Category Archives: Criminal Conduct

Kid Park walk

Mom Arrested For Letting Child Go To Park…Wait What?

A Florida mom was arrested and charged with felony child neglect for letting her son go to the park by himself.

“I’m totally dumbfounded by this whole situation,” said Nicole Gainey, the mother at the center of the case.

The whole incident unfolded last Saturday when Gainey’s 7-year-old son Dominic asked if he could go to the park by himself. Gainey told him he could walk to the park on his own, adding that she “was letting him go play,” and “didn’t think she was doing anything wrong.”

The park in question is about a half mile from their home, and Dominic said it usually takes him about 10 minutes to get there. During the walk Dominic passed by a public pool, and a concerned adult asked him where his parents were. Flustered by the continued questions, Dominic ran off to the park. The adult who stopped Dominic by the pool phoned authorities, and they picked Dominic up and gave him a ride back to his house.

Police could have just dropped Dominic off, but they decided to put his mom in handcuffs for child neglect. Gainey was shocked and appalled by the arrest.

“My own bondsman said my parents would have been in jail every day,” said Gainey, who paid nearly $4,000 in bond fees to secure her release.

Gainey said the arresting officer repeatedly lectured her on the number of sex offenders in the area.

“He just basically kept going over that there’s pedophiles and this and that and basically the park wasn’t safe and he shouldn’t be there alone,” said Gainey.

Gainey believes that the half mile walk is safe enough for her son during the day, adding that he has a cell phone and they check in with one another regularly.

Gainey plans to fight the charge, but she added that she won’t let Dominic go to the park alone anymore out of fear that she’ll be arrested again.

Avery Appelman comments

Like most states, felony child neglect is subjective and determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, on a cool August day, how old does a child have to be before a father can leave him unsupervised in the car while he runs into the gas station to pick up a gallon of milk? 5 years old? 10 years old? How long will the child be in the car? These are all factors that help authorities decide if charges should be filed.

This crime occurred in St. Lucie, Florida. There is no law that specifies that a child needs to be a certain age before they can go somewhere unsupervised, so again, it’s up to the cops to look at all the factors in the case.

Ultimately I don’t believe these charges will stick. Whether or not you believe Gainey was in the right or wrong, simply bringing the child home, talking to the mother about the sex offenders in the area, and mentioning that another violation could lead to child neglect charges probably would have resulted in the same outcome. Gainey would have got the message. Instead, she now has to spend money on an attorney to fight felony charges because a cop decided this was the best way to look out for the safety of a child.

Related source: Fox 6 News

Kid Arrest

Locking Up Kids Leads to Adult Criminals

A report by Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. suggests that locking up youths for juvenile crimes leads to an increased likelihood that they’ll return to prison as an adult offender.

Instead of pushing for jail time, the advocacy group said prosecutors and judges should focus on making sure the juvenile offenders get the help they need – something they say it unavailable when the youth gets deeper into the juvenile justice system.

“Institutions provide virtually none of the supports the community can,” the YAP said in a statement. “Youth need to learn how to function and make good decisions within the community, and having the support of caring, competent adults and access to safe and positive people, places and activities is what leads to good long-term outcomes. Kids can’t access these supports in isolation.”

The Department of Juvenile Justice said as the number of beds in one state’s juvenile facilities declined, so too did youth arrests, felony juvenile arrests, and transfers to adult courts. The YAP believes more children are being rehabilitated through probationary programs and mental health counseling than by spending their time behind bars.

“Risk factors that make you vulnerable to incarceration cannot be eliminated through incarceration,” the YAP cited in their report. “In fact, many of the environmental and social factors that contribute to youth incarceration get worse, not better, with incarceration.”

In their report, the YAP cites a program at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center to back up their assertions. The Center put 3,523 high-risk youth through an intensive community-based program and found that nearly 90 percent remained arrest-free during their tenure, which is much higher than the average youth recidivism rate.

