Category Archives: Criminal Defense

Minnesota State Fair

Crime at the Minnesota State Fair

The state fair opens today, and although the weather isn’t the greatest you can bet thousands of Minnesotans will head off to the Great Minnesota Get-Together after work. A state fair isn’t typically a place for criminal activity, but incidents certainly do occur.

Two years ago, two men were stabbed during a fight that broke out at the Minnesota State Fair, and there have been plenty of incidents at the Wisconsin State Fair over the past few years. Below, we share some ways to have fun and stay safe at the state fair.

Alcohol Intake – There are hundreds of different beers to choose from at the state fair this year, including Mini-Donut Beer, but you’ll want to avoid overindulging. Even if you have a safe ride home, being drunk and surrounded by thousands of people can be a recipe for disaster. Alcohol can turn a misunderstanding into a fistfight, so drink responsibly.

Safe Ride Home – If you sample enough brews to elevate your BAC above the legal limit, you’ll want to make sure you give your keys to a friend. Plan ahead so you know you have a sober driver before you get to the fair. Between cabs and free shuttles, there’s no reason why anyone should get a DUI after the state fair.

Eat Some Cookies – Simply put, it should be a crime to visit the state fair and not have at least one cookie from Sweet Martha’s Cookies. Grab a bucket and head over to the All You Can Drink Milk Stand to experience true bliss.

Lock Your Car Doors – To most people, locking their car doors is second nature, but make sure your doors are locked and windows rolled up before heading into the fair. If you traveled from outside the metro area and used a GPS to get there, store the unit in your glove box while you’re at the fair. The vast majority of the time nothing would happen if you left your doors unlocked, but a lot of thefts happen because of opportunity, not out of necessity. Maybe the thief has no real use for a GPS, but if you left it on your dashboard with the windows rolled halfway down to cool off your car, you’re basically inviting him to take it.

Avoid Certain Carnival Games – You know the game where you have to lob a softball into a tilted plastic bucket and keep it from falling out? This one? It’s rigged. Don’t play it. (Just kidding. We may just be bitter about our inability to win at this one.)

Most importantly, have fun at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year!

Minnesota Sex Offender

Experts Seek Delay in Sex-Offender Program Review

It doesn’t appear that four experts tasked with evaluating the current state of Minnesota’s sex offender program are going to meet the requested deadline to issue their report.

The experts originally told the court they would issue a comprehensive report on the current state of the program by the end of August, but it appears they bit off more than they could chew. They are now asking for an extension into mid- or late November, which can’t sit well with U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who just last week announced that he wanted to expedite the review.

“We are aware that the stakes are high and that the Court and parties wish to expedite the process; however, the complexity of the issues at hand and our respective responsibilities and schedules … interfere with our ability to complete a detailed report before the end of August in the professional manner required,” the experts told the court.

Frank said the involved parties “will be discussing this and its implications” during a status conference on Thursday.

Moving Along Slowly

The experts are tasked with reviewing the current Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Program that requires some sex offenders to report to high security facilities after they’ve completed their prison sentence. Residents filed the class action lawsuit in 2011, claiming treatment is inadequate and indefinite.

As we mentioned in a previous post, of the more than 700 residents deemed sexually dangerous or psychopathic, only one resident has ever been released in the last 20 years.

In their letter to the court, the experts announced that they have reviewed more than half of the residents and have met with program leaders and staff, but added they still wanted to review a random sample of program residents and examine re-integration plans prior to releasing their findings.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Ice Bucket Challenge

Geoff Saltzstein Takes on the Ice Bucket Challenge

Over the weekend, partner Geoff Saltzstein was challenged to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice cold water over your head in an effort to raise awareness and donations for the neurological disease ALS.

Although their is no specific correlation between the disease and a bucket of ice cold water, the social movement has taken the world by storm. After a person is challenged by someone else, they are told to partake in the challenge within 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS research. If they accept the challenge, they are also asked to make a smaller contribution to ALS research before nominating three friends of their choosing to participate in the challenge.

Donations to ALS research are up over 700% so far this year, and more than $15 million has been raised for research and support. To learn more about how the movement gained traction, check out this inspiring and emotional video about Pete Frates, a star athlete who continues to battle the debilitating disease. I wouldn’t watch it in the office if I was wearing mascara, as his story pulls on your heart.

 

 

Geoff was more than ready to go to bat for ALS when he got nominated by his friend Maggie. He used his video editing skills to produce the video seen below, and he made a contribution to the ALS society after he dried off.

 

 

Word on the street is that Avery Appelman may be next in line for the Ice Bucket Challenge. We’ll post his video if and when he gets nominated. Click here to make a donation to ALS research.

Minnesota School Bus

Minnesota Truck Driver Charged For Failing to Yield to Bus

An Apple Valley truck driver who sped by a stopped school bus on a two-lane highway is lucky to only be facing two misdemeanor charges considering his actions nearly took the life of a sixth grade student.

