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News

David Edelstein’s work has been featured in several media outlets. The articles below highlight some of his efforts to defend the rights of individuals accused of various crimes.

 

February 27, 2008

Legal load probably less in Miami for Minnesota Vikings lineman Bryant McKinnie Viking likely to receive more leniency than in Twin Cities

The image


By Sean Jensen


Bryant McKinnie likely will receive more leniency in Miami than if his latest legal battle were in Hennepin County, according to three criminal attorneys.

The Vikings left tackle was charged with second-degree felony aggravated battery, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence following a brawl early Sunday morning outside a popular Miami nightclub.

South Florida criminal defense attorneys David Edelstein and Bradford Cohen predicted that McKinnie would avoid jail time, be placed on probation, and be ordered to attend anger-management classes and/or perform community service.

"I can't imagine he'd be looking at some jail time in this case," Cohen said of McKinnie. "If this was John Smith, and we were looking at the same facts, I don't think the state would be offering him a prison sentence."

The circumstances are different in Hennepin County, Minneapolis-based criminal defense attorney Robert Shane said.

"I would say he's lucky that didn't happen up here because we have mandatory minimum statutes involving dangerous weapons, and prosecuting attorneys in Hennepin County have directives not to bargain on those types of charges," Shane said. "In Hennepin County, they don't negotiate."

Cohen said other Florida counties might be more prone to come down harder in this type of case. But Miami-Dade County has to focus on a higher number of more serious crimes, considering it is ranked the nation's sixth-most dangerous metropolitan area, according to statestats.com. The Twin Cities are not ranked in the top 25.

According to the Miami police report, McKinnie shoved a camera phone into the face of a bouncer at Club Space, then came back later and struck him with a pole. If the victim doesn't press charges, the felony could be reduced to a misdemeanor in Miami-Dade.

If McKinnie's case was in the Twin Cities, according to Deputy Hennepin County attorney Patrick Diamond, the Viking's previous misdemeanor — for disorderly conduct in the 2005 Love Boat incident — wouldn't "make much of a difference.'' The sentence for second-degree assault (what would be the equivalent to the felony charge in Miami) could range from 21 months to 10 years, but probably would end up being 14 months in prison, with good behavior, Diamond said.

In Miami, conviction for aggravated battery alone can bring a minimum sentence of 21 months and a maximum of 15 years, according to Edelstein.

"Now that being said, the first thing is whether they even file the charges," said Edelstein, a former Miami-Dade public defender. "If they do file the charge, if he has a decent lawyer, he should get, at worst, a pre-trial intervention."

Much of the case depends on two parties: the victim and the state attorney's office.

After the initial fight, Club Space bouncer Eric Otero said he wouldn't press charges if McKinnie left, according to the police report. But McKinnie returned a few hours later and confronted Otero again. Both were treated at the scene by fire rescue.

Not only could Otero file a civil charge against McKinnie, who signed a seven-year contract extension worth $48.5 million in 2006, he is the key to the state's case against McKinnie. If Otero doesn't cooperate with authorities, the state attorney's office could announce a "no-action," which effectively ends the case.

When there is a "high-profile case" that is under "a magnifying glass," Edelstein said, the state attorney's office might try to force the victim to cooperate, but that is unlikely here.

"In Dade, with these facts, my experience is, they would look at it as a bar room fight and file it as a misdemeanor battery, especially if the victim doesn't want to prosecute," Cohen said. " But if the victim wants to prosecute, then they're more likely to file it as a felony."

 

June 29, 2006

CRIMINAL LAW
A LEGAL BOOMERANG

By Julie Kay

In 1999, a 20-year old college student was arrested for petty theft in Miami-Dade County after stealing a shirt from J.C. Penney.

Like most first-time offenders, the young man completed a pretrial diversionary program, performed community service, paid a fine and got his case dismissed. The record was expunged. He never got into any more trouble with the law.

Seven years later, the man applied for a job and was turned down.

