FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

January 2011 Archives

Jordan Brown Appeal: Try Boy as Adult for Murder?

How young is too young to be tried as an adult? That's the question before a Pennsylvania court involving Jordan Brown, who was 11 years old when he was arrested and charged with the murder of his father's pregnant fiancé, Kenzie Houk.

Prosecutors sought to charge him as an adult for allegedly shooting Houk in the back of the head. Brown could face life in prison without parole if convicted.

'Bath Salts' Drug Gets Snorted, Banned in Fla.

Man, kids will get high on anything. Take the new "bath salts" drug.

Florida recently banned bath salts containing MDVP, which authorities say mimics PCP when snorted. It goes by cool names, like Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, Oceaon Burst and Bolivian Bath. Telling you this makes me feel like C. Everett Koop.

MDVP, the bath salts drug, can currently be found from a number of online retainers, as well as at malls, gas stations, head shops and bodegas. But perhaps not for long.

Waiter Dives on Moving Car to Stop Dine and Dash

True story: within minutes of the start of my first day as a waiter, another waitress received a small tip in all small change from a couple that had been sitting at the table for hours. She chased the couple out to the parking lot, threw the change at them, stormed back inside, threw her apron on the bar and walked out. I was stunned.

But that has nothing on what happened at a Chicago Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant this week. A Buffalo Wild Wings waiter named Peter Crotty chased after a "dine and dash" customer and jumped on to the customers SUV. The customer and his friends had tried to skip out on a $51 bill. 24-year-old Crotty grabbed onto the roof and planted his feet on the running board, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Woman Hangs 'Devil Dog' for Chewing on Bible

It's not fair to punish someone for breaking a rule that they don't understand. It's just plain wacko to kill a dog for chewing on a bible.

But that didn't stop Miriam Smith, 65, a Spartanburg, South Carolina woman from allegedly hanging her nephew's pit bull with an electrical cord and then burning its body.

Miriam Smith told police that the dog, named Diamond, was possessed by the devil and the "Devil Dog" would have harmed neighborhood children, said the incident report from the county's Environmental Enforcement Department, CBS News reports.

Geriatric Mob Boss, 93, Gets 8 Years in NY Prison

They say it's never too late to start. In the case of John "Sonny" Franzese, it's not too late to start a prison sentence for the geriatric mob boss.

Franzese, at 93 years young, was sentenced to eight years in prison for shaking down two strip clubs in Manhattan, Hustler and Penthouse, as well as a pizzeria, Reuters reports. Franzese is an underboss of the Colombo crime family. His convictions came for racketeering and extortion charges. With good behavior, he could be out on parole before he turns 100.

Federal Judge Brian Cogan was concerned that such a sentence was the equivalent of a life sentence for a man at Sonny Franzese's age. But assistant U.S. attorney Cristina Posa found that unmoving.

Nurse Banned for Having Sex with Dying Patient

Attention nurses: have sex with your terminally ill patients and you risk losing your nursing license for two decades.

Nurses have a responsibility to their patients. When they violate that trust, they not only put their job at risk, they risk the safety of the patient. An Oklahoma nurse recently heard quite the lecture on the topic from a judge. 

Why the tough talk? Because Amber Van Brunt, 33, of Oklahoma, had a sexual relationship with a married terminally ill patient. Parrish ultimately decided to ban her from being a nurse for 20 years. Brunt is appealing the decision, calling it a "miscarriage of justice." Chris Reiter, 43, suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease and said that Brunt seduced him.

Teen Cyberbullying Arrest: Fake Facebook Page

The teen cyberbullying cases continue after two Florida teenagers were arrested after creating a fake Facebook page in the name of their classmates. They took things up another notch by adding their classmate's head on a "nude prepubescent girl's body," The Smoking Gun reports.

Taylor Wynn, 16 and McKenzie Barker, 15, were arrested and charged with cyberstalking. They also added the caption: "I am a member of the Itty Bitty Titty Comitty!! <3." Another photo featured the alleged victim's head open next to male genitalia, the New York Daily News reports. The incident was discovered after school police were notified of the Facebook page.

Nude Housekeeper Not Guilty of Murder

Nude housekeeper Thomas Cordero was acquitted of stabbing his client to death with a knife, the New York Daily News reports. Thomas Cordero advertised his nude housekeeper services on the website He was hired by paralegal John Conley to clean Conley's home in the Bronx back in October 2001.

Thomas Cordero was arrested in 2007 for the murder and confessed to police in a taped statement that Conley tried to rape him and that he took the knife from the victim and stabbed him. However, during trial, Thomas Cordero said that he wanted to recant that confession because he was coerced by Detective Steven Berger. Thomas Cordero claims that he was scared that the police would sodomize him with a broomstick if he didn't give them the confession.

