Charged with Murder After Fatal Fentanyl Overdose

[Image Via Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]

It’s long been a crime to sell and distribute illegal drugs, but now, more and more drug dealers are facing an additional crime: murder.

In what cases can a drug dealer be charged with murder? And what led to a recent murder charge over a drug deal in Tampa?

An Overdose

On November 5, 2023, Querran Talley, 27, was found dead on a couch inside of a gazebo at The Happy Travelers RV Resort in Thonotosassa, Florida.

Near the deceased, authorities found crack cocaine, a glass smoking pipe, and the man’s phone. Tally’s phone helped tell the story of what happened. The phone revealed that Tally had used Facebook to message Anthony Mansfield, 47.

Tally and Mansfield agreed to meet at the Garden View Motel, located at 2500 E. Busch Blvd. Video footage would later show Tally enter Mansfield’s room around 2:40 a.m. on November 5. Records would also show a $35 transaction on Tally’s Cash App, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Tally’s Lyft app records showed he took a ride back to Happy Travelers RV Resort shortly after visiting Mansfield’s room. Around 5 p.m. that day, Tally was found dead.

The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Talley’s death to be caused by the combined effects of cocaine, ethanol, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and oxycodone, with the fentanyl being a “significant factor,” per the Tampa Bay Times.

An Arrest

Months after Tally’s death, the man he met with on the day of his overdose was charged with first-degree murder. Authorities say Mansfield is responsible for Tally’s death because he sold him the fentanyl that led to his death.

Investigators had already charged Mansfield with crimes before the murder charge. On November 16, 2023, an undercover detective bought fentanyl from Mansfield. The arrest led to a search of the same hotel Tally had visited. In the room, police found crack cocaine, fentanyl, and a phone, which had messages between Mansfield and Talley.

Mansfield, who was already being held at the Falkenburg Road Jail, was charged with first-degree murder on April 18, 2024.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Can a Deadly Overdose Lead to Murder Charges?

Federal prosecutors can charge someone who distributes fentanyl that leads to a death, but federal authorities have not had the capacity to pursue every street-level dealer, as reported by the New York Times. Now, state and local officials are stepping in. Local authorities have started holding more dealers accountable when they sell drugs to someone who later overdoses.

Florida law allows prosecutors to bring a first-degree murder charge when a person dies as a result of the unlawful distribution of drugs. 

Other states have also become aggressive in pursuing homicide charges against dealers who sell drugs that lead to death. In Riverside County, California, the district attorney has charged 34 suspected fentanyl suppliers since late 2021, per the New York Times.

This case is also not the first of its kind in Florida. Back in May 2022, this blog covered the story of Robert Michelmore being charged with murder after a woman died shortly after buying drugs from him. In December 2023, Richard Brian Thorpe was charged with two counts of first-degree murder after two men died after using drugs purchased from him. In February 2024, Sean Lamont Bray was charged with one count of manslaughter after he sold cocaine and fentanyl to a woman who later overdosed and died.

Charges against drug dealers who sell narcotics that lead to death are becoming more common.

The Most Serious Drug-Related Charges

Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a)(3) states that any person supplying drugs to another person can be charged with homicide if the person dies after using the substance.

First-degree murder is the most serious charge of all homicides and is considered a Capital Offense. A conviction of first-degree murder can be punishable by life in prison with no parole. It can also carry the consequence of the death penalty.

While many drug dealing cases that result in murder charges relate to fentanyl, it is not the only drug that can lead to charges. The same law applies to:

  • Cocaine
  • Opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium
  • Methadone
  • Alfentanil
  • Carfentanil
  • Sufentanil
  • Methamphetamine

If any of these drugs lead to the death of an individual, the person who sold the drugs could be held responsible.

Regarding Mansfield’s arrest, Sheriff Chad Chronister said, “We will continue to fight against the proliferation of fentanyl in our community and hold those responsible for spreading this poison accountable.”

Related: What You Should Expect from Your Attorney in Every Case

Talk About Your Case Today

Getting arrested on drug charges is a serious matter. If you have been arrested for drug possession or other drug-related charges, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Set up a free consultation with TJ Grimaldi to discuss your case and create a plan of action to address the charges. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023.

For the first time, a parent of a school shooter was found guilty of manslaughter. What led to the unprecedented charges, and what does this mean for future school shooting cases?

A Preventable Tragedy

On November 30, 2021, Jennifer Crumbley and her husband, James, were called to their son’s Michigan school, Oxford High School. Teachers were concerned about their 15-year-old son Ethan. School officials found a disturbing drawing of a gun that Ethan had created and they were concerned about Ethan’s mental health.

