FindLaw Blotter: March 2011 Archives
FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

March 2011 Archives

Parents Sealed Naked Kids into Feces-Covered Room

Two Virginia parents are facing felony child abuse charges after using drywall to seal their three young daughters in a room covered with feces and urine.

Police say the pair placed their three naked daughters into a room in their two-story home. Then, they allegedly nailed a five foot high piece of drywall into the doorway of the room, ABC reports.

The couple's 4-year-old child escaped and ran naked to a neighbor's house for help.

BP Execs to Face Manslaughter, Perjury Charges?

The BP oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill killed eleven people and hundreds of thousands of sea creatures that formed a substantial part of the Gulf economy.

Rumor has it that the joint task force encompassing the Department of Justice's environmental and criminal divisions are currently determining who to hold responsible for those deaths. Talks are in the works to decide whether to bring manslaughter and perjury charges against the company and managers who oversaw the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

How to Avoid a DUI on Prom Night

Equipped with beer goggles, high school students strolled around a recent event participating in a variety of activities--trying to catch balls, rolling over, and driving a golf cart.

Harlem High School in Georgia was teaching its students what it feels like to drive drunk.

The impetus? With the nearness of graduation and prom, DUI incidents are sure to increase. The school was hoping to give students a sober taste of the dangers associated with driving under the influence.

Bomb Explodes as Man Reaches for Sunday Paper

A pipe bomb hidden in an elderly California man's Sunday newspaper exploded as he reached to pick it up near his doorstep.

The Northern California man, who suffered "certainly serious, but not life-threatening injuries," was airlifted to a hospital, Vacaville city spokesman Mark Mazzaferro told the CNN.

For hours after the explosion, bomb squad experts searched for other devices in the neighborhood. Dozens of neighbors were evacuated during the search, Mazzaferro said.

Mom Streamed Sex Abuse of Daughter Over Webcam

Many of us feel that the worst crime a person can commit is sexual abuse of a child.

But even that can be made much worse.

In a shocking story out of Mars Hill, Maine, a woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison for making--and sharing--pornographic videos of herself performing sex acts on her two year old daughter.

Arizona Bride Arrested at Her Wedding Reception

Weddings are supposed to be joyous affairs--not fighting affairs.

Angela Davito and her new husband clearly didn't get the memo. Upset that uninvited guests were dancing provocatively with his new bride, the groom initiated an all out rumble during the Arizona couple's reception.

Not only does this story involve pepper spray, a kick to the groin, and a hysterical woman, it includes a tale of an Arizona bride fighting with a pregnant guest.

Jared Loughner Mental Exam: Can He Stand Trial?

Is Jared Loughner insane?

That's up for discussion, but the District Court is going to involve doctors to find out.

Loughner will be transported to a federal prison in Springfield, Missouri at some point in the next month in order to undergo a mental evaluation. The health examiners' report will determine whether he can stand trial--not if he is responsible for his crimes.

Man Shows Up to DWI Hearing Drunk, Beer in Hand

Driving while intoxicated is not the smartest move, but it doesn't automatically make you an alcoholic.

Going to court while drunk for your DWI preliminary hearing? Well, then you're likely an alcoholic and not that bright.

Meet Keith Gruber--he's got this second scenario covered.

D.C. Fourth Graders Ingest Cocaine at School

Kids are growing up faster and faster these days, and I'm not talking about puberty.

Sex, drugs and alcohol may have become permanent fixtures in the nation's middle schools, but are they also making their way into our elementary schools?

Last week, at Washington D.C.'s Thomson Elementary School, that question became reality when an elementary student, cocaine in hand, walked through the doors.

Barry Bonds Perjury: Lying Under Oath is a Crime

Jury selection has started today in the Barry Bonds perjury trial. While the parties attempt to find an unbiased jury in San Francisco (impossible?), we're going to focus on just what makes this case so interesting.

Though steroids have played a prominent part in the slugger's legal history, he is not actually being prosecuted for illegal drug use. He is being prosecuted for lying under oath.

Surprisingly, the Barry Bonds' perjury trial is a great example of perjury and just how easy it is to prove guilt.

