What Marsen Paul thought was a routine Sunday fare four years ago turned out to be the last one of his life, Assistant State Attorney Takisha Richardson told a jury Wednesday.
Prosecutors say two men, Christian Eberhart, 24, and Brian Javon Brown, 25, set out to rob the taxi cab driver, and Eberhart shot him to death when the robbery went awry. But at the start of a joint trial for the men Wednesday, their attorneys said the case was built on scant evidence and false conclusions.
Eberhardt’s attorney Robert Gershman, said authorities never found a murder weapon after the western Lake Worth shooting, and found no gunshot residue on his hands. Brown’s attorney, Christopher Haddad, attacked witness identifications of the two men as faulty.
Richardson, however, told jurors that they would hear an incriminating conversation between the two men as they sat in the back of a squad car after they were caught less than a mile from where authorities found Paul’s crashed van at 10920 50th Street, just off State Road 7.
It was Brown, Richardson said, who told Eberhart that investigators were saying that they didn’t know whether the badly wounded Paul would survive the attack. If he died, Richardson quoted Brown as saying that he and Eberhart would be “straight” if Paul died.
“What they were counting on is the unfortunate reality that dead men can’t say what happened to them,” Richardson told jurors.
Paul survived for three days after the shooting but eventually died of his injuries.
Testimony in the case began Wednesday with Paul’s supervisor at Yellow Cab. If convicted, both men face life in prison.
Starting Thursday, the Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller’s Office will – with rare exception – only allow lawyers to file court records through their paperless e-file system.
Clerk Sharon Bock announced the move Tuesday in reaction to a Wednesday ruling from Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal in a Broward County case where judges ruled that clerks of court are not required to accept paper filings from an attorney “except in very specific circumstances.”
In a news release, Bock said that beginning Sept. 1, paper filings will not be accepted from attorneys unless the document is an original document required to be filed with the court or falls under one of the exceptions in Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.525(d).
Those exceptions include documents filed in open court as permitted by judges, the submission of evidentiary exhibits, or other limited circumstances for self-represented parties to a case.
In preparation for the change, the clerk’s office is offering two free training sessions for their e-file system at 1 p.m. Sept. 13 or 3 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Main Courthouse in downtown West Palm Beach next month.
The sentencing for Amanda Dahl Friday comes more than a months after she pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death for the crash that killed 15-year-old Khiar Raymond.
In sentencing Dahl to 364 days in jail, Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer went below the four-year minimum recommended sentence under state sentencing guidelines. The judge read from a sentencing memo for about 10 minutes Friday before pronouncing the sentence.
As part of the sentence, Dahl can apply to end her 10-year probation early after eight years, but on the anniversary of the crash each year she is on probation, Dahl will have to record and post a YouTube video from the scene of the crash speaking out against leaving the scene of crashes.
During the first part of Dahl’s sentencing hearing July 18, Raymond’s relatives and friends made tearful pleas to Feuer, asking her to give Dahl the maximum sentence possible as they lamented the loss of the 15-year-old who had already become a proficient chef and the pride of his close-knit family
But at one point in the hearing, Dahl’s attorney, John Cleary, chided Raymond’s aunt, who compared Dahl to the terrorist who recently killed dozens in Nice, France.
Cleary said, and Assistant State Attorney Judith Arco agreed, that Dahl wasn’t at fault for the crash itself and would have faced no criminal charges had she simply stayed on the scene.
Instead, however, she drove her 2002 Mercedes to a nearby fire station, returned to the scene posing as a passerby and scaled a fence to get back to her car and escape unnoticed.
Dahl has been in jail since July while Feuer contemplated her sentence.
Clarence Shahid Freeman on Monday failed to persuade a Palm Beach County judge to throw out his conviction for extorting former School Superintendent Wayne Gent and, a prosecutor said, the community activist and onetime Democratic operative is unlikely to be released from prison while he launches an appeal.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley said the arguments Freeman’s attorney made during the hour-long hearing were nearly identical to ones raised in May before a jury took 18 minutes to convict the 65-year-old Boynton Beach area resident of attempting to get Gent to do his bidding in exchange for burying unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I can’t see why I would essentially reverse myself on any of these rulings,” Kelley said, adding that the 4th District Court of Appeal may have a different view.
