PJ Nilaja Patterson claims the encounter he had with an iguana was self-defense, claiming the 3-foot green iguana was the aggressor and that he was acting in self-defense when he killed the creature. A laceration on his arm from a bite required 22 staples to close up. Prosecutors counter that a surveillance video of the incident shows that Patterson tormented the animal, and then went into a violent rage when it bit him while defending itself. The iguana had to be put down due to the injuries suffered in the confrontation.
Patterson claimed immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, that allows the use of force when defending oneself. A judge has denied the motion, however, Patterson still has a right to argue justifiable use of force at trial.
Green Iguanas are invasive creatures, and it is permitted to kill them under Florida law, but it must be done humanely. It’s not the first time we’ve covered the inhumane killing of an iguana that led to felony animal cruelty charges. The state has cleared it’s initial burden to allow the case to go forward, but to convict him, they will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not have a reasonable fear, or that the level of force use was not justified.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen self-defense argued for the killing of an animal. In 2013, a man accused of killing a protected sandbar shark testified at trial in Fort Myers that he killed the animal in self-defense. The court rejected that claim and he was convicted at a bench trial. A man in Bonita Springs claimed self-defense (and defense of property) when he killed a bear that entered his property back in 2009. He argued that Stand Your Ground also granted him immunity, and the state argued that Stand Your Ground only applies to humans. The judge denied his motion, and he ended up agreeing to plead guilty to killing a protected species and do probation in lieu of a trial. I am not aware of any case law that goes as far to say that Stand Your Ground does not apply to animals, and the self-defense statute reads, “[a] person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another”. Fla. Stat. Sec. 776.012(2)- it does not say anything that would limit it to defending yourself (or others) against a person instead of an animal. (Law enforcement officers kill aggressive pets with some frequency, for instance, which is lawful.)
The hurdle for Mr. Patterson is that the iguana was only three feet, and they are docile vegetarians. They run away from people. If the video shows him provoking the animal, he will be unlikely to garner much sympathy from the jury, despite his injury. People don’t like it when animals die: He may explore a plea deal, but he’s facing a felony for animal cruelty.
A judge in Palm Beach County filed contempt charges against Derrick Jenkins, who was sentenced to 30 days in jail, for a harshly worded letter critical of the judge after Jenkins’ case was dismissed. In addition to being critical, Jenkin’s letter was profane, stating ““f—— hypocrit” and he “cant wait til the voters wake up and get rid of these f—— clowns you call judges.” [sic] Judge Howard Coates did not take kindly and initiated contempt proceedings. Another judge was assigned, and found Jenkins’ words a danger to the orderly administration of justice, found Jenkins guilty or contempt of court, and sentenced him to 30 days in jail with 6 months of probation.
If that sounds a problematic, you’re right. The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, and its protections are strongest for speech that is critical of the government. There are limits, for instance it wouldn’t be prudent to shout insults and expletives at a judge in open court. However, there was no disruption of any proceedings in this case. In fact, Mr. Jenkins’ underlying case was closed, the court had dismissed his claim against the Sheriff’s Office, so there was no pending matter. The letter would lose its protection if it contained true threats, but claiming an investigation or to have a judge voted out is not a true threat- that’s the Constitutionally preferred way to deal with those officials we disagree with. Judge Warner said, “That’s what you do when you’re unhappy with the judge. You say, ‘we’re going to vote him out of office'” according to the Palm Beach Post.
Appellate arguments were Tuesday, and the statements and questions raised by the judicial panel hearing the appeal don’t appear to take kindly to the arguments in favor of the conviction. The case does not seem to meet any of the exceptions to the protections provided by the first amendment, in spite of the fact the allegations may have been “scandalous and noxious,” in the words of the offended judge. It will likely be several weeks or even a few months until the appellate court rules.
Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the Patriots was charged in Palm Beach County with soliciting prostitution for allegedly going into a massage parlor and receiving sexual contact. His attorneys challenged the case on many fronts, but ultimately succeeded by attacking the validity of the search warrant that allowed them to place a video camera in the private areas of the massage parlor. The court was troubled by the fact that the cameras would film people in an intimate setting, many of which may not have been breaking the law. The State argued that the warrants were justified, in part because they could help fight human trafficking, but no trafficking charges were filed in relation to these cases.
