Category Archives: Criminal Defense

Domestic Assault

Ramsey County Domestic Violence Sweep Huge Success

Ramsey County police took part in the 12th annual domestic violence crackdown on Wednesday, and officers say the sweep was a huge success.

Armed with 128 arrest warrants, 52 of Ramsey’s finest hit the streets before the sun came up to serve warrants to those in the area wanted on domestic violence charges. One of the first to be arrested was Kong Meng Yang, who jumped from a second story window and fled down an alley when cops came knocking at his door at 7 a.m. He was eventually apprehended with the assistance of a police K9.

Yang was one of 23 arrests made during the annual sweep, nearly double the arrests from last year when 92 warrants were served and 12 were arrested.

Sgt. Jesse Mollner said even though only about 20 percent of the suspects were apprehended, police made numerous contacts with friends and family members of suspects. They hope family members can get in contact with the individual and convince them to surrender. Mollner also said it helps the victims know they don’t take these cases lightly.

“The number of contacts we made today is actually just as important as taking people to jail,” Mollner said. “The families we talked to, the friends, the associates … they get the word out that the police are out in full force, that we’re taking care of victims and taking these crimes seriously.”

Part of Larger Sweep

The 12th annual domestic violence sweep was held in conjunction with the National Family Violence Apprehension Detail, an annual event aimed at bringing awareness to domestic violence and getting perpetrators off the streets. Hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country participated in localized domestic violence sweeps.

Mollner added that the effects of the sweep are usually felt for weeks.

“We expect a flood of phone calls,” he said. “We usually end up taking twice as many people in during the weeks that follow the sweep than we do during the sweep itself,” he said.

The Ramsey County sherriff’s office, St. Paul police, Roseville police, the Dakota County sherriff’s officer, the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigation and Customs Enforcement all assisted in the area-wide sweep.

Avery Appelman Comments

These sweeps are great. Not only to they get suspects off the street, but in the long run, they also help both the victims and the suspects. If a suspect goes into hiding for a few months, the victim is left without resolution, and sometimes they continue to live in fear of their attacker.

That said, as a defense attorney, these sweeps are also beneficial for suspects. Like an unpaid credit card bill, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away; In fact, it usually only makes it worse. Same goes with a legal case. If you have an active warrant, it’s not just going to go away on its own. Facing the consequences and moving on with your life is much preferred to hiding and always living in fear that today is the day you’ll be arrested. The longer you wait, the more the problem will snowball. Take responsibility, move forward with your life, and everyone will be better off. If you want to talk to an attorney before making any decisions, don’t hesitate to call us.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Green Line

So Far, So Good: Green Line Hasn’t Increased Crime

Despite concerns the new Green Line light rail may bring more crime to the area, University officials and Metro police say that hasn’t been the case in the five months since the transit system opened.

Metro Transit police Capt. Jim Franklin said crime rates have remained steady on campus and in the area along the Green Line.

“I don’t see an uptick in crime on the University campus that directly correlates with the light rail,” said Franklin.

Franklin noted that while many along the Green Line were excited about its mid-June opening, some feared the rail would attract a few seedy characters. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota did little to quell their concern, as a survey of community members near the Blue Line found that they too associated the light rail with an uptick in crime, even if the data doesn’t support their sentiment.

University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner did note a particular instance in late August in which two suspects used the light rail to flee after a robbery, but surveillance equipment near the station and on the rail helped identify the perpetrators. They were identified and arrested shortly thereafter.

Campus Opinion

Ross Allanson, director of the University’s Parking and Transportation Services said the overall sentiment among students hasn’t changed much with the opening of the Green Line.

“My feeling is that there’s been not a net negative or a net positive regarding crime on campus,” said Allanson.

Franklin added that transit use numbers around the campus area show that students are comfortable riding the light rail, offering a speedy option without the need to walk alone at night.

“I think what you’re finding is that students are embracing the light rail rather than fearing it,” Franklin said, “and we’re seeing that in our ridership numbers.”

Avery Appelman comments

The Green Line appears to be off to a great start in its first five months, and I haven’t heard any major stories about riders being victimized or assaulted. It seems like drivers or pedestrians crossing the light rail have had the most to fear since its inception.

The one thing I will caution riders about – and this goes for anyone in a downtown metropolis or on public transportation – is to mind your belongings, particularly your phone and purse. They can be easy targets for a thief who wants to grab and dash.

That’s not saying you shouldn’t check your phone or pound out a few Candy Crush levels while you’re waiting for your stop, but be cognizant of your surroundings. If someone is hovering a little too close to your personal space, secure your belongings and move to another location if possible. Stay near other passengers and if transit police board your car, it doesn’t hurt to mention the suspicious behavior.

Related source: MN Daily

We Willy

Wet Willy Lands Minnesota Man in Jail

An innocent prank resulted in felony assault charges after an Air Force member gave a Mankato cop a wet willy.

For those of you unfamiliar with a wet willy, it involves licking your pointer finger and sticking it playfully in the ear of an unsuspecting victim. It’s a move you’ve probably pulled off to a friend in elementary school, and while most people laugh it off, a Mankato cop took serious offense to the action and arrested the perpetrator on charges of felony assault of an officer.

The whole ordeal began early Saturday morning as patrons boarded a bus shuttle from the downtown bars, often referred to as the drunk bus. Being the prankster that he is, Riley Swearingen thought it would be funny to give the supervising police officer the dreaded double wet willy. It may be somewhat disgusting and technically a case of unwanted touching, but the officer said the act caused “pressure and discomfort,” and he swiftly arrested Swearinger.

Odds are the cop’s ego, not his eardrums, was most affected by the wet willy, and he decided to teach the 24-year-old a lesson. Instead of charging him with a misdemeanor, the officer pushed for felony assault charges.

Thankfully the embarrassed cop wasn’t in charge of sentencing, and the presiding judge quickly offered to dismiss the felony charge if Swearingen would plead guilty to a lesser charge of disruptive intoxication, a charge that would not impact his Air Force duties. Swearingen accepted the deal and offered the court an apology.

“I thought it would be incredibly funny to give a police officer a wet Willy, to which I was sorely mistaken,” Swearingen explained. “I’m incredibly sorry for what I did.”

Odds are the $77 fine and misdemeanor charge are the least of his concerns. Swearingen went on to explain to the judge that he was in town to stand up in a friend’s wedding. He had gone out with the wedding party the night before and received a wet willy from a friend earlier in the night. He thought it would be funny to try to move on a policeman, but the officer’s decision to seek felony charges meant Swearinger would remain in jail until he could face a judge on Monday. He was held over the weekend and missed his friend’s wedding.

Obviously Swearinger made a poor decision, but when did a wet willy become felony assault? Under the Minnesota statue in regards to assaulting an officer, a perp could be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fines up to $20,000. No judge in their right mind would ever sentence a wet willy bandit to 20 years in prison, but were felony charges really necessary? This sounds more like an ego-issue than an actual issue.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Excessive Force

St. Paul Settles For $42,500 in Excessive Force Case

The city of St. Paul will pay a local man $42,500 to settle an excessive force case levied against two city officers.

Rafael Angel Diaz, 52, sued the St. Paul police department after he claimed a pair of officers illegally entered his home, used a Taser on him several times and broke his wrist during an altercation.

“The damage amount for the injuries sustained here, a broken wrist and some injuries due to the Taser deployment, is consistent with the medical cost associated with those injuries,” said city attorney Sara Grewing said. “Getting this resolved before a jury trial was in the best interests of the taxpayers.”

While it wasn’t a condition of the settlement, the city noted that the officer at the center of the case, Jon Fish, is no longer employed by the police department.

Case Details

According to the suit, Diaz was having a Super Bowl party in February 2012 when Officer Fish arrived on scene. Fish entered the residence without permission and sought out the homeowner. Fish confronted Diaz and told him to step outside, but the homeowner refused. After a failed attempt to shoot Diaz with a stun gun, Fish manually Tasered the homeowner several times. Diaz’s wrist was fractured during the fracas.

The city argued that the force used by Fish and his partner “was reasonable under all of the circumstances for officer safety,” but the city didn’t want to take a chance in court, so they opted to settle. Diaz’s original suit asked for $50,000 in damages, so it appears he had a good chance of winning in court if the city was winning to settle for 85 percent. As is common in most settlements, the city will not admit liability as part of the agreement.

The $42,500 settlement brings the annual misconduct claim total to $287,000. That’s similar to last year when the city paid $350,000 in misconduct claims, but it’s down from 2012 when the bill top $1 million.

“If you look at settlements through a 10-year lens, they kind of ebb and flow and there’s no way to predict when one year will be higher,” concluded Grewing.

Related Source: Pioneer Press

5 Interesting and Informative Criminal Law Infographics

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so instead of writing a bunch of sentences, today we’re going to let some infographics do the talking. Check out these five cool and informative inforgraphics below!

1. DUI and Field Sobriety Tests

The above infographic explains what will happen to you if you get pulled over and are suspected of driving drunk. It also lets you know what the officer is looking for during the test so you can avoid a costly mistake.

2. The Tragedy of Wrongful Convictions

This infographic provides a harsh look at the times that the criminal justice system got it wrong.

3. Defense Attorneys Vs. Prosecutors

You probably know the basic differences between a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney, but there’s a lot more to it than trying to prove guilt and innocence.  This infographic breaks it all down.

4. From Playground to Prison – A Closer Look At Juvenile Justice in America

As the title foreshadows, this infographic examines the juvenile justice system, specifically when youth offenders are tried and sentenced as adults. Did you know about 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as an adult each year in the US? Click on for more sobering facts.

