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In Florida, Secrecy Around Stingray Leads To Plea Bargain For a Robber 246

schwit1 writes The case against Tadrae McKenzie looked like an easy win for prosecutors. He and two buddies robbed a small-time pot dealer of $130 worth of weed using BB guns. Under Florida law, that was robbery with a deadly weapon, with a sentence of at least four years in prison. But before trial, his defense team detected investigators' use of a secret surveillance tool, one that raises significant privacy concerns. In an unprecedented move, a state judge ordered the police to show the device — a cell-tower simulator sometimes called a StingRay — to the attorneys. Rather than show the equipment, the state offered McKenzie a plea bargain. Today, 20-year-old McKenzie is serving six months' probation after pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor. He got, as one civil liberties advocate said, the deal of the century.
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In Florida, Secrecy Around Stingray Leads To Plea Bargain For a Robber

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  • Guilty as charged (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    so let me plea down and get out sooner to get back Jack and do it again.

  • About right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @04:05AM (#49109753)

    6 months probation is about right for what he did anyway. I can't believe they're clogging prisons with petty criminals like this then turning violent criminals out because of over crowding. A BB gun as a deadly weapon? They're turning the legal system into a farce with that kind of bullshit.

    • Re:About right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jpapon ( 1877296 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @04:19AM (#49109801) Journal
      Seriously... what's the point of putting someone in prison for four years for that? If anything a sentence like that is just as likely to turn them to harder, more violent crime than rehabilitate them.

      It makes much more sense to give first time offenders for stupid crimes like this a year of probation, a significant amount of community service, and forced enrollment in some sort of vocational school / work program.

      You don't reform people by making them sit on their asses for four years talking to other criminals. You reform them by putting them to useful work.

      • Re:About right (Score:4, Insightful)

        by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @04:25AM (#49109821)

        I'd just like to see the punishment fit the crime. 4 years for stealing 120 bucks worth of pot with a BB gun is fucking stupid. If he stole 50 grand worth of pot with an Uzi I guess he'd get lethal injection. Sheesh!

      • likely to turn them to harder, more violent crime/quot
        Likely? I'm not a statistician, but I would be willing to be that such outcome has the highest probability out of all 'correctional' prison exercises.
        The prison system is 'correcting' minor offenders to become crime.

      • Re:About right (Score:5, Insightful)

        by manwargi ( 1361031 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @04:40AM (#49109875)

        High recidivism is good for shareholders in privatized prisons. This is a system that profits more from harsher sentences and more prisoners, not fewer.

        • by DrXym ( 126579 )
          The state pays the prison to operate under certain parameters and if it so wished one of them could be recidivism rates. e.g. by requiring prisons to offer certain facilities, training, eduction and certain living standards.

          So I don't it being relevant who runs the prison providing it abides by standards. What is more important is the political recognition that putting the time into ensuring people don't reoffend will pay off in the future.

          I believe a far bigger issue is that the US has the most fucked

          • So I don't it being relevant who runs the prison providing it abides by standards.

            You mean the standards set by the politicians who are paid by the private prison lobby? That's the situation we have today.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              You mean the standards set by the politicians who are paid by the private prison lobby? That's the situation we have today.

              You'd think that privately run prisons are so pervasive in this country as to dominate the criminal justice (punishment) system.

              Alas, fewer than 10% of the convicts in the USA are held in "private prisons"....

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                fewer than 10% of the convicts in the USA are held in "private prisons"....

                Your numbers are out of date. Almost half of all Federal inmates are in private prisons, with the bulk being immigrant detainees. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com] That was in 2012, and the percentage has only grown.

                And if you happen to live in a state with a Republican governor and legislature, you will find it's also up to about half of inmates being in private prison systems. And those are mainly the ones most likely to be re

            • by DrXym ( 126579 )
              So then it's the politicians fault. Not the prisons. Vote in politicians (and justice officials) who are motivated by the idea of reforming felons and applying proportionate sentences instead of merely punishing them.
      • Re:About right (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zontar The Mindless ( 9002 ) <plasticfish,info&gmail,com> on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:50AM (#49110195) Homepage

        That's assuming that reform is the goal. That's a noble but probably naïve assumption.

