FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

February 2013 Archives

Car Burglar Shot At By Sleeping Driver

A man sleeping in his pickup truck was awakened during a burglary attempt. The sleeping man did what you'd think a Texan would do. He shot at the burglar.

The incident occurred near Houston in a Wells Fargo parking lot as the unidentified burglary victim was sleeping in the backseat of his pickup truck. The man was waiting for his wife to transact business inside when he heard a large crash and was stunned by the brazen burglary attempt, reports the Houston Chronicle.

The burglar punched out the front passenger-side window and the victim thought that he was being shot at. So he reached for his gun.

How Officials Determine Parole Eligibility

Unless a sentence specifies that parole is not an option, at some point inmates become eligible to at least apply for parole.

Probation comes after the sentence is completed, but parole allows a person to serve the remainder of a sentence outside the prison. That kind of freedom comes with a lot of requirements and it's not available to everyone.

Just like criminal laws, the laws about parole vary by state. But while the specifics may change, the broad requirements are generally the same.

UNC Rape Victim Expelled for Speaking Out?

An alleged victim of sexual assault at the University of North Carolina (UNC) could face expulsion for speaking out about the crime.

Landen Gambill, a sophomore at UNC, reported being raped by a student last year. She claims that her alleged attacker is still on campus, and she has spoken out about the assault and the school's handling of her case.

As a result, the student says she is now charged with violating the school's honor code and creating a hostile environment for her attacker and could face expulsion, reports Yahoo!

National DNA Database Comes Under Scrutiny

If you’re convicted of a crime, almost every state will take a swab of DNA which is then sent to the National DNA Database. That’s a practice the Supreme Court heard arguments about on Tuesday.

The case comes from Maryland, which collects DNA from suspects at the time they’re arrested. Proponents of the law say it’s an important part of criminal justice.

But civil liberties advocates oppose the practice, saying it increases the possibility of error for people who haven’t yet been convicted. So how much of the DNA collection practice is at stake?

Las Vegas Drive-By Shooter Identified?

Authorities have named the suspect in the fatal Las Vegas shooting that led to the deaths of three people.

Police believe that 26-year-old Ammar Asim Faruq Harris was the trigger man in the black Range Rover responsible for the shooting last week, reports CNN.

The Range Rover had pulled up to a Maserati at an intersection on the Vegas strip. Harris is believed to have opened fire, killing aspiring rapper Kenny Clutch in the Maserati. The Maserati then continued into an intersection where it collided with a taxi. The cab driver and his passenger were killed.

Trayvon Martin: A Timeline and What's Next

It’s been a year since Trayvon Martin was killed, but — in terms of the legal process — the timeline hasn’t moved much.

On this anniversary of his death, we wanted to take the time to go through what’s happened so far and what still needs to happen. Legal processes are relatively slow in most cases and this is no exception.

It’s not that nothing is happening legally. A lot has happened already in terms of procedure. But there’s still a lot to come.

What is Harmless Error

When your case is before a court of law, you’ll hear many words tossed around.

Some words are more important than others. Some could mean that your case actually has potential to be overturned.

Other words just refer to a legal technicality.

What does “harmless error” mean?

Villanova Student Busted for iPhone Porn

Villanova University student Tyler Jones is facing felony charges for allegedly secretly recording women undressing in a bathroom with his phone and uploading the videos to a porn website.

Police say that Jones secretly recorded three women undressing by hiding his iPhone in the bathroom, reports NBC.

Jones allegedly captured images of the women in various states of undress including images of bare breasts. The student then uploaded the phone images to a porn site from his dorm room at Villanova.

Was Your Police Confession Coerced?

Was your police confession coerced? If so, you may be able to have it thrown out, regardless of the truth of your confession.

When you are arrested or interrogated, you are at a distinct disadvantage to the authorities. You may be tired, afraid, or just plain confused. You could be questioned by hardened investigators who know all the tricks to trip you up and get you to say the wrong thing.

But how do you know when police go too far?

1st Zumba Prostitution Trial Begins

An insurance agent finds himself the unlikely defendant in the first Zumba prostitution trial.

