FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

December 2011 Archives

Woman Ran Over Cheating Husband, Cops Say

Unfaithful men often fear their wives will find out about their womanizing ways. They fear with good reason. Case in point: Colene Barker. The 35-year-old Arizona woman ran over her cheating husband with her car after an argument.

She first struck her husband's car twice. Then she turned her vehicle toward him. She ran him over, knocking him to the ground. She then drove over both his legs.

Barker wasn't done. She exited the car, and belittled him while he was "rolling in pain" on the floor. When arrested, she told police she wanted to "teach him a lesson" because he was cheating on her.

Man Gets 10 Years for Chihuahua Sex Assault

Sacramento man Robert DeShields, 55, was convicted of Chihuahua sex assault. He was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison. A judge also mandated he register as a sex offender.

DeShields is a chronic methamphetamine user. He is wheelchair bound. The owner of the dog had given him a temporary place to stay. That's when the animal abuse occurred.

DeShields strangled and penetrated the dog, named Shadow, with a foreign object. The dog required surgery. Shadow recovered, and now lives in a foster home. The Chihuahua remains fearful of men, reports the Sacramento Bee. DeShields was arrested after the dog owner made a report to police.

New Year's Day Is Top Car Theft Day

While you're out celebrating, others are out stealing your car. Especially if it's New Year's Day.

New Year's Day was the top holiday for reported car thefts in 2010, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). It fell just ahead of Memorial Day and Halloween, which came in second and third.

Thieves seem to be taking advantage of widespread inebriation.

Americas 10 Least Safe Cities

How would you like to live in one of the most dangerous cities in America? You probably wouldn't want to live in a crime-ridden neighborhood by choice.

That's why sometimes people might find themselves residing in what Forbes dubbed one of the least safe cities in the country.

Does your city pop up on the list? The top 10 cities are:

Is Hazing Illegal?

Florida A & M University's marching band recently came under scrutiny after one of its members  died after a reported illegal hazing ritual. The tragic incident brought hazing laws back into the spotlight.

Many college students participate in fraternities and sororities. Pledges generally view hazing as a "rite of passage" that all members need to get through.

Yet many do not realize that the actions taken by their classmates could be criminal. Around 44 states have passed hazing laws.

Check In on Facebook, Get Burglarized at Home

Facebook burglary is real. So real that insurance companies in Australia and the United Kingdom are warning people about the consequences of posting their locations online.

That warning also applies here in the U.S., where a string of burglaries was tied to social media just last year. Two of those break-ins were prompted by Facebook posts from homeowners who had gone on vacation.

Even your Facebook friends can't be trusted.

Did You Break the Law and Not Know it?

You may think that you've never broken the law. But with 4,500 federal criminal statutes and 300,000 other regulations, you probably have. And even if you didn't know about the obscure federal law, you may still be on the hook.

That's because you're presumed to know the law -- yes, all 304,500 criminal statutes (and the state ones, too!).

Ready to start studying? If not, check out the obscure federal laws listed below. They may change your mind.

A Chicago father's apparent idea of a social media joke has landed him in jail. Andre Curry posted a photo of his 22-month-old daughter on Facebook, duct-taped and bound. He now faces a charge of aggravated battery.

Andre Curry, 21, took the Facebook duct tape photo after babysitting his daughter Dec. 13, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He also posted a misspelled caption: "This is wut happens wen my baby hits me back. ;)"

The picture and the caption were taken down from the site -- but not before Curry's Facebook duct tape pic spread around the Internet. Police and the Illinois Department of Family Services began to investigate.

Lawyer Can't Defend Criminal and Victim's Dad

You can't always get what you want -- or who you want to represent you in a criminal trial. Such is the case for Miguel Hernandez Jr., an Illinois gang member accused of killing 5-year-old Eric Galarza during a drive-by shooting.

Hernandez hired criminal defense attorney Liam Dixon. But Dixon represented the boy's father, Eric Galarza Sr., 10 years ago in a different gang-related shooting. He may have also been the intended target.

After learning of this connection, the judge disqualified Dixon, ordering the appointment of a public defender.

