FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

November 2010 Archives

First Pirate Conviction in Almost 200 Years

Do you know what the new pirate movie is rated? Arrrr.

Seriously though, we have some real, historic pirate news. A Norfolk, Va. jury found five Somali men guilty of piracy in federal court. The pirate conviction is the first U.S. piracy conviction in nearly 200 years. The five men now face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. The verdict was a victory for prosecutors who recently faced a setback in a similar case after a judge dismissed charges against another alleged pirate.

Could Ex-Rep. Tom DeLay Avoid Jail Time?

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy. Losing his prestigious position, many thought he would trade in his designer suits for jailhouse orange. Although the money laundering charges can potentially carry a life in prison sentence, DeLay may get out of jail time with a heavy probation sentence.

DeLay is currently appealing his original conviction, as he alleges it was partly the result of a politically motivated prosecutor and jury. DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, called the original trial a "terrible miscarriage of justice" and a punishment that will "never stand on appeal."

Arson at Portland Tree Lighting Bomber's Mosque

Two Oregon cities are coping with violence after a teenager's bomb plot at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony was foiled.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested Friday after allegedly attempting to detonate what he thought was a bomb at a tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Square, in downtown Portland, Oregon. Two days later, a fire was apparently set at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center, a mosque occasionally attended by Mohamed Mohamud.

The Department of Justice says that Mohamud was taken into custody after he tried to detonate what he believed was a van full of explosives parked near the Portland tree lighting ceremony, reports CNN. Mohamud is charged with suspicion of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Animal Drug Cleared for Lethal Injections

The thiopental sodium story continues to develop. As we've previously discussed, there is a shortage of the drug, used by states to carry out the death penalty using lethal injections.

Now U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot has approved the use of pentobarbital, a drug used to euthanize animals, for executions in Oklahoma. The decision could have a ripple effect across other states that seek to deal with the national shortage of thiopental sodium. Judge Friot also denied requests to stay the executions of two Oklahoma inmates.

Cops: 'Ugly Betty' Actor Kills Mom With Sword

Yannick Brea was a 9/11 survivor that worked at a local hotel. Tragedy struck the 55-year-old mother when her son, "Ugly Betty" actor Michael Brea, allegedly killed her with a samurai sword at her Brooklyn apartment. The 31-year-old Michael Brea was found and arrested in a nearby room in the apartment after police came. Brea was clenching a bible at the time of his arrest.

"Michael was yelling, 'Repent, repent, sinner, sinner, over and over again. He was screaming, 'You never accepted Jesus.' It was real loud," one neighbor told The New York Daily News. The violent and bizarre language was what prompted building neighbors to call the police, who arrived quickly to the murder scene. But reports indicate that they were very slow to enter the apartment.

Can You Get a DUI Driving On Cold Medicine?

Let's take a moment to stop and consider what DUI really means. Yes, it means drunk driving. If your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is over the often applied legal limit of .08%, you can be charged with DUI. But the letters actually stand for "driving under the influence" or, in the case of DWI "driving while intoxicated." Neither of these names indicate that this crime is limited to driving under the influence of just alcohol or controlled substances.

The aim of state DUI laws, generally, is to prohibit driving while under the influence of anything that would impair your performance behind the wheel. For example, in Alabama, the state law says it is prohibited to drive "under the influence of any substance which impairs the mental or physical faculties of such person to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving." This may include a wide range of legal prescription drugs.

Natalee Holloway: The Jaw Bone is not Hers

For the family of Natalee Holloway, is this good or bad news? The results of the DNA testing on the jawbone found last week on a beach on Aruba are back, and the bone does not belong to the missing teenager.

The jaw bone, found by tourists last week near the Phoenix Hotel, underwent testing at the Netherlands Forensic Institute in The Hague, Netherlands reports CNN. The bone must have been found to be human, because Dutch authorities asked for Holloway's dental records last week. The jawbone had one molar tooth still attached.

