Trial begins for Deerfield teen accused in fatal Boca crash

Wendy Harris-Aceves
Wendy Harris-Aceves

A jury as early as Wednesday could begin deliberating the case of a 16-year-old charged as an adult on vehicular homicide and other charges in the Nov. 1, 2015 death of a 47-year-old mother of two in a Boca Raton wreck.

The trial for Wesley Brown began in a Palm Beach County courtroom Tuesday, where prosecutors and defense attorneys presented two different scenarios for jurors of what happened the night Brown plowed a stolen convertible Ford Mustang into Wendy Harris-Aceves’ Honda pilot as he and a passenger fled from Boca Raton Police.

Harris-Aceves was driving along Palmetto Park Road, on her way to pick her daughter from a school dance just before 11:30 p.m., when Brown allegedly ran a red light at Northwest Second Avenue and hit her SUV. Brown was just 15 at the time.

Assistant State Attorneys Danielle Sherriff and Laura Burkhart Laurie have told jurors in the trial that Brown was behind the wheel of the Mustang when Boca Raton Police spotted it and identified it as being stolen in an armed robbery just hours before at The Addison Even Center.

According to arrest reports, Brown was not involved in the robbery.

Prosecutors did say, however, that Brown sped off soon after a patrol car pulled in behind him as he drove on Northwest Second Avenue near Glades Road, weaving in and out of traffic at speeds over 90 miles per hour until he ran the red light and caused the crash.

Police aid they had their lights sand sirens on when Brown sped through the light in the 30 miles-per-hour zone. Harris-Aceves died at the scene.

Palm Beach County Public Defender Carey Haughwout told jurors that Brown drove the car under duress, in fear of his passenger, 21-year-old Jacquan Strowbridge, who at the time was on probation for armed robbery.

Outside the jury’s presence late Tuesday, Haughwout said she planned to introduce certified records showing that Strowbridge had been released from prison four months before the crash and was still on probation from armed robbery and armed kidnapping charges.

Strowbridge tried to run from the scene soon after the crash but was captured by police. Haughwout is also planning to present evidence that Brown, who suffers from asthma, could have had an attack before the crash.

Testimony in the case is expected to continue Wednesday, when Brown himself could take the stand. Aside from vehicular homicide charges, Brown is also charged with fleeing and eluding and driving without a license.

Ocean Ridge Vice mayor headed to trial on gun, resisting arrest charges

Former Ocean Ridge Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella will stand trial in April on felony charges stemming from an October incident where he allegedly fired a gun and scuffled with police officer after getting drunk with one of the department’s lieutenants.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton set an April 10 trial date for Lucibella, whose attorney, Marc Shiner, declined to waive his right to a speedy trial in a hearing early Tuesday.

Lucibella, who resigned from office last week, is facing charges of resisting arrest with violence, firing a weapon in residential or public property and using a firearm under the influence of alcohol. He was released from the Palm Beach County Jail in October after posting a $3,000 bond.

According to arrest reports, an Oct. 22 call around 9 p.m. brought police to the 5700 block of Old Ocean Boulevard, north of Woolbright Road, after reports of gunshots. Officers checking the area found Lucibella, 63, outside his home sitting on patio chairs alongside Ocean Ridge police Lt. Steven Wohlfiel, the report said.

Though the report describes both men as “obviously intoxicated,”  an officer said it was Lucibella who became “belligerent and cooperative,” poking an officer several times in his chest and winding up with a black eye by the time he was in custody.

Shiner has since said that the arresting officer in the case used excessive force, and that Lucibella’s injuries also included three broken ribs and a loss of consciousness after the arresting officer allegedly slammed him face first into the ground.

Ocean Ridge Police Chief Hal Hutchins said his office is conducting an internal investigation, but on Wohlfiel, not the arresting officer. Wohlfiel is one of two lieutenants in the department who report directly to the chief. He has been reassigned as the investigation continues.
Lucibella, 63, is the CEO and director of Accountable Care Options, a Boynton Beach-based group of physician-directed organizations.

Gun charge dropped for Riviera teen convicted of murder

Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a felony gun charge against a Riviera Beach teen recently sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing another teen in a confrontation that stemmed from a Facebook feud.

Samuel Turner, who will turn 19 on Thursday, will likely be headed to prison this week after Assistant State Attorney Terri Skiles announced that the state would be dropping a gun charge against him in the case surrounding the October 2014 shooting death of Ivan Redding.