Allen H. Morris, 48, was charged with failure to obey the bus’ flashing lights and a “stop arm” violation in connection with the May 30 incident.

On that day, Morris was driving his truck behind a school bus on a two-lane section of Hwy 23 between New London and Paynesville. That stretch of road has a speed limit of 55 mph, and Morris may not have been expecting the school bus to stop in an area with such a high speed limit. Regardless of whether he wasn’t paying attention, following to closely or thought the move was legal, Morris blew by the bus on the right shoulder of the road.

As you can see in the video below, sixth-grader Alexis Schwartz was mere inches away from being struck by the truck, which was traveling between 45 and 50 miles per hour as it passed.

 

 

“It just kept coming and didn’t stop, and it didn’t even stop when it passed me,” Schwartz said after the accident. “My heart was pounding awfully fast and my hands were shaking, because I was so scared to have it come up that close.”

The Minnesota State Patrol posted the dashcam video on social media platforms in hopes of identifying the driver. Although he didn’t showcase the best decision making back in May, Morris made the conscience decision to turn himself in to authorities after learning that they were looking for him.

Morris is scheduled to appear in court on September 10. The two misdemeanor charges each carry potential sentences of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Morris has a rather clean driving record. He only has one past driving citation on his record, which occurred back in 2007. His relatively clean record and the fact that he turned himself in will work to his advantage. I expect that he’ll have to pay a fine and complete community service or take a driving class.

In the end, I’m glad nobody was injured. School is about to start up again, so parents and drivers should start mentally preparing to see school buses back on the road. Now may be a good time to refresh your knowledge of the law by taking out Minnesota School Bus Law Quiz!

Related source: Star Tribune

Drunk Family

DUI is a Family Affair for Father, Sons

Like father, like son appeared to be the motto for a Vermont family after a father and his two sons were all booked for driving under the influence on the same day.

The strange incident occurred on Saturday when police responded to a call about a single-vehicle crash. The driver, 22-year-old Josh Woodward, suffered only a few bumps and bruises during the accident, but after running his registration authorities noticed that he was operating with a criminally suspended license. During a short discussion with Woodward, officers began to suspect he had been driving under the influence. A subsequent breath test revealed that Woodward was operating the vehicle with a BAC more than three times the legal limit.

That was just the beginning of the bad day for the Woodward family. While authorities were talking to Josh, his 19-year-old brother arrived on scene to check on his brother’s condition. Police noted that Nick Woodward also appeared to be intoxicated, so they asked him to submit to a breathalyzer. Nick failed the test and was arrested and charged with DUI, which just so happens to be his second DUI arrest in the last two weeks.

Perhaps it was his paternal instinct, or maybe it was the booze talking, but before his son’s could be booked into custody, Brian Woodward arrived on scene and tried to move Nick’s car closer to the scene of the accident. Police ordered Brian to stop the vehicle, and they noted that he appeared to be visually and physically impaired. Like his sons before him, Brian submitted to a breathalyzer test. Just like his eldest son, Brian registered a BAC more than three times the legal limit. He was arrested and charged with DUI.

All three Woodwards will appear in court on their DUI charges over the course of the next month.

Related sourcE: WPTZ.com

Bulldozer DUI

Rochester Man Gets DUI on Bulldozer

We’ve written about a bunch of strange DUI stories before, but a Rochester man has found another unique way to be arrested for driving under the influence.

Patrick James Sullivan was arrested on tentative charges of driving under the influence after driving a bulldozer into the Mississippi River.

According to the police report, Sullivan was moving sand on Dakota Island around 1:30am when his bulldozer became stuck in the mighty Mississippi. He told authorities he was working for a construction company hired for a bridge project in the area when he accidentally got his bulldozer stuck in the river.

A crane was eventually brought in to remove the bulldozer from the river, but authorities had some questions for the bulldozer operator. After a short conversation, authorities asked Sullivan to submit to a Breathalyzer test. Sullivan refused, but police felt they had enough evidence to book him on charges of first-degree DWI and refusal to take a breath test.

Authorities say Sullivan has had several run-ins with the law in the past. Winona County Chief Deputy Ron Ganrude said Sullivan has been arrested for DUI on seven previous occasions.

Other Odd DUIs

Although this is the first time we’ve heard of a bulldozer DUI, this is far from the strangest DUI case we’ve seen. Check out some of these crazy stories:

Related source: Pioneer Press

Failure to Yield Minnesota

Pedestrian Awareness Week Comes to St. Paul

In an effort to combat crosswalk collisions, the city of St. Paul has declared this week Pedestrian Awareness Week.

According to city statistics, 302 people have been hit struck by vehicles at intersections in St. Paul over the last two years. That’s far too many, said St. Paul police department spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos.

