March 2013 Archives

Jacksonville father pleads guilty to manslaughter in stabbing death of daughter's boyfriend

March 29, 2013

Rather than face a possible life sentence on a second-degree murder charge, a Jacksonville man instead opted to plead guilty last week to one count of manslaughter with a weapon for stabbing his daughter's boyfriend to death. Carlos Dupree's murder trial was set to begin last week when he instead pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The key for Dupree in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case is the amount of prison time he was facing. Second-degree murder is a first-degree felony and the judge has the option of sentencing a person to up to life in prison.

Dupree will be sentenced on the manslaughter charge next month, according to the newspaper report. In this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case, Dupree is accused of confronting her daughter's boyfriend because he thought the 18-year-old was disrespecting him, the newspaper reported. Dupree allegedly punched the teen and then stabbed him in the stomach with a butcher knife, the newspaper reported. The line between second-degree murder and manslaughter is very thin, though it makes an enormous difference for the defendant. In neither charge is the state saying it can prove the defendant had a premeditated plan to kill the victim. In second-degree murder, a death is caused by an obviously dangerous act that showed no regard for human life, even if the direct intent to kill was not present. Manslaughter is more typically charged in Jacksonville Violent Crime cases where a two people are involved in a fight that results in one of the parties being killed. Manslaughter revolves more around negligence than it does a particularly violent intent.

In most Jacksonville Violent Crime cases where a person pleads guilty to manslaughter, they were initially facing a murder charge. It is a charge that is most often the result of a plea agreement. From the state's perspective, by agreeing to a manslaughter plea, prosecutors are not risking having someone who they believe killed someone be able to walk right out of the courtroom and onto the street if a not guilty verdict is returned. For the defendant, it's limiting the risk in terms of time behind bars. Dupree is 41, the newspaper reported, so even if he is sentenced to the maximum amount under law, he'll still be out of prison by his mid-50s.

In the end, Duval County criminal defense is about limiting damage for a person accused of a crime. In some cases, that means pressing to trial and getting a not guilty verdict to exonerate the accused. In others, it means cutting your losses and not risking spending the rest of your life in prison. Our Jacksonville Violent Crimes attorney has worked on thousands of criminal cases and can help lay out all of the options so you or your loved one can make the best decision with the situation at hand.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Police arrest suspect one year after racing caused fatal crash on Jacksonville bridge

March 27, 2013

A Jacksonville man is now charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident causing death after police determined he was the driver in a fatal wreck a year ago. Police linked Robert Sparrow's DNA to the blood found on the deployed airbag in the car that was abandoned on top of the Mathews Bridge, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Sparrow now faces up to 20 years in prison. Vehicular homicide in Jacksonville is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Leaving the scene of an accident causing death is a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Police said two Chevrolet Impalas were speeding and weaving in and out of traffic on the bridge in March 2012, the newspaper reported. The second Impala then hit two cars - one in the side and one from behind. The driver of the car, who police now say is Sparrow, allegedly got out of his car, talked to one of the victims, and then got in the second Impala, which fled the scene. The driver of the car who was hit from behind died a week after the crash. Several hours after the crash, Sparrow reported the car stolen, the newspaper reported, and an analysis of the airbag showed the car Sparrow is accused of driving was going 82 mph seconds before the crash. By leaving the scene of the accident in Florida, Sparrow now faces an extra five years he would not have been facing. On the other side of that coin, however, if Sparrow was intoxicated or had drugs on him at the time, there's no evidence of that now since it's been a year since the accident.

