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Jury Acquits Ormond Beach Teenager

Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)-October 20, 2001
Author: Paul Nutcher
Staff Writer


An Ormond Beach woman was cleared Thursday of a felony charge that she kicked a corrections officer in the groin at the Branch Jail 16 months ago. Susan Duncan, developer of a controversial nightclub in Ormond-by-the-Sea, was found not guilty of battery on a law enforcement officer after the jury deliberated for just 15 minutes.

Duncan, 43, was arrested at her John Anderson Drive home on June 24, 2000, and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after she repeatedly made calls to a 911 dispatcher about a problem inside, a prosecutor said.When police arrived she be came unruly and was arrested, said Assistant State Attorney Bradley Sherman. Police took her to the Branch Jail and during the inmate processing procedure she became agitated, two corrections officers testified. Unable to complete the fingerprinting of Duncan, corrections officer Dean Zimmerman said several officers tried to place her in a cell and they started to remove her handcuffs. Zimmerman said Duncan began flailing her arms — with a set of handcuffs hanging from one — and he went to subdue her, but she kicked him in the groin.Continue reading

Defense attorney James R. Clayton told the jury that corrections officers humiliated Duncan and that she was upset because she felt her initial arrest was unfounded.Duncan, who was convicted in 1993 of the felony charge of harming or threatening a public servant, still faces a forgery charge. The pending charge stems from her arrest July 6 when she attempted to obtain a liquor license for her Daytona Nites nightclub at 1550 Oceanshore Blvd.

Duncan is accused of showing a forged court order to a courthouse clerk stating that a previous felony conviction had been overturned. Sherman said Duncan was trying to sidestep a prohibition on felons obtaining liquor licenses. A liquor license was issued for the club, Daytona Nites, this week in the name of Henry Duncan, Susan’s father.



Teen Critical After Hunting Accident

In Brief
Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)-January 12, 2005.


A teenager was hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday after being shot in a hunting accident, officials said.Robert Selph, 17, Mims, was deer hunting Monday with three teen friends in woods near Dixie Road and U.S. 1 just north of the Volusia/Brevard county line. At 5:42 p.m., as the teens walked back to their truck, one boy accidentally hit Selph with his gun, Volusia County sheriff’s spokesman Brandon Haught said. Witnesses said Selph grabbed the 12-gauge shotgun and slammed it to the ground. The gun discharged, shooting pellets into Selph’s leg and abdomen, Haught said.Continue reading

The teens called 911 on a cell phone, wrapped Selph’s leg with a shirt and drove him to meet paramedics. Selph was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was in critical condition Tuesday night, spokesman Joe Brown said. An investigation is continuing.



Jurors Declare Man Guilty of Girlfriend’s Death in Car

By Beth Kassab | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted May 30, 2002.


DELAND — A Deltona man who prosecutors say was high on ecstasy after partying at a rave club was convicted Wednesday of killing his girlfriend when he lost control of his car on Interstate 4 three years ago. Prosecutors said Thomas E. Savage swerved and crashed into a “Keep off the Median” sign, which struck the car in such a way that it caused a seat belt to tighten around 24-year-old Heather Marie Kemme’s neck, killing her instantly. Savage, now 33, was not wearing a seat belt and was not injured in the crash on April 18, 1999.Continue reading

Savage stood silently as the verdict was read, declaring him guilty of vehicular homicide. One row back, his mother and sister cried out “No,” and began sobbing. The jury found him not guilty of a second charge of DUI manslaughter. Assistant State Attorney Brad Sherman said he was “very satisfied” with the verdict and said Savage faces nine years in prison for the crime. Savage will be sentenced next month.

Kemme’s mother, Deborah Durand, sat in the courtroom clutching the same photo of her daughter that she held throughout the five-day trial — a portrait of the young girl with a wide smile and sparkling tiara taken just after she was crowned “Fire Queen” in her hometown of Sidney, N.Y. “This is bad for everyone,” Durand said later. “Heather was so kind and so caring.”

