Greetings and salutations for a great new year from Crimcourts. This year is exciting for me, as I take over as President of the Lee County Bar Association. Hence the cover of our magazine, Res Gestae. To save you the need to ask or look it up, res gestae is latin for “things done.” Pretty clever!
We’ve been pretty busy around the Law Office of Spencer Cordell, which has cut back on my blogging lately, but I’m going to try to keep it up whenever I can get things posted. Be sure to follow on Twitter @crimcourts and Facebook, sometimes I share articles quicklyon there when I don’t have a chance to write something up myself. Good fortune to everyone this year, and good luck on your New Year’s resolutions!
- You can still reach the Law Office of Spencer Cordell.
- Our phone number is 239-333-4686.
- Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org .
The wheels of justice must continue to turn, in particular for those accused of crimes during the public health emergency. Florida courthouses, including those in Southwest Florida, are open on a limited basis for essential hearings. Among those hearings still happening are arraignments, injunctions, and first appearances for those who have been arrested. Attorney Spencer Cordell is available to consult by phone, answer emails, and even video chat if that is necessary.
Please stay safe during this health emergency. The novel corona virus has impacted all of our daily lives, and we must take steps to protect others who may be vulnerable to COVID-19, but we can stil make accommodations to help. If you or your loved one are facing criminal charges, even if there is not an essential hearing coming up, we are still available to discuss your options, and the consultation is still free. Don’t hesitate to call you have been arrested, injured in an accident or want to know your legal rights.
Attorney Spencer Cordell, 239-333-4686
I just did an interview with Stacey Deffenbaugh for ABC-7, discussing why the young man charged with causing a death after failing to stop for a school bus is in civil court and not criminal court. The story will likely air at 4 and/or 5 pm on ABC-7, and hopefully my comments are included.
Here’s an earlier story about the court hearing this morning. The family was understandably angry, due to the tragic loss of their son…
The court was certainly not saying the teen’s life was only worth $1000, that was the maximum penalty permitted. This ruling does not preclude the victim’s family from proceeding on a wrongful death claim, which is likely to be worth many thousands of dollars. Nothing can take away the tragedy of the loss of life in these types of cases.
Atty Spencer Cordell on NBC-2 [Who Dey]
The link is up
from last night’s NBC-2 follow-up story regarding use of surveillance cameras. The law is a little unclear, but there’s no doubt the best practice is for law enforcement to get a warrant when they are going to use the cameras: even the guy from the camera company recommends it. And everybody, prosecutors and defense attorneys, agree that when video surveillance is used, it needs to be disclosed when a case goes forward. My friend Rene Suarez, who is quoted at the beginning of the story, makes a great point: if the use of video cameras is not disclosed, it shuts the judicial system out of the analysis regarding the legality of the tactics. That’s eliminating judicial oversight. If nothing is being done inappropriately, the investigators should have nothing to hide.
Here’s a link to the story, I will try to embed it, below.
NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida
And here’s a link to our story yesterday.
Posted in 4th Amendment - Search & Seizure, 6th Amendment - Fair Trial, Criminal Law, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL
Tagged brady, david hodges, discovery, nbc, rene suarez, search and seizure, spencer Cordell, surveillance, video
Deadly Sins dealt with 2 Fort Myers stories tonight. I’m always curious about whether the actors in the reenactment look anything like the real people. In this case, not too much. I will say, the real Billy Ray Retherford and Dustin Jaye are/were a lot scarier looking than their TV counterparts:
Billy Ray Rertherford’s last booking photo
Dustin Jaye booking photo
- And some of the other players in the story:
Allison Jaye booking photo
Allison Jaye had to be brought back from prison to testify in the trial.
- She actually did go through a blond phase when younger:
Allison Jaye earlier booking
- And Allison’s friend, Sarah Grenier has also been in trouble with the law:
Sarah Grenier booking photo
- And the innocent victim of the crime, from a photo Naples News found on Facebook:
Debra Striano (Facebook)
Russell Myers, speaking after the incident
Greg Imhoff, killed by Billy Retherford
Also, here’s Billy Ray Retherford’s last prison release photo. Both he and Jaye had gotten out of prison not long before. As such, they would have been classified as Prison Releasee Reoffenders, meaning that they were facing mandatory sentences of life in prison. Life is also mandatory in Florida for a First Degree Murder such as this. Jaye was sentenced to life after trial, in spite of being defended by experienced attorney Ed Kelly. His appeal is still pending.