Most Dangerous Cities in America

The most dangerous cities in America list is out and people are anxiously waiting to get their hands on the list to see if their city made the cut. Of course the people in the most dangerous cities are too afraid to leave their own residences to go get the list, so fortunately it is available through the magic power of the internet. The CQ Press annual list is quite long, so we'll just give you the top 10:

  1. St. Louis, MO
  2. Camden, NJ
  3. Detroit, MI
  4. Flint, MI
  5. Oakland, CA
  6. Richmond, CA
  7. Cleveland, OH
  8. Compton, CA
  9. Gary, IN
  10. Birmingham, AL

You can download the full list of most dangerous cities in America here.

Fake Doctor Gives Breast Exams in Bars

Would you accept a breast exam in a bar from a woman named Dr. Berlyn Aussieahshowna? Don't answer that.

(The New York Daily News already took my line about Dr. Feelgood, so that's the best I've got.)

Kristina Ross, 37, is in custody on $100,000 bond in Boise, Idaho on two felony counts of practicing medicine without a license. The maximum penalty for each count is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. According to prosecutors, Ross posed as a doctor and tricked multiple women into having their breasts examined by her at Boise nightclubs.

Will Fla. Gov. Crist Pardon Jim Morrison?

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Empty political gesture by a governor on his way out the door? Or an attempt to right a wrong that has been a long time coming? You be the judge.

Lame duck Florida Governor Charlie Crist is setting out to pardon Jim Morrison. Some will recall that the rock icon and lead singer of the Doors was convicted of profanity and indecent exposure in 1970 for "exposing" himself at a Doors concert at Miami's Dinner Key Auditorium in 1969. Morrison died the following year.

Governor Crist says the more he considers a pardon for Jim Morrison, the more it seems the right thing to do, reports The New York Times. "The more that I've read about the case and the more I get briefed on it, the more convinced I am that maybe an injustice has been done here," Crist told The Times. The trial supposedly included no documentary evidence showing Morrison exposing himself. Morrison was appealing the misdemeanor convictions when he passed away in Paris at the age of only 27.

Ohio Mom Caught Giving Pot to 2-Year-Old

Comedian Bill Maher does a regular segment on his HBO show "Real Time" called "New Rules," where he distributes advice that should be obvious, but for whatever reason has escaped the public. Allow me to add a couple:

New Rule: Don't give pot to your 2-year-old. It's not good for them, it's not good for you, it's not clever and it's not funny. It's cruel and it's lame.

New Rule: Don't film yourself doing dumb, illegal things. Like making your 2-year-old smoke pot. You've already demonstrated that you're not capable of raising a child. Don't make that fact into a documentary of damaging evidence against you. Do you really think you're going to avoid somehow handing that tape over to the police after your inevitable arrest?

Social Security Judge Violent Threats Go Up

Social Security disability cases are becoming increasingly contentious. The Social Security judges who hear the cases have recently been facing violent threats from angry claimants upset over the process itself or denial of benefits. Fortunately no judges have been hurt this year, but there have been plenty of past incidents. It's a somewhat strange and ironic trend, especially considering that if you're healthy enough to physically menace a judge, you're probably healthy enough to show up for work.

According to The Associated Press, there were 80 threats to kill or harm Social Security judges or their staff last year alone. The data was collected by the Social Security Administration, which noted an 18 percent spike in such threats.

Natalee Holloway Search: Jaw Bone Found

Is there finally a break in locating missing student Natalee Holloway? Reports say that a jawbone has been found on a beach in Aruba, close to Phoenix hotel, a location mentioned by murder suspect Joran Van der Sloot. Long the main suspect in the Holloway disappearances, Van der Sloot has been arrested twice in connection with the student's disappearance, but has never been charged.

There has been no comment by Dutch authorities on the exact condition of the bone found and turned over by tourists, reports CNN. The jawbone has been sent to National Forensic Institute in the Hague, Netherlands for testing. The first set of tests will determine whether the bone is from an animal or a human. If human, the Dutch authorities will attempt to create a DNA profile to compare with that of Holloway. According to a spokeswoman from the Forensic Institute, depending on the condition of the material, the full process will take about a week.

