Jury selection begins in retrial for 2010 Delray Beach rape case

Defendants Massillon Lherisson (above) and Francisco Henry (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Monday, July 9, 2012.
Defendants Massillon Lherisson (above) and Francisco Henry (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Monday, July 9, 2012.

A retrial could begin as early as Wednesday for two men accused of f

Francisco Henry was arrested in February 2010 and Massillon Lherisson months later after three boys and a girl said the men found them at an abandoned house and held them at gunpoint.

The pair went to trial in 2012, but that trial ended in a mistrial after a Delray Beach Police detective testified that Henry invoked his right to an attorney when he was arrested, a fact that court have widely held should not be disclosed to jurors in criminal trials.

Defendant Francisco Henry (above) and Massillon Lherisson (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse July 9, 2012.
Defendant Francisco Henry (above) and Massillon Lherisson (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse July 9, 2012.

Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes began the process of interviewing more than 100 prospective jurors today, along with Assistant State Attorney Crichet Mixon, Assistant Public Defenser Joseph Walsh and defense attorney Joshua Leroy.

Attorneys in the case expect to seat a jury by Wednesday.

Prosecutors could rest case Monday in Circle K retrial

Robert Alvarez sits in court Monday, February 22, 2016, as jury selection gets under way in Judge Charles Burton's courtroom. Alvarez is one of two men accused in the case involving the 2010 murders of two store clerks at a Greenacres Circle K during a robbery. Circuit Judge Charles Burton will be at least the fourth judge to handle the case surrounding the murders of Ralston Muller and Michael Dean Bennett. Gershman got permission from the court to cover up Alvarez's facial tattoos with makeup. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Robert Alvarez sits in court Monday, February 22, 2016, as jury selection gets under way in Judge Charles Burton’s courtroom. Alvarez is one of two men accused in the case involving the 2010 murders of two store clerks at a Greenacres Circle K during a robbery. Circuit Judge Charles Burton will be at least the fourth judge to handle the case surrounding the murders of Ralston Muller and Michael Dean Bennett. Gershman got permission from the court to cover up Alvarez’s facial tattoos with makeup. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Prosecutors could wrap up their case Monday in the latest double murder retrial for Robert Alvarez, one of two men accused of participating in a deadly 2010 robbery that killed a pair of store clerks at a Greenacres Circle K.

Testimony in the trial, which began Tuesday, ended this week with witnesses that included a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s dive team member along with PBSO Det. James Evans, one of the lead detectives on the case.

During Evans’ time on the stand, Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater had him read a text exchange between Alvarez and a friend, who informed him that a dive team was searching a canal near the crime scene, where they eventually found a gun.

“Yea I kno jus pray,” was Alvarez’s response.

Prosecutors have pointed to the text exchange as a sign of guilt, although defense attorney Robert Gershman got Evans to tell jurors he didn’t know whether Alvarez was the one who actually sent the message.  Gershman also told jurors this week that prosecutors had no evidence tying the found handgun to Alvarez, and added that a witness to the robbery’s aftermath reported seeing two black men leave the scene. Alvarez is a white Hispanic man.

In opening statements to jurors, Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts also claimed that Alvarez made incriminating statements overheard in a jail lockup during a newscast on the deaths of Michael Dean Bennett and Ralston Muller.

This trial marks the sixth for Alvarez, who was once convicted and sentenced to life in prison before an appellate court overturned his case.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton told jurors he expects attorneys to deliver their closing arugments Tuesday morning, and they could be deliberating the case by that afternoon.

A jury last year convicted Alvarez’s co-defendant, Darnell Razz, for the second time. CIrcuit judge Jack Cox sentenced Razz to life in prison.

Golf great Greg Norman drops lawsuit against former attorney

Editor’s note: Greg Norman dropped this lawsuit on April 15, 2016, according to court records.

As pro golfers gather this week in Palm Beach Gardens for the Honda Classic, former golf great Greg Norman teed up for a far different kind of battle.

Greg Norman of Australia watches his birdie putt on the fourth hole during the second round of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club on June 29, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Greg Norman on the links in Pennsylvania in 2012 (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

In court papers filed Tuesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, the World Golf Hall of Fame member sued his longtime corporate lawyer Jack Schneider, claiming the attorney stole trade secrets before he was fired on Feb. 8.

Norman, who named his diverse West Palm Beach-based company, Great White Shark Enterprises, after the nickname he earned for his tenacity on the links, is seeking an injunction against Schneider to prevent him from using any of the information.

The 61-year-old Australian-born golfer-turned-businessman, who recently put his sprawling estate in Hobe Sound on the market for $55 million, is also seeking an unspecified amount in damages from Schneider.

