2022 | Volume 2
A Message from the State Attorney

Dear Friend,
 Even though February is the shortest month of the year, it has been one of the busiest. As I shared with you in my previous newsletter, I and a few members of my Leadership Team travelled to Tallahassee to speak with our state legislators about the significant issues that are impacting our office and the community we serve.  To view my address before the Florida Senate Appropriations committee, please click here.     

We are thankful that the Florida Legislature has initiated a process to address the desperate needs of Florida’s criminal justice system. We are also hopeful that our Representatives and Senators, as they head toward the conclusion of the all-important budget process, will have a broad view of the present and future and supply sufficient funding to end this salary and hiring crisis we are facing.

My meetings with members of the Florida Legislature and their staffs were very positive and they recognized how important it is for our criminal justice system to recruit, develop and retain talented prosecutors and public defenders.  They are aware that our current salary structure renders us unable to compete with the salaries of other state, local, and federal governmental agencies.

Members of our business and faith communities and our community-at-large have reached out to us to see what they can do to express their concern and support. Their voices, along with yours, can truly make a difference.

That is why members of the business community and I are holding a press conference on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at my office, to express our collective concerns and to voice our support together for our ongoing efforts to hire, train and retain the best legal talent necessary to protect you, the people of Miami-Dade County and Florida.

Thank you once again for your continued support for the work that we do at the State Attorney’s office to keep our community a safer place to live, work and raise our families.
Stay safe, healthy, and strong.

Serial Killer Charged with
Murder of Homeless Men
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a joint press conference with City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, City of Miami Police Assistant Chief Armando Aguilar and ATF Special Agent-in-Charge of the Miami Field Office Christopher Robinson, to announce the filing of criminal charges against 25-year-old real estate agent Willy Suarez Maceo. 

“Thanks to the fine work of the City of Miami Police Department, in conjunction with my prosecutors, we can inform our community now that the seemingly random attacks on three homeless men have been solved,” said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle.

The Defendant is charged with two counts of First-Degree Murder for the October 16th, 2021 killing of 59-year-old Manuel Perez and for the December 21st, 2021 killing of 56-year-old Jerome Antonio Price. He is also charged with one count of Attempted Murder of 58-year-old Jorge Jardins, a crime for which he was already in custody.

“Every human being’s life has value regardless of income or status and is protected by our laws. Let it be clear to anyone who believes that they can target our vulnerable homeless population that we are united in protecting every member of our community,” concluded the State Attorney. 
SAO Investigates Claims of
Voter Registration Fraud
“We are aware of recent reports related to voter registration fraud. We have been investigating these claims for several weeks as we take these allegations very seriously,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

“Voting is one of our most sacred rights and privileges as citizens. We must all be diligent in protecting our individual rights as voters. Our right to vote and the voting process should always be free from interference and misconduct by others.”

According to Miami-Dade Elections Department records for 2021-2022, more than 5,000 registered Democrats switched their party affiliation to Republican. However, some Miami-Dade County residents have reported that their voter registration was changed without their permission. All the alleged victims are more than 65 years of age.

“My Voter Protection Hotline and Task Force are operational to ensure that all citizens are secure in knowing their State Attorney’s Office protects their individual rights as a Miami-Dade County voter. If you believe that any part of your voting process, whether it be your ballot, registration or otherwise, was tampered with, please contact my Elections Hotline at (305) 547-3300 and the Miami-Dade Department of Elections at (305) 499-8683. Our team of prosecutors and investigators will respond to your complaint.”
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office stands ready to act on every citizen’s behalf to preserve the integrity of their vote.
SAO "Second Chance" Program
Sealing and Expungement Event

The SAO Community Outreach Division (COD) resumed monthly in-person “Second Chance” One-Stop Sealing and Expungement (S&E) events in February. They held the first event at Ronselli Park in the City of Sweetwater. Of those who came to the event, 67% were eligible to seal or expunge a criminal case from their record.

The “Second Chance” Program helps individuals arrested for certain low-level offenses obtain court orders sealing and/or expunging their records. This greatly enhances these individuals’ career, educational, and housing opportunities.

