Hoverboard-riding Boca armed robber gets eight years in prison

Keon Dennard Cunnington

A 21-year-old arrested for a string of armed robberies that culminated in a purse-snatching from a trio of elderly women while on a Hoverboard was sentenced to eight years in prison Monday.

The sentence for Keon Dennard Cunnington came as part of a plea agreement from three separate cases from February 2016.

They included an armed robbery with a teen accomplice of two men’s iPhones in Greenacres and a robbery outside the Boca Raton library where the robbers dragged an elderly woman to the ground at gunpoint before making off with a purse, credit cards and other items from her and two other women.

Cunnington, who was listed with addresses in Lauderhill and Clewiston, was also accused of robbing another man of his cell phone at gunpoint while the man was sitting on a bench at Veteran’s Park in Greenacres.

According to arrest records in the library case, Cunnington and the teen followed three elderly women to the parking lot of the public library after dark while riding Hoverboards they’d taken at gunpoint from two riders in Ocean Ridge hours earlier.

 The women told police one of the men pulled out a pistol right before they got to their car. He grabbed one woman, 70, and dragged her onto the parking lot floor in an attempt to steal her purse, the report says.

The robbers ran off with one purse with several credit cards and personal items inside. The women had minor injuries.

Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentenced Cunnington to a total of eight years in prison on all the charges as part of a plea deal from Assistant Public Defendern Maegan Young and Assistant State Attorney Emily Walters.

Court records show that Cunnington’s case was moved to mental health court for several months after a court-ordered mental health evaluation in August. The records show he was subsequently deemed competent to stand trial in November.

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. 

Jail payback? One-time murder defendant accused of arranging threats

Walter Burks
Walter Burks

Three months ago, Shantoria Thompson stood trial for perjury in a case where fear of retaliation from Lonnie Davis and Walter Burks Jr. led her to recant claims she saw the two men rob and kill a Belle Glade man.

Now, one of the men is accused of plotting from jail to somehow get to an eyewitness and prosecutor in another case against him – allegations that led a judge who was supposed to preside over his trial this week to instead revoke his jail phone and visitation privileges.

Burks, known in Belle Glade as “Boss Hog,” escaped a murder charge in 2013 after prosecutors were forced to drop charges against him in the May 2011 death of John C. Griffin. Prosecutors credited Thompson, a 25-year-old mother of one, with sinking their case after threats of harm led her to say she hadn’t witnessed the shooting after all.

Burks landed back in jail a year later from an April 2014 armed robbery at the Buy Rite Furniture store at 64 W. Ave. A in Belle Glade.

His trial was supposed to begin this week, but Assistant State Attorney Brianna Coakley in court records last week aid Burks was caught in a recorded jail call passing both her name and the name of an eyewitness to the robbery to someone at the other end of the line with instructions to pass the names along to someone else.

“The State has a substantial fear that the Defendant is attempting to coordinate witness intimidation from the jail,” Coakley wrote in a Nov. 9 motion to Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes. “Prior and subsequent calls also allude to contacting some individual and getting the witness information.”

According to Coakley, Burks on the recorded like spells out her name when asked for “state’s name,” then also spelled out the name of eyewitness Kathy Walton.

Before then, Coakley said, Burks can be heard tellilng the unidentified call recipient: “I’m taking your word for it that this [expletive] is straight.”

Kastrenakes on Monday granted Coakley’s request to cut Burks jail visitation and phone privileges except for calls and visits from his attorneys because of the calls.

Though jury selection was expected to begin in his case Monday, Kastrenakes set the case on a two-hour call, meaning it could go to trial anytime over the next several weeks.

Burks, 24, is accused of battery on a person 65 years of age or older for allegedly placing store owner Virgil Tullos in a choke hold during a robbery where two assailants made off with $20.

As for Thompson, it took a jury less than two hours in August to acquit her of perjury charges after defense attorney Andrew Strecker argued that she backed away from her testimony out of duress after prosecutors and investigators repeatedly failed to adequately protect her from threats she received.

Davis, 25, is currently serving a year in prison on unrelated charges of resisting arrest.

Wilson Pierre gets 40-year sentence again in Boynton Mall killing

Wilson Pierre sits in his sentencing hearing Monday, November 14, 2016. Pierre was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 24-year-old Berno Charlemond, who was fatally shot among Christmas Eve shoppers at the Boynton Beach Mall in 2006. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Wilson Pierre was sentenced to 40 years in prison Monday, marking the second time he’s has been sentenced for the 2006 shooting death of Berno Charlemond in a crowd of Christmas Eve shoppers at the Boynton Beach Mall.

In May, a jury took just 45 minutes to convict Pierre in the death of the 24-year-old, who was fatally shot near the JC Penney department store where he’d just fought with Pierre and others.

The jury in Pierre’s first trial convicted him of second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but that sentence was overturned by Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal, which ruled that jurors in that case received erroneous jury instructions on a lesser possible manslaughter charge.

His attorney, Gerald Salerno, asked Circuit Judge Dina Keever to sentence Pierre to the minimum mandatory 25 years in prison. Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams asked Keever to reinstate the 40-year sentence Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes imposed six years ago after his first conviction.

