SPPF Vehemently Defends Police Brutality in St. Paul

Click here to watch the video.

A YouTube video of apparent police brutality by a St. Paul cop has spurred public outcry and an internal affairs investigation. The footage shows the violent arrest on Tuesdayof 30-year-old Eric Hightower who is being maced, kicked, and punched by police officer Jesse Zilge. Hightower was arrested after his ex-girlfriend Kara Drew called police to report that he had “repeatedly called, harrassed, and threatened” her over a period of time.  Yesterday, Hightower was formally charged with aggravated stalking, making terroristic threats, and fourth-degree criminal damage to property.

According to Hightower, the sequence of events unfolded as follows:

1. Hightower and a group of friends were walking to Lewis Park in St. Paul when a squad car stopped and an officer jumped out wielding a can of mace.

2. Without asking for his name or identification, the officer picked Hightower out of the group, told him once to “get down.” Hightower asked the officer if and why he was under arrest, who then began spraying him with tear gas as he again told Hightower to “get down.”

3. Hightower continued to ask the officer why he was under arrest, who responded only by repeatedly telling him to “shut up” and “turn over.”

4. As he began to turn over, Zilge pulled out his Taser and pointed it at Hightower. He then put the Taser away, “started getting agitated,” and again pulled out the can of tear gas.

5. Zilge ordered Hightower to “turn the f—- over” and began spraying him in the face with the tear gas. Officer Zilge then ran towards him, kicked him in the chest and chin, and pulled his hair.

6. When backup officers arrived and they tried to put the choking, coughing Hightower in the squad car, Zilge continued to spray him in the face with the chemical irritant. According to Hightower, the same officer held his head down and sprayed him directly in the ear.

A witness recorded the incident on video and the footage was posted to YouTube by Angela Hulbert, a friend of Hightower. On Wednesday, Hulbert contacted the office of St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman and spoke with internal affairs.  Mayor Coleman released a written statement admonishing officer Zilge, stating that “The video of a St. Paul police officer striking a suspect raises serious questions about the conduct of the officer.”

Officer Zilge has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

This statement did not sit well with David Titus, the president of the St. Paul Police Federation. In response, Titus defended the officer, claiming that he was in an extremely dangerous situation without immediate backup. Titus continued that “maybe our officials shouldn’t make comments about their concern until the investigation has run its course.”  Titus, who is an official himself, then made the pre-investigation comment that “This is a good cop.”

Police Chief Thomas Smith has addressed the incident in a much less polarized fashion and acknowledges that a complete investigation needs to be conducted:

“I want to know the entire story. I want to know what happened before this video started, exactly what everyone saw at the scene, both civilians and officers, and what they heard during the suspect’s arrest… I want to know what happened from start to finish in this instance… The public has a right to know as well.”

The St. Paul Police Federation continues to hold firmly to the position of president Titus, strongly and publiclydefending one of their own, and claiming that the video was filmed out of context:

“The St. Paul Police Department has begun a thorough review of the August 28 arrest of Eric Hightower. Once this process is complete, we believe the facts will show that a good cop was in a dangerous situation with a known dangerous individual.

The SPPF then went on to quote the official SPPD video advisory for squad footage to argue that the audio and visual information recorded should not be trusted because a camera lacks the subjectivity of an eyeball:  “This recording depicts visual and audio information from the scene. However, the human brain, working through the lens of the human eye, is highly likely to perceive some things differently during stressful situations than a camera records them.

“MN criminal defense attorney Geoff Saltzstein believes that the credibility of evidence is, in fact, enhanced by increased objectivity.  “It’s not too often that we, as the public, get actual footage of alleged police brutality. I would argue that, contrary to the belief of the Police Federation, video footage of the actual incident is more credible than the “he said/she said” story of a human in a badge. It is plain to see, though, that the suspect here is under control and poses no danger to the police or others.  The absolute brutality of this arrest is reprehensible, and it will be interesting to see if there are criminal assault charges that stem from kicking a handcuffed, defenseless suspect. Police officers are supposed to be role models for society, and especially our children.  What I see here is nothing more than a thug in a uniform.”

