Articles Posted in Child Abuse

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An Ocala man continues to wait in custody for a judge to decide whether he deserves a new trial. It has been more than six months since his conviction.

The 29-year-old maintains his innocence of the two charges for which a jury found him guilty in an early September 2015 trial: lewd and lascivious molestation of a child and burglary of a dwelling with battery.

The charges arose from a June 2014 call to the Ocala Police Department, in which a concerned grandmother relayed her granddaughter’s story that the man had come into her room during the night and rubbed his genitals over her shorts.

The man is well known to the girl, who was 10 years old at the time, and her family. He said he is close friends with the girl’s mother and was a regular visitor to the Ocala home the three generations of women shared.

The man has been challenging his conviction by petitioning for a new trial.

While the judge denied his first motion for a new trial, filed by the public defender who represented him at trial, his second motion is pending and was the focus of a hearing this week. During the hearing, the girl changed her story to some extent, recanting the part of her original testimony that related to the molestation charge.

The judge is expected to decide on the motion at a hearing set for 10 a.m. April 29. Should the man be granted a new trial on both charges, he could be released from the Marion County Jail as he waits for the new trial.

The man’s first motion for a new trial highlighted a new finding in jury conduct: one juror informed the man’s public defender that she did not know she was allowed to disagree with the other jurors, according to the motion. The public defender polled the all-female jury. Two jurors changed their verdicts, prompting more deliberation and an eventual consensus around a guilty verdict.

William Sheslow, of Whittel & Melton, LLC, was hired by the man after his trial and has pursued a different avenue in a second motion for a new trial. Sheslow argued that the man deserves a new trial based on a notarized statement from the victim’s mother, in which she wrote that her daughter told her after the trial that the man had never molested her. Sheslow also pointed out an antagonistic relationship between the mother and the public defender in the original trial, which he said would have prevented the public defender from obtaining this information.

The antagonistic relationship stemmed from an unrelated case, in which the mother was a victim and the public defender represented the defendant (who was not the man convicted in this case).

Sheslow presented this motion before the judge in November, and the judge requested that he subpoena the mother so he could gauge her credibility at a future hearing before making a decision. That hearing came Monday, when court records indicate the mother, the grandmother and the now 12-year-old girl all testified. The public defender testified as well.

Sex crimes, especially those believed to have been committed against a child, are taken very seriously by courts, as this case shows. The truth is that these cases often rely on the alleged victim’s testimony against the word of the accused. Sadly, testimony from a child is not always an accurate account of what truly happened, and prosecutors will push for a conviction regardless of what evidence is available.

A Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton knows that sometimes mistakes are made during a criminal trial that can lead to wrong decisions being reached. Fortunately, Florida law provides for legal remedies to correct an improper conviction or sentence. A motion for a new trial may allow you to have your case heard again, but by a different jury.

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A former Alachua County teacher and swim coach has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison after he plead guilty to charges of producing child pornography.

In addition to the prison sentence, he was also ordered to pay $78,000 in restitution to each of his eight victims.

15782655588_f16363387a_zThe 32-year-old pleaded guilty to the charges in September. The man was a behavioral resource teacher for kindergarten through fourth grade and a part-time coach of Gainesville swimming club.

When an individual is charged with a child pornography offense, one of the first lines of defense is to challenge any law enforcement searches or seizures that led to the discovery of images. When evidence is obtained for any crime without a property owner’s consent to search the property, it can be argued that the search has violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When a violation of constitutional rights has occurred, suppression of all evidence seized is a likely possibility.

There are actually many possible defenses to child pornography charges. In certain scenarios, viruses may sometimes automatically download these illegal files to a computer without the owner’s knowledge. Other times, child pornography could have been placed on another person’s computer by someone else. It is even possible for an internet connection to be hijacked by other parties. An Alachua County Federal Child Pornography Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can rifle through the often complex evidence in these types of cases and come up with the best strategy to challenge the government and protect your rights.

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Florida will have 159 new laws starting Tuesday that address various issues, including college tuition, corporate tax credits, abortions and sex offenders.

