Legislature agrees two former PBC students can be paid for horrific injuries

Two former Palm Beach County high school students – one who was horrifically injured when a tire exploded in his shop class at Seminole Ridge High School – are poised to get money from the School Board to pay for their injuries.

Dustin Reinhardt holds his dog Deedee while visiting his home in Loxahatchee in 2014. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

In a lopsided vote of 117-2, the Florida House on Wednesday gave the final nod to an unusual bill that directs the School Board to pay Dustin Reinhardt $4.7 million for injuries he sustained in the 2013 explosion in his auto shop class. Now 20 and living in an assisted living facility, Reinhardt lost an eye and suffered severe brain damage in the accident. He has already received $300,000 from the school district.

The bill also allows the School Board to pay $790,000 to Altavious Carter, who broke his neck in a 2005 traffic accident caused by a school bus driver. Carter, now 25, was a 14-year-old freshman basketball standout at the former Summit Christian School when the crash occurred.

Altavious “Tae” Carter before he enrolled in Eckerd College in St. Petersburg in 2013. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Since the Florida Senate passed the measure 31-5 on Monday, the bill is  headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his approval.

In Florida, the Legislature must approve any payments over $300,000 before government agencies can pay people who are injured by wrongdoing. The measures are known as claims bills.

In addition to awarding money to the two young men, the Legislature also ordered the Florida Department of Children & Families to pay $3.75 million to Victor Barahona. He was was found near death in a van along Interstate 95 in Lake Worth in 2011. Both he and his 10-year-old twin sister, Nubia, had been sprayed with pesticides. Nubia Barahona didn’t survive.

Officials at DCF admitted ignoring years of evidence of severe abuse and neglect at the children’s Miami home. The adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, are awaiting trial on murder and attempted murder charges.

Former Florida Sen. J. Alex Villalobos, a lawyer who now works as a lobbyist, persuaded the legislature to combine what had been two separate bills into one measure for Reinhardt and Carter. In his 25 years of watching the legislature, he said he has never seen it combine two claims bills. Without it, he said it is likely Carter, who in 2010 was awarded $1 million for his injuries by a Palm Beach County jury, would have been forced to wait yet another year.

Attorney Brian Denney, who represented Carter, said he was pleased the bill passed both chambers. But, having waited seven years, he said he wasn’t celebrating until Scott’s signature is affixed to the measure.

Carter, who also played at Grandview Prep, earned a college scholarship to play basketball. But, medical experts said, the injuries he suffered will force him to have additional surgery as he ages.

With two days left in the legislative session, a former Wellington youth, identified only has C.H.M, is still waiting to see if the legislature will pass a bill that would allow him to recover $5 million from DCF. A jury in 2013 agreed the state child welfare agency was negligent when it failed to warn his parents that a foster child they brought into their home was a predator.

The money is to help C.H.M. deal with psychological problems he suffers as a result of being sexually assaulted by the foster child, also the victim of horrific abuse.

This year appears to be a good ones for claims bills. In some recent legislative session, none have been approved.

 

WPB strip club sued for about $1.8 million for using models’ photos

A West Palm Beach strip club owes eight California models as much as $1.8 million for using their photos to lure customers without their permission, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

T’s Lounge Gentlemen’s Club has been sold and now is called Ultra Gentlemen’s Lounge.(Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

In the lawsuit against Ultra Gentlemen’s Lounge, Miami attorney Sarah Cabarcas Osman claims the eight women are top-flight models and business women who never authorized the club on Congress Avenue to use their photos in promotional advertisements.

The club, formerly operated as T’s Lounge, “gained an economic windfall by using the images of professional and successful models for (its) own commercial purposes,” Osman wrote. In addition to not being paid, the woman “sustained injury to their images, brands and marketability by shear affiliation with Ultra Lounge and the type of club (it is),” she wrote.

In an affidavit attached to the lawsuit, a Los Angles modeling agent estimated the club owes the women $1.78 million for using their photos.

The lawsuit is similar to one Osman filed in 2015 against the owner of Cheetah Gentlemen’s Club on behalf of nine other models. The lawsuit filed against Faneuil Entertainment, a Pompano Beach company that owns Cheetah strip clubs in West Palm Beach, Pompano and Hallandale Beach, has been heavily litigated. It is still pending.

