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Archive for the ‘Legal News’ Category

22 Rikers Island Prisoners Sickened By Rat Poison in Meatloaf, Lawyer Says

Courtesy of: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/22-rikers-island-prisoners-sickened-rat-poison-meatloaf/story?id=30676137

rikers islandTwenty-two Rikers Island inmates in New York City say they ate meatloaf tainted with rat poison, according to their lawyer, who has filed suit against the city, the Department of Corrections and several others.

Several inmates at the Ann M. Kross Center, a housing facility on Rikers Island, were on lockdown on March 3 when they were served meatloaf that they said had a blue-green substance in it, according to the complaint filed by attorney Joann Squillace told ABC News on the inmates’ behalf.

Soon, they said they began to feel sick, having headaches like nausea, headaches, bloodydiarrhea and bloody vomit, but they did not get the medical attention they needed, and their requests to have their blood and urine tested for poison went unanswered, according to the complaint.

“Whether it was intentional or negligence, either way, no there’s no justification for it and the Department of Corrections has to be held accountable,” Squillace told ABC News.

She said one of her clients continues to throw up blood even though this happened nearly two months ago.

She said a department employee oversees the kitchen and is aided by two elected inmates from the housing facility who were not allowed to do their kitchen duties the day of the alleged poisoning.

One of the inmate saved a piece of the meatloaf, which Squillace said she sent off to a New Jersey lab called EMSL Analytical Inc. for testing. It came back positive for brodifacoum, or rat poison, according to the report she provided to ABC News.

Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the New York City Law Department, said Squillace hasn’t submitted her lab results to the city.

“The bottom line here is we don’t know all the facts, and we can’t jump to conclusions,” he said. “It’s an ongoing investigation and we’ll know more as we proceed in the case.”

In a response memorandum, the city said the inmates would “not suffer irreparable harm” because the medical staff treated them when the alleged poisoning occurred and determined they did not show “signs of adverse medical effects of a toxic ingestion.”

They went on to say there were no further incidents, and that in the days following the alleged incident, the kitchen was inspected and no rat poison was found in unsecured areas.

Gov. Nathan Deal to sign medical marijuana bill

Courtesy of: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/gov-nathan-deal-sign-medical-marijuana-bill/nkwRC/

Medical-Cannabis1ATLANTA —

With a stroke of a pen, Governor Nathan Deal will make medical marijuana legal in Georgia.

Deal is set to sign the bill into law at 11 a.m. that will make the use of cannabis oil legal for eight medical conditions. State health officials say doctors will have to sign off and submit required forms.

The two year battle among lawmakers, medical marijuana supporters and health officials ended with the passage of Haleigh’s Hope Act.

Approved Georgia patients will be allowed to possess 20 ounces of the low THC oil at any given time.  THC is the chemical in marijuana that causes a high.

The Department of Public Health will be working with law enforcement to make sure the system is secure and that officers know what to look for when they come across a patient possessing the oil.

They say they have no idea how many patients to expect, but as many as 500,000 could qualify.

Man only gets $9,172 for jail time from cocaine/soap confusion

Courtesy of: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2015/03/25/Man-gets-9172-for-jail-time-from-cocaine-soap-confusion/1161427132524/?spt=sec&or=on

soapMADRID, March 23 (UPI) — A French businessman who spent two months in a Spanish prison before authorities discovered his shipment of “cocaine” was actually soap was awarded $9,172.

Jacques Benoit Fiocconi, a cosmetics entrepreneur from Corsica, was arrested in Catalonia, Spain, in November 2012 while driving a van loaded with soap. He was with his father, Laurent Fiocconi, a former drug trafficker with ties to infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

The 2,850 bars of soap had been purchased from a factory in Figueres, Spain, but a field test performed by a Spanish Civil Guard patrol tested positive for cocaine.

A December 14 report by the Spanish National Institute of Toxicology determined there was no cocaine in the soap shipment, but it was seven more weeks before a court accepted the report and freed Jacques Benoit Fiocconi.

Laurent Fiocconi remained in custody as part of a probe into alleged drug trafficking linked to French and Spanish criminal gangs.

Jacques Fiocconi sought $90,643.00 from the Ministry of Justice  to cover financial losses and moral damages from his two months in jail, but the ministry ended up paying him only $9,172. The ministry said it paid a “standard rate” of $131 per day he spent behind bars

Utah to allow firing squads for executions

Courtesy of: http://www.wxii12.com/national/utah-to-allow-firing-squads-for-executions/31973982


Lethal injection remains the primary method for carrying out executions in the state, Gov. Gary R. Herbert said in a statement. A firing squad would only be used in the event the necessary drugs cannot be obtained.