Jennifer and James choose to leave Ethan at school after the meeting. Just a few hours later, Ethan would go on to shoot and kill four of his classmates.

The semi-automatic handgun that Ethan used to shoot his classmates was purchased a few days early by Jennifer and James. It was given to Ethan as an early Christmas present. Ethan had full access to the gun, which was not properly secured.

Jennifer and James failed to inform the school that their son had access to a gun or remove him from school the day of the shooting, and now, they are both facing serious consequences for their actions.

Both Jennifer and James were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one charge for each of the people killed by their son.

On February 6, 2024, Jennifer was found guilty of all four manslaughter charges.

What Is a Manslaughter Charge?

In the court system, manslaughter is different from murder in that manslaughter is not premeditated or planned. Manslaughter is used when a party’s action or inaction leads to the death of another person.

In the case of Jennifer Crumbley, her inaction led to her son committing murder. The prosecution proved:

  • She failed to act when presented with evidence that an ordinary person would recognize as having the potential to create harm.
  • Her gross negligence led to the deaths of the students.

Jennifer’s case took place after her son had already pleaded guilty to 24 charges, which included four counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

During Jennifer’s case, the jury viewed over 400 pieces of evidence and heard from 20 witnesses, which included law enforcement officials and school staff members. Ethan did not testify. The jury took roughly two days to deliver a unanimous guilty verdict.

Jennifer now awaits her sentencing, which will be decided by a judge on April 9, 2024. Each manslaughter count carries a potential penalty of 15 years in prison. Jennifer faces up to 60 years in prison.

Jennifer is the first parent to face serious consequences for a mass shooting committed by their child. Next, Ethan’s father will stand trial against the same charges as his wife in March 2024.

Other Cases of Parents Charged in School Shootings

While this is the first time a parent has faced serious criminal consequences for their child committing a school shooting, it is not the first time a parent has faced charges.

In 2022, Robert Crimo Jr. is said to have known that his son wanted to “kill everyone,” but he still sponsored his son’s application for a state gun ownership permit, as reported by the New York Times. Robert Crimo III was 19 at the time he obtained a gun. Two years later, he would use it to kill seven people at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois. Crimo Jr. pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, two years of probation, and 100 hours of public service, as reported by the New York Times.

Another case of a parent being held responsible for their child carrying out a shooting is Deja Taylor. The woman’s six-year-old took a gun from her home to school and proceeded to shoot and injure a teacher. Taylor was sentenced to two years in prison for felony child neglect, per reporting by CBS News.

What Does This Mean for Other School Shootings?

Parents of school shooters have faced consequences in the legal system before, but the charges were often primarily civil charges. For example, dozens of civil lawsuits have been filed by parents of students who died or were injured in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and as far back as the Columbine shooting, two parents sued the parents of the shooters.

But this case creates precedent for parents to now be held liable for serious criminal charges if their child commits a crime and they had an opportunity to prevent it, but failed to do so.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Standing Against Gun Violence

As the Executive Director and Board Member of The Oulson Family Foundation, TJ Grimaldi stands with the victims of gun violence. TJ works to help kids get what they need in the wake of being impacted by gun violence. Learn more about The Oulson Family Foundation and see how you can also help victims of gun violence.

If you are involved in a legal case, whether it is a criminal or civil, talk to an attorney right away. Get your questions answered. Schedule your free call with TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023

Former prosecutor, Rudy Giuliani is now on the other side of the courtroom. As a defendant in a civil case, Giuliani was found guilty and ordered to pay two Georgia women $148 million in damages?

What did he do, and why was he ordered to pay the women right away?

Lies Lead to Harassment

Rudy Giuliani was once hailed as a major political leader known as “America’s Mayor.” But in the past few years, Giuliani has found himself in legal trouble for things he has said and done.

After the 2020 election, Giuliani used his platform to spread the lie that the election had been stolen from Donald J. Trump.

On social media and through media outlets, Giuliani called out two women for their involvement with the 2020 election: mother and daughter, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss.

The two women worked at an absentee ballot counting facility in Fulton County, Georgia, during the 2020 election. Giuliani repeatedly and publicly stated that the two women manipulated the voting results and scanned ballots twice in order to secure more votes for Joe Biden.

After his comments, the women began to receive violent and racist threats. The FBI informed them their lives were in danger and they became afraid to leave their homes, per reporting by NPR.

Freeman and Moss believed their lives were ruined, and they blamed Giuliani.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

Lies Lead to a Lawsuit

The two women filed a defamation lawsuit against Giuliani.

