Recently in Gun Crimes in Jacksonville Category

Jacksonville high school student arrested after school officials find a gun in his sock

March 13, 2014

What school and police officials say was a random check in a Jacksonville high school classroom turned up a loaded gun in the sock of a 16-year-old boy. The student was arrested on the felony charge of bringing a weapon onto a school campus and was ordered to be held in a juvenile detention center, according to a report on News4Jax. The teen told police he was having problems with some people outside of school, was going to be walking to a friend's house that day and thought he needed it to protect himself, the television station reported. Bringing a weapon onto school grounds is a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in state prison.

That punishment in a Jacksonville Gun Crimes case is for if the boy is charged and sentenced as an adult. The mere fact that this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is a high school student being caught with a gun in a classroom would indicate that this is a Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case and should be handled through the juvenile justice system, though that is not always the case. Assuming that it does stay in the juvenile system, the range of penalties is far different than it is for adults. There are five different levels of juvenile detention, ranging from non-residential programs in which the students can still attend school, on up to what amounts to a prison for teens. Because this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case involves a gun, the defendant would automatically be disqualified from the two least serious options. At the very least, if convicted, the teen would likely be in a locked juvenile facility serving a sentence with little access to the community. In some cases, teens are allowed to visit home or enroll in school near the end of their sentence to help get everything in order to move on with their lives after being released.

In terms of school, the teen's options could be limited, too, as a result of this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case. Bringing a weapon to school is an automatic suspension in Florida and could ultimately lead to the student being expelled from school entirely. That leaves the teen without many places to turn to get an education that he will need to lead a productive life. There are some educational programs in the juvenile detention centers where a student can stay on track for his or her diploma, and the schools look at each student individually when determining whether he or she can return to school.

Teens make mistakes - that's why there is a separate juvenile court system that is designed to focus on rehabilitation and education. Our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney can work with your loved one's case to help him or her have the opportunity to move on and learn from the incident.

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

Jacksonville woman avoids chance of death sentence, pleads guilty to shooting and killing ex-boyfriend

January 17, 2014

Rather than face a trial and the possibility of the death penalty, a Jacksonville woman pleaded guilty this month to killing her ex-boyfriend last year. Arianne Myles was accused of shooting her ex-boyfriend outside a Jacksonville post office, shortly after learning the man was engaged to another woman, the newspaper reported. Myles was charged with first-degree murder, which is only punishable by life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors were pursuing the death penalty against Myles, and the key element of this plea deal is that it takes the death penalty off the table. By pleading guilty to second-degree murder, the maximum penalty is life in prison. The death penalty can only be applied in first-degree murder cases.

And while it may appear to be a small victory for Myles, this is just another example of the state using the death penalty as a bargaining chip in a Jacksonville Murder Case. The inclination locally has been to charge first-degree murder, seek the death penalty and negotiate from there. It's all part of the process, and the practice of starting a negotiation with one charge and bargaining it down to a reduced charge is not uncommon for many Jacksonville Felony Cases, even Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases. But the death penalty is reserved for the most heinous of heinous crimes, and literally threatening someone with their life seems to be the new tactic in Jacksonville Murder Cases.

Myles was driving down a Jacksonville road when she saw her ex-boyfriend's car in a post office parking lot, according to a report on News4Jax. She is accused of turning the car around, pulling into the parking lot, getting a gun from her glove compartment and killing him, the television station reported. The premeditation needed for first-degree murder does not need to be days or weeks of plotting, but could be met just in the time that Myles turned around and decided to go and shoot the victim. But would that have qualified this Jacksonville Murder Case as a death penalty case? At the end of the day, we won't know. Myles is scheduled to be sentenced next month in this Jacksonville Murder Case. The maximum penalty is life in prison, but the plea agreement does leave it open that she could receive a sentence that would allow Myles, 23, to be released at some point. A very small percentage of Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases end up in trial, so a key is often being able to negotiate the best possible outcome for the you or your loved one. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case so you can determine whether it makes sense to try to negotiate or to take the case 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 Jacksonville Murder Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Shooter and family of slain teen settle civil lawsuit a month before criminal trial

January 11, 2014

The man accused of shooting and killing a Jacksonville teen during an argument about loud music has settled civil lawsuits with the victim's family and the families of other teens in the car at the time of the shooting. Michael Dunn has settled lawsuits with the parents of Jordan Davis and two other teens in the car when Davis was killed in November 2012, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Davis and the others had their music turned up at a Gate gas station when Dunn and the teens got into an argument, the newspaper reported. Dunn shot into the vehicle several times, killing Davis, the newspaper reported. Dunn has said all along that one of the teens pointed a gun out of the car, but police have said there were no weapons found.

