Boca Raton man pleads guilty to 2013 high-speed crash that killed Hialeah woman

A Boca Raton man has pleaded guilty to killing a Hialeah woman in a drunken high-speed crash in Palm Beach County in 2013.

Mark Schneider, 26, agreed to a plea deal Thursday to avoid trial.

Palm Beach County court records show that Schneider pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the Sept. 29, 2013 crash that killed Carol Velasco, 52. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped a DUI manslaughter count.

Palm Beach County Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo sentenced Schneider to 15 years in prison, but if he surrenders in court on Jan. 8 as agreed upon without any new arrests or violations, his sentence will be trimmed to just four years in prison.

Schneider’s license will also be suspended for five years.

According to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report, Schneider was driving west on Palmetto Park Road near Toledo Road in his 2010 Hyundai Genesis when it crashed into the 2010 Hyundai Accent that Velasco was driving.

Deputies said Schneider was driving between 95 mph and 103 mph when his car slammed into Velasco’s car, killing her.

“It was obvious to me that he had been drinking and may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” the arresting deputy wrote in his report. “He had red watery eyes, an odor of an alcohol-type beverage emanating from him, and his emotions were aggressive one minute and laughing the next.”

A blood test revealed that Schneider had .179 and .178 grams of ethanol in his bloodstream, above the state legal limit of .08 percent. He also had marijuana in his system.

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Third ‘Baby Lollipops’ murder trial begins

Opening statements began Monday in the third trial of a Miami woman accused of killing her 3-year-old son in what became known as the “Baby Lollipops” case.

Ana Maria Cardona faces life in prison if convicted of murder in the death of Lazaro Figueroa.
The boy’s body was discovered in the bushes of a Miami Beach home in November 1990. He had been badly beaten and weighed just 18 pounds.

Police initially couldn’t identify the boy, calling him “Baby Lollipops” because of a design on his T-shirt.

Two previous convictions and death sentences were tossed out by the Florida Supreme Court. The most recent decision in February 2016 came after the justices deemed a new trial was necessary because of the prosecutor’s “numerous improper closing arguments” that “repeatedly crossed the line.”

Cardona was initially convicted and sentenced to death in 1992, but the Supreme Court overturned the conviction because prosecutors failed to disclose key evidence to the defense.

Prosecutors have decided against seeking the death penalty this time.

Cardona has said the boy’s death was an accident.

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Hollywood man accused of cyberstalking Palm Beach County judge

A Hollywood man is accused of cyberstalking a Palm Beach County judge who issued an injunction for protection against stalking two others earlier this year.

David Lerner has been held a Palm Beach County jail without bond since his Nov. 14 arrest at the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach.

According to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office probable cause affidavit, Lerner appealed the July 13 ruling of Judge Howard Coates Jr. to the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Lerner attempted to have the case reheard in front of Coates in August, but because the case was pending appeal and Coates didn’t have jurisdiction, the judge prepared an order stating the legal basis for denying the rehearing.

“Even though there was a legal basis not to hear the case, Lerner began filing motions in the Clerk of Courts system,” the affidavit said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began investigating Lerner in October after he sent an email to Attorney General Pam Bondi in which he “discusses Judge Coate’s alleged obstruction of justice.”

According to the affidavit, Lerner wrote in bold type at the end of the email, “Something needs to happen and there needs to be an intervention here as this situation is about to blow up and someone could get hurt or killed. I will repeat that to hopefully get on your radar (again), this could BLOW UP OR SOMEONE COULD GET HURT OR KILLED. FEEL FREE TO EMAIL OR CALL ME OR PLEASE JUST HAVE LAW ENFORCEMENT GET INVOLVED IMMEDIATEYL BEFORE SOMETHING OR SOMEONE BLOWS UP OR POSSIBLY GETS HURT OR KILLED.”

After FDLE agents met with Lerner, he continued to file motions “that were of no legal merit,” the affidavit said.

Below are some of the filings:

“Affidavit Good Faith That Judge Coates is a Hoffed Mammal Genus Equus, of the Jackass-Clownage Variety,” Oct. 26

“Motion to Baker Act the Honorable Judge Howard K. Coates Jr.,” Oct. 27

“Motion to Impeach/Permanently De-Bench ‘Criminal Coates,'” Oct. 28

“Notice That the Litigator Turned Corrupt Judge Continues to Contradict Himself and Has Been Betrayed by His Jackass Intellect and Lacks Standing and Jurisdiction and, Thus and Thereforce and Et. Al. and Etc., Has Been Rendered Invalid and Unforceable and As Such I Will Not Be Appearing Before Him,” Oct. 29

Coates set a hearing for Nov. 14 to show cause about the continuous filings, but it only prompted Lerner to file more motions and send other emails, the affidavit said.