“Today people have so many distractions, talking on cellphones or just having a bad day, and they don’t take time to notice that there is a pedestrian,” said Paulos. “They are unfocused. It’s clear and evident that drivers don’t follow the pedestrian laws, and for those who violate there is a high probability they will be cited.”

As part of Pedestrian Awareness Week, St. Paul police will camp out at some areas of high foot-traffic to keep an eye out for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians, said Paulos. He noted that Minnesota law states that drivers must yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks and at intersections with or without marked crosswalks.

In addition to the added patrols, the city used a $1,000 donation from the Grand Avenue Business Association to add bright orange flags on corners of some busy St. Paul intersections. Pedestrians can pick up one of the bright flags from a tube on one side of the street and deposit it in a similar tube once they safely cross the street.

Madison, Wisconsin instituted 50 such flag sites a few years ago, and city officials say the program has been a rousing success. Local and national studies say drivers stop about 70 percent of the time when a person appears ready to cross the street with the flag in their hand, compared to just 20 percent when they aren’t equipped with the orange flag.

Possible Penalties

As we mentioned in a previous blog, failing to yield to pedestrian fines can rack up quickly. Make sure you stay aware of your surroundings this week and whenever you’re driving in areas of heavy foot-traffic. Some penalties St. Paul police will be looking for this week include:

  • Failure to obey a stop sign or traffic control device – $128 fine.
  • Failure to yield right of way – $128 fine.
  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian – $178 fine.
  • Improper or prohibited turn – $128 fine.

Under Minnesota law, a driver only needs to wait for a pedestrian to cross their lane of traffic before continuing. Most of the time that takes less than 5 seconds. Give pedestrians those extra seconds and say yourself a $178 fine.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Nick Fairley DUI

Lions’ Fairley Sentenced in DUI Case

Detroit Lions star defensive end Nick Fairley received a six-month suspended sentence for attempting to elude police officers during a traffic stop back in 2012.

Considering the joyride led to an arrest for driving under the influence and reckless driving, Fairley could have received a much harsher sentence. In all, Fairley was sentenced to:

  • $750 in fines.
  • Complete two driving classes by December 10.
  • A six-month suspended sentence if he fails to complete his probation or driving classes.

Fairley should consider himself lucky, especially since he didn’t appear to have the best legal counsel. Unbeknownst to Fairley, the presiding judge had ordered that he be present for sentencing. Fairley’s attorneys did not inform their client that he needed to be in court last Thursday, so he remained with the Lions at training camp.

Fairley’s attorneys asked for a delay in sentencing, and although the judge denied their request, District Court Judge George Hardesty also denied a motion from prosecutors to seek an arrest warrant for Fairley’s failure to appear in court. Attorneys Buzz Jordan and Sid Harrell apologized to the judge, saying they failed to read the judge’s initial order that required Fairley to attend his sentencing. The attorneys noted they incorrectly informed Fairley his presence was not necessary.

In the event that Fairley fails to complete his driving courses by December 10, he’ll be forced to serve his six-month suspended sentence. If the judge decided that Fairley would have to begin serving that sentence immediately, the first game he would miss would be against the Minnesota Vikings. It’s still uncertain if Fairley will face any additional discipline from the league office.

Fairley’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the sentencing decision.

Related source: Detroit Free Press

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

Facebook Like Crime

Facebook Likes Lead to Felony Charges in Wisconsin

A Wisconsin couple was arrested on theft charges after they “Liked” an incriminating photo on their local police department’s Facebook page.

Lisa J. Schulties, 32, and Jeorge A. Sales, 26, were slapped with felony burglary charges stemming from a June 26 break-in. During that robbery, the homeowners notified police that their credit cards were among the items that were stolen. Police marked the cards as stolen and waited for the suspects to use the cards.

Instead, authorities believe the pair sold or gave the stolen credit cards to another man, who was caught on camera attempting to use the cards at a local store. When the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office posted the picture of the man on their Facebook page in an attempt to get help from the public in identifying the man, Schulties and Sales “Liked” the photo.

Police did some digging and later asked Schulties to come down to the station to answer some questions. During the interrogation she admitted to stealing the credit cards during the break-in. She also told authorities that Sales, her boyfriend, was an accomplice to the break-in.

Although some of the case details weren’t made public, it’s believed that Schulties and Sales transferred the stolen credit cards to the man pictured in the survielance footage, but it’s uncertain if the pair are familiar with the suspect. The unidentified person is not a suspect in the burglary, but police would still like to talk to him about his use of the stolen cards. The suspect is believed to have fled the area after seeing his photo online, and he has not yet been identified by Shulties or Sales.

It’s uncertain what level of felony charges were brought against Schulties and Sales, but even the lowest level – Class I Felony Theft – carries penalties of up to 3.5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. A Class H Felony Theft charge carries the potential of 6 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000, while a Class G Felony Theft charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

I doubt Schulties and Sales “like” that.