Thursday, December 3, 2015

News from the State Attorney's Office...


I am thrilled to announce that we have partnered again with the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) to collect and distribute hundreds of toys to needy children and families of our community.

We have set up collection boxes in the lobbies of our different SAO office sites to gather toys for children victims of the State Attorney's Office and community agencies Centro Mater and Abriendo Puertas that serve our most needy.

Of all the things available during this holiday season, the gift of hope is often the one that can do the most good. If a small present lights up a child's eyes and brings a smile to a parent, then we have done some good and lessened the weight that trouble and misfortune carry with it.

You can help us put a smile on the face of children who otherwise would not have a present to open during the holidays. We will be accepting all types of contributions through December 15, 2015. The toys must be new and unwrapped.

For more information regarding this initiative or to organize a pickup of your donation, please email our Community Outreach Division at or contact us directly at 305-547-0724.

Let's fill these boxes as much as we can and make 2015 the best holiday season ever for our precious children.


State Attorney Attends Important Community Forum

    State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and panel at New Birth Baptist Church

State Attorney Speaking at Forum
State Attorney and Ms.Tara Michole Parks
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle participated in a panel at an important Community Forum hosted by Bishop Victor Curry at his New Birth Baptist Church in Opa-Locka. The event was organized by the National Action Network.

The forum brought together key leaders in the community who listened to and addressed the concerns primarily of grieving mothers who tragically lost their sons to senseless killings. Members of the audience in attendance also had the opportunity to address the panel.

"I had the opportunity to embrace State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, commented Ms. Tara Michole Parks, whose son was a victim of this senseless violence. "The sincerity of her heart for families who have lost a loved one was real. We had questions she had answers. I'm thankful that she was there and she's going to address matters."

Conviction in Facebook Murder Case
 Source: Miami-Dade Corrections
Derek Medina, the man who uploaded a photo of his wife onto Facebook after murdering her, was found guilty of 2nd Degree Murder by a Miami-Dade County jury. He was also found guilty of Shooting a Deadly Missile and Child Neglect.

Medina, who claimed self-defense, shot his wife Jennifer Alonso eight times and admitted to taking the photo on his phone and posting it on to the social media site.

Domestic Crimes Division Chief Leah Klein, Assistant Chief Scott Dunn, and Assistant State Attorney Joshua Hubner presented the case before Judge Yvonne Colodny.

"No family should ever have to see their daughter killed and then exhibited world-wide on the internet like some macabre trophy to a husband's anger as was Jennifer Alfonso," commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Far, far too often this kind of domestic violence leads to injury and death. That's why we all must end all forms of domestic violence. The jury carefully viewed all the evidence and came to the correct conclusion that Derek Medina coldly murdered his wife to heal his own injured ego. When he is sentenced, we will be seeking a life sentence."

Two Charged in Insurance Fraud Scheme
As a result of a joint investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department, 55 year old Violeta Otero, the owner and operator of the Sunshine Wellness Clinic, and 52 year old Ida Mercado Rico, a patient broker, were charged in an insurance fraud scheme which targeted the Miami-Dade School System by defrauding its self-insurance plan.
Utilizing forms previously completed at the Sunshine Wellness Clinic, insurance accounts of a number of Miami-Dade School District employee patients were filed for medical treatments and injections which never occurred. Many of these patients were initially recruited to come to the clinic by Ida Mercado Rico and were often paid in cash by Ida Mercado Rico.
Violeta Otero and Ida Mercado Rico have been charged with Organized Scheme to Defraud, Grand Theft and various other Felony charges.
"Insurance fraud is an attack on every individual on every person who pays an insurance premium," commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Insurance fraud scams that steal from our public school system take dollars intended to make our schools function, dollars that can educate our children, and put those dollars into the pockets of thieves. I applaud this partnership which allows my prosecutors and the Miami-Dade Schools Police to effectively shut down such swindlers."

