2022 | Volume 1
A Message from the State Attorney

Dear Friend,
 As we begin 2022, I personally am filled with excitement and a sense of hope for what this New Year will bring. Though for the past two years it may have felt that the world was on pause, we at your State Attorney’s Office have been hard at work. We have reviewed, updated and adapted our practices, taken advantage of new technologies to protect our community in a better, more efficient way, saving both time and money. 

This week, I will be in Tallahassee to speak to our State Legislators to address a very important issue that impacts the work we do. 

Our felony caseloads have skyrocketed due to the pandemic. As difficult as it would be for us to handle them during normal times, it is far more challenging now because our prosecutor and support staff vacancies are at an all-time high. We find ourselves unable to recruit or retain skilled prosecutors and staff due to disturbingly low pay, our uniquely high cost-of-living and housing market, and student loans that in some cases are over $120K.

Our ASAs and support staff make tremendous sacrifices to protect our community and exemplify what it means to be public servants. Our prosecutors, in particular, always have willingly foregone the much higher salaries they can get in private practice. However, today we are basically asking them to take a vow of poverty and pass up positions that offer them at least double the amounts we can afford to pay, and the impact has been devastating for recruiting and retention.

In the last 10 years, the number of individuals applying for positions as ASAs has plummeted from 1,831 to 335 while turnover is high. Last year alone, my office lost more than 80 prosecutors. 

Additionally, we have close to 200 support staff vacancies and our remaining staff struggles to complete even the most critical tasks on time. Simply stated, starting salaries for all SAO team members need to be increased significantly.

We cannot have an effective criminal justice system if we cannot recruit or retain prosecutors and staff. Each and every member of our community, of YOUR community, depends on us for their safety and well-being.

Here I have included my Op-Ed pieces that were published in The Miami Herald and the Florida Bar News.

We urge you to reach out to your legislators today and ask them to provide us with the funds we need to protect our community, YOUR community.

Once again, I want to thank you for your continued partnership and support for the work that we do at the State Attorney’s office.

If you would like to know more about what we do for you, please visit our website www.miamisao.com and also follow us on social media
Thank you and God Bless.

SAO Police Accountabiliy and Integrity Team:
3 Officers Charged
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a press conference to announce the filing of 3 cases where prosecutors believe that law enforcement officers overstepped the generous discretion allowed under Florida law. All three defendants are being charged with criminal Battery, a 1st degree misdemeanor.

Those charged are former Miami Gardens police officer Jaiver Castano, Opa-locka Police Department Captain Sergio Perez and Miami-Dade police officer Joseph E. Diaz. Diaz is also charged with one count of Official Misconduct, a 3rd degree felony.

“There is no doubt our community is blessed with hundreds of good, hardworking, dedicated men and women in uniform and we should appreciate their service,” said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “Though most police officers say they have concerns about their physical safety when on the job, excessive force can never be acceptable in the policing of any community. Officers who forget that fact do a grave disservice to the people they have sworn to serve, grave harm to their department, and belittle the hard work that each of their fellow officers tries to accomplish in the community.”

The State Attorney also announced the creation of her Police Accountability and Integrity Unit (PAIT) which works alongside the SAO Public Corruption Unit to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

“I wish to credit FDLE Special Agent-In-Charge Troy Walker, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez III and Miami Gardens Police Chief Delma Noel-Pratt for swiftly recognizing the wrongs committed in these instances and working to bring these matters to the attention of myself and my prosecutors. The people of Miami-Dade County deserve the best law enforcement agencies in America.”
Celebrating the Life and Legacy
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle was proud to participate in two very special events celebrating the amazing life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Every year, I look forward to participating in these cherished traditions in our community to honor him and the indelible impact he had on the world,” said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle.
The day’s events began with the 5000 Role Models of Excellence 29th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast that was again held virtually due to the pandemic. Thirty-seven young men, students from Miami-Dade Public Schools, were honored for their achievements and received Wilson Scholarships, named after U.S.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. “For me, it is an honor to have been involved with the 5000 Role Models Project from the very beginning. To see these young men, who have put in such dedication and commitment along with their mentors, is a very moving experience,” said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. 
Congresswoman Wilson founded the organization to mentor at-risk youth in 1993 and today, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project services 100 schools from elementary through high school.

