April 14, 2014

London’s Financial District’s Cybercrime “War Games”: What Can They Teach Us About Building a Cybercrime Defense?

Here's a curious story that speaks to the issue of Florida cybercrime defense.

In late 2013, authorities in the UK put together a series of “war games” in London’s financial district designed to test the capacity of the city’s big businesses, banks, and insurance companies to manage a cyber attack.

The games were fictional -- there were no real assets at stake. However, many big agencies and companies demonstrated sophisticated plans to defend against cybercrime. Stunningly, though, UK authorities found that not a single participant in the war games contacted the police!

An article in the Financial Times about the games -- code-named “Waking Shark 2” -- asked a probing question: “how is online and computer crime policed and, moreover, how should it be?”

This is an important question not only for companies that want to protect their assets but also for defendants who stand accused of committing cybercrimes. What protocols should be followed? What laws should be applied, when, and under what circumstances?

The reality is that the online world is still a turbulent “wild west” of sorts, legally speaking. Consider what Scotland Yard detective, Adriane Cully, observed about Operation Waking Shark 2: “many of the participants … had little or no understanding of when criminal offenses were being committed.”

Think about that. These are some of the most sophisticated organizations in one of the world’s most urbane cities (London) that had access to enormous technical know-how. Yet even these entities “had little or no understanding of when cyber offenses were being created.”

If that's the case, how and when are “normal people” supposed to understand when and how they might be violating cybercrime law?

This is not just a theoretical question. As this blog reported last month, the U.S. Congress wants to expand the purview and powers of prosecutors in cybercrime cases. Soon, “attempted hackers” might face the prospect of massive jail sentences and other big penalties. In other words, even if a hacker doesn’t change a single line of code or cause any disruption or monetary damage, he or she could face years (maybe even decades) behind bars.

The Financial Times article on the cybercrime games makes an interesting observation: “the problem is that, for many organizations, cybercrime still seems so intangible … a bank suffering physical robbery, for example, has a site from which money is stolen and the staff there who is responsible specifically for the security of that site. Doing nothing is not really option. An attack against the whole organization though -- particularly an organization as large as a bank -- is just far harder to feel or care about, if the relative impact is far smaller, even if the same – or more – money is stolen in absolute terms."

Curiously, the protagonists in the movie “Office Space” used a similar line of moral reasoning to defend their (fictitious) decision to shave pennies off of millions of bank transactions to collect millions in proceeds.

So where does this all leave us? More specifically, where does that leave you, if you’ve been charged with a cybercrime in Florida or elsewhere?

Even if you have sophisticated, technical knowledge of computers, odds are that you lack an equally sophisticated understanding of applicable law. Fortunately, you can turn to the team here at Seltzer Law, PA, for a detailed, ethical, and systematic assistance with your case. Call us now at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for a free consultation.

April 9, 2014

Attorney General Eric Holder Wants Companies to Disclose Cybercrime Activity to Customers Faster

United States Attorney General, Eric Holder, has asked Congress to create a national standard to compel businesses to tell customers and law enforcement about cybercrime data breaches.

In a recent video address, Holder invoked data breaches at stores like Target, Neiman Marcus, and Michaels; these breaches compromised the personal data of tens of millions of Americans.

Holder wrote: “these crimes are becoming all too common… although Justice Department officials are working closely with the FBI and prosecutors across the country to bring cyber criminals to justice, it’s time for leaders in Washington to provide the tools that we need to do even more by requiring businesses to notify consumers and law enforcement in the wake of significant data breaches.”

Current federal laws do require hospitals and banks to tell patients and consumers about cybercrime-related data beaches; however, retailers do NOT have to comply with a federal standard.

The National Retail Federation, unsurprisingly, likes Holder's idea. The association wrote to Congress back in January that “a Preemptive Federal Breach Notification Law would allow retailers to focus their resources on complying with one single law and enable consumers to know their rights regardless of where they live.”

The Attorney General and the National Retail Federation aren’t the only ones concerned about the threat of cybercrime. President Obama recently remarked that cybercrime constitutes “one of the gravest national security dangers the United States faces.” The Department of Homeland Security recently created a program designed to help companies determine their vulnerability and protect themselves against computer crimes. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, said "it boils down to this… in cyber security, the more systems we secure, the more secure we all are… a vulnerability in one place can cause a problem in many other places.”

