Articles Posted in Federal Crimes

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Ask any Tampa Federal Criminal Lawyer how they feel about Federal drug sentencing and I have little doubt the response you receive would be a groan and a look of disgust. Federal drug sentencing, for whatever popular and illusory reason the Federal Sentencing Commission chooses to hang their hat on, has been and is outrageous. For every crime there must necessarily be some kind of punishment otherwise the system is useless and we can cue anarchy. However, when one with little criminal history and no real ties to a cartel or gang takes a shot to make five times his yearly wage for a noble albeit illegal reason and ultimately is sentenced to a 10 year minimum mandatory prison term, have we really achieved anything? Should a drug sentence really be higher than a crime of violence or a sex crime against a minor? It doesn’t pass the smell test but it happens all the time. Title 21 of the Federal Criminal code details minimum mandatory sentences and it has been a leverage point of Federal Prosecutors since its inception.

Not only can a defendant be charged with a violation of Title 21 that calls for a mandatory minimum prison sentence, in certain instances the defendant’s sentence potential or mandatory minimum be increased because of a criminal history to make a minimum mandatory completely exorbitant. If the US Attorney’s office pops your man with a nice little 851 enhancement you are now staring down the barrel of a potential of a 20 year minimum mandatory or mandatory life sentence depending on the number of prior drug felonies he has. If the defendant was facing a 5 year minimum mandatory he is now looking at 10 and if there is no minimum mandatory, his statutory maximum increases. You can run but you can’t hide from the 851… All for one prior drug felony. Granted this enhancement is not automatic but it is wholly discretionary for the Federal Prosecutor. Depending on which Prosecutor is driving the bus, you could be in for a bumpy ass ride. This enhancement isn’t even inclusive of a Career Offender enhancement, and animal that has been criticized as not being based on empirical data by the Supreme Court in Kimbrough v. US, 552 U.S. 85, 109-110 (2007). When one is saddled with both an 851 and career offender enhancement his Federal criminal lawyer will earn a few more gray hairs.
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Two men are facing a Federal criminal complaint out of the Northern District of New York for allegedly hatching a plot to create an X-Ray gun capable to shooting lethal doses of X-Ray radiation. Alleged members of the Ku Klux Klan, Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, of Galway, NY and his buddy Eric J. Feight, 54, of Hudson, NY have been arrested and charged with the Federal crime of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in violation of 18 USC 2339A. If convicted of the charges, Mr. Scott and Mr. Feight face up to 15 years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and a large fine. The essence of the criminal complaint is that these two “gentlemen” schemed to create a mobile, remotely operated, radiation emitting device capable of killing targets from afar with a mega dose of radiation. Their alleged intent was to blast unknowing victims with said radiation, only to have their victims fall ill days later and eventually die. Despite their dedicated intentions, at no time was their cartoon ray gun operable or even capable of fulfilling their double secret squirrel plot according to authorities.

Is the KKK really involved? If so it looks as if at least some of them have now graduated from wearing white uniforms that look like Casper’s redneck friend Crisper and hurting people, to generally screaming at rallies in cities, to now plotting attacks with hi tech laser tag guns? Can anyone fill me in here? I’m proud to admit that I don’t knowingly know anyone in the KKK so I can’t attest to the intelligence level of the group as a whole or any of them as individuals, but this seems to me like they’re grasping at straws a bit. Ray guns? Seriously? Dumb, dadumb, dumb, dumb… Whatever bobs their bobber I guess, but there will likely be consequences to thinking and behaving like fools.
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Tampa man John Andrew Welden, 26, is facing a Federal charge in the middle district of Florida for allegedly tricking his girlfriend into ingesting the abortion pill cytotec. Welden, whose father is an OB/GYN doctor was arrested May 15th and is specifically alleged to have forged a prescription form and disguised the cytotec as Amoxicillin. Welden’s girlfriend and alleged victim, Remee Jo Lee had no health insurance at the time she found out she was pregnant and sought the care of Welden’s father for a sonogram. John Andrew Welden is alleged to have lied to Lee and told her his father diagnosed her with an infection and administered the cytotec disguised as Amoxicillin to combat the alleged infection without her knowledge and consent. Welden is further alleged to have held himself out as being a medical doctor and counseled Lee when the cytotec reacted to Lee’s body, causing heavy cramping and bleeding. It was only when Lee took the remaining pills to a pharmacist when she learned that what she was ingesting was not Amoxicillin at all.

Welden was indicted on Federal criminal charges via a two count indictment, true bill returned May 14, 2013 alleging that he violated 18 USC 1365(a) by tampering with consumer products resulting in serious bodily injury to an individual and 18 USC 1841 and 1111(a) for causing death to an unborn child the same as murder. For purposes of figuring out what Welden is looking at with respect to a criminal sentence, we have to strip down the allegations. Simply put, Welden is accused of murder, as per 18 USC 1841(a)(C) his punishment shall be guided by 18 USC 1111, the Federal murder statute. Because murder is the most serious allegation and the charges will be “grouped” as they arose out of the same incident, it will govern the sentence possibilities. 18 USC 1111(a) calls for death or life imprisonment if a defendant is found guilty of first-degree murder. First Degree Murder, as it applies to this case, is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing…. Because 18 USC 1841 specifically interjects a murder punishment for the death of an unborn child if the conduct is applicable, an unborn child under this situation, and per this statutory scheme, is considered a human being. No doubt the United States Attorney’s Office will seek a first degree murder conviction against Welden and they may well get it if they can show that the cytotec can be considered “poison” or that his actions were willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated. If the United States Attorney’s Office can put together the paper trail against Welden and maintain the alleged victim’s credibility, Welden’s Federal criminal lawyer may have his or her work cut out for them.
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If you’ve previously read our blog, you’ll know that it is an effort to provide an interesting read on funny or hot button topics from the perspective of a Tampa criminal lawyer. Our hope is that we can bring some knowledge on the law while also giving a perspective of how a case is viewed from our side of the fence. Today I’ll break from that trend as there is nothing funny about the acts of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother. These individuals robbed our Country and one of our finest cities of a sense of security while taking with that the lives and quality of life of innocent bystanders supporting something so pure as the challenge of the Boston Marathon. Those of us that practice Federal criminal law stand before our Judges every month in an effort to introduce them to an individual as opposed to a case number. We squeeze every bit of good in a person onto a sentencing memorandum in the hope that we can shave off a fraction of the person’s sentence. As a general rule, within each of our clients there is some good and it can be argued that though the individual may be before a particular judge on a particular day, the act for which they are there is not the sum total of who the person is. With the freshness of this massacre as it currently stands, it would be tough to make that argument here. Some will demand Tsarnaev’s head on a stake, some will beg for mercy due to his age. Both are entitled to their opinion. This great country and its resolve is to thank for the ability to own your opinion.

As it stands on the date of this blog, Tsarnaev has been charged by criminal complaint in Federal Court. Rest assured a Grand Jury will be empaneled on this case and they will provide an indictment and this case will move forward based on that. As for now, Tsarnaev is charged via complaint with “Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction” under 18 USC 2332(a) and “Malicious Destruction of Property Resulting in Death” under 18 USC 844(i). Someone died as a result of the deeds of these brothers. As with any Federal Case one of the first steps in sentence calculation is to take a look at the Federal Guidelines to get a rough idea as to where the potential sentence may stand. Going in order, the charge of “Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction” is most likely to be guided under Federal Guideline 2M6.1. Immediately because a little boy died, this guideline could call for a cross reference with Guideline 2A1.1 for first degree murder as the death was most definitely caused intentionally or knowingly. The base offense level for that, regardless of criminal history is 43, which equates to life. However, under 2M6.1(c)(1) because a higher offense level could be built using 2M6.1 by taking the base offense level of 42 and adding 4 levels for death, the first degree murder cross reference doesn’t happen. Generically, for Tsarnaev’s use of a weapon of mass destruction, he’s looking at a potential total offense level of 46 which would equate to life. As for the “Malicious Destruction of Property Resulting in Death” the applicable guideline is 2K1.4. Again there calls for a first degree murder cross reference under 2A1.1, this time applicable as that guideline is higher at 43.
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A man in Iran has been charged with bank robbery after purchasing a faulty spell from a local sorcerer to make him invisible and then taking money from bank patron’s hands. For the Iranian bank robber, he would have been best served to either look in a mirror prior to testing out his purchase or at the very minimum to have asked for a test run before shelling out the $500 for the invisibility cloak. When questioned by an Iranian Judge about the allegations, the man explained that he purchased a set of spells to tie to his arm that would make him invisible. He further explained that the sorcerer from whom he made his purchase explained to him that he could rob banks to his heart’s content due to the invisibility provided by the spell pack. Unfortunately for our Iranian friend when he entered the bank and began taking money from patrons’ hands, he quickly learned that he was very visible.

Though we’re in Iran for purposes of this blog, if one elected to purchase invisibility and perform a bank robbery in the United States, they would be staring down the barrel of a Bank Robbery charge under 18 USC 2113. The Federal Bank Robbery statute says that whoever by force and violence, or through intimidation, takes, or tries to take from another, or obtains or attempts to obtain something by extortion belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management, or possession of, any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association or whoever enters or attempts to enter any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association, with intent to commit any felony affecting such bank, credit union, or such savings and loan association and in violation of any statute of the United States, or any larceny–
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
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60 year old pornographic filmmaker Ira Isaacs was sentenced on January 17, 2013 in the Central District of California for the Federal crime of producing and selling obscene videos and distributing obscene videos. Isaacs is known as a “shock porn” director and has routinely made videos depicting bestiality and sexual conduct involving feces. One such video was known as “Two Girls, One Cup” and involved a sexual encounter with two women eating human waste. Isaacs’ criminal defense attorney argued that despite the horrific nature of the videos that they are protected speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This argument fell on deaf ears when a federal jury convicted Isaacs on April 27, 2012 of a superseding indictment involving several counts. Pursuant to his sentencing Isaacs was ordered by Federal District Court Judge George H. King to serve 48 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, be subject to supervised release upon his release from prison for three years and pay a $10,000 fine. Isaacs was tried previously, both ending in mistrials. In 2008 his initial trial ended in mistrial when presiding Judge Alex Kozinski was forced to recuse himself after it was found that he possessed pornographic material on a personal website. Later, during a trial on March 6, 2012 a jury deadlocked at 10-2 resulting in a second mistrial.