Assuming the state can prove this Jacksonville Traffic Case, the circumstances aren't likely to help Sparrow in an eventual sentencing. If a driver in Florida is involved in a traffic accident, he or she has the responsibility to see if anyone is injured and, if they are, either call for help or administer some sort of medical aid to the person. Sparrow is accused of getting out of the car, talking to someone and taking off. It's unclear whether Sparrow knew someone was injured, but when there's a crash at speeds that high, it's probably safe to assume someone was hurt. Prosecutors will also argue that because of media coverage of the crash, Sparrow had to know someone was killed and did nothing to turn himself in. His only contact with police was to report the car stolen, which the state will likely point to as means to cover up his involvement. While any defendant, including Sparrow, is entitled to a trial specifically on the facts of the case alone in this Jacksonville Traffic Case, judges often take a broader look when determining a sentence. Remorse often plays a big role and, in some cases, a person's actions after the crime can have more effect on a sentence that the crime itself.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Traffic Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Fifteen men arrested in St. Johns County underage sex sting

March 25, 2013

Fifteen men were arrested in St. Johns County this month, caught in a sting set up to catch adults travelling to have sex with a teen after allegedly arranging a meeting online. One of the men arrested in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes case is a St. Johns County school bus driver, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. All of the men are charged with: use of a computer to seduce, solicit or lure a child; traveling to meet a child after using a computer to lure a child; and use of a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony. The travelling to meet a child charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. The other two charges are third-degree felonies, which carry a maximum of five years in prison on each count. Add it all up, and each of these men faces a maximum of 25 years in prison on these three St. Johns criminal charges.

Some of those arrested for these St. Johns County Sex Crimes have other charges attached, mostly for drugs found on their possession when they allegedly went to meet the minor. Those factors could certainly play a role in an eventual sentencing, as a judge may use those facts to develop a clearer picture of the intent of the men in going to the meeting place arranged by police.

The police tactic is becoming more and more common, yet it still lures men in from far and wide. In this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case, men who were arrested came from Nassau County and Jacksonville, Gainesville and Ormond Beach, even from Southern Georgia. In this case, police said the men went to the house in an attempt to have sexual activity with a 13-year-old or 14-year-old child, the newspaper reported. Once the men entered the home, they were arrested. Law enforcement has refined its tactics in these cases over the years to make the cases hold up better in court.

The stories became a national sensation with Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" series, where the undercover stings were filmed and shown in prime time to a national audience. Local agencies started doing similar stings, but if the men were arrested outside of the home that was set up for the sting, there were questions about whether the cases could be proven. Also, law enforcement became more careful in allowing the adult, or eventual suspect, in the case to initiate the conversation about a sexual encounter. That helps eliminate the entrapment defense that many defendants attempted - some very successfully. These St. Johns County Sex Crimes cases can be difficult to defend, because all of the conversations online are transcribed and right in front of the judge, or jury, in court. And, in a similar St. Johns County Sex Crimes sting last year, those who took their case to trial received significantly longer sentences than those who negotiated a plea agreement. See our previous Blog Post.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Johns County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville woman charged with murder for shooting her ex-boyfriend outside Post Office

March 22, 2013

A Jacksonville woman was arrested in Jacksonville on a murder charge last week, accused of shooting her ex-boyfriend several times when he went to a Jacksonville Post Office to pick up some mail. Arianne Myles was arrested the day after the shooting, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police say Myles was driving and saw Harold Davis in the Post Office parking lot. She then pulled into the parking lot, got a gun from the trunk of her car and opened fire, shooting Davis several times and killing him, the newspaper reported.

Myles is in jail with no Duval County bond and will be arraigned on formal charges next month. Prosecutors have not yet filed the charges, they have 40 days to do so, and it's not yet clear what degree murder Myles will be charged with. If the state does decide to file a first-degree murder charge, it must go to a grand jury to have the decision approved. If Myles is convicted of or pleads guilty to first-degree murder in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, the only possibilities for her sentence are life in prison or the death penalty.

The difference between first-degree murder and other murder charges is the state must prove the killing was premeditated for it to be first-degree murder. Myles and Davis dated for more than two years and Myles ended the relationship but then sought to get back together, the newspaper reported. By that time, Davis had moved on. There have been no media reports of how Myles happened upon Davis that day, and happened to have a gun in the trunk of her car. The newspaper reported she did not have any concealed weapons permits, nor did she have any criminal record. There also did not appear to be an argument in the parking lot, or anything that may have started small and escalated to the point Myles allegedly decided to go get a gun to protect herself.

