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Gainesville Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Robert Whittel now spends his days representing those accused of the highest criminal allegations in Florida. His criminal trial experience along with his relationships built as an Assistant State Attorney in Gainesville are an invaluable part of his criminal defense practice.

We spent a few minutes with Criminal Defense Attorney Robert Whittel talking about handling Rape and Kidnapping cases in Florida, and especially Gainesville. One of the highlights of our conversation is the specific pieces of data that he remembers from his thousands of past cases.

Because I handled so many cases and supervised other lawyers at the prosecutors office handling our serious Sex Crime cases in Gainesville like Kidnapping and Rape, when we have the opportunity to represent new clients at Whittel & Melton we immediately work to deconstruct what we can assume or think the State’s plan is, down to how they have built the file, how they will present it to the judge and to the jury – and then we work backwards from verdict all the way back to arrest and look for holes, inconsistencies and vulnerable areas ripe for challenge and possible exclusion. Like anything else, because we’ve walked this road before, we know where they are going even before journey begins. – Robert Whittel, Gainesville Criminal Defense Attorney and Trial Lawyer.

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A Tampa man is facing criminal charges after being arrested for sextortion: allegedly demanding money from a woman who sent him a sexy photo or he would tell her boyfriend about the image. 

The 23-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday by Pinellas Park police. He was booked at Pinellas County jail and released after posting $10,000 bond. 

The arrest report indicates that the alleged victim posted on an app this summer that she had two office chairs that could be picked up for free at a Pinellas Park business. The suspect apparently picked the chairs up and then contacted the woman. The arrest report shares that the two engaged in “flirty” text conversations and the man convinced the woman to send him a sexy photo of herself. 

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drugs-2793133_1280-300x200A 2-year investigation has led to 11 people being indicted for their alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring in Tampa and Kissimmee. 

The suspects accused of drug trafficking have been arrested and federal prosecutors claim they brought heroin and fentanyl into the region, which caused at least one death. 

The 11 people arrested all face federal conspiracy and drug distribution charges. The penalties for these crimes range anywhere from five to possibly life in prison. 

Police have not released much more information regarding this case as they are hoping to make more arrests and indictments. 

Authorities say that heroin and fentanyl were trafficked throughout Tampa and Kissimmee. Authorities do believe that at least one overdose death resulted from the alleged drug trafficking ring and another person suffered severe bodily injuries. 

The two year investigation started in 2016 and continued through August of this year. It has been a joint investigation conducted by the Tampa Bay Police, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, and The Department of Justice. 

Fentanyl is a dangerous opioid that has received a lot of media attention because of its highly addictive qualities with recreational use. The United States lists fentanyl as a controlled substance. This drug is commonly used by medical professionals as a pain killer for patients undergoing severe and painful medical treatments such as cancer, nerve damage, or burn wounds. Fentanyl is far more powerful than morphine and it takes just a few minutes for its effects to kick in. This is why the drug has become so popular on the street – people with chronic pain use it for quick relief, but find themselves needing more as prolonged use causes the body to become tolerant of the drug’s effects. 

The effects of fentanyl are very similar to heroin, actually. The only difference is fentanyl lacks the euphoric high that heroin offers. Fentanyl makes users feel drowsy, hazy, slows the breathing, and slows the heart rate. The effects of fentanyl begin a few minutes after taking the drug and last for about an hour. While heroin and fentanyl are similar, fentanyl usually comes in much higher doses that are about 50 times more powerful than heroin. The high potency of fentanyl is why it is labeled as being so dangerous. On the street, this drug may be mixed with heroin and users used to heroin run the risk of overdosing by ingesting a drug that is much more powerful than what they are used to. 

If you have been accused of being involved in a federal drug crime involving fentanyl or heroin, you need to enlist the help of a Drug Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. We want to help you fight the charges stacked against you, and our representation could mean that you avoid serious criminal consequences. We know how terrifying drug charges can be, which is why we will provide you with the aggressive legal defense you need. Law enforcement targets those suspected of illegally selling opioids like heroin and fentanyl, so if you have been arrested for a drug crime stemming from one of these drugs, you need to be aware that even first-time offenders face very serious legal ramifications. The stakes are very high in federal drug crimes cases, so there is no time to waste. 

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pointing-1991215_1920-300x146The City Manager of Mascotte City, which is located west of Orlando, was arrested Thursday and charged with disorderly conduct as well as felony battery following an argument with a city council member who apparently voted against renewing his contract. 