“Those who voiced opposition to this bill are primarily arguing against capital punishment in general and that decision has already been made in our state,” said Marty Carpenter, a spokesman for Herbert.

“We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued. However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch,” he said.

Utah banned death by firing squad in 2004, though inmates who chose that option before the law changed still ended up being shot to death.

The last execution by firing squad was in 2010, and it was also the most recent execution in Utah.

A Utah firing squad also executed Gary Gilmore in 1977, the first death by capital punishment after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty the prior year.

9-year-old boy arrested after allegedly stealing gum

Courtesy of: http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/13/justice/boy-arrested-gum-theft/index.html


(CNN)Police in Idaho arrested a 9-year-old boy who failed to appear in court. His crime, they say? Stealing a pack of gum.

The petty theft actually took place over the summer, but a Post Falls officer made the arrest last week, Police Chief Scott Haug said.

“A local judge issued an arrest warrant for a 9-year-old for failure to appear in court,” he told CNN. “Our officer located the child sometime last week, transported the child to the detention facility. The child was not handcuffed and was treated very well.”

Even so, the police chief called the arrest warrant for the child “odd” and said “it is a most unusual circumstance.”

jailThe arrest warrant was issued after the boy missed two court appearances, Haug said. The chief said he thinks the court appearances were missed because the boy’s mother was having difficulty finding transportation.

“If we had known that, we could have helped sooner with transportation,” he said.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said he now regrets what happened to the boy.

“After reviewing the file today, I have concluded that my office’s request to have an arrest warrant issued was a mistake under the circumstances,”McHugh told USA Today on Monday. ”

McHugh said the boy did not go to jail and was released Friday — the same day he was arrested.

“I regret this having taken place and will do everything in my power to avoid this type of mistake in the future.”

Haug said he was not sure whether the mother will face any charges.

Judge: Sex assault suspect allowed to blame twin

Courtesy of: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/16/colo-sex-assault-twin/3615975/


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A judge says an Army artillery officer linked by DNA to a string of sexual assaults on young girls will be allowed to blame his twin brother at trial for attacks in two states.

District Judge David Shakes ruled Friday it would be “inappropriate” to bar 1st Lt. Aaron Lucas’ attorneys from presenting his identical twin as an alternate suspect given the siblings’ shared DNA, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette (http://bit.ly/1agdX2C).

“Whether it’s persuasive or not — that’s not my role,” the judge said. “It’s the role of the jury.”

In criminal prosecutions, DNA is widely considered a smoking gun, but only in the absence of an identical twin.

Karen Steinhauser, a criminal defense attorney and adjunct law professor at the University of Denver, told The Associated Press such an argument is rare.

“I have never seen it, ever,” she said. “The only time I have seen it was on ‘Law and Order: SVU,'” the television show.

Steinhauser is not involved in the case.

In an Oct. 22 court filing, Lucas’ attorneys said investigators picked the wrong sibling after discovering a DNA link to an unsolved attack on a young girl in Madison, Ala., in 2007, and another in Texarkana, Texas, in 2009.

The Fort Carson, Colo., officer has denied luring or trying to lure 11 girls into his vehicle in Colorado between 2009 and 2012. His attorneys have said the Alabama and Texas cases involve his twin brother, Brian Frederick Lucas, who the defense says has lived in both states.

Brian Lucas, who has not been charged in any of the cases, could not be reached for comment Saturday but investigators have said he has denied involvement in the alleged crimes.

Aaron Lucas’ attorneys say an unidentified third man is responsible for the Colorado assaults.

Investigators say that a DNA test linked Aaron Lucas to the abduction of an 8-year-old girl in Colorado Springs and that he also matched biological material recovered in the Alabama and Texas cases. The Colorado judge has ruled that the out-of-state evidence will be allowed at trial.

Lucas is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 26. His attorneys did not return a message left by The Associated Press on Saturday.


