‘Hillsborough County Judge Samantha Ward’ Category


Judge Samantha Ward: Looking Out for “We the People”

Judge Ward

Judge Ward

Tampa Bay area criminal defense attorney Daniel Fernandez recently successfully argued a motion to suppress challenging the unlawful search of his client’s residence.  The citizenry benefits from zealous advocates such as Fernandez who keep law enforcement officers in check by calling out the government when they overstep constitutional boundaries.  Kudos to Fernandez.  The citizenry also benefits from bold jurists such as Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Samantha Ward who is willing to rightly rule even if it is not the politically popular ruling to make.  We the people win when that happens.  The court found that these officers lacked credibility: Det. Michael Hannaford, Dep. JJ Marcano and Dep J. Brock (Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office).

Judge Ward’s Order


Attorney Daniel Fernandez

Attorney Daniel Fernandez



Is Ignorance of the Law Now an Excuse in Tampa?: Judge Samantha Ward Dismisses Welfare Fraud Case

Former Tampa police officer LaJoyce Houston used a government issued food stamp card (“EBT”) not issued to her to purchase $365.06 of groceries at Walmart.  Houston claims that the EBT card holder, Rita Girvan, the notorious Tampa Police Department snitch, gave her permission to use the card.  Ms. Houston was criminally charged by Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office for grand theft and welfare fraud.  The welfare fraud statute Ms. Houston was charged under is Florida Statute 414.39(2).  This section reads:

(2) Any person who knowingly: (a) Uses, transfers, acquires, traffics, alters, forges, or possesses; a food assistance identification card, an authorization, including, but not limited to, an electronic authorization, for the expenditure of food assistance benefits, a certificate of eligibility for medical services, or a Medicaid identification card in any manner not authorized by law commits a crime…

Is the law not clear that you are not allowed to use someone else’s EBT card when you are not the intended recipient?  Is it the fault of our law makers up in Tally for not making this statute clear?  Taxpayers you are now footing the bill for future scenarios such as this and others (an individual being legally able to squeeze a little bit of milk from the government teat while drawing a decent salary and having the financial wherewithal to later procure an expensive attorney).

On November 26, 2014 TBO reported that Judge Samantha Ward dismissed the welfare and theft charges against Houston after Houston’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss  arguing Houston did not know it was illegal to use someone’s EBT card with their permission.  TBO goes on to say that Judge Samantha Ward  granted Houston’s attorney’s motion because the State Attorney’s office in Hillsborough could not refute Houston’s attorney’s motion.  Mark Cox was quoted in the TBO article saying that the State Attorney’s office will soon decide whether to appeal.  Stay Tuned.

Tampa Bay Times published the Walmart Videos released by the State Attorney showing Houston paying at the check out line. 

Reaction?  FloridaYouJudge!


Florida Supreme Court seeks to Expand Criminal Discovery Rule to prevent wrongful convictions, Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County State Attorney seek to Shrink It

On May 29, 2014 the Florida Supreme Court amended Florida Criminal Procedural Rule 3.220, the rule governing discovery (the formal exchange of information/evidence between the prosecuting agency and a defendant). The Court moved to amend the discovery rule based on a report from Florida’s Innocence Commission which made the amendment recommendation relating to informant witnesses because many wrongful convictions stem from such witnesses. If you’d like a better understanding on the informant system and its many inherent problems, please take the time to read,  “Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice.” Alexandra Natapoff, Also visit, Snitching.org.

The Florida Supreme Court stated,

“We agree with the Commission that rule 3.220 should be amended to include more detailed disclosure requirements with respect to informant witnesses, because informant witnesses are not currently specifically treated under the rule and they constitute the basis for many wrongful convictions.”

The Court did so on its own motion after its Criminal Court Steering Committee and Florida’s Criminal Procedure Rules Committee decided, in spite of the Innocence Commission’s report, that the rule did not need any amending. Incredible.

Recently the Tampa Bay Times ran an article titled, “Hillsborough cases delayed over evidence sharing dispute” The article reports that the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office currently has a policy in place which restricts the ability of someone accused of a crime to make full use of discovery per Florida’s discovery rule. Although, the rule  allows someone charged with a criminal offense to inspect, copy, test, and photograph discoverable evidence., the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office, at the urging of Tampa Police Department (“TPD”), is now establishing its own “policy”. The article reports that currently the State Attorney’s office does not allow attorneys to copy recordings in drug cases involving confidential informants.  The TBT article stated, “When the Tampa Police Department asked the State Attorney’s Office to increase restrictions on who could view the recordings, and on what terms, prosecutors readily agreed.”

The State Attorney’s office justifies its new “policy” by citing to Rachel’s Law .  However, Rachel’s law was created in response to the gross police mishandling of an informant recruit (Tallahassee’s finest coerced Rachel Hoffman into becoming an informant after arresting and putting the fear of God in her).

Here are some of the casualties on the war on drugs due to the government enlisting informants as soldiers (some of these soldiers could not dodge the government’s draft on the basis of being conscientious objectors, reluctance of diming out others to save their own skin).

War on Drugs and Snitch System: Casualties

Ms. Kathryn Johnston (elderly woman)

Rachel Hoffman

Regina Kelly

Detra Tindle

Chad McDonald

Jeremy Mclean

Kemba Smith

Jason Westcott

It appears that confidential informants have a special place in the heart of TPD:

2008: Judge scolds TPD

Rita Girven posts on her FB page: “Me and my girls this is who I run with”


Thankfully, Hillsborough’s judiciary is not marching lockstep with a movement seeking to create discovery rule restrictions.  The golden gavel award goes to those judges who are able to balance the immense responsibility of rendering decisions that protect society while giving equal weight to the protection of constitutional rights.  I tip my hat off to these judges for being sensitive to that delicate balance.

Judge Daniel Sleet :  TBO: Judge Blames Law Enforcers for Dismissal of Charges

Chief Judge Ronald Ficarotta  (he opted out of joining the anti-constitutional conga line when urged by the State Attorney’s office to, via administrative rule, make its new “policy” the policy of the court system in Hillsborough.  A win for “we the people”).

Judge Samantha Ward : TBT: “Shedding welcome light on police informants

Judge Lisa Campbell:  TBO : “Court may unmask Hillsborough drug informant known as ‘Mr. X’

Judge Thomas Barber (Judge Barber presides over the pending case discussed in TBT’s article.  Judge Barber has ordered the State to reveal the identity of its confidential source.   The state has not complied and a motion for sanctions is pending. Stay tunned).

Special mention and kudos to HCACDL  and a group of upstanding gents/madams who aren’t willing to give up even an inch of due process and they rose to the occasion to resist such an effort. HCACDL and a significant number of attorneys led the charge (they submitted a letter to Judges Ficarotta and Menendez Jr.  compellingly detailing why the State Attorney’s policy should not be implemented as an administrative court rule.  Read a copy of the letter here).  The citizenry can sleep well at night that these individuals are on guard.

” The Judicial process is tainted and justice cheapened when factual testimony is purchased, whether with leniency or money.”  – United States v. Singleton


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