Category Archives: Criminal Conduct

Are March Madness Pools Legal?

If you’re like most red-blooded Americans, you filled out a bracket for the NCAA tournament. Maybe you just like to fill a bracket out for fun, but odds are you’re in a pool with friends or co-workers that has a little bit of money on the line.

Now, the feds aren’t going to be kicking in your door for running a $5 March Madness pool, but you may want to be a little careful about how you advertise your pool, because technically, it’s illegal.

March Madness Gambling

According to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, otherwise known as the Bradley Act, it is unlawful for a person to gamble “on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games.”

That said, four states are exempt from the Bradley Act, but Minnesota isn’t one of them. The four states exempt from the Bradley Act are:

  • Nevada
  • Delaware
  • Oregon
  • Montana

Additionally, if you run your pool through, or another online site, you also have to worry about the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006. That act prohibits accepting payments related to gambling.

“There are easy arguments that could be made that outside of Nevada, a bracket of any sort is illegal, especially if you’re moving it online,” says Alexander Ripps, a legal analyst at Gambling Compliance in Washington, D.C.

The act isn’t completely straightforward though, as it has an exception for fantasy sports (think or, and March Madness lands in the murky middle between sporting event and fantasy sport.

Additionally, since the vast majority of pools pay out all the money they collect, authorities aren’t going to be quick to break down your bracket since no third-party is profiting from the pool. That’s why you don’t see many sites taking a cut for a bracket pool. Instead, they offer a free bracket management service, which boosts their ad revenue through extra clicks and pageviews, and they assume there’s no money being exchanged, even though millions of dollars flow through Paypal every March.

In all, the biggest thing you have to worry about if you’re running or participating in a work pool is that you’re violating a company policy. Some larger companies have very strict rules about inter-office gambling, and running a pool could cost you your job. If you’re wondering if it’s against company policy, ask a superior before blindly throwing together a March Madness pool.

If you’re still in the hunt to take home your bracket pool this year, good luck! If you want to see how our Violent Crime bracket stacks up against the actual bracket, click here.

Related source: Free Enterprise, Bloomberg Business


Mankato Pair Butt Dial Police During Robbery

A pair of would-be robbers tipped police off to their activities last Thursday when one of them accidentally butt dialed the cops mid-heist.

According to the police report, a 911 dispatcher in Blue Earth County received a call from a cell phone at 3:42 a.m last Thursday. The dispatcher heard two voices on the call, but she was unable to get either person to respond. The dispatcher continued to listen to the pair, and based on the nature of the conversation, she believed the men might be committing a robbery.

“She heard enough that made her suspicious,” said Captain Rich Murry.

The dispatched ran a trace on the phone and uncovered the pair were located near the 3500 block of 3rd avenue, near the Mankato city limits. Officers were dispatched to the scene, where they found two men hiding inside a Blue Earth gun range. Authorities also stopped a woman who was waiting in a vehicle outside the range.

After piecing the puzzle together, authorities said the two men broke into North Mankato Supply with the intention of stealing cash and other items. Thanks to the ill-timed phone call, they were arrested before they could get away with the stolen goods. The trio is expected to face charges of third-degree burglary, which carries to following potential penalties:

  • Up to 5 years in prison.
  • A fine up to $10,000.
  • Both prison time and a fine.

The unintentional butt dial was certainly long enough for the dispatcher to sense something was up. Authorities noted that the call lasted for 34 minutes.

“You can’t make that stuff up,” Murry said.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Minnesota Criminal Records Could Soon Move Online

The Minnesota Supreme Court appears poised to move forward with a plan to put the majority of court records online.

Currently, if you want to view a person’s criminal complaints or pending lawsuits, you have to go down to the courthouse, and you typically have to pay money to get a printout of the document. The Minnesota Supreme Court wants to move these documents online in hopes of making past criminal convictions more transparent.

The move to put criminal cases online wouldn’t be revolutionary, as many states have already made these records accessible online. One such state is Wisconsin, who has a relatively easy and extensive database of statewide circuit court cases.

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea said the court will issue its decision “in due course,” but also noted the law should aspire for openness and transparency.

Not All Agree

Not surprisingly, not everyone is on board with making past convictions available online. Joshua Esmay, director of public policy and advocacy for the Council of Crime and Justice, said that the online records would make it more difficult for people to put a past mistake behind them.

“The vast majority of people make mistakes,” Esmay said. “We don’t need to know constantly about them.”

Esmay’s group runs a monthly “expungement seminar” where they teach individuals how to erase or seal evidence of past criminal convictions. He says about 40 people show up each month in an effort to erase the “collateral consequences” of the past.

“The real point is, we don’t know how it will be used,” Esmay said of the proposed online database.

That said, Esmay understands that keeping all the information hidden can be just as damaging as having it out in the open. Esmay noted that if the Minnesota Supreme Court plans to go forward with their proposal, he hopes they’ll ensure the public can get the full picture of a past incident, and not just an abbreviated record. That way prospective employers or landlords can fully understand an incident instead of making a decision based on limited information and half-truths.

It seems likely that the Minnesota Supreme Court will move forward with online court access in the near future, especially since the state has already passed the Ban the Box law, which helps protect applicants from being denied an interview because of a past conviction.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Tech Gadgets Help Minnesotans Thwart Burglars

Two Minnesota homeowners were tipped off to home invasions within the last two weeks with the help of their smartphone and a few handy gadgets.

Joe Craddock, who owns a home in South Minneapolis, was able to catch a fugitive red-handed using the Dropcam by Nest video monitoring system. Craddock said he was at work when he got an alert that there was movement in his supposed-to-be-empty home.

“It is really nice to have your phone, get an alert when there’s motion, be able to see a still of it, and click to see exactly what’s going on in your house,” Craddock said.

Craddock said the intruder was gone by the time police arrived, but he hopes the surveillance footage will help investigators find their man. Craddock added that his home monitoring system cost about $300, and it allows him to watch a live feed of his home on his phone or computer.

Baby Monitoring App Catches Thief

Police said Craddock’s case was the second time in a couple weeks a homeowner used their smartphone to prevent a burglary. A few weeks ago a Roseville woman was alerted to a man outside her residence thanks to her “Cloud Baby Monitor” app. The woman was living in Kansas for the winter when the app alerted her to a presence outside her Roseville home. She called local authorities and they were able to aprehend the suspect with stolen goods in his pockets.

The woman said the app, motion sensors and a monitoring hub cost less than $200.

“This woman does a do-it-yourself home burglary monitoring system for less than $200, and we catch a burglar basically walking out of the house,” Roseville Police Lt. Lorne Rosand said.

Maple Grove Crime Prevention officer Todd Strege said apps and user-installed systems are becoming more popular as homeowners are taking safety into their own hands.

“How readily available the equipment is now — plus as user friendly as it is — it’s not very hard to buy a complete system yourself and put it in.”

Home monitoring systems from Brinks or ADT can cost $600 a year, and that doesn’t even include installation fees.

Related source: CBS Minnesota

One Year in Jail For Truck Driver Who Blew By School Bus

An Apple Valley truck driver has been sentenced to one year in jail, with four months stayed for two years after video surfaced of him speeding by a school bus and narrowly missing a 13-year-old girl.

Allen Howard Morris, 48, was convicted of a gross misdemeanor after a dashcam caught him passing a school bus on the right hand side when its red flashers were displayed. In addition to the year in jail, Morris will have to:

  • Remain on probation for two years.
  • Pay a $1,000 fine.
  • Write an apology letter to the family of the girl he nearly hit.