MN DWI Arrests are Down, Enforcement is Up Through Labor Day

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the number of drunk driving arrests and deaths has decreased significantly from last year’s figures.

Nationwide, law enforcement is participating in the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Crackdown,  sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). The campaign began on August 17th and will extend through Labor Day, September 3rd. During this period, law enforcement agencies are increasing patrols and sobriety checkpoints in a dragnet attempt to nab impaired drivers and dissuade others from irresponsibly jumping behind the wheel.

Last year in Minnesota, the Crackdown  netted 1,787 DWI arrests. This year, there have been 605 DWI arrests since the beginning of the campaign.  Overall, Minnesota has experienced a 34 percent decrease in impaired-driving-related deaths since 2007.

Officials speculate that many factors have contributed to the decline. One theory is a recent, clever advertising campaign urging drivers “Don’t Be What You Drink.” Another theory is that the introduction of ignition interlock  as a mandatory condition for certain DWI offenders to regain their driving privileges.

With increased DWI/DUI enforcement on the roads this weekend, responsibility is key–and remember that if you are pulled over, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Exercise both, and contact an experienced MN criminal defense attorney right away.

Related Sources:

Star Tribune

Traffic Safety Marketing

Crime & Safety at the Minnesota State Fair

As the summer comes to a close, many Minnesotans are packing the kids into the minivan and heading to the Minnesota State Fair. However, safety is always a concern and the great Minnesota get-together is not exempt from chaos and disorder.

Two Men Stabbed at MN State Fair

The family fun was compromised this Sunday when two men were stabbed in the middle of the festivities. Police say that attacks were not random, but stemmed from an earlier altercation.

Both men were stabbed in the abdomen, then treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Police have not recovered the weapon and no arrests have been made in connection with the stabbings. Authorities are continuing to investigate the incident. According to State Fair Police Chief Art Blakey Jr., the last stabbing to occur at the fairgrounds was 5 years ago in 2007 in the Midway. Police officials are urging the public to not be deterred from enjoying the Minnesota tradition.  More than 100 police officers are on-duty in the fairgrounds at any given time.

Without further details,  it is difficult to predict possible charges that the assailants may face if caught. However, because the injuries sustained were relatively minor, it’s unlikely that the attacker would face charges of first degree felony assault, which in this situation would require the infliction of great bodily harm. Instead, according to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, the offense could likely be charged as assault in the second degree:

Second Degree Assault & Battery

Assault in the second degree is a felony offense punishable by up to seven to 10 years and $14,000 – $20,000 in fines. A person will likely be charged with second degree assault if they:

  1. Assault another with a dangerous weapon
  2. Assault another with a dangerous weapon and inflict substantial bodily harm

Alcohol and Safety at the Fair

Whenever crowds and alcohol mix, extra precautions must be taken to ensure safety and to prevent run-ins with the law. Beer will be served from 9am til 11pm and from 10am on Sundays at nearly 20 locations within the fairgrounds. Police plan ahead when festivities like the Minnesota State Fair roll into town, and you can expect DWI enforcement to be heightened.

To enjoy the fair responsibly, there are a few things you should consider:

1. Drinking? Plan ahead and utilize Metro Transit for the day. The bus system will have increased trips operating to and from the state fair. BONUS: No hassle with parking! Click here to find out more.

2. Remember, you’re not the best estimate of your blood alcohol content. Alcohol reacts differently within the body at any given time. Just because you feel fine to jump behind the wheel DOESN’T mean that you’re above the legal limit of 0.08.  Confused? Print out this handy BAC chart and bring it with you.

