Prosecutors, clerks to host workshop on sealing, expunging records

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workshop attendees should bring the following:

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

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

VERDICT: Jury rejects claim prosecutor was fired because of cancer

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg is on the stand on Friday, October 28, 2016 in a lawsuit where he is accused of improperly firing Assistant State Attorney Angela Miller while Miller was undergoing cancer treatment. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg is on the stand on Friday, October 28, 2016 in a lawsuit where he is accused of improperly firing Assistant State Attorney Angela Miller while Miller was undergoing cancer treatment. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE 2:48 p.m.: It took a Palm Beach County jury just over two hours Tuesday to decide in favor of the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office in a lawsuit from a former prosecutor who said she was fired because she had cancer.

The verdict comes nearly two weeks after the trial in Angela Miller’s case began, featuring testimony from current Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and three of his predecessors, along with several others in the legal community who worked with Miller during her 16-year stint at the office.

Attorneys for Aronberg’s office told jurors that all Aronberg did was exercise his right not to retain Miller when he took office, a decision that had already been in the making before Miller’s diagnosis in August 2012.

“We’re pleased with the jury’s verdict, and we feel justice has been served,” Aronberg said through spokesman Mike Edmondson after the verdict Tuesday.

Miller, a mother of two who tearfully told jurors on the witness stand that she was still undergoing chemotherapy when she learned she was being let go, said she was glad she pursued the case despite the outcome.

“It was critical for me to tell my story, because this is happening to someone else right now, as we’re talking, someone is being terminated right now because they’re sick. And it’s a story that has to be told,” Miller said.

Miller said she will be talking to her attorneys, Cathleen Scott and Lindsey Wagner, to decide whether she will appeal the case. Five months after she wasn’t retained at the state attorney’s office, Miller got a job at the Boca Raton commercial litigation firm Sachs, Sax and Caplan, where she remains today.

Defense attorney James Williams reminded jurors Tuesday that despite Aronberg’s decision not to keep Miller, he encouraged a partner the firm to hire her.

————–

ORIGINAL POST: Four women and two men have now begun deciding whether Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg wrongfully terminated former Assistant State Attorney Angela Miller in 2012 because she had cancer.

Lawyers of both sides of Miller’s lawsuit against her former employers are now delivering their closing arguments, ending the trial that began earlier this month and featured testimony from top politicians, judges and lawyers in Palm Beach County’s legal community.

Miller’s attorney, Cathleen Scott, reminded jurors that all who testified during the trial characterized Miller as a great trial attorney. Miller, diagnosed with cancer in August 2012, found out in December that Aronberg would not be swearing her in as one of his assistants when he took office in January 2013.

Scott balked at suggestions from Aronberg’s testimony while on the witness stand last week comparing his takeover at the state attorney’s’ office to a coach taking over a sports team and making changes to the coaching staff.

“This isn’t football, this isn’t baseball. This is somebody’s life,” Scott said, later adding: “The law doesn’t allow it, and neither should you.”

Defense attorney James Williams’ position to jurors has been that Miller wasn’t asked to stay on with Aronberg in spite of her cancer diagnosis, not because of it.

He reiterated concerns Aronberg and others said they had about Miller’s actions outside of the courtroom, including allegations that she berated a juror in 2010 for voting to acquit a murder suspect and broke the law in the summer of 2012 when asked an investigator to search an FBI database for personal reasons.

Williams told jurors that they would have to believe 11 lawyers, a doctor and three law enforcement officers would have had to have participated in an orchestrated cover-up in order for jurors to believe Miller’s version of why she was let go.

Though Miller’s cancer diagnosis was tragic, Williams said, her anger with Aronberg and the state attorney’s office is misplaced.

“It can’t be, ‘I can do anything I want, and now because I’m sick, they can’t do anything to me. That’s not how the law works,” Williams said, adding later: “To do it that way would encourage a lot of bad behavior.”

The last arguments jurors heard Tuesday was from Scott, who had harsh criticism for Aronberg and accused him of being more concerned with placating “his defense attorney donor buddies” than with prosecuting criminal defendants.

Scott compared Miller to Brian Fernandes, a chief assistant state attorney under Aronberg who as a statewide prosecutor was responsible for handling gang cases and other violent crimes.

“He’s a tough prosecutor, just like Ms. Miller,” Scott said. “Let’s hope he doesn’t get sick.”

Circuit Judge Donald Hafele sent jurors sback to deliberate at noon.

State Attorney Dave Aronberg to testify in suit from dismissed lawyer

Former Assistant State Attorney Angela Miller sits in court during a break Tuesday, October 25, 2016. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg is accused of improperly firing Miller while she was undergoing cancer treatment. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Former Assistant State Attorney Angela Miller sits in court during a break Tuesday, October 25, 2016. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg is accused of improperly firing Miller while she was undergoing cancer treatment. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg is expected to take the stand Thursday to answer a lawsuit from a former prosecutor who claims she was fired shortly after Aronberg was elected because she had cancer.

