FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

September 2011 Archives

Man Plotted to Bomb Pentagon with Model Plane

Federal prosecutors have charged Rezwan Ferdaus with attempting to use a model airplane to bomb the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

Federal agents had been in contact with the 26-year-old U.S. citizen since early last year. Posing as al Qaeda recruiters, they supplied him with fake C-4 explosives, assault rifles and grenades.

Ferdaus then supplied undercover agents with remote bomb detonators to be used abroad.

Will Conrad Murray Testify? Should He?

Word is that Prince, Michael Jackson's 14-year-old son, is set to testify at the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. But will Conrad Murray testify? He is the defendant, after all.

There is some indication that Murray wishes to tell his story, but the defense has yet to make a final decision. Just as in the cases of Casey Anthony, Barry Bonds, and Rob Blagojevich, we probably won't have an answer until the final days of the trial.

But in light of the following evidence, he may want to take the stand.

TX Shoplifter Gets Life after Walmart Worker Dies

A Texas man is facing a harsh sentence for a shoplifter. He was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for stealing a TV from a Walmart valued at around $348 in June 2010.

William Alan Kennedy, 38, knocked down 56-year-old Bruce Florence, a Walmart employee, during the shoplifting incident.

Florence hit his head and was hospitalized. He died 9 days later.

CA Cops Beat Homeless Man to Death, Face Murder

Two on-duty cops who beat a homeless man to death last July are facing criminal charges filed by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Another police officer, Jay Cicinelli, was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Ramos and Cicinelli are implicated in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with a documented history of schizophrenia.

Threaten a Public Official, Face Less Jail Time?

Did you know that, in Illinois, the crime of threatening a public official receives a lesser punishment than the threatening of a private individual?

Upset about his pending sex offender registration, Maurice Pennington filed a suit challenging the state's rules. In that filing, he made violent threats against Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Charged with threatening a public official, he faces a maximum of 5 years. If he had threatened a private person, he would face a maximum of 10 years.

What is threatening a public official? And why does it receive a lesser sentence?

Conrad Murray Trial: What Is the CSI Effect?

Jury selection in the Conrad Murray trial has concluded, and opening statements are set to begin Tuesday. Though jurors have been instructed not to read or watch any related news media, some concerns about their prior viewing habits may still exist.

Do they require a smoking gun? An eye witness? A recording of Michael Jackson's death? Are juror expectations grounded in reality or television?

The phrase "CSI effect" has been tossed around a lot in connection with this trial. So what is the CSI effect and why are prosecutors so concerned?

Millionaire Bob Ward Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder

Millionaire housing developer Bob Ward was found guilty of killing his wife on Saturday by a jury in Florida. Ward was convicted of second-degree murder in the September 2009 shooting of his wife, Diane.

Diane was shot days before she was set to testify in a deposition that her husband spent millions of dollars on expensive cars and houses as his business failed. Ward had been facing a lawsuit, and his company had filed for bankruptcy.

The prosecution argued that Ward shot Diane after a heated argument. The defense alleged that Diane was suicidal and was trying to either kill herself or kill her husband at the time of her death.

Ala. Criminals Can Serve Time in Jail or Church

Let's say you're a criminal and a judge is about to sentence you for your crime. Given the choice, would you rather serve you time in jail or a church? "Operation Restore Our Community" will soon make church an alternative to jail for small-time offenders in Bay Minette, Alabama.

The new program grants discretion to the city judge to either allow misdemeanor offenders to serve out jail time or go to church.

Offenders who choose to go to church will be forced to pay a small fine and attend services every Sunday for a year.

Could Troy Davis' Execution Help End Death Penalty?

Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis' execution on Wednesday has made global headlines. The case has captured the interest of those around the world partially because it sparks a debate about the death penalty in the United States. Was Troy Davis' death penalty fair?

Many of Davis' supporters have pointed out that his case is filled with inconsistencies.

But, are these inconsistencies enough to cast doubt on his murder conviction?