Attorney Charles White immediately filed a motion, asking that Freeman be released from prison while he appeals his conviction and three-year prison sentence. Kelley said he would consider the request at a future hearing. But, Assistant State Attorney Marci Rex said, because Freeman has a felony record, he isn’t eligible for release.
In 1974, Freeman was convicted of an armed robbery in Hillsborough County. Rex said Freeman also has misdemeanor convictions for child abuse, marijuana possession and petty theft.
Freeman, wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, looked on impassively while White tried to convince Kelley that prosecutors distorted the facts and the law to persuade the jury to convict Freeman of separate charges of threat of extortion and unlawful compensation for official behavior.
White said the state built its case on what he described as a “salacious letter” in which Gent was accused of “doing the jungle fever” with black subordinates. Prosecutors falsely argued that in a series of conversations recorded by law enforcement, Freeman promised to make the letter disappear if Gent would arrange a $895,000 settlement for demoted schools worker Brantley Sisnett, move the location of a charter school and implement an after-school reading program that had long been Freeman’s pet project, White said.
Freeman never tied the letter to his requests, which were legitimate, White insisted. Further, he said, the letter had already been sent to schools officials and the allegations, which were never substantiated, were being investigated.
“The state chose to create false impressions to the jury … in an effort to show Mr. Freeman was guilty of something when there was really no crime,” White said.
Rex disputed White allegations. From the day Freeman was arrested in 2013, he and prosecutors had vastly different views of what the evidence showed, she said. The jury heard both interpretations and agreed that Freeman had tried to get as much as $1 million from Gent by trumping up allegations of sexual misconduct from an anonymous woman who probably doesn’t exist, she said.
“To allege prosecutorial misconduct is offensive,” Rex said. “I don’t believe that’s what happened in this case.”
“Something bad” happened February 24, 2014 to Horacia Simeus.
Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott told the jurors Youvens Madeus killed Simeus in “cold blood.”
Scott argued Madeus was losing control of the relationship and Simeus was trying to get help for herself. There was a history of violence, Simeus refused to have sex with Madeus the day she was killed and a subpoena was found on the floor requesting her to appear for a conference on domestic abuse.
“She chose to stand up for herself, to make some decisions for her own life. This defendant who sits in front of you also made a choice,” Scott said. “There was a conscious decision made to kill her.”
But Madeus’s defense team argued the violent act was a mistake, not premeditation. The couple had an argument, Madeus struck her in the neck with a machete and tended to the wound on his girlfriend’s neck. Then he called 911, and stayed until authorities arrived.
“Something bad has happened to my girlfriend,” Madeus told dispatchers.
The courtroom remained mostly quite for the first few hours of the trial until bloody photos of Simeus from the day she was killed were shown. One woman was escorted outside because she became so emotional.
Youvens Madeus, 27, is charged with first degree murder in the Feb. 24, 2014 death of Horacia Simeus.
After two days of jury selection finished Tuesday evening, Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer asked Madeus if he was happy with his attorneys’ choices for jurors. He did not answer.
“Let the record show that Mr. Madeus is starring blankly at me,” the judge said.
When the defense asked potential jurors about their first impression of Madeus, many said they didn’t have one. The first thing many said they noticed was he was smiling.
On Feb. 24, 2014, 27-year-old Simeus was on the phone with a victim’s advocate from the Palm Beach County State
Attorney’s office figuring out how to get a new restraining order against her then 24-year-old boyfriend, Madeus. The advocate later told investigators she heard a man arguing with Simeus, then the phone went dead. When deputies arrived at the sububan West Palm Beach home, they found Simeus dead with a machete next to her body. Madeus was found nearby with a bloody shirt draped over his shoulder, according to the report.
Madeus told investigators he had to kill her so he could move on with his own life.
Court records show the couple had domestic issues that went back as far as 2009. Simeus expressed fear for herself and her family regarding Madeus. Reports alleged Madeus slashed the tires on her car, kidnapped her and during at least two other incidents he used a knife to threaten her.
Soon after her death, family told The Palm Beach Post that they knew of the history of violence and tried to keep her away from Madeus, but she kept going back to him.
Eric Trump, son of businessman-turned-Republican presidential candidate and part-time Palm Beacher Donald Trump, on Tuesday offered a full-throated defense of his father’s operation of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter and blasted members who are suing as short-sighted and disingenuous.
