The Final Days of Free Email

I remember that day.

I chose to allow Comcast to start charging for email. It didn’t happen quickly, but after the FCC repealed net neutrality the service providers started offering “packages”. These packages included items that were once unrestricted, but soon they were considered a typical part of the “basic” plan. For only another $5 per month, you could also get unrestricted access to Netflix, Hulu, and Facebook. They were the last holdout – Facebook. The others were bought by the ISP’s as they’re market value soon plummeted. Tor disappeared. Never heard a word about it – but then the media websites were controlled by the ISP’s, so why would we hear even a peep?

Slowly, over the course of decades, every single packet of information became filtered and taxed. The voices of the masses were quelled by a deafening silence – the sound of censorship. We allowed it to happen because nobody ever thought it would come to this. We used to get these prank messages, that we had to forward this message or post something on our page, to prevent from being charged by Facebook – and we did it. Happily – out of mere caution. Little did we know that the government would endorse such an act. They did. They did it. Now we pay extra for everything, and can’t speak up to change it. They won’t permit it, and the people that used to govern us are powerless to stop it!

Repealing net neutrality is a grave error.

If Internet service providers are permitted to influence our activity, it will serve to chill our freedoms. We have all moved our communication and expression to the Internet. We email, we tweet, we like, we blog. Americans are digital. Allowing any corporate entity to affect this communication will affect our freedom of that expression, and this would be a violation of our most important right.

The FCC must enforce and maintain net neutrality.

We cannot, as Americans, allow any possibility of infringement on our right to free speech. This repeal could be considered a violation of our fundamental constitutional rights. The panic of websites charging for emails and messaging would become real – and beyond our span of control. Corporations are legally created “people”, and permitting a “person” the power to restrict our freedom without due process is unlawful. The US government is in no way authorized to do this.

If the electric company charged us more for cooking than lighting, it would impact our eating habits. If the water utility charged us more for bathing than drinking, it would influence our hygiene. If the phone company charged us more for calling our friends, it would reduce our social behavior. An Internet service provider cannot be allowed any opportunity to influence our speech, and they would do just that. Don’t get it confused!

So send a message,  STOP THEM BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

This is NO JOKE. A failure to act now may lead to these very stories (at the top) being shared with your grandkids. 2 minutes is all it takes! Do it!

Credit Repair: Part 3 – the Letters and the Laws

Continued from Credit Repair – Part 2 – the Methods

I’ve used some form of the following letters to contest credit issues.

This first letter

is to the creditor (group 1). The creditor must either provide you with proof of confirmation of your identity or tell the collections agency to remove the account. First, you must contact the original creditor by phone. If they’re out of business, your debt must be canceled. If they answer, get a name, their legal address, and ask (politely) what kind of record keeping proves your debt to them. If they don’t have positive ID (like a bank would request), then send this letter to their legal address.

May 27, 2017
Re: Acct # WERNICKE, CHARLES  
SSN ***-**-1234  
DOB 01/01/1901
Dear Legal Department:

This letter is in regards to a phone call I placed to your organization on April 1, 2017.  I called to inquire about an account that is listed on my credit report and spoke to an employee who identified herself as Rachel. 

The account is from Feb 24, 2012 for $780.

She informed me that your company does not have any proof of identity on this account and that all documentation was sent to a collection agency. I was the victim of identity theft. I don't understand how the investigation confirmed this debt without any documentation or proof of my identity for purposes of incurring a debt? I have copied the collection agency with this complaint.

Please remove these debts from my credit history. They are not mine. If this incorrect information is not removed from my credit reports, I will file suit against your organization for violating the FDCPA and/or the FCRA as applicable.

Sincerely,
Your Name Here

At the same time,

you will need to send a letter to the collections agency (group 2). They need to be notified that the creditor (group 1) has received a challenge and to expect a follow-up. The agency (group 2) can be sued (successfully) for failing to comply with federal law. It’s not worth it to them to pursue a legally contested account. They will probably abandon it rather than risk it.