The civil suit claimed Giuliani spread lies about the women even after the allegations had been proven to be false. A years-long investigation by the Georgia secretary of state’s office found there to be no credible claims against the women, and a hand count found the votes in their precinct to be calculated correctly, per reporting by NPR.

The defamation case was filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., and the judge presiding over the case agreed with the women’s claims.

In August 2023, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell issued a default judgment against Giuliani and said he was liable for “defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damage claims,” per NPR.

The judge made the decision after Giuliani conceded that he did make false statements about the women. In a court filing, his legal team said, “While Giuliani does not admit to Plaintiffs’ allegations, he — for purposes of this litigation only — does not contest the factual allegations.”

Once the ruling was made, it was time to determine how much Giuliani would have to pay the two women.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Lies Lead to $148 Million in Damages

Once the judge made his ruling, the case went in front of an eight-person jury to determine the amount of damages due in the case.

On December 15, the jury said Giuliani owed the women $148 million in damages.

In most cases, the defendant has 30 days to begin to pay damages, but attorneys for the women didn’t want to wait. On December 18, attorneys for the woman filed a motion to force Giuliani to pay immediately, saying they believed he would work to hide his assets.

District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that Giuliani must immediately pay the $148 million.

Then, the women filed another lawsuit against Giuliani.

Related: What You Should Expect from Your Attorney in Every Case

Lies Carry On

Despite being found guilty of defamation in the case, Giuliani continued to share the same lies that led to the lawsuit.

After the ruling, he went on to say, “Everything I said about them is true” and “I told the truth. They were engaged in changing votes.”

Lawyers for Freeman and Moss are now seeking a court order that permanently bars Giuliani “from persisting in his defamatory campaign.” This lawsuit does not seek monetary damages, according to NBC News.

Giuliani also has two more legal cases ahead of him.

He is charged with a dozen criminal counts accusing him of trying to overturn the 2020 election.

And, on December 21, Giuliani filed for bankruptcy.

Giuliani’s bankruptcy court filings say he has between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities and $1 million to $10 million in assets, per Reuters. It is unlikely he will pay the $148 million owed to Freeman and Moss.

Find a Lawyer Who Will Fight for You

Don’t go into a civil or criminal case on your own. Face your legal challenges with a trusted attorney by your side. Schedule your call with TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023.

YouTuber jumping out of plane

Screenshot from @trevorjacob YouTube channel

Views equal money on YouTube, and Trevor Daniel Jacob was willing to do whatever he needed to increase views of his videos — even if it meant crashing a plane into the California hillside.

What did Jacbo do, and what consequences does he face for the stunt?

A Plane Crashes in the Woods

On November 24, 2021, YouTube creator and former Olympic snowboarder Trevor Daniel Jacob took off in his private plane from Lompoc City Airport in Santa Barbara County, California. His destination was Mammoth Lakes, according to a news release from the Central District of California.

Jacob was alone in the plane, which was set up with cameras both inside and outside, and he was wearing a parachute.

Roughly 35 minutes into flying, when the plane was over Los Padres National Forest near Santa Maria, Jacob opened the door and jumped out. Filming himself with a selfie stick, Jacob documented his free fall, parachute deployment, and safe landing.

The plane was left unmanned and crashed into the hillside.

Jacob walked to the wreckage and took footage of the aftermath of the crash. Roughly one month later, on December 23 Jacob uploaded the video to his YouTube channel and titled it “I Crashed My Airplane.”

A Miracle or a Stunt?

Jacob’s YouTube video framed the crash as an accident. Jacob acted as though it was an inevitable disaster that he had survived, but viewers thought something was up. They commented that it was suspicious Jacob was wearing a parachute and that he had not attempted an emergency landing.

Authorities were also suspicious.

Two days after the accident, Jacob had informed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the plane crash. He told a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector that the airplane’s engine had quit, and he had parachuted out of the plane because he could not identify any safe landing options.

At that time, Jacob agreed to help with the investigation and share the location of the crash. Authorities told him not to disturb the scene of the crash as they wanted to conduct an investigation.

Then, Jacob changed his story.

He reportedly told federal prosecutors in the Central District of California that he did not know the location of the wreckage, and he made it so investigators would never find the plane.

Related: Get Good Legal Representation by Asking This One Question

A Lie and a Confession

On December 10, 2021, Jacob and a friend flew a helicopter to the plane wreckage. They attached the wreckage to the helicopter and carried it to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, where it was loaded onto a trailer attached to Jacob’s pickup truck.

Investigators say Jacob took the wreckage and then dismantled it in an attempt to dispose of the evidence.