State Attorney's Office Alumni Profile
 Judge Ilona Holmes, Criminal Division, 17th Judicial Circuit
Judge Ilona Holmes, presently presiding on the criminal court bench of Florida's 17th Judicial Circuit, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "I'm originally from North Philly. We moved to Deerfield Beach, Florida in 1974 after my father died. My mother had family here including her mother Ella Nobles who lived to be 108 years old!"

As a child, Judge Holmes decided that she was going to be a lawyer. This momentous revelation happened one evening while watching television with her father.

"I remember being 7 years old watching Perry Mason with my dad. I turned to him and said 'Daddy, I can do that'. He looked at me and said 'Well then, go on and do it'. That is when I decided that I was going to be a lawyer".

Judge Holmes always felt her parents' deep emotional support. "My dad never finished high school though my mother did. They were hard working people. We didn't grow up rich but we grew up happy."

Unfortunately, that happiness was impacted by the death of Judge Holmes' father and the family relocating to be with relatives in Florida. "I remember when we moved to Florida, my sister and I didn't like it here. It was a very different culture than our hometown. So my sister and I plotted to run away and go back to Philly," she chuckles. "Now I can tell you that I never want to live anywhere but Florida!"

Judge Holmes received her B.A. degree in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University and her Juris Doctorate from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

The summer before her third year of law school, Judge Holmes was already a Certified Legal Intern working at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.

During her internship, Judge Holmes received a call from then State Attorney Janet Reno to come to her office. "I panicked and tried to think of what I had done wrong. I waited outside her office for about 20 minutes before I was told to go in. I kept trying to think about any errors and trying to come up with a defense. Then Ms. Reno said 'I have been going over your work. Everybody including the judges you have appeared before love your work. I am prepared to make you an offer to come and be an Assistant State Attorney once you graduate."

"I was so excited! It was unbelievable that I was actually getting a job before graduation. I was the only 3L in my school who did not interview because I already had a job."

"Once I graduated, I packed my used 1980 Caprice Classic that I had purchased for $400 and had a lot of miles on it. I packed all my stuff in it and drove to Florida. It actually broke down in Bonifay, Florida, but at least I got out of Texas!"

Judge Holmes became an Assistant State Attorney at the SAO in July of 1982. She remembers that Judge Ellen Morphonios, a Miami legal legend, swore her in. Judge Morphonios then immediately made her pick two juries that very day, even before she could go and celebrate with her proud family.

She remembers the support and guidance that she received from State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "I remember that Kathy helped me and she was instrumental in my growing at the SAO. I would go to her office and she would answer all of my questions. I know that she went to bat for me and I am grateful."

"I always knew that Ilona would make a great judge," said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "It wasn't just that she worked hard as an ASA and was dedicated to the craft of being a lawyer. It had more to do with her firm grasp of the concept that the law is intended to serve the people, not the people intended to serve the law."

Judge Holmes also attended Florida Atlantic University/Florida International University, Miami, Florida, from 1984-1987 taking courses toward a doctorate (PhD.) in Public Administration.

She served as an Assistant United States Attorney from 1991 until being appointed to the Broward County Court bench by Governor Lawton Chiles in 1995.

From May 1995 until June 3, 1998, Judge Holmes served as a County Court judge. On June 3, 1998, she was appointed to the Broward Circuit Court assigned to the Criminal Division. Judge Holmes served in the Civil Division of the courts from 2003-2005 and has presided over many multi-million dollar cases.

She returned to the Criminal Division in 2005 where she served as Administrative Judge over the Criminal Division from 2008-2010. Currently Judge Holmes is assigned to the Criminal Division presiding in the Extended Trial Division (ETD) trying murder, sexual battery and robbery cases of persons incarcerated more than 750 days.

Judge Holmes is heavily involved in judicial education. She is on the Florida Court Education Council and the Education Committee for the Conference of Circuit Court Judges as well as being on the faculty of Florida's Judicial Colleges for Phase I (for newly appointed and elected judges) and Phase II ( for newly appointed judges and for judges changing division assignments). Judge Holmes has been reappointed as the Criminal Track Head for Florida's College of Advanced Judicial Studies (2013-present).