Shocking Video

We actually covered this story when it first broke back in 2014. According to the police report, Morris was driving his semi behind a school bus on a two-lane section of Hwy 23 between New London and Paynesville when the bus put its flashers on and began to slow down as it approached a stop. Morris, who told officers that he was looking at a field and not paying attention to the road, said he looked back at the road and he realized he wouldn’t be able to stop in time , so he swerved to the right and blew past the bus at a high speed.

Thankfully he didn’t strike 13-year-old Alexis Schwartz, who was waiting to board the bus. Schwartz said after the incident that her “heart was pounding awfully fast and [her] hands were shaking because [she] was so scared to have it come up that close.”

You can see video of the near-accident below.



Despite his lack of awareness on the road, Morris did make the conscious decision to turn himself in after he learned that police were investigating the matter.

Now that March is here and the weather will start warming up, you’ll likely start seeing cars traveling faster on the roads. As speeds increase, so too does stopping time. Make sure you give school buses and emergency vehicles plenty of room in the event they have to make a unexpected stop. Also, if you think you’re up to par on Minnesota’s school bus stop arm laws, test your knowledge with our quiz!

Related source: Pioneer Press.

The Link Between Depression and Violent Crime

Just this week we wrote that even though arrests are down, our jail cells are still filing up. The problem is that many of these repeat offenders aren’t getting the mental health help they need. Instead, they are simply thrown in jail and left to their own devices once they’ve served their sentence. The legal system is not addressing the problem.

Today, we’ve learned of a new study that links mental health issues to increases in violent crime. According to a study by researchers at Oxford University, individuals diagnosed with depression are about three times more likely than the general population to commit a violent offense.

Researchers came to that conclusion after examining a group of roughly 47,000 depressed people and almost 900,000 non-diagnosed individuals over the course of three years. They found that clinically depressed individuals had a higher risk of self harm and harm to others.

While depressed individuals may be three times as likely to commit a violent offense than the average person, researchers emphasized that the vast majority of clinically depressed individuals have not been convicted of a crime, nor will they.

“One important finding was that the vast majority of depressed persons were not convicted of violent crimes, and that the rates … are below those for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and considerably lower than for alcohol or drug abuse,” said Seena Fazel, who led the study at Oxford University’s psychiatry department.

According to the study, crimes more often committed by depressed individuals than the general population include:

  • Robbery
  • Sexual offenses
  • Assault

Depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide, yet we’re still hesitant to talk openly about the disease. Far too often we punish violent offenders for the crime instead of pairing punishment with mental health evaluations and treatments. Without treatment, recidivism is likely.

Fazel said many people want to ensure depressed individuals don’t self harm or commit suicide, but little attention is given to their likelihood of lashing out at others. He hopes to conduct future studies on why depressed individuals are more likely to commit a violent offense.

“Is it about not being able to think through things, not being able to make judgments about risk? Is it irritability? Impulsiveness?” he said. “If we can get more of a handle on that, it could really help treat these people.”

Related source: Fox News

How Police Get You To Confess To A Crime You Didn’t Commit

You’ve all seen the way Hollywood portrays interrogations on television. A dark room, spotlight on the accused, maybe a little good cop-bad cop action. Now, that’s not exactly how interrogations go down in the real world, but police officers are very good at getting people to admit to things or to implicate themselves during these sessions. Don’t think you’d crack under the pressure? Check out this study out of the United Kingdom that may prove otherwise.

According to the study, by using a combination of misinformation, encouragement and three hours of discussion, 70 percent of people admitted to a crime they didn’t commit. More interestingly, not only did the participants admit to a crime they didn’t commit, they claimed to recall full-blown, detailed experiences from events that never occurred.

False Confession Study

Concocting a false confession is no easy task. Researchers in this study tried to get college-aged students to cop to a crime they didn’t commit by sprinkling the truth into a false narrative. For example, the team of scientists did a little background research on their subjects prior to questioning in order to learn some facts about the participants. Surprisingly, the only facts they learned about the participants were the name of their best friend and where they grew up. Also, for the sake of transparency, it’s worth noting that police obtained these details from a parent or guardian, not the participants.

