Dalia Dippolito retrial: state plays recorded murder plot

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4:08 p.m. UPDATE : Dalia Dippolito thought getting her hair done would make for a good alibi spot to be in when a hitman killed her husband.

Her words, played in a videotaped conversation between her and her lover-turned police informant Mohamed Shihadeh, dominated a slow first day of testimony in the 34-year-old former Boynton Beach newlywed’s retrial in the alleged 2009 plot to kill her then-husband, Michael.

Live coverage: Dalia Dippolito trial

In a handful of video and audio recordings so far, Dippolito appeared to project a cool, calm demeanor as she discussed with her sometime lover the logistics of hiring a man she thought was a hitman acquaintance of one of Mohamed’s relatives.

She did, however, express concern over the fact that some of their conversations were over the phone, wanted to make sure the hitman would carry out the act and was worried he might take her money and not follow through.

“Nobody’s going to be able to point a finger back at me,” Dippolito is overheard telling Shihadeh in one video.

Boynton Beach police officer Alex Mareno testifies about the phone calls he recorded between Dalia Dippolito and Mohamed Shihadeh on the first day of Dippolito's murder-for-hire retrial Wednesday, December 7, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL
Boynton Beach police officer Alex Mareno testifies about the phone calls he recorded between Dalia Dippolito and Mohamed Shihadeh on the first day of Dippolito’s murder-for-hire retrial Wednesday, December 7, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL

Prosecutors told jurors today that what Dippolito didn’t know is that it was already too late. Boynton Beach police were already listening in on their conversations, and the alleged hitman was actually an undercover detective.

Dippolito this year said she knew all about the investigation, but her husband and Shihadeh coerced her to act along in hopes that it would score all three of them Hollywood fame.

But defense attorney Brian Claypool in his opening statements to jurors in the trial this morning appears to have abandoned that defense except for a reference to the plot being “all fake” and “part of a script.”

The real actors, Claypool said, were Boynton Beach police officials who violated Dippolito’s rights to unlawfully get her to continue the murder try to make for a good episode of the television show “Cops.”

In the recorded conversations played for jurors Wednesday, Dippolito repeatedly asks Shihadeh if the informant she is set to meet will make good on his promise to kill Michael Dippolito for $3,000.

“Are you sure sure?” Dippolito asked.

“How sure do you want? You’re planning a murder, c’mon!” an exasperated-sounding Shihadeh responded.

Jurors heard the recordings while the state’s first witness, Boynton Beach Police Detective Alex Moreno, was on the witness stand.

11:15 a.m. UPDATE : For Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams, the case against former Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito is simple.

Williams told jurors in opening statements for Dippolito’s retrial Wednesday that the 34-year-old simply tried to pay a hitman $3,000 to kill her husband. And she got caught.

Live coverage: Dalia Dippolito trial

“What’s great about this case is that it is based 100 percent on Ms Dippoito’s words, Ms Dippolito’s actions and Ms Dippolito’s intent,” Williams said.

Defense attorney Brian Claypool, well into his opening statements, has yet to mention Dippolito’s claims from last year that her husband, Michael Dippolito, and her lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, forced her to meet with the undercover detective because they thought the recorded exchanges would land them all acting jobs.

Instead, he’s said Boynton Beach Police forced Shihadeh to set Dippoito up even after he said he wanted out.

What’s more, Claypool said, police either failed to record or lost or destroyed recordings from more than 100 phone calls between Shihadeh and Dippolito over the course of the investigation.

“Maybe she wanted to rethink things, maybe she had issues with her husband that she needed to work out. But will you get to hear about that? No,” Claypool said.

The truth, Claypool said, was that Dippolito wanted out of the alleged plot.

ORIGINAL POST: Arguments over a request to keep recorded evidence from jurors marked the start Wednesday of Dalia Dippolito’s second trial in the August 2009 Boynton Beach case surrounding her alleged plot to have her then-husband Michael killed.

Dippolito’s defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to keep out portions of Dippolito’s caught-on-camera plot involving a police officer posing as a hitman.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley has also put off a defense request for a mistrial.

Michael Dippolito divorced Dalia Dippolito after a first jury in 2011 convicted her of solicitation of first-degree murder charges. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but that sentence was overturned on appeal.

At Dippolito’s last trial, her now-former husband was the star witness against her and described how a Boynton Beach police officer’s knock on the door in August 2009 was his first clue that the woman he’d married just a month earlier was trying to have him killed.

