Convicted Sex Offender Pleads Guilty to Bank Robbery

This Thursday, a convicted sex offender pleaded guilty to bank robbery. Eric Ebbers was currently a fugitive after leaving his Wisconsin sex offender halfway house.

Ebbers shared the story of his bank-robbing exploits in his plea agreement. According to court documents:

1. On July 17th, Ebbers held up the Citizens Bank in Hutchinson, MN. He left the bank with $5,770. This led to a high speed car chase that ended only when authorities disabled his vehicle. He then fled into a cornfield and was apprehended shortly thereafter.

2. On June 25th, he robbed the Key Bank in Gresham, OR. He left with $3,251.

3. On June 4th, Ebbers robbed the Alliance Bank in Lake City, MN where he left with $8,100.

In the plea agreement, the 25-year-old only pleaded guilty to the one charge of bank robbery stemming from the Hutchinson robbery. In the agreement, Ebbers conceded that he entered the bank and handed the teller a note saying he wanted money and had a gun.

The sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled. However, Ebbers could face anywhere between 5 and 30 years behind bars.


Minnesota State Trooper Arrested for DUI

morseNick Morse, a Minnesota State Trooper was arrested for a DUI on Wednesday.  Morse left his home in Two Harbors and drove his squad car to the Minnesota State Patrol district office in Duluth for an in-service training.

A supervisor smelled the odor of alcohol coming from Morse and was asked to perform field sobriety tests.  He was then taken to the Saint Louis County Jail where he was administered a breath test, revealing a blood alcohol concentration of .08. He was booked into jail and is charged with 4th degree DUI.

Criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, “First and foremost, I will be interested to see what his approach to the case is, especially because the arresting officer is his supervisor.  Does he want to challenge the fact that he was asked to do field sobriety tests for what would seem to be no apparent reason other than smelling like alcohol?  Because there certainly could be some issues with the “investigation,” and ultimately the arrest.  Did anybody see him driving the vehicle?  Did he admit to driving the vehicle?  What was the initial suspicion based on?

If you are facing DUI charges in MN, it is important to contact an experienced criminal trial lawyer to protect your rights.

Related Sources:
ABC News

U.S. General Charged with Multiple Sex Crimes

Today, a U.S. defense spokesperson announced that a prominent general in the United States army has been charged with multiple sexual offenses, including sexual assault.  Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair is charged with forcible sodomy and having inappropriate sexual contact with his female subordinates.

Sinclair was informed of the charges on Monday and has not yet been arrested. He was sent home from Afghanistan in May after the allegations were made against him. The charges were announced by spokesman Col. Kevin Arata in a Wednesday press conference at Fort Bragg, an enormous military base covering 19 square miles in central North Carolina.  Arata refused to answer any further questions concerning details of the case, citing authorization and protecting anonymity. Sinclair will be facing charges in the court martial and not the North Carolina criminal court system. He is also charged with possession of pornography and alcohol on a military base, which are considered criminal offenses in martial law.

Court martial proceedings are similar to municipal criminal court proceedings in that they employ the use of a presiding judge as well as prosecuting and criminal defense attorneys. However, Article 32 does not contain a limit on the amount of time that a defendant may be detained prior to the hearing. Essentially, the constitutional guarantee to a speedy trial does not apply under military law. The next step for Sinclair will be an Article 32 hearing. This is a hearing unique to the court martial system, but similar to a preliminary hearing in the civilian criminal court system. Here, a commander commissions an investigator to help determine whether their is enough evidence to proceed with the case. There is currently no date set for Sinclair’s hearing. However, Arata stated that the hearing will be open to the public.

Sinclair’s case includes charges unique to the martial law system. Offenses such as possession of pornography and adultery are rarely criminal matters within the civilian criminal law system. However, any sex crime charges must be taken very seriously. If you are under arrest or facing charges of criminal sexual misconduct or any other sex-related crimes in Minnesota, contact an experienced MN criminal defense attorney right away.

Related Sources:

Star Tribune

Huffington Post


NCAA Sex Scandal: Sandusky Linked to Child Prostitution Ring

New allegations now place Jerry Sandusky in the midst of an organized ring of pedophiles and child prostitutes. According to 48-year-old Greg Bucceroni, he was paid to have sex with former Poly Prep football coach Phil Foglietta in 1979.  Bucceroni claims that he became acquainted with Foglietta through a fundraiser hosted by the Second Mile, Jerry Sandusky’s youth charity organization.

This information was supposed via an email sent by Bucceroni to the Poly Prep highschool administration. In the email, the man claimed to have been a part of an elaborate child prostitution ring that included Sandusky and Foglietta as patrons.