5. DUI Penalties in Minnesota

We’re proud to call this infographic our own! We put this infographic together a few years ago, and it explains what happens if you are stopped for driving under the influence in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The most important piece of advice is located in the bottom righthand corner.

Minnesota DWI

Underage Drinking

Police Cracking Down on Underage Drinking at U of M

Minneapolis police are partnering up with campus police at the University of Minnesota to combat underage drinking, which officers say is a contributing factor in many incidents.

UMPD Chief Greg Hestness said intoxicated individuals, especially those who are underage, are easy marks for would-be criminals.

“A lot of victims were under the influence of alcohol, which made them easy targets for crimes,” said Hestness in reference to a string of robberies that hit the UM campus last fall. “Not in all cases, but it’s a factor.”

The university has long since trumpeted its “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to underage drinking, but punishing the crime and taking active steps to prevent it are two different matters. Under added pressure from student and parent groups, campus police sent three plainclothes officers to popular drinking destinations during the first weekend of September. They issued 89 underage drinking citations in Dinkytown and the other two undisclosed locations, and they say they plan to continue sending undercover officers to the areas in an effort to prevent intoxicated students from becoming victims.

Minneapolis police inspector Kathy Waite said not only are intoxicated students easy targets for thieves, but they’re often too inebriated to assist in the investigation.

“Most of our victims are heavily under the influence of alcohol,” said Waite. “They don’t even necessarily recall where they were. It makes it extremely difficult to move forward on those investigations.”

Hestness added that he might be seen as “blaming the victim,” but he noted that being intoxicated and walking alone certainly “increase your risk” of being targeted by criminals.

Going Forward

Although the Zombie Pub Crawl is in the rear view mirror, Halloween is a few weeks away and partiers should take some steps to help ensure their safety, including:

• Avoid becoming extremely intoxicated.

• Avoid wandering off by yourself – Stay with your group.

• Keep your guard up for any suspicious individuals.

• Report any suspicious activity.

• Utilize public transportation, like cabs, buses or Uber to get home quickly and safely.

We always tend to see an uptick in calls on Halloween, and with the holiday falling on a Friday this year, we wouldn’t be surprised if there was a noticeable uptick in crime. This doesn’t mean there will be more cases of assault of theft, but certain juvenile crimes like disturbing the peace (ding dong ditching) and vandalism (teepeeing) are commonplace on All Hallows Eve. We don’t condone the activity, but if you find yourself in a pair of handcuffs after a Halloween prank goes awry, call us. We’ll be on call through the night and can get you out of jail quickly.

Related source: Star Tribune

OHTYS 2014

ALF Participating in Our Hearts To Your Soles 2014

We are excited to announce that Appelman Law Firm will once again participate in the annual Our Hearts to Your Soles event to benefit homeless and financially burdened individuals in the Twin Cities.

Each year Our Hearts To Your Soles provides individuals with socks, shoes and foot examinations to help them prepare for the cold months ahead. Oftentimes these individuals are homeless, so the new clothes help protect against frostbite during the cold Minnesota winter.

Another aspect of the Our Hearts To Your Soles event is the legal advice session. Local attorneys are on hand to provide attendees with free legal advice on a wide range of subjects. Many times these people are having financial problems do to a current or past legal situation, and sitting down with a lawyer to discuss solutions can be a life changing.

We’ve attended Our Hearts To Your Soles event for a three years in a row, and it’s truly a rewarding experience. The event is always around Thanksgiving, and it’s nice to be able to give back to the community and it helps put what really matters in perspective.

Event Details

If you know anyone who is down on their luck and in need of legal advice, please let them know about the event. Check out the event details below.

  • What: Our Hearts To Your Soles 2014
  • Where: Dorothy Day Center, 183 Old 6th Street in Saint Paul
  • When: Tuesday, November 25th from 5:30pm to 7:45pm
  • Why: Help those in need by providing them with footwear and legal advice

The event is financed by my friend and colleague Dr. Lance Silverman. I know he is still looking for volunteers to help with set up, clean up, shoe unboxing and general assistance throughout the night. If you would like to get volunteer, send him an email at info@anklefootmd.com for more information.

If you would like to help the cause but cannot make it to the event, you can donate to the program through their website. A donation of $15 provides one person with a new pair of shoes, socks and a free foot consultation.

Thanks,

Avery Appelman

Adrian Peterson Marijuana

Marijuana Admission Latest Issue For Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson once again finds himself at the center of a legal scandal after prosecutors filed paperwork to have the running back arrested following an admission that he smoked marijuana, which would be a violation of his current probation.

Peterson told a drug tester prior to a routine drug test that he “smoked a little weed.” Prosecutors in the child abuse case acted quickly after hearing about the comment, filing a motion to have Peterson rearrested and his bail revoked.