The event was conducted in partnership with the Office of Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez, Clerk of the Court Harvey Ruvin, and the Office of the Mayor of the City of Sweetwater Orlando Lopez. State Attorney Fernandez Rundle is very appreciative of their support as by bringing all the necessary parties together at one location, these events make it easier and more efficient for eligible individuals to seal and expunge their record.

For more information on the “Second Chance” Program, please call 305-547-0724 or visit https://miamisao.com/community/seal-expungement/
SAO Celebrates Black History Month
"I take great pride that the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office is a diverse workplace where everyone has a voice and every culture is embraced," said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

On Friday, February 25th, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle joined nearly 100 members of the SAO family in celebration of Black History Month.

SAO team members enjoyed a delicious lunch featuring Caribbean jerk chicken and conch fritters along with soul food staples like collard greens and cornbread.

Onlookers experienced a showstopping performance from the Sunshine Junkanoo Band whose music filled the atmosphere with the festive sounds of drums, brass horns, cowbells, and upbeat dancing. Several audience members joined in the fun and moved their feet to the Junkanoo beat.
The luncheon was a fitting conclusion to the month-long series of programs that included:
• The State Attorney’s Black History Month Public Service Announcement;
• A visual display in the lobby of our main building;
• A social media campaign highlighting local Black History icons;
• A Black History Quiz; and
• An Afrocentric Attire Competition
Hadassah Chapters Honor
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle was honored for her significant work in combatting antisemitism by the Hadassah Simcha Chapter and the Hadassah Inter-American Chapter at their joint event benefitting heart research at Hadassah Medical Organization.

"I am humbled by this award and thank the members of Hadassah Simcha Chapter and Inter-American Chapter, for their unwavering partnership in our efforts to raise awareness about and encourage the reporting of hate crimes,” commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. "For over a decade, my team and I have been working with the Anti-Defamation League, our close partner, fighting hate crimes and anti-Semitism and we will continue to do so.”

“The Ugly New Face of Antisemitism” event included a presentation by the State Attorney about recent antisemitic incidents and the work the SAO Hate Crimes Unit continues to do to keep our community safe.

"I am proud to have created a Hate Crimes Prosecution Unit whose work represents not just our commitment to upholding the law, but a commitment to making our community as safe as possible for everyone, no matter who you are."
In The News
Arrest for Witness Tampering in Human Trafficking Case
Businessman Pastor Charged
in Scheme to Defraud

Former TV Producer Charged
in 3rd Sexual Assault Case
Ex-Police Lt. Convicted of Molesting Two Young Girls
Defendants Claim Self-Defense,
Hate Crimes Charges Stand
City of Miami Beach
Facilities Supervisor Charged
Courtroom Highlights

·        Congratulations to DCs Natalie Snyder and Khalil Madani on securing a guilty verdict against former police officer Braulio Gonzalez on one count of Armed Kidnapping and eight counts of Lewd and Lascivious Molestation on a Child under 12 years of age. The jury deliberated for approximately 15 minutes before returning the verdict.

At the time of his arrest in 2018, the Defendant was a lieutenant at the Miami Dade Police Department. The victims were part of his biological family. 

In 2018, one of the victims was suffering from severe depression and displaying many symptoms often associated with abuse. Her parents took her to therapy where she disclosed that the Defendant molested her when she was between the ages of 8-10. After the Defendant’s arrest for molesting the younger victim, both girls started therapy at Kristi House. Through therapy, the older Victim also disclosed she had been molested by the Defendant. Charges were filed against him for molesting both victims.

The Defendant had a long history of domestic violence and Internal Affairs complaints against him, including some from multiple other police officers. All the complaints were cleared after investigations by his department. Many people involved in our case were deathly afraid of the Defendant and MDPD went above and beyond to protect the victims and their mother from potential retaliation by the Defendant.

A conviction would not have been possible without the solid investigation by Special Victims Bureau Detectives Jacqueline Caso, Robert Santana, and Desiree Serrano. After the arrest, all three continued to be emotionally supportive of the victims and were vital to ensuring key witnesses appeared to testify. Trial Coordinator Valerie Ford’s dedication to the case is also commended. She worked extra hours to make sure the victims and witnesses appeared when they needed to, and she was an emotional rock for them during the trial itself. 

