FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

October 2010 Archives

Mont. HS Coach Arrested for 'Sexting' Students

There is yet another case of "sexting," a topic that seems to come up in the news constantly these days.

A former track and field coach at Bozeman High School in Montana was arrested and charged with felony sexual abuse of children and obscenity. The coach allegedly sent nude pictures of himself to female students. The school learned of the incident on October 26th and launched an investigation which included school officers as well as the Bozeman Police Department. James Michael Evans has resigned from his position as track coach and assistant football coach at Bozeman.

According to the investigation, Evans communicated with a 15-year-old female student over his cell phone for two months, attempting to lure her into sexual conduct. Evans allegedly sent texts and pictures to the girl, which including requests for explicit sexual acts, as well as two other students.

Woman Kills Baby for Interrupting Farmville

They say online games like Farmville are addictive. They also say that nothing compares to a mother's love. Sadly in the case of Alexandra V. Tobias, one of them had to give, and it wasn't Farmville.

Tobias, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after shaking her baby to death. The Florida Times Union reports that Tobias became angry, shook the baby, smoked a cigarette to compose herself and then shook the baby again. She said the baby might have hit his head on something in the process.

Cops Might Charge More Rand Paul Supporters

Former Rand Paul volunteer Tim Profitt is facing potential charges in court after an alleged stomping assault of a supporter caught on video tape. Kentucky police are considering charges against at least two additional Rand Paul supporters seen on tape taking Lauren Valle to the ground before she was stomped on the head.

Of course after an ugly incident like this is caught on tape, Tim Profitt believes someone is owed an apology -- him. "[Lauren Valle is] a professional at what she does ... When all the facts come out, people will see that she's the one who initiated the whole thing ... I put my foot on her and I did push her down ... [I] would like for her to apologize to me, to be honest with you," Profitt told WYKT, ABC News reports.

Man Charged With DC Metro Bomb Plot

A federal indictment was unsealed charging naturalized American citizen Farooque Ahmed with a bomb plot to attack Washington D.C.'s metro system. Ahmed, 34 and a native of Pakistan, was caught by an FBI sting operation underway since April.

National Public Radio reports that a grand jury has indicted Ahmed on the following charges: attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization; collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility; attempting to provide material support to help carry out multiple bombings. Farooque Ahmed did not enter a plea in court on Wednesday, October 27. He has asked to be provided with an attorney.

Point Laser at Cops? Get Sent to Fed Prison

What is a fair sentence for pointing a laser pointer at a police helicopter?

Fifteen months in federal prison, said a California court.

Nineteen-year-old Nathan Ramon Wells was in his car in Cathedral City, California finding himself a bit bored. Then, he thought to himself: I have a laser pointer! I wonder who I can annoy with that? Seeing as how he was not at a movie or a concert, he turned his gaze above, to a nearby police helicopter.

He aimed the green laser pointer at the police helicopter and actually caused it to divert a residential burglary pursuit. The laser pointer prank lit up the cockpit of the helicopter with green light, which forced the pilots to protect their eyes and change course. Wells was tracked down by police and arrested after police found a green laser pointer in his car. The aviation law incident was investigated by the FBI as well as Cathedral City police.

LA Prosecutor Asks Reporters to Drive High

It's a good gig if you can land it.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times was asked to get high and drive a car on an obstacle course. Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich asked him to test the extent, if any, marijuana impairs driving. Why? Because with the possibility of Proposition 19 passing, Trutanich is curious to see what might happen if more drivers high on marijuana take to the road.

As we have reported previously: Proposition 19 would not legalize driving while high. It would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. However, Trutanich believes that if the drug is legalized there will be more stoned drivers on the road. Trutanich recruited California police agencies and the California Highway Patrol to observe drivers who were high on marijuana to compare their behavior against that of drunk drivers.

Report: Racial Bias in California Pot Arrests?

With California's Proposition 19, which would legalize cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use, coming up for a vote, the Drug Policy Alliance teamed with the NAACP to release a report calling the equitability of California drug policy into question. According to the report, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at far higher rates than whites in California. For example, according to the racial bias report, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession in Pasadena at 12 and a half times the rate of whites.

