April 2013 Archives

Clay County teacher arrested after cocaine and a straw allegedly found in her purse during school

April 29, 2013

A Clay County elementary school teacher was arrested last week and charged with a felony after cocaine and a short straw presumably used to snort the powder drug were allegedly found in her purse in her fifth-grade classroom. Ashlea Eucker was in a meeting and told a school counselor how to get into her desk and get her purse, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. When the counselor got to the purse, she said she found a baggie with white powder hanging out of it and a short straw sticking out of another pocket, the newspaper reported. The counselor told the principal and had the purse locked up until police arrived.

Eucker was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. She was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. The felony charge is obviously far more serious and could also put Eucker's teaching career in serious jeopardy. Most Florida schools will not allow a convicted felon in a classroom with children, so the stakes are remarkably high for Eucker in this Clay County Drug Crimes case.

While the amount was not specified in the newspaper report, if Eucker would have had more than 28 grams of cocaine, she likely would have been charged with drug trafficking, which ups the ante for sentencing. More importantly, it brings a three-year minimum mandatory sentence into play. Mandatory sentences in drug cases take much of the discretion out of a judge's hands and also can increase the time a defendant spends in prison. With a minimum mandatory sentence, defendants must serve every day of the sentence, unlike in most cases when people serve 85 percent if they stay out of trouble.
But, Eucker could be in a position to avoid prison all together, depending on how her case plays out. There are a couple of options, depending on what is negotiated. In some cases, the state will offer a Pre-Trial Diversion Program for first-time offenders, which she is, according to the newspaper report. If the defendant completes the program, which includes passing drug tests, attending classes and not picking up any new charges, the initial Clay County drug charge is dropped. That's the most desired scenario.

The state has also been offering the same program as part of probation. In this option, the defendant pleads guilty to the charge, but adjudication is withheld, meaning the person is not convicted. But, if the defendant does not complete the program, the adjudication turns into a guilty plea and penalties, including prison time, can be applied. The reason this scenario is less advantageous for the defense is the punishment is already set once a person runs afoul of the program. When Pre-Trial Diversion is done before the case is resolved and a person doesn't make it, negotiations can begin anew. Now, that can also backfire since the state can argue the person had a second chance to avoid prosecution and blew it.

Our Clay County Drug Crimes lawyer represents people charged with possessing all types of narcotics, including cocaine. There are several elements of possession that need to be examined in a Clay County Drug Crimes Case, and our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney can explain those to you or your loved one.

If you or a loved one needs a Drug Crimes Attorney in Orange Park 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.

Wanted man denied bond after surrendering in downtown Jacksonville rape, police mum on connections to three other cases

April 26, 2013

A Jacksonville man turned himself into police last week, just hours after authorities publicly announced he was wanted on a Jacksonville sexual battery charge connected to a February rape in downtown Jacksonville. Police broadcast Jerry Gallion's name and photo in asking for the public's help in locating him last week, according to a report on First Coast News. That evening, Gallion turned himself in and the next morning he was in court, ordered to be held without bond in the case. Police said there have been four rapes in a five-block area downtown, all of homeless women, and there was one reported as recently as April 19, the television station reported.

Gallion has only been charged with one count of sexual battery in Duval County and one count of kidnapping, but police have said there are similarities in the four rapes that have been reported, according to the television news report. No doubt the police will now being trying to contact the other three victims in these Jacksonville Sex Crimes cases and determine if they can identify Gallion as the suspect in their assault as well. In Jacksonville Sex Crimes cases like Gallion's, where it is known that he may be a suspect in other cases, prosecutors will ask for the defendant to be held without bond, or ask for a high enough bond that it is unlikely the defendant will be able to post it and be released from jail. The state typically argues that the defendant is a flight risk, meaning he or she may be likely to skip town and not appear in court. And in many cases the judges agree. The initial bond is always set in first appearance court, where all defendants in Jacksonville Criminal Defense cases appear within 24 hours of their arrest. The key figure in a Jacksonville bond is 10 percent of the total - that's the amount that's typically needed to pay a bondsman to get someone out of jail. So, if someone has a $10,000 bond, a friend or family member can get the person released with $1,000 while the defendant waits for the case to be resolved.

