State Attorney Brian Haas

Enrollment Opens for Second Annual SAO Citizens Academy

 

State Attorney Brian Haas

State Attorney Brian Haas

The State Attorney’s Office is accepting applications for the second annual Citizens Academy.

The eight-week program will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each Thursday starting March 12 in the Bartow courthouse. The Academy gives residents in the 10th Circuit an opportunity to learn more about the criminal justice system. Citizens will hear from some of the top prosecutors in the circuit about how they develop cases then take them to trial. Please click on the link below to apply for the Academy. The deadline to apply is Feb. 28. Please visit www.sao10.com/about-us/citizens-academy/.

 

website footer badge

Jason Elsea

Lakeland man receives life sentence for raping 14-year-old girl

 

Jason Elsea

Jason Elsea

A 35-year-old man was sentenced to two life sentences Thursday for raping a 14-year-old girl who became pregnant and later gave birth.

Jason Elsea, of Lakeland, pleaded guilty in December. Before Elsea was sentenced, Assistant State Attorney Ashley McCarthy urged Circuit Judge William “Bill” Sites to sentence Elsea to life in prison.

McCarthy explained to Sites that Elsea’s actions in 2018 were egregious.

She said Elsea had a number of opportunities to do the right thing but continued to have sex with the girl even after he knew she was pregnant. The girl, McCarthy said, must live with the emotional scars the rest of her life.

In addition, McCarthy said that after Elsea found out the girl was pregnant he fed her medication in an attempt to abort the fetus.

Sites told Elsea his actions were atrocious. He sentenced Elsea to life in prison for the two counts of sexual battery on a child under 18.

“What you did was one of the most horrible things that a person can do,” Sites said.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney McCarthy and the Lakeland Police Department for their work on the case.

 

website footer badge

 

 

Jamaal Smith

Miami man sentenced to life for 2016 fatal shootings

Jamaal Smith

Jamaal Smith

A Miami man was recently sentenced to life in prison for killing three Lakeland residents during a robbery inside a Lakeland home in 2016.

Jamaal Smith, 29, became the second person sentenced in the brutal killing and robbery of Angelica Castro, Eneida Branch and David Washington. In 2019, Johnathan Alcegaire, 31, was sentenced to death by Circuit Judge Jalal Harb on the three murder convictions.

Smith was sentenced to a mandatory life sentence by Harb following a decision by jurors not to recommend a death sentence.

Andrew Joseph, a third defendant, will face the same three murder charges in a trial in May.

Assistant State Attorneys Mark Levine and Kristie Ducharme prosecuted the case against Smith. Jurors convicted Smith of the murders before the trial entered the death penalty phase.

“Make no mistake about it,” Levine told jurors during closing arguments. “There are four victims in the case and the defendant is not one of them.”

“His intentions could not have been clearer in what he planned to accomplish,” Levine said.

Levine said that when Smith and Alcegaire left the house, they believed they had “successfully wiped them out.”

But Felix Campos survived a gunshot wound to the face. During the trial, Campos testified that Smith had shot him below his ear.

Alcegaire, Smith and Joseph were all selling drugs out of Miami. Washington had been buying drugs from Andrew to sell in Lakeland.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorneys Levine and Ducharme and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work on the case.

 

SAO 10 seal with social media logos

 

 

Michael Gordon

Judge sentences man to die for fatal stabbings of mother, daughter

Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon

A circuit judge sentenced a man to death today for the fatal stabbings of a mother and daughter in Haines City in 2015.

Circuit Judge Jalal Harb upheld the unanimous death penalty recommendation for Michael Gordon by a jury from 2019, writing in a sentencing order that Gordon’s actions were “consistent with the conclusion that he acted with indifferent reckless to the lives of the victims.”

“Consequently, this Court finds that the Defendant’s involvement was substantial and far from a codefendant who acted as a getaway driver to the robbery,” Harb wrote.

Harb continued that evidence presented showed that Gordon was the “most culpable actor in the events of January 15, 2015.” Gordon’s vehicle was used during the robbery, Gordon was the first to enter a pawn shop that was robbed, and it was Gordon alone who entered the victim’s home and killed her and her daughter.

During Gordon’s trial, Assistant State Attorneys Paul Wallace and Kristie Ducharme explained how Gordon and three co-defendants robbed an Auburndale pawn shop at gunpoint on Jan. 15, then led police on a high speed chase to the Chanler Ridge subdivision. Gordon forced his way into the home of Patricia Moran, 72, and her daughter, Deborah Royal, 51. He stabbed the women more than 50 times, then stole Moran’s car and drove through a garage door in an attempt to escape.

In January, a co-defendant, Devonere McCune, was sentenced to life in prison after jurors convicted him of second-degree murder, armed robbery and three counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. In 2018, a second co-defendant, Terrell Williams, was sentenced to life in prison following his conviction of first-degree murder. The third co-defendant, Jovan Lamb, has also been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled for 2021.

During the death penalty phase of Gordon’s trial, Wallace argued that Gordon’s violent past, including a prison stabbing and a shooting in Lakeland should be given great weight.

Harb agreed in his order, stating that Gordon’s past along with the first degree murder convictions of Moran and Royal “amounts to a substantial aggravation.”

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorneys Wallace and Ducharme and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work on the case.

 

 

SAO 10 seal with social media logos