Jacob’s attempt to hide what happened that day was in vain. Investigators eventually accused Jacob of wrongdoing and he came forward with a confession.

Jacob told investigators the crash was a stunt done to create a video for a sponsorship with a wallet company.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Facing the Consequences

Jacob admitted to all wrongdoing. He plead guilty to destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation. The charges he faced carried a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, according to the Central District of California’s statement.

Instead of facing potentially lengthy time, Jacob signed a plea deal that sentenced him to six months in federal prison.

While Jacob’s attorneys fought for no jail time, prosecutors argued a prison sentence was “necessary to prevent others from attempting this type of stunt,” according to reporting by CNN.

Jacob’s video documenting the crash is still on YouTube, and it has received 4.5 million views.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

Criminal Charges Are a Serious Matter

Criminal charges are a serious matter. If you are charged with a crime, don’t go into the case alone. Get an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side who can guide you through the process and lead you to the best possible outcome.

If you have a case to review, get a free consultation today. Share the details of your case with TJ Grimaldi. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Elon Musk is known to jet set around the world running his multiple businesses, but where does he actually live? And why does it matter in a new parental rights fight he is in with his former girlfriend, Grimes?

Where Do Musk, Grimes, and Their Three Children Live?

Elon Musk and singer Grimes, whose legal name is Claire Boucher, started dating in 2018. Together, they had three children: X Æ A-Xii, 3; Tau Techno Mechanicus,1; and Exa Dark Sideræl, 1.

Now, courts are trying to determine where the couple lived with their three children before the two parted ways.

Where they lived will determine the proper jurisdiction for their parental rights case and have a major impact on the amount of child support payments Musk may be required to pay.

Musk Says They Live In Texas

On September 13, 2023, Grimes was served with child custody papers from Musk. Musk is suing to establish a “parent-child” relationship with the children. He filed the paperwork in Texas in an attempt to set the jurisdiction for the case in Texas.

Musk says Grimes and the children lived with him in Texas until July of 2023, according to Business Insider. Musk also claims he has lived in Texas for at least six consecutive months.

Musk has an incentive to have the parental rights case presented in Texas. Each state sets its own guidelines for the financial responsibilities of parents. Texas caps the amount of child support a parent must pay.

If Musk were required to pay child support by the state of Texas, the billionaire would be required by law to pay less than $3,000 per month in total child support for his three children with Grimes.

The maximum amount a parent must pay in child support in Texas is $2,760 for three children.

Related: Types of Child Custody and What They Mean for Your Family 

Grimes Says They Live in California

Shortly after Musk filed suit, Grimes filed one of her own — in the state of California.

On September 29, Grimes filed a “petition to establish parental relationship” in California. She also requested a “standard restraining order” that would prevent either she or Musk from moving the children out of California, per reporting by Page Six.

Contrary to what Musk says, Grimes says she has been living with their children in California since December 2022.

In California, there is no cap on child support payments. The payment amount is determined by many factors, including each parent’s gross income, net disposable income, and time spent with the children.

Grimes stands to receive a much larger monthly child support payment if the case is heard in California.

Related: A Guide to Understanding Florida Family Law Forms 

A Dispute of Jurisdiction

Musk has accused Grimes of attempting to “circumvent the jurisdiction” of the Texas court by just recently declaring herself a non-resident of the state. He also claimed he has had “actual care, control, and possession of each child since the birth of each child.”

Grime’s legal team has asked Musk to sit for a deposition to ask questions that would help determine the location of his legal residence, but Musk has refused to do so.

Musk is requesting privacy protections before he will sit for a deposition. According to Business Insider, Musk is concerned about the personal information that will come out during the deposition and then be made public.

At this time, it seems Grime has not officially petitioned for child custody or child support.

The first step in the parental rights case will be determining where the case should be heard. Musk reportedly says he would like to reach an agreement with Grimes, but if they can’t, he would like a Texas court to issue an order.

It may end up that the case is not fully heard in California or Texas. Courts could find that one or two of the three children have a different residency than the other children, leading to cases in both Texas and California.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

Talk to a Family Law Attorney About Child Support

Child support guidelines and family law policies vary in every state. If you have questions about child support, talk to a family law attorney in your state. If you are in Florida, get expert advice about your case from attorney TJ Grimaldi.

All consultations are free, so contact our office today to find out how TJ can guide you and your family through the child support process. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

A college student didn’t think much about it when she ordered a lemonade from Panera Bread, but less than 24 hours later, she was dead. Her family says the drink, and Panera’s failure to properly label it, caused their daughter’s death.