Texas Mom Sent Nude Photos to Teenage Boy

A 37-year-old woman has been arrested after allegedly sexting with a 16-year-old boy.

Lori Darling David stands accused of two counts of online solicitation of a minor. David allegedly sent sexually lewd, explicit text messages, pictures of her and emails to the boy, who was the son of a friend of hers. In other words, it's yet another sexting case. David was active at Katy Taylor High School as a volunteer, though one might question her motives in light of her arrest. She is still in jail, being held on $20,000 bail. Investigators are looking into whether there might be additional victims involved.

Zahra Baker: Missing Girl's Remains Identified

The remains of 10-year-old Zahra Baker have been found and identified by police in Hickory, North Carolina. The little girl was reported missing by her father and step-mother on October 9, although it was reported that no one outside the family had seen Zahra since September 25. The police say they have found enough physical evidence to confirm the remains found in an area of Caldwell County, N.C., were those of the missing girl.

Zahra had a difficult life, surviving bone cancer and a step-mother who allegedly abused her, reports ABC News. Earlier in the month, letters surfaced that are supposed to be from Zahra's step-mother, Elisa Baker. As discussed in a previous post, the letters claim that neither she nor Zahra's father, Adam, killed the girl, but that he did something "horrifying" after the girl was dead, reports ABC.

Elisa Baker was charged with obstruction of justice after police said she admitted writing a phony ransom note before calling in a missing persons report, writes ABC. Authorities say she has been cooperating with the search for Zahra.

Ex-Glaxo VP Indicted in Off Label Drug Cover Up

A former general counsel has found herself on the other side of the law for an alleged FDA cover up, thanks to a Department of Justice indictment. Former Vice President and G.C. for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, Lauren Stevens, is facing one count of obstructing an official proceeding, one count of concealing and falsifying documents to influence a federal agency, and four counts of making false statements to the FDA. The charges relate to the anti-depressant Wellbutrin and whether GSK promoted its off-label use for weight loss, a treatment which has not been approved by the FDA.

The FDA asked GSK for information in 2002 regarding the company's promotion of Wellbutrin as a weight loss treatment, reports ABC News. The indictment alleges that Stevens' response was that the company did not do any off-label promotion for the drug. The evidence, says the DOJ, shows that they did.

'Barefoot Bandit' Indicted for Thefts

The Barefoot Bandit is under indictment today for the wild, two-year crime spree that covered nine states and two countries. The 19-year-old bandit, formally known as Colton Harris-Moore, led officials on an extensive chase which ended in the Bahamas as the teen bandit tried to escape on a boat.

A federal grand jury has indicted Harris-Moore on five counts including being a fugitive in possession of a firearm, reports the Associated Press. Other charges against the Barefoot Bandit include theft and interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft; interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm; piloting an aircraft without an airman's certificate and theft and interstate transportation of a 34-foot boat.

Craigslist Sex: Queens Pimp Sentenced

A 25-year-old former utility company employee is facing up to 50 years in prison for allegedly using Craigslist sex ads for sex trafficking, rape, kidnapping and additional related offenses. Ross Campbell of New York will be sentenced in State Supreme Court on November 23. This is the first conviction in Bronx County and one of only a few in New York, under the 2007 Sex Trafficking statute.

The women involved here testified that they were taken to an apartment and forced at gunpoint to work as prostitutes. They were then forced to have their pictures taken while naked, which were used for Craigslist ads. Campbell also raped one women prior to both of them escaping.

Craigslist has since come under heavy scrutiny for its adult services category. The website removed the adult services section in September.

Zahra Baker Search Recovers Human Remains

Last month we covered the story of 10 year-old Zahra Baker who went missing in Hickory, North Carolina. There has been a break in the case, although it doesn't sound like good news.

ABC is reporting that investigators have found human remains in an area that they had previously checked. The investigators found the remains along the Dudley Shoals Road in Caldwell County as well as the banks and waters of Gunpowder Creek.