      • Re:About right (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2015 @10:24AM (#49111175)

        So armed robbery is a crime you feel just fine letting someone out with a slap on the wrist? This is a violent crime (threatened deadly force), not a victimless crime like smoking that pot. This kind of action that is unacceptable. You may not prey on other members of society. If you do you are going to be removed from society for a long time.

        It is not important that he got only $120 in pot. He could have robbed someone that had nothing and gotten nothing, would that mean he did nothing wrong? It is not important that he only had a BB gun; He wanted the victim to think it was real and his life was under threat.

        Violent crime must be punished and this guy did get one hell of a deal because the cops don't want to disclose their actions. Keep in mind that this man who committed a violent crime (allegedly) is still able to buy and own a real gun with this misdemeanor on his record. Kind of makes a mockery of the law doesn't it.

      • Re:About right (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rgbatduke ( 1231380 ) <rgb@[ ].duke.edu ['phy' in gap]> on Monday February 23, 2015 @11:10AM (#49111539) Homepage

        What's the point of putting anyone in prison for weed ever? If the states would just get around to legalizing it completely, no more BB-gun crime in your area! Prisons would empty! Lawyers would starve! All of these are good things.

        And one day we will. As my son points out, every year, lots of Old People (tm) die. At some point enough of them who learned about the evils of pot from William Randolph Hearst and Anslinger via vehicles like "Reefer Madness" will have died, and the simple fact that states that have legalized it de facto or de jure aren't imploding in an orgy of drug-fuelled crime will be persuasive even to those that think that it is not necessarily good for you to smoke pot. And on that day, every single person who lost their freedom, their health, their wealth, and their future not because of the chemical effects of pot but because we made it illegal and created a world where breaking any law, just or not, is dangerous will cry out to the sky:

        Why?

      • Are we really so ok with robbing people at gunpoint that we say this is not a big deal?

        Obviously a BB gun is not as dangerous as a real pistol, but the reason he used it and not a more deadly knife is because many BB guns look real enough when you are being robbed and don't want to be shot.

        Four years sounds fair to me.

    • Well, there's the privatized prison industry to protect and the guy must have been a sniper. Where's NRA in all this? FTW.

    • Re:About right (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @04:49AM (#49109897)

      So you think if someone put a BB gun (which can still do some serious damage) to your head and took $130 from your wallet they should get no jail time?

      I'm not saying 4 years in prison is appropriate, but something stronger than this minor slap on the wrist sure is...

    • Re:About right (Score:5, Interesting)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @07:39AM (#49110339)

      6 months probation for committing an armed robbery? That's nuts.

      From the victim's perspective, he thought his life was in danger because it likely looked like a real gun. From the perpetrator's perspective it was a bluff, but the victim didn't know that. In most states the victim could have used deadly force to defend himself and easily gotten away with it. Even the best police department wouldn't have even blinked if an officer shot him with it. And it's not like it's impossible to seriously hurt someone with a BB gun.

      Further, the perpetrator showed the willingness to use violence and the implied threat of death to accomplish a robbery. It's reasonable to assume this person is dangerous and a threat to society -- maybe next time he has a real gun, and the time after that he's willing to pull the trigger.

      The fact that he stole pot doesn't matter. If this same guy had robbed your grandma's purse with a BB gun would it still seem like a 6 months of probation crime?

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        In most states the victim could have used deadly force to defend himself and easily gotten away with it.

        My sister is a part time LEO and retired member of the Air Force; she's working one night at a convenience store when some would be robber pulls a "gun" on her. She's complying with him long enough to draw her own firearm when she realizes that it's a BB gun. At that point she tells him to leave, he says "I'm not screwing with you bitch." whereupon she takes the BB gun away from him and uses it as a club to beat the ever living shit out of him. The only reason that idiot went to the hospital rather than

    • "I can't believe they're clogging prisons"

