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Latecia Watkins was a supervisor at the Boca Raton, Florida, Post Office when she was arrested on for importing more than five kilograms of cocaine into the United States. Here is how it unfolded.

Two packages from Trinidad and Tobago addressed to the Boca Raton Post Office were intercepted at the international mail facility and found to contain cocaine. Law enforcement agents removed the drugs and placed a GPS tracking device with sham cocaine into the packages and put both packages into the mail stream headed to the original destinations.

The agents monitored the GPS and the Post Office’s internal tracking system. They set up surveillance of the Boca Raton Post Office the morning of August 11, 2017 when they expected the packages to be delivered. The GPS device stopped working but they were able to track the packages by the Post Office tracking system. They began to realize some strange occurrences because one of the packages addressed to a Boca Raton post office which did not have a P.O. box number was accepted without the number. Normally a package could not be received unless the addressee had a rented a post office box. The agents then suspected an inside job and the suspect was most likely a supervisor and not just an employee because a postal employee would not have access to certain aspects of the scanning system to manipulate the tracking history of the package.

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Bobal was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of using a means of interstate commerce to attempt to persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity in violation of 8 U.S.C. sec. 2422(b) and committing a felony offense involving a minor after being required to register as a sex offender in violation of 18 U.S.C. sec. 2260A. Bobal had a prior conviction in Florida for using a computer to solicit a child to engage in sexual activity. His trouble began when he sent a picture of his penis to a man posing as a 14-year old girl. The F.B.I. got involved and an agent posing as the 14-year-old girl began exchanging text messages with Bobal which were sexual in nature and eventually arranged a meeting. When Bobal arrived at the meeting location he was arrested.

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A group of brothers, relatives, and friends who operated a drug trafficking organization in Bradenton, Florida, were charged and convicted of participating in a RICO conspiracy, a drug conspiracy, and gun crimes. The defendants raised two issues in this appeal. First, whether the RICO conspiracy qualified as a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) and second, whether one of the defendant’s sentence was procedurally and substantively reasonable.

The defendants challenging the 924(c) conviction. Section 924(c) which makes it a crime to use, carry, or discharge a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. The defendants argued here that the RICO conspiracy is not a “crime of violence”.   The statute defines a crime of violence as a felony offense that (a) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another (the elements clause) or (b) that by its nature involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense (the residual clause).

 

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Isabel Grimon plead guilty to possessing 15 or more unauthorized access devices and aggravated identity theft after officers found 19 bland credit cards in her vehicle and a thumb drive containing 134 credit card numbers issued to other persons. The indictment charged her with knowing possession of unauthorized access devises and that “said conduct affected interstate commerce.” She went through the plea hearing with a factual proffer which included a stipulation that the government would have proven at trial that Grimon did knowingly and with intent to defraud possess 15 or more devices which are counterfeit and unauthorized access devices, said conduct affecting interstate commerce.”

In her appeal Grimon argues that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over her offense because the factual proffer merely stipulated to the interstate commerce element of her access device offense and did not contain any underlying facts showing that her possession of counterfeit credit cards affected interstate commerce. She stressed that the cards were never used. The government argued that even if Grimon’s stipulation was insufficient factual basis for the interstate commerce element of her offense that did not deprive the district court of subject matter jurisdiction to accept her plea.

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Ricky Hinkle died in a Birmingham City jail after being shocked twice with a taser and his son Hunter filed federal civil rights lawsuit against Deputy Dukuzumuremyi under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for a violation of Hinkle’s constitutional right to be free from excessive force. Hunter also claimed that Sheriff Hale and Captain Eddings were liable as supervisors for the deliberate indifference for policy or custom implemented by the officers. The officers moved to dismiss on grounds of qualified immunity and the district court denied their motions, and they took this appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. Dukuzumuremyi’s qualified immunity claim was rejected but the court found no supervisory liability by the Sheriff and the Captain.

This is how the facts unfolded. Hinkle was arrested while “visibly intoxicated” and taken to jail where he began suffering from alcohol-withdrawal symptoms and exhibited delusional behavior. When officers found him in the corner of his cell wearing only underpants and shoes telling them he wanted to die, they decided to move him to a padded cell. As they walked him toward the cell and asked him to remove his shoes, he began running down the hallway and grabbed a shower curtain. As the officers attempted to pull Hinkle into the new cell Dukuzumuremyi fired his taser hitting Hinkle on the left side of his chest. As a result of the shock Hinkle fell to the floor and urinated on himself. Dukuzumuremyi ordered Hinkle to roll over to be handcuffed by Hinkle remained unresponsive. Dukuzumuremyi tased him again on the front left side of his neck eight second after the first shock. During that time Hinkle remained motionless on the ground. Shortly after the second shock Hinkle went into cardiac arrest and was later pronounce dead in the hospital.

