Friday, March 25, 2011

CSI: Orlando

Yesterday was one of the most gruesome days in court I've ever experienced. The photos of the victim's injuries that were projected on the screen were worse than what you see on any of the CSI shows - probably because you know that what you're seeing really happened.

Thankfully, the group of schoolchildren that came into court while the 911 tape was being played left before they saw those photos. I'm not sure if a deputy alerted the teacher or if she figured it out on her own (I was getting ready to tell her what the case involved but they were already exiting). I've often told people who want to watch a trial to check in with the staff in the jury assembly room to find out which judges are in trial. It might be a good idea for cases like this to be flagged as inappropriate for school groups.

I watched the third day of State v. John Crimins (2009-CF-018633-A-O) wherein the defendant is charged with Attempted 1st Degree Murder, two counts of Aggravated Battery (Great Bodily Harm), Cruelty to Animals, and Violation of Pretrial Release Conditions on a Domestic Violence case.

Mr. Crimins was arrested for attempting to kill his child's mother's new boyfriend in December, 2009. He also allegedly killed her chihuahua a few days before. Testimony presented at trial showed that he went to her home, assaulted her new boyfriend with a meat cleaver (completely severing 4 fingers on the victim's left hand and leaving his right thumb with only a bit of skin to keep it attached to the hand), cut her, and fled the scene. Crimins' 4-yr old daughter was in the house while the assault occurred in the front yard.

When I arrived in Judge Bob LeBlanc's courtroom yesterday, the State had already rested its case and the female victim was testifying on behalf of the defendant. She claimed that her new boyfriend was really just her drug supplier. She felt responsible for the assault because she had earlier told Crimins that she was going to kick the new boyfriend out of the house and that he could come back later that night.

Most people wonder why someone who had suffered such a brutal assault would testify on behalf of the perpetrator. But she told us why. She wants her 4-yr old daughter to have a relationship with her daddy. She even stated she didn't want to have any part of sending him to prison.

The "happily ever after" and "Prince Charming" stories that little girls are taught in childhood leave a strong impression when they get old enough to start dating. 

Additionally, family courts frown upon parents who attempt to thwart the other parent's efforts to spend time with their children. The message, when you're in the throes of a divorce/separation is clear.  If you don't make every effort to facilitate the other parent's relationship with your mutual child, you could be held in contempt.

The defendant, knowing about her drug usage, had threatened to call DCF in the past.

Most mothers, even those who use drugs, will do anything to keep from losing their child.  Using children as a weapon to continue controlling the other parent is perhaps the most powerful thing an abuser can do to their victim.

There was "bad blood" between the men, even though they had never met face-to-face before that night.  Crimins testified on the stand that when they finally did meet, they were "doing the whole alpha male thing." Tragically for the victim, Crimins came armed with a meat cleaver and a knife (he is employed as a chef), alleging that he was in fear of being assaulted because of the threats that had made to him before. Interestingly enough, Crimins (who had 12 years of martial arts experience and knew how to disarm an opponent) told the detective when he was arrested that he was not afraid of the victim.

Crimins also admitted to having violated the Court's "no contact" order that was imposed as a result of an assault upon his girlfriend earlier in the year. That case is still pending.

Crimins couldn't seem to remember how many felony convictions he had. The State introduced evidence of two cases from New Jersey and two from Seminole County. The Florida cases were of a domestic nature and involved this same victim.

Perhaps most chilling, Crimins explained how the dog died. He claimed that the dog ran into the street and its head was crushed under the wheels of a light truck that drove by. When asked by the State if he had ever seen a dog with a crushed skull before, he replied "several times." He elaborated by saying that "two girls that I dated growing up both had dogs that got hit the exact same way. Chasing a car and the back tire ran over the head." Crimins' ex was then recalled to the stand and testified that the defendant had told her that she needed to come get her dog (whom he had rescued from the house after she allegedly abandoned it without food or water after the earlier assault) because it would get hit by a car.
Hmmm. That's a bit too coincidental to be a coincidence. Does anyone else see a pattern here?

When shown a photo of the dog's body, which was found on the defendant's property, the victim had difficulty in identifying the animal as hers because of all the blood. The detective who investigated the case later testified that the dog appeared to have a stab wound.
The jury is deliberating right now.

Friday, 3/25/11 at 3:10 PM:
Attempted 1st Degree Murder: hung jury
Aggravated Battery (male victim): guilty (30 years DOC maximum)
Aggravated Battery (female victim): not guilty
Animal Cruelty: not guilty
Violation of Pretrial Release Conditions on DV case: guilty (5 years DOC maximum)

Sentencing scheduled for April 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM in Courtroom 7D

4/7/11 UPDATE: Judge LeBlanc found Crimins to be a Habitual Felony Offender, which permits him to impose a sentence that is greater than the statutory guidelines for the offense. In this case, the State requested LIFE in prison, while the defense requested the 81.68 months that he scored. The Court sentenced Crimins to 30 years in prison, ordered restitution to the victim who suffered the cleaver attack, and ordered no contact with the victim.

Crimins' ex-girlfriend, who was also wounded that night, called the Court from NC and told the judge that she loves the defendant, her daughter wants her daddy, and that Mr. Crimins should not have to pay for the mistakes of other people (alluding to the fact that she invited him to the house that evening, in spite of a "no contact" order being put in place).

Judge LeBlanc emphasized more than once that the defendant had no right to be at the home and stated, "I'd be hard pressed not to find he's a danger to the community with his record."

I would agree with the Judge's assessment of his record.

Kudos to ASA Sarah Freeman and to Judge LeBlanc for holding this man accountable.

As a result of the many hurtful comments from both sides on this forum, I have decided to delete all comments relating to this case and not permit additional posts on this blog. I refuse to permit this site to be used by either side to antagonize the other.

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