A 65-year-old Deerfield Beach man has been arrested on a series of decades-old sexual assault cases, after a cold case crimes unit reportedly linked him to at least three assaults.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers are always wary of police claims of guilt made many years down the road. There is a great deal that can happen in that time frame that make positive identification – particularly in sexual assault cases – extremely difficult for prosecutors.
In this case, the defendant was eccentric, to say the least. But that doesn’t make him a criminal.
Back in 1979, he reportedly carried out a series of burglaries in which he wore a cape. Detectives who pursued him in those cases said that he was brilliant – with an IQ number in the high 160’s. They also said he was “unstable.”
After being sentenced to 15 years in prison on various theft and burglary crimes, the defendant wrote a book called, “Secrets of a Superthief.” In it, he makes wild claims about jewelry heists in the hundreds of millions of dollars, his alleged ownership of a speed boat and a vacation home in Maine, and his use of sophisticated radio equipment that would have rivaled James Bond’s spy gear.
In fact, he had in one case stolen $1 million worth of jewelry from a doctor’s home that was rigged with high-tech alarms. But the book reads like more of a fantasy than a biography. Never once did he mention sexual assault.
He was released from prison in 1987 and moved to Arizona.
He was again arrested on burglary charges, and later on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor. He had been distributing fliers reportedly posing as a photographer, and was found in possession of hundreds of images of underage girls.
As a result, he was sentenced to prison in 1992. He was paroled in 2004 , and moved back to South Florida. He had since married and lived quietly with his wife in a trailer park in Breezy Hill.
Now, police are coming after him for a number of sexual assaults in the area back in the 1970s, with some speculating that he could be the so-called “Gentle Rapist.”
Depending on the circumstances, sexual battery can be charged as either a first- or second-degree felony, according to Florida Statute 794.011, meaning the individual would be looking at somewhere between 5 years to life in prison for a single charge.
Now you may be wondering about how statutes of limitation factor. It’s important to note that when the charge is aggravated rape, the prosecutor can file at any time. Generally, these are cases in which a weapon was used or there was more than one person or the victim was seriously injured.
For cases of sexual abuse or sexual assault, the statute of limitations is typically four years, or four years after the alleged victim turns 18.
However, there is an exception for DNA analysis. The state has up to one year after the discovery of DNA evidence linking the suspect to the crime in order to file, even if the regular statute of limitations has passed.
That’s what we’re looking at in this case, which will undoubtedly require a skilled attorney to develop a strong legal defense.
If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Arrest of Superthief on rape charges may open other Cold Case files, Nov. 2, 2012, By Mike Clary, Sun-Sentinel
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U.S. v. Owen – Guilty Verdict Reversed On Appeal, Oct. 19, 2012, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog