FindLaw Blotter: March 2009 Archives
FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

March 2009 Archives

Sexting Teens Get Reprieve from Judge on Child Porn Laws, But Will it Last?

A judge has slapped down a prosecutor who was apparently trying to teach some teens what they felt was an unwelcome lesson regarding sexting. In short, however, sexting is the practice of sending sexually suggestive messages or images via cell phone or on the Internet. Teens under 18 distributing nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and their friends have been facing increased instances of prosecution under child pornography laws, raising concern and commentary that such laws are being used in a manner that was not intended when they were written.

It is in this context in which Reuters reports that the ACLU brought suit on behalf of three teens whose photographs appeared on cell phones confiscated by Pennsylvania Tunkhannock School District school officials. The pictures at issue, noted Reuters, "showed two of the girls wearing bras, and another standing topless with a wrapped towel around her waist. No sexual activity was displayed." Also, the photos were apparently distributed by other individuals.

Herman Thomas, Former Alabama Judge, Arrested for Inmate Sex and "Paddling"

Inmate "discipline" may have been taken to a whole other level in Alabama, if accusations leveled against a former Alabama judge are true. CNN reports that Former Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas has been arrested based on claims he had been "checking male inmates out of jail and forcing them to engage in sexual activity including paddling." He faces a litany of charges ranging from the obvious ethics violations to kidnapping, sex abuse, and sodomy.

However, the defense is calling the case a race-based "high-tech lynching". At a news conference, Thomas's attorney, Robert Clark, said:

"Did you ever think of the fact that this is the only black circuit judge we've ever had in Mobile County and that the right-wing Republicans have gotten rid of him?"

and:

"This is racism at its very finest."

In timing that could possibly raise some eyebrows, former judge Thomas was actually arrested during that very news conference. Then his attorney was threated with an arrest of his own after he refused to leave a news conference held by Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr.

Crime on Internet Thriving in Recession: FBI Report

A report released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, indicates that the recession appears to be having one positive effect that is quite unwelcome. That is, an increase in Internet crime.

The following is a brief summary of the report's key findings:

  • In 2008, the IC3 website received a total of 275,284 submitted complaints, a 33% increase from 2007.
  • More than a quarter of those submissions (72,940) were referred to law enforcement agencies around the country for further consideration.
  • Total losses from the referred cases added up to $264.6 million, compared to $239.1 million in 2007.
  • The "vast majority" of the cases involved fraud and financial losses to the complaining party, with an average loss of $931 per complaint.

Robert Stewart Kills 8 in N.C. Nursing Home Shooting, Had a Violent History?

A nursing home in North Carolina, Pinelake Health and Rehab, was the unlikely scene of terror and violence on Sunday, becoming the site of the latest in a series of March mass shootings such as those in Alabama and Germany. The AP reports that 45-year-old Robert Stewart killed eight people, including seven elderly residents of the home, before he was shot in the chest by police officer Justin Garner who responded to a 911 call (Garner himself was also injured but is expected to fully recover). The extent of Stewart's injuries are unclear at this point, although court records indicate he is not expected in court until next week.

Speculation on the motive behind the tragic nursing home shooting has centered around Stewart's estranged wife, Wanda Luck, who reportedly works at the nursing home. She was not among the victims in the shooting, but a neighbor of Luck's parents told a Raleigh newspaper that she was at work that day.

New York to Loosen Up Tough Rockefeller Drug Laws

After years of criticism and debate, New York officials have agreed to ease back on the Rockefeller Drug Laws which have been labeled some of nation's toughest. The AP gave some specifics on the changes and the reasons behind them:

"Critics have long claimed the laws were draconian and crowded prisons with people who would be better served with treatment. The planned changes would eliminate mandatory minimum terms for some low-level nonviolent drug felonies, cutting the prison population by thousands."

Rapper T.I. Sentenced on Weapons Charges, Gets 1-Year and a Fine

Clifford Harris, more famously known as the rapper T.I., appeared in federal court today for sentencing on weapons-related charges. According to CNN, he was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and ordered to pay a $100,300 fine on weapons charges, as was expected.

Body of US Marshal Vincent Bustamante Found in Juarez, Mexico: Drug War Victim?

In a day where there was no shortage of news about the rising drug-related violence in Mexico, CNN now reports that the body of U.S. marshal Vincent Bustamante has been discovered in Juarez, Mexico, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Details are still scarce at this early stage and CNN noted that Marshals Service spokesman Jeff Carter wouldn't comment on the apparent cause of death, but did Carter did mention that there was actually a "warrant for Bustamante's arrest on charges of criminal theft of public property."