Premeditation can be tricky when it comes to charges in a Jacksonville Violent Crimes case like this. While it's often thought of as a detailed, well thought-out plan, the length of time in premeditation is not a factor. For example, if Myles spotted Davis and then pulled into the parking lot with the mindset to get her gun and shoot and kill him, that could be considered premeditation. It may be somewhat spur-of-the-moment, but the sole reason she would have turned into the parking lot was for this confrontation and, if she didn't try to talk to him or anything else, it would indicate her sole purpose was to kill Davis.

Second-degree murder can charged is a person kills another person, but there is no premeditation to kill the other person. The premeditation issue will likely be the predominant issue in this case, should the state ultimately decide to file first-degree murder charges. But just because it is charged, doesn't mean it will stick. Earlier this year, the state sought first-degree murder in a somewhat similar domestic murder case, but the jury instead convicted the suspect of second-degree murder. (See our previous Jacksonville Criminal Attorney Blog) The sentence has yet to be given in that case, but that jury decision could be the difference in whether the defendant is ever released from prison.

If you or a loved one needs a Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney in Duval County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

State drops first-degree murder charge in drive-by killing, man sentenced to five years in prison

March 20, 2013

In rare move for Jacksonville prosecutors, the state dropped a first-degree murder charge against a Jacksonville man and instead allowed him to plead guilty to lesser charges that now amount to five years in prison. Keir Delancy instead pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and attempted manslaughter, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Delancy was sentenced to five years in prison on each count, but the judge ordered they be served concurrently. That means Delancy serves the two sentences at the same time and will serve just five years total for the two charges. The judge also allowed Delancy to serve these two sentences concurrent to the 15 years he is now serving for selling cocaine, charges he pleaded to last year. So on the 25 years he was sentenced to for various Jacksonville Gun Crimes and Jacksonville Drug Crimes, Delancy will only serve 15 years. And if he stays out of trouble in prison, he will serve just 85 percent of that time and be released in less than 13 years.

That's a remarkably good deal for Delancy and a far cry from the mandatory life sentence the 26-year-old would have been facing had he gone to trial on the first-degree murder charge. In first-degree murder cases, the judge does not have any discretion and Florida law requires the sentence to be either life in prison or the death penalty. The state was not seeking death in this case. Delancy and another man were both charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for their roles in a drive-by shooting that killed one man and injured another in 2010. Delancy's co-defendant, Brandon Acker, has yet to go to trial. Delancy and the victims had an ongoing dispute, presumably over drugs sales, the newspaper reported. The newspaper report does not say if Delancy agreed to testify against Acker, but that could certainly be one obvious reason for the state to pull the first-degree murder charge and offer Delancy a deal that is typically unheard of in Jacksonville. Prosecutors declined to discuss why the murder charge was dropped and the attempted murder charge was reduced, the newspaper reported.

In recent years, prosecutors have been extremely reluctant to drop any charges, let alone a first-degree murder charge. Had the case been solid, it's very unlikely the state would have an offer as generous on the table for Delancy. It will be interesting to see if something similar comes around for Acker in this Jacksonville Gun Crime and Jacksonville Drugs Crime Case. Or if Delancy will appear on the witness stand to testify against him.

If you or a loved one needs a Jacksonville Gun Crimes attorney in Duval County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Bond reduced for Jacksonville lawyer, police union president charged in alleged gambling ring

March 18, 2013

A well-known Jacksonville police union president and the alleged mastermind of a $300 million gambling racket are among several suspects who had bond reduced and posted enough money to get out of jail while awaiting trial. The case, which involves gambling at internet cafes where the proceeds were purported to be going to a veterans' charity, rocked the state last week and even led to the resignation of the lieutenant governor, who was questioned by the FBI about the consulting work she did for the charity, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

The Jacksonville ties to this Theft Case are abundant: local Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba and his second-in-command are accused of laundering money and racketeering; Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis is accused of being the mastermind in the scheme and Jerry Bass, commander of the Allied Veterans of the World, was also arrested, the newspaper reported. All face multiple fraud, racketeering and gambling charges - all felonies in Florida. They were arrested while in South Florida for a conference and spent three nights in jail while the court sorted out the conditions upon which they could be released.

