Federal judge to Trump: No disrespect intended

Dealing with Donald Trump can unleash unexpected fury as a federal judge in California discovered in June when the then-presidential candidate questioned the jurist’s Mexican heritage.

Trump ordered to pay $5.74 million to members of Jupiter club

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

In ruling against Trump on Wednesday, in a decision involving Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra made it clear he meant the new president no disrespect when he referred to him simply as Donald Trump or D. Trump throughout the 22-page order.

Six things to know about WPB federal judge who ruled against Trump

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But, to make sure there was no misunderstanding, Marra added a footnote.

From the archive: Bino commentary: Step aside, Judge Marra. It’s your turn to be an unsuitable Trump judge

“At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Donald J. Trump was a private citizen. As a result, the Court will refer to him as such in this decision. In doing so, the Court means no disrespect to him or to the esteemed position he now holds.”

Read more Donald Trump coverage from The Post 

Trump ordered to pay $5.77 million to members of Jupiter club

President Donald Trump’s development company on Wednesday was ordered to pay former members of its Jupiter golf club $5.77  million for improperly changing the rules when he purchased it in 2012.

Six things to know about WPB federal judge who ruled against Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

In a one-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled in favor of members who filed suit against Trump National Golf Club Jupiter on Donald Ross Road. He awarded them $4.8 million plus $925,000 in interest.

Federal judge to Trump: No disrespect intended

In a statement, the Trump Organization vowed to appeal.

At a trial in August, members argued that under Trump’s ownership they had been soaked for millions.  Trump purchased the ailing club from The Ritz Carlton for $5 million in 2012. The bargain price came with the understanding that he was responsible for the $41 million that Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa owed members in refundable deposits.

Trump in Palm Beach: The latest on protests planned Saturday

Instead, members claimed, he refused to refund their deposits and continued to charge them membership fees while refusing to let them use the club.

Daily News: much did Donald Trump pay in taxes for Mar-a-Lago in 2016?

Contrary to Ritz-Carlton’s policies, Trump ownership rules bar members from the club once they announce their intentions to resign. Even though they can’t use the club, they are still billed $8,000 to $20,000 a year for dues and must pay an $1,800 annual fee for food and beverages. Because most have to wait until five new members join before their deposit will be refunded, those bills will continue to mount for years.

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Trump, then hot on the campaign trail, testified by videotape. His son, Eric, who oversees the club along with 17 others owned by The Trump Organization, claimed the members were just disgruntled and eventually would get their money back when new members joined.

From the archive: Bino commentary: Step aside, Judge Marra. It’s your turn to be an unsuitable Trump judge

In the statement, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization wrote: “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision.  The plaintiffs were all members under Ritz Carlton who resigned before Trump purchased the Club.  At the time Trump purchased the Club, it was suffering financially, making it unlikely that these members would ever get back their deposits.  At trial, we presented overwhelming evidence that the plaintiffs’ memberships were never recalled and that the plaintiffs had waived this argument during the course of the litigation.”

 

Read more Donald Trump coverage from The Post 

Check back for updates.

*Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect an amended judgment Marra issued to correct a mathematical error.

 

Boca attorney again asks court to declare Trump mentally unfit

A Boca Raton probate and guardianship lawyer has renewed his efforts to have Donald Trump declared mentally unfit to serve as president of the United States.

Donald Trump
New U.S. President Donald Trump

Attorney James Herb said Trump’s actions over the last 10 days – fighting over the size of the crowd at his inauguration, insisting he really won the popular vote and inciting international turmoil with an immigration ban – reinforce his earlier claims that part-time Palm Beach resident is delusional.

A similar guardianship petition Herb filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in the run-up to the November election was thrown out by Circuit Judge Jaimie Goodman. As a state court judge, Goodman said he had no power to block Trump’s candidacy or remove him from office. Further, he ruled, Herb didn’t have a relationship with Trump that would allow him to ask that the real estate tycoon be declared incompetent.