Related source: The News Service of Florida

Fatal DUI

St. Paul in Top 10 for Fewest Fatal DUIs Per Capita

A new study examining fatal alcohol-related car crashes in large metropolitan areas found that St. Paul, Minnesota, is in the Top 10 for fewest alcohol-related driving deaths per capita. Additionally, no Minnesota cities were named in the Top 25 cities with the most alcohol-related fatal car crashes.

The study published by NerdWallet.com examined car crash data from cities across the US from 2010-2012. To analyze how citizens in one state dealt with a DUI compared to those in another state, researchers also tracked:

  • Average car insurance premium
  • Average car insurance premium after a DUI
  • Total number of fatal alcohol-related car crashes
  • City population
  • Fatal alcohol-related crashes per capita

The Best and the Worst

California led the way in cities with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths per capita, as two California cities cracked the Top 5 and four made their way into the Top 10. See the chart below for the cities with the highest rate of fatal alcohol-related car accidents per capita.

1. San Bernadino, CA

2. Mobile, AL

3. Riverside, CA

4. Tulsa, OK

5. Lubbock, TX

While California may hold the dubious distinction of having four cities in the Top 10 of the above list, they also claimed the top three spots on the list of cities with the fewest fatal alcohol-related car crashes. The five major cities with the fewest deaths are:

1. Moreno Valley, CA

2. Glendale, CA

3. Santa Rosa, CA

4. Arlington, VA

5. Aurora, IL

Although it didn’t crack the Top 5, St. Paul finished as the ninth best city for fewest fatal alcohol-related crashes.  Only 0.0140 residents per 1,000 perished in such an accident between 2010-2012.

Also, car insurance premiums in St. Paul didn’t spike very much compared to other states. Research shows that the average St. Paulian can expect their insurance to rise about 30 percent after a DUI. Conversely, residents in Durham, North Carolina, can expect their insurance to increase an average of 157 percent after a DUI.

For more information about the study, head on over to NerdWallet.

Minnesota Immunization Laws

New Immunization Laws in Minnesota 

Summer is in full swing, but the next thing you know your kids will be lining up at the bus stop as another school year begins. While books and school supplies may be at the top of your back-to-school shopping list, don’t forget about Minnesota’s new immunization laws that are set to go into effect in September.

If you want to avoid a last minute doctor’s appointment you’ll want to make sure your son or daughter is in compliance with the state’s new guidelines. The changes that go into effect in September include:

  • Requiring Hepatitis A and B vaccinations for all children enrolling in childcare or early-childhood programs in a school setting.
  • Replacing the current 7th grade tetanus-diphtheria vaccine with another that includes the pertussis vaccination.
  • Requiring all students to receive the meningococcal vaccination prior to entering 7th grade.

Health officials say parents can decide not to vaccinate their child, but they must go through the appropriate channels. In order to be eligible for the school year, a child must have their vaccinations or have their guardian apply for a medical or conscientious exemption.

Stay Up To Date

The new law will go into effect beginning September 1, but those aren’t the only vaccinations a child needs to stay in good standing with the school. The Minnesota Department of Health has come out with a handy chart to make it easier for parents to stay in the know when it comes to what shots their children need.

Click here to check out the immunization chart, or visit the Minnesota Department of Health website for more information.

You can also find the updated Student Immunization Form on the MDoH website. This helps you keep track of the dates your child received his or her shots, and it has exemption information if you wish to file an exemption.

Related source: MDoH

Hope Solo

US Soccer Star Solo Arrested for Assault 

U.S. Women’s National Team goalie Hope Solo was arrested for assault over the weekend after witnesses say she struck her sister and nephew at a family gathering.

We’ve been theorizing how red card fouls in the World Cup would translate to assault charges if the aggression occurred off the pitch, but it appears that Solo won’t escape this situation with a simple red card. According to the police report, Solo would not stop “hitting people” or leave the home where the incident occurred.

