FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

September 2013 Archives

Dad Beaten by Bikers After Minor NYC Collision

A young father was beaten by bikers in front of his wife and 2-year-old child after the man "[tapped] the fender" of one of the group's motorcycles on a New York City highway.

Video captured by one of the bikers showed members of the group damaging and slashing the tires of the family's Range Rover after the collision, causing the scared dad to attempt to flee, ABC News reports. The chase ended with bikers smashing the windows of the family's car and beating the 33-year-old father.

The video clip uploaded by one of the bikers reveals many details, but what charges could the bikers potentially face?

More Moms Getting DUIs With Kids in Car: Report

Driving drunk with your kids in the car may be becoming more common, but even a 4-year-old knows that it's illegal.

According to Detroit's WXYZ-TV, more and more moms are getting busted for intoxicated driving, and their kids are typically with them.

Bad parenting? Sure, but it could also land mom (or dad, if he's the one drinking and driving) in prison for much longer than a typical DUI.

Mont. Rapist Released After 30 Days; Appeal Pending

Montana rapist Stacey Rambold was released from prison today after being locked up for only 30 days, the Billings Gazette reports. The ex-high school teacher admitted to raping 14-year-old Cherice Moralez in 2008 when he was her teacher. Moralez committed suicide shortly before her 17th birthday.

Rambold's lenient sentence and the sentencing judge's comments about Moralez created a national uproar and protests.

Going forward, what is likely to happen?

What Counts as Witness Intimidation?

What is witness intimidation? TV shows and movies are chock full of hard-boiled detectives who put the squeeze on a local informant to get information. But criminal witness intimidation is typically much less glamorous.

Here are some key examples of what is and isn't witness intimidation:

Ohio Mom Who Faked Son's Cancer Claims Insanity

An Ohio mom accused of making fake cancer claims about her 4-year-old son is asking the court to consider an insanity plea.

The mother, 31-year-old Emily Creno, was charged with child endangerment for allegedly making her son endure months of medical tests. She also allegedly shaved her son's head and convinced him he was dying.

Creno's court-appointed attorney has filed a motion to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and has asked the court to examine Creno's competency.

4 Charged in Chicago Shooting That Injured 13

Four men have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the Chicago mass shooting that left 13 people injured, including a 3-year-old boy, last week.

Investigators say Tabari Young, 22, and Bryon Champ, 21, opened fire on a crowd at a basketball court on Chicago's South Side on Thursday night. Two other men, ages 22 and 20, allegedly served as a lookout and gun supplier, The Associated Press reports.

As the investigation reveals more about the Chicago shooting, what charges await the four suspected perpetrators?

Family Releases Video of Man Being Run Over by Cop

A cop who ran over and killed a Florida man won't be facing criminal charges, a grand jury has determined. Marlon Brown was being chased by police in DeLand, north of Orlando, for an alleged seatbelt violation when he started running and was ultimately run over and killed by a police car.

Last week, a grand jury decided not to indict Officer James Harris on a criminal charge of vehicular manslaughter.

That's when the family decided to publicly release the police dash cam video, which recorded the entire incident.

Another NYC Tourist Arrested for Carrying Gun

A gun-toting tourist hoping to visit NYC's 9/11 Memorial did not have much time to reflect after she was arrested for carrying a semi-automatic weapon in her purse.

According to Gothamist, New York City is one of the stricter cities for concealed carry permits. So even though tourist Ursula Jerry had a valid Wisconsin permit, she was still allegedly violating the city's gun laws.

How can you travel to the Big Apple without your piece getting you in trouble?

Mob Attacks Sikh Professor in Alleged Hate Crime

A Sikh professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs was the target of an alleged hate crime near his home in Harlem on Saturday night, when he was attacked by a mob. Some in the group shouted "Get Osama!"

Prabhjot Singh, 31, who co-wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times about the Milwaukee Sikh temple shooting, said more than a dozen teens on bicycles called him a "terrorist" before they attacked, according to New York's WNBC-TV.

Singh, who wears a beard and a turban, suffered a fractured jaw after being punched in the face three times in addition to being punched and kicked all over his body after falling to the ground.

Teen Arrested for iPhone School Shooting Simulation

A Louisiana teen who used an iPhone app to simulate a school shooting faces criminal charges after posting his virtual-reality video online.

