January 2012 Archives

Prosecutors make Jacksonville arrest in 1994 murder, charge same man they released just before trial

January 30, 2012

Seventeen years ago the state let David Carpenter walk out of jail, saying conflicting witness statements and a lack of evidence was not enough to take him to trial on a murder charge. This week, Carpenter was arrested again in Jacksonville on the same murder charge and police are relying on jailhouse snitches to put the case together this time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

Police said Carpenter was in jail on unrelated Duval County drug charges and was boasting about the 1994 murder of Joseph Allen Watson, according to the newspaper. Carpenter had long been a person of interest in the case, police told the newspaper.
In late 1994, police found the body of a 39-year-old man in a trail of blood near a wooded area. Witnesses at the time told police Carpenter said he traded some speakers to the man for crack cocaine that turned out to be fake. Carpenter said he went back to the man and stabbed him, according to the newspaper.

Yet shortly before a trial date, the state dropped the charges and let Carpenter go.
Carpenter has been in and out of jail since, arrested 25 times on various charges, according to the newspaper. He had just been sentenced to 18 months on a drug charge and was in jail when they added the murder charge this week. Detectives would not say who Carpenter told recently and how it got back to police, but that will be key if and when this case makes it to trial. Statements and accusations from other inmates can be dicey for the state. They are in the jail because they've been arrested for something and, while that does not make them guilty, there is the underlying current that what they say on the stand could benefit their own situation.

And that's true. Prosecutors cut deals all the time to reduce sentences in exchange for cooperation. For example, police may send someone facing drug charges back to where he or she bought the drugs, this time with a wire, to try to reel in a bigger fish.
But the state will have to prove they learned something significant with this new information - something so significant that without it, prosecutors could not charge Carpenter with murder at any other point in the past 17 years. If the only change is another inmate says he heard Carpenter brag about the killing in jail, expect defense attorneys to make that point loud and clear.

Our Jacksonville criminal defense law firm been involved in dozens of cases with jailhouse snitches and is adept at pointing out potential motives for people to say what they say. If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Employee theft cases in Jacksonville often come with loads of evidence

January 27, 2012

Two Northeast Florida women were charged last week in separate employee theft cases and both appear to be fighting uphill battles - at least by what police have released so far. Betty Barnes, a 78-year-old wheelchair-bound Jacksonville church employee, was charged with stealing $167,000 from the church over several years by inflating her own paychecks and cashing voided checks, according to the Florida Times-Union. The newspaper also reported Jaclyn Brown, a 21-year-old Jacksonville woman was charged with stealing more than $26,000 worth of jewelry from the Clay County jewelry store where she worked.

In both Jacksonville criminal cases, the employers appear to have detailed documentation of the alleged thefts occurring over a period of time - years for Barnes and weeks for Brown. In many cases of employee theft, businesses notice the missing goods or money as a part of a pattern of things coming up short. Once employers suspect something, they often lay in wait to see if it happens again, getting enough evidence to terminate the employee and, if needed, take the case to the police. And, in cases where workers have been convicted, it is typically a systemic theft - not a one-shot deal.

Police told the newspaper Brown confessed to stealing the items, but none of the news reports have documented Barnes saying anything about her charges. These cases are challenging, but not insurmountable. Our Jacksonville criminal defense law firm knows that many other things can be at play in an employer-employee relationship than show up in a police report.

Our Clay County theft attorneys know what to look for in the evidence to help determine how strong the company's case is against you or your loved one.
If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval and Clay County theft lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Two adults charged with child neglect in Jacksonville after 3-year-old boy shoots himself

January 25, 2012

Two adults in an apartment when a 3-year-old boy shot himself in the chest are facing Jacksonville felony charges in connection with the shooting. Barbara Anne Powell, 22, and Gregory Eugene Chisholm, 24, are both charged with child neglect and culpable negligence in Duval County, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Chisholm also picked up a charge for violating his probation on a domestic violence case, the newspaper reported.

The boy's injuries are not life-threatening and it was not clear from police whether Powell and Chisholm are his parents, according to the newspaper. Another child in the apartment said her daddy always keeps a gun under the mattress, according to the newspaper. Both child abuse and culpable negligence are third-degree felonies in Florida and are punishable by up to five years in prison, meaning both Powell and Chisholm could be looking at up to 10 years in prison.

