FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

December 2010 Archives

Are New Year's Eve DUI Checkpoints Legal?

Yes, DUI checkpoints are legal.

That could have made for a very short post, but allow me to expand by explaining why DUI checkpoints are generally legal. (I say generally because there can still be situations where a particular DUI checkpoint could be found illegal. Not all roadside sobriety checkpoints are necessarily set up and administered in a constitutionally permissible manner.)

Nevertheless, courts in the majority of states have upheld DUI checkpoints against challenges that these checkpoints are unconstitutional. Interestingly, courts have not upheld drug checkpoints.

Is it Illegal to Snoop Through Spouse's Email?

What's the punishment for doing a little email snooping and sneaking a peak at your wife's email account? (a) Community service? (b) A slap on the wrist? (c) Nothing at all? (d) None of the above.

This wouldn't be a very interesting article if it was a, b, or c, so I'm betting you correctly selected d.

The story goes like this, Leon Walker, of Michigan has been charged with a felony for using his wife's password to access her Gmail account. Walker learned that she was having an affair, according to the Detroit Free Press. Prosecutors are now prosecuting Walker, who divorced his wife in the wake of the incident. He now faces up to 5 years in prison.

Sex Game Blamed in Wife's Fatal Shooting

How's this for a weird, tragic case? Arthur Sedille admitted that he put a gun to his wife's head and shot and killed her during sex.

Yet, he hasn't charged. Why?

According to police Sedille, 23, said that he would frequently put a gun to the head of his wife, Rebecca Sedille, 50, during sex. It was part of a fantasy sex game they liked playing at their home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Usually the gun wasn't loaded. This time it was.

Man Unknowingly Drives Elderly Woman to Rob Bank

Here's a story of a Good Samaritan with a twist.

A 26-year-old man picked up an elderly woman and gave her a ride to the bank. The 70-year-old woman seemed both grateful and in need of the transportation for what he believed was an errand to pick up money to pay her rent to his mother who happens to be her landlord.

While it is true that she went into the bank to withdraw money, the money was not her. Telling the teller that she had a gun (in reality, it was a hammer), the elderly woman took $3,700 from the bank, got in the car and the man drove away not knowing of the circumstances of the unusual transaction, according to MSNBC.

Jurors Refuse to Sit in Montana Marijuana Trial

Despite what shows like "Boston Legal" and "Law & Order" might lead you to believe, most trials are rather mundane. So it isn't everyday that you hear words like "mutiny," and "revolt," in reference to a jury trial. But that's just what happened in Missoula County, Montana. The Wall Street Journal called it "not-yet-a-jury nullification."

Before the Montana marijuana trial, potential jurors told Judge Dusty Deschamps and Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul that they would not convict anybody for having a small amount of marijuana. During voir dire (the process of selecting a jury), one juror after another said that possession of a 16th of an ounce of marijuana was inconsequential. In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting its time and money on such a case.

Real-Life Grinch Steals Church's Gifts

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

There is low and then there is LOW. Stirling Anderson of Oregon is allegedly in the latter category and will be receiving a Costco-size box of coal in his stocking this year. Anderson, owner of a security firm, allegedly tried to pull off a church theft. Not only did he steal from the church, but he stole gifts intended for the poor, said Sgt. David Thompson of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, The Oregonian reports.

Then Anderson, owner of Northwest Merchant Services re-gifted them, which isn't illegal in and of itself, though certainly considered tacky.

Pedophilia Guide Author Arrested for Obscenity

After Philip R. Greaves II wrote a "Pedophilia Guide," many people were shocked that it could not only be legal, but that Amazon would allow its sale. "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover's Code of Conduct," was available as an ebook in the Kindle store.

Initially, Amazon stood behind the sale of the book arguing that "they support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions." However they eventually gave in and pulled the Pedophilia Guide book from their store.

But now the case has taken a major new turn: Greaves was arrested in Pueblo, Colorado based on a warrant issued in Florida. He will be charged with distribution of obscene material depicting minors engaged in harmful conduct. He is going to be extradited to Florida to face felony charges.

Drug Dealer's Car Doubles as 'Mobile Speakeasy'

The booze may turn out to be the least of this drug dealer's problems. Alleged drug dealer and mobile bartender extraordinaire Michael Leymeister is facing a litany of legal issues from a rolling speakeasy, which he allegedly operated out of his GMC Yukon. Leymeister was busted by Pennsylvania police last week for selling liquor without the appropriate license. And as noted, that may be the least of the charges he faces.

It really has to be fully described to be believed. Leymeister's mobile speakeasy was stocked with just about everything a person could want in an illegal cocktail. According to the report by The Philadelphia Intelligencer, Leymeister stocked forty-ounce bottles of Olde English, Mad Dog 20/20, Budweiser, vodka and Wild Irish Rose, all on ice. Accoutrements included a cocktail strainer, brown paper bags, two sizes of plastic cups, soda mixers and a notebook for keeping tabs on customers' tabs.

Nude Man Caught on Tape Photographing Cemetery

A naked man in a cemetery? Not your average crime.

But Robert Hurst, 47, was caught by motion-senor cameras doing an interesting activity at a local Mississippi cemetery. In an effort to photograph orbs, or the spirit of the dead, he went to the cemetery late at night and took all his clothes off. The rationale behind the naked cemetery photographing was simple: skin is the best canvas to show spirits orbs of energy. Of course.

Although intending to only take off his shirt, the cemetery cameras (installed to catch vandalism) caught Hurst in his birthday suit and he has ultimately been charged with indecent exposure. Hurst has since described his naked photography session as "stupid."

Seattle 'Superheroes' Patrol Seattle by Night

Vigilantes, lunatics or just guys in masks fighting crime and getting stabbed?

That's the story out of Seattle these days. A group dubbing themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement is donning costumes, taking to the streets and fighting crime, just like the real superheroes; but maybe with a bit less enthusiasm from police.

Police are well aware of the Rain City vigilantes. One of their leaders came to police headquarters for an interview and to explain what the group was all about, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The group includes the following "superheroes:" Thorn, Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88, Penelope and Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle.

Phoenix is the one who decided to have a sit down with Seattle police. They discussed an incident in which Phoenix might have been wounded in an altercation with an evil-doer.

Man Drives Drunk While Watching Porn

Driving drunk is a crime. Driving drunk while watching porn? Greedily committing a crime?

In an episode of "Seinfeld," George Costanza once attempted what he called the trifecta: secretly watching portable television and eating a sandwich while simultaneously enjoying an intimate encounter with his then girlfriend. Naturally things didn't work out for George and the relationship imploded, which led to the following conversation at Monk's Cafe:

Jerry: So, the free love buffet is over?

George: I got greedy. Flew too close to the sun on wings of pastrami.

Jerry: Yeah, that's what you did...

Diaper-Wearing 'Autistic' Man Cons Babysitters

A story out of Oklahoma today is as confusing legally is as it twisted.

Police say Oklahoma City resident Mark Anthony Richardson Jr. faked being autistic and convicted unsuspecting young babysitters to change his diaper for sexual gratification. He is charged with sexual battery and multiple counts of outraging public decency.

Mark Richardson, 21, advertised for babysitters to care for his autistic "son" who would need to be watched, fed and have his diapers changed, reports After duping women with an ad placed on Craigslist, he would drink from a bottle, require a bedtime story and run around during the diaper changing, reported police.

Gambling Nun Accused of Embezzling $850K

Nuns are supposed to be pure and holy and stay out of trouble. By all accounts it seems like the vast majority of nuns live up to the difficult standards of the role. But, of course, there are always a few bad apples in every bunch.

Sister Marie Thornton, now known as the "gambling nun," is accused of embezzling over $850,000 from a Catholic college where she was in charge of monitoring the school's financial matters. Originally the total amount stolen was thought to be as high as $1.2 million, Reuters reports. Thornton was the vice president of finance at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. While by day she seemed like all the other nuns on campus, she had a secret: she loved making trips to Atlantic City for some action.

