Florida Sheriff Encourages Homeowners to Shoot Burglars. Is It Good Advice?

When police in Santa Rosa, Florida, finally caught a burglar who had broken into multiple homes, they saw he had a gunshot wound. The County Sheriff seemed to salute the shooter and encourage others to shoot at anyone who breaks into their property. Is this good advice?

Florida Sheriff Praises Person Who Shot Home Burglar

On a Wednesday night in April, a neighborhood in Pace, Florida, had a flood of break-ins. Multiple residents called to report that someone had broken into their houses. When police showed up, they pursued the culprit as he ran away, jumping over fences and continuing to break into houses.

When they finally caught the 32-year-old suspect, he was wounded. He was shot, but not by a police officer. A homeowner had shot him presumably while the burglar was on their property. No one claimed responsibility for the shooting, and the burglar was arrested.

It seems that Santa Rosa County Sheriff, Bob Johnson approved of the shooting, according to statements he made at a press conference.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Sheriff Johnson commended the shooter, saying he or she should attend a gun safety course to “learn to shoot a lot better” and “save the taxpayers money.”

“If someone is breaking into your house, you’re more than welcome to shoot at them in Santa Rosa County. We’d prefer that you do actually,” he said.

The sheriff also encouraged other residents to take action if they find someone breaking into their house. He invited people to take the sheriff’s office gun safety course offered every other Saturday, adding, “If you take that, you’ll shoot a lot better, and hopefully, you’ll save the taxpayers money.”

It begs the question: is it legal to shoot someone who breaks into your house, whether or not the local sheriff told you to?

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

What Happens if You Shoot a Burglar on Your Property in Florida?

In the burglar shooting, it appears that no homeowner wanted to admit that they shot the culprit. Even after the sheriff’s encouraging words, no one came forward to take responsibility. It seems that whoever shot the burglar didn’t want to face any potential attention or consequences for their actions.

Without knowing the full details of what happened, we can’t know if what the shooter did would leave them in legal trouble. But, we can look at Florida laws to see what laws relate to the incident.

Florida Statute 776.031 outlines the use or threatened use of force in defense of property. It says a person is not permitted to use deadly force to prevent trespass. But, it also says a person is justified in “using or threatening to use deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

According to this part of Florida law, it may be lawful to shoot someone if they break into your property and you believe they are going to commit a felony.

Another Florida law also relates to the situation.

Under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, individuals can use deadly force as a means to protect themselves without first retreating from the threat. Florida Statute 776.012 says, “The use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”

According to this part of Florida law, it may be lawful to shoot someone if they break into your property and you believe they are going to murder you or someone else.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

So, Is It Legal to Shoot an Intruder?

While Santa Rosa County Sheriff Johnson may have encouraged homeowners to shoot people on their property, it may not be as cut and dry as he made it sound.

If a person is in their home and feels that they have a reasonable fear of imminent death, danger, or bodily harm from an intruder or if they believe the intruder is about to commit a felony, the homeowner may be able to shoot and kill a person and not face any legal consequences.

But, it isn’t always a sure thing.

If you shoot someone, you would need to prove that you thought the intruder was going to commit a felony or harm you. Also, if you shoot an intruder in the back, you may not be able to use the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Work with a Criminal Defense

Even if you shoot someone in self-defense, you should still talk to a criminal defense attorney. Cases are rarely as cut and dry as they seem. An experienced attorney can protect your rights and ensure that you get the most fair and just outcome possible.

For criminal defense legal support, schedule a time to talk to TJ Grimaldi today. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Will Self Defense Claim Work in Florida Road Rage Murder Trial?

When two drivers encountered each other on the narrow and quiet streets of St. Petersburg’s Historic Old Northeast neighborhood, no one would have guessed it would have led to road rage, a shooting, and the death of one man.

Now, a trial has finally started almost three years later to determine if the shooter will walk away after claiming he shot two men in self-defense.

What Happened on the Road?