From biting Pop-Tarts into gun shapes to clasping hands into gun shapes, it's become commonplace for school zero-tolerance policies to treat every flight of gun fancy into a tangible threat.

In this case, the 15-year-old student learned his lesson the hard way. The YouTube video he allegedly posted showed himself "shooting" his classmates at his high school in Gray, Louisiana. He created the video using an "augmented reality" iPhone app called Real Strike.

10 States With the Highest Rates of Violent Crime

According to a new FBI crime report, the nation experienced a slight increase in violent crimes in 2012, along with a decrease in property crimes. Which states had the highest (and lowest) rates of violent crime?

The FBI's annual Crime in the United States report compiles criminal data under the Uniform Crime Reporting program from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Perhaps surprisingly, the 10 states with the highest rates of violent crime in 2012 didn't include the most populous states of California, New York or Texas.

Here are the Top 10 states with the most -- and least -- violent crime per capita, according to the FBI's data:

YouTube DUI Confessor Pleads Guilty to Fatal Crash

An Ohio man who confessed to a fatal DUI on YouTube has pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide as well as operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Wednesday's plea by Matthew Cordle, 22, was a bit of a 180 from his position in court last week, when he had pleaded not guilty to all charges. According to The Associated Press, Cordle is certain to "lose driving privileges for life."

No matter what his story is now, Cordle will likely be telling it from behind bars.

Kidnapped Girl Found Alive in Ga.; 2 Arrested

A 14-year-old Georgia girl who was kidnapped two days ago from her home near Atlanta was found alive Wednesday and has been reunited with her family.

Once authorities issued a Levi's Call alert -- Georgia's version of an AMBER Alert -- the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI were able to aid in the search and eventual rescue of Ayvani Hope Perez.

The two alleged abductors, identified as Wildrego Jackson, 29, and Juan Alberto Rodriguez, 40, have been arrested, reports Atlanta's WSB-TV.

'Katrina Killings': 5 Cops' Convictions Overturned

Five ex-cops convicted for killings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina will get a new trial, after a federal judge overturned their convictions Tuesday.

The former New Orleans police officers were convicted in the shooting deaths of two civilians who were crossing a bridge in the post-hurricane chaos -- an incident that led to a massive cover-up. But a judge found that prosecutors had tainted the trial, reports The New York Times.

Will these officers face justice for their crimes?

Navy Yard Shooting: 5 Legal Questions

The Navy Yard shooting on Monday left 12 people and the gunman dead. It also presents several troubling legal questions.

As investigators look into what may have motivated suspected gunman Aaron Alexis to commit such a heinous crime, who will be held accountable for the dozen civilians murdered?

Here are five legal questions that may help to illuminate the future contours of this tragedy's effects on the victims, their families, and even the shooter's employer:

After a Child Abduction, 1st Steps Are Crucial

The horrible case of a child abduction in Georgia early this morning reminds us that after a child kidnapping, the first steps you take can be crucial.

In the Georgia case, two gunmen broke into a home near Atlanta about 2 a.m., shot the family's dog, and demanded jewelry and money. But with no valuables in the home, the robbers instead abducted 14-year-old Ayvani Hope Perez, NBC News reports. A nationwide Amber Alert has been issued.

A child abduction is every parent's worst nightmare, but there are some critical first steps you can take if it does happen to you. These include:

NYPD Shooting: 2 Bystanders Hurt in Times Square

The NYPD shot two bystanders on Saturday night in an attempt to apprehend a man in Times Square. Many are now wondering why the officers chose to use deadly force in a situation with so much risk of injury to innocent civilians.

The New York Times reported that police were investigating the circumstances of the shooting that injured the two bystanders -- both women. But police declined to comment on whether the shooting "appeared justified."

What circumstances are appropriate for police to use deadly force? And can bystanders accidentally shot by police sue over their injuries?

Teen Gets 30 Years for Murder Posted on Facebook

A teenager has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the grisly murder of a disabled Chicago man -- a beating that was caught on cell phone video and posted on Facebook.

Anthony Malcolm, 19, recorded and uploaded to Facebook the beating death of Delfino Mora, 62, who was in an alley collecting cans. Malcolm and two friends targeted the disabled father of 12 in a game they called "Pick 'em out, knock 'em out," Chicago's WGN-TV reports.