May 27, 2017
 Re: Acct # WERNICKE, CHARLES
 SSN ***-**-1234
 DOB 01/01/1901
 

Dear Legal Department:

I recently disputed the collection accounts reported on my credit by NTL. I was the victim of identity theft during 2012. The debts were allegedly verified, however, as legitimate debts:

THE ORIGINAL CREDITOR COMPANY Feb 24, 2012 $780

I contacted the creditor (THE ORIGINAL CREDITOR COMPANY) on April 1, 2017, and spoke to Rachel.

Rachel informed me that THE ORIGINAL CREDITOR COMPANY does not have any documentation on this account and that it was all sent to your collection agency. I don't understand how the investigation confirmed this debt without any documentation or proof of my identity? I have copied the creditor with this complaint. Please remove these debts from my credit history. They are not mine. If this incorrect information is not removed from my credit reports, I will file suit against your organization for violating the FDCPA and/or the FCRA as applicable.

Sincerely,
Your Name Here

Now keep an eye on your weekly credit reports.

You will normally see the credit bureaus (group 3) drop the problem claims without further effort. If nothing happens and you receive nothing in the mail, send both letters again. Give them a month. If they ignore the second try, then take them to small claims court.

Here’s the law:

FCRA: Fair Credit Reporting Act (1970)

is U.S. Federal Government legislation enacted to promote the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information contained in the files of consumer reporting agencies. It was intended to protect consumers from the willful and/or negligent inclusion of inaccurate information in their credit reports. To that end, the FCRA regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information. Together with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), the FCRA forms the foundation of consumer rights law in the United States. It is enforced by the US Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The following excerpt from the Act explains legal procedure:

§ 623. (a)(8) ABILITY OF CONSUMER TO DISPUTE INFORMATION DIRECTLY WITH FURNISHER
(D) SUBMITTING A NOTICE OF DISPUTE- A consumer who seeks to dispute the accuracy of information shall provide a dispute notice directly to such person at the address specified by the person for such notices that–

(i) identifies the specific information that is being disputed;

(ii) explains the basis for the dispute; and

(iii) includes all supporting documentation required by the furnisher to substantiate the basis of the dispute.

(E) DUTY OF PERSON AFTER RECEIVING NOTICE OF DISPUTE- After receiving a notice of dispute from a consumer pursuant to subparagraph (D), the person that provided the information in dispute to a consumer reporting agency shall–

(i) conduct an investigation with respect to the disputed information;

(ii) review all relevant information provided by the consumer with the notice;

(iii) complete such person’s investigation of the dispute and report the results of the investigation to the consumer before the expiration of the period under section 611(a)(1) within which a consumer reporting agency would be required to complete its action if the consumer had elected to dispute the information under that section; and

(iv) if the investigation finds that the information reported was inaccurate, promptly notify each consumer reporting agency to which the person furnished the inaccurate information of that determination and provide to the agency any correction to that information that is necessary to make the information provided by the person accurate.
(v)

§ 616 and § 617 of the FCRA talk about how much the fines are for violations of the FCRA (the willful and negligent noncompliance), typically $1,000 per violation in small claims court.

§ 623(c) of the FCRA affords that if you challenge the original creditors (group 1), without first having disputed through the credit bureaus (group 3), you are likely screwed. Don’t do it. Contest your claim with the credit bureaus first!

FACTA: Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (2003)

is a United States federal law as an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The act allows consumers to request and obtain a free credit report once every twelve months and created AnnualCreditReport.com, to provide free access to annual credit reports.

The act also contains provisions to help reduce identity theft, such as the ability for individuals to place alerts on their credit histories if identity theft is suspected, thereby making fraudulent applications for credit more difficult.

In summary,

you should now have all the ammunition you need to restore your credit. Put a little effort into it and you’ll be back on track in no time. Identity theft need not be the end of the world. Thanks for reading through to the end. Bee bopity bo.

Credit Repair: Part 2 – the Methods

Continued from Credit Repair: Part 1 – the Enemy

You’ve read thus far because

you want (or need) your credit fixed. Perhaps it was some trouble in your past, maybe a medical bill you couldn’t afford, or you were cheated. No matter what the cause, the solution may be easier than you think. There are several methods of attack. This text won’t judge – you do this for whatever reason you see fit, but don’t think that they think you are an honest person. You have already been classified as a deadbeat and must proceed with that in mind.

