Teen who killed man over cell phone gets 50 years prison

Deundre Davis

Deaundre Davis, the 18-year-old man a jury in January convicted of killing a man after an argument over a cell phone, was sentenced Friday to 50 years in prison.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton’s sentence for Davis comes a year after the July 2015 murder of 27-year-old Anthony Marcel Jones Jr., whose body was found outside an abandoned house in the Kennedy Estates area just outside the town of Jupiter.

Witnesses at Davis’ trial testified that Davis, then 17, shot Jones because he wanted the $80 another man agreed to pay for the return of his iPhone.

Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott successfully urged jurors to convict Davis despite the fact that a big part of the case rested on the eyewitness testimony of a longtime drug addict who admitted he was high when he saw the shooting happen.

Jurors convicted Davis of one count each of first degree murder, armed robbery and armed aggravated assault. Assistant Public Defender Scott Pribble had asked Burton to forgo the mandatory minimum sentences of 25 and 20 years respectively on the robbery and assault charges, but Burton on Thursday denied the request.

He sentenced Davis to 50 years on the murder charge, 40 for the robbery and 20 for the assault, ordering all counts to run together.

Jones’ family last year said the 27-year-old, who’d had 10 arrest and had just finished a 110-day jail stint before his murder, struggled to overcome drug addiction but desperately wanted to get out of a life on the streets.

Judge paves way for trial against Donald Trump over Jupiter golf club take-over

Donald Trump is likely to be forced to take a break in his campaign for president next month to appear in federal court in West Palm Beach to explain why he hasn’t returned an estimated $6 million to members of his country club off Donald Ross Road.

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra this week paved the way for a trial to begin on August 15 by denying Trump’s request to throw out the lawsuit filed by those who were members of the club before the businessman-turned-TV-celebrity-turned-GOP-presidential-nominee bought it for $5 million in 2012.

In the 12-page ruling, Marra said there were “genuine questions of material fact regarding whether (Trump) breached the contract” with members of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter by refusing to return their deposits, which ranged from $35,000 to $210,000. That means, he said, the lawsuit must be decided by a jury.

Members claim that Trump changed the rules once he bought the club from the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa, which had been losing as much as $4.2 million annually trying to keep it afloat. Under the previous rules, members could continue to pay their dues and use the club even after announcing their intentions to resign. Once a new member signed up, however, their hefty deposits were to be refunded.

Shortly after taking over the ailing club in a gated community off Donald Ross Road near Alternate A1A, Trump announced to those on the resignation list: “you’re out.”

In a December 2012 letter to club members, he wrote, the rules had to be changed to assure the club became the “ultra-prestigious club” he envisioned.

Therefore,  he explained, “if a person is on the resignation list, the membership does not want them to be an active member of the club — likewise as the owner of the club, I do not want them to utilize the club nor do I want their dues.

“In other words,” he continued, “we are committed to seeing Trump National Golf Club – Jupiter on the list of the best clubs in the world and if you choose to remain on the resignation list, you’re out.”

Shortly after, members said they were barred from using the club. Further, they claim, club officials have refused to return their deposits as they were required to do under their membership contracts with the Ritz.

At a hearing in March, Trump attorneys argued that the disgruntled members were denied entry because they hadn’t paid their dues. Further, they argued, Trump offered them attractive options to remain members.

If they agreed to give up their deposits, their annual dues would drop to $17,500 for three years and they would also get the use of 14 other Trump clubs around the country, including Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach. Those who didn’t “opt-in” would see their annual dues jump to $21,500 and they wouldn’t get the chance to use other Trump facilities, according to the letter.

The options, those who filed suit claimed, constituted a breach of contract because it changed the terms of the long-standing agreement they had when they joined the club.

But, Trump attorneys countered, the club didn’t refuse to refund the deposits. Under another plan, longtime members would get their deposits back once new members signed up. Those who filed suit simply wanted to jump to the front of a very long line, they argued.

Marra said there is a true difference of opinion regarding the new rules. The disagreement turns on various details, such as the definition of such terms as “recall of the membership,” he wrote. That, he said, will be up to a jury to decide.