 

Male
Female
Approximate blood alcohol percentage (by vol.)
One drink has 0.5 US fl oz (15 ml) alcohol by volume
Drinks Body weight
40 kg 45 kg 55 kg 64 kg 73 kg 82 kg 91 kg 100 kg 109 kg
90 lb 100 lb 120 lb 140 lb 160 lb 180 lb 200 lb 220 lb 240 lb
1
0.05
0.04
0.05
0.03
0.04
0.03
0.03
0.02
0.03
0.02
0.03
0.02
0.02
0.02
0.02
0.02
0.02
2
0.10
0.08
0.09
0.06
0.08
0.05
0.07
0.05
0.06
0.04
0.05
0.04
0.05
0.03
0.04
0.03
0.04
3
0.15
0.11
0.14
0.09
0.11
0.08
0.10
0.07
0.09
0.06
0.08
0.06
0.07
0.05
0.06
0.05
0.06
4
0.20
0.15
0.18
0.12
0.15
0.11
0.13
0.09
0.11
0.08
0.10
0.08
0.09
0.07
0.08
0.06
0.08
5
0.25
0.19
0.23
0.16
0.19
0.13
0.16
0.12
0.14
0.11
0.13
0.09
0.11
0.09
0.10
0.08
0.09
6
0.30
0.23
0.27
0.19
0.23
0.16
0.19
0.14
0.17
0.13
0.15
0.11
0.14
0.10
0.12
0.09
0.11
7
0.35
0.26
0.32
0.22
0.27
0.19
0.23
0.16
0.20
0.15
0.18
0.13
0.16
0.12
0.14
0.11
0.13
8
0.40
0.30
0.36
0.25
0.30
0.21
0.26
0.19
0.23
0.17
0.20
0.15
0.18
0.14
0.17
0.13
0.15
9
0.45
0.34
0.41
0.28
0.34
0.24
0.29
0.21
0.26
0.19
0.23
0.17
0.20
0.15
0.19
0.14
0.17
10
0.51
0.38
0.45
0.31
0.38
0.27
0.32
0.23
0.28
0.21
0.25
0.19
0.23
0.17
0.21
0.16
0.19
Subtract approximately 0.01 every 40 minutes after drinking.

 

3. Police will be patrolling the fairgrounds in large numbers. Disorderly conduct IS a crime and YOU are not exempt–it is also higly subjective and open to the interpretation of the arresting officer. Some examples include:

  • Public drunkenness
  • Inciting a riot
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Loitering
  • Fighting
  • Physical altercations
  • Obstructing traffic
  • Using obscene or abusive language
  • Unreasonable loud noise

4.  If you make a mistake and find yourself in trouble, remember that you have the right to speak with an attorney before answering ANY questions. Don’t take any chances, contact us right away if you’re pulled over or pulled aside for questioning.

Related Sources:

Star Tribune

KEYC TV

Virginia Tech

 

U.S. Diplomat Charged with DWI, Hit and Run

According to new reports, a prominent U.S. diplomat was charged with drunk driving and hit-and-run charges earlier this month in Spokane, Washington. On the afternoon August 14, Ryan Crocker allegedly hit another vehicle, spun out, then continued driving.

In 2009, Crocker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He formerly served as the ambassador to Afghanistan, among other countries. Crocker took a roadside breathalyzer test the day of the incident, which registered dual BAC levels of 0.152 and 0.160. The diplomat was arrested, charged with driving while intoxicated and the hit-and-run of an attended vehicle. He was released later that night.

Crocker pleaded not guilty to both charges in court the next morning. The conditions of his bail include abstaining from any alcohol or non-prescribed drugs, refraining from committing any crimes. Crocker is also required to obtain drug testing within the next 24 hours and must undergo alcohol testing twice per month.

Ryan Crocker does not have a criminal history. The condition of the other driver is still unclear.

Related Sources:

CNN

MSU Mankato Head Coach Charged With Possession of Child Pornography

It’s yet another case of NCAA coaches behaving badly.  Yesterday, Minnesota State University, Mankato head football coach Todd Hoffner was charged with two counts of felony child pornography. Two videos were found on the coach’s university-issued cellphone which reportedly depicted the nudity of Hoffner’s three young children: two girls aged 5 and 9, and an 8-year-old boy.

Hoffner’s criminal defense attorney Jim Fleming denied that the videos depicted any illegal activity, stating “There’s nothing in that video that is descriptive, graphic, abusive or exploitative… We are going to fight this… My client is innocent. We will fight this to the very end.” However, prosecutor Michael Hanson argued in Blue Earth court that Hoffner be denied contact with his children.

The videos do not depict any sexual contact between the children and adults. Fleming argued in court that that the images “could be seen as something completely different than what they are assuming.”