Police have not confirmed that the remains are that of Zahra Baker, but they did say that "[W]e recovered evidence that could provide valuable information in the Baker case."

Lawyer Shreds Murder Case File to Free Defendant

Sometimes, even lawyers get confused about the law. Take Lynn, Mass. lawyer who thought that if he destroyed a case file, somehow the case against the defendant would not proceed. Ilya Ablavsky was arraigned this week on charges of tampering with a record, document, or other object for use in an official proceeding and for larceny under $250.

The reports of his motivation are confusing, but what is certain is the allegation that Ablavsky arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday, November 3, obtained a court file from the Salem Superior Court Clerk and shredded it, according to The Boston Globe. The file contained court documents relating to the murder case against Jose Cabrera, accused of a gang-related murder which took place last Halloween.

Mumia Abu-Jamal Death Sentence Back in Court

Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of shooting and killing a police officer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania more than 28 years ago. The former Black Panther was sentenced to the death penalty for the 1981 murder. Since then Abu-Jamal has become an activist from prison, arguing that his case was plagued by errors and racial bias.

Police widows and supporters of Abu-Jamal listened Tuesday as federal appeals judges debated whether he deserves a new sentencing hearing, The Associated Press reported.

The appeals court had granted the new sentencing hearing on the grounds that the jury at Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial was not given proper death-penalty instructions. But the U.S. Supreme Court this year, in rejecting a similar Ohio case, ordered the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges to rethink its decision.

Is Philly's 'Stop and Frisk' Racial Profiling?

Stop and frisk sounds more like a trendy dance move or a board game than a form of racial profiling. But that is exactly what some critics are claiming the real purpose behind Philly's stop and frisk approach to law enforcement is. The Philadelphia stop and frisk policy has now become the center of a civil rights lawsuit, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The suit claims that in 2009, 72% of pedestrians that were stopped under the policy were African American. "Implicitly, the message is to make as many stops as you can and hopefully you will find something," said one attorney working on the case. The purpose behind the Philly stop and frisk policy was to decrease the rising crime rate on the streets. Although officers were trained, the suit alleges that the behavior of the force seems to ignore the training.

Nationwide Shortage of Lethal Injection Drug

There is a nationwide shortage of the drug used by states to carry out executions and it is causing a wide range of questions and problems. Thiopental sodium, lethal injection drug used as an anesthetic, is now becoming hard for states to come by. Several alternatives have been proposed, most with legal problems attached.

In Oklahoma, for instance, state authorities propose substituting pentobarbital, a drug used to euthanize animals as its lethal injection drug, The Wall Street Journal reports. Despite its usual use on animals, the state claims the drug is "substantially" similar to thiopental sodium. Attorneys for John David Duty, an inmate slated for execution in Oklahoma are protesting, calling the drug untried and arguing that its use could result in an unconstitutionally cruel execution.

Elizabeth Smart Awoke with Knife at Throat

Elizabeth Smart awoke with a knife at her throat. The first words she heard were death threats from her captor Brian David Mitchell. Elizabeth Smart testified about her abduction, daily rapes and threats to kidnap other members of her family. She took the stand to detail the events surrounding her 2002 kidnapping that lasted nine months. Brian David Mitchell watched from another room in the Utah federal courthouse.

"He said he was taking me hostage for ransom. I was shocked. I thought I was having a nightmare," Smart told the courtroom, The Los Angeles Times reports. Smart also described her marriage ceremony to Mitchell, as well as other details of her time with Davis and his now estranged wife Wanda Eileen Barzee. Barzee pled guilty to kidnapping charges and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.

Criminal Charges from Oil Spill for BP Employees?

Will someone go to jail over the BP oil spill? The Department of Justice seems to be putting the criminal investigation over the spill into high gear. A security zone has been created around the site of the Deepwater Horizon rig. The DOJ has set up office space near the courthouse in New Orleans. Lawyers are reviewing documents. Will charges follow?

