FREDERICK CO. CYBER CRIME TASK FORCE SEES MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS: Fights to Protect Children from Online Predators During COVID-19

FREDERICK, MD – State’s Attorney Charlie Smith was joined this morning by leadership from the Frederick Police Department, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Federal partners from the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with members of the Frederick County Cyber Crime Task Force to announce major successes in combating online crime in Frederick County.

 

“At a time when more children are online than ever due to COVID-19, it is critical that law enforcement remains focused on combating the unwavering threats posed by cyber predators. We want to remind the community that even as we face this unprecedented pandemic, hard-working detectives and prosecutors are on the job to keep your children safe.” State’s Attorney Smith commented.

The Frederick County Cyber Crime Task Force (FCCCTF) was formed in May 2019 as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the State’s Attorney’s Office, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, and Frederick Police Department. The mission of the FCCCTF is to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute internet sexual predators who exploit children through the use of the internet and technology, consistent with Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force standards and procedures. “The Cyber Crime Task Force has proven to be a very effective partnership and a necessary law enforcement resource in identifying and taking cyber predators, those that target children, off of our streets with a more aggressive prosecution, said Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins adding, “All of the agencies involved in the FCCCTF have demonstrated their commitment to the mission and the investigators assigned to the unit have quickly become very effective in what they do. I recognize the increasing need to address these on-line predators that can gain access to and sexually exploit children anywhere. I only see the task force growing in size and becoming more effective over time in building strong cases and the swift prosecution of offenders.”

 

 

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) plays a critical role in forwarding cyber tips to law enforcement agencies. The Cyber Tip Line reports of suspected child sexual exploitation rose from 983,734 reports in March 2019 to 2,027,520 in March 2020, a 106% increase. NCMEC vice president John Shehan recently said, “COVID-19 has presented challenges and opportunities in the fight against child sexual exploitation. In the first quarter of 2020, NCMEC became aware of predators openly discussing the pandemic as an opportunity to entice unsupervised children into producing sexually explicit material.” Locally, from January 1, 2020 to October 31, 2020, Maryland saw 4,711 tips of which 163 were from Frederick County. In 2019, the Task Force conducted undercover online chat operations that concluded with seven arrests of defendants that traveled to Frederick County to have sex with minors.

 

The Maryland State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force receives tips from NCMEC and conducts Statewide investigations. Tips are then sent to Frederick County law enforcement to investigate alleged criminal activity. “The Maryland State Police is proud to be a partner with Frederick County law enforcement in the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, said.  “I commend the investigators who are committed to protecting our children against those who use such insidious methods to harm them and perpetuate the scourge of child pornography.  I am grateful for the members of the State’s Attorney’s Office who are dedicated to prosecuting these criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”

Collaboration with Federal law enforcement partners has been key to the success of the FCCCTF. “Frederick City and County have taken bold steps to help protect children, as online predators are more active than ever right now,” said Jennifer C. Boone, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “The FBI is only as strong as our partnerships and we appreciate the hard work that is being done to open more doors for law enforcement to be proactive instead of reactive.” Federal specialized resources provided include forensic examiners, enhanced technical services for encrypted devices and intrusion experts, and national and international Internet Service Provider and law enforcement contacts. Working with Federal prosecutors can also yield stronger sentences and sex offender supervision. First-time offenders have Maryland Guidelines of Probation to 2 years versus Federal Mandatory Minimums of 5 to 10 years. Maryland maximum supervised probation is 5 years and 15 years for a Tier I offense versus Federal lifetime registry and supervision.

 

The State’s Attorney’s Office has more than tripled the number of child sexual exploitation prosecutions in Frederick County since 2019. Fifteen defendants faced prosecution from 2017-19 on state charges. Since 2019, fifty-four defendants have been prosecuted, with seven additional facing Federal charges.

 

An important focus of the Task Force partnership has been pushing a legislative effort in Annapolis to enact laws that address the issues facing investigators. HB1027/SB736 expanded Maryland’s child pornography law to include “lascivious exhibition”. Legislators also added language that allows prosecution of pornographic content featuring computer-generated images that are indistinguishable from an actual child. HB246/SB231 expanded the current Sexual Solicitation of a Minor law to include the prohibition of the sexual solicitation of a child through their parent, guardian, or custodian.  The bill also added an enhanced 20-year penalty for a second or subsequent offense.  These changes demonstrate that the legislature acknowledges the growing number of online child sexual exploitation cases and the public policy need to respond to protect children from victimization. In 2021, the Task Force will look to address sentencing for Child Pornography and Solicitation of Minors by advocating for stronger penalties before the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy. State’s Attorney Smith added, “First-time offenders are far too often granted Probation Before Judgement (PBJ) by judges. Given the high recidivism rate among sex offenders and the severe trauma these young victims endure, we simply must do more to protect our children from predators.”