Before you do anything,

get your latest credit report. CreditKarma is one fast, easy, and free way to accomplish this. You can also get a free annual report (required by law) from AnnualCreditReport. All the credit bureaus (Group 3: Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) also offer some level of free online reporting. You need this current information in front of you before you can start disputing it.

After you have your report,

challenge the bad credit reported by the reporting bureau (group 3). This should take about 30 days. They will contact the collections agency or financial institution involved and notify them that you dispute the item. They will have to investigate. Surprisingly, many companies won’t carry paper records for more than a year. They will be unable to provide proof and your problem is over! If they do provide proof, then you have to proceed with one of the following tactics:

Method 1: If the debt is legit

and you want to pay, make sure the collections agency (group 2) agrees in writing to remove any derogatory marks on your credit report. They will most likely agree. They’ll be making many times their investment back, and they have nothing to gain by leaving you screwed. In fact, restoring “good” credit to a risky person increases the likelihood of them getting another account (yours) down the road from your next “victim”. Everyone wins except the original creditors –  and they deserve their fate for so easily giving you credit.

The original creditor has probably tacked on late fees and other penalties on your balance. You can offer the collection agency (group 2) a settlement. Remember – they are taking a risk when they buy the debt from the creditor (group 1) – so they are will probably accept as little as 10% of the original debt. If you decide to negotiate, I’d recommend a book by Herb Cohen entitled “You Can Negotiate Anything”. He describes useful tactics for drawing your opponent in to invest his time and effort into your problem. People hate to waste time. If the collections agent develops a relationship with you, he will be more likely to accept an extremely low offer. So pay it all, or pay a fraction, either way, it is your choice from the very beginning.

Negotiate. It’s worth your time and effort. If someone offered you $500 to make a 5-minute phone call once a week for 12 weeks, would you do it? Of course you would. Saving $500 is the same as earning it. Negotiate these people down and earn your pay, baby!

Method 2: If you have been cheated

through fraud of any sort, you should challenge the debt. You should call the original creditor (group 1) and ask them for copies of the contract that names and identifies you. If the debt is more than a year old, they may not have it! If they never requested identification, then you’re done – they can’t come after you and they have to clear it up with the collections agency! If someone else took out credit using your name, how can they morally hold you responsible? They will. That’s insane, and it happens much more than you imagine.

Even if they do have positive ID, if you can prove it a forgery (as in identity theft), then they will have to remove the record. This will take persistence on your part. The police will be very unlikely to help you with this unless the amount is substantial. The burden of proof of identity though lies upon the vendor (the creditor). They’re the ones who got robbed by your “impersonator”. You may have to take the vendor to court, in the end, should they choose to be stubborn, but most won’t be. Most times the debt disappears and your credit is fixed!

Remember, your corner bank won’t hand you money without proper ID and funds, so a merchant doing so is stupid, and deserves some pain in this harsh business climate. I’m not advocating fraud, but don’t let someone else’ bad behavior change yours. Their bad business practices should not cost you a nickel!

Method 3: Wait 7 years

for the accounts to fall off your credit history. This will obviously take a while. You probably can’t do this, but except for the two methods listed above, you have little other choice!

 

Now you know the methods, next are some sample letters and simple explanations of the laws behind them…

Credit Repair: Part 1 – the Enemy

Bad credit. How do you fix it?Credit Repair

I had some crap on my credit report. It affected my employment opportunities, housing, and it was pretty much assumed to be a picture of “me”. That sucks, because I’m a very responsible and honest person, but creditors don’t play anymore. If you have a dispute, they ignore you and send the bill to a collection agency. Now you can wait the 7 years for it to fall off, and it will, but I’m not a patient man when it comes to some things. Like ice cream – I want it NOW.

I’ve been describing these facts and methods to a number of friends recently. This information was intended to be (and will be) added to the next edition of Darknet, Bitcoin, Fraud.  After explaining it a few times though, I realized I can’t hold this back any longer. It’s simply too important to hide.

This is how I fixed my credit:

I’ve tried to keep this simple. Since credit is important these days and identity theft is rampant, I thought it would be prudent to explain the process of recovery. The government has also swung in this direction, passing acts in the past few years to help US citizens gain some power in their arguments against creditors. It’s pretty straightforward, but let’s get a few things clear.
There are basically three different groups involved. The laws have changed for all of them, granting you more power, but you need to be able to speak with authority. Their business practices haven’t changed much; they’ll still threaten, harass, and blackmail you. I will show you how to easily defeat them, and use the laws in your favor.

First, here’s a rundown of the three groups; what each one does:

Group 1: Creditors are those businesses or entities that grant you credit. They give you something in exchange for your promise to pay. They must ensure that the person they’re granting credit to is you. You can’t walk into a bank and withdraw money without an ID. A social security number and birthdate just won’t do. They’ll tell you to hit the bricks. Sorry for your luck. BUT that’s also what other creditors must do. They can’t just go around willy-nilly handing out money insisting it was you they gave it to, without proof that it was actually you. Rewind to the bank – did they get your ID? Oh, ok. They didn’t? Well, that’s their fault, and if you decide not to pay then that’s their loss – not yours. They’ll get angry, give up, and turn over your account to a collection agency.

Group 2: Collection Agencies are just paper pushers that are skilled in the arts of lying and negotiation. They will buy your account from the creditor for a significant discount. They’ll probably give the creditor about $70 for your $1000 “bad debt”. Now to the creditor, $70 is better than nothing. They’d much rather settle with you for say $100, but sadly that time has come and gone. Pride and appearance usually get involved, clouding the battlefield and causing the creditor to give up on you instead of negotiating. Either way, fortunately for you the collection agency will usually accept any amount over that $70 once they believe they’ll get little more than that. This takes a certain amount of negotiation, stamina, and perseverance. It won’t be easy, but it’s do-able. Meanwhile, they list your delinquent account with a credit reporting agency, sit back, and wait up to seven years for you to cough up the full amount owed.

Group 3: Credit Reporting Bureaus like Equifax and Transunion merely report what Group 2 tells them. They sell this information to individuals and organizations that request it. The bureaus must report what they have, and they are the “front door” for any dispute. They are just “the messengers” – reporting what others have told them – and shouldn’t be “shot” despite the fact that they’re the people responsible for your credit approval. The credit reporting bureaus just assemble your credit score; that’s all they do. They must tell you who is requesting and reporting what. All the information you need to attack your problems is within their grasp, but they won’t help you very much aside from reporting that you contest the claim.

So now you know your enemies; let’s discuss the battlefield.

Next up…. who does what to who, why, and when?

A Harley, a Lunch Truck, and the Orlando Homeless

Grilled_Cheese_food_truckI am a terrible person.

I owe you an apology.

Not a damned thing has come from this keyboard this year. Well, nothing of any substance anyhow. I feel bad about this. Not TOO bad, mind you, but it does weigh on me and I’ve lost sleep over it. I’ve contemplated throwing myself in front of a bus, but I fear that wouldn’t be enough penance. I don’t know what to do, so here I am, on my knees, begging your forgiveness. Please don’t leave. Just hear me out.

Like you, I’m a very busy person.

I don’t have nearly enough time in the day to be both productive and fun. I can be one, or the other, but lately, I’ve found it impossible to be both. I’ve reached somewhat of an impasse in my writing. I’ve stuffed my face with too much pizza – bitten off more than I can chew. I can be an idiot sometimes – just ask my ex-wives. I’ve also been fighting off Chinese hackers – no lie. They’ve been assaulting my website. I think I pissed them off somehow, which is… plausible.

I have several great topics that interest me right now.

First, I’ve begun writing on the homelessness problem here in Orlando. This is serious. This story will have you shaking your head, it surely shocks me. The problem is that I care so much about this problem that I want to do it perfectly. Thus, I suffer like a deer in the headlights. I’ve discussed the topic in-depth with a few people and it has meat. I fear, though, that it might be bigger than me. To truly reveal the depth of this tragedy requires more resources than I can muster, but it’s so important to me that I want to carry it. I want this badly. I need to find or perhaps even create a charity to channel any support my words might generate. Help!

