FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

August 2011 Archives

Man in Plane Spots Burglars at His Home

Steve Lynn got the thrill of his life on Friday when, flying high above in a plane, he spotted burglars stealing items from his Jonesboro, Arkansas home.

With a bit of quick thinking, he and his pilot friend were able to help officers with the Craighead County Sheriff's Office apprehend suspects Roosevelt Smith III and Joseph Peel, both of whom have been charged with burglary and theft.

Talk about a plane ride.

Possible to Get Off Sex Offender Registry?

There's often a misconception that sex offenders are designated as such for the remainder of their lives, but the truth is that, for some, it's possible to get off a sex offender registry if the law provides for removal.

Though the federal government passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 in an attempt to standardize removal laws across the states, only 8 states (Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, South Dakota and Wyoming) are currently in compliance, making the issue of removal primarily a state-specific inquiry.

Difference Between First and Second Degree Murder?

When it comes to the degrees of murder, things can get a little tricky.

There’s first and second degree murder, and even sometimes a third. Then there’s voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

And don’t forget “adequate justification,” which can downgrade a murder to a lower level.

To help make sense of the degrees of murder, we’re going to start with the two most serious crimes in the murder spectrum, and pinpoint just what differs between a first and second degree killing.

What If Your Identical Twin Commits Murder?

An interesting story out of Chandler, Arizona has people asking what happens when an identical twin commits murder.

Police originally arrested Orlando Nembhard for the nightclub shooting death of Sir Xavier Brooks, but eye witness accounts place his identical twin Brandon at the same club, with some saying that he actually fired the gun.

Without a murder weapon or further forensic evidence, what are police to do?

Young Lawyer Charged in Murder-for-Hire Plot

Attorney Jason Smiekel was arrested after he was caught on both audio and video paying an undercover federal agent $7,000 in cash to kill the ex-husband of his client-turned-girlfriend, who he also happened to be representing in the pair's divorce.

Based in Algonquin, Illinois, the 29-year-old reportedly wanted the ex-husband dead prior to an upcoming court hearing, believing that the man was going to reveal information that could possibly ruin his career.

Casey Anthony's Probation Location Kept Secret

Curious members of the public trying to find out Casey Anthony's probation location should stop looking.

The Florida Department of Corrections will not be putting her photo and information on their website, and a judge has blocked public release of her personal information.

Anthony is on probation for a 2010 conviction of check fraud, reports The Ledger. The recently voted "Most Hated Person in America" met in private with a probation officer Wednesday evening at an undisclosed location.

CA Mom Threw Disabled Baby Off 4-Story Garage

Police arrested a California mom who threw her baby off a garage's fourth floor at the Children's Hospital of Orange County. Sonia Hermosillo, 31, was charged with a count of attempted murder with premeditation and a felony count of child abuse causing great bodily injury.

The 7-month-old baby boy remained in extremely critical condition at UC Irvine Medical Center on Tuesday.

Hermosillo had been suffering from postpartum depression after giving birth to her now 7-month old baby boy. She was taking medication, and had recently gone to her first therapy session, reports the Orange County Register.

'Bellagio Bandit' Sentenced to 3-11 Years for Heist

Anthony Carleo, also known as the "Bellagio Bandit," was ordered to serve 3 to 11 years in jail on Tuesday for armed robbery charges stemming from a December heist during which he stole $1.5 million in chips from the casino.

Later this week, Carleo will be sentenced for another set of armed robbery and aggravated assault charges related to an earlier heist he conducted at Las Vegas' Suncoast casino.

That sentence may or may not elongate his stay to beyond 11 years.

Why Casey Anthony's Probation Appeal Was Denied

Casey Anthony's probation appeal was denied Tuesday as the "Most Hated Person in America" was ordered to appear at the Department of Corrections by noon on Friday.

Florida's 5th District Court of Appeal tersely shot down arguments made by the defense team, affirmatively ruling that Casey Anthony did not serve one year of probation for her check fraud conviction while behind bars awaiting trial.