A jury at the end of Turner’s December 2015 first-degree murder trial convicted him of a lesser second-degree murder charge.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton in October sentenced Turner to 30 years in prison, 10 years longer than the 20-year punishment that Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Marshall requested.

Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey, who represented Turner through the trial, said more than a year ago that she planned to appeal the conviction. The appeal will likely center on video that captured part of the shooting in a car on the 2900 black of Old Dixie Highway, a video Ramsey says raised doubts about whether Turner was the shooter.

“The evidence was weird,” she said. “It was a case where every witness told a story – a very different story.”

Prosecutors said the confrontation between the teens marked the climax of a Facebook war of words between two of Redding’s sisters and Turner’s friend, Fiando Toussaint.

Turner had driven with his sisters to the convenience store on Old Dixie Highway when the sisters saw Toussaint and Turner, resulting in verbal sparring that led to a fist fight between Redding and Turner.

In the aftermath, Assistant State Attorney Lauren Godden told jurors during Turner’s trial, Turner told someone to go get his gun. Moments later, Redding had an ultimately fatal gunshot wound in his chest.

“Everyone knows Samuel Turner lost that fight, that’s why he was so angry,” Godden said.

Trial delayed for man accused of West Boca High star murder

A memorial for Christo "Sto" Maccius.
A memorial for Christo “Sto” Maccius.

A scheduled November trial has now been delayed until March for Garry Pierre, the 28-year-old North Lauderdale man accused of killing a popular former West Boca High School football star outside a bar in July.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton on Wednesday granted a defense request to delay Pierre’s trial in the death of 25-year-old Christo “Sto” Maccius, who was gunned down as he was leaving O’Connor’s Pub with two police officers.

Burton scheduled the trial, originally set to start with jury selection Nov. 30, to now begin on March 13. The judge also set a status hearing  on the case for Jan. 13.

According to witnesses, Maccius spotted Pierre starting at him the night of July 30 at a nightclub in the Sandalwood Plaza on State Road 7 south of West Palmetto Park Road. A pair of friends he was with told police Maccius told them Pierre was ” the guy I knocked out four or five years ago.”

Maccius was walking out of the club at 4:35 a.m. with the two friends, both Riviera Beach Police officers, when he was gunned down.

Maccius, 25, played football as a student at West Boca High and later returned there as a substitute teacher and security officer. He was known for his interest in working with special-needs and at-risk students.

Kimberly Lucas gets January trial date for 2014 drowning of 2-year-old

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)

A January trial date has been set for a Jupiter woman who will likely argue she was legally insane more than two years ago  when she drowned the two-year-old girl she shared with her estranged partner and tried to kill their 10-year-old son.

Kimberly Lucas’ Jan. 26 trial date was set in a hearing before Circuit Judge Charles Burton on Monday, a day after Lucas turned 43 years old while behind bars at the Palm each County Jail.

She’s been there since May 2014, after the drowning death of 2-year-old Elliana Lucas-Jamason and attempted murder of Ethan Lucas-Jamason.

Lucas and Jacquelyn Jamason, the children’s biological mother, had been together for more than 20 years and joined together in a 2001 civil union, but were estranged at the time of the killing. Jamason has said that Lucas suffered from complications from gastric bypass surgery and had subsequently developed a prescription drug problem that contributed to their split.

Lucas first announced that she would be pursuing an insanity defense more than a year ago, after her family hired private defense attorneys Heidi Perlet and Marc Shiner. Now represented by the public defender’s office, her defense at next year’s trial will still be that she suffers from dissociative identity disorder and one of her alters killed Elliana.

Lucas’ case has also been caught in the legal morass surrounding Florida’s death penalty laws.

Riviera teen Samuel Turner gets 30 years prison for 2014 murder

CLosing arguments will resume at 12:30 pm and last for about another two hours
Samuel Turner

A Palm Beach County teen was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday for shooting a 16-year-old to death in Riviera Beach after a fight sparked by a feud on Facebook.

The sentencing comes nearly a year after a jury convicted Samuel Turner of second-degree murder in the October 2014 shooting death of Ivan Redding.

The spat on social media was between Turner’s friend, Fiando Toussaint, and two of Redding’s sisters. It escalated when the sisters saw Turner and Toussaint near a convenience store on Old Dixie Highway and began calling them names. At the urging of his sisters, Redding challenged the two boys to a fight.

During the fight, Redding got the best of Turner, which made him angry, prosecutors told jurors. The sisters testified that it was Turner who reached into the car with a gun in his hand and shot Redding once in the chest at close range as the boy sat in the backseat.

