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

November 2011 Archives

Court hearings are set to begin today to determine whether John Hinckley Jr., acquitted by reason of insanity in President Reagan's shooting 30 years ago, will get more unsupervised visits with his mother -- and eventually his freedom.

Hinckley, now 56, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for attempting to assassinate President Reagan in 1981. Hinckley has lived in a mental hospital in Washington, D.C., ever since.

Doctors who've worked with Hinckley say he's ready for greater release privileges. He's no longer taking antipsychotic medication and his delusions are in remission, NPR reports. But government lawyers fear Hinckley is still dangerous.

A teenager and his adult mentor have been arrested in connection with Ohio's Craigslist killings, as investigators identified another alleged victim last week.

Brogan Rafferty, 16, is charged with attempted murder and complicity to attempted murder. His mentor, Richard Beasley, 52, is also being held.

Investigators believe Beasley and Rafferty posted fake job ads on the website Craigslist to lure victims to rural Ohio. The pair then shot and killed their victims, apparently with the intent to rob them, the Associated Press reports.

Conrad Murray Sentenced to 4 Years

Conrad Murray's sentencing hearing is complete, and he will serve 4 years in the Los Angeles County Jail for the death of Michael Jackson.

Judge Michael Pastor found Murray was not eligible for probation because "you can't have probation when there isn't an acknowledgment of rehabilitation and responsibility." He was referring to Murray's failure to express remorse for Jackson's death and his apparent outrage at even having to stand trial, reports the Los Angeles Times.

A later hearing has been set to determine the amount of restitution to be paid to Jackson's family.

The friendly skies apparently got a bit creepy over Thanksgiving weekend, when a college professor was allegedly caught watching child porn on a plane bound for Boston.

Grant D. Smith, 47, of Cottonwood Heights, Utah, pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge of possessing child pornography on his laptop, WBZ-TV reports. A judge set bail at $75,000.

Smith, a divorced father of two, teaches chemical engineering at the University of Utah, where he is now on administrative leave, CNN reports.

Syracuse University has fired assistant coach Bernie Fine after 35 years with Syracuse's basketball team, days after a third man claimed Fine molested him as a teenager.

The latest accusations could possibly lead to criminal charges, thanks to a change in state law regarding the reporting of child sex crimes.

Fine, 65, has denied any wrongdoing, and has not been charged. Syracuse University placed Fine on administrative leave more than a week ago, when reports of sexual abuse allegations first surfaced against him.

'Tenting' May Be at Your Own Peril

Occupy Wall Street protestors can't pitch tents at Zuccotti Park, but that hasn't destroyed their spirit. In fact, there's a new campaign to get their message out using a tactic that they've called "tenting."

The idea is to set up vacant tents on public property close to various financial institutions. The tents won't be "occupied" by a protestor but they'll be decorated with messages conveying the protest's ideals.

But "tenting" may actually be violating some laws, and can even amount to a crime in certain situations. Here's how:

If you think you might get a bit tipsy this Turkey Day, don't get behind the wheel. Law enforcement agencies are once again set to enforce Thanksgiving DUI checkpoints from coast to coast.

The enhanced DUI enforcement coincides with a new study that predicts Thanksgiving traffic accidents nationwide. More than 43,000 people will be hurt on roadways this holiday weekend, and more than 400 will be killed, according to a statistical analysis by the National Safety Council.

The number of estimated fatalities in 2011 is down about 19% from the previous six-year average, the NSC says.

It's common knowledge by now that DUI checkpoints are legal if conducted in a reasonable way -- for example, police must have a neutral formula for stopping motorists. Courts have upheld DUI checkpoints, explaining their intrusiveness is outweighed by public safety concerns.

A warning for cell phone subscribers using AT&T: Hackers attempted -- and failed -- to reach out and touch some of your personal data.

The "organized" hacking attempt affected less than 1 percent of AT&T's cellular customers, a spokesman told The Washington Post. AT&T is the nation's second-largest mobile carrier with 100 million subscribers.

Affected customers were notified by email Monday. AT&T said customer data was not accessed, but warned users they may still be at increased risk for email or text-based scams.

A Massachusetts teenager is under arrest in connection with the stomping death of a town's beloved duck.

Ozzie, a Muscovy duck and the unofficial mascot of Stanley Park in Westfield, Mass., was killed in the Nov. 11 attack. Ozzie had lived in the park for at least three years, The Republican reports.

The duck's untimely stomping death has hit the town hard. Residents shared their sorrow with WSHM-TV in a report you can watch here:

Jose Pimentel Arrested in NY Bomb Plot

Jose Pimentel, 27, was arrested on Sunday in a NY bomb plot that sought to target local police and soldiers returning from abroad. The al-Qaeda sympathizer has been described as a "lone wolf," with no clear link between him and known terrorists.

Police had been watching Pimentel for two years, but sped up their investigation when they realized he was close to carrying out his plan. Just before his arrest, he had been recorded drilling holes in pipes that he planned to use as bomb casings.

