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Three men earlier this week received prison sentences for separate sexual offenses involving minors, crimes that are punishable by up to life imprisonment in Florida.
The three men – 47-year-old Alex Loren Sweat, 45-year-old Joseph Leroy Mobley Jr., and 53-year-old Juan Rodriquez Guzman – entered pleas of no contest in circuit court on Monday morning, May 13, as part of negotiated deals with the state.
Presiding Judge Dawn Caloca-Johnson adjudicated all three men guilty and sentenced each according to the terms of their respective negotiated plea agreements.
Loren, charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation, received 12 years in prison, to be followed by five years of sex-offender probation. He was credited with 378 days for time served in jail.
Mobley – charged with trafficking in a controlled substance (he pleaded to the lesser included of sale of a controlled substance), along with lewd and lascivious battery, lewd and lascivious molestation and showing obscene material to a minor – received 15 years. He was credited with 225 days for time served in jail.
And Guzman, charged with two counts of sexual battery on a child under age 12 by a defendant 18 years or older, pleaded no contest to one count and the state dropped the other. Guzman was given three years in prison, to be followed by five years of sex-offender probation. He was credited with 327 days for time served in jail.
Lewd or lascivious acts, one of three primary categories of sexual offenses in Florida, involve sex crimes committed on a person younger than sixteen.
A quick read of the three cases might give the impression that either these types of crimes are increasing, the
reporting of them is increasing due to growing public awareness, law enforcement is pursuing them more aggressively, or a combination of the three factors.
Not necessarily so, according to Assistant State Attorney Andrew Deneen, who prosecuted the three cases, as Assistant Public Defender Nina Moody represented the three defendants. Deneen said that he couldn't speak for the police or sheriff's departments as to whether they were pursuing such crimes more aggressively. He could say, however, that his office wasn't putting any more emphasis than usual on them, he said.
Nor was he in a position to affirm or discount the possibility that the Me Too Movement might be raising awareness, he said.
“We are seeing victims reporting crimes that didn't report them before,” said Deneen, who has been state prosecutor here nearly three years.
In general, however, the numbers were what they were, he said.
“I wouldn’t characterize this as an uptick,” Deneen said of the three cases. “Criminal activity seems to go in cycles. I'm not aware of any pattern that we don't normally see.”
A quick perusal of the court dockets for the last year and a half – from November 2017 to this May – appears to bear out his assessment. The dockets show 10 such cases during the 18-month period, with several of the cases dating from 2015 and 2016.
“What was surprising to me was was to have three similar cases all plead out at the same time,” Deneen said. “Such cases tend to last a long time and end up in trial.”
The case of Norman Mosher underscores the point. Charged with several counts of sexual battery and sexual molestation on a child in December 2015, Mosher's case lingered on the dockets until June 2018, when it finally came to trial and he was convicted and sentenced to life.
By comparison, the three cases resolved on Monday were relatively new. Sweat was charged in May 2018, Guzman in June 2018, and Mobley in November 2018.
Which shines the light on Moody. Is it possible that she is expediting cases quicker?
Not at all, said Moody, who replaced longtime Assistant Public Defender Davis Revell about three months ago. Like Deneen, she found it unusual that three similar cases would enter pleas in the same day, she said, affirming that such cases typically take 10 to 18 months to resolve.
As a rule, she said, she believes in resolving cases and not having them languish. But she credited the clearing of the three cases to Revell, who she said had done all the upfront work.
“Davis did the hard work,” Moody said. “They just came ripe in my time and I harvested them. These are tough, hard cases. They just happen to come to fruition while I was at the helm.”