The court was also none too pleased she was trying to take advantage of an administrative error.

'Hot Sauce Mom' Convicted of Child Abuse in AK

"Hot sauce mom" Jessica Beagley has been convicted of misdemeanor child abuse by a jury in Alaska.

Beagley, 36, earned the nickname of "hot sauce mom" after sending in a disturbing video of how she disciplined her 7-year-old adopted Russian son to the "Dr. Phil" television program.

Beagley infamously yelled at her crying son for lying to her, put hot sauce in his mouth and forced him to take a cold shower.

The video earned her a spot on the "Dr. Phil" show, but also put her abusive disciplinary techniques into the national spotlight.

Man Arrested for Feeding Pigeons Near Burbank Airport

The pigeons at Burbank's airports are about to go on a forced diet. California resident Charles Douglas, local business owner and bird enthusiast, was arrested for creating a public nuisance by feeding pigeons.

Douglas, 59, is the owner of Precise Roofing Co. in Burbank. He's been feeding pigeons since at least September 2010, according to authorities.

Douglas was arrested after two court citations. A court then gave a bench warrant for his arrest. Police arrested Douglas at his business last Friday.

Pastor Raped 3 Women Behind Church, Cops Say

The small town of Ladson, South Carolina was shocked late last month when local pastor Dale Richardson of Free Will Baptist Church was arrested and charged with kidnapping and first-degree criminal sexual assault.

Accused of kidnapping four women and raping three of them, Richardson, who is well-liked by church members and the community, was back in court last week, where prosecutors added to the charges and requested that he be denied bond and held until trial.

What Is the Insanity Defense?

Movies, television shows and books all seem to dramatize the insanity defense in criminal cases. But, what is the insanity defense? And, more specifically, what is the M'Naghten Rule?

If you've never heard of the M'Naghten Rule, or the Model Penal Code Rule for the insanity defense, you're probably in good company.

But, these two rules essentially make up the bulk of how states analyze the insanity defense, which is sometimes used in criminal defense cases. The insanity defense is used to argue that the defendant should not be found guilty of the crime because of their insanity, which makes them incapable to form the requisite intent to commit the crime.

Dead Baby Scam Hits San Diego Even After Arrests

Dead baby scammers Tiffany Lyon, 27, and Chasity Doll, 20, are at it again.

The pair was arrested in June in Modesto, California after waving donation signs on busy streets. These fraudulent signs claimed they were raising money for a dead infant that actually never existed.

That dead infant scam raised around $640. And, reports are now surfacing that the pair, who are out on bail, are back into the scamming business. The duo was spotted a few hundred miles down south in San Diego, reports The Modesto Bee.

'West Memphis Three' Free After Lawyers' Deal

A new deal has set members of the "West Memphis Three" free. The three men featured in Paradise Lost film Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. were infamously convicted of the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys.

The deal, brokered by their attorneys, set them free on Friday, Reuters reports. All day, news outlets have been feverishly reporting the West Memphis Three" release.

The murder gained the attention of the media and of the public when it was publicized that the murders were part of a satanic ritual.

Investigators were led to Echols partially because he practiced Wicca, according to The New York Times.

Lawn Mower DWI: NC Man on Mower Hit by 2 Cars

Lawn mower DWI charges have been filed against Lexington, North Carolina's Perry Weaver, a man who managed to get himself hit by two cars late Monday evening while driving his mower on the side of a roadway.

Luckily, all parties appear to be in good health after the incident, with Weaver walking away with only a few bumps and scrapes.

His mower, however, likely did not fare as well.

'Hot Sauce Mom' on Trial in AK for Child Abuse

The "Hot Sauce Mom" trial began this week in Anchorage, Alaska, with prosecutors showing members of the jury a video of Jessica Beagley punishing her 7-year-old adoptive son.

Charged with misdemeanor child abuse in February, the mom's unorthodox style of discipline came to light after Beagley sent a video to the Dr. Phil show of her placing drops of hot sauce on the child's tongue and then forcing him to stand in a cold shower as he screamed.