Angela Miller, who was once the Palm Beach State Attorney’s office White Collar Crimes Unit chief, found out in December 2012 that Aronberg would not be keeping her on after Aronberg officially took office in January 2013. At the time, Miller was undergoing chemotherapy following a surgery for breast cancer.

Miller sued, claiming she was fired because Aronberg and others deemed her a liability due to her illness. Aronberg and other officials say Miller was merely not retained with the new administration – a prospect every Assistant State Attorney faces whenever a new top prosecutor takes office.

Testimony in the trial began last week and has already featured appearances by some of Miller’s former colleagues at the State Attorney’s Office, including former State Attorney Michael McAuliffe and two of his former chief assistants, Paul Zacks and Jill Richstone.

Dave Aronberg, seen here at an unrelated press conference on Oct. 25, 2016, is expected to testify in a trial for a lawsuit from a former prosecutor who says he fired her while she was undergoing cancer treatment.
Dave Aronberg, seen here at an unrelated press conference on Oct. 25, 2016, is expected to testify in a trial for a lawsuit from a former prosecutor who says he fired her while she was undergoing cancer treatment.

Miller took the stand Tuesday and remained there until Wednesday afternoon, breaking down in tears several times, including when describing how then interim State Attorney Peter Antonacci told her in December 2012 that she wouldn’t be retained under the new administration.

“I was fired because I have cancer,” Miller said later. “I was damaged goods. Who wants someone who is bald and has no eyelashes?”

At least one of Aronberg’s top assistants has testified that he didn’t know of Miller’s cancer diagnosis until after the decision had been made to let her go.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes, who was part of Aronberg’s transitional team before Aronberg officially took office in January, said he agreed with the decision not to keep Miller on staff after he learned in a November 2012 meeting that there was a claim that she had improperly used an FBI database to conduct a search for personal reasons. Fernandes described the incident as a serious violation that could have caused the entire office to lose access to the database.

Miller’s attorney, Cathleen Scott, questioned Fernandes about a note he made during what he said was a subsequent meeting. The note indicated that Miller had cancer, and the team did not want to keep her, but Fernandes told jurors the cancer notation had nothing to do with the decision not to retain her.

After Miller left the office, Aronberg dropped charges against the defendant in one of Miller’s last high-profile cases. Suncoast High School band director Ernest Brown once faced charges that he ran up debts on band accounts for school trips to Europe and used band money to take relatives on a trip.

A February 2013 memo from the state attorney’s office following the dropped charges was critical of prosecutors for pushing forward with a case they allegedly couldn’t prove and charging Brown with crimes for which the statute of limitations had passed.

A month later, prosecutors dropped fraud charges against Palm Beach jewelry store owner Vernon Lee Havens. This time, they  alleged outright that Miller had committed prosecutorial misconduct.

On the witness stand, Miller said she believed that Brown’s case was dismissed in part because Brown’s attorney, Michael Salnick, and former state attorney and Aronberg transitional team member Barry Krisher were friends.

Havens’ case, she said, was a further attempt to besmirch her character, knowing she was planning to sue.

“I do believe that it was a way to take a shot at me in the paper and say: ‘look at her, look at how stupid she is,'” Miller said.

Later, another Chief Assistant State Attorney, Alan Johnson, testified that he,  Krisher and others in the office met periodically for lunch gatherings that would inevitably turn into gripe sessions about the state of the office under McAuliffe, who had promoted Miller during his three years in office.

It was there, Johnson said, that another attorney began to complain about Zacks and Miller. Johnson said Aronberg later began attending those lunch sessions, and added that he told Aronberg of complaints bout Miller before he took office.

After McAuliffe left office early in 2012 and Antonacci was appointed as a temporary replacement, Miller said he constantly pestered her, calling and emailing her about cases while she was trying to recover from surgery and while undergoing chemotherapy.

“I told him that the people that I had left in place were more than capable of answering whatever questions he had, but he kept saying it was my unit, it was my unit,” Miller said. “He never gave me a break.”

Shahid Freeman loses battle to have conviction for extorting ex-schools chief thrown out

Clarence Shahid Freeman on Monday failed to persuade a Palm Beach County judge to throw out his conviction for extorting former School Superintendent Wayne Gent and, a prosecutor said, the community activist and onetime Democratic operative is unlikely to be released from prison while he launches an appeal.