The release comes with certain conditions, which typically include not leaving the state and not picking up any other criminal charges. If there is a violation, the state will almost certain ask for the bond to be revoked and for the judge to order the defendant back to jail. If the Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney feels the bond is too high, he or he can request a bond hearing to take a second look at the issue. In a bond hearing, both the state and the Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney have an opportunity to state their case and the judge makes the ultimate decision. In most cases, the judge issues some kind of bond, unless the charge is murder. The exact charges have not been filed in Gallion's case, but it appears likely he will be charged with capital sexual battery. Capital sexual battery in Duval County is the only charge other than murder to carry a mandatory life sentence in the state of Florida. If that ends up being the charge in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes case, Gallion may not get a bond and would likely be in jail until 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 Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

77-year-old Jacksonville Beach man pleads guilty to manslaughter in shooting death

April 24, 2013

Minutes before a hearing on whether the state's Stand Your Ground law would clear an elderly Jacksonville Beach man in the shooting death of man visiting his girlfriend, the 77-year-old opted to plead guilty to a manslaughter charge. Vannie Collier pleaded guilty this month to manslaughter, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The plea agreement calls for Collier to be sentenced to between five and 15 years in state prison and, as a result of the plea, the state dropped the second-degree murder charge for which Collier could have received life in prison.

Collier and the victim had a long-standing argument and police said Collier has displayed his gun and fired it in the air before because he did not like people walking in front of his home, the newspaper reported. Collier was set to have a Stand Your Ground hearing, claiming that he fired because he felt he was being threatened and was in fear for his life from the 38-year-old victim. Collier's children in the courtroom audience urged him not to take the plea deal, and, when he asked for more time to think about it, prosecutors told him he had to take it or leave it, the newspaper reported. The notion that everyone has a right to a Stand Your Ground hearing may technically be true, but this case shows the leverage game prosecutors use and the true cost of a hearing. If Collier went through with the hearing, the plea deal would come off the table and his only options would be to plead guilty to second-degree murder or go to trial on that charge, where he faced a minimum of 25 years in prison and a potential life sentence. At 77, the 25-year minimum would likely equate to a life sentence because there is no gain time on a minimum mandatory sentence and Collier would be more than 100 years old at his scheduled release.

This move by prosecutors effectively limits Collier's potential defense and typically ends up guaranteeing the state some sort of plea in the case, albeit one at a far reduced charge. Now, the state doesn't have to negotiate in the first place, so there is nothing illegal about the move, but it is a common tactic of local prosecutors when they want to force the issue. If they had nothing to be afraid of on the Stand Your Ground motion, why wouldn't they keep the offer open? Likely because they know the client will take the deal, as Collier did, and not risk what will amount to a life sentence. The plea limits Collier's exposure and we'll know next month how much time he will serve in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of clients and understands the ins and out of plea negotiations to be able to lay out all of the options so you or your loved one can make the best possible decision.

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 Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Assistant Chief with Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrested for DUI in St. Johns County crash

April 22, 2013

A high-ranking assistant chief and 22-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was arrested last weekend for DUI following a crash on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County. Larry Jones was arrested on the misdemeanor driving under the influence charge and spent the night in jail before posting a $500 bond to get out, according to a television news report by News4Jax. Jones faces up to six months in jail if convicted or if he pleads guilty in this St. Johns County DUI Case. Jail time in a case like this is rare and more likely penalties include some sort of probation, fines and being required to attend a DUI panel and hear from the families of people whose loved ones were killed or injured by drunken drivers.

Jones was allegedly involved in a crash in the early-morning hours of April 20, the television station reported. No serious injuries were mentioned in the initial media reports following the arrest. Injuries are very important in a St. Johns DUI case like this. Not only are the charges enhanced if someone is injured, it also opens up the police's ability to collect evidence from the suspect. If people are injured in a suspected DUI crash, police can take a blood sample from the alleged driver and there's nothing the driver can do to stop them. In a traditional DUI, the driver has options. Now, all of those options will most likely land a person in jail for the night, but if there are signs of impairment that was likely to happen anyway. But the options could pay dividends down the road by limiting the potential evidence that can be used in trial.