Defense attorneys in the case were upset about the way the bond hearings were handled, the newspaper reported. Once a person is arrested in Florida, they are entitled to a bond hearing within 24 hours of being arrested. In this case, the hearing was continued without a decision until Thursday, despite the fact the men were arrested Tuesday, the newspaper reported. Once they were set, criminal defense attorneys then said they were too high -- $1 million for Mathis and $500,000 for Cuba. In most cases, the suspects are able to use a bondsman who will post the bond if the suspect pays 10 percent - so that would have been $100,000 for Mathis and $50,000 for Cuba.

But, as in many Jacksonville Theft Cases like this, the court holds what is called a Nebbia Hearing to determine if the person has enough legitimate funds to post the bail. This is done to prevent people from using stolen or ill-gotten funds to get released from jail. The court ultimately sliced the bonds in half for both men and determined they had access to legitimate funds that could be used for the bail. Both men were released on Friday, the newspaper reported. Both had conditions placed on them, including that they surrender their passport and not leave the state - both of which are common in criminal cases. The ability to bond out, especially in this case, could be significant for the suspects. More than 50 people have been arrested in this multi-state investigation and an eventual trial could be a couple of years off. In some cases, defendants end up waiting behind bars for two or three years before they are able to go to trial.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

More evidence coming out in case of Jacksonville man accused of stabbing Chicago Bears football fan

March 15, 2013

The state released video surveillance and other evidence to the media last week in the case of a Jacksonville man accused of slitting the throat of an out-of-town football fan that had been talking to his wife. The release came about one month after a motion from Matthew Hinson's Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney to prevent the release of discovery information was denied by the judge, according to a report from News4Jax. The recently released information includes surveillance video from that night at the Jacksonville Landing, including footage of Hinson being arrested in Jacksonville and other cars trying to prevent him from getting away.

Hinson is charged with second-degree murder, accused of walking up to a Chicago Bears fan in town to watch a football game the next day, and killing the Illinois man, the television station reported. The recently-released information also includes telephone calls from several witnesses to 911 dispatchers asking for help for Chris Pettry and saying they saw a man later identified as Hinson leaving the incident, the television station reported. One witness is even recorded telling police "I watched him do it," according to the television report. Jacksonville Defense Attorneys had initially requested the information remained sealed in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case, arguing the release in the highly-publicized case would prevent Hinson from being able to receive a fair trial.

The case has received national headlines, primarily because it was a football fan killed when traveling to another city for a game. Some of the videos and other recordings in the case have been redacted, for what prosecutors say is to allow Hinson to receive a fair trial, the television station reported. But clearly everything released so far seems to favor the state and this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case isn't looking great for Hinson. But that is why cases are tried in courtrooms in front of juries and not simply in the media.

Hinson is charged with second-degree murder in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case and faces up to life in prison if he is convicted. This is a case where the Duval County defense lawyer is likely to ask the judge to for a change in venue. That is done in cases where the alleged crimes have been covered so extensively in the local media that the trial is moved to another county to try to find jurors that have not already formed an opinion in the case. Attorneys ask for a change of venue far more often than they are granted, so it will be interesting to see if an eventual trial does indeed stay in Jacksonville. Motions to move a trial and restrict the release of discovery in a case are seemingly little things that experienced Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorneys do that can make a significant difference in how the case of you or your loved one ends up.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police officer deemed at fault for traffic crash that injured three people

March 13, 2013

A Jacksonville police officer will appear before an internal police review board to face possible discipline for running a stop sign and causing an accident that injured three people. The officer also suffered minor injuries, but was not hospitalized following the crash last week, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The injuries to the three people were not thought to be life-threatening, the newspaper reported. The officer was in his patrol car and on-duty, but not responding to a call at the time, and would be considered at-fault for running the stop sign, according to the newspaper report. Not only will the officer face work-related discipline, he or she could also be exposed to a traffic ticket for running the stop sign, perhaps even a careless or reckless driving ticket in Jacksonville.

