Tag Archives: tampa

The State is Trying to Force the Parents of Accused Tampa Serial Killer to Cooperate

howell donaldson trai

Howell Donaldson III

The state has charged Howell “Trai” Donaldson III with four counts of murder for a string of killings in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa in the last few weeks. The State then subpoenaed his parents, Howell Donaldson, Jr. and Rosita Donaldson, to ask them about his history, including criminal, mental health and so forth. His parents, who were concerned that the State may try to use any evidence they provided to put their son to death, refused to answer the State’s questions or to cooperate. While the concerns may be sympathetic, there is no parental privilege applicable in this circumstance.

The State moved to hold them in contempt, and a hearing was held today in court. The Judge ruled that they would have to comply with the subpoena and to testify. He has given them until January 5, 2018 to answer the prosecutors questions or risk being found in contempt of court, which could include jail time.

This is fascinating, from a legal perspective, and the first time I’ve seen something like it. They were lawfully served with a subpoena (probably an Instanter), and the judge probably correctly orders them to comply under the law. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The serial murders he is charged with are shocking, as four seemingly unconnected, innocent people were killed. The young man accused was a college graduate who was apparently polite, even with the cops that arrested him. This case will be in the headlines for some time.

Advertisements

Drunk Driving Arrests Are Going Down, but Are the Roads Safer?

  • Drunk Driving Numbers Are Falling in many Jurisdictions
  • Ride Sharing Programs Claims Some Credit
  • Critics Blame Lack of Enforcement

Ride sharing apps were in the news this week when Uber and Lyft decided to pull out of serving Austin, TX due to strict local ordinances. This may make the streets less safe, because a great deal of the business for these apps are taking people home late at night and on weekends: providing a convenient alternative to driving for many people who have been out on the town and possibly drinking.

Lyft stache

The old Lyft ‘Stache

The ride sharing apps are quick to take credit for drops in DUI arrest numbers. Arrest numbers indicate declines in Florida cities, including the Miami and Tampa areas. Law enforcement agencies in Tampa were willing to give some credit to ride sharing, but also indicated there had been less enforcement going on due to shortages and other factors. MADD says there has been a major shortage of enforcement in Dade County jurisdictions, but the drop in arrests is likely due to a variety of factors, ranging from ride-sharing to less overtime for officers than they used to get on DUI cases.

Hopefully the decline in arrests is indicative of less people drinking and driving, and keeping the roads safer for all of us. If Uber and Lyft help, we can all get behind that. The numbers so far certainly favor the increase accessibility of ride-sharing apps.

Tampa Woman Charged with 3 DUIs in less than a Week

Jennifer Yi Mug Shot

Jennifer Yi Mug Shot

Jennifer Yi has been booked into the Hillsborough county jail for three DUI counts in only 6 days! That’s impressive. It’s a bad, bad thing… but impressive.

Don’t drink and drive (and drink and drive and drink and drive).

2 Drunks Pass Out in a Dumpster: Wake up in Garbage Truck

Only in Florida! The Tampa Bay Times already trumped me with the best possible headling to this story: “They must have been trashed.” Then, “When you wake up trapped in the back of a garbage truck, it’s a good time to review some of your life decisions.” Hope they had a good time!

Dumpster Couple, via TBT

Dumpster Couple, via TBT

Thanks @ErinOnTV for pointing this one out!

The Dirtiest Trick, Revisited

A few weeks ago, I posted about what I believe to be the dirtiest trick utilized by law enforcement in their poorly-run internet sting operations: using pictures of OLDER decoys to supposedly catch pedophiles. I have personally seen cases where decoys of legal age were used to entice would-be consenting adults. I got an email yesterday that in another sting operation, in Orange County, agents were using images of decoys as old as 25 to entice their targets. I wish I could say that I was surprised. The sad truth is they claim to be chasing pedophiles, but they are using adults to lure people. There’s nothing wrong with meeting a 25-year-old on the internet, it’s the lie they slip in claiming the decoy is much younger that they use to arrest the sucker. While we don’t want adults traveling to meet underage children, our law enforcement resources are being misspent if we are pursuing people who are not actually looking to meet underage partners. The reality is even more harsh, as Florida’s draconian sentencing laws often don’t fit the crime. (See Marissa Alexander re: 10/20/Life)

Here’s a link to the image of the 25-year-old decoy: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzLomEB8bi2PTjZra3gtSFRyc0E/edit

Commentors have pointed me to the governingus.com blog that specifically follows these cases. It’s worth checking and they recently linked to a story out of Tampa by a reporter who really does some journalism and challenges the authorities. Noah Pransky used to work in the Fort Myers market, before moving on to a bigger market. We’ve linked to his stories on before on crimcourts, when he did a great expose on misuse of red light ticketing. Imagine that, the Fourth Estate keeping an eye on government intrusion.

Pransky, who is not on the defense side, unlike the author of this blog, says it perfectly, “Law enforcement may have crossed the line in going after some men who weren’t breaking the law at all.” He continues, “While many of those arrested will ultimately get well-deserved time behind bars, even if a few men were wrongly targeted by officers who were abusing their power, that’s too many victims. Those men will never be able to fully clear their names, even if their found not guilty, which is why we’re fighting for transparency, and your right to know that police aren’t engaging in entrapment.”

That reporting is especially important as the government goes further and further to invade our lives, and to keep secrets from our citizens: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/feds-seize-stingray-documents/

http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/investigations/2014/04/15/pinellas-polk-sex-stings-public-record-refusal/7749057/

Some Florida Communities Caught Shortening Yellow Lights

Red Light camera

Red Light camera

People often claim that traffic citations are more about fund-raising for cities and counties than they are about the safety of drivers. While the communities continually deny this, they rake in money from the citations, especially red light cameras. Well, it’s hard to claim that the communities are concerned about safety when it turns out that some communities are deliberately SHORTENING yellow lights, which directly leads to more red light tickets. Studies have shown that shorter yellow lights lead to more accidents, but politicians are still using the camera company’s talking points to claim justification for shortening the yellows. Some of those same politicians are receiving campaign donations from the camera companies!

More insidious is that camera supporters put through a change in the law to allow the yellow lights to be shortened. Still, communities in the WTSP story are still shortening the yellow lights below the new minimum standards. Watch reporter Pransky confront the spokesman with evidence of the intentional shortening. This is sickening.

The red light cameras are clearly a racket for communities to tax drivers for the most minor of infractions. Amidst some tumult about the cameras, Collier took theirs down a few months ago. One of the commissioners there admitted it was a revenue generating program, and they weren’t making as much money when the law changed to prevent the camera company from making a commission based on the number of tickets issued. This is shameful by these other Florida communities who are putting drivers at greater risk, just to ticket them for more revenue. It’s government working against the people who it should be working for, and I applaud the investigative efforts of Noah Pransky and the WTSP, Channel 10 news team in Tampa for bringing this racket to light. Great job, I can safely say we Mr. Pransky’s reporting in Southwest Florida.

Thanks to Drudge Report for pointing out the story.

http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=316418

Federal prosecutors fail to win a conviction in another trial

This time in Tampa, the Cortnee Brantley trial ended in a mistrial.  She is charged with misprison of a felony, failing to inform police of a felony that she was allegedly aware of.  The Defense has argued since she was underinvestigation, she wasn’t required to answer questions.  Sounds like a basic 5th Amendment situation on its face, but it differs in that they weren’t asking her to incriminate herself, rather her boyfriend who was trying to elude arrest.  The article indicates she could be facing state charges as well, I have never seen that charged in Florida- interesting case.