“(Between) 1977-1980 I was a child prostitute associated with a tri-state (NYC-NJ-PA) pedophile ring. (During the) summer of 1979 I was brought to the State College area by Ed Savitz for the purpose of child prostitution with Jerry Sandusky at a Second Mile fundraiser,” Bucceroni wrote in the email. “Due to time constraints, Sandusky became unavailable and I was introduced to Phil Foglietta by Ed Savitz & Jerry Sandusky. Foglietta was introduced to us as Coach Phil who coached youth football in NYC. Foglietta agreed to pay $200.00 for child sex and followed us back to a Philadelphia hotel, myself (sic)ad another child prostitute then engaged coach Phil in child sex.”

Poly Prep is currently being sued by 10 male students alleging to have been abused by the former coach. The lawsuit was filed in 2009 and is requesting $20 million per plaintiff.

Until further details are made available, it is difficult to speculate as to how such accusations may play out for Jerry Sandusky, who is awaiting sentencing following his conviction for 45 counts of child molestation. However, if sex trafficking is involved, those involved could be facing new criminal charges.

Related Sources:

NY Daily News

New Agency to Handle Minneapolis Police Misconduct Cases

In the wake of the St. Paul police brutality scandal, the Minneapolis City Council approved the formation of a new department for the investigation of police misconduct. Council members voted today and passed the proposal to establish the Office of Police Conduct Review with an 8-5 vote.

The new agency will be run by both civilians and police officers. Both civilians and sworn officers will be represented in the investigative and the hearing departments. A staff of 2 civilians and 7 police officers will investigate the public’s complaints of police misconduct. The hearing panel will consist of a 2-civilian, 2-officer team who will consider the circumstances of a case and give their recommendation to the police chief. It will remain the sole authority of the policeIt is a hybrid the existing Civilian Police Review Authority and the Office of Internal Affairs.

The debate between supporters and opponents was reportedly tense and impassioned. Those against the restructure fought vehemently to prevent its formation and lost, but ultimately succeeded in tacking on two amendments to the structure. The first  protects investigation information from the general public. The second provision allows civilians to choose whether they want a civilian or police officer to handle their complaints.

According to Velma Korbel, the director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, the new agency should be complete and functional by the end of the year.  While the agency will likely be a great resource, victims of police misconduct should also contact an experienced MN criminal defense attorney to discuss their case.

Related Sources:

Star Tribune

Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White and Falcons Running Back Michael Turner Arrested Over The Weekend

Michael turnerHours after scoring the winning touchdown in the Atlanta Falcons game against the Denver Broncos, Running Back Michael Turner was arrested on suspicion of DWI.  According to jail records, Turner was booked into the Gwinnett County jail in Atlanta around 5 a.m. this morning, but was released on bond merely two hours later.

Turner was pulled over by a Gwinnett County police officer for driving 97 mph in a 65 mph zone on Interstate 85. According to police spokesman Edwin Ritter, when the officer made contact with Turner he smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from him and asked Turner to perform field sobriety tests, which led to his arrest.

Turner joined the Falcons in 2008 after four seasons with the San Diego Chargers.  Last year, he rushed for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns.


shaun whiteAlso making headlines is Olympic Gold Medalist, Shaun White,  who was arrested and charged with public intoxication and vandalism at the Lowes Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville around 2 a.m. Sunday. White allegedly pulled the fire alarm, forcing all hotel guests to evacuate the building, and obliterated a hotel phone.

White tried to flee the scene in a taxi, but a hotel guest told the driver police were on the way so White kicked the guest and took off. The guest ran after him and when White turned around they ran right into each other, causing White to strike his head against a fence.  Nashville police said that White appeared intoxicated and refused to sign his citations, which ultimately landed him in jail. White was released late Monday afternoon and has a court date on October 10, 2012.

If you are facing criminal charges in Minnesota, please contact the experienced criminal trial lawyers at the Appelman Law Firm.

Criminology of Breaking Bad: The Makings of a Meth Cook

In January of 2008, Breaking Bad premiered on AMC. And so our obsession began.

This new series will explore the crimes and criminals of the television series from a criminal defense perspective. To do so, we must look back to where it all began: the pilot episode.

For those of you who have missed out on the past four years of brilliant television:

Breaking Bad takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Walter White is a lackluster and disenfranchised high school chemistry teacher in New Mexico, bereft with financial troubles, who has been diagnosed with inoperable, late stage lung cancer. Walter fears for his family’s financial future and, after learning of the money available in the drug trade, is inspired to take a new direction in life.  Walter partners with former student Jesse Pinkman and the two begin to manufacture and sell methamphetamine while slowly developing a criminal enterprise. You can read a full synopsis of the pilot episode here.

The inaugural episode of Breaking Bad prompts the audience to reconsider how they conceive the types of people that become involved in crime. Walter White is unassuming and straight-laced, but yet he steps into a world of hardened criminals. Walter was not born into the drug trade and he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a man destined to “break bad”.  He turned to the drug trade in desperation, motivation by financial hardship.

