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A 62-year-old Daytona Beach man pleaded no contest to charges that he was sexually abusing his small female dog on Thursday, according to the state attorney’s office.

Reports indicate that neighbors of the man said they saw the accused have sex with his 8-month-old dog.

Authorities allege that the dog showed signs of sexual abuse. They further claim that the dog was tied up to a post with no food or water, according to the report.

police-378255_150The pit bull mix is now in the custody of animal rescue.

The man pleaded no contest to felony cruelty to animals and sexual activities involving animals.

His sentencing has been scheduled for next month and he faces up to five years in prison.

Animal cruelty charges can range in severity from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the behavior in question. Animal cruelty becomes a third-degree felony under Florida law when a person intentionally commits any act on any animal that results in excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering or cruelty that results in death of the animal. When animal cruelty is charged as a third-degree felony it carries a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and five years in prison. If prosecutors can show that the person accused of the animal cruelty violation knowingly and intentionally tortured or tormentented the animal to the point that it resulted in the injury, mutilation or death of the animal, the mandatory minimum fine for the offense will be $2,500 and the offender will be obligated to complete counseling or anger management courses.

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A Plant City youth group volunteer is facing child pornography charges.

Polk deputies arrested the 28-year-old man at his Lakeland home.

According to the sheriff’s office, members at the church came forward after they found explicit images on a shared computer and became concerned.

7606416730_26cb8b5536_mDeputies claim the man works with 30 to 40 children in his position and that he uses social media to chat with others interested in trading child pornography.

The senior pastor at the church released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“We are shocked and deeply grieved but thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ that He brought this into the light. The information received from law enforcement officials leads us to believe that four images were inadvertently downloaded from a personal mobile device belonging to the accused when it was tethered to a church computer. This computer did not have internet access and we are told that the images were acquired in Polk County. None of the images were of children who attended the church. We have been told that there is no reason to suspect that anything else occurred at the facility. We perform background checks and conduct children’s safety training with every children’s ministry worker whether staff or volunteer. We will continue to cooperate with Law Enforcement and we will continue to work diligently to ensure the safety of our children. As this is an ongoing investigation, we have no other comments at this time. Thank you for your prayers and concern.”

The man faces two counts of possession of child pornography. According to deputies, more charges could be coming.

Child pornography charges are often leveled against productive members of society such as doctors, lawyers, public officials, military officers and others at a very high frequency.  Prosecutors love these types of cases because after conducting a search and discovering child pornograpy on a computer all they have to do to prove it is trace any illegal images to a users IP address. In many instances, the accused will feel trapped and confess or try and talk their way out of trouble by saying they did not mean to download the material in question.

Prosecutors usually seek maximum punishments in child porn cases. For simply possessing a few images, you could be looking at many years in prison. Federal child pornography offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences, meaning you will serve time behind bars. In order to avoid the harsh consequences that accompany a conviction, it is essential to act quickly as soon as you have been accused of any wrongdoing.

First and foremost, do not speak with law enforcement officials or prosecutors, and second, seek out a sex crimes defense lawyer right away and follow any advice given. Remember, just because you are being investigated for child porn, this does not mean you are guilty of the charges. However, these types of cases must be handled very carefully to avoid devastating probation restrictions, lengthy prison terms and a lifetime of sex offender registration.

If you or someone you love has been accused of possessing child pornography or any other related sex crime, a Polk County Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can help. Call us today statewide and toll-free at 866-608-5529 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

 

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Former Saturday Night Live funnyman Chris Kattan received his sentence six months after he was arrested on suspicion of a DUI.

The 43-year-old comedian is required to pay a $500 fine, attend a three-month alcohol program, 104 Narcotics Anonymous classes, and will be on probation for the next three years, according to reports. Moreover, he is banned from driving with any drugs in his system, unless he has a valid prescription, and has been ordered to participate in the Hospital and Morgue Program, which is designed to show people the potential tragic consequences of their reckless behavior.

The Night at the Roxbury star was arrested in mid-February early in the morning after he crashed his Mercedes into a Department of Transportation vehicle that was parked on the side of a Los Angeles freeway doing maintenance work. While no one was injured in the accident, Kattan did fail a field sobriety test and was arrested and booked into the Van Nuys jail. He was released a short time later on a $15,000 bond.

7th Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball - Red CarpetSince receiving his sentence, Kattan has not commented on the incident.

The case is not completely settled just yet. Next month, a restitution hearing will be held to determine how much money Kattan owes the state for damage to the truck he hit.