PBC eye doctor Salomon Melgen needs $2 million more to pay defense team

Prohibited by court order from tapping into his fortune, Palm Beach County ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen is running out of money to pay lawyers to represent him on charges that he bilked Medicare out of as much as $108 million.

Dr. Salomon Melgen exits the Palm Beach County jail with his wife Flor, left, and daughter, Melissa, right, in July. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Dr. Salomon Melgen leaves the Palm Beach County jail with his wife Flor, left, and daughter, Melissa, right, in July 2015. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

In court papers filed this week, Melgen’s lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra to let the physician use $2 million to pay mounting legal bills which they described as “substantial.”

In addition to facing 76 counts of health-care fraud and related charges in West Palm Beach, Melgen is charged in New Jersey with his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, in connection with what federal prosecutors describe as a mutually beneficial bribery scheme. He is also continuing to challenge the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about his use of a single vial of Lucentis to treat multiple patients for macular degeneration – a practice known as “multi-dosing.”

“These are three complex and highly contested cases involving extensive motion practice and briefing,” his attorney Matthew Menchel and Kirk Ogrosky wrote, explaining their client’s need for cash.

With federal prosecutors describing the 61-year-old native of the Dominican Republic as a flight risk, U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins last year made sure Melgen couldn’t get his hands on his money, boats or private jet before allowing him to be released from jail. Hopkins ordered him and his family to post a whopping $18 million bond package. To assure his cash was off-limits, Hopkins appointed an escrow agent to pay his personal expenses, including his $2.3 million waterfront home in Captain’s Key near Juno Beach.

In making the request, Menchel and Ogrosky emphasized that Melgen, who treated hundreds of primarily elderly patients at eye clinics in West Palm Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach and Port St. Lucie, won’t have access to the $2 million. It will be paid directly into one of the lawyer’s trust accounts, they said.

“Releasing funds for the purpose of allowing him to pay counsel will not alter his incentives for appearing at trial, because the released funds will not be available for Dr. Melgen’s personal use,” they wrote.

 

Kimberly Lucas lawyers fight death penalty in daughter’s death

The case of a Jupiter woman charged with drowning the 2-year-old daughter she shared with her estranged partner continued on Thursday to twist through the legal tangles surrounding Florida’s death penalty.

In a hearing for Kimberly Lucas, Circuit Judge Charles Burton granted a request from Lucas’ lawyers to throw out paperwork prosecutors filed earlier this year announcing their intent to seek the death penalty against her.

Burton will allow prosecutors to refile a notice of their intent to seek sertain aggravating factors as a basis for their death penalty quest and give Lucas’ defense a chance to respond before deciding whether to keep a possible death sentence in play. This all comes ahead of Lucas’ expected January trial in the murder of Elliana Lucas-Jamason and the attempted murder of the former couple’s 10-year-old son, Ethan.

Kimberly Lucas sits in court Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 during a hearing to check on the status of her 1st degree murder trial. Lucas is accused of drowning her 2-year-old daughter Elliana Lucas-Jamason, along with the attempted murder of her son, Ethan, then 10. At the time of the killing Lucas was estranged from Jacquelyn Jamason, the children’s biological mother and her former partner. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Kimberly Lucas sits in court Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 during a hearing to check on the status of her 1st degree murder trial. Lucas is accused of drowning her 2-year-old daughter Elliana Lucas-Jamason, along with the attempted murder of her son, Ethan, then 10. At the time of the killing Lucas was estranged from Jacquelyn Jamason, the children’s biological mother and her former partner. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

The legal wrangling is all tied to a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year declaring Florida’s death penalty system unconstitutional because it limited a jury’s power in requiring a simple majority to make a recommendation to a judge for a life or death sentence.

Florida lawmakers in March rewrote the law to require juries to agree unanimously on aggravating factors prosecutors must prove to get a death sentence and also required at least a 10-2 jury vote for death in order for a defendant to receive the penalty.

That too has been contested and is before Florida’s Supreme Court, which recessed for the summer without issuing an opinion on the matter.

Jacquelyn Jamason, the children’s mother and the woman who was Lucas’ longtime partner, has in the past said that she is neither for or against the death penalty.

Jamason has, however, consistently expressed disappointment with the slow path that the May 2014 case hs taken through the system.