Alzheimer’s in jail?

I also have interest in the treatment of the mentally impaired by the legal system. This has personal roots and affected me in the most egregious way a few years back. Our society is expanding its’ horizons and understanding of mental processes and we now see that many people are impaired, and many more are on the way. How does the legal system treat the mentally impaired? As our population ages and our lifespans stretch out, more and more Alzheimer’s and dementia victims are being arrested and processed in our jails. People are dying – needlessly. Nobody’s doing anything about it, and the chances are that you will have a family member put in this situation. Can you imagine your confused and elderly mom or dad being arrested for something petty and spending a few days trapped in a concrete and steel cell with a rapist or murderer? If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it will if things don’t change. This story will be released later this year.

Lastly, I have to revise and add some material to my books.

I want to -no- need to. I also want to share my motorcycle riding experiences with people in the hope that I might save a life. Bikes are fun, but I’ve lost too many friends on them for stupid reasons. I owe the world my experience, it might be the only thing I can truly give back, and the finest way to honor their memories.

So, please don’t be harsh with me.

If you have any comments you believe I’d like to hear about, weigh in. Yell at me. I’m a big boy, I can handle the assault. I won’t call the police. Thanks for hearing me out.

Oh, and I also want to buy and run a lunch truck. Long story. Sex, drugs, rock and roll.

Homelessness in Kissimmee

Homeless Steve

My latest mission is to explore and document the homeless situation in Kissimmee.

It’s hard to believe the numbers I’m turning up – and deeply saddens me.

I work with the homeless every day, and the problem right here in Walt Disney World’s backyard is tragic.

The government reports good trends. The news repeats it. It’s a lie – I see it every day. It’s NOT getting better near me, and the people on the street are seeing the problem only get worse.

I’m currently assembling interviews from the local homeless population and preparing to query local resources.

Stay tuned! If you’d like to help in any way please contact me here. I need all the help I can get.

A magnificent ball-racking

<< Go back to the Beginning >>

 

Stay aware of your environment, and be nice your gonads.

It was a pleasant ride. I’d wandered for hours in the woods, roads, and trails of Gulf Cove. This vast grid of paved area was almost completely empty, with just a few houses and telephone poles or even street signs. Ed McMahon, of the Tonight Show fame, had been a major investor in this community that took decades to catch on (in any way). Meanwhile, in 1974 it was a boy’s paradise. No traffic, or any cars for that matter. They were still digging canals, and they frequently left the keys to backhoes and front loaders in the ignition (yes, I did). Wildlife of all sorts, including rattlesnakes, rabbits, quail, deer, alligators, and gopher turtles scurried away from the imminent threat posed by my presence.

It had been a long day of animal terrorism – and I was returning with my trophies – when I looked up and realized that a rather large concrete pipe was blocking my path and I couldn’t even begin to stop in time.

Wheels have a hard time with large pipes like that. The bike stops very suddenly- and you don’t. You slide forward about 18 inches, your legs sliding under the handlebars until your groin meets the triple-tree, and then your body also stops very suddenly, very painfully. Yes, I have experienced it, once.

I hadn’t been going especially fast, considering it was a packed dirt road with good visibility. The developers were draining a canal, and an 18” pipe had been placed across the entire road. I knew it was there- I had to use a board to cross over it earlier, and I also had the good sense to place the board in position for the return trip. I just didn’t imagine the return trip would be at such an enhanced speed.

I have no way of knowing how long I’d been unconscious, but my engine was cold when I awoke. Yes, I was wearing my helmet. I had managed to catch the board- the ramp- with the front tire. The bike (and myself) somersaulted and landed about 20 feet past the pipe. I have no idea what kind of spectacle that had been, but I wish I could post it on YouTube today. I just wasn’t paying attention. After that, I did. All the time. Constantly! You MUST stay aware of your environment, or get racked in the balls.

This WILL Kill You!

