Tag Archives: warrant

Sarasota Police try to Charge an Attorney Defending Her Client

Sarasota defense attorney, and friend of the firm, Varinia Van Ness had criminal charges sought by the Sarasota Police against her for her representation of her client. The mere fact that officers would even consider trying to charge a defense attorney for zealously doing her job is shocking. It’s petty, retaliatory, and an affront to our adversarial system of justice. Fortunately, the officer’s multiple attempts to file charges were rebuffed by cooler heads.

Attorney Varinia Van Ness, via
http://www.vannesslawgroup.com/

It started when two Sarasota detectives sought to serve search warrants on Ms. Van Ness’ client and his phone. The parties agreed to meet at Van Ness’ office but about 10 minutes into the meeting, it was revealed that a Detective Derek Galbraith had activated a recording device without notifying Ms. Van Ness. When she found out, she insisted he either terminate the recording, or to leave the office. He declined to turn it off, but he also declined to leave the office. She indicated he was trespassing, but he still wouldn’t leave and Van Ness eventually called 911 to get him to leave.

After detectives left, they tried to serve the warrants again at the client’s work, at his brother’s house, and even at his ex-girlfriend’s home. Van Ness and her client agreed to meet at the police department. When the Detectives read the phone warrant, a spelling error was noticed in the client’s name, and Van Ness and her client left the room, though they ultimately did submit a DNA sample. Later that day, Detective Dan Riley from the Sarasota PD requested that a warrant be issued for the arrest of attorney Van Ness for obstruction of justice.

Fortunately, the warrant was never issued. It was submitted to a judge who recognized that the case involved a defense attorney doing her job, which would be a valid challenge to the warrant. He said it would have to be reviewed the State Attorneys office to see if formal charges were warranted. Sarasota PD didn’t give up, and submitted the warrant request to the State Attorney’s office. The local SAO had a conflict of interest, and the case was reassigned to the 20th Judicial Circuit SAO, who also declined to file charges. Sarasota PD took one more shot, submitting the case to FDLE, who also declined to pursue charges. The case was reviewed by three separate independent judges/agencies, who all agreed there was no merit to bringing charges.

This type of attack on an attorney is shocking and very problematic to the justice system. Ultimately, the fear would be that if cops can go charge an attorney for advocating for their clients, the chilling affect on the job of defense attorneys would harm our criminal justice system and is an affront to the Constitutional protection to the right to be represented by an attorney. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to assistance of counsel, and it applies at every level of a criminal investigation.

It’s rare that law enforcement would seek to charge an attorney for advocacy in the normal course of their work. Usually, it takes something really egregious, the Paul Bergrin case in New Jersey springs to mind, where he assisted gangsters placing hits against witnesses. Only something extreme that goes beyond advocacy should even be considered, and even then, it should be reviewed by attorneys before being submitted for a warrant.

Asking a Detective to leave your office because they recorded you without permission is not obstruction of justice. Declining to have your client turn over his phone password when his name is spelled wrong on the warrant is not obstruction of justice. That’s advocacy. Zealous advocates like Varinia Van Ness are the first check against government overreach and the primary protection of individual Constitutional rights. We are lucky to have defense attorneys like Varinia.

via Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Cape Coral PD Breaks into the Wrong Home- Scares Little Old Lady

ccpdAs if Cape Coral did not have enough trouble with some of the bad warrants they had last year as a result of the Kordelle McKissack situation we helped uncover last year, you’d think they would have really buttoned down their warrant procedure. Alas, it was reported today that SWAT broke in the door of the apartment of a 78-year old little old lady, and they were at the wrong apartment. The last one cost them several cases, and no arrest was made this time… but it will likely cost them a lot of money. The woman has post-traumatic stress disorder, and is preparing a lawsuit.

The Department claims they were technically and procedurally correct. I disagree. If you break in the door for an innocent little old lady, you’re not just failing to achieve excellence. You are seriously doing something wrong. Let’s hope that this leads to better procedures to stop these things from happening. Unfortunately, the legal remedy is for them to be punished financially through a lawsuit. We all have to pay for their incompetence, but there must be a ramification so that these mistakes teach a lesson.

