FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

October 2012 Archives

Karate Student Pummels Drunken Intruder

Karate student, Jannine Ramirez, got some extra practice when she came home after a late night to find an intruder in her apartment.

Ramirez was returning from her first karate competition at 1 am on Sunday morning when she found a drunken man in her bathroom. She kicked down the bathroom door, found the man washing his hands, and then kicked him right through the shower door.

When he came at her she threw him into the living room and then kicked him right out the door. Literally. Police found the man, Wilberto Zapata, still outside when they arrived on the scene.

Halloween Pranks That Will Get You Arrested

Halloween is a time for candy and costumes but it's also a time for pranks which unfortunately can lead to people getting arrested.

Some Halloween pranks are all in good fun but too many of the popular ones involve breaking the law. Like other major holidays, police are out making sure that everyone is safe which means you're more likely to get caught.

Not knowing the law is never an excuse when it comes to crime so here's a quick refresher on what not to do this Halloween.

Beware Halloween DUI Checkpoints

Halloween DUI checkpoints are planned across the country.

The holiday that has been traditionally celebrated by children trick-or-treaters has been embraced by adults as an opportunity to wear skimpy outfits and to drink.

As a result, Halloween has become one of the deadliest days for alcohol related accidents, and many states have ramped up their efforts to stop drunk driving.

For instance, Colorado started its "Heat Is On" DUI enforcement over the weekend to last through Halloween night. This enhanced enforcement will include increased DUI checkpoints, increased patrols, and extra vigilance to drunk drivers, reports the Sterling Journal-Advocate.

What Is a Gag Order?

Florida prosecutors are again seeking a gag order in George Zimmerman's murder case, reports the Orlando Sentinel. It's the second time prosecutors have sought a gag order against Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, prompting many to wonder just what is a gag order?

In general, a gag order is a court order to gag or bind an unruly defendant (or his attorney) from interrupting the trial or court process. Oftentimes, in high-profile cases like the Zimmerman trial, a court will issue a gag order against attorneys to not discuss the case with the media.

The purpose of a gag order is to essentially ensure a fair and unbiased trial.

Man Stabbed Outside Planned Parenthood

The doors of Planned Parenthood are often surrounded by some form of conflict but that generally involves protesting, not violence.

That wasn't the case on Tuesday when a protester at a Planned Parenthood in Oregon got into a fight and pulled out a knife. Christopher Tolhurst had an argument with Kailah L. Clair earlier in the day but when she returned later that afternoon with her father, Ted Clair, the incident became physical.

Police handcuffed Tolhurst shortly after the stabbing but he was later released. Now it's not clear if he'll be arrested at all.

Jessica Ridgeway Murder Suspect is Student, 17

The murder of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway captured the nation's attention, not least of all because police made no arrests in the days following the crime. But on Wednesday police announced the arrest of a teen Austin Reed Sigg in connection with her death.

Sigg, 17, lives just a mile from the Ridgeway family. A tip led police to his home on Tuesday night and they arrested him for his role in Jessica's death and in the attempted abduction of a jogger.

Thursday morning Austin Reed Sigg was charged with murder and kidnapping. Even though he's only 17, the court has decided that he will be tried as an adult.

How to Not Go to Jail

The bad news is that you've been convicted of a crime. The good news is that even if the conviction carries a possible prison sentence, you may be able to avoid jail by receiving some form of alternative sentencing.

There are many different forms of alternative sentencing such as probation or in-house arrest. These forms of sentencing are usually reserved for less severe crimes and allow someone to rehabilitate without going to jail, while also sparing the already overburdened prison system.

Whether you receive one of these options as an alternative to jail will depend upon the specific facts of your conviction. The following are some general rules on how to avoid jail following a criminal conviction.

Chick Flick Thief Slithered on Theater Floor

A Philadelphia man was convicted of unauthorized use of credit cards and identity theft in a string of Connecticut movie theater thefts.

Anthony Johnson would purchase movie tickets to popular chick flicks. The 49-year-old man would then watch the women in the theater and see how they stored their pocketbooks, reports the Hartford Courant.

When the movie began, Johnson would start working. He would slither up, down, and in between the movie theater seats stealing the women's pocketbooks. Johnson would steal the credit cards and then replace the pocketbooks back in the women's bags so that the women would never suspect that they had been robbed.

Venetian Casino Robbed of $1.6M in Chips

The Venetian robbery may have been one of the best executed dumb robberies in history. There were no victims, no weapons, and no casino employees were confronted or put in harm's way. And the suspect got away with $1.6 million in chips.

Unfortunately, the suspect now has to figure out a way to convert the chips to cash. And as Las Vegas police believe they have identified the man, the suspect could have a hard time cashing in the chips at the casino or finding a buyer.