Mark Strong Sr., 57, of Thomaston, Maine, is accused of helping his lover, a Zumba dance instructor, run a prostitution business out of her dance studio.

Strong says that the only crime he is guilty of is having an affair with the Zumba instructor and trying to help the young woman's business, reports CBS News.

Can You Expunge Your Juvenile Record?

We all make mistakes during our foolish and misspent youths, but some mistakes are more permanent than others. No, we're not talking about unfortunate tattoos or poor piercing choices. We mean activities that result in a criminal record.

At least if you were a young criminal, it's easier to cover up your sordid past. Removing a tattoo is much more expensive and painful than expunging or clearing your juvenile record.

Don't take that to mean that it's necessarily easy. But with some determination and patience with the paperwork, you'll be able to get your juvenile record expunged.

High Court Rules on Drug Dogs, Police Detentions

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings Tuesday in separate cases involving police drug dogs and police detentions in relation to a search.

One ruling seems to give police more freedom to conduct searches using drug-sniffing dogs, while the other works to limit police and their ability to detain suspects when officers are conducting a search of their home.

Here's what you need to know:

ChristianMingle.com Rape Suspect Arrested

The Christian dating website ChristianMingle.com is at the center of an alleged rape investigation.

Police arrested Sean Patrick Banks, 37, of Del Mar, California, on suspicion of raping a woman he'd met on ChristianMingle.com. Banks may have been trolling the website in search of prey as he traveled around the country looking for work, reports ABC News.

Banks also allegedly used fake names online. Police are looking for other potential victims.

WCBS-TV's Rob Morrison Arrested for Choking Wife

New York City news anchor Rob Morrison was arrested for choking his wife -- an incident that has been "greatly exaggerated," Morrison and his wife said in a joint statement.

Police say Rob Morrison, WCBS-TV's morning news anchor, became increasingly belligerent toward his wife during an argument early Sunday and allegedly choked her. Morrison's wife Ashley is a TV anchor for CBS MoneyWatch, reports the Darien Times.

In Sunday's incident, Ashley Morrison's mother called 911. In addition, police claim that they heard Rob Morrison threaten to harm his wife even further.

Can You Testify Under Disguise?

A federal appeals court recently addressed an unusual issue: Can a witness testify under disguise?

In that case, a confidential informant was testifying against an alleged drug dealer and asked to testify while wearing a disguise -- the reason being that the informant was still an active member of a drug cartel and feared that revealing his identity would endanger his life.

So the judge allowed the witness to testify while wearing a wig and a fake moustache. But was this disguise fair for the defendant?

NYC Cops Nab Alleged Rapist Via iPhone App

Catching a rapist? There's an app for that.

While many people have privacy concerns about iPhones and their location-based applications, an iPhone app actually led police to an alleged rapist and as a result, he was apprehended.

NYPD officers caught the suspect by tracking the iPhone he allegedly stole from his victim, reports New York's WNBC-TV.

What Is 'Heat of Passion'?

It's Valentine's Day, so what better time to talk about "heat of passion"? Contrary to popular belief, however, "heat of passion" is technically not a defense to a homicide.

Love can make people do stupid things. But sometimes those feelings of love (or hate) may be so passionate that you're driven to a different state of mind. In some cases, an agitated state of mind can overcome the ability of a reasonable person to control his actions.

So if an individual is riled up in the "heat of passion" and kills someone, the killer won't get off scot-free. Instead, he may be able to get a murder charge reduced to manslaughter.

Teen Forced to Strip, Whipped in Viral Video

A video depicting a teen boy stripped naked and then whipped by a gang of thugs went viral last week. Now, three people have been arrested.

The attack was not for some strange sexual role-play, but was instead a brutal act of revenge over a $20 debt allegedly owed by the boy's father, reports the New York Daily News.

New Jersey police have arrested three people believed to be in the video. A 19-year-old man was charged with robbery, conspiracy, and aggravated assault. Two others, including the suspected cameraman, were arrested on related charges.