Normally, a DUI investigation begins when an officer pulls a driver over for some sort of traffic violation. If the officer sees signs of impairment - odor of alcohol, slurred speech, red and watery eyes - he or she can start a DUI investigation and ask the driver to perform field sobriety exercises. The exercises are designed to test balance and impairment and, in many St. Johns County DUI cases, they are filmed from a dashboard camera in the patrol car. That means the video can be shown during a trial for a jury to see for itself. Sometimes that could help a client, other times it could destroy a St. Johns County DUI case. Following the exercises, or a driver's refusal to take them, the officer usually makes the call on whether to arrest the driver. If an arrest is made, the driver will be transported to jail and, once there, police will ask the driver to take a breath test. The test measures the amount of alcohol in a person's blood. In Florida and in most states, the legal limit is .08. That's about four beers, mixed drinks or glasses of wine for a person who weighs 200 pounds. The accuracy of the breath tests has been repeatedly questioned, though a poor result on the test will likely not look good in front of a jury. Refusing to take a breath test can result in a one-year driver's license suspension. The way the law is written, by agreeing to have a driver's license, a person provides consent to submit to blood and/or breath tests. There are certainly consequences either way and, whichever decision a driver makes, a St. Johns County DUI attorney can assess the evidence and determine the best way to move forward in the case.

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

Two arrested, accused of making methamphetamine in St. Johns County hotel

April 19, 2013

Two St. Johns County residents were arrested last week, accused of making methamphetamine in a local hotel. Police arrived at the hotel around 5 a.m. after hearing several reports of suspicious activity, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. When Eric Messler, one of the people staying in the room, opened the door, police said they smelled the distinct odor that comes with producing the highly addictive drug, the newspaper reported. Messler and Tammie Roy, the other occupant in the room, were both arrested. Hotel officials closed the room and also evacuated the rooms on either side because of the toxic fumes produced when someone is cooking methamphetamine.

Messler and Roy were both charged with two Florida felonies: production of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell, manufacture or deliver. Both are second-degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Both are also facing a misdemeanor charge for possession of drug paraphernalia, but that is small potatoes compared to the two felonies. As in any St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, the judge can choose to sentence someone to consecutive terms, so both defendants could be facing up to 30 years in state prison. Under Florida law, various recreational drugs are treated very differently in the criminal court system. And St. Johns County Drug Crimes involving methamphetamines carry some of the most severe penalties for having even relatively small amounts. Trafficking in methamphetamine becomes a first-degree felony at just 14 grams of the drug. If a person has 14 grams of marijuana, the crime is a misdemeanor possession charge. Marijuana possession doesn't become a felony until 28 grams and, in terms of producing marijuana, the laws associated with growing the drug have far higher thresholds for the amounts of plants it takes to fall under trafficking charges. The maximum penalty for trafficking in methamphetamine is 30 years in prison and there are minimum mandatory terms based on the amount of methamphetamines police find.

Messler and Roy likely had less than 14 grams in their possession, but the charges can also be upgraded once police investigate further. Meth cases have become more frequent in Northeast Florida, including in St. Johns County. Earlier this year, two out-of-town visitors were arrested at the upscale Sawgrass Marriott, refuting the notion that these crimes only occur at hotels along the interstate. (see our previous blog) Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney knows the ranging penalties associated with various drugs, when minimum mandatory sentences kick in and the sentences that are typically given in cases involving specific drugs.

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.

Three doctors and investor in Jacksonville pain clinics acquitted of all charges in federal pill mill trial

April 17, 2013

After three days of deliberations, a federal jury found three doctors and an investor not guilty of a slew of charges related to their roles in Jacksonville pain clinics. The three doctors were charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute controlled substances, along with money laundering charges, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The investor, Jason Votrobek, faced the same Jacksonville Drug Crimes Charges, but not money laundering, the newspaper reported.

