountability needs to increase as well: investigations need to lead to consequences, unlike the infamous Matthew Walker situation at CCI. It’s troubling to hear that video surveillance ends up missing, and investigations drag on for years without satisfactory explanation. Kudos to Ms. Blaskey, the Miami Herald,, and the Charlotte Sun, who has also had award-winning coverage of the issue.

Here’s our earlier coverage of the ongoing mysterious deaths at CCI.


Beauty Queen Exonerated by Stand Your Ground Law

vanessa barcelo.jpgVanessa 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 2.jpg

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.

Drunk Driving Arrests Are Going Down, but Are the Roads Safer?

  • Drunk Driving Numbers Are Falling in many Jurisdictions
  • Ride Sharing Programs Claims Some Credit
  • Critics Blame Lack of Enforcement

Ride sharing apps were in the news this week when Uber and Lyft decided to pull out of serving Austin, TX due to strict local ordinances. This may make the streets less safe, because a great deal of the business for these apps are taking people home late at night and on weekends: providing a convenient alternative to driving for many people who have been out on the town and possibly drinking.

Lyft stache

The old Lyft ‘Stache

The ride sharing apps are quick to take credit for drops in DUI arrest numbers. Arrest numbers indicate declines in Florida cities, including the Miami and Tampa areas. Law enforcement agencies in Tampa were willing to give some credit to ride sharing, but also indicated there had been less enforcement going on due to shortages and other factors. MADD says there has been a major shortage of enforcement in Dade County jurisdictions, but the drop in arrests is likely due to a variety of factors, ranging from ride-sharing to less overtime for officers than they used to get on DUI cases.

Hopefully the decline in arrests is indicative of less people drinking and driving, and keeping the roads safer for all of us. If Uber and Lyft help, we can all get behind that. The numbers so far certainly favor the increase accessibility of ride-sharing apps.

Why’s This Guy Smiling after he got popped going 110 on Alligator Alley?

  • Noe Dejesus was arrested for DUI in Collier County after being clocked at 109 coming across Alligator Alley
  • Dejesus was butt naked when cops pulled him out of the car


Noe DeJesus

Noe Dejesus

Law enforcement received several calls of a car driving recklessly, and soon thereafter, troopers spotted Mr. Dejesus’ Cadillac going about 110 on I-75 Alligator Alley. Troopers pulled him over, and observed alcoholic beverage containers in the car. When they asked him to step out, they found out that he was completely naked.

Also inside the car were three women, several beer bottles, and a nearly empty bottle of Crown Royal Whiskey. They asked Dejesus to complete field sobriety exercises, but he declined to do so, and was arrested for DUI and driving without a license, both misdemeanors. Judging by his mug shot… he might have decided it was worth it.

It is unknown where he was coming from, but he was heading in the direction of his home in Lehigh Acres, and from the direction if he had been in Miami. No information was given about his lady friends.

via NDN.

Crime Stoppers Administrator Jailed for Defying Judge on Tip Info

Richard Masten as he eats a piece of paper in court

Richard Masten as he eats a piece of paper in court

An administrator for Crime Stoppers in Dade County feels so strongly about keeping his tips anonymous, he is willing to go to jail for it. When a judge ordered Richard Masten to turn over a paper containing tip information, he refused, and proceeded to gobble down the paper in court! The judge found him in contempt, and he faces 14 days in jail if he doesn’t comply by Thursday.
The attorney seeking the info represents someone facing a felony drug charge, and is not seeking the identity of the tipster, but some of the related information. Masten believes the identity of the tipster could be determined if he were to give over the info.
There’s a tension here, because for Crime Stoppers to work, they need to be sure to guarantee anonymity; otherwise the tips could dry up. If you watch the First 48, you know how invaluable those tips can be. Conversely, the defendant has Constitutional rights related to her fair trial and search and seizure. She could be facing prison time and her Constitutional protections may legally outweigh the privacy concerns of a private entity, especially one working the law enforcement. The State may want to consider whether this drug prosecution is worth the damage to the Crime Stoppers’ reputation.

New Bieber Video Does Not Look Like a Race

Footage of Bieber's Car

Footage of Bieber’s Car

Decide for yourself, but this video shared by CNN does not appear to be a “contest of speed” as described in the police report. This could be BEFORE the alleged drag race occurred, though the cops already appear to be on their tails. The video is time stamped 4:09 a.m., and the police indicate the race occurred at 4:11, though time stamps are not always accurate. According to the cop, this would have to be after, because he indicates the officer who spotted the race had to make a U-Turn and catch up. On the full video from CBS Miami, you can see the cop passes a car and appears to be trying to catch up to the Bieber-led group. But if he was pursuing a race, why aren’t his lights on?

This could be a moot discussion, as Bieber has not been charged with racing at this time, and the cops could initiate a stop base on speed, even if there is no racing involved. Still, it adds a wrinkle. Also, in looking at the times, the cop claims to make his arrest at 4:13, just 2 minutes after the race. That’s pretty fast to find the car, pull Bieber out, and for Bieber to resist him. We know he skipped intermiate steps, like asking Bieber for a license, but the timeline is definitely questionable.

UPDATE (of sorts): In case you didn’t see my earlier post, with a link to the police report, you can read that here: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/what-did-bieber-blow/

What Did Bieber Blow?

Justin Bieber Mug Shot

Justin Bieber Mug Shot

Pop star Justin Bieber was arrested in Miami the other day and charged with DUI, Resisting an Officer, and Driving on an Expired License. These are all criminal charges in Florida, albeit misdemeanors. There was evidence of racing, which is also a criminal charge, though he has not been charged with racing at this time. Racing charges are notoriously hard to prove. Gawker has obtained the police report, and you can read it online (warning, lots of F-bombs).

Possibly Bieber's Expired DL, unverified

Possibly Bieber’s Expired DL, unverified

Something that jumped out on the police report is that the officer indicates he asked Bieber to submit to a breath test, and that Bieber agreed to do so. However, he did not include the results of the breath test on the probable cause affidavit obtained by Gawker. That’s odd. It’s not required to be in there, but you’d think if he had an unlawful breath alcohol level, that the officer would want to include that. Bieber then apparently submitted to a drug screen, which generally doesn’t reveal results until it comes back from the lab (if they had done merely a presumptive field test, it would not be admissible in court in Florida). I want to know what Bieber blew on the breathalyzer test: this DUI may not be going anywhere. The resisting is kind of thin, especially since the DUI arrest is pretty thin. The officer did not do field sobriety exercises until AFTER he had charged Bieber.

There has been some debate whether Bieber would be deported if, which is unlikely, even if convicted. However, deportation could become a problem if he is charged and convicted with a felony for the criminal mischief/vandalism charge he has been investigated for in California. That sounds silly: his neighbor’s house was egged. But the neighbor is claiming thousands of dollars in damage, which could make it a serious charge.

Normally, I follow these things, but it’s Bieber, and it’s silly, so I’m not going to make that promise this time.

UPDATE: MTV is reporting Bieber only blew .011 and .014, below the legal limit for DUI. Note, Florida has an administrave policy requiring a driving suspension for those under 21 if they have BAC (Breath Alcohol Content) greater than .02, which Bieber did not. Unless there is something on the drug screen, the state will probably not file on the DUI charge.