A Pennsylvania mother and daughter are facing a host of serious charges after being caught shooting up heroin in a Sheetz parking lot in Westmoreland County. Police allege that earlier this month, 23 year old Courtney Jording was injecting heroin into the arm of her 43 year old mother, Karen Gillespie, while Ms. Jording's neglected, six-month old baby sat in a wet diaper in the backseat of the car. By pure chance, an employee of the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau saw what was going on and called police.
Heroin delivery charges have been filed against a western Pennsylvania teacher, accused of selling 45 bags of the opiate to a confidential informant. Lisa Rodnicki, age 37, had been a health and phys ed teacher at Norwin High School in Westmoreland County since 2007. Ironically, her curriculum as a health teacher included drug abuse education. Another strange twist to this case is that Ms. Rodnicki is the daughter of the school district's superintendent.
The recent explosion in heroin addiction in Central Pennsylvania has grabbed headlines and has everybody talking. Here in Centre County, there had been a small, interconnected group of heroin addicts since at least the late 1990s, with membership fluctuating, as older addicts either died, went to prison, or managed to get clean, only to be replaced by neophyte junkies. A large percentage of these addicts had underlying mental health issues and/or came from dysfunctional family situations. Many of them got into heroin because they felt they had no future, or because their mental illnesses clouded their judgment. In 2014, this is no longer the profile of the typical Centre County heroin addict, and sadly, the addicts no longer form a small, insular community. They are everywhere, and they now come from all walks of life.
Few people are aware that it is possible to be charged and convicted of public drunkenness in Pennsylvania even without consuming a single drop of alcohol. On its face, this makes no sense, as the very name of the crime suggests that the statute criminalizes being drunk in public. Yet names can be deceiving. The full name of the statute is "Public Drunkenness and Similar Conduct," with the "similar conduct" being intoxication from a controlled substance.
Perhaps the most misused term in the world of criminal law is "narcotics." Many people who should know better, such as police officers, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and crime beat reporters, use the term "narcotic" as a synonym for any illegal drug. Thus, in their use of English, marijuana and cocaine a narcotics, while Oxycodone is a "prescription drug." When I hear such misuse of the term "narcotic" I want to pull out my hair and scream. As a criminal defense attorney interested in linguistics, it is one of my major pet peeves.
It turns out that the founder and operator of the "Silk Road" website, which had frustrated law enforcement for the past several years, has a masters degree from Penn State. Ross Ulbricht, who earned a masters in material science and engineering from Penn State in 2010, was arrested yesterday in San Francisco on a variety of federal charges related to his operation of Silk Road, as well as charges related to a murder for hire plot, in which Ulbricht allegedly sought the murder of someone who was trying to extort money form him, and an employee to had defrauded Silk Road users out of a substantial amount of money.
In what could prove to be a case of first impression in Pennsylvania, Mifflin County Regional Police have charged a pregnant heroin addict with "aggravated assault of unborn child." On August 2, 2013, police and Fame EMS discovered 29 year old Shavon Fisher unresponsive following a heroin overdose. In addition to empty heroin bags and syringes, the police also found a used pregnancy test, displaying a positive result. Later, tests at Lewistown hospital confirmed that Fisher was six or seven weeks pregnant and that she had opiates in her system. The crime of aggravated assault of unborn child , located at Section 2606 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, was enacted in 1997, with heavy support from groups and politicians, who would ultimately like to ban abortion, should Roe v. Wade ever be overturned. This offense is defined as either 1) attempting to cause serious bodily injury to an unborn child, or 2) causing serious bodily injury to an unborn child, through conduct, which is knowing, voluntary or reckless under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life. It is graded as a first degree felony punishable by a sentence of up to 10 to 20 years incarceration and a fine not to exceed $25,000.
Everyone knows that it is illegal to sell drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin, but most people are unaware that under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, using a cell phone or email to set up a drug deal constitutes a separate and distinct criminal offense, aside from the actual drug delivery. This offense is known as "criminal use of a communications facility," and it is a third degree felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison and a $15,000 fine. Criminal use of a communications facility applies to drug sellers using devices like phones or email to set up drug deals, but it does not apply to those using such devices to buy drugs.
Humans have had cars for but a brief fragment of our evolution, and our old hunter-gatherer instincts still control our actions when faced with danger. When Stacy Henry was pulled over by Ferguson Township Police On May 2, 2013, he had three choices from the instinct menu: fight, flight of freeze. Unfortunately, he made the wrong choice, and tried to flee in his vehicle in a futile attempt to avoid arrest on both new and old drug charges. Not only did he add a fleeing and eluding police charge to his list of new charges, he also caused a serious accident on heavily-trafficked North Atherton Street on the North end of State College.
A lot of people assume that in drug cases, the big fish get the stiffest sentences, while the least culpable receive the most lenient sentences. In a perfectly fair and just world, that would be the case, but that is not the reality of the American justice system. In actuality, the first to squeal usually gets the best deal.