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

December 2009 Archives

States Death Penalty Rates See Decline

Fewer death sentences were handed down in 2009 than any year since the 1976.

States death penalty rates have declined significantly during this decade.

CNN reports that this year the annual number of death sentences in the U.S. has dropped since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976

NC Registered Sex Offenders Have Right to Worship

James Nichols, a registered sex offender in North Carolina, has protected rights to worship or attend church.

A judge ruled that a law limiting NC registered sex offenders' ability to worship or go to church is unconstitutional.

The Associated Press reports that Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour said two parts of a North Carolina general statute aimed at protecting children from child molesters are unconstitutionally vague and overly broad. In addition, the statute infringes on constitutionally protected rights -- specifically, the right to worship.

Anthony Stancl Update: Facebook Sex Scam Plea Deal

Under a plea deal reached in the Facebook sex scam, Anthony Stancl pleaded no contest to two felonies.

According to the Associated Press, Stancl, 19, agreed to the plea deal and in exchange prosecutors dismissed 10 other charges.

Wisconsin Governor Signs New State Drunk Driving Laws

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle put a new law on the books when he signed a bill to toughen state drunk driving laws.

According to the Associated Press, the new law makes a fourth offense drunken driving a felony if it occurs within five years of the previous offense. A first offense will be a misdemeanor if someone younger than 16 is in the car. In addition, repeat offenders and first-timers with high blood alcohol contents must get ignition interlocks.

Plans to House Detainees in Illinois State Prison Delayed

The Obama administration's plans to house Guantanamo Bay detainees in an Illinois state prison have been delayed.

The timeline for the transfer may take longer than expected.

President Barack Obama originally said Guantanamo would close next Jan. 22, but that timeline has been extended.

According to the Associated Press, it will take months for the federal government to buy an Illinois state prison and upgrade it to hold suspected terrorists. In addition, Congress also needs to change a law prohibiting detention in the U.S. of detainees who are not awaiting trial.

Woman Arrested For Threats on First Lady Michelle Obama

As President Barack Obama and his family prepared for their holiday trip to Hawaii, a woman accused of telling the Secret Service that she would "blow away" First Lady Michelle Obama was arrested.

According to the Associated Press, the woman arrested for threats to First Lady Michelle Obama was 35 year old Kristy Lee Roshia. She was arrested two miles from the Kailua home where the Obama family planned to stay during a Christmas visit later this week.

Balloon Boy Hoax: Heene Parents Get Jail, Legal Restitution

The parents who pulled off the balloon boy hoax, Richard and Mayumi Heene were sentenced to jail time and must pay legal restitution.

ABC News reports that Judge Stephen Schapanski sentenced Richard Heene to 90 days jail time and four years probation. He must serve 30 days in jail beginning January 11, 2010, and 60 days may be served at night, if he is working during the day.

Update: No Court Martial for Pregnant US Soldiers In Iraq

Major General Anthony Cucolo has backed off his orders to court martial pregnant US soldiers in Iraq.

As previously discussed, the military court martial policy -- which would punish US soldiers in Iraq who get pregnant or impregnate another soldier, has been rescinded, according to CNN.

Pregnant US Soldiers In Iraq Could Face Military Court Martial

Under new orders by general in charge of U.S. troops northern Iraq, pregnancy is now among the list of reasons a soldier under his command could face military court martial.

CNN reports, Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo outlined a new policy released by the Army that would apply to both US female soldiers in Iraq who become pregnant on the battlefield and the male soldiers in Iraq who impregnate them.

Legal Questions over Guantanamo Bay Detainees Remain

Many legal questions still need to be answered about how to handle Guantanamo Bay detainees.

This dilemma continues to be a hot topic along with the 9/11 Trial Security Plans, as previously discussed.

Recently, however, Judge Royce Lamberth weighed in on the Guantanamo Bay detainees when he spoke at an event organized by the American Bar Association.

Madoff Case: Trustee Fees Continue to Add Up

Court appointed trustee fees continue to add up as lawyers and consultants try to unravel Bernard Madoff's massive fraud.

The Associated Press reports a judge approved payment of $22.1 million in legal fees.

The Legalization of Marijuana to Be on California Ballot?

In 2010, California voters may have their say about the legalization of marijuana.

Recently, more than 400,000 signatures have been collected through a legal petition drive to put the issue on the November 2010 California ballot.

LA City Council Weighing Marijuana Dispensary Rules

The Los Angeles City Council recently put off (again) its vote of a proposed ordinance that would severely restrict the medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

As reported by the LA Times, the council previously agreed on capping the number of dispensaries at 70 (effectively at 137, including those that properly registered with the city). It had agreed to place a 1000 foot buffer zone between marijuana dispensaries and any residential or other "sensitive" area (such as parks and schools). 

