BREAKING: Dalia Dippolito won’t seek change of venue, state will

Defense attorney Brian Claypool makes his opening statement to the jury on the first day of Dalia DippolitoÕs murder-for-hire retrial Wednesday, December 7, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)  POOL
Defense attorney Brian Claypool makes his opening statement to the jury on the first day of Dalia DippolitoÕs murder-for-hire retrial Wednesday, December 7, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL

Lawyers for Dalia Dippolito won’t be asking for a change of venue after all for what will be her third trial on charges that she tried to have her husband killed, but prosecutors will.

In a news release issued Tuesday, defense attorney Brian Claypool said the number of calls, emails and letters they’ve received from people in the community after Dippolito’s trial ended in a hung jury last month has encouraged them to abandon efforts they began in December to move the trial out of town.

“Judge [Glenn] Kelley did an exceptional job of vetting potentially biased jurors in the last trial to ensure that Ms.
Dippolito had the case heard before an unbiased cross section of Palm Beach County jurors,” Claypool said, adding that he and fellow defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld believe Kelley will do the same in a third trial expected to begin this spring. “Ms. Dippolito has faith in the people of Palm Beach County.”

Since that news release, according to Claypool, Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams sent an email to the judge saying that prosecutors themselves will be seeking to pick a jury from outside Palm Beach County. Claypool characterized the move as “ironic,” considering Williams and Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart Laurie fought to keep the case local before the second trial.

Reached by phone, Claypool Tuesday afternoon said prosecutors of “forum shopping” in hopes that jurors from cities like Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando will be more conservative than the prospective jury pool that included three panelists who ultimately accepted Dippolito’s police corruption defense.

“We did get a fair jury trial in Palm Beach County and guess what? They got hammered,” Claypool said of the prosecution. “This case should be over and done.”

Palm Beach State Attorney spokesman Mike Edmondson did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday, but in the past he has said declined to comment on discussions among the attorneys in the case – including a phone conference last week where lawyers in the case failed to reach a plea agreement for Dippolito.

After those talks fell flat, Rosenfeld publicly criticized Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg for not personally participating in the plea negotiations and accused him of continuing the prosecution for political reasons.

Dippolito, 34, was arrested in October 2009 at the end of a Boynton Beach Police investigation where she was caught on camera hiring an undercover officer posing as a hitman to kill Michael Dippolito, who at the time was her husband of six months.

The Dippolitos divorced in 2011, shortly after Dalia Dippolito’s first trial ended with a conviction on murder solicitation charge. Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath called her “pure evil” that year when he sentenced her to 20 years in prison, but by 2014 and appellate court had thrown out both her conviction and sentence.

Claypool and Rosenfeld during her second trial in December depicted Dippolito as a victim of corrupt Boynton Beach police officers who pressured her lover into making her carry out the plot to make for a good episode of the television show “Cops.”

After a day of deliberations in the second trial, jurors told Kelley they could not reach a unanimous verdict. A later poll revealed the six panelist were evenly split 3-3 on whether or not Dippolito was guilty.

Two alternate jurors also told local media outlets that they would have voted to acquit Dippolito.

Though the minimum recommended sentence for Dippolito if convicted is four years in prison, defense attorneys say plea offers in the case have not fallen below double digits. If a jury in Dippolito’s third trial convicts her, she faces a likely 20-year prison sentence.

Kelley last week denied a request from Dippolito to get off house arrest as she awaits her third trial, which could begin as early as this spring.

The judge said he will, however, consider relaxing some of the house arrest conditions. Claypool in December announced that Dippolito has given birth in the past year to a baby boy.

Lake Worth cab driver killing earns pair 15, 30 year sentences

sccmgcgiA judge sentenced Christian Eberhardt and Brian Javon Brown to 30 and 15 years in prison respectively Thursday on manslaughter convictions connected to the 2012 shooting death of a taxi cab driver in Lake Worth.

The sentences come nearly two months after the men escaped what would have been definite life sentences on first degree murder charges in the death of Madsen Paul, who died days after prosecutors say the pair’s attempt to rob him during a cab ride went wrong.

“He was a very hard-working man, an innocent man,” Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis told Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley of Paul. “I don’t believe that you can get anymore callous and cold than what happened to him that day.”

The higher sentence for Eberhardt, 24, came because jurors accepted prosecutors’ assertion that he was the triggerman and convicted him of manslaughter with a firearm, which carries a 30 year maximum sentence.

Brown’s conviction on a simple manslaughter charge carried a 15-year maximum, but the punishment was mandatory since Kelley sentenced the 25-year-old as a reoffender who had recently been released from prison at the time of Madsen’s death.