As best as I can tell Isaacs was indicted for violations of 18 USC 1465 for Production and Transportation of Obscene Matters for Sale and Distribution, 18 USC 1462(a) for Importation or Transportation of Obscene Matters and lastly 18 USC 2257(f)(4) for failing to keep records of actors and actresses involved in his movies. The applicable language or gist of the statutes of which Isaacs was charged is as follows:

18 USC 1465- Whoever knowingly produces with an intent to distribute into interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose of sale or distribution, any obscene material, would be guilty of 18 USC 1465 and subject to a five year term in the bureau of prisons and a fine.

18 USC 1462(a)- Whoever brings into the US or uses an express company for carriage in interstate or foreign commerce any obscene, lewd or lascivious motion-picture film shall be subject to a five year term in the bureau of prisons and a fine.

18 USC 2257(f)(4)- It is unlawful for one to produce any motion picture as described in the preceding statutes without creating an individual and identifiable record pertaining to each performer in the motion picture. In essence this law is aimed at preventing minors from engaging in such movies.
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Cortnee Brantley, the girlfriend of Dontae Morris now awaits her fate as Middle District of Florida jurors deliberate in her Misprison of a Felony trial. Brantley was with Dontae Morris on June 29, 2010 during a tragic traffic stop where Tampa Police Department officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis were murdered by Dontae Morris. After Morris is said to have shot Officer Kocab and Officer Curtis, Cortnee Brantley fled the scene via car and Dontae Morris fled the scene on foot. At issue in the trial is whether Cortnee Brantley knew whether or not her boyfriend, Dontae Morris, was a convicted felon carrying a firearm. This case has gone to trial in one previous attempt, resulting in a hung jury when the empaneled jury at the time could not come to a decision after deliberating for nearly eight hours.

Ask any Tampa criminal lawyer with any Federal criminal court experience and you’ll likely be told that a misprison of a felony charge is rarely a crime charged directly. Just as a reckless driving charge is generally a reduction from driving under the influence, misprison of a felony is something we, as Tampa Federal criminal attorneys, use in an effort to convince the United States Attorney’s Office to reduce a more serious crime to. Frankly, misprision of a felony is an odd charge as it is not one typically found at the State court level. Federal in nature, misprision of a felony is an old common law charge held over from old English courts who used this charge to prosecute those for failing to report a crime. Even in England the charge was considered a misdemeanor and carried with it an exception for those who could be incriminated by divulging the subject crime. Like old England, the 5th Amendment to the Constitution prevents Brantley from being forced to report the subject shooting. Rather, the charges against Brantley are based on the United States Attorney’s allegation that she had a duty to report that Dontae Morris was a felon in possession of a firearm, contrary to Florida Statute 790.23. Per Federal Statute 18 USC 4 one who has knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
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Waffle House CEO Joe W. Rogers Jr. is accused of forcing his former personal assistant to “perform sexual services” as a part of her employment with him. Rogers is accused of going so far as requiring his former assistant to “masturbate him” as part of her employment. The assistant further alleges that on numerous occasions Rogers attempted to force himself on her and requested oral sex.

Aside from the above referenced acts it is alleged that Rogers’ assistant was forced to often purchase pornography for him and was made to appear naked in front of him. Rogers’ accuser claims the inappropriate conduct began in 2003 and carried through until her resignation on June 29, 2012 upon learning that her son earned a college scholarship. The accuser claims to have remained in her job despite the abuse because she was a single mother and needed the income to support her family.

Not only might Rogers face a significant civil lawsuit, should the Atlanta prosecutor’s office elect to pursue these charges he could face some very embarrassing criminal charges. Because this is a Florida legal blog we will attempt to explain what would happen if Mr. Waffle would have conducted himself in this manner in Florida.

Oddly enough, Rogers would not face a sexual battery charge, as, according to this report, there was no oral, anal, or vaginal penetration of any kind. Without penetration, there is no sexual battery. Rogers would escape any kind of lewd and lascivious battery charges or molestation as again there was no penetration and his alleged victim is over the age of 16. At the end of the day, were this act in Florida, despite his perversion Rogers would likely only face a first degree misdemeanor battery charge and a second degree misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure.
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