Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hero in Seminole County

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the outstanding work done by Seminole County Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Conway for his role in the Macchione case, about which I last blogged. I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that his actions and astute police work prevented Macchione's victim from a kidnapping, torturous sexual assault, and probable death.

On the evening of 9/19/09, Sgt. Conway was working an off-duty detail at one of UCF's student housing complexes.  He noticed the defendant, dressed in black, carrying a black backpack, and riding a bicycle aimlessly through the complex.  He stopped the suspect for questioning. After ascertaining that he was not a resident, nor visiting anyone in particular, Sgt. Conway arrested the defendant for loitering/prowling. 

He subsequently searched the backpack. In addition to the condoms, pornographic materials and other sexual paraphernalia, he found a video camera.

Upon reviewing the videos, Sgt. Conway became alarmed at their content. He described them as "chilling." They depicted the defendant in various locations addressing a young lady who was not present in the video. In one recording, Conway testified that the defendant said:
"What I like about you is that you're smart, you're prepared for a tragedy, and if something were to ever go horribly wrong, which could happen, you have a settled enough brain to deal with it.
"If you listen to me, you'd shed your Outback clothes for good. [the victim worked at an Outback Restaurant]
Suspecting that he was stalking a young lady, Sgt. Conway set out to identify and warn her of the situation.

He managed to identify and locate the victim, who must have been both relieved that law enforcement had taken notice and terrified that Macchione was still attempting to locate her.  He was surprised to learn that the extent of the relationship between the parties was merely one of a brief acquaintance.

Once he located her, she advised him of the YouTube videos that had been posted. She had been trying to bring a case against him (having received an injunction against him two months earlier), but had thus far been unsuccessful.

He testified that he believed that the video described in my last post, wherein Macchione "shot" the viewer and then himself with an imaginary gun, was depicting an event that could really occur.

Sgt. Conway contacted the Seminole State's Attorney Office to view the videos and potentially have the $300 bond for the loitering arrest increased. On 10/1/09, the defendant's bond was increased to $500 and modified to include GPS monitoring, and no contact with the victim.  Judge Mark Herr also prohibited him from UCF's campus and the victim's place of employment. Macchione subsequently pled guilty to the loitering charge and received a "time served" sentence of 41 days in jail. At this point, GPS monitoring and any restrictions put upon him by the Seminole Court were over.

As the case progressed, Sgt. Conway aided Orange County's prosecution by downloading the YouTube videos for their use and attended every hearing without requiring a subpoena.

Stalking Awareness Month
As one who has spoken with many victims attempting to deal with the terror that a stalker inflicts upon them, and law enforcement's all-too-frequent inability (perhaps unwillingness?) to investigate and build these difficult cases for prosecution, Sgt Conway's actions were extraordinary.

Although public awareness is greater than it once was and stalking laws have improved, most victims are often told "there's nothing we can do" when they call for help.

Kudos to Sgt. Conway. Words are inadequate to express our appreciation for the work you did in this case.

More: Fox-35 Report

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Judge Michael Murphy: "If I was the victim, I would not be happy"

"If I was the victim, I would not be happy," said Judge Michael Murphy as he pronounced the sentence at the conclusion of Patrick Macchione's 3+ hour sentencing hearing yesterday.

Macchione pled in December, 2011 to the following charges:
  • (1) count of written threats to kill or do bodily harm; 
  • (1) count of aggravated stalking after injunction; and
  • (17) counts of violation of injunction.

Macchione's victim's nightmare began in the spring of 2009 when she accepted a facebook "friend" request from the defendant after having briefly met him at UCF.  When the tone of his messages became increasingly sexual, she "unfriended" him. He then began his relentless pursuit of her with hundreds of emails and phone calls - directly and indirectly.

She asked him to stop, but the harassment continued.  Law enforcement told her they could not do anything because they didn't know where he was.

The victim filed for an injunction for protection in June, 2009 and was granted one for 10 years the following month.

Shortly after the imposition of the injunction, the defendant posted numerous YouTube videos of an angry, threatening, sometimes sexual, nature and sent the links to her friends (whose contact info he presumably collected while he and the victim were facebook friends), asking them to watch them.  Those friends, in turn, contacted her to advise her of their existence.

The videos that were played in court would leave anyone terrified for their safety. In them he is obviously delusional and mentally ill. He insults and degrades her, insists that he will make her happy, and repeatedly demands that she meet with him and look him in the eye. They progress to tell her it's up to her to meet with him in order to save her own life.

The victim testified about one video which was produced outside the restaurant where she worked. While he was filming that video, he saw her car drive by and he ran after her. No doubt, a terrifying thing to watch.

