Florida 'Stand Your Ground' Shooter Charged With Manslaughter

Last month, Pinellas County sheriffs declined to press charges after Michael Drejka gunned down Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot, claiming the shooting was "within the bookends of 'stand your ground' and within the bookends of force being justified." Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at the time, "I'm not saying I agree with it, but I don't make that call."

Pinellas County prosecutors, however, did make that call this week, charging Drejka with manslaughter. Why the change of course?

Threatening Past

According to Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Pinellas sheriff's Detective George Moffett, Drejka had quite a history confronting people on the road he didn't like, often threatening them with a gun. The Orlando Sentinel reports that two different drivers reported that Drejka waved a gun at them during road rage confrontations in 2012. Officers stopped Drejka both times and found a gun in his car, but he denied threatening other drivers with it.

Then, three months before Drejka (who is white) shot McGlockton (who was black), a black man who drives a septic truck told investigators he parked in the same handicapped-accessible spot at the convenience store as McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs. The man claimed Drejka began yelling at him, said he would shoot him, and shouted racial slurs as he drove away. Drejka later called the man's boss, telling him "that he was lucky he didn't blow his employee's head off."

Drejka was not arrested or charged in any of the previous incidents, but they may provide insight into whether his belief that using deadly force against McGlockton was reasonable under Florida's "stand your ground" statute.

Reasonable, Justifiable?

Florida's manslaughter laws, on the other hand, define the crime as: "The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification." Drejka will likely argue that he was justified under the "stand your ground" law, and the confrontation that preceded the shooting will be essential evidence.

Jacobs claims Drejka confronted her for being parked in the handicapped space while McGlockton had gone into the store with his 5-year-old son, also named Markeis. McGlockton apparently got wind of the altercation, and surveillance footage shows him leaving the store and shoving Drejka to the ground, away from the car window. Drejka pulls a handgun and McGlockton backs about 10-12 feet away from him. Drejka fires anyway, hitting McGlockton in the chest. McGlockton then retreated back into the store, where he died in front of his son.

Drejka was being held at the county jail on $100,000 bail, and could be facing 9-15 years in prison if convicted.

by Christopher Coble, Esq.

Is The Zero-Down Mortgage Loan Making A Comeback?

Buyers may soon be able to bring less to closing. They were blamed for precipitating the housing crisis years ago, but major lenders are giving no- and low-downpayment loans another shot.

Several major lenders are reportedly offering loans with just 1 percent down. Navy Federal, the nation's largest credit union, offers its members zero-down mortgages in amounts up to $1 million. NASA Federal Credit Union markets zero-down mortgages as well.

Quicken Loans, the third highest volume lender, offers 1 percent downpayment options, as does United Wholesale Mortgage. And the Department of Veterans Affairs has offered zero-down loans to eligible borrowers for many years.

Also, Movement Mortgage, a large national lender, has introduced a financing option that provides eligible first-time buyers with a non-repayable grant of up to 3 percent. As such, applicants can qualify for a 97 percent loan-to-value ratio conventional mortgage, which is basically zero from the buyers and 3 percent from Movement. For example, on a $300,000 home purchase, a borrower could invest zero personal funds with Movement providing $9,000 down. The loan also allows sellers to contribute toward the buyer's closing costs.

So far, the delinquency rates on these low- to zero-down payment loans have been minimal, according to lenders. Quicken Loans says its 1 percent down loans have a delinquency rate of less than one-quarter of 1 percent. United Wholesale Mortgages told The Washington Post that it has had zero delinquencies from the borrowers on its 1-percent down loan since debuting it last summer.

For Movement's new loan product, the lender will originate the loans and then sell them to Fannie Mae, which remains under federal conservatorship. Fannie officials released the following a statement:

"(We're) committed to working with our customers to increase affordable, sustainable lending to creditworthy borrowers. We continue to work with a number of lenders to launch (test programs) that require 97 percent loan-to-value ratios for all loans we acquire." They add that there "is no commitment beyond the pilots," which are "focused on reaching more low- to-moderate income borrowers through responsible yet creative solutions."

During the housing crisis, zero-down loans were among the biggest losses for lenders, investors and borrowers. However, housing experts say the latest versions are different from years ago. Applicants must now demonstrate an ability to repay what's owed. They also must have stellar credit histories and scores, and lenders require a lot more documentation to prove borrowers are in good standing.

Also, many of the programs are charging higher interest rates. For example, Movement's rate for its zero-down payment option in mid-June was 4.5 percent to 4.625 percent, compared with 4 percent for its standard fixed-rate mortgages.

Some critics say that the borrowers who really could benefit from such options aren't able to qualify for them. Paul Skeens, president of Colonial Mortgage Corp. in Waldorf, Md., told The Washington Post that "it seems like people without excellent credit scores and three months of [bank] reserves don't qualify."

Source: "No Down Payment? No Problem, Say Lenders Eager to Finance Home Purchases," The Washington Post (June 14, 2017)

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact an attorney.