The manager of Ultra Gentleman’s Lounge wasn’t immediately available for comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoverboard-riding Boca armed robber gets eight years in prison

Keon Dennard Cunnington

A 21-year-old arrested for a string of armed robberies that culminated in a purse-snatching from a trio of elderly women while on a Hoverboard was sentenced to eight years in prison Monday.

The sentence for Keon Dennard Cunnington came as part of a plea agreement from three separate cases from February 2016.

They included an armed robbery with a teen accomplice of two men’s iPhones in Greenacres and a robbery outside the Boca Raton library where the robbers dragged an elderly woman to the ground at gunpoint before making off with a purse, credit cards and other items from her and two other women.

Cunnington, who was listed with addresses in Lauderhill and Clewiston, was also accused of robbing another man of his cell phone at gunpoint while the man was sitting on a bench at Veteran’s Park in Greenacres.

According to arrest records in the library case, Cunnington and the teen followed three elderly women to the parking lot of the public library after dark while riding Hoverboards they’d taken at gunpoint from two riders in Ocean Ridge hours earlier.

 The women told police one of the men pulled out a pistol right before they got to their car. He grabbed one woman, 70, and dragged her onto the parking lot floor in an attempt to steal her purse, the report says.

The robbers ran off with one purse with several credit cards and personal items inside. The women had minor injuries.

Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentenced Cunnington to a total of eight years in prison on all the charges as part of a plea deal from Assistant Public Defendern Maegan Young and Assistant State Attorney Emily Walters.

Court records show that Cunnington’s case was moved to mental health court for several months after a court-ordered mental health evaluation in August. The records show he was subsequently deemed competent to stand trial in November.

Attorney for Anthony Simpson wants off case, says he was duped

When attorneys tell judges they want off a case, they routinely cite “irreconcilable differences,” which typically means they haven’t been paid.

 

But, when a Jupiter attorney decided he no longer wanted to represent former North Palm Beach jeweler Anthony Simpson, he felt compelled to apologize to the judge and lawyers representing a New Jersey woman who is trying to evict Simpson from his home. Court records show he deeded it to her in 2015 in exchange for $450,000.

“My credibility is all I have and I have been lied to repeatedly by (Simpson),” attorney David Kuschel wrote in a motion filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court earlier this month. “I did not become an attorney to abuse the judicial system or to lie to other members of the Florida Bar and the Court.”

Like others who have dealt with the former owner of Shamrock Jewelers on Northlake Boulevard, Kuschel said he believed Simpson when he told him he had “a financial backer.” Simpson promised repeatedly that the anonymous benefactor would give him $600,000 to settle the eviction lawsuit filed against him by Jodi Monell, as trustee of two family-owned trusts in Colts Neck, N.J., Kuschel wrote.

Kuschel said he met with people who were interested in buying Simpson’s home but that they didn’t understand the urgency of doing so. “Apparently, (Simpson) also misrepresented facts to the financial backers,” he wrote.

“The undersigned counsel does not know what else he can do, hence withdrawing from this action is my best course of action,” he wrote in the request.

In 2015, Simpson repeatedly told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Erik Kimball he had “an angel” who would repay those who invested roughly $12 million in Rollaguard, a company he formed to produce a high-tech brief case. When the anonymous benefactor never appeared, Kimball put a bankruptcy trustee in charge of Rollaguard and Shamrock, who closed them both.

Trustee Robert Furr has filed dozens of lawsuits trying to recover millions from those who made money on both Shamrock and Rollaguard at the expense of others. Simpson also faces charges in Louisiana for writing bad checks to a diamond broker there.

Circuit Judge Edward Artau has scheduled a hearing on April 17 on Monell’s request to order Simpson out of his Oyster Road home.

Boca attorney again asks court to declare Trump mentally unfit

A Boca Raton probate and guardianship lawyer has renewed his efforts to have Donald Trump declared mentally unfit to serve as president of the United States.

Donald Trump
New U.S. President Donald Trump

Attorney James Herb said Trump’s actions over the last 10 days – fighting over the size of the crowd at his inauguration, insisting he really won the popular vote and inciting international turmoil with an immigration ban – reinforce his earlier claims that part-time Palm Beach resident is delusional.

A similar guardianship petition Herb filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in the run-up to the November election was thrown out by Circuit Judge Jaimie Goodman. As a state court judge, Goodman said he had no power to block Trump’s candidacy or remove him from office. Further, he ruled, Herb didn’t have a relationship with Trump that would allow him to ask that the real estate tycoon be declared incompetent.

