FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

May 2013 Archives

Zumba Prostitution: Instructor Sentenced to Jail

Former Zumba instructor and prostitute Alexis Wright was sentenced to 10 months in jail on Friday for her part in a Maine prostitution ring that involved more than 100 clients.

Wright expressed her relief when the judge sentenced her according to her plea agreement, saying that despite her upcoming jail sentence, "In my eyes I'm free," reports the Associated Press.

The single mother-turned-prostitute pleaded guilty to 20 counts, and in addition to jail time, she'll have to pay some restitution.

Dog Pack Mauling: Owner Charged With Murder

The 29-year-old owner of four pit bulls that fatally mauled a 63-year-old jogger earlier this month has been charged with murder.

Alex Jackson, who had eight dogs (six of them pit bulls) in his home, was arrested and held on $1 million bail. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

Unfortunately, dog bites and even fatal dog maulings happen often enough. However, while not uncommon, it is a bit more rare that an actual murder charge results from a dog mauling -- even a fatal one.

Woman Killed at Costco: Was Deadly Force Needed?

A Virginia sheriff's deputy shot and killed a woman at a Costco on Thursday after reports that she was acting erratically and rushed officers with a knife.

The woman, later identified as Costco employee Mhai Scott, was distributing samples. Co-workers reported that Scott began acting agitated and talking to herself, reports The Washington Post.

Though Scott was seen as threatening and was brandishing a weapon, was it necessary to use deadly force to stop her?

Leaving the Scene of an Accident: What Can Happen?

What happens if you leave the scene of an accident? Unfortunately, car accidents happen every day and can happen to any of us. It's only natural to instinctively want to flee whenever you're in a daunting, chaotic situation.

But after a car crash, following that instinct can lead to some potentially dire consequences.

If you do leave the scene of an accident, here are a few things that may happen to you:

Is It Illegal To Eat or Sell Horse Meat?

Although it is certainly illegal to mix beef with horse meat and sell it, the question remains whether selling horse meat in the U.S. is completely illegal.

Many maintain that horse meat should be illegal due to cruelty in the horse slaughtering practice, but there are other dangers.

No Delay in Zimmerman Trial, Evidence Limited

The judge in the George Zimmerman murder case ruled on Tuesday that there would be no delay of the June 10 trial date, despite protests from the Zimmerman’s attorney.

Zimmerman is accused of killing Trayvon Martin, a Florida 17-year-old who was allegedly pursued and shot after he was found in the defendant’s Florida gated community, reports USA Today.

The trial delay was not the only legal battleground lost by the defense today, as the judge also ruled on a host of other key pre-trial issues which will affect Zimmerman’s defense.

How to Get an Online Mug Shot Removed

After you're arrested, your mug shot may appear on any number of websites -- even if you weren't convicted of any crime. So how do you get your online mug shot removed?

An arrest can follow you for the rest of your life and put a permanent blemish on your record. Even if you were innocent, or have paid your dues, that initial photo taken during the booking process can often still be seen on many sites that post mug shots.

The problem is that posting mug shots, which are considered public records, is legal. So, is it actually possible to get your mug shot taken down? If so, how?

Jodi Arias Mistrial: New Jury to Decide Penalty

Jurors in the Jodi Arias trial failed to reach a unanimous verdict Thursday, after more than 13 hours of deliberating whether the convicted murderer deserves the death penalty.

A hung jury means that a new jury will be chosen in order to decide Arias' punishment, The Huffington Post reports. Jury selection is set for July 18.

A new jury for the penalty phase does not mean a whole new trial for Jodi Arias, but there will be some rehashing of old issues.

3 Ways to Avoid a Memorial Day DUI

Memorial Day reminds us of the soldiers who gave their lives in service of this country. How should you should not commemorate Memorial Day weekend? With a DUI.

With booze and good times flowing around this federal holiday, pay attention to these three tips to avoid getting a Memorial Day DUI:

Is It Illegal to Fake Your Own Death?

A California rapper who faked his own death has been arrested. No, you guys, it's not Tupac.

Tim Dog, born Timothy Blair, reportedly died in February from diabetes-related complications. But a woman named Esther Pilgrim has accused the "F--- Compton" artist of faking his own death to avoid making court-ordered repayments to women he scammed, reports the New York Daily News.

But is it illegal to fake your own death?

7 Ways Senior Pranks Can Get You Arrested

Getting arrested for a senior prank? It's possible.

We all know that senior pranks are often a much-anticipated tradition for restless high school seniors. The pranks range from tame, to hilarious, to just horrific and bizarre, as seen in a recent senior prank in Knoxville, Tennessee.