Among the claims of Davis' parents was that Dunn contributed to their pain and suffering by suggesting that Davis was violent, the newspaper reported. The monetary terms of the settlement were not made public. It is rare that civil suits would be resolved before the criminal trial. Typically, these cases play out after the criminal trial - partially because a criminal conviction can be used to bolster the civil case. But, in this Jacksonville Murder Case, the chronology is less important. First of all, the civil settlement CANNOT be used in Dunn's criminal trial in his Jacksonville Murder Case. One thing it could do, since the case has been covered extensively by local, state and even national media, is confuse potential jurors about Dunn's guilt, but that could be sorted out in jury selection. Another reason the timing doesn't matter is that Dunn has never denied shooting into the car, has never denied that he was the one that killed Davis.

The criminal issue in this Jacksonville Murder Case is whether or not Dunn acted in self-defense, and that will be the crux of the criminal trial scheduled to begin Feb. 3. The issue will be whether jurors believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Dunn fired into the car on his own and was not defending himself from the shotgun he said he saw out the window of the vehicle. While there is always hesitation to admit any wrongdoing in advance of a criminal trial, there could be a variety of reasons to wrap up the civil case early. Dunn's finances have been contested from the start of the case - his criminal defense attorney has asked the judge repeatedly to order the state to cover investigative costs - so that could be a factor. Another could be to get the dispute with Davis' family cleared up so they are more likely to be on board with a plea agreement for Dunn if there is one in the works. Regardless of the reason, the criminal trial is sure to get plenty of media coverage in this Jacksonville Murder Case. And while readers and viewers will know the civil cases have been settled, jurors will not. And that's what really matters in this Jacksonville Murder 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 Murder Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

St. Johns County teen arrested for bringing a gun to school

December 6, 2013

A student at St. Augustine High School was arrested last month for allegedly bringing a gun into school and now faces criminal charges as well as significant discipline from the St. Johns County School Board. A concerned student told teachers the teen might have a gun and the staff alerted a deputy assigned to the school, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. When approached, the student said he did have a gun in his bag, which was underneath his desk, the newspaper reported. The accused student never displayed the gun, nor did he threaten any students, teachers or other staff with the weapon, the newspaper reported.

In Florida, the state makes the guidelines for facing criminal charges in all cases including this St. Johns County Gun Crimes Case but, in the case of guns in schools, also has a law that determines the length of an expulsion. Any student bringing a firearm into a school or school event is automatically expelled from school for one year. Now, the school district has the discretion to place the student in an alternative school or a disciplinary program, but the student cannot return to his or her school for at least one full year. The term is for a full calendar year, not just a school year, which is the length of time many think of when it comes to school discipline.

On the criminal side of this St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes case, the third-degree felony charge has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The age and criminal history of the student were not available in the newspaper report, but they will both play a significant role in the punishment the student receives in this St. Johns County Gun Crimes case. In some St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Case, a teen will be charged as an adult, and that is more likely in crimes when a gun is involved. In other St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes, the case will stay in the juvenile court system. When it does, there are varying degrees of incarceration for juveniles, from house arrest to minimum security detention facilities to what amounts to a juvenile version of the state prison. The point of juvenile sanctions should be to play a role in getting the student or teen on the right track. The school expulsion makes sense for the safety of the students and teachers at the school, especially given the rash of school shootings over the past several years. Our St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Attorney will work to help negotiate a disposition that will allow the teen to continue some form of education and an opportunity to get on a track to graduate.

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 St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville man's conviction overturned because of improper testimony from police officer

November 25, 2013

A judge has ordered a new trial for a Jacksonville man convicted of six counts of aggravated assault after a judge ruled an officer's testimony crossed the line and may have influenced the jury. Randal Ratledge was convicted at trial earlier this year, accused of firing one shot into the air and another into a group of neighbors in August 2012, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. No one was hurt and Ratledge has said he didn't remember the incident and his Jacksonville criminal attorney argued Ratledge had a bad reaction to a sleeping pill.