After Charlemond’s death, police initially arrested Jesse Cesar and Fregens Daniel, two men who were with Pierre during the fight. But after several witnesses described the shooter as being shorter than 6 feet with closely cropped hair in a stocking cap, police released Cesar — who was tall and wore his hair in chest-length dreadlocks.

Pierre was eventually arrested and charged with first degree murder.

Jurors in Pierre’s trial in 2009 appeared to be locked into an 11-1 split on a Friday, but they came back after a weekend break and convicted him of second-degree murder. Because he was convicted only of second-degree murder in the first trial, that was all he could be tried on in the second trial.

In the first trial, defense attorney Peter Grable told jurors that police got it right the first time and that Cesar was the shooter. Salerno made no such claims about Cesar this year, opting instead to attack the witness identifications in the case.

Former Boynton Beach man resentenced on child molestation charges


A man first arrested nearly a decade ago on charges he molested a 12-year-old Boytnon Beach girl was again sentenced to 55 years in prison after a Palm Beach County jury convicted him a second time on lewd and lascivious molestation an other charges.

The resentencing hearing Friday for Leonard Cuminotto came more than eight years after U.S. Marshals picked him up in Daytona Beach. Police said the alleged victim’s mother called them from Michigan and told them Cuminotto had abused her daughter for several months in 2007 when they lived with him in Boynton Beach.

The alleged victim later said the abuse went back to 2002, and jury in 2010 convicted him on four out of seven charges related to the case.

Cuminotto was sentenced to 55 years in prison, but both the conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal.

A second trial for Cuminotto began Wednesday, and jurors re-convicted him of three of his four remaining charges after deliberating Thursday. Though Cuminotto had acted as his own attorney during parts of his case, he accepted help during his trial from defense attorney Jacob Noble.

Despite the jury’s acquittal on a lewd and lascivious exhibition charge, Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentenced him to a total of 25 years in prison on a pair of lewd and lascivious molestation charges and and additional 30 years in prison on a charge of sexual activity with  minor.

Cuminotto plans to again appeal his conviction and sentence.

New trial for Matthew Heinly, man convicted in 2011 “prank” murder

031514-wpb-murder-verdict-matthew-heinlyAn appeals court Wednesday granted a new trial for one of four homeless men implicated in the June 2011 West Palm Beach murder of a 45-year-old who let them sleep at his apartment.

Matthew Heinly, now 27, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in March 2014 for participating in the strangulation murder of Timothy Bell – a man whose body authorities never found.

Heinly two years ago stood trial together with alleged accomplice Sean Wilson, although the two had separate juries.

In an eight-page ruling, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes erroneously allowed Heinly’s jury to hear portions of alleged accomplice Pedro Roman’s testimony that pertained only to Wilson’s case.

Heinly’s first trial two years ago unearthed disturbing details about the last days and hours of the man he called his close friend, a man who fed and housed him, Wilson and two other young men at his Gardenia Street apartment before all four turned on him. There was testimony during the trial that Bell had the men perform sexual favors for him in exchange for the lodging.

Heinly testified that Bell’s death was a result of a prank gone wrong, telling jurors that Bell had expressed wanting to kill himself and they wanted to show him what it was like to suffocate.

Wilson is currently serving life in prison.

Roman accepted a 40-year plea deal on second-degree murder charges in exchange for his testimony against Wilson and Heinly.

A fourth man, Andre Banks, received 90 days in jail and five years of probation in 2011 on charges that he was an accessory after the murder.


Man charged with Royal Palm teen’s kidnapping gets jail


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.

Boca man accused in DUI crash that killed MMA fighter denied reduced bond

To the relief of family and teammates of MMA fighter Jordan Parsons, the man accused of killing the 25-year-old in a drunken accident in May on Wednesday was told he must come up with $450,000 to be released from the Palm Beach County jail.

Dennis Wright stands in court during a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, August 3, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Cheers and whistles went up in the courtroom when Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes denied Dennis Wright’s request for a bond reduction. Pointing out that Wright, 28, of Boca Raton was a habitual traffic offender and eight times failed to appear in court on previous charges, Kastrenakes said he wasn’t a good risk for house arrest.

“Despite this young man’s apparent responsible position in our community (as business owner), his behavior in the past has been irresponsible,” Kastrenakes said. Wright’s history of ignoring court orders “tells me that this person doesn’t abide by the rules of society or rules of the court.”

Wright, who faces a possible 70-year prisons sentence on various charges in connection with Parson’s death, was arrested days after the rising mixed martial arts champion died of injuries sustained when Delray Beach police said he was hit by a Range Rover traveling at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour on Federal Highway at Lindell Boulevard. Wright’s attorney, Robert Resnick, said there are questions whether Wright was driving the car or whether the Range Rover, which was registered to Wright’s mother, was involved in the crash. A witness told police that a silver two-door sports car struck Parsons, he said.

Jordan Parsons
Jordan Parsons

Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart-Laurie disagreed. Witnesses say Wright was driving the Range Rover and there is video of Wright talking about being involved in the crash, she said. Wright had spent the day at Sunfest, then hit bars in Delray, she said. Friends said he was impaired but he ignored their entreaties not to drive, she said.