<< Go all the way back to the Beginning >>

 

Be aware of your machine. I’d arranged a camping trip with a friend from school. It was a remote island near Boca Grande FL, he had a boat and I had wheels. I was 15, and this was an adventure. I’d scored some beer and had it in my backpack. On my trusted MR-50, I was hunched over going about 60mph cutting through the wind. I watched the speedometer slowly edge up, I had the machine going full blast. It was glorious. My backpack flapped in the wind, it’s straps singing as they danced from the force. I was tired and impatient. I didn’t realize, at first, what had pulled on my back, and then I was on the road contemplating Kennedy and dinner for a while.

First off, I had a helmet on. Always did back then. I slid, and slid, and slid. The backpack had busted open, and cans of beer hung just out of reach during the long slide. I’d have grabbed one, and consumed it, but they were elusive little bastards. One of them, just to tease me, busted open and sprayed it’s frothy goodness as it spun ahead of me. I hummed the theme to Easy Rider, as I waited for the long desired “stop”. Finally, after a long, long time, it came.

A Charlotte county deputy – far in the distance – approached from the opposite direction. He’d watched the action. He was more shook up than the beer, and hurriedly helped me up – and even collected my beer for me! That county was decent back then. It seems that those straps on my backpack, the ones whipping in the wind, well one of them got caught in the drive chain. The road rash was bleeding pretty good, but it wouldn’t hurt until I got back home. I managed to remove the strap from the sprocket and my baby was operational again. I went home, leaving my pride and the adventure behind.

Road rash sucks. The first thing one must do to treat it is clean it. Sand and pebbles get embedded in and under your skin, so you must use a stiff brush and remove them. Completely. If you are spared pain on the scene, you aren’t spared the discomfort at home. After brushing out the wound, you must disinfect. Then, of course, a tetanus booster may be wise. It takes many weeks of amazing pain to return to a point of normal mobility. Knees and elbows are used for even the most mundane of tasks, and the 18 square inches of skin on each of them become remarkably unforgiving to injury. It’s surprising how much one’s resistance to pain can also grow due the incremental damage sustained.

I’ve had tires pop, wheel bearings and engines seize, even lost my brakes once or twice. These things will happen. You cannot possibly prevent every possibility from occurring, but pay attention to your machine and keep it serviced. She will take care of you – if you take care of her. Lastly, for God’s sake, don’t let straps or loose clothing hang down, especially from something firmly attached to you.

 

Next >>

Darknet, Bitcoin, Fraud released

I’m thrilled to announce the November 11, 2016 release of
“Darknet, Bitcoin, Fraud” !!

Click here to buy it now on:

Amazon Kindle
Buy “Darknet, Bitcoin, Fraud” here

Intro:

Have you been hacked yet? You’re next! The chances are you will be attacked, soon. This book shows you how you’ll be targeted, and what you will hopefully do to prevent it.

One in five people have already been hacked, and 25 million more are defrauded every year. You read about it in the news; emails from your bank, “Change your password! Use a VPN! Verify your account details!” These tiny cyber-attacks are typically interstate or international, and never prosecuted. Identities, credit cards, titles, even actual lives are stolen and traded online. Victims rarely find out until it’s far too late, and then they are faced with a long, uphill battle. These people never fully recover from the assault.

Cybercrime is rampant and just getting worse- the nation just doesn’t have the resources to combat it. The federal hiring focus is on cyber-agents: they need more whitehat hackers to investigate and prevent these attacks. Meanwhile, every second another helpless victim is snared in the US alone.

How does this happen? Who can do this? You can. Anybody can! It’s easy, but we’re lured into believing otherwise. This concise manual describes the simplicity of committing digital fraud. Knowledge is power; the last thing the FBI needs is more pressure to fix something they can’t. Our ignorance and complacency is the underlying problem. The author seeks to change that. Take a few minutes and try on the black hat! Find out for yourself what it feels like, and learn how to protect yourself from online villains.

