Investigation into Memorial Day brawl at Jacksonville Beach suspended again

August 12, 2013

It appears there will be no arrests in the foreseeable future connected to the Memorial Day brawl that shut down part of Jacksonville Beach during holiday festivities and left one man seriously injured. Jacksonville Beach police last week suspended their investigation in the case for the second time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Charges or not, the incident has heightened awareness and led to a push from residents for more of police presence at the beach - especially during special events and holidays, the newspaper reported.

Cell phone videos of the brawl went viral and were broadcast heavily on local television and local news websites, clearly showing a man being beaten. With the public nature of the incident, many are asking how there could possibly not be any Jacksonville Beach Battery charges. Our criminal court system operates far differently than the court of public opinion, even in this Jacksonville Battery Case. Police have said they suspected this brawl was between two rival gangs from Jacksonville and that none of the witnesses said to have been nearby have been willing to provide any information to police. A grainy cell phone video is not enough to positively identify the attacker in this case in front of a jury - and that appears to be about the extent of the state's case thus far.

While this was made more public by the video and the public reaction that ensued, it's no different than a fight that might happen outside a bar or a sporting event. Things happen quickly, words escalate into a physical fight and people scatter. Unless someone is arrested in Duval County and detained right there at the time of the fight, there may not be any arrests in the case. In this Jacksonville Battery Case, prosecutors would need someone to sit on the witness stand and testify to the fact that the defendant, whoever it may be, was the one that threw the punches and kicked the man in the video. Prosecutors don't have that in this case. They don't have police saying they were called to the scene and found a defendant there or saw him running away or anything close. The investigation will remain suspended until a witness comes forward that will provide police with enough information so authorities can make an arrest in this Jacksonville Fighting Case, the newspaper reported.

The potential defendants know who they are and this would be an ideal time to consult with a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney. An Jacksonville defense attorney can discuss what is likely to happen next and, if charges are filed, can lay out potential scenarios and options for a defense strategy.

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

Former Jacksonville firefighter convicted of rape, attempted murder

August 9, 2013

A former Jacksonville firefighter was convicted this month of several violent felonies after grabbing a woman downtown and beating and raping her in an alley. Daniel Evans was convicted of Jacksonville sexual battery, kidnapping and attempted felony murder, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Evans faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced next month. In the trial, the victim testified she could not identify Evans as her attacker because she kept her eyes closed the entire time, the newspaper reported. But the state had some physical evidence, including Evans' DNA on the victim's clothes. Evans also left one shoe at the scene and it matched the shoe he was booked into jail with after police found him hiding in some bushes near where the attack occurred, the newspaper reported.

There were also two witnesses that saw the attack from a nearby parking garage and called police, the newspaper reported. Evans was convicted of grabbing the woman as she left a downtown Jacksonville bar about 2 a.m., and police found his car parked right outside that same bar, the newspaper reported. So despite the fact the victim could not identify Evans, there was what appeared to be a mountain of evidence against him in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case. His Duval County Criminal Attorneys argued the state hadn't proven it was Evans in the alley and it was too dark for any of the witnesses to make a positive identification, but the jury did not agree, the newspaper reported.

He was fired from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department immediately following his arrest in 2012, the newspaper reported. Because the beating occurred during the commission of another felony - the rape and/or the kidnapping could both be used as the felony - Evans was also charged with attempted felony murder. Felony murder can be charged when someone dies during the commission of a felony. Attempted felony murder can be a little more difficult for the state to prove but, in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes case, police said the victim lost consciousness and one of the witnesses said he thought the victim was dead when he saw her in the alley after Evans ran away, the newspaper reported. In Jacksonville Sex Crimes cases like this, prosecutors will typically stop negotiating once the defense takes the deposition of a rape victim, so a decision has to be made rather early on whether to take the case to trial or not. It would not be surprising if the state did not even have an offer in this particular Jacksonville Sex Crimes case, given the severity and nature of the crime. While the judge does have latitude in the sentencing in this case, Evans will be doing significant time on these charges - possibly life in prison.

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.

The difference between thefts, burglaries and the varying penalties in Clay County property crimes

August 7, 2013

The regular rundown of Clay County property crimes published in the Florida Times-Union can be an entertaining read of the things people steal. The most recent installment includes copper tubing from linked propane tanks at a Winn-Dixie, a backflow preventer from the water line of a business, a lawnmower and a motorcycle, the newspaper reported. The items are compiled by the Clay County Sheriff's Office and are pulled from reports from the victims, so they may have arrested people in some of the Clay County Theft Cases and not in others.