On the one hand, these cries of alarm come from a place of good intentions. No one wants to have his or her data pilfered and exposed. No one wants to go through the awful rigmarole of recovering from identify theft. No company wants to deal with recovering from a cyberattack.

That being said, we have concerns about the specifics. If authorities expand prosecutorial powers, intensify punishments and expand the scope of anti-cybercrime laws, who or what will correct against overreach?

Also, while it’s important to be mindful of threats, we need to ground our thinking and actions in reality. The National Cyber Investigative Join Task Force reports that cyberattacks have only been “isolated schemes” thus far. FBI attorney Steve Chabinsky admitted that “all the government's knowledge [taken] together… demonstrates there is no evidence of coordinated effort – whether by criminal groups or nation states – to harm the U.S. economy [via cyberattack].”

This doesn’t mean that there might not be – or that authorities might be overlooking something.

However, it raises a big question: are we reacting to an actual threat or just a fear of a threat?

The point is this: authorities everywhere are in a state of extreme hypervigilance against cybercrime. So if you or someone you love stands accused of Florida computer crime charges, you may need to create a strategic, thorough defense strategy. Call the team here at Seltzer Law, PA, at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for a free consultation about your defense.

March 31, 2014

Rebuilding Your Life, Career, and Relationships After Being Charged with a Florida Crime

Whether police busted you for possession of marijuana with intent to sell; or authorities are investigating you for fraud, conspiracy and international computer crimes, your world has turned upside down because of your Florida criminal charge. You know that you have a big fight on your hands in the months (possibly years) ahead.

Many defendants in similar situations struggle to understand what they need to do, when they need to do it, and why. As a result, they become almost entirely focused on managing the charges and dealing with immediate next steps.

However, it’s helpful to take a step back and think about the “long game” as well.

After all, the whole point of fighting aggressively against your criminal charges is so that you can restore your life and build to something better -- something more hopeful.

For instance, you may want to build a business, restore a relationship or just do something good for society. Maybe you'd like to experience peace and relaxation after years of working at a breakneck pace.

So how can you regain a sense of control?

The first step is to get very clear about your current reality.

• What charges do you face?
• What are the potential punishments for those charges?
• What are the possible defenses available to you?
• What should you be doing now to prepare your defense?
• What other challenges (related to your defense or not) must you address ASAP?

The second step involves figuring out your ideal end goal.

Pick a point in the future – months or years down the road. Imagine your life from a perspective of “this turned out great.” Don’t edit yourself. Allow yourself to dream big. Imagine all the wonderful opportunities that might come your way, including how your criminal case might ideally turn out.

Once you’ve gotten very clear on these two steps -- your actual starting point and your ideal finish line -- all that remains is to connect the dots. In other words, your goal then becomes to find the most effective, efficient strategies to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Of course, this process is easier said than done.

The good news is that you can get help with the journey. Call the team here at Seltzer Law, PA, at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for astute, effective guidance. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call and provide a free consultation about your Florida crime defense.

March 26, 2014

State of Florida v. Espinoza and State of Florida v. Reid: First Florida State Prosecutions in Bitcoin Money Laundering Cases

Big breaking Florida cybercrime news: On February 6th, police arrested two South Florida men, 30-year-old Michel Espinoza and 29-year-old Pascal Reid, for allegedly engaging in a money laundering scheme using the new online currency, Bitcoin. Both men are being held in jails in Miami-Dade County.

Florida State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, told the media “the use of Bitcoins in the transactions is a new technological flourish on a very old crime… [these] arrests may be the first state prosecutions involving the use of bitcons in money laundering operations.”

Bitcoin -- Promising Currency with a Sullied Reputation

In October 2013, authorities arrested Ross William Ulbricht, the operator of the Silk Road website, which international dealers used to purchase and sell narcotics and other illegal goods. Prosecutors in New York say that there is “voluminous” evidence linking the 29-year-old Ulbricht to an astonishing array of crimes, including narcotics trafficking, money laundering conspiracy, operating a criminal business, hacking, and commissioning six murders for hire to shield his business. If convicted, Ulbricht could face life behind bars.

