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Cleared in robbery case         

Antwain Ball, 18, stood tall at his burglary and robbery trial. And the prosecution came up short. 

Common Pleas Judge Kathryn S. Lewis yesterday acquitted Ball after defense attorney Jeffrey M. Voluck questioned the identification by the 32-year-old West Philadelphia victim. 

When the woman insisted that the robber inside her house was shorter than Voluck, the lawyer asked his client to stand. 

“He’s bigger than I am,” Voluck said after the case.  “My client was the victim of misidentification.  He was home eating Chinese food when the robbery took place on Dec. 21, 1996.”



PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS

A Winning Smile:
Theft Suspect Cleared

Stephan Sally’s smile won him an acquittal on robbery and theft charges yesterday from Common Pleas Judge Judith Jamison, although the victim had insisted, “That’s him.”
Smittie Wims, 40, told the court that Sally, 18, of the Cambridge Mall public housing project, and an unidentified young man stole her pocketbook containing $106 last May 13 on Girard Avenue near 9th street. 

“I’ll never forget his face,” she said, adding the thief had “a gap in the teeth” and a stutter. 
At that, Sally’s attorney, Jeffrey M. Voluck, asked the defendant to “stand up and smile.”
Sally obliged, showing no gaps, and –without stuttering-denied taking part in the theft. 

“The smile did it,” Voluck said, calling Sally’s arrest “a case of mistaken identity.”




The Herald

TV weatherman reaches deal on child sex charge

Former Channel 7 weatherman Bill Kamal reached an agreement with prosecutors to spend at least five years in prison for trying to entice a minor to have sex with him. 

BY CHARLES RABIN

Bill Kamal – the popular South Florida meteorologist whose career crashed after he was allegedly caught in a sting involving soliciting sex with a minor – has reached an agreement with prosecutors to serve at least five years in prison. 

“We’ve worked something out.  Now it’s up to the judge,” said Kamal’s attorney, Jeffrey Voluck.  “My client is devastated.  He agreed to this in an effort to move forward and put this behind him.”

Kamal was arrested in October for allegedly trying to lure who he thought was a 14 year-old boy to a Fort Pierce convenience store so he could have sex with the boy. 
Kamal pleaded not guilty to using a computer to entice a child into having sex.  He could have faced a sentence of up to 30 years. 

U.S. attorney’s spokesman Carlos Castillo wouldn’t comment.  Kamal’s trial was to begin Monday. 

Kamal and prosecutors are scheduled to enter the plea deal before U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore in Miami on Friday, Voluck said.  The judge does not have to accept the agreement and has the authority to force the case to trial. 

If the judge accepts the agreement and finds Kamal guilty, a formal sentencing would likely be held within 60 days. 

Federal guidelines provide for a slight reduction in a sentence if an agreement is reached before trial, but the defendant still must face the mandatory minimum – in this case, five years. 

Voluck wouldn’t say what prompted the decision to avoid a trial or what evidence prosecutors found after searching Kamal’s two homes.  He only said the plea agreement was based on a single charge of child enticement. 

“You review all the evidence.  Consider all the factors and the judge, and consider the venue, a Fort Pierce jury – and like a doctor, once you have all that you make a prognosis,” Voluck said. 

The downfall of the popular 10-year WSVN-Fox 7 meteorologist – who was on the air constantly during the state’s hurricane deluge this year – began in October when he entered an America Online chatroom. 

For more than a week, Kamal, 47, thought he was conversing with a 14-year-old boy named “Billy.”  After explicit conversations about sex, the two agreed to meet on Oct. 24 at a strip mall in Fort Pierce. 

But the boy – whom Kamal “met” within two minutes of entering the chatroom – turned out to be St. Lucie County Detective Neil W. Spector.  Spector, along with several other law enforcement officers, followed Kamal on his Sunday afternoon drive from Miami Beach to Fort Pierce. 
When they stopped Kamal they found condoms and two big plastic squirt gun toys in his black Jaguar.  He was fired by the WSVN affiliate the next day. 

After his arrest, police obtained search warrants and were able to confiscate undeveloped film, two computers and videos from Kamal’s Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale homes. 
Kamal is quoted as telling authorities they would find about a dozen pictures of children having sex with adults on his home computers, according to his affidavit. 

He was denied bail by U.S. Magistrate Frank J. Lynch, who determined Kamal was a threat to society.  He remained incarcerated in St. Lucie County until about three weeks ago, when he was transferred to the federal detention facility in Miami-Dade County. 
Since then he has been in solitary confinement, Voluck said. 

“He’s been as well as anyone can be in solitary confinement,” Voluck said.  “They said it was for his own protection.  He wants to be in the general population.  We’re working on that.”




Herald
Building official cleared of charges

BY DON FINEFROCK

State prosecutors dropped their criminal case Friday against Lee Martin, the county building official charged with culpable negligence for allowing Dadeland Station on South Dixie Highway to open with serious construction flaws. 

