Articles Posted in Marion County

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The state of Florida’s death sentence policy is quite different than any other state’s version. Florida is the only state that gives the jury the power to recommend the death penalty or life in prison, which is decided by a majority vote. The judge can consider the recommendation, but ultimately does not have to agree with the results of the jury vote.

On Tuesday, the State Attorney’s Office announced its plan to seek the death penalty in an Ocala, Florida case involving a 31-year-old man accused of murdering two children and two women, one of whom was the mother of his 2-year-old son.

The man, currently a high security inmate at the Marion County Jail, was arrested on Aug. 5 and charged with five counts of first-degree murder and arson of a dwelling.

The four individuals were found shot to death inside a home that was allegedly set on fire. The children, 6 and 8, were found in a back bedroom, the women, 27 and 52, were found near the front door.

The 27-year-old woman was supposedly dating the man accused of the quadruple murder. She allegedly arrived at the home on Aug. 5 with her three children in a white Jeep, when she supposedly went inside the house and left the children in the car.

One child told detectives that there was a loud bang, followed by the woman’s collapse. She was supposedly dragged inside the home and the door was closed. A short time later, flames erupted from the house.

The children remained in the Jeep until neighbors got them out.

The man was indicted by a grand jury at the end of August.

When a person is charged with a capital crime in the state of Florida, a grand jury will determine whether or not the case moves forward to trial. The Florida Supreme Court defines a grand jury as “an investigating, reporting, and accusing agency of the Florida Circuit Court.” During a grand jury trial it is determined whether or not there is probable cause to believe the accused has committed a capital crime.

Currently, Florida has several capital crimes, including:

First-Degree Murder

Felony Murder

Capital Drug Trafficking

Capital Sexual Battery

If a grand jury decides that there is enough evidence against a person accused of a capital crime to proceed to formal trial, then that person will progress to a Florida circuit court where a separate jury will establish if the person is actually guilty of the crime charged. Someone convicted of a capital crime in Florida faces the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty.

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One of the defendants allegedly involved in the death of a 15-year-old Belleview, Florida teen is allegedly incompetent to stand trial.

The 38-year-old man’s lawyer supposedly told a judge in a brief pre-trial conference on Wednesday that a psychiatrist asserts the man is unfit to stand trial for the charges of accessory to first-degree murder.

He is accused of helping dispose of the body and enabling one of the suspects to evade arrest by driving him to Starke.

The teenager was allegedly murdered in April by a group of young people ranging in age from 15 to 20.

The lawyer supposedly would not disclose the nature of the man’s condition.

The judge reportedly asked prosecutors to schedule a competency hearing, according to the Ocala Star Banner. After the hearing the judge will decide whether the man is actually unfit or fully competent to face a trial.

It is unknown when the competency hearing will take place.

The accused is currently free on bond.

Criminal behavior has been found to have a direct link to psychological, psychiatric, or mental health in some cases. Defendants with such illnesses or issues must receive specialized attention because their needs can often go undetected in a legal system run by police, prosecutors and judges who are not equipped with the knowledge needed to detect their disorders.

Within the last decade, mental illness has become widely recognized as a gateway to criminal behavior. While the criminal justice system can be intimidating for a defendant who does not have mental issues, a criminal defendant with a mental illness can find the system practically unmanageable unless they have guidance of legal counsel who can understand and display to the court their unique position.

At Whittel & Melton we work with psychiatrists, substance abuse specialists, psychologists and other mental health experts so that we can assist with any special needs you and your loved ones may have. By working with trained professionals, our attorneys can pinpoint any underlying health issues and establish the best method to settle a criminal matter. We can help condense possible exposure to criminal consequences by addressing special circumstances. We seek a long-term solution that will benefit the accused as opposed to a quick fix solution implemented by the prosecution that may actually hinder behavioral health progress.

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A 29-year-old Ocala, Florida man was booked into Marion County jail shortly before noon on Thursday on charges including elderly abuse, theft from a person over 65 and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The man allegedly admitted to locking up an older man on his property and kicking him out of a car and leaving him injured on the side of the road.

According to the Ocala Star Banner, a Sherriff’s deputy went to Ocala Regional Medical Center on April 5, 2011 to interview a 70-year-old man who told the official that he and his 40-year-old wife of 18-years had moved to Ocala in October 2010. The man was supposedly taken to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville in January, where he was treated for a medical condition and then released to a nursing home.

The man’s wife allegedly removed him from the nursing home later that month and moved him into a shed in Ocala, which he said had no running water.

The man supposedly told police his wife handled his money and had exchanged his debit card and food stamp card to the 29-year-old Ocala man for his living in the shed. The elderly man said his wife has a drug habit and the Ocala man is an alleged drug dealer.

The elderly man’s wife was stopped by police in February for a traffic violation where she was arrested on a violation of probation warrant out of Maine. She was extradited to that state.

The elderly man told police that once his wife was gone the Ocala man supposedly held him hostage and threatened him with a firearm. The elderly man said that on one occasion he requested his debit card and food stamp card back from the Ocala man while riding as a passenger in his car. The Ocala man allegedly became so angry he stopped the car, pushed the elderly man out, poured beer over his head and left him on the side of the road.

A passer-by saw the elderly man in the road and took him to a nearby store. The police were called and he was taken to ORMC. The elderly man was unable to identify the Ocala man by his real name and did not know the exact location of his home. The elderly man later identified the Ocala man through a photographic line up.

A search warrant was obtained for the Ocala man’s home where police found items such as a gun and some drugs. The Ocala man allegedly admitted locking the elderly man up on the property, and kicking him out of a vehicle.

He was arrested and officials say there could be more charges pending.

If you are a convicted felon in Florida, your right to bear arms is restricted and it is unlawful for you to possess a gun. If you were convicted outside of Florida of a felony that carried a sentence of one or more years behind bars, you cannot gain eligibility to possess a gun in Florida. Additionally, if you were convicted as a minor of an act that would have been a felony charge had you been tried as an adult, you cannot own a gun. If you are found to have a firearm in your home, vehicle or on your person, you could face prison and parole violation charges.

Under Florida Statute Section 790.23, a prosecutor can challenge that you possessed a firearm or weapon either through actual possession or constructive possession. Actual possession means that the firearm was found on your person, while constructive possession is when a weapon was found in your house or vehicle. The charge of felony possession of a firearm is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Likewise, if the prosecutor can prove actual possession then the offense carries with it a three year minimum mandatory prison term.

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Mark Morse, president and top executive of The Villages, a retirement community located in Central Florida, was charged with felony and misdemeanor hunting violations in Montana.

Morse as well as his wife, daughter and five other individuals have been accused of 18 wildlife violations during hunting trips spanning over the past four years on Morse property in Montana. A few of the charges include the illegal killing or possession of elk, deer and other wildlife.

Morse is charged with killing too many animals and killing them without proper licenses, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

For killing multiple animals and hunting out of season, which is considered stealing from the Montana government, Morse could face 21.5 years in prison and fines as much as $203,000 if convicted. Killing an animal without a license carries a punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Wounding an animal without a license, if found guilty, carries a penalty of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Morse and his family could lose their fishing and hunting rights for life in Montana and more than 20 other states because of a multi-state agreement that outlaws hunters who disobey game laws. Florida just happens to be one of the partners to that agreement.

Many Florida residents incorporate hunting and fishing into their lifestyles. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission meets each year to make adjustments to statutes and once these changes are put into effect many people are arrested for violating the new laws. By keeping up to date on these specific statutes, you can avoid jail time and hefty fines.

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Apparently the Ocala, Marion County, Florida Prostitution business has gotten so unwieldy that a multi-agency taskforce was assembled to bring the Ocala sex trade to task. According to reports, seven men were arrested allegedly engaging in solicitation of undercover female officers for sex. The Ocala Police department reports that one gentleman offered $50 for sex.

Criminal defense lawyers, often legally fight arrests for Solicitation of Prostitution, with Motions to Dismiss or Motions to Suppress Evidence because of the many entrapment issues that can be raised during these arrests. Although entrapment defenses can come up in other types of cases like drug crimes, sex crimes and theft cases—many solicitation of prostitution arrests have also been thrown out where judges and prosecutors have agreed that some guys were not predisposed to commit a crime, except that the conduct of the persuading and manipulating undercover officer made it an unreasonable situation.