The last video, which he sent directly to the victim, had no words. Simply gestures of him pointing at the camera (i.e., the victim), pulling the trigger of an imaginary gun twice at the viewer, putting the same "gun" to his head and pulling the trigger again.

Assistant State's Attorney Michelle Latham then read a dozen or more profanity-laced and sexually explicit YouTube messages into the record. These detailed his intent to follow her home, imprison, sexually assault and torture the victim and his desire to make her his. Additional threats of self-mutilation and suicide were made.

Note: these videos and messages have been removed from youtube.

As if that weren't enough, he used Twitter to further terrorize her (@kaypee). Twitter messages are still online (warning: graphic language).

History of Prosecution
In March, 2010 Macchione's case went to trial before Judge Bob LeBlanc but was declared a mistrial after the defendant became extremely agitated and somewhat disruptive during the victim's testimony. The Sheriff's deputies and the public defenders who represented him at the time were concerned that he might harm himself with writing utensils that were on their table. The defendant attempted to plead to the bench during the middle of his trial. He was then committed to DCF to undergo mental health treatment.

After competency had been restored, he pled guilty to all charges before Judge Murphy in December, 2011.

Sentencing Hearing
Dr. Jeffrey Danziger testified that the defendant was psychotic when he was admitted to the hospital. Macchione was diagnosed with schizophrenia and medications were prescribed that restored his competency last year. His mother testified that prior to his having been sent to the hospital, she felt that her son had been lost to her. She detailed numerous pre-diagnosis behaviors that Dr. Jeffrey Danziger described as precursors of schizophrenia.

His mother told the Court that there was a history of mental illness, drug use, retreat from society, eruptions of anger that escalated (dating back to age 7 when he chased an older brother through the house with a kitchen knife), and verbal abuse.  Her son also suffered from a serious auto accident at age 17 wherein spinal injuries paralyzed him for several months. For a short while, he did well as a student at USF, but after transferring to UF he dropped out of school, gave away his belongings and became homeless. She testified that after he received the proper medications at the hospital, she began to see a dramatic improvement in his condition and she had hope for the first time in many years. She told the judge that it has been comforting to know that he's safe in jail and offered a heartfelt apology to the victim and her family for the hell that they've endured.

Macchione's attorney, Michael DiCembre, did an effective job of showing the judge that, in the words of Dr. Danziger "this was mental illness, not evil doing." He also provided witnesses to testify to post-incarceration treatment programs that would be suitable for his client.

The State provided documentation to the judge that DOC is equally capable of providing the treatment that the defendant so desperately needed.

The Sentence
The State's original plea offer in this case was 5 years DOC + 10 years probation (this was prior to adding the most egregious charge while he was hospitalized - Written Threats to Kill, which carries a 15 year sentence). The maximum possible sentence for the charges to which he pled would have exceeded 35 years if all counts ran consecutively to one another.

The defendant, at time of sentencing, had already spent over 2 years in custody.

The judge, having found that the mitigating factor of mental illness allowed a downward departure from the sentencing scoresheet's recommended sentence, ordered:
  • 48 months DOC with credit for the 2 years 78 days time served
  • followed by (1) year of Community Control Level 2 (the most restrictive type that includes GPS monitoring)
  • followed by (2) years of Community Control Level 1
  • followed by (13) years of County Probation
  • no contact with the victim
  • comply with the injunction
  • no use of computer with internet except under supervision while in DOC, allowing him to communicate only with his family
In addition to the standard conditions of Community Control and Probation, the defendant was ordered to:
  • a residential treatment program as long as medically required or until further order of the court
  • comply with medical/drug regimen prescribed
  • random drug testing to assure compliance
When the judge asked Ms. Latham if there were any other conditions of release that ought to be included, knowing that she wanted more DOC time, she pointedly asked him to state the reason for the downward departure (of about 2 months). She pressed further and asked, "you find under the totality of the circumstances that you should do so?" 

He replied yes.

Judge Murphy noted that under the circumstances the sentence is appropriate for the duration of the time that the offenses occurred. That it was a first offense - albeit a serious one. He then admitted that "If I was the victim, I would certainly not be happy." 

He stated that the defendant satisfied the legal requirements for this sentence and that without the mental illness factor, Macchione would have likely been sentenced to 15 years or more in DOC for this case. He noted that even though many people in prison have psychological issues, that's not where they all belong, and that the defendant had responded to treatment in a positive manner.