DUI charges for driving under the influence of drugs are usually treated just the same as DUI charges stemming from alcohol use. There is one difference between the two, which is how police measure impairment. For an alcohol-related DUI, police usually measure a driver’s blood alcohol concentration using a Breathalyzer device or blood test and then compare the results to the legal limit, 0.08 percent. For a drug-related DUI, the methods law enforcement uses to determine impairment is much more subjective.

Police commonly rely on observations made during field sobriety tests, which allows an officer to observe a suspected DUI driver’s attention level, state of mind, balance, physical ability and other factors that the officer then will use to decide whether the suspect is impaired. While the presence of drugs can be found using blood tests, the existence of drugs in a person’s blood stream may not solely be an indicator that a person was driving under the influence of the substance.

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Investigators claim they discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in marijuana from seven grow houses in Pasco County after they stopped by to check out claims of electric theft.

According to reports, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said they were alerted to the seven houses by officials with Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative after the company learned that more than $206,000 worth of power had been stolen over the course of the past two weeks.

When investigators got to each home, they allegedly found elaborate marijuana grow operations. The sheriff’s office believes the grow houses are the work of of an organized crime ring because the wiring installed to steal the electricity at each home appears to be the same.

4151958797_286773e01e_mAs of now, only one arrest has been made. A 50-year-old Port Richey man has been charged with trafficking and cultivating marijuana and theft of utilities. Police anticipate more arrests as the investigation continues to unfold.

While the manufacturing of marijuana may not take place in a laboratory the same way many drugs like methamphetamines are produced, the cultivation of marijuana is a very serious offense in the state of Florida. Due to its Schedule I classification as an illegal substance, arrests stemming from marijuana-related offenses will generally result in felony charges.

If you have been charged with or have been arrested for or accused of growing marijuana, you are probably feeling extremely scared and under intense pressure. Consulting with a Pasco County Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton could help alleviate some of your stress, and at the same time provide you with a plan of action to make it through the legal process without suffering life-altering consequences.

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The local chair of American Civil Liberties Union is calling for a federal review of Central Florida’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

Ret. Army Col. Mike Pheneger, the chair of the Greater Tampa Chapter of the ACLU, said there are many problems with these “To Catch a Predator”-style undercover stings, which are extremely popular in West/Central Florida.

Pheneger, who has also held ACLU leadership positions at the state and national level, said this: “The Justice Department (should) be asked to look into this, since this is federal money that’s involved here. Find out if they are following the rules, because it would appear they are not.”

gavelThe Central Florida ICAC task force, under the authority of Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, started reaching out to men who were simply posting perfectly legal ads on legitimate dating websites. A handful of judges have even criticized officers’ overreach, their “failing to follow procedures” during undercover operations, as well as methods used to nettle “a law-abiding citizen to commit a crime.”

According to a 10 Investigates analysis, out of more than 1,200 Florida arrests since 2008, many of the subjects of the stings often had no previous criminal record and were able to avoid jail time. In fact, many prosecutors have shown leniency, based on the facts of the case and the likelihood the accused might actually commit a crime on a real child.

“It’s important to put actual sex offenders in jail,” Pheneger added. “Law enforcement should be going after those people, not trying to entice people who have shown no disposition to any kind of criminal behavior toward children.”

Many local agencies, such as the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, do not take part in these sting operations. Rather, they focus their efforts on more immediate dangers in the cyber crime realm, such as child porn and sex trafficking.

ICAC guidelines, which were obtained by 10 Investigates through court records, demonstrate that these online undercover stings, which usually don’t involve real children or victims, are not even specified in the list of priorities agencies are supposed to use to target suspected predators. Here are the regulations:

  1. A child is at immediate risk of victimization.
  2. A child is vulnerable to victimization by a known offender.
  3. A known suspect is aggressively soliciting a child(ren).
  4. Manufacturers, distributors or possessors of images that appear to be home photography with domiciled children.
  5. Aggressive, high-volume child pornography manufacturers or distributors who either are commercial distributors, repeat offenders, or specialize in sadistic images.
  6. Manufacturers, distributors, or solicitors involved in high-volume trafficking or belong to an organized child pornography ring that operates as a criminal conspiracy.
  7. Distributors, solicitors and possessors of images of child pornography.
  8. Any other form of child victimization.

ICAC guidelines also mandate that law enforcement must uncover whether there is reasonable cause to investigate every possible suspect. However, according to 10 News, Judd said he would not turn over public records on the sting because every single person his task force came in contact with, even those who showed zero interest in the underage decoys, was still “under investigation.”

Pheneger said it would be a clear violation of civil liberties if Judd was investigating men who exhibited no signs of breaking the law as there is no “reasonable cause” for them to be investigated.