Prostitution has a structured sentencing for anyone with prior convictions. A misdemeanor of the second degree can be charged for the first offense and the State Attorney can charge a misdemeanor of the first degree on a second charge. For a third or subsequent violation, the State Attorney can charge a third degree felony.

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If you’ve ever left your dog in the car for “just five minutes” on a summer day you could be subjected to criminal liability.

How? According to the United Animal Nations, dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their bodies as humans do. They cool off by panting, which is inefficient. Once a dog’s body temperature gets over about 106 — normal temperature is around 101 — dogs can suffer within a matter of minutes, everything from nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, and systemic organ failure.

The United Animal Nations has a program on their website that shows how hot a car can really get. For example, when it’s 72 degrees, a car in direct sun can reach an internal temperature of 116 degrees. Even in the shade, a car can be 10 to 20 degrees hotter than outdoors–and cracking the window has almost no effect.

In light of these facts, leaving your dog in the car can also have criminal consequences. Under Florida Law, animal cruelty can result in a court-imposed fine of up to $5000, and imprisonment up to one (1) year. Intentional cruelty is a felony and a defendant could be fined up to $10,000, and sent to prison for 5 years.

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Convicted Ocala, Florida Federal Criminal Defendant and Hollywood Actor Wesley Snipes was ordered to turn over his U.S. Passport by a Federal Judge this week. Snipes was convicted last year by an Ocala, FL jury for three federal misdemeanor charges claiming that he willfully failed to file tax returns for three years. Post- sentence and pending his appeal, he was given permission by the court to travel to Bangkok and London for two previously arranged film projects.

Mr. Snipes, despite not having the permission of the Middle District of Florida U.S. District Court, traveled to Dubai, UAE for an A-list celebrity party. Outed by the tabloids, the U.S. Attorney’s Office requested that Wesley Snipes’ passport to be confiscated. According to Forbes Magazine, the Court agreed with the government–leaving Mr. Snipes without a passport and only to star in domestically-shot films.

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The Ocala Star Banner is reporting that an Ocala man was taken into custody and charged with DUI manslaughter and two counts of DUI with property damage after being involved in a car crash that has left his girlfriend dead. He was arrested after being treated or minor injuries Munroe Regional Medical Center.
According Florida Highway Patrol reports, the accident occurred Tuesday night on U.S. 27. Witnesses told troopers that they saw the driver speeding in the left lane while going around a right-hand curve when he tried to pass a slower-moving vehicle in front of him when and lost control and the car, striking a utility pole. The passenger had to be extracted from the vehicle and was rushed to Munroe Regional, where she was pronounced dead.

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An 18-year-old man stopped by a sheriff’s deputy on Thursday night for having a suspended driver’s license, was arrested for driving on a suspended license and drug possession after a search of the vehicle uncovered more than 100 grams of marijuana. The Ocala Star-Banner reports that a Marion County Deputy saw a black Chrysler heading west on County Road 464 and ran the tag, which showed the registered owner had a suspended driver’s license.

After pulling over the car, the deputy detected a strong marijuana odor coming from the car. Deputy found 110 grams of marijuana in a gallon-sized baggie in the glove box as well as another baggie that contained less than a gram of marijuana. The center console had several small baggies in different sizes. The suspect told deputies that he intended to smoke a portion of the marijuana, and sell the rest.

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According to the Ocala Star Banner, authorities arrested a 20-year-old man who was allegedly involved in shooting at a car in a W. State Road 40 parking lot on Thursday. Witnesses say the man fired several shots at a white Chevrolet Impala that was getting detailed and was occupied by two juveniles.

As the shots were being fired, an off-duty Marion County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Officer saw what was occurring and withdrew his personal weapon and fired shots at the shooter. No one was injured during the shooting.

Police say that the alleged perpetrator turned himself in a little more than 24 hours after the incident. He is charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm which if convicted, could subject him to a mandatory minimum prison term.

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