One of the most prevalent laws is one that aims to protect children and others from dangerous sex offenders. The laws are intended to keep the most violent sexual offenders locked up longer and close any loopholes in a law that allows the state to send predators to a high-security treatment center once they have served their time in prison. The new laws will subject more offenders to potential civil commitment and prosecutors, detectives and victim advocates will be part of the committee that reviews their cases.

The sexually violent predator package of bills was among the first of the legislature sent to Gov. Rick Scott during the 60-day session that ended in May. The new laws are meant to create a better child welfare system in Florida. As of now, Florida is the only state in America that has a 50-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for violent sexual offenders.

gavelAnother law that seeks to protect children concerns the Department of Children and Families. The law changes how the department investigates and responds to cases; now placing a higher emphasis on shielding a child from abuse rather than focusing on keeping a family together. Moreover, the law also pays for 270 additional child protective investigators so that caseloads can be reduced and a response team can be sent out quickly to investigate child abuse deaths when the child had previous dealings with the system.

Another law will establish a statewide pilot program to pay for foster children’s driver’s education classes, license fees and car insurance so that they can be better prepared to gain employment when they turn 18 and leave the system.

The children of immigrants in the country illegally will now be able to receive in-state tuition at state universities after Scott changed his position on the issue. Another bill will give tuition breaks to honorably discharged veterans as well as waive professional licensing fees for them.

Local school boards now have the responsibility of selecting textbooks, whether or not they are on a state-adopted list, and will be required to put policies in place that allow parents to object to the books they choose.

Another new law took effect on June 20 that expands a voucher program, giving corporate tax credits to companies that provide money for low-income families to send their children to private schools.

As far as criminal laws go, there will be increased penalties for spiny lobster poachers, people leaving the scene of an accident that causes injury and people who illegally sell prescription drugs. Additionally, electronic cigarette sales to minors are now illegal in Florida. Another law forbids sending text messages soliciting products to residents on the state’s “no sales solicitation calls” list.

Florida has also changed its definition for its late-term abortion ban. Abortions will be illegal in Florida at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy if her doctor concludes that the fetus could survive outside the womb. The previous law banned abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. An exception can be made to this law if the mother’s life is at risk.

Lastly, new laws will create a Florida Tourism Hall of Fame and the position of state poet laureate to promote poetry in Florida.

Laws across the United States are constantly changing. When you have been accused of committing a crime in Florida, only a Florida Trial Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can provide you with the legal representation that you need. While many attorneys are quick to negotiate with prosecutors to obtain a plea bargain instead of pursuing trial, our Florida Criminal Attorneys know that sometimes trial is the best option for your situation. We thoroughly evaluate every case and will always advise you of your best legal defense strategy.

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A Rock Harbor woman was arrested Monday night after police claim she used a belt in an attempt to strangle a 10-year-old boy.

According to reports, a second child witnessed the alleged incident and called a relative for help. The relative then called the Sheriff’s Office who responded to the residence at the 95.3 mile marker of the highway around 10:30 p.m.

When deputies arrived at the scene they allegedly found a 31-year-old woman who was so intoxicated she could hardly speak. Police claim the relative who reported the incident said the woman has ongoing issues involving alcohol.

woman_in_handcuffsBoth children relayed the same story to police, claiming that the woman placed a belt around the 10-year-old boy’s neck and began tightening it. They apparently told police that the woman said she was going to kill the boy while she attempted to strangle him.

The woman was charged with aggravated battery on a child and was taken to jail.

A charge for aggravated battery on a child in Monroe County can have severe consequences on your life. A conviction for this felony can lead to significant time behind bars and costly fines. While these penalties are serious, perhaps even more damaging is the lasting havoc these charges can wreak on your family life and personal reputation. In order to successfully fight these charges and protect your future, you must work with a criminal defense attorney who can safeguard your rights. A Monroe County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you aggressively fight these allegations.

In order to be convicted for aggravated battery on a child, prosecutors must prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Many of these elements can be difficult to prove, as there is often little to no evidence to clearly support these claims. As former prosecutors, we are very familiar with the tactics that the prosecution uses to present their case and can put this knowledge to work for you. Just because you have been arrested for a crime, this does not automatically mean a conviction will follow. There are many viable defense options that can combat these false or exaggerated charges and result in a positive outcome.