Herb said he has addressed those legal obstacles in a new petition filed Monday. “I did not have a relationship with him but I now do because he’s my president,” Herb said.

Further, he said, he’s not asking a judge to remove Trump from office. That would be done in accordance with a process outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

Herb said he is simply asking a judge to appoint a team of experts to evaluate the new chief executive’s mental health. If Trump is found incompetent by the three-person panel, the judge could then limit his activities.

In the petition, Herb is asking that Trump be barred from “seeking or retaining employment.” In an asterisks, he notes that he is asking Trump be prohibited from “retaining employment as President of the United States.” If a judge agrees to the limitation, the order would be forwarded to federal officials capable of removing him from office.

As he did in the previous petition, Herb claims Trump exhibits signs of narcissism and histrionic personality disorder. Both are recognized as mental illnesses by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Since taking office, Trump has also exhibited signs of being delusional, Herb wrote.

Herb, who was criticized as a publicity-hound after filing the first petition in October, said his actions aren’t part of some self-serving publicity stunt. A longtime guardianship and probate lawyer, he said his practice is now primarily limited to wills and trusts.

“I’m not interested in getting business. I have plenty of business,” he said.

His goal, he said, is much more far-reaching. “I’m trying to save the world,” he said.

He is not alone in his suspicion that Trump is mentally unfit to be president. A group calling itself “We The People,” on Sunday started an online petition to “Demand Congress Require an Independent Expert Panel Determine the President’s Psychiatric Stability to Protect America.” If they get 99,999 signatures by Feb. 28, the White House by law has to respond.

 

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

State to pay Dalia Dippolito’s trial transcript costs, judge rules

A state agency will pay the cost to transcribe Dalia Dippolito’s second trial to help her attorneys to prepare for her third trial this summer, a judge has ruled.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley at the end of a short hearing Thursday granted defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld’s request to have the state pay for what he estimates will be at least $10,000 in transcription costs to receive a written play-by-play of the December retrial that ended in mistrial.

Dippolito is now on house arrest as she awaits a third trial in the case where she was caught on camera allegedly hiring a hitman to kill her husband, Michael, in 2009.

The “hitman” turned out to be a Boynton Beach police detective who was part of an investigation that began when Dippolito’s then-lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, told authorities that Dippolito was shopping for a killer.

Rosenfeld, who last month revealed he is representing Dippolito free of charge, and California defense attorney Brian Claypool had previously won a request to have Dippolito declared indigent for the purposes of costs and fees associated with her defense. Dippolito has not been able to work since her 2009 arrest, her lawyers say, because she’s been on house arrest for most of that time.

Dippolito was jailed briefly after a first jury in her case convicted her in 2011. A judge back then sentenced to her to 20 years sin prison, but she was released on an appellate bond shortly afterwards as her lawyers fought to get her a new trial.

They won that quest when an appellate court threw out both the conviction and sentence in 2014, clearing the way for December’s trial.

That trial ended in mistrial after jurors announced they were split 3-3 over whether or not Dippolito was guilty.

Kelley set the start of jury selection for Dippolito’s third trial for June 2.

Sober home operator Ken Chatman indicted on new charges

Treatment center operator Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman on Thursday pleaded not guilty to a sweeping 17-count indictment that accuses him of money laundering, health-care fraud and sex trafficking, a charge that could send him to prison to life.

Many of his exploits were detailed in a December 2015 investigation by The Palm Beach Post.

Federal officials raid a sober home at 1501 N. Federal Hwy., Lake Worth, on Dec. 21, 2016. Officials charged owner Kenny Chatman and five others with health-care fraud in an ongoing crackdown on sober homes in Palm Beach County. Chatman has been the subject of Palm Beach Post investigative stories detailing fraud in the sober home industry. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)
Federal officials raid a sober home at 1501 N. Federal Hwy., Lake Worth, on Dec. 21 shortly after Kenny Chatman’s arrest. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

The indictment, handed up Tuesday, showcases federal prosecutors plan to shut down what they called the 46-year-old suburban Boynton Beach man’s illicit drug treatment empire that stretched from Mangonia Park in Palm Beach County to Plantation in Broward County and brought in an estimated $5.4 million.

