2021 | Volume 5
A Message from the State Attorney
A Message from the State Attorney

Dear Friend,
Last week I had the honor of hosting the swearing-in ceremony for our Fall 2021 class of Assistant State Attorneys. Every year, when I look at the faces of those who have answered the call to serve our community as prosecutors, I am energized by their hope, passion, and emotion. This year was particularly moving since we were able to conduct the ceremony in person.

Excitement filled the air as those in attendance recognized the importance and solemnity of the moment. Becoming a minister of justice comes with great responsibility. As I watched them raise their right hands and take their oath, I knew that our new prosecutors will continue to fulfill the Office’s primary mission to protect and defend the community while upholding and enforcing the law through our Smart Justice approach.

I was also privileged to be a part of our New Employee Orientation for our support staff. This committed and dedicated group will be responsible for a variety of functions that keep the wheels of Smart Justice in motion. After speaking with them, I know they will fit into our SAO family perfectly.
Our team is truly the Best Team in America. Members bring a variety of abilities, skills, talent, experience, and views. Each of them plays a critical role in the Office. Collectively, they serve and protect all members of our diverse community. 

Thank you for supporting your SAO and all of those who work to serve our community.

Stay healthy, safe and strong.

Miami Beach Police Officers
Face Criminal Charges
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami Beach Police Chief Richard M. Clements held a press conference to announce that five Miami Beach Police officers had been charged in connection with the rough arrests of Dalonta Crudup and Khalid Vaughn at the Royal Palm Hotel on July 26th 2021.

The State Attorney also played video footage from hotel surveillance cameras and officers’ body worn cameras that show various angles of the incident where the officers charged used excessive force against the two men.

“I do believe that body-worn cameras are an important part of policing, and as you know, I advocated from the very beginning, along with the former chief of the Miami Beach Police Department, for their countywide usage. They played a critical role in this case,” said the State Attorney.

The video shows an officer kicking Crudup three times before slamming his head into the ground, although Crudup was already in handcuffs. A second officer also kicked Crudup at least four times, according to the video. Khalid Vaughn, who was filming the incident about 12 to 15 feet away, is seen backing up as officers approached him, charged at him, tackled him to the floor and repeatedly punching him.

Further information obtained surrounding the arrest of Mr. Crudup Miami Beach's Royal Palm Hotel, has yielded sufficient evidence to elevate the previous misdemeanor charges against 3 of the Miami Beach Police Officers involved to felonies.

“Police officers face a variety of dangers on the job each and every day, however, Excessive force can never be an acceptable foundation for the policing of any community," said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "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."
Arrests Made in ID Theft Scam
Targeting Victims of
Champlain Towers South Collapse
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a joint press conference to announce the arrests made in identity theft cases targeting victims of the collapse of the Champlain Tower South Condominium.

“To think that only 16 days after the horrific collapse of the Champlain Towers, these cyber grave robbers were already planning on how they would access the victims’ bank accounts to enrich their own pockets. Their acts are despicable and shameful,” commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

Betsy Alejandra Cacho Medina, Kimberly Michelle Johnson, and Rodney Choute were arrested. Among the charges they face are:
•            Organized Scheme to Defraud
•            Identity Fraud
•            Trafficking in Credit Cards
•            Use of Counterfeit / Fictitious ID

“I am truly proud of the intricate work performed by my prosecutors, Cybercrimes Division Chief Stewart Hedrick and Stacy Cleveland of my Economic Crimes Unit, who worked tenaciously alongside our law enforcement partners (MDPD, Aventura PD, Surfside PD, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Marshal and Postal Inspector General) to ensure this heartless trio of criminals who preyed on the victims and families of this tragic building collapse will be held accountable for their crimes.” 
State Attorney and City of Miami Police
Meet to Discuss
Gun Violence Reduction Efforts
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle hosted a meeting with members of the City of Miami Police Department and our SAO Gun Violence Reduction Initiative team to discuss our concerted gun violence efforts in the community.

Specifically, ways to improve the lines of communication between the agencies were discussed in order to achieve a faster rate of notification when serious gun violence incidences occur.

