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Topics relate to adult business, the War on Drugs, political prosecutions, censorship, and police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct

Smiling Faces - The Undisputed Truth

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reporting for Jury Duty: Watching and Learning

On Wednesday, October 8, 2014, I had to report for jury duty here in Brevard County, Florida. I think anyone that's read this blog or knows me at all knows there's not a chance the state would put me on a jury, at least not for a criminal case. I do have certain personal obligations that would have allowed for an excusal for cause, but decided that I would at least attempt to meet my civic responsibilities.

It was an interesting day. I awoke at 4:30am and started the day by drinking two double espressos at home. I arrived at the Moore Justice Center in Viera around 7:30am and had my first cup of coffee almost immediately and followed-up with four or five more cups and a coke before making it to a courtroom around 1:30pm. Just so you understand, I slept less than 3 hours before doing all of that.

Could I have passed a Field Sobriety Test?

Judge Cathleen B. Clark controlled her courtroom well and she was nice - something I never thought I'd say about a judge. While I abhor the system she chose to work in, I admit that we need more like her instead of what we usually get. Judge Clark was liberal with both the state and the defense during voir dire, allowing more time for questioning of the jury pool than my own judge in my racketeering and conspiracy trial. Seriously. Perhaps equally as long as Paul Bergrin had to question the jury pool in his massive federal case.

By this point, you may realize that this was a DUI trial. As a longtime LEAP and NORML supporter, I really do not know what a Field Sobriety Test (FST) is, but I didn't want to sound completely clueless and ask. Well, I just Googled it and it's exactly what I thought it was, so that's a good thing. It's the test that cops give at a traffic stop if they think you are intoxicated - stand on one leg, walk and turn, check your eyes etc.... At one point the jury pool was asked if we could think of any valid reason not to submit to a FST as a driver. Most potential jurors came-up with at least one reason. I offered several in the course of the conversation. At the time, I thought a breathalyzer was a FST also, and perhaps it is, but can't find any info on it now.

I stated that I wasn't entirely sure that I could pass a FST at that moment. So much coffee / caffeine and so little sleep had me blurting out numerous thoughts as we progressed through the voir dire. If you know me at all, you know I'm weird enough to say what I really think just about anywhere. Of course I tried to guard my inclination to be too brutally honest at the wrong time as I believed the defendant might need someone like me on the jury, someone that knows what the state is really all about, someone that knows what time it is.

As it turned out, most of my fellow citizen jurors knew what time it was too. That's a good thing and I can only hope that the defendant was acquitted. He looked to be my son's age and I doubt that he would have taken it to trial if there wasn't too much at stake. I do not recall his last name or I'd look-up the case in the clerk's office online.

It was easy to figure out some of the issues with the case by the questions the prosecutor and the defense asked. I'll start by stating that the case should never have been filed to begin with. This seems to be par for the course in Brevard County, Florida. Cops here will arrest a ham sandwich and force the victim defendant to prove innocence or prove a negative, at least this holds true if you're not one of their informants. On the other hand, their informants get away with murder - literally.

Issues of the Case

Now this is my perception of the situation derived from the questioning of the jury pool and is not absolute. At the end of voir dire, I was excused (go figure), so I am not aware of all the facts:

The defendant refused Field Sobriety Tests.

The Palm Bay PD cops neglected to make a video recording.

The only witnesses were Palm Bay PD officers.

The defendant refused whatever plea deal the state offered.

The defendant did not intend to testify in his defense.

The state really had no case.

Much of the questioning in voir dire focused on potential juror trust of law enforcement and discussions were geared to reveal encounters and past experiences with cops. Good grief. For a moment, imagine me attempting to respond to some of these questions without mentioning my previous case and without lying. Not an easy tightrope to walk, especially when you have had as much caffeine as I did that day.

At one point there was no way around a response that I did not trust cops and would never give permission for anything for any reason, such as a FST or a vehicle search. But I was not alone in those thoughts, which was a learning experience for me. I didn't realize how many of my fellow citizens have suffered at the hands of an overzealous cop hellbent on locking them in cage or simply harassing them. It did take some time for most to open-up about their experiences and thoughts though and perhaps that's why the judge allowed so much time for voir dire.

So what did I learn?

Mainly I learned that the state will take anyone to trial regardless of the quality of the evidence. In my case they went for quantity versus quality. In this case it was just slim pickings. The state expected the jury to simply believe what the Palm Bay PD officers stated, with no corroborating evidence whatsoever. Now that's scary.

