Haas administers oath for Polk Police Chiefs Association

Haas administers oath for Polk Police Chiefs Association

LAKELAND – Chief Larry Giddens, of the Lakeland Police Department, raised his right hand to be sworn in as President of the Polk County Police Chiefs Association Thursday evening by State Attorney Brian Haas.

Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens, right, shakes State Attorney Brian Haas’ hand after being sworn in as President of the Polk County Police Chief’s Association Thursday evening at the Lake Mirror Cetner. (Photo by the Lakeland Police Department)

Giddens, Florida Polytechnic Police Chief Richard Holland, Auburndale Police Chief Chris Nelson and five other directors were sworn in at the association’s 35th annual meeting at the Lake Mirror Center. Holland was named vice president, and Nelson was named Secretary and Treasurer.

After being sworn in as president, Giddens thanked his staff and credited them for always having his back. He acknowledged the sacrifices each officer makes daily, adding that he feels “pride and admiration” to work alongside them.

Giddens also referenced three integral factors that keep departments like his and others in the county running smoothly: unity, communication and teamwork.

“We have to have all three of those working together to make sure we’re able to provide the very best law enforcement services to our community,” he said Monday. “Since the State Attorney’s Office is an instrumental part of what we do, it was only natural to ask Haas to administer the oath.”

Haas gladly accepted the invitation.

From left to right: Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado, Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens, State Attorney Brian Haas and Lakeland Assistant City Manager Shawn Sherrouse. (Photo by the Lakeland Police Department)

Prior to the oath, four members of law enforcement were recognized as law enforcement officer of the year:

– Detectives Maria Sorenson and Jeffrey Bradford from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
– Sgt. Joseph K. Parker from the Lakeland Police Department (LakelandPD).
– Lt. Gerald Dempsey from the Lake Alfred Police Department.

Three people received distinguished service awards: Master Police Officer Stephen Rusich from the Winter Haven Police Department, Sgt. William Reall from the Bartow Police Department and Deputy Robert Bryant from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

“I was honored to administer the oath of office to the officers of the Polk County Police Chiefs Association. The partnership between law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office is critical,” Haas said. “We are thankful for the hard work and dedication of law enforcement in our community.”

Footage of the ceremony can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/LakelandPD/videos/10155009295885159/?pnref=story

Vincent Madhavath, 45, was found guilty as charged by a jury on Thursday, Sept. 29.

SENTENCING UPDATE: Winter Haven man gets 20 years

Vincent Madhavath was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday for hiring a hitman to kill his wife.

Vincent Madhavath, 45, of Winter Haven.

Madhavath, 45, was convicted of attempted first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder by a jury on Sept. 29, 2016, after a three-day trial in front of Judge Yancey. Following his 20-year sentence, Yancey also gave him 10 years of probation.

During the trial, jurors learned Madhavath planned to have a hitman – who was an undercover Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent – enter his home after midnight and shoot his wife in the head.

The undercover FDLE agent and Madhavath met numerous times between May 2014 and August 2014 to discuss the details of the murder. In a video recording from one of their meetings, Madhavath handed the agent $5,000 in cash and a photo of his wife.

Assistant State Attorney Ashley McCarthy asked Judge Yancey to sentence Madhavath to 30 years in prison.

“He may not have been the one pulling the trigger,” McCarthy said, “but he’s more dangerous because he’s the mastermind.”

Madhavath’s wife pleaded with the judge to only sentence him to eight years because she needed him at home to help with their children. Friends of Madhavath’s sent in letters on his behalf, telling the judge he’s a “good guy.”

McCarthy said that Madhavath may seem like a good person from his friends’ perspectives, “but we saw the real him,” she said.
Judge Yancey sentenced him to 20 years, stating that he believed Madhavath was living a double life.

Trevontae Shuler, 21, of Lake Wales.

JURY VERDICT: Lake Wales man guilty of armed robbery

Trevontae Shuler walked up to Pizzano’s Pizza with a red hoodie tied tightly around his face and a gun in his hand.

The firearm Shuler used to rob Pizzano’s Pizza sits in evidence Wednesday during trial.

About 5:15 p.m. on April 15, 2016, Shuler entered the Lake Wales store and pointed the weapon at the 16-year-old cashier, demanding she give him all the money from the register. Once he had the cash in hand, Shuler fled from the Lake Wales store, avoiding arrest by Lake Wales Police Department officers and a K-9.