 

 

Frederick Police Lt. Andrew Alcorn believes this relationship will only continue to grow saying, “The Frederick Police Department is appreciative to have the opportunity to collaborate on this topic and these cases with our partners.  The information sharing and resources that each individual from each discipline and agency brings to the table is invaluable to the success of the team.  We look forward to working with our partners moving forward for continued success.”

 

PENNSYLVANIA FUGITIVE HELD WITHOUT BOND IN FREDERICK COUNTY

FREDERICK, MD –
BOND REVIEW
David Robert Leatherman, age 42, of Hanover, Pennsylvania declined to waive extradition in a bond review before Judge Dino Flores Jr. this afternoon in Frederick County District Court. Leatherman is a suspect in an attempted murder in Pennsylvania. Leatherman will be held without bond at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center pending a future court date regarding the Fugitive From Justice warrant.

POLICE-INVOLVED SHOOTING INVESTIGATION

“The State’s Attorney’s office will be independently evaluating the police use of deadly force to determine whether it was objectively reasonable under a totality of circumstances, the standard articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court. We will be releasing a report with our findings after a thorough and complete investigation and analysis.” – J. Charles Smith III, State’s Attorney

FREDERICK SAO CHIEF APPOINTED TO GOVERNOR’S JUVENILE GRANT PLANNING AND REVIEW COUNCIL

FREDERICK, MD – Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office Juvenile Division Chief Laura Wilt was appointed for three years to Governor Hogan’s Juvenile Grant Planning and Review Council. The Council is Maryland’s State Advisory Group to fulfill guidelines laid out in the Federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974. The Council falls under the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP).

 

State’s Attorney Charlie Smith commented, “our juvenile justice system plays an underappreciated and critical role in crime reduction and the public safety of our communities.  Funding is not only essential, but it is smart fiscal policy.  I can’t help but once again tout the leadership of this Office on important statewide issues, and congratulate Laura Wilt on her appointment by the Governor.”

 

Members of the Council must have training, experience, or special knowledge concerning adolescent development, the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency, the administration of juvenile justice, and the reduction of juvenile delinquency.  The Governor must appoint a minimum of 15 professionals to the Council, and a maximum of 33.

 

As part of the Council, Ms. Wilt will take on key objectives including work on aftercare and reentry, juvenile justice system improvement, delinquency prevention, and community-based programs and services. The focus will continue to be on community-based programs that prepare targeted youth to successfully return to their homes and communities after confinement in a training school, youth correctional facility, or other secure institution. These programs focus on preparing youth for release and providing a continuum of follow-up, post-placement services to promote successful reintegration into the community. The Council also addresses programs, research, or other initiatives to examine issues or improve practices, policies, or procedures on a system-wide basis (e.g. examining problems affecting decisions from arrest to disposition and detention to corrections). Delinquency prevention is targeted through programs that meet the needs of youth through collaboration of the many local systems before which a youth may appear, including schools, courts, law enforcement agencies, child protection agencies, mental health agencies, welfare services, health care agencies, and private nonprofit agencies offering youth services.

 

Laura Wilt

Juvenile Division Chief,

Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office

 

FREDERICK MAN INDICTED FOR MURDER IN WATERSIDE SHOOTING

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 18, 2020

FREDERICK, MD –                                  INDICTMENT

This morning, the Frederick County Grand Jury indicted Jordan Burris Hooks, age 27, of Frederick on charges of 1st Degree Murder, 1st Degree Assault, Use of a Firearm in a Felony, and handgun on-person. Hooks is held without bond at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center.

 

                                                                  BACKGROUND

On the evening of Friday, September 11, 2020, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested Jordan Hooks, 27, of Frederick and charged him with 1st Degree Murder for the homicide of Mr. Jaemari Anderson that occurred on September 6, 2020. Through the process of the investigation, detectives were able to determine that Anderson and Hooks were described as close friends and were both at Hooks’ house throughout the day and evening of September 6th. During the execution of a search warrant served at Hooks’ residence on Waterview Court, detectives located Anderson’s cell phone and other personal property in Hooks’ basement that Mr. Anderson was known to always carry with him.

 

Additional evidence obtained included videos from Hooks’ cell phone, believed to have been recorded on September 5th, depicting Hooks and several others in his basement smoking and brandishing handguns. At one point, Hooks is seen holding and pointing a silver-colored handgun at the camera.

 

When interviewed, Hooks confirmed that he and Anderson had been together during the day of the homicide, but that he had not had contact with Anderson for a period of time prior to the shooting, claiming that Anderson had left his house to meet his girlfriend. Hooks had no explanation for why Anderson would leave his cell phone and other personal property items at his house when Anderson left.

During the course of the investigation, detectives learned that on September 6th there had been a confrontation involving Anderson in Hooks’ basement. This led to Hooks and Anderson agreeing to a physical fight outside. The investigation revealed that when Anderson left the room, Hooks pulled a handgun from the couch, similar to the one he had been waiving around in the video, and put it in his waistband. The group then left the basement and headed toward the walking path in Waterside. Witnesses and neighbors describe hearing a single gunshot and seeing people fleeing the area.  Investigators located a single shell casing within a few feet of the victim.

Detectives are still considering this an ongoing homicide investigation. Anyone with information should report it to Det. Jason Brady of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

 

An indictment is a charging document alleging criminal conduct.  All Defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

 

 

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2ND TEEN FACES DISPOSITION HEARING IN 2019 GREAT FREDERICK FAIR ATTACK

Frederick, MD – This morning in Frederick County Circuit Court, a 16-year-old Respondent faced a disposition hearing after pleading guilty to 2nd Degree Assault in July in connection with the September 2019 attack of John Weed at the Great Frederick Fair. The disposition hearing was closed to the public by order of Judge Julie Solt at the request of the defense. As in all juvenile proceedings, the Judge has the discretion to close the courtroom. The State and victim’s family asked that the Respondent be committed and placed in a juvenile treatment program.  Today, Judge Solt ordered that the Respondent be placed on probation with conditions including anger management.   The Judge scheduled a further disposition hearing this Fall during which he could be removed from the community and placed in a juvenile facility at that time if he is not compliant.

On the evening of September 20th, 2019, John Weed was enjoying a family night at the fair when he was approached by the 16-year-old juvenile male, his 15-year-old brother, and a couple of their friends.  The 15-year-old teen and another youth asked Mr. Weed for money.  Mr. Weed said “no”.  The youth kept pursuing Mr. Weed, despite family members begging the youth to leave him alone. The respondent pursued the victim, punching him in the back of the head. As Mr. Weed squared up with the respondent, his 15-year-old brother came running from a distance and punched Mr. Weed with such force that photos indicated he likely lost consciousness almost immediately. As Mr. Weed laid unconscious on the ground, the respondent spat on him. Mr. Weed ultimately died of his injuries the next day at Shock Trauma in Baltimore.

The 15-year-old co-respondent in this case pled guilty to manslaughter on April 29, 2020. On May 15th, Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. followed the State’s recommendation that the respondent be placed in a long-term behavioral modification program.

The family of John Weed attended this morning’s hearing. They have appeared regularly for all of the hearings since the teens arrest in September 2019. Weed’s family supported placement in an appropriate juvenile treatment program for both respondents.

The State was represented by Chief Assistant State’s Attorneys Laura Wilt and Rebecca Clinton.

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WINCHESTER, VA MAN HELD WITHOUT BOND IN JANUARY HOMICIDE

Frederick, MD – This afternoon in Frederick County District Court, Judge Dino Flores Jr. ordered Lemuel Lee Roberts, age 32, of Winchester, VA held without bond. Roberts is charged with 1st Degree Murder in the death of Kaitlin Nicole Roberts. The defendant was recently extradited from Frederick County, VA.

 

Deputies with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the intersection of English Muffin Way and English Muffin Court at 2:02 am on January 11, 2020 for the report of a body in the roadway. The victim was identified as Kaitlin Nicole Roberts, of Winchester, VA. While Sheriff’s Office detectives waited for an autopsy to be completed at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, they contacted Winchester, VA police to obtain further information. Detectives received a call from the Fire Marshal in Winchester stating that he had a case involving a burned out car belonging to Kaitlin Roberts’ ex-husband, Lemuel Lee Roberts.  According to charging documents, the Medical Examiner noted 32 stab wounds to the victim as well as abrasions from “road rash” due to being dragged by a vehicle. The investigation found that the defendant’s vehicle and phone were in the area of the crime scene at the time of the murder.

