Tag Archives: punta gorda

Punta Gorda man Charged with Manslaughter in Accidental Drowning Death of Child

An arrest was made this week in the tragic death of a 1-year-old in Charlotte County in October. Deputies have charged Shahzad Sayed in relation to the drowning of his young child in the pool of their Deep Creek home on October 3, 2020. The primary charge Sayed is facing is Aggravated Manslaughter: the charge is aggravated because a child was the victim. The bigger hurdle for the state will be convincing a jury to convict the grieving father of manslaughter for a tragic, accidental drowning.

The Florida statute on manslaughter does permit a conviction for manslaughter by culpable negligence: it does not require an intentional act if the negligence of a caretaker is especially egregious. That is, someone can be found guilty of the crime by omission instead of an act; but the law saw the omission must evince a state of mind so wanton or reckless it could be considered intentional. Case law has said that the state must prove a gross and flagrant violation of the duty of care that causes injury; a course of conduct showing reckless disregard for human life or the entire want of care raising the presumption of indifference of consequences. A jury may find that the facts support such a finding, but it’s a high bar.

According to news reports, detectives claim that Mr. Sayed “knowingly” went to bed while his two small children were still up. The resultant injury to the child is per se evidence of negligence, but whether it rises to the level of culpable negligence is less clear. The child opened a door and went out to the pool area, where there were no safety devices. Certainly, pool gates are expected safety devices in homes where small children reside, but that omission alone is not enough to rise to the level of culpable negligence. Does the fact that the father fell asleep demonstrate a reckless indifference to life? It’s an issue on which reasonable minds could certainly disagree, and will likely be difficult to convince a jury beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt.

Mr. Sayed has also been charged with some drug related offenses, reportedly due to videos the detectives found that purportedly show drug transactions, and evidence of drugs in the common areas of the home. However, there’s no indication that there was any harm to the children due to the drugs, which means it’s a non-factor as to the manslaughter charge. Those charges may even be severed from the other for trial, so that the jury doesn’t consider them together. (Though, if they have evidence of his drug use the night of the accident, that may be admissible.) The legal aspects of the case are interesting, though the loss of a young child is obviously tragic. Regardless of what Mr. Sayed is convicted of, he will have to live with this the rest of his life.

Yoga Pants are not an Efficient Way to Smuggle An Alligator

Is that a gator in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

A couple in Charlotte County were pulled over when they failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign in the wee hours of the morning. The deputy gave them a warning for the sign and asked where they were coming from. They told him they’d been collecting frogs and snakes. The deputy then asked them if he could see what they caught, to make sure they were complying with the rules. The woman opened a backpack to reveal 42 small turtles; one softshell and the rest three-striped mud turtles. The deputy then asked her if she had anything else, and she pulled a foot long alligator out of her yoga pants!

The deputy called in FWC to take over the wildlife investigation. The driver and passenger were cited for possessing protected species and for a bag-limit violation and released. The animals were returned to the wild.

It might seem silly, but wildlife management is key to protecting the flora and fauna of our habitat. These guys don’t seem like pros, but there is a black market for some protected animals. Just a couple years ago, an alleged alligator poaching ring was busted up, recovering 10,000 gator eggs. Investigators created a fake alligator farm as part of the sting operation! One of those defendants has been sentenced to three years in prison for racketeering and other wildlife related offenses. Know the rules before you fish… or collect reptiles! (Some people call reptile and/or snake collecting “herping“… now you know.)

photos via CCSO

Yoga pants do not seem like the best place to stash a gator… or any wildlife, for that matter.

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.

Human Remains Found in Charlotte County

Some badly decomposed human remains were found today near a railroad in Punta Gorda. There are not many details available at this time, as it sounds like all that was left were some bones. Any time I hear about something like that, I immediately wonder if it’s related to the Hog Trail Murders, or possibly the bone yard found in Fort Myers a few years ago (which may have been related). Hopefully more details will be released, soon.