Read the Post’s full investigation on Sober Homes

Chatman’s 44-year-old wife, Laura, along with two doctors who worked at the treatment centers and three others were also indicted, most on money-laundering and health-care fraud charges.

Read the indictment here: chatmanindict.

The five others, who were released on bond after being charged in a criminal complaint last month, also pleaded not guilty to the new charges this week. A sixth, who was not originally charged, is to appear in court Monday.

“It’s the beginning of a long journey,” Chatman’s attorney Saam Zangeneh said after the brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate William Matthewman. He pledged to vigorously defend Chatman, who remains jailed as a flight risk and a danger to the community.

At a previous hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafana suggested she would also ask a grand jury to indict Chatman in connection with overdose deaths that she said occurred at the sober homes he operated. But, she said, those charges would take more time to prepare. Chatman was not charged in connection with any deaths.

Still the charges he faces in connection with his involvement with Journey to Recovery in suburban Lake Worth and Reflections Treatment Center in Margate along with dozens of sober homes are serious. Journey to Recovery and Reflections were both licensed drug treatment centers. As a convicted felon, Chatman was barred from holding the licenses so he and his wife illegally told authorities she was operating them, according to the indictment.

Rather than treating patients, the indictment claims Chatman made a fortune by taking advantage of them along with insurance companies. He turned female patients into prostitutes. He paid kickbacks to five laboratories – in South and Central Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania – to get them to test bogus urine samples, according to the indictment.

In addition to Chatman and his wife, also indicted were: Joaquin Mendez and Donald Willems, both doctors; Fransesia Davis, who worked at the two treatment centers; Michael Bonds, a sober home operator;  and Stefan Gatt, who worked at a lab in Central Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Judge denies Corey Jones shooter’s bid to attend child’s event

 

Nouman Raja leaves court with his wife Thursday, January 26, 2017 after a hearing where he hoped to have conditions of his house arrest loosened to attend an event at his daughter's school. The judge denied the request. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Nouman Raja leaves court with his wife Thursday, January 26, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE 8:41 a.m.: Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer denied Nouman Raja’s request to relax his house arrest this Sunday as he awaits trial in the death of a stranded motorist.

Raja, the former Palm Beach Gardens police officer accused of manslaughter and attempted murder in the Oct. 18, 2015 shooting death of Corey Jones, had asked a judge to release him from house arrest so he can attend a school event for his daughter.

See Post’s full coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

Raja’s wife, Karine Antonio Raja, said all the other parents sat her daughter’s preschool would be attending the event and that her five-year-old daughter had asked for both her mother and father to attend.

But Feuer, agreeing with Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis that the request should be denied, called the request “a slippery slope.”

“I simply believe that this just chips away at the importance and essence of house arrest,” Feuer said. “I understand that this is an important day in Mr. Raja’s child’s life, but I think the ramifications that were placed on Mr. Raja’s house arrest should remain at this time.”

Raja was arrested in June, nearly eight months after he approached the 31-year-old stranded motorist in plainclothes and shot him several times after a brief encounter on the off-ramp of Interstate 95 and PGA Boulevard.

By then, he had been fired from the department and also let go from a job as a police academy instructor at Palm Beach State College.

Thursday’s hearing brought Raja face to face for the first time with Jones’ father, stepmother and brother, who did not attend his first appearance hearing back in June.

It also marked the first time Raja’s wife has spoken publicly since his arrest.

Feuer at the end of the hearing canceled a status check in the case set for next month and instead asked the lawyers to come back with an update on March 28.

The judge has said she wants to bring the case to trial as early as this summer, but prosecutors alone have listed dozens of potential witnesses that Raja’s defense team will be entitled to interview before trial.

Raja told investigators initially that he identified himself as an officer and only shot at Jones when he charged at him with a gun.