Durand, who lives in New York, said she had never heard of Savage until the crash and did not consider him her daughter’s boyfriend. Savage said he had lived with Kemme for about two months in Deltona before she died. They had known each other for about six months, he said.He said he was not high on drugs during the 2:30 a.m. crash and had not taken Ecstasy that night. He swerved and lost control of the car, he said, because Kemme grabbed him and tried to pull him toward her for a kiss as they were returning from a Daytona Beach rave club. At the same time, the car in front of them slowed, he said, causing him to lose control. The force of the impact uprooted the sign and the concrete base jammed against the bottom of the car, which caused the seat belt to break Kemme’s neck.

Several pill bottles were found in the car at the crash scene near Deltona. Savage had been prescribed Valium for back pain, he said. According to tests of blood taken by paramedics at the scene of the crash, Savage had Ecstasy and Valium in his system. Savage had insisted to Florida Highway Patrol investigators that it was Kemme who was driving the car when it crashed. Before the trial started, he admitted he had been behind the wheel.

“His life has changed completely,” said Savage’s mother, Kathleen Savage. “He just stays in his room. He’s a hermit.”



Accused Crips Member Acquitted of Racketeering Charges


DELAND — The first of six men to go to trial on allegations of being part of a dangerous street gang was acquitted Thursday.

Police accused David “The Ghost” Weston, 26, of being part of a local street gang called the Crips 773, which was said to be responsible for “countless crimes” in the Daytona Beach area. Instead of facing up to 60 years in prison, Weston was cleared of all charges that accused him of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering.

“When the verdict was read, David was emotional,” his lawyer, Brad Sherman said later Thursday. “I had to be the one to tell him he was not guilty, despite the fact that the courtroom clerk read the verdict loud and clear.”

The trial was held in front of Circuit Judge Margaret Hudson. As a result of the verdict, Weston will be released from custody.Continue reading

“My client is paying the price for associating with bad people,” Weston’s lawyer, Sherman, told the jury in his closing argument. “He’s not an angel. I’m not trying to say he is. But he is not guilty of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering.”

“There was a serious lack of evidence in this case,” he said later.

Weston was arrested last year in an investigation by Daytona Beach police, the Flagler County and Volusia County sheriff’s agencies, the State Attorney’s Office and FBI.

The operation was called “Operation Six Dropping,” and touted as a way to “send a message” that criminal gangs would not be tolerated. Sherman said the only “enterprise” in the case, was “a bunch of delinquents who had no money, no parental guidance and no direction in life.”

Also charged in the case were Willie Harpe Jr., Louis Smith, Bakari Smith, Edward Hayle, Billy Ray Ivey. Hayle has already pleaded to his charges. Ivey is wanted on a warrant.

Klare Ly, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office, indicated the verdict in Weston’s case would have no impact on the other related cases.

“The others will probably want trials,” she said. “We intend to proceed with prosecuting them all.”

Prosecutors Marty White and Jeanne Stratis used testimony from law enforcement officers and witnesses in their effort to link Weston to criminal gang activities.

There was testimony about fights with rival gang members, drug sales and robberies.

Defense lawyer Sherman, however, argued there wasn’t enough evidence to convict his client of the charges.

“The state is asking you to believe that if you associate with bad people, and you commit crimes, then you are guilty of racketeering,” Sherman argued. “But there has to be a nexus.”

He pointed out that Weston already served time in prison for a 2009 home invasion robbery — which was a crime that prosecutors tried to use as evidence of Weston’s gang affiliation.

“My client’s home invasion had nothing to do with gang activity,” Sherman said, unabashedly. “It was drug related.”

In order to prove racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, the state had to show that Weston was part of a criminal enterprise and committed crimes to contribute to that enterprise.

The crimes Weston committed included the home invasion robbery and a separate battery. To further illustrate he was a member of the street gang, prosecutor Stratis showed pictures of Weston’s tattoos, which showed what she said was the name of the gang.