Man, 70, Stoned to Death for Homosexuality

Police made an arrest in a suspected hate crime in suburban Philadelphia. The murder is a suspected "gay bashing," as John Joe Thomas, 28 allegedly confessed to police that he killed his friend Murray Seidman, 70. 

Thomas allegedly stated that Seidman came onto him sexually and that he had an obligation under the Old Testament of the bible to stone Seidman to death for homosexuality. "I stoned Murray with a rock in a sock," Thomas reportedly said, the Philidelphia Inqurier reports.

Sweat Lodge Trial Focuses on James Arthur Ray

A jury in Camp Verde, Arizona recently heard testimony three deaths during a 2009 sweat lodge ritual orchestrated by James Arthur Ray.

James Arthur Ray, a best-selling author and self-help guru, mixes New Age philosophy with Native American ritual. In October of 2009, 55 participants paid $10,000 each to join him near Sedona for a week of meditation, which was to be followed by a "rebirth" during a sweat lodge ritual.

What happened during that week, and more importantly, in the sweat lodge, is at the center of Ray's reckless manslaughter trial.

Yale's Annie Le Murder: Ex-Lab Tech Pleads Guilty

The man accused of killing Yale University student Annie Le in 2009 has pleaded guilty.

Raymond Clark III, 26, a former animal research technician, pleaded guilty to murder and criminal attempt to commit sexual assault.

Le, 24, was found stuffed behind a wall five days after she went missing. She was a third-year doctoral student in pharmacology at the prestigious Ivy League university.

How to Avoid a St. Patrick's Day DUI

Ah, St. Patricks day. A day of green clothes, green beer, and lots of DUI arrests.

While we're all for having a good time, driving drunk is foolish from a number of perspectives. You can injure or kill yourself or someone else, and you can wind up charged with a DUI.

All the green beer has made St. Patrick's Day one of the most dangerous days to be on the road due to drunk drivers.

Couple Jailed: Posted Stolen Ring on Facebook

Bragging about the ring that your boyfriend got you can land both of you in jail. That's the lesson that one Crystal A. Yamnitzkylearned after she posted a photo of her three-carat diamond engagement ring on Facebook. It turns out that her boyfriend, Robert Driscoll, is acussed of stealing the ring as well as:

  • a diamond ring worth $250,
  • a gold pearl ring valued at $20,
  • another engagement ring of unknown value, and
  • a 14-karat gold cross charm valued at $50.

Ex-Doctor Smoked 30 Joints a Day: Faces 7 Years

Thirty joints a day put a New Jersey doctor away.

"I was smoking 30 joints a day and not getting much done a day," Ex Dr. Edwin Bliss Struve told Superior Court Judge David Ironson of life before his arrest last year.

Police obtained a warrant and searched his house in May 2010 and found 58 marijuana plants. "I've been cultivating them ever since I came home from the Army in '68," Struve told the Judge Ironson.

Cop's Wife Faked Cancer, Stole $60K from Charity

People will do anything to feed their drug habit, which is why it isn't surprising to hear that a woman faked cancer to feed hers.

The surprising part? She's married to a cop. And he didn't catch on for four years.

Ann Crall of Lakewood, Colorado pled guilty to theft and charitable fraud last week for duping friends, neighbors and her husband's cop coworkers into donating time and almost $60,000 to help her battle cancer. Her story is an intricate tale of deceit.

Dirty DUI: Sexy Women Tricked Men into Drinking

David Dutcher is just like any other man--when an attractive blonde woman offered up a little ménage à trois action, he jumped at the chance. Problem was that the blonde had gotten him drunk before dangling the threesome if he drove to her home.

Less than a mile away from the restaurant, he was pulled over and arrested for drunken driving.

Turns out it was a set-up.

Man Demolishes Neighbor's House Over $80 Debt

What would you do if your neighbor owed you $80?

Jack Herbst allegedly went on a rampage with a front-end loader and destroyed 12 years of Ronald Morphis's work: a hand-built brick garage, a two-bedroom addition, a trailer, propane tank, two campers, farm equipment, electrical lines, phone lines, over a dozen elm trees, a 1956 Jeep and a 1949 Chevy pickup.

The damage is estimated at $250,000, the Colorado Springs Gazette reports.

Speeding Ticket: Should I Fight it or Pay it?