“We made it great again,” he testified, showing no signs he was intentionally cribbing his father’s most famous campaign line.
“The irony about this case is we came in and invested a tremendous amount of money,” Eric Trump told U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra, who will be deciding the estimated $6 million breach of contract case. Further, he said, there is no question those who filed suit will get their money back.
“It’s not if your clients are going to be paid out,” Trump said, referring to the three men who filed a class-action suit on behalf of roughly 60 members to get back initiation fees, ranging from $35,000 to $210,000. “It’s when your clients are going be paid out.”
Trump was the last witness to testify in the trial that began Monday. Marra gave attorneys 30 days to file additional written materials. Then, he said, it is likely he would call them back to ask additional questions.
Since purchasing the financially troubled club in December 2012 from Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa, the Trump Organization pumped $25 million into the club on Donald Ross Road near Alternate A1A, he said. The improvements attracted more members which should have been welcome news to those who filed suit, Trump testified.
The more people join, the faster those on the resignation list move toward getting their money back. Under club rules, resigning members have to wait until new members join before they can get back their initiation fees. To protect the club, the rules require that about five members resign before a refund will be used to a former member. Sometimes the process can take years.
“The more people come in the faster, you accelerate the list,” Trump said. “There’s no question that over a period of time we’ve paid out a tremendous amount of people on the list.”.
Trump, who helps oversee 18 golf clubs his father’s company operates throughout the world, defended the Jupiter club’s policies that requires members who announced their intention of resigning to continue to pay between $6,000 and $20,000 annually in dues and $1,800 in food and beverage fees even though they are barred from using the club. Such policies are common at golf clubs, he said.
“It stabilizes cash flow but it also stabilizes operations for the entire facility,” he said. “Otherwise the choice would be to increase dues or decrease services for existing members.” That, he said, wouldn’t be fair.
But, under the Ritz-Carlton’s ownership, those who were on the resignation list were allowed to continue to use the club. That’s because the club, that was losing as much as $4.2 million annually, was desperate for cash, he said. Documents members signed make it clear they must continue to pay dues until a new member takes over their membership.
Attorney Bradley Edwards, who represents the members in the lawsuit, pointed out that Trump’s explanation of club policies have changed since he gave a deposition in April 2015. At that time, Trump insisted those on the resignation list were not denied entry unless they had outstanding bills.
” I have enough hubris to say I was wrong,” Trump said of his previous testimony.
A judge on Monday agreed to delay the upcoming trial of Malachi Love-Robinson, the now 19-year-old accused of pretending to be a doctor and stealing money from at least one patient who visited his West Palm Beach practice.
Love-Robinson case was expected to go to trial next month, but Circuit Judge Krista Marx on Monday agreed to postpone the case until November – over prosecutors’ objections – so Love-Robinson’s attorney Leonard Feuer can pursue the viability of an insanity defense.
In a request filed last month, Feuer said the results of a court-ordered mental health evaluation for Love-Robinson led him to explore the option of forming a defense surrounding the teen’s mental state.
Marx on Monday also agreed to declare Love-Robinson indigent for court costs, which means the state will pay the nearly $1,500 cost of getting his personal medical records from St. Mary’s Hospital and for mental health experts to testify on his behalf.
According to court records, Love-Robinson’s family has been paying for him to undergo mental health treatment since his arrest in February, when a narcotics task force raided his West Palm Beach holistic medicine practice after he treated an undercover officer posing as a patient.
He was later rearrested on charges he allegedly forged a patient’s checks to pay towards a car and other bills.
Love-Robinson earlier this year turned down a three-year prison plea offer. He faces a minimum eight years in prison if convicted of 10 charges that include practicing medicine without a license, forgery and grand theft from a person 65 years of age or older.
One of several young men charged with abducting a 16-year-old boy and ransacking his Royal Palm Beach home accepted a plea agreement Wednesday that will send him to jail for a year.
Derick Santos, 19, pleaded guilty to burglary, robbery and false imprisonment charges in a hearing where Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes also sentenced him to four years’ probation as part of the deal between Assistant State Attorney Emily Walters and defenses attorney Michael Salnick.
As part of the agreement, Kastrenakes withheld a finding a guilt against Santos and sentenced him as a youthful offender, although he will serve his sentence at the Palm Beach County jail.
