FBI May Be Preparing Bogus “Hate Crime” Charge Against Zimmerman For Shooting Druggie In Self Defense

May 15, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – WFTV has learned charges against George Zimmerman could be getting more serious.

State prosecutors said Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, profiled and stalked 17-year-old Trayvon Martin before killing him, so the FBI is now looking into charging him with a hate crime.

Zimmerman admitted to killing Martin in February during a confrontation. However, he claims the shooting was in self-defense. He’s facing a second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. But if Zimmerman is charged and found guilty of a federal hate crime involving murder, he could face the death penalty.

FBI investigators are actively questioning witnesses in the retreat at the Twin Lakes neighborhood, seeking evidence for a possible federal hate crime charge.

Martin was unarmed when he was shot to death, police said, and some accuse Zimmerman of targeting the teenager solely because of the color of his skin.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said federal prosecutors would have to prove the hate crime to charge Zimmerman, though.

“What the government would have to prove is that Mr. Zimmerman acted out of hatred toward African-Americans. That’s why he came into contact with him. That’s why he shot and killed him,” Sheaffer said.

Sheaffer said a federal hate crime murder charge could bring more serious consequences than the second-degree murder charge Zimmerman faces now.

“Mr. Zimmerman could be punished by up to life in prison or even the death penalty,” said Sheaffer.

Zimmerman said he used deadly force in self-defense after Martin punched him, knocked him to the ground and repeatedly slammed his head against a sidewalk.

As of late Monday, Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, told WFTV that he’s gotten the first prosecution documents containing the evidence against his client. O’Mara said he’s gotten a redacted witness list with 22 witnesses listed only as numbers.

O’Mara said he believes there are recorded interviews and some documents, but he said he hasn’t even opened it yet.

Prosecutors are required to release information to the defense and the public

However, O’Mara, wants Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to keep some of the key evidence, especially witness statements, out of the public eye by writing a motion to keep it sealed.

O’Mara posted a statement on Zimmerman’s website that said, “We doubt any of them (witnesses) enjoy the scrutiny they are under due to the coincidence of their involvement in such a high-profile matter.”

In the meantime, a photograph recently surfaced which is said to show Zimmerman’s mother in the arms of her grandfather, who is black.

Zimmerman’s mother testified at his bond hearing that she has met the black child whom he mentored and even risked his safety in a dangerous neighborhood to do it, because he didn’t want to abandon the child.

State prosecutors said Zimmerman gave several inconsistent statements to Sanford police, which is, in part, their basis for charging him with second-degree murder.

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Florida Woman Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Shooting A Wall In Her Own Home – Fired Warning Shot While Protecting Herself From Abusive Husband Who Tried To Strangle Her – Same Prosecutor Who Is Pursuing Bogus Charge Against Zimmerman For Protecting Himself

May 12, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – Saying he had no discretion under state law, a judge sentenced a Jacksonville, Florida, woman to 20 years in prison Friday for firing a warning shot in an effort to scare off her abusive husband.

Marissa Alexander unsuccessfully tried to use Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law to derail the prosecution, but a jury in March convicted her of aggravated assault after just 12 minutes of deliberation.

The case, which was prosecuted by the same state attorney who is handling the Trayvon Martin case, has gained the attention of civil rights leaders who say the African-American woman was persecuted because of her race.

After the sentencing, Rep. Corrine Brown confronted State Attorney Angela Corey in the hallway, accusing her of being overzealous, according to video from CNN affiliate WJXT.

“There is no justification for 20 years,” Brown told Corey during an exchange frequently interrupted by onlookers. “All the community was asking for was mercy and justice,” she said.

Corey said she had offered Alexander a plea bargain that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence, but Alexander chose to take the case to a jury trial, where a conviction would carry a mandatory sentence under a Florida law known as “10-20-life.”

‘Stand your ground’ plea rejected

The law mandates increased penalties for some felonies, including aggravated assault, in which a gun is carried or used.

Corey said the case deserved to be prosecuted because Alexander fired in the direction of a room where two children were standing.

Alexander said she was attempting to flee her husband, Rico Gray, on August 1, 2010, when she picked up a handgun and fired a shot into a wall.

She said her husband had read cell phone text messages that she had written to her ex-husband, got angry and tried to strangle her.

She said she escaped and ran to the garage, intending to drive away. But, she said, she forgot her keys, so she picked up her gun and went back into the house. She said her husband threatened to kill her, so she fired one shot.

“I believe when he threatened to kill me, that’s what he was absolutely going to do,” she said. “That’s what he intended to do. Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.”

Alexander’s attorneys tried to use the state law that allows people to use potentially deadly force anywhere they feel reasonably threatened with serious harm or death.