It certainly caused a furor in the social media world, as Davis' case went viral.

Facebook users changed their profiles. Twitter users sent out messages using hashtags like "#IamTroyDavis."

Troy Davis Executed, S.Ct Denies Final Appeal

Troy Davis' death has brought to light a number of questions about the death penalty appeals process.

Just an hour prior to his Wednesday execution, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of execution. Three hours later, it officially denied the stay, allowing the injection procedure to go forward.

Why did the high court first grant, then deny a stay?

US Supreme Court Stays 2nd TX Execution in a Week

Texas inmate Cleve Foster was set to be executed Tuesday evening. That is, until the nation's highest court halted his execution.

The Supreme Court's stay of execution came down just hours before Foster was set to die. It was also the second time this week the court issued a stay of execution to a Texas death row inmate.

Foster, 47, is a former Army recruiter who was sent to death row for allegedly raping and murdering a woman he met at a Texas bar in 2002.

Full Tilt Poker was a Ponzi Scheme, Stole $444M

Is Full Tilt Poker a Ponzi scheme?

New allegations levied by federal prosecutors assert that the online poker company operated as a "global Ponzi scheme," stealing $444 million from unsuspecting players.

Already charged with a host of financial crimes, a closer look at Full Tilt's finances suggest that player funds were partially used to finance high executive salaries.

Troy Davis Clemency Denied: What is Clemency?

Convicted of murdering an off-duty police officer in 1989, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant Troy Davis clemency on Tuesday. The decision brings an end to two decades of appeals and at least four other scheduled execution dates.

The controversy surrounding Davis' pending execution has brought forth a number of questions about the clemency process and its purposes.

Used to describe a variety of situations, exactly what is clemency?

What is Bribery?

What is bribery?

With a number of recent high-profile cases involving charges of bribery, it's a good time to answer this question.

As defined, bribery is the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value with the intent of influencing the actions of a government official or employee.

Both parties can be prosecuted under these laws--even if nothing is ultimately exchanged.

Vegan Couple Starved Baby, Convictions Upheld

The murder convictions of a vegan couple who starved their baby to death were upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday. Jade Sanders and Lamont Thomas were convicted after a jury trial in 2007 of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children.

In 2004, the two vegan parents rushed their infant son to the hospital when he had trouble breathing, reports the New York Daily News.

The 6-week-old infant died. Doctors determined that it was because of extreme malnourishment or starvation, the New York Daily News reports. At the time of the boy's death, he weighed only 3.5 pounds.

Judge: Casey Anthony to Pay State $97K

In what appears to be a never-ending story, Judge Belvin Perry ordered Casey Anthony to pay the state of Florida approximately $97,000 on Thursday.

The amount, which represents just a fraction of the nearly half-million requested by state law enforcement organizations, is intended to reimburse the agencies for costs expended on the initial missing person investigation in December 2008.

Compensation for the homicide phase of the investigation was denied.

TX Teen Faked Leukemia, Got $17K in Donations

A Horizon City, Texas teen who faked leukemia is now facing felony theft charges filed by police. Angie Gomez, 18, started the deception by telling friends, church members and classmates that she was dying from terminal cancer and would only have six months to live.

Community members rallied behind the teenager, organizing a fundraiser and a special prom to help Gomez. Gomez even created a foundation called "Achieve the Dream," aimed at helping children with leukemia, the New York Daily News reports.

Gomez managed to rake in around $17,000 in donations from community members. She also spent time speaking in front of crowds about her disease during talks and fundraising events. She claimed she had battled the disease from the age of 2 to 13, according to the New York Daily News.

NY Mom Assaulted Bully, 12, in School Fight

Daphne Melin, 32, of Long Island was arrested this week after video surfaced of her egging on a schoolyard fight between her 12-year-old daughter and a fellow tween classmate.

Cell phone footage of the fight, which occurred outside a local school this past Sunday, also allegedly depicts Melin spitting on another youngster, and then kneeing her in the neck and head at least twice.

