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

July 2011 Archives

'Boy Hitman,' 15, Killed 4 for Mexico Drug Cartel

A judge in Mexico City has sentenced boy hitman Edgar Jimenez Lugo, also known as El Ponchis, to a maximum three years behind bars to be served in a youth prison.

In closed proceedings, the 15-year-old was found guilty of killing four men and kidnapping at least three others while part of the Beltran Levya drug cartel stationed in the Cuernavaca area.

He's an American citizen.

NC's Racial Justice Act: Black Man, White Victim

Death Row inmate Marcus Reymond Robinson was convicted of murder in after he robbed and killed a teenager, who was Caucasian, in 1991. Now, under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act, the convicted inmate will have a chance to convert his death sentence to life in prison.

Robinson will now have a hearing, set for late in the summer, on the matter under the controversial Racial Justice Act. Robinson's hearing will be the first of its kind.

The Racial Justice Act, passed in 2009, allows death row inmates to challenge their death penalties if their death sentence was based on racial bias.

NY Rapist Frames His Victim for Robbery

Maybe with such a high volume of crime-focused TV shows like CSI and Law & Order we shouldn't be so surprised that criminals are taking note of new strategies. For example, New York resident Jerry Ramrattan, an alleged New York rapist, framed his own victim of burglary.

Ramrattan enjoys watching police shows, which is perhaps how he managed to concoct the elaborate framing plot, reports The Daily Mail.

It all started when he allegedly raped Seemona Sumasar, his ex-girlfriend. Ramrattan was arrested and Sumasar refused to drop the charges against him, which is likely what set off his desire for revenge, according to The Daily Mail.

Alaskans Sold Walrus Tusks, Polar Bear Hides

Three Alaskans pled guilty to violating federal marine mammal protection laws last week after authorities determined that they had traded and sold walrus tusks and polar bear hides despite a ban on such activities.

Glennallen residents Jesse James LeBoeuf, Lorette Audry Sternbach, and Richard Blake Weshenfelder reportedly gave Eskimo villagers on Saint Lawrence Island cigarettes, guns, and snowmobiles in exchange for nearly 500 pounds of walrus tusks and 2 polar bear hides, which they then attempted to sell on the internet.

1 Ton Elephant Ivory: Phila. Art Dealer Busted

If you think about the phrase "ivory smuggling," "Philadelphia" is not the first locale that probably comes to your mind. Victor Gordon, the owner of a Philadelphia African art store, was arrested for illegally importing African ivory.

Gordon paid another man to travel to Africa to get elephant ivory. The elephant ivory was then carved to Gordon's specifications, and then stained and dyed to make it appear older than it really was, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The ivory was smuggled through New York's JFK International Airport, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

No Jail for Mom in Son's Hit-and-Run Death

Raquel Nelson, a single mother from Marietta, Georgia, likely went through one of the toughest and most agonizing events a parent ever has to go through: her son was killed right in front of her.

Nelson, however, went through another harrowing ordeal soon after her son's death. Nelson was convicted of second-degree vehicular homicide, reckless conduct, and failure to use a crosswalk, MSNBC reports.

Nelson jaywalked a four-lane freeway with her three children after they got off at the bus stop outside their apartment. Four-year-old A.J. was struck and killed by Jerry Guy, who also has previous hit-and-run convictions, MSNBC reports.

Warren Jeffs Trial: Jury Selection in TX

Jury selection in the Warren Jeffs trial began in San Angelo, Texas on Monday despite claims from the fundamentalist leader that doing so impinged upon his religious and other constitutional rights.

The trial, which is set to last two to three weeks, stems from the 2008 raid of the Yearning for Zion ranch in nearby Eldorado, where prosecutors allege men associated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), under the guise of Jeffs, forced young girls into polygamous marriages and sexual relationships.

Is it Legal for Police to Search My iPhone?

When you've been pulled over, is it legal for the police to search your phone? Do they actually need some sort of phone search warrant?

The answer is maybe.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits officers from conducting illegal searches or seizures. There are, however, some exceptions to the general rule.

NY Inmate Posed as Attorney to Escape Prison

Ronald Tackman once escaped from custody two years ago in a not-so-legal but "legal" way: posing as an attorney, he managed to stroll straight out of the courthouse in Manhattan.

Tackman is now 57. His sentence for his crimes, including a string of robberies he committed, will be 28 years, reports the New York Post.

Tackman's courthouse escape was made when an officer accidentally left him alone and uncuffed in a courthouse hallway, according to the New York Post. Left by himself, Tackman pulled some black socks over his prison-issued orange loafers, and made his way down a floor.

Facebook Stalker George Bronk Sentenced

George Bronk, known as the Facebook stalker, was sentenced to four years in prison for snooping around women's Facebook pages and e-mail accounts.