How Reid and Espinoza Got Caught for Their (Alleged) Bitcoin Crimes

Undercover officers in Miami sought out individuals engaged in high volume Bitcoin activity to try to sniff out fraud. In December 2013 and January 2014, an officer involved in this operation teamed up with a secret service agent to purchase thousands of dollars’ worth of Bitcoins from Espinoza and Reid in different transactions. Both men had set up shop on a website called localBitcoins.com; they allegedly had amassed a small fortune in Bitcoins by engaging in arbitrage (i.e. selling Bitcoins for a profit and then repeating the process) as well as for allegedly engaging in money laundering activities and purchasing stolen credit cards.

Espinoza had gone under the online aegis MichelHack; Reid used the aegis Proy33. MichelHack had over 100 confirmed Bitcoin trades.

An agent arranged a meeting with MichelHack, face to face, and paid $1000 for a single Bitcoin (Basically, the coin’s value plus a 17% conversion fee). The agent said he told Espinoza that he planned to use the Bitcoin to buy stolen credit cards. After that transaction -- designed to build trust -- Espinoza agreed to a much bigger deal – buying $30,000 worth of Bitcoins. When he met with investigators to complete that transaction, authorities arrested him.

How will the cases of State of Florida v. Espinoza and State of Florida v. Reid turn out? Obviously, it’s way too early to say. But the results could have profound implications for cybercrime law in Florida and beyond. If you need help with your computer crime case, talk to the team here at Seltzer Law, PA at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for a free, confidential consultation.

March 17, 2014

Florida Supreme Court Affirms Lower Court’s Denial of Relief in Execution Case: A Look at Howell v. State

Paul Augustus Howell, a man convicted of a Florida crime of killing a highway patrol trooper in 1998, recently appealed his death sentence to the Florida Supreme Court. The Court affirmed the lower court’s denial of relief, paving the way for his execution.

Howell had been convicted of first degree murder, after he killed a Florida trooper with a homemade bomb (that he had built, incidentally, to kill a witness in a trial). The bomb went off before it reached its target, killing the officer, instead. Howell appealed for post conviction relief, per Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851. He challenged the protocol for lethal injection in Florida. In his appeal, he raised several points:

• Florida recently changed its protocol for lethal injection, using a compound known called vecuronium bromide. Howell argued that the State violated the Eighth Amendment by including the drug Midazolam in its protocol.
• He also said that using three drugs in the lethal injection cocktail (instead of just one) violated the Eighth Amendment.
• He argued that using vecuronium bromide in the mix violated both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
• He took issue with the fact that State has been changing up its legal injection protocol, arguing that this general pace of change, in and of itself, violated the Eighth Amendment.
• He argued that his motions for post conviction discovery should not have been denied -- in other words, that the post conviction court made an error.
• He tried to strike testimony from Dr. Mark Dershwitz, a witness called by the State.

Unfortunately for Howell, all his arguments fell on deaf ears, legally speaking. The Court affirmed the denial of relief. First of all, the Court said that it was not impressed by his Eighth Amendment challenges to the lethal injection protocol, in general. Secondly, the Court found that the Eighth Amendment would not be violated by the use of Midazolam. Third, the Supreme Court didn't buy his argument that a previous case, Sell v. United States, precluded the use of vecuronium bromide, per the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, the Supreme Court did not buy the argument that the testimony of Dr. Dershwitz should have been striked.

So what can Howell v. State teach us?

First of all, when a defendant faces a serious penalty, like capital punishment, options do abound to protest legally. However, those options are not unlimited. Secondly, although the application of capital punishment can take a while, you cannot delay the punishment indefinitely – in this case, it took the justice system over 15 years to kill Howell, after he had been convicted of first degree murder.

For help constructing an effective Florida criminal defense, talk to the team here at Seltzer Law, PA at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333). We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you understand your charges and prepare a stiff defense.

March 12, 2014

British Agency’s Program, “Optic Nerve,” Raises Questions about Cybercrime, Privacy, and Life in the Modern Age

Some crazy Florida cybercrime stories sound contrived – almost made up.

But this one is real.

