Attorney Mitchell Stone Achieves Victory in Recent Case
Attorney Mitchell Stone represented 6 clients facing 494 criminal charges in a complex criminal case. Questioning the State’s evidence, conducting thorough research, and working with experts, Stone and his team were able to get the State to drop all but one charge and sentences of time served or probation for all of his clients.
The Facts of the Case
In March of 2016, the owners and employees of a business called Smokers Video were arrested and charged with various offenses ranging from RICO, continuing criminal enterprise, Manslaughter, sale of controlled substances, selling misbranded drugs. All charges stemmed from the sale of what was declared to be illegal synthetic cannabinoids, which are more commonly referred to as Incense, Spice, and K2.
The arrests were the result of a 3-year investigation led by the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor (OSWP) – the prosecutorial arm of the Florida Attorney General.
In exchange for their cooperation against Stone’s 6 clients, all of the other employees charged resolved their cases by pleading to minor charges for time served, or probation and withholds of adjudication. Stone and his team represented the main targets of the investigation. The OSWP was seeking convictions and significant prison time for all of Stone’s clients.
Motion to Dismiss
Attorney Stone, co-counsel Steve Mason and Frank Robbins were hired to represent the six main targets of the investigation. They began the defense by moving to dismiss the Information– the charging document that contained the hundreds of felony counts - based on legal and factual deficiencies
After successfully challenging the Information several times, the State filed its 8th Amended Information, a 350 page document containing 494 major criminal charges which included RICO, CCE and Manslaughter. Stone’s clients were facing hundreds of years in prison.
Analyzing and Researching the Charges
When reviewing the 8th Amended Information, Stone and his team noticed that the basis for many of the charges had changed from the 7 preceding Informations that had been dismissed. The amended charges were based on certain chemical compounds that were initially alleged as controlled substances being changed to allege analogues of controlled substances. That applied to the RICO charge as well. Additionally, the theory of prosecution concerning the manslaughter charge had been changed dramatically.
During the discovery period of a case the defense reviewed thousands of documents provided by the prosecution as required by law. While looking over the documents provided by the State, Stone’s team noticed that there were significant gaps and omissions. To fill the holes, motions to compel Brady (exculpatory) material were filed asking the court to require the State to turn over evidence that was favorable to the defense. The State resisted.
Meantime, Stone’s team enlisted the services of world renowned expert medical examiners and toxicologists to review the evidence concerning the cause of death on the manslaughter charge as well as the science the State was relying on the RICO, CCE and sale of drugs charges.
Because the State would not turn over the evidence needed to prove their theory of prosecution wrong, Stone’s team made hundreds of public records requests to the Medical Examiner (ME), NMS (the ME’s outsourced Lab), The OSWP, The Attorney General (AG) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) looking for emails, correspondence, reports and documents concerning the testing methods and other scientific issues that pertained to the case.
What they uncovered was disturbing.
The State’s own FDLE laboratory analysts essentially disagreed with much of what the State was alleging regarding crimes based on the analogue theory of prosecution.
Additionally, the State’s ME’s office had changed the cause of death determination of the decedent in the manslaughter charge three times. In fact, the documents uncovered demonstrated that the changes in the cause of death occurred after pressure from the OSWP. The reports appeared to have been changed to support the prosecution’s theory of the cause of death. The tail was wagging the dog.
Also, the OSWP had worked with the legislature to amend the analogue statute under which hundreds of charges were based - after our clients were arrested! An article co-authored by the prosecutor stated that the statute was insufficient as written. Nevertheless, the unconstitutionally vague statute formed the basis of numerous charges the OSWP was pursuing against Stone’s clients.
Finally, the defense ME experts reviewed the multiple autopsy reports and found the ME had missed something extremely important - the true cause of death! The defense experts determined that the cause of death was not due to synthetic canabinoids but was actually due to a genetic heart condition that had been completely missed by the State’s ME. Importantly, the State’s chief lab scientist admitted on cross examination by Stone that there was no scientific study supporting the State’s theory that synthetic camabinoids caused death.
Charges Dropped and No Prison Sentences
Stone’s team fought for over three and a half years to expose these facts. In the end, the State was forced to resolve the case by offering two of the clients a plea to one count for time served and withholds (no conviction), one client a plea to one minor felony for straight probation and a withhold (no conviction) and one client a plea to a minor felony for straight probation.
The two main owners of Smokers Video entered into a negotiated plea to one count of RICO with a 0-6 year prison range to be decided by the judge. Their sentences would be determined at a sentencing hearing.
Following a 12-hour sentencing hearing was conducted over two days, The State put on several witnesses and seemingly damning evidence and demanded the maximum of 6 years prison for both. Stone effectively crossed examined their witnesses and debunked much of their evidence. He then put on witnesses and mitigation and asked for straight probation - no incarceration for his final 2 clients. The Court ultimately agreed with Stone’s position and sentenced both clients - the main targets of the investigation - to straight probation.
in the end, none of Stone’s clients were sentenced to any time in prison despite how things stacked up against them when the case first started.
For Dedicated Legal Representation, Contact Mitchell A. Stone, P.A.
If you are facing criminal charges, turn to our firm for effective legal counsel. Criminal Law Board Certified Attorney Mitch Stone has extensive experience in handling complex criminal cases. He previously worked as a state prosecutor. He has spent the past 30 years practicing criminal law. This unique perspective allows him to thoroughly prepare for every case he handles, as he knows how the opposition works. As he did in the Smoker’s Video case, when you retain his services, he will investigate your case, look for weaknesses in the prosecution's allegations, and work hard toward obtaining a favorable outcome on your behalf.
Discuss your case during a free consultation by calling us at (904) 263-5005 or contacting us online.