Officers arrived at the residence and reported that they could hear the disturbance. Once inside, they noted that Solo appeared “intoxicated and upset,” and they determined she was the “primary aggressor and had instigated the assault,” which left her sister and 17-year-old nephew with visible injuries.

Solo was arrested on two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence assault. She will make an appearance this afternoon at Kirkland Municipal Court.

No Stranger to Controversy

This isn’t the first time the soccer star has made headlines for the wrong reasons. Besides making waves for her criticism of some former teammates and coaches, Solo was also involved in a domestic disturbance the night before her wedding.

According to the 2012 report, Solo and her fiancé Jerramy Stevens, a former tight end for the Seattle Seahawks, got into a heated argument a day before their wedding. Stevens was arrested while authorities investigated a possible assault, but he was never charged. The pair got married the following day.

Reached by email to comment on the latest incident, Solo’s attorney Toddy Maybrown said, “”Hope is not guilty of any crime. In fact, our investigation reveals that Hope was assaulted and injured during this unfortunate incident. We look forward to the opportunity to present the true facts in court and to having this matter behind Hope very soon.”

Related source: CNN, ESPN

Alex Song

Alex Song’s Assault Earns Red Card for Cameroon

Yesterday’s post about the World Cup mentioned that Portugal’s Pepe had the most discussed red card in this year’s tournament, but Pepe’s headbutt may have been upstaged by Alex Song’s hybrid punch/People’s Elbow.

The elbow heard round the world occurred just moments after two Cameroon players collided with one another in the attacking end. Croatia gained control of the ball and looked to push for a counterattack. As the players were rushing to get back to the other side of the pitch, Song bumped into Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic. Frustrated that his progress was impeded and that his team was down 1-0, Song threw a running elbow punch into Mandzukic’s back. Check out a video of the play below.

Gif provided by Who Ate All The Pies

The Croatian forward fell like there was a sniper in the building, and the whole incident unfolded in clear view of referee Pedro Proenca. The Portuguese referee wasted little time showing Song a red card, which forced Cameroon to finish the game with 10 men. Croatia went on to score three more goals to eliminate Cameroon from the World Cup by a score of 4-0.

Avery Explains Another Assault

Alex Song’s intentional elbowing of Mario Mandzukic was, by definition, a clear case of assault. There are three key points in Minnesota’s Assault statute that must be met for the crime of assault to have taken place.

  • Intent
  • An act
  • Harm

For a person to commit assault, they must partake in an act, with the intention of causing harm or the threat of harm.

As you watch the replay, it’s clear that Song committed the act with the intent of harming Mandzukic. Any city attorney worth a lick would prosecute that offense.

Pool Raft sex

Man Again Arrested For Sexual Relations With Pool Toy

While some people look for brains, beauty or humor in a potential partner, an Ohio man appears to have a different turn on after being arrested for having intimate relations with a pool floatie.

Edwin Tobergta, 35, was arrested for felony public indecency after a witness observed him in the nude having simulated relations with a pink life raft. What makes this story even weirder, though, is that it wasn’t the first time Tobergta has been caught getting it on with a pool toy.

According to his arrest report, Tobergta has been booked on eight different occasions, including arrests in:

  • June 2013 – For stepping out his back door sans clothing and having “sexual relations with a rubber pool float.”
  • August 2011 – A neighbor enjoying his new pool observed Tobergta engaging in sexual conduct with a pink inflatable pool toy.
  • Summer 2008 – Tobergta was caught naked in a neighbor’s yard engaging in a sexual activity.

Tobergta was sentenced to five years of community control following the 2008 arrest, and he received five years of probation after being released from prison following his latest arrest.

It seems unlikely that a judge will go easy on him, especially considering Tobergta promised to quit his odd habit following his 2013 arrest.

“I do want to apologize for my actions,” Tobergta said. “I’m sorry. I do deal with mental issues, and if court would give me this chance for this program, sir, I would give it 100 percent. I’m ready to get my life together and quit all this nonsense.”