DNA Evidence Frees James Bain after 35 Years

James Bain spent more time in prison than any of the 245 inmates previously exonerated by DNA evidence nationwide.

But today, Bain, 54, is a free man after 35 years behind bars on a wrongful conviction. According to CNN, DNA evidence showed that Bain did not kidnap and rape a 9-year-old boy in 1974.

Two Young Men Sentenced on Terrorism Charges

In a continued effort by the US government to fight terrorism by preventing would-be terrorists from taking action, two homegrown terrorists were sent to prison on terrorism charges.

A federal federal judge sentenced Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 23, to 17 years in prison for terrorist offenses, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reports. U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey sentenced Sadequee's co-defendant, Syed Haris Ahmed, to 13 years in prison.

Anthony Sowell Case Motivates Help with Drug Abuse

In the wake of the discovery of 11 decomposing bodies in Anthony Sowell's home more than a month ago, many women in the Cleveland area seeking help with drug abuse.

As previously discussed, Sowell, a convicted Ohio rapist, faces 85 counts including murder, rape and kidnapping charges following the discovery of the remains at his home.

PA Men Indicted by Federal Grand Jury in Racial Hate Crimes

Several Pennslyvania men pleaded not guilty to charges related to a fatal racially motivated beating, along with police department corruption.

According to Citizensvoice.com, a federal grand jury returned multiple indictments. The three indictments include federal racial hate crime, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, official misconduct and extortion charges.

Illinois Governor Suspends Early Release Program

Illinois is looking to cut cost and save money. But criminal prosecutors say the early release of prisoners may save money now but undermines the Illinois court system in the long run.

Now the governor has suspended an early release program that had drawn concern from prosecutors.

The state had allowed the early release of repeat drunk drivers, drug users and even people convicted of battery and weapons violations in order to save the state $5 million annually.

The Associated Press reports that it obtained and analyzed information showing at least 850 prisoners spending as little as 14 days total of a year's sentence behind bars since September. Corrections is granting them months of good-conduct time when they enter prison.

Illinois State Prison to House Guantanamo Bay Detainees

The Thomson Correctional Center in rural Illinois will be the new home for a limited number of terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.

Many of the Guantanamo Bay detainees will be transferred to the Illinois state prison in the sleepy town of Thomson near the Mississippi River.

The announcement by the White House comes after the administration has been tasked with plans to close the prison at Gitmo and identify a new site for those charged with acts of terrorism.

Murder Charge for Binghamton University Grad Student

A graduate student accused of fatally stabbing a retired professor at Binghamton University has been charged with second-degree murder.

The student, Abdulsalam al-Zahrani, 46, was charged in the death of Richard T. Antoun, who was stabbed in his office in the university's Science I building, according to the New York Times.

Ohio Death Row Inmate Legal Appeal Limited

As we previously discussed, Ohio failed once before in its botched execution of death row inmate Romell Broom.

Since Broom's execution attempt on September 15, the state has become the first to adopt a new single-injection protocol.

But Broom is fighting the Ohio's second attempt to execute him. He was sentenced to die for raping and killing a 14-year-old girl 1984.

Attorney General Holder Drafts 9/11 Trial Security Plans

United States Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is busy drafting security plans for the 9/11 trials.

He recently took a trip to New York to meet with federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials about the securing the courtrooms where, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the accused mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks and other 9/11 detainees will be tried.

9/11 Defense Lawyers Chosen from Short List

Before prosecutions can begin in the 9/11 trial next year, major details still need to be hammered out.

Those issues include not only the questions raised in our previous discussions about which detainees get civilian trials and the location of where those federal court trials might be held but also selecting lawyers to defend Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others accused in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

NY Senator Gets Probation and Domestic Abuse Counseling

State Sen. Hiram Monserrate won't spend anytime behind bars for the domestic assault of his girlfriend, in which he dragged her through his apartment lobby.

Instead, the Queens politician was sentenced to three years probation and domestic abuse counseling.

Anthony Sowell Waives His Right to a Speedy Trial

During his latest pretrial hearing, suspected Ohio serial killer Anthony Sowell waived his right to a speedy trial in order to accommodate his new defense team.

He also agreed to let police fence off the house with barbed wire to preserve evidence, CNN reports

The waiver of his right to a speedy trial now pushes any trial back to at least mid-2010.