America's 10 Safest Cities

Choosing a place to live is one of the most important decisions a family can make. Should you consider a city's crime statistics and traffic fatality rates before settling down? It's definitely something worth considering.

In that vein, Forbes has recently released its list of safest cities in America. Did your city make the cut? The top 10 are listed below:

Cops Use Social Media to Hunt Potomac River Rapist

The FBI is using social media in its efforts to identify and arrest the Potomac River Rapist.

The movement was partially inspired by the recent arrest of the East Coast rapist in March. That effort was bolstered by a similar partnership between social media and the public, reports the Washington Post.

It's unclear whether or not the suspect is still alive, or if he's already in jail. What is known is that he assaulted 7 to 9 women in the D.C. area between 1991 and 1997.

The Top 3 Criminal Trials of 2011

Two-thousand-eleven was a big year for criminal trials and proceedings. Lindsay Lohan was in and out of court (and rehab). Barry Bonds finally stood trial. Rod Blagojevich was convicted again. And polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison.

Arizona shooter Jared Loughner was found incompetent, while IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was denied bail. We almost heard from Jerry Sandusky's victims, and John Edwards was indicted.

There was a lot to choose from this year, but the following three were the top criminal trials of 2011.

A California teenager who pleaded guilty to killing a gay classmate is headed to prison. Brandon McInerney was sentenced to 21 years for the crime that drew national attention to bullying and the plight of gay students.

McInerney, 17, was sentenced according to a plea agreement after a hung jury failed to reach a verdict in September, the Associated Press reports. McInerney agreed to plead guilty, and prosecutors promised not to pursue a retrial that could have led to a life sentence.

McInerney was 14 when a gay junior-high classmate, Larry King, made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward McInerney and other boys, the AP reports.

Man Leaves Movie to Steal His Date's Car

Sometimes, dates don't end well. One unlucky 35-year-old woman's date with Florida man Michael Pratt is especially illustrative of this point. Pratt asked his date for her keys, then left in middle of a movie to steal her car.

Pratt, 27, originally told the woman that he needed something from the vehicle, according to the miffed date. Except, he never came back.

When she called him, Pratt laughed and told her that he stole her car. He then hung up.

The 35-year-old woman tried to get the car back for several days. The vehicle, a 2012 Ford Focus, was actually a rental car. She called investigators after she spent two days fruitlessly dialing Pratt's number to no avail.

A lawyer and high-profile Tea Party leader, arrested for trying to bring a gun on a plane, is facing a felony firearms charge.

Mark Meckler of Grass Valley, Calif., co-founder of the national Tea Party Patriots, was arrested at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Thursday, The New York Times reports. Meckler spent a day in jail, and was released following his arraignment Friday.

Meckler, 49, checked-in for a flight to Detroit while carrying a locked box containing a Glock pistol and 19 ammunition cartridges, The Times reports. Meckler said he needed the gun because he receives threats.

Joe Arpaio Violated Latinos' Civil Rights

U.S. Department of Justice report says that Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio violated civil rights. They say that Sheriff Arpaio and his staff failed to protect Latinos and discriminated against individuals from the Hispanic community.

The report was the result of a three-year investigation into Arpaio's office. In the past, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office received national attention and raised concerns when it conducted immigration raids against the Latino community. Arpaio himself even became something of a political figure, as GOP presidential candidates have even sought endorsements from the now-famous sheriff.

Experts now call Arpaio's actions one of the worst examples of racial profiling in the nation, the AP reports.

The death penalty in America may be dying a slow death, a new report suggests.

Fewer convicted killers are facing the death penalty than at any time since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center. The Center is opposed to how the death penalty is currently used, The Wall Street Journal reports.

So far this year, 78 death sentences have been handed down nationwide -- the fewest in a single year since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.

CA Fights Cyber Crime with 'eCrime Unit'

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has officially announced the creation of a statewide eCrime unit. The unit is composed of 20 investigators and prosecutors who will focus their efforts on cyber crime. This includes Internet scams, identity theft, child pornography and intellectual property infringement.