There has been much disappointment expressed over the fact that Judd told 10 Investigates just last week that he had no remorse about holding a press conference to call men “sexual predators” who had been cleared of wrongdoing.

Judd, as well as other local law enforcement agencies, stand to lose millions of dollars in federal grants if there are ICAC violations.

It will be interesting to see if there are any ICAC violations stemming from these online sex stings and if so, what the consequences will be.

Unfortunately, being the target of an undercover sex crimes investigation can be humiliating and problematic for your work, social and personal life. The mere accusation of being a sexual predator can create a very negative situation for you and those close to you.

Charges resulting from Internet sex stings can start in state court and possibly move to federal court. A Polk County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton is equipped to handle both state and federal charges, which is very important because if you are facing federal charges, the consequences are much harsher, including mandatory-minimum prison terms.

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The High Springs Police Department and the Alachua-Gainesville Drug Task Force uncovered what they believe is a methamphetamine lab last week while investigating a case of fraud.

HSPD was investigating a 34-year-old man for alleged fraudulent use of a credit card when they received a confidential tip that the man had methamphetamine inside a cooler at or near a home in High Springs, according to reports.

HSPD went to the man’s home after obtaining a narcotics search warrant. They arrived at the man’s house around 8 p.m. Wednesday and allegedly found a cooler on the north side of the residence containing items used for cooking methamphetamine.

2690501345_dee8d3276d_mThe Alachua-Gainesville Drug Task Force helped execute the warrant and the High Springs Fire Department was on scene for safety reasons.

The man was in the custody of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office before the investigation began of the drug charges. The man is now facing additional charges of possession with intent to manufacture or sell a controlled substance.

In the state of Florida, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver can be classified as a second or third degree felony. The charges all depend on the type of substance involved. The consequences of a conviction for this type of drug charge are extremely harsh, with a very significant possibility of jail or prison time.

It is important to realize that in many Florida drug possession cases, the accused does not have any actual intent to sell the drugs in question. The term “intent to sell or manufacture” is usually added to simple possession charges in order to increase the penalties of an offense or intimidate the accused.

In most cases, the evidence admitted by the prosecution for charges of possession with intent to sell or manufacture are consistent with personal use. Paraphernalia found on the property is often used to tack on additional charges. However, it can be difficult for the prosecution to prove that the accused was in possession of all the drugs and/or paraphernalia that indicated an intent to sell.

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A Walt Disney World janitor is facing kidnapping and sexual battery charges after a 21-year-old female worker claims he cornered her inside a custodial closet on Thursday and forced himself on her, an arrest affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, the 21-year-old college student told authorities that the janitor cornered her, forced her to the ground, stated he wanted to have sex with her and began to grope her.

She claims she resisted, told him to stop and attempted to push him away.

2407640646_6d126d1799_mThe alleged attack lasted three to five minutes. The woman then reported the incident to her supervisor.

The affidavit says the man had been in the closet and touched the woman’s genital area during a “hug,” but only over her clothing.

The custodian told police he and his coworker had been in an adulterous relationship for about a month and the encounter was a typical work interaction for them, the affidavit shows.

However, according to reports, police have sided with the woman’s story.

In many sex crimes cases, a family member alleges sexual abuse or even a friend or co-worker will make over-the-top allegations. Even a simple accusation of sexual assault or abuse must be squelched immediately because the effects can be devastating to both your professional career and personal life. If convicted of a sex crime, you could be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. This information is public record and it does not matter where you go, these charges will follow you. If you have been accused of or charged with a sex crime at either the state or federal level, it is best to take immediate action as hesitation will not help you.

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Several law enforcement agencies from the federal, state and county level have joined forces with the hopes of catching alleged sexual predators.

While the operation spans across nine counties, including Polk, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, the message is the same: “We’re going to get you.”

10673440736_06f59d7f30_mThe message was made loud and clear Tuesday when the agencies released details from a recent online sex sting- “Operation Cyber Vigilance”- during which they are tracking down men believed to be looking to arrange sexual encounters with children.

Due to the fact that the Florida Sheriff’s Association has made catching child predators its number one priority, the agencies are utilizing each other’s manpower to make the biggest impact, and the most arrests.

So far, officials have arrested more than 130 people.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri made a note to let everyone know they are going after the worst of the worst, and described one of the most recent arrests.

“So she’s out there working- trying to provide for the family. He’s at home with a 13 and 14-year-old sleeping, and what’s he do? He gets online, and starts chatting with one of our undercover detectives,” he explained. “And he leaves his 13 and 14-year-old daughters at home sleeping in bed, and comes up to Pinellas County to have sex with a 12-year-old.”