Traffic violations can quickly get very costly and drive up other costs, including auto insurance rates. And by simply paying the ticket and moving on from a Jacksonville Traffic Case, a person is admitting guilt and accepting the penalties. Just a few tickets in a short period of time can result in a person having their license suspended and driving privileges taken away. Duval County Traffic violations are scored on a point system, depending on the ticket that is issued. Speeding tickets have a wide range of points, based on how far over the speed limit the ticket is written for. A reckless driving ticket will assess you four points, while leaving the scene of an accident can cost a driver six points. As the points accumulate, they can add up to big trouble, including:

12 points in a year: 30-day license suspension
18 points in 18 months: 3-month suspension
24 points in three years: 1-year suspension

When penalties ratchet up as quickly as they do in traffic cases, saving yourself a few points here and there can be the difference in keeping your license or having it suspended. Just like in a Jacksonville Criminal Defense case, having a Jacksonville Traffic Attorney can in some cases help minimize some of the potential damage to your driving record and your bank account. In a city as large and spread out as Jacksonville, the inability to drive can affect one's ability to make it to and from work, which can then really hit someone's finances. In some cases, people will end up driving anyway on a suspended license, which will escalate problems even further if the driver is caught. Driving when your license has been suspended or revoked is a criminal charge, which then exposes people to time in the county jail.

If you or a loved one needs a Jacksonville Traffic Attorney in Duval County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Traffic Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jury hung for second time in murder trial of Jacksonville man

March 11, 2013

For the second time in less than a year, a Jacksonville jury was unable to come to an agreement as to whether Andrew King was guilty of killing his girlfriend's pregnant roommate. A Duval County jury deliberated for a full day last week and then reported back to the judge that it was hopelessly deadlocked and would be unable to reach a consensus on a verdict, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The judge was then forced to declare a mistrial, meaning King will likely be tried for a third time on the first-degree murder charge. A separate jury was also hung in June, when King's was the first murder trial in the new Duval County Courthouse, the newspaper reported.

King is accused of coming in through the backdoor of his girlfriend's house and stabbing Felicia Burney as she slept on the couch, the newspaper reported. Burney's baby was due any day, but died from lack of oxygen after Burney was killed. Prosecutors said King was mad because he was kicked out of the house to make room for Burney and the baby, while Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys argued King had no motivation to kill Burney and questioned how Burney and her 2-year-old slept through the alleged stabbing just 15 feet from their bedroom.

In Jacksonville Criminal Defense cases, a jury must come to a unanimous decision when it comes to reaching a verdict. The juries are different sizes, depending on the type of crime the defendant is charged with. In first-degree murder cases, there are 12 jurors on the panel. There is generally plenty of back and forth inside a jury room, especially when the case isn't completely cut and dried, but in most cases, jurors are able to reach a consensus. But all it takes is one juror to refuse to agree and the jury can end up being hung.
And once a mistrial is declared in any Duval Conunty criminal case, the whole trial must start over from scratch. King's trial lasted four days this time around and would likely do the same the third time. In some cases, a mistrial opens the door for the two sides to negotiate to work out a plea agreement and avoid a second - in this case, a third - trial. To do so in this Jacksonville Criminal Defense case, it would likely mean the state coming off of the first-degree murder charge, which is probably unlikely. First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence. From King's perspective, if the state isn't offering anything less than life, he might as well continue to take his chances at trial.

