Tag Archives: trafficking

Punta Gorda Lawyer Suspended due to Incarceration

steven burch

Steven Burch

Attorney Steven Burch, who had about 44 cases pending, primarily in Charlotte County, has been suspended indefinitely by the Florida Bar. Burch was indicted on federal drug trafficking charges in 2016, but continued to practice until recently. He was incarcerated after new charges were added, and his bond was revoked for violation of pretrial release conditions. Burch had arranged for a client to send the drugs, allegedly to then try to cooperate with law enforcement to get out of his own DUI charge. He had his client arrange to ship heroin, which he then disclosed to law enforcement. Unbeknownst to him, his client’s wife recorded the arrangement, and Burch ended up going down. He entered a plea to conspiracy to distribute, and faces up to 20 years in prison on that charge.

I’m going to tag this “reverse entrapment”, as it wasn’t law enforcement that set a guy up… it was his own attorney. And this will almost certainly, hopefully, be the only time I use that tag! Though, it is kind of similar to the Easter case from California

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The Sordid Tale of a former Kentucky Judge turned Sex-Trafficker

tim nolan mug shot

Tim Nolan

Cincinnati.com went long on Tim Nolan, the former judge (and attorney, school board member, and Trump activist) who has pled guilty to charges of human trafficking. Go check out the full article by Scott Wartman. In sum, the former judge- who had prided himself of being tough on crime, turned out to be a criminal. He has pled guilty to 21 counts of human trafficking going back to 2004, and will be sentenced Thursday for what will probably amount to a life sentence (20 years). He took advantage of young women, many living in his properties, often using drugs or physical force or the threat of eviction to induce them for sex.

The case was weird, not only because of Nolan’s political ties. At one point there were allegations he paid a witness, with whom he had had a relationship, but whose daughter was one of his victims. There was talk that he might blame mental illness, or his brain tumor, for his behavior, but ultimately decided to enter a guilty plea. He reportedly had a disdain for lawyers… which in itself suggests his contempt for the rule of law and due process, but is particularly galling for a lawyer himself.

Be sure to check out the article on cincinnati.com.

Florida Man Lists “Drug Dealer” as his Occupation on Booking Sheet

Robert Phillips Mug Shot

Robert Phillips Mug Shot

Robert Phillips was booked in on an array of 13 different charges a couple days ago in Palm Beach County. He’s no stranger to the law, having been arrested several times before. He’s also no stranger to a life of crime, as he actually listed “drug dealer” as his occupation on his arrest report. No surprise, as deputies indicate they saw him perform a hand-to-hand transaction. He then fled at a high rate of speed, ran into a Michael’s craft store, dropped a loaded handgun, and was apprehended with the help of a police dog when he ran out the back door! Deputies found 22 grams of heroin on him, and several more grams of cocaine in his vehicle.

Robert Phillips Prison Photo

Robert Phillips Prison Photo

He’s in deep trouble, not just because he has so many charges. If he is convicted of trafficking as charged: that is possessing more than 14 grams of heroin, he is facing a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years, and up to 30 on that charge alone. Looks like he is going to be forced into a career change. He’s been to prison before on drug and weapons offenses. Some people just aren’t cut out for a life of crime.

via Palm Beach Post

Thoughts on NBC-2’s Drug Sentencing Story

  • Michael B. Edwards was sentenced to 60 years in prison for cocaine charges in 1993
  • He has already served more than 20 years behind bars, so far
Michael Edwards in DOC

Michael Edwards in DOC

If you didn’t get a chance to check out the NBC-2 story, spend a few minutes reading or watching it. Mr. Edwards was a drug addict, who got arrested for his involvement, and then hammered by the courts with an extremely harsh sentence. According to the story, the state will pay over $1,000,000 to pay for his incarceration, as he faces decades more than the 20 years he has already served. A review of the file discloses that even the sentencing judge found his efforts at reforming his life while incarcerated to be commendable.

The story does sugar coat the story, or gloss over some of the bad facts. Mr. Edwards didn’t merely possess cocaine, he was convicted of selling it, on two separate occasions. His prior record was terrible; he’d already been to prison multiple times for many charges, including a prior cocaine trafficking conviction. His plea offer was for 15 years, and that was due to his substantial record.

I stated in my previous article that the sentence was more than he could get in state court for a possession charge. To extend his sentence out to 60 years, he really had to get hammered. First, it wasn’t merely possession: it was two counts of sale. Secondly, he was classified as a Habitual Felony Offender, which double the potential penalty on each of the sale counts. Finally, he had to be completely maxed out. The court double him up under the habitual statue, and then ran the sentences concurrent. Basically, he got doubled up twice. Since there were two sale charges on different days, the sentences are legal. As I’ve said before, Florida has an extremely harsh sentencing regime. He is not slated for release until 2044.

According to the article and the case file, Mr. Edwards has one of the harshest sentences in Florida for sales of such small amounts of drugs. In addition to punitive value, harsh sentences are intended to serve as a deterrent to others who might sell. However, there comes a point where the punishment, when extended to its fullest limit, may not fit with the actual facts of the crime. That’s a pretty basic principle of law: the punishment should fit the crime. Either way, you, me, and the other taxpayers of Florida are footing the bill for the million dollar cost of the case, for an individual who never was given a shot at rehab.

UPDATE: Link to NBC fixed: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/25371390/should-a-tablespoon-of-cocaine-equate-to-life-in-prison

Collier Convict, Accidentally Released Early, Seeks to be Let Out of Prison Sentence

Marcelino Gonzalez DOC photo

Marcelino Gonzalez DOC photo

Marcelino Gonzalez was convicted in Collier County of Cocaine Trafficking. But instead of serving a 15 year sentence, he was accidentally released from the Hillsborough County Jail. He moved up north, and resumed living and working as a free man. Florida officials realized their error and caught up to him a few years ago, and proceeded to put him back in prison. He has now filed a motion to be released, as his sentence should have been up years ago.

The general rule in Florida is that if a convict is released early, through no fault of their own, they should be entitled to the time they would have been serving. Basically, for such a ‘Bank Error in Your Favor’, the sentence clock is still running, and you benefit from their error. He was sentenced to 15 years, starting in 1996… not 2009. It’s too bad he doesn’t have a lawyer to file the correct motion for him. He missed the sentence he should have served, and now he’s serving time he should not. Two wrongs do not make a right, and the letter of the law is that he should be given credit, and released.

See State v. Mendiola, 919 So.2d 471 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005).

via Marissa Kendall at News-press.com: http://www.news-press.com/article/20130514/CRIME/305140029/Inmate-Mistaken-release-not-his-fault-he-should-free