ID Theft Suspect Poses for Sam's Club Photo

Here's one for your list of things not to do. A Houston woman stole another woman's purse and eventually her identity, and then went on quite the shopping trip. She even had the gall to go to Sam's Club and open up a membership using the stolen identification.

Of course, in the short term, the Sam's Club photo made it easy for her to fraudulently purchase items from the store. But in the long term, it gave the police a perfect photo to use to track her down.

Naked 'King of the World' Tased 3 Times

"It's good to be king, if just for a while. To be there in velvet, yeah, to give 'em a smile. It's good to get high, and never come down. It's good to be king, of your own little town." -Tom Petty

Of course Tom Petty skipped the verse about running naked into traffic at 1:30 a.m. and getting tased three times. However the song was written in 1994 and a lot has changed since then. But that's just what happened to Richard Gervasi, a tourist who ran nude into traffic in Key West, Florida and shouted that he was "king of the world."

Thieves Snort Cremated Remains of Family Dogs

Cocaine is a helluva drug. The buzz after you snort cremated remains? Not so much.

Two Florida teen burglars somehow wound up snorting the cremated remains of a man and two dogs, believing them to be cocaine.

The fact that the powder was inside of an urn was somehow not a tipoff.

Gardena High School Shooting Accidental

Tuesday's Gardena High School shooting appears to have been an accident. Witnesses say the student did not touch the gun when it suddenly went off. According to reports, the gun was inside a backpack that went off when he dropped it on his desk. Two students were apparently hit by the same bullet, with one in critical condition at Los Angeles County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

"He said, 'I'm sorry,' when the gun went off. It made it appear to the teacher that it was an accident," John Deasy, deputy superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District said, The Huffington Post reports.

Ferret Eats Baby's Fingers: Parental Neglect?

Missouri parents are under investigation after news that a ferret ate seven of their infant son's fingers. The baby boy is 4-months-old and is in critical condition after the incident. This was reportedly the third time the ferret attack the baby.

Police are looking into the parent's action (or lack of action) for possible neglect and failure to obtain a license for an exotic pet, CNN reports.

The baby's mother was awakened at 2:30 a.m. to hear her baby crying. When she discovered the ferret eating the baby's fingers, she woke her husband with screams.

Facebook Amber Alerts To Help Locate Children

Facebook has joined the volunteer network of media outlets and organizations to disseminate Amber Alerts, the New York Times reports. Facebook announced on Wednesday that Amber Alert pages for all 50 states and one for Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia have been created. 

In order to receive Amber Alerts, users can choose to "Like" the page by clicking the "Like" button on top. The Amber Alerts will then show up in users' news feeds. Users will be able to share these alerts with friends.

Police Stopped Loughner Hours Before Shooting

Just hours before Jared Loughner walked into a Tucson Safeway and attempted to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed 6 others, he was stopped by a wildlife officer for running a red light, CBS News reports.

The officer took Jared Loughner's license and vehicle registration information but found no outstanding warrants on Loughner or the vehicle. As a result, the Arizona Game & Fish officer let him off with a warning.

Golden Voice Ted Williams Detained by LA Cops

The man with the golden voice, Ted Williams, was a wonder story of overcoming obstacles and finding hidden talent. But that was four days ago. Has the world already moved on from the former Ohio homeless man turned YouTube phenomena? Is it over for the man with the golden voice, Ted Williams?

Williams, 53, is a former panhandler and recovering alcoholic and drug addict, who quickly shot to fame due to his voice, was detained by the Los Angeles Police Department after a disturbance call. The police were called to the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, after Williams and his daughter got into what the LA Times called an "altercation." Both Willaims and his daughter were taken to the station by police. Both were released and neither was charged with a crime.

Two Men Deny Raping Woman with Live Snake

Two Wisconsin men have denied allegations that they raped a woman with a live snake. John Bullock, 24 and Damota Jones, 25, pleaded not guilty to the snake rape in Eau Claire County Circuit Court to first-degree sexual assault.

Bullock, Jones and the alleged victim were drinking and dancing at Jones' home. Authorities alleged that Jones invited the woman into a bedroom to show her photos of his children, but was then hit on the head, thrown to the floor and nearly unconscious, the Star Tribune reports. Jones then held her down as Bullock raped her, the prosecutor's complaint says.

Jared Loughner Assigned Veteran Public Defender

Arizona shooting suspect Jared Loughner will be assigned one of the best public defenders in the country. Veteran federal public defender Judy Clarke has been assigned to represent Jared Loughner in federal court, according to NPR.

Judy Clarke, known informally by many as the "Unabomber lawyer," will be appointed to defend Jared Loughner against five federal felonies that include: the attempted murders of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her staffers, and the murders of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords' aide Gabriel Zimmerman, the Arizona Republic reports.