They can also, however, be illegal, and get you thrown in jail before you graduate. So before you gather your friends to draft the most epic practical joke your high school has ever seen, consider these potential criminal consequences:

Can You Refuse to Answer Police Questions?

You can almost always refuse to answer police questions, but depending on the circumstances it may produce somewhat different legal results.

Here is a general breakdown of your legal options when questioned by the police in three common scenarios:

High-School Girl, 18, Arrested for Dating Girl, 15

High school girls in Florida can apparently be arrested for dating one another, as 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt was slapped with sex offense charges for being in a relationship with her 15-year-old high school girlfriend.

The two girls were on the school's basketball team together, and at the insistence of coaches and parents, Hunt was kicked off the team and then expelled from her school, CBS News reports.

Does Florida criminalize high school consensual relationships?

Man Charged in Alleged Abortion-Pill Switch

Murder by abortion pill: That's the alleged weapon of choice for a Florida man charged with the first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend's six-week-old fetus.

John Andrew Welden, the 28-year-old son of a fertility doctor, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for tricking Ramee Lee into taking a labor-inducing pill called Cytotec, used to cause abortions.

Lee thought she was taking antibiotics prescribed by Weldon's father to treat a bacterial infection, the Associated Press reports. But soon after taking the pills, she began to bleed and went to the hospital, where she discovered she'd taken abortion pills.

NYC Shooting Was Anti-Gay Hate Crime: Cops

Alleged murderer Elliot Morales is being charged with a hate crime after he taunted and fatally shot a gay Brooklyn resident on Saturday.

The victim, Mark Carson, and his friend were walking through lower Manhattan when, unprompted, Morales and others hurled anti-gay slurs at the two, police said. Morales then shot Carson "point-blank in the face," reports USA Today.

Any senseless murder is heinous and tragic, but what exactly makes this an alleged hate crime?

'Hero Cop' Charged With Rape, Human Trafficking

Former "hero cop" Richard DeCoatsworth was charged Monday with rape and human trafficking, after he allegedly forced two women to perform sexual acts at gunpoint.

DeCoatsworth was labeled a "hero" after he was shot in the face during a traffic stop. At the height of his fame, DeCoatsworth was seated next to First Lady Michele Obama at a presidential address in 2009, reports the Philadelphia Daily News.

Despite all his medals and past heroism, DeCoatsworth could be facing serious prison time if convicted of these charges.

'Hatchet Hitchhiker' Kai Arrested for Murder

The man known as Kai the Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker was arrested for murder, following allegations that he beat a man to death in New Jersey, according to Philadelphia's WPVI-TV.

The self-proclaimed "home-free" (as opposed to "homeless") hitchhiker was praised as a hero in February when he foiled an attack in California by hitting an assailant over the head with a hatchet. His meteoric rise to national fame came after an incredibly amusing TV interview went viral.

But alas, the tables have turned.

Dying Man's Blinks Lead to Murder Conviction

Ricardo Woods was found guilty of murder and felonious assault Thursday based on video of a dying man's blinks.

The victim, David Chandler, was able to blink three times to confirm that a photo of Woods was the man who shot him in the head and neck in 2010, reports the Associated Press. Chandler died two weeks after the shooting.

Woods is pushing for an appeal of his conviction, arguing the court should not have allowed this evidence.

5-Year-Old Girl Kidnapped; Mom Rams Suspect's Car

After her daughter was allegedly kidnapped, a mom chased after the suspect and rammed her car into his. Could the mom face any charges for her heroic actions?

The alleged abduction, chase, and crash happened Wednesday night in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 5-year-old girl was apparently playing outside her apartment when a man shoved her into his car. Witnesses told the girl's mom, who rammed the suspect's car after a 7-mile pursuit, KRQE-TV reports.

The man ran off and still hasn't been caught, but mother and daughter are safe. So what does the law say about their ordeal?

Are 'Nanny Cams' Legal?

You might have seen a teddy bear with especially penetrating eyes and wondered to yourself: Are nanny cams legal? The basic answer: It depends.

It's currently legal in every state to make a video-only recording of anything happening inside your home, at any time, without letting anyone know. It doesn't matter if the camera is hidden.

But there are a few legal restrictions on nanny cameras you may not know about.

Abortion Doc Gets Life in Prison, Waives Appeal

Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell will serve life in prison for the murder of three babies who were born alive, and whose necks were snipped with scissors. Gosnell was sentenced on Wednesday in accordance with a plea bargain.

Gosnell agreed to take life in prison as part of a plea deal in order for the notorious doctor to avoid a potential death sentence, reports the Associated Press.

It is almost certain that Gosnell, 72, will spend the rest of his natural life in prison, and he may have given up some rights by accepting the plea bargain.