One issue will be who actually owns the gun. Powell initially told police the gun was hers; then she said it was Chisholm's, according to the newspaper. Adults have an obligation, according to law, to keep firearms out of the reach of minors. The law does provide an exception if the firearm is kept "in a location which a reasonable person would have believed to be secure." That will likely be a key in this case, but Chisholm may have already cost himself that defense. According to the newspaper report, Chisholm told police it was careless to leave the gun under the mattress.

Police officers aren't lawyers, but they generally know enough about the law to get the necessary words or phrases out of suspects. In this case, that statement - if accurate and obtained properly - could sink Chisholm. That is a prime example of how important it is to talk with a lawyer before talking to police. Our Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer knows the details the state needs to charge someone with a particular crime - like culpable negligence. When the police are investigating you for a crime, they are not there to help you. They have handcuffs for a reason. If you are contacted by the police, call a criminal defense attorney immediately. You have a right to remain silent and you should exercise it.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Eight years after kickback, two sentenced for paying off prison officials

January 23, 2012

Two Gainesville-area businessmen were sentenced last week for bribing top Department of Corrections brass to get a lucrative concessions contract - seven years after the scheme went down. Eddie Lee Dugger was sentenced to 26 months and Joseph Arthur Deese was given 14 months in federal prison for the conspiracy to pay up to $130,000 to disgraced DOC secretary James Crosby, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The sentences cap an ugly eight-year tale for the prison system - and provide a textbook example of how federal investigations can work.

It began in 2004 with a look into rampant steroid use among corrections officers who played in high-stakes softball tournaments on the weekends. It spread to theft of goods meant to be recycled, and with each guilty plea and agreement to cooperate, investigators were gathering string on who they thought was the big fish - Allen Clark.
Turns out, when they went to Clark, he said he could get them Crosby, his best friend and the man who aided Clark's rapid ascent in the department, according to newspaper reports. Clark served just more than two years and was released in 2009. Crosby is serving an eight-year sentence and is scheduled to be released in two years. Both Crosby and Clark agreed to help the government - presumably to tie up the cases against Deese and Dugger, according to the newspaper.

Until a case is dropped, it's not over. Even then, the government has been known to come back refile separate charges. If you think you are being looked at for a crime - or that someone is implicating you once they've been arrested themselves - the best thing you can do is hire a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney. When people are under the gun, they do what they can to save themselves and you need someone who is looking out for you - and only you. Our Jacksonville criminal defense firm has represented plenty of clients who've had former friends or business partners point the finger at them once police get involved.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville teen robber with toy gun shot by police

January 21, 2012

A Jacksonville teen caught robbing a convenience store with a fake gun was shot and killed by police after he refused to drop the gun. Jacksonville robbery detectives had been staking out a Westside Kangaroo store, one of two that had been held up nine times in the last two months, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police saw Craig Ruise, 17, enter the store through a side door just before 3 a.m., and watched through the window as he pointed a gun in the clerk's face and was given money from the register, the newspaper reported. Detectives confronted Ruise on his way out of the store and ordered him to drop the gun and stop. Ruise did not, police told the newspaper, and officers fired seven to eight shots, mostly hitting him in the torso.
Ruise was still holding the gun, which police later determined was a plastic replica spray-painted black.

According to Florida law and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office policy, officers can use deadly force if they believe their lives are in danger. In this case, with an armed robber refusing to drop his weapon, the two officers involved are almost certain to be cleared. Police could not know at the time the gun was a fake and that will likely not be held against them by an internal review board. Some police have been disciplined - even fired - in recent years for their role in shootings, but none has ever been charged criminally in Duval County.