Five days later, police spotted Shuler – who was wearing a hoodie tied around his face – at a RaceTrac. Shuler fled from officers again but was apprehended by a K-9 after ignoring requests to stand down.

A two-day trial came to a close after the jury deliberated for less than five minutes Thursday morning, finding Shuler guilty of robbery with a firearm.

Trevontae Shuler, 21, of Lake Wales.

Shuler was released from prison for grand theft of a firearm, trafficking in stolen property and attempted burglary of a dwelling just five months prior to committing the Pizzano’s robbery. He faces life in prison and will be sentenced for robbery with a firearm on January 26.

Law enforcement later found that the firearm Shuler used had been taken from a friend he was living with. They recovered the gun in a shed on another person’s property.

The defense attorney argued that because there was no evidence of fingerprints on the gun, anyone could have taken it. But when law enforcement checked the serial number on the firearm Schuler used and the one that had been taken from his friend, they matched.

Assistant State Attorney Jaenea Gorman reminded jurors that Shuler told law enforcement he took the gun from his friend.

“Why do we need fingerprints or DNA to prove it? He told you where he got it,” Gorman said. “We don’t need anything else.”

In closing statements on Thursday, she told jurors Shuler’s actions leading up to the incident proved that his sole intention upon entering Pizzano’s was to rob it, to which he later confessed. But the defense claimed Shuler’s confession was forced and that he had been falsely accused.

“These aren’t statements from somebody who is falsely confessing. These are statements from somebody who was actually there,” Gorman said, urging the jury to think back to Shuler’s taped confession that was played in court.

She reminded them that Shuler remembered exactly what he told the Pizzano’s cashier when he pointed the gun at her. He even repeated it to the detective: “Give me all of the cash out of the register.”

“Nobody prompted him to say that (in the confession),” Gorman said. “The detective wasn’t suggesting the answers. He was asking, and the defendant answered.”

Leo Jackson, 56, of Bartow, was found guilty of shooting into a building and trespassing by a jury Thursday afternoon.

JURY VERDICT: Bartow man guilty of shooting into ex’s house

Leo Jackson parked his scooter in the shadows and walked toward his ex-girlfriend’s house with a loaded firearm.

Assistant State Attorney Natalie Oven holds up the firearm Leo Jackson used to shoot into his ex’s house. She also presented a shell casing and projectile to the jury as evidence.

About 11 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2015, Jackson walked around his ex’s house, yelled obscenities and shook the window air conditioning units. He then lifted his firearm and shot twice – first into the dining room window, scattering shards of glass across the room and onto the victim’s Christmas tree, and second into the siding of the house.

Jackson, 56, of Bartow, was found guilty of shooting into a building and trespassing by a jury on Thursday afternoon. Immediately following his conviction, Jackson was sentenced to 10 years in Florida State Prison by Judge Kelly Butz.

Leo Jackson, 56, of Bartow, was found guilty of shooting into a building and trespassing by a jury Thursday afternoon.

Jackson’s taped statements were played in court during the two-day trial, and in an interview with law enforcement, Jackson said there was no way he could have shot into the house because he’d been at home all evening. Police reminded him that when they arrived on scene, his scooter’s engine was warm.

Further attempts to exonerate himself included Jackson telling law enforcement he didn’t know the victim – even though he’d dated her for 10 years – claiming he had no reason to have been at her house.

But Assistant State Attorney Natalie Oven told jurors there was a reason Jackson fired shots at his ex’s home: He was upset that she’d had broken up with him and was dating another man.

The defense argued that the incident had nothing to do with a lovers’ quarrel and that his client was framed, but Oven rebutted the defense’s claims through witness testimony.

Not only did the victim recognize Jackson’s voice when he was yelling at her, a woman sitting across the street saw him park his scooter and lurk around the house before shooting into it.

ASA Oven holds up a photo of the gold scooter Jackson parked outside his ex’s house. A witness saw him drive up on it before he shot into the house.

The woman, who has known Jackson and the victim for three years and was aware of their breakup, said she found it odd that he was flitting in and out of the shadows around the house.

She said she had no doubt it was Jackson because she saw his face.

“It’s the defendant who did it,” Oven said in her closing statement Thursday. “He’s the one with the motive. He’s the one who’s angry.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed through ballistics that a shell casing found outside the house and a projectile recovered from the siding matched Jackson’s firearm.

“Not only did a shooting occur, but we know that it was no one other than the defendant,” Oven said. “No reasonable, logical conclusion could lead anyone to believe it was someone other than him (Jackson). The evidence points only to him.”