Federal Court Throws out Stingray Evidence

This week a federal court ruled that evidence collected by use of a Stingray was inadmissible where a warrant was not obtained. Stingrays are devices that mimic cell phone towers. They allow government agents to track the whereabouts of cell phones without the knowledge of the cell phone users. It is unknown how many agencies employ the use of Stingrays, because they also promise to keep them secret when they acquire them.

The DOJ issued a policy that their agents are supposed to get warrants before using the devices. That was a smart move, predicting the legal outcome when the Stingray evidence was challenged. This investigation occurred before that change in policy, and if the Feds had continued to collect this evidence without warrants… a lot more cases would be in Jeopardy. The DOJ policy does not govern local law enforcement agencies, who stand to have a lot of evidence in jeopardy if they have not been obtaining warrants, in light of this Federal Court decision.

Supreme Court to Review DUI Refusal Laws

supreme court facadeThe Supreme Court has decided to hear two cases involving Refusal to Submit to breathalyzers, known as implied consent laws. Many states make it a requirement for drivers to submit to controlled tests of their breath (or blood or urine) to determine alcohol content… and have penalties for the failure to do so. Many states, including Florida, make it a crime to refuse in certain circumstances. In Florida, a second refusal constitutes a first degree misdemeanor.

These laws have been upheld in Florida, and other places, on the theory that driving is a privilege, not a right. That is, if you accept the privilege to drive, the state can require you to submit to a lawful test. Florida prints it right on the front of drivers’ licenses (take a look along the bottom of your FL DL).

Just 2 years ago, the Court ruled that states cannot routinely take blood draws without getting a warrant. Many states, including Florida, had passed provisions for the immediacy of blood draws in certain circumstances: Florida had allowed them when there was an accident with serious bodily injury. The Court said that with modern technology, in most circumstances, it is possible to get a warrant rapidly, and therefore the state should get a warrant before doing a blood draw. It will be interesting to see how they come down on the refusal issue.

UPDATE: Missouri Man, Possibly a Hit Man known as “The Hammer”, Arrested in Estero Murder of Dr. Theresa Sievers

Possible Hit Man, Jimmy Rodgers,

Possible Hit Man, Jimmy Rodgers, “The Hammer”

Jimmy Rodgers, of Missouri, is the man that an arrest warrant was obtained for arrest in the murder of Bonita Springs doctor, Theresa Sievers. According to NBC-2, who has owned this story, there are reports out of Missouri that people knew him as a hit man, and that he went by the nickname, “The Hammer.” While details about the murder have been closely guarded by authorities, neighbors had heard that a hammer may have been the murder weapon. Sheriff Scott previously referred to the murder as a targeted killing. NBC-2 is also reporting there is a known connection between Rodgers and  Sievers’ family.

Rodgers is already in jail in Missouri on a Federal probation violation.

UPDATE: Sheriff Mike Scott has announced that another Missouri man has also been arrested in relation to the murder. Curtis Wayne Wright is apparently a childhood friend of Sievers’ husband, according to NBC-2. Also, NBC reports that Rodgers was spotted Lee County at the time of the murders, and made admissions to people in Missouri about committing the murder.

Curtis Wayne Wright's possible Facebook photo, per NBC-2

Curtis Wayne Wright’s possible Facebook photo, per NBC-2

UPDATE: Man in Custody: Possible Arrest Warrant in Murder of Theresa Sievers, Holisitic Doctor that was Murdered in June

Theresa Sievers

Theresa Sievers

NBC-2 is reporting that there is a warrant awaiting a signature from a judge to make an arrest in the brutal Bonita Springs murder of Dr. Theresa Sievers. They are also reporting that Lee county officers have been in Missouri, recently. Details have been scarce, but Sheriff Mike Scott previously indicated there is evidence the murder was not random.

UPDATE: A man, who may have been a professional hitman, has been arrested in Missouri.

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