On March 27, 2019, Quentin Hicks, 42, was driving a black convertible BMW while in town visiting from California. He was on his way to see his father and in his front passenger seat was Tyler Oliverbrooks Acker, now 34.

The two were driving through the narrow streets of St. Petersburg’s Historic Old Northeast neighborhood when Acker says they thought they had the right-of-way and drove through an intersection. At that time, they were cut off by a Blue Hyundai Santa Fe driven by William Shutt, now 34. The BMW turned down a street and then the car driven by Shutt appeared again and began to taunt them.

According to reports, Hicks and Shutt then pulled up next to each other at the same intersection.

Acker and Shutt have different accounts of what happened next.

Shutt’s attorney, Roger Futerman, says the two men in the BMW yelled at his client. According to a story by the Tampa Bay Times, Futerman said Hicks yelled, “I’m going to f – – king kill you,” at Shutt, and that Acker yelled, too.

Shutt says he thought Hicks reached down to grab something. Shutt assumed Hicks was reaching for a gun. That’s when Shutt fired his own gun, shooting both Hicks and Acker. Hit by the bullet, Hicks drove through the intersection and crashed into a tree. He died on the scene while Acker suffered a gunshot to his leg.

Acker denies Shutt’s claims. He says he and Hicks didn’t yell and that their hands were clearly visible the entire time.

An Arrest One Week Later

It took one week for Shutt to be arrested for the shooting. He was charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder, and he has been held without bail at the Pinellas County jail since his arrest in April 2019. His trial began this week.

In opening statements, Prosecutor Elizabeth Traverso pointed to the careless, remorseless way that Shutt handled himself after the shooting. She said Shutt didn’t call 911 after the incident. He didn’t tell his girlfriend. Instead, evidence shows he searched for information about countries that didn’t allow extradition back to the United States, according to reports by the Tampa Bay Times.

Police say that during their investigation, they found that Shutt had stockpiled weapons. He also saved videos and articles about mass shootings and murder. A search warrant says that Shutt also confessed to another shooting in an antique store in Delaware.

Shutt also had a record of careless driving. Just five days prior to the shooting, Shutt was cited for careless driving after causing a crash. According to a story by 10 Tampa Bay, he was also cited for reckless driving in 2018.

Despite the evidence against him, Shutt and his attorneys are claiming that he acted in self-defense. Will it work?

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

How To Prove Self Defense

In Florida, laws protect people who use deadly force when they feel their life is threatened.

Often referred to as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Florida Statute 776.012 says:

“A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.”

Florida Statute 782.02 also addresses self defense. It reads:

“The use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”

In self defense cases, a criminal defense attorney can argue that a defendant’s life was threatened, and they acted with deadly force to protect themself. To prove their case, Shutt’s attorney will need to prove that Shutt felt that Hicks and Acker were planning to take Shutt’s life before he took Hicks.

If Shutt fails to prove his claim, he could face life in prison.

The trial will continue this week.

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

Talk to an Attorney You Can Trust

Facing any type of criminal charge is serious, and you need an attorney you can trust by your side. If you need legal advice about a criminal charge against you, talk to an experienced attorney right away to ensure that you get the most just and fair outcome possible.

If you need assistance, contact TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 to schedule a call and discuss your case directly with TJ.

What Charges Can Be Filed by the Runner Who Was Sucker Punched During His Race?

While coming around the track in first place, the last thing high school student Nathan Carter expected was to get punched. But, that’s what happened at a high school track meet last week.

Carter was knocked to the ground and out of first place. So now, we are asking who — if anyone — is going to face consequences for a teen getting punched in what should be a safe space for high school competition?

What Happened on the Track?

Carter was leading in a 1,600-meter race at the Tohopekaliga Tiger Invitational in Kissimmee, Florida, when he found the track partially blocked by another student who was not involved in the race. According to reports of the incident, Carter first passed the student and told him to move. During the next lap, Carter bumped or pushed the student out of the way as he passed.

On Carter’s next lap around the track, the student on the sidelines ran up to him and punched him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. The punch was captured on camera, and you can clearly see the student run up to Carter and hit him from behind.

It was later reported that Carter suffered a concussion from the punch.

What Didn’t Happen on the Track?

Police were called to the scene, but no criminal charges were filed that day.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) said that neither family wanted to press charges, according to a report by TMZ. At the time, the Florida High School Athletic Association and Orange County Public Schools said they were reviewing the situation for potential disciplinary actions.

But now, Carter’s family says they were misled and that’s why they did not initially press charges.

Legal representation for the Carter family says they did not initially press charges because police told them their son would also be arrested and charged with battery for pushing the student who hit him. Now that they know their options, the family may take action against both the boy who hit Carter and the officials running the event.

“If this event hired proper officials to help run this track meet, they could have prevented this,” says the Carter family attorney.

“They could have prevented the CC athlete from standing on the track during the first turn. Or they could have moved the CC athlete after the first lap incident. Or they could have moved the CC athlete before the second lap incident. Or they could have stopped the CC athlete before he chased [my client] down and sucker-punched him. They had many opportunities to prevent this and failed to do so.”

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

What Charges Could Be Filed?

The Carter family could proceed with both criminal and/or civil charges.

Criminal Battery Charges

Criminal charges could be filed against the boy who hit Carter. Under Florida law, striking a person and causing them harm is considered battery. Battery is defined under Florida Statute 784.03. It can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor battery can come with penalties of:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to one year on probation
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

Felony battery is a more severe charge and often used if the incident led to lasting physical harm to the victim. It can come with penalties of:

  • Up to five years in jail
  • Up to five years on probation
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

The incident is on tape so the Carters have proof that the student punched Carter. Carter sustained a concussion so it meets the standard of misdemeanor battery.

Civil Personal Injury Charges

Civil charges could also be filed against the boy who hit Carter. In Florida, you can sue for personal injury if someone’s negligence or recklessness causes injury and damages. Since Carter sustained a concussion from the punch, his legal team could sue for personal injury to collect funds to pay for financial losses (such as medical bills) and/or special compensation damages (such as loss of income, cost of altered plans, and emotional trauma).

The Carter family could also seek personal injury compensation from the organizers of the event. They could argue that event organizers failed to live up to their responsibility to provide a safe environment and that their negligence led to Carter’s injury and damages.

Criminal Assault Charges

The boy who hit Carter could also pursue legal action. Since Carter tried to physically push the boy off the track, a legal team could argue that Carter engaged in simple assault. Assault is defined under Florida Statute 784.011 as an “intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.” It would be more difficult to prove than Carter’s case, but it could happen.

At the time of writing this article, neither family has officially pursued legal action.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Get Representation for a Criminal or Civil Case

Being involved in a criminal or civil legal action is serious. Make sure you have an attorney by your side who can guide you through the process and help you get the best possible outcome. If you have pending legal charges against you, don’t delay. Talk to an experienced attorney today.

Request your consultation with TJ Grimaldi or call 813-226-1023 today to schedule your intro meeting.

Could Will Smith Face Legal Charges for Slapping Chris Rock at Oscars?

By now, most Americans have heard the biggest story of the 2022 Oscars. Will Smith walked on stage and slapped Chris Rock across the face. Nothing like this has ever happened in the 92-year history of the Oscars, and the incident left people with many questions.

But, one of the most consequential questions is: Could Will Smith face legal charges for slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars?

What Led Up to Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock?

The shocking incident happened fast.

Chris Rock took the stage to introduce the nominees for Best Documentary. He began with a few jokes. One joke referred to Smith’s wife Jada’s short hairstyle. Jada Smith was visibly upset by the joke. She has been vocal about how having alopecia has affected her hair loss.

At first, Will Smith appeared to laugh at the joke but then moments later, he walked on stage in what seemed to be a joke at first and slapped Rock across the face.

Rock looked stunned. Will returned to his seat where he yelled to Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out of you f***ing mouth.” Rock rebounded, said he would, and continued on to the award.

The incident set a new tone in the theater, yet Smith was not approached by security or asked to leave. Later in the evening, he returned to the stage to accept an Oscar for Best Actor.

At the time, it seemed like Smith was facing no consequences for his action. But, could he?

What Criminal Charges Could Will Smith Face?

The incident happened in Los Angeles so it would fall under California state laws.

In California, the incident would be considered a battery charge. Battery is the intentional act of force or violence against another person. It is defined under Cal. Penal Code § § 240, 242.

In most cases, battery charges in California are classified as a misdemeanor, but they can be charged as a felony at the prosecutor’s discretion. It’s likely that the Smith case would be classified as a misdemeanor as it doesn’t meet the qualifications often associated with felony battery (such as an assault on a police officer or public worker).

Charges could be more severe depending on the level of Rock’s injury. Battery causing serious bodily injury can lead to longer jail time.

At this time, it doesn’t appear that Rock has any serious injuries so if Smith were to face charges, he would likely face a simple battery charge.

Battery in California could be punishable by:

  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Fine up to $2,000
  • Probation up to six months

So, will Smith face charges?

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Could Will Smith Face Criminal Charges?

There is clear evidence that Smith hit Rock. It was broadcast live to roughly 16.6 million viewers.

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean Smith will face charges.

Rock has declined to press charges or file a police report. Rock’s participation is not required to file charges against Smith, but Rock’s lack of interest in pursuing legal action likely means no case will be opened.

The Los Angeles Police Department says it is aware of the incident but was not pursuing any other action.

Defense lawyer Alan Jackson, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor who oversaw high-profile cases, told ABC News why the state will likely not investigate the case further.

“Would they ever in a practical world do that when Chris Rock is saying, ’I won’t cooperate with a criminal investigation?’ Not in a million years. LAPD is probably breathing a relative sigh of relief that they don’t have to get involved with two high-profile actors duking it out on a world stage,” said Jackson.

While it remains to be seen if the Los Angeles city attorney’s office will decide to bring charges against Smith, it seems unlikely at this time.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

Could Chris Rock File a Civil Case Against Will Smith?

In cases where a person is assaulted, the victim may have an option to sue for personal injury in civil courts. There does not need to be criminal charges to pursue a personal injury case.

Rock could technically file a personal injury case against Smith, but it is also highly unlikely.

Rock has already said that he is not pressing charges in the criminal matter so it is unlikely that he would pursue a civil case. Also, to secure a win in a civil personal injury case, Rock would need to prove that he experienced damages as a result of the incident. At this time, it does not appear that Rock was seriously injured or sustained any type of meaningful damages.

But, like potential criminal charges against Smith, civil charges could happen. Time will tell, but it’s unlikely to happen.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Talk to an Attorney If Facing Criminal or Civil Charges

Potential criminal charges and civil charges can lead to serious consequences. If you or someone you know has been charged in either court, talk to an experienced attorney right away.

Even if you have been involved in an incident and charges aren’t filed yet, it’s still important to talk to an attorney and start a legal strategy right away. Talk to TJ Grimaldi about the details of your situation with a free consultation. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Bridgetender Arrested for Manslaughter After Woman Falls to Death

It seemed like a tragic accident. While 79-year-old Carol Wright was crossing a bridge in West Palm Beach, the drawbridge began to rise. Wright tried to cling to the bridge, but she couldn’t hold on and fell to death.

Now, new details reveal that the tragic accident could have been prevented, and the person in charge of managing the drawbridge may pay the consequences. Bridgetender, Artissua Lafay Paulk is being criminally charged in the death of Carol Wright.

What Happened on the Bridge?

Artissua Lafay Paulk is a bridgetender in charge of the Royal Park Bridge in West Palm Beach. A bridgetender is responsible for confirming that a bridge is clear of vehicles and people before it rises.

But on February 6, 2022, Paulk began to raise the bridge while Carol Wright was in the middle of crossing it.

Wright was walking her bicycle across the bridge. She legally and lawfully entered the bridge and was about roughly ten feet past the barrier arms when it started to rise. A bystander tried to help Wright. She clung to the side of the bridge, but ultimately, Wright fell and died on the scene.

The role of a bridgetender is to ensure such a tragedy doesn’t occur. Their roles require them to follow specific safety protocols. According to West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachle, bridgetenders are responsible for “lowering of the gates for the vehicles, lowering of the gates for the pedestrians, and making several visual confirmations that there is nobody at either of the spans or past those gates.”

Paulk told police she followed safety procedures. A Florida Department of Transportation report said Paulk claimed she walked out on the balcony multiple times before and after turning on the red lights and lowering the gate to stop traffic and making two announcements on loudspeakers.

Attorney Lance Ivey, who represents Wright’s family, says this account is a lie, and now, evidence that shows Paulk did not follow safety protocols has led to her arrest.

Why Is Paulk Being Charged with Manslaughter?

Paulk has been charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence.

Investigators allege that Paulk did not follow safety protocols and lied about it.

After obtaining a search warrant, investigators uncovered texts between Paulk and her supervisor that were deleted. The text messages show that Paulk lied to investigators.

3:20 p.m. from supervisor to Paulk: “When they talk to you make [expletive] sure you tell them you walked outside on balcony 3 diff times to make sure no one was past gates n delete this msg after one time to make sure card [sic] stop 2nd time after gates lowered and 3rd time before you raised spans ok now delete this I know ur upset but u gotta tell them step by step how u do opening” 

3:20 p.m. Paulk to supervisor: “I did” 

3:59 p.m. from supervisor to Paulk: “You have to write out step by step what you did ok up till time you were told someone fell” 

Police also uncovered another text in which Paulk told a friend, “I’m here with the police I killed a lady on the bridge.”

Paulk, who was staffed by a private state contractor, is now facing criminal charges.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

What Are the Potential Consequences?

Manslaughter is a criminal charge that is a step-below a murder charge. In a murder charge, there is intent to kill another person. In a manslaughter charge, there is no premeditation to kill another person. It is defined under Florida Statute 782.07.

In manslaughter cases, the defendant did one or more of the following.

  • Intentionally completed an act that led to the death of another person.
  • Persuaded or encouraged another person to complete an act that led to that person’s death.
  • Was culpably negligent which led to the death of another person.

In this case, the state says Paulk was culpably negligent. She did not intend to kill Wright, but her actions led to Wright’s death.

Paulk faces serious charges.

In Florida, the charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence is a second-degree felony that can result in 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and up to a $10,000 fine.

Paulk may also face civil charges as the case could qualify as a wrongful death case if Wright’s family wants to pursue civil charges.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Facing Criminal Charges Is Serious

Any time someone faces criminal charges, it is a serious situation. If you or someone close to you is facing criminal charges, make sure they have legal representation they can trust.

Find an attorney who can fight to ensure that you get the most fair and just outcome possible. If you need a criminal defense attorney, talk to TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Man Faces Murder Charges After Shots Fired at His Car Killed His Passenger

Francisco Galvan was in the line of fire when two men started shooting at his car. The shots hit him and his two passengers, fatally wounding one of them. Galvan lived through the experience but now, he faces murder charges for the passenger who was killed by the shots.

How did Galvan go from being at risk of being murdered to being charged with third-degree murder?

Shots Fired

On January 7, 2022, Francisco Galvan, 20, got in his car with two others and drove to an apartment complex in Temple Terrace to sell marijuana to an interested buyer. But, the transaction never occurred.

When Galvan’s car pulled up to the apartment, the would-be buyers started shooting at it. The shots hit Galvan and his two passengers. Galvan drove the three injured men to Tampa General Hospital, but it was too late for 18-year-old Ismael Reyers-Barajas. He died from his injuries that day, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

While it is unclear if the person or persons who shot Reyers-Barajas and his passengers have been charged, someone is facing criminal charges in the case — Galvan.

In an unusual turn of events, Galvan is now facing a third-degree murder charge for Reyers-Barajas’ death.

Prosecutors say that because the shooting happened during an attempted drug deal orchestrated by Galvan, Galvan is partially to blame for Reyers-Barajas death.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

What Is Third Degree Murder?

Florida is only one of three states that have third-degree murder laws. Pennsylvania and Minnesota are the other two states.

In Florida, third-degree murder is outlined under Florida Statutes Section 782.04. It is described as the unintentional killing of a person while committing or attempting a non-violent felony.

The penalty is up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Galvin’s arrest report states the shooting was, “committed during the commission of a felony that (Galvan) was involved in.” Because Reyers-Barajas was killed while Galvan was committing a crime, prosecutors say Galvan is in some way responsible for the death.

Third-degree murder does not require intent the way that first and second-degree murder charges do. In most cases, a death caused by the unintentional act of another person is considered a manslaughter charge, but not in this case.

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

Third Degree Murder vs. Manslaughter: What’s the Difference?

When a death is caused by neglect rather than malicious intent, it is often considered a manslaughter charge, not a murder charge.

Manslaughter is defined under Florida Statutes Section 782.07. It refers to situations where:

  • Someone intentionally completed an act that led to the death of another person.
  • Someone persuaded or encouraged another person to complete an act that led to that person’s death.
  • Someone was culpably negligent which led to the death of another person.

Manslaughter charges typically apply to situations where someone caused another person’s death but they had no prior intent on killing the other person.

In this case, it appears that Galvin had no intent to kill Reyers-Barajas. But because Glavin was engaging in criminal behavior during Reyers-Barajas’ death, he may face the more serious charge of third-degree murder.

If convicted, the third-degree murder charge will hold more weight on Galvin’s record. But, the potential sentencing for both third-degree murder and manslaughter is the same.

They both hold the potential for 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Related: Get Good Legal Representation by Asking This One Question

The Importance of Working with a Top Criminal Defense Attorney

Multiple crimes were in motion on January 7, 2022. Galvan was planning to commit the crime of selling illegal drugs, but instead, he now faces charges for a much more serious crime — a shooting he did not commit but may be responsible for.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are facing minor or serious criminal charges, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible. Both misdemeanors and felonies have the potential to change your life and lead to fines, probation, and jail time.

Do not face a criminal charge on your own. Talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you get the best possible outcome for your situation. If you are facing criminal charges, contact TJ Grimaldi today to see how our team can help you navigate your situation and get the most just outcome. Request an appointment or call 813-226-1023.

Should Bayshore Driver Get a Sentence Reduction After Deadly Crash?

May 23, 2018 was a truly awful day for two families. A family lost a young mother and her toddler who died after being struck by a car on Bayshore Boulevard. Another family figuratively lost their son after he hit and killed the woman and her daughter.

Cameron Herrin, the 18-year-old speeding driver who struck and killed Jessica Reisinger-Raubenolt and her 1-year-old daughter, was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter charges.

Now, more than three years later, Herrin’s family is trying to get some of their life back with their son. Is it fair? And, is it possible?

The Accident

On a spring day, Reisinger-Raubenolt took her daughter for a walk on Bayshore Boulevard. They two were in town visiting family.

Around the same time, Herrin and his friend, 17-year-old John Barineau, were on their way to a local gym. Herrin had just graduated from Tampa Catholic High School two days earlier and was driving a new Ford Mustang, his graduation gift. Barineau was driving near him in his Nissan Altima. The two decided to race.

Traveling north from Gandy Boulevard up Bayshore Boulevard toward downtown, the two cars raced, moving in and out of traffic lanes to pass cars, according to witnesses. The Mustang’s Infotainment system would later show that the car reached 102 mph.

As the cars approached Reisinger-Raubenolt and her daughter, witnesses say the Nissan swerved to miss them. The Mustang moved to avoid the Nissan and hit the mother and daughter.

While the Mustang slowed down to about 30 and 40 mph just before the collision, it struck Reisinger-Raubenolt and her daughter. The mother died on impact, and the toddler died the next day from her injuries.

Related: 5 Reasons to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer After a Crash 

The Sentencing

Barineau and Herrin were facing a trial when both decided to plead guilty to the charges against them.

Barineau, the driver of the Nissan, worked with the state on a plea deal. He pled guilty to two vehicular homicide charges and a misdemeanor racing charge in exchange for a six-year sentence with 15 years of probation.

Herrin, the driver responsible for striking and killing the mother and daughter, also pled guilty to two vehicular homicide charges and a misdemeanor racing charge. But, he agreed to an open plea, which put his sentencing in the judge’s hand.

State guidelines suggest a minimum of 18-and-a-half years for the charges against Herrin. The family of the victims asked for the maximum 30-year sentence.

Herrin was sentenced to 24 years, nine years for the mother’s death and 15 for the child’s death to be served consecutively.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Nash made the decision after a day of testimony from both Herrin’s and Reisinger-Raubenolt’s family and friends.

Herrin’s defense team argued that Herrin should receive a sentence similar to Barineau, who they believe was equally culpable for the accident. But, the judge gave extra weight to Herrin’s sentencing due to the fact that Herrin was the one who hit the victims and that Herrin had a history of speeding and racing.

Herrin’s car navigation system has recently recorded a speed of 162 mph on Interstate 75 and a speed of 84 mph on Bayshore in the weeks leading up to the accident, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Related: What You Should Expect from Your Attorney in Every Case

The Appeal

Herrin’s defense team was quick to start the appeal process. They believe Herrin was unfairly sentenced and are taking up a legal challenge. In December, Herrin’s legal team completed the full briefing process, and both the state and the defense have now submitted written arguments to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

The appeal process begins in the wake of a large and somewhat unusual internet campaign to support Herrin. Content promoting “justice for Cameron” has been seen across Twitter and TikTok. TikTok videos featuring the tag “Cameron Herrin” have been viewed over 2.4 billion times.

Experts believe some of the support is from real people across the world. Herrin’s mother says she receives calls and letters from supporters. But, experts also believe that some of the social media content is produced by international bots, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Herrin’s family and defense team say they have no connection with the outpouring of social media content. But, they are still fighting to get their version of justice for Herrin. Their appeal brief states, “Certainly Cameron deserves to be punished for his role in this horrible case. But what purpose is served by imprisoning this young man for the next twenty-plus years of his life?”

The state plans to fight against a sentence reduction. They believe the sentence is fair for the crime.

In the upcoming months, a three-judge panel will meet to decide whether or not the judge abused his discretion and if there is a legal basis for a trial court to redo Herrin’s sentence. Herrin’s fate will be in their hands.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

Get Support & Advice For Your Legal Case

In cases like this, there are no winners. A terrible accident devastated two families, and the courts are left to determine which is the best way to provide justice.

If you’ve been involved in a legal matter, you deserve justice and fair representation throughout the court process. Don’t delay if a legal matter is pending in your life. Talk to an attorney right away who can guide you through the process. TJ Grimaldi is here to help. See how he can support your case today. Request an appointment or call 813-226-1023.

Elizabeth Holmes Found Guilty in Billion Dollar Fraud Case. Will She Face Consequences?

Elizabeth Holmes Found Guilty in Billion Dollar Fraud Case. Will She Face Consequences

Back when Elizabeth Holmes was featured on the cover of Time magazine, her company Theranos was valued at around $9 billion. This week, Holmes was found guilty in four of eleven federal criminal fraud charges.