Now they are suing the company for wrongful death. Can the family prove a lemonade killed their daughter?

An Ordinary Day Leads to a Tragic Death

September 10, 2022, was a fairly normal day for 21-year-old college student Sarah Katz. Katz was a student at the University of Pennsylvania and had recently purchased an Unlimited Sip Club membership from Panera Bread, which allows customers to pay a monthly fee for unlimited drinks.

Katz went to Panera to fill up a drink and chose a “Charged Lemonade.”

A few hours later, Katz collapsed while out at a restaurant with friends. Katz was rushed to the hospital where she went into cardiac arrest and died, according to NBC News.

The college student’s cause of death was determined to be cardiac arrhythmia due to long QT syndrome.

A Lifelong Avoidance of Energy Drinks

Katz and her family knew her heart didn’t function like other people’s hearts. At the age of five, Katz was diagnosed with the heart condition Long QT Type 1 Syndrome. “Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) is a rare disorder of the heart’s electrical system that can lead to dangerous heart rhythms, fainting, and sudden cardiac arrest,” says Stanford Medicine.

Katz took daily medication and made lifestyle choices to manage her disorder. She was aware that consuming drinks with high caffeine-levels was not good for her condition, and she avoided energy drinks. Katz’s family said she would not have ordered a Charged Lemonade if she knew it was an energy drink.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by her family says Katz would have assumed caffeine was in the drink, but that she would have been unable to discern how much caffeine was actually in the drink. The suit says she would have been “reasonably confident it was a traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink.”

The lawsuit says the caffeine level in Panera’s Charged Lemonade is actually more than a 12 oz. Red Bull and a 16 oz. Monster Energy Drink combined and that combination of caffeine is what killed their daughter.

Related:Examples of Wrongful Death Cases Worth Fighting For

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Panera

The failure to properly label the lemonade as an energy drink is at the heart of the wrongful death lawsuit the family filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The lawsuit alleges that Panera, “did not market, advertise, and sell Panera Charged Lemonade in the store as an ‘energy drink,’ which is a drink containing large amounts of caffeine, added sugar, other additives, and stimulants, such as guarana and/or taurine and/or L-carnitine (‘stimulants’).”

The Panera website described the drink as “the ultimate energy drink guaranteed to charge up your day” although the in-store signage was less clear.

Katz’s family says their daughter could not have known about the high levels of caffeine in the drink, according to Fox News 13. They are seeking “compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, costs of suit, and such other relief as this Honorable Court may deem appropriate and just.”

Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death? 

What Does It Take to Win a Wrongful Death Case?

To prove fault in the wrongful death case, Katz’s family will need to show that Panera was aware of an unsafe condition but failed to act and that their inaction directly led to Katz’s death.

The lawsuit alleges that Panera knew the drink “could injure children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people sensitive to caffeine – including those with underlying heart problems – by causing catastrophic injuries and/or death” but failed to properly warn customers.

Since Katz’s death, Panera has changed some of the labeling on the drink. According to USA Today, Panera has added language to their website that says, “Use in moderation. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.” It is unclear if the signage around the drink in stores has changed.

Related: A Mac and Cheese Lawsuit and 400+ Other Food Lawsuits Filed by a NY Attorney

Get Justice for Yourself or a Loved One

Companies have a reasonable responsibility to inform customers about the potential dangers of their products and services. If you or a loved one have been injured due to the failure of a company to properly warn consumers, talk to a wrongful death attorney or personal injury attorney right away.

An experienced attorney can help you get justice for you or your loved one and hold the responsible parties accountable. If you have a case to discuss, request a free consultation with TJ Grimaldi. Call 813-226-1023 or contact our office today.

Hit and Run Bill Florida

David Chang’s vehicle after hitting Lilly Glaubach via The Florida Highway Patrol

Lawmakers and the family of a 13-year-old girl who was killed by a hit-and-run in 2022 are trying to find some justice and peace by passing a new Florida law. What led up to the creation of the law, and how does it plan to find and punish more hit-and-run criminals?

A Tragic Accident

On August 16, 2022, 13-year-old Lilly Glaubach was riding her bike home from Pineview School in Osprey, Florida. Around 4:15 p.m., Glaubach passed through a crosswalk when she was struck by an oncoming vehicle.

David Chang, 65 years old at the time, was reportedly speeding as he went through the crosswalk, and his four-door sedan hit Glaubach. According to court documents, Glaubach was “forced up onto the hood and windshield of the vehicle before she came off the vehicle approximately 75 feet west of the area of the collision.”

Glaubach was badly injured, but Chang did not stop. Instead, he drove away.