The doctors were accused of writing thousands of prescriptions for oxycodone, making millions of dollars for the three pain clinics they worked for in Jacksonville, the newspaper reported. Criminal defense attorneys for the four defendants said they were duped by the clinic's owner, Zachary Rose, who was in the business strictly for the money. Rose pleaded guilty earlier to drug conspiracy charges and could receive up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced, the newspaper reported. Rose testified against his former employees and said they all knew the business was deigned to make money off the prescription drugs. The move was likely a strategic decision designed for Rose to help the government get four more convictions, in return for a lighter sentence. That move, in this Jacksonville Drugs Crimes Case, backfired.

The Jacksonville pain clinics were open for about eight months in 2009 and 2010 and federal prosecutors said the businesses regularly deposited between $40,000 and $60,000 daily, the newspaper reported. The businesses flourished before the state cracked down on pain clinics such as these three that were dubbed "pill mills." Buyers came to Florida from other states because of the ease of getting the popular prescription drugs and many of the people who purchased the drugs would return home and sell them at a profit, the newspaper reported.

Ultimately, the jurors were not convinced that the three doctors and the investor were in on the scheme to sell prescription drugs at a profit. Prescription drug charges carry extremely serious penalties and often have minimum mandatory sentences attached to them. The state can file drug trafficking charges on someone for having just four grams of prescription drugs, which can be as few as eight pills. That charge would carry a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison. For more than 14 grams of pills, there's a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in prison. Many factors come into Jacksonville Drugs Crime Cases involving prescription drugs - including whether or not the person has a valid prescription. There are clearly medical reasons people have them - and prescribe them, as seen in the Jacksonville Drugs Crimes Case that resulted in four acquittals last week.

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 Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Clay County gym teacher charged with child abuse

April 15, 2013

A Clay County junior high school teacher was arrested on a felony child abuse charge last week, accused of putting a 13-year-old student in a choke hold during a confrontation. The incident began when gym teacher Michael Ford, 42, accused the student of breaking a chair, which the student denied, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Ford is accused of threatening that the student would end up in the hospital if Ford's truck was spray-painted and, after the student swore at the teacher, Ford then put the student in a choke hold and shoved him against a railing, the newspaper reported.

Ford was charged with child abuse without causing great bodily harm in Florida, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Had the student suffered a serious injury or permanent disability or disfigurement, Ford could have been charged with a second-degree felony and would have been facing up to 15 years in prison. Ford was released on bail following his arrest in this Clay County Child Abuse case and has been on paid leave from the Clay County schools since April 3, a day after the alleged incident, the newspaper reported. While it's not entirely uncommon for a teacher to be disciplined and even terminated for inappropriate behavior or losing his or her temper with a student, criminal charges are rare. There are three types of acts that would qualify as child abuse. In this Clay County Child Abuse case, the state will likely try to prove that Ford committed "an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child."

Now, a possible defense for Ford in this Clay County Child Abuse Case is that he used enough force to detain and make his point with the student and intentionally did not hold on long enough or hard enough to injure the child. If he was trying to hurt the student, the defense may argue, Ford would have - especially since he's a grown man and the student is only 13. Regardless, Ford's teaching days in Clay County are likely over just because of these allegations. He has been with the district since, 2004, but was disciplined in November for making inappropriate comments to students, the newspaper reported. From the perspective of a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney, there is a significant difference between what the school district chooses to do and what is proper in a court of law. Employers can factor in the example the teacher is setting, precedent from similar issues, etc., when making a decision on keeping an employee. The standard is far higher in a criminal courtroom. The Clay County Child Abuse Charges against Ford must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for him to be found guilty as charged.

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.

Ten St. Johns County store clerks and restaurant servers caught in sting, charged with selling alcohol to minors

April 12, 2013

Ten employees of St. Johns County businesses are facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly allowing minors to buy alcohol during an undercover operation by the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. Police sent either a 16-year-old boy or a 17-year-old girl into local gas stations, liquor stores and restaurants and the teens attempted to purchase alcohol, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. If they were asked for identification, the teens were instructed to provide their driver's license, which shows their actual age.