Punishments vary dramatically depending primarily on what the person is accused of stealing and where they allegedly stole it from. Theft is taking something that is out in the open: a bicycle from a parking lot, the copper tubing from the propane tanks. The punishment for theft is predominantly determined by the value of the property or the financial amount of any physical damage caused. Stealing something valued at less than $300 is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county jail. But once that amount exceeds $300, the charge becomes a felony and the defendant is now looking at up to five years in state prison. Burglary to a conveyance is stealing from something that is not a building or a residence. The most common example is a vehicle. For example, the recent Clay County crimes report shows power and hand tools stolen from a dump truck and a purse taken from an unlocked vehicle. This Clay County Theft Crime is a third-degree felony, also punishable by up to five years in prison.

Burglary to a structure or dwelling is entering a building, business or home to take an item or items. In most instances, this is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The second-degree felony would also apply to a theft from a car - if there was someone in the car when the alleged theft occurred. Armed burglary is not only what would initially come to mind, someone walking into a home or business with a gun and stealing things from inside. In Clay County Theft Cases, armed burglary also applies when a person steals a gun. So someone can walk in unarmed, take a gun and thus become armed, and the armed burglary charge applies. Armed burglary is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. Our Clay County Theft Attorney has represented people on all of the above charges, from minor thefts to armed burglaries - and everything in between. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney knows the ins and outs of each of the charges and the elements the state needs to prove each of them beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

Man struggles with police in Jacksonville pawn shop; his gun goes off and hits officer in arm

August 5, 2013

A Jacksonville man is facing six counts of attempted murder after he allegedly unsuccessfully tried to grab an officer's gun during a struggle, then his own gun went off inside a pawn shop, hitting an officer in the arm. Edward Garvin was charged with six counts of attempted murder, because there were six people in the store at the time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He was also charged with aggravated battery, resisting an officer with violence and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The attempted murder charges may be a bit of a stretch in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, but it will be interesting to see how aggressively the state pursues those charges. Police don't take kindly to people trying to steal their guns and seeing one of their own shot - and neither do prosecutors. What is clear by media reports is police had been looking for this family in connection to a string of burglaries and related pawn at nearby pawn shops, the newspaper reported. Garvin's wife and daughter were both arrested at the scene and charged with one count each of burglary and armed burglary, along with two counts of dealing in stolen property. A store clerk recognized the family as the one police had contacted local pawn shops about and called police to the store, the newspaper reported. All three are being held in the Duval County jail while the case is pending. Armed burglary is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Burglary and dealing in stolen property are both second-degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison. In an armed burglary case, the law states that a person is either armed or becomes armed during the burglary. For example, if someone breaks in to a home and steals a gun, they can be charged with armed burglary - that may or may not be the case in this Jacksonville Firearm Crimes case.

Police are now likely sorting through the family's alleged criminal operation in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, figuring out who is the mastermind and who will provide them with that information. Edward Garvin is already facing the most serious charges - thanks to trying to fight the police inside the store, so it would make sense that prosecutors would be willing to reduce charges or offer lower sentences for his wife and daughter to bring him down. But, given the paper trial of documentation needed these days to pawn things, police may not need any help and could aggressively go after all three in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case.

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.

Judge rules woman was mentally competent during St. Johns County road rage episode, finds her guilty on 14 counts

August 2, 2013

Despite conflicting opinions on the defendant's mental competency, a judge found a woman guilty of all 14 felony counts related to a 2010 St. Johns County road rage incident. Andrea Zampatti allegedly rammed her Land Rover into a bicyclist, ran a scooter of the road and crashed into two St. Johns County Sheriff's deputies and a truck, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Several people were injured, but no one was killed in the series of accidents, the newspaper reported. Zampatti was initially ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial and spent five months in a state mental hospital, but has since been released on bond, the newspaper reported. Zampatti's St. Johns County defense team continued to argue that she was mentally ill at the time of the crash, which led to her behavior, but the judge ruled last week that she was mentally competent at the time.

She was found guilty of 14 felonies in this St. Johns County Aggravated Battery case. Two charges - aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon and aggravated fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer causing death or serious injury - are first degree felonies in Florida punishable by up to 30 years in state prison. She was found guilty of five second-degree felonies, which carry a maximum of 15 years in prison, and seven third-degree felonies, each punishable by up to five years in state prison. The judge has the option to sentence the maximum on each of the counts, which would be 160 years in this St. Johns County Aggravated Battery Case, but it's rare that a sentence would be that severe.