In the heat of an arrest or a chase, always obey the orders of a police officer. Stop when he or she tells you to stop. Don't risk the possibility of an officer thinking you are trying to harm him or her. When it comes time to talk, that's when you can exercise your rights. Ask for an Jacksonville attorney, who will advise you of what to do or say - or not to say. Our Jacksonville criminal defense law firm can discuss your case with you and examine the reports and evidence against you to help determine the best way to fight the charges against you.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County robbery lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Two of five suspects arrested in alleged theft from Jacksonville nonprofit

January 19, 2012

Police arrested two people and have Jacksonville warrants for three more after at least $77,000 from grants targeted to help people pay their mortgages turned up missing. All five people worked for the Community Rehabilitation Center, which offers programs for mental health, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS prevention and job training. An internal audit last spring uncovered the alleged fraud and the organization fired one employee then, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The nonprofit went to police and that employee was the first one arrested in Jacksonville. A second former employee turned himself in. He is a pastor accused of using personal information from his church members to get checks written in their names without their knowledge, the newspaper reported. The money was all stolen over a nine-month period, police told the newspaper.

It is not clear what role in the organization all five played, but it is almost a certainty that some had a larger role than others. A common investigative tool police used, picked up from the FBI, is to arrest or put warrants out for everybody involved. Often times some of the peripheral players will not be charged, but the possibility cranks up the heat and makes them far more likely to talk and provide information on a former co-worker. If they have to save themselves, typically, they will.

None of these conversations should happen without a criminal defense attorney present. Our Jacksonville Theft Lawyer is experienced in helping clients turn themselves in to cooperate with an investigation - and usually has an idea what the other co-defendants are saying, too. Our Jacksonville criminal defense law firm can evaluate where you or your loved one falls in the hierarchy of people charged in a criminal scheme to help determine how vocal to be with police. Cooperation can help earn a reduced sentence, but it's not likely to be helpful if you are the big fish police are after - not one of the ancillary players arrested to help reel that big fish in.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former Jacksonville kingpin sent back to prison for drug charge

January 17, 2012

No one personified a Jacksonville drug kingpin quite like Henry Manns. Now, after one lengthy prison sentence, he's on his way back behind bars - sentenced this month to 15 years in federal prison, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. A federal judge called Manns a "serial drug dealer" in handing down the sentence. Manns pleaded guilty to buying a half-kilogram of cocaine after he was caught in a 2010 drug sting in Lake City, the newspaper reported. The charge carried a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Prosecutors said in the height of the crack cocaine boom in the mid-to-late 1980s, Manns controlled 30 percent of the Jacksonville drug trade and earned north of $10 million a year. An infamous photo of Manns with a dozen gold chains holding stacks of money typically accompanies any major story about Manns in the Times-Union. He was initially sentenced to life in 1988, but got out in 2007 as part of a deal where he cooperated with prosecutors. Manns briefly returned to prison in 2008 for violating his probation, but vowed to a judge his days of trouble were behind him. This time, Manns, now 48, is set to be locked up until he's into his 60s.

Manns' criminal defense attorney said his client had difficulty finding work and Manns told the court this month that he was only buying the drugs in 2010 to help a cousin who was down on his luck - not to get back in the drug game. Getting back into legitimate society proves difficult for many ex-cons, especially when it comes to finding work in an economy with double-digit unemployment. Prosecutors know that, too, and police are often on the lookout for people to slip from their conditions of release.

Our Jacksonville criminal defense law firm has represented hundreds of people arrested for drug crimes in Northeast Florida, and countless others charged with violating probation. We examine all facets of the case to help you make the best decision going forward.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Drug Crimes Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Quick domestic battery plea costs Jacksonville woman her day care center

January 14, 2012

The Florida Department of Children and Families has shut down a Westside Jacksonville child care center after the operator continued to watch children despite a Jacksonville battery conviction. The operator was arrested in October 2010 and pleaded no contest in the next morning. Battery is one of the charges that allows the state to revoke a child care provider license, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

After the conviction, state licensors told her to stop working at Tiny Blessings Day Care Center, but she refused. The state of Florida then took her to court and an administrative judge revoked her license. The business was shut down last week. This case highlights the importance of knowing the effect specific criminal charges will have on any licensing or governing body that regulates your profession. For example, people who drive a taxi or truck for a living can be out of work after a Florida DUI conviction. Issues like this often arise when people enter a plea in the jail courtroom the day after their arrest. The temptation is to get out of jail, do whatever is needed in the short term - not thinking of long-term costs.