During the trial, an officer testified that Ratledge told the officer "he made a mistake and did not want to talk about the incident," the newspaper reported. Immediately after the comment was made, Ratledge's Jacksonville Trial Attorney asked for a mistrial, but the judge denied the request and Ratledge was eventually found guilty by the jury, the newspaper reported. But the job of a Jacksonville Trial Attorney does not end there. Following a trial, there are other measures a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can take to work to get a new trial in the case. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, the attorneys focused on the officer's testimony and found previous cases that showed similar testimony resulted in the conviction being thrown out. The issue was that by saying what Ratledge said, the officer violated Ratledge's Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself.

Typically, these issues are handled in appellate courts and can come a year or more after the trial. Attorneys routinely file motions for new trials following a case. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, the judge saw the error and ordered a new trial before Ratledge was sentenced to prison. He was facing a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in state prison and up to 120 years - 20 years for each of the six counts. At 56, much more than the minimum 20 years could end up effectively being a life sentence for Ratledge. Ratledge had been in jail awaiting sentencing, but will now have a hearing next month to determine if he can be released on bond until the second trial - or until the case resolves, whichever the case may be. It seems likely that there will be another trial - there's nothing of consequence the state lost in terms of evidence. They'll have to make sure the officer doesn't say something similar on the stand, but prosecutors can essentially run the same case. This Jacksonville Gun Crimes case is a prime example of how a Jacksonville Trial Attorney's work continues after the actual trial is complete - even after a conviction would seem to end the 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.

Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case among catalysts as Florida lawmakers consider changes to 10-20-Life law

November 12, 2013

State lawmakers are looking at adjustments to Florida's strict 10-20-Life gun crimes laws, and a Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is being touted as an example of why excluding "warning shot" cases may be beneficial. The state has been holding hearings about revisions to the controversial Stand Your Ground law, but is now focusing in on possible changes to the 10-20-Life law, according to a report on News4Jax.

The state law now provides the following minimum mandatory sentences for Jacksonville Gun Crimes:

 10 years for showing a gun during the commission of a felony
 20 years for firing a gun during the commission of a felony
 Life in prison for shooting someone on the commission of a felony

If there's a confrontation involved, the felony is simple for the state to charge - it'll likely be an Jacksonvilleaggravated assault. Jacksonville's Marissa Alexander has become the prime example for advocates of changing the law. She was found guilty of three counts of aggravated assault for firing a warning shot when she said her husband was threatening her. His two children were present, hence the three charges in her Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison and the judge had no choice in the matter. Her conviction has since been overturned and a bail hearing is set for this week.

Prosecutors are lobbying to keep the law the same. Of course they are. The 10-20-Life law has turned into one of their biggest negotiating chips - especially in questionable cases that could go either way at trial. The state hangs those sentences over a defendant's head during any plea negotiations. For example, the state may be offering three years in prison in a case with a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence. The defendant then has a difficulty choice - take the three years and get out, or risk it at trial knowing there's a mandatory 20 years if things don't go your way. Many defendants in Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases end up taking a deal that might be three years and cutting their losses. But, without the 20-year minimum sentence in place, more defendants may take their Jacksonville Gun Crime Case to trial, knowing that the judge then has discretion to look at the facts and circumstances and make a fair determination for a sentence. Judges have been practicing attorneys for years before taking the bench and most have some background in criminal law. Yet prosecutors will fight at every turn to try to tie the judge's hands in sentencing and to try to guarantee outcomes in cases, especially Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases. But not every arrest and every charge should be treated equally in terms of sentencing.

Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people charges with gun crimes - including those facing minimum mandatory sentences. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can advise you of your options and the consequences, so you can make the best 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 Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville man jailed, accused of telling police a woman threatened him with a gun

November 8, 2013

A Jacksonville man was arrested this month after police say he made up a story about being held at gunpoint by a woman. Andra Griffin was arrested and charged with making a false report to law enforcement about the commission of a crime, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Griffin is charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in the county jail. Police said a man called 911 and said he was being held at gunpoint and gave the dispatcher a tag number to a vehicle, the newspaper reported. Officers ran the license number and it led them to a home on the Southside, but there was no man at the home, nor any evidence of any abduction, the newspaper reported. Police then determined the man who called 911 gave a false name and he was eventually identified as Griffin, the newspaper reported. Griffin was apparently mad at the woman and used the allegation to get back at her. Now he's the defendant in a Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case and is the one who's the subject of a police investigation.

