Florida man, who has been arrested 344 times, goes back to jail
Richard Powell has been convicted five times in the past 12 months alone and been arrested a total of 344 times in his lifetime. Despite numerous warnings, he's now at it again.
57-year-old Richard Powell has become a sort of a mini-celebrity in the Miami areas which he frequents, but for all the wrong reasons. This past week, Powell made his appearance in court for an indiscretion that was not his first time. In fact, it was not his second, nor his third, nor his fourth either. It was his 344th arrest. Furthermore, he has been convicted five times in just the past 12 months.
Powell has found himself in the crosshairs of the law for a variety of reasons, for misdemeanors that can be chalked off as trivial to others that are a bit more serious. He has been behind bars for reasons ranging from drinking in public and stealing a milk crate to strong-arm robbery and sexual battery.
His most recent offense is another in a lengthy line of charges that, had he shown a bit more tact, could have easily been avoided. Homeless, Powell had been forbidden from entering the premises of Miami Beach for a previous transgression. Yet, he paid it no heed and was found by authorities violating the order south of 40th Street.
The police had been called to the scene by residents who had heard him yelling in the middle of the street while carrying a beer. He was apprehended and a cursory search on him yielded a stash of marijuana that Powell had hidden away in his shoe.
Powell and his lawyers took a plea deal to avoid trial, with the compromise meaning that the 57-year-old will have to spend the next 90 days in prison with credit for time served. Despite avoiding the courtroom, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Andrea Ricker Wolfson served out a warning against repeating his antics; a warning that will no doubt carry little threat to the repeat offender.
Talking about Powell, Wolfson said: "You're on my radar, my friend. Essentially, the officers, the residents, who live in that area know who you are, and they will call the police if they see you. And you'll be right back here where you are right now. And I can guarantee you that if you violate the order again, the state won't even discuss a plea with your lawyers."
While the case might provide a chuckle to uninvested readers, it is anything but for local residents. John Deutzman and other residents in the area started the Miami Beach Crime Prevention and Awareness Group last year to deal with cases such as Powell's and others who have a long history of offenses.
The group's aim is to stem the flow of such repeat offenders who are in a constant flux of getting caught, going behind bars, and then getting released to commit the same offenses once again. They now consistently attend courtroom hearings in a bid to convince judges to keep the accused behind bars.
Dwayne Bunyan is another repeat offender who has been getting on the citizens' nerves. Bunyan, who was recently arrested after he was caught fighting on camera, has clocked 180 arrests over a period of 20 years for offenses ranging from drug-related crimes to robbery to kidnapping. He was released from his fifth stint in prison just last April on bond.
Speaking to ABC, Deutzman said: "The criminals feel comfortable and the tourists do not feel comfortable. They tell the cops, 'I don't care you're arresting me. I'm going to be out tomorrow'," with another resident adding: "The behavior is such that there is no consequence for their action, and we're trying to put the heat on so they feel the consequence."
A statement on the group's website read: "We estimate that the number of our habitual offenders who require stiffer sentencing to be sixty people or less," adding that the fact that there are more than 500 available beds in county jails would mean that incarcerating these habitual offenders would not overburden the system.
While law enforcement officials in the area have gone on record to support the group's initiative, others are more apprehensive about their involvement. According to the local ABC, public defenders in the area feel their presence often catches defendants by surprise at bond hearings and that their testimony can often be hearsay or irrelevant.
Miami Dade defender Carlos Martinez called it a lack of due process and said: "We can't be throwing out the constitution just because some people are unhappy with some of the results in court. If you have citizens that are concerned, they should work the process legally. There is nothing precluding them from going and talking to the state attorney."
Others organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU) feel that their meddling could have much more serious repercussions. ACLU feels that their efforts may inadvertently lead to racial profiling and the harassment of homeless people.
Nacy Abudu, a lawyer with the ACLU admitted she was concerned about the group's motives and said: "The cops need to make sure they are not cosigning on any racial profiling or other unlawful types of quasi-policing. And these folks need to remember they're civilians, not cops."
Here are a few Twitter reactions from the news:
you had me with "Florida Man"— Kevin Jones (@sts124) 26 January 2018
You’d think he learned by his 276th time...— Rolan (@rolan_mil) 27 January 2018
Fix the system. Speed up death row candidates and make room and get criminals off our streets.— Blu (@Blu31196582Mark) 26 January 2018
Probably will blame the cops on all 344 arrests. Lock him up— David Piot@Cowboys9 (@Davidpcowhoy9) 26 January 2018
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