The crimes started in December 2009, and spanned months until the California man was caught last September. Bronk broke into women's e-mail accounts after figuring out the answers to their "security questions" by looking over their Facebook pages, reports the New York Daily News.

Once inside his victim's e-mail accounts, he found nude pictures that they had sent, and then forward the pictures to everybody in their contact list, the New York Daily News reports.

Georgia's Andrew DeYoung Execution Videotaped

Georgia inmate Andrew DeYoung's execution was different than most executions: it was videotaped. The execution itself was carried out last Thursday using lethal injection.

In 1993, DeYoung killed both his parents and his 14-year-old sister. A younger brother was at the house at the time of the murders, and he managed to run to a neighbor's house after hearing the noise.

The motive for the killings was believed to be an inheritance of about $480,000 that DeYoung wanted so that he could start his own business. DeYoung was 19 at the time, and was a student at Kennesaw State University, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was later convicted of the murders and sentenced to die.

Ft. Hood Shooting Suspect to Face Death Penalty

The U.S. military released more details about the Fort Hood shooting trial this week, announcing that Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 and wounding dozens, will be tried in a military court starting March 5, 2012.

If convicted of murder, Hasan will either be executed or automatically sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The U.S. military has not executed an American soldier in nearly 50 years.

NM Judge's Rape of Prostitute Caught on Tape?

While Judge Pat Murdoch is probably no stranger to criminal law, it's still a role reversal now that he'll be appearing on the other side of the bench.

The New Mexico judge stands accused of rape of a prostitute. And one encounter was secretly taped, according to local news reports.

Judge Murdoch has now been charged with criminal sexual penetration and intimidation of a witness. He is the chief criminal judge in the 2nd Judicial District in Albuquerque.

The prostitute originally posted an ad on Backpage.com. Judge Murdoch contacted her, and he ended up paying around $200 in exchange for sex.

NJ Teens 'Horseplay:' Sex Offender Status for Life

Two New Jersey teens from Somerset County who engaged in horseplay are sex offenders for life, unless their convictions are overturned on appeal. Megan's Law in New Jersey requires lifelong registration of sex offenders, which the boys unfortunately fall under, according to a three-judge panel at the appellate court.

The two boys were 14-years-old at the time of the incident. Both had sat on the faces of two schoolmates, both 12 at the time, with bare buttocks, reports The Star-Ledger.

One of the boys pled guilty to criminal sexual contact. The other went to trial, where he was found guilty of criminal sexual contact as well, and both boys received the same sentence, The Star-Ledger reports.

Pet Python Kills FL Girl, 2: Mom Guilty

Two-year-old Shaianna Hare of Florida was killed by a pet python. Her death resulted in the trial of her mother, Jaren Hare, and her mother's boyfriend, Charles "Jason" Darnell. The killer python, an 8.5-foot Burmese python, had strangled the little girl to death.

The snake, named "Gypsy," was kept in a glass aquarium that was secured by a safety-pinned quilt that acted as a lid, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

A jury found Hare and Darnell guilty of manslaughter, third-degree murder and child neglect, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The couple now faces prison sentences of up to 45 years.

Tyler Hadley, 17, Killed Parents, Then Partied?

Charged with two counts of second degree murder, Florida teen Tyler Hadley is accused of bludgeoning his parents with a hammer, hiding their bodies, and then inviting his Facebook friends to his home for a late night party.

Though the 17-year-old Port St. Lucie boy was originally going to be charged with first degree murder, prosecutors unexpectedly reduced the charges during a court hearing on Tuesday, but have still decided to proceed against him as an adult.

Woman Kills Husband: Was Trying to Shoot Puppy

While visiting their son and grandchildren in Jackson, Mississippi this past week, Robert Walker Sr. and his wife Betty Walker became concerned that the barking dog behind the backyard fence would make his way over one day, placing their family in danger.

So, on Friday, when the 8-month-old pit bull got through the fence, Betty reacted, herding the grandchildren inside and grabbing a gun.

Unfortunately, the only one who ended up dead was Robert Sr.

Passenger Groped TSA Agent Arrested: Sexual Abuse

A TSA agent groped a passenger, and is now facing a lawsuit. Wait, scratch that: a passenger groped a TSA agent, and is now facing a felony sexual abuse charge. Yukari Mihamae, 61, was arrested after her tiff with a TSA agent at the Phoenix airport.

Mihamae was traveling from Phoenix back to her home state of Colorado when she got into an argument with TSA officers, reports Time.

At the end of the argument, Mihamae grabbed the left breast of a female TSA agent with both her hands. She squeezed and twisted the breast without the TSA agent's permission, Time reports.

'SlutWalk' Marches in Houston, Boston, Seattle

SlutWalk.

The name may be a bit confusing, but the message is anything but:

Sexual assault is not the victim's fault--even if dressed like a slut.