A point of contention in the case will likely be how much of the alleged plot was Dippolito’s own doing and how much of it was contrived by the Boynton Beach Police Department to make for a good episode of the television show “Cops.”

Dippolito’s defense team tried several times unsuccessfully to get the case thrown out altogether because of claims that Boynton police violated her rights in the way they conducted the investigation.

Dippolito has also claimed that her husband and Mohamed Shihadeh, her lover-turned-police-informant, concocted the murder-for-hire-plot together as part of an acting script and forced her to go through with it.

A point of contention in the case will be Dippolito’s attorneys’ attempts to claim that police failed to record hundreds of calls between Dippolito and Shihadeh before and after he introduced her to the fake hitman.

Dippolito’s attonreys say there were more than 500 such calls, but prosecutors say the number is closer to two dozen and the calls in question were brief.

 

Girlfriend of murdered FAU student tearfully testifies

Through tears, the longtime girlfriend of slain Florida Atlantic University student Nicholas Acosta on Tuesday haltingly described the violence that erupted seconds after she opened the door of her Boca Raton apartment for what was suppose to be a routine drug deal.

Donovan Henry
Donovan Henry shortly after his arrest. His hair has been cut short for the trial.

While Kayla Bartosiewicz had difficulty articulating exactly what happened in the horror-filled seconds, she firmly identified 19-year-old Donovan Henry as the young man she let in on December 29, 2015, believing the fellow student simply wanted to buy some marijuana from her boyfriend. However, minutes after Henry and a younger man came into the apartment in University Park, three other men Bartosiewicz said she didn’t know barged in.

After screaming at them to, “Get on the ground,” one of the men shot Acosta twice, killing him, she testified.

Nicholas Max Acosta
Nicholas Max Acosta

Attorney Scott Skier, who represents Henry, who is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and armed burglary, hasn’t yet given his opening statements in which he explains to jurors Henry’s version of events. But, while questioning Bartosiewicz, Skier offered hints of his defense strategy. He indicated that he will argue that Henry had no plans to kill Acosta. In court papers, he has said Alexander Gillis, who police say was the shooter, masterminded the murder without Henry’s knowledge. Gillis and Adonis Gillis are awaiting trial.

A freshman, majoring in engineering and playing on FAU’s soccer team, Henry was friends with Acosta, Skier insisted. But, while Bartosiewicz acknowledged that both she and Acosta had seen Henry at a party and that Henry had bought pot from Acosta at least three times before, she rejected Skier’s intimation that the two were friends.

She firmly answered “no” when Skier asked whether Henry and Acosta had embraced when he entered the apartment. “That didn’t happen,” she said. But, she said, Acosta knew Henry well enough to give him the electronic code so he could enter the apartment.

Under questioning by Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes, she also acknowledged that she initially lied to police about Acosta’s illicit business and didn’t tell them that the intruders stole a quarter-pound bag of pot on their way out.

“I didn’t want Nick to be remembered that way,” she said. “Because he was so much more than that.”

The star witness is expected to be Rodrick Woods, who was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder after agreeing to testify against the others.

The trial is expected to wrap up Friday or Monday.

 

 

Lake Clarke Shores murder case ends with plea

Nicholas Agatheas DOC photo
Nicholas Agatheas DOC photo

A last-minute plea deal has ended what could have been a second trial in a Lake Clarke Shores murder case from more than a decade ago.

Nicholas Agatheas, 40, accepted an agreement Monday that will send him to prison for 22 years for the 2005 murder of Thomas Villano in Lake Clarke Shores.

The penalty is much lower than the life sentence he received in 2006 after his first trial in the case.

His attorneys and prosecutors reached the plea deal allowing him to plead guilty to a lesser second-degree murder charge before what was to have been his second trial in the case.

Villano found shot eight times inside his Lake Clarke Shores home.

At his first trial, prosecutors called to the stand Agatheas’ former girlfriend, who testified that he had admitted killing Villano shortly after they saw television coverage of his death.

The girlfriend testified Agatheas also told her he had left his T-shirt at the scene. Investigators found a discarded T-shirt in Villano’s ransacked home. Though investigators could not initially make a match, improved DNA technology years later linked Agatheas to the shirt.

In the new trial, Agatheas defense attorneys were expected to argue that because Agatheas worked for Villano’s small restaurant equipment company, the shirt could have been at Villano’s home after Agatheas did other work there.

