When I was a kid, my mom had a list of neighborhood kids she didn’t want me hanging around. For the most part, her intuitions were correct, and my childhood is now void of any shenanigans involving “the wrong crowd”. Sad really, but the good news is, I could find a way to be bad within the good crowd (a story for another day). Anyway, I’ve represented zillions of clients whose arrest involved something “wrong”—the wrong crowd, the wrong place at the wrong time, and so forth and so on. Often, if someone is going to blame a criminal charge on the “wrong” anything, it means we’ve probably got ourselves a repeat customer. I don’t want to Dr. Phil this point too much, but folks who blame themselves rarely come back to see me on a second case. Those who blame their wife, husband, or pet hamster–I’ve got a client for life. Job security.
Our case for today begins the same as any “American Greed” episode—a very wealthy, elderly, woman is befriended by a married couple. The married couple “assists” the old lady with the legal affairs of her estate while she was of limited mentalcapacity. Somehow, the married couple ends up as beneficiaries in the will. This is the case of Javellana v. State, 168 So. 3d 283 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015). Mr. & Mrs. Javellana were convicted of the financial exploitation of an elderly person by manipulating a will to become residual beneficiaries of a vast financial estate. Mr. Javellana went to trial and lost, but appealed the case on the grounds that “under a principals theory” the judge should have dismissed the charges as “there was no evidence he participated in the exploitation”. Id. at 284. Before we get into the evidence of exploitation, let’s briefly explore what it means to be convicted as a “principal” to a crime.
There are plenty of shady words in the world of criminal defense, and “principal” ranks right up there with “loitering and prowling”, the “odor of cannabis”, and an “unrecorded confession”. Basically, being charged as a “principal” means the state doesn’t have much evidence against you. It means that there’s a good chance the charges are bogus. When you see the word “principal”, your BS detector should be on high alert (you get the point). Continue Reading