The online ceremony was co-hosted by Miami-Dade County Commissioners Kionne McGhee and Oliver Gilbert III, and Jason Jenkins, Senior Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs for the Miami Dolphins. This year’s speakers included Second Gentleman of the United States Doug Emhoff, CNN’s Don Lemon, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton.
After the 5000 Role Models event, State Attorney Fernandez Rundle took part in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade which runs through Liberty City. The parade route is eight miles long and is the actual route that Dr. King traveled during his frequent trips to Miami.   “Being a part of the parade is truly a joyful experience when we all can get together in person and honor the sacred (not sure about the appropriateness of the word “sacred” to define the parade route) ground that he walked on in our very own community.”    
Grand Jury 2021 Spring Term Report:
“Surfside Condo Collapse: Recommendations to Make Buildings Safer"
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's Statement Regarding the Miami-Dade Grand Jury Report Addressing the Champlain Towers Condominium Collapse

"All Floridians, everywhere in the state, deserve to know that their condominium homes are, and will remain, safe,” says State Attorney Fernandez Rundle.

To view the full statement, can be viewed here.

To view the Grand Jury 2021 Spring Term Report titled “Surfside Condo Collapse: Recommendations to Make Buildings Safer, please click here.
Human Trafficking Awareness Month
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle
and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Join for Virtual Meeting to end Human Trafficking
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle was honored to be invited by Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. to speak at a virtual national conversation with their brothers and guests in an effort to understand what Human Trafficking is and how we can work together to end it.
"It was an honor to be able to speak with such a prestigious organization of men who are making a difference in their communities and throughout the world," said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “I look forward to continuing this important conversation with them and also expanding to other topics regarding our Smart Justice approach to criminal justice.”
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle was joined by Human Trafficking Unit prosecutor Jeffrey Pierce and Phi Beta Sigma Brothers Charles Phipps and Ray Woodrick for the virtual conversation with members of the fraternity who participated from all over the country.
SAO Human Trafficking Task Force
Joins City of North Miami's
for Virtual Human Trafficking Awareness Rally

Members of the State Attorney's Office Human Trafficking Task Force participated in the City of North Miami's Virtual Human Trafficking Awareness Rally.

This third annual event was geared toward students from 7th through 12th grade that attend either public or private schools.

For more information regarding Human Trafficking, please visit humantrafficking.miamisao.com
Conversation on Criminal Justice Reform

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and members of her leadership team had a very productive virtual meeting with Acting Essex County (New Jersey) Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II to discuss criminal justice reform.
Combating Elderly Exploitation

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle met with Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rene Garcia, Agency for Persons with Disabilities General Counsel Francis Carbone, Department of Children and Families Acting General Counsel Andrew McGinley, and members of her leadership team, for a combined virtual and in-person meeting to discuss elderly exploitation issues in our community focusing on enhancing supervision in adult group homes.
In The News

Courtroom Highlights
Trial Victories
•          Congratulations to ASA Leonard Thompson and Deputy Chief for Special Prosecutions Tim VanderGeisen on receiving a guilty verdict by a jury for Attempted Premediated Murder and Shooting/Throwing a Deadly Missile. The Defendant is facing 25 years to Life with a Firearm which carries a Minimum Mandatory sentence.
While incarcerated, the Defendant learned that his girlfriend was being unfaithful. After being released from custody, he found out the identity of the man. In the early morning hours of September 20, 2020, the Defendant followed the Victim’s vehicle and fired 11 shots at him. Luckily, the Victim was only grazed by one of the bullets. This Defendant has an extensive criminal history, including a previous conviction for murder. It took only 15 minutes for the jury to come back with the guilty verdict.
A special thanks to Victim/Witness Counselors Samantha Mesa and Alexa Perdomo, Travel Coordinator Idalvis Trujillo, Investigator Eric Rodriguez, Giovanni Garcia-Morffi and Tony Nixon, who were critical in effectively putting this case together. 
•          Congratulations to ASAs Sandra Demirci and Joshua Padron for obtaining a Guilty Verdict on charges of Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer and Resisting an Officer with Violence.
While on mounted patrol, a City of Miami Police Officer felt an object fly by his face. When he turned around, he made eye contact with the Defendant, who was the only person on the street at the time. The Officer and his partner approached the Defendant who cursed at them and threatened them with a metal-tipped umbrella. For Officer and horse safety, the Officer dismounted his horse and began conducting a lawful pat down of the Defendant. The Defendant then threw his right elbow back, striking the Officer in the right shoulder before taking a fighting stance and pulling the Officer to the ground. The Officer was then able to handcuff the Defendant and take him into custody.
A very special thanks to Victim/Witness Specialist Janelle Arguelles for her assistance with this trial.

•          Congratulations to ASAs Nicole Navarro and Jonathan Sallah. The jury returned a guilty verdict for Felony Battery even though the Defendant claimed self-defense and refused to accept any plea offers.
The Victim hired the Defendant for a roofing job. After several disagreements over a contract price, the Defendant attacked the Victim and punched him repeatedly in the eyes and bit his fingers. The Victim was transported to the hospital where he remained in the ICU for three days.
ASA Sallah reminded the jury they were in a criminal courthouse, and the case was not a contract dispute or civil matter involving monetary damages. When ASA Navarro cross-examined the Defendant, she highlighted inconsistencies in his self-defense claim.  The jury deliberated for two hours before returning the guilty verdict.
•          Congratulations to ASAs Pamela Agudelo and Jennifer Hernandez-Garcia for receiving a guilty verdict on a Battery on a Law Enforcement, Resisting Officer with Violence, and Failure to Obey a Police Officer case.