      But that is how the system is setup.
    • Re:About right (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Libertarian_Geek ( 691416 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @09:31AM (#49110763)
      So, armed robbery isn't a violent crime because they were only pretending that they would kill me? I know that the weapon in this case was a BB gun, but someone who uses the threat of violence to get money isn't in the same category as a common thief. If someone pulled a BB gun on me during a robbery, I would attempt to shoot them to save my own life.
      1> I have no idea that the BB gun isn't a real gun.
      2> Regardless of the criminal's words, I have no knowledge of their real intentions or capabilities beyond what they present to me.
      3> I can't take their word that they only want my money, since they've already shown (by threatening my life) that they value life below property.
      • And don't forget that 4) A BB Gun, while not as dangerous as a gun that shoots actual bullets, can still cause serious harm, especially at close range. If a thief points a BB gun at your head and demands all of your money (assuming you are unarmed or otherwise not in a position to fight back), it is a real threat. A shot to the head could, at best, seriously hurt you and, at worst, kill you.

    • by luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @10:37AM (#49111283) Homepage

      6 months probation is about right for what he did anyway. I can't believe they're clogging prisons with petty criminals like this then turning violent criminals out because of over crowding. A BB gun as a deadly weapon? They're turning the legal system into a farce with that kind of bullshit.

      Actually a BB gun can seriously injure someone. I was hit with a BB once (accidental) mind you, hitting me on my knuckle. That dig itself in bad. I do not want to think what it could do to an eye.

      == the following below are generalizations of what the law says, counting variations across different jurisdictions within and outside the US ==

      By law, a "deadly weapon" is not just a weapon that can kill for certain, but that has the potential to cause a serious injury that can lead to death. A BB to the eyeball at short range can do that. So can a rock being thrown to someone's face. In some jurisdictions around the world, a professional boxer's hands can be considered deadly weapons given that, unlike other people within their respective weight classes, professional boxes can kill someone with a punch to the temple.

      The fact that using a BB gun has the potential to seriously injure someone makes its use a 3rd degree assault (potential to injury + recklessness). Use it to commit a crime and that shit by default ups it up to 2nd or even 1st degree depending of the circumstance.

      Moreover, the law (as it should be) takes into consideration the state of mind of a potential victim. If the victim seriously thinks he is in physical danger, that is enough to bring a 3rd degree assault charge, even if the assault never takes place. This is more so if the person is put into a state of being scared of his well being or life while being subjected of a crime (then it goes to 2nd or 1st degree).

      The person would have to know pretty well that the weapon is a BB gun and not a real gun. It is unreasonable to expect a person in a state of fright to recognize the two. If this were the case, one could argue I could attempt robbery with a fake gun (or a gun without rounds in it) and then claim in my defense that I did not use a deadly weapon. I hope I don't think I have to explain this one any further.

      I disagree with you that 6 months probation was enough. This wasn't a harmless crime, and this person is a criminal.

      I agree that we put petty criminals to jail too often. But armed robbery is not petty crime.

      Breaking into a house when no one is there, and stealing a TV is. Cutting a bicycle chain to steal it, that is petty crime. Shoplifting is a petty crime. Selling bootlegged DVDs or dope is.

      Armed robbery, subjecting a victim to a state of being afraid of his physical well being, that is not a petty crime.

      What I'm really curious, and what I'm really afraid, and the real question of importance is: what the hell were the authorities so afraid to disclosed that they opted to drop charges and offer a plea. There is something absolutely wrong going on here if they have to cover that shit like that. That is the stuff we should we worried about.

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        I do not want to think what it could do to an eye.

        You'll shoot your eye out kid.

      • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

        Taken to it's logical conclusion, this will eventually be the go-to plan for any defense attorney whose client was caught via cell phone tracking.

    • by saider ( 177166 )

      The way the law is written is that a deadly weapon includes a firearm, or a facsimile of a firearm. So BB guns, toy guns, non-firing replicas, etc. are all considered "deadly weapons".

    • 6 months probation is about right for what he did anyway. I can't believe they're clogging prisons with petty criminals like this then turning violent criminals out because of over crowding. A BB gun as a deadly weapon? They're turning the legal system into a farce with that kind of bullshit.

      Florida has some pretty generous laws with regard to carrying and using a firearm for defensive purposes. To help balance that out, the laws are very strict with regard to actually using a firearm in a threatening manner. Since a BB gun often looks similar to firearms to the lay person, they fall under the same penalties.

