Two Men Arrested in “Main Line Take-Over Project” Drug Bust

Wednesday, 23. April 2014

8705193_sTwo young men eager to take over the high-end drug trade in some of Pennsylvania’s best prep schools were arrested during a coordinated drug bust on Tuesday.

25-year-old Neil Scott and 18-year-old Timothy Brooks were arrested after authorities uncovered marijuana, hash oil, cocaine, ecstasy, cash and several weapons including a loaded .223 caliber AR-15 assault rifle.

“They were in business to make money, and they were going to do whatever they needed to do to make sure that no one threatened their business,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.

Two-Man Operation

According to police reports, Scott imported the drugs from California while Brooks supervised the sub-dealers at local area high schools in the cities and suburbs surrounding Philadelphia – often referred to as the Main Line.

Brooks’ attorney said Scott was the mastermind of the operation, and Brooks only got involved in the project because the pair met “at a very susceptible, low point in [Brooks’] life.” The attorney also said that Brooks was “willing to accept responsibility for what he did,” although he “was only involved in this conspiracy for a very, very short time period.”

Authorities aren’t so keen to take Brooks’ word that he only had a minor role in the operation.

“Brooks instructed the high school sub-dealers to make certain there was always a constant supply of marijuana in their assigned schools,” investigators said. “Brooks said this was important to him because he remembered not always being able to buy marijuana when he was in high school.”

Incriminating text messages may doom the pair, as an electronic trail details a plan to “efficiently distribute drugs at their schools.” Another message from Scott to Brooks read, “[All the marijuana] on the Main Line is about to come from you and me.” Authorities also uncovered messages about their business methods, as the two discussed offering incentives to higher-up dealers and allowing distributors to purchase products on credit.

Scott, Brooks and nine top dealers involved in the ring were arrested on charges of corrupt organization, intent to deliver a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy and dealings in proceeds of unlawful activity.

Ferman concluded that the men were given all the opportunity in the world to succeed, only to succumb to the drug trade.

“You’re dealing with kids from one of the finest institutions probably in the country,” Ferman said. “To take those skills and turn it into this kind of illegal enterprise is very distressing.”

Related sources: Washington Post, CNN

550 Caught Texting While Driving During Distracted Driving Crackdown

Tuesday, 22. April 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 10.57.53 AM550 Minnesotans were issued citations for texting while driving during the 10-day statewide crackdown that concluded on April 20. Law enforcement officials hope the tickets send the message that their text message can wait.

“The number of citations made in just those 10 days shows that far too many drivers still make poor choices behind the wheel”, said Office of Traffic Safety director Donna Berger. “Law enforcement officers across the state will continue to enforce distracted driving laws. Drivers can and will be ticketed at any time for texting while driving, not just during the enhanced enforcement campaign.”

Plenty of Tickets

The Minnesota Department of Traffic Safety announced that in addition to the 550 citations for texting while driving, authorities also issued a number of related tickets, including:

  • 1,394 citations for failure to use a seat belt.
  • 25 tickets for failure to use child restraints.
  • 378 citations and 39 arrests for driving after suspended, revoked, or cancelled.

State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said many officers also issued distracted driving citations for actions other than texting. He noted that shaving, applying makeup, reading and checking a laptop all put other drivers at a heightened risk for an accident.

It Can Wait

Many people understand the dangers of texting and driving, but some might assume that the practice is only banned while the car is in motion. The state law actually forbids electronic messaging of any kind at any time while you’re behind the wheel. This means you can be issued a ticket even if you are just checking your phone at a red light. If it’s really that urgent, have a passenger send a message or pull over in a safe location. Also, using a cell phone in any capacity while driving is against the law if you’re under the age of 18.

More than 60 Minnesotans lose their lives on the road and more than 8,000 are injured because of distracted driving each year. The Office of Traffic Safety also announced that distracted driving caused 17,593 accidents in 2013. Be smart – It can wait.

Related source: CBS Minnesota

Death Penalty Looming For Boston Marathon Bomber

Monday, 21. April 2014

22949189_s (1)The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old accused killing three and injuring 260 spectators near the finish line of the Boston marathon won’t begin until November, and while a guilty verdict may seen like a foregone conclusion, the biggest question is whether or not the prosecution will pursue the death penalty.