Jury selection began on a Monday at 2:00 p.m. but the first panel was discharged due to their overwhelming bias towards law enforcement. A second panel was pulled the next day and the jurors were sworn in at 1 p.m.

On June 22, 2020, the Defendant was riding his bicycle in Coral Gables against traffic. A Police Officer directed the Defendant to ride his bike in the correct lane. The Defendant uttered some colorful words at the Officer and continued to drive his bike against traffic. Five minutes later, the same Officer spotted the Defendant riding his bike on Miracle Mile which is a violation of the City of Coral Gables Code of Ordinance. The Officer then attempted to stop the Defendant, who resisted the Officer and kicked him in his shin. Multiple officers had to be called to assist with the Defendant’s arrest.

The Defendant scored nonstate prison and rejected the State’s offer of the Pre-Trial Intervention Program. Accordingly, the case proceeded to trial. During deliberation, the jurors requested to hear playback of the Officer’s testimony and of a witness who testified that the Defendant was resisting arrest. After an hour of playback, the jurors came back within five minutes with a guilty verdict on all counts.

The ASAs would like to thank Victim/Witness Counselor John Zoeller for his coordinating efforts during the trial. 

•          Congratulations to ASAs Katharine Moore and Justus Hogge for obtaining guilty verdicts against the last two co-Defendants in a four co-Defendant Armed Robbery Conspiracy case. 

ASA Moore had been on this case since the pre-file stage and took it all the way through trial. She and ASA Hogge previously secured a 27-minute guilty verdict for one of the co-Defendants who received a Mandatory Life sentence as a Three-Time Violent Felony Offender. The fourth co-Defendant pled his case out to 20 years in state prison followed by 10 years of probation. The final two Defendants will receive mandatory life sentences as PRRPs.
On April 25, 2019, one of the Defendants, who was the Victim’s coworker, informed his friends via text message that his co-worker had received a large sum of cash earlier that day. Video footage showed a vehicle parked in front of the Victim’s place of work for more than 20 minutes. When the Victim exited his job, two gunmen exited the vehicle and demanded his wallet. Less than five minutes after the robbery, a detective with MDPD’s Tactical Robbery Unit observed a vehicle matching the BOLO and immediately stopped the vehicle. Each Defendant was in possession of money taken during the robbery. Within the first hour, detectives discovered video evidence of the two Defendants exiting the vehicle and robbing the Victim at gunpoint. 
Prosecutors used job logs of the Victim and one of the Defendants, surveillance video, phone records, text message screenshots, Body Worn Camera footage and jail calls as evidence. The jury reached the inevitable conclusion that these Defendants were guilty as charged of Armed Robbery with Firearms, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery, and Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

Special thanks go Support Staff Members Shaun Williams, Angie Davila, Chandra Taylor, Sheila McGregor for their invaluable assistance during this case.

•          Congratulations to ASAs Michael Monajemi and Emma Nunn for obtaining a guilty verdict in a case of Possession with Intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Deliver Cocaine.
Officers went to a convenience store during on a proactive enforcement in an area known for drug sales. Once inside, Officers walked to the back room where they found the Defendant hunched over on a bed attempting to conceal drugs. Within arm’s reach was a clear baggie filled with 49 other smaller baggies containing cocaine.
A special thanks to Victim/Witness Coordinator Kelly Usher-Villazan for her assistance and work on this case.

•          Congratulations to Economic Crimes Unit ASAs Mary Ernst, Suzanne Von Paulus, and Stacy Cleveland for their well-earned guilty verdicts in a 2016/17 complex financial fraud against a husband-and-wife team. Both Defendants were found guilty as charged for 1st Degree Money Laundering, Organized Scheme to Defraud Over $50,000, and Grand Theft over $100,000. 

The Defendants stole $1.8 million from another local family, which was their entire life savings. The female Defendant, a licensed realtor, enticed the Victims to invest in properties to flip together along with her husband, the Co-Defendant who was a handyman. Though the Victims thought they had invested in more than 30 residential properties, in reality, the Defendants simply used their money to fund their lavish lifestyle. This included several foreign vacations and over $200,000 worth of gambling spent at the Miccosukee casino.