Mel Welch comments

This is certainly an odd case, and it’s clear that Tobergta is not getting the necessary mental help that he needs. Sending him to prison isn’t going to magically solve the problem. Tobergta needs professional help.

I understand that he needs to be punished for his repeated actions, but the cycle needs to be broken. Hopefully the presiding judge views this as a mental sickness instead of intentional criminal sexual conduct.

Related source: AJC

Hood disease

Youth Crime: Accepting Affuenza and Punishing PTSD

Back in February we heard the story of Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old boy who drove drunk and killed four people on a Texas highway. Couch’s attorneys argued at trial that the child’s parents were partly to blame because they gave their son everything he wanted and failed to set limits or discipline him. His attorneys painted the child as a victim of “affluenza” – the result of a wealthy and privileged life.

Many who followed the case cried foul when the teen was sentenced to 10 years of probation. Prosecutors had asked for a 20-year jail sentence, but the judge ultimately decided probation was the better route. If Couch has one misstep in the next 10 years, he faces the possibility of 10 years in jail.

PTSD in the Inner City

Another mental disorder is plaguing youth of a different breed – Inner city youth exposed to crime and violence on a regular basis. According to research presented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention, one in three urban youth have mild to severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers,” said Dr. Howard Spivak, director of the Violence Prevention Program.

Another expert, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade of San Francisco State University, said important aspects of a teen’s life fall by the wayside when crime and violence are interjected into their life.

“You could take anyone who is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, and the things we are currently emphasizing in school will fall off their radar,” said Duncan-Andrade. “Because frankly it does not matter in our biology if we don’t survive the walk home.”

Unlike “affluenza,” PTSD in inner city youth doesn’t get such a glamorous moniker. The slang nickname for the mental issue is “hood disease,” and rarely do judges give the benefit of the doubt to inner city minorities who commit much less heinous crimes than Ethan Couch.

Olis Simmons, CEO of Youth Uprising, said people don’t want to help those with “hood disease.” They’d rather just pretend it doesn’t exist.

“Terms like ‘hood disease’ mean it’s someone else’s problem, but it’s not. That’s a lie. It’s a collective problem, and the question is what are we prepared to do about it?”

Mel Welch comments

These conditions are reflective of our jurisprudence of rehabilitation rather than retribution. When that is the motivating consideration, naturally a person’s life and potential wayward influences will be closely examined. Much criticism is leveled at this approach, but it is really a redux of the retribution-rehabilitation debate.

With “hood disease,” as in the case of “Affluenza,” the question is whether these youths, who have been so influenced by the norms in their environs, can develop the “evil intent” (mens rea), which is what is prohibited by law. A person can accidentally do a forbidden act (e.g., cause a death through a series of unforeseen and unforeseeable incidents) and the law doesn’t (or shouldn’t) punish that.

Do these youths have the wrongful intent when they commit the crime, or have they been so affected by their social constructs that they can’t reasonably discern the consequences of their actions? I’d love to see more research done on the subject, as far too often teens are shipped off to prison instead of getting the mental treatment they so desperately need.

Related source: CBS San Francisco

Arrest Warrant

Minneapolis Warrant Crackdown Coming Tuesday 

Do you have an outstanding warrant in Hennepin County and want to avoid an awkward scene at your home or place of work? You should strongly consider turning yourself in today.

That’s because the Hennepin County sheriff’s office will be conducting a warrant sweep on Tuesday in hopes of clearing some active warrants out of the system.

“Do not become a fugitive of the law by ignoring a warrant,” said Sheriff Rich Stanek. “It’s not going to go away on its own. You need to make the right decision and turn yourself in before officers come knocking at the door because we will make sure you are held accountable.”

Stanek said the warrant sweep will focus predominantly on offenders facing drug-related charges as Minneapolis has seen a spike in drug-related deaths over the last few years. 17 deaths were attributed to heroin in Hennepin County in April alone, putting the city on pace to set a record number for heroin-related deaths in 2014. Last year set the previous record with 56 heroin-related deaths.