So, This Happened in Charlotte County

charlotte jail car.jpgMy attorney friend P.J. was at the jail, and snapped a photo that appears to be a Charlotte County Sheriff’s vehicle caught under a garage door at the Charlotte County Jail. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know any details, but was kind enough to share the picture. It certainly seems that a Sheriff’s Office vehicle got caught by the garage door trying to come out of the Sally Port. The jail sally doors slide down really fast, so it’s probably not an uncommon occurrence… but, the picture is kind of funny.

Somebody had a bad day…

Punta Gorda Woman Tries to Use 911 as a Dating Service

Maria Montanez-Colon

Maria Montanez-Colon

Maria Montanez-Colon made news in February when she called 911, looking for a cop to give her some extra duty. When the cop refused, she called 911 and asked them to send her another one! She went to jail for that incident for misuse of the 911 system. Well, she’s at it again, but this time she wasn’t so friendly with the cops, finally becoming verbally abusive. She has been booked back into the Charlotte County Jail for the same offense. Officers indicate alcohol was a factor both times, and apparently she has had trouble dealing with her husbands’ death. Hopefully, she can get some help.

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/24808583/woman-defends-her-actions-after-arrest-for-using-911-to-hit-on-officer

Car Crashes Into the Celtic Ray in Punta Gorda #swfl

Celtic Ray surveillance

Celtic Ray surveillance

The Celtic Ray stayed open through Hurricane Charley, but almost didn’t make it to St. Patrick’s day this year. The night before, when they were hosting a pre-St. Patrick’s party, a vehicle smashed into the front door of the pub, nearly missing several patrons. The car drove off, and witnesses got the license plate. Investigators traced the plate to Jesse Brown, and arrested him at his brother’s house, where the alleged Mustang from the incident was located. They also arrested his brother, Robert Brown, for obstruction of justice. NBC-2 has the video of the impact.

Jesse Brown

Jesse Brown

Leaving the scene of the accident cases can be difficult for prosecutors to prove. It’s one thing to know whose car caused the accident, it’s another thing to prove who was behind the wheel at the time of the accident. I suspect they have major issues with the case against Robert Brown: he has a right not to speak to cops, and not to let them in his house without a warrant. I have seen cops in Charlotte County try to circumvent the warrant requirement before, by arresting the homeowner. That’s not likely to fly in court.

It sounds like the Celtic Ray, one of my favorite haunts, was able to open the next day for the holiday. Can’t keep a good joint down! I recommend their fish and chips!

via NBC-2: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/24999329/people-dodge-hit-and-run-at-punta-gorda-pub#.Uyhwj_ldX4U

#celticray

Senior Vengeance : Why is the Shopping Cart Battery Case a Felony #swfl

William Golladay

William Golladay – Checkout Lane Rage Arrestee

When William Golladay was arrested for checkout rage, he was charged with a felony battery. In Florida, for a battery charge to be a felony, there has to be an enumerated aggravating factor, otherwise the charge is a misdemeanor. This prompted someone to ask me if the cops were trying to classify the shopping cart as a deadly weapon, the most common aggravtgor. No, the cops have charged Golladay with a felony battery because the victim is 65 years of age, or older. Florida has enhanced the battery on a senior charge to discourage exploitation of our many elderly citizens.

But wait, isn’t Golladay even older than that? Yup- Golladay is 77 years old himself. The law does not discriminate based on the advanced age of the accused, even in this case, when he’s a decade OLDER than the person he allegedly battered. As a third degree felony, Golladay is potentially facing up to 5 years in prison, though he’s not likely to be sentenced so severely, unless he has a substantial record.

It can be dangerous to live in Florida, especially during the winter season, when snowbirds swell the population of areas like Southwest Florida. A 71-year-old retired cop near Tampa made news this week, when an argument about texting in a movie theater escalated and he shot then man sitting the row in front of him. There is a discreet subset of public safety issues attributable to elderly citizens that increases at this time of year, from crotchety neighbor disputes, to cars crashing into buildings (already had one this week). Old people are still not as dangerous as young people, but they are not immune from getting into trouble.