This is not California's first foray into law enforcement tech -- there are five regional task forces that operate under the High Technology Theft Apprehension and Prosecution Program. The new eCrime unit will help coordinate their efforts as well as any multi-state investigations.

This is a big step for California, which has the highest identity theft rate in the country.

What's the Difference Between Bond and Bail?

When criminal defendants are released from prison, some are “bonded out” while others are “bailed out.” If you consume enough criminal news, the two terms start to look interchangeable, as though they both mean the same thing.

While they both have the same effect — temporary freedom — they’re actually different. The difference between bond and bail is a subtle one, but it ultimately comes down to the source of the money. Who and what is securing the defendant’s freedom?

A FAMU hazing incident has led to the arrest of three marching band members, nearly a month after another FAMU band member's hazing-related death.

Three members of Florida A&M University's famed "Marching 100" are accused of beating a freshman clarinet player so badly, they broke her leg, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Sean Hobson, 23, Aaron Golson, 19, and James Harris, 22, were arrested Monday in connection with hazing. Hobson and Golson are also facing felony battery charges. All three remained in jail Tuesday morning, the Democrat reported.

Why Jerry Sandusky Waived his Preliminary Hearing

Victims set to testify against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky were treated to quite the surprise Tuesday morning. Before testimony could begin, defense attorney Joe Amendola announced that Sandusky had chosen to waive his preliminary hearing.

There are a lot of questions about what this means for the Sandusky case, which involves more than 50 counts of sexual abuse.

But before you can understand the answers, you'll need to understand why someone would waive a preliminary hearing.

Is It Illegal to Bounce a Check?

There may come a time when your checking account is low. Bills may be due, but your paycheck won't be issued for another few days. Should you still write a check? What if it bounces? Is it illegal to bounce a check? What if you have overdraft protection?

These are all incredibly important questions for anyone on a fixed budget. But the answers are unfortunately not very positive.

Bouncing a check is also known as writing a bad check. And bad check laws generally make the practice illegal.

What To Do if You Suspect Child Abuse

As individuals, we often tend to try to respect boundaries. But sometimes, we simply can't - and shouldn't - ignore signs that there may be suspected child abuse happening in someone's home.

After all, ignoring signs of child abuse for too long can result in tragedies.

Below are some tips to deal with this most uncomfortable, but important of subjects.

What exactly should you do if you suspect abuse? And, how do you spot it in the first place?

Judge Orders Homeless Man to Get a Job

Scott Huber of Naperville, Ill. is well-known for a number of things. The homeless man is kind of a local celebrity -- he poses for pictures, blogs and ran for mayor.

His downtown "protest site" (complete with an electric generator) even led to an outpouring of community concern.

But now he's in the news for something completely different. A local judge has ordered the homeless man to get a job. And if he doesn't, he may go to jail.

Death Penalty Dropped Against Mumia Abu-Jamal

Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal will no longer face the death penalty. The Philadelphia district attorney decided this week to drop their decades-long battle over Abu-Jamal's sentence.

Prosecutors made the announcement just days before the 30th anniversary of his conviction. The decision also comes down after a federal appeals court this year ordered a new sentencing hearing. The appeals court found the jury instructions given in the original case were unclear.

Abu-Jamal was convicted of fatally shooting Daniel Faulkner, a police officer, in 1982. The former Black Panther and his supporters have long argued that his conviction was the result of racial bias, according to The Washington Post.

A federal judge came down hard on former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, sentencing him to 14 years in prison on charges of corruption and lying to federal agents.

The sentence came after Blagojevich made an emotional plea for leniency. U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he gave Blagojevich credit for accepting responsibility, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Prosecutors were seeking a 15- to 20-year sentence for Blagojevich, 54. The then-governor was arrested in 2008 after being caught on tape attempting to "auction off" the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama.

A Massachusetts math professor is likely getting lectured by her lawyer, after she and her son were arrested in connection with running a meth lab out of their home.

Irina Kristy, 74, of Somerville, Mass., faces possible charges of distribution of methamphetamine, conspiracy to violate drug laws, and a drug violation in a school zone, The Boston Globe reports.