If you are arrested in Jacksonville, you will be taken to a courtroom, referred to as J-1, within 24 hours of your arrest. The best option is to plead NOT GUILTY. This will give you time to consult with an attorney to determine the best way to proceed for you - personally and professionally. Often times, charges can be reduced or other punishments can be arranged - such as community service - that could allow people to continue work and being productive member of society. If you or a loved one is arrested, make sure you call a criminal attorney before just trying to get rid of the charges the morning after. An experienced Northeast Florida criminal defense attorney can analyze the state's evidence against you and provide you with a proper defense strategy.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Pastor serves three years for sex crimes in Jacksonville, now out of prison

January 12, 2012

Admit your mistakes, do your time and get on with your life, right? Not so with Florida sex crimes, especially those involving teen-agers. Former Jacksonville pastor Darrell Gilyard is now learning that, according to reports in the Florida Times-Union. Gilyard was released last month after serving three years in prison for groping a teen during a counseling session and sending sexually suggestive text messages to another girl. Gilyard was a pastor at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, one of the city's prominent and well-attended churches.

His sexual offender registration lists his address at a Jacksonville hotel, according to the newspaper. And now the former rising star in ministry circles must choose how to support himself, and plenty are weighing in for this story in the Florida Times-Union.
There are no other charges that carry the stigma of sex crimes. None. It's the only crime that, if you are convicted, allows the state to broadcast your history every time you move to a new neighborhood, alerting everyone in a certain geographic radius. The accusation alone can destroy careers and lives. Often, there is no physical evidence - just one person's word against another's.

Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people facing similar charges. Our Jacksonville criminal defense firm will examine what evidence the state has in the case and provide you with the best options to fight the charges against you. If you are approached by a Jacksonville sex crimes detective, invoke your right to remain silent and call a Jacksonville Sex Crime Attorney immediately! The police are not on your side and are looking to make an arrest. Often times, the police only have the word of another person. They do not consider the lack of physical evidence when investigating a sexual allegation.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Sex Crimes Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Supreme Court refuses appeal, "party mom" heads to jail

January 10, 2012

It's closing time on the case of a St. Augustine mother convicted of supplying teenagers with booze and drugs at her home, which led to the deaths of two teen-agers. Last week, the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Diane Katz Santarelli. She must now report to serve her 364 days in the St. Johns County Jail, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Santarelli went to trial with mixed results in 2010. She was found not guilty of manslaughter - a felony and by far the most serious charge. But the jury also convicted her on holding and open house party and contributing the delinquency of minors - both misdemeanors. She was sentenced to a day less than a year in the country jail. She immediately appealed, and the judge postponed her sentence awaiting the outcome.

Santarelli was the first adult in Florida to be convicted under the states "house party" laws that hold parents legally accountable for what happens to minors if they drink or do drugs in the residence. The case garnered national attention - as much for the sensational nature as the interesting legal precedent. Public service campaigns about these potential charges usually ramp up in the spring, when high school proms and graduations are in full bloom. But there are rarely concrete examples of punishment - until now.

In this St. Augustine criminal case, several witnesses gave similar accounts of Santarelli not only providing the alcohol and drugs, but being an active participant in the parties.
These cases can be tough to prove, especially when jurors are likely aware that teens can readily access alcohol - and have for years - and may reason that if they didn't get it from the parent on the stand, they'd get it elsewhere. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Firm knows the facts it takes to get an arrest aren't always enough for a judge and a jury.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in St. Augustine or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our St. Johns County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville ranks 4th in nation for DUI arrests

January 7, 2012

Of the nation's 20 largest cities, a recent report showed Jacksonville has the fourth-highest percentage of people who've been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
That's certainly no shocker for our Jacksonville DUI Defense Law Firm. Our criminal defense law firm has represented hundreds of people accused of DUI in Jacksonville.

Last year in Duval County alone, there were 3,700 DUI arrests, according to a report by Action New Jacksonville. Yet not all of those arrests will result in convictions. The details of the traffic stop are key in a DUI arrest and, in some cases, the stop is thrown out by the judge and the charges are dropped entirely. The officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a driver is committing a crime or traffic infraction - speeding, driving recklessly or in an unsafe manner -- before he or she even approaches a vehicle. After the officer makes contact with a DUI suspect, he or she must see or detect more suspicious activity before asking a person to perform field sobriety exercises. Common suspicious activity our Jacksonville DUI attorney sees in police reports are having watery eyes, emitting the odor of alcoholic beverages and slurring one's speech.