Turner’s attorney Jennifer Marshall, asked Circuit Judge Charles Burton to sentence Turner to 20 years in prison.

Jamal Smith guilty of murder, gets life in prison

Jamal Smith
Jamal Smith

A Palm Beach County jury today found Jamal Smith guilty of first-degree murder for the 2011 shooting death Kemar Clayton.

After the jury delivered its verdict, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles Burton sentenced Smith to life in prison for the murder charge plus a consecutive 50 years in prions for an armed robbery conviction.
Clayton’s family, seated in the courtroom, declined to address the judge before he sentenced Smith. On her way out of the courthouse, Clayton’s mother said she was happy with the verdict and sentence for Smith but didn’t elaborate any further as she and other relatives walked out.

Smith’s family expressed audible shock at both the guilty verdict and the life sentence, which was mandatory with the first-degree murder conviction.

Two male relatives left the courtroom with harsh words for the justice system. A young woman put her head in her hands and sobbed.

“The police kill black men every day and they get to go home,” one of Smith’s aunts shouted, to no one in particular, as she left the courtroom.

Smith himself showed anger at his sentence. At one point, after hearing Burton’s life in prison sentence, he stood and pushed his chair into the table and said some words that led deputies to handcuff him and take him back to a holding cell.

When Burton asked deputies to bring him back in to pronounce his sentence on the robbery charges, he stood the entire time and leaned back against the two deputies who stood behind him.

The jury began deciding the case Tuesday afternoon after closing arguments from Assistant State Attorneys John Parnofiello and Andrew Slater and Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey, who presented jurors with two different versions of what happened when Clayton met Smith and Quentin Lythgoe hoping to buy an iPad from them.

Lythgoe testified last week that the iPad sale was just a ruse used to lure Clayton to the parking lot of a Publix Supermarket on State Road 7 so he and Smith could rob him. At some point during the robbery, Lythgoe said, Clayton tried to go for his own gun, and Smith shot him to death.

Parnofiello told jurors that the killing was not an accident, but rather a possibility Smith had planned for in the four days he planned the robbery.

Ramsey, on the other hand, reiterated Smith’s testimony in his own defense, telling jurors that physical evidence in the case fails to support prosecutors’ theory that Clayton was still reaching for the gun when Smith starting shooting.

 

Jurors to decide Jamal Smith murder trial

123115-cobia-testify-3A Palm Beach County jury is now deliberating the first-degree murder case of Jamal Smith, the 24-year-old man charged in the 2011 shooting death Kemar Clayton.

The panel began deciding the case Tuesday afternoon after closing arguments from Assistant State Attorneys John Parnofiello and Andrew Slater and Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey, who presented jurors with two different versions of what happened when Clayton met Smith and Quentin Lythgoe hoping to buy an iPad from them.

Lythgoe testified last week that the iPad sale was just a ruse used to lure Clayton to the parking lot of a Publix Supermarket on State Road 7 so he and Smith could rob him. He said Smith picked Clayton, who had a business buying and selling iPhones and iPads, after asking friends to give him leads on who to rob and hearing that Clayton might be an easy mark.

But at some point during the robbery, Lythgoe said, Clayton tried to go for his own gun, as Smith shot him to death.

Parnofiello told jurors that the killing was not an accident, but rather a possibility Smith had planned for in the four days he planned the robbery, recruited Lythgoe to come along as “muscle” and obtained a .45 -caliber handgun.

“He had that .45 to make sure he was going to come up. He had that .45 to make sure he was going to get some money,” Parnofiello said.

Ramsey, on the other hand, reiterated Smith’s testimony in his own defense, telling jurors that physical evidence in the case fails to support prosecutors’ theory that Clayton was still reaching for the gun when Smith starting shooting.

The downward splatter of Clayton’s blood is a sign that he was standing when he was shot, supporting the defense argument that there was no robbery and Clayton approached Smith with a gun after Lythgoe swiped a pair of sneakers from the trunk of Clayton’s Mercedes-Benz.

“It was a tragic misreading of motives and actions by everyone at the scene,” Ramsey said.

Although Lythgoe said the two made off with several hundred dollars in the robbery, Ramsey said the fact that investigators found several hundreds of dollars, Clayton’s jewelry and an untouched iPad on the scene is all evidence that a robbery never happened

Before Smith’s trial began last week, the expected highlight of testimony in the case was to be an appearance from Frederick Cobia, a jailhouse lawyer turned informant who claims to have obtained confessions from dozens of his cellmates – including Smith.