Herb said he has addressed those legal obstacles in a new petition filed Monday. “I did not have a relationship with him but I now do because he’s my president,” Herb said.

Further, he said, he’s not asking a judge to remove Trump from office. That would be done in accordance with a process outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

Herb said he is simply asking a judge to appoint a team of experts to evaluate the new chief executive’s mental health. If Trump is found incompetent by the three-person panel, the judge could then limit his activities.

In the petition, Herb is asking that Trump be barred from “seeking or retaining employment.” In an asterisks, he notes that he is asking Trump be prohibited from “retaining employment as President of the United States.” If a judge agrees to the limitation, the order would be forwarded to federal officials capable of removing him from office.

As he did in the previous petition, Herb claims Trump exhibits signs of narcissism and histrionic personality disorder. Both are recognized as mental illnesses by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Since taking office, Trump has also exhibited signs of being delusional, Herb wrote.

Herb, who was criticized as a publicity-hound after filing the first petition in October, said his actions aren’t part of some self-serving publicity stunt. A longtime guardianship and probate lawyer, he said his practice is now primarily limited to wills and trusts.

“I’m not interested in getting business. I have plenty of business,” he said.

His goal, he said, is much more far-reaching. “I’m trying to save the world,” he said.

He is not alone in his suspicion that Trump is mentally unfit to be president. A group calling itself “We The People,” on Sunday started an online petition to “Demand Congress Require an Independent Expert Panel Determine the President’s Psychiatric Stability to Protect America.” If they get 99,999 signatures by Feb. 28, the White House by law has to respond.

 

Prosecutors, clerks to host workshop on sealing, expunging records

tmpNSWfqS-mdly-photoRemember that old criminal charge you’ve always wanted to get removed from your record?

The Palm Beach County court system has a workshop for that.

Officials from the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office, Palm Beach County Clerk of Court and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday will host a second sealing and expunging workshop for people seeking to have an arrest removed from their record.

Sheriff’s officials in a flyer list eligible participants as people who were ever charged with a crime in a Palm Beach County case that did not result in conviction, adding that people who fit that criteria may be able to a get a single arrest record sealed or expunged.

“Our community becomes safer when those who are eligible under the law for sealing and expungement can get their lives back on track and become successful members of our society,” Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said in a press release this week.

The workshop will be held Thursday on the first floor of the main courthouse at 205 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, from 3:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Workshop attendees should bring the following:

  1. A Florida driver’s license, Florida issued photo I.D. or U.S. Passport.
  2. A completed “State Attorney’s Preliminary Application for Sealing/Expungement Eligibility,” which can be found at sa15.org.
  3. Any copies of old paperwork available on the arrest. If the case occurred before 2008, call ahead so the clerk has a few days to locate the old file.

For more questions, contact Angel at 561-355-7373 or Lidis at 561-355-7313

State to pay Dalia Dippolito’s trial transcript costs, judge rules

A state agency will pay the cost to transcribe Dalia Dippolito’s second trial to help her attorneys to prepare for her third trial this summer, a judge has ruled.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley at the end of a short hearing Thursday granted defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld’s request to have the state pay for what he estimates will be at least $10,000 in transcription costs to receive a written play-by-play of the December retrial that ended in mistrial.

Dippolito is now on house arrest as she awaits a third trial in the case where she was caught on camera allegedly hiring a hitman to kill her husband, Michael, in 2009.

The “hitman” turned out to be a Boynton Beach police detective who was part of an investigation that began when Dippolito’s then-lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, told authorities that Dippolito was shopping for a killer.

Rosenfeld, who last month revealed he is representing Dippolito free of charge, and California defense attorney Brian Claypool had previously won a request to have Dippolito declared indigent for the purposes of costs and fees associated with her defense. Dippolito has not been able to work since her 2009 arrest, her lawyers say, because she’s been on house arrest for most of that time.

Dippolito was jailed briefly after a first jury in her case convicted her in 2011. A judge back then sentenced to her to 20 years sin prison, but she was released on an appellate bond shortly afterwards as her lawyers fought to get her a new trial.

They won that quest when an appellate court threw out both the conviction and sentence in 2014, clearing the way for December’s trial.

That trial ended in mistrial after jurors announced they were split 3-3 over whether or not Dippolito was guilty.

Kelley set the start of jury selection for Dippolito’s third trial for June 2.