Meth-Related Child Abuse Cases on the Rise?

With a number of recent high-profile meth-related child abuse cases, one has to question whether more and more children are being abandoned, neglected, and exposed to dangerous substances as a result of parent/guardian meth use.

For instance, last month, a couple pled not guilty to charges of child endangerment after failing to take their infant daughter to the hospital when she drank meth-laced orange juice.

Another couple was arrested in July after their 3-year-old granddaughter had gotten a hold of a 9-mm pistol. They were under the influence of methamphetamine.

Then, last week, a woman facing drug charges for manufacturing meth was arrested again for child neglect after police found her toddler wandering the streets.

Are these stories a sign of a new trend?

Man, 22, Facebook Murder-for-Hire Target, Shot Dead

Corey White, the alleged target of a Facebook murder-for-hire scheme, was shot dead Monday evening outside his West Philadelphia home.

White's name made headlines earlier this year when his ex girlfriend, London Eley, posted a status update on her Facebook page offering $1,000 to anybody who killed him, according to the Huffington Post.

Police say that 18-year-old Timothy Bynum responded to Eley's murder-for-hire post, asking for the $1,000 up front and a description of White, according to Reuters. It's probably little surprise that both were arrested and charged with felonies.

What is First Degree Murder?

You've seen it on CSI, Law & Order, and... well, basically all the crime-based procedurals that have aired or are airing on television today. Many viewers might wonder, what is first degree murder?

Is it simply a killing that is morally wrong?

Is it a murder that prosecutors find extra morally repulsive? Well, not quite.

Can the Govt. Ban You from Facebook, Twitter?

Americans these days seem to be avid consumers of everything web-based. But, if things like Facebook are being used to organize crimes, can the government impose a Facebook ban? Or, even a blanket social media ban?

It seems that our neighbors across the pond are considering a ban on things like Facebook and Twitter.

The widely-publicized use of social media in organizing crimes like looting and vandalism in London likely influenced this new idea.

Mom Beats Son with Cable Over Facebook Page

A Florida woman beat her son with a cable because he had a Facebook account when he wasn't allowed. The mom's Facebook beating left the boy with injuries on both his arms, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The beating was prompted when an acquaintance of the mother, Althea Ricketts, contacted her to tell her that her son had posted something disturbing on his Facebook account, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Her son earlier posted an update saying that he might harm himself. This probably would have alarmed most parents, since the boy had a history of cutting himself. Curiously enough, Ricketts' reaction was not to console the boy but to "discipline" him with a cable.

'Butt Slasher' Attacking Women at VA Mall

Fairfax County, Virginia's recent increase of mall slashings has some residents on edge. Police say that a serial "butt slasher" has victimized up to 9 young women.

The butt slasher's favorite haunt appears to be the Fair Oaks Mall, where most victims were innocently shopping before attacked.

The victims are typically slashed in the buttock area with either a razor or a box-cutter.

Casey Anthony Probation: Did She Already Serve?

It appears as though a new chapter will be added to the tumultuous legal battle befalling tot mom Casey Anthony.

Probation officials in Orlando, Florida should expect the acquitted murderer by August 26, at which time she is to begin serving one year of probation on a check fraud conviction from 2010.

But while this seems easy enough, Anthony's lawyer asserts that she already served her year of probation while awaiting jail.

Flash Mob Robbery in Montgomery County?

A possible flash mob robbery in Germantown, Maryland, took place over the weekend.

About 3 dozen youngsters, caught on videotape, entered a 7-Eleven convenience store early Saturday morning, reports NBC Washington.

The participants in the robbery were brazen. Despite the fact that surveillance tapes were rolling, many were smiling and laughing while grabbing store merchandise, according to NBC Washington.

Is it Ever Legal to Loot?

With London plagued by riots and widespread looting, it might be a good time to discuss whether, in the United States, there are any situations during which it would be legal to loot.

There is, and it's called necessity.

But just like arguing self-defense or defense of others in a murder case, a looter can only claim necessity when acting for a higher good.