    • There's a guy in jail for armed robbery who was unarmed. It's now possible to get convicted based on the belief of the victim instead of the facts. :(
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Plea bargaining should be illegal as a circumvention of the judicial system.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2015 @04:16AM (#49109787)

      This. There should not be an incentive for pleading guilty. One should never have their freedom taken away merely for inconveniencing the system.

      And, if they were so keen not to reveal their kit, couldn't he have refused to bargain all the way, waiting for the judge to insist at each stage that this equipment be exposed? Or is the judicial system too broken to throw out a case where a prosecutor has deliberately changed the charge because it refuses to follow the judge's instructions on the initial charge?

      • When you've managed to go from 4 years minimum to 6 months probation then maybe you've reached the point where you don't think it's worth pushing your luck any further.
    • by ai4px ( 1244212 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @11:50AM (#49111947)
      Wish I had mod points. The plea bargain system usurps the intent of laws. At a min it leaves the public wishing there was a law against X,Y, and Z, and it has turned into an extortion game called Throw the Book at You (tm).
    • by mjm1231 ( 751545 )

      It far more frequently circumvents the system in the other direction. Innocent people who cannot afford the legal fees, etc., of a trial plead guilty to crimes more serious than any they are guilty of.

  • by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @04:12AM (#49109777)
    Call your congressman and ask them why they're using illegal surveillance tools to let criminals get away.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your congressman doesn't want to hear from you, unless you're a campaign contributor, Law doesn't matter. Elections matter.

    • it was about 80 comments until someone brought up the surveillance tool. And Yes, writing to your congressman is very smart, While most people think it's a waste of time, writing to them shows that people care about the actions.

  • by Njovich ( 553857 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @04:17AM (#49109795)

    I'd still rather take the deal bankers got when they effectively stole billions and we gave them more money.

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      This.

      The real criminals in this society are not criminals according to the law, they are never prosecuted in any court, much less put behind bars.

      We thought when communism broke apart, that capitalism had won. We were wrong. Capitalism died a few years later, just less visible and more gradual, as it has been increasingly replaced by a kleptocracy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So when I buy low quality weed can I demand a refund now? Where are we? The robbed dude was a criminal, and he shouldn't have got any protection by the law. Illegal goods can't be robbed -- they are illegal.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2015 @05:57AM (#49110057)

      Congratulations, you just reinvented the concept of "outlaw". The original idea was that law protected the law abiding. Those who broke the law had the aegis of the law removed and thus anyone could harm the outlaw in any way without legal repercussion.

      Interestingly, originally courts required that defendants recognize their authority before the court could try them. Defendants who refused to do so were subjected to various coercions. The coercive method of choice was "pressing".

      Here's one bad mother fucker who refused to submit to the state... read his last words: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giles_Corey

      • Myself and a friend came up with a solution slightly similar to outlaws - human rights points. When you are convicted of a crime a number of human (or constitutional) rights points are removed from (proportional to the crime) for a period. The criminal is required to decide which human rights they has to give up, and is therefore directly responsible for their sentence. Note that just because you've lost points, doesn't mean that people are free to attack your with repercussions.

        A rapist might, for example,

    • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:15AM (#49110101)

      Actually - you can.
      Sticking a gun to somebody's head and demanding things from him is robbery. If the things happen to be illegal that's a seperate crime of which he is guilty, but it doesn't make YOUR crime okay.

      That logic is a recipe for rampant vigilantism. Sure I shot twenty people down in the past year your honour, but they were all criminals, teenagers smoking doobies !

    • I know, right. Next they'll want to prosecute me for all the jay-walkers I've been mowing down.

    • Robbery is still criminal.

      For civil stuff, you can't come before the court with "unclean hands". I.e., if you were breaking the law when the offence occurred, the court won't hear the case.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @05:36AM (#49110011)

    Why is the federal government (and its agencies) so scared to allow state and local law enforcement agencies to reveal the use of these devices?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    also fucking bitch stupid defendant.

    he just fucking caved, his defense team could have got to see this device and perhaps document it's abuse in the court of law..

    the plea bargain has allowed their crooked shit to slip by for yet another case, they avoided exposure..

    obamasweapon.com [obamasweapon.com]

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @05:40AM (#49110021)
    The cops just showed that they are by far more dangerous criminals then the guy that they tried to put away.