White House Dinner Gatecrashers Plan to Plead the Fifth

Congress has subpoenaed the gatecrashers who attended the White House dinner to appear on Capitol Hill about the security breach. But Michaele and Tareq Salahi say you won't hear a peep out of them.

Man Sues Police over Mistaken Arrest

As previously discussed, it can be a challenge to clear criminal records as many job seekers have found as they try to boost chances of getting a job in a tough market.

Now, imagine how much more difficult that becomes when your data is in the system because the police mistook you for someone else.

Florida Town Offers Housing for Criminal Sex Offenders

Convicted sex offenders don't have many housing options when it comes to finding a place to live.

More than 20 states, including Florida, limit where convicted sex offenders can live -- keeping them away from schools, parks and other places where children congregate.

But 90 miles outside of Miami, in a small city with numerous churches of multiple Christian faiths, convicted sex offenders are welcome.

Blagojevich Burglary: No Evidence Of Stolen Laptops

Although a police search of a Chicago home didn't turn up any laptops from the offices of lawyers representing former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, police made one arrest on a weapons charge.

Calvin Ware, 41, was charged with a weapons violation but it wasn't related to the burglaries.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, police believed Ware was a suspect who broke into the offices of Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam and his son, Samuel E. Adam, and took items that may contain information about Blagojevich's case. Those items include eight computers and a safe.

Lethal Injection: Ken Biros Is First Executed by Single Shot

Today Ken Biros became the first person in the U.S. to die by lethal injection with a single shot drug rather than a three-drug method.

Prison officials delayed his the execution of the death row inmate by one hour to see if the if the U.S. Supreme court would intervene to stop the process, but a stay of execution was unlikely.

Getaway Driver Charged with Helping Maurice Clemmons

After being charged with being a fugitive, the alleged getaway driver for the man who shot four Washington State police officers pleaded not guilty.

Darcus Allen, 38, is accused of helping Maurice Clemmons flee the Parkland coffee after the execution style murder of four Lakewood officers.

Anthony Sowell Insanity Plea Offered In 11 Deaths

Clevland mass murder suspect Anthony Sowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Sowell was indicted on 85 counts and appeared in court via a video hookup from his jail cell.

Debate Continues over Taser Use on Children

Taser use on children has sparked growing dialogue around the country about police tazing policies.

The Pueblo County Sheriff's Department in Colorado is sticking to its taser policy, which allows taser use on children in "extreme situations."

Report: Excessive Use of Force in Westchester County Jail

A judge called the use of excessive force used on New York's Westchester County jail inmates "disturbing," bringing attention to violent encounters by correction officers and inmates.

A 42-page report released recently by the Department of Justice describes how Westchester County jail failed to protect inmates.

DOJ Pushes Predictive Policing

Predicative policing is the latest law enforcement tactic which combines cutting-edge crime analysis and other information to forecast where crime may pop up next.

This week Los Angeles is hosting the country's first symposium on Predictive Policing. It is organized by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

NY Sex Offenders Kicked off of Myspace and Facebook

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More than 3,500 registered New York sex offenders were kicked off of MySpace and Facebook and other social networking sites.

The purge was part of the first database sweep since New York's Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act "e-STOP" took effect last year. e-STOP is the is the first program of its kind.

Spy Couple Admits Espionage for Cuba

After thirty years of spying for Cuba, a retired State Department official will now spend life in prison after he and his wife pleaded guilty to plotting to commit espionage and wire fraud.

Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, were charged with conspiring to act as illegal agents and with passing classified information to the Cuban government, according to the United States Department of Justice. They also were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud.

Baltimore Mayor Convicted on Stolen Gift Card Charge

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon was convicted yesterday on a single charge that she stole gift cards intended for the needy.

The AP reports that although the 55-year-old Democratic Baltimore mayor was acquitted of felony theft charges, her misdemeanor conviction could force her from office.

She could lose her $83,000 annual pension, be fined and/or face jail time.

Maurice Clemmons, a Commuted Sentence & 4 Dead Officers

Former Arkansas governor/GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee commuted Maurice Clemmons' 95 year prison sentence in 2000.

Today, Clemmons was killed by a Seattle patrolman after allegedly commiting the horrific execution style murder of four Washington State police officers last Sunday.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Child Porn Under Review

Do the crime pay the time.

But exactly how much time should those who are charged with possession of child pornography serve?

That's what federal judges around the country participating in series of hearings before the U.S. Sentencing Commission are trying to decide.

Driving While Texting Banned in North Carolina

North Carolina now joins more than a dozen states that already ban texting while driving.

Starting Dec.1, the state's ban on sending text messages while driving goes into effect.

North Carolina drivers who text behind the wheel could owe $100 in fines.