Openings in the extortion trial of Clarence Shahid Freeman, a longtime Democratic Party operative from Boynton Beach area, who is charged with trying to use an anonymous letter alleging sexual relations with school employees to blackmail then Schools Superintendent Wayne Gent for about $1 million for various people and programs.
Clarence Shahid Freeman, a longtime Democratic Party operative from Boynton Beach area, during his trial in May.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley said the arguments Freeman’s attorney made during the hour-long hearing were nearly identical to ones raised in May before a jury took 18 minutes to convict the 65-year-old Boynton Beach area resident of attempting to get Gent to do his bidding in exchange for burying unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I can’t see why I would essentially reverse myself on any of these rulings,” Kelley said, adding that the 4th District Court of Appeal may have a different view.

Attorney Charles White immediately filed a motion, asking that Freeman be released from prison while he appeals his conviction and three-year prison sentence. Kelley said he would consider the request at a future hearing. But, Assistant State Attorney Marci Rex said, because Freeman has a felony record, he isn’t eligible for release.

In 1974, Freeman was convicted of an armed robbery in Hillsborough County. Rex said Freeman also has misdemeanor convictions for child abuse, marijuana possession and petty theft.

Freeman, wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, looked on impassively while White tried to convince Kelley that prosecutors distorted the facts and the law to persuade the jury to convict Freeman of separate charges of threat of extortion and unlawful compensation for official behavior.

White said the state built its case on what he described as a “salacious letter” in which Gent was accused of “doing the jungle fever” with black subordinates. Prosecutors falsely argued that in a series of conversations recorded by law enforcement, Freeman promised to make the letter disappear if Gent would arrange a $895,000 settlement for demoted schools worker Brantley Sisnett, move the location of a charter school and implement an after-school reading program that had long been Freeman’s pet project, White said.

Freeman never tied the letter to his requests, which were legitimate, White insisted. Further, he said, the letter had already been sent to schools officials and the allegations, which were never substantiated, were being investigated.

“The state chose to create false impressions to the jury … in an effort to show Mr. Freeman was guilty of something when there was really no crime,” White said.

Rex disputed White allegations. From the day Freeman was arrested in 2013, he and prosecutors had vastly different views of what the evidence showed, she said. The jury heard both interpretations and agreed that Freeman had tried to get as much as $1 million from Gent by trumping up allegations of sexual misconduct from an anonymous woman who probably doesn’t exist, she said.

“To allege prosecutorial misconduct is offensive,” Rex said. “I don’t believe that’s what happened in this case.”

 

Riviera man gets 25 years in rape case where he called 911 on himself

Joel Jones
Joel Jones

When Joel Jones raped a woman in August 2014 after she answered a Craigslist ad for a job with an office cleaning business, he called 9-1-1 on himself after he told her he did it to earn a trip to prison so he could get even with the person who had killed his 14-year-old son.

On Thursday, Circuit Judge Jack Cox made at least the prison part of Jones’ request come true, sentencing him to 25 years more than two months after a jury convicted him of armed sexual battery.

The sentence was less than the life in prison sentence that Assistant State Attorney Chrichet Mixon requested, but at 49 years old and with no possibility of credit for good behavior on the 25-year minimum mandatory sentence, Jones will likely spend the rest of his days behind bars.

“This case is not really about what someone did to your child, but what you did to someone else’s child,” Cox told Jones. “The things that you did to her was completely beyond the realm of what a human being should do to another human being.”

According to an arrest report, Jones first met the victim when she filled out an application to work for his cleaning business two weeks earlier. On the night of the attack he lured her to a doctor’s office in unincorporated Palm Beach Gardens for a cleaning job, showed her the rooms she was supposed to clean, then raped her at knifepoint in one of the rooms.

Jones would later say that his attack was prompted by the shooting death of his 14-year-old son, and that he raped the woman because “this is how he would get to the people who killed his son,” according to an arrest report.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Jones was convicted for sexual battery and burglary in 1991 and served more than two years of a six-year sentence. He is not listed in Florida’s sexual offenders database because the Florida Sexual Predator Act does not include those convicted of sex-related crime before Oct. 1, 1993.

He also served almost eight years in prison for second-degree murder, though his sentence was 12 years, according to department of corrections records.

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.

 

Corey Jones shooting: Nouman Raja posts bail, will stay overnight in jail

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: Nouman Raja will spend another night in the Palm Beach County Jail, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s official.

Raja has met his $250,000 bond set Thursday morning, but he remains in jail while his home is outfitted to meet the requirements of house arrest, the official said.

Ex-officer Nouman Raja, charged with the shooting death of Corey Jones, enters court Thursday morning, June 2, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Ex-officer Nouman Raja, charged with the shooting death of Corey Jones, enters court Thursday morning, June 2, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

» RELATED: More coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

“It’s really just moving him from one cell to another cell,” the official said.

Raja, facing charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder, is expected to leave the jail Friday.