And the gambling nun's trips frequently included losing lots of money.

Wendy's Clerk Attacks 'Disrespectful' Drive-Thru Customer

A Florida woman will not be winning an employee of the month award anytime soon. Rather, Wendy's employee Rictoria Bethea is facing more than just employment termination after her latest and last shift with the fast food chain ended with an attack on a "disrespectful" drive-thru customer.

The Wendy's drive thru attack started after Bethea, 21, told customer Chloe Glover to speak up when placing her drive-thru order. After several failed attempts Bethea told it to her straight: "There's no need to disrespect me, because I will go out there and kick your ass." And go out there and kick her ass is exactly what she did.

Florida School Board Shooting Caught on Video

The Florida school board shooting video showing gunman Clay Duke shooting (and missing) at point-blank range is a chilling sight. The Panama City man repeatedly fired his gun at the Florida school board members. Amazingly, no one but he himself was killed.

In what could have been a massacre, the distraught gunman, 56-year-old Clay Duke said he wanted to kill the board members and then himself because they fired his wife from her job with the school district and the couple was broke.

The school board shooting video is chilling not just for the possible violence that could break lose at any moment, but for the calm exhibited by the Bay County School Board members and by Duke himself. According to the Guardian, the meeting was in progress and being filmed by local news station WJHG when Clay Duke stood up and said he had motion. After spray painting a red circle with a "V" on the wall, he turned to the board members, sitting behind their desks.

Biker Bandit Nabs $1.5M in Bellagio Robbery

Of course it's not quite as slick, but the latest Las Vegas robbery is about as close as you can come to Ocean's Eleven in real life. Las Vegas police say an armed man in a motorcycle helmet robbed the posh Bellagio Hotel Tuesday, escaping with an estimated $1.5 million in casino chips.

And it's not the first time.

The Vegas biker bandit has struck before, reports the Associated Press. Las Vegas police think the same man pulled a similar heist at the Las Vegas Suncoast Hotel & Casino in their poker room. That December 9th robbery netted the robber about $20,000 in chips, Vegas police Officer Barbara Morgan told the AP.

Parrot's Comments Aid Cops in Elder Abuse Case

The case of a tattletale parrot may give police and prosecutors some real leads in a real story of alleged elder abuse in South Carolina.

Anne Copeland, 98, died on December 7. She was the alleged victim of the abuse of her daughter, 60-year-old Gloria Park Clark. One clue was the unsettling call of the parrot.

Policed where called to Copeland's home by EMT workers, reports the Post and Courier. The bed police found Copeland in was soiled and there were animal droppings throughout the house. Despite the cold, the window was open to ease the smell of Copeland's wounds, according to an officer who was called to the scene, Lt. Eric Bonnette, commander of the St. George detective division. Copeland was covered in sores and Bonnette estimated she had not been turned in over a week.

Naked Professor Busted for Stripping in Class

Here's something to add to your list of things not to do:

No. 1 Strip naked in front of the students in the college course you're teaching.

No. 2 After you're arrested, answer the front door of your apartment to talk to the local news.

A dejected Raymond Devaughn Taylor, 57, briefly spoke with a reporter, telling him that the matter was, "between him and the class." The day before, his Georgia business college students were shocked and confused when he undressed himself during their class at Kennesaw State University. Taylor, the so-called "naked professor" was arrested and charged with public indecency. He was released from jail on $5,000 bond. His mugshot is something special, just one notch down from Gary Busey's.

What must the students have been thinking? How did they react to such a thing? Were they traumatized? Not the ones that WSB-TV found to interview on campus. They thought it was apparently thought it was hilarious.

Who Killed Fashion Designer Sylvie Cachay?

A bizarre, grisly murder was discovered when swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay was found dead in a New York hotel room on Dec. 9.

Cachay checked into the celebrity haunt Soho House in Manhattan with boyfriend Nick Brooks and that was the last time she was seen alive.

