Category Archives: Criminal Defense

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

Extra DUI Patrols Planned For St. Patty’s Day Across Minnesota

The Minnesota State Patrol has announced that they will be conducting extra DUI patrols tonight and into tomorrow morning in an effort to keep the roads safe over the St. Patty’s Day holiday.

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of the more dangerous days of the year for drivers, especially at night. The Minnesota State Patrol said that they arrested 106 individuals in Minnesota on St. Patrick’s Day last year, and they hope the announcement of extra patrols will lead people to make better decisions.

No Reason To Drive

If you plan on ringing in the holiday with a few green beers, make sure you plan ahead and have a sober ride home.

In fact, to ensure revelers get home safe, Miller Lite has partnered up with the Metro Transit system to give free rides to inebriated passengers who make a smart decision. According to their press release, passengers can ride for free on St. Patrick’s Day on all Metro Transit routes from 6 p.m. through 3 a.m tomorrow morning. The free-ride services are also available on routes operated by the Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, SouthWest Transit and Anoka County Traveler.

If you’re planning on heading out on the town tonight, take a look at this interactive trip planner so you know which buses are in your area, and when they arrive.

With all that said, if you do end up in trouble on St. Patrick’s Day, whether be for DUI, assault or underage drinking, please reach out to legal counsel. You’re already facing an uphill battle when you go to court on your own, and it’s going to be even tougher to defend yourself when the judge sees that date of the incident was St. Patrick’s Day. We are working around the clock tonight, and we’ll work hard to get you out of jail and out of a conviction. If you need assistance on St. Patrick’s Day, give Appelman Law Firm a call at (952) 224-2277.

Related source: Metro Transit


Minnesota Cops Can Search Through Your Trash

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but in Minnesota, your trash could lead to a criminal conviction if you’re not careful. That’s because the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that civilians have no expectation of privacy once their trash is placed outside for collection, according to a ruling handed down Wednesday.

The case in question involved David McMurray, a Hutchinson man who had his home raided after authorities found residue that tested positive for meth in his garbage bin. Authorities used the evidence to obtain a search warrant, and a subsequent search of McMurray’s home ultimately led to a criminal drug conviction.

McMurray’s legal team argued that the Minnesota Constitution offers greater protections to a person’s belonging than the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens against warantless and unreasonable searches and seizures. Unfortunately for McMurray, the Minnesota Supreme Court did not interpret the state constitution as being more vigilant about a person’s fourth amendment rights.

“Any member of the public could have accessed McMurray’s garbage without trespassing on his property, and police do not need a warrant to search items that are exposed to the public,” the majority found. They also cited a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that states warantless searches of garbage are legal.

Dissenting Opinion

Two justices agreed with McMurray’s defense in a dissenting opinion. Justices David Lillehaug and Alan Page said that because a person’s garbage sometimes contains personal health of financial information, people have a reasonable expectation that those items will remain private. They also condemned the idea that police could obtain DNA evidence by rifling through a person’s trash. The justices wrote that police should need to obtain a warrant prior to examining someone’s trash.

“Our basic rights and liberties are at risk if government can seize and search Minnesotans’ household waste without a search warrant and, apparently, without even a reasonable articulable suspicion of wrongdoing,” Lillehaug wrote.

McMurray’s legal team said they were disappointed with the decision.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Party Bus Joyride Ends With DUI at MN State Hockey Tourney

A hockey official in town to watch the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament ended up in handcuffs last week when he drunkenly took a party bus for a joyride through downtown St. Paul.

Michael Allan Schurrer, director of junior gold/bantam hockey teams in the Forest Lake, was arrested Thursday after he hopped on a small bus that was left running outside of Alary’s Bar near the Xcel Center. The door to the bus was locked, so it’s uncertain exactly how Schurrer boarded the bus, but one way or another he ended up behind the wheel.

Schurrer took the bus on a short trek around downtown St. Paul while a witness called police. Authorities located the bus about a mile from the bar, and they stopped Shurrer as he exited the vehicle. A police report of the incident noted that Schurrer “exhibited a strong odor of alcohol, bloodshot, watery eyes, poor balance and slurred speech,” and he also “refused to perform any field sobriety tests.”

Despite his refusal to submit to a breathalyzer, police had enough evidence to place him under arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence.