Senior Prostitution Ring Busted at Nursing Home

Call it Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll Assisted Living: The tale of an alleged senior prostitution ring at a nursing home in Englewood, New Jersey.

A long way from a QVC habit, a 75-year-old man and 66-year-old woman allegedly used crack cocaine and ran a prostitution ring out of their apartments at the low-income Vincente K. Tibbs Senior Citizen Building, NorthJersey.com reports. Currently, residents James Parham and Cheryl Chaney are only facing drug-related charges with sparse details on the undercover sting operation.

With further charges looming and few details on the sting operation, the case might be ripe for an entrapment defense.

NTSB Wants 0.05% Blood-Alcohol Limit Nationwide

The National Transportation Safety Board voted Tuesday to recommend lowering the legal blood-alcohol concentration limit to 0.05% for drunken driving nationwide.

The vote came after board members considered a safety report entitled "Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving." The report provided an overview of impaired driving, current efforts to curb DUI deaths, and proposed safety recommendations.

Now that the NTSB has reached its decision, what effect will this have on the nation's drivers?

Can Police Search Through Your Trash?

You may have never found your trash to be anyone's treasure, but it easily could be the target of a police search.

As the law stands, there is no expectation of privacy in trash that you put out by the curb, and law enforcement can rifle through your refuse with wild abandon.

So what rights do any of us have to protect our trash from police searches? Here's a quick general overview:

Gosnell Found Guilty: Will He Get the Death Penalty?

Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell was found guilty on three counts of premeditated first-degree murder on Monday, following a five-week trial involving allegations of fetuses being killed after being removed from the womb.

Gosnell, 72, who once ran a clinic in West Philadelphia, was also convicted on one count of involuntary manslaughter for the death of an adult female patient. Prosecutors have stated that they will seek the death penalty for the murders, The New York Times reports.

What's next for the notorious late-term abortion doctor in the sentencing phase of his trial?

12-Year-Old Arrested in Sister's Fatal Stabbing

A 12-year-old boy has been arrested for stabbing and killing his 8-year-old sister, after his initial report of an intruder set off a massive manhunt.

The boy told authorities in Calaveras County, California, that he saw an intruder and found his sister dying from stab wounds while his parents were out of the house April 27. But on Saturday, deputies took the boy into custody, The Sacramento Bee reports.

The boy, whose name has not been released, is now in the hands of the juvenile justice system. How does that work, exactly?

19 Shot at Parade on Mother's Day

At least 19 people were shot at a parade on Mother's Day in New Orleans when gunmen opened fire on revelers. Two children were grazed during the hail of bullets, but luckily there were no fatalities, reports NBC News.

As Louisiana authorities search for suspects in the Mother's Day shooting, Louisiana laws are poised to deal with these armed attackers.

Mommy Not-So-Dearest: 10 Notorious Criminal Moms

Raising kids can be a very stressful enterprise, and while some women respond by taking a "Cathy"-esque break with chocolates and chardonnay, some become notorious criminals.

Get ready to call your mom and thank her after you read about these 10 notorious criminal moms:

Teen's Facebook Rant Leads to Terrorism Arrest

A short-lived rap career may have come to an end last week, as a Massachusetts high school student was arrested for making terrorist threats in a Facebook post.

Cameron D'Ambrosio, who calls himself "CammyDee" online, was arrested after a student at Methuen High School noticed D'Ambrosio posted threats to "kill people" on Facebook, reports The Valley Patriot.

D'Ambrosio now faces serious criminal charges.

Ariel Castro Charged With Kidnapping, Rape

Ariel Castro has been formally charged in the rape and kidnapping of three women allegedly held captive in his Cleveland home for years.

As grim details emerge about the victims' harrowing tales of captivity, Castro's journey in the criminal justice system is only beginning. Handcuffed and clad in a dark blue jumpsuit, the 52-year-old former school bus driver was arraigned on kidnapping and rape charges Thursday, USA Today reports.

With Ariel Castro charged, you might be wondering what an arraignment actually entails.

Jodi Arias Guilty of Murder; Sentencing Is Next

Jodi Arias is guilty of first degree murder in the killing of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, an Arizona jury found Wednesday. The sentencing phase of her trial is next.

Five of the 12 jurors voted to convict Arias, 32, of first-degree premeditated murder, while seven jurors felt she was guilty of both premeditated and first-degree felony murder, according to the verdict form that was read aloud in court. That means all 12 jurors found Arias guilty of first-degree murder.

Now that Arias has been found guilty, jurors will next consider whether she deserves the death penalty, reports the Associated Press.

Military Sex Assaults a 'Growing Epidemic'

Military sexual assaults are on the rise, and a new survey suggests the problem may be much more widespread than officially reported.

