A 51-year-old former Naples defense lawyer currently serving probation will receive a new trial after a state appeals court overturned his 2008 conviction for attempting to solicit a 14-year-old girl over the Internet.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the man’s conviction on July 27 for several reasons. The court ruled the judge was flawed in her reasoning to not allow the man’s attorney to use peremptory challenges during jury selection to dismiss three female jurors that the attorney objected to. Furthermore, the Palm Beach Circuit Judge was found to have erred when she allowed a “highly offensive” cross examination.
The man, a registered sex offender serving five years of sex-offender probation, will get a new trial in Palm Beach County. He was disbarred and is currently unemployed living in Hollywood, Florida.
The case got its start with chatroom communications that took place in 2003, which prompted charges in two Florida counties as well as a Pennsylvania investigation.
The man was arrested in 2004 at a Port St. Lucie restaurant after he had traveled from Naples to meet the mother of a 14-year-old girl. A prosecutor dropped the charges against the man in 2006 after his former defense attorney argued there was no communication with a child or anyone posing as such.
Under the Williams Rule, prosecutors argued they were allowed to bring up past incidents in similar cases involving the man in Port St. Lucie and Pennsylvania, but the appeals court ruled it went too far.
An appeals court judge ruled in a nine-page order signed by two other judges that questioning about the man’s former defense should not have been allowed at the man’s trial nor will it be allowed in the man’s retrial.
The conviction involved chats that took place in 2003 when a Boynton Beach Police detective met the man in an Internet chatroom. The man supposedly solicited the girl in sexually graphic conversations for almost 10 months.
The man and detective masquerading as a child planned to meet, but never actually did. Following his arrest, the man said he never actually intended to follow through with a meet-up.
The appeals court observed that a meeting was discussed, but never actually happened.
Sex offender probation requirements are quite strict and include yearly polygraph examinations about sex habits, wearing an ankle monitor, a mandatory curfew, a sex treatment program and restrictions on where one can work or live. Many people agree to go on sex offender probation in the state of Florida before they see firsthand how harsh the conditions are for sex offenders. In a majority of cases, sex offenders are only told about these requirements when they initially meet their probation officer. At this point, it is too late for the sex offender on probation to change his or her mind about agreeing to go on probation. It is absolutely crucial for a convicted sex offender to contemplate the conditions for probation before agreeing to go on probation. A skilled sex crimes defense attorney can explain any special circumstances regarding sex offender probation with you and help you fully understand what you will be up against.
Any individual who has been convicted of a sex crime, such as Internet solicitation of a minor, has the right to appeal both the conviction and the sentence imposed. Any errors or misjudgments made at your trial can be appealed in Florida or federal appellate courts; however your right to appeal the conviction or sentence is subject to firm jurisdictional deadlines. An appeal should always be handled by a seasoned appeals attorney due to the significant level of research and writing skills involved throughout the process. The Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have the legal expertise needed to execute both of these crafts effectively.
If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of your case throughout the state of Florida, contact the Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton online or dial us toll-free at 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).
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