Everyone charged with a crime in a Jacksonville Criminal Defense case must weigh the options of trying to negotiate an agreement or pushing the case to trial. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented thousands of clients in Clay County, Duval County, Nassau County and St. Johns County and can lay out all of your options to help you make an informed decision that is best for you and your family.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville jury convicts man of lesser murder charge, defendant avoids mandatory life sentence

A jury last week opted against a first-degree murder conviction in a case where a Jacksonville man was accused of strangling his girlfriend and jurors instead chose to find him guilty of second-degree murder. While it may seem like a minor technicality, it could have a significant impact on the sentence Kevin Jones ultimately receives in the case. In Florida, a first-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory life sentence. No ifs, ands or buts - the person will spend the rest of his or her life behind bars. On a second degree-murder charge, however, there is more discretion in the hands of the judge. Life in prison is still an option, and in this case a definite possibility, but it is not set in stone.

Jones was convicted of stabbing his girlfriend during an argument, then strangling her when she was driving to the hospital, forcing her to crash into a light pole, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. During the two-day trial, Jones' Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys never denied that Jones was responsible for his girlfriend's death. They did argue that he did not intend to kill her and he should be found guilty of manslaughter. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Jones and his girlfriend did have a volatile relationship and he previously pleaded guilty to breaking into her apartment, but claimed he was living there at the time, the newspaper reported. One of the conditions of the plea agreement was that Jones not have contact with his girlfriend, but they continued to have a consensual relationship, the newspaper reported. Even though his girlfriend allowed the contact, it still would have been a violation of his Duval County Probation.

One of the elements of a first-degree murder case is that the suspect must have intent to kill the victim. The jury obviously did not find that state had proven that element beyond a reasonable doubt in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case. Second-degree murder applies in a case where the defendant's actions lead to the death of the victim, but there is not a specific attempt to kill the victim. In this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case, the jury compromised between what the state asked for and what the Jacksonville defense sought, finding Jones guilty of second-degree murder. He is expected to be sentenced in coming weeks. That's when we'll see if the second-degree murder conviction made a difference in terms of the sentencing for Jones.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Seven people charged with smuggling drugs, cigarettes and other banned goods into Clay County Jail

Several inmates at the Clay County Jail who had earned privileges to work during their sentence are now looking at more time behind bars after police cracked a smuggling ring in recent months. Girlfriends of the inmates would allegedly leave drugs, cigarettes and batteries in bathrooms of the places these men worked, including the county motor pool and the animal control center, and the men would pick up the items and bring them into the jail, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. One of the inmates even allegedly gave one of the women $100 from his canteen account, which inmates use for snacks and other items during their time in the jail, the newspaper reported.

Now, all seven people - some inmates and some outside accomplices - are charged with conspiracy to introduce contraband into a criminal detention facility. And it's a charge can land them all in state prison - not just the county jail. The charge in this Clay County Drug Crimes case is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Any incarceration on a Clay County misdemeanor case is always done in the county jail and the maximum penalty is one year. But, if a person is sentenced on a felony to more than one year behind bars, that time is done in a state prison.

Corrections officers started noticing more contraband being introduced into the Clay County Jail last fall and started investigating how the drugs, chewing tobacco and other items were being brought inside, the newspaper reported. Police used recorded phone calls, including some that inmates made from the jail, discussing what the inmates wanted and where the goods could be left so they'd receive it, the newspaper reported. Drugs were often left in bathrooms and were sometimes hidden behind postage stamps or photographs, the newspaper reported. The fact that police have phone conversations of the alleged planning of the transactions could be difficult to overcome. All telephone calls to and from the jail are recorded, and there's a disclaimer when people pick up the phone reminding them that police can listen to these calls. Despite that, suspects often say things on these public telephone lines that get them in more trouble down the road.
One element to watch in this case will be if there's a difference in the negotiations or sentences between the girlfriends and the men who were already in jail when they were arrested on these Clay County Drug Crimes charges. Police do not take very kindly to people who abuse their privileges in jail and it's very likely prosecutors will ask the judge to come down hard on the suspects, if they are convicted or end up pleading guilty to the charges.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Clay County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Judge gives maximum sentence to man who killed best friend in Jacksonville DUI crash

A Jacksonville man was sentenced last week to 15 years in state prison for a crash that killed his best friend in 2010. Klay Williams was convicted of DUI manslaughter in January and was facing up to 15 years in prison, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The judge this week handed down the maximum possible sentence, reasoning that the crash itself and Williams' actions following the crash justified the sentence, the newspaper reported.