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The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office recently released the results of a four-week operation designed to serve outstanding arrest warrants on people accused of domestic violence or failing to pay child support.

The task, dubbed “Operation Safe Families,” was conducted from Oct. 13 through Nov. 9. According to reports, it resulted in 403 arrests in the county.

Operation Safe Families took place with the National Family Violence Apprehension Detail initiative, a one-day national endeavor to serve outstanding family-violence warrants organized by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon. Operation Safe Families was aimed at targeting those individuals that endanger the lives of their children and families in Florida.

At its conclusion, the operation yielded 59 arrests associated with possession of controlled substances, 29 arrests related to domestic violence, 25 arrests associated with nonpayment of child support, nine arrests on domestic violence injunctions and 92 arrests associated with other warrants and alleged criminal actions.

arrested betch.jpgThe Florida Department of Law Enforcement logged 108,046 domestic violence offenses that were reported to law enforcement agencies, according to the 2012 Uniform Crime Report. This same report indicated that 202 people died as a result of domestic violence, which represents about 20 percent of all homicides in Florida.

Domestic violence is defined as any threat or action aimed at a spouse, domestic partner, live-in companion or even another family member that causes the person to fear for his or her well-being. Domestic violence charges in the state of Florida can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the offense. If you are charged with this crime, you could face the following consequences:

• Jail Time
• Mandatory Counseling
• Community Service
• Anger Management
• A “No contact” order prohibiting you from seeing the alleged victim
• A “No return” order prohibiting you from returning to your home

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A Volusia County deputy sheriff who was arrested Saturday night on a DUI charge will also face a child-neglect charge because a 7-year-old girl was apparently in the patrol car with her.

The 37-year-old woman has been placed on administrative leave with pay, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

She was off duty at the time of her arrest, but driving her patrol car, the Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.

volusia county courthouse betch.jpgThe woman has been with the agency since 1999 and works at the Volusia County Courthouse Annex in Daytona Beach.

No further information has been released at this point.

The consequences of a DUI charge alone can result in jail time, stiff fines and the loss of your driver’s license. Having a minor in your car with you when you are stopped by law enforcement can tack on additional penalties, including child neglect and child endangerment charges. These charges are counted as separate offenses from a DUI charge, meaning that the combined penalties could result in longer time behind bars and increased fines.

DUI cases involving minors travelling as passengers in the car are highly emotional and require the help of a DUI defense attorney who can apply a powerful defense based off the facts and not what the prosecution speculates. When faced with child neglect charges stemming from a DUI, you must protect your rights starting from your arrest all the way through the conclusion of your case. A Volusia County DUI Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can help you pursue a positive outcome that you can live with. As trial attorneys and former prosecutors, we fully understand how the State builds its case against those charged with DUI and child neglect. We are available 24/7 to discuss your case with you and make sure you understand what can be done to defeat the serious charges against you.

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A Sarasota man and woman, both 21, were arrested Monday on charges of felony child abuse after the woman’s 3-year-old daughter died from a slew of injuries, including broken ribs and internal bleeding.

The man and woman are currently being held in jail without bail in connection to the toddler’s death on April 11.

Police allege that on April 10 the girl received treatments for asthma, vomited and had complained about being in pain. The couple apparently told a family friend they were taking the girl to a doctor’s appointment, but investigators claim that did not happen.

According to reports, the friend called 911 the next day, after the couple refused to take the girl to the hospital. The friend told deputies that the child was “flopping” around and became non-responsive.

928419_a_childs_eyes.jpgThe child was later pronounced dead. The mother told doctors the child had suffered from asthma, however an autopsy of the child revealed that blunt force trauma to the toddler’s abdomen caused a lacerated and crushed liver, other severe internal injuries and bleeding, which is what investigators believe caused her death.

The medical examiner noted that the young girl also had two broken ribs and various bruises on her body.

Police claim the injuries to the child occurred while she was being solely cared for by the couple.

Both the man and woman have a criminal record. Five of the woman’s previous arrests were for violent offenses, including aggravated battery causing bodily harm. Records show the man has been arrested at least 10 times, for a various charges including battery, driving without a license and selling cocaine.

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