Court records show Brown had confessed to shooting Paul before the trial in hopes of getting a 15-year plea deal with prosecutors, but they ultimately rejected his version of events and took the case to trial.

Eberhardt’s family members say they will be appealing his sentence based on that information.

Madelene Paul on her way out of court said her thoughts were only of her father, the man she called her best friend.

“Now he can finally rest in peace,” she said.

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.

Luis Rijo DeLos Santos gets plea, 15 years in cross-dresser murder

062615_santos_7Just days before what would have been his second trial in the death of Tyrell Jackson, Luis Rijo De Los Santos accepted a 15-year prison sentence as part of a last minute plea deal.

The sentence, which Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley imposed Wednesday, ends the case where he once faced a possible death sentence for killing the cross-dresser he haid he thought was a woman when he picked him and another man up in 2012.

“I loved my grandson. He would’ve never hurt anyone,” Dorothy Jackson told Rijo De Los Santos before the judge sentenced him. “But you chased him down, you shot him, and you left him to die.”

Kelley in June 2015 declared a mistrial on the first degree murder charge and two counts of attempted murder in the shootings that killed Jackson and injured Michael Hunter and Terence Chatman after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict on those charges.

The charges the jurors acquitted him on are the ones that pertain to Chatman. Assistant State Attorneys Lauren Godden and Teri Skiles reached the plea agreement with defense attorney Marc Shiner rather than take the case to trial, where several witnesses involved in the case have gotten in trouble with the law themselves since the last trial.

The three victims, who sometimes worked as prostitutes, were all dressed as women on March 24, 2012, when their two separate encounters with Rijo De Los Santos ended in gunfire.

Rijo De Los Santos was the star witness in his own defense during the month long trial last year, telling jurors that he shot Jackson and Hunter in Riviera Beach because they’d tried to rob him after he’d given them a ride to a convenience store.

According to Rijo De Los Santos, Chatman was with Hunter and Jackson when he initially encountered them in the 4400 block of Broadway and he, thinking they were women, offered Hunter and Jackson a ride.

Rijo De Los Santos said after the first shooting, he drove back to West Palm Beach, where he encountered Chatman and tried to tell him that his friends had tried to rob him, only to have Chatman also pull a knife on him.

Man charged with Royal Palm teen’s kidnapping gets jail

Santos
Santos

One of several young men charged with abducting a 16-year-old boy and ransacking his Royal Palm Beach home accepted a plea agreement Wednesday that will send him to jail for a year.

Derick Santos, 19, pleaded guilty to burglary, robbery and false imprisonment charges in a hearing where Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes also sentenced him to four years’ probation as part of the deal between Assistant State  Attorney Emily Walters and defenses attorney Michael Salnick.

As part of the agreement, Kastrenakes withheld a finding a guilt against Santos and sentenced him as a youthful offender, although he will serve his sentence at the Palm Beach County jail.

According t he arrest reports, Santos and four others were together in a car when they pulled up to the 16-year-old along 11300 block of Okeechobee Boulevard in Royal Palm Beach.

After one of them forced him into the car,  investigators said, the group stole his cell phone and $200 and unsuccessfully tried to get him to lure a mutual acquaintence to their car as well.

They then beat the boy until he gave them directions to his own house, where they eventually forced the boy to help them break in when they discovered he had no key.

The group stole a shotgun, a television, an Xbox and ransacked the boy’s parents’ bedroom before they left, and the victim ran to a neighbor’s house to call 911.

Another teen charged in the case, Shahyem Hamilton, received a sentence of five years’ probation after accepting a plea earlier this year. A third, Naquan Mack, was sentenced to 24 months in a juvenile boot camp.

Delray developer wants damages from estate of Subway founder

Pugliese
Pugliese

Apparently the expression “never speak ill of the dead” poses no problem for Anthony Pugliese.

Fresh off a jail sentence stemming from charges he swindled late Subway founder Fred DeLuca out of $1 million, the Delray Beach developer is now seeking $20 billion from DeLuca’s estate with claims DeLuca was the one who stole his idea for an eco-friendly development in Central Florida and used his “multi-billionaire” status to defraud him with “shady dealings.”

The motion to amend his request for damages filed Wednesday comes years after the $5 billion Pugliese demanded from DeLuca in 2009, when the two traded lawsuits over the failed 41,000 acre residential development project called Destiny.

A press release on the filing claims Pugliese is demanding $20 billion, but nothing in the complaint lists that amount.

“The Pugliese press release is a false publicity stunt. Anthony Pugliese is not entitled to any money,” DeLuca’s attorney Rick Hutchison said. “I can also say that the Court recently granted Fred DeLuca’s motion for partial summary judgment, finding that Pugliese stole from and defrauded Fred DeLuca.”

