All public defenders worth their salt are verbally assaulted by judges from time to time, but a Brevard County, Florida judge took things to another level when he physically attacked a public defender in the hallway, after the two verbally sparred in the courtroom. When Public Defender Andrew Weinstock refused to waive his client's constitutional right to a speedy trial, Judge John Murphy became enraged, stating "if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down." When Weinstock pointed out that he had a right to be present and represent his client, Judge Murphy said "if you want to fight, let's just go out back and I'll beat your ass." Ironically, Attorney Weinstock was representing a defendant charged with two counts of assault when Judge Murphy made this threat.
If a marijuana dispensary or brothel opened up anywhere in Pennsylvania, complete with a tacky neon sign, the place would be shut down within hours, and the owners and employees would all face criminal charges. Yet for some reason, law enforcement looks the other way when it comes to the criminal bullshit-artists known as psychics, astrologers and fortunetellers. Fortunetelling, which is defined under Pennsylvania law as engaging in the likes of astrology, soothsaying or predicting the future for compensation, is a third degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine. Psychics and astrologers who con people out of substantial amounts of money could face more serious theft by deception charges, which could even be graded as a felony, if the gullible victim is bilked out of more than $2,000.
Two "amateur" drug dealers with ambitious aspirations of controlling all the marijuana sales on the Mainline were quickly busted, along with young associates who were selling high-quality California-grown cannabis, cocaine, hash oil and Molly at wealthy high schools and colleges in the affluent region west of Philadelphia known as the Mainline. Neil Scott was the 25 year old senior partner in the venture, while 18 year old Timothy Brooks allegedly served as his right-hand man and protégée. The pair had both attended the elite $35,000 a year Haverford School before washing out of college. They dubbed their plan to dominate marijuana sales in the "The Mainline Takeover Project."
A Pennsylvania teen who broke into a woman's home by kicking in her front door will be charged only with criminal mischief, and more importantly, he is still alive. Earlier this week, 19 year old Cory R. Gootee of York County left a friend's house to smoke a cigarette. He was so intoxicated that he ended up trying to enter the wrong house. When he discovered the door was locked, he decided to kick it in, which would have been inappropriate even if it were his friend's house, but much worse when it is the home of an unsuspecting neighbor. A 31 year old woman was waiting at the door with her hand gun drawn when Gootee burst through her doorway. She commanded him to not come any closer, and called 911 to report a burglary in progress. Gootee retreated to his friend's front porch, where police found him. Gootee explained to the police that he was simply confused due to his intoxication, and the police found his story to be credible. Although he could have been charged with a second degree felony charge of criminal trespass, the victim asked police to charge Gootee only with the summary offense of criminal mischief, which entails destroying or damaging another person's property without permission.
Search warrants often lead to charges against not just the target of the search warrant, but also frequently lead to charges against other people with whom the target lives. Those of us in the criminal justice system such as police, prosecutors and defense attorneys refer to such defendants as "collateral damage," borrowing from the military term referring to civilians who are killed or wounded, when the actual intended target was something of military value to the enemy.
The classic collateral damage search warrant scenario takes place when one housemate or roommate sells an illegal drug to a confidential informant, who has done a controlled drug buy for the police. The confidential informant then tells the drug detective that he saw a massive amount of drugs or weapons in the targeted dealer's residence. The police will then seek a search warrant, hoping that the little eight ball of blow purchased by the CI may lead to the discovery of kilos of cocaine and a large stack of cash. Often times, the police will obtain a search warrant for the entire premises, and not just the dealer's bedroom, especially if contraband was seen in a common area. Invariably, the police will discover drugs and paraphernalia in other bedrooms, because the type of people who are going to sell drugs, usually are not going to be living with straight edge people.
More often than not, collateral damage defendants are only charged with misdemeanors such as drug paraphernalia for possession of drugs for personal use, usually a small amount of marijuana. Sometimes the police also find alcohol and fake IDs, leading to additional charges for underage possession of alcohol and possession of a false identification card by a minor. If enough drugs or other indicia of dealing are found to warrant felony charges against a person who was not the target of the search warrant, then it is debatable as to whether such a defendant can be classified as collateral damage. Defense lawyers would likely call such a defendant collateral damage, while police and prosecutors would tend to reserve the term for mere users with misdemeanor charges.