The court suggested that such a warrant could potentially be possible if it included enough restrictions to prevent filming innocent individuals, but that it fell far short. Placing a video camera in such an intimate place is extremely invasive, and is the kind of thing that troubled the court greatly, and the court suppressed all the evidence obtained through these searches, which covered Kraft and several other co-defendants that were caught up in the same operation.
The State appealed the court’s ruling, and the case was on hold until the recent decision by the 4th DCA appellate court that agreed with the trial court. The court wrote, “The type of law enforcement surveillance utilized in these cases is extreme,” and set a precedent that will set limits on the use of “sneek and peek” warrants. The State declined to appeal the case to the Florida Supreme court, making today’s announcement that they were dropping the charges inevitable. Several other defendants, in multiple counties, who still had charges pending will see their cases dropped, and many of the others involved had already gotten their charges dropped by completion of a diversion program. Most importantly, this case, between the trial judge and the appellate court, has sent a strong message against law enforcement doing invasive searches like the sneek and peek warrants.
Katherine Nieves-Tavares of Vero Beach had been drinking when she allegedly pulled a knife and cut the face of her boyfriend, who had declined her repeated requests for sex. He had been sitting on the couch when she starting asking, and when she started yelling, he went out side. She followed him out with a large kitchen knife, and started slashing with the knife. Officers observed numerous cuts on his face, which was covered in blood. Nieves-Tavares was also bloodied when she answered the door. She claims that he already had a cut on his face, and that when she asked him about it, he attacked her. Officers indicated that she failed to give any specific information that would corroborate her story. She has been charged with Aggravated Battery.
This reminds me of another woman who attacked her lover for sex earlier this year in Minnesota. Samantha Mears allegedly subdued her ex-boyfriend with a machete and forced him to have sex with her. Since her arrest, Mears has been found to be unfit for trial due to mental health issues, and has been admitted to a state hospital for treatment. That will put a hold on her case, though she could end up being prosecuted if the treatment is able to restore her.
Xavier Moran, a 25-year old from Royal Palm Beach, was involved in an accident and told deputies that he had been cut off by another vehicle and that he could prove it. He provided deputies with a dash camera that had been recording in his vehicle. However, when deputies looked back at the tape, they found something more interesting. Moran had taped footage of himself burglarizing a beauty store! The recorded video showed him take a bat out of the trunk and a man using the bat to bust out the store windows. Deputies charged him with burglary.
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.
This is the purest “only in Florida” case yet. A man from Jupiter was going through a Wendy’s drive-thru. He received his drink, and then grabbed a live, 3 and a half foot alligator and chucked through the open window. An FWC officer was able to corral the gator in the kitchen, and it was able to be safely returned to the wild.
It actually took officers several months to make an arrest. The Defendant, Joshua James, was tracked via surveillance footage and vehicle tags, and he has been charged with taking a gator and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The alligator is the weapon. While such a small juvenile gator may not be lethal, it qualifies as a deadly weapon since it is capable a causing serious bodily harm (he could take off a digit!) In the meantime, we get to enjoy this guy’s mug shot!
Crimcourts continues to be the world leader on criminal related alligator news!
“Police were on the scene…” Robert Van Winkle, best known as a rapper who went by Vanilla Ice, and had a hit with “Ice Ice Baby” in the 90’s, was arrested yesterday in Lantana, Florida. It appears TMZ broke the story. He is accused of taking items from an unoccupied home next door to a home he is renovating for his DIY Network show “The Vanilla Ice Project”. Apparently the police found the items in home that he “controls” and believe he took some part in the taking. Florida has a very broad Principle Theory, which holds anyone involved accountable, even if they play a very minor role.
A Labor Day golf outing turned really sour for a Florida foursome. Michael Rich allegedly became enraged over a joke about marking a putt. He allegedly proceeded to tear up the green with his cleats, and then attack his playing partners with his putter, snapping while thrashing one man, and then brandishing it like a sword toward another. He’s facing aggravated battery charges.