Nouman Raja asks for delay in Corey Jones wrongful death suit

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

The former Palm Beach Gardens police officer who shot 31-year old motorist Corey Jones while on a plainclothes detail last year has asked a federal judge to halt a wrongful death suit against him while he faces criminal charges in the case.

The request from Nouman Raja’s attorney Thursday comes nearly two months after Jones’ family filed a wrongful death suit against him, and three months after Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg announced a grand jury found Raja’s actions unjustified.

Aronberg, in turn, charged Raja with attempted murder and manslaughter by culpable negligence. A hearing in that case is set for Oct. 6.

Oscar Marrero, the Coral Gables attorney who represents Raja in his civil case, in his request Thursday said Raja won’t be able to get a fair trial in both the criminal and civil cases unless a federal judge postpones the wrongful death suit until the criminal case is over.

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

At issue, Marrero says, is the fact that while defendants in a criminal case have the right not to testify to protect themselves against self-incrimination, staying silent in a civil case can be used against a defendant and – in Raja’s case – result in a sure loss.

“Officer Raja faces the choice of defending the civil suit under the threat of significant personal exposure in the criminal case or exercising his Fifth Amendment right and losing the civil case in summary proceedings,” Marerro wrote.

Marerro in his nine-page motion Thursday said civil rights attorney Daryl Parks, who is representing Jones father in the wrongful death suit, plans to object to halting the case.

Clinton Jones, Sr. Sued both Raja and his former employers, the City of Palm Beach Gardens. Gardens attorneys back in July in federal court documents anticipated that Raja’s attorneys would ask to stay the civil proceedings until the criminal case was over.

Murder trial continues for pair charged in Lake Worth cab driver death

Murder trial defendant Brian Javon Brown wears a shock vest devices under his clothing at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach on September 1, 2016.  Brown and Christian Eberhardt are accused of shooting a taxi driver in the head and robbing him in suburban Lake Worth in 2012.  (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Murder trial defendant Brian Javon Brown wears a shock vest devices under his clothing at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach on September 1, 2016. Brown and Christian Eberhardt are accused of shooting a taxi driver in the head and robbing him in suburban Lake Worth in 2012. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Testimony continued Thursday in the murder trial of two men accused of killing a cabdriver during a 2012 Lake Worth robbery.

Both Christian Eberhardt and Javon Brown have been outfitted with special electrically-wired garments since jury selection in the case began Monday out of fears of a possible escape attempt.

On Wednesday, the first day of the trial, Masden Paul’s daughter and two cousins hed back tears as prosecutors showed jurors pictures of the 48-year-old Yellow Cab driver’s bloodied van.

Earlier, as Eberhardt and Brown looked on silently, Assistant State Attorney Takisha Richardson told jurors in opening statements that they were the men responsible for Paul’s bloodshed — a gunshot wound to the head that killed him three days after he allegedly picked up the men for what would be his last fare.

Christian Carl Eberhart
Christian Carl Eberhart

 

Brian Javon Brown
Brian Javon Brown

“He was doing his work, picking people up and taking them to their desired destination,” Richardson said of Paul, 48. “But these defendants had a different plan.”

 

That plan, prosecutors said, was to rob the Yellow Cab driver in May 2012 after they forced him to drive to 10920 50th Street, just off State Road 7 in suburban Lake Worth.

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.

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.

Paul survived for three days after the shooting but eventually died of his injuries.

Belle Glade man convicted of second degree murder in Lake Worth case

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A Palm Beach County jury late Wednesday convicted Tyrell Deonville of second degree murder and attempted murder charges in connection with the shooting that killed a 50-year old man in a 2013 Lake Worth drug deal gone wrong.

Deronville, 28, was charged with first degree murder in the death of Gary Colt and and attempted murder for the same shooting that left 56-year-old

According to arrest reports, an altercation broke out between the men after Deronville arrived to deliver $40 worth of crack cocaine to a home when Colt and Parker were staying. It was then, prosecutors said, that Deronville pulled out a semiautomatic weapon and fired at both men, killing Colt and hitting Parer in both ankles.

Aside from second degree murder and attempted murder, jurors on Wednesday also convicted Deronville on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Deronville faces life in prison on the charges when he is sentenced Oct. 21.

Pair accused of Lake Worth cab driver murder on trial

Christian Carl Eberhart
Christian Carl Eberhart

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.

Brian Javon Brown
Brian Javon Brown

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

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.

 

 

Retrial to begin for Victor Diaz in Three Amigos murder

Victor Diaz

Jury selection in set to begin Monday in the retrial for Victor Diaz, once convicted in the murder of an innocent motorist shot to death in the aftermath of a 2007 robbery and car chase.

Diaz had been sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted him in January of 70-year -old retired kosher baker Samuel Salomon’s death.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx on in May granted Diaz’s request for a new trial based on allegations of juror misconduct from Philip Elliott, who in a series of private messages with another juror claimed he knew both Marx and her husband personally and because of that felt Marx “went easy” on him when investigating misconduct claims after Diaz January trial.

Marx sent Elliott to jail for eight days on contempt of court charges after she determined he up words related to the case despite her instructions against it and encouraged fellow juror, Samantha Scalpi, to lie to the court in jurors interviews scheduled shortly after Scapli raised the misconduct allegations.
Assistant State Attorneys Sherri Collins and Lauren Gooden and Diaz’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Joseph Walsh, will be selecting jurors from a new pool of prospective panelists with Circuit Judge Charles Burton, who took over the case for Marx.

Diaz and five other men are accused of a 2007 robbery at the Three Amigos convenience and check cashing store in West Boynton Beach. Store owner Sian Kiat Koh chased the assailants in his car, and in the ensuing chase one of the robbers took out a gun and tried to shoot him.

Hit in the crossfire was Salomon, who was on his way home from Hanukkah shopping with his wife. Salomon died of his injuries.

Three of the other men have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for Salomon’s death. A fourth is serving 18 years after he agreed to testify against the others, and Raul Andino, the alleged mastermind of the robbery plot, is awaiting trial.

In his first trial in 2010, the jury convicted Diaz of armed robbery and burglary charges but acquitted him of attempted murder charges and was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge, splitting 7-5 in favor of acquittal.

Teen resentenced in 2007 robbery, murder near Boynton Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lake Worth man, serving a 270-year sentence, wins chance for freedom

A Lake Worth man who is serving a 270-year sentence for a series of violent home invasion robberies he committed when he was 17 will benefit from a U.S. Supreme Court decision that juvenile offenders must be given hope that they may one day live outside prison walls.

Ramon Rosario (Florida Department of Corrections)
Ramon Rosario (Florida Department of Corrections)

Ramon Rosario, who was implicated in the 2010 murders of two clerks at a Circle K in Greenacres, wasn’t handed a life term that the high court declared unconstitutional for juveniles, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath said at a brief hearing on Wednesday.

But the total sentence Rosario received after pleading guilty to 15 charges, including racketeering, home invasion robbery with a firearm and kidnapping with a firearm, is what courts have called the “functional equivalent” of a life sentence with no chance for parole, he said. Rosario’s scheduled release date is 2280.

Under two landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that means Rosario must receive a new sentence, Colbath said. Rosario, now 23,  is to return to court on July 7 after a new attorney is appointed to represent him.

While the Supreme Court said juveniles are amenable to rehabilitation and therefore must be given a chance at some point to show they can return to society, the justices didn’t provide much guidance to states, like Florida, which outlawed parole years ago, Colbath said. He urged Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater to meet with Rosario’s new attorney and victims to craft a sentence that will pass constitutional muster.

Based on other rulings in similar cases, Rosario will be an old man if and when he is released.

Prosecutors said Rosario was part of a group, that called itself the “Headshot Committee,” that committed a spree of violent home robberies in the northern part of the county in May and June 2010. Their motto, police said, was “thuggin’ to get money.”

He was shot by a Boca Raton police officer after he pulled a gun on her when she attempted to stop a car on Spanish Isles Drive, records show. The driver of the car fled. Rosario identified the driver as Robert Alvarez.

Alvarez, along with Darnell Razz, was ultimately convicted of fatally shooting Circle K clerks Ralston Muller and Michael Dean Bennett in a botched robbery that netted the robbers $71.

Rosario at one point confessed that he murdered the convenience store clerks but refused to give details. As part of a plea deal, he agreed to testify against his former gang mates. When he refused, the 270-year sentence was imposed.

 

Angry outburst marks sentencing of Delray brothers in double murder

Before his father’s killers were sentenced to life in prison Friday, Reginald Taylor Jr. had to be removed from Palm Beach County Circuit Court for an outburst during the hearing.

The killers, two half brothers, received multiple life sentences Friday for their roles in the murders of two convenience store patrons in a violent Christmastime robbery four years ago.

Pasco Reynolds (left) and Travis Jackson
Pasco Reynolds (left) and Travis Jackson

Travis Jackson and Pasco Reylonds received the sentences in the deaths of 68-year-old Alfonso Hunter and 52-year-old Reginald Taylor.

In sentencing the two, Circuit Judge Charles Burton classified both as prison releasee reoffenders, which made them eligible for higher penalties.

The sentence came at the end of an emotional hearing where victim Reginald Taylor’s son had to be led from the courtroom and subdued by a group of Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies after an angry outburst.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies try to calm Reginald Taylor Jr., right on the ground, and other family members outside Circuit judge Charles Burton's courtroom Friday June 10, 2016 at the Palm Beach Courthouse after an outburst during the sentencing of Travis Jackson and Pasco Reylonds who were changed with killing Reginald Taylor. (Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies try to calm Reginald Taylor Jr., right on the ground, and other family members outside Circuit judge Charles Burton’s courtroom Friday June 10, 2016 at the Palm Beach Courthouse after an outburst during the sentencing of Travis Jackson and Pasco Reylonds who were changed with killing Reginald Taylor. (Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies remove Reginald Taylor Jr. from Circuit judge Charles Burton's courtroom Friday June 10, 2016 at the Palm Beach Courthouse after an outburst during the sentencing of Travis Jackson and Pasco Reylonds who were changed with killing his father Reginald Taylor. (Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies remove Reginald Taylor Jr. from Circuit judge Charles Burton’s courtroom Friday June 10, 2016 at the Palm Beach Courthouse after an outburst during the sentencing of Travis Jackson and Pasco Reylonds who were changed with killing his father Reginald Taylor. (Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post)

 

Nouman Raja’s case assigned to Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer

060316+raja+first+appearance+04Nouman Raja’s attempted murder and manslaughter case in the Oct. 18 death of Corey Jones has been assigned to first-term felony circuit judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer.