In addition to “copying and deleting proprietary, confidential and trade secret information,” Schneider damaged company computer equipment when removing the hard drives, according to the lawsuit filed by Boca Raton attorney Erika Deutsch Rotbart.

Schneider, who lives in suburban Lake Worth, wasn’t immediately available for comment. After working for Norman’s company for 14 years as both its general counsel and chief financial officer, he was fired for “blatant disregard of his duties to (Great White Shark Enterprises), insubordination … among other gross failures,” according to the lawsuit.

Formed more than 20 years ago, Great White Shark Enterprises includes golf course design, event management, apparel, wine and, most recently, asset-based debt lending.

 

 

Retrial set for May in 2004 West Palm murder case

Mark Barrow
Mark Barrow

A retrial is expected to begin in late May in the case of a man accused of murdering a young woman who lived in his trailer part in a 2004 case where the victim’s body was never found.

Mark Barrow, now 55, was convicted in 2007 of the murder three years earlier of

An appellate court in 2010 overturned Barrow’s conviction and Florida’s Supreme Court upheld that decision two years later. Both higher courts ruled that former

A retrial in the case was scheduled to begin this week, but according to court records, Circuit Judge Krista Marx set a new trial date for May 23.

Barrow and Ternier lived in the same trailer park on Drexel Road. At his first trial, a former girlfriend testified that he’d made a drunken confession to her implicating himself in Tener’s death. Prosecutors also said drops of Tener’s blood were found in Barrow’s van.

Barrow, through his attorney Fred Susaneck, has said he is wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.

Bills to let PBC schools pay $2 million clear Senate subcommittee

Bills that would force the Palm Beach County School Board to pay nearly $2 million to two students who were injured by wrongdoing by district employees were unanimously approved by a Florida Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.

Altavious Carter is broke his neck in a car accident in ninth grade when he was a basketball player at Summit Christian. Carter played for Grandview Prep and eventually made it to junior college hoops, but blew out his ACL twice there. He has signed with Eckerd College in St. Pete and will enroll there for his final two years of college. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)
Altavious Carter, a basketball standout at Summit Christian and Grandview Prep, is waiting for the Legislature to approve a bill for a broken neck he sustained in 2005 when a school bus slammed into his coach’s car.

The bills – one of which would provide $994,000 to Altavious Carter for injuries he sustained in a 2005 crash with a school bus and another that would provide $1 million  to a mentally challenged Pahokee girl who was raped by a fellow student on a school bus in 2007 – are now headed to the full Appropriations Committee. The bills are identical to those pending in the Florida House.

Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Chairman Don Gaetz, who blocked what are known as claims bills from being considered when he was senate president from 2012-2014, voted in favor of both  bills. He supported them only after being assured they had School Board support.

The bills join two others pending before the powerful appropriations committee that involve children who were injured in the county. One would force the Florida Department of Children & Families to pay $5 million to a former Wellington youth who was sexually assaulted by a foster child. The other would require DCF to pay $3.75 million to Victor Barahona, who in 2004 was discovered in a van along Interstate 95 near West Palm Beach next to the lifeless body of his sister.

DCF agreed to pay Barahona the money for abuse he suffered at the hands of his adoptive parents. Palm Beach County juries awarded the other children the money. But, under Florida law, there is a $200,000 cap on damages governments can pay for wrongdoing. To get more, the legislature must approve what are known as claims bills.

 

 

 

Boca Raton couple gets 10 months jail in synthetic marijuana case

William Sands testifies in court Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.
William Sands testifies in court Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.

William and Ann Marie Sands, the couple convicted in November of selling synthetic marijuana as potpourri, will spend the next 10 months in jail.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley handed down the sentence Wednesday at the end of a sentencing hearing which comes three months after they tried unsuccessfully to convince a jury that they followed their attorneys’ advice and didn’t believe they were breaking the law when they sold potpourri to head shops,

Aside from the jail term, the couple will serve three years of probation. Because the couple has two children, including a disabled adult child, Kelley said the couple can apply to serve their terms on house arrest or serve their terms separately.

Assistant State Attorney Aaron Papero asked Kelley for two consecutive year-long jail terms for the couple based on their convictions on four of the nine charges they originally faced. Kelley had thrown out two of those charges before jurors began deliberation.

Ann Sands testifies in court Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.
Ann Sands testifies in court Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.

Defense attorneys Jacob Noble and Michael Maher asked for four years of probation. If the judge wanted to incarcerate the couple, Noble argued, then he could allow them to serve time on house arrest.

“This was just a bad business decision,” Noble told Kelley.

Noble said the jury convicted the couple of a level 1 offense, which puts it on par with crimes like tampering with a lottery ticket, harming turtle eggs and bigamy.