Many resources, as well as time and attention from those high up in the department are focused on criminal and civil charges that may now flow from the catastrophe that was the BP oil spill, reports NPR. A federal judge recently confirmed the Justice Department has until October of 2011 to keep the security zone around the BP rig free of all inference to aid their investigation.

Georgia Teens Denied Bail in Beating Death

"Senseless" is how authorities are describing the death of Bobby Tillman.

The Georgia teenager was killed after four teenagers allegedly attacked him for no reason outside a Atlanta house party. One of the teenagers allegedly told his three friends that he would hit the next person that walked by. Bobby Tillman soon passed the boys, who all joined the attack, stomping and beating Tillman. Four teenagers Horace Coleman, 19, Emanuel Boykins, 18, Quantez Mallory, 18 and Tracen Franklin, 19, face murder charges.

Police were called to the scene early Sunday morning after reports of a fight outside a party. Police arrested the four boys and held 57 witnesses for questioning. A judge has denied all four teenagers bail. According to Sheriff Phil Miller, the attack on Tillman, who was 5 foot 6, 125 pounds, was unprovoked. "[T]hey beat him up and stomped him and killed him," Miller said.

Death Sentence for Brutal Conn. Family Murders

A jury in Connecticut gave the death sentence to a man convicted of the home invasion, torture, kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman and her two daughters. Steven Hayes was convicted on six charges which carry the possibility of a death penalty after the jury deliberated for 17 hours. Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Michaela and Hayley were killed during the course of the crimes committed by Hayes and a co-defendant.

Many in the courtroom cried as the jury announced their verdict, reported the Hartford Courant. The jury found for the death sentence on six gruesome counts, including killing a child under the age of 16, killing in the course of a kidnapping and killing in the course of a sexual assault.

DA Accused of Demanding Sexual Favors

The role of a district attorney is to prosecute criminals, not become one. However, sometimes roles reverse, and no one is above the law. Such is the case of district attorney Myrl Serra. Serra has been accused of a slew of sexual allegations as well indecent exposure, with the majority of encounters taking place in his office.

Serra is also accused of threatening employees with termination or damage to their reputation if they did not give into his sexual advances, according to The Denver Post. The 48-year-old attorney is charged with felony unlawful sexual contact, felony criminal extortion, and five misdemeanor counts relating to indecent exposure and unlawful sexual contact.

Facebook Status Updates Lead to Arrest

Remember when it was a faulty taillight would cause fugitive criminals to be found and caught?

The faulty taillight of the digital age is the Facebook status update. Just like the traffic stop, something minor you would never think twice about can cause your downfall. In this case, a parole jumper who braved the Montana winters just to evade capture was brought in by a Facebook post on his Wall.

Robert Lewis Crose, 47, was living in northern Montana when authorities found him via the social network, reports the AP. Among such scintillating status updates as what he had for dinner and his winnings at keno, Crose was brought down by complaining about the Montana winter weather. Crose complained that despite his best efforts at insulation, his water line froze anyway in the 20 below zero weather on October 28. AP reports that when a Facebook friend asked where Crose was, he replied "Cut Bank."

Johannes Mehserle Sentenced to 2 Years

Johannes Mehserle, the BART officer convicted for the shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, has been sentenced to two years in state prison by Judge Robert Perry. Mehserle was convicted for involuntary manslaughter by a jury in Los Angeles. Reaction in the city of Oakland is expected to be quick and strong.

Mehserle, who is white, went on trial last June for the shooting death of Oscar Grant, an African American, on a Oakland BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) platform on Jan. 1, 2009. As discussed in a prior post, Grant was unarmed when he was shot by the former officer who claimed at trial that he had intended to use his Taser, but pulled his gun instead. The all white jury found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Jessica's Law Blocked by Calif. Judge

Jessica's Law is the informal name given to a 2005 Florida law, as well as laws in several other states, which restricts how close a sex offender can live to parks and schools. The law has recently been blocked by a California judge out of concern that many offenders are "becoming homeless or are forced to go to prison because the law gives them few housing options."

