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.
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.
Posted in Criminal Law, Drugs, Federal, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Terror
Tagged arson, brevard, cocoa beach, doc, fort myers, jeffrey matthews, juan christian, probation, Terror, terrorism, threat
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