In Blue Earth County Court on Wednesday, Hoffner was charged with using minors in a sexual performance or pornographic work and possessing pornography involving minors. He was released from jail that night after posting $40,000 bail.

The case was brought to the Mankato Department of Public Safety by DeeAnn Snaza, the assistant director of human resources at MSU. Hoffner visited the IT department because his phone wasn’t functioning properly. Hoffner requested that backup copies of the videos be retrieved, at which point the supervisor saw the footage and reported it to human resources. Hoffner was arrested on Tuesday.

Responding to Penn State comparisons, university spokesman Dan Benson was quick to announce that the “The university is not aware of any allegations affecting university students or program participants.”

While details of the case against Hoffner are still unclear, the administration handled the issue quickly and seemingly appropriately in the wake of Penn State.

Related Sources:

Star Tribune

Pioneer Press

NCAA Sex Scandal Update: Sandusky to Write Memoirs from Prison

For those of you who still can’t get enough Jerry Sandusky, new reports indicate that the assistant coach-turned-convicted child molester will be penning his memoirs from his prison cell.  Dottie Sandusky is said to be heavily involved in the creative process, so much so that prison officials have reportedly suspended her correspondence privileges with her husband.

Considering the involvement of Dottie Sandusky–who continually stood by her husband and argued his innocence–this won’t be the confession that many are hoping for. According to Sandusky’s criminal defense attorney Joe Amendola, Sandusky is likely writing the book in order to share his side story. It is unsurprising that Sandusky would want a second chance to do so, given the terrible impression he made during a television interview with Bob Costas.

The former Penn State assistant football coach is no stranger to the literary world. In 2001, he co-authored an autobiography aptly titled Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story.  Reviews for the book have been, in general, less than favorable.

However, Sandusky’s new-found infamy could ultimately attract a competent ghostwriter who can help steer the 68-year-old from the lascivious tone present in his previous attempts at explaining his actions. In July, Sandusky’s lawyers filed an appeal claiming the judge filed an improper order that was not agreed upon by both parties.  While it is unlikely that the book will be useful in appealing his conviction, it could turn out to be the next literary masterpiece. After all, Don Quixote was written from a prison cell.

Need to brush up on your Sandusky news? Click here.

Breaking Bad Fans, Meet the Real-Life Walter White!

Like any warm-blooded humans (we’re only sharks when it comes to our clients!), Appelman Law Firm can’t get enough of the AMC series Breaking Bad.  So, when the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office added a man named Walter White to their Most Wanted roster, it captured our attention.

What’s more? The Alabama Walter White was on the lam after violating his probation in a methamphetamine manufacturing case. Yep, that’s right! Real-life Walter White is involved in the same type of criminal enterprise as his television counterpart, methamphetamine cook extraordinaire/kingpin Walter White. The kicker? Both Walter Whites are in their fifties.

Walter Eddy White was first arrested and charged with the manufacture of methamphetamine in 2008–coincidentally, the same year Breaking Bad premiered!  Earlier this year, White violated his probation after being charged with possession of a controlled substance, trafficking methamphetamine, possession of precursor materials and manufacturing a controlled substance.  Last week, the Tuscaloosa Sheriff named White a high-priority fugitive.  According to the Sheriff’s Office, White has since been captured, thus failing where Breaking Bad‘s “Heisenberg” continues to succeed in season 5.

Walter Eddy White is not the only offender to share a name and a criminal record with a television character. In January, 19-year-old Omar Little was arrested in Baltimore–the same city where HBO’s The Wire unfolded and where character Omar Little lived as a career criminal. Real-life Little was arrested on handgun charges, following in the footsteps of fictitious Omar Little who was shown on The Wire committing acts of murder, first degree assault, robbery, first degree sale of a controlled substance, and perjury.

Now that Walter White is back in the custody of the Tuscaloosa Sheriff, it’s time for his arraignment and then to prepare for the legal proceedings to follow.  According to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman,  if Walter Eddy White hasn’t yet retained an experienced criminal defense attorney, he needs to do so immediately. The charges against White are very serious and the penalties he will now be facing are severe. This is not a case that should be left in the hands of a public defender is White is to have any hope of thorough representation.