Curious about why, he checked his record on Westlaw, an Eagan, Minn.-based legal database company, and was shocked to find that the supposedly expunged record of his misdemeanor appeared on Westlaw's widely available computerized database. He immediately called his lawyer, Kenneth Hassett of Miami.

Hassett told the client, who did not want to be identified for this article, what he tells many of his clients who have called him with the same complaint — that the computerized record systems of the Miami-Dade clerk of courts, Florida Department of Corrections and Florida Department of Law Enforcement are "not secure" and that expungement has become meaningless.

"In the electronic and Internet age, sealing or expunging in many cases just doesn't exist," he said.

The Miami-Dade County Enterprise Technology Services Department sells criminal records information to four data mining companies, including Atlanta-based ChoicePoint, the largest provider of data information in the country. The other three are Seisent, Court Venture and First American SafeRent.

The records sold include daily electronic bulletins of jail bookings and a biweekly file of all defendants charged with felonies or misdemeanors, according to Ronald Feingold, a county systems analyst.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stanford Blake, administrative head of the court's criminal division, said it is inappropriate for the county to sell information about cases that were supposed to be expunged.

"I don't think we should be in that business," Blake said. He urged any attorneys who have had this experience to call him.

Miami-Dade Chief Judge Joseph P. Farina Jr. did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment. But court spokeswoman Eunice Sigler said, "The 11th Judicial Circuit itself does not sell court records. We do not feel it is appropriate to comment on the alleged practices of another branch of government or governmental entity."

Miami-Dade Clerk of the Courts Harvey Ruvin declined to comment.


Responding to complaints

Hassett's client is not alone in encountering this problem of expunged records becoming public. Criminal defense attorneys, privacy rights experts and civil rights lawyers in Miami and elsewhere say they're increasingly concerned that data mining companies are obtaining and posting criminal records of juveniles and adults that were supposed to be expunged from official records.

"This is becoming a problem," Miami criminal defense attorney Michael Catalano said in a recent mass e-mail to members of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "These companies know so much about our clients, so sealing and expunging does not mean it 'goes away.' Something needs to be done about this."

Feingold said he did not know whether data mining companies like ChoicePoint remove expunged or sealed files from their databases later. "We have no authority to force them to do that," he said.

John Shaughnessy, senior director of corporate communications at Westlaw, said that in Miami-Dade, Westlaw buys information about criminal records from a third-party "aggregate" company, which obtains it directly from the courthouse.

Some South Florida criminal defense lawyers and privacy rights experts expressed outrage over the release of supposedly expunged and sealed criminal records.

"This is extremely concerning," said Sherwin Siy, staff counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C. "A fundamental part of the justice system is the allowance of expungement as a chance for a clean start. If records are being sold to data brokers, that undermines that. There shouldn't be a stigma that follows your for the rest of your life."

"That is absolutely a violation of peoples' privacy rights and unconstitutional," said Lida Rodriguez, a partner at Duane Morris in Miami and a past president of the ACLU of Miami. "The county should not be selling records, especially expunged records, for a profit. This is another example of why the government cannot be trusted to keep records private, whether it be phone records or bank records."

But others say that, in the age of computerized data bases and the Internet, no one should have any expectation of privacy about their records. "You can never get rid of data," said Robert Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University. "Anybody who thinks that information once created goes off and dies is kidding themselves."

Juvenile records at risk

Under Florida statute, first-time offenders committing misdemeanors and certain nonviolent felonies such as third-degree theft can enter a pretrial diversion program. After attending classes, paying a fine and sometimes performing community service, a defendant can ask the judge to dismiss the case and expunge his or her criminal record. The request is usually granted.

Files can also be sealed — which means they are not destroyed but stored by the clerk's office and closed with tape — if a first-time offender enters a plea and the judge withholds adjudication.

Expunging or sealing records are thought of as ways to wipe the slate clean for young people who get into minor legal scrapes such as marijuana possession, petty theft or vandalism. Expungement means that the stigma of having a criminal record does not follow them throughout their lives and hurt their chances of finding employment, obtaining credit, getting a lease or a mortgage, or even gaining U.S. citizenship.