It's another indication that the campaign to legalize marijuana in California is kicking into gear. Under Prop. 19, those 21 and over would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, ending most pot arrests. In light of demographic research, proponents of Prop. 19 are targeting black voters, The LA Times reports. They have determined that black voters are likely to support Prop. 19 due to a perception of being unfairly targeted for arrest for decades. Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, argued that considering the disparity in arrests along racial lines, it is a civil rights issue.

Planned Wikileaks Release a Security Risk: Pentagon

More sensitive military information is about the be released on the website. As you may recall, Wikileaks released over 91,000 U.S. military reports from Afghanistan earlier this year. The Pentagon says that they do not expect to be surprised by any of the new information in the new Wikileaks release, which is expected to contain as many as 400,000 documents from U.S. combat units. So then there's nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong. Officials from the Pentagon have said that, although the information is not going to surprise them, it poses a serious security risk as the documents may have the names of Iraqis who have aided the U.S. The release of the documents could in turn harm U.S. national security and international relations with Iraq, according to Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan, Bloomberg reports.

Couple Charged in $13 million Nigerian Scam

A Fort Lauderdale couple has been charged with running a $13 million Nigerian scam using Craigslist for over a year in a rather complicated money scheme. MSNBC reports that Plenord and Sandra St. Fort were connected to the Nigerian mob.

MSNBC adds some key details to how the operation worked:

"Using classified ads and Craigslist, the St. Forts would offer jobs to victims looking to work as maids. The St. Forts and the victims would agree to a monthly salary. Soon a check would arrive but in an amount far in excess of the agreed salary. The unsuspecting victim was instructed to use the remainder of the money to pay rent to a landlord and otherwise manage the home."

Here's where it gets tricky -- the rent to the landlord was actually money being wired to the St. Forts (through a Nigerian bank account) and other members of the scam.

Passenger Accused of In-Flight Sexual Assault

A man is in federal custody today on charges he groped a fellow plane passenger while she was sleeping. The 61 year-old defendant, Ranchhodbhai Lakha, was on a Delta flight from Texas to Georgia, when he allegedly assaulted the 20 year-old passenger beside him.

CNN reports that the victim awoke to find Lakha touching her "below the waist." According to the federal indictment, she told him to stop, but Lakha responded, "Is that OK? You don't like that?" Reportedly, the woman said no and shifted her body to protect herself when Lakha touched her again. The passenger got up and reported the incident to the flight attendant.

Man Sets Fire to Calif. Mall Store, Forces Evacuation

Shoppers at the Westfield Roseville Galleria in California were in for quite a surprise Thursday after a man set fire to a mall store. The suspect locked himself inside a GameStop Thursday morning as the mall burned. Emergency responders arrived and called for evacuation of the mall eight minutes after the fire began. It is unclear how the fire was started. It appears that, fortunately, there were no injuries or casualties from the event.

Firefighters had to initially hold off on entering the building because they were concerned about the suspect being armed. There were reports of gunfire inside the building and the man said he had a gun. However, no one actually reported seeing the weapon, according to police. The SWAT Team was called in shortly after noon and officers were seen escorting a man in handcuff wearing a black hoodie out of the mall, reports.

Alan Newton Awarded $18.5M in Wrongful Conviction

Alan Newton, the man accused of rape that served over twenty years in prison until he was ultimately exonerated by DNA evidence, will finally have some closure. The now 49 year-old Newton was released from prison four years ago. He has finally settled his wrongful conviction suit with New York City for $18.5 million.

The judgment represents the largest award ever given to a victim of a wrongful conviction. Like many victims of a wrongful convictions that ultimately find exoneration through DNA evidence, his claim was supported by the Innocence Project. In addition to claiming innocence, Newton argued that the New York Police Department showed a "reckless disregard" for his constitutional rights both in the initial investigation of the crime and in the the department's system for storing post-conviction evidence.

Dayna Kempson Schacht Video: Illegal?

23 year-old Dayna Kempson Schacht died last July when she lost control of her SUV and hit a row of trees lining a Griffin, Georgia highway. Dayna, a mother of two, was said to have died on impact. Undoubtly dealing with the tragedy for the rest of the their lives, Dayna's parents are now reliving their daughter's death with a video captured at the scene of the accident -- and they are not happy about it.

CBS News reports that a cell phone video taken by a responding firefighter captured Dayna body and crash scene. The video began circulating throughout the local fire station and then went viral. CBS News quotes Kempson's father, Jeff: "It was bad enough that we lost our daughter. And now we have to deal with something like this, it's just beyond words."