With such a flimsy excuse for evidence there's no way in hell I could have come-up with a guilty verdict. At the time, I was reminded of a joke:

How can you tell when a cop is lying? He opens his mouth and speaks.

When a cop is testifying they don't call it testilying for no reason. Cops falsify arrest reports and statements and commit perjury on the stand with impunity - that's a fact!

I always thought that DUI cases were based on scientific evidence, not the word of cops making their quota for the night. I stated something to this effect when the prosecutor was asking questions that reflected no evidence in the case. The prosecutor sort of brushed it under the rug. She was nice - certainly far more personable and nice than my persecutor, John Craft, formerly with the Statewide Prosecutor's Office and now an Assistant U.S. Attorney. She was not intrusive, but it was obvious that the state was shopping for a jury of cop-lovers.

If you believe cops just because they're cops, you would convict this defendant, but if you were me, well, he would have been acquitted or it would be a hung jury - take your pick. I don't care how long we all had to return to the courthouse, I'd never, ever convict on the word of a cop. I'm not that stupid. I learned what time it was long ago.

During voir dire there was a second prosecutor that spent most of his time on a laptop and pointing to stuff for the lady prosecutor as she questioned us. I must imagine that he was searching Google and Facebook for jury pool names, including my own. If he looked at my FB timeline, he probably saw this:

I also learned that the very great majority of jurors / citizens expect to hear from the defendant. Of course I already knew that from my own case. If the defendant doesn't fill-in the blanks for the jury, the prosecutor will. And yes, I testified in my defense in my case and was drilled and screamed at for most of an entire day by a very experienced (and overzealous) prosecutor. We had arguments and screaming matches while I was on the stand - literally.

So hopefully I got over my PTSD concerning the court people and courthouses by confronting the issues head-on with this jury duty. I even laughed with a cop today, which is a first in a long time (at least 12 years) for me. As reluctant as I was to go, I am happy that I did. I learned more than I'll say, but I'm one of those people that's always testing, searching for vulnerabilities, and I found what I was seeking.

I also met some nice people and had lunch with a couple of wonderful women. A big shout-out to Carolyn - it was great discussing Paris and the rest of Europe with you. Good times, no doubt. And a big hello to Noella, retired corrections officer... I've never encountered a corrections officer that was not nice to me - well, one of many when I was arrested - but I understand it's a job and a lifestyle. It was great to meet you both!   

For the record, I wouldn't Call the Cops if my neighbor was a serial killer!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Unique and Selective Prosecution of Jennifer Richmond

Jennifer Richmond was a sex worker in the Orlando, Florida metro area. She never owned an escort service or solicited anyone to work for an escort service or in any way operated the business she worked for.

In the great majority of cases in the US, Jennifer Richmond would be considered a victim and either not be arrested to begin with or would be released in short time on bond or on her own recognizance. Chances are good that she would never see the inside of a courtroom or if she did, she would be sentenced to probation and a fine.

In reality, Jennifer was in business for herself. I seriously doubt that anyone held her hand during her calls or instructed her on any specific act of prostitution. I also doubt that agreement to an act of prostitution was a requirement to be dispatched to the calls. She acted of her own free will.

Now here's the problem with being a sex worker acting of your own free will

To the powers that be, in this case the Orlando MBI, you are no longer a victim and they seek to prosecute. So an arrested sex worker that waves the white flag and says, Help me, I'm a victim, gets all sorts of perks and is rarely prosecuted or if she is, the case is eventually dismissed. Worst case scenario for the white flag waving sex worker is probation and a fine.

Refuse to call yourself a victim and the wrath of the angry MBI and the Orange County State Attorney's Office (SAO) will come down hard. A refusal to denounce sex work and scoffing at the idea of concocting wild stories about the agency owner results in the same hardline prosecution. Just ask Jennifer Richmond.

In Florida the racketeering statutes are open to conspicuously gray interpretations. Of course this also requires the participation of a judge. The Orlando MBI and the SAO could not do it without a judge's assistance. In this case, Orange County Circuit Court Judge Janet Thorpe had the right docket. Judge Thorpe sentenced Jennifer Richmond to 3 years in a Florida prison for being a sex worker that refused to call herself a victim.

Most of you read the mainstream news stories with the quotes from Jennifer stating that she made so much money, she stashed it in air-conditioning vents and under carpet or something wildly similar. I'm 95% sure that the quotes were taken out of context and this was nothing more than a joke. If under a similar interrogation with agents from a list of state and federal agencies, it actually sounds like a stupid joke that would come out of my mouth, so I get it. Rest assured that there is not a chance in hell that it's true.