By nature, Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes are less serious that Jacksonville Felony Crimes. Most importantly, a defendant cannot be sent to state prison on a misdemeanor and the maximum sentence is one year in the county jail. And there are many professions and employers that prohibit hiring people with felony convictions on their records but do not disqualify people with misdemeanors. But that certainly doesn't mean the charges aren't serious for the person facing the charges. In many Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases involving false police reports, the defendant may be required to pay for the cost of the investigation and the time police spent working on what officers thought was a legitimate case. Prosecutors also don't take kindly to people lying to police, so that may make it less likely for the state to offer a favorable plea deal to Griffin. These types of cases can often wind up going to trial, especially if the state is so dead-set on a sentence close to the maximum that there isn't much difference in the punishment he could face is he lost at trial. In most cases, defendants take a plea agreement to limit their exposure to jail time. But in a Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case, with a year being the maximum anyway, the risk may not be as high.

Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of men and women charged with misdemeanors and has taken several to trial. If you or a loved one is charged with a Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crime, our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can explain the potential consequences and fully examine your case to help you make the best 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 Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

State drops murder charge against 98-year-old St. Johns County woman found mentally incompetent

October 14, 2013

Prosecutors have finally dropped murder charges against a 98-year-old woman who was found mentally incompetent to stand trial over a year ago. In doing so, Amanda Stevenson now has access to her retirement benefits that had been suspended due to pending charges and those funds can be used for a private long-term care facility where she can live, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The back and forth in this St. Johns County Murder Case highlights the fact that a case doesn't just end once a person is found to be mentally incompetent to face the charges.

Stevenson was charged with second-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of her nephew, with whom she had an ongoing dispute, the newspaper reported. A year later, Stevenson, who suffers from dementia, was found incompetent, but remained in jail while state agencies went back and forth as to who would be able to take care of her. In May, she was finally released from jail and placed in a mental health facility under the care of the state Department of Children and Families, the newspaper reported. In the motion dropping the charges, two doctors agreed that Stevenson was not going to regain mental competency, likely because of the stage of her dementia and her age, the newspaper reported. In many St. Johns County Murder Cases where mental competency is at issue, the person will be periodically evaluated to determine if competency can be regained - possibly through counseling or medication. The murder charge was punishable by up to life in prison. At 98, practically any sentence amounts to life in prison in this St. Johns County Murder Case.

But, as all of the legal wrangling was working itself out, her retirement benefits were frozen until the charges were formally dropped, the newspaper reported. Different pension and retirement plans operate differently. In terms of social security, payments are only supposed to be suspended when a person is convicted of a felony, not simply charged. But many state plans, for retired teachers or other state workers for example, and disability payments can be suspended once a person is jailed on charges. Part of the argument is that state and federal disability benefits are used to pay for living expenses and, if the person is incarcerated, the state is paying to take care of the person - regardless of whether or not the person has been convicted. Mental competency can be a serious issue, especially in St. Johns County Murder Cases, and the courts have complicated standards as to when a person is mentally able to stand trial - and when he or she is not. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can have your loved one evaluated by a mental health professional and present those findings to the court, if deemed necessary.

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 St. Johns County Murder Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jury can't agree in murder trial of Jacksonville Beach man accused of shooting his wife; new trial expected

October 11, 2013

A Jacksonville judge was forced to declare a mistrial last month in the case of a Jacksonville Beach man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife. Michael Morris is charged with shooting his wife seven times in the foyer of their home during an argument when both had been drinking, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Morris' neighbor, an off-duty police officer, took Morris into custody and would not let the man back in his home after Morris said he wanted to use one of his 40 guns to kill himself, the newspaper reported.

The issue in this Jacksonville Murder Case isn't really the crime itself, but rather the charge. The state charged Morris with first-degree murder, meaning the crime was premeditated. Now that doesn't mean Morris needed to have plotted the shooting weeks or months in advance, but that in that moment when he pulled out his gun and shot several times he intended to kill her. With first-degree murder charges, there are only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. Because the state was not seeking the death penalty in this Jacksonville Murder Case, a conviction would have resulted in an automatic life sentence for Morris. But Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys argued that Morris should have only been charged with manslaughter. Manslaughter is also a first-degree felony, but the maximum penalty is 30 years in prison. That would still essentially be a life sentence for Morris, 67, but the judge has discretion he or she doesn't not have in a first-degree murder case. Manslaughter is basically a charge for when someone dies as a result of negligence or as part of another criminal act where there was no intent to kill. For example, manslaughter is commonly charged if two people get into a fight and the one is killed, perhaps from hitting his or her head on the concrete.