White House Shooter Could Face Life Sentence

Idaho man Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, the alleged White House shooter, was charged on Thursday for the attempted presidential assassination of Barack Obama.

This charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison under federal law.

Ortega-Hernandez is accused of shooting nine rounds towards the White House from a public street. He now joins the ranks of individuals who have attempted assassinations against U.S. presidents.

Syracuse Basketball Coach Accused of Sex Abuse

Allegations have surfaced against Syracuse basketball's Bernie Fine, causing university officials to place him on administrative leave. The assistant basketball coach has been accused of molesting two former ball boys "hundreds of times."

Bobby Davis, now 39, alleges that Fine began molesting him while he was in the 7th grade. The abuse occurred at Fine's home, Syracuse basketball facilities, and on team road trips.

He first made these allegations in 2003, and again in 2005.

Victim Dies of 13-Year-Old Bullet Wound

Seattle woman Lakessha Johnson was shot in 1998 as she sat in the front of a car leaving a bowling alley. The bullet severed her spinal cord and paralyzed her, but didn't kill her. She passed away this November, and now the 13-year-old bullet wound is being blamed for her death.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office ruled her death a homicide. The exact cause of death was multiple chronic infected pressure ulcers from the gunshot wound.

Legal questions have now surfaced. Such as, can the shooter, Ronnie Deshaun Brown, be charged with murder? And does double jeopardy apply?

White House Shooter Arrested in PA

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, the accused White House shooter, was arrested on Wednesday by Pennsylvania state troopers. He is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday.

Investigators are still looking into the incident, including whether or not Ortega-Hernandez, 21, intentionally fired at the White House.

Secret Service officers heard the shots last Friday night. Both President Obama and the First Lady were not present at the time. Two bullets hit the mansion, and one even struck a window. The bullet was halted by ballistic glass, according to U.S. News. The shooter was on the street, about 700 or 800 yards away from the mansion.

A not-so-secret Santa Claus burglar is behind bars. A teenager crawled down a chimney in an attempted break-in, police say -- and got stuck for more than 10 hours.

Ranaldo Jack, 17, began his Santa-like descent into a chimney in Georgia about 3 a.m. Tuesday, when the home's owner was at work, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

A neighbor heard Jack crying for help about 1:30 p.m. and called police.

Rescuers pulled Jack out of the chimney -- a scene that WSB-TV caught on tape. The station reported Jack, when rescued, was "in his socks," but did not mention if that's all he'd been wearing.

Are Sugar Daddies Legal?

The search for a missing Washington toddler has taken a strange turn--into sugar daddy land. The boy's mother, Julia Biryukova, had posted on seekingarrangement.com, a site used by those seeking a sugar daddy (or baby) soul mate.

Police are now questioning the site's owner about the case, hoping to find information on possible kidnapping suspects. But Biryukova's use of the website raises one other question:

Are sugar daddies legal?

Mom Forced Daughter, 10, to Strip on Skype

It's against the law to force your child to strip on Skype.

Obvious? Not so much. Anne Lussier of Attleboro, Mass. forced her 10-year-old daughter to engage in such conduct, and has since been charged with a bevy of crimes. She asserts that she was the victim of faux-photographer Joshua Dunfee.

He promised the mom and daughter duo $20,000 and a trip to Florida to take part in a photo shoot. But first, he needed to evaluate the girl's body type--in the nude.

Illegal for Uniformed Cops to Hide Badges?

Occupy protestors nationwide have been the subject of increased police presence and action in the last two weeks. Where law enforcement and protestors have clashed, there have been reports of violence and arrests.

But something even stranger has been reported. Protestors and supporters have taken to the net, alleging that police officers are hiding badges and nameplates. Officers are making themselves anonymous, potentially to avoid any individualized complaints.

Can officers do this? Is it legal for police to hide badges and other identification?

Woman Steals Back Her Stolen Bike

When a Colorado woman spotted her stolen bike on Craigslist, she felt there was only one way to handle the situation. She stole her bike back.

Kathryn Lucas, 25, left her bike -- without a lock -- outside a sports bar in Boulder, Colo., where she met some friends to watch a football game. By the end of the night, her bike was gone.

Lucas went online to file a police report. Her roommate suggested she should also check Craigslist's online classified ads.

Lo and behold, the bike was there -- complete with a photo of the bike's red handlebar tape and water bottle holder, which Lucas instantly recognized.

Making a Fake Facebook Page is Identity Theft

At first glance, creating a fake Facebook profile for your ex-boyfriend seems like a fun way to exact revenge. But Dana Thornton would probably warn that doing so may be illegal.

Thornton was charged last year under New Jersey's identity theft law for impersonating her ex on Facebook. And on Wednesday, a state judge ruled that the prosecution can move forward.

That's right--creating and using a fake Facebook profile is akin to identity theft.

Juvenile Life Sentences Go Before Supreme Court

For the second time in two years, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether juvenile life sentences violate the 8th Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

At issue is whether life without parole is an appropriate sentence for young juveniles whose crimes result in homicide. The Court will hear Miller v. Alabama and Arkansas' Jackson v. Hobbes, both of which involved 14-year-old defendants.