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In this appeal Anthony Spence was charged with knowing transportation of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(1) and knowing possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5)(B). He was found guilty after trial. In calculating his federal sentencing guidelines range the probation officer recommended an increase for a number of factors. The factor at issue here was a two-level enhancement for distribution which Spence stated took place while he was in Jamaica. In this appeal he argues that his distribution of the videos while in Jamaica should not have affected his guidelines calculation. He argued that by including his out of country conduct in the calculation of his offense level the district court violated the principle that legislation of Congress should apply only within the United States unless a contrary intent appears. Spence was relying upon a canon of statutory construction known as the presumption against the application of congressional statutes to conduct occurring in the territory of a foreign sovereign. He argued that the distribution of videos occurring solely in Jamaica should not have been considered by the district court.

As an issue of first impression, the court of appeals saw the issue as whether the presumption against the extraterritorial application of congressional legislation should be extended to apply also to preclude a sentencing judge from considering extraterritorial conduct which would otherwise be properly considered as relevant conduct.

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Dismissal of inmate’s Eighth Amendment claim was incorrect

Sears filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights lawsuit for excessive force and deliberate indifference as a result of a physical assault and having been pepper sprayed after he was handcuffed and compliant. This incident happened while he was an inmate in Polk Correctional institution in Polk City, Florida. The district court ruled in favor of the correctional officers based on the Eleventh Circuit’s precedence in O’Bryant v Finch. The court of appeals reversed because it found the district court misread that decision and misapplied it by crediting the defendants’ version of the events over the Sears’ sworn allegations.

Sears had a dispute with another guard and tried to see the captain to lodge a complaint. The guard with whom he had the dispute told two other guards, the defendant, who tried to place him in handcuffs. When he resisted, he was forced to the ground and handcuffed. While he was restrained one of the defendants began punching him on his body while the other choked him. through it all a third defendant kept spraying him in the face with the chemical agent. They continued beating him. Sears estimated the entire physical altercation lasted about 16 minutes.

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Corbett and Weaver worked at Florida Hospital near Orlando Florida. When Weaver held the position of release of information specialist he would download patients’ face sheets containing their name, health information, date of birth and social security number without authority to do so and sold them to coconspirators who, the government believed, intended to use the information to open credit card accounts and commit identity fraud.   Corbett took over Weaver’s position as release of information specialist, he solicited her to obtain face sheets without authority and paid her for each assisting him obtain the information. Both were charged with conspiracy to obtain identifiable health information for commercial advantage and pleaded guilty.

The probation officer that calculated the sentencing guidelines recommended a two level enhancement for an offense that involve 10 or more victims under 2B1.1. the probation officer also calculated the Florida Hospital’s loss on costs associated with identifying and notifying patients whose individually identifiable health information was viewed without authorizations. This resulted in a 10 level enhancement. At sentencing the defendant objected to the loss amount on the grounds that the Florida Hospital’s expenses should have been excluded as cost incurred by victims primarily to aid the government in the prosecution and criminal investigation of the offense. She objected to the 10 or more victim enhancement on the grounds that the government only identified a handful at most who suffered any identifiable financial harm as a result of the conspiracy. The district court denied both objections.

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In U.S. v. Johnson the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals reversed a panel decision which held that an officer conducted an unconstitutional search and seizure when he removed a round of ammunition from the defendant’s pocket after conducting a pat down of the defendant who was a burglary suspect. The en banc court decided that the seizure of the ammunition was a constitutional search under Terry v. Ohio. The facts show the Opa-Locka, Florida, Police Department received a 911 call about a potential burglary in progress at a multifamily duplex. Behind the duplex was a fence that separated the duplex from the adjacent property. The 911 caller described a black male wearing a white shirt trying to get through the window of a neighbor’s house.

Soon after officers arrived, the defendant was seen coming from the back of the complex through an alley. He fit the description of a black male wearing a white shirt. He was ordered to the ground and handcuffed and detained until they could figure things out. Because of the nature of the call and the high crime nature of the area, the officer conducted a pat down of Mr. Johnson for officer safety. The officer felt a nylon piece of material and then underneath it he felt a hard-like, oval-shaped object which led him to believe it was ammunition. He removed it thinking that there might be a weapon nearby or another person in the apartment that may come out with “something.” It was a black nylon pistol holster and one round of .380 caliber ammunition.

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After Almus Taylor died from internal bleeding after being kept in a jail holding cell overnight, Almus’s father Bonny Taylor sued the jail guards under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and Alabama state law alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to Almus’s serious medical needs. After the district court dismissed Bonny’s claims based on qualified immunity, he appealed to the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals raising the question whether qualified immunity shields the guards from Bonny’s constitutional deliberate indifference claim.

These are the background facts. Taylor was found in a battered pickup truck by a Covington County Deputy who called Emergency Medical Services and Alabama Highway patrol. While the EMS offered to take him to the hospital, he refused because they could not accommodate his request that he bring his dog along. The Alabama state trooper then arrested Almus for driving under the influence and took him to jail.

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