2021 | Volume 2
A Message from the State Attorney

Dear Friend,
Spring is here, and, after a very challenging year, it seems that we are almost on the other side of this pandemic. COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available, and many are choosing to take them as a step towards returning to a more normal life.
As we turn the corner, I feel a sense of accomplishment that my office remained open for business this entire time and continued to protect the community while fulfilling our mission. Where there were many obstacles, we saw tremendous opportunities to innovate and move forward.
Taking advantage of opportunities is key to success. I was able to expand upon this very point recently at the Women’s History Month Conference, “Year of the Woman: Exploring the Legal Landscape”, hosted by the Wilke D. Ferguson Bar Association. To view please click here.
I joined a distinguished panel that focused on the importance of mentorship. I recalled how my mentor, Janet Reno, always said “Women can do anything they really want to do if it's the right thing to do.”
She gave me and the other women in the office opportunities that we might not otherwise have had, especially the opportunity to make tangible change and foster social renewal. For example, when I went to Janet and indicated that not enough was being done to help the victims of Domestic Violence, she simply said “Make a difference.” The result was Florida’s first prosecutorial unit devoted to domestic crimes. 

I have carried her words and her example with me through my professional and personal life. Mentoring young women and giving them opportunities to succeed ultimately benefits our entire community.

Currently, 173 of the 305 Assistant State Attorneys in my office are women. This is a stark contrast to when I first started at the SAO and there were only a handful of women prosecutors. Some male colleagues told us that we wouldn’t be able to make the cut. Well, what is it that they say about having the last laugh? 
Mentoring has always been an opportunity to pass on what we have learned, yet it also gives us time to think of how far we’ve come, how much further we have to go, and to learn from those standing on our shoulders.
I encourage you to be a mentor and support organizations that mentor young people. As a founding member of Women of Tomorrow and 5000 Role Models of Excellence, I can assure you that there is no more fulfilling a feeling than watching future generations flourish with our support.
Stay healthy, safe and strong.

Florida Senate District 37 Election
Criminal Charges Filed Against Frank Artiles and Alexis Rodriguez
On March 18th 2021, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a press conference to announce the filing of criminal charges against former Florida State Legislator Frank Artiles and alleged “ghost candidate” Alexis Pedro Rodriguez for crimes involved in the November 2020 election for Florida Senate District 37.
Though running a ghost candidate is not against the law, it is alleged that Artiles paid Rodriguez over $45,000, which prosecutors allege is a blatant violation of Florida campaign elections laws.
“We are alleging that Frank Artiles knows the law and his actions seem to say that those laws were meant for others and not for him,” said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “But let there be no mistake about it, no one is above the law.”
In-Person Jury Trials Resume in
Miami-Dade County
 The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the judicial system as all of the stakeholders took great care to ensure everyone’s safety and health. Commencing in March 2020, only those who were mission-critical were permitted to enter Miami-Dade courthouses.

Over the past year, the courts and litigants used virtual platforms to speak with witnesses and conduct arraignments, status hearings, depositions, and other proceedings. However, the courts were unable to conduct any jury trials until early March 2021.

On March 2nd, jury selection began in separate courtrooms for two criminal court cases. One was held at the Family Courthouse downtown for a misdemeanor Domestic Violence case, and the other took place at the Criminal Courthouse for a felony case.

“I am very proud of my Leadership Team and the work they did together with the courts, the Public Defender, other stakeholders and health experts to make sure that everyone appearing in person could participate in our criminal justice system in a safe and meaningful way,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “We especially want to thank those jurors who were willing to serve as they are a key to the administration of justice for victims and defendants.” 

All jurors were prequalified via Zoom and strict safety protocols were followed throughout the trials. Jurors were provided their own entrances to the courthouse and were required to wear masks and engage in social distancing.

Both cases were tried to verdict. The successful execution of the first two in-person jury trials pave the way for expanding the number of trials while continuing to follow all safety and health protocols. 
Continuing Justice Reform Commission

Proposed Bill To Uniform Policing Standards in Florida

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Pastor Carl Johnson, and Chief Charles Press co-authored an article about a bill proposed in the Florida legislature that would create new uniform training and policing standards for law enforcement throughout our state. This bill would require police officers statewide to undergo “de-escalation” and “implicit bias” training and intervene if a fellow officer is using excessive force.

“The intention of this bill is to keep both residents and officers safe,” says State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “Following a prayer walk last summer with religious leaders, law enforcement and community leaders, I created the State Attorney’s Continuing Justice Reform Commission which includes representatives from all areas of our community. During our virtual meetings, we were able to develop the ideas contained in this bill, which address and impact the community’s concerns and law enforcement’s desire for necessary and appropriate training.”

To read the op-ed piece published in The Miami Herald regarding this proposed legislation, please click here.

State Attorney Presents at FRRC's
Reimagining Justice Conference

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle participated in the Inaugural Reimagining Justice Conference hosted by the Florida Restoration Rights Coalition. She joined a group of panelists, including Broward County State Attorney Harold F. Pryor and Orange and Osceola Counties State Attorney Monique H. Worrell, to share their views about creating new pathways to reduce incarceration for individuals who suffer from mental health issues.
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle highlighted several of the successful initiatives she helped create and implement in Miami-Dade County such as:

• Civil Citations;
• The nation’s first Drug Court, leading to a national movement;
• Mental Health Court;
• Veteran’s Treatment Court;
• The “Second Chance” Program, which provides monthly Sealing and Expungement opportunities;
• and Implementation of Amendment 4, which restored the right to vote for eligible returning citizens who have completed their sentences.
The two day conference was recorded and will be streamed on April 14th and 15th. For viewing information, please visit FRRC's Facebook page.
Community Outreach in Action
Community Outreach Representative Angie Fernandez attended the South Florida Crime Prevention Association Meeting along with various law enforcement agencies.

They were able to share important information regarding crime trends throughout the South Florida community.
Community Outreach Representative Janeen Jones attended a special event coordinated by the Miami Children’s Initiative at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

The event was a tribute to cousins Sherrod Saunders and Abigail Bailey after Sherrod’s 6-year-old sister Chassidy was killed in a drive-by shooting last January. Following the tragedy, Sherrod expressed an interest in becoming a firefighter.”
Community Outreach Director David Maer attended the Community Prayer Vigil in solidarity with our Asian American brothers and sisters as we remembered the victims and families of those killed in the March 16th shootings in Atlanta, Georgia.

Elected officials and local community leaders joined numerous Asian American organizations at the well-attended event.
SAO Alumni Profile
Tania Sanchez,
Victim Advocate
Miami Beach Police Department
This month we highlight a woman who has dedicated her life to contributing to those in challenging circumstances. And though she is exposed to the darkest issues facing crime victims, she manages to maintain her positive disposition while helping them move forward. This month’s SAO Alumni Profile is Tania Sanchez.