Jones was on the line with a roadside assistance operator at the time, and the recording prosecutors released recently in the case captured no such introduction.

In Raja’s June arrest report, prosecutors also noted Raja’s 911 call, where he repeatedly shouted to someone – presumably Jones – to drop the gun.

But prosecutors claim that according to Jones’ injuries and the time Raja fired his last shots, Jones was likely dead and certainly already on the ground by the time Raja dialed 911.

Raja has been free on house arrest since his arrest and is only permitted to leave the house for work, medical visits, dropping his children off at school and once monthly haircuts.

Chief Assistant State Attorneys Brian Fernandes and Adrienne Ellis in the past have balked at Raja’s requests to relax his house arrest, saying that Jones never had a chance of his own to have children and be with family because of him untimely death.

Raja’s attorney, Richard Lubin, has said that his client is presumed innocent and says he should be free from “a rush to judgement” in the case.

VERDICT: Pair acquitted in 2008 Lake Worth murder

A Palm Beach County jury on Wednesday acquitted Tzaddi Allen and Dexter Lewis in the 2008 murder of Randall Copeland.

The jury’s verdict comes after more than four hours of deliberation that began Tuesday.

Assistant State Attorneys Andrew Slater and Karen Murillo argued that Allen and Lewis were two of several men who pulled up to a home where Copeland was staying on May 30, 2008 and ambushed him.

It was Allen, prosecutors say, who shot Copeland when he tried to run.

They say Allen and Lewis tried to rob Copeland to avenge Copeland’s former roommate, Ashley Rosa, a new girlfriend of Allen’s who felt Copeland owed her rent money after he abruptly moved out.

But Allen’s defense attorneys, Assistant Piblic Defenders Scott Pribble and James Snowden, and Lewis’ attorney, Franklin Prince, have said the only guilty parties in the case are Rosa, her brother Mark and a third man, Dwayne Jackson. 

Jackson and Mark Rosa are free after serving 7-year sentences. Ashley Rosa was never charged. 

DIY legal workshops to be held at Palm Beach County courthouse

The Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller’s office on Tuesday announced a series of free “Self-Service” workshops designed to help people navigate through the local court system and file legal documents.

The first of these workshops, on landlord/tenant evictions, will be held Wednesday at the main courthouse in West Palm Beach from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Other planned topics for the series of workshops include simplified divorce, small claims and sealing and expunging records.

For more information, call (561) 355-7048.

 

 

Boynton man get six months’ jail in pit bull cruelty case

"Lady," mother of the puppies, shortly after her rescue in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)
“Lady,” mother of the puppies, shortly after her rescue in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)

A 36-year-old Boynton Beach man accepted a plea deal Monday that will and him to jail for six months on charges from a case where investigators say he kept a starved pit bull and her four puppies in a filthy crate without food.

Deon Blue accepted a plea on a single felony charge of cruelty to animals and four misdemeanor charges of  unlawful abandonment and confinement of animals.

His attorney, Harris Printz, told Circuit Judge Laura Johnson that Blue accepted the allegations in hia January 2016 arrest report as part of the deal he arranged with Assistant State Attorney Judith Arco.

Lady's four puppies, as they were discovered in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)
Lady’s four puppies, as they were discovered in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)

Among the claims, Boynton Beach police say, an investigation began in May 2015 when an anonymous called complained that there was an emaciated dog and four puppies in the carport of a home in the 2600 block of Northeast 4th Court.

By the time an officer arrived, the pit pull had made it out of her crate, leaving the puppies behind, and wandered to a neighbor’s house. The carport area, the officer said, had a putrid stench of urine and feces, and there was no food or water in the area where the whining puppies were discovered.

Although the home had been foreclosed months earlier, investigators say they quickly traced the dogs back to Blue, who immediately claimed ownership of the pit bull he named Lady and her four puppies.

Animal Control officials took custody of the dogs, and a veterinarian later said Lady was anemic and suffering from severe starvation.

Aside from the jail sentence, Blue was also ordered to may nearly $1,000 in fees and costs.