The 62-year-old was detained after police responded to a fight outside the Mascotte Civic Center after a city council meeting Wednesday evening. The arrest report claims the man was fighting with the Mayor Pro Tem and her husband, who is Mascotte City’s fire chief. 

Reports indicate that the fight erupted because the man’s three-year contract was not renewed after it ended June 17. Witness accounts state that the man was aggressive with the mayor and was poking her on the shoulder, bumping her with his chest, and swearing at her.  

The mayor’s husband apparently stepped in and helped stop the alleged feud. Police claim they had to remove the man from the building so he would not follow the couple. 

Following his arrest, the man was released from the Lake County jail a few hours later after posting a $2,500 bond.

A new acting city manager has been named.

Felony battery charges are nothing to scoff at. While these charges may seem extreme for the situation, they must be dealt with accordingly. If you are charged with the crime of battery, you need the assistance of serious litigators to help get you through the criminal process. A conviction could lead to large fines and time behind bars, as well as a permanent stain on your criminal record. If you are convicted of committing a violent felony, you could find it difficult to obtain a decent job and suitable housing in the future as you could be labeled a violent offender. 

Our Lake County Felony Battery Attorneys at Whittel & Melton don’t want one simple mistake to ruin the rest of your life. We are here to listen to your side of the story and do everything we can to achieve a positive outcome for your situation, no matter how tough the case is. 

Battery charges require an in-depth investigation. There are instances where alleged victims of violent offenses have fabricated the events for their own selfish purposes. We can conduct a further investigation into your battery charges to see if you were falsely accused. If you were falsely accused of a battery crime, we will fight aggressively to get the case against you dismissed. 

In order to prove the crime of felony battery, the State must be able to show that you intentionally or willfully struck another person against their will and that the alleged victim suffered great bodily harm. Felony battery is classified as a third-degree felony in the state of Florida and could result in five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and other punishments. 

Just because you are accused of committing felony battery, this does not mean you are automatically guilty of this crime. There are numerous defenses to this crime, including self defense, factual disputes about the incident, the alleged victim’s accusations are entirely false, the injuries suffered by the alleged victim do not add up to great bodily harm, and the alleged fight was a mutual altercation. Our Lake County Felony Battery Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you fight these charges so that you can get back to leading a normal life. The penalties and consequences of a conviction are very real, and we want to fight aggressively to have your charges dismissed or at least reduced to a misdemeanor. 

As former prosecutors with the State of Florida we are quite familiar with how these cases are handled. Working both sides has given us valuable insight into how to achieve a successful outcome. While we cannot guarantee results, we can formulate a powerful defense strategy on your behalf. 

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The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 24-year-old man from South Carolina after he allegedly tried to kidnap WWE star Sonya Deville, also known as Daria Berenato, at her home in Lutz. 

The man is accused of stalking the 26-year-old wrestling star featured on E!’s reality show Total Divas. 

The Sheriff’s Office believes the man began plotting the abduction around eight months ago, according to reports. 

The man apparently parked his car at a nearby church around midnight and then walked to the woman’s home at Lake Park Subdivision in Lutz. 

Reports indicate that he gained access to the woman’s home by slicing te patio screen and then entering the home through the sliding glass door after waiting for three to four hours for the oman to go to bed. This set off the alarm, causing Deville to look out her window and see the man and immediately flee her property in a car. 

She called 911 and the man was still inside the home when police arrived.

Police claim the man had duct tape, mace, zip ties, and a knife, and other supplies they believe he was going to use to take Deville hostage. 

He was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, armed burglary, attempted armed kidnapping, and aggravated stalking. 

Police claim that they have evidence showing he was stalking the woman on social media for months before showing up on her property. 

He was being held without bond, according to reports. 

Kidnapping and burglary charges are very serious and require a very strong defense strategy. A conviction for these charges can result in significant prison time, substantial fines, and probation. You need to obtain legal counsel as soon as you are aware of charges against you so that you can take appropriate action and defend yourself. 

Attempted kidnapping charges are a second-degree felony in the state of Florida. After your arrest, your charges will be given to the State Attorney’s Office to review. They will conduct an investigation before filing formal charges. This is where having strong legal representation on your side can help you. In most of these cases, the State does not have the time to perform an in-depth investigation. Your criminal defense attorney can meet with them and present any evidence that contradicts the charges, which could result in lesser charges being filed. 