There is never a wholesale right to loot.

Parents of Missing Mo. Girl Fail Polygraph

Police have uncovered new evidence in the case of Breeann Rodriguez, a 3-year-old girl who disappeared near her home in Senath, Missouri around noon on Saturday.

In addition to finding training wheels that may have come from the pink bike she had been riding at the time, the girl's father, Edgar Rodriguez, told talking head Nancy Grace that he and Breeann's mother failed their polygraph tests.

What happens if you fail a polygraph?

FBI iPhone App Helps Parents of Missing Children

Even government agencies are making smartphone "apps" now. The FBI's iPhone app, Child ID, was released last week.

What's the purpose of the FBI's new application?

Child ID allows parents to store information on their children such as height, weight, gender, date of birth, hair and eye color and whether or not they have piercings. The application will also allow parents to store a child's photos.

CT Babysitter's Rape: Why Do Women Prey on Teens?

A 20-year-old babysitter raped at 14-year-old boy in her care, according to authorities. The Connecticut babysitter, Loni Bouchard, is now facing charges of sexual assault.

Bouchard allegedly assaulted the boy after giving him some alcohol. She is also facing charges of illegal purchase of liquor.

Bouchard was released on a $1,000 bond, according to ABC News.

'Kids for Cash' Judge Sentenced to 28 Years

Things have come full circle for Mark Ciavarella, a Pennsylvania state judge convicted in February for his involvement in a juvenile court scheme that has the media referring to him as the "'Kids for Cash" judge."

Sentenced to 28 years for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments in exchange for sending innocent and low-level juvenile defendants to a private detention center, the 59-year-old will be spending what is likely to be the rest of his life in jail.

Leaked iPhone Prototype Leads to Criminal Charges

Last year, a leaked iPhone prototype set off a flurry of reaction from Apple-lovers everywhere. Unfortunately for the two California men who sold the leaked iPhone, Brian Hogan, 22, and Sage Wallower, 28, it also set off a reaction from Apple itself, and now the duo are facing criminal charges over the iPhone prototype.

Hogan initially found the prototype at a Redwood City, California bar.

It's believed that the phone was unwittingly left behind by an Apple engineer. Hogan picked up the phone, and showed it to his friend, Wallower, reports Ars Technica.

Flash Mob Curfew Set after Philly Attacks

A new Philadelphia curfew is now in place - all because of violent flash mobs. The curfew is set at 10:00 p.m. for children under the age of 13, and midnight for those under the age of 18.

Mayor Michael Nutter announced the curfews in response to a growing trend of flash mobs that use social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, to organize and gather - sometimes for violent purposes.

Flash mobs are generally not legal since the U.S. Constitution protects citizens' right to peaceful assembly. But if social media is used to organize criminal activity or if flash mobs turn to vandalism or destruction of property, there could be criminal liability for participants.

NYPD's Social Media Unit Tracks Facebook

The NYPD is on Facebook now, not just to publicize the police department but also to combat the growing wave of crimes that have connections to Facebook or Twitter. The NYPD's social media efforts have now given birth to a new juvenile justice unit.

The new unit will be looking at Facebook, Twitter and MySpace posts that might have criminal connections, according to the New York Daily News.

Considering the recent surge of criminal activity originating from the net, such as the rioters and looters in London that have been using social media to organize vandalism and warn others of police presence, it's probably no surprise that the NYPD has decided to step in to try to combat this new trend.

Miss El Paso Arrested For Shoplifting $69 Shirt

Was Miss El Paso shoplifting?

That's what employees at a Dillard's department store located at Sunland Park Mall in El Paso, Texas believe, accusing 2008 winner Lorena Tavera of shoving a $69 shirt into a plastic shopping bag before trying to leave the premises without paying.

Out on bond, she is now facing charges of Class B misdemeanor theft.

And has to deal with the two outstanding municipal court traffic warrants issued for her arrest.

Tweeting Jurors to Face Jail Time in CA

Tweeting jurors in California will be facing steep punishments as a result of new legislation signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday.