Jared Loughner could face the federal death penalty. Federal law requires that if the death penalty is sought by prosecutors, an attorney with death penalty experience be assigned to defend the defendant. 

Jared Loughner Silently Invokes Miranda Rights

Accused Arizona gunman Jared Loughner has invoked his Miranda Rights, including his right to remain silent since his arrest and has said "not a word," according to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, ABC reports. Jared Loughner, who is presumed innocent at this point, is wise to remain silent and assert his 5th Amendment rights.

Jared Loughner has been charged in the Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shooting, where 19 people shot in Tucson Saturday. Loughner, like all criminal defendants, has the right not to say a word to police, or anyone.

Could Feds Give Jared Loughner Death Penalty?

By now nearly everyone has heard of the tragic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting. U.S. District Court Judge John Roll and 18 others at a campaign event in Tucson on Saturday were also shot. The alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, has officially being charged with attempted murder, murder and attempted murder of a U.S. Congress person. A question for many now is: Could either the feds or Arizona give Jared Loughner the death penalty?

The federal government has charged Jared Loughner in the shooting of a crowd at an event hosted by Gifford outside a Tucson, Arizona grocery store, CBS reports. Due to the nature of the alleged attacks, Loughner is facing both state and federal charges. Loughner allegedly planned in advance to assassinate a member of congress.

The Jared Loughner death penalty question looms, though, although he is obviously presumed innocent and will make his first court appearance today in Phoenix.

Scott Sisters Freed to Receive Kidney Transplant

Talk about a strange set of circumstances. Two sisters who are serving life sentences have had the sentences suspended so that one can donate a kidney to the other. They had served 16 years for armed robbery. The case itself was strange as well. The Scott sisters were convicted in 1994 of an armed robbery on Christmas Eve. The robbery netted between $11 and $200, but landed them a stiff sentence.

"We're free! ... God bless y'all!" Jamie and Gladys Scott yelled to reporters as they left the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

Despite Facebook Stabbing Couple Stays Friends

Facebook is serious stuff. At least to some people.

When Maurice Davenport refused to show his girlfriend Shemicka McVey his profile on Facebook, things got ugly. By the time police arrived, they found Davenport with a knife wound on his left bicep, according to an Indianapolis Police report.

According to McVey, the Facebook stabbing came after the Indiana couple began arguing about Facebook. Davenport went downstairs and McVey followed him. They continued to argue over Facebook as their two-year-old child was left upstairs by itself.

Prison Cellphones: Facebooking from Jail Cells

There is a new danger lurking in U.S. prisons: cellphones in prison. Prison cellphones, particularly smartphones, are the equivalent of a "modern-day file inside a cake," The News & Observer reports. Smartphones allow prisoners access to the outside world and continued illegal activities. Such sophisticated prison cellphones allow inmates to look up maps, directories, and even pictures for criminal purposes. It even allows some inmates to mastermind gang violence or drug trafficking online through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"The smartphone is the most lethal weapon you can get inside a prison. The smartphone is the equivalent of the old Swiss Army knife. You can do a lot of other things with it," Terry L. Bittner, director of security products with the ITT Corporation, told The New York Times.

Supermarket Shooting Spree: Not Attempted Murder

Two Pennsylvania men have been charged with felony gun charges and criminal conspiracy after they fired 40 rounds with a .22 caliber rifle with a scope and silencer directly at a supermarket parking lot. Joseph B. Carr and James W. Pearson allegedly fired the shots at the shopping center at approximately 5:15 a.m. and struck a bench in front of a ShopRite supermarket and the window of a nearby Sovereign Bank.

There were employees in the parking lot of the ShopRite supermarket that had to run for cover from the onslaught of bullets; however the bank was closed at the time of the supermarket shooting.

Boy Arrested for Using Sharpie on Desk

Sharpie markers are known for their ability to stain a page with the dark print of the ink contained in the popular pen. An interesting and equally odd case out of Oklahoma seems to be aimed at regulating the use of sharpies in a classroom. A boy was arrested for using a sharpie on his desk at school.

The 13-year-old "criminal" was writing with a sharpie when it bled through the paper and made markings on his desk. His teacher, DeLynn Woodside, rather than attempt to clean the inky mess called the local authorities. The boy was transferred to a juvenile holding center and the offending pen was booked into the property room.

Prosecutor Arrested for Biting Lover's Wife

It's not very often that we see a deputy prosecutor on the other side of the law. In the case of deputy prosecutor Kirmille Welbon, it comes with a set of facts even Jerry Springer couldn't dream up. Indianapolis metro police were called to attend to a domestic disturbance involving the deputy prosecutor this past Sunday, reports.

Marion County deputy prosecutor Kirmille Welbon allegedly showed up at her alleged lover Devann Johnson's doorstep. What happens next can only be described as bizarre.