The 10-page ruling by Judge Peter Espinoza is not permanent, but rather a temporary solution while the courts sort through a sea of lawsuits filed on behalf of sex offender parolees, according to the Associated Press. Jessica's Law has been seen as a harsh expansion of sex offender residency requirements because it includes any convicted sex offender, not just those who committed an offense against a child.

Death Penalty Drug Suit to Block US Execution?

Opponents of the death penalty are trying a new legal technique in order to try to block executions. A London civil rights group known as Reprieve is suing a British company to try to stop them from exporting sodium thiopental. The three-drug cocktail used in U.S. lethal injections contains sodium thiopental. Right now, the U.S. is facing a shortage of the drug which has caused a number of states to stop or slow the pace of executions.

Reprieve, through their law firm Leigh Day & Co., hopes to make the U.K. regulate the export of the drug, ultimately blocking it from being sent to the U.S. The drug was scheduled to be shipped from the U.K. to Tennessee immediately before Reprieve became involved. Death penalty opposition is fierce in the U.K., which, like most countries, does not have the death penalty.

Woman Stabs Rival In Stiletto Shoe Attack

Shoes aren't just for walkin' anymore. In seems that in Dallas, they are also brutal weapons.

Police say that a woman used her stiletto heel to stab a rival in the eye and then beat her friend until she lost consciousness. Both the victims of the shoe attack had to be hospitalized and the woman struck in the eye may be disfigured for life.

Vanessa Sarmientos, 26, and Jordan Pope, 21, were coming home from a Dallas nightclub Nov. 1, when they were approached by two other women who may have been following them, The Dallas Morning News reports. According to police, Sarmientos and Pope had been involved in an altercation with the two women earlier in the evening, but now the violence escalated.

DC Shootings Linked to One Shooter

The FBI has linked all four of the recent Washington D.C. shootings to one shooter. Reuters reports that a FBI weapons match points to one shooter likely being responsible for repeatedly firing gunshots at military buildings all around the nations' capital.

The D.C. shootings sites have occurred at a Coast Guard recruiting site, a Marine Corps recruiting site, the Pentagon, and the Marine Corps museum. Woodbridge, Virginia was the site of the most recent shooting this week. Shootings tend to occur in the early morning hours.

Record Number of Americans Killed on Border

It has been a violent year in Mexico. Last weekend was no exception. Four Americans were killed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which sets just across the border from El Paso, Texas. Two were fatally shot near the Zaragoza international bridge in one incident. In separate incidents, two other U.S. citizen suffered fatal shooting wounds in Ciudad Juarez.

According to the U.S. State Department, at least 35 Americans have been killed in Juarez alone so far this year. Twenty of those deaths happened in October, making it the most deadly month since 2008. Ciudad Juarez now ranks among the deadliest cities in the world, with over 6,800 people killed over the past two years. The U.S. State Department says that since 2006, more than three times as many people have been murdered in Juarez than the rest of the Mexico combined.

The violence comes mainly due to a gang war between two drug cartels that are fighting for control of the lucrative drug trade. The Sinaloa and Juarez cartels started battling over the Ciudad Juarez drug-smuggling route into the U.S. in 2008.

Defense Lawyer Hit with Flying Purse in Court

Jury trials are tough enough for attorneys even when they don't have to dodge flying purses. A Florida defense attorney was hit with the flying purse after the parents of Yvonne Bustamante, a murder victim, became enraged when a mistrial was declared in the case of the alleged killer. The defendant, Leon Davis Jr., is accused of triple murder for the death of Bustamante as well as her pregnant sister-in-law, Juanita Luciano, and her unborn child, who was born prematurely after the attacks.

The attack was part of an alleged robbery attempt at an insurance office. Circuit Judge J. Michael Hunter declared the mistrial after an EMT testified as to a "dying declaration." According to the Lake Wales News, the EMT testified that after Bustamante was asked who attacked her, "She raised up on the stretcher and emphatically stated 'Leon Davis,' without any doubt in her mind." The statement was problematic because the witness testified as to Bustamante's state of the mind.