According to reports from The Guardian, a British spy agency collected millions of still images from Yahoo! webcam chats, during an operation known as “Optic Nerve.” A leaked document from the notorious Edward Snowden (the famous NSA contractor who absconded to Russia with a trove of U.S. national security documents) revealed Optic Nerve, which the British developed to test facial recognition software technology. Starting in 2008, the "GCHC" Agency spied on “unselected” Yahoo! webcam users and snapped millions of pictures at intervals of five minutes. These people had done nothing wrong, and they were suspected of nothing – i.e. there were random people using Yahoo! webcam, including American citizens.

The Optic Nerve program created an oddball challenge for GHHQ technicians. Per a Snowden-leaked document: “unfortunately, it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person … also, the fact that Yahoo! software allows more than one person to view webcam streams without necessarily sending a typical stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.”

Astonishingly, up to 11% of all the images vacuumed up by the GHHQ were, in some fashion, pornographic.

Yahoo! representatives expressed intense outrage over the revelation. Yahoo! has been incredibly outspoken about its frustrations with the NSA's surveillance activities. A company spokesperson told the Guardian “we were not aware of, nor would we condone this reported activity… this report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable … we are committed to preserving our users’ trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services.”

Here’s what’s really interesting. Imagine if a random person or a group unaffiliated individuals began using Yahoo’s webcam service to download millions of pictures from unsuspecting people. Would that activity be legal? Would it be sanctioned, morally speaking?

Obviously, governments and spy agencies are (and should be) allowed to play by slightly different rules. However, the case highlights just how interconnected the world is in the cyberage and how privacy can easily be violated.

Fortunately, it’s not up to you to try to fix our fluid, dysfunctional online world. However, if you do face a charge like hacking, fraud, or any other Florida computer crime, you want build an aggressive and articulate defense. Trust the team here at Seltzer Law, PA, to help you with that big task. Call us now at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for a free consultation now.

March 3, 2014

United States v. Isnadin: Undercover Agent Told Men "You Got to **** Rob Them, Bro" -- Was It Entrapment?

The case of United States v. Isnadin has many in the Florida criminal defense community talking about the definition of entrapment. Here's the thrust. An undercover agent for ATF offered two appellants -- Jolens “Blunt” Cius and Kamensky Gustama -- a curious opportunity. Would they want to rob a stash house? If so, warned the agent, they better be prepared for battle. In the agent's words: "You got to **** rob them, bro."

Was that entrapment?

Cius, Gustama and Esnel Isnadin (a co-appellant) argued that they had been entrapped, and they appealed their case to Florida’s 11th Circuit on February 14, 2014 to challenge a lower court’s previous conviction.

Isnadin had been convicted on multiple criminal counts in March 2012, after he and the other men attempted to rob a stash house after chatting with an undercover Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms agent.

Isnadin’s Charges

Prosecutors charged Isnadin with conspiracy to commit an offense known as a Hobbs Act robbery as well as conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine; conspiracy to use and carry a firearm in relation to a violent crime; and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

In March 2012, the District Court found Isnadin guilty of a reduced cocaine possession and intent to distribute charge as well as guilty of the other three charges listed above.

Isnadin Appeals Conviction

Isnadin and co-appellants challenged the ruling, claiming entrapment. The trio also challenged the court’s decision to instruct the jury to treat the “entrapment defense separately and individually as to each count.”

The United States Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court “did not abuse its discretion when it instructed the jury to consider entrapment separately as to each count” and also found that sufficient evidence supported the initial convictions.

Per court testimony, Isnadin had only been present on the last day of the situation in question. But the court believed that he fully intended to commit a crime using a firearm.

Do you need help constructing a thorough, strategic defense to Florida criminal charges? Connect with the Seltzer Law PA team now at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) to speak with someone immediately about your case for free and in confidence. There's no need to be overwhelmed or under-informed. We can help.

February 26, 2014

The Odd World of Cybercrime Blogger, Brian Krebs (and Implications of His Work for Your Defense)

Cybercrime affects everyone who uses the Internet in our interconnected world. Blogger Brian Krebs has been striving to increase public awareness about internet crimes. What can his efforts teach us about security in the online world… and about how to defend against hacking, fraud or other cybercrime charges?