Four Men in New York Bomb Plot Trial Found Guilty

Four men charged with a 2009 New York bomb plot have been found guilty by a federal jury after eight days of deliberations. Reuters reports that the men were found guilty of placing explosives outside of New York synagogues and plotting to shoot down military aircraft.

James Cromite, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Lague Payen all face a minimum of twenty five years in prison. The men were found guilty on seven of the eight charges levied against them. The jury was split on the final count: attempt to kill officers and employees of the United States. Reuters quotes Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: "Homegrown terrorism is a serious threat, and today's convictions affirm our commitment to do what we can to protect it. The defendant's in this case agreed to plant bombs and use missles they thought were real weapons of terrorism."

JetBlue Attendant Steven Slater Pleads Guilty

Gotta love the plea bargain. It's how a person goes from facing felony charges to serving a year of probation.

In the case of JetBlue attendant Steven Slater, it was really no surprise. His case was a textbook example of a situation where a plea bargain was likely. He did something foolish and no one was hurt, though someone could have been. Slater was looking at serious charges, including a felony, after he pulled the emergency chute on an August 9th JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh to New York. Slater had an altercation with a passenger after the plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

After the altercation, Slater swore at the passenger over the public address system, grabbed a beer for the road, popped open the emergency chute and slid away to a fleeting moment of freedom and excitement.

Average Homicide Cost Is $17.25M, Study Concludes

Homicides are more than just deadly. They are also very, very expensive. According to one study, the average cost of a homicide is a cool $17.25 million. The study, founded by Iowa State University, looked at victim costs, criminal justice system costs, lost productivity estimates, and estimates on the public's willingness to pay to prevent future violence.

The Clarion Ledger quotes the study:

"That each murder costs more than $17.25 million still does not convey the true costs imposed by homicide offenders in the current sample. Since the mean homicide conviction was more than one, the average murder in these analyses acutally imposed costs approaching $24 million. For the offender who murdered nine victims, the total murder-specific costs were $155,457,083!"

Federal Government Will Vigorously Enforce Marijuana Laws

Attorney General Eric Holder said that the U.S. government will "vigorously enforce" federal laws prohibiting the possession and cultivation of marijuana, regardless of whether Proposition 19 passes. However the federal government has extremely limited police resources compared to the State of California. The vast majority of drug arrests are made at the state level.

It's the kind of scenario that is understandably hard to conceptualize. Last evening, I was trying to explain the legal principles behind marijuana laws and federal supremacy to a Dutch attorney and our conversation roughly went as follows:

Anger Management Class Ends in Stabbing

My favorite headline: "This is probably going to hurt her grade."

A woman from Bellevue College in Washington state has been charged with second degree assault. Faribah Maradiaga allegedly lost it during her anger management course and stabbed a classmate. According to police, the student from the Pacific Northwest "blew up," attacking her classmate after they exchanged words. The woman suffered wounds on her arm and shoulders.

So why was Maradiaga in anger management in the first place? According to police, she already had a pending assault charge and is now being held on $50,000 bail in King County Jail, The Seattle Times reports. Maradiaga entered an anger management classroom on the Bellevue campus around 9 a.m. Saturday while a video was being shown on the topic.

Underwear Bomber to Defend Self in Trial

The judge hearing the case of the so-called "underwear bomber" denied his request in a hearing on October 14. The defendant, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, asked the court that his stand-by attorney not be allowed access to discovery documents handed over by the prosecution in the case. Judge Nancy Edmunds said no.

Abdulmutallab is defending himself against charges that he tried to blow a hole in an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009, reports The New York Times. He has dismissed his court-appointed lawyer, Anthony Chambers, saying he was dissatisfied with the representation he was receiving.

However, Mr. Chambers will continue to function in a back-up position at the order of the court. When hearing his request that Chambers not be allowed access to the discovery documents, Judge Edmunds directly over-ruled Abdulmutallab, reports USAToday. "I believe that it's necessary, so I'm overruling you on this," she said, noting that while she respects his decision to represent himself, "you don't have legal training in U.S. law."

