Many people don’t realize that following Prohibition almost a century ago, there were constitutional protections that actually stood in the way of our government’s unrelenting desire to criminalize the possession, use or sale of marijuana. Today’s generation has been raised during a relatively consistent climate of tolerance toward the drug and in fact has seen its use slowly becoming legalized. Even when in Fatah clique criminalized, possession of cannabis is the only significant drug crime that is not charged as a felony. If you’re caught possessing ganja, anyone will tell you that it’s one of the lowest level offenses out there. Furthermore, in comparison to other scheduled substances which are illegal to possess, you can possess quite a lot of it before you’re kicked up into the felony court rooms. If you’re holding under 20 g of marijuana, you will be treated no harsher than if an officer had discovered a tiny roach on the floor board of your car while conducting a traffic stop.
“There was a time when the famous green leafy substance was public enemy number one in the government did some really goofy stuff in trying to do away with it. The government also did some really shady stuff.”
Facts about a time before grass was ever criminalized
False propaganda campaigns, substance regulation and eventual enactment of criminal laws prohibiting the possession and use of pot.
Prior to criminalizing the possession and sale of marijuana, the United States government attempted to use scare tactics to dissuade use of the drug.
Although taken very seriously by the public at the time, Reefer Madness and other idiotic propaganda campaigns that are routinely laughed at even to this day.
The unrelated case of Victor Licata Victor Licata was not even 30 years old when the state of Florida arrested and charged him with committing unspeakable and violent crimes. Specifically, Mr. Licata murdered his mother, father, two brothers and a sister in cold blood. All of the aforementioned victims were killed with an axe. His actions were blamed on a sole witnesses account that he had smoked marijuana and it was after doing so that he became so enraged by the influence of the drug that he hacked up his entire family one by one.
Of course none of this was true, The young Florida man, in actuality, murdered his entire family because he suffered from significant mental illness and had for a majority of his life. The government however, sided with the marijuana explanation and discounted any evidence of significant mental illness for reasons that can only be explained by one simple thing:
This is just the kind of guy that the feds wanted as the poster child for their war against cannibis. Following the gruesome murders, it was widely publicized that the smoking of a marijuana cigarette was the sole cause of a young man’s chopping up an entire Florida American family… His family.
Reefer Madness: the war against refer hits the silver screen following the above-mentioned killings and subsequent use of such a gruesome tragedy to further government interest, are then chosen leaders saw yet another opportunity to support the dangers of marijuana, corroborate and associate the drug with violent and unspeakable acts in a way that would be disseminated loud and clear among the masses. By the masses I mean the good people of America.
reefer madness was a film that can only be described as incredibly biased propaganda that was also idiotic in its fabrication which I know things whatsoever. Our government was having a hard time making grass illegal and so what they did, among other things, was to produce a movie that claim to show firsthand how smoking even a couple puffs of cannabis will undoubtedly transform the user into a psychopathic killer, rapist or induce almost immediate suicide.
Attorney William R. Moore admits that he has referenced the actions of our government during this time in American History in defending drug cases in Broward County Florida. You only have to take a step back, and look at some of the recent behaviors of certain Florida officials and policing powers to see traces of almost equally embarrassing government actions. Steps taken in furtherance of some necessary but somehow misunderstood holy crusade.
“let’s see what did we have a couple of month’s ago? Oh yes, a couple months ago we had Broward County Sheriff’s officers and even our mayor criminalizing any feeding of the poor. I can’t begin to tell you how ridiculous this is on so many levels aside from all that can be said about the inhumanity of such actions the part of our government.”
Marijuana defense lawyer William R. Moore had stated publicly following the County of Broward’s attempt at charge to anyone who prepared a meal for our local homeless population what a profound affect the whole action had on him.
“I not only knew some of the officers having been born and raised in Broward County Florida, but had also been politically involved in the now Fort Lauderdale Mayor’s early elections. I walked door to door for this guy when he ran for office in Wilton manors almost 20 years ago. I never could have imagined that he would stand in front of television cameras and emphatically argue why the criminalizing of even the smallest of humanitarian acts is not only right and just but also makes sense.”
Attorney Moore points out that any support of the less fortunate, chemically dependent or criminally accused is not going to be well received by law enforcement in Broward County.
“Didn’t we just have a judge comment on a well-prepared motion to lawyers who defend individuals charged with crimes while they are still presumed innocent. Didn’t the Broward County State Atty.’s office rain fire down on this well respected gentlemen despite the fact that he’d only been a judge for a couple of weeks?”
It’s a Looney government all over again.
I know that it’s hard to believe, but the truth is that when people watched the movie Reefer madness so many years ago, they actually believed that smoking marijuana would immediately cause you to involuntarily murder someone, rape someone or jump off of a building and to your death.
Untrue propaganda followed by laws criminalizing marijuana. Our criminal defense law firm will be following up to this article with a historical account of the legal maneuvering by the United States government in there eventually succeeding in criminalizing marijuana. Look for next week’s article on our criminal defense blog and accompanying video, which will be posted on our YouTube channel alongside other criminal defense lecture films and productions. If you have any questions regarding the historical account of the criminalizing of marijuana in either the state of Florida on the state level or by the United States on the federal level, do not hesitate to contactcriminal defense attorney William Moore at his office in Broward County Florida or by calling 954-523-5223.
As investigations (both public and private) of the Broward Crime Lab continue, local criminal defense attorneys are challenging drug cases in droves.
The first step according to William Moore, a drug possession defense lawyer, is to independently weigh drugs in their respective cases, obviously. While some lawyers are reserving aggressive investigation of drug offenses offenses to those which involved suspected chemist MacDonald, most agree that all drug handling and testing conducted by BSO should be considered suspect. Moore agrees that the latter is the better practice.
Our faith in the Broward Crime Lab has been compromised. According to Attorney William Moore, this is further aggravated by investigations that fall short of those of independent entities such as New Times Magazine. A staple news source that has focused on uncovering local scandals in Broward County for decades.
Recent Investigation of Broward County Crime Lab Conducted by New Times Magazine
Though the broad outlines of the scandal at the Broward crime lab have been made public — two top staff members have resigned, and an internal affairs investigation is underway — New Times has learned it is likely more far-reaching than previously thought. An audit expected later this year is likely to show that drugs are missing in many more cases.
After reviewing hundreds of pages of court documents and police reports, the newspaper has found problems in everything from street-level drug busts to large-scale probes of heavy movers. Among them are Roberts’ case and several others, including:
• The bust of a dealer with 363 pills that were field-tested as positive for MDMA in 2012, only to come up negative in the lab.
• A $60,000 Fort Lauderdale reverse sting conducted in 2012 in which cocaine was later found to be missing.
• The 2013 seizure, after a SWAT standoff, of marijuana that was listed at a different weight in police reports and lab analysis.
The common factor: All the drugs landed on the desk of forensic chemist Kelli McDonald. She is still employed at the Broward Sheriff’s Office but was recently transferred and could not be reached for comment. Her last known annual salary was $85,800 in 2012.
“There seem to be multiple manners in which she has engaged in misconduct,” says Gordon Weekes, a chief assistant with the Broward Public Defender’s Office. “It creates an issue because it erodes the confidence of the entire criminal justice system.”
The Broward lab hired its first chemist to do drug testing in the late 1960s. During the ’70s, the county established six laboratories that were funded in part by the state. Today, there are five units — chemistry, DNA, evidence intake, latent print, and firearms — and a $4.7 million annual budget. But the workload is considerable for the lab’s 37-person staff, especially considering demographics. According to a 2010 presentation, Broward’s drug unit has one analyst for every 319,925 county residents. In Palm Beach County, each analyst serves 253,290 residents; in Miami Dade, the ratio is one to 238,717.
There is a serious danger in overworking crime lab staff. Recent history has shown that the more law enforcement relies on science for convictions, the more vulnerable the system becomes to bad acts by the folks in lab coats.
The State of Florida is currently reviewing thousands of cases worked by technician Joseph Graves. In February, the former Florida Department of Law Enforcement employee was arrested for allegedly switching out the prescription pain pills he tested at a Pensacola crime laboratory with over-the-counter substitutes. Since he was hired in 2005, Graves had worked more than 2,600 cases for FDLE involving 35 counties across the state.
McDonald was hired at the Broward Sheriff’s lab in 2006 after spending three years as a tech for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. She had earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the University of Central Florida in 2000 and a master’s degree in biomedical science from Florida Atlantic University in 2005. In her first five years in Broward, McDonald received positive marks in her reviews and glowing responses from colleagues. She has analyzed drugs in about 5,900 cases from 2006 to this past February, when she was suspended.
But in February 2012, 0.4 grams of crack cocaine — about the weight of a pencil eraser — went missing from the lab. The material was part of a case McDonald was working, and the tech was the last person to have signed the material out of the property vault. McDonald denied any knowledge of the missing drugs. Lab staff thoroughly searched her workstation and the vault but couldn’t find a trace of the absent evidence.
The case of the missing crack was referred to the Broward Sheriff’s Division of Internal Affairs. Investigators couldn’t turn up an explanation. As the last person to handle the material, McDonald was found to have failed to meet BSO standards. The internal-affairs case was closed in October 2012; McDonald was given the recommended discipline of “counseling and policy review” — neither of which she received, according to her own statements in a later deposition.
But the episode put the Broward Public Defender’s Office on notice. When McDonald’s name came up in a case involving cocaine seized in a Hallandale Beach house raid in 2013, the office hired an outside drug tester. McDonald’s original crime laboratory analysis noted the presence of 16.3 grams of cocaine. The public defender’s expert found 10.98 grams.
The discrepancy was brought to the attention of the lab’s manager, Dr. James Ongley; he ordered a random reweighing of 20 cases McDonald worked in 2012. Nineteen checked out. In one case, McDonald had originally recorded the presence of 1,012.6 grams of cocaine. The reweigh totaled 998.3 grams. Ongley reported the discrepancy to BSO’s Internal Affairs Unit, and a new investigation was opened.
McDonald was reassigned to a desk job in February 2014. A month later, Ongley and McDonald’s former supervisor, Randy Hilliard, resigned.
BSO is currently reviewing all 5,900 cases McDonald worked between 2006 and 2014. And as the paper trail New Times uncovered shows, the weight discrepancies go far beyond a few missing grams of crack.
In July 2010, after Roberts was handcuffed at her friend’s condo in North Lauderdale, BSO deputies tore into the UPS box. Inside they found “approximately 38 lbs of marijuana” wrapped in green cellophane, records show.
Later, Roberts admitted that she had planned to hide the pot in a hollowed-out space under the hood of her silver 2006 Land Rover. She was going to deliver the drugs to a third party, whom she refused to name.
But as the defendant was being charged with trafficking, the amount of marijuana changed. In a supplemental report prepared on July 19, a detective wrote that BSO had found “approximately 31 pounds (14.06 kilograms) of suspect marijuana” in the UPS box. Nine days later, when McDonald weighed the drugs at the crime laboratory, she recorded only 28.1 pounds.
Although Roberts was originally charged with felony trafficking, prosecutors were forced to retreat, and she pleaded no contest to a possession charge this past June. She got a single day of probation.
A second controversial case began on June 28, 2012, when Fort Lauderdale Police detectives fitted out a criminal informant for a sting on a suspected drug dealer named Andres Reyes at SW Fifth Street and 18th Avenue. As officers monitored the scene, an informant gave Reyes money for a black leather pouch containing pills.
Police then arrested Reyes and field-tested the 363 pills found in the pouch. They came back positive for MDMA.
But on July 18, the same drugs were tested by McDonald at the crime laboratory. She found “no controlled substance.” In a deposition with the public defender, the Fort Lauderdale detective who conducted the field-test reported he was “100 percent” sure the test at the scene showed MDMA. He also recalled — but couldn’t say for sure — that the drugs taken from Reyes were compressed tablets, like aspirin. According to pictures taken by the public defender, the pills in the lab’s vault under Reyes’ case number are capsules.
Prosecutors dropped the MDMA charge against Reyes, but a possession charge is pending for a joint he had in his pocket.
A third case was initiated a month later, on August 15, when undercover Fort Lauderdale Police detectives brought two kilos of real cocaine to a meeting with Juan Alberto Rodriguez, Frank Osme, Patrick Duplessy, and Luciana Parham. The buyers brought $60,000.
After the four paid the cops and were arrested, the two kilos of bait were submitted to the crime lab, where McDonald tested and weighed one of the bricks, noting 930.7 grams. As the case ground through the legal system, the public defender hired an outside analyst to reweigh the cocaine. This time, there were 924.78 grams.
Rodriguez and one of his codefendants pleaded no contest to cocaine trafficking and conspiracy in late July. Their sentencing date is scheduled for September. Two additional defendants pleaded guilty in 2012 but have yet to be sentenced.
Perhaps most interesting, though, is the case of Yellow Cab driver Wilner Telcius, who was trying to collect a $6 fare from drunk passenger Joel Troxell on August 4, 2013, when things got weird. Troxell declined to pay, then waved around a .357 magnum, and Telcius called the cops. After a standoff including a SWAT team, cops found “76.2 grams of… cannabis in (2) plastic bags.”
After Troxell was charged (the case is ongoing), McDonald tested the drugs on August 8 and found only 55.6 grams.
BSO is still investigating McDonald and declined to comment on these cases.
Prosecutor Jeff Marcus says his office has retested drugs in cases as they go to trial. “We haven’t been dismissing cases,” he says. “[But] the crime lab is down a chemist, and they’ve been swamped with all their work.”
At the Public Defender’s Office, however, attorneys continue to comb through cases McDonald worked. Says chief assistant Weekes: “When you have a chemist that is engaging in chronic misconduct, it becomes an issue of confidence in a fair trial.”
For updates on the ongoing criminal investigation and projected costs to the State of Florida may be obtained by contacting Attorney William Moore in Broward County.
Seeking Favor Unethical or even an Improper Criminal Litigation Tactic?
Almost two decades ago, during my first criminal jury trial as a prosecutor, I was met with an opposing defense attorney who immediately started talking about how she used to be a teacher with the Broward County school board. It was immediately apparent that her conversation was directed at a member of the presumptive panel who had previously explained during the Judges preliminary questioning that education was her life’s work.
I objected swiftly and defense counsel was quickly redirected by the court. Unfortunately, I knew that even in those brief moments of my adversary’s identifying with Juror number three, that she had managed to build a foundation of commonality and shared purpose with at least one potential juror who may have been charged with finding fact in the case that I was prosecuting.
The act was intentional yet un-egregious. Meaning it wouldn’t have warranted reprimand by the court.
It was tactical.
I eventually removed the Juror via one of my six preemptive strikes. Unfortunately, in much the same mild manner, my opposition had subtly let most of the jurors know that she was just like them during her questioning.
Over the last 15 years as a lawyer who defends people, I have also looked for subtle ways to relate to jurors.
“Mr. So and So, you stated earlier that you work in web development,” are you a site designer or an SEO?
(suddenly a look of shock in that potential jurors face that me, a lawyer on the case was speaking tech!)
Suddenly we are two people that “get” one another. I have glorified his chosen career and better yet I can’t go on talking about HTML or Search Engines because its inappropriate and prohibited under our rules… Meaning, it won’t be revealed that I know very little about computers or programming other than there are developers and there are SEOs.