The robbery occurred in the early morning hours on October 10. Police say that Akingide Cole of Palmdale, California was the man responsible for the crime and are now actively searching for him, reports The Christian Post.

University and college campus police often act like "real" police, but do they have the same legal authority as other law-enforcement agencies?

A campus police officer at the University of South Alabama in Mobile shot and killed a naked student this month who allegedly "rushed and verbally challenged the officer in a fighting stance," CNN reports. The officer who killed Gilbert Thomas Collar, 18, of Wetumpka, Ala., was put on leave pending internal and external investigations.

So, do campus police have the authority to use deadly force?

Teen Drug 'Czar' Gets 6 Mos. for $3M Pot Ring

Ohio teen Tyler Pagenstecher was sentenced to between six months and three years in a juvenile prison after he was found to be a drug "czar" in his Cincinnati neighborhood.

Pagenstecher, who just turned 18, was immediately taken into custody and will be turned over to Ohio's Department of Youth Services. That agency will ultimately decide how long the teen drug czar has to stay in prison, reports CBS.

Pagenstecher was portrayed as a decent kid who just happened to have taken the wrong path by the court. While the teen lived a seemingly normal life outside of the drug dealing, the judge said that he could not allow Pagenstecher to walk without jail time due to the severity of the crime.

Murder Charges for Inducing Ex-Girlfriend to Miscarry

Former restaurateur Joshua Woodward has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly inducing his girlfriend to miscarry.

The 40-year-old Woodward, who formerly owned upscale restaurants in Los Angeles and Miami, allegedly tried to kill the unborn baby four times in September and October 2009, reports The Associated Press.

Prosecutors say that Woodward used the drug misoprostol on his then-girlfriend. The drug has been known to terminate early-stage pregnancies. If convicted of the attempted murder charges, Woodward could face life imprisonment.

GOP Worker Arrested for Tossing Registrations

A "supervisor" in a Republican Party financed operation to register voters in Virginia has been arrested for voter fraud after allegedly throwing out voter registration forms into the dumpster.

A local small business owner reportedly saw the suspect, 31-year-old Colin Small, tossing a bag into the trash at the shopping center where the local GOP headquarters is located, reports NBC. The bag was later found to contain eight voter registration forms.

While throwing out eight registration forms may not seem like a lot, Small has been charged with eight felony counts and four misdemeanors under Virginia voter fraud laws and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice, writes NBC.

Cops Return Stolen Marijuana to Maine Man

Following a marijuana theft, police found the merchandise and returned the stolen pot to a Maine grower.

Thomas Davis, a state-licensed marijuana caregiver, had his house burglarized this week. Aaron Pert allegedly broke into Davis' greenhouse and stole 17 marijuana plants valued at about $13,000.

Unlike illegal growers of marijuana, Davis reported the crime which led police to the 32-year-old Pert.

Police reportedly questioned Pert about the burglary and he admitted to stealing the plants, reports the Bangor Daily News. He now faces charges of burglary, theft, and illegal possession of a firearm.

Thieves Steal $100 Bills that Don't Debut Until 2013

Thieves stole a "large amount" of $100 bills bound for the Federal Reserve last week.

You may have heard of a victimless crime, but this theft of $100 bills may have also been a crime with no immediate beneficiaries either.

That's because the stolen money is a stack of newly-designed $100 bills that are not expected to be in circulation until 2013, reports CNN.

As a result, the unknown thieves are carrying the equivalent of Monopoly money until the new currency actually does hit the streets.

Woman Posted Undercover Cop's Photo on Facebook

A Texas woman was arrested after she allegedly outed an undercover cop on her Facebook page.

Users of social media sites like Facebook should be warned: what you tweet and post online can come back and haunt you.

Melissa Walthall may have thought she was exacting some revenge against the undercover cop who testified against her friend. Instead, the 30-year-old woman may have put the cop's life in danger.

For that, she now faces felony charges of retaliation, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Man Stuffed ATMs with Fake Cash, FBI Says

Did you know ATMs can sense how much money is in them at any given time? That's why, to fool the machine, an ATM service man used fake cash to replace the real money he allegedly stole.

Gene Carlo Pena was caught after he arrived at JFK airport in New York, travelling from the Dominican Republic. He voluntarily returned to the U.S. to face charges of embezzlement and counterfeiting, reports NBC News.

Unfortunately for Pena, his attempt at counterfeit weren't very sophisticated. It was less than 10 days between when the fake notes were found and he was arrested.

Man Molested Teen Girls with 'Pregnancy Tests'

A Riverside, California man who allegedly told two teens he was giving them 'pregnancy tests' has been charged with molesting the girls.

Thomas Patrick Hayden is accused of telling the girls it was 'God's will' and making religious allusions to convince them to perform sexual acts. He was originally accused of molesting a teen in 2004 but no charges were filed, reports The Riverside Press-Enterprise.