You need to implement a smart legal defense strategy right away in these types of cases. As former prosecutors, our Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton understand how the State approaches these cases and what strategies they will use to try and obtain a conviction. We will use that knowledge to help with your case and formulate an approach to try and avoid a conviction and the harsh penalties that come along with it. 

We can negotiate with prosecutors to try and avoid the courtroom and reach a plea deal or advocate on your behalf at trial. Every case is unique and we cannot guarantee results. We can provide you with the legal help and support you need to implement the strongest defense strategy. 

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mail-truck-3248139_1920-300x200A postal clerk in Florida allegedly stole mail and passport applications in what federal prosecutors are calling an identity theft scheme. 

The 30-year-old Ruskin woman was arrested Monday, according to court records. Last week, a federal grand jury in Tampa charged the woman with aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and theft of a postal key.

According to the indictment, while working at a St. Petersburg United States Postal Service the woman allegedly conspired with others in a scheme to defraud financial institutions that are federally insured. She is accused of opening mail addressed to other people and taking pictures of personal information. She apparently did this with other people’s U.S. passport applications as well, according to officials. 

The woman allegedly then sent the photographs of personal information and passport applications to other co-conspirators to be used in a bank fraud scheme, according to investigators.

The indictment further charges the woman with taking restricted postal arrow keys and then passing them off to co-conspirators. These master keys give access to open mail boxes and banks of mailboxes at various locations, such as apartment complexes.

Identity (ID) theft is committed when another person steals your personal information with the intentions of committing fraud. Identity theft is one of the most frequent crimes prosecuted in the state of Florida, and those that are charged with this type of white collar crime face very serious penalties, including years behind bars and significant fines. 

When it comes to identity theft schemes, sometimes people get wrapped up in these criminal enterprises without fully understanding what they are involved in. It is not at all uncommon for people accused of ID theft crimes to have no intentions of hurting others when they just made an honest mistake. This is where our Tampa Bay White Collar Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton come in. We can explain your side of the story and show that you were possibly a victim of a larger crime and taken advantage of. We can work with the prosecution to negotiate the best possible deal where you can avoid a felony conviction and time behind bars. However, if this is not possible, we are fully prepared to take your case to trial. 

Our Tampa Bay White Collar Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have years of experience handling criminal cases involving identity theft and related charges. As former prosecutors, we know what defense strategies can defeat these charges and result in minimal consequences. We also know how serious the State takes these crimes and what they will do to obtain a conviction. The stakes are very high in these cases, but we can help you understand your rights and how best to proceed with your defense. It is important to understand that the government will pursue these charges aggressively and has virtually limitless resources at their disposal. This is why you need a criminal defense attorney that is equally as aggressive fighting in your corner to secure your freedom. 

We know that identity theft charges can be stressful and leave you feeling scared and uncertain of your future. That is why it is absolutely vital to the outcome of your case to secure legal representation as soon as you are accused of a white collar crime of this nature. Economic crimes can be successfully beat, but you must have a strong defense strategy. Every case is different, but we are happy to speak with you in a free consultation to discuss the details of your case. We can answer your questions openly and provide you with the honest feedback you need. 

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forest-fire-3747355_1920-300x169While no one will serve prison time, California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company was found guilty Tuesday of starting the deadliest fire in California’s history that resulted in 84 unnecessary deaths, known as the 2018 Camp Fire. 

The Butte County District Attorney said this verdict is a “historic” one that will serve as a reminder that corporations will be held accountable for negligently endangering human lives. 

The 84 counts involuntary manslaughter the company pleaded guilty to as well as the 1 count of starting the wildfire, is one aspect of how the company is being held responsible for 84 people burning to death. 

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handcuff-3748614_1920-300x245A woman who ran a Florida-based charity that provides cradles for stillborn babies has been charged with scheming to defraud and several other felonies, according to reports. 

The charity provides these cradles to help families get through their tough loss of a child. 

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the 53-year-old woman was arrested last week in Lakeland. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services takes a tough stance against charities accused of committing fraud against their donors and released a statement that the accused woman’s actions are vile and appalling. The accused woman is the president and director of Stories of Babies Born Still. SOBBS is supposed to use donated funds to buy Comfort Cradle Devices for hospitals, according to investigators.