Therefore, the Court's decision will be limited to defendants aged 14 and younger.

Miami Cop Caught Going 120 mph in Squad Car

Video surfaced this weekend depicting the arrest of Officer Fausto Lopez, a Miami cop speeding down the Florida Turnpike on October 11.

Lopez was spotted going 120 mph by an officer with the Florida Highway Patrol. He ignored all requests telling him to pull over, instead leading the patrolwoman on a 7-minute, 12-mile chase. The chase ended with him being pulled out of his car at gunpoint.

Turns out he was running late to an off-duty security job.

Police Need a Warrant to Put GPS on Your Car

Warrantless GPS tracking will make its way to the Supreme Court this week, when the justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments in U.S. v. Jones.

The court will consider whether police must first obtain a warrant before placing a GPS device on a suspect's car. More specifically, the Court is tasked with deciding whether the Fourth Amendment bans warrantless GPS tracking when it lasts for an entire month.

How Long Will Conrad Murray be Sentenced to Jail?

So Conrad Murray has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and remanded to the custody of local law enforcement. What's next?

Conrad Murray's sentencing.

Judge Michael Pastor has set a probation and sentencing hearing for November 29, and a definitive decision will be made by December 8th. Before the hearing, both sides will submit memoranda in an attempt to influence the judge's decision.

What will those memoranda contain?

Stop Arresting Occupy Protestors, TN Judge Orders

Nashville Occupy protestors' arrests will stop, at least for now. A federal judge recently issued a temporary restraining order, forbidding new rules that imposed curfews and permits on Tennessee's Occupy protestors.

Dozens of protestors were arrested outside the state's Capitol last week.

Protestors had gathered on Legislative Plaza. The curfew requirements went into effect last Thursday, though many refused to leave the premises. Police arrested 55 protestors in two days last week.

Man Strangled Wife for Smashing 'Star Wars' Toys

Rickie La Touche, 30, strangled his wife over Star Wars memorabilia.

He says that she damaged some items from his Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker collection. The man, also known as Rickie Nehls, had been collecting since he was a child.

La Touche told police that the killing occurred after he snapped. He says his wife, Pornpilai Srisroy, has made his life "hell." He claims she hit him with a pool cue, and threatened to "cut him up and eat him" in the past. He says he even called a domestic violence hotline to report her last year.

The case went before a jury, and La Touche was found guilty of murder. He now faces a minimum sentence of 12 years to life in a British prison.

Boy, 10, Pulls Gun on Woman to Protect Halloween Candy

In an incredibly bizarre incident, a 10-year-old boy from Aiken, S.C. is accused of using a gun to protect his candy on Halloween night.

The 28-year-old victim had recognized some neighborhood boys amongst a group of 10 trick-or-treaters. She approached and jokingly told the group that she planned to steal their candy.

The 10-year-old pulled out a 9mm handgun and responded with, "No you're not."

Texas Judge 'Did Nothing Wrong' in Beating Video

The week's supply of internet indignation has undoubtedly been aimed at the Texas judge beating video and its star, Hon. William Adams.

The viral video shows the Aransas County family court judge as he whips the legs of his then 16-year-old daughter, Hillary Adams. While she yells for him to stop, he threatens to beat her into submission.

An investigation has been opened, but some wonder whether the Texas judge will be prosecuted, and whether he will be able to keep his job.

What Is Ricin? 4 Arrested in GA Terror Plot

What is ricin?

Four members of a Georgia militia movement certainly know, according to the Justice Department. The men had allegedly planned to spread the powerful toxin up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

They also planned to use guns and bombs to kill federal and state officials, including judges, FBI and IRS agents.

Are You a Stalker?

You know you do it. Everyone is a Facebook stalker these days. You look at his or her pictures; you read comments made on walls; and you may or may not show up someplace after your stalkee publicly checks-in.

But when does this behavior cross the line? When, exactly, is your (hopefully) innocent obsession breaking your state's stalking laws?

Are you a real stalker?

Domino's Managers Burn Down Rival Papa John's Store

Even a pizza rivalry can become criminal. Two Lake City, Florida Domino's Pizza managers set fire to their competitor, a Papa John's franchise.

Bryan Sullivan and Sean Davidson are both charged with felony arson over the crime.

The duo allegedly set their rival pizza parlor aflame in order to increase sales in their Domino's franchise.

Burglary Victim Meets His Burglar in Bar

Floridian William Drew Webb returned home on October 15 only to discover that he was the victim of a burglary. The case then took a rather strange turn: the victim met the burglar in a local bar shortly after the crime.

The facts begin like any standard burglary. Webb's apartment was broken into, possibly using a knife that was found by police. The stolen items included valuables like two laptops, $100, credit cards, a Maurice Jones-Drew jersey, and some Jacksonville Jaguars season tickets.

Then a series of coincidences unfolded.