Slew of Charges

Schurrer earned a slew of charges for his drunken joyride, including:

  • Driving after the cancellation of a license.
  • Refusal to submit to a chemical test.

Luckily for Schurrer, Alary’s Bar told police that they didn’t want to press charges for automobile theft.

Although the bar didn’t want to pursue charges for auto theft, it’s unlikely that Schurrer will get much leniency from the judge. Schurrer has had numerous run-ins with the law in the past, having been convicted of DWI on five different occasions between 1995 and 2008. He hasn’t carried a valid license since 1997, according to police.

Related source:

Madison Killing Echoes Ferguson Case

An unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday, sparking comparisons of the events in Ferguson.

According to the police report, Officer Matt Kenny, a 12-year department veteran responded to a call about a man jumping in and out of traffic and who assaulted a pedestrian. Kenny located the suspect, later identified as 19-year-old Tony Terrell Robinson. Before Kenny could approach Robinson, the suspect entered a nearby apartment. Kenny approached the apartment and said that he heard a disturbance coming from inside the home. Kenny forced his way into the apartment and a scuffle ensued. During the altercation, Kenny drew his weapon and fired at Robinson, fatally wounding him.

“The officer did draw his revolver and shot the suspect,” said Madison Police Chief Mike Koval in a press release. Chief Koval noted that Kenny immediately began administering CPR after he shot the suspect.

Quick Notes About The Case

Although details about the shooting are scant, here’s what else we know:

  • Officer Kenny was involved in another fatal shooting eight years years ago in what police described as a “suicide by cop” altercation.
  • Robinson had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and ADHD.
  • Robinson pleaded guilty to being a party to an armed robbery in 2014 and was still under police supervision at the time of the incident.

Protests Planned

The shooting came on the heels of the US Justice Department’s announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in the shooting of Michael Brown. Protesters took to the streets to rally against the shooting on Saturday and Sunday, and more protests are planned for Monday and throughout the week. Police noted that the demonstrations were non-violent, and none of the protesters were arrested.

Chief Koval went as far as to say that the protests were an “appropriate” response, but he also urged protesters to use restraint and patience while the department investigates the incident.

Not all protesters are content with Chief Koval’s response. The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition in Madison demanded that the city pay for Robinson’s funeral costs and for any expenses related to the family’s healing process. They also asked that Kenny be “held accountable for the murder of Tony Robinson.”

Robinson’s mother said her son closely followed the events in Ferguson.

“My son was so into watching everything that happened in Ferguson,” she said. “He was one of the people that spoke out about this constantly. To turn around and have him die of the same things that he was so fearful of — it’s not fair.”

Related source: ABC, Yahoo, USA Today

Justice Department Clears Darren Wilson in Ferguson Shooting

The United States Justice Department won’t prosecute former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for his actions taken during the fatal altercation with 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Although they won’t pursue charges, the Justice Department did issue a scathing report criticizing the city and the law enforcement’s handling of the situation. In the report, the Justice Department said the city and Ferguson police exhibited racial bias and unconstitutional practices,  The report said the city and its officers created an environment that thrived on the systematic mistreatment of minorities. This type of environment was created through numerous activities, including:

  • Disproportionate searches and seizures
  • Excessive force against minorities
  • Disproportionate fines against minorities for petty offenses
  •  Frequent trading of racist emails and jokes

Attorney General Eric Holder said that bringing these faults to the surface is only the beginning. Now it’s up local leaders to create change.

“Now that our investigation has reached its conclusion, it is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action,” said Holder.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the Brown family, said he was disappointed with the ruling.

“I really was hoping they would have come up with better findings because this whole thing just does not add up,” he said. “Everything just doesn’t make sense.”

Wilson Cleared

Despite the condemning report, the Justice Department decided not to pursue charges against Darren Wilson, noting that there was not sufficient evidence to disprove that Wilson feared for his life nor was their reliable testimony that proved Brown had his hands raised at the time of the shooting.

The Justice Department concluded that Wilson did not commit a federal rights violation because he didn’t willfully violate Brown’s civil rights through the use of excessive force. This ruling isn’t unusual, as decisions made in the heat of the moment in a life threatening situation typically favor the officer, not the other party.

Hopefully the Ferguson police department will institute numerous systematic changes, and although it won’t bring their son back, hopefully the Brown family can find some peace out of this terrible situation.

Related source: Yahoo, AP

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