Which is why hundreds of men and women, some dressed provocatively, will be bringing this message to the streets this summer in a series of SlutWalks across the nation.

WA Girl, 12, Sentenced for Facebook Cyberstalking

In a story that demonstrates the viciousness that underlies girl-on-girl bullying, a Juvenile Court judge has sentenced a 12-year-old Seattle girl to 6 months of probation and 20 hours of community service for Facebook cyberstalking classmate Leslie Cote.

Cote, who has given the media permission to use her name to raise awareness of cyberstalking, was reportedly the subject of vulgar messages and wall posts.

Mental Evaluation for Woman Cut Husband's Penis

A court has ordered Catherine Kieu Becker to get a mental evaluation. The facts in Becker's case are violent: the woman cut her husband's penis off. Then she put the severed organ down the garbage disposal and turned it on.

The facts are both painful and grisly. And, they are probably what spurred a court to order Catherine Kieu Becker's mental health evaluation.

Generally, mental health evaluations are standard for accused criminals like Becker, given the nature of the crimes she is accused of committing, says Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino to the Los Angeles Times.

Jared Loughner Can Reject Forced Medication

Jared Loughner's mental incompetency has delayed his trial for the Tucson shootings that claimed the lives of 6 people, and injured another 13. 

Now the 9th Circuit has ruled that Jared Loughner's can reject medication, forcibly administered in the federal facility he is being held at. Any forced medication must be delayed further until a hearing in August.

The 9th Circuit had previously ruled that the forced medication must be temporarily halted.

Youth Baseball Brawl: Colo. Parents Charged

It may be called a youth baseball brawl, but there's usually nothing young about the fight's participants.

In another story of overzealous parenting, three adults, including a local prosecutor, have been charged with 3rd degree assault and disorderly conduct for engaging in a fight during a late-June baseball tournament in Castle Rock, Colorado.

They claim they were protecting the youngins.

Legal for Cops to Use iPhone Facial Recognition?

Police can soon use their iPhones for facial recognition software, which has led many to wonder about whether or not facial recognition is legal without a warrant.

The new device attaches onto the humble smartphone, or in this instance, is easily attachable to an iPhone. Police officers can take a picture of the suspect, or scan the suspect's eyes. The image is then compared to a criminal database.

But, is this newfangled technology actually an invasion of privacy, and does it require some sort of search warrant?

Loophole Allows Inmate to View Child Porn in Jail

How is it that the legal system is allowing Weldon Marc Gilbert, an accused child rapist and child molester, to view child porn in jail?

Gilbert, currently held in a jail in Washington, stands accused of multiple counts of child rape and child sex crimes, reports the AP.

Gilbert was a jet pilot prior to his arrest in 2007. He allegedly tempted more than a dozen boys to his house with promises of flying lessons, money and booze, reports the AP. He then molested them - and videotaped his crimes.

Rodney King Arrested for DUI in Moreno Valley

His atrocious run-in with police may have sparked the Los Angeles riots in 1992, but the phrase "Rodney King arrested" has continued to pop up over the years, with King having no one to blame but himself.

In another such incident, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Rodney King was arrested in Moreno Valley, California on Tuesday night after police spotted him violating a number of traffic regulations.

Field tests determined that he was under the influence.

Pa. Mom Charged in Son's Death Gets Another DUI

Christa Logue, a mother who was charged with vehicular homicide in connection with the DUI crash that killed her 14-year-old son Joshua Gibson, has been charged with another DUI this past week.

Logue, of Erie, Pennsylvania, was charged in her son's death after a fatal crash a year ago on Interstate 79.

The fatal crash occurred when the car she was driving went off the road, hit an embankment and rolled. Logue was tested and was shown to have a blood alcohol level of 0.12, reports the Valley News Dispatch.

OK Pharmacist Gets Life: Killed Would-Be Robber

Oklahoma pharmacist Jerome Ersland has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Earlier, Ersland had been convicted of murder for the death of a would-be robber, Antwun Parker, 16.

Ersland, 59, had been hailed as a hero by some. Ersland shot Parker when Parker and another teenager attempted to rob the Reliable Discount Pharmacy, where Ersland works.

Ersland claims that he was trying to defend himself and his coworkers. Parker was unarmed at the time. His conviction and his sentencing have set off a flurry of public debate, reports The Oklahoman.

Mexican's TX Execution Broke Intl. Law: UN Says

On the heels of Texas' decision to execute Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia late last week, the United Nations is speaking out, claiming that the United States violated international law.

Accused of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl in 1994, Leal Garcia was denied access to the Mexican Embassy prior to his conviction. Despite this, the Supreme Court refused to stay his execution.

Was this really illegal?

Calif. PTA Moms Arrested for Ponzi Scheme

A group of PTA moms from Armstrong Elementary School in Diamond Bar, California have been charged with 22 counts of grand theft and securities fraud, accused of manufacturing a ponzi scheme that earned them $14 million.