Wright and his mother, Patricia Faller, told Kastrenakes they don’t have the means to raise $450,000 to secure his release. Faller said friends and family have pledged roughly $10,000 to $15,000. Since his arrest, Wright said he has received no income from a medical marketing firm he owns. While Resnick insisted Wright and his mother aren’t wealthy, before the crash Wright testified that he was splitting the rent for a $4,000 to $5,o00-a-month condominium. Faller said the monthly payment on the Range Rover is about $985.

“When he was working he was making pretty good money but he wasn’t saving it,” Resnick said. The attorney said he plans to return to court soon to again ask that Wright’s bond be reduced.

Linton Vassell, one of Parsons’ teammates on the team that trains in Boca Raton, said he was satisfied with Kastrenakes’ ruling. “Justice has been served,” he said.

Pair receive life sentences for rape of Delray Beach teens

Defendants Massillon Lherisson (above) and Francisco Henry (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Monday, July 9, 2012.
Defendants Massillon Lherisson (above) and Francisco Henry (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Monday, July 9, 2012.

Calling their actions “shocking” and “unspeakable,”a judge on Monday sentenced Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson to multiple life sentences in prison for forcing a group of Delray Beach teens into sex.

The sentence comes a month after jurors convicted the men in the 2010 robbery in an abandoned house where three boys and a girl were forced into sex with each other.

Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes announced the sentences after hearing from the father of one of the boys, as well as the female victim, who said she’s struggled to resume a normal life after the attack.

“I hope that they repented what they did because it’s not nice to be the one experience such acts and being forced to do the things that occurred,” she said. “I just hope that it doesn’t’ happen to them.”

Lherisson received 11 total life sentences, plus another 20 years in prison. Henry received five life sentences


VERDICT: Henry, Lherisson GUILTY of forcing Delray teens into sex

Defendant Francisco Henry (above) and Massillon Lherisson (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse July 9, 2012.
Defendant Francisco Henry (above) and Massillon Lherisson (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse July 9, 2012.

UPDATE 5:31 p.m.: It took jurors about an hour Wednesday to decide to convict Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson of 24 charges – including armed robbery, armed rape and false imprisonment charges – in connection with the bizarre 2010 robbery where fourt teens were forced to perform sex acts on each other.

Henry, 26, tilted his head back as the verdicts were read against him. Lherisson, having heard the guilty verdicts against Henry before a court clerk read his own convictions, stood stoically as the verdicts were read against him. The 25-year-old kept his eyes on the three men and three women on the jury.

The verdicts mean both men, whose first trial ended in mistrial four years ago, could face up to life in prison when Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentences them next month.

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: Jurors just announce that they’ve reached a verdict in the retrial of two men accused of forcing four Atlantic High School students into sex acts in an abandoned Delray Beach home in 2010.

The verdict came about an hour after Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sent jurors to begin deciding the case.

Attorneys have just returned to the courtroom.


ORIGINAL POST: The text message, written with both street slang and text abbreviations, had clear instructions for its recipient:

“Cum to da trap asap wt da fye thru da fnt doe asap kum naw wt da fye,” the sender wrote.

In closing arguments in Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson’s rape and robbery trial Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney Jo Wilensky that Lherisson sent that message to Henry to get him to bring “fye” – street slang for a gun – to an abandoned Delray Beach house where they robbed and forced four Atlantic High School students into sex acts.

Wilensky and fellow prosecutor Chrichet Mixon both used phone records between Henry and Lherisson, and the victims’ identifications of them, in their last attempts Wednesday to convince jurors to convict them of 24 charges that include armed sexual battery, armed robbery and false imprisonment.

“Those kids lives are forever changed by what they were made to do,” Mixon said.

The fact that both men disconnected their phones

Henry’s attorneys, Joseph Walsh and Crystal Kim, and Lherisson’s attorney, Joshua LeRoy. used the phone records conversely to tell jurors that even if prosecutors could link the phones to the men, they didn’t prove any wrongdoing.

Defendants Massillon Lherisson (above) and Francisco Henry (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Monday, July 9, 2012.
Defendants Massillon Lherisson (above) and Francisco Henry (not pictured) sit in court today as a victim testified in the sexual assault case against the two men at the Palm Beach County Courthouse Monday, July 9, 2012.

“Fye,” Walsh told jurors,  is also a term to describe good marijuana, and Henry used to sell marijuana. And even the one victim who said he knew Henry because he’d purchased marijuana from him couldn’t point him out in the courtroom last week until near the end of his testimony.

If the two men were forcing the teens to perform sex acts on one another, LeRoy said, then why did none of the victims recall either of the assailants ever taking a phone call when phone records show both held phone conversations at the time the victims say the attack occurred?

Walsh and LeRoy both spoke about Spencer Britt, a man initially arrested in the attack but released after one of the victims came forward and said he wasn’t involved.

Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sent jurors to begin deliberations just after 4 p.m.

If convicted as charged, both men face up to life in prison. This is the second trial in four years on the case. A first trial in 2012 ended in a mistrial.