All states have similar provisions for expunging criminal records. But Florida's open records laws give data mining companies greater access to more records than they have in other states, said Carlos Martinez, Miami's chief assistant public defender.

Criminal defense lawyers say they are increasingly hearing from clients who complain that even though their cases were officially expunged, they are being repeatedly turned down for jobs on the basis of their criminal records. When the clients check their history on legal databases such as Westlaw, they discover that their criminal record still shows up.

Carlos Martinez, the Miami-Dade chief assistant public defender, said the problem has grown in the last six months as employers and landlords increasingly turn to database companies such as ChoicePoint and Westlaw for background checks. Both he and Hassett have met with court and county officials in an effort to resolve the problem.

The problem, according to the two defense lawyers, is that while the clerk of the courts is the official keeper of court files, the county has won the battle to become the keeper of electronic court records.

Martinez said he's particularly concerned about the security of juvenile records, and his office is proposing state legislation to maintain the privacy of those records. The bill did not make it out of committee this year.

Some attorneys are considering a different way to solve the problem — through class action litigation. Strategy sessions have been held and the lawyers are looking for a good defendant to lead the class, someone who was injured by the incorrect posting of expunged records on a database.

Companies respond

Miami criminal defense attorney David Edelstein said he has come up with an effective way of dealing with expunged criminal cases that show up on ChoicePoint databases. He faxes the court expungement order to ChoicePoint and the company removes all criminal references for that individual. "They've been cooperative," he said.

In the case of Hassett's 20-year-old client, however, Hassett said Westlaw refused to change its record without getting a verification of the expungement directly from the court.

Westlaw's Shaughnessy said that if a person has a complaint about an expunged record showing up in the Westlaw database, the person should call Westlaw, which will remove the information provided there is "reasonable confirmation," such as the judicial expungement order.

Mitchell Gersten, business information officer of data services for ChoicePoint, said his company collects criminal records from two sources around the country — the administrative office of the courts and departments of corrections. In some counties around the country, the company pays for the information, while in other counties the information is freely available, he said.

Gersten acknowledged some problems arising from delays in receiving updated information from courts, including information about expungements. "It takes a period of time, depending on the court, for the changes to roll up to us," he said. "There are definitely inefficiencies or cases where the courts do not communicate effectively."

For that reason, he said, ChoicePoint has established a formal consumer dispute process by which individuals can contest information on their records. ChoicePoint promises to quickly investigate the matter and correct any errors. But by then, damage can already be done.

ChoicePoint spokesman Chuck Jones acknowledged that the company has been sued by individuals who claimed they suffered damage as a result of inaccurate criminal background information provided by ChoicePoint. He did not provide details on the cases.

Until a solution is found, attorney Michael Catalano said he counsels clients that in applying for jobs, apartment leases, or any filling out any applications that ask for an arrest record, they should probably disclose any arrest — even if the case record was expunged.

"In the days before the Internet, they could tell people they were never arrested," he said. "But today, the rule is to disclose."

Editor's note: Westlaw, a subject of this story, and ALM Media Inc., parent of the Daily Business Review, recently entered into a five-year content exchange agreement.

Julie Kay can be reached at jkay@alm.com or at (954) 468-2622.

 

December 09, 2005.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE
PAIN JUST BEGINNING

Little bottle of pills and Florida's tough drug sentencing law have imperiled Penny Spence's hopes of becoming a nurse. Her case, critics say, illustrates why the law needs to be changed.

Late one night last January, the 33-year-old Pembroke Pines woman was driving home from her waitress job, exhausted from working all night and caring for her ailing mother all day.

She veered off the road and hit a tree. Though she wasn't hurt, three Coral Springs police officers responded to the accident, including a SWAT team member. The SWAT officer spotted a pill bottle in her purse, reached into the car and seized it. It turned out to be filled with Percocet pills.

Spence told the police that she had gotten the pills from her mother but had no prescription for them. She was using the narcotic pills, she said, to self-treat a painful back condition. She had no prior criminal record, and officers did not suspect she was intoxicated or impaired in her driving.