“It’s frustrating. She would like to see the case get to trial,” Jamason said Thursday through her attorney, Jim Eisenberg.

Corey Jones supporters to picket Palm Beach police union office

imageLocal protesters will be joined by members of the Fort Lauderdale chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement Saturday for a planned rally outside the offices of the Palm Beach Police Benevolent Association.

The protest is over union officials’ decision to pay for the criminal defense of Nouman Raja, a former Palm Beach Gardens police officer now facing manslaughter and attempted murder charges in the death of 31-year-old drummer Corey Jones, a stranded motorist Raja shot and killed in October while in plainclothes.

A Facebook page for Black Lives Matter Fort Lauderdale showed a post dated Monday urging supporters to show up to the offices at 2100 N Florida Mango Road in West Palm Beach for a protest to begin at 5 p.m.

The protest was organized by Michael C. Marsh, a childhood friend of Jones and author of the #JusticeforCoreyJones facebook page.

Storied West Palm law firm wins $2.3 million legal battle against founding partner

A long-running legal battle pitting a storied and politically connected West Palm Beach law firm against one of its founding partners culminated Wednesday when an appeals court ruled the partner deserved a fraction of the $2.3 million he was slated to get.

Patrick Casey
Patrick Casey

Rejecting calculations made by former Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Ciklin Lubitz & O’Connell owed former partner Patrick Casey only $511,200.

“Reverse, reverse, reverse,” managing partner Alan Ciklin said of the appeals court decision. “We’re pleased and we feel vindicated.”

Alan Ciklin, managing partner of the West Palm Beach law firm Ciklin Lubitz & O'Connell
Alan Ciklin, managing partner of the West Palm Beach law firm

Attorney Eric Hewko, who represented Casey, said he and his client were “very disappointed” in the three-page ruling. The $511,200 is the equity Casey had in the firm roughly 15 years ago which doesn’t reflect what it was worth when he stepped down in 2012, he said.

Hewko said he and Casey are deciding whether to ask the West Palm Beach-based appeals court to reconsider the decision or whether to appeal it to the Florida Supreme Court. Ciklin said he doubted an appeal would be successful.

“It’s been a long haul and certainly not something we wanted to happen,” he said.

The saga began two months after Casey, a founder of the 30-year-old firm, resigned. While the firm paid him what Ciklin described as “less than $100,000” that he was owed under the partnership agreement, Casey sued, claiming he was entitled to more.

After a five-day trial in 2014, Brown agreed. She wrote a scathing 12-page opinion, questioning the veracity of Ciklin’s testimony, blasting the firm for keeping at least two sets of books and awarding Casey $2.3 million.

In its far less detailed ruling, the appeals court said Brown misinterpreted the partnership agreement. For instance, it rejected Brown’s reasoning that as one of 10 partners Casey was entitled to 10 percent of the firm’s income. “This mechanical approach ignored the language of the applicable portion of the partnership agreement,” the three-judge panel wrote.

In what some legal observers called an unusual move, the case was heard by Judges Martha Warner, Melanie May and Burton Conner. However, it was decided by Warner, May and Judge Robert Gross.  The opinion notes that Gross didn’t hear oral arguments, but reviewed the record.

While acknowledging such switches are rare, Clerk of Court Lonn Weissblum said occasionally a judge discovers he has a conflict as the case progresses. Judges are not required to explain why they step down, he said.

Ciklin is the brother of Cory Ciklin, chief judge of the appeals court. Their brother, Blair Ciklin, is a longtime commissioner of the Port of Palm Beach.

The firm traces its roots to one of the county’s most prominent attorneys, Phillip O’Connell Sr. A former professional boxer, he served a quarter-century as Palm Beach County State Attorney while also maintaining a private law practice, according to the firm’s website. A bust of him graces the lobby of the state attorney’s office. His son, Phillip O’Connell Jr., and nephew, Brian O’Connell, are partners of the firm.

Roughly 10 years ago, one of its named partners – Bill Boose, considered the dean of local land use lawyers  – was sent to prison for 15 months after admitting he helped former Palm Beach County Commissioner Tony Masilotti hide profits from a secret land deal. The scandal, that also sent Masilotti to prison, rocked the county.