The official number of sexual assaults in the military rose 6% between 2011 and 2012, when more than 3,300 service members reported such incidents, according to a Pentagon report released Wednesday. But the true number is likely much higher.

The Pentagon estimates as many as 26,000 military members may have been subject to sexual assault in 2012 but didn't report it, according to the Associated Press. So what is the federal government doing to prevent and deter sexual assaults in the military?

Legal Issues for Moms Behind Bars

With Mother's Day approaching, we want to remind readers that moms behind bars have legal rights, too. But what are those rights, and are they being enforced?

A report by the National Women's Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights explored a range of important issues affecting pregnant and parenting women who are in prison. Though the study was conducted a few years ago, the issues addressed are still important.

Here are a few legal areas that affect incarcerated mothers to this day:

3 Missing Women Found Alive; 3 Men Arrested

Three missing women who were tied up in a house for more than 10 years have been reunited with relatives and appear to be in good health, according to authorities.

The women were found alive in a Cleveland home after one of the captives, Amanda Berry, made a brazen escape Monday night, followed by a frantic 911 call.

Police arrested the homeowner, Ariel Castro, 52, and his two brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50. While the three have yet to be formally charged, they could face a number of charges relating to kidnapping and abduction.

Is It Legal to Publicly 'Shame' Your Kid?

Creative judges have taken to shaming criminals by wearing signs on busy street corners, but now parents have started doing it too. So is it legal to publicly "shame" your own kid?

In March, a Florida family decided to punish their 13-year-old daughter by by having her wear a sign at a busy intersection stating that she was "self-entitled" and had "no respect for authority," reports the Northwest Florida Daily News.

The girl's parents defended their decision to "shame" their daughter after photos of her punishment went viral. But did they break any laws?

Jodi Arias: Jury Instructions Key to Her Fate

The 12 final jurors in the Jodi Arias trial began deliberating Monday morning after hearing jury instructions Friday, reports The Huffington Post.

Arias, 32, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the killing of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.

Here's a look at the charges jurors are considering, and the jury instructions that will be key to Arias' fate:

10 Illegal Activities Your Kids May Be Up To

For Mother's Day, your darling angel-eyed child may bring you chocolates or flowers, or even breakfast in bed. But don't let your parental guard down too easily, as your kid may be up to some potentially illegal activities behind your back.

Just imagine: A nice little arrest warrant for Junior on the fridge, right next to his third-grade drawing of an elephant that looks more like a mouse. They grow up so quickly!

As an early Mother's Day gift to all the busy moms out there, here are 10 things that kids (these days...) are getting in trouble for, that you may not know about:

Jodi Arias Trial: 5 Facts About Closing Arguments

Jodi Arias' defense attorney, Kirk Nurmi, made his closing arguments in her murder trial on Friday, telling jurors that even if they don't like Arias, "that shouldn't matter," reports the Associated Press.

"Nine days out of 10, I don't like Jodi Arias," Nurmi said -- though, upon objection, the judge told jurors to disregard that statement.

That may seem surprising, but Nurmi is not the first attorney to resort to unusual persuasive tactics in an attempt to sway the jury, some which are not allowed by the court.

Here are five facts about the different -- and sometimes unorthodox -- closing arguments made in criminal trials:

Army Major, Wife Charged With Abusing Foster Kids

A U.S. Army major and his wife are accused of abusing foster kids for years, breaking their bones, force-feeding them hot sauce, and denying them water.

John and Carolyn Jackson of Mount Holly, New Jersey, even allegedly used one of their biological kids to guard the toilet bowls so the foster children couldn't try to quench their thirst, New York's WNBC-TV reports.

The two are being charged with a whopping 17 counts related to their alleged abuse.

3 Ways to Challenge Field Sobriety Tests

If you've been pulled over for a DUI, a key to your defense may be challenging your field sobriety test.

With the option to refuse chemical tests for alcohol while pulled over, the field sobriety test may be the main piece of evidence against you when facing a DUI charge.

Here are three potential ways to contest a field sobriety test:

Boston Bombings: 3 UMass Students Charged

Three UMass-Dartmouth students are facing federal charges for allegedly interfering with the Boston bombing investigation.

The men -- Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, and Robel Phillipos, all 19 -- are friends of alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an FBI special agent said in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.

The three did not plan or help to carry out last month's deadly Boston Marathon bombing, Reuters reports. Instead, they're being charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements.

Do You Have a 'Right' to Phone Calls After Arrest?

Do you have a "right" to a phone call following your arrest?

If your legal knowledge comes mostly from watching movies and TV shows, you may believe that you are automatically granted this right. And in many states, this may be the case.

However, the right to make a phone call is typically governed by state law and is not something specifically enumerated in the Constitution. As a result, to learn your exact rights, you may need to talk to an attorney in your state.