Cachay told Soho House employees she and Brooks were checking in because he accidentally set fire to her apartment, reports the New York Post. She was also reportedly so tired after taking a Xanax that she had to be helped to the room by a clerk. As she left the room the clerk reported hearing Cachay shouting at Brooks before going suddenly quiet.

Senate Removes Louisiana Federal Judge

When I was in grade school, I was elected to be judge for a day as part of a school project. It was a very exciting day, we created a sort of mock "Main Street," where everyone had a job. Throughout the course of the day, various students were brought to my courtroom for trial. I decided the cases as follows: friends and pretty girls not guilty, everyone else, guilty. By noon, I had been pulled aside by a teacher who explained to me that my actions were corrupt and that I needed to decide the cases based on the evidence.

I'm guessing that former U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous never had such an educational experience in his youth. Porteous was impeached and convicted, becoming the first judge to be removed from office since 1989. The Senate has only removed 8 judges in history. Impeachment is a process whereby Congress can charge, try and remove officials for misconduct.

Judge Allows Video of 8-Year-Old Shooting Self

Judge Peter A. Velis ruled that jurors can see video of an 8-year-old boy accidently shooting himself with an Uzi at a gun show. The Springfield, Massachusetts judge ruled that the Uzi death video is relevant to the manslaughter trial of Edward Fleury, a former police chief that organized the event.

The judge has not decided yet whether to allow audio from the video as well. The video was filmed by the father of the boy. In the audio, Christopher Bizilj, the boy who died, is heard screaming while his father is praying.

The judge has said making sure that Fleury receives a fair trial is the most important consideration. Jury selection is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.

Jim Morrison Pardoned for Indecent Exposure

Jim Morrison had quite a few good quotes. He once said, "When you make your peace with authority, you become authority." I wonder whether that means that he would have preferred not to be posthumously pardoned by Florida Governor Charlie Crist after all these years.

Morrison was convicted in 1970 of public profanity and indecent exposure and sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine. In 1969, Morrison allegedly taunted a crowd in Miami with verbal sexual come-ons, pulled down his pants and simulated oral sex to a crowd of thousands. However there were some major issues with the evidence in the trial, specifically a lack of evidence showing Morrison exposing himself. When Morrison died from a drug overdose in Paris in 1970, he was appealing the convictions.

Police Stop, Arrest, Punish Gay Youth More

Lesbian, bisexual and gay youth are singled out more than their heterosexual counterparts for punishment from authorities, according to a new study. The study, undertaken at Yale and to be published in the January 2011 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, found that lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents are about 40% more likely to be expelled from school, arrested by police and convicted by courts than their peers.

The study results are quite surprising because the punishments do not correlate with student behavior, reports the Hartford Courant. In fact, the study shows that bisexual and gay youth engaged in less incidents of violence than their peers. The most unbalanced figure comes from the police stops of the young people studied. According to the findings, these teens were stopped 50% more than other adolescents.

Woman Bit Off Husband's Tongue During Kiss

This gal isn't exactly Lorena Bobbitt, but she's close.

Police are still scratching their heads over the case of a Sheboygan, Wisconsin woman who bit off her husband's tongue during what must have been a very, very unromantic kiss. Karen Lueders is in jail and facing the unusual charge of mayhem.

Lueders, 57, attacked her husband, Willard Lueders on the evening of Dec. 6, during what the police now believe to be a manic phase, reports the Sheboygan Press. When Mr. Lueders bent over to kiss his wife she responded by biting off his tongue and grabbing his genitals. When Mr. Lueders tried to call 911, the operator could not understand him for obvious reasons, but quickly realized an ambulance was necessary.

When police arrived, Mr. Lueders signaled and his wife confirmed she had bitten off his tongue. Of course, that was after Mrs. L greeted officers by tossing coffee at them and singing Christmas carols.