Of the 37 businesses, the teens were sold alcohol at 10 locations, the newspaper reported. Eight of the clerks checked for identification and, despite seeing the teen was at least four years too young, sold the alcohol anyway, the newspaper reported. Two employees did not check ID at all. The employees who sold the alcohol were all charged with selling alcohol to a minor, a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. The maximum penalty is 60 days in jail, six months of probation and a $500 fine. Local law enforcement agencies conduct similar investigations at peak times during the year and jail time is rare in these types of St. Johns County Misdemeanor Cases. The purpose seems more to let people know police are watching and to encourage clerks to follow the law and prohibit minors from buying alcohol by making them aware they can be held criminally liable if they sell to someone under 21.

The operation was conducted March 29 and April 1, right at the end of spring break for local schools. This is a prime time for these types of operations, as are the next few months with graduation season upon us. Police often crack down on underage drinking and open house parties at this time of the year and parents and store clerks can be held personally criminally liable if they are associated at all with underage drinking. Just because a person is charged with a misdemeanor and is not facing a lengthy prison sentence does not mean the crime is not serious and doesn't warrant the expertise of an experience St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney. Misdemeanor convictions can affect a person's ability to get a job, and job applicants are often required to list if they have been convicted of or have pleaded guilty to a crime. In many St. Johns County Misdemeanor Cases, if a defendant agrees to complete certain conditions of probation, and does so successfully, adjudication can be withheld, meaning while an arrest will show up on a person's record, a conviction will not.

Our St. Johns County Misdemeanor Crimes attorney has represented thousands of people on misdemeanor charges and knows if it's you or your loved one in front of the judge, there's no such thing as a minor charge. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Augustine or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man who lost Stand Your Ground defense pleads guilty to reduced charge of manslaughter

April 10, 2013

A Jacksonville man who narrowly lost a "razor-close" decision that would have allowed him to walk free from murder charges has pleaded guilty to a Jackosnville reduced charge of manslaughter. Quintavious Seay pleaded guilty last week to manslaughter once the state agreed to drop the second-degree murder charge and cap the maximum prison sentence Seay will receive, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The Florida manslaughter charge has a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, but the plea agreement calls for the sentence to range from 5 to 15 years, the newspaper reported.

Seay will be sentenced next month. The judge is not legally bound by the agreement but, in a majority of cases, once the judge accepts the plea, he or she generally issues a sentence within the agreed-upon range. Seay shot at three men who jumped him and friend for retaliation from an earlier fight, the newspaper reported. The three men attacked Seay and his friend, kicking his friend until he was almost unconscious in the street, the newspaper reported. When the men turned their attention back to Seay, he pulled out a gun and fired, killing one of the men. Witnesses said the fight was already over when Seay started shooting, which was likely the determining factor in Seay losing his Stand Your Ground defense. The Stand Your Ground law in Florida allows a person to use deadly force instead of retreating if the person fears for his or her life. The judge said in court he ruled against Seay in a "razor-close" decision and, when Seay's Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys appealed the ruling, an appellate court agreed with the local judge, the newspaper reported.

The plea in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case allows Seay to limit the potential damage in his sentence and, eventually, move on with his life. If he was found guilty at trial of second degree murder, he faced up to life in prison. Seay, 20, will now likely be out of prison before or shortly after his 30th birthday. Seay was 16 at the time of the shooting and has been in the Duval County jail since December 2009. Any sentence the judge imposes on the manslaughter charge will include credit for the more than three years Seay has already served. So a 5-year sentence would really be less than two years and a 15-year-sentence would be less than 12 years.

In many cases, like this Duval County Gun Crimes Case, the role of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney is to get the best possible outcome for his or her client. Sometimes that means pushing a case to trial. In other cases, it means continuing to push for a reduced charge and taking a sure thing instead of risking a damaging result at 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 Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former St. Johns County substitute teacher charged with having sex with 16-year-old student

A woman who used to substitute teach in St. Johns County middle and high schools was arrested last week, accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student. The arrest is the latest step in a long-running investigation into Stacey Slamka that started more than a year ago, according to a report by First Coast News. Slamka was fired last year after a parent showed Pedro Menendez High School officials text messages allegedly exchanged between Slamka and the parent's 16-year-old son, the television station reported.

