A jury will soon begin deciding the case of a 24-year-old Fort Pierce man accused of settling an old beef with a fatal gunshot to his enemy’s head outside a Belle Glade grocery store two years ago.
Jaycobby Dukes has been on trial since last week in the May 13, 2014 shooting death of Lennard “Boe” Cobb, who himself was 24 when he was shot to death in a surprise attack on the south side of the M & M Food Market on 449 Avenue A.
Before closing arguments began in the case Wednesday, Dukes testified in his own defenses and denied shooting Cobb, whose family members say beat Dukes badly while both of them were behind bars in an escalation of an ongoing feud between members of their families.
Assistant State Attorney Ashleigh Walters told jurors afterward that there was a “mountain” of evidence implicating Dukes in the case, including the fact that he confessed to three separate people – including a jailhouse informant – and was linked by DNA to sneakers that matched the shoes the killer was seen wearing in surveillance video.
Walters said even slight inconsistencies in witness testimony, including the fact that one witness said he saw Dukes with a gun before the shooting and another said he never saw a gun, made it all the more clear that Dukes was the killer.
“If all these people were going to come together, over a week and a half, and come here to lie to you to build a case against him, wouldn’t they have come up with a better lie,” Walters said.
But defense attorney Franklin Prince countered that the inconsistencies in the testimony were too big to ignore, portraying Dukes’ brother as the possible killer.
Prince also explained the fact that Dukes called a witness in the case Tuesday night to talk to her about her testimony as his interest in making sure the truth came out, knowing he planned to testify.
“He’s not a lawyer,” Prince said. “He just wanted to make sure she came in and tell the truth.”
Before Circuit Judge Laura Johnson sent jurors back to deliberate, Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater told them “truth” was Dukes’ enemy.
Among his lies, he said, was calling a relative who is a law enforcement officer and claiming not to be in Belle Glade on the day of the murder, a statement he later recanted.
“He could’ve said: ‘Hey cuz, I was in Belle Glade and I know my name is ringing in the streets, but it wasn’t me.’ But he wasn’t interested in telling the truth so he told Big lie number 1,” Slater said.
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.
A Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy can proceed with her lawsuit, claiming she was unfairly disciplined by Sheriff Ric Bradshaw for simply telling the truth about a strange incident involving now-imprisoned Wellington polo mogul John Goodman, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The 4th District Court of Appeal rejected Bradshaw’s request to toss out the lawsuit filed by Deputy Bridgette Bott. She was one of Goodman’s security guards when he was on house arrest before he was convicted a second time of DUI manslaughter in the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson.
Bradshaw argued that Bott should have sought administrative relief before filing a lawsuit. The appeals court ruled that none was available.
In a lawsuit filed by attorney Sid Garcia, Bott claims she was unfairly docked 40 hours pay when she didn’t side with other deputies who said Goodman in 2012 tried to disable his ankle monitor while on house arrest. In addition, she claims she was banned from the lucrative security detail that Goodman was forced to bankroll as a condition of being allowed to stay out of jail.
Ultimately, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath ruled that there was insufficient evidence that Goodman had tried to break the monitor and allowed him to remain on house arrest. Goodman, heir to a Texas air conditioning and heating business, is serving a 16-year prison sentence.
State Attorney Dave Aronberg announced this morning that he will be spending the week in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba to attend the trial of accused terrorist mastermind Abdul al Hadi al Iraqi.
According to a press release from Aronberg’s office Monday, Aronberg was selected to represent the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) in observing the criminal hearings for Iraqi, an alleged former member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle.
Iraqi has been described as a military leader for the Taliban, and is accused of various war crimes, including allegations that his troops attacked U.S. and U.S. ally targets in Afghanistan.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to observe up close our system of justice as it relates to terrorist suspects, and to meet with the brave men and women of our military who keep us safe every day,” Aronberg said in a press release Monday.
Coins covered in blood spilled from Lennard Cobb’s pocket when crime scene investigators found him, shot through the back of the head, outside a Belle Glade grocery store more than two years ago.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s crime scene investigator Amy Oetinger told jurors after they viewed photos of Cobb’s body Wednesday that she also found a hat, sunglasses and a set of keys under Cobbs’ arm – all signs he was likely caught completely off guard when a masked man approached him on May 13, 2014 and shot him to death.
Prosecutors say that man is Jaycobby Dukes, a Fort Pierce resident who they say killed Cobb to settle a feud that family members say started more than five years earlier between relatives of both men.
Cobb, 24, was found shot to death in the afternoon outside the M&M Food Market at 449 Avenue A.
Surveillance footage from the market showed a masked man, wearing white Nike sneakers and carrying a black handgun, approached him and shot him in the back of the head before he could turn around.
Detectives interviewed Dukes the next day after a witness told them Dukes was seen in the area, but Dukes told them he’d been in Fort Pierce the entire previous day.
The investigation traced back to Dukes after investigators got information from more witnesses, including one who saw Dukes “sweating like hell, breathing heavy, panicked and acting abnormal,” according to Dukes’ arrest report. Investigators say another witness said Dukes confessed to him outright before explaining that Cobb had allegedly threatened Dukes while Dukes was incarcerated.
Family members this week said what actually happened between Cobb and Dukes was a 2012 fight while both men were housed at the Palm Beach County jail.