In the vast majority of criminal cases, a trial is done in front of a jury of one's peers. In some cases, particularly complex cases where there are a mental health concerns, the defense can request that the trial be done just in front of the judge. These trials are known as bench trials. If the St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney requests the bench trial, the state must also agree for it to go forward. In any St. Johns County Criminal Case, there are certain strategies and techniques that a criminal defense attorney will look at in order to provide the best representation of his or her client. The hallmark of our criminal justice system is a defendant having a trial in front of a jury of his or her peers, but that may not always be in the client's best interest. Our St. Johns County Aggravated Battery attorney will fully investigate the case of you or your loved one and then lay all of the options and potential consequences out on the table so you can make an informed decision going forward.

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.

Clay County police now have warrants, charges pending for female passengers in stolen vehicle crime spree

Though initial reports indicated police did not suspect any criminal wrongdoing by two female passengers in a Clay County stolen car crash incident, warrants have now surfaced for both women. All four people have warrants now for charges ranging from grand theft auto to aggravated battery, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. One remains hospitalized, two are in the Duval County jail on unrelated charges and the fourth, one of the women involved, remains at large, according to the newspaper report.

The incident began when a man was eating at a Clay County McDonald's when he saw someone trying to steal his car from the parking lot. The man ran outside to stop the thief and Aaron Beckworth, allegedly driving another stolen vehicle, ran into the victim, knocking him onto the hood of the Toyota, the newspaper reported. Michael Rafuse did end up stealing the Ford Explorer from the McDonald's parking lot and, after driving off, the group of four ditched the Toyota and were all inside the Explorer. As the group tried to flee from police, the Explorer crashed into a tree, the newspaper reported. No charges were filed immediately, though the most severe charge police now have warrants for is the Clay County aggravated battery, which Beckworth is facing for hitting the man with the stolen car. Aggravated battery is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. Grand theft of an automobile is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

These charges make sense for the two Beckworth and Rafuse in this Clay County Theft Case. But, for now, it's tough to determine where the criminal exposure falls for the women, especially since police initially said the women were not being looked at for a potential crime. That would seem to rule out a drug possession charge, especially because everyone in the Explorer was hospitalized. If they had drugs on them, police would have found them already. They could be loosely connected to the thefts, maybe they knew one or both of the victims and police are alleging they helped orchestrate the thefts. There are a number of possibilities, but the one our Clay County Theft Attorney tends to see the most in these cases is charging people in order to give them more incentive to talk. It's much easier to ignore police and not cooperate with their investigation when you are home and free than it is when you are looking at five years in prison. It will be interesting to see what charges are eventually filed against the women and if they end up testifying against Beckworth and Rafuse.

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

Jacksonville man once charged with murder sentenced to 15 years on manslaughter charge

A Jacksonville man initially facing up to life in prison when he went to trial on a second-degree murder charge was sentenced last week to 15 years in state prison. Aaron Kaiser was found guilty of shooting and killing his neighbor, whom he'd argued with for years, outside their apartment complex, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Kaiser allegedly shot him four times and Kaiser went to trial on a second-degree murder charge, the newspaper reported. The sentence for second-degree murder is between 25 years and life in prison.

The jury instead found him guilty of manslaughter, which is known as a lesser included offense. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony while second-degree murder is a first-degree felony, so the range of potential prison time is significant for defendants in Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases. The distinction between second-degree murder and manslaughter was in the news recently in the trial of George Zimmerman, the Central Florida man who shot and killed teen-ager Trayvon Martin after the two were in a fight. In nearly all murder cases, including the Zimmerman case, jurors are permitted to consider manslaughter if they did not see reasonable doubt for second-degree murder.

In Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, more juries and judges are now frequently reducing murder charges down to manslaughter, as was done in the case of Kaiser. Now, it is reasonable to believe that the judge did not agree in this case because she handed down the maximum sentence for manslaughter. The difference between second-degree murder and manslaughter in Jacksonville Violent Crimes cases is the intent to kill. It does not have to be planned or premeditated, that's first-degree murder. For second-degree murder, a person does not have to plan to kill some, but, when the incident is taking place, whether the person has a gun or a knife or a car, the intent to kill someone. In manslaughter, what often occurs is people are in a fight and someone ends up dying. The Florida Statutes define manslaughter as, "The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification ...". That can be from a variety of things, including a fight.

