CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Government Websites Aid Identity Thieves

From In an era when government officials from President Bush to local sheriffs warn of the growing dangers of identity theft, the full Social Security numbers of untold numbers of Americans can be found in file rooms and on Web sites run by, well, governments.

"This is very dangerous," Gansler said after learning that his number had been posted on a Maryland government records site. "You know, a Social Security number is really the fingerprint to somebody's identification."

The Federal Trade Commission has estimated that 8.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2005, the most recent data available. But the crown jewel in identity theft -- the Social Security number -- can be mined easily in the government's own records, creating a measure of social insecurity for millions, identity experts say. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 2, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Evolution of Prison Food: Creating a Feast Fit For a Felon

From They dine on chicken patties because drumsticks could be sharpened into deadly weapons. They eat fruit in moderation because leftovers could be fermented into "hooch."

     And if they misbehave, their meal is blended into an unpleasant loaf that  serves as a nutritional punishment. Such feasts are fit for a felon, devised by correctional facilities to solve a complex culinary problem -- meeting nutritional guidelines with limited budgets. It's a delicate balance, trying to satisfy both dietitians and food critics prone to violent outbursts.

n the world of convict cuisine, even the dessert menu can trigger unrest.

"You have to be concerned about the Jell-O being runny," said Barbara Wakeen, a dietitian who created a menu this fall for the DuPage County Jail. "If an inmate is having a bad day, bad Jell-O could be what sets him off."

Providing 2,900 calories per day at 92 cents per meal, Wakeen devised a menu that met nutritional guidelines for a $1 million food service contract at the facility.

But the fare, which ranged from meatloaf and meatballs to Spanish rice and sloppy joes, also highlighted the evolution of inmate nutrition. Once little more than bread and water, prisoner plates now include calcium-enriched beverages that meet dietary requirements on a shoestring budget.

"In corrections, when you're trying to feed people and can't afford to give them 3 cups of milk a day, this is a way to accomplish it," said Wakeen, who has written menus for about 100 correctional facilities across the country since 1988. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 23, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Federal Hearing to Look into CIA Tape Destruction

From Lawyers for suspected enemy fighters imprisoned at a U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay urged a federal judge this morning to investigate whether the Bush administration has destroyed evidence about their clients citing the CIA's recent acknowledgement that it destroyed videotapes of interrogations of two other prisoners.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy scheduled the hearing this morning saying he would consider the lawyers' request for an urgent court inquiry into whether the destruction of the CIA tapes may have violated Kennedy's June 2005 order requiring the government to preserve any evidence related to mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees. The Guantanamo detainees, some held for as long as six years without charges, have challenged their imprisonment and claimed their U.S. captors have tortured and abused them. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 21, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Case Challenges Florida Stand Your Ground Law The first  County case to test Florida's "stand your ground" law ended last year with a manslaughter conviction and 15-year prison sentence for James Behanna.

But Friday, exactly two years after Behanna fatally stabbed 21-year-old Robert Mears Jr., an appellate court granted the Tampa paralegal a new trial.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet "abused his discretion" by refusing to allow jurors to hear evidence that bolstered Behanna's self-defense argument, a 2nd District Court of Appeal panel said.

Behanna, 38, will ask Sleet on Monday to release him from prison as he awaits his next trial, said James Felman, his appellate attorney.

His chances seem good. The 2nd DCA, after finding recently that Behanna had significant grounds for appeal, ordered the circuit court to hold a hearing and grant a reasonable bail.

"We're just very hopeful," said Behanna's wife, attorney Aida Rodriguez.

On Dec. 7, 2005, Mears trespassed onto Rodriguez's law office property on N Florida Avenue, where Behanna worked as a paralegal. During his October 2006 trial, Behanna recalled how Mears screamed and had a "real wild-eyed" look.

Behanna went outside, carrying a small shovel, and asked Mears to leave. Mears, who was intoxicated according to a forensic toxicologist, threw Behanna to the ground.

After more tussling, Mears walked about 150 feet off the property. At trial, prosecutors said Behanna should have gone into the office for safety. Instead, he followed Mears in an attempt to detain him for police.

The crux of the criminal case against Behanna revolved around what happened next. The defendant said Mears grabbed him by the throat and threatened to kill him. But one witness for the prosecution said Mears only pushed Behanna back.

Behanna, known by friends as MacGyver because he carried a pocketknife, pulled out his knife and stabbed Mears twice.