But in the end, this victory would not have been possible without the victims. This Defendant had defeated numerous allegations of violence in the past. The strength of the two young victims in coming forward and testifying in court ensured that the justice was served.

The Defendant faces 47 years at the bottom of his guidelines with several Minimum Mandatory sentences. Sentencing is set for April.

·        Congratulations to ASAs Sara Merrill and Cristina Palmer for obtaining a guilty verdict on the charge of Armed Robbery with a Firearm.

The Victim in this case stopped to speak to a woman on the street late at night who told him to meet her around the corner. When the Victim drove to the corner, he was surprised by two unknown men. The Defendant opened the Victim’s passenger side door, pointed a firearm with an extended magazine at him, and demanded all his belongings, including his wallet, phone, and the clothes he was wearing. The naked Victim drove away and was able to locate a police officer. The Defendant fled on foot and had evaded capture when the Victim returned to the scene with the officer.

Months later, a detective was investigating this Defendant on separate narcotics cases and saw a “Need to Identify Flyer.” He immediately alerted the Lead Detective in the Armed Robbery case, which led to the creation of a lineup and the positive identification of the Defendant by the Victim.

Though there was CCTV footage of the event before and after the robbery, there was no video of the robbery itself. ASAs Merrill and Palmer used demonstratives and the CCTV videos to logically piece the series of events together. After two hours, the jury agreed the charge was proven and returned a verdict of guilty as charged. 

A special thanks to the Litigation Support Unit for their work with the demonstrative evidence and blow-ups of images.

·        Congratulations to Division Chief Jonathan Borst and ASA Wally Hernandez on receiving a guilty verdict in a Shooting a Deadly Missile and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon case.

The Defendant was charged with the shooting death of our Victim in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. The Defendant spotted the Victim’s vehicle at the corner store, went back to his home to retrieve a firearm, and returned to wait for the vehicle to pass by. The Defendant brought his 3-year-old son to the shooting. As the vehicle slowed near him, the Defendant began shooting at the driver of the vehicle through the passenger side window. A passenger in the back seat began to return fire through the closed rear window. The shooting was captured on video by the surveillance cameras at a nearby store. The Defendant fled the scene and was apprehended several days later after an arrest warrant was issued.

The two surviving witnesses were unfortunately uncooperative and hostile, so the entire case was based on the video evidence and the defendant’s false and self-serving statement provided to detectives. 

After the State rested, the mother of the Defendant’s children testified that the Victim had a reputation for violence and had killed an individual who was a close friend of the Defendant several months before this shooting. The defense claimed that this belief heightened the Defendant’s fear of the vehicle. The State argued that this provided a motive for the killing itself and that the shooting was retaliation for his friend’s alleged murder. It is confirmed that the Victim was a person of interest in the death investigation of the Defendant’s friend.

The Defendant testified that the video of the shooting was “lying,” and that the Victims shot at him first. He also claimed that he didn’t know who was in the vehicle, but that the Victims were pointing and looking at him prior to the shooting, and he reasonably believed his child was about to be the victim of a drive-by shooting. The Defendant attempted to plead the fifth on cross examination when asked about the firearm, but ultimately admitted to buying the gun off the streets prior to the date of the homicide. 

Jurors acquitted the Defendant of the murder and child abuse charges but found him guilty of Shooting a Deadly Missile and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. This was believed to be a compromise verdict, possibly since there were no witnesses from the vehicle who could explain why they were driving by the Defendant. Ultimately the jurors at least found the Defendant responsible for the shooting into a vehicle, and he is now facing up to 45 years in state prison as the. Defendant is a habitual offender. 
A special thanks to Trial Coordinator Mary Clifford and Unit Supervisor Elizabeth Frade for the assistance they provided.

·        Congratulations to Child Support Program ASA Carmen Callison for obtaining a ruling of a $2,400.00 purge during a hearing on a Motion for Contempt. Child Support was previously ordered in the amount of $763.10 per month ($9,157.20 per year) for the support of three children.