Brian Krebs and "Krebs on Security"

Brian Krebs writes the blog “Krebs on Security,” which covers stories about criminals who steal information, create malicious software, and circulate spam. He became interested in the topic after falling prey to numerous instances of computer viruses and identity theft. Originally trained as a journalist, Krebs has since become one of America’s leading experts on online threats, and authorities regularly turn to him for guidance and advice.

Cybercrime against Target

One of Mr. Krebs’ biggest achievements was uncovering a cyberscam that placed over one third of Americans’ financial information at risk. Krebs discovered numerous fake purchases at Target, Neiman Marcus, and many other businesses. Uncovering this scam garnered him a lot of attention from America’s security forces. It also drew the ire of cybercriminals, who now regularly harass, threaten, and attempt to make deals with him.

Defending People Accused of Cybercrime

There is no doubt that Mr. Krebs does important work shining light on dangerous, illegal activities. However, entrapment, sting operations, and a criminal justice system that is often bereft of both compassion and common sense can cause awful problems for innocent people. And while we appreciate and respect Mr. Krebs' efforts to make our country safer, we also need more stringent protections for individuals accused of cybercrime.

A lawyer who understands the complex nature of computer crime charges can be an innocent person’s best defense against unfair prosecution and incarceration.

Connect today with the team at Seltzer Law, P.A. for thorough, ethical and step-by-step assistance constructing your Florida cybercrime defense. Call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) to get powerful insight and a free consultation about your charges.

February 17, 2014

Major Florida Crime Case: Lab Tech Arrested, Accused of Grand Theft and Selling Drug Evidence

On February 4, authorities arrested Joseph Graves, a lab chemist at a Florida criminal lab, and hit him with a suite of serious charges, including grand theft, drug trafficking (9 counts), and tampering with evidence (12 counts).

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) says that Graves stole drug evidence from his lab, then sold it. FDLE Commissioner, Gerald Bailey, remarked that “the actions of Joseph Graves are disgraceful.” A judge set his bail at $290,000, and he's being held at the Escambia County Jail. Authorities may hit him with additional charges.

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesperson told the media that Graves had worked for 80 different law enforcement law agencies across Florida (35 counties) and had been involved in 2,600 cases over the past eight years. Authorities believe that Graves’ crime could, according to CNN, “affect… drug convictions in dozens of Florida counties.”

What exactly happened? And what are the implications for defendants in those cases?

Investigators discovered pain pill bottles in the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office evidence room. Over-the-counter meds had replaced missing pain pills. Investigators analyzed the situation and concluded that Graves had tampered with evidence. Florida police now must scrutinize literally thousands of drug cases; hundreds of convictions could be tossed across the state. At a press conference, Gerald Bailey admitted: “this has the potential of impacting hundreds of drug cases across our state … this is a total shock and a disappointment."

The allegations against Graves are not unprecedented. The Christian Science Monitor reported on a similar case in Boston recently. That case led to the release of 350 people from jail in Massachusetts. Per the CSM: “Massachusetts chemist, Annie Dookhan – portrayed in court as an ambitious young woman whose zeal to get ahead let her to produce bogus test results to help win convictions -- had processed more than 40,000 drug cases, putting the outcomes of all of them in doubt.”

This story powerfully illustrates how important it is to investigate your Florida criminal charges aggressively. You must make sure that evidentiary tampering, mechanical errors, other mishaps will not lead to an extravagant prison sentence for no good reason. Connect with the team here at David Seltzer P.A. at 1 888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) immediately for help constructing an articulate, strategic defense against any charges you may face.

February 12, 2014

Washington Post Article Worries That “A Wave of Serious Cybercrime” Is Imminent

As someone recently arrested on a cybercrime charge in Florida, you're probably worried about your future, your defense options, and what will happen to your assets and your career.

The government, meanwhile, is terrified of YOU.

According to a recent Washington Post article, “Target Breach Could Represent Leading Edge of Wave of Serious Cybercrime,” the government believes that many retailers may be at significantly elevated risk of cybercrime. Why? The Washington Post's writers describe the problem: “as hackers become increasingly skilled with breaching the nation’s integrated payment systems … traditional defenses, such as installing antivirus software and monitoring accounts for unusual activity have offered little resistance.”