It's rare to find someone who obeys the speed limit at all times. With weather and traffic conditions in constant flux, it's sometimes necessary or logical to speed. Though a speeding ticket is often well-deserved, there are those times where it isn't. In those instances, it might be wise to fight a speeding ticket.

Deciding whether or not to fight a speeding ticket requires a lot of consideration of the facts. Additionally, you may need to hire a speeding ticket lawyer to handle your fight.

Illinois Death Penalty Ban Signed by Governor

The Illinois death penalty is on the way out.

The state's Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, signed a law abolishing capital punishment in the state. In addition, Quinn commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates on death row. The state has been dealing with capital punishment related legal dramas for over a decade after a number of wrongful convictions caused the Republican Governor George Ryan to put a moratorium on the Illinois death penalty in 2000.

FBI Goes to Peru for Natalee Holloway Case

The 2005 Natalee Holloway murder case lives on. FBI agents are now headed to Peru in order to analyze Joran Van der Sloot's laptop. Holloway disappeared during a high school graduation group trip to Aruba. Van der Sloot was the last person seen with her and was arrested twice in the case, but was not charged.

The FBI is looking for clues to solve the Holloway case. The fact that they are making the trip suggests that there could be specific information they are targeting, but that is only speculation. However, there is reason to believe Joran Van der Sloot may be talking, because he is pleading guilty to the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in Peru, the Associated Press reports.

Gang Rape of Girl, 11, Recorded on Cell Phones

In a shocking case out of Cleveland, Texas, an alleged group sexual assault of a girl was recorded on cell phones and circulated throughout students in her school district. The incident involved nearly 20 people, with at least 13 adults being arrested thus far, along with five juveniles. The girl was reportedly 11 years old.

The sexual assault allegedly occurred November 28 at two residences in Cleveland. Some of the suspects are students at Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Texas, Darrel Broussard, assistant police chief for the Cleveland, Texas, Police Department told CNN.

Mom Uses Daughter, 10, as Designated Driver

They say that there is a time and a place for everything. If there is a time and place for having your daughter pick you up when you've been out drinking, it's probably after she has her driver's license.

But that didn't stop Audrey Willoughby, 33, from having her 10-year-old pick her up in their Toyota Corolla after a night of drinking and partying. So any guesses how it turned out?

Child Murderer Michael Woodmansee to Go Free?

What would you do if the man convicted of killing your 5-year-old son was released 12 years early from a sentence of 40 years? John Foreman, father of the late Jason Foreman who was killed in 1975, says he will murder him. Michael Woodmansee was convicted in the Foreman slaying.

Jason Foreman went missing in Rhode Island in 1975. He had been kidnapped by Michael Woodmansee, who later confessed to killing him and was convicted of second-degree murder. Michael Woodmansee was caught in 1982 after he tried to lure a boy into his house, but the boy escaped and reported him, Fox News reports.

Philly 'Video Villains' Catch Crooks on YouTube

Social media and the Internet open the door for a lot of possibilities for law enforcement. Have you heard about the "Video Villains," for example? It's a "most wanted list" that the Philadelphia Police Department released on YouTube.

The concept is to give people the chance to solve crimes from their cell phones, computers and laptops, FindLaw's Philadelphia Criminal Law Blog reports.

Woman Poses as Dead Mom for Pension Benefits

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

That's the only excuse one can think of for dressing up as your dead mom and going to the bank to open an account to commit pension fraud.

Loewen B. Craft, 59, is accused of doing just that, while wearing a gray wig and makeup intended to make her look older. The Washington woman allegedly attempted the fraud at a credit union branch in Ferndale, Wash, said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo.

Houston Day Care Owner on 'Most Wanted'

A Houston day care owner is wanted by police after a fire killed four children and trapping seven inside her home day care. Jessica Tata, 22, is now on the U.S. Marshals "Most Wanted List." She is accused of carelessly starting a fire and then taking off. The fire killed four children.

She now faces massive charges including manslaughter, abandoning a child under 15 and reckless injury to a child. Manslaughter, the most serious of the charges, is an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence.

Nancy Garrido Confesses in Jaycee Dugard Kidnap

Nancy Garrido has reportedly confessed to prosecutors that she kidnapped Jaycee Dugard back in 1991.