Dalia Dippolito jury selected, trial to begin Wednesday

Judge Glenn Kelley presides over the fourth day of jury selection for Dalia Dippolito's retrial at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida on December 6, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post) Pool
Judge Glenn Kelley presides over the fourth day of jury selection for Dalia Dippolito’s retrial at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida on December 6, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post) Pool

UPDATE 4:58 p.m.: A group of five women and three men will make up the pool of six jurors and two alternates in the retrial of former Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito, who is accused of a 2009 caught-on-camera plot to have her husband killed.

Dippolito’s defense attorneys immediately indicated that they will request to have the jurors sequestered. The selection of jurors ends four days of jury selection rocked by Dippolito’s last-minute attempts to drop the entire pool of 200 prospective jurors sand move the case out of Palm Beach COunty.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley denied the request to sequester the jury and said he will assk them every day whether they’ve been exposed to media attention in the case.

“I’ll stay on top of it,” Kelley said.

Opening statements in the trial will begin Wednesday.

 

UPDATE 1:54 p.m.: Concerns over the husband of a potential Dalia Dippolito juror temporarily halted jury selection in her retrial amid claims the man was stalking Dippolito.

Dippolito, 34, said she recognized the man from her 2011 sentencing hearing and other hearings in her case.

Concerns first rose Monday, when defense attorneys Greg Rosenfeld and Brian Claypool said the then-unidentified man was seen having lunch with a juror last week.

It turns out that juror, who was also accused of making a derrogatory comment about Dippolito to two other prospective jurors, is the wife of the court watcher.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley brought the man in for questioning. He said he watched the news and heard about Dippolito’s case, but denied telling his wife anything about it.

“I’d get shot if I did,” he said. “She’s a tough little lady.”

ORIGINAL POST: The presiding judge in Dalia Dippolito’s retrial has again rejected her request to move her case out of Palm Beach County because of widespread publicity of the case.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley announced his decision Tuesday in what developed into a heated exchange between the judge and defense attorneys in the case.

Responding to claims from defense attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld that a television news poll revealed most viewers thought Dippolito couldn’t get a fair jury in Palm Beach County, Kelley said he didn’t need to see it.

“I’m not going to rely on the poll, and quite frankly, I don’t care what the citizens of Palm Beach County think because I’m the one who is sitting in the chair,” Kelley said.

His words come a day after rising concerns about the number of jurors who knew about Dippolito’s alleged murder-for-hire plot led defense attorneys to renew their efforts to get the case moved.

Kelley had said he would consider the request overnight, and announced his decision to keep questioning the 55 prospective jurors early Tuesday.

Claypool, comparing Dippolito’s case to the two DUI manslaughter trials of Wellington polo mogul John Goodman, questioned Kelley’s decision to keep the case local, considering Goodman’s second jury came from Tampa.

“We’ve done our due diligence. I think the court is ignoring that, because the court is in a rush to get a jury in Palm Beach County,” Claypool said.

“I am considering the volume of publicity, and you need to lower your volume,” Kelley said in response. “Passion is fine, but you need to lower your volume.”

After the exchange, jury selection continued with the 50 remaining jurors from an initial prospective pool of 200.

Claypool, in questioning the jurors Tuesday morning, appeared to preview Dippolito’s defense that Boynton Beach Police violated Dippolito’s civil rights in the way they handled the investigation into Dippolito’s alleged attempt to have her then-husband Michael killed.

The investigation began when Dippolito’s lover, Mohamed Shihedeh, told police Dippolito was looking for a hitman. He would later say that he hoped to get help for Dippolito, who had told him her husband was abusing her.

Shihadeh said police coerced him to continue setting Dippolito up for the caught-on-camera investigation with an undercover officer posing as a hitman even after he asked to back out.

Dippolito herself said in court earlier this year that Shihadeh and her husband had made up the plot as part of an acting showcase to get them all jobs, and both of them forced her to continue with it after she tried to back out of the plot.

 

UPDATE: Dalia Dippolito jury pool challenged, venue change possible

 

 

Dalia Dippolito looks out at the pool of prospective jurors before the start of the second day of jury selection for her retrial Friday, December 2, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett
Dalia Dippolito looks out at the pool of prospective jurors before the start of the second day of jury selection for her retrial Friday, December 2, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett

UPDATE 2:20 p.m.: Reports that an avid Dippolito court watcher had lunch with a potential jurors last week and that there was juror chatter about Dippolito on the first day of jury selection became the newest allegations that threaten to derail jury selection for Dippolito’s case.