Experts say that malevolent criminal gangs from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics can now purchase hacking kits online and/or break into servers and wireless networks. In the wake of the Target breach, the FBI says that nearly two-dozen other companies have also been hacked, and an untold number of shoppers have had their personal data and credit card information stolen.

A recent Ponemon Institute study found that cybercrime cost businesses in the United States $11.5 million in 2012. That might not sound like much, in the big scheme of things, but that number was up 26% from 2011 numbers. Authorities worry that successful cyber-heists may motivate copycat crimes. As Carnegie Mellon University’s Nicolas Christin put it: “you are going to see more and more people trying [cyber-heists]… if you saw your neighbor win the lottery, even if you weren’t interested in the lottery before, you may go out and buy a ticket.”

The Post also quoted that Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU, who pinpointed the root of the problem: “our decades-old payment system was not designed with cyber security in mind … times have changed. Data breaches now occur on a weekly basis… [causing] consumers [to] become victims of fraud and identify theft.”

What is it going to take to fix the system?

Authorities believe that safekeeping American data will require a variety of strategies, including:

• Pricy upgrades to software and hardware;
• The use of something called “end-to-end encryption,” which can protect data during the entire course of its throughput;
• The creation and widespread use of better credit card technology that will add data to an embedded chip as opposed to magnetic strips on the backs of cards;
• The use of secure independent networks for highly sensitive data.

On the one hand, these heightened security risks and the vulnerability of business networks are clearly cause for alarm. On the other hand, it is possible that the Federal Government may get too jumpy and aggressive and develop a “witch-hunt like” mentality in going after alleged cyber-criminals. In addition to worrying about the security of America’s data, we also need to worry about the following:

• Could a “prosecution-happy” government unfairly accuse and convict people of cybercrimes?
• Will people convicted of much more serious and aggressive crimes (such as rape, murder, burglary, vehicular homicide, et cetera) get off with more lenient sentences than attempted hackers? Is that fair?
• Will aggressive investigations and draconian legal measures actually protect businesses and consumers? Or will they just make people feel safer (without actually improving safety)?

Battle back against your charges by connecting with an experienced Florida cybercrime defense lawyer with David Seltzer, P.A. Please call us now at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333). Attorney Seltzer focuses intensely on cybercrime defense, and he keeps up to date on the latest developments in the field – legally, culturally, and technologically. He can help you create a sound defense.

February 3, 2014

Florida Supreme Court Roundup: A Look at Lockhart v. Crews and Florida Parole Commission v. Taylor

The Florida Supreme Court has had a busy start to 2014. Today, we'll analyze two recent Florida criminal cases that came before the Court in January: Lockhart v. Crews and Florida Parole Commission v. Taylor.

In Lockhart, the defendant had been sentenced to a 30 year jail sentence, after a lower court convicted him of robbery. The petitioner appealed the sentence to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the guilty judgment; he then filed several additional post-conviction claims. [By “several,” we mean more than two dozen!] His twenty seventh petition for review had to do with a writ of habeas corpus issue. The lower court dismissed this petition – citing the case of Baker v. State – and also put him in a tough corner. Frustrated with his abuse of the system, the court ordered Lockhart to show why he should not be barred from making additional “pro se” filings regarding this case. Instead of filing a response, he submitted handwritten “motions,” which he had used (unsuccessfully) during previous appeals. The Supreme Court wrote: "After considering Lockhart’s response, we conclude that it fails to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed. We further conclude that Lockhart’s procedurally barred petition filed in this case is a frivolous proceeding brought before this Court by a state prisoner."

Here's the big lesson to be learned: you absolutely should pursue an aggressive, even dogged, defense against your Florida criminal charges… but you need to do so intelligently and strategically. If you waste the Court’s time or challenge a charge or conviction based on dubious logic or a lazy reading of the law, you may not like the results, and the court can even penalize you.

The Supreme Court also took up the case of Florida Parole Commission v. Taylor in January. In that case, a man violated the conditional release of his parole, prompting his Parole Examiner to recommend that respondent be put back on regular supervision. The Florida Parole Commission (FPC) felt that this suggestion was too lenient and chose to revoke the respondent’s conditional release. During subsequent legal wrangling, the respondent argued that the FPC did not adhere to Florida’s Administrative Procedure Act, when it failed to follow the recommendation of the Parole examiner. The District Court allowed the petition, but the Supreme Court said, effectively, "not so fast." The First District Court should not have granted certiorari because the Circuit Court's original decision did not cause a miscarriage of justice.

