Tag Archives: stalking

What’s Going on with CCSO?

ccso-badgeTwo veteran deputies were fired this week from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s office, and Sheriff Prummel commented at his press conference that they should have known better in light of their many years on the force. I was talking about the cases today with an associate, and I was reminded that there was also a case not long ago that involved stalking-related allegations.

Eric Ireland

Former CCSO Deputy Eric Ireland

Just a year ago, CCSO Deputy Eric Ireland was fired after his arrest for Official Misconduct and Perjury. He was accused by his ex-girlfriend of planting drugs on her husband, after several stalking-type behaviors that caused her to break off the affair. The story is really crazy, it’s worth clicking through for the backstory. I checked the system, and it appears that Mr. Ireland accepted a plea deal to misdemeanor perjury charge and avoided a felony conviction.

One of the allegations against against Anthony Nardi involved “potential stalking” of an off-and-on girlfriend: using the DAVID Florida Driver Database to look into men she may have been seeing. They have GPS tracking his whereabouts and the ex ultimately filed a trespass warning to keep him away from her house.

That constitutes a second creepy, stalker-like episode with another CCSO Deputy. Sheriff Prummell decried the “rash of stupid” at the force, but when it’s multiple deputies doing similar things over a period of time, there is concern that it’s not a rash, but a pattern. I commend Sheriff Prummell for acting decisively and terminating each of these troublemakers. The best way to discourage improper behavior is to show, in no uncertain terms, what standards deputies are expected to meet, and that there is no tolerance for lawbreakers.

Supreme Court to Consider When Facebook Threats are True Threats

The Supreme Court is going to hear a case next week that will determine when threats posted on social media, in this case Facebook, rise to the level of a true threat. The case in question dealt with comments Anthony Elonis made toward his estranged wife (and others). He was convicted, sentenced to prison, and the case already upheld by the 3rd Circuit.

While the 1st Amendment gives protection to speech, that protection does not extend to ‘true threats’. This case will examine when musings posted on a Facebook wall are protected, and when they go to far. It will have ramifications in Florida, which has harsh punishments for Written Threats, which include social media posts under Florida law.

See Also: Felonies for Facebook posts

*UPDATE: The conviction was overturned, as the jury must also determine whether the Defendant intended for his words to constitute a threat.

Man Jailed 6 Months for Too-Loud Sex

An Italian man was sentenced to six months in jail for engaging in sex with his girlfriend that was so loud it generated complaints from a dozen neighbors. Authorities found the 42-year-old from Vigodarzere, Padua to be a nuisance, and put him on trial for stalking. Stalking must have a wildly different definition than in Florida, or maybe it was the translation (or not). Here, a pattern of harassment can be considered stalking, but it must be “directed at a specific person”. Generally, public nuisance charges are not criminal, require repeated nuisance, and are only subject to a fine.

Approximation of the Offending Act (From When Harry Met Sally)

Approximation of the Offending Act (From When Harry Met Sally)

The man argued in his defense, that he was just a good lover. Apparently the noises were primarily coming from his girlfriend. I don’t think this guy should have been locked up, but he is going to get a lot of jail mail from admirers: he won’t have any trouble getting a date when he gets out!

Looking at the NY Daily News article, it appears that the charge might be more akin to Florida’s Breach of the Peace / Disorderly Conduct charge. That still wouldn’t hold up, as vocal screaming likely would be protected “speech” in this country. I have seen someone charged with Breach of Peace for playing a radio too loud, though I doubt the propriety of that charge. Also, he wasn’t the one screaming, so HE did not commit acts to disturb the peace, the girlfriend was the one making the noise. Silly Italians, this does nothing to bolster my faith in the Italian judicial system.

Free the guy- he’s a lover, not a fighter! He plans to appeal. #sexcrime

The Voice of ‘Charlie Brown’ is Facing Felony Stalking Charges

Sadly, the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard that the man who had voiced Charlie Brown in several of the classic TV specials had been arrested for stalking was, “Was it the little red-haired girl?” What a horrible thing to think, and no, it was not even a romantic-related stalking issue. He is charged with threatening a police office, a doctor, and two others with death. So far, there are not many more details available. Weird.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/23/showbiz/charlie-brown-actor-arrested/index.html?hpt=hp_bn9

Changes to Florida’s Stalking laws / statutes

Florida recently made some changes to its law regarding stalking, which went into effect just over a week ago, October 1, 2012.  Some changes were also made to the laws regarding injunctions related to stalking: specifically, a specific statute for stalking injunctions was created.  I’ll address this briefly… as the new cause of action is a waste of legislative effort and ink.  Stalking was already specifically listed as a crime that could trigger an injunction.  This new law probably makes some lawmaker feel good for having passed it, and earned some good publicity, but it doesn’t create a cause of action that wasn’t already available.   Mostly, it’s repetitive and adds to the already voluminous Florida Statutes, which already fill six books.

Regarding the criminal stalking statute, Section 784.048 of the Florida Statutes, one of the main changes was to alter some of the definitional language.  The most dramatic changes are to the language of the “credible threat” definition.  The definition was changed to specifically incorporate verbal and nonverbal threats, including those by electronic communication and by pattern of conduct.  This is rather silly, as the old definition more broadly covered any “threat”, I don’t know why the legislature felt it necessary to delineate or pare down the broader language.  Again, good publicity for the bill sponsor, I’m sure.

The changes go on to eliminate the intent requirement from the definition of “credible threat”, essentially making the crime a strict liability offense.  I doubt that this change is constitutional.  Traditionally, criminal statutes require some ‘mens rea’, criminal intent, before we subject people to incarceration for the activity.  The amended statute means that an inadvertent comment, which was not intended to place fear in anyone, could result in prosecution if that comment gets to the person, and they become afraid, even if the speaker never meant to scare them.  You can read the full text here.  This could punish some innocent speech.  The statue includes langauge excepting “constitutionally protected activity” from being included in the prohibition: and last I checked, most speech is constitutionally protected.  Interestingly, simply using the word threat in the amended definition may preclude the effort to remove intent from the offense, as threat is traditionally defined as a statement of an intent to cause harm.  Formerly, the language read: “…a threat made with the intent to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety.”

The statute still includes a requirement that the fear be reasonable.  Language was added to say that incarceration is not a bar to prosecution for violations, not that it ever was.  Also, there’s no need to prove the ability to carry out the threat, not that ability was required by the old language, either. 

To be guilty of the offense of aggravated stalking, the defendant must be guilty of stalking the individual and have an aggravating factor, such as making a “credible threat” (or having an injunction, etc).  The language does expand “credible threat” to include not only the person, but their family as well, which is a pretty sensible clarification of the definition (there was previously some inclusory language in the felony subsection.)

Additionally, the statute now authorizes the court to issue an injunction for up to 10 years which may be the most sensible addition.  It’s a civil remedy, not an unlawful punishment.  It spares the victim the necessity of going to court separately for an injunction that could exceed the incarceration or supervision on the criminal case, but does not affect the ability to seek other relief in civil court, such as a permanent injunction.  This provision adds a good option for the judge, without being unnecessarily repetitive or burdensome. #newlaws