In re: K.R. In this case, K.R. was a five (5) year old boy who had been in the care and custody of the Foster Mother for many years which amounted to all but a few months of his life. At one point, DCF had filed a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights but subsequently dismissed the Petition for no apparent reason, thereby permitting K.R. to continue to languish in foster care. The Foster Mother (a public school teacher)—who was desirous of adopting K.R.—was rightfully frustrated with the system and retained me to represent her. I researched the entire 5-year history of the case, drafted and filed a private Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and litigated the case. After a one (1) day trial followed by written closing arguments, the trial court granted the Petition, which decision was subsequently per curium affirmed on appeal by the Third District Court of Appeal.
State v. K.S. K.S was an indigent high school student with no prior criminal record who had broken up a fight between two (2) young women, during which fight the victim’s necklace disappeared from around her neck. The other young woman in the fight was arrested for Strong Arm Robbery. At the time of the investigation, the victim wrote a statement acknowledging that K.S.’s only involvement was to break up the fight. But at the time of the pre-file conference at the State Attorney’s Office, the victim—whose mother was a police officer—now claimed that K.S. held her down during the fight so that the other young woman could take her necklace. The Assistant State Attorney directed the lead detective to arrest K.S. which he reluctantly did (so reluctantly that he permitted her to pre-post the bond and drove her in the front seat of his police vehicle without handcuffs to the Dade County Jail for processing). I represented K.S. on a pro bono basis. Among other things, I arranged for a free polygraph examination (which K.S. passed, showing no deception) and located an independent witness who executed a sworn affidavit that K.S. did, in fact, break up the fight and not hold the alleged victim down. When the Assistant State Attorney refused to accept the affidavit, I transported the independent witness to the State Attorney’s Office for a formal sworn statement. The Assistant State Attorney then no-actioned (dismissed) the case at the time of Arraignment.
U.S.A. v. E.S. E.S. was a highly decorated lifeguard for the City of Miami Beach. One weekend, he went down to the islands by boat. Upon his return to Port Everglades, federal agents located and seized 100 kilograms of cocaine that was concealed in a hidden compartment on the boat. After handling and seizing that cocaine, the agents then searched E.S.’s suitcase in which they detected a trace amount of cocaine by use of the IONSCAN and the SENTOR (new technological devices capable of detecting nanograms of cocaine). Although the boat owner/captain had a prior criminal record for drug trafficking (by boat with a hidden compartment), there was no other evidence against E.S. Even though the judge allowed the results of the IONSCAN and the SENTOR into evidence over defense objection and after an evidentiary hearing—the very first time such scientific evidence was admitted into evidence in any court in the entire United States—and also greatly limited the scope of our expert witness’ testimony at trial, we nevertheless demonstrated at trial the likelihood of transference and contamination, thereby resulting in the acquittal of E.S.
State v. T.A. One day when he was a teenager growing up in Philadelphia, T.A. was viciously attacked. He was hit in the head and face with a brick, causing serious injuries. Although he physically healed following reconstructive and plastic surgeries, the incident left him with periodic debilitating migraine headaches. T.A. eventually attended law school in Broward County. One weekend while law school was in session, T.A. flew to Philadelphia to visit his parents. On Sunday, before returning to Florida, T.A. suffered a migraine headache. His mother—a registered nurse—gave him one of her white pills to take. He took the pill, thinking it was extra strength Tylenol. His headache went away and he flew back to Florida. The next night, he went out and had a few drinks. While driving home, he was stopped by the police and eventually arrested for D.U.I. His breath alcohol level was .055 (below the legal limit); however, his urine tested positive for butalbital (which is the active ingredient in Percocet, which is a controlled substance under the laws of the State of Florida and which remains in the system for more than several days). At trial, I presented the defense of involuntary intoxication. I called T.A.’s mother to testify that she gave Percocet to her son and that she did not inform him of the nature of the specific medication (he testified he thought it was Tylenol)—which constituted sufficient evidence of involuntary intoxication that the trial court reluctantly so instructed the jury, which acquitted T.A. of DUI.
