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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

STALLWORTH CONTROVERSY

The  comments below  fairly reflects the chatter around the REGJB regarding the plea offered to NFL star Donte Stallworth that included a mere 30 days jail for a DUI manslaughter. 

The question is whether Donte Stallworth bought his way out of state prison? 
In our experience this is one of the most lenient deals ever offered a person charged with DUI Manslaughter. 


UPDATE: This comment (edited to remove extraneous curse words- the full comment is in the comments section) bears discussion as it highlights the issues here:

Is Murphy ... stupid? look up case number F02-2850, state of fl v. leonardo cardenas. DUI Mans, son driving mom home from festival crashes into police cruiser and mom dies. the police officer is hell bent on the son getting real time. state's offer is 8 years, murphy offers him 5 years state prison. kid gets scarred and leaves the country. Murphy, today, i can honestly say you suck. 30 days because the victim's broke ass family gets pay day. ... what if stallworth would have hit a rich guy instead of a poor guy, more time wold have been required for justice to be achieved. remember this was a criminal case not a civil case. murphy, you are shameless.

Former ASA here.

30 days for a DUI manslaughter? That's a disgrace. Mothers Against Drunk Driving should be up in arms over this one. From now on, no DUI prosecutor should ever ask for jail time on a case that didnt involve a fatality. And I guess the guy that killed the mother and kids a few months ago, who is being held no bond should get 90 days DCJ. 30 days per corpse according the the "Stallworth formula."
How can you resolve the fact that the DUI prosecutors in county court hardly ever break a case down and will try any DUI case, no matter how bad, but Stallworth gets a pat on the back for cooperating with the police and showing remorse. Athlete buys his way out of trouble again and my old boss KFR should be ashamed.


RUMP: DUI GUY here:
How will the state ever offer anything more than 30 days in any DUI in county court based on this plea? 

OFFSIDES PENALTY- 
If you want to read about the David Ranck situation at the SAO, scoot over to Mr. Markus's blog and read his piece as he horns in on our turf. 

We all know Fed Court is boring, but please, leave the REGJB to the experts. It may look easy from the sidelines, but trust us, you're playing with fire and will get burned.   



Addendum:
Lawyer Tom Risivy can't get into the Coral Gables Court house without either 1) Taking off his shoes at the security checkpoint or 2) Getting a police escort through the back door which is reserved for people getting married and that seems a bit extreme just to get to court on time

Judge Serpahin: Did he get his props for responding to complaints and designating 8:30-9:30 as the time he will call lawyers out of turn on Wednesday sounding calendars? If not, he's got them now. 

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Father Alberto Cutie ties the knot in Coral Gables. Weds Ruhama Buni Canellis in civil ceremony; Episcopal ceremony still planned."

Hey! What happened to the bachelor party? Lipsticks? Tootsies? Hialeah Theatre of the Performing Arts (aka Treasure Island)?

Anonymous said...

Prosecutors should always offer what is appropriate under the facts and law. Each case has its own unique facts and circumstances, to which peanut gallery blog posters are not privy.

While I sympathize with the discomfort this agreement may trigger in the public arena, the feigned outrage from the defense bar is transparent. Our prosecutors should not feel pressured to do anything other than their level best. If the case is strong, than they should convey a plea that is commiserate to the Defendant's priors and the egregiousness of the individual offense.

Objectively DUI threatens more lives than any other misdemeanor charge. Accordingly, each case must carry the prospect of a jail sentence that is measured against any mitigating factors.

Former ASA said...

I'm going to save up a few million bucks, go out, get loaded, run over some poor SOB and buy my way out of the slammer with the savings. That's the message KFR and Co. are sending.

The SAO routinely seeks longer jail sentences for simple misdemeanor DUI in County Court. I got longer jail sentences of first offender DUI's when I was an ASA there. I respect and congratulate Chris Lyons for doing an excellent job for his client, but this plea is a f--king embarassment for the SAO.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled! This has set a precedent on so many levels:

1. For the community to no longer fear the consequences of driving under the influence and has opened the door for more to become victims of a senseless act. It confirms the fact that money can buy anything, including freedom.

2. Dog fighting is apparently more egregious than manslaughter.

3. For the Defense bar to take every DUI to trial and use this to avoid jail when found guilty.

4. For every ASA to just give up hope in the SAO.

Lawyer said...

This should put to rest some common misconceptions:

1) If this was a white athlete then people would be saying that the deal was because he was white.

What this shows is that wealth, not race matters. This man bought himself out of prison. I have represented two individuals in the last ten years in similar cases. Both with lesser Blood alcohol levels. One got 11 years and one got seven. Neither had millions to pay off a family.

2) Anybody who currently has a DUI manslaughter or serious bodily injury case pending can now use this as the yardstick. if Stallworth was worth 30 days, and the client has a lower BAL and no priors. why can't s/he get the same deal.

3) Just how sick are those people in prison serving 10-20-30 years after seeing this plea? I seem to recall a Broward developer on a Boating manslaughter case who got 30. He was white. Stallworth was black. What is the difference? Money and location.

The SAO should be ashamed of themselves. This plea stinks to high hell. There was a five million umbrella policy and Stallworth had individual unsheltered wealth. The family could have gotten the same money by instituting a lawsuit.

Recently I had a prosecutor tell me restitution to the family took a back seat to punishment. How stupid do you feel today Ms DC? (and you know who you are) Your office just proved my point.

Anyway- this deal damages the justice system.

Anonymous said...

Former Chief of County Court Pat Trese wouldn't have approved this plea for a .08 DUI with property damage. What happened to you Pat? A county judge would probably punish a first time DUI for going to trial with a harsher sentence. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Forget the Cutie wedding, read the lawsuit in the New Times

Anonymous said...

Why didn't Obama say the following when the DNC was refusing to count the votes of Florida & Michigan Dem Primary voters? "But I stand strongly with the universal principle that people's voices should be heard and not suppressed." Hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Anybody confirm the rumor that Larry McClatchan has finally signed that deal to do a realty TV show about an aging hipster dofus lawyer living in South Beach?

"Clatch's Clutch" or some nonsense. It's on Lifetime and starting in the fall with filming starting now and Larry David and Ben Stiller are executive producers.

Nice payday if it's true.

Anonymous said...

Who represented the victims? Surely the State Attorneys Victim Witness Coordinators would make sure that the victim's family had good and competent counsel. Would it be fair to have Mr. Stallworth's attorneys negotiating with non lawyers in a matter such as this?

Anonymous said...

Dear 9:30. Re New Times: "CutiĆ© has said he was attracted to Canellis almost from the time they met approximately ten years ago in church. "I just knew there was this strong connection,'' the ex-priest recently told UnivisiĆ³n's Teresa Rodriguez. "I think she has the same passion that I have for...... Jesus.'' LOL! Stop it Father, you are killing me.

Anonymous said...

Rump: You should bring back the music for this post. Pink Floyd's "Money!"

Anonymous said...

To all ASAs: Next time one of the Career Criminal chiefs won't go below 8 years on a 60 year old HO who broke into a tool shed to steal a lawn mower, remind them of Donte Stallworth. If a traffic homicide is worth 30 days, a structural burglary and grand theft should be 15-20 DCJ, max.

Anonymous said...

As a long time former asa who loved working at the sao I am truly ashamed by what this office did in the stallworth case. the SAO is never supposed to allow victims to control the plea. it is wrong when SAO seeks jail in a bs batt leo case because some cop is a hard ass. it is just as wrong when the SAO sells out a case today so that a victim can get a massive payday.

To the asa was who had to stand in ct and take this plea I feel bad for you. There is no way you can feel like you did the right thing allowing this to happen.

Overall shame on you SAO you let the community down on this one

Anonymous said...

It's sad that the NFL may dish out a tougher sentence than the criminal justice system. Embarrassing. Comparatively speaking..... I guess all my pleas should be cts.

Anonymous said...

Is Murphy fucking stupid? look up case number F02-2850, state of fl v. leonardo cardenas. DUI Mans, son driving mom home from festival crashes into police cruiser and mom dies. the police officer is hell bent on the son getting real time. state's offer is 8 years, murphy offers him 5 years state prison. kid gets scarred and leaves the country. Murphy, today, i can honestly say you suck. 30 days because the victim's broke ass family gets pay day. you are full of shit. what if stallworth would have hit a rich guyinstead of a poor guy, more time wold have been required for justice to be achieved. remember this was a criminal case not a civil case. murphy, you are shamless.