— Staff writer Jorge Milian

UPDATE 1:40 p.m.: Former officer Nouman Raja remains in custody at the Palm Beach County Jail while the sheriff’s office sets up a monitoring system at his suburban Lake Worth home, a sheriff’s spokesperson said.

It isn’t yet clear whether Raja has posted bail, or when the monitoring system will be set up. Once the system is in place, Raja will be transported by deputies from the jail to his home, where he will remain on house arrest.

ORIGINAL STORY: A Palm Beach County judge on Thursday morning set bond for the former police officer who shot and killed musician Corey Jones at $250,000.

Nouman Raja appeared in handcuffs and blue prison garb before Circuit Judge Joseph Marx. Raja was arrested Wednesday and charged with first degree attempted murder and manslaughter by culpable negligence.

Other terms of Raja’s release: He is on house arrest with a GPS monitor, must surrender his passport, cannot work in law enforcement, must surrender any guns to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and must have no contact with the Jones family or with the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department.

Raja’s arraignment has been set for June 14 at 1:30 p.m.

Before Raja, 38, entered court, it was announced that prosecutors and Raja’s attorney, Richard Lubin, had reached an agreement on Raja’s bail.

Raja’s brother, Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy Adnan Raja, sat in a bench on one side of the courtroom, while friends and family members of Jones sat on the other side.

This hearing comes less than a day after Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg announced that a grand jury had deemed Raja’s actions in Jones’ Oct. 18 shooting death unjustified, and that Aronberg’s office subsequently charged with the two felony counts for which he could face up to life in prison if convicted of both.

Raja was in plainclothes and drove an unmarked van when he approached Jones’ broken-down car on Interstate 95.

According to Raja’s arrest report, he never identified himself as a police officer and started shooting at Jones — who was on the phone with a roadside assistance call center — after repeatedly asking him if he was “good” before shouting at him to get his hands up.

Jones’ family members will hold a news conference at the courthouse at 11:30 a.m.

Trial begins for pair charged in Delray double murder

Paso Reynolds
Pasco Reynolds

A trial began Wednesday for two men accused of killing two people in a 2012 robbery at a Delray Beach beauty supply and convenience store.

Pasco Reynolds, 26, and Travis L. Jackson, 27, are charged in the murders of 68-year-old Alfonso Hunter and 52-year-old Reginald Taylor, who were shot and killed on Dec. 23, 2013 during a robbery at the store at 945 West Atlantic Avenue.

Last year, jurors convicted the alleged getaway car driver, Marcus Jerry, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

The three were indicted in 2014, although two were already in custody at the time.

Travis L. Jackson
Travis L. Jackson

The murders happened less than a day after an armed robbery at the Community Market, just west of the beauty-supply store at 1130 W. Atlantic Ave. Jackson was arrested in connection with the Community Market robbery on two counts of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, armed robbery with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Jerry was arrested about a week later on charges related to two separate criminal cases. One involved the September death of a woman who was his girlfriend, but that death was later ruled a suicide. The other involved a December carjacking that took place outside the apartment of another of Jerry’s girlfriends.

Assistant State Attorneys Reid Scott and Terri Skiles and defense attorneys Ruth Estes-Martinez and Thomas Weiss, along with Assistant Public Defenders Elizabeth Ramsey and David McPherrin, made opening statements in the case Wednesday, and jurors in the early afternoon saw photos from the murder scene.

Fight begins over whether local judge seat should be elected or appointed

Gregg Lerman
Gregg Lerman

A local defense attorney on Tuesday made official what is shaping up to be a Florida Supreme Court fight over whether Florida Gov. Rick Scott has the power to appoint someone to a judicial seat some believe should be up for a public vote in the August election.

Gregg Lerman has filed suit filed against Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner for starting the judicial vacancy appointment process for County Judge Laura Johnson’s seat, which she resigned to run for a circuit judge seat.

Lerman, and County Magistrate Thomas Baker have since filed paperwork to run for Johnson’s seat, and Palm Beach County Supervisior of Elections Susan Bucher has recognized the position as elected. Detzner later sent Bucher a letter telling her not to accept the candidates’ papwerwork to qualify for the position because Scott has already started the customary process of accepting applications to appoint Johnson’s replacement.

Thomas BakerBut Lerman and others say Scott doesn’t have that right by law, saying Johnson’s April 18 resignation letter complied with a state statute requiring some elected officials to resign their current positions to run for another. It is that law, according to Lerman’s attorney Len Feuer, that makes Johnson’s seat and elected position and not subject to a governor’s usual right to fill judicial vacancies due to resignation and retirement.

“The public’s right to choose who should fill the seat in Group 11 through an election should not be abridged by the Governor’s attempt to fill the same position through an appointment,” Feuer wrote.

Lerman is asking that the high court compel Scott and Detzner to provide legal reason to show by what authority Scott feels he has the power to appoint Johnson’s replacement.

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.