Just before the lunch break, Dippolito’s defense team reported that a friend of Dippolito, seated in the court gallery, overheard a female prospective juror telling two others “we got her” – presumably about Dippolito.

Defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld said the same juror who allegedly made the comment was observed having lunch at the courthouse last week with an unidentified man who has attended as an observer a number of pretrial hearings in Dippolito’s case.

After the break, as Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley questioned those who were involved in the allegations surrounding the comment, one female prospective juror denied making or hearing the comment, but added that there was buzz in the juror pool on the first day of jury selection about Dippolito.

Though she didn’t recall having heard specifics about the case, the reference was enough for Rosenfeld and defense attorney Brian Claypool to renew their request to strike the jury panel and pick jurors from another area.

“I mean, this is terrifying,’ Rosenfeld said. “Everybody knows about this case, she is never going to get a fair trial in Palm Beach county, this is a perfect example. Her constitutional rights are being eviscerated here.”

Kelley did not grant the motion but didn’t deny it either, betraying what until now has been his biggest hint that he may consider scrapping the panel.

“I don’t think it’s time to pull the plug here,” Kelley said, however.

ORIGINAL POST: Calling her case “a poster child case” for why criminal trials should be moved out of the area in high-publicity cases, Dalia Dippolito’s attorneys tried unsuccessfully Monday to get a judge to move her case out of Palm Beach County.

The formal request comes on the third day of jury selection in what will be the second trial in the 2009 case surrounding Dippolito’s caught-on-camera alleged plot to have her husband Michael killed.

While more than five dozen prospective jurors remaining out of an initial 200 waited downstairs, defense attorney Brian Claypool told Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley their case has been “decimated” by the amount of publicity in the case.

“I’m pretty confident that we’re not going to get a fair and impartial jury,” Claypool said, later adding:”The continuity of the publicity has gotten worse.”

Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart Laurie said Claypool himself is to blame for the increased media attention, citing after-court press conferences and an appearance last week on HLN.

“He just tweeted two hours ago about this case,” Laurie said.

Claypool said that his tweets have been procedural about the case and added he felt that the community had a right to know.

Kelley said he didn’t want to assign blame to anyone for the publicity, saying “it is what it is.”

“Much of it has been inflammatory. I have to concede that,” Kelley said of the case.

Still, he decided to keep trying to select a jury from the pool of 66 prospective that remain. If attempts to pick from that pool fail, Kelley said, then he will reconsider.

Dalia Dippolito trial: most of prospective jurors knew about case

A prospective juror in Dalia Dippolito’s murder solicitation trial told a judge Thursday that he had a conversation with his wife after they watched a news report on the case years ago.

After hearing that Dippolito was caught on camera asking an undercover officer posing as a hitman to kill her then-husband in 2009, the man said he turned to his wife with a warning.

“I told my wife ‘be careful who you hire,’ She said ‘Don’t worry, I’d do it myself,” she said.

Dippolito, 34, smiled as both prosecutors and her defense team shares smiles and chuckles of their own, marking a brief light moment on what was the first day of jury selection in the retrial for the escort-turned-newlywed who says her caught on camera murder plot was part of an acting script.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley, who had hoped to finish electing a jury by Friday, quickly scrapped those plans when more than half of a pool of 100 prospective jurors said they’d already heard about Dippolito’s case.

Kelley questioned jurors who had heard about the case one by one, a process that took the rest of the day. Another 100 prospective jurors, which were originally scheduled for initial questioning Thursday afternoon, will instead come back Friday.

Questioning each juror individually about their prior knowledge of the case is important because Dippolito’s 2011 conviction and 20-year prison sentence in the case was overturned on appeal because Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath should have questioned jurors individually instead of as a group about what they knew about the case.

Less than a quarter of the initial pool of 100 jurors made it immediately through the first round of questioning after telling Kelley they hadn’t heard about the case and had no hardship that would keep them from serving as jurors for the week-long trial.

Less than a dozen more were asked to return Monday after individual questioning.

Most who had heard about the case before Thursday, however, were dismissed – including those who knew there had been a previous trial and heard certain details about the case that attorneys and the judge agreed would be kept from jurors.

A handful had heard Dippolito, 34, was working as an escort when she met Michael Dippolito, who subsequently divorced his wife and married her months later.

Others had seen the viral video of Dippolito crying fake tears at what was later revealed as a staged crime scene where police officers led her to believe her plot had been successful and her husband was dead.