NY Sex Trafficking Couple Charged in Baby Death

A New York couple accused of sex trafficking is adding more charges to their rap sheet: murder of a three month old baby, Carlos Santillana. Domingo Salazar and his wife, Norma Mendez, have been charged with the murder of a baby in a death that involved beating him and then placing the child's remains in a tub full of wet concrete for eleven months. The remains were found following the couple's sex trafficking arrest.

The child is believed to be the son of the girl the couple was trafficking. After Salazar empregnated the girl in Mexico, he brought her to the United States forced her into prostitution as a source of income for the couple. The Wall Street Journal reports that the couple pled guilty to forcing the then 17 year-old mother to work as a prostitute in New York and outlying states.

Woman Found Dead in San Diego College Bathroom

A woman was found dead in a San Diego college bathroom earlier this week. The body of a 19 year-old women, believed to be Nancy Gonzalez, was discovered by a student in the men's restroom at a downtown location of San Diego community college. The woman was reported missing after she failed to meet her family following a night class she was taking at the college. At the time of her death, she was taking general education classes to ultimately become a nurse. reports that, although the cause of death has not yet been disclosed, the woman was a victim of domestic violence and had a restraining order pending against her 37 year-old husband, Armando Gabriel Perez. The restraining order accused Perez of kidnapping Nancy from her campus and repeatedly assaulting her while holding her captive in a motel room for several days. The couple had a 9 month old daughter together. It is now believed that Perez may have fled to Mexico.

'Anti-Sexting' Technology Patented by Apple

Sexting has been a popular buzz word in the news this year. There are many reasons why: it's a trendy sounding word that has 'sex' in it. It's a controversial subject involving modern technology and sex. It frequently involves people getting caught up in scandals.

It may not be the healthiest aspect of our society, but we eat this stuff up. Fortunately, or unfortunately, a new technology patented by Apple could be used to prevent underage children from sexting. Parents could set up an administrator account that would then block the iPhone from sending or receiving explicit texts. Apple's new technology would also allow advanced filtering, including filtering by age.

44 Charged in Largest Ever Medicare Scam

Federal authorities have just made arrests that bring to an end to the largest fraud in the history of Medicare. On October 13, prosecuting attorneys charged members of an organization of Armenian gangsters with using phantom health clinics and other methods to run a major Medicare scam operation. Many of the defendants were caught in raids in New York City and Los Angeles. Other arrests were made in areas as disparate as New Mexico, Georgia and Ohio. In all, 73 suspects were taken into custody.

According to the Associated Press, the scope of the Medicare scam would put the "mafia to shame." According to Janice Fedarcyk, head of the FBI's New York office, the fraud went far beyond the usual scheme of false claims made through doctors. Each entire claim was completely false: "The whole doctor-patient interaction was a mirage."

8 Year Old Stabbed at NY Restaurant

Police say "[t]he attack was random."

At any given moment the world is generally a safe place. Horror isn't always a fictional topic and the occasional dose of terror reminds us that there exists a bizarre and cumulative impact on the world from sadly unexpected behavior. A recent example from Long Island, New York, illustrates this point.

It's Saturday night in Long Island, New York, and an 8 year-old boy is playing video games near his parents at Dave & Busters, a popular restaurant and arcade franchise. Suddenly 23 year-old Evan Sachs allegedly attacked the boy from behind, pulling out a three and a half inch knife and stabing him five times in the chest, puncturing his lung.

Zahra Baker Update: Now a Homicide Investigation

There is bad news this morning in Hickory, North Carolina. According to police chief Tom Adkins, 10 year-old Zahra Clare Baker is presumed dead and the case is now a homicide investigation. Zahra Baker has been missing and authorities had issued an Amber Alert. However, her stepmother, Elisa Baker, has admitted to writing a ransom note that was left on one of the Baker's cars. The Amber Alert has now been cancelled.

Elisa Baker is now facing felony obstruction of justice. Obstruction of justice exists when one interferes with the work of police, investigators, prosecutors, or other government officials. Charges are most commonly brought when police determine that a person questioned in an investigation lied to the investigators.

NC Woman Arrested After Body Found in Freezer

Cold case is a term used to describe a criminal investigation that has not been solved, and is no longer being investigated. Although a recent discovery in North Carolina may not fall under the definition, it is certainly adding a new meaning to the phrase. A North Carolina woman has been arrested after her longtime boyfriend's body was found in a freezer. 41 year-old Wendy Green was the live-in girlfriend of David Reuben Green, Jr., who has been reported missing since early September. In reality, Green has been dead since sometime in April.