An Attempt to Escape the Consequences

Chang drove away from the scene of the accident without stopping.

The next day, he took his vehicle to an auto repair shop one hour from where the accident took place, which is also one hour from where he lived. Chang told the auto-repair shop a tree branch fell through the windshield of his car, per reporting by The Bradenton Times.

Chang’s lie didn’t last long.

An individual reported the car as a suspicious vehicle and sent photos to law enforcement. It was discovered that the details and license plate information matched the information from the accident. Plus, the vehicle had serious windshield and front-end damage.

Related: 5 Reasons to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer After a Crash 

The Driver Faces Consequences

Chang was arrested on charges for leaving the scene of the crash involving a serious injury, leaving the scene with property damage, and evidence destruction.

The charges would be elevated more than a week later when Glaubach tragically died from her injuries 12 days after the accident. Chang would then be arrested for felony charges of leaving the scene without rendering aid involving death.

In this hit-and-run case, the driver was found, and justice was served.

In September 2023, Chang entered an open plea for one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving death and one count of tampering with evidence, per Tampa Bay 10. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison to be followed by three years probation.

Now, lawmakers and Glaubach’s family want to make sure more hit-and-run criminals are caught and face consequences for their actions.

New Florida Bill Aims to Catch Hit-and-Run Criminals

Over the past five years in Florida, there have been 515,957 hit-and-run crashes that resulted in 1,251 fatalities, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Bill SB 194 — referred to as the “Lilly Glaubach Act” — filed by Sen. Joe Gruters aims to find and punish more hit-and-run criminals.

The bill would require auto repair shops to verify the cause of vehicle damage or report it to law force agencies. If the bill passes, when a vehicle that appears to have been in an accident is brought to an auto repair shop, the shop will need to request a written crash report or fill out a form detailing the damage before giving an estimate to the driver.

All forms would be sent to law enforcement agencies so they can review the situation and connect damages to pending hit-and-run cases. The goal of the bill is to find more hit-and-run criminals who cause accidents and leave the scene.

The bill has been filed for the 2024 legislative session.

Related: Injured in a Car Accident? Here’s What You Need to Do Right Away.

Get Justice After a Car Accident

Bill SB 194 aims to seek justice for individuals injured by the carelessness of drivers. Its goal is to make it easier to bring criminal charges against drivers who flee the scene after being involved in a vehicular crash that causes damage.

Victims of car accidents that are the result of the carelessness of another person or entity may be entitled to justice in both criminal and civil courts.

If you or a loved one were injured in a vehicular accident caused by the recklessness of a driver, you deserve justice. Talk to a personal injury or wrongful death attorney right away. See how you can find some peace by holding at-fault parties accountable for their actions. Talk to personal injury attorney TJ Grimaldi today. Request an appointment or call 813-226-1023.

In 2020, Henry Ruggs III was looking ahead to a dazzling career in the NFL. Drafted by the Las Vegas Raider, Ruggs had a multimillion-dollar contract in hand. But it all disappeared one night in 2021 when Ruggs got behind the wheel while drunk and killed a woman and her dog.

Ruggs now faces consequences for his actions.

A Bad Decision Leads to a Loss of Life

Henry Ruggs III was selected as the 12th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Las Vegas Raiders. With a contract worth $16.67 million and a successful first year as a wide receiver, Ruggs was looking toward a bright future. Then, everything changed when Ruggs got behind the wheel of his Chevrolet Corvette on November 2, 2021.

Ruggs had spent several hours drinking with friends at a sports entertainment site and golfing venue before he and his girlfriend attempted to drive home.

According to airbag computer records in Ruggs’ vehicle, his car reached a speed of 156 mph before slowing to 127 mph and crashing into a Toyota Rav 4.

The impact caused the Rav 4 to burst into flames, killing the woman, Tina Tintor, and her dog inside. Ruggs and his girlfriend, Je’nai Kilgo-Washington, were also injured with non-life-threatening injuries and taken to a nearby hospital.

At the hospital, Ruggs’ blood alcohol level was taken. It was .161, more than double the legal limit.

Related: Arrested for a DUI in Florida? Here’s What to Do Next 

Ruggs Faced More Than 40 Years in Prison

Ruggs was charged with a total of five crimes.

He faced two felonies related to the death of Tintor: DUI resulting in death and reckless driving resulting in death. He also faced two charges related to the injuries sustained by his girlfriend who was in the car with him. The charges were also felonies: DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm and reckless driving resulting in substantial bodily harm.

Ruggs also faced a misdemeanor charge. He had a loaded firearm in the vehicle which led him to be charged with unlawful gun possession.