Williams was speeding in his pick-up truck about 10:30 p.m. when he hit a fence. The fence shattered and part of it hit his friend Mitchell Green in the head and knocked Green unconscious, the newspaper reported. The point prosecutors seemed to hammer in the sentencing is when a neighbor and a paramedic responded to the Jacksonville DUI crash, Williams was outside of the truck and told him he was fine - making no mention of Green being passed out inside the truck. The neighbor saw Green and alerted the paramedic. Green died from his injuries a week later, the newspaper reported. Williams also initially told police that Green was driving, which was later proven to be untrue.

When it comes to sentencing in Jacksonville DUI cases, or any other case for that matter, an attempted cover-up can be more detrimental to a person than the actual crime itself. In Williams' case, there didn't appear to be any effort to help his friend, and prosecutors inferred that a delay in medical help could have been a factor in Green dying from his injuries. That's tough to overcome in a sentencing, especially when the victim is the supposed to be defendant's best friend. Williams' blood-alcohol level was .17 - more than double the legal limit of .08.

In traditional Jacksonville Driving Under the Influence cases where a person is pulled over by the police and suspected of DUI, the driver can refuse to submit to a breath test. But, Florida law allows police to take a blood test when the crash involves an injury and they did so in this case. There wasn't much question in this Jacksonville DUI case that Williams was drunk, and the jury agreed in the trial earlier this year. A blood-alcohol level that high is tough to overcome, especially when the accident causes serious injury or death. And people tend to put more weight in a test that comes directly from someone's blood, versus the breathalyzer machine that has been attacked for years over accuracy concerns.

Our Jacksonville DUI attorney has represented hundreds of people suspected of DUI and knows the strict rules and procedures police must follow to properly make a Jacksonville DUI arrest. Failure to follow these legal guidelines could lead to a situation where the traffic stop in not admissible in court, which greatly reduces and can even eliminate the evidence against you or your loved one.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former police officer in prison for Jacksonville sexual battery will keep his city pension

A former Jacksonville police officer will not lose his city pension, despite his conviction for molesting young girls. Richard Cannon was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual battery on a victim younger than 18 in Jacksonville and attempted sexual battery on a girl younger than 12, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. As part of Cannon's plea agreement, the state dropped 11 other Duval County molestation and sexual battery charges against him.

The case is an interesting example of the law regarding public employees and the extension of the employer's power once a person is convicted of a crime - and the public's general tendency to have absolutely zero tolerance for people who commit sex crimes against children. According to state law, if a public employee is convicted of a felony or pleads guilty to a felony that is directly related to the person's public position or if the person used the power of their position to commit the crime, the employee's retirement can be revoked. They key is the relation to the public position. In Cannon's case, there is no evidence that he used his position as an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to gain access to his victims or to influence them in any way, the newspaper reported.

When these Jacksonville Sex Crimes allegations against Cannon surfaced in 2011, even though they occurred years ago, the veteran officer retired. The pension law is designed more for public corruption cases or, as Cannon's sex crime defense attorney said in the newspaper report, cases where a teacher is molesting students and has a direct influence over the children involved. A notable example is when former Florida Department of Correction Secretary ended up pleading guilty to taking kickbacks from a vendor and the state moved to revoke his pension. His actions were clearly related to the power he had as the head of the prison system. In Cannon's case, the local pension board could not find similar ties and, despite many of the board members publicly saying they wanted to revoke Cannon's pension, they concluded they had no legal reason to do so.

Message boards and comment sections on the Jacksonville news websites lit up with outrage last week when this news of Cannon keeping his estimated $42,000 annual pension surfaced. The anger was directly tied to the types of crimes Cannon was convicted of committing. But, just because someone is convicted a sex crime does not mean they lose every constitutional and personal right that everyone else has.

If you or a loved one needs a sex crimes attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.