NYC Tourist, 20, Raped in Midtown Manhattan

Violent crime rates may be down, but New York City still has some of the dangers of being, well, a city. That lesson is abundantly clear given the story of a tourist who was raped on her trip to NYC.

The 20-year-old woman was visiting from Australia and checked out a popular nightclub. She left and got into a cab, but got out of the cab after an argument. Then she was grabbed and pulled into an alley where she was raped.

Police believe the victim was intoxicated. But when the suspect is found, that fact probably won't help his case.

Texas Man Shot, Killed Over Flirtatious Tweet

A former star high-school athlete was shot and killed in Texas over the weekend. Chris Mass, 23, was apparently killed in an argument sparked by a flirtatious tweet sent by the alleged shooter.

Authorities say there was a confrontation between suspected shooter Ricky Neal Jr. and a group of friends including Mass at a Texas mall, reports the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

Neal, 25, had apparently tweeted a flirtatious message to a girlfriend of one of Mass' friends. The two groups then met at a store inside the mall where they began to argue. The argument then moved outside into the parking lot.

How to Reinstate a License After a DUI

If you’re been convicted of a DUI, then you likely lost your right to drive — i.e., your driver’s license was taken away. To get back the freedom of the open road, you’ll have to get someone official to reinstate your license after the DUI proceedings are done.

The exact process differs depending on the state you live in, but generally the way you go about getting your license back involves a series of similar steps.

Spoiler alert: You may have to spend time (and maybe a lot of it) at the DMV as you go through process. But other than that, the steps to reinstating your license aren’t too difficult.

What Is Double Jeopardy?

What is double jeopardy -- legally speaking, that is?

While we do appreciate the TV game show "Jeopardy!," we aren't referring to the round where you get double the money for every correct answer-in-the-form-of-a-question. In this case, double jeopardy refers to a much-misunderstood constitutional right.

That would be the right to not "be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb," as the Fifth Amendment states. What exactly does that mean?

Mailman Chokes Girl, 11, in Restroom Over Taunts

An on-duty mailman allegedly choked a girl in a public park restroom. What would have prompted such a violent attack an 11-year-old girl?

Taunts, of course, according to sheriff's deputies.

The postal worker, 55-year-old Daniel Villasenor, reportedly wandered by accident into a women's restroom at a park in Commerce, California, outside Los Angeles. An 11-year-old girl was in the restroom and did what 11-year-olds do: She made fun of the postal worker, Los Angeles' KNBC-TV reports.

Bush Family Emails, Photos Hacked: Report

A computer hacker claims he broke into the email accounts of several members of the Bush family.

The unnamed hacker says that he stole "a lot of stuff" from the political family, including emails about former President George H.W. Bush's recent hospitalization, former President George W. Bush, and other notable family members, reports Politico.

The hacker also says that he was able to steal addresses and other contact information for Bush family members. Even the four-digit code needed to enter George W. Bush's security gate was allegedly obtained.

Girl, 14, Calls 911 to Report Dad's DUI

Most parents raise their sons and daughters to always do the right thing. But that may have backfired for a New York man whose teen daughter called 911 to report his DUI in progress.

Ja Mail Lewis and the mother of his girls must have done something right, but he wasn't at his best on Wednesday when police pulled him over for a suspected DUI.

They were tipped off by Lewis' 14-year-old daughter, who called to report her dad from the backseat of the car. A DUI is bad enough, but Lewis could now be in even bigger trouble because his passengers were underage.

Man Had Wife Killed to Cut Divorce Costs: DA

A California man hired two hit men to kill his wife to avoid the high cost of divorce, prosecutors allege. Nearly nine years later, Magdi Girgis has now been charged with murder.

Police always suspected Girgis in the stabbing death of Ariet Girgis, his estranged wife, at her home in Westminster in 2004.

But until Friday, prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to link Magdi Girgis to the crime.

Man Guilty of Threatening Obama on Facebook

It's generally a bad idea to make threats on Facebook. But it's an especially poor choice if your target is President Obama, or any president for that matter.