Florida Parole Commission v. Taylor demonstrates nicely how complex Florida criminal cases can get. Consider all the stakeholders and decision makers involved, which included: the respondent, the Parole Examiner, the FPC, the Circuit Court, the District Court and the Supreme Court.

To protect your rights, connect with a Florida criminal defense attorney here at Seltzer Law, P.A., at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333), or email us to schedule your consultation now. We are available 24/7 to discuss your matter.

January 29, 2014

Paroline v. United States: Fascinating, Sad Debate Over How Much a Man Should Pay a Victim of Pornography

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a fascinating cybercrime case, Paroline v. United States, that concerns how much money a person should pay a victim of pornography.

The victim in this case -- an anonymous woman known by the court as Amy Unknown -- had been raped as a girl by her uncle, who then disseminated pictures of the assault on the web, where the assault was viewed by thousands of people. The awful rape and its aftermath caused serious emotional problems for Amy, and a Court decided that she suffered $3.4 million in damages. Authorities ultimately arrested and convicted the uncle – and forced him to serve time in prison – but he only paid $6,000 in restitution.

So how was Amy supposed to collect the rest of her damages?

Enter Doyle Randall Paroline, a Texas man who pled guilty five years ago to charges of possession of 300 images of child pornography. Among those images were two pictures of Amy. The justice system convicted Paroline of child pornography possession and sentenced him to jail. But how much money – out of the $3.4 million owed to Amy – should Paroline himself have to pay? According to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Paroline should be on the hook for all of it, or, in the court’s words: “the full amount of the victim’s losses.”

Twenty years ago, Congress clarified that victims of pornography should be able to collect restitution from people who have viewed pornography. The main issue in Paroline v. United States is: how much, if any, of the $3.4 million owed to Amy should be paid by Paroline?

Some legal scholars, such as Paul Cassell of the University of Utah, interpret Congress’s intent to mean that victims in crimes such as sex offenses, domestic violence and pornography should get “full restitution as quickly and effectively as possible.” By this logic, the first defendant in such cases should be on the hook for as much as possible. In other words, victims should not have to hunt down defendant after defendant to collect the full amount owed.

Case in point: there have already been 182 defendants in the case of Amy Unknown, and they've collectively paid $1.75 million to her – still far short of the total money owed. Plus, the hunt for justice, so far, has taken nearly five years.

Paroline’s lawyers argued that their client should not have to pay anything, since the government has no way of proving that his viewing of the two images caused suffering. In other words, since so many people looked at the images, Paroline’s contribution to the suffering would have been diluted. Justice Elena Kagan disagreed, citing the following logic: “if only one person viewed the pornography, that person would be responsible for the entire damages, but if a thousand people viewed the pornography, and the harm was that much greater, nobody would be on the hook for the restitution? How could that possibly make sense?”

Justice John Roberts Jr., however, worried that apportioning so much financial burden on the first defendant in a case like this would lead to lopsided justice: it would be unfair to the first person in line and overly lenient on the 400th or 401st defendant.

University of Utah legal scholar, Cassell, pointed out in an analysis that Congress was not concerned about how restitution should be divided among defendants. Rather, Congress’s intent was to make sure that victims of child pornography crimes, domestic violence, etc., get paid early and with minimal drama. Cassell said “if there was a wealthy defendant who was unhappy with the share he had been ordered to pay, he could simply try to find other wealthy defendants out there and interplead them in some kind of case … [such a scenario would] lead to litigation concerns, but Congress wanted those burdens on guilty criminals rather than on innocent victims.”

In this situation, no one debated whether Paroline committed the crime of possession of child pornography. However, as Justice Antonin Scalia said: “he is guilty, he is guilty of the crime… but to sock him for all of her psychiatric costs and everything else because he had two pictures of her? Congress couldn’t have intended that."

Fortunately, you don’t have to parse such complicated matters of law yourself. If you or someone you love stands accused of a Florida cybercrime, connect with David Seltzer, P.A. today to explore your rights and defense options at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333), or email us anytime, 24/7 for a free and confidential consultation.