Why Your Cell Phone’s Location Isn’t Protected by the Fourth Amendment

Courtesy of: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/08/why-your-cell-phones-location-isnt-protected-by-the-fourth-amendment.html

People busy with their smartphones in New York city

In a major decision last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the location of your cell phone when you place a call is not protected by the Fourth Amendment, which guards against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Whenever you make a cell-phone call, your phone provider knows where you are—it needs that information in order to find your device and complete the call. Phone companies generally keep records of users’ locations when calls are connected and disconnected. These logs, which store data about which cellular sites phones connect to, are known as historical cell-site records. Since most people keep their cell phones with them, a record of a phone’s location generally provides a good lead on its owner’s location as well. If the Feds want to know where you were last Tuesday at 9 P.M., for example, they can get a pretty good idea by finding out where your phone was.

The important legal question is how much protection these records receive when the government wants to make providers turn them over. In other words, what kind of evidence should the government be required to present in order to get your location records from a cell-phone company?

Legal protections generally come in two forms: statutory protections enacted by Congress and constitutional protections recognized by the courts. Congress has protected historical cell-site records with an intermediate threshold sometimes called reasonable suspicion. That’s the same standard it must meet to justify stopping and frisking someone for suspicious activity. Under Congress’s law, the government generally needs to go to a federal judge with reasonable grounds for suspecting that the records reveal a crime in order to access them.

If the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures protected cell-site records, the government would be required to satisfy a higher legal standard known as probable cause in order to obtain the records—the level of certainty required to arrest someone or to search their home for evidence. And unlike privacy protections enacted by Congress, constitutional protections can’t be taken away by a future legislature.

But in the new decision, the Fifth Circuit held that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to historical cell-site information; statutory protections are their only shield. If you want more privacy, the court suggested, your best options are to call your Congressman or to ask your phone company to enact a new policy to delete or anonymize its records.

The heart of the court’s reasoning is that there’s a difference between communicating with the phone company to set up a call and communicating through the company during the conversation that follows. When you’re actually talking on the phone, the content of the call belongs to you and the person you’re talking to—and the phone company can’t listen in. If the government wants to tap the line, the Fourth Amendment applies and the government needs a warrant.

But when you place a call, you need the phone company to route and direct the call over its network, and to do that, your cell phone needs to communicate with the phone company and disclose its location. That, the court reasoned, is communication between you and the company. And the record of whatever information your phone sent to the company belongs to the company, not to you. If it wants to keep that record for business purposes, it can. And if the government wants that record from the phone company, that’s an issue between the two of them—not an issue between the phone company and you.

The appeals court’s reasoning follows the 1979 Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Maryland, which found no Fourth Amendment protection in the numbers dialed to place a call. According to that case, when you dial a phone, you’re communicating to the phone company just like people communicated with a human operator before phones had dials. The court ruled that while new technology had automated the process, it made no substantive difference.

As a matter of precedent, the appeals court’s decision accurately follows Smith v. Maryland. Lower courts are obliged to follow Supreme Court decisions, and the analogy between dialing numbers and sending cell-phone locations is pretty close.

There’s also a subtle wisdom behind the reasoning of Smith and the Fifth Circuit decision. In a world before communications networks, the Fourth Amendment protected the inside of your home, but it didn’t apply outside. If you wanted to meet with someone in person, you had to go outside, where the police could watch you and learn your movements.

Now, consider the role of the telephone network. Phones let your fingers do the walking: thanks to the network, you don’t have to travel outside to speak to a friend who is miles away. But your location information, told to the phone company, is the network equivalent of the kind of information that used to be exposed to the public—including the police—when you traveled in person to meet.

To maintain the traditional balance of Fourth Amendment protection across new technologies, it makes sense for the Fourth Amendment to protect the contents of calls but not the phone company records about where and when the call occurred. The contents are like a conversation in a home, and should remain protected; the records are like the outside travel, and should remain unprotected.

Others argue that the Fourth Amendment should apply more broadly to keep the government at bay. Some look to the concurring opinions in the 2012 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones, which applied the Fourth Amendment to G.P.S. surveillance. In that case, the police suspected Antoine Jones, a nightclub owner in Washington, D.C., of drug trafficking. The police wanted to track his movements to show his involvement in the crime, so they attached a G.P.S. tracking device to the bottom of a car he drove, and monitored it for twenty-eight days. The court ruled that installing the physical device “searched” the car under the Fourth Amendment. Five Justices added separate views that the twenty-eight days of monitoring was a search, even if no physical installation occurred.

If tracking the location of a car over time is regulated by the Fourth Amendment, as five Justices suggested in Jones, why shouldn’t tracking the location of calls receive the same treatment? That argument will receive a serious hearing in other cases now pending in the federal courts. If other courts agree with the latter view, the Supreme Court will likely agree to step in and resolve the lower courts’ disagreement. But don’t expect it to review the Fifth Circuit’s decision: because of the strange way the Fifth Circuit case arose, it can’t.