Video surveillance captured Tsarnaev placing a package near the blast site and using a cell phone just moments before the explosion, and he even took credit for the bombings while on the run, writing a note that said, “I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said (unintelligible) it is allowed.”

A criminal defense team led by Judy Clarke, a public defender who has defended some of the nation’s most notorious criminals, including “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, is tasked with defending Tsarnaev. Avery Appelman said the defense will need to portray Tsarnaev as an impressionable youth who fell prey to his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed during the ensuing manhunt.

“Tsarnaev was only 19-years-old when he allegedly participated in this horrifying act,” said Appelman. “His cognition is not fully developed, and as anyone with an older brother will tell you, sometimes it’s easy to look up to them even if they aren’t setting a very good example. I’m sure there will be numerous witnesses for both the prosecution and defense that will focus solely on painting Tsarnaev’s mental make-up in a way that strengthens their side’s case.”

Is The Death Penalty What The People Want?

The death penalty may be seen as the ultimate price for one’s actions, but some people view death as an “easy way out.” Life in jail may be a more appropriate sentence for such an unspeakable crime, and many Americans tend to agree. According to a poll by the Boston Globe, 57 percent of readers were in favor of a life sentence for Tsarnaev, while only 33 percent preferred the death penalty. Others believe that the largely Catholic community of Boston will attempt to avoid the death penalty, as Pope Francis has openly opposed the practice.

Lillian Campbell, whose granddaughter was killed in the bombing, said she doesn’t want Tsarnaev to be put to death.

“When they came out with this part about the death sentence … I said, well, I don’t really care what they do with them. Because whatever they do, it’s not going to bring her back,” Campbell said. “I’ll never forget her, ever, no matter how much they say. Or what they do with the guy who did it. So I wouldn’t wish anyone dead. I wouldn’t.”

Related source: CNN

Burglary Penalties in Minnesota

Thursday, 17. April 2014

BurglaryMany people believe the crime of burglary is defined as breaking into a residence a stealing someone else’s property, but that’s not necessarily the case. In it’s least criminal degree (4th), Minnesota defines the act of burglary as:

Entering a building without consent with intent to commit a misdemeanor other than stealing, or entering a building without consent and committing a misdemeanor other than to stealing while in the building, either directly or as an accomplice.

In layman’s terms, you can be charged with Burglary in the Fourth Degree even if you don’t steal anything. If you break into a residence and intentionally damage property, you can be charged with Burglary.

1st and 2nd Degree

As noted above, Burglary in the Fourth Degree is the least criminal burglary charge, so it stands to reason there are four degrees of burglary. They are Burglary in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Degrees. All four charges are detailed below.

Burglary in the First Degree is the most severe of the burglary classifications. In order for the crime to be considered a First Degree offense, the following factors must be present.

  • With intent to commit a crime, a burglar breaks into a building or residence that is occupied by at least one person at the time of the break-in.
  • The burglar possesses a dangerous weapon or any instrument that the victim believes is a dangerous weapon; or
  • The burglar assaults the victim inside the home or on the building’s property.

A person guilty of Burglary in the First Degree in Minnesota can be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fines up to $35,000.

Burglary in the Second Degree is the “Ocean’s Eleven” of burglaries. In essence, Burglary in the Second Degree occurs when a burglar uses tools to gain access to a bank, pharmacy, or other area of a business where securities or valuable papers are kept. Maximum penalties for this offense are 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $20,000.

3rd and 4th Degree

Burglary in the Third Degree is your basic small scale burglary. This offense occurs when a person enters a building without consent and:

  • Steals, commits a felony or gross misdemeanor; or
  • Intends to steal, commit a felony or gross misdemeanor; or
  • Is an accomplice to a party who steals or commits a felony or gross misdemeanor.

A person convicted of Burglary in the Third Degree in Minnesota can be sentenced to five years in prison and fined up to $10,000.

As mentioned above, Burglary in the Fourth Degree occurs when a person enters a building without consent with the intention of committing a misdemeanor. A person can be sentenced to one year in prison and fines up to $3,000 if they are convicted of Burglary in the Fourth degree.

The Felony Murder Rule: The Ryan Holle Case

Wednesday, 16. April 2014

Ryan HolleFew people have sympathy for convicted murderers, and rightly so, but you may feel differently after hearing the story of Ryan Holle, who was convicted of murder at the age of 21.