The Defendants created fraudulent sales contracts and deeds to promote their money laundering and theft scheme. They would occasionally return small amounts ($20k-$50k) to the Victims from supposed profits from a particular flip sale. Thus, the Victims believed the scam to be real and continued to invest until their life savings were gone.
The trial took an entire week and involved the introduction of multiple sets of bank records, certified deeds, vacation photos, screenshots of wire transfers, Sunbiz records, and 31 packets of fraudulent purchase and sales documentation given to the Victims.
The female Defendant blamed the Victims for being gullible and said that she was “just trying to make money.” However, she did congratulate ASA Ernst for doing a great job organizing all her financial paperwork. 

Special thanks go to Victim/Witness Coordinator Tracey-Ann Spencer and Legal Assistant Danielle Richardson who assisted with Victim/Witness Coordination.

State Attorney Fernandez Rundle
Hosts Meeting with
Children's Bereavement Center

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and members of her leadership team were joined by Children’s Bereavement Center (CBC) Clinical Director Dr. Daniel Sheridan for a virtual meeting with community organizations, including Parents of Murdered Children, Mothers Fighting for Justice and RJT Foundation, for a collaborative strategy that will offer support to grieving individuals who have suffered a loss of a family member and/or friend through the non-profit organization CBC.

For more information, please visit childbereavement.org
SAO Annual Toy Drive 2021
Our SAO 2021 Annual Toy Drive with our amazing partner, the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA), was truly a success!

We received an incredibly wonderful array of toys for children and victims of all ages and a great donation of gift cards were collected from members of CABA, our own SAO team, former prosecutor David Macey and his wife Sheri, Miami-Dade Citizens Crime Watch, and Coral Gables Crime Watch.

“I am truly grateful for our community’s contributions and my SAO team members and I enjoyed great pleasure as we saw the smiles on the children’s and victims’ faces when they received their toys or gift cards,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “These gift cards are gifts of hope for these children and victims, as most of them would otherwise not have had a gift to open for the holidays.”

The recipients of this year’s Toy Drive included children victims from our closed cases and human trafficking victims, Francesco Duberli from Survivor’s Pathway, Tangela Sears of Florida Parents of Murdered Children, Regina Talabert of Noricia Talabert Dream Foundation, Terry Elliott from The Ark of the City, Romania Dukes of Mothers Fighting for Justice, Leather Bush of The Jack Brown III Foundation, and Sherly Knight-Swan on behalf of Denise Brown from the RJT Foundation.
SAO Tenure Presentation

Please enjoy our latest SAO Virtual Tenure Presentation honoring 44 of our SAO family members with a combined total of 835 years of service.

Join me in celebrating the Best Team in America!

Community Outreach in Action
Community Outreach Representative Janeen Jones participated in the Dade County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Sigma Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity’s “Human Trafficking Symposium and Resource Fair”.

The theme “Breaking the Chain…Healing the Pain” was held at the Omega Activity Center in Opa-Locka.
Community Outreach Representative Yeileen Jacome joined members of the Miami Beach Police Department, local business owners and residents, for an 8 mile Community Bike Ride through North Beach.

Later that day, she
attended the 20th Annual Sparkle for Crime Prevention Lunch for a Cause with members of the City of Hialeah Police Department and United Home Care.

Community Outreach Representative Angie Fernandez conducted one of our S.T.A.R.T. Program presentations for students at Ronald W. Reagan Doral Senior High School.

Our "Stop, Think, Ask, React, and Tell" (S.T.A.R.T.) Program raises awareness on important subjects and issues students may encounter in school such as weapons in school, bullying, sexting, and internet safety.

Community Outreach Representative Angie Fernandez participated in Career Day at Everglades K-8 Center and shared career opportunities at the SAO and what we do for and in the community via our Community Outreach Division.
For more information or to schedule one of our presentations, please call 305-547-0724 or send an email to [email protected]
Community Outreach Representative Janeen Jones joined Miami-Dade Police Director Freddie Ramirez, Miami-Dade County Director of the Community Relations Board Dr. Shirley Plantin, and our former Investigator and current Deputy Police Chief for the City of North Miami Beach Ervens Ford, for the monthly Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement Committee Meeting.
Topics discussed included "Kickin' it with Cops" (Police Community & Recruitment Event Social Justice Initiative) and Officer Mental Wellness.
Community Outreach Representative Yeileen Jacome attended the Safer Together event at Juan Pablo Duarte Park Friday evening hosted by the Allapattah Collaborative, CDC- Fellows Program and City of Miami Police.

The Fellows Program students were from Miami Jackson Senior High and Miami Dade College and chose the theme of their Community Engagement Project to focus on crime prevention and policing.

SAO Profile in Passion
Mariangelli "Angie" Fernandez,
Community Outreach
This month we highlight a distinguished member of our SAO Family.

This month’s SAO Profile in Passion is Mariangelli 'Angie' Fernandez.