Sometimes, a defense attorney can successfully challenge the validity of a search warrant for an entire residence. Whether or not the police have probable cause to search an entire residence, and not just a targeted dealer's bedroom, will depend upon the specific facts of each individual case, so it is important for any collateral damage victim/ defendant to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If the police lacked probable cause to search every room, then a Common Pleas Court judge could grant a motion to quash the search warrant, meaning that any evidence obtained pursuant to an unlawfully issued search warrant cannot be used against the collateral damage defendant. This essentially ends the District Attorney's ability to prosecute the case.
Quite frankly, a lot of drug users enjoy the convenience of living with a dealer. Not only do they have a constant source, but they usually get a combination of price discounts and free drugs. But the downside is that one could easily become a collateral damage victim if the dealer roommate sells to the wrong person. Thus, if you don't want the police ransacking your room, you are better off not living with a drug dealer.
Emily Nesbit, a 31 year old former English teacher in Cumberland County, found out the hard way that it is now illegal in Pennsylvania for a teacher to have consensual sex with a student, even if the student is over 18. In 2012, Pennsylvania modified the Institutional Sexual Assault statute to include situations where a teacher, coach, school employee or school volunteer has consensual sex with any student, including those over the age of 18. Previously, a school district employee who had consensual sex with an 18 or 19 year old student could not be charged with any crime, which apparently irked enough moral scolds to lead to a change in the law.
Institutional sexual assault with a consenting adult "victim," is a third degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. The sentencing guidelines, however, would allow for probation, if the defendant has no prior record, which would include almost anyone facing this charge, as a person with a prior record never would have been working for a school in the first place. But even if a defendant receives probation, he or she will not only have a felony record, but also have to register as a sex offender for 25 years pursuant to SORNA, The Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act.
I do not agree with the new expansion to the Institutional Sexual Assault Sexual statute. Teachers or coaches who have sex with consenting adult students never went unpunished, even if they could not be criminally prosecuted. They were always fired, and often publicly humiliated once the news spread. Also, I don't think that the young male in this case is truly a victim, in any traditional sense of the word. He is an adult who is old enough to vote, serve in the military, drive a car, enter contracts, appear in a porn film and legally consent to sex. Ironically, he will probably be far more psychologically traumatized by the fact that his older girlfriend is having her life ruined because of something he did. He consented to sex with her, and now she has lost her job, will likely lose her teaching certificate, and is facing a felony charge and the possibility of being required to register as a sex offender. This young man may rightly or wrongly blame himself for being a willing participant; he was not a prepubescent child who was manipulated into doing something he did not understand.
There are a lot of reasons why teachers should not have sex with adult students, and that is why a teacher who has sex with a student should be fired. But there is no reason to bring criminal charges. It is unnecessary pile on. Loss of one's job and teaching certificate and damage to one's reputation are punishment enough. Also, it is absurd to place a woman who had consensual sex with another adult in the same category as pedophiles who either molested children or possessed child porn. Fortunately, Ms. Nesbit has one of the most highly respected criminal defense attorneys in South Central Pennsylvania. I hope he can work with the District Attorney to achieve a fair and just result in this case.
While State Patty's Day mayhem is but a mere shell of its former self, it appears the tradition of IU Patty's Day is just gaining traction. Although the IUP student-created holiday has been around since 2012, it did not attract much notoriety until this past weekend, when things got out of hand. Videos show drunken young people blocking traffic, walking around with open containers of alcohol, jumping on cars, fighting, throwing objects and screaming and yelling.
Collateral consequences for criminal charges have taken on more long-lasting and devastating forms in the digital age. One such collateral consequence is that mug shots once available only to law enforcement are now posted on the Internet for the whole world to see.
A Pennsylvania aggravated assault defendant is no longer a fugitive, after police in Luzerne County used FaceBook to nab 35 year old Anthony "Jimi" Lescowitch, but certainly not in the way the police had anticipated. The Freeland Police Department posted a mug shot from one of Lescowitch's many prior arrests on their FaceBook page, urging the public to notify law enforcement if they had any information about the fugitive. In what may be a first in the young history of social media, Mr. Lescowitch shared the Freeland Police Department's digital wanted poster on his own FaceBook page!
Thefts from employee break-room refrigerators and cupboards are a common work place annoyance, yet few people stop to think that this is not merely rude and inconsiderate behavior, but an actual crime. Recently, a Pennsylvania man from the Lehigh Valley was so fed up with his food being stolen, that he called the police to report a theft of his Jello-snack from the communal fridge. Rather than laughing away the complainant, the Upper Macungie Township Police are investigating the matter.