Jurors could have acquitted Behanna under the "stand your ground" law, which allows people to meet force with force when they feel threatened.

But the jury didn't know that Mears had badly beaten his roommate and a woman immediately before heading to the law office. The roommate was described as having been "pulverized."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 10, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

New Bill Proposal to Exempt the Exonerated Prisoners from Paying Income Tax on Compensation

From a bill that would exempt exonerated prisoners from paying federal income taxes on compensation received for a wrongful conviction was introduced by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York. The measure pushes the issue of taxation to the forefront of the debate over how to compensate the wrongly convicted properly for the years they spent behind bars.

“The criminal justice system is not perfect, so at the very least, we ought to do what we can to make amends to the people who were wrongly convicted — a very small number of people who pay a big, big price for those mistakes,” Mr. Schumer said. “The compensation they receive should not be taxed; that’s certainly like throwing salt on a very deep wound.”

The bill, called the Wrongful Convictions Tax Relief Act, would also exempt exonerated prisoners who do not have prior felony convictions from paying income taxes on up to $50,000 earned each year after their release from prison (or up to $75,000 if they file joint tax returns) and provide them with an income tax credit on payroll taxes paid over the same earnings.

More than 200 people nationwide have been exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989, and more than 400 have been cleared by other types of evidence.

To date, 22 states have passed legislation establishing parameters for financial compensation; three of them — California, Massachusetts and Vermont — have provisions exempting exonerated prisoners from paying state taxes on the money they receive.

But federal laws are unclear as to whether compensation for a wrongful conviction should be considered income and taxed, like punitive damages are, or if it should be treated as a personal-injury award, which is not subjected to taxes, an Internal Revenue Service spokesman said.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 9, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Disbarred Defense Attorney Charged With Shoplifting

From A disbarred Dallas criminal defense lawyer has been charged with shoplifting from a Nordstrom’s department store.

Catherine Shelton, 59, is accused of trying to walk out of the store with a designer handbag worth nearly $1,200, two shirts and a candle, the Dallas Morning News reports.

A store manager refused to say whether a $1,195 purse on display by designer Marc Jacobs is the handbag Shelton is accused of stealing.

The newspaper reports that Shelton has had numerous run-ins with the law. She was convicted of aggravated assault for shooting a former boyfriend and for assaulting a former friend, the account says.

Civil suits claimed she was responsible for two different murders, but both suits were dropped and Shelton was never charged, the story says.

Shelton has been disbarred three times, most recently in May, the newspaper reports. Her license was reinstated once because she was not properly notified of an upcoming hearing and another time because paperwork was missing in the court file.

The most recent disbarment was for failing to perform legal work for clients, being late to hearings, and misrepresenting herself as an immigration lawyer, the story says. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 27, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Denver Post on the Crisis in Indian Country

The Denver Post has a multi-part series on the crisis of law enforcement in Indian Country.  Resources constraints and jurisdictional issues means many crimes do not get investigated in a timely fashion.

November 24, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

NY's Oldest Inmate was Granted Parole

From New York's oldest prisoner _ an 89-year-old former heart surgeon convicted of killing his wife more than 30 years ago _ has been granted parole.

Charles Friedgood, serving a 25-years-to-life sentence, was tentatively scheduled for release Dec. 18 after a parole board met with him Tuesday and voted 2-1 to free him.

The Long Island doctor was convicted in 1976 of injecting his wife, Sophie, with a fatal dose of the painkiller Demerol the year before. He was arrested at Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to flee the country with more than $450,000 in cash, securities and valuables from his wife's estate.

Friedgood, who has terminal cancer, had been denied parole five times, most recently last month. But the Division of Parole, in an unusual move, ordered a new hearing, citing a pending court case regarding Friedgood's denial of parole in 2005. The board that paroled him was not the same one that rejected his plea for release in October.

Board members who voted to release him cited his good prison record and support from some family members and the prosecuting attorney. The dissenting board member, Chris Ortloff, said the deadly injection was especially heinous because Friedgood was a doctor sworn to save lives.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 7, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Two Students Charged with Beating and Burning a Man With Baked Goods

From Two students at Southern Illinois University in this St. Louis suburb kidnapped, paddled and burned a young man with freshly baked cookies after a drug deal went bad, prosecutors said.

Madison County prosecutors on Monday charged Rosario James, 23, and Jordan Sallis, 20, each with two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count of robbery and aggravated battery.

Both were jailed Tuesday on $150,000 apiece.