 

Judge Flores scheduled a preliminary hearing for the afternoon of August 24th, 2020.

2nd TEEN PLEADS GUILTY IN 2019 GREAT FREDERICK FAIR ATTACK

Frederick, MD – This morning in Frederick County Circuit Court, a 16-year-old respondent pled guilty to one count of 2nd Degree Assault in connection with the September 2019 attack of John Weed at the Great Frederick Fair. Judge Julie Stevenson Solt scheduled the Disposition Hearing for August 12th.   At that hearing, the State will ask the Court to commit the youth to a placement with the Department of Juvenile Services.  The State had pursued a waiver to move the 16-year-old’s case to adult court. However, Judge Solt ruled in February that the respondent would remain in the juvenile system.

On the evening of September 20th, 2019, John Weed was enjoying a family night at the fair when he was approached by the 16-year-old juvenile male, his 15-year-old brother, and a couple of their friends.  The 15-year-old teen and another youth asked Mr. Weed for money.  Mr. Weed said “no”.  The youth kept pursuing Mr. Weed, despite family members begging the youth to leave him alone. The respondent pursued the victim, punching him in the back of the head. As Mr. Weed squared up with the respondent, his 15-year-old brother came running from a distance and punched Mr. Weed with such force that photos indicated he likely lost consciousness almost immediately. As Mr. Weed laid unconscious on the ground, the respondent spat on him. Mr. Weed ultimately died of his injuries the next day at Shock Trauma in Baltimore.

The 15-year-old co-respondent in this case pled guilty to manslaughter on April 29, 2020. During an adjudication hearing May 15th, Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. followed the State’s recommendation that the respondent be placed in a long-term behavioral modification program.

The family of John Weed participated in this morning’s hearing via video conference. They have appeared regularly for all of the hearings since the teens arrest in September 2019. Weed’s family supported placement in an appropriate juvenile treatment program for both respondents.

The State was represented by Chief Assistant State’s Attorneys Laura Wilt and Rebecca Clinton.

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FREDERICK TEEN TO BE PLACED IN LONG-TERM JUVENILE BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATION PROGRAM

Frederick, MD –  This morning in Frederick County Circuit Court, a disposition hearing was held for the 15-year-old juvenile charged in the death of John Weed at the Great Frederick Fair last year. Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. followed the State’s recommendation that the respondent be placed in a long-term behavioral modification program. Nicklas commented that, “this is a flat out horrible case” and that this was an “unprovoked sucker punch.” Mr. Weed did nothing to deserve being hit or pursued by these youth. The respondent will remain in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Services pending placement in a program.

Following the hearing today, State’s Attorney Charlie Smith stated, “In the juvenile system, this is the best we can do for the family. It’s also what is right at this time for the offender given his status as a juvenile. Nothing will bring back their loved one, but I hope that they can begin to heal a little more now that this part is behind them.”

In Frederick County Circuit Court April 29th, the respondent pled guilty to Manslaughter for the September 20th offense at the Frederick Fair. The State requested that the youth be tried as an adult, but after a lengthy hearing in February the Court determined he would remain in the juvenile system.    Mr. Weed’s family participated in today’s hearing via video conference. They faithfully attended every hearing, and wanted to see the youth held accountable in an appropriate juvenile residential program.

On the evening of September 20th, 2019, John Weed was enjoying a family night at the fair when he was approached by the 15-year-old juvenile male and a couple friends.  The teen and another youth asked Mr. Weed for money.  Mr. Weed said “no”.  The youth kept pursuing Mr. Weed, despite family members begging the youth to leave him alone.  The facts that the teen stipulated included that he hit Mr. Weed twice as Mr. Weed walked away, then his brother got involved and hit him twice. When Mr. Weed was facing his 16-year-old brother, the respondent came running from a distance and punched Mr. Weed with such force, the photos indicate he had lost consciousness almost immediately.   Mr. Weed never regained consciousness and died of his injuries the next day at Shock Trauma in Baltimore.   The facts as detailed in the Courtroom on April 29th indicated that all the witnesses who were present for the entire incident, including the respondent himself, said that there were no racial slurs used.