Lesser included crimes can be a key in Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, and jurors often look to them as a compromise, a way to give a little part of the verdict to both sides. They can play in both directions for the defendant. In Kaiser's case, it helps shave off years of his sentence. In other cases, someone who was justified in taking a life through self-defense can end up incarcerated because the jury felt he or she had to be punished in some way.

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.

All-day hearing on sentencing for Jacksonville mother whose 12-year-old son killed toddler, decision next month

The Jacksonville mother of the youngest person in Jacksonville to ever be charged with first-degree murder will learn next month if she'll go to prison for her role in the death of her youngest son. Biannela Susana, who pleaded guilty to Jacksonville aggravated manslaughter in the death of her 2-year-old son David, will learn her fate next month, according to a report in the Florida times-Union. Attorneys for Susana and prosecutors made their cases in a sentencing hearing last week, the newspaper reported. Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys for Susana argued for her to be put on probation and that the two years and three months she's spent in jail since her arrest is sufficient time in this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case. The defense has already made arrangements for Susana to receive parenting and life skills counseling, along with a job at a nonprofit if she completes the terms of her release, the newspaper reported.

Prosecutors, however, are asking for 15 years in prison in this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case, the newspaper reported. Susana pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The neglect stems from Susana waiting to take her youngest son to the hospital and covering up for past violence. Her oldest son Cristian Fernandez has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated battery for slamming David into a bookshelf after Susana left them alone in their apartment in 2011. Susana waited eight hours to take him to the hospital after finding him unconscious and a doctor told police David may have survived if he was medically treated sooner.

Police said Susana also lied about an incident when Cristian broke David's leg, saying it was a playground accident to protect Cristian - and to likely protect herself from having her children taken from her by the state. Rarely in a Jacksonville Manslaughter Case like this would a defendant receive a sentence that does not include some time in prison. But this case has been anything but routine since the outset. Cristian was initially charged with first-degree murder, but later agreed to a deal that also him to be in juvenile jail until he turns 19, and then be released to serve eight years of probation. Jacksonville defense attorneys heavily discussed Susana's troubled life, including having Cristian at age 12, watching him be molested in foster care and seeing her husband kill himself in front of two children after being accused of abusing Cristian. The point of a sentencing hearing is to provide information to the judge that he or she can consider in issuing a sentence the defense is seeking. And the prosecutor does the same in terms trying to secure a longer sentence. This sentence is this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case is one that will be highly anticipated and receive plenty of attention - and likely criticism - however it comes out.

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.

Twenty-year sentence in Jacksonville "warning shot" case now back in national spotlight

National activists are again beating the drum for courts to reexamine the 20-year sentence given to Jacksonville's Marissa Alexander, a mother who fired a shot into the ceiling because she said she was in fear of her now ex-husband. Alexander was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Jacksonville and then sentenced to 20 years in prison last year, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Under Florida's 10-20-Life law, the discharge of the firearm meant Alexander faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison, giving the judge no latitude in the Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, the newspaper reported.

Alexander's plight has received some scrutiny in the past, but it was revived this week in the wake of the not guilty verdict in the case of George Zimmerman, acquitted of second-degree murder in the death of teen-ager Trayvon Martin. Jacksonville prosecutors were appointed by the governor to handle the Zimmerman case in Sanford, and national criticism of how that case was handled has, right or wrong, opened the door for questions about more decisions by local prosecutors. Prosecutors have long defended their decisions regarding Alexander's Duval County Gun Crimes Case. The state did not immediately file the minimum mandatory and has said that an offer of three years in prison was on the table until shortly before trial. Once the case went to trial, the state filed the minimum mandatory from the 10-20-Life law in the Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. The threat of a minimum mandatory is often a negotiating tactic the state uses to convince someone to take a plea deal. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, Alexander insisted she was acting out of self-defense and was not guilty of any crime.

Alexander has said that she was in fear of her life and went to the car and got a gun out of her car and fired it into the ceiling. She was facing three Jacksonville felony charges because two children were also present at the time, the newspaper reported. A jury, though, sided with the state and found her guilty on all three charges. Her Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case has been appealed, and she has been transferred from state prison back to the Duval County jail while the appellate matter is pending, the newspaper reported.

In Florida, the 10-20-Life laws dictate punishment in Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases and prosecutors are reluctant to go below those standards. Punishments are as follows:

 10 years for showing a gun during a the commission of a felony
 20 years for discharging a firearm in the commission of a felony
 Life in prison of someone is shot during the commission of a felony.

Again, the minimum mandatories are not always filed immediately, but almost certainly will be once a trial is inevitable. The risks often go up when a cases goes to trial and Alexander clearly knew what her sentence would be if she was found not guilty. And despite the attention this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is getting, for now it appears the sentence will stand.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Duval County 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.

Jacksonville mother pleads guilty after methadone killed her infant child

A Jacksonville mother pleaded guilty this month in connection with the death of her 6-month-old daughter, whom police say died of a lethal dose of methadone. Jennifer Frazier pleaded guilty to Duval County aggravated manslaughter of a child by way of culpable negligence, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The charge is a first-degree felony in Jacksonville punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Frazier is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Frazier was taking methadone, a drug commonly given to help someone who is recovering from addiction from narcotics - in some cases streets drugs like cocaine or heroin, in other cases prescription painkillers. Somehow, Frazier said she was giving the child ibuprofen and antibiotics, but her daughter ended up with a lethal dose of methadone in her system, the newspaper reported. Frazier told police she gave the child ibuprofen and an antibiotic from a container she had previously mixed methadone in, the newspaper reported. But police said there was no ibuprofen in the child's system and the bottles of methadone were found in a box used for the antibiotic, the newspaper reported. The facts of this Jacksonville Drug Crimes case could lead anywhere from Frazier mistakenly giving her daughter methadone instead of the antibiotic, to her intentionally giving the child methadone. Those facts would have obviously come out on a trial, but will now be coming out in the crucial sentencing next month. In some cases where there is not a trial, the sentencing phase ends up being a de facto trial. In this Jacksonville Drug Crimes case, Frazier's Duval County criminal defense attorneys will need to lay out the circumstances of how this happened in an effort to push for a sentence for their client that they believe is fair.

Clearly, Frazier was negligent in some regard because the baby has a lethal dose of methadone in her system. There was very little argument in terms of a defense at trial. Any argument is more an explanation of why it happened, which is more suited for sentencing anyway. In many Duval County Drug Crimes cases, the state and the Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney have agreed upon a sentence or even a range to submit to the judge. It's unclear whether that has been done in this case. There are two common types of guilty pleas in Jacksonville Drug Crimes cases. One is a negotiated plea, where the prosecutors and the defendant have agreed to a sentence. The second is referred to as a "straight up" plea, where the defendant simply pleads guilty to the judge without any indication of the length and severity of a possible sentence. Both types of pleas have their strategic benefit, depending on the facts and circumstances in the case. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney has helped thousands of clients resolve their cases over the years and is experienced in working to get clients the best deal possible, if taking the case to trial is not the best option.

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.

Two Jacksonville Beach men arrested for posting "Townies Go Home" stickers along Beaches corridors

Jacksonville Beach police arrested two men this month for sticking "Townies Go Home" stickers on buildings, signs and other local landmarks. The stickers are a reference to recent trouble at the beach, including a Memorial Day brawl that was videotaped and went viral on the Internet, which was believed to be caused by people who lived in Northwest Jacksonville - not at Jacksonville Beach, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

Matthew Sugden-Kirsch and Jason Swanson were both arrested after a citizen flagged down an officer about 4 a.m. and said he saw two men on bicycles putting up the stickers, the newspaper reported. Both had dozens of stickers in their backpacks and officials have reported that hundreds have been removed from various structures since early June, the newspaper reported. Both men were charged with criminal mischief in Jacksonville causing between $200 and $1,000 in damages, a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida punishable by up to one year in the county jail. Criminal mischief is a Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes charge that is essentially vandalism. It's the same charge people would get for spray-painting a building or smashing a window, provided the damage is between $200 and $1,000. If the damage is more than $1,000, the charge can be upgraded to a Duval County felony and the defendant can be facing up to five years in prison. The same is true if the vandalism is done to a business and the labor and supplies to repair the damage or bring it to the prior condition was more than $1,000. It doesn't take long to get to $1,000, but apparently in this Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case, the property owners were able to just peel the stickers off if they wanted them removed. It also may be difficult for the state to prove just how many of the stickers these two men posted, or if there were others making similar statements in this Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes Case.