Judge Murphy further noted that once he is released, he will be on the most restrictive level of Community Control. The judge commented that if Macchione is going to violate the terms of his release, it would most likely be during that first year when he's on GPS. The State could then prosecute him for Violation of Community Control and he would have the 15 year DOC sentence hanging over his head. He said:
"There is no possible way that the victim will be in harm's way during that period of time because they [Community Control] will let her know. Once she knows where he'll be residing she can make sure to make all efforts that she's nowhere around.  Or if she decides to be in the same general vicinity she'll be sure to be in constant contact with Community Control.  If there's any action by Macchione she will contact Community Control. 
"There's no way she's really at risk during that time.
No possible way that the victim will be in harm's way? No way she's really at risk during that time?

Two observations:
  1. The victim must assume the burden of monitoring her perpetrator's actions, thus having to continue looking over her shoulder - probably for the rest of her life.
  2. In spite of the extra precautions of GPS monitoring and the very restrictive conditions placed upon the defendant, nobody can guarantee this woman's safety. She could relocate and perhaps be physically safe from him. But what about the psychological reign of cyber-terror that she endured for several months? He very well could find her on the internet - living in the same zip code, living across the country or around the world.
I just hope that Mr. Macchione complies with every restriction that is placed upon him.

And I pray that Judge Murphy won't have to eat his words.

See report on CF News 13 for more
See report on WFTV-9 here
There's a hero in this story too. He undoubtedly saved this woman's life.
I'll write more about him in my next posting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Whatever happened to . . . ? #38

Today we're featuring Orange County domestic violence & child abuse/neglect cases that were featured in the media:

Ward, James Robert ("Bob")
2nd Degree Murder w/Firearm
Defendant was convicted by a jury of killing his wife in their Isleworth home
Defendant was sentenced to 30 years DOC (25 years minimum mandatory) with crecit for 102 days time served.  Click here for previous blog about the first bond hearing in this case.

Stewart, Justin Lee
1st Deg Murder; LSOA w/Injury
Defendant allegedly ran over and killed a woman in a hit-and-run road-rage incident after an argument at a nightclub. Defendant's mother Randi Joy Abrams, pled no contest to attempting to cover up evidence relating to the vehicle (2009-CF-013322-B-O). Not sure if this case was DV related.
Pled no contest to Attempted Manslaughter w/ Weapon & Leaving Scene of Accident w/Death, and sentenced to 15 years DOC w/credit 2 yrs 84 days time served.

Freeman, Keira
2nd Degree Murder
Defendant allgedly stabbed her fiance to death
Pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years DOC w/credit 1 year 9 days time served.

Gibson, Louis Jean
Arson of Structure Known/Believed to be Occupied 
Defendant allegedly set a mattress on fire in his family's apartment because he was upset at a guest living in the apartment.
Pled to Attempted Arson and sentenced to 180 days jail w/credit 40 days time served; 29 years & 6 months probation.

Whitted, Benjamin
Defendant was shot by a deputy when he allegedly refused to stop strangling his girlfriend. Defendant's injuries were not life threatening.
Defendant was acquitted by a jury

Donaldson, Jahlea L
Burglary of Dwelling w/Aggravated Assault WDW; Intro Contraband into Correctional Facility
Defendant, her sister & a friend allegedly assaulted her sister's ex-boyfriend inside his apartment w/a broken bottle of hot sauce
Case nolle prossed

Malofsky, Louis
Robbery w/Firearm; Agg Assault WDW; Battery
Defendant, an off-duty OCSO deputy, allegedly beat a man who had a relationship with his adult daughter
No information notice filed – case dropped

Thornton, Stanley
Home Invasion Robbery w/mask; Battery; False Imprisonment
Defendant allegedly pretended to be a flower delivery person & assaulted the victim in this 2004 Windermere case. Former Police Chief Daniel Saylor never investigated the FDLE DNA hit in 2007.
No information notice filed – case dropped

Lewis, Jessica M
Cruelty Toward Child Abuse w/o Great Harm
Defendant allegedly beat her 22-mo old child at the Magic Kingdom because he would not walk properly
Pled no contest, adjudication was withheld.  Defendant was sentenced to 1 day jail with credit 1 day time served, 18 months probation and 100 hours of community service.