Columbia University Drug Bust Nabs 5 Students

Columbia University, the New York-based Ivy League school, is making news for something other than their stellar academics. Five students, all 20-year-old men, have been arrested and charged with felony drug sales in a recent drug bust. The students were a part of an undercover investigation, aptly titled "Operation Ivy League" in which undercover agents used anonymous tips to buy more than $11,000 worth of drugs since last summer.

In addition to supplying large quantities of drugs to fellow students and others, the range of drugs sold was extensive: marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy and Adderall. The majority of the sales took place in the common areas and bedrooms of University-sponsored fraternity houses. Investigators also have video footage of each student making a drug sale. One student told police that he had to sell drugs in order to pay for tuition.

Violinist's $1.9M Stradivarius Stolen at Lunch

Have you ever been to the lunch spot Pret a Manger in London? Great sandwiches, tasty stuff. But probably not so delicious that I would forget about my 300-year-old 1696 Antonio Stradivarius violin worth almost $2 million. (Unless I was really, really hungry. Then, who knows?)

32-year-old violinist Min-Jin Kym and a friend went to Pret a Manger to pick up a sandwich while waiting for the tube near Euston Underground station in London, Reuters reports. Kym had the violin inside the case, along with two very valuable bows. She placed the case on the floor and began using her computer and iPhone, without paying much attention to the bags. (At least she's honest.) Suddenly, it was just gone.

Three-Strikes Opponent Charged With 4 Murders

If you don't like a law, you can always seek to change it.

John Wesley Ewell sought to change California's three-strikes law several decades ago. Ewell managed to narrowly avoid the three-strikes law, which provided for 25 years to life on any third offense on a third conviction, despite several major convictions including two robbery convictions. However, Ewell has now been charged with quadruple murder in a home-invasion robbery this year.

What a sad irony.

Ewell was arraigned in Los Angeles recently and pleaded not guilty. He is facing robbery and stolen property charges, as well as four counts of murder with special circumstances. He is being held without bail.

Charles Manson Texting on Cell Phone in Prison

When they say that these days, everyone has a cell phone, they might be right. 

Prison authorities have caught notorious and high-security inmate Charles Manson with a cell phone in prison. He evidently used the phone to call and text people in California, New Jersey, Florida and Canada before authorities found the LG flip phone under his mattress.

The idea of a man imprisoned for gruesome multiple murders being able to access and use a cell phone in prison is scary. More frightening though, is the fact that use of a contraband cell phone by an inmate in a California prison is not currently a crime, reports The Los Angeles Times. Earlier this year, President Obama signed a federal law making cell phones illegal in federal prisons and making it a crime to smuggle one in. Currently, California has no such law.

Celebration Florida Murder: Homeless Man Charged

After last week's murder in Celebration, Florida residents wondered whether the community was still safe. In an event the Sheriff's office called "very rare and unusual," Celebration had its first homicide. Now the case has taken a new turn.

A homeless man strangled and used an ax to batter to death a 58-year-old man who had been counseling him, police told CNN. The homeless man, who said the victim "had [it] coming" was arrested days later after trying to sell the victim's collector coins.

David-Israel Zenon Murillo has been arrested and charged with first degree murderFirst degree murder is an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that the attacker planned or was "lying in wait" for the victim.

Men Use Big Stick to Rob Gas Station

Was Teddy Roosevelt right? To get what you want should you "speak softly and carry a big stick?"

That philosophy of negotiation worked well, at least temporarily, for two robbers who hit a convenience store and its clerk with a stick on Nov. 22. One of the big stick robbers has been captured; the second is still at large.

The two men recently walked into the convenience store attached to a Shell gas station. One suspect pretended to be interested in buying tires from the clerk, Orange County Weekly reports. Then Herlin Mendez allegedly took a swing at the clerk to drive home the demand he open the resister and hand over the cash.

Obese Women Use Breast Fat to Steal Boots

Scoring points for creativity, but not for intelligence, a pair of Oklahoma women were arrested on felony charges after being caught shoplifting at TJ Maxx. The women, Ailene Brown and Shmeco Thomas allegedly stuffed the items underneath their breasts and body fat.