But a previous judge in the case rejected the request, saying Alexander’s decision to go back into the house was not consistent with someone in fear for her safety, according to the Florida Times Union newspaper.

A jury convicted Alexander in March and Judge James Daniel denied her request for a new trial in April.

Daniel handed down the sentence Friday after an emotional sentencing hearing during which Alexander’s parents, 11-year-old daughter and pastor spoke on her behalf.

Several people had to be escorted from the courtroom after breaking out singing and chanting about a perceived lack of justice in the case, but Daniel made a point to say that he had no choice under state law.

“Under the state’s 10-20-life law, a conviction for aggravated assault where a firearm has been discharged carries a minimum and maximum sentence of 20 years without regarding to any extenuating or mitigating circumstances that may be present, such as those in this case,” Daniel said.

Brown, the Jacksonville congresswoman, told reporters after the sentencing that the case was a product of “institutional racism.”

“She was overcharged by the prosecutor. Period,” Brown said. “She never should have been charged.”

Brown has been more complimentary about Corey’s work in the Trayvon Martin case, where her office filed second degree murder charges against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the February 26 death of the unarmed African-American teen-ager.

That case provoked nationwide protests demanding Zimmerman’s arrest after an initial police investigation released him under the “stand your ground” law.

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Dangerous Walking: Crazed Fort Lee New Jersey Police Ticketing Pedestrians For Walking And Talking, Texting And Walking

May 10, 2012

FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY – Forget dangerous driving, pedestrians are the new threat to street safety — phone calls, texting, music and wandering into traffic. Now, one New Jersey town is cracking down on the practice.

Fort Lee’s police chief has seen his share of careless pedestrians texting or talking on the phone in his own town. He said he has counted 23 pedestrian accidents since January, ranging from minor bumps and bruises to three fatalities.

After trying pamphlets and brochures, he’s ordering his officers to ticket careless pedestrians on the spot.

“They’re not alert and they’re not watching what they’re doing,” Police Chief Thomas Ripoli told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis. “As of now, they are to give summonses to pedestrians who do not adhere to crosswalks and the lights.”

Unlike careless driving, there’s no specific charge for being a careless pedestrian, but Chief Ripoli said his officers are watching, adding they’ll know it when they see it.

Mario Petris can certainly attest to the dangers. One of his personal training clients was hit and killed two months ago.

“She was on the cell phone and she got hit by a car, fatal accident,” Petris said.

The problem has gotten so bad, careless pedestrians in Fort Lee could be committing a fatal offense. Fort Lee is also cracking down on careless drivers, who could face a $200 fine.

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Signal Mountain Tennessee Police And Hamilton County Sheriffs Department Arrest And Jail Man On Warrant For Twin Brother Who Died 2 Years Ago

May 9, 2012

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, TENNESSEE – Mitch Torbett says it was his twin brother police were looking for. He spent two days in the slammer before he was finally able to convince them of their mistake.

Torbett was arrested on Signal Mountain for a federal charge. He was jailed for nearly two days before authorities realized they were mistaking him for his dead twin brother.

Torbett is working with an attorney to file a civil suit against the Signal Mountain Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

He was arrested last week for a federal crime his identical twin brother allegedly committed in Louisiana before he died two years ago.

“If they would’ve trusted me, if they would’ve given me the benefit of the doubt, if they would’ve done that, none of this would’ve happened,” Mitch Torbett says.

Torbett says it all started when applying for a construction permit with Signal Mountain.

“After running my driver’s license, said perhaps I had a federal warrant for my arrest,” Torbett says.

Mitch Torbett told police the federal warrant had to be linked to his identical twin who died two years ago.

Signal Mountain Police Chief Boyd Veal declined an interview, but says the warrant had Mitch’s name on it, so they did their part by arresting him and turning the case over to the FBI.

“I quickly realized I wasn’t being detained for fingerprints, but rather being arrested,” Torbett says.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office also says the warrant was under Mitch’s name, but the affidavit shows “Mike Torbett,” Mitch’s twin.

Under the arrestee’s name it says, “unknown– do not change.”

“I saw his name and I realized that I was in trouble, big trouble,” Torbett says.

Mitch was booked, but says he refused to sign any paperwork because it had his brother’s name on it.

“I turned into my identical twin, deceased brother,” Torbett says.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office says Mike must have given Mitch’s name when he was arrested before, saying, “that happens with twins all the time.”

When Mitch went before a judge, the FBI presented fingerprints from both brothers.

“She said, ‘your honor, we have the wrong person. He needs to be released immediately’,” Torbett says.

He was released after 36 hours behind bars. The words “wrong person” are now written on his legal documents.