UPDATE: Judge denies Corey Jones shooter’s bid to attend child’s event

 

Nouman Raja leaves court with his wife Thursday, January 26, 2017 after a hearing where he hoped to have conditions of his house arrest loosened to attend an event at his daughter's school. The judge denied the request. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Nouman Raja leaves court with his wife Thursday, January 26, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE 8:41 a.m.: Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer denied Nouman Raja’s request to relax his house arrest this Sunday as he awaits trial in the death of a stranded motorist.

Raja, the former Palm Beach Gardens police officer accused of manslaughter and attempted murder in the Oct. 18, 2015 shooting death of Corey Jones, had asked a judge to release him from house arrest so he can attend a school event for his daughter.

See Post’s full coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

Raja’s wife, Karine Antonio Raja, said all the other parents sat her daughter’s preschool would be attending the event and that her five-year-old daughter had asked for both her mother and father to attend.

But Feuer, agreeing with Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis that the request should be denied, called the request “a slippery slope.”

“I simply believe that this just chips away at the importance and essence of house arrest,” Feuer said. “I understand that this is an important day in Mr. Raja’s child’s life, but I think the ramifications that were placed on Mr. Raja’s house arrest should remain at this time.”

Raja was arrested in June, nearly eight months after he approached the 31-year-old stranded motorist in plainclothes and shot him several times after a brief encounter on the off-ramp of Interstate 95 and PGA Boulevard.

By then, he had been fired from the department and also let go from a job as a police academy instructor at Palm Beach State College.

Thursday’s hearing brought Raja face to face for the first time with Jones’ father, stepmother and brother, who did not attend his first appearance hearing back in June.

It also marked the first time Raja’s wife has spoken publicly since his arrest.

Feuer at the end of the hearing canceled a status check in the case set for next month and instead asked the lawyers to come back with an update on March 28.

The judge has said she wants to bring the case to trial as early as this summer, but prosecutors alone have listed dozens of potential witnesses that Raja’s defense team will be entitled to interview before trial.

Raja told investigators initially that he identified himself as an officer and only shot at Jones when he charged at him with a gun.

Jones was on the line with a roadside assistance operator at the time, and the recording prosecutors released recently in the case captured no such introduction.

In Raja’s June arrest report, prosecutors also noted Raja’s 911 call, where he repeatedly shouted to someone – presumably Jones – to drop the gun.

But prosecutors claim that according to Jones’ injuries and the time Raja fired his last shots, Jones was likely dead and certainly already on the ground by the time Raja dialed 911.

Raja has been free on house arrest since his arrest and is only permitted to leave the house for work, medical visits, dropping his children off at school and once monthly haircuts.

Chief Assistant State Attorneys Brian Fernandes and Adrienne Ellis in the past have balked at Raja’s requests to relax his house arrest, saying that Jones never had a chance of his own to have children and be with family because of him untimely death.

Raja’s attorney, Richard Lubin, has said that his client is presumed innocent and says he should be free from “a rush to judgement” in the case.

VERDICT: Pair acquitted in 2008 Lake Worth murder

A Palm Beach County jury on Wednesday acquitted Tzaddi Allen and Dexter Lewis in the 2008 murder of Randall Copeland.

The jury’s verdict comes after more than four hours of deliberation that began Tuesday.

Assistant State Attorneys Andrew Slater and Karen Murillo argued that Allen and Lewis were two of several men who pulled up to a home where Copeland was staying on May 30, 2008 and ambushed him.

It was Allen, prosecutors say, who shot Copeland when he tried to run.

They say Allen and Lewis tried to rob Copeland to avenge Copeland’s former roommate, Ashley Rosa, a new girlfriend of Allen’s who felt Copeland owed her rent money after he abruptly moved out.

But Allen’s defense attorneys, Assistant Piblic Defenders Scott Pribble and James Snowden, and Lewis’ attorney, Franklin Prince, have said the only guilty parties in the case are Rosa, her brother Mark and a third man, Dwayne Jackson. 

Jackson and Mark Rosa are free after serving 7-year sentences. Ashley Rosa was never charged. 

DIY legal workshops to be held at Palm Beach County courthouse

The Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller’s office on Tuesday announced a series of free “Self-Service” workshops designed to help people navigate through the local court system and file legal documents.

The first of these workshops, on landlord/tenant evictions, will be held Wednesday at the main courthouse in West Palm Beach from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Other planned topics for the series of workshops include simplified divorce, small claims and sealing and expunging records.

For more information, call (561) 355-7048.