 

 

Dr. Phil files $250 million defamation suit against American Media

Saying he and his wife are sick and tired of relentless character assassination, the nation’s most famous psychologist is going after the nation’s most famous tabloid publisher in a $250 million lawsuit filed this month in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 07: Dr. Phil McGraw speaks during the taping of his television show, announcing "Little Kids Rock Across America" at Paramount Pictures Studios on December 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Dr. Phil McGraw (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

In the 42-page lawsuit, Phillip McGraw, better known to daytime TV audiences simply as “Dr. Phil,” claims the Boca Raton-based National Enquirer and its sister publications have fabricated “salacious and offensive” stories about him and his philanthropist wife, Robin, to shore up their sagging bottom lines.

Since 2003, American Media, the parent company of the Enquirer, Star Magazine and Radar Online, has published more than 85 articles – roughly six per year – accusing the couple of being frauds, according to the lawsuit filed by West Palm Beach attorney J. Grier Pressly III and Atlanta lawyer L. Lin Wood.

While the wealthy couple has built a reputation as tireless crusaders against domestic violence, in dozens of articles AMI has falsely claimed their home life is far from idyllic, the attorneys wrote. With no facts to support the allegations, they have published stories portraying Dr. Phil as an abuser and his wife as a pitiful victim.

“The National Enquirer falsely and maliciously defamed Mrs. McGraw by conveying to the average reader that she is a fraud and professional hypocrite suffering from the very same spousal abuse that she so fervently campaigns and advocates against,” the attorneys wrote, describing a series of what they called “sleazy tabloid practices.”

The motivation for the attacks is no mystery, they claim. Reporting $17 million more in liabilities than assets on its Dec. 31 quarterly report, AMI needs money, they said.

“Confronted with financial difficulties, declining circulation, and the need for cash flow, AMI has shamelessly and unlawfully sought to generate revenues by misappropriating and capitalizing on the McGraws’ names,” the attorneys wrote.

Officials at AMI didn’t return a phone call for comment. But it has shown no sign of backing down.

In articles published online this week, all three publications trumpeted a six-year-old story about a federal judge in California blasting Dr. Phil as a “charlatan” for inviting a couple on his show to brag about shoplifting more than $1 million. The judge made her comments during the couple’s sentencing hearing.

On Monday, the 2010 story was new again on the National Enquirer’s website. “Dr. Phil is a ‘charlatan’ and a ‘terrible, terrible man!’ A California judge branded him all that and more … and The National ENQUIRER has all the details,” it wrote.

In the lawsuit, attorneys representing the McGraws said such tactics are typical. The publications have repeatedly rehashed old stories and embellished them either by leaving out key facts or fabricating them entirely, the attorneys claim.

In February, they claim, AMI threatened to run a story that Dr. Phil, while a student at Texas Tech University, got into a drunken brawl at a bar and smashed a beer mug over a fellow patron’s head. However, the attorneys claim, the bar where the fight allegedly took place didn’t open until 1977 – six years after Dr. Phil attended the Texas school. Further, they claim, the bar didn’t get a liquor license until 2009 – 38 years after the doctor left.

“The utter, flagrant, demonstrable falsity of that story epitomizes AMI’s abuse of the First Amendment,” they wrote.

The recent stories AMI published also violate a 2012 agreement hashed out after the McGraws then threatened to file a defamation suit, the attorneys said. In exchange for dropping the suit, the company agreed not to publish any more articles about them. When the two-year agreement expired, the attorneys claim, AMI threatened to publish the story about the bar brawl.

Unlike their claims about AMI, the McGraws don’t need the money. Both have written best-selling books. In 2015, Forbes said Dr. Phil earned $70 million that year. It ranked him the 15th highest earning celebrity in the world.

Corey Jones shooting: Nouman Raja pushes house arrest changes

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja appears in court Thursday morning, June 2, 2016, charged in the shooting death of Corey Jones. Nouman Raja is being charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence and one count of attempted first degree murder with a firearm. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja appears in court Thursday morning, June 2, 2016, charged in the shooting death of Corey Jones. Nouman Raja is being charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence and one count of attempted first degree murder with a firearm. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

By not allowing former Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja to attend his children’s school functions as he awaits trial in the death of Corey Jones, Raja’s attorneys say the state is punishing Raja prematurely and making him the victim of the same “rush to judgement” that harms black men like the one he fatally shot.