State v. J.S. J.S. was charged with the very serious offenses of Kidnapping and Attempted Sexual Battery of a teenage girl. During the course of my investigation, I learned that the alleged victim had come home late that night after her mother had previously advised her not to be late and that when the alleged victim came home, her sister told her that their mother was looking for her and that their mother was going to punish her for coming home late. I also learned that the police officer observed no injuries, no messy hair and torn clothes on the alleged victim. At trial, I presented to the jury the alleged victim’s motive to fabricate the story, together with police testimony as to the physical evidence (or lack thereof) that contradicted the alleged victim’s story. The jury acquitted J.S. in very short time.
U.S.A. v. J.H. Law enforcement initiated a criminal investigation of a downtown nightclub with the intention of building a case against the owner of the club. At the conclusion of the investigation, law enforcement had arrested a number of teenagers/young adults for distribution of Ecstasy at the club but made no criminal case against the owner. The U.S. Attorney’s Office decided to prosecute those teenagers/young adults in federal court instead of referring the cases to state court. J.H. was one of those teenagers/young adults; he was charged with selling 25 pills of Ecstasy (weighing a total of 7.2 grams) to undercover detectives (with a sentencing guideline range of 10 months to 16 months). Without a viable defense, J.H. entered a plea of guilty; however, the Pre-Sentence Investigation determined that J.H. was a career offender (with a sentencing guideline range of 151 months to 188 months) based upon prior felony convictions in state court for the sale of a $5 baggie of cannabis to a co-defendant, for the sale of a $10 baggie of cannabis to a co-arrestee and for the sale of a $40 baggie of cannabis and $100 worth of Ecstasy to a confidential informant. Much to its credit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office recognized that 12½ years in federal prison was not an appropriate resolution of the case. I filed Objections to the Pre-Sentence Investigation Report and, with the support of the U.S.A.O, an Unopposed Motion for Downward Departure and an Unopposed Motion to Withdraw Plea in Order to Facilitate Re-Entry of Guilty Plea to Lesser Included Offense of Possession. The federal judge read aloud from the “Ashcroft Memo” (which called for federal prosecutors to seek maximum sentences in every case), referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office as “weak kneed” (which made the national news), ordered the U.S. Attorney’s Office to get approval from the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. (which it did) and directed that the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida personally attend the hearing on the Motions (which he did). Meanwhile, I solicited the assistance of another attorney to attack the prior convictions in State court on constitutional grounds. The federal judge denied the aforementioned Motions, as well as an additional Motion for Recusal. At the time of sentencing, notwithstanding the fact that two (2) of the three (3) state court convictions had been vacated on ineffective assistance of counsel (constitutional) grounds, the federal judge sentenced J.H. to 12½ years in federal prison as a career offender. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the sentence and the federal judge then re-sentenced J.H. to credit time served.
U.S.A. v. J.C.H. J.C.H. was charged by Indictment with two (2) counts of conveying false information concerning an attempt to damage and/or destroy a federal building with explosives (Count I) and concerning an attempt to place a destructive device upon an airplane (Count II). Based upon a very compelling Motion, J.C.H. received a sentence of home detention, not federal prison.
U.S.A. v. C.R. C.R. was charged by Indictment with Conspiracy to Bring Aliens to the United States, for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such aliens had not received prior official authorization to come to, enter and reside in the United States—an offense with a minimum mandatory federal prison sentence. I filed a Motion to Suppress evidence; to wit: the approximate ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) which was located on board the vessel during a warrantless search. The Government conceded the Motion and reduced the charge to a lesser offense, thereby resulting in a sentence of Home Detention, not federal prison.
State v. S.H. S.H. was charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Based upon the grounds for the traffic stop, I filed a Motion to Suppress evidence; to wit: 1) S.H.’s refusal to submit to roadside sobriety exercises; 2) the empty beer bottle located under the driver’s seat; 3) the empty beer bottles located in the trunk; and 4) S.H.’s refusal to submit to a breath test. After a hearing on the Motion, the judge granted the Motion to Suppress, thereby resulting in the State nolle prossing (dismissing) the DUI case.
U.S.A. v. L.C. L.C. was charged by Indictment with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (Count 1), Conspiracy to Commit Robbery (Count 2), Conspiracy to Carry a Firearm in a Drug Trafficking Crime (Count 3) and Possession of Firearm/Ammunition by Convicted Felon (Count 4). Based upon the particular facts of the case, I filed a Motion to Disclose Confidential Source. After a hearing on the Motion, the federal magistrate granted the Motion to Disclose Confidential Source, thereby resulting in the Government agreeing to a very greatly reduced sentence in lieu of disclosing the confidential source.