Ailene Brown and Shmeco Thomas are accused of trying to walk out with $2,600 of merchandise at the store but were caught red handed. That's quite a lot of money for a TJ Maxx isn't it?

Celebration Florida's First Disney Murder

Can anything bad happen in place called Celebration, Florida? 

Residents didn't seem to think so. "I've always thought of Celebration as a very safe community," local Heather Hardy told the New York Daily News. But residents awoke Tuesday to discover Celebration's first reported major crime: murder. "This is very rare and unusual for a crime of this magnitude to occur in this community," Sheriff's spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain said.

The community, created in 1996, was set only five miles south of Walt Disney World and was designed to be a picture-perfect community with white picket fences and palm trees. Critics called it lame, a sort of "The Truman Show," or "Stepford Wives" project, but residents loved it and the community grew. With over 11,000 residents, it was in many ways only a matter of time before something like this happened.

NJ Police Dog Killed, Robbery Suspect Charged

Shultz, a New Jersey Police dog, was recently killed while pursuing a robbery suspect. Police released the 3-year-old German Sheppard in an effort to catch the suspect, 20-year-old Skyler Robinson. But Robinson was somehow able to throw Shultz directly into the way of traffic on a busy highway. The impact killed the dog instantly.

Shultz lived with his handler, Police Cpl. Mark Pickard, who has since been put on administrative leave to grieve for his lost partner in crime. Robinson was eventually caught three hours after allegedly killing Shultz. A huge manhunt ensued, including cops from several surrounding towns, AP reports. "Officer Shultz gave his life for Cpl. Pickard and all the other officers," said Police Chief Harry Earle in a news conference announcing the death.

Can Feds Get Wikileaks Founder for Espionage?

You knew that eventually authorities were going to come after Julian Assange, founder of the controversial website WikiLeaks, which publishes classified government communications. Now it seems that both U.S. and Australian law enforcement are investigating possible criminal charges against Assange. Chief among the possible charges: espionage.

"We have an active, ongoing criminal investigation with regard to this matter," US Attorney-General Eric Holder told a press conference on Monday, The Christian Science Monitor reports. "I'm confident that the Justice Department is figuring out how to prosecute him," former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith, told the Washington Post.

High Court Looks at Cal's Over-Crowded Prisons

The United States Supreme Court has taken up the issue of California's horribly over-crowded prisons. Right now in California prisons, one inmate dies every eight days from lack of medical care. A failure to provide minimum-required healthcare to inmates is a violation of the constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In 2009, a three-judge panel ordered the state to reduce its prison population, down to 137.5% of capacity, reports The Los Angeles Times. The court determined that the root cause of the inadequate medical care was the over-crowding of the state's prisons. While California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has himself acknowledged the prison over-crowding is an emergency, the state is appealing the decision, calling it "the most sweeping intrusion into a state's management."

Drug Tunnel, Tons of Pot Discovered in Calif.

On Thanksgiving Day, federal agents in California had more than the usual to be thankful for.

A discovery of a sophisticated, well-built drug tunnel leading from a home in Mexico directly to warehouses in San Diego led to the arrest of nine suspects and the capture of between 20 and 30 tons of marijuana.

The find comes just weeks after other tunnels were discovered leading between California and Mexico. Between the two, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Drug Enforcement Administration authorities say they have confiscated enough marijuana to equal one joint for every one of California's almost 37 million citizens.

Fake ER Doctor Treated Patients For Weeks

A 24-year-old doctor is an impressive feat. In addition to an undergraduate education with stellar academic credentials, doctors attend four years of medical school then four more years of residency. But when Daniel Stewart began posing as a doctor in a North Carolina emergency room, it wasn't his young age that gave him away.

It was his lack of proper identification.

Stewart worked in the emergency room for two weeks before a physician's assistant eventually noticed he was not wearing a badge and his tenure as a fake ER doctor came to a quick end. Stewart claimed he held a medical degree from the University of Tennessee and wanted to work at the ER as a visiting resident.