But because she had 48 pills, which weighed 42 grams, Spence was charged with drug trafficking — even though Spence insisted the pills were for her personal use.

Under Florida's mandatory minimum laws for drug offenses, trafficking charges are triggered by drug weight, without consideration of intent to distribute or prior record. If a person is arrested with more than 25 pounds of marijuana, more than 28 grams of cocaine or more than five Percocet pills — which typically consist of 99 percent Tylenol — law enforcement authorities may bring charges of drug trafficking rather than mere possession. Prosecutors have the discretion to charge up or down.

If convicted of drug trafficking, a defendant faces a mandatory sentence of at least three years in prison. The mandatory minimums rise for larger amounts. Those possessing 150 kilograms of cocaine or 30 kilograms of OxyContin or morphine — the equivalent of about 33,000 Percocet pills — are subject to a mandatory minimum of life.

Spence is facing 25 years — unless she accepts a deal offered by Broward County Assistant State Attorney A. Theodore Daus III. Under that deal, she would get two years of house arrest in exchange for a guilty plea. But then Spence would have a drug trafficking and felony record. That would kill her hope of becoming a nurse.

"This has completely transformed my life," Spence said. "I feel the way the laws are written is too harsh for someone like me, a nonviolent first-time drug offender. That's what drug court and drug treatment was set up for."

The Washington, D.C.-based Families Against Mandatory Minimums said Spence's case demonstrates what's wrong with mandatory minimum drug laws across the country. The organization argues that such laws give prosecutors too much discretion and judges too little.

"I think the situation points out how a one-size-fits-all sentence doesn't work," said Laura Sager, the group's national campaign director. "The punishment in this case simply does not fit the crime." Sager contended that the prosecutor is overreaching, and the law doesn't allow the judge to serve as a check on prosecutorial discretion.

But prosecutor Daus expressed amazement that anyone would criticize the house arrest deal he offered Spence — something not all narcotics defendants receive.

"If I had said, 'She's getting 25 years in prison, there's no deal,' you'd have a good story,' " Daus said. "But I think I made her a fair deal. She would have no prison time. It shows the system does work. I think [FAMM] should be giving me an award."

Spence, he said, "just wants to have her cake and eat it too."

Sager disagreed. "This charge will follow Penny for the rest of her life," she said. "The consequences are severe for future employment. The prosecutor is using the mandatory minimum as a bargaining tool to get a guilty plea."

Broward has a specialized drug court that has served as a rehabilitative model for the state. But under state law, only those charged with drug possession, not drug trafficking, can be referred there.

Critics say Spence's case also highlights disparities in how the justice system handles different people accused of drug offenses.

Two years ago, part-time Palm Beach resident Rush Limbaugh came under investigation after he was accused of illegally purchasing and possessing thousands of powerful prescription pain pills — including OxyContin, the so-called hillbilly heroin — worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He admitted a drug addiction and entered a treatment program for several weeks.

Yet Limbaugh so far faces no criminal charges in Palm Beach County. His Miami attorney, Roy Black, has waged an aggressive campaign to prevent authorities there from gathering evidence in the case. The state's investigation is continuing.

Costly to taxpayers

Mandatory minimums for drug crimes gained popularity throughout the country in the late 1980s as part of the burgeoning war on drugs. Politicians promised that such laws would deter crime. Mandatory minimums were adopted in nearly every state, and on the federal level as well.

The laws give prosecutors more power in charging crimes, and take sentencing discretion away from juries and judges. While juries still decide on guilt, they and the judges do not decide sentences. Those are pre-ordained by a schedule of mandatory minimums.

Prosecutors often use mandatory minimums to push defendants into accepting plea deals. Defendants in many cases are forced to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit rather than face harsh prison sentences, critics say.

But as jails and prisons have become packed with first-time and relatively minor drug offenders, mandatory minimums have lost some popularity. That's largely because the bulging prison and jail population of drug offenders is becoming too costly to taxpayers.

Various mandatory minimum drug laws were rolled back in Michigan, Louisiana, Indiana and Connecticut. With FAMM leading the charge — and making its appeal to save tax dollars — efforts are under way in New York and Michigan to further amend the laws.