DeLuca
DeLuca

It was a deposition in the 2009 lawsuits that ultimately landed Pugliese in jail after he admitted that he created phony companies and fake invoices to get more than $1 million from DeLuca.

At the time, Pugliese said he was doing it to create a contingency fund in case  DeLuca shut him out of the deal. Investigators called it fraud and arrested him for it in 2012.

He served four months of a six month sentence before he was released last month.

Pugliese’s amended lawsuit was filed Wednesday by his civil attorney, famed litigator Willie Gary.

“Today, we have taken additional steps to help right the wrongs committed by Fred DeLuca, and Subway in their partnership with our client,”  Gary said in a press release.

 

 

 

Malachi Love-Robinson, accused fake teen doctor, gets plea offer

Malachi Love-Robinson leaves court after a hearing Wednesday morning, April 20, 2016. The teen is accused of posing as a doctor, operating New Birth New Life Medical Center in West Palm Beach. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Malachi Love-Robinson leaves court after a hearing Wednesday morning, April 20, 2016. The teen is accused of posing as a doctor, operating New Birth New Life Medical Center in West Palm Beach. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Malachi Love Robinson, the teen arrested earlier this year for allegedly impersonating a doctor, was in court for a brief hearing Wednesday morning.

Assistant State Attorney Mike Rachel told Circuit Judge Krista Marx that he has offered Love-Robinson a 3-year prison, 5-year probation plea offer. Under criminal sentencing guidelines, Rachel told Marx, faces a recommended eight-year sentence if convicted of

Marx set a tentative trial date has been set for July, and set the case for a plea conference a month earlier in case Love-Robinson decides to take the deal.

His attorney, Andrew Stine, told Marx he needed at least 60 days to be ready for trial.

Love-Robinson was thrust into the spotlight and given national media attention — with appearances on “Good Morning America” and the “Today” show among others — after the state claimed he faked his medical licenses and posed as a doctor to patients.

He was first arrested Feb. 16 after an armed narcotics task force raided his alternative medicine practice, in a West Palm Beach medical building, after he gave medical advice to an undercover officer, officials said.

Love-Robinson was released from jail on $21,000 bond following the arrest. He went on to speak with several media outlets, including The Palm Beach Post, and denied all wrongdoing.

“I never pretended to be a medical doctor,” Love-Robinson said in February, adding that he referred to himself as “Doctor” because of his Ph.D. “Every person I met knew that my practice was for holistic medicine.”

Love-Robinson’s Ph.D. was from Universal Life Church Seminary, an online institution, according to documents released by the Florida Department of Health. According to the seminary’s website, anyone can buy a doctorate in divinity for $29.95, the same price as bachelor’s or a master’s of divinity degree.

In addition to the charges surrounding his alternative medicine practice, Love-Robinson also faces charges he stole more than $35,000 from a patient.

 

Another case involving officer who shot Corey Jones ends in plea

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.

A Palm Beach Gardens woman facing charges of drug possession and driving with a suspended license has become the latest person arrested by the same officer who shot Corey Jones to accept a plea offer and avoid a potential trial.

According to court records, former Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja arrested 35-year-old Melanie Navarro on August 18, exactly two months before his deadly encounter with 31-year-old stranded motorist Corey Jones, who was waiting for a tow truck  at the exit ramp of Interstate 95 at PGA Boulevard when Raja approached him in plainclothes and eventually opened fire, killing him.

» RELATED: Read The Palm Beach Post’s full coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

Navarro was charged possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving on a suspended license. According to court records, Navarro accepted a plea agreement Wednesday and was sentenced to the 32 days she has already served in jail on the charges.

Raja, an eight-year veteran with the Atlantis Police Department, began working for Palm Beach Gardens Police in April and was still on probation at the time he shot Jones. Raja said he shot Jones because the popular drummer came towards him with a gun.

Corey Jones, a 31-year-old drummer and property manager, was shot to death Oct. 18.
Corey Jones, a 31-year-old drummer and property manager, was shot to death Oct. 18.

Palm Beach Gardens fired Raja shortly after the shooting but offered no reason. Because he was still on probation, they explained, they could fire him without cause.

Since Jones’ shooting, prosecutors have either dropped charges against or made plea offers to at least a half dozen defendants in cases for which Raja was the arresting officer.

In one of the most recent cases, Matthew Oshman was facing burglary, petit theft and other charges connected to three separate cases but took a plea and agreed to a term of probation that included jail time on the morning his trial was to begin.