She says the fight was the result of cyberbullying.

CA Prisons to Release 4K Female Inmates

In a bid to comply with a court order requiring the state to reduce the prison population by 30,000 inmates, California prisons are embarking on a program that will release female inmates with children.

More than 4,000 inmates will be able to take part in the program, which requires that they be incarcerated for non-serious, non-sexual crimes and have fewer than 2 years left of their sentences.

Once out of prison, the inmates will be monitored with ankle bracelets and report to parole officers.

Teen Sentenced to 5 Yrs for Transgender Beating

Teonna Mae Brown, the 19-year-old who took part in a transgender beating in a Maryland McDonald's in April, was sentenced to 5 years in prison on Tuesday.

Brown pleaded guilty to beating transgender woman Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, inside the fast food restaurant last month, reports the New York Daily News.

Polis was attacked after she came out of the women's bathroom in the restaurant. Police say that the attack came after the two teens complained to an employee that a man had gone into the ladies restroom, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Gumby Robbery Suspects Turn Themselves In

The two suspects in the San Diego-area "Gumby robbery," Jacob Kiss and Jason Giramma, turned themselves in on Tuesday.

Kiss and Giramma admitted to masterminding the strange "Gumby" robbery that occurred at a local 7-11 last week. A video surveillance tape captured the entire event on film, reports Sign on San Diego.

The tapes showed two men entering the convenience store. One was dressed normally; the other was wearing a full-on green "Gumby" bodysuit. The man in the "Gumby" suit approached the counter, and told the clerk that he was robbing the store. Unsurprisingly, the clerk thought it was just a prank and ignored the green-suited man's demands, according to Sign on San Diego.

TSA Officers Involved in Oxycodone Scheme?

Have you heard about the just-busted TSA oxycodone ring?

Federal investigators are accusing a group of three TSA officers and two local cops from New York and Florida of shipping tens of thousands of oxycodone pills to residents in both the Big Apple and Connecticut.

They've all been charged with accepting bribes, conspiring to distribute, and possessing drugs with the intent to sell.

Co. Traffic Stop Leads to $10M in Cocaine

During a routine traffic stop on Sunday, police in Pueblo, Co. confiscated 220 pounds of cocaine from a rental car belonging to California residents Mark Bailey and Lisa Calderon.

Worth $10 million, the cocaine, which was headed to Iowa, was packed into four duffle bags stored in the trunk.

A drug-sniffing dog alerted officers to its presence.

Arizona 'Church' Busted for Prostitution

After a six-month undercover investigation, Phoenix police have indicted 33 employees of the Phoenix Goddess Temple--a spiritual facility that focuses on neo-tantric healing and sex therapies.

Though police have been unable to arrest a number of the suspects, they remain accused of conspiracy, operating a criminal enterprise, massaging without a license, and of course, prostitution.

Law enforcement allegedly found evidence that the church's "practitioners"--both men and women--performed sexual acts in exchange for "donations."

Legal to Sentence Juvenile to Death Penalty?

Is the purpose of the juvenile justice system to punish or rehabilitate? When someone commits a crime when they are only 14 or 15, what punishment should they face? Should the juvenile death penalty even be on the table? Or, should they really spend the rest of their life behind bars - without parole?

Juvenile law has always been different than adult criminal courts. In juvenile courts, records are sealed. Juveniles are also "detained" rather than arrested.

Plus the punishments given to juvenile offenders are also different.

CA Principal Molested 7 Girls Over 15 Years: Police

Police say that a California principal molested 7 girls over the past 15 years. Robert Benson Adams, 60, was arrested and charged with six felony counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts on children under 14 and a misdemeanor charge of annoying or molesting a child under 18.

Adams has run the Creative Frontiers School since 1975. Creative Frontiers School is a private school located in Citrus Heights, California for preschool children and children in grades K-6. About 180 students were enrolled at the school.

The girls he is accused of abusing were between the ages of 4-7, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Adams has maintained his innocence, and some parents of children enrolled at the school have also voiced their support of the former principal.