Though Cobia’s potential testimony was the subject of months of legal wrangling in the case, prosecutors unceremoniously announced Thursday that they would not be calling him as a witness.

 

 

 

State: Frederick Cobia won’t testify in Jamal Smith murder trial

Public Defender Carey Haughwout (left) talks with Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey and her client, Jamal Smith, after Judge Jack Cox charged Ramsey with contempt of court for allegedly violating a no-publish order in a case involving a jail informant. She faces a 6 month jail term. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Public Defender Carey Haughwout (left) talks with Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey and her client, Jamal Smith, after Judge Jack Cox charged Ramsey with contempt of court for allegedly violating a no-publish order in a case involving a jail informant. She faces a 6 month jail term. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

On what could be the last full day of testimony in 24-year-old Jamal Smith’s murder trial, prosecutors announced late Thursday that they will not be calling to the witness stand a jailhouse informant whose presence in the case sparked a firestorm of controversy last year.

Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater told Circuit Judge Charles Burton that prosecutors will likely rest their case in the murder of Kemar Kino Clayton Friday and will not call Cobia as a witness.

Cobia, a convicted murderer who prosecutors have listed as a witness in nearly two dozen other cases where he says he’s obtained confessions from other defendants, told deputies that Smith confessed his involvement in Clayton’s death while the two were housed together at the Palm Beach County Jail.

Smith’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey, has fought hard since last year to keep Cobia off the stand. Ramsey provoked the ire of Circuit Judge Jack Cox last year when she entered into court records last year transcripts of recorded jail calls between Cobia and his daughter that showed Cobia bragged about receiving special treatment for helping detectives build cases against his jail mates.

The Palm Beach Post published excerpts of those transcripts. Cox afterwards had the transcripts sealed, ordered reporters to remove excerpts from the newspaper’s website and sought criminal contempt charges against Ramsey for allegedly violating court orders.

An appellate court later overturned Cox’s ruling, and he later recused himself from Smith’s case, but Ramsey’s contempt case is still open.

As for Smith, who has argued that Clayton’s death was the result of an unintentional killing, the most damaging testimony against him now will likely be from co-defendant Quentin Lythgoe, who on Thuesday completed his testimony against his former friend.

Lythgoe told jurors that Smith lured Clayton to the parking lot of a Publix Supermarket on State Road 7 in Wellington under the guise of selling Clayton an iPad.

In exchange for his testimony, prosecutors dropped murder charges against Lythgoe, allowed him to plead guilty to robbery charges and capped a sentence recommendation at 15 years in prison.

Trial begins for Jamal Smith, whose case sparked fight over snitch

Public Defender Carey Haughwout (left) talks with Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey and her client, Jamal Smith, after Judge Jack Cox charged Ramsey with contempt of court for allegedly violating a no-publish order in a case involving a jail informant. She faces a 6 month jail term. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Public Defender Carey Haughwout (left) talks with Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey and her client, Jamal Smith, after Judge Jack Cox charged Ramsey with contempt of court for allegedly violating a no-publish order in a case involving a jail informant. She faces a 6 month jail term. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Jury selection began Wednesday in a murder trial for Jamal Smith, the man whose case sparked a court battle over the recorded conversations of a jailhouse informant.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton told a panel of more than 100 prospective jurors Wednesday that the trial for Smith, accused in the 2011 shooting death of 24-year-old Kemar Clayton, is expected to last three weeks.

The expected star witness for the state in Smith’s trial is Frederick Cobia, a jailhouse snitch who has been listed by prosecutors as a potential witness in 23 cases. He has already testified as a jail informant in two local cases and earlier this year was still scheduled to testify in two others aside from Smith’s.

Prosecutors had once intended to seek the death penalty against Cobia for the murder of a 57-year-old man in Belle Glade, but he was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in 2012 in exchange for his cooperation in eight separate cases. In the recorded jail calls, which The Post published after Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey filed them in the court record, Cobia tells his daughter he expects his continued assistance will earn him a reduced sentence.

The publishing of those calls prompted Circuit Judge Jack Cox to order the calls removed from The Post’s website and initiate contempt of court proceedings against Ramsey, Smith’s attorney.

An appellate court later overturned Cox’s decision to keep the calls private, and Cox later agreed to step down from Smith’s case, but the contempt case against Ramsey is still active.