Jennifer was born in 1992, which makes her 22 years old at the time of arrest this year. This woman - I hesitate to call her a 'girl' out of fear the anti-trafficking freaks will come out of the woodwork and talk their line of crap to justify receiving more government grants. There's no doubt in my mind that she was naive as to the possible consequences of being a sex worker in Orlando, but she was no victim and clearly enjoyed life.

At least she didn't lie on demand as so many do

In my own racketeering case in Orlando, all except two escorts that the MBI managed to locate that actually worked for my business, lied on demand when in MBI custody and under threat. The two that did not concoct wild stories on demand approached it more mildly than Jennifer Richmond did and left themselves some space. When testifying during my trial, the truth came out, but they were not young and naive women - both were in their 40s - and knew better than to challenge and laugh at agents that held their lives in hand while in custody.

One escort made-up anything the MBI wanted her to when threatened with a trip to jail. During my trial she was almost silent and didn't repeat the fabrications; however, she did repeat a joke I offered in response to one of her stupid questions one night. Lesson learned: Never joke with these people (agents, escorts anyone in connection to an adult business) because they are obviously unable to distinguish a joke from the facts. And people wonder why I am so serious?

What makes this case unique

Now my case was unique in that the MBI had been harassing me for many years in their quest to get rid of me. If I had lost on either count in trial, I would have been sentenced to somewhere between 12 and 20 years. Judge Anthony Johnson's docket was chosen by the state for this reason and many more. No matter what the state actors did, both prior to and during trial, Johnson ruled in their favor. The dude probably played golf with them. This was an intended railroading from jumpstreet.

Recall the case of Mark Risner, an Orange County, Florida Navy veteran that operated a brothel out of his house for a couple of years. The sentence did not receive much publicity, but certainly more than Jennifer Richmond's quiet railroading did. To date, I'm the only one that's written a word about poor Jennifer's sentence, and I can understand why they'd hide from this one. Mark Risner was sentenced to 15 years probation, adjudication withheld, and a fine - and this dude operated a brothel and had 13 counts filed!

So how does a sex worker end-up with 3 years in prison when an admitted brothel owner gets probation? This question goes out to Orange County Circuit Judge Janet Thorpe, who I must add is currently running for re-election this month. Remember - the SAO and the MBI couldn't have done this without her. Do not forget that when you vote and choose to select her opponent, because no matter what he's done, he couldn't be as bad of a choice as this witch. She sent a 22 year-old prostitute to a Florida prison for 3 years when she should have dismissed the far over-reaching racketeering charge!

Let's not pretend that Jennifer Richmond lost in trial and this absurd sentence is her payback for having the audacity to take it to trial. This is the only plea deal she was offered when she refused to direct agents to this non-existent hidden money that she cracked jokes about and testify against Hamid, the alleged agency owner.

I have no clue why she would accept such a rotten deal, but it's clear that it was coerced. She should have taken her chances on a jury. I cannot imagine any Orange County jury siding with the state and the MBI in this situation as it's obvious she was over-charged to begin with and with the sole purpose of obtaining information on the agency owner. Worst case scenario would have been a hung jury and a mistrial.

Another unique factor is that Jennifer was charged alone. This was a selective prosecution, without any doubt.

A Challenge

I challenge any reader to name the case if you want to claim that the sentence sex worker Jennifer Richmond received is the norm today, or ever during our lifetimes, anywhere in the US. I have been researching for several days and was unable to find any same or similar cases. While I'm interested in history, I'm going to state a cutoff date as any case after 1980, because what they did to women back in 1950 is immaterial here in this context.

The MBI Past

The MBI and the Orange County SAO (namely ASA Joseph Cocchiarella) are best known in the adult business world for their coerced plea deals and use and abuse of the Florida racketeering statutes. These people did not prosecute me as my case was prosecuted by Office of Statewide Prosecution (OSP), so I do not necessarily have the bias that you may believe.

I conclude this post with an excerpt from Memoirs on a specific MBI strategy used against workers in body scrub businesses (AKA massage parlors) back in 1997. From Part 2, Chapter 5, Sleeping Giants:

By the middle of 1997, the MBI was back in the news, and busy working with the IRS and a Seminole County agency raiding body scrub shops in Seminole County. Fearful of working for my escort service, my friend Felice had been working at one of the body scrubs. Felice and Cortland had closed their own service during “the amnesty program,” and she was petrified of the MBI. She thought that she was safe in Seminole County since it was out of their jurisdiction, but then the MBI gets involved anywhere that they can. I had warned Felice that she was a sitting duck in one of these places, and could be held responsible for things that other people did, but she felt that it was safer than my agency.