    He's a petty thief The police are violating the constitution, and completely ignoring the rule of law. For all intents and purposes the cops are the judge, jury and executioner, with a badge and gun.

    The police were able to avoid a trial, which is one of the major ways that the legal system has been subverted. The penalties are so draconian that even innocent people plead guilty, because if they don't they will be held forever.

    Here's a current example from Montana [boingboing.net].

    If you want to show your fake nipple in Montana, do it before HB 365 gets passed, or you could face a $500 fine and 6 months in the county jail. It could have been worse. The original bill called for "life imprisonment" for a third offense.

    That's right. Life in jail for showing fake nipples three times. Of course they backed off on it, but the fact that this was even considered shows how corrupt the law has become.

    • Here's a current example from Montana [boingboing.net].

      If you want to show your fake nipple in Montana, do it before HB 365 gets passed, or you could face a $500 fine and 6 months in the county jail. It could have been worse. The original bill called for "life imprisonment" for a third offense.

      That's right. Life in jail for showing fake nipples three times. Of course they backed off on it, but the fact that this was even considered shows how corrupt the law has become.

      A few points:

      The markup made the 3rd offense only punishable by up to 5 years in jail, along with a fine; thus saving some poor criminal the ignominy of, when asked by other lifers what they're in for, saying "wearing spandex in public three times..."

      The sponsor seemed to be more upset over people wearing spandex and speedos, and stated that wearing beige spandex could be considered public indecency. He was upset over some bikers who rode nude through his town and this was his response.

      The bill was tabled b

  • In other news ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by return 42 ( 459012 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:01AM (#49110065)

    In other legal news from the great State of Florida, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has been caught recording defendants' privileged conversations with their attorneys, and, on occasion, providing said recordings to prosecutors.

    Hey, other countries get along fine without civil rights. Who needs 'em, amirite?

    http://www.winknews.com/2015/0... [winknews.com]

  • by niftymitch ( 1625721 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:19AM (#49110121)

    Because they are unwilling to disclose the use of these devices it is possible that
    a very long list of prosecutions will be undone including this plea should the information
    see the light of day.

    There is some reason to believe that a court order to demand the police retain all records could be justified.
    It is not clear if the records can be released but this and other actions with these tools implies the legal footing
    is not clear and that the tool is astoundingly broad and effective in what it gathers.

    I might note here that it has been recently disclosed that the keys to SIM card codes
    have apparently been stolen by one or more TLA. http://www.ign.com/articles/20... [ign.com]
    One article gave a four year window to this key theft perhaps more.
    If these devices are sold and if these stolen keys are involved it gets interesting.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @06:20AM (#49110127) Homepage Journal
    If they have to show the device and the judge rules it's inadmissible, that sets a precedent. Plea bargains don't. Of course, he could have gambled and possibly walked away completely free if the judge ruled the evidence inadmissible, but there ya go.

    Hopefully the guy's learned his lesson. Pulling a BB gun on a drug dealer seems like a pretty good way of getting yourself killed.

    • It comes down to whether or not the Stingray evidence was the only thing against him... if everything hinged on that evidence being admitted, then he'd be smart to push it to the end. However, if there was anything completely outside the Stingray evidence, the plea bargain is the smart choice.

      I completely understand him taking it, but I sure wish he would have pressed it. If it had been pushed earlier, I'd have suggested starting a GoFundMe or something for the guy to fight it and force the prosecution to

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Monday February 23, 2015 @09:57AM (#49110945) Homepage

    Congrats to the defense team for spotting this hole in the prosecution. Public defenders are not as bad as the media portray.

    I'm not sure why the cop tech was not hit with fines & jail for contempt of court. No private agreement (even with FBI) trumps civil let alone criminal discovery. The DA probably settled to avoid the FBI repo'ing the Stingray (it was likely on loan).

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