A tense moment in  the day’s jury selection came when a prospective juror informed a court deputy that he could hear the individual jurors being questioned inside the courtroom from a live feed to a nearby conference room set up for television reporters covering the case.

After hearing the door to the room had been left open for at least part of the day, Dippolito attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld asked Kelley to strike the entire jury panel.

“There’s no way to tell how deep this goes,’ Rosenfeld said.

Kelley opted to question jurors about it individually, and appeared set to move forward after the juror who reported the incident and other prospective jurors all said they could only  hear voices but no specific conversations between the judge and individual jurors.

Jury selection will continue Friday and is expected to wrap Monday. The trial could begin as early as Tuesday.

Man who killed friend after years of ridicule asks for light sentence

Ronald Hight booking photo
Ronald Hight booking photo

Attorneys for a Royal Palm Beach man who shot and killed his friend because he was fed up with years of the man’s threats and putdowns pleaded with a judge Monday to keep him out of prison.

Ronald Hight, who hung his head through most of his sentencing hearing, was set to receive his sentence Monday, a month after a jury convicted him of manslaughter in Craig Rivera’s January 2013 shooting death.

But because Hight’s attorneys wanted Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley to review some more letters on Hight’s behalf along with a report outlining claims that Hight suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Kelley postponed the pronouncement of Hight’s sentence to Dec. 15.

The sentencing hearing comes on Hight’s 28th birthday and nearly three years after the January 2013 shooting during what was supposed to be a gathering to celebrate Hight’s 25th birthday.

According to Hight’s arrest report, Hight and Rivera’s friendship was one marked by Rivera’s constant putdowns and belittlement of his younger friend. Rivera, 41, of Wellington, worked with Hight and according to witnesses had a habit of touching Hight inappropriately, joking that the two had a sexual relationship and making other derogatory comments towards him.

“What he told the investigators what that he was fed up,” Assistant State Attorney Lauren Godden said Monday.

Still, witnesses told police, Hight’s family still had an “open door policy” at their Royal Palm Beach home for Rivera They never witnessed Rivera being physically violent with Hight, they said, and the two had lunch together the afternoon before the shooting.

By that night, however, Hight told witnesses that he had “a bad feeling” about earlier threats from Rivera to beat him up.

So when Rivera confronted Hight and approached him after ridiculing him during a party at Hight’s family home, Hight took out his .40 caliber Glock and shot the 41-year-old Wellington man once in the head.

“He outweighed him by 100 pounds, he was standing in his face, it’s clear who the aggressor was here,” defense attorney Scott Berry told Kelley, reminding the judge of his arguments during trial that Hight acted in self-defense.

Godden and felow prosecutor Aaron Papero asked Kelley to sentence Hight to 20 years in prison. Berry and attorneys Thomas Gano and Donnie Murrell asked Kelley to depart from the minimum 10-year recommended sentence, asking for county jail time and probation.

Berry cited Hight’s lack of a prior criminal record, and Rivera’s alleged role as the aggressor of the conflict. In Hight’s statement to detectives, played for jurors during his October trial, Berry characterized Hight as “crying, upset, and feeling for Mr. Rivera’s family.”

“Again, these are all signs of remorse for what happened here,” Berry said.

Stella and Patricia Rivera, Rivera’s 15-year-old twin daughters, told Kelley in a letter that the death of their father has shattered their family.

Because their mother is incarcerated, Rivera, who had himself been arrested six times since 1992, was a single father.

“My father can never be around ever, because of this man’s action,” Stella Rivera wrote in a letter Godden read aloud. “All my family wants if for this man to get what he deserves.”

Joseph Walker sentenced to life for murder of girlfriend’s brother

gavelTaking the life of his girlfriend’s disabled brother earned Joseph Walker a trip to spend the rest of his own life in prison, a judge decided Friday.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentenced the 22-year-old to life in prison in at the end of a short hearing that comes nearly a month after a jury convicted Walker of second-degree murder in the March 2013 stabbing death of 38-year-old Tyrone Richardson.

Prosecutors in his trial claimed that Walker killed Richardson in anger after Richardson told him to stop dating his sister, Rhandi.

Walker later claimed he stabbed Richardson in self-defense.

Walker’s relatives in letters to Marx on his behalf described him as a loving brother who doted on his nieces and nephews, helped his mother and had aspirations for a career as a physical therapist.

“Wrong place at the wrong time,” Walker’s uncle, Ellis Green, said about his nephew’s case. “He’s praying and the family is praying. I hope for the best. Not for the worst.”