Cleveland REGJB blog reader said...

Rump
As a clevelander there is a lot of local chatter surrounding this outcome. I've shared your blog page with a few hundred I think would appreciate your perspective.

Anonymous said...

So it looks like DNA swabs from anyone even arrested for a felony, regardless of if there is a conviction or even if the case gets no actioned. Interesting.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/gubernatorial/article1010752.ece

Anonymous said...

Murphy dropped the ball on this one. Badly. Very badly.

Although the young man showed remorse and did all the right things, this is a joke and a complete SAO sellout.

Murphy's also got murdered Redskin's Sean Taylor case. Let's hope and pray he does right by Sean.

Paladin51 said...

The outcry in the Stallworth case is misplaced, particularly from the former prosecutors, most of whom, when they were prosecutors, couldn't make a fair offer or see the true facts if it was their own mother on trial. In the first place, none of you know all the facts that went into the deal. Second, I will agree, money definitely increases the chance of one getting "justice." Third, any one of you who are defense attorneys and won't admit you would have worked just as hard for the same deal, for any client, needs to turn in your Bar card. Fourth, any prosecutor who has the temerity to say in a post that the prosecutor shouldn't let the victim control the outcome of a case better never, ever tell me that he cant't drop the charges or give my guy probation because the victim won't go along with it-and he/she needs to read the Florida Constitution. And, lastly, I hope the family got enough from him to make them wealthy for the rest of their lives.

Anonymous said...

I certainly understand the frustration at the sentence. However, there's a lot that goes into plea offers. The SAO has hammered plenty of people with money and even gone after corporations (remember Eller Media? Eller Media certainly had plenty of money and many thought that case was unwinnable. The SAO had every excuse in the world to drop the case, but didn't). The SAO also regularly prosecutes cases over the victim's objections (domestics being the obvious example). Given the office's (and KFR's) history, I think it's premature to criticize the office without a lot more information re what happened. I'm guessing we'll learn a lot from the close out memo (and hope I'm right).

Anonymous said...

Yawn....Dui . Silly state hacks.

Anonymous said...

The list is long for people doing prison time for DUI manslaughter. When I was an ASA, the Carla Wagner case was the biggie. That girl was a high school student and she got a handful of years in prison. What about the DUI guys that killed the judge out on Krome a few years back. Prison.
The guy that rear ended and killed the mother and kids a few months ago will get prison time. I wonder if Jim Leyritz will get 30 days for his DUI manslaughter up in Broward.

Then again, none of the above persons could run a post pattern like Stallworth.

Anonymous said...

The general consensus (I believe) is this: as defense attorneys, we are all pleased to see one of our own get a great deal for a client. However, most of us don't represent guys like Donte Stallworth. Our clients are of modest means. Most are on payment plans. Most of us have to call them monthly and hound them like we're collection agents.

The simple truth is this: for these working-class clients who max out credit cards, borrow money, and refinance their homes to pay for representation, we know that they will never have the opportunity to accept a plea deal such as this. Even cases where the victim is a family member (F02-2850, state of fl v. leonardo cardenas) where I am sure that the family of the victim didn't want to see the defendant go to prison, the state will still want blood due to the fact that somebody has died. Is it warranted? Maybe. But the bottom line is that justice is equal. I have a bronze statue on my desk of this blindfolded lady holding scales. Up until this plea, I thought that was a pretty nice depiction of our system of justice.

Think about how many of our clients had the book thrown at them for non-violent offenses. Many of these guys are not bright, a lot of them having wrong-place, wrong-timed their dumb asses right into the justice system. Constructive possession cases, hanging out with a carful of guys, unaware there's a half a key of coke in the center console.

Think of how you toiled trying to get the State to waive the min-man (forget how hard you tried to get the damn thing nolle prossed). I wonder if your client had 10 million dollars to donate to the PBA if he would have gotten 30 days in county and some probation.

This plea deal is sickening. Hats off to Chris Lyons for saving your client's life, but if Donte Stallworth had been driving a used Hyundai and not a Bentley, you'd be lucky to get less than 7 years.

batman said...

Why is it that everyone who is so "appalled" does not see that despite the .12 blood level that the case was far from a slam dunk? Factors such as the victim being outside the cross-walk, allegedly crossing against the light as he tried to run through traffic to catch his bus, the lighting at the time of the occurence, the need for the State to prove not only was Donte intoxicated, but his intoxication contributed to the death and the inevitable accident reconstructionist who would have testified that even a sober person could not have avoided the accident. Does this potentially add up to "reasonable doubt"? Could the State afford to have Donte go to trial and be acquitted? Can Donte afford to have this hanging over his head while trying to play this season and possibly finish his career? Can the Reyes family afford the cost of living for the years it would take complete the civil case?

Lest we forget the character of Donte. Did he ever deny he was intoxicated? Was he not the person who called 911 to report the incident? Did he attempt to flee or obstruct the investigation? Has he not come forward and acknowledged his culpability?

I do not beleive the State gave away the store. I think the State did what it is supposed to do. Evaluate each case on its own merit. Do I believe that they should give just as much thought and consideration to every case? Absolutely! But that is a dream world.

I give cudos to all involved in this case for reaching a just resolution. The SAO who properly evalutate the case and all the participants, Chris Lyons, who admirably represented his client, the police who investigated this matter, the Reyes' civil attorney who I am sure did well for his clients, and ultimately Donte for doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

The Herald story made it sound like DUI manslaughters get light sentences.

That is not true. The average in Miami is about 5 years.

If they could prove causation, they should not have given him 30 days. This looks like Pat Trese is a real big jerk. When he was in county court, he bitched about wanting all kinds of jail on cases without a death.

The case in the Herald about the Diaz family is a different situation. In that case, Catalano and Matthewman had them up against the wall because the blood was going to be suppressed. The police got the blood by search warrant and the cops were outside their juridiction when the served it and they were not even authorized in the warratnt to serve it. Big difference.

Anonymous said...

What about the woman who David Miller sentenced to 30 years because she ran a red light, was NOT DUI, and killed two young women? 30DCJ is outrageous and embarrassing to our community. Then KFR goes on TV and actually says with a straight face that justice was served. If anyone is shameless, it's her. What an embarrassment.

Fake Fake Alex Michaels said...

Sirty days for killink a guy????

Deeees Eeees Bullsheeeet!

Anonymous said...

Money and a good lawyer.... hmmmmm. Can that really get you a better deal?

As Governor Palin would say, "you betcha."

Anonymous said...

This State Attorneys Office has a history of giving "Insider Deals." Former ASA George Cholockas got an "Insider Deal." This time Donte Stallworth had to buy his way inside. KFR will probably get a lot of campaign contributions from Stallworth's family and fans. Its all about the money. Always has been.

Anonymous said...

Batman is Lyons.

Anonymous said...

1138 come on chris dont write to the blog just be happy and dont spend all donte's money in one place

Anonymous said...

David Ranck loses whistleblower lawsuit. Judge Gold rules that, even though he has a constitutional right to post stuff in his blog, he was suspended for other things including the case where he called the defense attorney an asshole.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/southflorida/story/1100572.html

batman said...

I am not Lyons. If I were, I would substantially younger, a lot better looking, making a lot more money and driving a much more expensive car. I know he looks like a Bruce Wayne, but I don't.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Stallworth, I think we should all give more credit to our State Attorney's judgment.
If there is one thing that we all know about her and her office, it is that no opportunity for maximizing the politics of a situation passes without full exploitation. Moreover, no decision will ever be made that puts the merits of a case or the need for compassion over the press impact and public reaction of any decision. In reaching this decision, we should assume that the two-pronged test was carefully employed, and a decision made that this was the right plea for these circumstances considering everything including the political/press wind direction.

That said, this guy admitted what he did, cooperated all the way along, seems legitimately sorry, and because of who he is, money and all, probably will render a lot more benefit to the community through the press and the community hours of service than the poor fellow who got five years seven years ago. And, the fact that he can make real restitution to this devastated family is something that has to be taken into consideration as well.

As important for us lawyers is that we not take unfair shots at the judge. He did not take a bag of cash. He approved a plea that is not shocking or unethical. It was within the zone of reason and was proposed to him by the parties.

I suppose he could have grand-standed and postured, but that is not the kind of judge he is. He is widely rcognized as one of the best judges we have at REG, and while it may be fun to make intemperate comments about a judge in the hallway after a particularly vexing or stupid ruling, it is compeltely different to put it in writing. That is not right, particularly with a judge that any one of us would feel comfortable having a family member or friend before. He and us deserve to look better than that.

Anonymous said...

Stallworth bought his way out of prison and the SAO (my old employer) ought to be ashamed.

First, the "victim's family wanted it over" is crap. That issue comes up in every homicide case. What next of kin wants to sit through a homicide trial? None. But you make them push forward because justice requires it. Hell, they even have counselors to help them go through the process. Plus, it wasnt like the victim's family had to come in and testify.

Second, we all forget that this case has been around for only a few months. What deficiencies in the case were there that the SAO had to plea this out for such a light sentence? Was there a major suppression issue? Did the arresting officer get indicted? Did a crucial witness die? Was a depo even taken? Was a motion even filed? Nothing. The case was only a few months old.

What likely happened was that Lyons and Stallworth's civil atty made an offer that the victims family couldn't refuse. But the condition was that the family had to pressure the SAO to some minimal sentence. Stallworth said if I do jail, you get no money. Or, if you do get money, it will be sometime in five years and attorneys fees and costs will eat up a good chunk. So make it happen.

Stallworth gets a three week jail vacation, heads over to training camp and plays like nothing ever happened.

Maybe Roger Goodell, who is known as a "law and order" commissioner (unlike KFR who is not so "law and order") will bring the hammer down on Stallworth. Funny how a league suspension is longer than your jail sentence.

And in the words of a county court ASA this morning in Au Bon Pain, "30 days is ridiculous, I can get more than that on a second within five."

Kathy, you were a great boss and I'll always love the SAO, but this plea is an embarassment. The Herald has no balls to write up an in depth piece on this, but maybe the New Times will.

Anonymous said...

This plea is an absloute disgrace. I am a lifetime resident of Miami-Dade and I have never been so offended by a plea. This sends the clear message that JUSTICE IS FOR SALE in MIAMI FLORDA! Hey NFL, NBA, MLB or Random Famous Person come on down to southbeach get drunk and kill one of our citizens. Its like the movie Hostel, 5 million dollars to kill a Resident of Miami Dade. If the people of this county were more united and focused on these issues KFR should be resiging today and a Florda Bar Inquiry should be initiated to see what her conversations topics with Stallworths attorney may have included. Rundle should resign for the sake of future DUI prosecution in this County. I can never Imagine a plea being offered on any DUI related offense higher than 30DCJ as long as she is the State Attorney. Come on MADD lets see if you really practice what you preach.

Anonymous said...

This plea is an embarassment to the SAO. How does any ASA stand in court from now on and seek even the 4 year min. man. on a DUI manslaughter? How does MADD back this plea after lobbying for the DUI min. man. for years? This is not justice. If there were problems proving causation then why didn't the SAO articulate that as a justification for this ridiculous plea?

Anonymous said...

Response to "6/17 at 11.38 am" You miss the significant point: DUI manslaughter is a "strict liability" crime: it does not make any difference what the victim did or did not do; deal required SAO involvement to work. Here's a typical DUI manslaughter scenario: drunk driving north on US1 from Keys, drink driving south; crash in the middle: survivor is tried and convicted of DUI manslaughter. See case law on this. This is why pro athlete in Broward (former baseball player) is sweating trial, fact that woman he hit was also drunk is no help to him.
This is why Chris Lyons's plea negotiations were brilliant and NECESSARY. If Stallworth had gone to trial, GL would have mandated serious prison time. ONLY A PLEA WITH THE SAO ON BOARD COULD HAVE LED TO THIS RESULT. All those who wrote about the $$ to the family were also correct; that was certainly a factor. And, in this town, a pro athlete ALWAYS gets the best possible deal going. This is why I always knew Stallworth would get a good deal; I was actually surprised it included any time behind bars. $$$ to vic + pro athlete = guaranteed slide by defendant. Judge has nothing to do with it; don't blame him; SAO makes these deals, not the judge. Remember this, the next time the SAO claims that it "can't possiblyi agree to [sensible sentence suggested by court, for a 1st offender, based on facts of case]." Plainly, it can and will, provided that it wishes to (and thinks that the PR is with it, as will always be the case for a pro athlete)
The sentence recently reversed against David Rothman's client clearly demonstrates the truth of the foregoing: SAO did not like the sentence. Period.