In most Fourth Amendment cases, there are two sides: the searchers and the searched. Normally, if the government wins in a lower court, the individual can ask a higher court to review that ruling. But in this case, the Feds applied for several orders seeking records under Congress’s privacy statute, and the first judge refused to issue the orders on Fourth Amendment grounds. The government appealed the denial, and the Fifth Circuit ruled for the government. But because the orders have not yet been issued, the government is the only party to the dispute; no records have been collected yet, and we don’t even know who the suspect is. Now that the government has won, no one can appeal. (I filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the court couldn’t rule on the constitutional issue because of this strange procedure, but the court disagreed.)

The decision is a win for the government and police powers, with the caveat that other cases are pending and may reach a different outcome. And if they disagree, it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide.

FBI rescues over 100 child sex trafficking victims

Courtesy of: http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/fbi-rescues-over-100-child-sex-trafficking-victims


Weekend crackdown on child sex trafficking recovers 100 missing and exploited children and results in 150 arrests of pimps and madams.

WASHINGTON — The FBI declared that child prostitution is a “persistent threat” in the U.S. as the agency announced that authorities had rescued 105 young people and arrested 150 alleged pimps in a three-day sweep in 76 cities.

The agency said it had been monitoring Backpage.com and other websites as a prominent online marketplace for sex for sale. Backpage.com said that it was “very, very pleased” by the raids and that if the website were shut down to the advertisements, the ads would be pushed to sites that wouldn’t cooperate with law enforcement.

The young people in the roundup, almost all of them girls, ranged in age from 13 to 17.

The largest numbers of children rescued in the weekend initiative, Operation Cross Country, were in the San Francisco Bay and Detroit areas, along with Milwaukee, Denver and New Orleans. The operation was conducted under the FBI’s decadelong Innocence Lost initiative. The latest rescues and arrests were the largest such enforcement action to date.

“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across the country,” Ron Hosko, assistant director of the bureau’s criminal investigative division, told a news conference. “We’re trying to put this spotlight on pimps and those who would exploit.”

In Operation Cross Country, federal, state and local authorities cooperated in an intelligence effort aimed at identifying pimps and their young victims.

The FBI said the campaign has resulted in rescuing 2,700 children since 2003. The investigations and convictions of 1,350 individuals have led to life imprisonment for 10 pimps.

In their efforts to identify child victims, investigators seek help wherever they can find it — in some cases from adult prostitutes, Hosko said. He said almost all the victims in sweeps like the one over the weekend are girls and that the profiles of the victims cut across racial lines.

Social media are a common denominator in many of the rescues.

Last year, five members of the Underground Gangster Crips contacted teens at school or through Facebook, DateHookUp.com or other online social networking sites, enticing the girls to use their looks to earn money through prostitution.

As for websites, Liz McDougall, the general counsel for Backpage.com, said that if that site were shut down to the advertisements in question, the information that can lead to the rescues would be lost to law enforcement because the ads would be pushed to “offshore uncooperative websites.”

“We feel very strongly that we’re doing the right thing, and we’re going to continue to do the right thing and we congratulate the FBI and everybody with the task forces involved in the program,” said McDougall.

Hosko said the plight of the young people often goes unreported to authorities because the children in many instances are alienated from their families and are no longer in touch.

Pimps operate wherever vulnerable potential victims can be found. Some are being recruited right out of foster care facilities, Hosko said.

For the past decade, the FBI has been attacking the problem in partnership with a private group, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

John Ryan, the head of the center, called the problem “an escalating threat against America’s children.”

The Justice Department has estimated that nearly 450,000 children run away from home each year and that one-third of teens living on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

Congress has introduced legislation that would require state law enforcement, foster care and child welfare programs to identify children lured into sex trafficking as victims of abuse and neglect eligible for protections and services.

Will Supreme Court spare disabled inmate from execution?

Courtesy of: http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/will-supreme-court-spare-disabled-inmate-from-execution


The case of Warren Hill, a Georgia death row inmate, puts a spotlight on the state’s law about the death penalty for the mentally disabled.

The execution of a mentally disabled Georgia inmate that was twice before halted at the 11th hour is once again moving forward, unless the nation’s top court intervenes.