State Attorney Fernandez Rundle highlighted the success of the models currently in place in Northside and Miami Gardens. Everyone was very receptive and fully supportive of our continued collaboration to combat gun violence.
In The News
Courtroom Highlights
Trial Victories
·        Congratulations to Narcotics ASAs Kyrsten Melander and Justus Hogge after the jury found the Defendant guilty of Trafficking in Fentanyl over 28 grams, Conspiracy to Traffic in Illegal Drugs over 100 grams, and Unlawful use of a 2-way Communications Device.

Undercover City of Miami Narcotics Detectives reportedly arranged to buy “pressed” oxycodone pills from a Sinaloa Cartel affiliate. On July 17, 2020, the Sinaloa Cartel sent a female trafficker to sell 9,800 fentanyl-pressed oxycodone pills on their behalf, with an agreement to sell an additional 10,000 pills in the upcoming week. The Defendant was arrested after the sale was completed. After testing, the lab determined that there were 9,640 total pills, amounting to 1051 grams of fentanyl—an amount equivalent to over 300,000 lethal doses.

The prosecutors successfully litigated numerous complicated, including motions relating to Co-Conspirator Statements; ensuring the safety of the CI and an informant during the investigation and trial; introducing the lead detective as an expert witness in large scale drug trafficking organizations; allowing prosecutors to educate the jury that co-conspirators in cartels often do not know each other; and silent witness theory issues in phone calls with the CI.

The Defendant is now facing two 25-year mandatory minimum sentences and will owe over 1 million dollars in statutory fines.

A special thanks to Marcia Alexander, Sheila McGregor, Gladys MaClao, and Olga Orbis for their assistance in preparing for this trial; the team at Litigation Support for all of their help creating exhibits and with last-minute changes and redactions; Assistant Chief of Narcotics ASA Jessica Caso Pedraja for her support; Chief Assistant Howard Rosen and Deputy Chief Tim VanderGiesen for their support throughout the trial; Division Chief Stephen Mitchell, Division Chief Johnette Hardiman, Senior Trial Counsel Michael Van Zamft, and ASA Chris Flanagan for their wisdom and help ensuring the safety of the informant witness; and Senior Trial Counsel Abbe Rifkin for doing her opening training (where ASA Melander got the idea to use a blown-up timeline).

•   Congratulations to ASAs Robert W. Rust and Mark Lopez-Trigo for obtaining a guilty verdict in a case where the Defendant was charged with Fleeing to Elude a Police Officer and Reckless Driving. 

While conducting traffic enforcement, officers observed the Defendant and a female passenger riding a red, 4-wheel ATV Raptor northbound on 127th Avenue. The officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop for illegal use of an off-road vehicle. 

They made hand gestures for the Defendant to stop, but the Defendant kept going. The officers go on their their patrol motorcycles, turning their lights and sirens on. The Defendant continued to drive away, leading to a high-speed pursuit. When the Defendant encountered heavy traffic, he began zigzagging between cars, jumped the ATV onto a sidewalk, and then ran three steady red lights. 

Eventually, both officers lost sight of the Defendant when he disappeared into a sub-division. Seeing as it was “Bike Night” at a nearby restaurant, the officers rode their motorcycles to the location in search of their suspect. The Defendant was arrested roughly ten minutes later when he reappeared with the female passenger. The entire case hinged on the officers’ ability to identify the Defendant, which ultimately was based on the model of the ATV and the individuals’.

During the trial, the State called the female passenger as a hostile witness. After a two-and-a-half-hour deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts.

A special thanks to ASA Freddy Figueroa for his advice and guidance throughout trial, and to Angel del Castillo and Trevor Wanless from Litigation Support for their help with exhibits. Additionally, a huge shout to Marcella Navarette for coordinating the witnesses and their trial availability, and to Janelle Medina for, her unending support. Finally, a special thanks to ASAs Jen Garcia, Josh Padron, Juju Ruiz-Necuse, and Michael Iglesia for their quick-help in providing caselaw research and support throughout trial.

International Women’s Forum
Equity in Policing
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Chief Assistant State Attorney Stephen K. Talpins joined members of IWF Florida Chapter’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee to share the SAO's existing policies and practices in the areas of Diversity and Inclusion.

"I am always proud to engage with our community partners and share my office's Smart Justice practices," said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle.