According t he arrest reports, Santos and four others were together in a car when they pulled up to the 16-year-old along 11300 block of Okeechobee Boulevard in Royal Palm Beach.
After one of them forced him into the car, investigators said, the group stole his cell phone and $200 and unsuccessfully tried to get him to lure a mutual acquaintence to their car as well.
They then beat the boy until he gave them directions to his own house, where they eventually forced the boy to help them break in when they discovered he had no key.
The group stole a shotgun, a television, an Xbox and ransacked the boy’s parents’ bedroom before they left, and the victim ran to a neighbor’s house to call 911.
Another teen charged in the case, Shahyem Hamilton, received a sentence of five years’ probation after accepting a plea earlier this year. A third, Naquan Mack, was sentenced to 24 months in a juvenile boot camp.
In court papers filed late Monday, both Trump’s attorneys and those representing members of the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter both said depositions taken of the GOP presidential candidate would be read to U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra, who will be deciding the case.
While a jury trial was planned, Marra last month approved a request from both sides that he alone decide the dispute that has raged since Trump bought the club on Donald Ross Road near Alternate A1A for $5 million from Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa.
While Marra rejected Trump’s request to throw out the lawsuit, attorneys representing the real-estate-tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star have asked the judge to reconsider that decision. In the alternative, Miami attorney Herman Joseph Russomanno III is asking Marra not to allow the case to proceed as a class-action lawsuit.
Members of the club claim that Trump breached contracts they had with the Ritz when he in 2012 took over the club that had been losing as much as $4.2 million a month under its prior owners.
Under Ritz-Carton’s rules, members could continue to pay dues and use the club even after announcing their intentions to resign. Once a new member signed up, however, their deposits, which ranged from $35,000 to $210,000, were to be refunded.
Once Trump took over, he wrote a letter, alerting those who announced their intentions to resign “you’re out.” Members say they were denied entry to the club. Trump attorneys said it was because they hadn’t paid their dues. Further, Trump attorneys said, members could get their deposits back once new members joined.
Eric Trump, who operates the club for his father, is also on the witness list for the trial that is to begin Monday. It is unclear whether he will testify in person or, like his father, will allow sworn statements he made in previous depositions to be used to explain his position.
The club was the site of a primary campaign event in March where Trump surrounded himself with various products that bear his name, such as Trump magazine, Trump Steaks and Trump water, to dispute allegations from GOP rivals that many of his products were failures. It is also where his then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was accused of manhandling an online news reporter. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg declined to file charges.
An appeals court on Thursday ruled that a defamation lawsuit filed against the Miami Dolphins by the team’s former head trainer in the wake of the team’s bullying scandal should be decided by an NFL arbitration panel, not a Palm Beach County circuit judge.
Without comment, the 4th District Court of Appeal agreed with a lower court that Kevin O’Neill, who claims he was used as a scapegoat in the 2013 scandal that rocked the sports world, is contractually obligated to let an arbitration panel decide whether his claims are true.
The West Palm Beach-based appeals court upheld a 2015 ruling by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele. He ruled that O’Neill 10 times signed contracts that required that disputes be decided by arbitration.
Hafele also rejected O’Neill’s assertion that he wouldn’t get a fair hearing because the arbitration would be controlled by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The judge noted that Goodell appointed Jay Moyer, a former NFL general counsel and executive vice president, to represent him.
While attorney Jack Scarola, who represents the former trainer, continued to insist that arbitration amounts to a “kangaroo court where the NFL has its thumb on the scales of justice,” he said he accepted the ruling. “The O’Neills and I have beaten worse odds in the past and we intend to do it again,” he said.
O’Neill was sharply criticized in a 144-page report Goodell commissioned after Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin left the team, claiming he was subject to unrelenting racial epithets by fellow lineman Richie Incognito. Report author, attorney Ted Wells, claimed O’Neill refused to cooperate with those investigating Martin’s claims that team officials ignored his pleas to rein in locker room bullies.
Scarola,said O’Neill was bound by patient privacy. Instead of talking to O’Neill, the Dophins fired him along with former offensive line coach Jim Turner, Scarola claimed. Incognito was also released by the team.
O’Neill, who was fired weeks after being named NFL trainer of the year, is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.