Don't just take our word for it, ask Christopher Castillo. The 28-year old Florida man was convicted on Tuesday for threatening to kill the President in a Facebook post. He could face several years in prison at sentencing.

But what about his free speech rights under the First Amendment? Well, that right, like all others, has limits, and Castillo's actions put him outside its protection.

How to Withdraw a Guilty Plea

You've pleaded guilty to a crime, and are now looking to withdraw that plea. How do you go about doing that?

You may assume that you (or your lawyer) can simply walk up to the prosecutor or judge and say, "Oops, I made a mistake. I'd like to change my mind." But it's not that easy.

Entering a plea has legal ramifications, and you can't just change your mind whenever you feel like it. Instead, here's what you will need to do:

What Is Manslaughter?

There are a lot of legal categories under the topic of homicide: first degree murder, second degree murder, felony murder, and that doesn't even start on the issue of manslaughter.

What is manslaughter anyway?

While it's not as serious as murder in terms of legal penalties, manslaughter charges still begin with someone's death. The difference in the definition of manslaughter, especially when compared to murder, lies in the defendant's state of mind.

Zimmerman's Trial Delay Request Denied

A Florida judge has rejected George Zimmerman's request to delay his trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman's murder trial will move forward as scheduled on June 10, 2013, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Judge Debra Nelson ruled on the matter Tuesday, which would have been Trayvon Martin's 18th birthday.

Zimmerman's attorney had sought a six-month delay, arguing there was much work left to be done and that the defense couldn't possibly be ready by June. The defense also cited delays in fighting the state over key pieces of evidence.

So why did Judge Nelson deny Zimmerman's request?

DUI Suspect Inhaled Nitrous During Chase: LAPD

A DUI suspect allegedly inhaled balloons filled with nitrous oxide as he led LAPD officers on a slow-speed chase.

After the 22-year-old driver finally pulled over in a residential neighborhood, he could be seen inhaling even more nitrous-filled balloons while rocking back and forth in the vehicle, police told Los Angeles' KCAL-TV.

No injuries were reported, despite the fact that nitrous oxide -- better known as laughing gas -- can cause serious side effects such as hallucinations and depth-perception problems.

And while drugged driving arrests involving nitrous abuse are rare, they're not unheard of either.

'American Sniper' Shot, Killed at Gun Range

Ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, author of "American Sniper," was an expert military shot who tried to help fellow servicemembers adjust to postwar life. But all his skills couldn't save him in a shooting at a Texas gun range.

On Saturday morning, Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield picked up a young Iraq war veteran named Eddie Ray Routh. Routh's mother had allegedly asked Kyle to help her son deal with returning to civilian life.

The trio headed to the range to spend the afternoon shooting. Several hours later, a hunting guide found Kyle and Littlefield shot dead; Routh was nowhere in sight.

After a Car Break-In: 5 Keys to Recovery

A car break-in can be devastating. But taking certain steps after such a crime occurs can be key to potentially catching the criminals and getting compensation.

Many car break-ins occur when items are left in plain view, tempting criminals to bust out a window and run off with your valuables. If so, you'll want to take quick action, especially if you want your valuables returned.

Though every situation is different, here are five potential steps you can take if your car has been broken into:

NYC Sex Offender Molests Fellow Patient in ER

What happens when you leave a convicted sex offender in a hospital without monitoring him? It's a question people don't often think about, but it's an important one to ask.

Authorities in Brooklyn, N.Y., are asking that question and many more after Gregory Campfield, 52, allegedly molested a female patient in the Kings County Hospital emergency room, New York's WNBC-TV reports.

Campfield himself was a patient at the hospital.

Why Are Cops Asking for Twitter, Google User Data?

We now know for certain that police are tracking us on social media. First Google put out its report on police requests for user data, and now Twitter has also released its numbers. The number of requests for both platforms is high.

Both companies also noted that while some requests come with a warrant, many more come with a subpoena that doesn't require a judge's approval.

We know that police want the information, and in many cases they're able to get it. So what are they looking for in your social media accounts?