More info is available on the Golladay arrest from the Smoking Gun, who has obtained the full report. They’ve also got a whole section tagged gray menace! #weirdbattery #swfl

Do NOT Abuse the Express Lane in front of William Golladay

William Golladay

William Golladay

A 65-year-old Punta Gorda man in a motorized wheelchair was allegedly rammed with a shopping cart when he exceeded the 20-item limit in the Taylor Rd. Walmart. Police allege William Golladay became irate when the elderly man in front of him had more items than permitted in the express lane. The two began yelling at each other, and Golladay reportedly rammed the victim with his cart, injuring his elbow. Keep in mind, Golladay is even older, at 77 years of age. But the charge is a felony because the victim is 65 years or old, in spite of Golladay’s age. This case of checkout rage occurred yesterday in Charlotte county.

This is the first incident I have ever heard reported of a battery arrest with a shopping cart used as a weapon. That get’s it a #weirdbattery tag… And #registerrage for battery with a shopping cart.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Exonerates Domestic Violence Victim in Lee County

Last April, Amanda Arruda was brutally attacked by her lover, Vincent Deluca. After a night drinking on the town, Deluca became jealous and pulled Arruda away from the club and the two returned to Deluca’s Bonita Springs residence. Drugs were likely involved as well. The argument escalated at the home, and Ms. Arruda alleges that Deluca pulled a gun on her, put it to her head, and threatened to kill her. Arruda fled the bedroom and during the course of the altercation, was able to grab a knife. Deluca pursued her to the living room, threw her to the ground and jumped on her, at which point he was stabbed and Ms. Arruda was able to flee to the garage. Deluca followed her to the garage while calling 911. He opened the door only after law enforcement arrived.

Amanda Arruda's mug shot

Amanda Arruda’s mug shot

This is not the first domestic situation that Mr. Deluca has been involved in. It was revealed at the Immunity hearing that he has two outstanding injunctions already in place. During one of the previous incidents, he also pulled a gun and threatened to kill the other victim. Mr. Deluca was not even allowed to be in possession of a firearm due to the active injunctions against him.

Mr. Deluca claims that Ms. Arruda attacked him. He had the benefit of making the first report to law enforcement, as she was cornered in the garage while he was calling 911. Sadly, law enforcement bought his story, and arrested Ms. Arruda for Aggravated Battery, a second degree felony putting her at risk of up to 15 years in prison.

This is a prime example of the value of the immunity provision of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Where a victim was erroneously arrested for exercising her right to defend herself, Florida’s law provides her with an outlet. At the immunity hearing this week, the court took testimony from Ms. Arruda, Mr. Deluca and the law enforcement officers who handled, or mishandled, the investigation. The court also heard testimony from Roy Bedard, an expert on the use of force and self-defense. Ms. Arruda, and her attorney Janese Carruthers, were also aided by an investigator they hired to fill in the gaps of the investigation.

As they say, the truth comes out in the wash. The court found Mr. Deluca’s testimony to be unbelievable. He found Ms. Arruda to be credible, and the physical evidence from the scene supported her version of the events. The judge was able to determine that she was, in fact, the victim, and dismissed the charge against her. Great work by Ms. Carruthers and her defense team to put on the case that made the facts clear for the judge.

It is unfortunate that the victim was revictimized by being arrested by reactionary law enforcement. She spent a month in jail before her family was able to raise the substantial bond to get her released. She plans to file a motion for the state to reimburse her attorney fees, which is specifically authorized by statute. It’s sad that the case even got to this point. It reminds me of the recent case in Punta Gorda where the judge threw out the case, commenting that the evidence wasn’t “even close”. These Defendants have a right to just compensation under the law, and the agencies that wrongly prosecuted them should pay. That’s the only way they will learn to be more judicious in their arrests in the future. Sadly, it’s our taxpayer money that pays for such errors. I shudder for the bill that could come due if George Zimmerman is acquitted.

http://www.winknews.com/Local-Florida/2013-03-18/Floridas-Stand-Your-Ground-law-tested-in-local-court