Cobb’s relatives say Cobb approached Dukes about having pulled a gun on one of Cobb’s relatives and her young child before Dukes’ arrest, and added that Cobb beat Dukes up badly in the ensuing scuffle.
Court records show both men at the time were serving sentences on separate aggravated assault cases. Dukes was released in February 2014, less than three months before Cobb was killed.
Assistant State Attorneys Andrew Slater and Lauren Godden and defense attorney Franklin Price delivered their opening statements in the case late Tuesday.
While prosecutors presented the case to jurors as a classic premeditated murder, Prince in his opening statements denied his client’s involvement and hinted at potential credibility issues with some of the state witnesses.
The trial is expected to continue into next week. Dukes, now 24, could face life in prison if convicted as charged.
Steven Guarnieri on Friday accepted a plea deal that earned him a year in prison for each of the 50 stab wounds he inflicted upon his ex-wife less than two months ago, when he killed her in their home near Lake Worth.
Guarnieri, 56, pleaded guilty to a single charge of second degree murder in Nancy Guarnieri’s death ass part of a plea agreement between Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey and Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts.
Circuit Judge Dina Keever accepted the plea Friday and sentenced Guarnieri immediately.
The quick plea, which Guarnieri requested, means the 56-year-old former Key West man with a variety of health issues will spend the rest of his life in prison.
That’s just fine with Nancy Guarnieri’s former boyfriend, Luis Lema, who after he left court Friday said he was hoped it was the last time he’d ever see the ex-husband that Nancy always feared would kill her.
According to an arrest report, Steven Guarnieri freely confessed to deputies Sept. 10 when they arrived at the house from which his ex-wife was trying to evict him and told deputies “he deserves and an award” for killing her. Though Guarnieri claimed his ex-wife was the violent one, Lema said the opposite was true.
“She was a great person, someone who would do anything for anyone, would always help people out,” Lema said of the 15-year-old hairdresser. “She didn’t deserve that.”
The Guarnieri’s daughter, Nicole, was sin the courtroom for the plea and cried ass her father looked at her after accepting his sentence. The former couple also had a son, who is sin the military.
According to court records, Nancy Guarnieri called 911 eight years ago and said her then-husband was threatening to stab her in the neck.
A 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.
UPDATE 2:31 p.m.: A Palm Beach County jury has convicted Paul Daniels of first-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of his pregnant wife.
The verdict, which came after less than two hours of deliberations Wednesday, means the Lake Worth man faced a mandatory life in prison sentence.
Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentenced him immediately after the verdict.
ORIGINAL POST: A Palm Beach County jury is now deciding the murder trial of Paul Daniels, the 40-year-old Lake Worth man accused in the 2012 shooting death of his pregnant wife, Donna.
Assistant State Attorneys Reid Scott and Kristen Grimes this week have called Daniels’ actions in the early hours of March 1, 2012 a clear-cut case of premeditated murder that the couple’s own children witnessed after they argued at their home in the 4400 Block of Stevens Road.
The children later told police that Donna Daniels, who was five months pregnant, ran out of the house around 2:30 a.m. Paul Daniels followed her out with a gun shot her five times in the back, and then tried to kill himself.
Donna Daniels, 27, was found lying face down in a white Mitsubishi with multiple gun shot wounds in her back. Paul Daniels, 36, was found lying next to the car on the ground with a gunshot wound in his head and a 9 mm handgun next to him.
“He’d had enough of her,” Grimes told jurors. “They’d been fighting all day, maybe that baby wasn’t his. Try as she might, she wasn’t going anywhere.”
Defense attorneys Ruth Martinez-Estes and Jennifer Klee, on the other hand, have argued that Daniels is guilty of nothing more than the lesser charge of culpable negligence.
Martinez-Estes told jurors that witnesses in the case lied in their testimony to protect Donna Daniels, who records show was using drugs at the time of her death.
In spite of their troubles nad her drug use, Martinez- Estes said, Daniels was still there for his wife, and still loved her.
“He did not want to kill his wife,” Martinez-Estes said. “He just had a lapse of judgement that day. He was not himself.”
The last arguments jurors heard before they began deliberating at noon were from Scott, who described how Daniels stood over his wife and shot her five times.
“This wasn’t a sudden event. This had been brewing, they had been fighting, Scott said. “Reasonable people cool off. Reasonable people don’t do this, murderers do this.”
Circuit Judge Krista Marx sent jurors back to begin deliberations at noon Wednesday.
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.
Four Palm Beach County prosecutors, a local magistrate and a personal injury attorney are among the six lawyers that Florida Gov. Rick Scott will choose from to appoint a new county court judge.
The Judicial Nominating Commission for the 15th Circuit, which covers Palm Beach County, sent the following names to Gov. Scott last week as nominees to replace County Judge Daliah H. Weiss, who was appointed to the circuit bench earlier this year:
Mark A. Greenberg
Michael J. Rachel
Joseph “J.D.” Small
Maxine A.M. Williams
Collins, Rachel, Small and Willis are all Assistant State Attorneys in Palm Beach County. Williams is a magistrate, and Greenberg is a personal injury attorney in West Palm Beach.
Scott appointed Weiss in July to replace retiring circuit judge John Phillips.