Garcia, Elvin
Agg Child Neglect
Defendant's 18-mo old child was spotted drinking beer in the front yard while defendant was allegedly passed out
No information notice filed – case dropped

Tato, Elizabeth
Neglect of Child
Defendant's 11-yr old son was allegedly left inside her car for more than an hour as it was repossessed while she was gambling at a strip mall
No information notice filed – case dropped

Thomas, Ashley
Neglect of Child
Defendant's 3-yr old son was found wandering the hallway of a motel while she allegedly went to a liquor store for at least 2 hrs.
No information notice filed – case dropped

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Whatever happened to . . . ? #37

Jordan, Rodrick
Sexual Battery (coerces victim) 2cts
Defendant was found guilty of a 1996 rape after DNA evidence linked him to the attack
Defendant was adjudicated guilty by jury of one count and sentenced to LIFE DOC w/credit 41 days time served

Smallwood, George Herman Jr
Sexual Battery Vic<12; L/L Molestation Child<12 (2cts); Sexual Activity w/child (2cts); L/L Molestations (2cts); Use Child in Sexual Performance
Defendant allegedly raped a child for 2 yrs and claimed a demon made him do it.
Defendant pled no contest to Sexual Activity w/Child (2cts) & Lewd/Lascivious Molestation (2cts) and was sentenced to 20 years DOC w/credit 322 days time served;to be followed by 38 years probation

Garcon, Guytembert
Lewd Act in Presence of Child
Defendant is one of 12 who allegedly sexually assaulted a 15-yr old runaway and forced another 15-yr old to prostitution.
Defendant pled guilty to L/L Battery and sentenced to 10 years DOC w/credit 224 days time served.

Chisena, Dale Pietro Jr
Possess Material Depicting Sexual Performance by Child (50 cts)
Defendant's father taught 2nd grade at Lovell Elementary School for 33 years. They allegedly had over 1,000 child porn images on their computer, some appearing to be infant girls.
Pled no contest to 3 counts, all; other counts were nolle prossed.  Defendant was sentenced to 3 years DOC w/credit for 1 day time served; 5 years probation & was designated as a sex offender.

Thomas, David
Sexual Activity w/child; L/L Battery; L/L Molestation
Defendant allegedly touched a 13-yr old boy in a wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon (see also 09CF10525) Defendant was found guilty after jury trial of L/L Molestation in 2009CF10525 and sentenced to 2y DOC + 5y prob in that case
Defendant pled no contest to L/L Molestation and was sentenced to 24 months DOC w/credit 727 days time served; 5 years probation.

Pfaender, Richard Emerson
L/L Exhibition; Burglary of Occupied Dwelling; Att Sexual Battery 
Defendant allegedly stalked and followed a 15-yr old boy into the boy's home, removed his own clothing, and was quickly apprehended by the boy's father who returned home
Defendant pled no contest to Burglary and was sentenced to 15 months DOC w/credit 215 days time served; 5 years probation; ordered to undergo substance abuse evaluation & rehab.

Mangune, Michael
Travel to Meet a Minor; Use Computer for Child Exploitation
Defendant allegedly agreed online to teach sex acts to a 14-yr old girl at the request of her "mother"
Defendant pled to use of computer for child exploitation and was sentenced to 2 days jail w/credit 2 days time served; 18 months community control; 3 years probation.

Brookins, Wilbert
Sexual Battery Physically Helpless; Theft of Credit Card; Petit Theft
Defendant, a reservation clerk for Disney, allegedly lured a single mother to Central Florida with offiers of free park passes & bargain rate for hotel room, spent the day with her & later attempted to rape her after she fell asleep in the room
Defendant was acquitted by a jury

Maldonado, Damian E
L/L Molestation Vic 12-15yrs old (9 cts); Att L/L Conduct (15 cts); L/L Exhibition (2cts); False Imprisonment; Battery DV offense date 12/1/09
Defendant is an Army recruiter who allegedly ordered a female recruit to partially disrobe for a body fat inspection & forced her to commit oral sex in 2010CF8555
Defendant was acquitted by jury Counts 1-7; no action was taken on other counts

Cabane, Utchey
Sexual Battery; Child Abuse; Contrib to Delinq of Minor; Inflict Bodily Harm/Terrorize Victim
Defendant allegedly luried a girl who was on her way to the bus stop into his car and molested her after promising a ride
No information notice filed – case dropped.

Vargas, Jason
Travel to Meet a Minor
Defendant allegedly agreed online to teach sex acts to a 14-yr old girl at the request of her "mother"
No information notice filed – case dropped.

Balderas, Roldolfo
Sexual Assault Victim>12; Battery
Defendant, a transient, allegedly attempted to rape a woman behind a shopping center at Kirkman & Colonial
No information notice filed – case dropped.

Urich, Richie
L/L Conduct
Defendant allegedly abuducted an 11-yr old Clearwater girl and brought her to Orlando where the L/L conduct occurred
Case nolle prossed.

Quillen, Paul Joseph
Solicitation of Minor via Computer (3cts); Travel to Meet Minor
Defendant is a Georgia firefighter who allegedly solicited what he thought was the father of two girls (ages 11 & 13) for sex
Dismissed - Defendant deceased