Malcolm's parents didn't think the teen should go to prison just for holding a cell phone. Are they right?

Abusive Babysitter Convicted Thanks to Hero Dog

Thanks to the protective nature of a hero dog, an abusive babysitter was caught red-handed and convicted of assault and battery.

Channeling its inner Lassie, the South Carolina canine alerted the child's parents that the woman was mistreating their 7-month-old son.

Here's the incredible tale of the furry guardian angel and what's legally in store for the abusive babysitter:

Senate Marijuana Hearing Raises Hopes, Concerns

A Senate hearing on the merits of state-legalized pot was held by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, focusing primiarly on the conflict between federal and state laws.

The hearing was prompted by the Justice Department's announcement that it would back off on prosecuting "legal" marijuana possession and use in states like Colorado and Washington, where voters have approved non-medicinal marijuana use for adults over 21. The DOJ says it's focusing instead on areas which are illegal under both state and federal law (e.g., the sale of marijuana to minors).

According to USA Today, this change in policy was what led Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) to request a hearing, questioning whether "federal prosecutions of marijuana users are the best use of taxpayer dollars."

Teen, Pregnant Wife Charged in Trooper's Murder

A 19-year-old man has been charged with a Michgan state trooper's murder. The teen's pregnant wife is also facing criminal charges.

Eric Knysz allegedly shot Trooper Paul Butterfield in the head during a routine traffic stop in Mason County, north of Muskegon, on Monday. Knysz's pregnant wife Sarah, 20, was also in the car. A motive has yet to be determined, the Muskegon Chronicle reports.

The couple was charged with the following laundry-list of crimes:

10 DUI Abbreviations Every Driver Should Know

Drunken driving laws contain an alphabetic menagerie of acronyms: DWI, DUI, BAC, OVI, and HGN, just to name a few. Knowing what they mean could help you in avoiding a felony charge.

Some of these definitions change based on state laws, but many of them remain constant throughout the nation.

Don't be a drinking and driving dunce when it comes to these 10 DUI abbreviations every driver should be familiar with:

YouTube DUI Confessor Pleads Not Guilty, for Now

Matthew Cordle, the Ohio man who made a YouTube video confession about killing a man in a DUI-related crash, surprised everyone in court Tuesday -- including the judge -- by entering a plea of not guilty.

Cordle, 22, is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and OVI (operating a vehicle while intoxicated), and was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. But the judge postponed the arraignment in light of his surprising plea.

Here's how the plea may help or harm his case:

Glacier Park Murder Suspect to Appear in Court

The Glacier Park murder suspect accused of pushing her husband off a cliff is set to appear in federal court today to face second degree murder charges.

The newlywed couple allegedly argued while hiking at Glacier National Park in July -- an altercation that ended with Cody Johnson, 25, falling "face first" off a cliff to his death. His wife Jordan Linn Graham, 22, was taken into custody, reports CNN.

Although Graham's story has changed several times since her arrest, her options in criminal court are fairly clear.

Victim of a Fake 911 Call? What Can You Do?

When you're the victim of a fake or malicious 911 call, you may be wondering what steps you can take to protect yourself -- and perhaps even get back at the person who made the call.

George Zimmerman may be wondering about this himself, after his estranged wife Shellie called 911 during a domestic dispute and claimed her husband was waving a gun around. As police did not find a gun when they detained him, some are speculating that the 911 call was meant to make George look bad in the public eye. (News flash, Shellie: George doesn't need any help with that.)

Here are four tips to keep in mind if you ever fall victim to a fake 911 call:

Shellie Zimmerman Calls 911; O'Mara Joins CNN

George Zimmerman just can't seem to keep himself off law enforcement's radar, or out of the headlines. His wife Shellie Zimmerman called 911 on Monday, as his former trial attorney Mark O'Mara announced he is not representing Zimmerman in his latest legal entanglements.

In the 911 call, Shellie Zimmerman alleged that George was threatening her and her father with a firearm -- but George was neither arrested nor charged, reports CNN. O'Mara told the network he was not representing Zimmerman either "in his recent domestic altercation case or his impending divorce case."

Will George Zimmerman really need that much legal help in the coming months?

Facebook Harassment: Should You Call the Cops?