On Tuesday Hayden and his wife Sandra appeared in court. While Sandra isn't charged with molestation, she is accused of other crimes.

Texas will not join the national sex-offender registry, citing cost concerns and a requirement that Texas change its existing sex-offender laws.

And Texas isn't alone. Four other states -- Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Nebraska -- have also declined to take part in the federal registry, the Houston Chronicle reports.

The national sex-offender registry is part of a federal law called the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, signed by President George W. Bush and named after a Florida boy who was kidnapped and killed in 1981. Walsh's father turned his grief into activism, most notably as the host of TV's "America's Most Wanted."

Girl, 16, Fatally Beaten Over Flatulence Jokes

A 16-year-old Ohio girl is dead and another teenager has been charged with murder, all over a fart joke.

Police say that the victim Shaakira Dorsey teased the suspect about passing gas which led to the two girls fighting, reports United Press International.

During the fight, Dorsey collapsed and died shortly thereafter. Dorsey's stepfather was at the fight and witnessed the girl's death. He now faces questions as to what he was doing at the fight and whether he encouraged his daughter to fight the other girl.

Philly Wedding Brawl: Groom's Brother Charged

A groom's brother was criminally charged for his involvement in a massive Philly wedding brawl over the weekend.

The brawl involved as many as 100 people as two wedding parties clashed at the Sheraton hotel in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. A bride's uncle, 57-year-old Vince Sannuti, died of a heart attack after he left the hotel during the brawl, reports ABC.

A bride can spend hundreds of hours preparing for every contingency in her wedding, but one can't prepare for everything (especially when alcohol is involved) as one Philadelphia bride discovered.

Boston Man Had Grenade, Knives, Gas Mask at LAX

If you thought we were all on board with the TSA policies about weapons and other dangerous materials in airports, you'd be wrong.

Yongda Huang Harris was traveling home from Japan when he was stopped at LAX. Customs officials noted he was wearing a bullet-proof vest and fireproof leggings under a trench coat. Homeland Security officials then investigated his luggage.

In Harris's checked luggage they found a long list of weapons and other troubling materials such as body bags and Tyvek suits. Of all the weapons found, only one was listed on his customs declaration.

Pleading no contest to a criminal charge is similar to pleading guilty, but legally speaking, there are some significant differences that defendants should keep in mind.

Laws in almost every state allow for pleas of no contest, or nolo contendere in Latin, for certain types of cases. No contest means you’re conceding the charge without admitting guilt and without presenting a defense.

But unlike a plea of guilty or innocent, a defendant must get a court’s consent to plead no contest, which comes with certain legal consequences. Here are three things every defendant should understand:

An 11-year-old girl wears her heart not on her sleeve, but on her right shoulder, thanks to her tattoo-artist mom. But now the mom is facing criminal charges.

Odessa Clay, 30, of Pamlico County, N.C., admits she tattooed her daughter last year with the outline of a tiny heart, Yahoo! Shine reports. But Clay wasn't arrested until this past September.

Why the delay? Clay suspects one of her ex in-laws called the cops in an act of retaliation, she told eastern North Carolina's WCTI-TV.

You Got an Out-of-State DUI: Now What?

DUI charges exist in every state for people who drive under the influence, whether in-state or out-of-state residents. The legal limit is the same everywhere thanks to Congressional highway funds that require a 0.08 blood alcohol limit. But states charge DUI offenses in different ways.

Not only are the charges different the sanctions also change based on where you are. Out-of-state residents are also often subject to different punishments than their in-state counterparts.

That doesn't necessarily mean it's better to get pulled over for a DUI out-of-state where the sentences are lower. You could find yourself subject to double the punishment if that happens.

Philadelphia Wedding Brawl Turns Deadly

An uncle of the bride died following a massive Philadelphia wedding brawl that required police to issue an all-hands-on-deck call.

In the posh Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, at least two wedding groups allegedly went at it in the Sheraton Hotel, reports CBS.

Dozens of people were reportedly involved and the brawl spilled out into the streets early Sunday morning. To no surprise, police believe that alcohol played a role in the massive fight.

Lingerie Store Arson Blamed on Bad Breakup

A lingerie store in California was almost the victim of a bad breakup when it nearly went up in flames early Tuesday morning.

Jennifer Colwell was arrested for arson in connection to the fire that started outside Intimate Obsessions in Dana Point. She had recently broken up with a boyfriend who had bought her some gifts at the lingerie store.

There's no real argument that Colwell was distraught over the breakup or that a fire broke out that night. But that doesn't necessarily make Colwell an arsonist.

Did Bad Medicine Make Family Strip Naked?

Sara Butler and her children stripped naked in the parking lot of a high school outside Philadelphia. But Butler is blaming some bad medicine interactions for the incident.