Gang Membership Up, Violent Crime Rate Down

Crime statistics and gang membership numbers for 2009 are two puzzle pieces that just don't fit. One is down, but the other is up. While gang membership nationwide is reaching almost 1 million according to federal statistics, the violent crime rate dropped to its lowest level since 1973.

According to USA Today, the hard numbers are these: last year saw a 25% jump in gang membership from 2005, as recorded by the National Gang Threat Assessment. But, according to a National Criminal Victimization Survey from the Department of Justice released in September, 2010, crime statistics show the violent crime rate declining to 17.1 incidents per 1,000 people in 2009, down from 19.3 incidents in 2008.

Elizabeth Smart Trial Staying in Utah

Change of venue denied. The Elizabeth Smart trial is staying in Utah, according to the Washington Post. The decision was issued by U.S. District Judge Dave Kimball after reviewing whether defendant Brian David Mitchell would get a fair trial in the state.

Judge Kimball reviewed potential jurors' responses to a 41-page questionnaire and ruled that, although some jurors may be prone to prejudice, there were more than enough to fill a jury that would be "undecided or open-minded." Both Mitchell, and his wife Wanda Eileen Barzee were charged with abducting Smart from her Salt Lake City home. The large amount of media attention surrounding Elizabeth Smart's abduction led to Mitchell's argument for moving the trial to another state.

Alcohol More Harmful than Crack, Ecstacy

Here's a bit of a shocker: according to a new study alcohol is more harmful than crack, heroin, or ecstasy. "How can that be?" you might ask. British scientists, led by Dr. David Nutt (unfortunate name for a doctor) analyzed over 20 drugs based on physical harm to the user, addictive properties, and the effect of the drug's use on families, communities, and society. The comprehensive study, published in the "The Lancet," analyzed drugs and drug policy factors including economic costs, rates of incarceration and social services.

While the study found that heroin, crack and crystal meth were the three deadliest to an individual, alcohol was the most dangerous to society at large. The second and third most dangerous drugs for society were heroin and crack. Alcohol scored so high, in part, because it is so widely used and can have a major impact on those around them: car crashes, violent outbursts, sex crimes and other such incidents. Alcohol is involved in a greater percentage of crime than other drugs, including heroin. In addition, too much drinking causes major damage to the body, impacting nearly every human organ.

Top 10 Most Stolen Cars: Is Yours On the List?

It's that time of year again. No, not election season, but the time when the Top 10 Most Stolen Cars of 2010 list is released. Is your car on it? Let's find out.

The Highway Loss Data Institute collects and studies insurance data that shows the "human and economic losses resulting from the ownership and operation of different types of vehicles." The Institute's website lists which vehicles are this year's most stolen cars. According to The Los Angeles Times, the list for 2010 looks like this:

Fair to Send Juveniles to Life Without Parole?

The Supreme Court recently struck down life without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes. The decision, which found that such sentences constitute cruel and unusual punishment, may be part of a trend of reducing sentences for minors. Courts have found that minors are less able to control their impulses and more likely to be capable of being rehabilitated.

Since the decision, state courts in some jurisdictions have been reducing sentences. In Iowa, a judge recently reduced the sentence of Jason Means, who was on a life sentence without parole for a kidnapping he committed when he was 17, so that he would be eligible for parole. Criminal defense attorneys are using the case to argue that juvenile murderers should also receive shorter sentences.

Twitter Threats Can Lead to Restraining Orders

In what could be a first, a tweet has led to a restraining order. Steve Russell, an Arizona State University student tweeted that he would "not hesitate to punch Connerly in the face if I saw him ... Just sayin." The Connerly is Republican Ward Connerly, who is considered the man behind Arizona's Proposition 107, which outlaws race and gender-based preferences, or affirmative action, in hiring and university admissions.

Russell may have thought that the alleged Twitter threat was all in good fun, but Connerly took a different view. After hearing of the post, Connerly filed for a restraining order and a Maricopa County judge granted it, requiring that Russell stay 100 feet away from Connerly, the Arizona Republic reports.