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July 2013 Archives

Sex Offenses: Male Prostitute Operating at Wal-Mart Gets Plea Deal

It turns out that you really can get anything money can buy at Wal-Mart, even a male prostitute. In a recent blog post, I explained that America's Wal-Marts have a higher crime rate per square yard than even places like Allison Hill, North Philly or Camden. This is because Wal-Mart sees so many retail thefts, bad checks, ftheft by deception, fraudulent credit card transactions and the like. Yet, I have to admit, even I, as a jaded veteran of the criminal justice system, was a bit surprised to learn that male prostitute was operating out of the Wal-Mart in Queensbury, New York. Foster-Bills.jpg

Burglaries are Common in Penn State Dorms

Many things have changed since I lived in the Penn State dorms in the early 1990s, but unfortunately, one thing that has not changed is the high number of dorm room burglaries on the Penn State campus. Dorm burglaries are common, because so many students carelessly leave their doors unlocked when they go to the study lounge or take a shower. The burglars are often other students, who lurk around, waiting for a time when both roommates are out of the room and have left the door unblocked. With dorm rooms being so small, it generally only takes a few seconds to locate and grab valuables. hartranft01.jpg

Can Marijuana Possession for Personal Use Lead to Jail Time in Pennsylvania?

As a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania, where marijuana use is ubiquitous among Penn State students, I am frequently asked whether people actually get jail time for merely possessing marijuana for personal use. The simple answer is yes, it happens all the time throughout Pennsylvania, but not nearly as much as did in less enlightened times. That being said, this question requires a more thorough explanation. Marijuana.Handcuffs.jpg

Sex Offenses: The Strange Tale of How Pennsylvania Legalized Bestiality

There have been no shortage of utterly absurd laws in the United States criminalizing sexual activity between consenting adults, and Pennsylvania is no exception. Pennsylvania once had an offense known as "voluntary deviate sexual intercourse," with "deviate sexual intercourse" being defined as oral or anal sex. This was distinguished from "involuntary deviate sexual intercourse," which entails oral or anal sex without a victim's consent, or in situations where a person under age 16 factually consents, but is too young to legally consent to any form of sex with someone more than four years older. Thumbnail image for Gene.Wilder.Schaf.jpg

Self-Defense: What is Pennsylvania's "Stand -Your-Ground" Law

In August 2011, Pennsylvania amended the "Use of Force in Self Protection" statute located at section 505 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code to include a watered down version of the "stand your ground" law. The major difference between the new stand-your-ground provisions and the old self-defense law centers around the duty to retreat before employing deadly force, when an actor is outside of his home or place of employment. The stand-your-ground law eliminates the duty to retreat, but only under limited circumstances. Thug.with.knife.jpg

Collateral Consequences: Felony and Misdemeanor Convictions Last Forever

One of the most common questions I get as a criminal defense attorney is how long a misdemeanor or felony conviction will stay on a person's record. This is of particular concern to my client base, because I practice criminal law in State College, Pennsylvania, and most of my clients are Penn State students, who want a clean record when they start looking for a job upon graduation. The simple answer is that like diamonds, misdemeanor and felony convictions last forever. Having a criminal record is the biggest collateral consequence to a criminal conviction, and it can haunt you for the rest of your life. police-criminal-record-with-man-silhouette--illustration.jpg

Pennsylvania Aggravated Harassment Law Should be Expanded Following Wal-Mart Semen Throwing Incident


People are often surprised when I tell them that there is more crime per square foot at America's Wal-Marts than in the worst inner-city ghettos. Of course, the reason for the high crime rate at Wal-Mart is due to retail thefts, credit card/ access device fraud, bad checks, forgery and theft by deception in the form of fraudulent returns. While these are the usual crimes one would expect at a mega-retailer, one does not expect to encounter a semen-throwing mad man! frankshort.jpg

Terroristic Threats Charges for Teenage Video Game Banter

Justin Carter, a 19 year old from Texas, has been locked up in pretrial detention in Texas since March of this year for an insensitive comment he made on FaceBook in an exchange with another player of the online game "League of Legends." In an argument with a FaceBook friend about the game, Carter responded to an accusation that Carter was "messed up in the head," by writing "I think I'ma shoot up a kindergarten. And watch the blood of the innocent rain down. And eat the beating heart of one of them." The fact that Carter followed up his post with "jk and lol," was not enough to prevent a Canadian woman from being so alarmed that she notified authorities. Carter was eventually charged with terroristic threats, with bail set at $500,000, an amount so high that the judge obviously wanted to assure that Carter would never be able to make bail. Free-justin-carter.jpg

Pennsylvania Man Commits Robbery while Impersonating Cop

In my many years of practicing criminal law in Pennsylvania, I have seen my share of unusual robberies, but never one quite like the case of Alex McGarvey, who stands accused of committing a robbery while impersonating a police officer. Harrisburg Police allege that the 28 year old Mechanicsburg man confronted a 67 year old man, who had fallen asleep in his car. McGarvey told the victim that he was a cop, and that the victim was under arrest. McGarvey then proceeded to run away with the man's wallet, and later used the victim's credit cards. To add insult to injury, McGarvey called the senior citizen victim "stupid," as he ran away. Alex.McGarvey.jpg

Former Penn State LB Charged with "Prohibited Offensive Weapon"

Former Penn State All-American linebacker Dan Connor of the New York Giants was arrested on July 6, 2013, at Philadelphia International Airport and charged with the offense of "Prohibited Offensive Weapon," pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 908. Connor, the all time leading tackler in Penn State football's storied history, is accused of having a switchblade, which was discovered by TSA in a x-ray machine. Prohibited Offensive Weapon is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 2.5 to five years incarceration and $10,000 fine, but most first time offenders can expect a sentence of probation, or they may even be accepted into a first time offenders program such as ARD, which allows defendants to avoid a criminal conviction. dan-connor.jpg

Summary Offenses: Confederate Solider Arrested for Public Drunkenness and Disorderly Conduct


A Civil War re-enactor from Georgia recently did his part to accurately portray a drunken, marauding Confederate soldier during the Gettysburg Campaign. Justin Colbert was arrested on June 28, 2013, at an encampment of re-enactors, set to participate in festivities surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, after the drunken "Butternut" repeatedly entered other soldiers' tents, trying to start fights. It took seven other re-enactors to hold him down before police could arrive to administer a dose of Yankee justice. Colbert was charged with the summary offenses of disorderly conduct and public drunkenness. Git.r.wasted.confederate.flag.shirt.jpg

Sex Offender's Parole Violation Smacks of Poetic Justice

A man convicted of sexually violating two different drunk women while they were passed out, now finds himself back behind bars after passing out in public after a night of drinking. Rarely does a run of the mill probation or parole violation contain as much poetic justice as that found in the Centre County, Pennsylvania case of Joshua Bathgate. In two separate cases, the Bellefonte man stood accused of sexually btaking advantage of unconscious women. Within a month of his release from the Centre County Correctional Facility, Bathgate himself drank to the point where he passed out, and of all places, fell asleep on a bench on the corner of Allen Street and College Avenue, which is Penn State's version of Times Square. Josh.Bathgate.jpg