It's impossible to know just how deadlocked the jury was in this Jacksonville Murder Case. For someone to be convicted of any crime in the state of Florida, the jury must be unanimous in its decision. So even just one person who disagrees - and stands his or her ground - can force a mistrial. In some Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases, a mistrial opens the door to further negotiations and perhaps a plea agreement. In many Jacksonville Murder Cases, though, it adds to the defendant's resolve, thinking the jury was close to finding the person not guilty. Our Jacksonville Trial Attorney knows every trial carries a significant risk. And although the charge is obviously very serious, that actually doesn't hold as true in Jacksonville Murder Cases. If the only possibility is life in prison whether the person pleads guilty or goes to trial, why not take the case to trial? The risk factor in other cases varies tremendously and, having represented thousands of defendants on charges ranging from misdemeanors to life felonies, our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can lay out the options for you or your loved one to make the best 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.

Man charged with attempted murder in Jacksonville shooting claims self-defense

September 5, 2013

A man who hosted a Jacksonville house party and ended up allegedly shooting one of the guests during an altercation is now charged with attempted murder. Terrell Drew shot Timothy Davis in the head during a fight that started with an argument over Drew dancing with the Davis' sister, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The two men argued inside the home and were pushing each other before Davis asked Drew to come outside so they could talk, the newspaper reported. Once the men got outside, Davis hit Drew several times and Drew pulled a handgun out of his waistband and shot him in the head, the newspaper reported. Drew told police he "felt threatened" by Davis and that's why he shot the man, who was hospitalized following the shooting, the newspaper reported.

All that's being reported right now is what Davis told police, so there isn't really complete picture out there. But, it does sounds like another Jacksonville Gun Crimes case where elements of self-defense and Florida's now infamous Stand Your Ground law could come into play. In Florida, if a person feels like they are in danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm, they do not have to retreat and can use deadly force if necessary to remove the threat. The law and the requirements have become so ingrained in media coverage and the vernacular, that Drew even used the words in the law by telling police he "felt threatened." One widely reported Jacksonville case involved a woman who fired a warning shot into the ceiling to scare of her abusive ex-husband. A judge ruled there was not an immediate threat because she walked into the garage to get the gun before firing it, concluding the woman started the confrontation again by coming back into the house with the gun.

This Jacksonville Gun Crimes case involving Drew does appear to have more of an immediate threat. Part of the issue will be if Drew really thought he and Davis were going outside to talk and then Davis attacked him. If that is true, Drew may have a more solid defense in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case. However, if it was clear to both parties that the men were going outside to fight and then Drew pulled out a gun when he started losing the fight, Davis could have a more difficult time with his defense. Self-defense and Stand Your Ground defenses in Jacksonville Gun Crimes cases are analyzed very closely by the court, which is rightfully hesitant to allow people to shoot others unless it is absolutely necessary. But there certainly as circumstances where people have the right to protect and defend themselves and their property, Drew's case will be interesting to watch as it unfolds and more facts become public.

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.

Jacksonville man convicted of shooting at friends and neighbors outside of his home

August 29, 2013

A Jacksonville man was found guilty of six counts of aggravated assault for firing into the air and then in the direction of six people in front of his home last summer. Randal Ratledge was convicted last week and now faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison on each count, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The judge, however, could choose to run the Jacksonville Gun Crimes sentences at the same time, meaning Ratledge could be sentenced to the minimum of 20 years - even though he was found guilty on six counts. Ratledge is 56, so a sentence of much more than 20 years could essentially end up being a life sentence.

Ratledge was outside talking with friends and neighbors when he and his wife went inside, the newspaper reported. The couple began to argue and Ratledge then walked outside, shooting into the air and then in the direction of people until Ratledge eventually dropped the gun after a struggle and then went inside, the newspaper reported. Ratledge did not have a criminal record prior to this Jacksonville Gun Crime incident and his Duval County criminal defense attorney argued that Ratledge had a bad reaction with the sleeping pill Ambien and was not guilty by involuntary intoxication, the newspaper reported. The jury did not agree and convicted him after less than an hour of deliberations. The state had offered Ratledge a plea deal that would have allowed him to serve 10 years in prison, but he declined, the newspaper reported. The details of the offer almost certainly came from the state and are part of prosecutors now defending themselves from criticism on seeking minimum mandatory sentences too often on cases like Ratledge's.