We are  so excited to finally do a Breaking Bad-related piece that we’re not going to stop yet! Stay tuned as we explore the various legal aspects of the television show in our new blog series Crimes & Criminals of Breaking Bad. With so much content to choose from, we’d love to hear your ideas for where you’d like to see the series go!

Related Sources:

Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office

Baltimore Police Department

HBO

AMC

 

Iowa Man with .627 BAC has Serious Problem with Alcohol

An Iowa man was arrested for DUI on July 29, and presented with a mind-blowing BAC of 0.627. According to North Liberty police, Justin Clark was stopped after multiple reports of a driver hitting curbs and swerving all over the road. Not only was Clark still alive with what, for many, would be a fatal blood alcohol concentration, but he was conscious and still able to stand and talk.

According to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, his biggest concern is Justin Clark’s wellbeing:

“Reaching a BAC of this level and without losing functioning suggests a long term abusive relationship with alcohol. Clearly, Mr. Clark is an alcoholic with a long history of excessive use. As his body detoxifies, he will begin to experience severe withdrawal symptoms which would make him a candidate for a medical detox. This allows his body to flush out the alcohol within a safe environment, such as a hospital.

Mr. Clark needs to examine his relationship with alcohol. If I was his attorney, my first course of action would be a medical detox. During that process, Mr. Clark and I would discuss the benefits of a chemical dependency evaluation and the need for him to follow the recommendations to enter and complete an appropriate treatment program.

In Minnesota, Mr. Clark would be confronted with a 3rd degree DWI, a gross misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. If convicted, Mr. Clark would be ordered to obtain a chemical dependency evaluation and follow all recommendations.

By partnering with out DWI clients and encouraging them to be active participants in their own defense, we often can help those clients mitigate consequences in lieu of their accomplishments following the incident. In the case of Mr. Clark, this could be done by fully committing himself to an appropriate course of action.”

Related Source:

Press Citizen

Miami Man Sues After Wrongful Prostitution Arrest and Police Brutality

According to a new lawsuit filed in Miami, a man was falsely arrested during a prostitution sting, and then assaulted by police officers. Guillermo Cuadra claims that officers broke his arm and then refused him medical treatment while he was held in custody for 5 hours.

Cuadra alleges that a police officer posing as a prostitute walked up to his car and propositioned sex. Cuadra declined, drove away, and was soon stopped by a squad car. When he was stopped, Cuadra was confronted with 5 officers surrounding his car with guns drawn. According to the lawsuit, he was thrown to the ground and while being forced into handcuffs, his arm “audibly snapped.” When Cuadro told an officer this, he was yelled at and verbally abased.

Cuadra was then charged with resisting arrest and soliciting a prostitute, a charge which he vehemently denied. The police report stated that Cuadro offered the undercover officer $60 for sex. Ultimately, he was not convicted of either charge.

When a Minnesota defendant is confronted with a situation such as this, it is absolutely necessary to retain the expertise and guidance of an experienced MN criminal defense attorney.

Related Sources:

Miami News

 

Randy Travis Busted for Naked DWI

Last week, singer and actor Randy Travis was arrested for DWI after crashing his car. When police arrived at the scene, they found the 53-year-old completely naked behind the wheel.

According to a convenience store clerk, Travis had stopped in earlier to buy cigarettes. He was completely nude at that time, as well. Police have now obtained the security footage from the convenience store, but it has yet to be released to the public.

There were aggravating factors present as well. According to Sgt. Ricky Wheeler of the Grayson County Sherriff’s Department, “At one point during the evening and at some point after that he made contact with him, he threatened to kill two of the troopers,”  told reporters. In addition to DWI, Travis was subsequently charged with obstruction for his altercation with the officers.

This is Randy Travis’ 2nd arrest this year. The singer was booked in February for public intoxication after allegedly drinking in front of a church.

If you have been arrested in Minnesota, it is imperative that you contact an experienced MN criminal defense attorney immediately. This is especially true when aggravating factors are present. The stakes are much higher in these cases, thus it is even more important to retain an attorney with extensive legal expertise.

Related Sources:

TMZ

NY Daily News