SF Cops, Apple Employees Search Man's Home for iPhone

Another lost Apple prototype sent investigators on an iPhone search in San Francisco in late July. But, did Apple security and the San Francisco Police Department violate any laws? The SFPD is now launching an investigation into the Apple home search.

The missing iPhone prototype was lost sometime in July at a tequila bar in San Francisco by an Apple employee. The lost phone was tracked to the residence of a man named Sergio Calderón.

Calderón says that six people showed up on his doorstep asking about the missing phone. He says that one of the men present said he was a SFPD officer, according to Ars Technica.

NM Woman's Cavity Search Costs Her $1,222

When police ordered a New Mexico woman's cavity search, no heroin was found. But the woman did get a steep, $1,122 bill for the search. The woman, who remains unnamed, has filed suit against the county asking them to cover the cost of the cavity search.

The body cavity search was ordered after police were tipped off by a "reliable source" that the woman had heroin.

On July 1st, a search warrant was issued. The woman was taken to Memorial Medical Center, where she was searched for drugs, reports MSNBC.

Amanda Knox to be Acquitted, Prosecutor Predicts

Will American Amanda Knox go free? Even the Italian prosecutor is now predicting that both Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox will be acquitted after some recent blows to the prosecution's case.

Knox and her then-boyfriend Sollecito were convicted in December 2009 for the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perguia, Italy. They are now embroiled in an appeals process that could either free them from jail or affirm their sentences.

Kercher, from the U.K., and Knox were both studying abroad in Perugia. Kercher was found stabbed to death in November 2007 in the apartment that she shared with Knox, reports the AP.

Protest Arrests: When Free Speech Becomes Disorderly Conduct

'Tis the season to earn yourself a protest arrest.

Well, at least if you happen to be Daryl Hannah, Mayor Vincent Gray of the District of Columbia, or an ad-hoc member of hacktivist group Anonymous living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But such incidents are actually nothing new--even if there is a constitutionally guaranteed right to assembly.

What gives?

NV IHOP Shooting: 5 National Guards Shot

Five active duty members of the Nevada National Guard are listed as victims of today's Carson City, Nevada IHOP shooting, which left a total of three dead and 7 wounded.

Dressed in their uniforms and meeting for a 9 a.m. breakfast, local resident Eduardo Sencion entered the premises, shooting aimlessly, before leaving and shooting himself, the AP reports.

He eventually died from the self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Man Arrested for Mowing Neighbor's Lawn at 4:30 am

He wasn't drunk or riding a mower down the street, but Phil Ray Gage of Oklahoma City was still arrested for mowing his neighbor's lawn last Friday morning.

Acting on a complaint from a different neighbor, police approached Gage outside his home at 4:30 a.m., informing him that early morning mowing is against the law.

He was subsequently arrested and cited for disturbing the police.

NM Cop's Sex on Car Hood Not a Crime, Police Say

A New Mexico cop who had sex on his car hood in public will not be facing any criminal charges. Police officials have not officially released the name of the officer, but KRQE-TV is reporting that the officer is Bert Lopez, an 8-year veteran of the state police force.

The officer in question may not be facing criminal charges, but he has been facing a volley of criticism and jokes.

The officer was seen having sex with an unidentified woman in uniform on the hood of a car, KRQE-TV reports. The photos of him in the act (and with a small dog watching) have been all over the Internet this week. The incident was discovered on an anti-graffiti security camera tape at Canyon Ranch, owned by Santa Fe County.

'Sextortion' Hacker Gets 6 Years from LA Judge

Though he faced a maximum of 10 years, "sextortion" hacker Luis Mijangos was sentenced to six years in jail on Thursday.

Mijangos, originally charged with extortion, pled guilty to computer hacking and wiretapping before Los Angeles U.S. District Judge George King. 

Investigators found that he had spied on at least 44 minors and 186 women, many of which he blackmailed into sending him sexually explicit photos and video.