What’s unique about Holle’s case is that the prosecution fully admits that the 21-year-old was sleeping, miles away from the incident, when the killing occurred. So why was Holle sentenced to life in prison for murder? Because of an outdated law called the Felony Murder Law.

Holle’s Role

In the early morning hours of March 10, 2003, Holle was hanging with some friends after a night out partying. Holle decided he wanted to call it a night and go to bed, but his buddies had other ideas. William Allen Jr., Holle’s housemate, asked if he could borrow the 21-year-old’s car. Having no need for it since he was about to turn in for the night, Holle handed his housemate the keys.

Allen and three associates drove to the house of a well-known drug dealer a few miles away. They knew the dealer had a safe in her house, and they planned to rob it. The group went inside the house and threatened the woman and her family. During the robbery, one of the men, Charles Miller Jr., bludgeoned the drug dealer’s 18-year-old daughter to death with a shotgun he found inside the house. The group made off with a pound of marijuana and $1,425.

The Felony Murder Rule

Not surprisingly, the men were arrested for the crime shortly thereafter. What was surprising was the fact that authorities also arrested Holle, despite witness reports that he was not at the scene when the crime took place. Police decided to charge Holle with first-degree murder under a legal doctrine known as the Felony Murder Rule, which states:

Anybody who participates in a felony offense is criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony. 

In other words, because Holle lent his car to his friend, which they then used to commit a felony, the prosecution merely needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Holle knew his friends were going to use his car to aid in a felony offense.

Holle gave a statement to police in which he seemed to admit to knowing that his friends were going to go commit a robbery, and as the prosecutor explained during trial, “No car, no murder.”

Holle changed his stance in an interview in 2007, saying he “honestly thought they were going to get food,” adding that he didn’t think they were serious about the robbery plans.

“When they mentioned what as going on, I thought it was a joke,” he said.

They jury didn’t see it Holle’s way, and he received the same sentence as the four men at the scene of the crime – Life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Is It Justice?

It’s worth noting that the wife/drug dealer was sentenced to three years in prison for marijuana possession, but when you compare her misdeeds to those of Holle, is it really fair?

As the father pointed out during the trial, “It never would have happened unless Ryan Holle had lent the car,” but can’t the same be said about the mother? If she hadn’t been a known drug dealer with a stash of marijuana and cash, the crime would never have occurred. She got three years, but Holle could easily spend over 50 years behind bars.

Where is the justice in that?

Minnesota Man Arrested For DWI on Go-Kart

Tuesday, 15. April 2014

DWI Go KartA Minnesota man was arrested for driving under the influence after authorities say he was operating a child’s go-kart above the legal limit.

Bobby Khaoone, 25, was arrested in the city of Austin during a late-night joyride in the wee hours of Sunday morning. According to the police report, Khaoone was driving the battery-powered go-kart in the street when he was almost struck by a passing squad car. Khaoone was stopped by the officer and eventually booked on charges of gross misdemeanor DWI, driving after license revocation, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Authorities also seized the Razor go-kart under vehicle seizure laws.

Khaoone told officers he was driving the go-kart in the street because he was celebrating the Laotian new year.

Go-Kart DUI

This case is very interesting, especially when you compare it to last year’s ruling about DWIs on a Segway. In that case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that a Segway was not to be considered a motorized vehicle in the eyes of a law because it is intended to be used on sidewalks and other pedestrian walkways.

The dissenting judge said the Segway should be classified as a motor vehicle because it is not operated by human power, but the majority cited a 2009 case where a man was acquitted when he was found operating a motorized scooter over the legal limit as evidence that a device is not classified as a vehicle simply because it operates on electrical power.

Interestingly enough, your average Segway has a top speed of 12 miles per hour. According to Razor’s website, their standard go-kart also has a top speed of 12 miles per hour. Khaoone certainly has grounds to challenge the legality of the DWI, but the fact that he was joyriding in the middle of the street (and almost got run over by a cop, no less) won’t help his cause.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Several Students Arrested in Dinkytown Riot

Monday, 14. April 2014

Dinkytown riot19 people, including some University of Minnesota students, were arrested Saturday in Dinkytown after a riot broke out following Minnesota’s loss in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game. 

The chaos erupted just minutes after the Gophers fell to Union College by a score of 7-4, a final tally that few saw coming when you consider Minnesota entered the Frozen Four as the odds on favorite to win the championship. Many people made their way to Dinkytown in hopes of celebrating a championship in the streets, and they didn’t take too kindly to being denied the opportunity.

The crowd began throwing rocks and beer bottles at a gathering of officers who had been dispatched to quell the impending riot. Officers responded by firing pepper spray, rubber pellets and beanbags into the crowd. One recent grad said Dinkytown “felt like a war zone.”

“There shouldn’t be riots right now. We didn’t even win,” said 22-year-old Austin Duket.

James Anderson, who rooms with Duket, said students were looking for a reason to party, and the prospect of rioting – win or lose – was already a forgone conclusion before the game.

“After Thursday, (the riots) were an event. People were like, ‘You guys want to go to the riot on Saturday?’”

Although the full arrest tally is unknown, the police scanner reported that numerous individuals were arrested for “assaultive behavior.” Officers also responded to two reports of arson and several cases of property damage, although it’s uncertain how many arrests were made in connection with those crimes.

Avery Appelman comments

As a huge hockey fan, it pains me that the Gophers fell just short of the ultimate goal, but destructive rioting is the wrong way to handle a loss. I’ve never understood why destroying public or private property in the wake of a sporting event made someone feel better.

These students could face heavy fines, and that’s just the beginning. If they have any priors, if they caused a large amount of damage, or if they were the ones who started the fires, they could face jail time. Thankfully, it doesn’t sound as if any pedestrians or officers were seriously injured during the fracas.

If you need to physically express yourself following a loss, go for a run or hit the punching bag at the gym. If you can’t channel your emotions, you might be looking for a lawyer in the near future.

Related source: Pioneer Press.

Minnesota Passes Stronger Anti-Bullying Law

Thursday, 10. April 2014

Minnesota Anti-Bullying BillGovernor Mark Dayton signed a new anti-bullying measure into law on Wednesday in hopes of better protecting Minnesota students who are exposed to abusive behaviors at school. 

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act will require schools to:

  • Track and investigate cases of bullying; and
  • Offer staff training on bullying-prevention techniques.

In addition to strengthening prevention and awareness techniques, the bill also clearly defines bullying as any action that causes physical harm, the fear of physical harm, or “constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The previous law only stated that school districts needed to have some sort of anti-bullying procedure in place. Governor Dayton believes the new bill will help keep students safer.

“Minnesota’s schools should be safe and supportive places for everyone,” said Dayton. “This anti-bullying legislation will make it very clear that bullying is not to be allowed in our schools.

Not All in Favor

While most want to find a solution to the bullying problem that appears to be more prevalent in today’s digital age, some legislators believe this bill isn’t the answer. The bill made it through both the House and the Senate by a narrow margin, passing by votes of 69-63 and 36-31 respectively, and some legislators vocalized their concerns, calling the bill too costly, restrictive to free speech, and a move “more about a social agenda than preventing bullying,” said Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester.

A portion of the bill that caused major contention was a clause that specifically protected students from being teased about their gender identity or sexual orientation. Some opponents felt that it created a special protection for some, while others felt like it could force districts to teach students about sexual identity at too young an age.

Avery Appelman comments

The biggest issue with bullying these days is that, because of the rise of the Internet, it now becomes a 24/7 “game” for some of the bullies. Back in the day, you only had to worry about a bully in the hallway or in 5th period; Nowadays, a bully or a group of teens can harass someone all hours of the day through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Ask.FM, etc.

I think it would be very helpful to teach children about the dangers and problems of electronic communication at a young age, and reinforce those issues throughout their primary education. We need to teach children that there is always an electronic trial, be it a snide comment telling a student to hurt himself or a risqué photo sent through text.

We’ll never eradicate bullying, but I think attacking the problem at the source – the kids – is a better place to start.

Related source: Star-Tribune, Bring Me The News

9-Month-Old Baby Accused of Attempted Murder

Wednesday, 9. April 2014

Baby Accused of MurderWhile most 9-month-olds are still working on saying their first word, a Pakistani toddler has been charged with attempted murder in a case that points out a number of shortcomings in the country’s legal system. 

Mohammed Musa, not even a year old, has been charged with attempted murder along with his father and other family members for his role in throwing rocks at gas company officials.

Musa wept during a court appearance last week, although the crying was most likely caused by teething, not because he could comprehend the severity of the charges levied against him. He also drank from a bottle while in court.

“Everyone in the court was saying, ‘How can such a small child be implicated in any case?’ What kind of police do we have?” said grandfather Muhammad Yasin.

Direct Contradiction

The charges are extremely questionable when you consider that Pakistan recently increased the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven years to 12 in 2013.

The grandfather believes the charges are all part of an elaborate move to get the accused evicted from their property.

“The police and gas company officials came without any notice and started removing gas meters from houses,” said Yasin. “Residents started protesting and blocked the road but ended the protest when senior police officers arrived in the area and assured them that no injustice would be done. But later we found out that cases have been filed against us.”

Judge Shows Some Sense

Judge Rafaqat Ali Qamar ordered the criminal inspector to be suspended and granted the child bail, but he added that the child will have to appear at a scheduled hearing on April 12.

“The court should have simply referred the minor’s case to the High Court to drop the charges against the innocent child and acquit him from the case,” said Chaudhry Irfan Sadiq, who is representing the family in the criminal matter. “This case also exposes the incompetence of our police force and the way they are operating.”

Shoaib Suddle, a retired police chief, noted that the current legal system gives the benefit of the doubt to the accuser, in contrast to the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ motto adopted by other nations.

“The moment they are able to file a complaint, accusers expect that without any evidence people should be locked up and the investigation should follow, whereas the world over it is the other way around.”

Mel Welch comments

The age of criminal responsibility doesn’t have a defined age in the United States. Instead, the majority of states rely on what is known as common law, which holds that from age 7 to 14, children cannot be presumed to bear responsibility for the actions, but they can be held responsible. 13 states, Minnesota not included, have their own laws on the age of criminal responsibility, which ranges anywhere from 6 years to 12 years of age.

The notion of holding a 9-month-old responsible for his actions is ludicrous. The child cannot formulate intent at such a young age, nor can he comprehend his actions. Really, at that age, the only thing he knows how to do is cry when he’s hungry and sleep when he’s tired. The real crime here is the infantile actions of the criminal inspector.

Related source:

Two Students Handcuffed in Underwear For Leaving Door Open

Tuesday, 8. April 2014

Open Door ArrestTwo students at the University of Utah were handcuffed wearing only their pajamas last month after police entered their residence because their front door was open.

The whole ordeal began around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, at the Union Meadows apartment complex on campus. A concerned resident called police to report that their neighbor’s door was wide open at an odd hour. Three officers arrived on scene and entered the apartment after they heard no response when they announced their presence.

“They made several loud announcements, saying it was the police; they got no response,” said Lt. Justin Hoyal of the Unified Police Department.

Ramiro Aguirre, who lives at the apartment, said he never heard the officers announce their presence or enter the apartment because he was, like so many at that hour, sleeping.

“If they did announce themselves, I was dead asleep,” said Aguirre.

Questionable Tactics

The officers began to secure the apartment, and not surprisingly, they found Aguirre and roommate Ben Mertlich asleep in their respective rooms. That’s when the roommates say the officers used some questionable tactics.

“When I came to it, someone’s pulling me out of bed and to the floor,” said Aguirre.

“I just wake up to an officer with a flashlight and Taser,” added Mertlich. “As soon as you see the situation, a guy in his underwear in bed, it’s pretty obvious he’s not a burglar.”

The roommates were handcuffed because the police described their demeanor as “belligerent,” but Aguirre said it was all a misunderstanding.

According to Hoyer, when “the officer was asking the individual in bed to show his hands were he could see him; he brought it out and flipped the officer off.”

“Well I’m asleep in my own house at 3 in the morning, I didn’t know it was a cop, I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke,” Aguirre added.

The two were later questioned as to why the door was left open, and they explained that the latch was broken. The officers eventually freed the residents from their handcuffs, but the roommates said the ordeal was unsettling.

“It’s pretty vulnerable to be in that position. You have nothing, you have no defense,” Mertlich said.

The roommates are deciding if they want to press charges, but since they were released and nothing was damaged during the search, it seems unlikely that a case will proceed.

Related source: Fox 13 Now


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