Police had been waiting for electronic forensic evidence from the phones to come back and this month a judge signed warrants for Slamka's arrest. Warrants were issued for six counts, but so far she has only been charged with three counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. The charge is a second-degree felony in Florida punishable by up to 15 years in prison, so Slamka is looking at up to 45 years in prison - 90 years of all six charges end up being pursued in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes case. The law specifically addresses sex acts between a person over the age of 24 and a teen who is either 16 or 17. The law is intended to make consequences more severe for a larger age gap between the minor and the adult, differentiating this from a sexual relationship from two people who may be in the same high school and are 16 and 18, respectively. In this instance, they were in the same school - the difference is one was a teacher.

Slamka allegedly told police in her interview in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes case that some of the case "would go away," according to the television stations report. The text messages could be critical, because right now the case sets up to be a "he said, she said," case. Regardless, Slamka is unlikely to spend 90 years or 45 years in prison if she does plead guilty or end up being convicted at trial. Courts have traditionally been more lenient on women charged with these types of crimes, as opposed to men (read more in our November post). But she would in all likelihood be a registered sex offender, which has its own set of severe restrictions. Sex crimes are the only crimes in which, if a convict moves, all of his or her neighbors are notified about the person's conviction. The person is restricted as to where they live, and cannot reside within 1,000 feet from a school.

Any type of sexual allegation, especially involving a minor, can be difficult to recover from - even if someone is found not guilty or a case is dropped. Our Experienced St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with varying degrees of sex crimes and can fully explain the details of being classified as a sex offender and what it could mean for you or your loved one.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Augustine 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.

Man who initially received life in prison on rape and carjacking charges is sentenced again, gets 50 years

A man arrested as a 15-year-old on separate Jacksonville rape and carjacking charges was sentenced this week for a second time and will spend 50 years in prison. Kadeem Hart, now 21, was sentenced to 30 years for a 2007 rape and kidnapping, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He was also sentenced separately to 20 years in prison for an unrelated carjacking that occurred just hours after the rape in these Jacksonville Violent Juvenile Crimes cases, the newspaper reported. Hart was accused of approaching a woman who was walking, holding a BB gun to her head and taking her to a wooded area where he allegedly raped her, the newspaper reported. Just hours later, Hart was with a second suspect and Hart stole a car from a woman who had gotten out of her car to unlock the gate to enter her driveway, the newspaper reported.

When Hart was caught in the stolen car, police found the BB gun and the cell phone and charger of the rape victim, the newspaper reported. Hart was tried on all charges in front of one jury in 2009 and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the armed sexual battery, armed robbery and kidnapping, the newspaper reported. He was also sentenced to 30 years for kidnapping and 15 years for aggravated battery. But, a state appellate court ruled that Hart should not have been on trial for the Duval County Sexual Battery case at the same time as the carjacking cases. Even though the cases were hours apart, Hart should have been entitled to two separate trials, the newspaper reported. Both convictions were thrown out, as was the life sentence. Hart then pleaded guilty to both charges, eliminating the need for a second trial in his Jacksonville Sex Crime cases. Yet this is significantly more at play in the sentencing since the original 2009 life sentences were handed down. Hart's sentence was likely reduced in light of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have declared life sentences unconstitutional for people who commit crimes as juveniles - especially when the crime is not a murder. (See our previous blog)

In terms of the trial in the Jacksonville Sex cases, juries do tend to put significance in numbers, and, if a case as presented as a crime spree, the likelihood of a conviction can rise. And that's exactly why Hart was entitled to two trials. The cases were not related. The common denominators were Hart, the BB gun and the date of the crime, but they are two completely different sets of circumstances. Hart's defense on the Duval County rape charge was that the sex was consensual. That argument gets much more difficult when jurors are also hearing that he is accused of carjacking another woman just hours later. The state must prove the inherent relationship between two cases when joining them, or trying them together, and the appellate court ruled in this case that burden was not met.

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 Sex Crime Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Three arrested in Clay County robbery and shooting; driver also charged with child neglect

Two men and a female driver were arrested on armed robbery charges in Clay County last week after two victims were robbed and shot in what police are describing as a drug-related incident. The suspects drove off after the robbery and police eventually spotted the vehicle driven by Kelia Smith at a convenience store, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Smith was arrested in Clay County. The two passengers, Calvin Bolden and Marquise Roberts, allegedly both ran when police arrived, but were eventually arrested at the apartment complex where the alleged shooting took place, the newspaper reported.