Warren Hill, 53, and with an IQ of 70, is scheduled to die July 15 for the 1990 murder of his then 18-year-old girlfriend. He was serving a life sentence for her murder when he killed another inmate who was allegedly harassing him in a South Georgia prison.

Richard Dieter, who heads the Death Penalty Information Center, said the matter will now depend on whether the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments that Hill’s intellectual disability should keep him from the death chamber. In 2002, the court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia banned the execution of mentally disabled people as “cruel and unusual punishment” violating the Eighth Amendment.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has said that executing people with mental retardation is cruel and unusual outside our standards (of decency) and cannot be done,” Dieter said. “But they did not define exactly what mental retardation was, and they didn’t say how you would determine that someone has mental retardation.”

Hill’s lawyers are expected to ask the Supreme Court to delay his execution while they decide whether to hear his case, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jim Ellis, a University of New Mexico law professor who is following the case, noted that Hill’s IQ puts him at the bottom 2 percent of the population.

Human rights activists have used Hill’s case as a rallying cry against Georgia’s uniquely severe capital punishment laws. While all states disallow executions of individuals with mental disabilities, only Georgia requires that a disability be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” — a standard that critics say is nearly impossible to reach.

All three experts who evaluated Hill in 2000 have now conceded that they erred in their judgments that Hill was not intellectually disabled. In a joint statement, the doctors now agree that their original assessments were “extremely and unusually rushed” and that clinical science would lead them to conclude Hill is mentally disabled.

Hill has been caught in a legal limbo that critics have described as torturous. In February, he already had a sedative in his system when the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta intervened 30 minutes before his scheduled execution. That court later ruled that Hill’s claims of intellectual disability had already been considered. In July 2012 he was granted a stay of execution just 90 minutes before his lethal injection was to be administered.

Complicating matters, Georgia’s Department of Corrections has said that it is out of lethal injection drugs, the last of its stores expiring in March.

As for Hill’s understanding of how close he is to dying, a lawyer representing him in Atlanta said the twice-convicted killer has only a rudimentary grasp on things.

“He kind of gets the gist of what’s going on,” Brian Kammer said. “He only understands in broad terms that we’re going to court. He grasps that he is being taken to the wire on execution and only through intervention of the courts can he hope to survive.”

Fake drug checkpoints: OK for cops to lie to motorists?

Courtesy of: http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/fake-drug-checkpoints-ok-for-cops-to-lie-to-motorists

Drug Checkpoint

Police in one Ohio town are defending their use of fake drug checkpoints as a legal and useful tactic to catch would-be drug violators. But civil libertarians aren’t so sure.

The ACLU of Ohio wants to make sure officers aren’t profiling motorists or violating their Fourth Amendment right against unlawful searches and seizures.

“We’re obviously gathering information and most of that deals with the specifics of stops and how that happened,” Nick Worner, a spokesman for the ACLU of Ohio, told MSN News on Tuesday.

“I think the question beyond whether they can conduct fake drug checkpoints is whether they should. There’s at least a certain segment of the population that thinks it’s dishonest.”

On June 24, police in Mayfield Heights, a city of about 19,000 east of Cleveland, put up signs along the northbound I-271 express lanes that warned: “Drug Checkpoint Ahead,” “Police K9 Dog In Use” and “Prepare to Stop,” according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Officers then watched how motorists reacted after seeing the signs. Those who reacted “suspiciously” — crossing through the grassy median, for example — were pulled over, according to the Plain Dealer.

Dominic Vitantonio, a Mayfield Heights assistant prosecutor, said four motorists were stopped and searched. He said there were arrests and drugs seized but didn’t provide details.


The Supreme Court, which upheld the use of sobriety checkpoints in 1990 as public health and safety measures, in 2000 struck down the use of random roadblocks intended for drug searches, saying they are an unreasonable invasion of privacy under the Constitution. But the use of fake drug checkpoints is perfectly legal, experts told The Plain Dealer.

Ric Simmons, a law professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, was quoted by the newspaper as saying police are legally allowed to deceive people.

“They can lie to anybody,” Simmons said.

Vitantonio said fake checkpoints are a legitimate tactic to catch drug criminals.

“We should be applauded for doing this,” Vitantonio told the Plain Dealer. “It’s a good thing.”

John Bowman, of the National Motorists Association, said he doesn’t like the tactic, even if it is legal.

“I think it is kind of shady to do something like that, to trick people,” he told MSN News.

Worner of the ACLU agreed the tactic raises more than legal questions.

“Is this what the community wants the police to be doing?” he asked.