If the officer has enough suspicion to move forward with the investigation, he or she will ask the person to do field sobriety exercises. These include walking in a straight line and turning around; standing on one leg; standing with their legs together to test balance; moving your arms to touch your finger to your nose and reciting the alphabet or a series of numbers in order (Rhomberg Alphabet). Police have a scoring system for those exercises, and if the suspect does not score well, downtown he or she goes to be booked into the jail and asked to submit a breath test. Our Jacksonville DUI defense firm knows all of the steps and procedures that police must follow in a DUI arrest.

There will undoubtedly be thousands more DUI arrests in the upcoming year. According to the television report, among resident of large metropolitan areas only people who live in Los Angeles, San Diego and Indianapolis have a better chance of getting a DUI than Jacksonville residents.

If you need a DUI attorney in Jacksonville, Clay County or Nassau County, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Clay man arrested with two loaded guns, allegedly on his way to "take care" of victims

January 5, 2012

Clay County police headed to Michael Anthony Quinn's house on Christmas Day, called to investigate a disturbance. On their way, deputies found Quinn with a loaded shotgun and a revolver headed to a second residence to "take care" of the undetermined number victims, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Quinn, a school bus driver, was charged with attempted second degree murder and faces up to 15 years in prison on the Clay County criminal charge. Police were initially called to Quinn's home, but it is not clear whether Quinn or someone else made the call.

The charge itself is an odd one because second degree murder is a murder that is not premeditated, meaning Quinn did not have a plan to go kill whoever he's accused of going to kill in this case. Yet police arrested him on an attempted murder charge, raising the possibility Quinn himself told them that's what he was planning on doing. The police report contained little information, according to the newspaper, and the details will likely emerge in the coming months as the case moves forward. Having two loaded guns after police were already called to your house isn't a great spot to be in, but it also doesn't mean Quinn is guilty of attempted murder.

Our Clay County Gun Crimes Attorney specializes in cases where people are charged with serious felonies and possession of firearms. Our criminal defense firm knows that even if a situation may look one way to police in the heat of the moment, there are other options to be presented to the state attorney assigned to the case or even to a jury.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Orange Park or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Clay County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man attacks woman for "spreading disease" on flight to Jacksonville

January 3, 2012

There's plenty of anger to go around in the friendly skies these days - from actor Alec Baldwin to right here at Jacksonville International Airport. A 31-year-old Georgia man was arrested at JIA last month after confronting a woman he said was "spreading disease" on the plane, according to Action News Jacksonville. When passengers were getting off the plane, the man started yelling obscenities at a 19-year-old woman and berating her about coughing and infecting the entire plane. He then charged her and rammed his shoulder into her, forcing her against a wall, the television station reported. The woman had bruising on her back and was treated at the airport. The man was arrested for the criminal charge of battery in Jacksonville.

Battery is a first degree misdemeanor and in punishable by up to a year in the county jail. To prove the crime of Battery in Florida, the state attorney must prove that the man intentionally touched the woman against her will or harmed the girl. Unless the man has a significant criminal record, cases like these will often work out for probation with a requirement to take anger management classes - something other than a jail sentence. But if it does end up in trial, it could be a fascinating look at what jurors think should be the standard of behavior on an airplane. This case wasn't like when Baldwin had to be pulled off a plane when he refused to stop playing a game on an iPad, but anyone who's flown recently has likely seen the short tempers and increased grumpiness among passengers. Would jurors chalk it up to a bad day for the man, or stick it to him for losing his cool?

In a case like this, jury selection is paramount. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Trial Attorney has picked dozens of juries in Northeast Florida and knows what questions to ask to take people's temperature on current events and their attitudes toward particular crimes. No criminal jury will have the exact makeup a defendant is looking for, but an experienced criminal defense firm like The Mussallem Law Firm can work to line up the best possible panel for your case.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.