"My team and I love to share our successful community-based programs such as our 'Second Chance" Sealing & Expungement Program, which has assisted thousands of Miami-Dade County residents and provided new employment and housing opportunities for them."
State Attorney presents
Juez Carlos "Benito"Fernandez
CABA Scholarship
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle was proud to present a scholarship in honor of her late father at the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) Foundation’s Annual Scholarship Awards Reception. The Juez Carlos Benito Fernández Scholarship was awarded to Danielys Cardoso Cervantes, a student at the St. Thomas University College of Law.

“I am extremely proud to be able to honor a daughter of this community,” said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “In many ways, her life story and educational journey from her native Cuba mirror the movement of so many of the people in our community."
Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association
Executive Board Installation
and Scholarship Ceremony
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle recently participated in the Wilke D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association’s virtual Executive Board Installation and Scholarship Ceremony.

“Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association is an incredible resource in our legal community” said State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. "It takes a village to administer SMART Justice and they true partners in keeping our community safe.”

Named after the acclaimed Miami-Dade County jurist Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr., this voluntary bar association is committed to cultivating excellence and inclusion in the legal profession.
Onsite Free Testing
for Employees at SAO
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle worked with Miami-Dade County to bring free ongoing COVID-19 testing to our various locations for our employees and interns.

“I am thankful to have Nomi Health partner with us to help keep our SAO family and our community healthy and safe,” said the State Attorney. “Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I take advantage of the opportunity and get tested once a week to help protect everyone around me. It is fast, easy and painless!”
SAO Partners with Project New Leaf
for Sealing, Expungement and
Rights Restoration Workshop

The State Attorney’s Office is partnering with Greenspoon Marder in their “Project New Leaf” Expungement, Sealing and Restoration of Rights Workshop. The event will be held at Greater St. Paul AME in Coconut Grove on October 16, 2021 from 9am-4pm. Pre-registration is required as space is limited.

Also partnering in this event are the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts, the Miami Police Department, and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

For more information click here. 

SAO Tenure Presentation

Please enjoy our latest SAO Virtual Tenure Presentation honoring 61 of our SAO family members with a combined total of 895 years of service.

Join me in celebrating the Best Team in America!

Community Outreach in Action
 Community Outreach Representative Janeen Jones participated in the Inaugural National Day of Remembrance Breakfast in Florida City. 
SAO co-hosted the event with local government and community leaders, including Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kionne McGhee, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss, President and CEO of the Carrie Meek Foundation, Inc. Lucia Davis-Raiford, Founder of Survivors Affected by Gun Violence Leatha Sherill-Bush, Pastor John Dye and mothers who have lost children to gun violence. 
Community Outreach Representatives Yeileen Jacome and Angie Fernandez joined City of North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo and Vice Mayor Paule Villard, Liaison to the Commission on Aging/Senior Citizens Advisory Board, for the City's Senior Luncheon at the Marjorie & William McDonald Center.

A special Proclamation was presented to Winnie Tang, Chapter President at OCA - South Florida Chapter, and Community Advocate.

Community Outreach Representative Angie Fernandez was at South Miami City Hall this afternoon sharing valuable information with residents about our numerous community programs, including ID Theft and steps to take if your identity is compromised, Child Internet Safety Tips and other safety programs available thru our office's Community Outreach Division.

For more information or to schedule one of our presentations, please call 305-547-0724 or send an email to Communityoutreach
Community Outreach Director David Maer and SAO volunteer team members from our Child Support Program, Beverley Anderson and Christian Hincapie, participated in the Health Fair and Book Bag Giveaway at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church this past weekend, offering information on SAO services and programs to attendees.
Community Outreach Representative Janeen Jones partnered with Career Source for a Job Fair at Hard Rock Stadium as part of the Orange Blossom Classic events.

To explore SAO Support Staff employment opportunities, please visit: miamisao.com/careers/support-staff-openings/

C.O.D. Representatives Yeileen Jacome and Angie Fernandez celebrated the “Happy Mid-Autumn Festival” with the Asian American Senior Group of North Miami Beach. North Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Rand and staff, Joshua Ho (Miami-Dade County Asian American Advisory Board), and Winnie Tang (President of the Asian American Federation of FL) were also in attendance.
SAO Profile in Passion
Sandra Lawrence,
Victims Services

This month we highlight a distinguished member of our SAO Family.

This month’s SAO Profile in Passion is Sandra Lawrence.