The Hennepin County sweep will begin on Tuesday and continue throughout the end of the month. Stanek noted that his office would be looking for roughly 160 people with active felony warrants, many of whom have multiple active warrants.

More details about the sweep can be found at the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office website, including where to go to turn yourself in and what to bring so you can post bail if necessary.

We handle cases in Hennepin County and are more than willing to assist you throughout this process. If you have questions about the process or your charges before surrendering to police, please give us a call at (952) 224-2277 or contact us through our website. You don’t have to go through this alone, and being proactive about your warrant will put you in good graces with the court. Let us help you get your warrant cleared up.

Related source: CBS Minnesota

Car Search

Judge Throws Out Drug Charge Over False Police Testimony

Prosecutors in Florida dropped drug trafficking charges against a 26-year-old after a judge threw out an officer’s incredibly inaccurate statement that he called “discredited, controverted, and contradictory.”

The case is a great example of due process and proper application of the Fourth Amendment by the presiding judge. According to case details, Emanuel Bell was stopped for rolling a stop sign after authorities observed him leave a “known drug house.” An officer ordered Bell out of the vehicle after he observed him moving his hands near the center console. The officer decided to search the console, even though Bell expressly told the officer he did not consent to the search.

The quick search of the vehicle did not turn up any suspicious items, but the officer was not satisfied. While the officer went to his squad car to write Bell a ticket, Officer Brandon Bill approached the vehicle and claimed to smell a faint odor of marijuana. This gave him all the probable cause he needed to conduct a full search of the vehicle, which led to the discovery of a small amount of cocaine in the car. The officers placed Bell under arrest on charges of drug trafficking.

Judge Notices Discrepancies

Upon a review of the evidence, Circuit Judge Michael Andrews noticed some concerning findings. He learned that:

  • No other officers reported smelling marijuana.
  • No marijuana was found in the car.
  • Bell was detained for 25 minutes, much longer than need be for a routine traffic stop.
  • An officer threatened to use drug dogs to get the necessary probable cause to search the vehicle.
  • One officer referred to Bell, who is black, as “boy,” while another accused him of being a criminal informant.
  • Police did not allow the suspect to call his attorney.

After reviewing all the facts, Judge Andrews issued an unusual statement.

“It stretches the limits of credulity for this court to believe that the search of the defendant’s vehicle was based upon the odor of marijuana,” Andrews wrote. “Here, Officer Bill’s testimony is ‘discredited, controverted and contradictory within itself,’ and as such is incredible.”

Not surprisingly, prosecutors dropped the charges shortly thereafter.

Mel Welch comments

Essentially, a male leaving a “known drug house” was stopped by police for failing to make a complete stop and was held until officers created an excuse to search his vehicle. Police did not receive consent to search the vehicle and the officer alleged the basis for the search was – “he smelled the odor of marijuana.” Sound familiar? The officer left out details in his report which came to light through the contested hearing (officer stated stop was only minutes – actually lasted over 25 minutes; police would not allow the suspect to call his attorney and took his phone; police accused the suspect of being a narc).

In Minnesota, police may stop a vehicle for any traffic infraction (like here – a rolling stop), and likewise they are only supposed to hold a person for as long as it takes to resolve the basis of seizure, and police may not expand the scope of a seizure unless they develop independent bases of suspicion. Here, the officer had to find independent bases of suspicion beyond the traffic violation. The odor of marijuana is always a good go-to for police because: (1) it pits the cops credibility against the suspect’s credibility (because you cannot record smells for independent verification; the suspect has something at stake to challenge the veracity of his testimony; and the officer is supposedly free of any bias in his investigation), and (2) the odor of marijuana has been upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court to justify a search of an entire vehicle.

Thankfully the judge here gave the report a second look. There was no marijuana found in the vehicle, and the police reports were inconsistent with the objective facts. The judge took his role seriously: as an arbiter of credibility and truth rather than a facilitator of the criminal process. Kudos.

Related source: Tampa Bay Times