California trial judges must now inform all jurors that they risk being jailed on charges of criminal contempt for up to six months if found to be using electronic and wireless communications to conduct research or disseminate information about the trial.

This includes use of Twitter, Facebook, the internet, and texting.

NY Teacher Filmed Sex with Boy, Charged with Rape

Tara Driscoll, 33, a teacher at Campus Magnet High School in Queens has been arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old student in a Long Island hotel this past March.

Police were tipped off when the teen confessed after being confronted by his mother, leading investigators to a video tape showing the pair mid-encounter.

Driscoll is now been charged with third-degree rape and third-degree criminal sexual act.

Convicted Murderer's Facebook Prison Party Photos

Did you know that even Oklahoman murderers are on Facebook? The use of social media in prisons has even affected California's inmates. Facebook, however, has responded, and is now in the process of working with law enforcement to close these pages down.

One high-profile inmate that had a Facebook account was convicted murderer Justin L. Walker, who is in prison for murdering an Oklahoma sheriff.

His Facebook account had photos of him smoking a homemade bong while in prison, smoking a joint, holding a bottle of alcohol, and even had a photo of him holding a bag of weed. All of these photos were taken from prison, reports FOX23.

Punishment for Boating Under the Influence?

Just because it happens on water, it doesn't mean there is no punishment for boating under the influence.

It may be included in the typical drunken driving laws, or it may be a separate statute altogether, but every state in this country (and Guam) limits just how much alcohol a person can have before it becomes illegal to steer a boat.

Officers are even tasked with the authority to "pull over" boaters and conduct in-the-water checkpoints.

Ex-NYPD Officer Gets 1 Year in East Village Rape

Despite being acquitted of rape, ex-NYPD officer Kenneth Moreno was sentenced to a year in jail on an official misconduct charge. Moreno was acquitted of the East Village rape in May.

Moreno and another officer, Franklin Mata, were accused of rape by a fashion executive who said the police officers helped her to her apartment when she was intoxicated then raped her while she was semi-conscious, Reuters reports.

The two officers were fired from their positions on the force as a result of their convictions. Mata is scheduled to be sentenced later this week, reports The New York Times.

Ame Deal Died in Box: Punishment for Popsicle Theft

A further investigation into the suffocation death of Ame Deal has led Phoenix police to arrest the girl's two cousins, aunt, and grandmother on suspicion of first-degree murder, child abuse, and kidnapping.

The group is accused of long-term abuse, which culminated in an incident last month that left the 10-year-old locked in a plastic storage container overnight.

She was confined after taking a popsicle from the home's freezer.

Do Some Laws Keep Ex-Convicts From Finding Work?

If you're an ex-convict, work can be elusive, especially considering the existence of laws that experts call the collateral consequences of conviction.

Collateral consequences are essentially laws that can keep ex-convicts from receiving public assistance and job licenses, which can be devastating and difficult to recover from.

Both state and federal laws restrict the rights of ex-convicts, and some of these laws have created barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated citizens.

Are these laws helping or hurting?

Phone Thief Caught on SF Taxi Dash Camera

An intrepid phone thief likely thought he got away with his crime - except he failed to take into account the recently-installed taxi dash cameras, outfitted on numerous San Francisco cabs that captured the entire event on film.

It all happened at around 7 p.m. last month. A woman was walking through the Russian Hill neighborhood in San Francisco, and was chatting on the phone.

That’s when a robber, identified as Brandon West, moved in. West ripped the phone from the woman’s hands and then ran away, according to the Huffington Post. A daring crime? Maybe. An ill-conceived plan? Definitely.

Using Someone Else's Facebook Is ID Theft: CA Judge

There's no question that Facebook identity theft exists, but according to an appellate court in California, a teen boy committed a crime when he accessed a girl's account and added sexual remarks to her profile.

Despite not having used the password or account to commit fraud or any other crime typically associated with identify theft, the boy, who is known only as Rolando, was sentenced to 90 days to a year in a juvenile facility, which is to be followed by probation.