Pastor Breaks Into Parishioner's Home?

Did a pastor really break into a parishioner's home using a ladder? The alleged pastor burglary took place in Dallas, Texas when a pastor reportedly broke into the house using a ladder on Christmas Eve.

The bizarre pastor break in, allegedly by Sandy McGriff, 52, had the pastor taking up to $10,000 worth of loot, including: fur coats, purses and laptop equipment. Before the break-in, MGriff called to confirm that his parishioner was out of his house.

Man Tries to Rob with iPhone: App for That?

Saying that you are kidding is not a defense to robbery. And an Apple doesn't make for much of a weapon.

Jerome Taylor learned that lesson after attempting to rob a restaurant by pretending his iPhone was a gun. Taylor, 20, wore a mask and entered a Connecticut restaurant and threatened cooks, demanding money, reports. However, when the iPhone gun wasn't intimidating, the cooks went all Iron Chef, drew their knives, and told Taylor that he was about to be sliced and diced.

Murder Neighbor Over Dog Pee? Get Probation

Homeowners often get annoyed and frustrated when neighbor's pets use their lawn as a toilet. But they don't usually shoot their neighbors over it.

So there was a considerable amount of outcry when Charles Clements, a Chicago man, shot and killed Joshua Funches, a neighbor, after his dog urinated on his lawn. There was even more outcry when Clements was sentenced to four years of probation for the shooting. He had faced up to 20 years in prison after he was convicted of second-degree murder, the New York Daily News reports. "This is certainly not justice," Gail Williams, Funches' aunt, told the Chicago Tribune.

Sex Tourism: Man Jailed for Child Sex Abroad

Sex tourism is a major industry in some parts of the world. That doesn't mean that those who partake don't risk major penalties. Michael James Dodd, 61, learned that lesson after being sentenced to 104 months in federal prison. Dodd traveled abroad to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reports.

He admitted to having a sexual relationship with the minor for five months while teaching at a school in Cambodia. Dodd was paying the victim's family $200 a month as well as giving them food. Authorities are not certain that the family was aware of the arrangement, though the facts certainly suggest as much: "There shouldn't be any suggestion that he was renting the girl or the family was prostituting her out ... Although there is no question that this girl and her family lived in impoverished conditions that are really hard to imagine," Thom Mrozek, a spokesman with the U.S. attorney's office, told the Los Angeles Times.

Mom, Daughter Sexually Abuse Same Teen Boy

The stereotypical sexual abuse suspect is male. But as a recent Arizona case may demonstrate, women of all ages can commit sexual assault as well.

Arizona mother Susan Brock, 48 and her daughter, Rachel Brock, 21, are facing serious and strange sexual abuse charges.

According to police, the two women separately sexually abused a young boy over a period of years from the time he was 13 to 16 year old. Rachel Brock is charged with three counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of furnishing obscene materials to a minor. Mother Susan Brock was arrested in October on 15 child-abuse counts, the United Press International reports.

Apparently the two had no idea of each other's actions.

Boy, 10, Murders Mom With Christmas Gift

A 10-year-old boy has been charged with the murder of his mother, Deborah McVay, 46. The boy, whose name has not been released due to his age, allegedly shot and killed his mother with a single shot to the head from a .22 caliber rifle he received as a Christmas present. Deborah McVay was found by police lying face down on her living room floor, Reuters reports. McVay lived near Cleveland, Ohio.

Beulah Mae Mike, the boy's grandmother, said that the boy should have never had a gun in the first place."He was too young to have a gun," Mike said. "[it] had to be an accident."

Wannabe Bouncer Attacks Patron with Stun Gun

Bar patrons can get rowdy, which is why many clubs and bars hire a bouncer to control the front door. Like any other employee, the bouncer gets paid for his work with the club. A wannabe bouncer (yes, one that does not get paid because he is self-appointed) recently over stepped his bounds by attacking a patron with a stun gun.

Nathan Landis was a wannabe bouncer at Antique Billiards in Colorado. He did everything a bouncer would do, except for pick up a paycheck from the bar he was helping out. Landis, 23, seemed to take his volunteer post quite seriously.

He enforced a strict, self-determined dress code at the bar, and that is where the problems began.

Does Diplomatic Immunity Equal Arrest-Proof?

Hollywood would have you believe that people with diplomatic immunity can break the law with impunity. They have a license to kill or steal, is how movies often portray it.

Alas, reality can be much more sobering, as a Philippine diplomat's son recently discovered.

Nigel Salmingo was charged with a laundry list of white collar crimes: theft, forgery and money laundering. The thirty seven counts arose after Salmingo reportedly stole $300,000 while working as an office manager for a Honolulu law firm. Salmingo reportedly told police he thought he was free to steal the money because he had diplomatic immunity, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.