Another deterrent in these Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases is if someone is arrested on a criminal mischief and has one or more previous conviction for criminal mischief, he or she can be charged with a felony - regardless of the dollar amount. In most cases, that's enough for defendants not to do it again. Misdemeanor cases can be positive learning experiences for people - enough of a taste of the criminal justice system to know you want to stay out, but not enough to put a serious damper on someone getting an education or holding down a job. These cases generally get little public attention and defendants can work them out and move on in relative anonymity. This Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case is different. The Memorial Day brawl and its aftermath were covered extensively by the local media outlets, more than one of which published or aired stories about the conflict between some Beaches residents and people they deem as outsiders who just come down to fight and stir up trouble. People will be paying more attention to this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case and, in some cases, that alone can lead to a higher sentence.

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 man guilty of manslaughter, not second-degree murder in 2012 shooting death

A Jacksonville man initially charged with second-degree murder was convicted instead of manslaughter in the shooting death of a man that hit him in the head with a metal crutch. James Waters was found guilty by a jury last week and will be sentenced next month, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida and Waters could be sentenced to up to 15 years in state prison. Second-degree murder has a maximum sentence of life in prison, so the reduction in the charge limited his exposure considerably in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case.

Waters and another man got into an argument in the parking lot of an apartment complex when the man hit Waters over the head with a metal crutch, the newspaper reported. Waters pulled out a gun and, after the two men exchanged words. Waters allegedly shot him. The man died two days later, the newspaper reported. The state charged Waters with second-degree murder and took the case to trial, the newspaper reported. During the trial, the Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys for Waters argued that the shooting was in self-defense. The judge then ruled the jury could not consider second-degree murder, only manslaughter, an uncommon move in a Jacksonville Gun Crimes case. The jury agreed on the manslaughter charge and found Waters guilty.

The second-degree murder versus manslaughter debate has some parallels to the George Zimmerman case, the second-degree murder case the nation was glued to over the past two weeks. Though that jury had the option to consider both second-degree murder and manslaughter, Zimmerman was found not guilty of either charge in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In Waters' case, there appears to have been more or a break in the action once he pulled the gun. He was hit, then he pulled out the gun, then the two had words and then he shot the victim. That all likely happened very quickly, but the jury could have seen plenty of possible opportunities for Waters to exit the situation instead of shooting the man. The sentencing will be interesting to watch in Waters' Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. The judge has already made it clear she thought second-degree murder was too much in this case. Does she agree with the defense that Waters acted in self-defense? Those answers will be pretty clear once the sentencing comes up next month in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Duval County 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.

Jacksonville police find meth lab beneath Main Street Bridge

Two Jacksonville men were arrested last week after police allege they were manufacturing methamphetamine underneath the Main Street Bridge in downtown Jacksonville. Police found the men sitting on the ground with plastic bottles containing chemicals, other loose chemicals, pipes, syringes, scales and other drug paraphernalia, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Both men, James Jackson and Ernest Tutton face four felony charges and are being held in the Duval County jail. They are charged with:

- Manufacturing methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a specified area, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
- Possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell, manufacture or deliver within 1,000 feet of a specified area, also a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
- Unlawful possession of a listed chemical, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Possession of paraphernalia for the manufacture or delivery of drugs, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
As Jackson and Tutton are finding out in this case, and old adage commonly applied to real estate is also a major factor in Jacksonville Drug Crimes cases: Location, Location, Location. Jackson and Tutton were found within 1,000 feet of a park. Not even a park where children routinely congregate - there are no swing sets or jungle gyms at Treaty Oak Park. Just the city's most famous tree. But it's still enough for the state to file enhances charges against the two men.

The charges can be upgraded from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony if the drugs are manufactured or sold within 1,000 feet of a:
- School
- Child care facility
- Community center
- Park
- Publicly owned recreational facility

Not only does the enhanced charge bring an additional up to 15 years in prison - 30 for each man in this Jacksonville Drug Crimes case because of the manufacturing and intent to sell charges - it also brings a minimum mandatory sentence into play. Each charge carries a minimum of three years in prison, should the state choose to file it. The location enhancement, especially in a Jacksonville Drug Crimes case such as this, seems a little excessive. The park is insignificant to the charge. The school and active park enhancements are one thing, the argument that people selling drugs near a school or Little League baseball games is a compelling one. But in this Jacksonville Drug Crimes case, it appears to be piling on. And while it's unlikely either man will be sentenced to the maximum of 80 years in this Jacksonville Drug Crimes case, the state clearly has the upper hand if and when negotiations begin.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense 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.