Under Nevada law, the potential consequences for the charges left Ruggs facing more than 40 years in prison. Now almost two years after the accident, Ruggs is about to start his jail time, which is much less than 40 years.

Related: What to Expect From a First Offense DUI

A Plea Deal Cuts Ruggs’ Jail Time

Ruggs and the prosecutors came to a plea deal that prevented the case from going to trial. Reportedly, both sides had something to gain from the deal.

Prosecutors were worried that they may not be able to use Ruggs’ blood drawings that showed his intoxication levels at trial. Defense attorneys argued that Ruggs’ blood-alcohol test was improperly obtained at the hospital, which meant courts could have suppressed the results of the blood test. Since no field sobriety test was conducted, there would be no additional evidence that Ruggs was intoxicated at the time of the crash.

The defense team sought a plea deal because it could guarantee a lighter sentence for Ruggs. Rather than face up to forty years in prison, Ruggs will now face three to ten years.

Ruggs pleaded guilty to a felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol causing death and to a misdemeanor charge for vehicular manslaughter, according to the Associated Press.

Other charges in the case were dropped as part of the plea deal, including the charges related to the injuries sustained by his girlfriend and to the misdemeanor gun charge.

Related: What To Do About a DUI License Suspension in Florida

How Much Time Will Ruggs Actually Serve?

Ruggs was sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison.

After the accident, Ruggs posted a $150,000 bail for his release and has been on house arrest pending the results of the case. He spent a year and a half on house arrest and cannot convert the time spent on house arrest to time served, per the Associated Press.

After three years, Ruggs will be eligible for parole.

Related: How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

Talk to an Experienced DUI Attorney

Driving under the influence is a serious crime, and the repercussions of a DUI accident can change lives forever. If you have been charged with a DUI, whether it involves someone being injured or not, talk to a DUI attorney right away.

Get an expert attorney by your side who can guide you through the lengthy legal process and protect your rights. If you have been charged with a DUI, request your free consultation with TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Officer Found Guilty

Screenshot from Video by Fort Lupton Police

A traffic stop turned into something unexpected when a freight train went speeding by — and hit a patrol car with a suspect inside.

Now, police officers are facing consequences for their actions.

What Happened on the Tracks?

On September 16, 2022, multiple police departments responded to a report of a road rage incident that involved the use of a firearm in Fort Lupton, an area north of Platteville, Colorado.

According to the Denver Gazette, the suspect was 20-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzalez. Police pulled over Rios-Gonzalez near a set of railroad tracks where freight trains run about a dozen times per day. Officer Jordan Steinke handcuffed Rios-Gonzalez and put her in the back of a squad car belonging to Pablo Vazquez while the officers searched her vehicle.

A few minutes after being placed in the squad car, Rios-Gonzalez began screaming. The front passenger-side door of the police car was open. Rios-Gonzalez leaned toward the door, but she could not reach it because she was behind bars in the backseat, according to Associated Press reporting.

Seconds later, a freight train crashed into the car with Rios-Gonzalez still in the backseat. Body and dash cam footage captured the scene.

Rios-Gonzalez survived the accident, but she sustained serious injuries including broken bones and a traumatic brain injury.

Related: Types of Personal Injury Cases: Do You Have a Claim? 

Who Was at Fault?

The officer who placed Rios-Gonzalez in the squad car said she didn’t realize the vehicle was on the tracks because she didn’t park the vehicle. Officer Steinke says she was worried about the threat that could come from Rios-Gonzalez and was not looking at the ground.

Attorneys for Rios-Gonzalez and state prosecutors see it another way.

Both Officer Steinke and Officer Pablo Vazquez, the officer who parked the squad car on the tracks, were criminally charged in the case. Rios-Gonzalez also filed a civil lawsuit against the officers and police departments involved in the incident.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

What Are the Criminal Charges?

Steinke, who put Rios-Gonzalez into the squad car, was charged with felony criminal attempt to commit manslaughter as well as reckless endangerment and third-degree assault, both misdemeanors.

Vazquez was charged with misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and traffic offenses.

Vazquez’s case has not been heard in court, while Steinke’s case has already reached a verdict.

Officer Who Put Woman in Squad Car Found Guilty

Steinke was found guilty of the two misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and assault. She was acquitted of the felony charge, criminal attempt to commit manslaughter. There was no jury in Steinke’s trial. Judge Timothy Kerns listened to the evidence and issued the verdict.

Kerns said the evidence showed that Steinke “didn’t knowingly intend to harm.” The judge also said, “There’s no reasonable doubt that placing a handcuffed person in the back of a patrol car, parked on railroad tracks, creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm by the train.”