At the time of his death, Richardson lived in an independent living facility. His sister had asked if she and Walker could stay with him on the night he was killed because Walker’s mother had kicked him out of the house and Walker had plans to move to Georgia the next day.

According to arrest reports, Richardson hesitated, asking his sister to call their parents and get their approval first.

Walker in 2014 was on probation, having been found guilty in December 16, 2011 of robbery with a firearm and dealing in stolen property.

Jail payback? One-time murder defendant accused of arranging threats

Walter Burks
Walter Burks

Three months ago, Shantoria Thompson stood trial for perjury in a case where fear of retaliation from Lonnie Davis and Walter Burks Jr. led her to recant claims she saw the two men rob and kill a Belle Glade man.

Now, one of the men is accused of plotting from jail to somehow get to an eyewitness and prosecutor in another case against him – allegations that led a judge who was supposed to preside over his trial this week to instead revoke his jail phone and visitation privileges.

Burks, known in Belle Glade as “Boss Hog,” escaped a murder charge in 2013 after prosecutors were forced to drop charges against him in the May 2011 death of John C. Griffin. Prosecutors credited Thompson, a 25-year-old mother of one, with sinking their case after threats of harm led her to say she hadn’t witnessed the shooting after all.

Burks landed back in jail a year later from an April 2014 armed robbery at the Buy Rite Furniture store at 64 W. Ave. A in Belle Glade.

His trial was supposed to begin this week, but Assistant State Attorney Brianna Coakley in court records last week aid Burks was caught in a recorded jail call passing both her name and the name of an eyewitness to the robbery to someone at the other end of the line with instructions to pass the names along to someone else.

“The State has a substantial fear that the Defendant is attempting to coordinate witness intimidation from the jail,” Coakley wrote in a Nov. 9 motion to Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes. “Prior and subsequent calls also allude to contacting some individual and getting the witness information.”

According to Coakley, Burks on the recorded like spells out her name when asked for “state’s name,” then also spelled out the name of eyewitness Kathy Walton.

Before then, Coakley said, Burks can be heard tellilng the unidentified call recipient: “I’m taking your word for it that this [expletive] is straight.”

Kastrenakes on Monday granted Coakley’s request to cut Burks jail visitation and phone privileges except for calls and visits from his attorneys because of the calls.

Though jury selection was expected to begin in his case Monday, Kastrenakes set the case on a two-hour call, meaning it could go to trial anytime over the next several weeks.

Burks, 24, is accused of battery on a person 65 years of age or older for allegedly placing store owner Virgil Tullos in a choke hold during a robbery where two assailants made off with $20.

As for Thompson, it took a jury less than two hours in August to acquit her of perjury charges after defense attorney Andrew Strecker argued that she backed away from her testimony out of duress after prosecutors and investigators repeatedly failed to adequately protect her from threats she received.

Davis, 25, is currently serving a year in prison on unrelated charges of resisting arrest.

VERDICT: Fort Pierce man GUILTY in death of Belle Glade man

gavelUPDATE 5:55 p.m.: A Palm Beach County found a Fort Pierce man guilty of first degree murder in the 2014 masked shooting death of a 24-year-old Belle Glade man.

The verdict for Jaycobby Dukes late Thursday came after more than eight hours of deliberation that began Wednesday.

Circuit Judge Laura Johnson moved forward with a sentencing hearing immediately after the verdict, and – with a life sentence mandatory based on his conviction – handed the 24-year-old Dukes a life in prison punishment.

 

ORIGINAL POST: A jury’s second day of deliberation is ongoing in the trial of a 24-year-old Fort Pierce man accused of donning a mask and executing an enemy two years ago in a Belle Glade shooting caught on camera.

Whether Jaycobby Dukes was the one who killed 24-year-old Lennard “Boe” Cobb, or whether it could have been Dukes’ younger brother is a question that defense attorney Franklin Prince claims provides enough reasonable doubt for jurors to acquit Dukes on a first-degree murder charge.

But Assistant State Attorneys Emily Walters and Andrew Slater in their closing arguments to jurors Wednesday said the evidence was clear that Dukes was the masked man who shot Cobb outside the M&M Food Market at 449 Avenue A on May 13, 2014.

After deliberating briefly Wednesday, the panel returned Thursday and asked Circuit judge Laura Johnson to review the testimonies of five witnesses. Three witnesses said Dukes confessed that he shot Cobb over a longstanding feud.

If convicted, Dukes, who has a previous conviction for aggravated assault, faces life in prison.