When it comes to Facebook harassment, knowing when to get the cops involved can be a tricky matter.

Generally, the line in the sand should be the point when the communication becomes threatening and causes you to fear for your safety.

Here are a few tips on when to call the cops to report Facebook harassment, and when it may be best to resolve the matter without the help of law enforcement:

Legal to Secretly Spy on Your Spouse?

Trust might be an issue if you decide to spy on your spouse, but eavesdropping on your husband or wife can also lead to legal consequences.

For those dead set on recording their loved one or surreptitiously following their spouse, there are some privacy laws to consider, along with some potential legal effects of using the fruits of spying in court.

Here's what suspicious spouses need to know:

Video Confession in Fatal Crash May Lead to Charges

An Ohio man has made a video confession in which he takes responsibility for a drunken driving crash that killed another driver. He allegedly made the video to face the consequences for his actions.

Matthew Cordle, 22, admits in the video to "making a mistake" when he got behind the wheel after going bar-hopping with friends in June. He recounted the tragic night when he drove into oncoming traffic and fatally struck 61-year-old Vincent Canzani, reports The Associated Press.

Prosecutors want to charge Cordle with aggravated vehicular homicide with an alcohol specification. But will his confession affect his punishment?

NYC 'Speed Racer' Arrested After Viral Video

Move over Vin Diesel, one New Yorker is really living his life one quarter-mile at a time -- that is, until his record-breaking street racing landed him in police custody on Thursday.

Christopher Adam Tang -- nicknamed "Speed Racer," according to New York's WABC-TV -- did his eponymous cartoon hero proud by circumnavigating Manhattan in 24 minutes and 7 seconds, setting speed records and breaking several traffic laws.

Tang, 30, has no Racer X to taunt him, but it may be a while before he's behind the wheel again.

Texas School Stabbing Leads to Murder Charge

A 17-year-old in Spring, Texas, has been charged in a fatal gang-related high school stabbing that has left one student dead and three others injured.

Luis Alonzo Alfaro has been charged with murder for allegedly stabbing a gang rival at Spring High School, north of Houston, with a pocket knife.

But could Alfaro potentially argue that he was acting in self defense?

DUI House Arrest: How Does It Work?

If you’re convicted of a DUI, house arrest may be a possible punishment. But how does it work, exactly?

Being busted for a DUI doesn’t always mean jail. In many cases, especially for first-time offenders, prosecutors will offer a plea bargain, allowing defendants to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Some courts may require DUI house arrest — spending time confined in your home — as an alternative to jail time. But serving your time at home comes with some strings attached.

Anti-Gay Attacks Mar Labor Day Weekend: Reports

In two separate incidents over the Labor Day weekend, two men claim they were victims of hate crimes. In both cases, the men endured brutal anti-gay assaults.

Twenty-three-year-old Jared Olson of Denver, Colorado will need reconstructive surgery as a result of the attack. Meanwhile, Jared Fox, who was visiting his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, is recovering from being beaten by a group of 20 men.

30-Day Sentence for Rape May Be 'Illegal': Judge

A Montana judge appears to have changed his mind about giving a convicted rapist 30 days in jail, and on Tuesday ordered a new sentencing hearing, citing worries that the original sentence was illegal.

Judge G. Todd Baugh issued a court order scheduling a sentencing hearing for convicted rapist Stacey Dean Rambold, stating that imposing a sentence less than two years (e.g. 30 days) "would be an illegal sentence," reports CNN.

Rambold's new hearing is scheduled Friday, but why did Baugh impose the "illegal" sentence in the first place?

DEA Uses Phone Co Database to Nab Drug Suspects

For the last six years, law enforcement officials have been accessing a giant AT&T database through an anti-narcotics program called the Hemisphere Project. The project differs from the National Security Agency's phone tracking in a couple of major ways.

Here's what the Hemisphere Project is all about and what legal concerns it's raising.

'No Contest' and Job Applications: What to Do?

Since most job applications ask about prior felony convictions, many applicants wonder, "If I pleaded no contest to a felony charge, does that count as pleading guilty?"

No contest pleas are not the same as guilty pleas in court. But when it comes to applying for a new job, you may be stuck with some of the same consequences.

Here's what you need to know about dealing with "no contest" pleas on job applications: