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The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is dedicated to providing accurate information to the public and media. If you are a member of the working media and would like an interview with the State Attorney, or you need information on a case, would like to talk to a specific assistant state attorney or are looking for an expert in a certain area of prosecution, please contact our public information officers Ed Griffith, Terry Chavez or Lissette Valdes-Valle.

ED GRIFFITH Public Information Officer PHONE: 305-547-0535

LISSETTE VALDES-VALLE Hispanic Media Relations Public Information Officer PHONE: 305-547-0535

TERRY CHAVEZ Hispanic Media Relations Public Information Officer PHONE: 305-547-0535

Below you'll find recent news releases issued by this office.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Human Trafficking Unit Successfully Prosecutes First Sex Trafficking Case

Miami – February 27, 2013
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has announced that her newly created Human Trafficking Unit has successfully prosecuted its first criminal court case.
Assistant State Attorneys Jane Anderson and Wei Xiang prosecuted Robert Burton on charges of Deriving Support by Prostitution, Domestic Violence Battery by Strangulation, Interference with Custody, and Kidnapping.
Burton, who had no prior convictions, faced 7 Years State Prison to Life. Circuit Court Judge Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez sentenced him to 15 Years State Prison on February 26, 2013. This was the first criminal court case to come out of the State Attorney’s new Human Trafficking Unit.
The case originally came in to the Human Trafficking Unit as a Misdemeanor Domestic Violence case. Assistant State Attorney Wei Xiang had been assigned to handle it as a misdemeanor Domestic Violence Battery case. The victim came in and spoke to prosecutor Xiang for two hours about her life for the past ten years: the beatings, the prostitution, the strangulation, the psychological manipulation, and the use of her two children with Burton as a means of control. Assistant State Attorney Xiang brought the case to his colleague, Assistant State Attorney Jane Anderson of our Human Trafficking Unit, and together they continued to work with the victim for a year and a half to build the case.
At the end of January, Circuit Court Judge Bronwyn Miller held an evidentiary Williams Rule Hearing. After listening to the victim’s testimony, Judge Miller ruled that the State would be able to present evidence that the defendant had beaten, strangled and prostituted the victim for the last ten years. As Judge Miller stated, “Everything comes in, everything.” The trial took place before Judge Tinkler-Mendez and Burton was represented by criminal defense attorney Larry Handfield.
The victim testified for six hours during the trial. The jury came back in just twenty minutes with a guilty verdict. The victim was in court to hear their decision.
At sentencing, the Court heard from the victim and the defendant, as well as argument from the State and Defense. When pronouncing Burton’s sentence, Judge Tinkler-Mendez stated that the defendant had committed “modern day slavery” and that he had made the victim a “broken person” through his “torment and indoctrination.”
She called the defendant “narcissistic” stating that he continued to place blame on others even though it was his actions that caused the victim to become broken and his actions that have made his children potentially permanently damaged.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle declared that to effectively combat Human Trafficking, one has to develop a sensitivity to the nuances of the crime.
“Knowledge and understanding are the sharpest, most dependable tools in the fight against Human Trafficking,” commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “The more we know and understand, the better we can effectively combat these awful crimes. Human Trafficking frequently uses many of the control techniques we often see in domestic violence situations, particularly the use of affection coupled with violence bordering on torture.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sworn in for a Record Fifth Term as State Attorney

Katherine Fernandez Rundle will be sworn in for a record fifth term as Miami-Dade County’s State Attorney tomorrow, Friday, February 15, 2013.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara J. Pariente will administer the oath to State Attorney Fernandez Rundle and her 300 prosecutors at the investiture ceremony which will take place at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Auditorium, 300 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Building 1, Second Floor, beginning at 3:30 PM.

Notables who will take center stage alongside the State Attorney include United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wilfredo Ferrer, Miami Dade College President, Eduardo J. PadrĂ³n, Circuit Court Judge Bertila Soto, Chief Judge for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, former United States Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Jorge Plasencia, Chairman of the Board of the National Council of La Raza, City of Miami Gardens Police Chief and current President of the Chiefs of Police Matthew Boyd, and Reverend Carl Johnson, Pastor of the 93rd Street Baptist Church, Women of Tomorrow Founder and television personality Jennifer Valoppi will moderate the event.

“I feel exceptionally proud and honored to be embarking on a new term as Dade’s chief prosecutor,” commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “The faith that the voters have overwhelmingly shown in me is surpassed only by my desire to make my community a safer place to live and raise our families.”

Media is welcome to attend the ceremony.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Clarification of Existing Legal Standards Regarding Police Firing Standards and Criminal Prosecutions

The recent firing by the City of Miami Police Department Officer Reynaldo Goyos, the shooting officer in the February 10, 2011 death of Travis McNeil, appears to have caused great media confusion regarding the use of the word “unjustified” in the administrative firing of the officer and its relationship to the criminal investigation of the officer’s actions on that night.  I hope, by providing this clarification, to help eliminate any confusion about the different standards of proof required under civil administrative law (relating to the firing of a police offer or a government employee) and the standard of proof required of prosecutors to convict someone of a crime, deprive them of their freedom and potentially even to deprive them of their life.
A police department in order to prevail in a discipline case need only prove the violation by preponderance of the evidence or at most, in very limited instances by clear and convincing guilt. The standard of proof for the State in a prosecution is of course the highest standard in the law, beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt.
As was made clear in the memorandum that we issued regarding the shooting of the late Mr. McNeil, in reviewing police use of deadly force, we determine whether the police action was legally justified under the criminal laws of our state.  We do not engage in an examination of police procedures, protocols, or patterns and practices.  This latter analysis does not fall within the scope of our role as state prosecutors. Civil or administrative remedies for suspected violations of police procedures, protocols, or patterns and practices exist in other forums outside of the state criminal justice system.
        We have been legally prohibited from considering police procedures or protocols since the early 1990’s Lozano v. State, 584 So.2d 19 (1991) 16 Fla. L. Weekly D1673).  In the trial of City of Miami Police Officer William Lozano who was prosecuted and convicted of manslaughterfor  the 1989 deaths of motorcycle driver Clement Lloyd, 23, and his passenger, Allan Blanchard, 25, during a police chase (the last Florida conviction of a police officer for actions taken during a police involved shooting), we introduced, over the defendant’s objections, evidence relating to violations of police department rules in order to buttress our prosecution theory. The admission of this evidence was later held to be error by Third District Court of Appeals and in part caused the reversal of the conviction.

Specifically, the appellate court recognized that:
[A] police department may lawfully impose upon its police officers a regulation concerning the use of deadly force which is more stringent than the law imposes upon police officers for criminal or civil liability, and while such regulation would not affect the standard by which the officers' criminal or civil liability is measured, the violation of such regulation would properly subject the offending member to appropriate disciplinary action within the department.  Lozano v. State, 584 So. 2d 19, 24 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991), citing Chastain v. Civil Service Board of Orlando, 327 So. 2d 327 (Fla. 4th DCA 1976).
The law in Florida is thus clear.  Police departments may use rule violations to discipline, but these rule violations are irrelevant to a determination of criminal liability and prosecutors may not rely on them for supporting criminal charges.</< p> This difference is further echoed by a recent Facebook posting by former Opa Locka Police Chief and former Miami-Dade Police Lieutenant James B. Wright  who wrote:

Violating departmental policy and what the law terms as justifiable homicide are two different matters. Florida State Statute 776.05 says that, in part, The officer is justified in the use of force which he/ she reasonably believes to be necessary to defend himself or herself or another from bodily harm. When the officer is mistaken, but still had a 'belief' based upon reason, his actions would be justified.