On the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court last January overturned the federal mandatory criminal sentencing system on Sixth Amendment grounds, and ordered that the guidelines were to be used by judges as advisory only. Legal experts say judges still are generally following the guidelines.

In Florida, however, there is no momentum to change the mandatory minimum drug laws. In fact, there are frequent efforts by lawmakers to enact new mandatory minimum laws.

"There are plenty of Floridians who are first-time offenders and are victims of these laws," said Robert Batey, a criminal law professor at Stetson University in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay chapter president of FAMM. "But there is no legislation afoot to change these laws that I know of."

The mandatory minimum laws continue to enjoy bipartisan support. State Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, who is also a prosecutor with the Broward state attorney's office, said he supports mandatory minimums, as does Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, a former federal prosecutor.

"As a prosecutor, I like the idea of having control," Porth said. "It takes control from the judge and offers consistency throughout the state," Porth said.

"Generally I support them," Gelber said. "However, there need to be escape valves that reflect the appropriate circumstances."

A break on bond

But FAMM argues that the mandatory minimum drug laws lead to gross injustices. It points to the case of Tampa resident Richard Paey. The wheelchair-bound, chronic pain patient was arrested for drug trafficking last year after filling dozens of prescriptions for pain pills through an out-of-state doctor.

Paey chose to fight the charge rather than accept a plea deal and was convicted. The father of three, recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, is now serving 25 years in prison. He receives his pain medication in prison by morphine pump.

Spence's case is equally compelling, her supporters and FAMM representatives say. Her sister, Chrystal Weaver of Pembroke Pines, has been meeting with lawmakers and telling them Penny's story to try to persuade them to change the law. She is helping start a South Florida chapter of FAMM.

At the time of Spence's arrest, she was the main caregiver for her ill mother, who suffered from Parkinson's disease and has since died. In addition, Spence argues that police may have violated the law by reaching into her car and removing the pills from her purse. She was not tested for intoxication.

Spence spent one day in Broward County Jail before posting bond. She is fortunate in one respect. Broward Circuit Judge Susan Lebow let her bail stand at $2,000, the bail amount for a drug possession charge. That was Spence's original charge before it was upgraded to trafficking. If the bail had been set at a standard amount for drug trafficking, it would have been $500,000, and Spence would still be in jail.

Weaver originally called Roy Black to represent her, but learned that his fee was $100,000, which she couldn't afford. She eventually hired Miami attorney David Edelstein, who charged her $20,000 to handle the case. Edelstein did not return calls for comment.

South Florida legal experts say Spence was unlucky to be arrested in Broward, where State Attorney Michael Satz is known for his hard-line stance on drug defendants.

"There's no question that Mike Satz is tough on these types of crimes," said Michael Pasano, president of the criminal section of the American Bar Association and a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder in Miami.

Charles B. Morton Jr., Broward's chief assistant state attorney, defended his office's policy on drug offenses. A prosecutor, he said, "may get a reputation as being tough. But I don't see this office as unfair or unjust in any way in regard to mandatory minimums. We take into account the background, character, record and surrounding circumstances of every case."

Pasano noted that even in Broward, defendants face "the luck of the draw" in which prosecutor handles their case. "You can get a good or bad prosecutor in any county. And they are the ones who make the charging decisions."

Weaver said she and her sister still aren't sure whether they will accept prosecutor Daus' deal. They want the case referred to drug court, which is designed for first-time drug offenders. There, defendants are offered drug treatment and probation as alternatives to prison and house arrest.

But under the mandatory minimum laws, Spence is ineligible for drug court, Daus said.

"A law that makes you plead guilty to something you didn't do is wrong," Weaver said. "Penny is not a drug trafficker. She should be able to plead guilty to possession. That's a fair thing to do."

"Think about it," Weaver added. "If you have a bad toothache and a friend gives you five pain pills to tide you over and you're unlucky enough to get pulled over by cops, you're going to jail. Maybe for years."

June 28, 2003.

MISTAKEN ARREST AND NO APOLOGIES

MIAMI, Florida - Virginia Fatima Garcia-Perez, making lunch for her 9-year-old son Anthony, answered a knock at the door of her Kendall home at 11:30 a.m. June 9. There stood three U.S. marshals with an arrest warrant for Virginia Tirado Garcia -- conspiracy to distribute cocaine, from a 1993 indictment out of Dallas.

Garcia-Perez, 36, a Procter & Gamble rep who sells Bounty and Charmin to independent grocers, was stunned. ''You must have the wrong person,'' she insisted. Minutes later, they took her away -- in chains, handcuffs and leg shackles -- while her boy cried.

The marshals showed her a copy of Tirado Garcia's driver license photo. ''Sir, that's not me.'' She pointed out the different birth dates: Garcia-Perez's is May 13, 1967; the fugitive's is May 3, 1968. And besides, ''I've never been to Texas.'' The marshals told her to stop denying it, she says. '' 'Things could get worse for you if you lie.' ''

They booked her. A pretrial services officer conducted an interview. What places do you frequent, he asked? Barnes & Noble, she replied. At the Federal Detention Center, corrections officers confiscated her clothes, strip searched her, gave her a green prison jumpsuit and locked her up. ''Horrible,'' she says.

She remained in custody for two days before U.S. Magistrate William Turnoff let her out on a $100,000 signature bond -- a promise to appear and a pledge of assets in case she didn't. She had to call in twice a day and report on Tuesdays. On June 24, the feds admitted what she said all along -- mistaken identity. A Dallas federal judge quashed the arrest.

Defense attorney David Edelstein says she's lucky she got out that fast. He persuaded Dallas federal prosecutors to compare his client's fingerprints to those of Tirado Garcia, taken by the INS when she arrived from Cuba in the late '80s. No match.

The marshals relied on info from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the feds say in court docs. They won't identify the marshals who arrested Garcia-Perez.

A humiliating experience -- and ''nobody ever apologized,'' says Garcia-Perez, who had no criminal record. Her civil lawyer, Michael Gongora, is pursuing a false imprisonment claim.

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October 31, 2004.

FUROR OVER FURHER COSTUME AT SCHOOL HALLOWEEN

MIAMI BEACH, Florida - A Miami Beach schoolboy caused a stir when he showed up for his school's Halloween parade dressed up as Adolf Hitler, The Miami Herald reported Saturday.

"Wildly inappropriate," said lawyer David Edelstein, who reportedly alerted the Anti-Defamation League ( ADL) after seeing the youngster wearing a uniform, swastika patches, a moustache and a name tag that said "A. Hitler."

The ADL's southern area director, Art Teitelbaum, told the daily it was "grossly insensitive on the part of any adult who was involved in selecting this costume for an innocent child. Nothing justifies the trivialization of the memories of the Holocaust and the evil of Adolf Hitler".

The school said the fourth grader was eventually removed from the parade "for safety reasons".

--AFP

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November 3, 2004.

SMITTEN?

MIAMI, Florida - A Nevada man pleaded no contest to stalking TV personality Marisa Del Portillo, a host of El Escandalo del Mediodia seen on WAMI-69.

Gilbert Rodman, 49, showed up at TeleFutura network's office in Miami-Dade to try to see her. He repeatedly called to make a date, sent her flowers, a Harley-Davidson watch and an ''intimate note,'' MDPD cops say. Del Portillo, 37, said she was concerned for her safety.

Rodman, arrested on Sept. 24, told detectives he moved here from Las Vegas ''for the sole purpose of meeting'' Del Portillo. He gave police a statement: ``I want to be in the Latin/Mex entertainment business . . . I meant no harm.''

County Judge Fred Seraphin released Rodman on Oct. 27, ordering him to stay away from Del Portillo. ''Just an eager but awkward suitor,'' says Rodman's defense lawyer, David Edelstein. ``There's nothing to suggest he had any malicious intent.''