It all sounds like a real-life episode of Breaking Bad -- the hit AMC crime drama about a high school chemistry teacher who sells meth to make money for his family.

Cemetery Worker Stole Fender Guitar from Grave

A Wisconsin cemetery worker who stole a guitar out of a casket could face up to 10 years in prison. Steven Conrad, 40, pled no contest to the theft last week.

Conrad pilfered the expensive musical instrument, a Fender Telecaster valued at around $2,000, out of the grave of a man named Randall Jourdan.

Jourdan had requested to be buried with his beloved instrument, which he called his "pride and joy." The deceased had played guitars for more than 40 years, according to investigators.

Another CA Woman Tries to Cut Off Husband's Penis

Virginia Valdez, 69, of Palm Springs, was arrested after an altercation with her husband. It seems it got so heated that she attempted to cut off his penis with a pair of scissors.

Luckily for her husband, Valdez's dismembering efforts failed. Her husband was treated at a local hospital for a "non-life-threatening wound in the genital area" and has been released, according to police.

Valdez's motivations for the crime are still unclear, though police say that the couple had a long-standing marital dispute. She has been married to her husband for 32 years.

FAA chief Randy Babbitt has been grounded after an embarrassing weekend arrest. The head of the Federal Aviation Administration was charged with drunken driving -- on the wrong side of the road.

Babbitt, 65, was arrested about 10:30 p.m. Saturday by police in Fairfax, Va., not far from his home, The Washington Post reports. Babbitt was driving alone, and in the wrong direction on a busy highway.

Babbitt underwent a roadside sobriety test, but police declined to release the results. Virginia law defines drunken driving as "Driving While Intoxicated" -- anything above a .08 blood alcohol level.

A young husband and wife are under arrest in connection with the killing of their neighbor, a Las Vegas landlord. The man was apparently hacked to death with an electric saw, and his body stuffed inside a garment box, investigators say.

Anthony Stiger and Melanie Costantini, both 20, remained silent at a court hearing Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. A judge entered not guilty pleas on their behalf.

Stiger admitted to the saw attack in a jailhouse interview with KTNV-TV, but claimed it was in self-defense. He also claimed his grandparents stuffed the landlord's body in the box -- a claim his grandmother dismissed as a laughable lie.

Is Pepper Spray the New 'It' Weapon?

Some would argue that pepper spray has replaced the Taser as law enforcement's crowd control weapon of choice. After all, it's played a prominent role in Occupy Wall Street protests across the country.

But it seems that pepper spray has also caught on amongst the masses. A Black Friday shopper in Southern California sprayed fellow Walmart deal hunters. On Tuesday, a 14-year-old high school student in Harlem sprayed her classmates, sending 9 of them to the hospital. And in Kentucky, a pepper sprayed stray dog made a family sick.

You likely have little desire to end up on the above list. The best way to do that is to learn about your state's pepper spray laws.

Feds Uncover 32 Tons of Pot in CA Tunnel

Federal authorities discovered a cross-border tunnel loaded with 32 tons of marijuana this week in San Diego, California. Several arrests were made in connection to the drug tunnel, in what is likely one of the biggest marijuana busts in U.S. history.

The tunnel linked two warehouses between Tijuana and San Diego. Authorities believe the tunnel had only recently begun operations. It featured lit passageways, electric rail cars, wood floors from one end to another, and an hydraulic lift.

Ironically, the Tijuana side of the tunnel leads to a location that is on the same block as a police office, reports the AP.

'Sheriff of the Year' Busted in Meth-Sex Ring

In an ironic twist of fate, former Arapahoe County Sheriff Patrick Sullivan is currently being held in the Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility just outside of Denver. The 68-year-old retired lawman was caught on tape exchanging methamphetamine for sex.

When drug task force officers dug deeper, they turned up evidence that Sullivan had long been engaged in a drugs-for-sex ring with at least six other men. Even more chilling was the revelation that he had an ongoing relationship with a number of men--some of whom he bailed out of jail while on active duty.