“Emotionally, I can’t even put it into words,” Torbett says.

According the to affidavit, and what Mitch says the FBI told him, investigators had been on their way to extradite him to Louisiana.

Torbett’s attorney says he’s working on a civil suit for false arrest and false imprisonment, and will likely seek compensation for emotional distress.

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Innocent Man Prosecuted By Mesa County Colorado Release After 17 Years In Prison – DNA That Convicted Him Belonged To Someone Else

May 7, 2012

MESA COUNTY, COLORADO – When Danyel Joffe was designated as a court-appointed attorney to represent Colorado Department of Corrections inmate Robert Dewey 11 years ago, she didn’t know whether her new client was innocent.

Not until she spent months in her office in an old Capitol Hill home immersing herself in the case. While her cats prowled around her rolltop desk, she examined the contents of several large boxes of investigative reports. She read every word of the transcript from the five-week-long trial.

She knew then that the wrong man was sitting in prison.

“He (Dewey) had told me, ‘You’ll believe I’m innocent when you see all the evidence.’ He was right,” Joffe said after Dewey’s exoneration last week.

Joffe was front-and-center when a large contingent of representatives of the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado Attorney General’s Justice Review Project, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Innocence Project took the rare step of holding a joint news conference Monday morning to announce something they agreed on: Dewey’s innocence.

“I am here to celebrate that my client will no longer be my client,” Joffe told the packed room.

After Dewey’s exoneration became official in a courtroom later that day, Joffe was the one Dewey singled out to include in his Native American religious ritual.

Dewey waved a burning bundle of sage around Joffe on the courthouse steps. The lawyer, who had visited him several times a year since 2001 and corresponded with him regularly to urge him not to give up hope, closed her eyes and held out her arms as the smoke wafted over her gray suit.

The case that drove Joffe for so long was unusual because rudimentary DNA evidence had helped convict Dewey in 1996 and now newer and much more accurate DNA testing eliminated him as the perpetrator and matched up to someone who previously had not been identified as a suspect.

The case would also become a landmark because it eventually pulled prosecutors, defense attorneys and law officers into a team all working on the same goal — to free Dewey and identify the real murderer.

“To Danyel’s credit, she never came across as adversarial on this, which is different,” said Mesa County Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle, who helped both to convict and to exonerate Dewey. “I had a better working relationship with her on this reinvestigation than I’ve had with virtually any other defense attorney. As much of a true believer as she was, she played it pretty well.”

Joffe’s dogged efforts on the case earned her about a quarter of what she would make representing paying clients. But representing those who are indigent,

as well as litigating medical- marijuana cases, has been her mission for much of her 28-year law career.

Joffe, 52, started practicing law as a prosecutor in the Delta County office of the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Joffe, who is transgender and went by the name Doug Joffe at the time, handled a lot of the child-abuse cases in the year and a half she spent on the other side of the courtroom.

She had gone into law, rather than her alternate wish of radio broadcasting, because of an aunt who worked as an attorney in Raleigh, N.C., and became her role model. The late Debra Greenblatt represented the disabled and the mentally ill. The disenfranchised became her niece’s focus as well.

None would be more difficult than Dewey.

She remembers early on coming to Palisade to look at evidence and to visit the crime scene in a run-down apartment building. She walked the neighborhood. She tried to talk to some of the victim’s associates from an era clouded by methamphetamine use. Some were in prison.

More than one told her, in lewd terms, to back off.

She traveled to New York to persuade the Innocence Project, the organization well-known for exonerating wrongly convicted individuals, to get involved and fund the retesting of DNA evidence.

Several years of testing followed. The results were like cards falling. None of the tests matched Dewey. But Joffe still had a lot of convincing to do.

For Joffe, the hardest part in this years-long process came in the past two months, when the evidence became irrefutable. She had to agree not to share the good news with Dewey until more investigation of the real suspected killer was completed.

Joffe and Dewey developed mutual respect over the years. Dewey wasn’t fazed when his attorney three years ago began outwardly living as a woman. She wears pearls and pink fingernail polish now, but she hasn’t been able to afford to pay for the surgery to complete the process.

That’s where another unusual twist comes into this story.

Officially, Dewey officially doesn’t owe Joffe. But he has told Joffe and others that if he ends up getting a monetary settlement for the nearly 17 years he spent behind bars for a wrongful conviction, he wants to pay for that operation.

“It was a very sweet gesture on his part,” Joffe said. “But he really needs to focus on taking care of himself first. … Let Mr. Dewey get himself a Harley and tour America to his heart’s content first.”

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Dallas Texas Police Arrest And Jail Innocent Woman For Refilling Legal Prescription

May 6, 2012

DALLAS, TEXAS – Anne Lenhart never thought filling a prescription at CVS Pharmacy in Dallas could land her in jail.