Their investigation allegedly revealed that payments had been given to SOBBS, but the manufacturer had only received payment for about half of the orders.

The woman was freed on $8,000 bond.

Scheming to defraud in the state of Florida is also known as organized fraud. This is a very commonly prosecuted crime in our state. This crime basically allows prosecutors to combine several small fraudulent acts into one larger crime. 

There are varying degrees of scheming to defraud in Florida. The value of the property will determine the penalties. Scheming to defraud is classified as a third-degree felony when the value of the goods are $20,000 or less. When the property or goods are valued at $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, then the crime is categorized as a second-degree felony. A first-degree felony is charged when the value of the property or goods is $50,000 or more. 

A person accused of scheming to defraud can still be charged with a crime even if no money or property was stolen. If the accused intended to steal any money or property they can still be charged. The intent to steal $750 or more can be charged as a third-degree felony. Less than $750 is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. 

In order for the State to successfully prove its case against someone accused of scheming to defraud, they must demonstrate that the accused intended to defraud others. It is very possible in these types of cases for the person accused to have no intent of defrauding others or possibly completely unaware of their involvement in an organized crime scheme. 

Fraud charges fall under the umbrella of white collar crimes. Criminal consequences all depend on the amount of money involved as outlined above. Most investigations of fraud go one for years, so it is very important to protect yourself and obtain legal representation as soon as you become aware you are the target of an investigation. 

All crimes of fraud are considered crimes of dishonesty, and taken very seriously by prosecutors and judges. If you are accused of fraud in Florida, your reputation, freedom, and future are all on the line. You need an attorney who is skilled in representing those accused of scheming to defraud and other theft crimes. Our Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help you understand your rights and how to proceed with a successful defense strategy. As former prosecutors, we are quite familiar with the tactics they use to achieve a conviction for organized fraud and other theft crimes, like felony grand theft. We can put our knowledge to work in your favor and mount a strong case based on the facts of your case. 

Theft crimes and fraud charges are nothing to scoff at. You could be looking at years behind bars and significant fines if you are convicted. Our Florida White Collar Crimes Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know that many of these crimes can arise from misunderstandings. In many instances, these crimes are charged when two individuals were unclear on how funds were to be allotted. When one party uses the funds in a way that they believed was in compliance, then there is no intent. We can help establish that what appears to be a crime was a misunderstanding and work to have the charges against you dropped. 

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technology-2500010_640-150x150The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a murder-suicide that happened last Friday morning.

According to Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, the incident happened at a home located on Dunkirk Road around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 10.

The sheriff’s office said they received a 911 call from a woman who was initially out of town. They said the woman received a suicidal text from a person living in the home.

The individual was identified as a 43-year-old man.

Prior to calling law enforcement, the woman drove back to the residence where she found the home on fire. She saw at least one dead individual inside the home before exiting.

The Hernando County Fire Rescue entered the home where they found three dead individuals inside.

The fire was confined to one particular area of the home and was extinguished quickly.

The man, along with a boy and a girl, were found dead.

The preliminary investigation reveals that the man committed suicide after killing the two children.

The Medical Examiner’s Office and the Fire Marshal’s Office responded to assist with the investigation.

Officials said records show there was one previous call at the home on March 22 in regards to a verbal disturbance.

The investigation remains active at this time.

During the news conference, Nienhuis stressed the importance of people knowing where to call if they are struggling with matters.

One of the children was an elementary school student and the other child was in middle school. 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling call:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:


National Domestic Violence Hotline:


When most people hear of domestic violence (also known as “DV”) cases, they think of a male figure with an anger management problem who routinely puts his wife and kids in the hospital whenever there is an argument. The reality of DV cases is very different. Domestic violence accusations can come about from really any situation, from heated arguments to child custody cases to both parties being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Due to these cases being severely emotionally charged, prosecutors and the courts are notorious for doling out strict penalties for those accused and charged with domestic violence. The penalties for a domestic violence charge can be absolutely devastating. Domestic violence or domestic battery in Florida is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties that may include up to one year in jail or twelve months probation, and a $1,000 fine. Because of the ‘domestic’ nature of the crime, those convicted will face additional mandatory penalties under Chapter 741, Florida Statutes, including:

  • Completion of a 26 week Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP)
  • 12 months of probation
  • 5 days required jail (if the defendant is adjudicated guilty and there is bodily injury)
  • Additional community service hours
  • Loss of important civil liberties, including concealed carry rights
  • Imposition of an injunction or ‘no contact’ order