The couple never married, but have two teenage children together -- one of which is currently reported as missing, the other is serving time in a local jail on burglary charges. The Examiner reports that Green died as a result of severe trauma to his head and, "is believed to have suffered severe injuries from several weapons and cutting instruments." At this point, it is unclear what the motive behind the murder was.

12 Party Goers Drugged in WA College Incident

College parties can get crazy. It's no wonder that young co-eds drinking too much cheap beer is a popular scene to depict in Hollywood. But when over a dozen partygoers experience more than just a hangover, some foul play may be involved. That is exactly what happened when twelve partygoers were drugged in a Washington college house party incident last week. After the several girls began uncontrollably vomiting and passing out everywhere, they were rushed to the hospital, and police are now investigating whether the drinks were spiked.

Seattle PI reports that a recent party with students from Central Washington University may have had some form of a date-rape drug in the drinks. Many of the victims only had a couple of drinks before falling unconscious at the party. Police are testing the blood of the victims to determine what exactly got into their system to cause such a powerful reaction. The party was held at the house of a Central Washington University freshman, with close to fifty people in attendance. Many of the victims were college freshman, well under the legal drinking age.

NY Gang Accused in Wave of Anti-Gay Tortures

Eight NY gang members were arraigned on Sunday, October 10, for hate crimes and other charges stemming from brutal attacks on three victims. Those being held are members of a gang called the Latin King Goonies and range in age from 17 to 23. All are being charged as adults.

CNN reports the defendants have not yet entered pleas. Steven Carabello, 17, and Dennis Piters, 17, have had their bail set at $100,000 each. Others in custody, Bryan Almonte, 17, Brian Cepeda, 17, Nelson Falu, 17, Idelfonso Mendez, 23, David Rivera, 21, and Elmer Confresi, 23, are being held without bail. One suspect, 22 year-old Ruddy Vargas-Perez, is still at large.

Student Allegedly Tracked via GPS by FBI

What would you do if you found a GPS device that had been secretly attached to your car?

A California student found one on his car and a friend posted photos of it online. Within 48 hours the student received a visit from a fun group known as the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The FBI wanted the device back, which it had been using to track Yasir Afifi for three to six months, the student told The FBI and police showed up at his apartment in Santa Clara, California, demanding its return. The FBI has not confirmed the accuracy of Afifi's statements.

Police Officer Arrested in Shooting Spree

An Illinois police officer was arrested in a shooting spree that killed one man and injured three others. 37 year-old Brian Dorian has been charged with first degree murder in connection to the shooting rampage that took place at a construction site on Tuesday morning. Forty minutes after the first shooting, he crossed state lines into Indiana and fired shots again. CNN reports that the shooter struck up conversations with the victims before pulling out his gun and taking fire.

CNN quotes Will County State Attorney’s spokesperson James Glasgow on the police officer shooting spree, “It’s always law enforcement’s worst nightmare when someone in the law enforcement community chooses to break the law. It’s critical that we act no differently in investigating a policeman than we would any law person. No professional courtesies. No special treatment.”

NYC Reporter Charles Leaf Arrested for Sex Abuse

An award-winning reporter for Fox News in New York is under arrest for sexual assault of a child. Reporter Charles Leaf was arrested on October 7 on three counts of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. It has been reported that the child in question was a four year-old acquaintance of the reporter's and that the assault took place at his home in New Jersey.

Charles Leaf is an ex-marine who has been a reporter for Fox 5 News since 2006, reports WPIX News. His arrest was the result of an investigation conducted by the Bergen County New Jersey prosecutor's office Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit and the Wyckoff Police Department. No further details on the arrest or charges are currently available.

2 Kids Shot at Kelly Elementary in Carlsbad, CA

A gunman opened fire at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad, California today, October 8. Fortunately, no one was killed when a man started shooting into a crowd of children outside the school. Witnesses say the gunman was tackled by bystanders and was taken into custody by police. The shooter has been described as an older man with gray hair, dressed in black. At time of writing, he has not yet been identified.

NBC reports that the gunman jumped a fence to gain access to the school and began firing wildly. One witness, Jordan Sears, told the San Diego Union-Tribune the suspect was holding a jack 'o lantern "and running and shooting at something. First there was screaming, then there was silence."