The surprise move marks the second time in three months the state attorney’s office has backed away from allegations made in April 1998 after a 16-month criminal investigation of the Miami-Dade Building Department. 

Prosecutors dropped official misconduct charges in August against Martin’s former boss, Reinaldo Villar.  Villar still faces a felony charge of tampering with computer records but Martin has now been cleared of any wrongdoing. 

Prosecutors declined to answer questions about Martin. 

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement the misdemeanor charge was dropped because experts now disagree over whether Dadeland Station posed an immediate danger to the public when it opened in October 1996.  The shopping center has since been repaired. 

The dueling opinions created a “reasonable doubt” about whether Martin could be held criminally liable, the chief prosecutor said. 

“While I am disappointed in the outcome of this particular case, it is the duty of this office to step away from a prosecution when in the pursuit of truth it uncovers such a reasonable doubt,” Rundle said in her statement. 




PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS

He’ll get a new trial

Gregory Jordan, 24, decided to be a Good Samaritan when he saw a scuffle between a woman and a cop at broad and South streets on April 20, 1995. 

Jordan, of Larchwood Avenue near 57th Street, helped the woman he believed was being manhandled, and wound up getting into a fight with the cop. 

He later struggled with another officer while about 100 shouting people watched, some screaming “police brutality.”

The woman was suspected in a robbery, but was later cleared of that offense.  When Jordan was convicted of aggravated assault and obstructing justice on March 5, 1996, his lawyer, Jeffrey M. Voluck, called it as “a miscarriage of justice.”

Voluck appealed the conviction and a 3 1/2 –year probation term to the state Supreme Court. 

Last week, the court granted Jordan a new trial. 





Pot bust gets prayers from Rev. Grandpa

Graham Tchividjian, grandson of famed evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, pleaded guilty Thursday to misdemeanor marijuana possession in federal court in West Palm Beach. 
Tchividjian, 20, of Margate, got nailed May 13, 2003 at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.  He and a group of friends were “feeding alligators,” according to a citation issued by Shawn Cottingham, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officer.
 
“He acted suspicious,” the citation says.  “I asked him for consent to check him for weapons and he gave permission.  I found small bags containing marijuana residue…I then asked permission to search the car.  In plain view I observed two bags containing marijuana.” Tchividjian “admitted to them, ”the ticket says. 

Tchividjian arrived at court with his lawyer Jeffrey Voluck, and his father, Dr. Stephen Tchividjian, 64, a psychologist.  His mother Gigi, 58, author and inspirational speaker, was out of town on the lecture circuit, Voluck says, Gigi is the oldest child of the Rev. Graham, 85, and wife Ruth, 83. 

Tchividjian faced jail time – up to six months.  Voluck told U.S. Magistrate Judge Linnea Johnson that Tchividjian had no prior record, and is from a “spiritual” family with a well-known preacher for a grandfather.  The judge sentenced Tchividjian to one year of supervised release, accompanied by drug testing. 

Tchividjian, a salesman at a consumer electronics and appliance chain, told Voluck he spoke with his grandpa before the pea and sentencing.  Says Voluck:  “His grandfather said a prayer and said God will be with him.”




GENTLEMEN’S QUARTERLY

The Palm Beach Bunco Story

Jack “the Turk” Hasson made more than $100 million selling jewelry to his well-tanned clients, including such local luminaries as Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.  Unknown to them, the jewelry he sold was mostly fake:  cubic zirconium, blue topaz, quartz and synthetic platinum.  Still, you have to like the grafter who couldn’t resist one last scam, a brazen attempt to collect  and sell the rarest “diamonds” of all By Bob Drury

THE FRUITS OF DECEIT:  Hasson’s ability to con the well-to-do made him a rich man, whose empire comprised a fleet of boats including two yachts, two private jets and the $7 million Diamond H ranch in Martin County, Florida.  The latter, a gated compound, contained a 7,500–square-foot main house, guest cottages, a disco, a pool and dune-buggy trials. 

Yet to hear Jack’s defenders, Aben Johnson was far from a dupe.  “this guy’s simply another gazillionarie blind with greed,” says Cliff Sloan, the 62-year-old former sea captain who worked as “troubleshooter” first at Hasson and Sons and later at a North Palm Beach Harley-Davidson dealership Jack also owned.  Sloan’s weathered face is as dry as jerky, and his seasoned sailor’s aura evokes a sort of Humphrey Bogart grown old.  When he arrives at a South Florida delicatessen to defend his former boss’s honor, he is recovering from a massive heart attack, yet he orders and enormous pastrami on rye.  The more he fulminates against Jack Hasson’s detractors, the closer the number 911 appears in his future. 

“This guy Johnson, he sees a way to get over on a wealthy Arab,” Sloan says between bits of cured, fatty meat, “Granted, Jack shows him the way.  But what he’s doing to the Arab is no more than what Jack is doing to him.”

