TEN PEOPLE, INCLUDING A CANDIDATE, ARRESTED IN TALLAHASSEE ON VARIETY OF CHILD SEX CRIMES. Jermain Miller, a 29-year-old official write-in candidate from Tallahassee City Commission Seat 1 among those arrested
July 14, 2020
At least 10 people — including a local write-in candidate — were arrested on charges ranging from lewd and lascivious behavior with a child to human trafficking.
The arrests, which began Monday and continued Tuesday, appear to have grown out of an investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department dating back to 2018.
However, TPD was tight-lipped on its involvement in the case, and court records detailing the allegations were not immediately available.
The arrests were far from typical. The defendants were taken to the Leon County Detention Facility, but none of their names or mug shots appeared in the Sheriff's Office's daily booking report. Even mug shots from years-old cases involving the defendants were unavailable on the Clerk of Court's online record system.
Among those arrested was Jermaine Miller, 29, an official write-in candidate for Tallahassee City Commission. He was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior involving a child under 16, according to court records.
All of the defendants were charged for illegal use of a communications device in furtherance of a crime. One of the defendants has a history of using Facebook to talk to a victim; prosecutors mentioned a text app another defendant allegedly used.
The defendants appeared Tuesday via closed circuit TV before new Leon County Judge Jason Jones, who set bond amounts for some and ordered others held without bond. He ordered them to have no contact with children, should they be released, and in some cases to be monitored by GPS devices.
Some of the defendants appeared flummoxed by the charges. Briahnna Banks, who was arrested on a human trafficking charge, asserted her innocence even though pleas aren’t entered during first appearances.
“I’m not guilty,” she exclaimed, later asking for help to reach her mother or boyfriend.
Ali Barber said he didn’t “really know nothing about this” and sobbed as the judge set his bond amount at a total of $36,000.
“I’m never going to be able to make that bond,” he said.
Eric Daniel told the judge he works full-time for a top construction firm and lived with his son and daughter. Assistant State Attorney Doug Hall noted his criminal history, including charges of armed robbery. Jones ordered him held without bond until a hearing.
Most of the defendants were charged under Florida’s lewd and lascivious statutes, which involve sex crimes against children under 18. Their charges were listed as lewd and lascivious “behavior,” though court notations also referred to statutes regarding lewd and lascivious battery.
Here’s a list of the defendants and their charges:
- Joseph Austin Jr., 45, two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim less than 16; unlawful use of a communication device.
- Briahnna Banks, 24, one count of human trafficking for commercial sexual activity involving a child under 18 who was mentally defective or incapacitated; unlawful use of a communications device.
- Ali Barber, 19, two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim under 16; one count of extortion or making threats; unlawful use of a communications device.
- Adavion Barnes, 23, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim under 16; unlawful use of a communications device.
- Eric Daniel, 30, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim under 16; one count of fondling, victim less than 12; unlawful use of a communications device.
- Steven Garrett, 30, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim under 16; unlawful use of a communications device.
- Jermaine Miller, 29, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim under 16; unlawful use of a communications device.
- Kelly Payne, 32, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim between 12 and 16; unlawful use of a communications device.
- Travis Thomas, 37, two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim between 12 and 16; unlawful use of a communications device.
- Norphles Washington, 28, two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, victim under 16; unlawful use of a communications device.
Facebook chat preceded one arrest
Washington was arrested last year in a case prosecutors said is “similar” to his new charges. According to court records, he was arrested Aug. 26 after allegedly meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex.
Washington was formally charged in that case with traveling to meet a minor, lewd and lascivious battery and using a computer to solicit a child for sex. He bonded out of the county jail on Feb. 24, though Judge Jones revoked his bond Tuesday.
TPD began investigating Washington after getting a tip in May 2019 from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to an arrest report.
Washington, using three different Facebook accounts, allegedly talked with the girl for months before the two agreed to "keep their relationship quiet and not tell anyone about it," court records said.
A number of the defendants have histories of arrests and stints in the county jail and state prison.
Austin was twice sentenced to prison on cocaine and grand theft auto convictions. Banks was arrested in 2017 on arson charges after allegedly setting her apartment on fire.
Daniel was sentenced in 2008 to 10 years in prison on armed robbery, grand theft and burglary charges. He was released in 2015.
Garrett was arrested for armed robbery in 2009 and sentenced to six and a half years in prison, according to court records.
Miller, the city candidate, was arrested several times in Gadsden and Leon counties on charges ranging from aggravated battery to robbery by sudden snatching.
Message from Executive Director Laura A. Ahearn: Please visit our website at www.crimevictimscenter.org for news, information and resources in your community.