Calling it “repugnant to the common law,” Federal Judge Mary S. Scriven struck down a Florida controlled-substance law as unconstitutional. State legislators revised the law in 2002 by eliminating the mens rea standard for drug offenses. Mens rea is commonly known as the “criminal mind” standard. It requires a person to be reasonably aware that his or her conduct is criminal in order to be charged with a crime. Scriven used the hypothetical example of a student whose friend placed cocaine in his book bag without the student’s knowledge. Even though the student played no role in it and was unaware of it, the student could still be charged under the law. The ruling has put cases throughout the state in doubt.
NASA’s space shuttle program has come to an end after more than 30 years. Over 7,000 employees are expected to lose their jobs as a result. Some 1,500 NASA workers along Florida’s space coast have already received pink slips. Companies around the country that have contracts with NASA related to the shuttle program will lay off an additional 10,000 workers.
Palm Beach County
Dalis Bell, 28, is sitting in jail without bond after being arrested for allegedly attempting to kill his former girlfriend. According to police, he knocked down the door of the woman’s Boca Raton apartment and fought with her new boyfriend. He then went to his car and returned with a gun where he fired shots at the woman, who was not injured, police said.
SMOKING GUN II
Operation Smoking Gun II targeted gun-trafficking and drug activities by gangs. Local, state and federal authorities made another round of gang- and drug-related arrests in Palm Beach County. The San Castle Soldiers, a Haitian gang in the Boynton Beach area, was a major target. Nearly 100 suspects were taken into custody and a cache of drugs, weapons, and other items were seized.
Michael Franzenburg, 47, of West Palm Beach; Joseph Grizzanti, 30, of Greenacres; and Kenneth Foote, 40, of Lake Worth, have been charged with allegedly operating a fraudulent timeshare brokerage company. Police said International Resort Solutions LLC collected $3.3 million from timeshare owners from July 2009 to February 2010 but never provided any services. The company used telemarketers to call timeshare owners throughout the U.S. and Canada claiming they had buyers for their properties. They would ask for upfront fees to complete the deal but there never were any buyers, police said. They are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, followed by three years probation.
GUILTY AS CHARGED
Former radio talk-show host Anthony F. Cutaia, 65, has pleaded guilty to operating a $2.5 million Ponzi scheme. Cutaia, of Boynton Beach, recruited investors for non-existent real estate projects in Broward and Palm Beach counties. He admitted investing a minor amount of the money and using the rest to support a lavish lifestyle. Cutaia hosted Talk About Mortgages and Real Estate, a paid television program. He also had a radio program of the same name to attract customers to his real estate and mortgage businesses. Cutaia pleaded guilty to mail fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He must repay investors, as well.
Broward State Attorney Michael Satz is joining Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein’s call for Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti to hand over the contracts of deputies who star in the TLC program Police Woman of Broward County. Lamberti has insisted they do not have the contracts. But, according to sources, BSO’s legal team and the Department of External Affairs reviewed the contracts. Sources also say the External Affairs Division has copies of the outtakes from the television program and BSO is “very concerned’ these outtakes may be subpoenaed. Outtakes are the segments cut from a program before it is televised. They reportedly show all sorts of abuses,”
including one in which a teenager was repeatedly kicked in the head.
Former Deerfield Beach Commissioner Steve Gonot has been sentenced to 364 days in jail and placed on five years of probation for his conviction related to spending campaign funds for personal use. Broward County Circuit Judge Barbara McCarthy ordered him released on $15,000 bond while he appeals the conviction. Gonot was convicted of one count of official misconduct, grand theft and falsifying records. He came under scrutiny after community activist Chaz Stevens posted allegations about him on his blog. Stevens also filed the complaint with the Broward State Attorney’s Office that led to the investigation.
RUN, DEPUTY, RUN
Deputy Donald Pritchard, who is Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti’s executive officer, is running for the district 97 state representative seat which Martin Kiar currently occupies. Both are Democrats from the Davie area. Pritchard was the target of a BSO investigation in 2005 for failing to respond to a 911 call after he was dispatched. He served a suspension and apologized for his actions.
Miami Police Officer Lloyd Hamilton has been charged with battery after being accused in a domestic incident in which he allegedly beat and choked his girlfriend. According to Miami-Dade Police, the attack occurred because of his girlfriend’s intention to break-off the relationship. According to the police report, Hamilton, 50, went to the woman’s home, where an argument ensued. He then punched her in the eye and choked her, police said.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and City Manager Johnny Martinez may declare the city to be in a state of financial emergency. Among other things, the declaration would allow the officials to void or change any provision of collective bargaining agreements. City officials used the provision last year to help close a $105 million deficit. The city is facing a $61 million shortfall this year. Tax increases have been proposed and Regalado wants to impose unpaid furlough days and other concessions on workers to help balance the budget.
Photo: Elgin Jones