But Papero presented the judge with studies on the perils of synthetic drugs, and added that the Sandses’ operation had sales to all 50 states.

“The effects that these substances have had on people, we’ll never know,” Papero said.

 

Obscenity-laced comment punctuates first day of Robert Alvarez’s new trial for Circle K murders

A Palm Beach County jury had barely taken its seats Tuesday when a state prosecutor offered them an obscenity-laced introduction to Robert Alvarez, a 25-year-old West Palm Beach accused of gunning down two clerks at a Greenacres Circle K in 2010.

Robert Alvarez
Robert Alvarez at previous trial

Saying she was quoting what a gleeful Alvarez told fellow inmates after seeing a news report of the murders of Ralston Muller and Michael Dean Bennett, Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts began her opening statements with the words: “I told you those motherf—- ain’t got sh–, those crackers ain’t got a f— thing.”

While acknowledging the words were shocking, defense attorney Robert Gershman said there’s no evidence they were made by his client. They were fed to prosecutors by a jailhouse snitch who desperately wanted to get far less than a 30 years he faced for a string of burglaries, Gershman said. Luis Alomar, who ultimately was sentenced to the 800 days he had already served, is the only person who will put those words in Alvarez’s mouth, Gershman said.

But he may not do it in person. He is jailed on bank robbery charges in New York so the jury may hear a videotape of his incriminating testimony.

Alomar’s questionable claims are among the many lapses Gershman said jurors should question in the double-murder case prosecutors have built against Alvarerz. The case has already been rejected by two juries and an appeals court.

While Alvarez was convicted in 2012, along with Darnell Razz, their convictions were overturned by the 4th District Court of Appeal. It ruled that a detective shouldn’t have been allowed to tell the jury what he believed were the racial identities of the men who shot Muller and Bennett and made off with $71. That, the appeals court ruled, was up to the jury to decide after watching the same grainy surveillance video the officer had watched countless times.

Two subsequent trials of Alvarez ended when jurors couldn’t agree about his guilt. Razz, 23, who prosecutors described as the gunman who fired the fatal shots, was convicted in June and handed a life sentence.

Check back for further updates.

 

Dalia Dippolito says 2009 murder plot part of acting script

UPDATE 3:25 p.m.: It was all part of an acting project, a planned actor’s showcase to be featured on YouTube in order to make Mohamed Shihadeh, Dalia Dippolito and her husband Michael into big stars.

Dalia Dippolito cries as she is cross-examined in a pretrial hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016. The 33-year-old Dippolito is facing a May retrial on 2009 charges that she tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Dalia Dippolito cries as she is cross-examined in a pretrial hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016. The 33-year-old Dippolito is facing a May retrial on 2009 charges that she tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

That was how Dalia Dippolito described how she came to be caught on video trying to arrange her husband’s murder through an undercover detective posing as a hitman.

On the witness stand for the first time since her 2009 arrest, Dippolito – dressed in a camisole under a flowing pink sweater and dark pants – said things went wrong when she told Shihadeh during a meeting at a Chili’s restaurant that she didn’t want law enforcement involved in their ruse.

“He lifted his shirt and showed his gun,” she said. “He threatened me, he threatened my family.”

Dippolito said Shihadeh, under pressure from police, forced her to continue with the fake plot. Her attorneys are trying to have her case thrown out on claims the Boynton Beach Police Department committed egregious misconduct and violated Dippolito’s civil rights to catch the plot for an episode of the television show COPS.

Prosecutor Craig Williams questions Dalia Dippolito as she testifies in a pretrial hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Prosecutor Craig Williams questions Dalia Dippolito as she testifies in a pretrial hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

But if this was all part of an acting project, where were all their scripts, Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams later asked Dippolito. Where were the notes from their rehearsals?

Dippolito said she didn’t keep any of those. The group had a production person who kept a lot of the notes, she said, and he committed suicide before her 2011 trial without any indication of what he’d done with their pre-production work.

Williams played video of a conversation between Dippolito and Shihadeh and asked her to detail why she is recorded giving Shihadeh directions to the townhouse she shared with Michael Dippolito if he had already been there several times to rehearse.

Dippolito answered most of the questions by repeating that it was all part of the script that she was following blindly.

Before Dippolito took the stand, her attorney Brian Claypool, questioned Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz and Public Information Officer Stephanie Slater.

Dalia Dippolito testifies in a pretrial hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016. The 33-year-old Dippolito is facing a May retrial on 2009 charges that she tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito. She has pleaded not guilty. Dalia Dippolito is expected to testify that a former lover threatened her with a gun and pressured her to speak to the hit man who was actually an undercover police officer. The case gained national notoriety because "Cops" happened to be filming with the Boynton Beach police. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Dalia Dippolito testifies in a pretrial hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016. The 33-year-old Dippolito is facing a May retrial on 2009 charges that she tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito. She has pleaded not guilty. Dalia Dippolito is expected to testify that a former lover threatened her with a gun and pressured her to speak to the hit man who was actually an undercover police officer. The case gained national notoriety because “Cops” happened to be filming with the Boynton Beach police. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

 

ORIGINAL POST: In just a few short moments, the former Boynton Beach woman once convicted of trying to have her husband killed will take the stand in hopes of convincing a judge to throw out key evidence in the case against her.

Dalia Dippolito will be a witness Tuesday in her lawyers’ motion to dismiss video and audio recordings of her during the time she asked an undercover Boynton Beach police detective posing as a hitman to kill her then-husband, Michael.

Dippolito’s attorneys say Boynton Beach police officials engaged in gross misconduct and violated even their own policies after Dippolito’s sometime boyfriend, Mohamed Shihadeh, first warned them that Dippolito was looking for someone to kill her husband. A hearing on the matter began last month and continued Tuesday afternoon.

Police arrested Dippolito in 2009 after they staged a crime scene to fool her into thinking the hit had been carried out. Her reaction was recorded in a video that went viral.

A jury convicted her of solicitation to commit first degree murder in 2011 and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but an appeals court later overturned the case.

She is expected to stand trial in May.

Before Tuesday’s hearing, Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz issued the following statement regarding Dippolito’s claims:

“We stand behind the principled work our detectives did on this investigation. We trust in our State Attorney to successfully prosecute this case, and we are confident we have given his office sufficient evidence to meet the State’s burden. ”

 

 

PBC man gets 9 years for role in $3 million Riviera Beach heist

A 43-year-old Palm Beach County man on Tuesday was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in a $3 million heist from a Riviera Beach armored truck facility, a crime that took FBI agents three years to solve.

tmpNSWfqS-mdly-photoSircorey Wilder is the third of three men to be convicted and sentenced in connection with the bold September 2012 robbery at Garda Cash Logistics. Darryl Peterkine, 39, of Riviera Beach, is serving a 15 1/2-year sentence. Hjalmar Towns, 30, a Riviera Beach man who worked at the money-handling facility on Garden Road, is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence on top of another 14-year term in connection with an 2013 attempted robbery of a Garda armored truck.

A fourth man, Michael Sheffield, was shot dead outside his Riviera Beach home in January 2013. Identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in court records, his murder is believed to have been connected to the robbery, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aurora Fagan told U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg. No one has been charged.

Lauren Fleischer Louis, who represents Wilder, pleaded for leniency for her client, arguing that he had cooperated with federal prosecutors and helped them identify the two others involved in what turned out to be an inside job. But, Fagan told Rosenberg, Wilder had a selective memory.

Click here to read more.

Shamrock Jewelers owner Anthony Simpson back in jail

A month after a federal bankruptcy judge ordered the arrest of the former owner of Shamrock Jewelers for failing to come clean about how millions disappeared from the once popular Lake Park store, Anthony Simpson is in the Palm Beach County jail.

Anthony Simpson jail mugshot taken Friday.
Anthony Simpson Palm Beach County jail mugshot taken Thursday.

However, the 52-year-old North Palm Beach man wasn’t picked up by federal marshals on orders from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Erik Kimball. Instead, Simpson was arrested Thursday evening by North Palm Beach police on a warrant from Louisiana, where he faces charges of writing worthless checks to a diamond broker in Ouachita Parish.

Attorney Jesus Suarez, who represents bankruptcy trustee Robert Furr, said Monday he was aware Simpson had been arrested. But, he said, he is still sorting through what it means and which judge – one in Louisiana or a federal bankruptcy judge here – has the upper hand.

Records in Louisiana show that a warrant was issued for Simpson’s arrest on Dec. 15. Officials at Tommy Parker Diamonds said he avoided jail time there last year by agreeing to make monthly payments to cover $61,000 worth of bad checks he wrote to the broker last summer. However, under the court-approved agreement, if he failed to make the court-ordered payments, he was to be arrested.

Simpson’s troubles in bankruptcy court began last year when those who invested $12 million in a high-tech security briefcase he invented filed a petition to recover their money. Furr said he discovered that the briefcase manufacturing operation, Rollaguard Security, was a sham.

Accountants he hired also found that millions washed into Shamrock Jewelers from the briefcase company. For months, Kimball repeatedly ordered Simpson to detail where the money went. Finally, on Jan. 21, he ordered marshal’s to arrest Simpson.

In the meantime, former customers and friends have said Simpson has failed to return jewelry they gave him for repairs and money they loaned him to deal with his financial problems.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Simpson was arrested Friday.