Sheriff's Capt. Brad Wells said that Friday night, three men went to James' house to buy marijuana, but two of them grabbed the drugs and fled, leaving the third behind. The suspects held that man, who is in his late teens, and told him he needed to find $400 for the drugs, Wells said.

The suspects beat the man with a wooden paddle, burned his neck and shoulders with cookies immediately after taking them from the oven, shaved off some of his hair and poured urine over him from a soda bottle, Wells said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 6, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Female Teacher Accused of Running to Mexico with 13 Year-Old Boy in FBI Custody

From A female teacher was in FBI custody Saturday as federal and local prosecutors sought to determine how they would handle charges alleging that she ran away with a 13-year-old boy, taking him across the border into Mexico.

Kelsey Peterson, a 25-year-old sixth-grade math teacher and basketball coach at Lexington Middle School, was turned over to the FBI early Saturday after being arrested the night before in the border city of Mexicali.

The boy, Fernando Rodriguez, was reported in the care of relatives in Mexico, and his family in Nebraska was trying to contact him.

"I need to find out what's next," said the boy's aunt, Laura Rodriguez, who said she still had not talked to him about seven hours after learning he had been recovered.

Peterson and Fernando were apprehended by Mexican authorities without incident. Her car had been spotted crossing into Mexico on Tuesday.

"I'm really relieved, especially that the individuals are well and unharmed," Dawson County Attorney Elizabeth Waterman said.    Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 4, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

US Attorney Found Not Guilty in Obstruction Case

From A federal jury has found Assistant U.S. attorney Richard Convertino has been found not guilty on all counts of obstruction of justice.

Also acquitted in U.S. District Court in Detroit was former U.S. Embassy security agent Ray Smith.

Both were accused of concealing evidence during a 2003 terrorism trial. They were accused of hiding photographs in a federal case against four north African men accused of being members of a Detroit terrorism sleeper cell.

Three men were convicted in the trial, but the verdicts were overturned when the U.S. Attorney’s Office said there was prosecutorial misconduct.

Smith was accused of lying about taking photos. Convertino was accused of leading him through false testimony and of hiding photos that another agent took at Smith’s request.

During an emotional closing to the four-week trial, William Sullivan, the attorney for Convertino, pointed out that the terror suspects weren’t retried and said that the government had substituted Convertino and Smith for them. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 1, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Malaysian Man Kidnaps Woman Who Turns Down Proposal

From A 60-year-old farmer was so determined to marry a 28-year-old estate worker in Malaysia he kidnapped her when she turned down his proposal, police said Monday.

The farmer forced the woman into his car while she was walking home from work in eastern Terengganu state, said K. Manoharan, deputy head of the state's criminal investigations department.

''The family had initially agreed (to the marriage), but she did not want to go ahead with it. That angered him,'' K. Manoharan told The Associated Press.

But a friend of the woman witnessed her abduction Thursday and told police, who contacted the man's family to persuade him to free her. Several hours later, the woman was released unharmed and the farmer surrendered to police, K. Manoharan said.

''He changed his mind when he knew police were looking for him,'' he said.

He said the man had been freed from police custody but was still under investigation. He declined to identify the reluctant couple. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 22, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Man Convicted of Bank Robbery After Jurors Find Hold Up Note

A  man was convicted of trying to rob a west Georgia bank after a jury discovered the impression of a holdup note that the prosecution was unaware of.  Darius K. Heard, 29, of Fayetteville, was sentenced Thursday to 16 years in prison for attempted robbery, fleeing officers and reckless driving. A co-defendant, Reamon D. Mapp, 25, of Austell, was sentenced to 10 years after pleading guilty to attempted robbery, fleeing officers and possession of cocaine. Heard was convicted of an April 11 robbery attempt at the RBC Centura bank in Hogansville after jurors at his trial found the outline of a holdup note pressed into the blank pages of a notebook that was seized from the car in which he and Mapp were arrested.  Story....

October 16, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mother Charged for Buying her 14 year old Son Weapons

From The mother of a 14-year-old who authorities say had a cache of guns, knives and explosive devices in his bedroom for a possible school attack was charged Friday with buying her son three weapons.

Michele Cossey, 46, bought her home-schooled son, Dillon, a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle and a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle, authorities said.

The teenager felt bullied and tried to recruit another boy for a possible attack at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, authorities said. His mother was not accused of helping plot an attack, "but by virtue of her indulgence, she enabled him to get in this position," Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said.