What the MBI did in these body scrub cases was unprecedented. Oh, charging the owners with racketeering was what they usually do; however, in this situation they also charged the workers with racketeering. Felice was charged with three counts of prostitution and one count of racketeering. The average person would believe that they must have had three solid cases of prostitution in order to file the charges this way, but that was not the case. When we realized what the MBI had done we were in a state of disbelief. They had followed customers after they left the body scrub and convinced them to cooperate. Having heard stories about the MBI tactics used to convince someone to become their witness, it was easy to understand how these men signed the statements that they did. As usual, the men were not charged.

In Felice’s case, they had one customer alleging that he had visited her on three separate occasions and she gave him a hand-job. Felice told me that this was not even true. The MBI, working with the state attorney’s office, generously offered to drop the count of racketeering if she pled guilty to three counts of prostitution; otherwise, they claimed that they would take her to trial. Imagine someone going to prison for up to thirty years for an accusation of giving a man three hand-jobs and it’s easily understood why she took their so-called deal.

For more information on sex worker rights and political and law enforcement strategies in the current frenzy to eradicate all adult business in the US, make sure to check out Norma Jean Almodovar's website for all the statistics and facts: Police Prostitution and Politics

UPDATE on March 21, 2016 @6:45PM:

A reader of my one other posts on this topic stated yesterday that the other two people related to this case have now been indicted. I couldn't locate any information in the news, so I turned to PACER. Yes, sadly this information is correct. Christina Lynn Davis and Abdullah Hammidullah were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida back in February 2016, so this is no longer a selective prosecution.

From what I have read thus far, I believe that Christina Davis was not picked-up until last week and she was in South Florida. I did see that Hammid is represented by Larry Walters and Christina Lynn Davis is represented by Mark O'Mara - both excellent attorneys in the Orlando area!

I downloaded a few docs but really an indictment doesn't say much. I intend to publish a new post on this case whenever I have more information to offer:

Hammidullah and Davis Indictment Feb 19 2016

Hammidullah and Davis Detention Hearing March 14 2016 

Hammidullah and Davis Warrant March 15 2016 

Hammidullah and Davis Detention Order March 16 2016 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sex Worker Sentenced to 3 Years in Orlando

I didn't discuss the case months ago when it was in the news for several reasons, with the main one being my belief that federal indictments were coming for others involved. Also, one of the parties reached out to me and I didn't want to publicize his plight. Now I'm not so sure what's really going on. I'm sure most of my blog readers read about the case in the news though:

Two women 'who earned hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as high-class escorts had so much cash they hid it in air vents and under carpets'

Jennifer Richmond was sentenced to 38 months in a Florida prison on July 25, 2014. This was an Orlando MBI case - you know, the overzealous morals crusaders that harassed me for years and arrested me on racketeering and conspiracy charges. I was acquitted on both counts by a jury of my peers, but Jennifer was coerced into this lousy plea deal. And Jennifer was an escort and admitted prostitute, but never owned a service.

Ms. Richmond will spend just under 3 years in a Florida hellhole prison because she made money working as a prostitute in Orlando and had lots of fun doing it. You can look her up on the Florida Department of Corrections website. Just click on "Offender Search" in the top navigation bar, click on the first link to search all databases and enter only last name and first name.

The other two parties named in the article have not been charged with any count anywhere - not state or federal. The other woman bragging to the MBI about how much money she made that is named in the article is Christina Lynn Davis. Hamid, the alleged agency owner, was never indicted or charged either.

Really? The whacks at the MBI along with their pals in the State Attorney's Office managed to force a guilty plea on a racketeering count out of a naive sex worker.

I heard that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was threatening Jennifer Richmond after she was taken to the Orange County jail. They demanded to know where the money was and allegedly told her that she had three choices: direct them to the money; life in prison; or suicide. Then came the plea deal, which was clearly coerced.

No one else is charged in this case. Just this naive sex worker that was enjoying life in Orlando, until the MBI came along. So where are all of the sex worker rights organizations? Maybe some of them will see this post with Ms. Richmond's sentence, which has received zero publicity, and come to her aid.