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November 7, 2004

MIAMI BEACH POLICE SERGEANT PAUL MASTERS ACTIONS, THREATENS MEDIA AND FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

MIAMI BEACH, Florida - According to what this publication has learned, on October 11, 2004, Sergeant Paul Masters of the Miami Beach police department took part in some police activities at 621 Washington Avenue. Oscar Maita, a businessman of that same location, was troubled with the officer's actions and with camcorder in hand, went to the medium strip of the avenue and stood on the strip to film the action.

This recording obviously caused the Sergeant some discomfort and proceeded to tell Maita to cease. What happened is all a matter of the police records. City Debate received a copy of the police report written by the arresting Sergeant.

It reads that Maita was filming and did not stop when the officer told him to. Masters then approached him and confiscated his camera, then proceeded with a formal arrest. Maita was reported to have slapped Masters' hand during the handcuffing procedure.

The County Court records stated Maita was charged with first; violating State Statute 934.03, "Interception and disclosure of wire, oral or electronic communications," a felony. Charge two; State Statute 784 - " Battery," also a felony and charge three; 843.02 "Resisting an officer without violence," a misdemeanor.

Maita was taken to the County jail and had to post a bond at a cost of $1,100 (10%) to cover the $11,000 bail bond needed for his release. The arrested claims his camera was confiscated, and so too his wallet, presumably containing sum amount over $1,000.

This writer went to the hearing dated November 2nd 2004, held in the courtroom ( 1351 N.W. 12th St. courtroom 4-8) with Judge Israel Reyes presiding. Shortly after my arrival, Attorney David M. Edelstein entered. He stated he was representing the accused. The judge called the case and Edelstein requested a continuance until November 23rd. Judge Reyes approved this and so motioned the continuance until that date.

Outside the court room, it was found out by this writer, that the prosecution was bargaining to drop the "Communication Interception" charge (see previous court case) and as well the "Felony Battery" and "Resisting Without Violence" charges; however the prosecution still wanted a lesser misdemeanor charge to stand for the "Slapping the Sergeants' hand".

Mr. Maita was not available during court for further questions nor was Sergeant Masters. Only the defendant's attorney and a State prosecutor stood before the court.

It is nice that the prosecution dropped the officer's charges but the defendant spent a night in jail, forked over $1,100 to a bail bondsman and now has attorney costs. Certainly the memories of a night in jail will haunt the accused for years to come. Might this arrest lead to counter charges against The City of Miami Beach by Mr. Maita?

It appears that West Palm Beach (Freelance journalist arrested after photographing voting lines) also has an officer who already has copied the Miami Beach Sergeants' dislike of public photography. For this past week a journalist was arrested for taking pictures of voter lines. The charges are different but the act of photographing is the root cause of the charges.

We intend to follow the Miami Beach case story and the West Palm Beach one, to their completions. Stayed tuned to City Debate…

© 2000 - 2004 City Debate Publishing Company, CityDebate.Com

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June 21, 2003.

FAST BREAK?

MIAMI, Florida - Center court to criminal court: Jameka Jones, former guard for the Miami Sol. Jones, 24, was a player in a female burglary ring, cops say.

Jones allegedly drove the getaway car in the Jan. 23 break-in of a $600,000 home in Bal Harbour. She and three gal pals -- Waleeah '' Wa Wa'' Neloms, 20; Tyquandra ''Ty'' Stephens, 19; and Nikitha La France, 18 -- are set for trial Wednesday. They're facing 20 years.

Village police Chief Tom Hunker says it's a slam dunk -- three nabbed at the scene, plus Stephens confessed.

The four cruised for a house to hit after they breezed through an open guard gate in Bal Harbour and stopped at a house on Bal Bay Drive, detective Leo Quinn says. Stephens, wearing gloves and toting a hammer, smashed a window, climbed inside and opened the front door. By then, a security guard called police, and Officer Kenny Klingman pulled up and questioned the trio. Stephens slipped out a second-story sliding glass door -- and jumped from the balcony, Quinn says. Blood at the crime scene matched Stephens' DNA profile, police say.

Stephens and Neloms are also charged in an armed burglary in Miami-Dade and in Broward.