This most recent operation is designed for agencies to help one another. with that said, if the Polk County Sheriff’s Office launches an undercover sting, it might get help from Pinellas, Sarasota and Lee Counties, and visa versa.

In addition to the nine counties conducting the operation, eight others are contributing to the efforts.

The criminal justice system is often merciless when it comes to child sex crimes cases – they make it known that they are out for blood. Unfortunately, this usually means the innocent get swept up along with the guilty.

Detectives are so eager to catch alleged sexual offenders in undercover Internet stings that they tend to go overboard, often entrapping unsuspecting adults. Police will enter online chat rooms and masquerade as young boys or girls, or even parents or guardians of young children, looking for a partner to introduce them to the world of sex. They will drum up online conversations with adults and in many cases, manipulate them into soliciting illegal sexual activity.

And we all know what happens next – that person will be arrested and charged with a sex crime. In a matter of minutes, a person’s life can be flipped upside down. The legal consequences of a conviction can result in years in prison and mandatory registration as a sexual offender. The social and professional consequences of a sex crimes conviction can be just as bad for those convicted of child sexual abuse or child pornography.

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A New York high-security prison guard is accused of purchasing a purple Rapunzel costume from a Disney store and sending it to Florida in February as part of a plan to have sex with an 11-year-old girl, according to a federal complaint.

The 34-year-old man allegedly answered an online ad last summer from a self-described single mom who was on the hunt for a man who could teach her daughter how to please him.

However, the ad was fictional, and just bait to trap suspected predators.

The “mom” was a Tampa-based agent for Homeland Security Investigations and the “girl” was not real.

The man was booked Tuesday into the Pinellas County Jail on federal charges of attempted child enticement, attempted production of child pornography and attempted receipt of the porn.

The Buffalo resident was initially arrested in New York on July 2.

Court records allege the man sent the “mom” a camera and asked her to take nude photos of the girl.

The adults apparently swapped hundreds of explicit texts and emails. In January, the man’s communication became more overt, according to reports. During this same time, the agent apparently told the man the “girl” was 11, not 12 as was the age first mentioned.

According to a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the man is on leave without pay. He was hired as a corrections officer in 2006.

266430661_ce7d19cfa8_mIt is a crime for anyone to use the Internet to try to entice someone into having illegal sex.  In fact, in order to be prosecuted for this crime, the act does not even have to actually be carried out. Additionally, as this case shows, there does not even have to be an actual victim for charges to be filed. Rather, your intent and efforts to achieve any unlawful contact will lead to an arrest.

Being accused of an Internet sex crime is quite serious. As soon as you are accused of a sex crime, your reputation is on the line. In most cases, your job, family and friends are jeopardized as well. A conviction could mean lengthy time behind bars, substantial fines and the permanent label as a registered sex offender. After you have been charged with a federal sex crime, you need to enlist the help of a Federal Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. These types of crimes are far too serious to even contemplate handling any phase of the case without having an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner.

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A 33-year-old Okeechobee man who had served nearly four years in prison for trafficking in cocaine was arrested last week in his R-Bar Estates home on felony drug charges.

More than 180 grams of suspected marijuana and more than 24 grams of suspected amphetamine were allegedly found in his home, along with a large amount of cash.

The man was arrested at his home on felony charges of trafficking in amphetamine, possession of marijuana with intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a church, possession of marijuana over 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.

churchThe man is being held in the Okeechobee County Jail on $80,000 bond.

Detectives with the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force obtained a search warrant for the home and reportedly found: a total of 182.8 grams of suspected marijuana; 24.8 grams of ‘molly’, or amphetamine; $3,700 in cash; a ledger; plastic sandwich bags; digital scale; electric marijuana grinder; and, a partially-smoked marijuana cigar, also known as a blunt.

Detectives claim they found 173.7 grams of suspected pot in a small safe located in the master bathroom.

The man’s home is located 663 feet from a church.

The man was arrested in Okeechobee on March 31, 2005, and charged with trafficking in cocaine. He was later convicted on that charge and was sentenced Oct. 19, 2006, to five years with the Department of Corrections. Records show he was released from prison Dec. 1, 2010.

It is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison for possessing marijuana with the intent to sell within 1000 feet of a child care facility or school, university, park, church, public housing or assisted living facility. Many people arrested for possession fail to realize there are enhanced penalties for being in these areas with drugs. This can be devastating as the penalties are quite severe. A felony of this nature will eliminate you from being considered for  a drug diversion program, and prosecutors will fight aggressively to obtain a conviction.

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