Domestic violence is a unique form of violence that occurs between two individuals with a special relationship. Domestic violence charges can be applied when the victim is any of the following:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Co-parents
  • Family members
  • Children
  • Roommates
  • Intimate partners

Domestic violence is a group of offenses that include:

  • Certain battery charges
  • Domestic battery
  • Certain homicide charges
  • Invasion of property
  • Stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • Strangulation charges
  • Neglect and abuse
  • Sexual abuse

Domestic violence charges can also arise from certain emotional and/or psychological abuse. Some examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Threatening to harm victim
  • Hurting a pet
  • Name-calling
  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation of words and family members
  • Making fun of victim
  • Ignoring
  • Disrespecting friends and family
  • Isolation of the victim
  • Cheating
  • Monitoring phone calls, texts, emails, and social media

When a domestic violence incident results in death, the accused can be charged with homicide, including murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. A murder from a domestic violence incident occurs when an individual knowingly or intentionally kills a spouse, former spouse, or family member. Voluntary manslaughter would be if the death was carried out in the heat of passion. Involuntary manslaughter is when a crime of battery eventually results in death. In Florida, a conviction for a first-degree murder charge is punishable by a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. This can be a capital felony and under certain conditions, the prosecution can push for the death penalty. Voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter are also felonies.

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child-1439468_640-150x150Former Texas Rangers star and 2010 American League MVP Josh Hamilton was indicted on a felony charge for injury to a minor on Monday, according to news reports. 

Hamilton turned himself in to police and was arrested in October for hitting and scratching his daughter.

According to reports, Hamilton told his daughter to tell the judge “what a terrible dad I am” to ensure she would never have to visit his home again. When interviewed by Child Protective Services, his daughter allegedly told the interviewer that Hamilton started to assault and throw things at her after she made a comment that upset him, records show. 

The former baseball player is accused of throwing a full water bottle that hit his daughter in the chest. Hamilton then pulled a chair from under his daughter and threw it at her, a warrant says.

Hamilton then allegedly took his daughter to a room, pinned her to a bed and repeatedly hit her on the back and legs, according to an arrest warrant. 

Hamilton has three children and court records show he is accused of assaulting the oldest. His ex-wife has filed for a temporary restraining order on her daughter’s behalf.

Hamilton, 38, hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2015. In addition to the Rangers, he played for the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Angels over parts of a nine-season career. The No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, Hamilton’s career was delayed by substance abuse and addiction issues. 

What Is Domestic Violence in Florida? 

As defined by law, domestic violence is:

741.28 “Domestic violence” means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

“Family or household member” means spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit.

Due to the relationships involved and the complexity of the laws, domestic violence cases are often mentally and emotionally taxing. If you have been accused of a domestic violence crime, you must protect your rights. You will need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you fight back against these charges.

Criminal courts in Florida, and throughout the U.S., are extremely tough on domestic violence. Our Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are well equipped to handle cases stemming from the area of domestic violence. We know the damage this can cause to your reputation and the strain it can place on your relationship with family members and friends. We want to help you through this difficult time and simplify the legal process for you.

Domestic violence can be many different things, not just physical abuse or violence. Domestic violence can also include sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, and economic deprivation. Even just the threat of violence or harm can be considered domestic abuse. We have laid out some examples of domestic violence below: 

Physical abuse

  • Striking or hitting
  • Punching or beating
  • Pulling hair 
  • Excessive pushing or throwing a person to the ground
  • Ordering a dog to attack 

Emotional abuse

  • Harassment
  • Threats
  • Verbal criticism and abuse
  • Making someone live in fear for their life or safety
  • Stalking

Sexual abuse

  • Sexual Coercion
  • Inappropriate sexual comments
  • Forced sexual acts or advances
  • Physical Assault
  • Rape

Child Abuse

  • Child Endangerment – this happens when a child witnesses acts of violence
  • Physical child abuse
  • Emotional child abuse
  • Sexual child abuse

When these acts are carried out against a family or household member, they may constitute domestic violence. The following are examples of relationships that may fall under the umbrella of domestic violence:

  • Spouses and ex-spouses
  • Unmarried couples who are parents together
  • Couples who are/were dating
  • Children and stepchildren
  • Parents
  • Roommates
  • In-Home caregivers and their patients

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