The wealthy Arab in question is the sultan of Brunei, the richest man in the world.  In a scheme of grand consequences, Jack convinced Aben Johnson that if he would be willing to part with, say, an additional $50 million to corner the world’s market in blue diamonds, he could turn the consignment around and resell it to the sultan.  The potentate’s lust for blue diamonds is well-known in the industry, Jack explained.  His mother is fond of them. 
Finally, the prince would need a harem.  Enter two beautiful escort-service employees, Sharon Eaton and an unnamed friend.  Going rate:  $500 for three hours.  Eaton was a bombshell, a walking hourglass with a wig of Nordic blond hair, like an avalanche lit by moonlight.  (And as there is no sincerity like a woman telling a lie, several months later she would impersonate a grieving-and imaginary-“ Ms. Fricker,” a society type with her recently deceased mother’s cache of estate diamonds for sale.  The potential buyer?  None other than Aben Johnson, who failed to recognize her from her harem days.)

“Look sexy, stand there and sort of caress the sheikh, rub his shoulders,” Jack instructed Sharon, “You know, what a normal harem girl would do.”

For further motivation, Jack outfitted the women in diaphanous I Dream of Jeannie outfits.

EPILOGUE
Every one of Jack Hasson’s friends and coworkers rolled on him except his book-keeper, Lois Roberson, and Cliff Sloan, who was arrested at Miami International Airport in May 1999 disembarking a flight from Argentina.  Like Jack, Sloan was remanded to the Miami Federal Detention Center pending bond.  At their trial, which began this past January and last seven weeks, Sloan’s eloquent lawyer, Jeffrey Voluck, convinced the jury that his client had broken no laws.  Cliff Sloan, who suffered a heart attack two days before the jury went out, was acquitted of conspiracy to launder money and obstructing



Links tracked in Irish gun case

By LARRY LEBOWITZ
Herald Staff Writer

Law enforcement authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are developing key links between the Broward-based ring of accused gun smugglers and their Irish recipients. 

U.S. law enforcement sources said Wednesday that one of three suspects detained late Tuesday in Ireland is the brother of Conor Anthony Claxton, 26, who was arrested earlier this week in Deerfield Beach by the FBI’s Joint Terrorist Task Force. 

Claxton, 26, and lovers Anthony Smyth, 42, and Siobhan Browne, 34, of Weston, are scheduled for bond hearings this morning at U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale. 
All three are charged with violating U.S. laws regulating the export of firearms and other dangerous materials. 

Authorities will not say whether the ring, which purchased at least 50 guns and had ordered as many as 35 more in South Florida, is affiliated with a particular splinter group of the Irish Republican Army.  The IRA is officially honoring a cease fire as the stalemated Northern Ireland peace talks drag into their second year. 

The man identified as Claxton’s brother and two women were detained late Tuesday by Irish authorities shortly after two parcels containing six handguns and 150 rounds of ammunition arrived at a rented vacation cottage 20 miles outside the western coastal city of Galway. 

Irish police said the three Austrian-made Glock .40-caliber pistols and three American-made Ruger .357 Magnum revolvers were concealed in a toy tractor and a VCR. 
Two of the three – Claxton’s brother and one of the women, identified as Belfast residents by Irish news media reports, remain in custody.  Under Irish law, police investigating terrorist acts can hold suspects up to 72 hours without a charge. 

The third detainee, identified as a Galway woman, was released late Wednesday. 
Federal prosecutors in Fort Lauderdale were expected to argue this morning that Browne, Smyth and Claxton should be held without bail because they are flight risks and dangers to the community. 

Defense attorney Abe Bailey said Conor Claxton is a Dublin resident who was visiting the United States on a tourist visa.  Claxton has parents and a fiancée in Ireland, Bailey said. 
“He’s very quiet.  Unassuming.  He’s like another guy on the street,” Bailey said. 

Defense attorney Jeffrey Voluck said Smyth is an Irish citizen who has legally lived in the United States for 11 years.  Voluck said Smyth works as an automobile wholesaler. 
“He’s got no criminal history whatsoever,” Voluck said of the Smyth. “He’s a clean, hard-working guy.  That’s it.”

Also expected in federal court this morning is a man identified as 52-year-old Meir Rapaport, who has not been charged but was being held as a material witness. 
Authorities said they believe the man is Brown’s ex-husband.  She has used the Rapaport surname among her fake identities. 

In other developments, federal sources confirmed Wednesday that four more parcels linked to the group were intercepted.  In recent weeks, British authorities  have intercepted a total of 19 boxes linked to the group. 

The parcels were mailed in the Philadelphia area and intercepted by U.S. authorities in New York before they were shipped to undisclosed addresses in Ireland. 

A fourth defendant, identified in court papers as Belfast-born Martin Mullan, was arrested late Monday in northeast Philadelphia.  Mullan, 29, is scheduled for a bond hearing Friday at U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. 

Prosecutors say Browne and Smyth purchased more than 50 handguns and ammunition from South Florida gun shops and dealers, and that Claxton and Mullan mailed the parcels to various addresses in Ireland.  The boxes were falsely labeled as toys, stereo components, baby clothes and other consumer goods.  


                                                                                         

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