Philly Flight Stopped Over TSA Security Breach

TSA Security Breach. That was all the explanation passengers on a flight from Philadelphia to Bermuda were given when they were evacuated from their flight this morning. The U.S. Airways plane was carrying 102 passengers and 5 crew members.

According to Fox News, The Philly security breach was not with a passenger. Rather, an unidentified and man without a security badge was helping load luggage onto the plane; when police approached him, he attempted to flee the scene. Currently, TSA officials are searching the plane's cargo at an isolated location in Philadelphia International Airport.

Woman Found Dead at UW Frat House

Detectives are investigating a probable suicide by a woman at a University of Washington fraternity house. Carly Henley was found dead in a stairwell outside the Seattle Phi Delta Theta fraternity, according to police and officials from the fraternity.

"Our detectives do believe it appears to be suicide and that's kind of the end of it for us at this point ... It's tragic, but it's not a criminal investigation," said Mark Jamieson, a spokesman for Seattle police, reports.

The body was found at the UW frat house at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday as members of the fraternity were setting up for a recruitment event. Henley was found on an outside stairwell below a fire escape in an area that was rarely used. Members of the fraternity, who has 25 in house and 10 out-of-house members, cancelled the event after discovering the body.

FBI Wraps Up Largest Police Corruption Crackdown

What is being called the largest police corruption investigation in the FBI's history came to a close on Wednesday, October 6. FBI agents arrested almost 130 law enforcement officials in early morning raids in Puerto Rico. Charges for those caught in this culmination of the two year operation will cover many areas of corruption, conspiracy, firearms and drug charges.

Attorney General Eric Holder has told a news conference that police and other officials under indictment allegedly provided security for drug deals in exchange for payments ranging from $500 to $4,500. CBS News reports that officials charged include 60 members of the Puerto Rico Police Department, 16 from municipal police departments,12 officers from the Puerto Rico Corrections Department, as well as National Guard and Army soldiers, administrative officials and civilians. One man was a member of the motor pool of the Governor of Puerto Rico. More than 120 people are currently in custody, while four remain at large.

Public Defenders Are Not Always Free

"...If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you..." Most people are familiar with this line. It is the way that police typically explain to a defendant that he is entitled to an attorney. The warning, which comes as part of the Miranda warning, does not necessarily mean that the public defender's assistance will be without cost to the defendant. Surprised to hear that? You're not alone.

According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice (pdf), states are increasingly imposing fees on indigent criminal defendants, including fees for the public defender. Pro Publica analyzed the report and noted that of the 15 states with the largest prison populations, 13 have provisions to charge defendants fees for exercising their right to counsel. In some of the states, the laws include mandates that specifically bar the court from waiving the fees, even for the poorest of defendants. And in Florida and Ohio, defendants must pay even if they are acquitted of the charges or have them dropped.

Kidnapper Thwarted by Amber Alert, Driver

This time, thanks to an Amber Alert and the quick thinking of a still unidentified good citizen, a kidnap attempt on an 8 year-old girl failed. Elisa Cardenas was found by police and returned to her family after she escaped her alleged kidnapper's truck when he slowed to avoid another driver. The suspect, Gregorio Gonzalez, is now in police custody.

Elisa Cardenas was playing in the front yard of a home with some friends when Gonzalez allegedly tried to lure the girls into his truck with promises to buy them treats at the local dollar store, reports MSNBC. The other children walked away, but Elisa got close enough to the vehicle to be grabbed. Adults witnessing the scene tried to run after the truck and then searched the neighborhood, but could not locate the suspect. A state-wide Amber Alert went into effect.

Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad Sentenced

Failed Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad said in court that the "war with Muslims just begun," but if that's the case, he won't be participating from the battlefield. Judge Miriam Cedarbaum sentenced Shahzad to life in prison, noting that Shahzad failed to show remorse for his actions. Judge Cedarbaum said the sentence would hopefully serve as an "adequate deterrent to those inclined to follow the defendant and to protect the public against the crimes of this defendant."

Judge Cedarbaum asked Shahzad about the oath that he took in order to become a citizen. Shahzad admitted that he "swore but I didn't mean it."