Neloms' lawyer, assistant public defender Joel Denaro, says she is a ''sweet girl'' -- a passenger in a car, ''wrong place, wrong time.'' Neloms' adoptive mother, Tara Johnson, 32, is a Miami-Dade corrections officer. Jones' lawyer, David Edelstein, says she is a ''dedicated athlete'' who unwittingly gave the other girls a ride. ``Hanging out with the wrong people.''

Jones played for the WNBA's Sol in 2000, the inaugural season, says Ron Rothstein, 60, head coach/general manager of the defunct team. ``A real good kid.''

The other defense lawyers could not be reached for comment. Prosecutor: Kelly Eckley. Case is before Circuit Judge Henry Leyte-Vidal.

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LATEST DELAY MAY NOT BE LAST IN TAYLOR MURDER TRIAL

Washington Post

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 9, 2009 2:59 PM

MIAMI, June 9 -- Chains around their hands, feet and waists jangled, announcing their arrival. Wearing baggy red jumpsuits inscribed with INMATE DCJ, four of the five men charged with killing Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor filed past an armed guard into a nearly empty wood-paneled court room Tuesday morning.

The men slid into vinyl chairs as their lawyers assembled en masse in front of Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Murphy for a hearing that lasted fewer than 15 minutes, featured not a word from any of the defendants, and included no members of Taylor's immediate family or close friends in the gallery.

The only major order of business was pushing back the trial date for the third time. The new date, Jan. 18, 2010, will fall in the middle of next season's NFL playoffs and more than two years after Taylor died from a gunshot wound he suffered when confronting alleged intruders in his Miami home Nov. 26, 2007.

"It's a little difficult working with everybody's schedule," attorney Stephen Kramer told Murphy. "We're trying to work through it as best we can."

None of the attorneys who clustered in front of Murphy agreed to an interview or responded to requests for one this week, with several citing the gag order placed on the case last year after waves of early publicity.

But David Edelstein, a criminal attorney in Miami for more than a dozen years who has no connection to the case, described the pace through South Florida's state court system as perfectly normal and a spokesperson in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office said further delays would not be unusual.

"Even just a regular felony case in Miami can easily take a year-and-a-half or two years to go to trial," Edestein said. "When dealing with a case involving first-degree murder, it can take even longer depending on the complexity of the case and the seriousness of it."

And this one, lawyers say, is complex. For starters, there are five co-defendants, and all hail from Fort Myers, Fla., a town on the state's west coast. Facing first-degree murder and armed burglary charges in connection with Taylor's death are Eric Rivera, 19; Jason Scott Mitchell, 21; Charles K. Wardlow, 20; Venjah Hunte, 21; and Timmy Lee Brown, who turned 18 Sunday.

Taylor died Nov. 27 at 24, a day after being shot in the upper thigh when he surprised invaders to his home in the middle of the night, police have said. A Miami-Dade grand jury alleged that Rivera pulled the trigger. At least two of the accused were friends of Taylor's half-sister and had been in his home previously, according to interviews and reports released by the court.

All of the defendants replaced their original attorneys from Fort Myers with attorneys in Miami. Hunte, the only defendant not present Tuesday, is attempting to undo the guilty plea deal he entered into last year. In exchange for agreeing to testify against the other defendants, Hunte accepted a 29-year prison term.

He is scheduled to appear in court Friday. If convicted, the men face life in prison.

Edelstein and other attorneys interviewed on background for this story say rounding up witnesses all the way to Fort Myers, arranging the schedules of so many attorneys, and buying time to build the best case possible for men facing life in prison explain the case's deliberate pace. Each of the defendants waived his right to a speedy trial (within 180 days for a felony).

The Miami-Dade state attorney's office spokesperson, Terry Chavez, described Tuesday's trial date as nothing more than a "report date."

"This judge wants to keep everybody on their toes . . . [and] the case moving along to try to get everybody ready for trial," Chavez said Monday. "We don't think there will realistically be a trial before next spring."

Added Chavez: "When we get ready for trial, we want to make sure we can say we turned over every stone."

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