Garrido admitted kidnapping Jaycee Dugard, then 11 years old, at a bus stop in Lake Tahoe on June 10, 1991, The New York Times reports. Garrido is accused of helping her husband kidnap the young girl and hold her captive for 18 years. While Garrido denied any sexual contact with Dugard, she said she did know her husband, Phillip Garrido, was raping the girl.

Former MADD President Busted for DUI

They say that you should practice what you preach. So if you spend your time preaching the ills of drunk driving as part of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, you probably shouldn't do it yourself. But that's just what Debra Oberlin, is accused of, the Gainesville Sun reports. The former MADD  presidents' DUI has many people screaming hypocrisy.

Oberlin was allegedly spotted driving all over the road in Gainesville, Florida at 1 a.m., swerving and crossing lanes. When pulled over, Debra Oberlin allegedly registered a .234 and .239 on breath alcohol tests, three times the legal limit of .08, the Daily Mail reports. According to the police report, Oberlin admitted to drinking four beers. (But hey, she didn't say what size they were, now did she?)

Florida Robber Takes Son, 5, to Work with Him

A Florida man took the concept of take your child to work day to an absurd new level. James Tindell allegedly took his 5-year-old son with him when he went on a robbery spree.

The Orange County, Florida Sheriff's Department responded to the Kangaroo gas station after a man armed with a box cutter robbed the store and drove off in a dark green SUV, according to the store clerk. Police later learned that two robberies were conducted earlier that day, one at a Mobil gas station and one at another Kangaroo, by a man fitting the same description.

Police also learned that the suspect had a young boy in his vehicle during the robberies, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Immunity Keeps Arizona Senator Out of Jail

Certain jobs come with special perks. And while legislators aren't royalty, they receive one of hallmarks of the throne: legislative immunity.

The term actually comes from the parliamentary system, whereby members of the parliament, or in this case legislature receive immunity from prosecution in many circumstances. The legal concept is based on similar principles of diplomatic immunity.

Massey Energy Security Chief Charged with Lying to FBI

The security chief of Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine, Hughie Elert Stover, was arrested Monday and charged with lying to the FBI and obstructing the investigation of the Virginia mine explosion last year that killed 29 miners, according to The Washington Post.

These are the first criminal charges stemming from the mine explosion.

A federal grand jury in West Virginia indicted Hughie Stover last week after investigators kept running into obstacles. Massey Energy chief executive, Don L. Blankenship, and about 15 others declined to to speak to them. And documents were missing.

MIP: Do I Need a Lawyer After Underage Drinking?

It's rare these days that a person makes it out of high school--let alone to age 21--without engaging in at least one instance of underage drinking. Despite its pervasiveness, underage drinking is a criminal offense and can result in prosecution under a minor in possession (MIP) law. An MIP is serious business that may require an MIP lawyer. Here's why.

Underage drinking isn't the only way to get busted for an MIP. In fact, a minor need not even have consumed alcohol to be found guilty. Most states include mere possession--even of an unopened bottle--in its list of prohibited activities. Some also hand out an MIP if a minor attempts to purchase alcohol.

What is Public Intoxication?

Though she was only a passenger in the car driven by her reportedly drunk boyfriend, Christina Aguilera was arrested and cited for public intoxication earlier this week. The falling pop star's brush with the law has a lot of people wondering about public intoxication and just what constitutes an offense. Here's a quick explainer.

Commonly known as drunk and disorderly conduct, public intoxication is a misdemeanor that punishes those who are visibly drunk in public. Even though prosecutors may present evidence of a defendant's blood alcohol level, how much alcohol a person actually consumed is ultimately irrelevant.

DUI License Plates: 'Whiskey Plates' Shame Drivers

DUI license plates, also known as whiskey plates, are an increasingly popular option for lawmakers seeking innovative ways to curb the DUI recidivism rate. They, however, give rise to a few constitutional questions.

For those who don't live in Ohio, Minnesota and now Washington, whiskey plates differ from standard license plates in that they contain some sort of marking that indicates that the car's owner has been convicted of a DUI. In Ohio, DUI license plates have red lettering, whereas in Minnesota they contain the letter W. Washington State, the new kid on the whiskey plate block, is proposing the use of the letter Z.