Defense attorney Richard Lubin made the claims in court records Tuesday as part of an emphatic continuation of Raja’s quest to relax some restrictions of the house arrest that has been part of his $250,000 bond since last month, when prosecutors charged him with attempted murder and manslaughter by culpable negligence.

With words that appear to indicate that Raja fully intends to take his case to trial, Lubin fired back at prosecutors’ objections to the house arrest changes, and accused them of pandering to the emotions of many in the community who have called for Raja’s arrest since Jones’ October death.

“Too often in our history, due to societal pressure, there has been a rush to
judgment, often at the expense of minorities, such as Mr. Jones and Officer Raja,” Lubin said. “Thousands have been convicted only later to be exonerated after they had served 10, 20 or 30 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.”

Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015.
Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015.

The words come days after Chief Assistant State Attorneys Brian Fernandes took  hard line to a request from Raja that he be able to attend school functions for his 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.

Attorneys on both sides of the case had previously agreed as part of Raja’s $250,000 bond and house arrest that he could continue to work at a tactical supply store, take his children to and from school and go to a barber once a month for a haircut.

Lubin asked for the additional time away from home Juny 12, two days before a hearing before Samantha Schosberg Feuer.

Fernandes fired back with what so far has been the most critical public words from the prosecutors’ office against Raja, saying Raja “killed a man he had sworn to protect.”

“Corey Jones never gets to participate in family functions again. Corey Jones never gets to attend school or camp performances for his potential future children, because he cannot have children,” Fernandes wrote.

Lubin on Tuesday called those comments inflammatory and asked Feuer to disregard them in making her ruling.

 

State to seek death sentence in 1990 Lake Worth murder

Jefer Negron
Jefer Negron

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against the 49-year-old man charged with suffocating a Lake Worth woman 25 years ago while her 18-month old son was in the next room.

Jefer Negron was extradited from North Carolina last month after a grand jury indicted him in the 1990 slaying of Minerva Cantu.

Investigators say Negron entered Minerva Cantu’s home on the 400 block of North F Street  on Nov 27, 1990 and suffocated her in the living room. Her husband returned home from work and found her dead and their 18-month-old son unharmed in his crib.

Minerva Cantu
Minerva Cantu

Although Negron was initially a suspect, Lake Worth Police never arrested and the case went cold. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s cold case unit reopened the investigation in June 2014 and, according to court records, analyzed DNA samples and talked to witnesses who linked Negron to the murder.

Court records show prosecutors filed a notice that they were seeking the death penalty on July 7. Lasst week, Negron’s attorney, Seth Lawrence LaVay, asked Circuit Judge Dina Keever to set the case for a bond hearing.

The next hearing in the case is set for Aug. 9.

Teen resentenced in 2007 robbery, murder near Boynton Beach

Linwood Lewis, 26, speaks to a member of his defense team at his resentencing hearing on Monday, July 18, 2016
Linwood Lewis, 26, speaks to a member of his defense team at his resentencing hearing on Monday, July 18, 2016

A man who once sentenced to life in prison for participating in a deadly robbery when he was 17 will be resentenced Monday.

Circuit Judge Edward Garrison will hand down the new sentence Monday for Linwood Lewis at the end of a two-hour resentencing hearing that began at 1 p.m. and is still underway. Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Marshall told the judge that Lewis’ rejection of a 10-year plea offer in the case was a sign that he was not mature enough to understand the gravity of his actions and was therefore undeserving of a life sentence.

Lewis was 17 and Leotis Lester was 17 when they participated in a robbery where another man shot and killed Marc Thibault, 43, in 2007 at his home in Nautica South near Boynton Beach.

Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater objected to the judge considering the 10-year plea offer in considering his sentence.

Lewis, known to his relatives as Woody, received a new sentencing hearing because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring it’s unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life without parole. Citing studies that juveniles’ brains aren’t fully developed, leading them to make impetuous decisions without considering the consequences, the high court ruled that juveniles have to be given a chance to show they have been rehabilitated.

In response, Florida lawmakers passed a law permitting a life sentence for a juvenile if a judge deems such a sentence is appropriate.