Under Florida's 10-20-Life laws, there are minimum mandatory sentences established for crimes involving firearms. If a person shows a gun during the commission of a felony, a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years could apply. If the gun is fired, the minimum is 20 years if convicted. And if someone is hit, it can trigger a life sentence. These are mandatory on a conviction. But the state can negotiate sentences below those numbers if prosecutors choose. They did in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, offering 10 years, though the defense obviously declined the deal. One thing to keep in mind for minimum mandatory sentences: defendants must serve every day of the sentence. In traditional sentences, people usually serve 85 percent of the sentence, so the 10 years is really more likely to be 8-1/2. Taking a case to trial will almost always up the ante for a potential sentence - especially in cases where a minimum mandatory applies. But, it's also unlikely for someone to take 10 years in prison for something they may not believe they are guilty of. The stakes are high in Jacksonville Gun Crime Cases, and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will lay out all of the options for you or your loved one 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 Jacksonville Gun Crimes 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.

Seven years in prison each for two men tied to gun used to kill Clay County detective

Two men who at one point each passed along a stolen gun that was eventually ended up in the hands of a felon who killed a Clay County Sheriff's deputy were both sentenced to seven years in prison last week. Robert Apple II and Jack Lemond both pleaded guilty to dealing in stolen property, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Two other men have the same charges pending, the newspaper reported. Dealing in stolen property in Clay County is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Police said the .38-caliber pistol was stolen in Jacksonville in 2011 and was passed along by four different men in the next year, eventually making its way to Ted Tilley, the newspaper reported. Tilley, a convicted felon, used the stolen gun to shoot and kill detective David White during a raid on a meth lab in 2012, the newspaper reported. Tilley also wounded another deputy with the gun before police shot and killed him. The four men involved in this Clay County Gun charge are among a total of eight people who have been charged since White's death. Three adults in the Clay County home at the time of the raid have been charged with murder, attempted murder and trafficking in methamphetamines, the newspaper reported. A juvenile in the home, 16 at the time, was also charged with third-degree murder in the Clay County Gun Crimes case. Prosecutors have been extremely aggressive in this case, charging everyone they can in connection to the death. The key in the Clay County Theft case involving dealing in stolen property is knowledge of the property being stolen. State law says that someone who either knew or should have known the property was stolen can be charged with dealing in stolen property. In this case, police have said all four men knew the gun was stolen. Two have pleaded guilty and it remains to be seen if the other two choose a similar path.

Now that the sentencing standard has been set in this Clay County Theft Case with Apple and Lemond, it will be interesting to see if the two remaining men end up pleading guilty as well. Typically, sentences are longer after a trial than they are if the person admits guilt and pleads guilty to the charges. All defendants have a right to a trial, but the price of a trial can be expensive in terms of a sentence. It is highly unlikely that a judge will give a lower sentence to someone who takes a case to trial than he or she gave to someone who pleaded guilty.

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.

Sisters convicted in Jacksonville shooting are out on bond until June sentencing

Two Jacksonville women convicted of shooting their niece are out of custody while awaiting their prison sentences, an uncommon occurrence in a Jacksonville Gun Crimes case. Joyce Williams was convicted of attempted murder and carrying a concealed weapon. She is facing between 25 years and life in prison when she in sentenced in June, according to a report on News4Jax. Her sister Joycelyn Glover was convicted of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and faces at least five years in prison in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case.

In many cases, defendants are out on bond before they go to trial. If they are convicted, the judge usually orders the person into custody immediately, especially in a Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case where people are facing significant time behind bars. Sentencings are typically delayed at least a month following a trial, but in most cases the defendant is in the county jail until the sentence is announced. That time in jail is then credited to the overall sentence, just as the time is when someone is awaiting trial if they have not bonded out. The decision of whether or not to remand a person immediately into custody is strictly the judge's decision. The judge must weigh whether he or she deems the defendant to be a risk to take off and not report for sentencing. The decision is similar to one a judge must make in determining whether to set a bond in any Jacksonville criminal case.

The real number to pay attention to in a bond is 10 percent - that's the amount of the bond needed to get a bondsman to post the bail for you or your loved one. So, is the bond is $5,000, it would take $500 to get out of jail. When setting a bond, the judge often includes some type of monitoring requirements, such as house arrest or restricting travel within the state of Florida. Being out of jail awaiting trial is obviously ideal for most defendants. It can allow them to continue to work, especially important if their case involved fines or paying restitution, which is common in Jacksonville Theft Cases. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, it allows the sisters to make arrangements for family members and such or tie up any loose ends before they are sent to prison - one for at least 25 years, the other for at least five. Judges typically force the person into custody to eliminate the possibility of the person leaving town or committing another crime before they are sentenced. It will be interesting to see after this Jacksonville Gun Crimes sentencing if other local judges end up taking a similar path in terms of allowing people to report back for sentencing.

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.

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.