Butler is on medication for Lupus and the combination of her treatments allegedly led her to think the world was ending. With that news she decided to gather all her children around her  -- which is an understandable impulse for any mother.

Then all of them took off their clothes and started chanting in the parking lot. That's when police got involved.

CA Mom Jailed for Kids Ditching School

A mother of two was sentenced to 180 days in jail because her kids missed more than ten percent of school under California truancy laws.

As if the California penal system was not overtaxed enough, now bad parenting can land you in jail just the same as murdering someone or robbing a bank.

Thirty-four-year-old Lorraine Cuevas is one of the first parents in the state to be convicted under the relatively new law. Her two children (one in second grade, and one in third grade) missed a total of 116 days of school last year, reports Fox News.

What is a Hostile Witness?

There is a lot of misconception as to just who is a hostile witness.

While a hostile witness is "hostile" to an attorney's cause, hostile witnesses typically are witnesses the attorney has called himself.

So unlike the cross examination of an opposing party witness, a hostile witness is directly examined by the attorney.

Teen Charged with Killing Her Newborn Baby

Cassidy Goodson is accused of first degree murder and child abuse for allegedly strangling her newborn baby son. The baby boy was reportedly still connected to his mother via umbilical cord at the time of the strangulation, reports the New York Daily News.

Goodson is a 14-year-old high school freshman in Florida and apparently hid her pregnancy by wearing baggy clothes, reports the Daily News.

Last month, Goodson gave birth to a 9.5 pound baby boy in her parent's bedroom. She stuffed a towel in her mouth and ran the faucet to mask the noises related to the pregnancy. The girl even allegedly used scissors to help with the pregnancy, eventually giving birth into the toilet, reports the Daily News.

CA Gold Rush Museum Robbed of $2M in Gold, Gems

Two million dollars worth of gems and gold were stolen from the California Mining and Minerals Museum during a daytime robbery, reports The Associated Press.

While the execution of the robbery may have been "brazen," it's not entirely clear how well thought out the robbery was.

That's because despite making off with about $2 million worth of gems, it's not clear how the robbers will turn those gems into cold hard cash. And the chances are that the most daring part of the robbery will come when the robbers try to convert the stolen goods for cash as police will be on the lookout for the rare and precious stones and metals.

Man Mistakenly Shot Son, 15, Masked as Prowler

A family in Connecticut was ripped apart when a report of robbery led to a father who mistakenly shot his son.

Jeffrey Giuliano's sister called him last week to say someone was trying to break into her home. Giuliano took his gun and went next door to check on his sister. He confronted the alleged robber who was wearing a ski mask and black clothing and carrying a knife.

The masked person came at Giuliano so he fired his gun. Police unmasked the victim to discover it was Giuliano's 15-year-old son Tyler, reports the Danbury News Times.

Nurse's Aide Stole Wedding Bands From Vets

Elder abuse is a serious concern but stolen wedding bands don't necessarily constitute abuse, do they?

Abuse or no, Ashley Michelle Sweeney was found guilty of stealing wedding rings belonging to her elderly patients. She worked as a nursing aide in a state nursing home for veterans in Virginia. The 24-year-old was convicted on Tuesday.

During the sentencing part of trial, Sweeney took the stand to defend herself. She didn't try convincing the judge that her actions were justified but she did want to tell her story.

'DUI Hotel' or Jail: Which Would You Pick?

As an alternative to a night in jail, Pennsylvania offers people convicted of DUI the choice of serving their sentence in a 'DUI Hotel.'

This hotel doesn't have room service or a pool. What it has is alcohol-education programs, treatment sessions, and mandatory evaluations. It's not so much a luxury stay as a last chance for first-time offenders to stay out of jail.

Officially the program is called the DUI Alternative Jail Program and is only available in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. It earned its nickname because of the way the program is run.

Can You Get a Police Report Changed?

After a car accident, police may come on the scene and prepare a police report. Police officers are human, and it's not uncommon for them to make mistakes. So you may be wondering if you can have a police report changed.

Unfortunately, the rules for changing police reports are generally vague. Typically, states leave it to individual police departments to determine when and how to change a police report. And many states that do address police reports changes simply leave it to the discretion of the officer who made the report.

Nevertheless, there are some common steps that you can go about changing your police report, writes

FL Teacher Tried to Have Other Teacher Killed

A Florida teacher was arrested on charges of solicitation of first degree murder for allegedly trying to place a hit on a fellow high school teacher.

James Pepe, 55, has been a teacher at Hillsborough County schools for 28 years. In recent years, the teacher allegedly started to become strange thinking that his colleagues were talking behind his back and spreading rumors that he was a child molester, reports The Tampa Tribune.

Pepe reportedly focused all of the blame for the bad things in life on his colleague, fellow high school teacher Robert Meredith.

That's when Pepe allegedly hatched a plan to kill him.