A 1996 DEA report paints a picture of the “typical” meth user: male, between the ages of 19 and 40. This profile still dominates public opinion today, and is superficially personified by Jesse Pinkman—a failed student, burnt out and restless with no ambition. However, once we learn more about his upbringing, he continually contradicts conventional notions, despite his appearance and public demeanor. Jesse was born into an upper-middle class, urban household. He is not the offspring of the streets, but instead was forced out by well-meaning parents who refused to tolerate his self destruction. Jesse makes and sells drugs to support himself financially.

According to MN criminal defense attorney Stacy Kaye, the profiles of the people involved in the methamphetamine trade continue to blur the lines of stereotypical demographics. In fact, more than 12.3 million Americans are reported to have tried methamphetamine. Once considered the bane of rural small towns, methamphetamine is making its way into city party scenes and replacing drugs like cocaine as the substance of choice for characters like Jesse Pinkman. This spread is due, in part, to the rise of organized manufacturing and trafficking from Mexico. Unlike the small town user mixing chemicals in their garage to supply their own high, we are now seeing a business-minded enterprise emerge, blazing the trails for figures such as Walter White to enter the drug trade.

While the audience is drawn closer to the leading characters, they are still left to reconcile with the justice system that vilifies them. In Minnesota, a person may be charged with a first degree felony controlled substance crime for manufacturing any amount of methamphetamine. The maximum penalty for this offense is 30 years in prison and up to $1,000,000 in fines.

The most important message to take away from the pilot episode is that the “criminal” is not an alien breed. The Walter White in the RV meth lab is the same Walter White we see in the classroom. It is the legal status of the chemicals which draws the line between ordinary citizen and criminal offender.  Granted, the story continues to unfold and the characters’ actions become darker as the series progresses. However, the pilot episode serves to humanize these characters. This is perhaps why Breaking Bad resonates so strongly with our criminal defense firm. We understand that our clients are ordinary people who happen to be tangled up in statutes and legislation, often as a result of falling on hard times or an instance of poor judgement.

Stay tuned as next week, we explore specific criminal charges and penalties these characters could face in the real world as we continue our blog series The Criminology of Breaking Bad. In the meantime, learn about a real-life Walter White.


MN Addresses Need for Strong Drug Abuse Strategy

It seems that the Obama Administration’s 2012 National Drug Control Strategy has resonated in Minnesota. Last night,  officials from various Minnesota state departments convened to discuss the growing need for a new drug control strategy.

The revelation was prompted by an unsettling increase in the purity, availability, and widespread use of heroin and prescription opiates across Minnesota. At a news conference announcing the campaign, Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson echoed the ideas outlined in the NDCS. Jesson announced that the strategy would rely on the continued development and implementation of the state’s existing programs, focusing on prevention and treatment.

The DHS Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division plans to coordinate efforts across the criminal justice system, department of corrections, medical community, and school system. The strategy would include the strengthening of MN drug courts, an alternative to traditional incarceration that focuses on an offender’s recovery while still maintaining accountability within the criminal court system. However,  space is limited in drug courts statewide and often, participation is unavailable for many qualified offenders. This is especially true of offenders represented  by overloaded public defenders. The chances of inclusion in these programs is far greater with the involvement of an experienced MN criminal defense attorney.

According to MN Corrrections Commissioner Tom Roy, the strategy must also focus on the treatment of prison inmates who are struggling with drug addiction. “We only have 800 treatment beds,” announced Roy, “We are not meeting the needs of our offenders.”

Jesson announced that the next step in developing Minnesota’s strategy would be to examine the programs used in other states.

It is clear that further penalizing the drug user is not stifling the country’s growing demand. To truly impact the widespread and increasing use of dangerous drugs, the government’s focus must be redirected from corrections to prevention and treatment. Minnesota has the programs in place to provide such services. However, resources are severely limited and the majority of Minnesota drug offenders do not receive access to necessary medical intervention, thus perpetuating the cycle of use, abuse, handcuffs, and crowded prisons.


Sex Offender’s Move to Oakdale Shows Stigma During Reentry

For a convicted offender, reentry into the community after incarceration can be one of the most difficult aspects of the criminal justice process.

The 2012 National Drug Control Strategy outlined the importance of government-sanctioned reentry programs. These programs are intended to reduce recidivism and ease the process of re-acclimating to society. For this purpose, the Federal Interagency Reentry Council (FIRC) was established.

However, the biggest hurdles to a smooth reentry aren’t always at the policy level. Often, offenders finds themselves returning to a hostile community who keep a suspicious eye on their every move. Depending on the circumstances of the offense, sex offenders may be required to register as such within the community, effectively branding themselves with a proverbial scarlet letter.