The avid yoga practicer raised more $20,000 for Off the Mat, Into the World Global Seva Challenge. OTM is an organization that was founded by Seane Corn, Hali Kouri, and Suzanne Sterling as a way to take the ideas of yoga and translate them into action.

This year OTM was heading to Haiti for a service mission in which they bought and installed lights, worked at Haiti’s tent cities and various other projects.

On their off time, Lenhart and her group headed the Haitian city of Jacmel, a mountainous region with waterfalls and beautiful natural pools.

That’s where the trouble began. Lenhart had waded in the water beneath the waterfall, then climbed up some 30 feet onto a cliff overlooking the water.

“I decided I was ready to come down off the waterfall and it was then that I slipped and I hit an outcropping about 10 feet down and then from there fall another 20 feet into the water,” Lenhart said. The water saved her life but she shattered her kneecap on the way down.

With the help of several men, Lenhart climbed out of the area and after a 3 1/2 hour trip to the nearest hospital in Port-Au-Prince, she underwent reconstructive surgery with no general anesthesia.

A week later she was flown back to the U.S., still in deep pain, and admitted into Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.

“They gave me a pretty high, heavy duty narcotic, Norco, as a painkiller going forward and I had used that up. It had been a month and I had called for my refill,” Lenhart said.

The pharmacy called Lenhart to ask her exactly what time she would be in pick up her prescription. She thought it was odd, but told the pharmacy what time she would be there.

Still on crutches and unable to drive, a friend of Lenhart’s, drove her to a CVS Pharmacy in Oak Cliff.

She wasn’t able to pick up her prescription because a police officer arrived to pick her up.

“He was like ‘we need to go outside,’” she said. “I was on crutches and I had a permanent IV line in my arm. I had a big leg brace. I asked him if it was necessary and he said yes and he rather policingly escorted me out the front door and into the back of a waiting patrol car.”

Lenhart was so stunned, she didn’t think to ask the officer questions. The officer explained to her what was going on.

“He said, ‘Well we believe that you have forged your pain pill prescription and we are calling your doctor now. But I’ve worked with this pharmacist a number of times and he’s never made a mistake,” Lenhart said.

The officer then took her the Dallas County jail, where she remained overnight. After she was released on bond, she was charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, a felony.

“I couldn’t go back to work until HR had received the paperwork that this was a mistake from my attorney,” she said.

Dallas police later dropped the charges after speaking with Lenhart’s doctor. The Dallas Police Department declined to talk to CBS11 about Lenhart’s arrest.

Now she is suing CVS Pharmacy for False Imprisonment, Defamation and more. Her attorney, Jeff Benton, said her arrest could have been prevented had proper procedures been followed.

“Every doctor that prescribes a narcotic had a DEA number that’s unique to them and if that is cross referenced and the correct doctor is contacted then I don’t imagine that this type of thing would happen,” Benton said. “We suspect the wrong doctor was contacted because they didn’t cross reference the DEA number.”

Everyday pharmacies fill millions of prescriptions for controlled substances. Those drugs are monitored by the DEA.

Lenhart’s doctor confirmed in an affidavit that he wrote the prescription for her and that he never received a call from CVS asking to confirm the prescription. Benton thinks the pharmacy may have called the wrong physician.

A representative from CVS Pharmacy said, “We are investigating how this unfortunate incident occurred and we are working to resolve the matter with Ms. Lenhart and her attorney. As this involves pending litigation, we are unable to provide additional comments at this time.”

“I would love to think that they would actually write me a letter that says ‘I am sorry that this happened to you,’” Lenhart said.

But even more than an apology, Lenhart wants to make sure that this never happens to another patient in pain.

“I don’t want somebody else. I don’t want somebody who I love to go there and get arrested,” she said.

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Naples Florida Police Charge Man With Felony For Not Paying $1 For Cup Of Soda – Faces Up To 5 Years In State Prison At Taxpayer Expense

April 23, 2012

NAPLES, FLORIDA – Authorities say a Naples man remains jailed on felony charges after leaving a McDonald’s restaurant without paying for a cup of soda.

Deputies arrested 52-year-old Mark Abaire last week after the restaurant manager told them he had asked for a cup of water and then filled it with soda from the fountain machine.

The Naples Daily News reports Abaire was sitting outside the restaurant when the manager asked him to pay a dollar for the soda. Abaire refused, then would not leave the premises. Police arrived and arrested him.

The charge is petty theft, but it was increased to a felony because Abaire has previous petty theft convictions. In Florida, a third-degree felony can result in a sentence of up to five years and a $5,000 fine.

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