Billy Retherford (prison photo)
The other story on Deadly Sins tonight was the Fred Cooper murder, known locally as the Gateway case. Here is Fred Dewitt Cooper’s Booking Photo on that case:
Fred Cooper Booking Photo
Fred Cooper was convicted at trial for killing Steven and Michelle Andrews. He was tried twice, the first trial in 2008 ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury. The trial was then moved to a different venue, because it came out that the jury as been influenced by the extensive local media coverage. The second trial was conducted in 2009 in the Tampa area. Cooper was convicted of First Degree Murder, and the State sought the death penalty. The jury only recommended life in prison, and he was given three life sentences. Cooper had been to prison before, but not for violence, and had stayed out of trouble for 10 years before these brutal killings. Cooper’s conviction was upheld on appeal. His motion for post-conviction relief was denied, and that decision is currently on appeal. Here’s a more recent photo:
Fred Cooper in 2014
Posted in Criminal Law, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, North Fort Myers / Southwest Florida
Tagged allison jaye, appeal, billy retherford, debra striano, dustin jaye, ed kelly, fred cooper, gateway, greg imhoff, michelle andrews, mug shot, murder, san carlos, sarah grenier, spencer Cordell, steven andrews, suncoast, trial
Investigation Discovery has a preview of tonight’s episode from Fort Myers, “Sunshine State of Delirium” It’s on at 9:00 pm on Investigation Discovery, Chan. 111 or 387 on Comcast Xfinity in Fort Myers. Check it out, I’m on it! The episode deals with the Gateway murder (Fred Cooper) and the cases of Dustin Jaye and Billy Retherford, who killed Debbie Striano.
Attorney Spencer Cordell on “Deadly Sins”
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL
Tagged billy retherford, deadly sins, dustin jaye, estero, fort myers, fred cooper, gateway, North Fort Myers, spencer Cordell
Law enforcement forfeitures are on the rise across the country. Cops see forfeiture as an easy way to enhance their bottom line, or to pick up some toys that they can’t otherwise get approved in their budgets. And in many State’s, the agency that does the forfeited often gets to keep the majority of the property seized, which sadly can incentivize some law enforcement agencies to be too aggressive in their seizure policies. The more they grab, the more they get to keep, and that’s a recipe for abuse of the system, especially because it is difficult to for people to fight the forfeitures. We’ve talked about the risk of abuse before on Crimcourts. John Oliver recently did a great take on the issue on “This Week, Tonight,” which is worth the 15 minutes to watch.
However, it is not impossible to fight a forfeiture. You have a right to challenge a forfeiture in court, and should talk to an experienced attorney right away. Cops will attempt a forfeiture even when the evidence doesn’t support it. They will claim a suspicion that a crime is being committed, based on their ‘training and experience’, and presumptively seize the property. However, a hunch isn’t enough to prove the case in court. The must demonstrate criminal activity by a preponderance of the evidence, and convince a jury of it. If the cops do try to seize your property, you should definitely exercise your right to fight the forfeiture.
Florida actually provides several different stages of challenging a forfeiture, and there are time considerations, which mean you should retain an attorney to help you as soon as possible. First, there are several technical filing requirements the state must follow before a forfeiture will be granted. The person who’s property is being seized has a right to a preliminary hearing, that means if they state is holding your property, they must demonstrate to a court why they should be permitted to hold it. And finally, the person has a right to make them prove their case to a jury at trial, and all of the defenses available on a criminal charge can be argued, as well as some particular to seizure cases. It can be a long, arduous process, but one that may be fruitful to follow through on.
If your property has been seized, you should contact me or another expereinced attorney right away.
Posted in Civil, Criminal Law, Drugs, Florida, Forfeiture, Police, Uncategorized
Tagged badcops, forfeiture, john oliver, seizure, spencer Cordell