Warren Jeffs Guilty: Jury Convicted in 3 Hours

Warren Jeffs is guilty of child sexual assault, according to a jury verdict. Jeffs' conviction comes after the spiritual leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints acted as his own attorney during the trial, according to the AP.

The West Texas jury took only a little more than three hours to deliberate before coming back with the guilty verdict, reports the Christian Post.

Jeffs, 55, could face up to 119 years in prison.

Meth Breast Milk: Mom Charged with Murder of Baby

Maggie Jean Wortman of Eureka, California has been charged with murdering her 6-week-old son via meth breast milk.

In other words, she's been accused of nursing while ingesting methamphetamine, which caused the baby boy to develop breathing problems and subsequently die.

Her older daughter, at 19 months, has also tested positive for the drug.

Mercer Law Student's Murder: Classmate Charged

A classmate of Lauren Giddings has been charged with the former Mercer Law student's murder in Macon, Georgia.

Giddings, 27, had just graduated from Mercer University's law school and was preparing for the bar exam when she went missing.

Stephen McDaniel, 25, was Giddings' neighbor and fellow Mercer Law classmate and recent graduate. He was already being held on separate burglary charges when he was charged for her murder by prosecutors, reports WMAZ-TV.

SC Man Hid Cocaine in Prosthetic Leg?

Police officers likely had a bit of a surprise when they pulled over Glodualdo Moreno Lojan for driving slow in the fast lane on a freeway in South Carolina. Lojan was concealing about a kilogram of cocaine in his prosthetic leg.

Lojan was pulled over in July for driving 50 miles per hour on Interstate 85, reports WYFF-TV.

When being patted down, police officers felt what they thought was an odd bulge, only to find that Lojan had hidden a bag of cocaine in between his leg and the prosthetic leg, according to WYFF-TV.

CA Man Jailed Over 'Dead or Alive' Signs

On the outside, Domingos Jose Oliveira may seem like any concerned father - except most parents won't post "Wanted: Dead or Alive" signs about their daughter's boyfriend even if they disapprove of the relationship.

Oliveira, 49, posted signs offering a cash bounty for the capture, dead or alive, of his daughter's boyfriend, 33-year-old Sean Kirk of El Cajon, California.

He was arrested in March and was convicted of solicitation of murder and a hate crime. He has been sentenced to 7 years and 4 months in prison, reports USA Today.

Murdoch Pie Thrower Pleads Guilty to Assault

He may prefer the stage name "Jonnie Marbles," but British comedian Jonathan May-Bowles is likely better off adopting a new pseudonym:

The Murdoch Pie Thrower.

The man, who is responsible for popping media mogul Rupert Murdoch in the face with a shaving cream pie, pled guilty to assault and harassment in front of a British magistrate on Friday, admitting that he directed "threatening, abusive or insulting words and behavior" towards Murdoch.

Jalen Rose's DUI: Not a Crime, No Jail in Wisc.

Jalen Rose's DUI made headlines not only because Rose is a former NBA star and an ESPN analyst, but also because of the 20-day jail sentence that was handed down against Rose. The 20-day sentence illustrated how much variation there are in state DUI laws.

Rose was arrested last March after he crashed his car in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He pled guilty to drunk driving, and his blood-alcohol content at the time was over the legal limit.

Judge Kimberly Small sentenced Rose to 20 days in county jail. It was Rose's first offense, and he otherwise has a clean driving record, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Are Flash Mobs Illegal?

Social-media fueled "flash mobs" at first started off rather harmlessly. Except now, "flash mobs" are starting to live up to their "mob" moniker, which begs the question - are flash mobs illegal? Or, are flash mobs a First Amendment issue that is constitutionally protected?

Los Angeles has felt the sting of the flash mob. Earlier in the week, DJ Kaskade tweeted to his 92,000 Twitter followers that he was going to have a "block party."

It may not have been his intent to start a near-riot, but that's what happened. Thousands showed up, and some even vandalized police cars who shot bean bag rounds at the party-goers, reports MediaPost.