Each chapter is designed to illustrate ease, simplicity, and security. A wide swath of topics introduce the reader to the hacker tools and methods of attack. Bitcoin transactions are described from start to finish, which is an essential component of Darknet purchases and money laundering. Secure communications and online privacy tactics are highlighted to enable further research (if desired). Many of the weaknesses in our online structures exploited by today’s cyber-criminals are revealed within, and various means to defend yourself are spelled out.

Links and references are included throughout to hold the reader’s hand and expand their opportunities (should you feel the desire).

Warning: hard truths within. This may shake you up (at least) a little.

Florida vs. Wanda Reyes, a tale of Polk County

There was nothing for Wanda to fear.

She was an innocent librarian hanging out with a friend. The red and blue lights pulled up behind Wanda Reyes and her friend while parked on the side of the road. The Polk County deputy strolled up to the driver’s side of the car. It turns out that she did have something to fear, though – the cop decided they smelled like marijuana, and that is enough for a drug conviction in Polk County. She felt in physical jeopardy – threatened. The officers insinuated sexual impropriety – that she was a prostitute. An hour later, merely in jail, the state charged Wanda with possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. Her friend had absentmindedly left a “roach” on the floorboard under his seat of his car. Wanda was detained for two weeks before she was located and bonded out.

Stuck in a hole.

Wanda would miss her orientation at Disney World the next day. She was unable to contact anybody – who remembers phone numbers these days? Even if she had a number to call, it would have to be collect – and only certain cell phone carriers accept them. Her friend was also arrested and he had no way to know who to contact for her. It takes three weeks to qualify for “indigent status” in many Florida counties and receive postage for outgoing mail. Day by day her hope diminished – she was forgotten, abandoned. Locked in a cage with violent criminals, crying herself to sleep every night. She’d violated no laws, yet law enforcement had given the power of “conviction by instinct” to its officers. Surely, this power could not be abused?

No way out.

Her lawyer, public defender Carmalita Lall (FL BAR #0109159) would appear before the judge and fail to argue the lack of probable cause. How could this be? Certainly, this was a mistake. After her release, Wanda went to her arraignment, and her lawyer advised her to take probation? It would seem that her arrest was not a mistake after all, that there is a deliberate and willful abuse of power in Polk County. And it would seem the whole system is in on it. Why wasn’t she released ROR? Why is the Public Defender’s office loathe to fight for her? Her co-defendant accepted the consequences of his bad judgment and has been sentenced! He informed the state’s attorney of his culpability. The case has not been dropped.

Polk County doesn’t play.

I can understand that Polk County would want peace. I also understand that areas of criminal activity interrupt that peace. Drug possession is currently criminal activity in the state of Florida, and I believe drug use is a substantial problem. I believe that Sheriff Grady Judd believes that reducing crime is his mandate. I believe this is just and fair. I do not believe, however, that any and all measures should be leveled against criminal activity. This is where he and I apparently disagree.

Dismiss the charges!

In the state of Florida, it is currently illegal to possess marijuana without a prescription. It is not illegal to smell like marijuana or even smoke marijuana. In the deputy’s sworn affidavit, he acknowledges that Wanda was not in actual or constructive possession of either an illegal substance or paraphernalia. Further, he affirms that her co-defendant confessed to his crimes at the scene, absorbing all guilt. So why, WHY was she arrested? And why should she feel threatened by the presence of law enforcement? What is wrong here?

How does Wanda Reyes’ story make you feel?

20151022_164053

Case: 2016MM007525A000BA filed: 8/29/16

FSS 893.13(6)(b) Possession of Cannabis

FSS 893.147(1) Possession of Narcotic Paraphernalia

Judge Robert G Fegers

Arrest report# 160038961: arrested on 8/27/16 by Deputy William Alexis Pastor-Cotto

UPDATES:

10/31/2016 – Wanda is back in jail, her bond revoked for failing to appear. Her docket hearing for trial is on December 1, 2016. The state has no probable cause to hold her, but she remains detained until trial by jury.

11/16/2016 – Wanda has been released. She pled “no contest” and adjudication has been withheld. Not the perfect scenario, but just. She’s now on the hook for court costs and the damage inflicted by her unlawful arrest. This nonsense has to stop – when will we be able to count on law enforcement OFFICERS to truly protect our rights again?