FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

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Michael Slager, the white former police officer who gunned down Walter Scott, an unarmed black man running away from Slager, was sentenced to 20 years in prison today after he pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges. Slager had been charged with murder by the state of South Carolina, and a judge ultimately ruled that he committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.

Slager had claimed Scott wrestled his stun gun away from him, and that he was forced to use his firearm in self defense. But video of the incident showed otherwise.

'DEATH PENALTY!' So tweeted President Donald Trump, in response to the deadly truck attack in New York City this week. The president elaborated that he "[w]ould love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo," but "[t]here is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed."

It's probably for the best that Trump's tweets don't define criminal jurisdiction under federal or state law. But is he right that the suspect, 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov, could face the death penalty?

In December 2015, Virginia-born Mohamad Khweis bought one-way plane tickets from the United States to London, then to Turkey. By November 2016, he had been indicted on terrorism and weapons charges.

In between, Khweis had been smuggled into Syria, joined ISIS, fled the group, and was captured by Kurdish forces in Iraq. And last week, after contradicting himself on the witness stand and failing to provide a credible story as to his time with ISIS, Khweis was sentenced to 20 years in prison. What happened?

As many have noted, the rise of the American carceral state has coincided with the demise of slavery, leading many others to note that burgeoning prison populations have replaced forcible servitude based on race. In some ways, this is framed as a positive and redemptive story, like California inmates being paid $1 an hour to fight forest fires. In other, worse ways, it looks more like work at the end of a whip, like extorted labor from inmates at private immigration detention centers.

Either way, few law enforcement officials have so nakedly admitted to wanting to retain inmates as a source of cheap labor as Louisiana Sheriff Steve Prator. In the face of the Bayou State passing a set of criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing the prison population, Sheriff Prator expressed his interest in keeping "good prisoners" incarcerated: "In addition to the bad ones, and I call these bad, in addition to them, they're releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchens, to do all that where we save money."

So which inmates should we be interested in releasing, and should the amount or value of their labor factor into that decision?

Two and a half years after he was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to those charges this week. According to reports, there was no pre-trial agreement between Bergdahl and Army prosecutors prior to the guilty plea, meaning he could face the maximum penalty for both counts.

So what are the penalties for military desertion? And could Bergdahl be looking at more time in confinement for the misbehavior charge?

Vaccinations have been a hot topic for years now, and even with little evidence they are harmful to children, many parents are choosing to not vaccinate their kids. And for the most part, that's OK, legally speaking. But there are a few exceptions to that rule, and one of them is when a judge orders you to vaccinate your child.

This week, Michigan mom Rebecca Bredow was sentenced to seven days in jail for failing to vaccinate her 9-year-old son, but her real crime was ignoring a consent order to do so.

A burglar in San Francisco has just been sentenced to 327 years to life for a string of home invasion robberies against local senior citizens. The convicted burglar, 60 year old German Woods, targeted vulnerable seniors, many of whom didn't speak English, or did so poorly.

Woods' modus operandi included lying in wait for seniors that lived alone to return home, then as they were entering their homes, he would attack, forcing them into and ransacking their homes. The charges against Woods go back to 2014. Between then and 2016, he committed numerous burglaries, and was ultimately convicted in July 2016 on 17 different counts, including some charges for elder abuse.

In the wake of a natural disaster, or large protest or assembly gone wrong, looters and other opportunistic thieves can make matters much worse. Looting is stealing, which is never legal (though in matters of life or death, it might be excusable).

Generally, the penalties for looting in any given state will be the same or similar to the penalties for stealing. The various details of how the theft or looting occurs will matter. For instance, if a looter must break a window or door, they may also be facing charges for breaking and entering in addition to theft. However, if the door was open, or window already broken, the charges may simply be theft charges, but those too can vary based on what is taken.

It seems as though as soon as the car was invented, people were racing cars. We've always wanted to see who's the fastest. The only problem is, racing 4,000-pound automobiles at hundreds of miles per hour on public streets is a bit more dangerous than your average foot race.

That's why many states have enacted specific street racing statutes or allowed for enhanced penalties for racing-related offenses. Here are some of those laws and the penalties for breaking them.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, most people accept the fact that a plea bargain is the only guaranteed way to avoid more serious consequences. Despite a person's innocence, accepting a deal is often the most expedient, and certainly the most certain, end to a scary situation. Trials are uncertain, and being found guilty at trial generally involves lengthier or harsher sentencing.

However, how good a plea bargain will be often depends on who's negotiating on a defendant's behalf. While some deals may be too good to pass up, others can have grave consequences that impact every facet of a person's life.