"This is not the best parenting I've ever seen and she needs to be held accountable," Castor said.

Acting on a tip from a high school student and his father, police on Wednesday found the rifle, about 30 air-powered guns, swords, knives, a bomb-making book, videos of the 1999 Columbine attack in Colorado and violence-filled notebooks in the boy's bedroom, Castor said.

The mother bought the rifle, which had a laser scope, at a gun show on Sept. 23 and provided police with a receipt, investigators said in court papers. The teenager said the two .22-caliber weapons were stored at a friend's house.

She was charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of reckless endangerment, and later released on bail. She did not comment at the hearing. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 13, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud

From Oscar S. Wyatt, the prominent Texas oil man who in 1990 negotiated the release of American oil workers in Iraq, pleaded guilty Monday to paying millions of dollars in bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime in exchange for discounted oil.

Nearing the end of his trial, Wyatt, 83, entered a guilty plea before a federal judge in Manhattan to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in subverting a U.N.-administered humanitarian aid program in Iraq. He is the sixth person to plead guilty in an ongoing federal investigation that has recovered more than $16.5 million in illicit proceeds, which will be returned to Iraq. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 1, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Youngest US Attorney is Now the Subject to Investgation

From the nation's youngest U.S. attorney Rachel K. Pauloseis the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel into allegations that she mishandled classified information, retaliated against those who crossed her, and made racist remarks about a support staff employee, said multiple sources in Minnesota and Washington, who declined to be identified because the probe is still under way.

In addition, an internal Justice Department audit completed last month said her employees gave her very low marks, alleging that she treats subordinates harshly and lacks the requisite experience for the job, said several sources familiar with the audit. Her performance review was so poor that Kenneth E. Melson, head of the department's Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, took the unusual step of meeting with her in Minnesota several weeks ago, two sources said.

The Justice Department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility are also examining the Minnesota office as part of a broader investigation into personnel issues at Justice, although that inquiry does not specifically deal with Paulose's performance, sources said.

The case provides a key example of the unresolved challenges that will face former federal judge Michael B. Mukasey if he is confirmed to succeed Alberto R. Gonzales, who resigned as attorney general this month. Temporary appointees fill a quarter of the U.S. attorney offices and most of the department's senior jobs in Washington, while internal and congressional investigations into the problems at Justice are likely to continue well into next year. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 23, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

FBI Calls For Bank Dress Code Legislation

From FBI agent Larry Carr is working on legislation that stops banks from doing business with customers wearing a cap or hooded sweatshirt. Since most bank security cameras are above the customer counter, the video often can't capture the robber's face under the brim of a cap.

Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 20, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bill Lerach Expected to Plead Guilty to Conspiracy

From Bill Lerach, perhaps the nation's most influential class-action lawyer, is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy charge. He faces a year or more in prison. Lerach allegedly took part in a scheme that involved illegal payoffs to clients. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 19, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CrimProf McMurtie and Innocence Project Northwest Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Mcmurtrie Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a special screening of "The Trials of Darryl Hunt", with Darryl Hunt, and his attorneys Mark Rabil and Ben Dowling-Sendor, in attendance to discuss Darryl’s 19-year struggle for freedom.

Since 1997, the IPNW has represented prisoners in Washington with credible claims of actual innocence. Originally a volunteer organization, the IPNW is now a clinical law program at the University of Washington School of Law. The IPNW students, professors and volunteer lawyers have successfully challenged twelve convictions in just ten years.

Most recently, the IPNW Clinic won the first reversal of a conviction in Washington based on newly discovered DNA evidence. The Washington Court of Appeals granted Ted Bradford a new trial and reversed his 1996 rape and burglary convictions on the basis of post-conviction DNA evidence. The IPNW was previously involved in overturning convictions in the Wenatchee sex-ring investigations. Forty-three people were charged with more than 29,000 counts of sexual abuse involving some 50 children. Many of the accused were poor, uneducated or developmentally disabled. [Mark Godsey]

September 18, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pretty in Pink Tasers for Sale

From Pink is traditionally a frilly, rather girlish color. But there is a new pink in town, and it has an edge.

Thanks to Scottsdale-based Taser International, ladies can pack some pink heat. The C2, the newest consumer model of the much-talked-about stun gun used by numerous law-enforcement agencies in the U.S., now comes in the girliest of colors, as well as three other less feminine choices.

Regardless of color, it'll still zap an attacker with 50,000 volts. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 17, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)