“That shows his association with this enterprise,” she argued to the jury. “Why do we get tattoos? Because it means something.”

But the jury agreed with Sherman that the evidence wasn’t enough.

Bakari Smith, who is locked up on another charge, is expected to have his racketeering trial next month.

Ivey, who is known as “Ray” is considered a major recruiter for the gang, initiating young men to get in the gang by breaking into vehicles, police said. He is wanted by police.



State’s Mortgage Fraud Case Falling Apart


One of the largest mortgage fraud cases the state has ever gone after is falling apart. Edward Traylor and his son Perry were facing 35 felony charges after prosecutors said they used a Volusia County church as a front to commit an elaborate form of mortgage fraud, but now a judge has thrown out nearly all the charges.

The defense said the case was a waste of time and taxpayer money, but it isn’t over yet.

Tuesday, a judge agreed to speed the case up and set a trial for May. The defendants had been accused of fraud in nearly 20 different home loans, but now a jury will only consider three of them.Continue reading

A lot has changed since WFTV first tracked down 57-year-old Edward Darrell Traylor. Fourteen months ago, he denied even being the man who was facing 35 felony charges, including grand theft and racketeering.

But prosecutors have struggled to prove that Traylor and his son Perry committed a crime when they used their Individual Freedom Ministries Church to capitalize on the once-booming housing market. When people wanted to buy homes they couldn’t afford, the state says, the church would offer down payments in exchange for a higher kickback from the sellers.

Prosecutors said the Traylors ripped off lenders and artificially inflated the housing market in the process.

“Wasn’t there at least something a little shady about the way this buyer assistance was going on?” WFTV reporter Eric Rasmussen asked the defense attorney.

“If you have anything specific that you can talk about, I’d love to hear it,” Defense Attorney Brad Sherman said.

Traylor’s attorney recently convinced the court to throw out all but three lesser charges. He said there were no real victims and those close to the case said the prosecution may have already spent more than $100,000 trying to prove otherwise.

“Do you think this case has been a waste of taxpayer money?” Rasmussen asked.

“Yes, it’s been a huge waste of taxpayer money,” Sherman said.

WFTV talked to the state prosecutor on the case. He said we’re all victims, because we’re now paying for irresponsible lending.

The Traylors will be back in court in May to face three counts of defrauding a financial institution.



Wrestler, Unhurt, Hazing Exaggerated

Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)-February 8, 2005


Hazing or horseplay? An attorney for one of the Deltona High School wrestlers accused of hazing a teammate is arguing that too much has been made of what happened before a wrestling meet a week ago today.

Witnesses told Volusia County sheriff’s investigators that wrestlers Breton Fudge, Robert Kennedy and Joseph Linebarier hogtied a teammate with jump ropes while Kennedy repeatedly shocked the victim with a device used to ignite gas grills. The three face criminal charges and possible expulsions.

But an affidavit released Monday by attorney Bradley Sherman – who is representing Fudge, a 17-year-old senior – downplays the hazing.Continue reading

According to a sheriff’s report, a group of four wrestlers tied a teammate’s hands and feet and put tape over his mouth. Later, three of the aggressors in the first incident, Fudge, Kennedy and Linebarier, turned on the fourth member, holding him down, tying him up and using the grill igniter on the boy’s back and buttocks. The victim of the first hazing said in the affidavit: “I was not injured in any manner, and at no time
was I in fear of being harmed. At the time, the incident seemed like ordinary ‘horsing around,’ similar to backyard play.”

He said he was present when the second victim was being tied up with jump ropes. “He did not appear to be in fear of being harmed and he did not appear to be humiliated in any manner whatsoever,” the first victim said.

Fudge did not encourage and was not responsible for pulling down the second victim’s sweatpants, exposing his buttocks, according to the affidavit. “(Fudge) eventually put a stop to the incident,” the first victim said.

Sherman said Fudge is remorseful that the horseplay might have humiliated the second victim, but said he doesn’t believe it was hazing.

“These are teenage boys engaged in a physical sport,” the attorney said. “They always clown around. This time, they went too far.”

Meanwhile, a professional standards investigation of the coach, Brian Kells, continued Monday, but no determination was made, said Deputy Superintendent Tim Huth.



Family Seeks Police Apology

Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)-May 24, 2008


DAYTONA BEACH – The family of a 17-year-old ordered released from jail Friday after the second of two felony charges against him were tossed wants an apology from the police chief and officer who arrested him.

Facing two separate trials on carjacking and home invasion charges, Darious James Bush had both cases against him dismissed because prosecutor Celeste Gagne questioned witnesses, who said he wasn’t the person. “I couldn’t go forward because we don’t have a definite identification,” Gagne said. “I’d be breaching an ethical duty. The state attorneys have a higher standard than every attorney in the state.Continue reading

We have to do justice. It doesn’t mean we have to win cases.”

Defense lawyer Brad Sherman credited Gagne with doing the right thing. But Bush having spent 94 days in jail prompted his family to want an apology, Sherman said: “The family wants an apology from Detective Nathan Williams and Chief Chitwood.”

The cases are now being investigated anew, with the focus on a relative with similar physical features, Gagne said. Police Chief Mike  Chitwood stood by his officers and the investigation.

“They’re not getting an apology from me or (Nathan) Williams,” he said. “We certainly didn’t go out maliciously target anybody. We acted on information given to us. We can go only by what a witness tells us.” He said witnesses told officers they were sure of the identifications of Bush from photo lineups. But Chitwood acknowledged there can be problems in cases where there is identification of a suspect from a photo lineup and no physical evidence. “I’ll commend somebody,” he said. “For stepping up and saying I made a mistake.”



Firm Offers Low Cost Legal Services

Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)-May 13, 2009


HOLLY HILL – Low-cost legal help has come to Ridgewood Avenue, marked with a sign that offers divorce document preparation starting at $150. Advocate’s Legal Clinic, a private law firm based in Deltona, has opened a satellite office with a sign out front that says “attorney document preparation” for bankruptcy filings starts at $450. Costs are extra.

“What we want to do, is make sure everyone has access to legal services,” said Jamie Jessup, a paralegal and spokesman for the law firm. “I am not an attorney,” he quickly added.

His boss, attorney Michael L. Boswell, supervises all document preparation and provides traditional attorney representation as well. The firm’s arrival comes at a time that is tough for law firms and consumers alike.Continue reading

The numbers of people seeking legal help, who can’t afford to hire attorneys, are booming as bankruptcies and foreclosures swell. Employment figures, meanwhile, look bleak. Money is tight.

Jessup wouldn’t say how much of the business is divorce and how much is bankruptcy. But others say bankruptcies are keeping lawyers busy.

“Divorce numbers are far down,” Larry Glitzman, public relations manager with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida said. “Because people can’t even afford to live apart.”

Meanwhile, he said, foreclosures and bankruptcies have increased. Jessup said the firm provides discounts on its services for anyone who makes under $100,000. “Anyone making less than $15,000 a year gets a 50 percent discount,” he said. “We give them a choice of the level of service they want.”

As a result, Jessup said, the firm has seen a number of people come in who were turned away from Community Legal Services because of limited resources. Community Legal Services – where volunteer attorneys help people who can’t afford a lawyer – once turned down two people for every one it could help. The organization now turns away three for every one helped.

“Free services are only available so much,” Jessup said. “So we try to meet the gap between the people who can receive (free) services, and the people who get nothing.”

Of course, as some private divorce lawyers say, you get what you pay for. “I actually think its smart, from a business standpoint,” attorney Bradley Sherman said Tuesday. “I think it’s fair game. If someone wants to go in and get a petition for dissolution of marriage and walk out with a form they can file, so be it.”

If someone wants more involved representation, which Boswell also provides, they’re going to pay $175 or much more an hour.

“Bottom line, I think it’s a good idea,” Sherman, who has offices in Port Orange and Orange City, said. “But people need to educate themselves about what they need.” Sherman, who divides his practice about evenly between criminal and divorce representation, said his fees are on the “low side,” starting at $175 an hour. “I do everything I can to make the clients understand what to expect from day one,” he said.

Of course, some people just aren’t comfortable going to lawyers for help. At Community Legal Services, Glitzman said staff held workshops and created a reduced-fee panel to deal with the increased demand of people seeking legal help for financial problems. The agency handles about 9,000 cases a year, and has income requirements for some services.

“They can take the client we can’t,” Glitzman said. “The person in the middle.”



Hankins Guilty of Murder


Hankins guilty of murder – Jury will decide on death penalty next week
Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)-January 15, 2005


DAYTONA BEACH – Jurors took 3 1/2 hours Friday to find Dwayne Hankins guilty of killing police informant Harold Rouse in a New Smyrna Beach park in 2002. They will decide next week whether Hankins should be put to death. With friends and family of both men taking up three rows on either side of Circuit Judge R. Michael Hutcheson’s courtroom, emotions ran high.

Rouse’s mother, Sandra Rouse, began crying as the verdict – guilty as charged of first-degree murder – was read. On the other side of the courtroom, where Hankins’ family and friends had sat through the weeklong trial, Rebecca Harris, his live-in girlfriend, burst into tears.Continue reading

Hankins, 27, who had testified Thursday that he had nothing to do with the June 13, 2002, shooting death of Rouse, held his head with one hand and sobbed quietly. One of his lawyers said Hankins had trouble getting to his feet when the trial ended. Hankins’ family left without commenting. Outside the courtroom, Rouse’s father, Harold Rouse Sr., 58, held his wife and said, “Thank God almighty.” “He killed my son,” Rouse said. “No doubt, he killed my boy . . . he shot him in cold blood.”

Hankins and Rouse, 25, grew up in the same New Smyrna Beach neighborhood. Prosecutor Ed Davis said the murder was a revenge killing. In late 2000, Rouse worked as a police informant, helping police gather evidence to arrest Hankins for selling cocaine.

Hankins was to start a three-year prison sentence stemming from that arrest about a month after Rouse was killed; he now faces a possible death penalty. Defense attorneys Peyton Quarles and Bradley Sherman argued there was no physical evidence or testimony addressing the moments leading to the shooting and no eyewitnesses who saw the murder take place.

But Davis used Rouse’s own words naming Hankins as his killer. The “dying declaration” was captured on police videotape as Rouse lay mortally wounded after being shot four times.

“Harold Rouse was an eyewitness to his murder,” Davis said during his closing arguments. “Harold Rouse spent the last few agonizing minutes of his life doing everything he could to identify his murderer.”

The jurors also heard testimony from police officers who heard Rouse name Hankins as the shooter and from others who said they heard Hankins make threats to harm Rouse.

Obviously, we’re satisfied,” Davis said after the verdict, reserving further comment until after Hankins is sentenced.

When the jury returns Thursday, they will choose life in prison or death for Hankins, said Linda Pruitt, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office. Quarles said they will appeal.

While Harold Rouse Sr. felt justice was served, he does not want Hankins to get the death penalty.



Tips For Hiring An Attorney


KNOW WHAT YOU NEED: Get an idea of what it will cost you; every case is different. It’s important that your attorney identifies what he can and cannot control. Your attorney should clearly describe the best and worst scenarios.

KNOW YOUR STRATEGY: Many civil and family cases are unpredictable so your attorney should lay out a clear plan of action before you pay him or her any money.

KNOW YOUR ATTORNEY’S EXPERIENCE: Know specific experience your lawyer has in handling a case like yours.

KNOW IF THERE ARE PROBLEMS: Has the attorney ever been disciplined by The Florida Bar? Visit The Bar’s Web site at

SOURCE: The Law Offices of Bradley S. Sherman

Call the DeLand office for a free consultation 386-532-6000