In the year 2018, the father only paid a total of $300.00 in child support for the entire year. Since that time, the father continued to average a mere $300.00 in total child support payments per year. The mother testified that the father has owned his own company since 2018.

ASA Callison proved by preponderance of the evidence that the father had the ability to pay his child support from income he was earning under the table and willfully violated the Court’s Order by not paying.
Community Outreach in Action
Community Outreach Representatives Janeen Jones, Yeileen Jacome and Ana Hume participated in the Peace Walk & Peace Talk: 10th Year Anniversary at Ives Estates Park in Northeast Miami-Dade to honor the life of Trayvon Martin on the day that would have been his 27th birthday.
Community Outreach Representative Angie Fernandez was proud to attend the Hialeah Community Coalition (HCC) Meeting at which the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Dr. Rahul Gupta, participated in a youth-led conversation about the work being done to prevent youth substance use and help members of the Hialeah community live safe and healthy lives by implementing evidence-based approaches. Angie is the SAO’s Liaison with the Hialeah community and regularly attends their monthly meetings.
COD Representative Janeen Jones conducted an informative presentation for students at William H. Turner “Turner Tech” Technical Arts High School’s Academy of Criminal Justice, led by Academy Leader Eric Clayton, MPA.
Janeen shared the role, vision and mission of the SAO and the importance of diversity within the field of Criminal Justice with the students. She also explained the role of a Community Outreach Representative, which includes building relationships within the community and acting as a liaison between our office and our community.
Community Outreach Representatives Yeileen Jacome and Ana Hume participated in the Centro Mater Annual Family and Health Fair in Little Havana, sharing information with parents and guardians in attendance about the various SAO programs we offer such as Child Support and Sealing and Expungement.
Community Outreach Representatives Yeileen Jacome and Ana Hume attended the Allapattah Neighborhood Association Public Meeting and shared information and resources with community residents about our numerous SAO programs and services, including Sealing & Expungement, Child Support, S.T.A.R.T. Program, Child Fingerprinting and more.

COD Representatives Angie Fernandez and Ana Hume partnered with the Westchester Miami Dade Chamber Of Commerce for their 3rd Annual Job Fair and Career Expo at Brave Church.
Angie and Ana provided attendees with listings for open SAO positions, employment opportunities, and assisted with inquiries regarding our Sealing and Expungement Program to facilitate future career pursuits.
UPPAC: Under-represented Peoples'
Positive Action Council
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle was the Keynote Speaker at the Under-represented Peoples’ Positive Action Council (UPPAC) event hosted by former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Betty T. Ferguson.

UPPAC is a progressive group that meets weekly to address issues of concern in the black community.

State Attorney Fernandez Rundle spoke to the group about our "Smart Justice" approach and our efforts to achieve fair, compassionate, and equitable outcomes.
Major topics discussed included our juvenile and adult Civil Citation Program, our diversion programs, bail and bond issues, and our Sealing and Expungement Program.
4Ward Gala and Pa'lante Awards

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle proudly attended the 4Ward Gala and Pa’Lante Awards, an annual event promoting diversity and inclusion in South Florida.

Several South Floridians who have helped build bridges in the LGBTQ community were honored at this Sixth Annual event, and the State Attorney introduced one of the honorees, her friend and colleague Judge Victoria Sigler.

Other honorees included the Executive Director of Neighbors and Neighbors Association Leroy Jones who is also the Lead Organizer for the Circle of Brotherhood.

“It is truly important that we always come together and show our support to those members of our community who are most vulnerable, and reassure them that crimes committed against individuals based on gender and gender identity, will not be tolerated in our community,” commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. 

“I am very proud of the good work that Damian Pardo and his team do to help promote awareness, diversity and inclusion of our LGBTQ community.”

SAO Alumni Profile
Judge Eric Wm. Hendon,
Florida Third District
Court of Appeal
This month we highlight a distinguished former member of our SAO Team.

This month’s SAO Alumni Profile is the Hon. Judge Eric Wm. Hendon.