“In light of this statement, and the fact that it was made during the urinalysis testing process, and the term ‘weed’ is a common slang term for marijuana, the state argues that the defendant has smoked marijuana while on bond,” the prosecution wrote.

Despite the motion, no action was taken as the presiding judge was scheduled to undergo a formal review after making comments about the attorneys, calling them “media whores.” The prosecution is attempting to have a new judge assigned to the case.

Marijuana Admission

As is customary when a person is freed on bond, the conditions of the release state that a person may not engage in certain activities. In cases of abuse or domestic violence, there are usually two main components of release. The first is that the defendant may have no contact with the victim or certain people related to the case, and the second is that they must refrain from engaging in illegal activities like drug possession.

Peterson was initially freed on $15,000 bond (for a clearer idea of how bail bonds work, check out our previous post), but his latest incident could result in its revocation. If that were the case, Peterson would be jailed until the conclusion of his case. His case is currently set to go to trial on December 1.

Peterson could face up to two years in state prison if found guilty on the charge of felony child abuse. Even if he avoids jail as part of a plea agreement or reduced charges, he could still face discipline from the NFL, who recently enhanced its personal conduct policy.

Related source: ESPN

Adrian Peterson Child Abuse

Adrian Peterson Trial Set to Begin December 1

Adrian Peterson is tentatively set to appear in court on December 1 to defend himself against allegations of felony child abuse.

Peterson and his attorney Rusty Hardin did not enter a plea Wednesday, but a statement issued through the attorney said they plan to see the case through to the end.

“Adrian is going to trial – he is not looking for a deal,” Hardin said through a spokesman.

Peterson hasn’t played for the Vikings since the charges were made public, and the team is content to wait until the off-field drama plays out before deciding when to reinstate the star running back. The defense has asked for an expedited trial in an effort to salvage some of the remaining NFL season, so it’s possible that the trial could begin in November if other cases are removed from the docket.

Hardin said he’s looking forward to resolving the matter.

“Look, this is a really good man that I am incredibly proud to represent,” Hardin said of Peterson. “I would ask all of you to be please be tolerant to the fact that Adrian is chomping at the bit to publicly talk and to publicly defend himself, and the only reason he hasn’t is us insisting and jumping up and down and saying, ‘The solution is for you to get a speedy trial and resolve all this in a courtroom.'”

As we mentioned in a previous post, Peterson was initially charged with felony child abuse after pictures and text messages revealed that he struck his son with a small stick as a form of punishment. The child had visible marks on his legs, and although Peterson said he didn’t mean to hurt the child, the incident has left many debating appropriate parenting techniques and the court’s role in the matter.

“This is a case about parenting decisions and whether something unfortunate happened when a parenting decision was made by a man who believes strongly and loves his children very much,” said Hardin.

If convicted, Peterson could be sentenced to up to two years in state prison. A more likely punishment is some form of probation, and he may face additional penalties under the NFL’s new personal conduct policy.

Related source: AP, ESPN

Minnesota Vikings Tom Johnson

Another Minnesota Vikings Player Arrested

The Minnesota Vikings extended their lead as the NFL team with the most arrests since 2004 after defensive lineman Tom Johnson was arrested for disorderly conduct and trespassing at a popular Minneapolis nightspot over the weekend.

Having played Thursday against the Packers, the Vikings had a few days off during the long break. According to the police report, Johnson was out at Seven Steakhouse on Saturday night and early into Sunday morning. He was apparently having such a good time that he didn’t want to leave the establishment after closing time. Police say Johnson was told to leave after closing time “repeatedly by security and officers and [he] refused.”

Police decided to subdue Johnson and forcibly take him out of the restaurant, as the police report notes that Johnson “was sprayed with department-issue chemical irritants and forced outside.”

Needless to say, Johnson wasn’t pleased that he had been pepper sprayed, and he reportedly became combative with officers once outside the restaurant. The police report states that authorities eventually had to use a Taser on the 288-pound defensive lineman.

He was eventually booked at Hennepin County jail and released later that day after posting $78 bail. His initial appearance is schedule for October 17.

Johnson Offers Different Take

Johnson said he plans to fight the charges in court. He wants to tell his said of the story, as he said the information in the police report simply isn’t true.

“I don’t know if any of that [police account] is accurate,” he said Monday.

Johnson’s agent reiterated the lineman’s stance, saying he believes the charges against his client will be dropped.

“After speaking with Tom Johnson and gathering facts, we are confident the charges are baseless and he will be exonerated,” said agent Bardia Ghahremani. “Upon clearing Mr. Johnson’s name, we will move forward with the appropriate legal action.”

Johnson is the third Vikings player in this young season to run into legal trouble, as we’ve already documented the trials and tribulations of Adrian Peterson and Jerome Simpson.

Related source: Star Tribune