What led to the downfall of Holmes and her company? Was she a founder who made mistakes, or did she intentionally deceive investors and patients? And now that she has been found guilty, will she face any meaningful consequences?

The Theranos Scandal

In March 2004, when Holmes was just 19 years old, she launched her company, Theranos. Like a few other famous Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, she dropped out of prestigious school, leaving Sandford to build her business.

Theranos was promised to be a company that could offer a variety of medical testing through a small amount of blood work. The promise of the company had investors and partners interested. Holmes raised over $945 million. After a 2013 retail partnership announcement with Walgreens, the company was valued at around $9 billion.

On paper, Holmes was one of the richest women in the world. Then, reality hit.

In 2015, a Wall Street Journal investigation found that Theranos had not actually conducted the hundreds of blood tests it claimed to offer. Some of the tests were less accurate than presented, and other tests were conducted on devices from third-party blood testing companies.

This story started a series of issues that eventually led to civil charges in March 2018.

The First Round of Legal Trouble: Civil SEC Charges

In March 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced fraud charges against Holmes, the company Theranos, and Theranos COO and president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

According to an SEC press release, Holmes and Balwani raised, “more than $700 million from investors through an elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business, and financial performance.”

Holmes and Theranos did not admit to or deny the charges, but they settled with the SEC. Holmes was required to return millions of shares to the privately held company, pay a $500,000 fine, and not serve as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years, as reported by Reuters.

The civil charges were a blow to Holmes, but they weren’t as serious as the fraud charges that came just a few months later.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

The Second Round of Legal Trouble: Criminal Fraud Charges

In June 2018, Holmes and Balwani were indicted on federal wire fraud charges by the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California.

The charges alleged that Holmes and Balwani both knew the Theranos proprietary blood analyzer could only perform 12 of the 200 tests it said it could, yet they continued to make misleading claims to both investors and customers.

The criminal charges meant Holmes was now facing jail time.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Facing the Charges

It took almost three years for Holmes’s case to make it to trial. It began in August 2021, included 30 witness testimonies, and lasted 11 weeks. Holmes testified over seven days of the trial trying to show that she never intentionally defrauded investors or patients.

The jury was slow to decide Holmes’s fate. As we recently discussed in a blog relating to the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, jury deliberations can take time.

After 50 hours, the jury eventually found Holmes guilty on four of the eleven charges.

  • 4 Charges — Not Guilty: There were four not guilty verdicts related to three charges concerning defrauding patients and one charge of conspiracy to defraud patients.
  • 3 Charges — No Verdicts: There was no verdict on three charges related to defrauding patients. The judge expects to declare a mistrial on those charges, according to reports from CNN. The jury could not come to a unanimous decision on these charges.
  • 4 Charges — Guilty: Holmes was found guilty on three counts of wire fraud relating to investors and one count of conspiracy to defraud investors. Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 plus restitution for each count.

Facing the (Minimal) Consequences

Many people were hurt by the unscrupulous acts of Holmes and Balwani. Investors lost millions of dollars, but Holmes’s conviction does not resolve their loss. She was only found guilty on four of the eleven charges.

Even after losing billions of dollars for investors, Holmes may only spend a few years in prison.

According to estimates by prison consultants and legal experts, even though Holmes faces decades in prison, she may only serve as little as three years at a low-security prison facility.

Facing Criminal or Civil Charges? Talk to an Attorney Right Away.

Facing criminal or civil charges is a serious matter. Civil charges can lead to financial judgments and fines, and criminal charges can lead to probation, fines, and jail time. Both can uproot your life. If you find yourself facing either civil or criminal charges, it’s important to talk to an experienced attorney right away.

TJ Grimaldi is both a criminal defense attorney and civil attorney. If you are facing a legal case, he can help you create a plan to get the best possible outcome for your situation. Talk to him today by requesting your consultation or calling 813-226-1023 to schedule a time to talk directly with TJ.