"I also teach at The University of Ft. Lauderdale, which is fully accredited, and where I am also chairperson of the board of trustees."
Judge Holmes is always involved in the community. "It is the most rewarding thing that I do outside of the courtroom," she admits. "I always say that unless you get involved, don't complain."

"What I can tell young prosecutors is to follow your passion. If you are at the SAO, you will learn about the law and about justice. I am so glad to know that State Attorney Fernandez Rundle has established a six week training for new ASA's to teach them how to deliver true justice."
"I also want them to know that Rules are there for a reason. Follow them because when you cut corners, you earn a reputation that you cannot live down."

Judge Holmes has a passion for the law and for people. When she dismisses individuals not selected to participate in juries, she does it personally. "I get off the bench and go outside to the hallway and thank them for being a part of the process."

When trials are concluded, Judge Holmes personally gives each juror their certificate and shakes their hand. "Juries remember me because I make court interesting. I teach them about the process and value the role that they play in it."

"I am the only African American woman on the circuit bench in my circuit. I tell the younger lawyers that my job has been to hold the door open for them. And I've had to put up with a lot of stuff. I've been on the bench for 20 years and I tell them they have to come up and take over."
Although she has had many accomplishments over the years, has received numerous awards and is highly regarded in both the legal and overall civic community, she remains a humble person. "I'm just a poor girl from North Philly that God has tremendously blessed."

Courthouse Highlights
Hand and GavelSexual Battery Division Chief (DC) Laura Adams, assisted by Trial Coordinator Charlotte Haslem, got a guilty as charged verdict in a Kidnapping, Aggravated Child Abuse, and Sexual Battery on a Child Less than 12 case before Judge Colodny. 
Assistant State Attorneys (ASAs) Serahi Pelayo and Amanda Daniels obtained a guilty verdict on a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case in front of Judge Newman.
ASAs Ethan Timmins and Shaun Quinn got a guilty verdict on a DUI case (3rd w/in 10 years) and the defendant was sentenced to 180 days in the county jail and a 20 year license suspension.
Don't Allow the Public's Trust to be Jeopardized.

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Grand Jury Reports
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Our Community Outreach Events
hands and globe
December 2 - Juvenile Justice Community Forum, New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, 6700 NW 14 Avenue, Miami, FL, 33147, 4:00PM - 8:00PM

December 5 - La Catedral Del Pueblo Community Health Fair, La Catedral del Pueblo, 190 NW 79 Street, Miami, FL, 33126, 10:00AM - 2:00PM

December 5 - Celebrating Safe Communities, Homestead Hospital, 975 Baptist Way, Homestead, FL, 33033, 1:00PM - 5:00PM

December 5 - Coconut Grove Ministerial Alliance, Greater St Paul AME Church, 3680 Thomas Avenue, Miami, FL, 33133, 8:00AM - 10:30AM

December 7- Walking One Stop at Little Haiti,City of Miami Model City Police Sub-Station, 1000 NW 62 Street, Miami, FL, 33150, 9:30AM - 12:00PM

December 8 - Creating Harmonious Communities, Edison Community Center, 212 NE 59 Terrace, Miami, FL, 33137, 8:00AM - 4:00PM

December 10 - Chapman Partnership Fingerprinting Event, Chapman Partnership, 1550 North Miami Avenue, Miami, FL, 33136, 6:00PM - 8:00PM

December 10 - Coconut Grove Crime Watch, Greater St Paul AME Church, 3680 Thomas Avenue, Miami, FL, 33133, 6:30PM - 8:30PM

December 12 - 16th Annual Bike Rodeo & Safety Day, Royal Oaks Park, 16500 NW 87 Avenue, Miami, FL, 33018

December 19 - 2nd Annual South Dade Community Health & Resource Fair, Homestead/WIC Florida City Clinic, 753 W Palm Drive, Florida City, FL, 33034, 8:00AM - 1:00PM

January 28 - Sealing & Expungement Event, Joe Celestin Center, 1525 NW 135 Street, North Miami, FL, 33167, 4:00PM - 7:00PM

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