Prosecutors allege that, during school events, the women convinced more than 30 people to invest money in their company, which they claimed had exclusive rights to distribute dairy products at Disney properties in Southern California.

'Caylee's Law' Proposed in FL, NY, OK, WV

Just days after Casey Anthony was acquitted of all charges arising out of her daughter's death, lawmakers in Florida, New York, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have vowed to propose new legislation, known as "Caylee's Law."

Born out of an online petition that has gathered over 300,000 signatures, Caylee's Law is an attempt to criminalize the actions of parents and guardians who fail to promptly report missing children, or who do not alert authorities of their child's death.

What Laws Govern Stoned Driving?

Drunk driving laws are in every state. But, what laws govern stoned driving and driving under the influence of drugs?

While "driving under the influence" tends to conjure up images of drunk driving, most people don't realize that "driving under the influence" also encompasses driving under the influence of drugs that may impair a person's ability to drive and operate a car.

Driving while under the influence of drugs - legal and illegal - can result in a DUI charge, even if the drugs are doctor prescribes the pills.

LA Teen Planned Gay Classmate's Murder

Trial started Tuesday in the case of 17-year-old Brandon McInerney, who is accused of killing gay classmate Lawrence King three years ago after becoming fed up with the 8th grader's open displays of homosexuality.

While prosecutors painted McInerney as an anti-gay white supremacist, the defense told the jury that the then-14-year-old boy acted out of humiliation, no longer able to withstand the embarrassment brought on by King's alleged flirting.

Casey Anthony to Get Time Served for Lying?

As most Americans are wondering, now that the verdict has been reached, will Casey Anthony be released soon? And, will Casey Anthony's time served between her arrest and her sentencing mean she will be released as soon as today?

Anthony was recently acquitted of charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter. Anthony was only convicted of four charges of providing false information to police officers.

Anthony will be sentenced on those four charges on Thursday. And, she very well may walk away a free woman, according to some legal experts.

NC Mom Charged: Allowed 15-Year-Old to Drive

She may have had good intentions when she permitted her unlicensed 15-year-old daughter to drive her car, but as a result of that decision, Fayetteville, North Carolina, resident Winona Marie Simmons has been charged with two counts of child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The reason?

Her daughter, who was also transporting her 10-year-old sister, caused a 5-car accident that led to serious injuries.

Jared Loughner's Forced Medication Halted

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily blocked Jared Loughner's forced medication. Loughner's incompetency had landed him in a federal facility, where forcible medication had begun on June 22.

Loughner stands accused of 49 felony counts from the Tucson shootings that killed six people. U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was also seriously injured in the shootings, along with a dozen others.

The 9th Circuit's order is a temporary stay of involuntary medication until the hearing over the forcible medication issue is over, and the court has made its decision.

Facebook Photo Leads Cops to Texas Bank Robber

People use Facebook for the most random things. And for police, a Facebook photo of a bank robber can lead to an identification. Jazzmyne Dunlap, 21, learned this the hard way in Texas.

Dunlap has been indicted on bank robbery charges from a robbery that took place at a Wells Fargo in Haltom City, reports The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The robbery took place on April 19th. Allegedly, the robber handed the teller a note that said she had a gun and that the teller needed to give her all of the money, otherwise she would shoot, the Star-Telegram reports.

Casey Anthony Verdict: She's Guilty...of Lying

A Florida jury returned what is considered a somewhat surprising verdict today, finding Casey Anthony guilty -- though not of any charges directly related to the death of her daughter, Caylee Anthony.

Though she was acquitted on the charges of murder, manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse, the jury found Casey Anthony guilty of lying to police.

What happens next?

DSK Released from House Arrest

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's (DSK) release seems to be a reversal of the attitude prosecutors originally had toward the case. DSK's house arrest ended this Friday.

Just a few weeks ago, prosecutors were touting the case and the strong evidence they said showed DSK had sexually assaulted a hotel maid. In fact, one prosecutor had said that the evidence was "continuing to grow every day," reports The New York Times.

Now, as a result of his release, many of the conditions DSK had faced under house arrest will be lifted. He will no longer have to wear a monitoring ankle bracelet, and will no longer be confined to the Manhattan home with an armed guard, reports The Times. However, DSK's passport will remain with authorities.

Experts Shed Doubt on Amanda Knox DNA Evidence

According to two court-appointed forensic experts assigned to the case of Amanda Knox, DNA evidence that was central to her conviction and that of her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, is "not reliable" and may have been contaminated.

The two pieces of evidence in question are DNA found on a knife in Sollecito's kitchen, which prosecutors believe was the murder weapon, and a bra clasp that was not found until 46 days after the murder.

From the beginning, Amanda Knox's defense attorneys have contended that the DNA evidence was not properly handled, but this is the first independent review of the issue.