According to court records, Raja – who was released from jail early Friday after prosecutors announced his arrest Wednesday – will be arraigned June 14 at the Palm Beach County Jail. But after that, Feuer will preside over all hearings in the case, including an eventual trial or plea.

Raja, 38,  was a Palm Beach Gardens Police officer working a plainclothes burglary detail when he shot Jones, a  31-year-old drummer whose car had broken down on Interstate 95 on his way home from a gig. He faces up to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter charge but up to life in prison if convicted on attempted first degree murder.

Corey Jones, who was shot on Oct. 11, 2014. (Post file photo)
Corey Jones, who was shot on Oct. 11, 2014. (Post file photo)

The case is easily the highest-profile matter Feuer has handled in her two years on the bench, although she has tried both a number of capital felony cases as well as cases against police officers accused of committing crimes on duty.

In September, less than a month before Jones’ death, Feuer presided over the trial of former Boynton Beach Police officer Stephen Maiorino, who a jury acquitted in the alleged 2014 rape of a 20-year-old woman while on duty.

Feuer was elected to a six year term in 2014, when she ran unopposed to replace Judge Sandra McSorley. Before taking the bench, she worked as a civil attorney and also as a civil prosecutor with Florida’s Attorney General.

 

Victor Diaz wins new trial, gets new judge in Three Amigos case

Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentences Victor Salastier Diaz to life in prison Tuesday, January 26, 2016, consecutive to the 53 years he's already serving for an armed robbery at the Three Amigos convenience/check cashing store. He was convicted of murder, after one of the robbers shot 70-year-old motorist Samuel Salomon in a deadly car chase following the robbery. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentences Victor Salastier Diaz to life in prison Tuesday, January 26, 2016, consecutive to the 53 years he’s already serving for an armed robbery at the Three Amigos convenience/check cashing store. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Misconduct from a now-jailed juror who convicted him of murder earlier this year has earned Victor Salastier Diaz a new murder trial in a case where he is accused of participating in a robbery and riding in a getaway car when one of his accomplices shot and killed a motorist.

According to court records, Circuit Judge Krista Marx on Friday granted Diaz’s request for a new trial based on allegations of juror misconduct from Philip Elliott, who in a series of private messages with another juror claimed he knew both Marx and her husband personally and because of that felt Marx “went easy” on him when investigating misconduct claims after Diaz January trial.

Assistant Public Defender Joseph Walsh asked for a new trial on May 2 and also asked Marx to remove herself from the case.

Marx agreed to give Diaz a new trial and step aside Friday, the day after a contempt of court hearing where she sent Elliott to jail for eight days after giving him a scathing lecture.

Among her findings, Marx ruled that Elliott committed jurors misconduct by looking up words related to the case despite her instructions against it and encouraged fellow juror, Samantha Scalpi, to lie to the court in jurors interviews scheduled shortly after Scapli raised misconduct allegations surrounding the panel’s January verdict.

“You maligned the dignity of this court,” Marx said Thursday before ordering deputies to handcuff Elliott and take him to jail. “You showed a complete and total disregard for the judicial system.”

Elliott told Marx that he had a crush on Scalpi, was trying to get her to date him and was possibly intoxicated when writing parts of a series of Facebook messages between the two that ultimately became his undoing when Scalpi turned them over to lawyers in the case.

Friday’s ruling marks the second time in three years that a defendant in a high-profile Palm Beach County case has won a new trial based on juror misdeeds.

Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath in 2013 overturned a DUI manslaughter conviction for Wellington polo club founder John Goodman on the same day he initiated criminal contempt proceedings against Dennis DeMartin, the juror he eventually ordered to jail for five months and 29 days for a series of missteps DeMartin unwittingly revealed in a pair of self-published books after the trial.

DeMartin was released on an appellate bond after serving 37 days of his sentence. Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal later rejected his quest to have his sentence thrown out, but Colbath on Friday will consider a request to reduce his sentence.

As for Diaz, no new hearings had been set as of early Monday ahead of what will be his third trial in the case. He is one of seven men accused in the death of Samuel Salomon, who was shot and killed when one of the Three Amigos robbers fired at the grocery store owner during a chase.

Four others are serving life sentences and another, who testified against them, is serving an 18-year sentence. One who was arrested in Spain last year is awaiting trial.

Diaz in 2010 was convicted of armed robbery and burglary charges. Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge, setting the stage for January’s trial.