Steinke is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

What Are the Civil Charges?

In addition to the criminal charges against the officers, a civil case is also underway as it relates to the accident.

Rios-Gonzalez is suing both the Fort Lupton and Platteville police departments and three officers involved in the incident: Steinke, Vazquez, and a third officer who failed to help Rios-Gonzalez as the train approached. Steinke was working for the Fort Lupton police department, and Vazquez was working for the Platteville police department at the time of the crash.

For Rios-Gonzalez to win her personal injury case, she must prove:

  • The accident was caused by negligence. She must show that the officers and police department could have prevented an unsafe condition but did not act.
  • The accident directly led to injury. Rios-Gonzalez will present her injuries which included nine broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken leg, a fractured sternum, and traumatic head injury from the accident.
  • The accident caused damages. Rios-Gonzalez’s attorney will need to show how the physical injuries led to financial and emotional damages.

Both the civil case and criminal case against Vazquez are upcoming, and we will have to wait for results in these cases.

Related: How to Prove Fault in Personal Injury Case

Protect Your Rights After an Accident

Every person has the right to be safe and secure. If another party’s negligence leads to injury to you or a loved one, you deserve to be made whole. Talk to a personal injury attorney if you have experienced a loss due to the carelessness of another party.

All consultations with TJ Grimaldi are free, so contact our office to discuss your case and see how we can help you collect what is due to you. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Two years ago, Travis Rudolph went from being a lead receiver at Florida State University to being charged with murder. His case finally came to an end on June 8, 2023 when Rudolph was found not guilty on all charges.

What led to the charges against Rudolph and how did the jury come to a not guilty verdict?

What Led to Charges Against Rudolph?

Travis Rudolph’s life changed on April 6, 2021. That night, Rudolph and his girlfriend got into an argument at Rudolph’s Florida home. Reports by the Tampa Bay Times indicate that both parties said the fight got physical before Rudolph’s girlfriend left the scene.

Shortly after she left, Rudolph’s girlfriend reportedly began contacting people about what happened. She told Rudolph’s sister that she was going to send someone to kill Rudolph and texted another friend to “shoot his s–t up.”

Around midnight, Rudolph’s four men showed up to Rudolph’s house, one who Rudolph said he believed was in a gang. Each party has different versions of what happened next. Rudolph claimed that one of the men pointed a firearm at him, at which time, Rudolph says he went inside to get his gun.

Investigators say Rudolph shot 39 rounds at the men as they attempted to flee in a black Cadillac. He shot two men, injuring one and killing another.

Rudolph was arrested and charged with one charge of first-degree murder with a firearm and three charges of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Making a Case for “Stand Your Ground”

This blog covered the story in September 2021 as Rudolph began to make the case that the shooting was in self-defense.

Rudolph’s attorney, Marc Shiner, invoked “stand your ground” laws as Rudolph’s legal defense.

In Florida, stand your ground laws come from Florida Statute Sections 776.012 and 776.013. The laws indicate that someone can use deadly force to protect themself if they feel their life is at stake and that individuals do not have to retreat before using deadly force.

Statute 776.012 says, “A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

Rudolph’s team petitioned Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen to dismiss the case on the basis of stand your ground laws. The request was denied, and the judge ordered the case to go to trial, per reporting by the Palm Beach Post.

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

Jury Finds Rudolph Not Guilty

As Rudolph’s case made its way through the court system, he spent one year behind bars in Palm Beach County and another year under house arrest, according to court reports reviewed by CNN.

Rudolph’s case was finally heard in front of a jury starting on May 31, 2023. The trial lasted eight days and included testimony from Rudolph and his mother, who was in the house at the time of the altercation and subsequent shooting.

Rudolph insisted that he feared for his life when he opened fire. “I’m not guilty,” he said. “Because I was saving my and my brother’s life.”

Video evidence that captured some of the scene in front of Rudoph’s door was also shown to the jury. Prosecutors said the video didn’t show the level of danger described by Rudolph.

In the end, the jury made their decision.

They believed Rudolph’s case of self-defense and found him not guilty of one count of first-degree premeditated murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Related: 6 Signs You Need a New Attorney

Don’t Approach a Criminal Defense on Your Own

Facing criminal charges is a serious matter. If you have been charged with a crime, make sure you talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

Explore your options, develop the best defense, and ensure that your rights are protected through each step of the legal process. If you have questions about an upcoming case, talk to TJ Grimaldi today. All consultations are free. Contact our team today. Schedule or call 813-226-1023 now.