Once researchers had a few details, they went to work on the participants. The teams conducted three 45-minute interviews with the students, during which the participants shared details about a true experience, and heard a tale from the interviewer about a fabricated event, which had true details sprinkled in (like their best friend’s name or the town they grew up in).

After nearly three hours of feeding the students the verified information, the interviewer created a fabricated event to suggest that the student had committed a crime in the past. After being told so many true details, many of the students believed that they had in fact were criminals, even though the event never occurred. One student even told the interviewers what weapon she used, what started the fight and what she was eating for dinner the night the cops came to her door, even though nothing like that ever took place.

In the end, 70 percent of the non-criminals copped to criminal acts. Lead researcher Julia Shaw said the results were “definitely unexpected.” Shaw originally suspected her team could convince about 1 in 3 students to falsely confess.

Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, says memory is a lot like a Wikipedia page. Memories can be altered or edited depending on the narrative being fed, and once your brain believes it to be true, your mind fills in any gaps to complete the story.

“When the patchwork of memory gets stitched together and internalized, truth and fiction become indistinguishable,” said Loftus.

That’s why it’s so important that you express your right to remain silent and to retain legal counsel. If you don’t, you might end up copping to a crime you didn’t commit.

Related source: NPR

Crime Rates Fall, But Jails Still Filling Up

Although crime rates have declined significantly over the past few decades, admissions to local jails have almost doubled over the last 30 years, a clear sign that the current system isn’t working.

According to a report from the Vera Institute of Justice, local jails in the United States are grossly misused. Local jails are designed to hold individuals who have yet to be convicted of a crime but who have been deemed a flight risk or too dangerous to be out in public. Instead, the Institute says local jails are becoming prisons for the poor and mentally fragile.

The report suggests that 60 percent of those jailed are too poor to pay the minimum bail required for even minor crimes. Oftentimes these offenders are charged with crimes like drug, traffic or public order defenses, and they typically are plagued by one or more social problems, like substance abuse, poverty, homelessness or mental illness.

The Vera Institute Report believes the current system isn’t helping fix the real problem of mental illness.

“The consequences are corrosive and costly for everyone because no matter how disadvantaged people are when they enter jail, they are likely to emerge with their lives further destabilized and, therefore, less able to be healthy, contributing members of society.”

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek believes almost one-third of the 37,000 people Minnesota locks up every year have a serious mental illness.

“Obviously, jail isn’t the best place for treating mental disorders,” said Stanek.

Repeat Offenders

More lockup statistics from larger cities show that jail is often a revolving door for many inmates. A five-year study in Chicago found that 20 percent of inmates filled up half the jail cells, while during the same period in New York, 473 individuals were arrested 18 or more times. Researchers believe these repeat offenders continue to cycle back into jail because the legal system focuses on punishing the crime, not helping the perpetrator break the pattern.

“Punishing the criminal act is important, but there also needs to be intervention techniques to prevent it from happening in the future. Simply hoping that the prospect of lockup will deter a mentally unstable person from committing an act is unreasonable,” said criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman. “I liken it to the process of raising a child. For example, when a child acts out, you place them in timeout or withhold dessert, but you also explain why their behavior was wrong. Punishment needs to be paired with a teaching moment.”

Minnesota recently added a new law that said mentally ill inmates who have been charged with a crime can’t be held for more than 48 hours, but they oftentimes have nowhere to go upon release. Sen. Barb Goodwin said there are more than 500 psychiatric crisis centers across the United States that offer diversionary help in lieu of a jail cell, but none are located in Minnesota. Because of this, many mentally ill offenders end up homeless on the streets. To combat this problem, Se. Goodwin has proposed  SF 141, which would offer grants to counties interested in building division programs.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Police Shootings Could Be Added To MN Emergency Alerts

When a child goes missing in Minnesota, the state’s Amber Alert system broadcasts the alert to Minnesotans across the state. A similar alert could soon be in place when police officers are killed or seriously wounded.

A Minnesota House Panel is pushing for advanced legislation that would add officer-involved shootings to the statewide alert system. The new system, sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, would be called the Blue Alert. Cornish served as a law enforcement officer prior to chairing the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee. He argued that the Blue Alert system would keep civilians safe and would help track down suspects.

“Many times after the assault has taken place, or the death, these people escape in a vehicle,” Cornish said. “So this system would really be helpful in apprehension, a quicker apprehension before these people get out into the general public and do more damage.”

The bill comes on the heels of the of the high-profile killing of officer Scott Patrick by suspect Brian Fitch. Fitch drove away after shooting and killing Patrick during a routine traffic stop. Thankfully, anonymous tipsters alerted police to Fitch’s whereabouts later in the day, and police were able to take him into custody, but not before the two sides again exchanged gunfire.

How Blue Alert Would Work

Under the new proposal, the Blue Alert would be very similar to the current Amber Alert system. The Blue Alert would be transmitted through the Minnesota Crime Alert Network and the Emergency Alert system. Both public and commercial broadcasters would take part in sharing the alert.

Rep. Dan Schoen, an active police officer and supporter of the bill, said the Blue Alert proposal would expedite the spread of information, which is vital in instances where a suspect is a serious threat to public safety.

“We want people looking out their windows,” Schoen said. “We want people looking at each other when they’re going down the interstate, and we need the public to be a part of that.”

The House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee unanimously supported the proposal. The bill now moves to the House Transportation Committee.

Related source: MPR News

Preliminary Hearing Scheduled in Slender Man Stabbing

Two Wisconsin teens accused of stabbing a classmate to appease a fictional horror character will find out this week if they’ll be tried on attempted homicide charges.

The “Slender Man” case has garnered national attention for its absurdity and for the ages of those involved. Prosecutors allege that the two Waukesha girls planned to kill another girl in hopes of gaining favor with a fictional character known as Slender Man.

For those of you not up to date on your internet-born fantastical horror entities, Slender Man “came to life” as part of an online contest where users used their photoshop skills to create images that appeared to capture supernatural events on film. Eric Knudson edited a few photos to show a a tall, faceless stranger in the background, and he accompanied the images with text that made it look like the creature was associated with the disappearance of children. The fictional character eventually went viral, and people from all over the web created fan-fiction stories to help the legend of Slender Man grow.

The problem, though, is that the two 12-year-olds at the center of the case had a difficult time separating reality from fantasy. Prosecutors allege they lured another 12-year-girl into a park and stabbed her 19 times. Amazingly, the after the pair left the 12-year-old to die, she was able to crawl to a sidewalk and flag down a passing bicyclist. The biker called 911, and paramedics were able to save the girl’s life. She was released form the hospital a little over one week after the attack.

As you might guess, questions about the girls’ mental state arose. After hearing from mental health experts, a judge ruled that both girls were competent enough to stand trial. Now that competence has been established, a judge will rule if there’s enough evidence to move forward with a trial.

Based on the preliminary evidence, it seems likely that the court will move forward with a trial. Prosecutors are pursuing first-degree attempted homicide charges against the girls, which carries a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

The Importance of Pre-Trial

As we mentioned, it seems likely that the case will head to trial, but the pre-trial proceedings are actually a pivotal part of a defense attorney’s strategy. Criminal defense attorneys use this time to determine how the prosecution plans to attack their defendant’s credibility.

Avery Appelman, a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, said pre-trial hearings allow lawyers to get in the mind of their opposition.

“If you have a sense of how the other side is going to attack your defendant, you can begin to plan a better defensive strategy,” said Appelman. “Additionally, if a prosecution’s witness says something during pre-trial that you can use to strengthen your case, you can ensure you have a line of questions ready for cross examination.”

We’ll keep tabs on the Slender Man case as it moves forward.