Investigation suspended, no arrests so far in Memorial Day brawl at Jacksonville Beach

Various cell phone videos have been played it seems on a loop by local television stations and on news websites of a Memorial Day brawl at Jacksonville Beach that prompted increased security and town hall meetings for residents concerned about safety. But it now appears all of that attention and video was not enough to gather the evidence needed to charge anyone in the incident, including a beating on video that left one man with a dislocated shoulder and other injuries, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said they are confident they know who some of the key players are, thought to be Jacksonville gang members, but they can't with certainty identify them, the newspaper reported.

The fights involved between 10 and 15 men in their late teens and early 20s, but none of the witnesses have been cooperative in their discussions with police, the newspaper reported. A video pulled from someone's Facebook page simply is not enough to put together a Jacksonville Battery Case and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. Police would need some sort of witness who could say they saw the suspect participate in the fight, which apparently not even the victim is able or willing to do. This Jacksonville Battery Case is a prime example of the role witnesses play in criminal cases and how uncooperative victims or witnesses can stall and end a case. One common example, though it often doesn't have the media interest or attention generated by these public videos, is domestic violence. Oftentimes, someone will call the police out of fear or to try to end the situation immediately, but, when it comes time to press charges, the victim does not want to. If, in fact, these Memorial Day fights are gang-related, that could explain why people aren't saying much that would push this Jacksonville Battery Case forward. Retaliation for speaking to the police in a case like this could create problems for witnesses and many may feel it's just not worth it to come forward. The charges in this Jacksonville Battery Case would appear to be misdemeanors, meaning those prosecuted would face a maximum of one year in the county jail.

This Jacksonville Battery Case may not be over though. Police could be putting this suspension story out in the media as a way to try to get other witnesses to come forward. Technically, because this Jacksonville Battery Case is a first-degree misdemeanor, the state would have two years to file a charge. It is not expected to take that long in this Jacksonville Battery Case, but this would be a good time for people who know they could be suspects to contact a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney. Getting a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney on board early can help you or your loved one understand the process and prepare you for how the case may develop. If there is a situation where an arrest is forthcoming, a Jacksonville Battery Attorney can help it go as smoothly as possible to prevent police from showing up at a client's workplace and making a big scene.

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.

More trouble for Clay County mom infamous for "bong baby" photo

A Clay County mom who's no stranger to drug trouble connected to her young son was arrested again last month, this time for charges related to cooking methamphetamine in her home. Rachel Stieringer was arrested on charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of a listed chemical used to manufacture meth and knowingly maintaining a dwelling for the manufacture of meth where a child resides, according to a report on News4Jax. Her troubles are far more serious this time around, as each of the three charges are felonies.

Maintaining a dwelling where a child resides to manufacture methamphetamine is a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. It also has a five-year minimum mandatory sentence, should the state choose to pursue it. Possession of chemicals used to manufacture meth is a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Conspiracy to manufacture meth is a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Pictures of her son with his mouth on the top of a water bong commonly used to smoke marijuana made national news in 2011 and spread quickly on the internet. Detectives said the bong did not test positive for drugs, but Stieringer was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, the television station reported. She completed a four-month pre-trial intervention program and the charges were dropped, according to the television station. Stieringer also maintained custody of her son.

Now, she finds herself in similar trouble with drugs around her child, but staring at a possible minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison. She's in jail while this Clay County Drugs Crimes Case resolves, being held on a $225,000 bond. If she were to be released before trial, she would need to post $22,500 - 10 percent of the total bond - for a bondsman to get her released. It's very likely Stiernger showed a great deal of remorse following her arrest in 2011 - enough so that the state offered her a pretrial intervention program. And she successfully completed it to get the charge dropped. But she is likely to soon find out what often happens to people that don't take advantage of a break given by a judge: they get hit twice as hard when they show up in court again.

Given that this Clay County Drug Crimes Case is her second drug-related charge involving her and her child, now 2, Stieringer is likely to face severe penalties this time around. Fumes emitted from cooking meth are toxic, which is why when a meth lab is found at a hotel or an apartment, police generally evacuate surrounding rooms as a precaution. Details have not been released on Stieringer's role in the meth operation. If she's a bit player in the scheme, that may be the only thing saving her. If not, expect the court to come down hard on her.

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.