Sexting DA Ken Kratz Resigns

What began as a handful of sexts to a domestic abuse client, and snowballed into many sexts to different clients, seems to have finally ended with the resignation of sexting DA Ken Kratz. USA Today reports that 50 year-old Ken Kratz has left the position he has held since 1992 in the Wisconsin District Attorney's office, and is now seeking professional help for his problems outside of Wisconsin.

USA Today quotes a written statement by Kratz: "It is with deep sadness and regret that I announce my resignation as Calumet County district attorney, effective immediately. I have lost the confidence of the people I represent due primarily to personal issues which have now affected my professional career." Kratz also adds that he hope his resignation will not be the end of his legal practice. Kratz originally refused to resign but when the Wisconsin governor began the removal process, he quickly changed his mind.

11 Arrested in Alabama Vote Buying Operation

Four Alabama legislators are facing charges in a massive vote-buying operation. Democrats Larry Means and Quinton Ross as well as Republican James Pruiett and independent Harri Anne Smith stand accused of serious crimes by the Justice Department. U.S. authorities have charged the legislators as well as three lobbyists and two businessmen who owned casinos, in an attempted conspiracy to pass legislation expanding electronic bingo.

The charges are a full on political crime buffet: conspiracy, bribery, extortion, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The crimes are so vast that there isn't enough time to dig into all of them, but let's quickly go over conspiracy and bribery:

CA Marijuana Possession Reduced to Infraction

This just in from the golden state: California marijuana possession is reduced to an infraction. In a bill signed into effect by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday, possession of marijuana up to one ounce has been reduced from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. The new rules will go into effect January 11, 2011.

CBS quotes Schwarzenegger: "In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting crimes that carry the same punishment as a traffic ticket." Although he supported the change in classification, Schwarzenegger noted that he is still opposed to Proposition 19 (proposition that would legalize marijuana) noting that it is, "deeply flawed measure that, if passed, will adversely impact California businesses without bringing in the tax revenues to the state promised by its proponents."

Cecilia Chang Charged: Students Used as Slaves?

Anyone who has been to college must have at sometime complained about the hard work. Between studying, and working at a low-paying internship or temp job, it can feel like indentured servitude. However, the hard work behind the criminal charges levied against one college administrator brings a whole new meaning to the term. Former St. John's College Dean of the Institute of Asian Studies and vice president for international relations, Cecilia Chang, is facing federal charges of forced labor. In addition, there are the embezzlement charges, which is how her labor violations were first discovered.

Chang oversaw the scholarship program for Asian students at St. John's, according to CBS News. Under the scholarship program, the students agreed to work part time for the Asian Studies program. As CBS notes, it appears Chang took that more than a little too far. The students who worked for Chang allege that they took out the garbage, cleaned house, did laundry, shoveled snow, and drove Chang to the airport and to get her hair done, among other chores. All this was allegedly done under the threat that they would lose their scholarship money if they didn't follow the 'boss's' orders.

Beauty Items Top 'Most Shoplifted' List

Petty theft making for pretty criminals? According to a study conducted by the Food Marketing Institute, health and beauty items are once again at the top of the "most shoplifted" list. Hoping to look good for their mug shot, looking to score a date at the local jail, pocketing fall's latest color to have handcuff-worthy fingernails, the jokes seem to be endless when looking at the list of items making the most shoplifted list.

MSNBC reports on the trend, "slipping beauty products into a purse is more doable and worthwhile than, say, ripping off a 12-pack of toilet paper. Consumers gravitate toward certain items, and so do criminals. You have to look at it as a specifically self-destructive kind of behavior, a statement of rebellion--it's more about that kind of statement than it is about mascara." Nevertheless, stealing beauty products can make for an ugly shoplifting charge on an individual's criminal record.

Study: Hot Car Kid Deaths Hit New High in 2010

As cities are reaching record high temperatures this year, so too are the number of hot car kid deaths. A recent study conducted by Kansas-based Kids and Cars reported that children dying in hot cars hit a new high in 2010 with a total of 48 deaths so far.

MSNBC reports that criminal charges are filed in about half of the cases that involve hot car kid deaths. "Experts say leaving a child in a hot car is not always a sign of negligence, but is often the result of a distracted or sleep-deprived brain, or a sudden change in routine." Unlike other child neglect and abuse cases, most hot car deaths are completely accidental in nature, and also completely avoidable.