All three are charged with armed robbery with a firearm, a first-degree felony that carries a potential life prison sentence. Bolden and Roberts are also charged with aggravated battery and other drug charges, the newspaper reported. Smith, who had her 2-year-old son in the car at the time, was also charged with child neglect and marijuana possession.
Depending on how it shakes out in terms of which one of the men is accused of firing the weapon, there are minimum mandatory sentences that could be at play here. Under the state's 10-20-Life law, using a firearm in the act of a felony allows the state to file for a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence. Both men are accused of showing guns, but only one is accused of firing his, the newspaper reported. Minimum mandatory sentences do not allow the judge to sentence to anything lower and require the defendant to serve the term in its entirety. In most other cases, defendant serve 85 percent of their sentence - assuming the stay out of trouble in prison. If a gun is fired, the minimum mandatory can be increased to 20 years. If someone is hit, it can then be escalated to life in prison. And because people were shot in this case, it could escalate to a mandatory life sentence, though there are other elements that may be in play. Minimum mandatories are generally not filed immediately by the state, but come into play down the road and are often used as leverage in negotiation.

An interesting piece of this Clay County Armed Robbery case, in terms of leverage, will be what the state chooses to do with Smith. She was the alleged getaway driver, which makes her part of the armed robbery, even though it appears she was in the car and not actively involved in the physical robbery. Prosecutors are likely starting first with her to determine if she will talk and, more importantly for the case, if she is willing to testify against the two men in this Clay County Armed Robbery Case. Prosecutors often go to a person on the periphery of the case, but someone who still has intimate knowledge of the case, and will trade information for a recommendation of a more lenient sentence. It's unclear at this point what Smith's ties are to the two men, so the likelihood of her talking is impossible to predict. However, loyalties can go out the window quickly when someone is facing life in prison and our Clay County Robbery attorney has seen family members flip on each other to save themselves some prison time.

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

Former police officer charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting firefighter in St. Johns County road-rage incident

A former police officer is now facing an attempted murder charge in St. Johns County for allegedly shooting at a local firefighter after the two had a disagreement on the road. Nathaniel Juratovac, a former Flagler Beach police officer, was charged in the shooting last week, which hospitalized Jared Parkey, a Flagler County firefighter, according to a report in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Parkey was hit twice in the upper body, but has since been released from the hospital, the newspaper reported.

Police have not yet said what caused the argument between the two men, who were both driving south on U.S. 1 in St. Johns County, though the newspaper reported Parkey, his wife and toddler son were on their way back from South Florida and were five miles from home when the incident occurred. Juratovac also had his wife and a young child in the car at the time, the newspaper reported. What does appear to be clear is an argument started and there was some sort of back-and-forth between the two drivers and both men eventually pulled over to the side of the road, the newspaper reported. Juratovac fired several times into the car and Parkey was hit in the upper body twice, the newspaper reported.

From a criminal defense perspective in this St. Johns County Attempted Murder Case, some of the keys will be the interplay between the two men and the actions of both during the argument. Yes, it appears that Juratovac ended the argument by shooting into the car. But, is it possible his actions could be seen as self-defense, depending on the facts of the altercation? Right now it seems like a longshot, but the picture will become much clearer once the St. Johns County Violent Crimes attorneys have a chance to dig further into the details. There are varying degrees of attempted murder in the state of Florida, and the decision prosecutors make will have a significant impact on the potential prison time exposure for Juratovac, should he be convicted or enter a plea in the case. Attempted first-degree murder would expose Juratovac to up to life in prison in this St. Johns County Attempted Murder Case. The state would have to prove Juratovac had a premeditated attempt to kill Parkey, but was just not successful. That's unlikely to be proven, given the facts of this St. Johns County Violent Crimes case, but it may be where the case begins. Juratovac could also be charged with attempted second-degree murder, which basically means he was engaged in an inherently dangerous act with a disregard for the fact his actions could kill someone. Attempted second-degree murder is a second-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Either way, a seemingly routine drive appears to have led to an incident where Juratovac is now facing a significant amount of time behind bars.

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