This is true in the case of 36-year-old Ka Her, a registered Level 3 Predatory Sex Offender with ties to a violent Hmong street gang who moved to Oakdale on September 1st. This Monday, more than 80 people attended a town meeting to discuss Her’s arrival and voice their concerns surrounding his presence in the community.

In 1999, Ka Her was convicted of first degree sexual assault for the benefit of a gang in Chisago County. Her received an 86-month sentence. In 2000, he was again charged with and convicted of first degree sexual assault for the benefit of a gang, this time involving a 15-year-old girl. For this offense, Her was sentenced to 98 months behind bars. In both cases, Her knew the girls and used force and threats to commit the assault. Ka Her was released from prison on May 8, 2012.

According to police, Her was a member of the Tiny Man Crew (TMC) street gang, considered by law enforcement to be one of the most violent in the metro area.

Given the Ka Her’s criminal history, it is no great surprise that Oakdale residents would express their discomfort. Questions were raised concerning Her’s supervision, the need for additional police patrol, and his proximity to a neighborhood daycare. Designation as a Level 3 offender denotes a strong propensity for repeat offenses, and Her is the only Level 3 offender registered in the city of Oakdale.

Even after sexual offenders have served their criminal penalties, many civil consequences remain in effect. Upon release from incarceration, they must register as a Level 3 offender and if they relocate, they are required to notify the community.

In Minnesota, first degree criminal sexual conduct is a felony offense bearing a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine. The presumptive sentence–essentially a “flat rate” penalty–for this offense is 144 months in prison.

Sexual assault is an offense taken very seriously by law enforcement, and often, the defendant may be subjected to harsh interrogation and intimidation. The social stigma surrounding sex offenders is hostile, but the accused are still guaranteed their full right to attorney representation. During the investigation, an experienced attorney is an invaluable asset who can help ensure that their client is being treated fairly by law enforcement and the criminal court system. If convicted, an experienced criminal defense attorney continues to act as both counsel and liaison for the offender, working to mitigate both the criminal and civil consequences.


Jackie Chan Wannabe Facing Felony Assault Charges

Sometimes, a defendant’s excuse is the most noteworthy component of a crime. This is especially true in the case of Qiang Du, a 22-year-old man charged with felony domestic assault.

On August 30th, police were notified of an assault that had occurred two days earlier at a business in Eagan. According to the complaint, Qiang Du followed a female acquaintance–identified in the police report as HZ–outside. He then grabbed her HZ the throat with one hand and squeezed until his mother rushed outside to stop him. HZ stated that Du  “had a particular look in his eyes when he was choking her” and “was yelling at her and calling her names”.

According to the complaint, Du also made four phone calls to HZ, three of which she answered. HZ stated that during these phone calls, Du “mad comments about her daughter who still lived in China, and that she felt they were threatening.”

When police interview Qiang Du about the incident, he provided a very different story. According to Du, the alleged assault was “all a misunderstanding.”  In fact, he and his mother had recently watched a Jackie Chan film and were re-enacting a  scene from the movie. Du stated that in that particular scene, someone yells at another person and chokes them with one hand. When asked to clarify, Du stated that, just as he watched in the film, he grabbed HZ’s neck with his right hand and squeezed while yelling quotes from the movie. Du told officers that his mother likely intervened because she thought the kung fu maneuver was “very dangerous” because of his masculine hand. According to Du, when his mother said “Stop, don’t do that”,  he ended his Jackie Chan re-enactment.

Based on his statement, Qiang Du was arrested. Obviously, police did not consider his impersonation of a kung fu icon to be a viable excuse. Du was subsequently charged with:

1. Domestic Assault by Strangulation– A felony offense punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

2. Terroristic Threats– A felony offense punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

3. Domestic Assault (2 counts)- A misdemeanor offense, each punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

According to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, if Qiang Du’s intention was, indeed, to simply re-enact scenes from a movie, than he would be not guilty under the definition of assault:

“To be guilty of an assault, the defendant must intentionally do the act to cause harm to another person.  Specifically, the defendant must intentionally impede the breathing of the victim.  However, Jackie Chan’s stunt double has already done a great disservice to his defense.  Qiang Du explicitly told police specifically how he intentionally gripped the complainant’s throat, confirmed that she was a member of the household, and confirmed that he believed his mother thought the act was very dangerous.  In essence, his admissions proved the prosecution’s case.  While this may have otherwise played out interestingly in court, our Jackie Chan wannabe karate-chopped his chances for a favorable outcome. An all-important rule of thumb is made especially obvious here–don’t make any statements until you have an attorney present.”

If you are charged with any violent crime, the best way you can help yourself is to invoke your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Too often, defendants forgo these constitutional guarantees and effectively sabotage their defense. If you are arrested, say nothing and call an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.