The judge issued an amended order on Halloween to prevent Lerner from filing any further “pleadings, motions, memoranda or other written submissions or requests for relief in this matter unless those pleadings are reviewed and signed by a member of the Florida Bar.”

One of the motions that Lerner wrote took aim at Coates, who was fearful for his safety.


Below the statement was a picture with the words, “YOU ARE MINE FOREVER.”

Lerner persisted sending emails and motions, this time through the judge’s division, as well as other members of the court system, the FBI and the Department of Justice.

In one of the 10 emails sent to Coates and others, Lerner acknowledged the order preventing him from sending any more correspondence, writing, “Looking forward to November 14th.”

Deputies arrested Coates at the courthouse.

“Lerner willfully, maliciously and repeatedly cyberstalked Judge Howard Coates, making threats to him and his family,” the affidavit said.

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Prostitute found guilty of killing gay couple in 2010

A self-proclaimed prostitute was found guilty Thursday in the 2010 killing of two men he met on Craigslist.

Peter Avsenew was convicted of armed robbery and first-degree murder in the deaths of Kevin Adams and Steven Powell.

Jurors spent hours Wednesday listening to testimony from Avsenew’s mother and re-watching surveillance video of the three men shopping for a security system at Brandsmart USA.

The couple was found shot to death and wrapped in blankets in their Wilton Manors home in December 2010.

Avsenew, a 32-year-old self-admitted prostitute, placed an advertisement on Craigslist and moved in with the couple weeks before their deaths.

The prosecution claimed during trial that Avsenew used the couple’s credit cards and was found in possession of their car. The defense claims Avsenew found them dead.

“He takes their car and flees because he can’t call the police and report this brutal, horrific double homicide because he posted a Craigslist ad and was living with them,” prosecutor Shari Tate told jurors during her closing arguments Tuesday. “Is that reasonable? No.”

Tate reminded the jury that, of all the evidence and testimony presented during trial, perhaps the most convincing witness was Avsenew’s mother.

“His mother knew what he did, and his mother had to turn him in,” Tate said.

Defense attorney Gabe Ermine argued that Avsenew knew the couple, discovered their bodies and fled, but he said there isn’t enough evidence to prove that his client killed them.

“This is my opportunity to get up and discuss to you the evidence, the conflicts in the evidence, the lack of evidence,” Ermine told jurors.

The jury was sequestered during deliberations.

Avsenew faces the death penalty.

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Dead or not, privacy right remains alive, Florida Supreme Court rules

A widow’s fight to keep her husband’s medical records private in a malpractice lawsuit led the Florida Supreme Court to rule Thursday that the state constitution’s right to privacy extends beyond death in any circumstance.

Lawyers for a doctor being sued for malpractice argued that the alleged victim’s right to privacy ended when he died. The Supreme Court disagreed and said the “cherished” right to privacy extended beyond the specific case.

“Such a holding would render those rights hollow, chilling the daily operation of them on people as they navigate their lives from moment to moment,” Justice Fred Lewis wrote in the opinion.

A portion of a medical malpractice law was being challenged by Emma Weaver, who sued Dr. Stephen Myers over her late husband’s medical treatment. The court threw out language that allowed defendant doctors’ attorneys to interview alleged victims’ prior health care providers in private while they investigated the claim.

The court said keeping those interviews secret wouldn’t allow Weaver to ensure that medical records unrelated to the claim were kept private, turning aside Myers’ argument that the deceased no longer had a right to privacy.

“If we were to follow Dr. Myers’ argument that a person experiences the loss of privacy applicable while living upon the change in status from alive to dead, then the secrets of that person’s life, including his or her sexual preferences, political views, religious beliefs, views about family members, medical history, and any other thought or belief the person considered to be private and a secret are subject to full revelation upon death,” Lewis wrote.

The ruling was a 4-3 opinion, though that doesn’t mean the three dissenting justices disagreed with the decision on privacy. Justice Charles Canady wrote that the privacy issued never should have been addressed because there was nothing wrong with the medical malpractice law to begin with.

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Dobie Hunter sentenced to 30 years for 1985 kidnapping, rape of 16-year-old girl

A man accused of kidnapping and repeatedly raping a 16-year-old girl in Fort Lauderdale in 1985 has been found guilty.

Dobie Hunter was convicted Thursday on three counts of sexual battery and one count of kidnapping.

He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for each count, which will be served at the same time. 

DNA evidence helped police arrest Hunter 32 years after the crime was committed.

The victim, now 47, testified in Hunter’s trial, describing how she was repeatedly raped and told that he would hurt her family if anybody tried to come after him.

Hunter, a registered sex offender, did not testify in the trial.

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