The 16-year-old co-respondent charged as a juvenile with two counts of 2nd Degree Assault is pending trial.

The State was represented by Chief Assistant State’s Attorneys Laura Wilt and Rebecca Clinton.

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FREDERICK FAIR RESPONDENT PLEADS GUILTY TO MANSLAUGHTER

Frederick, MD –  Today in Frederick County Circuit Court, a 15-year-old respondent pled guilty to Manslaughter for the September 20th offense at the Frederick Fair that resulted in the death of Mr. John Marvin Weed of Mount Airy. The State requested that the youth be tried as an adult, but after a lengthy hearing in February the Court determined he would remain in the juvenile system.    The youth has been held in detention since the incident, and remains there pending a disposition hearing on May 15, 2020 at 11a.m.   Mr. Weed’s family participated in today’s hearing via video conference, and will be involved in the disposition hearing as well.    They have faithfully attended every hearing, and want to see the youth held accountable in an appropriate juvenile residential program.

The offense occurred September 20, 2019 at the Great Frederick Fair.  Mr. Weed was enjoying a family night at the fair when he was approached by the 15-year-old juvenile male and a couple friends.  The teen and another youth asked Mr. Weed for money.  Mr. Weed said “no”.  The youth kept pursuing Mr. Weed, despite family members begging the youth to leave him alone.  The facts that the teen stipulated included that he hit Mr. Weed twice as Mr. Weed walked away, then his brother got involved and hit him twice.   When Mr. Weed was facing his 16-year-old brother, the respondent came running from a distance and punched Mr. Weed with such force, the photos indicate he had lost consciousness almost immediately.   Mr. Weed never regained consciousness and died of his injuries the next day at Shock Trauma in Baltimore.   The facts as detailed in the Courtroom on Wednesday indicated that not one witness who was present with the respondent, nor Mr. Weed’s family, nor the teen himself, said that this was a race-related incident.  All of the individuals were interviewed by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Detectives and never accused Mr. Weed of using any racial slur.

Following today’s hearing, State’s Attorney Charlie Smith commented, “Holding him responsible for the manslaughter was the very first thing we wanted to accomplish for the family and community, regardless of whether he was tried as an adult or juvenile.  The family and my prosecutors are pleased that has now occurred.” Smith added, “We now turn our efforts toward the disposition set for May 15.  Since the judge made the decision to keep him in the juvenile system, that means the judge and juvenile services will focus on his rehabilitation, not punishment like the adult system.  That’s a reality that we have to deal with, and one the family understands as well.”

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Jefferson Woman Enters Guilty Plea to 1st Degree Murder

FREDERICK – This morning in Frederick County Circuit Court, Hestina Lakeisha Harris, 24, of Jefferson, MD entered a guilty plea to 1st degree murder. Judge Scott Rolle sentenced Harris to life, suspending all but 60 years to serve. As part of the plea agreement, the State maintains the right to veto any modification of the sentence. Harris must serve 5 years of supervised probation upon release, with all standard conditions. “This has been a delicate situation where the victim’s family is also the family of the defendant. Quite frankly, we just haven’t seen eye to eye. Our obligation to the community always prevails, which is why we were not willing to go below the 60 year sentence,” stated State’s Attorney Charlie Smith. “Deputy State’s Attorney Kirsten Brown and Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Pearl worked very hard to gain a conviction in the first trial, and short of this substantial sentence, were willing to do so again,” Smith stated further.

On December 22, 2014 at 2:37 pm, the Frederick County Emergency Communication Center began receiving 911 calls regarding a stabbing in the 5400 block of Burkittsville Rd., Burkittsville, MD. Police and EMS were dispatched to the home.

The victim, Lillie Marie Morris, age 67, was discovered in the front yard of her home. A passing motorist saw Ms. Morris lying face down on the lawn attempting to lift herself off the ground. The

motorist turned around in her vehicle and parked in the Morris driveway. She honked her horn in an attempt to get the attention of someone in the home believing at first it was a medical emergency. She exited her car and attempted to call 911 as she approached the victim, Ms. Morris. The defendant, Hestina Harris, then exited from the home yelling in what the witness described as a “growl”. The motorist advised her to go inside and call 911. Witnesses stated that at no time did Harris render aid to the victim.

Lillie Morris was pronounced deceased by EMS personnel on scene, and her body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore where the manner of death was determined to be homicide. The cause of death was sharp force injuries to several of her major organs.