Category Archives: Domestic Abuse

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

Minnesota Delves into Officer Involved Fatal Shootings

An analysis by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension revealed that state police officers have shot and killed at least 60 individuals since 2008.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those killed by police officers were male, but considering recent events in Ferguson and New York, you may be surprised at the ethnic and demographic breakdown. According to the statistics:

  • 95 percent of those killed were male.
  • 61 percent were white.
  • 26 percent were African American.
  • The median age for whites killed by police since 2008 is 36. For African Americans, the median age is only 24.

Additional information from the report delves in to the circumstances surrounding the shooting and the aftermath:

  • Drugs, alcohol or mental illness were mentioned in nearly 1/3 of the reports.
  • In more than 70 percent of the deaths, police shot a person holding a gun or knife.
  • In 30 percent of the cases, the officers reported being shot at.
  • More than a quarter of the shootings began when police received a call about a domestic disturbance.
  • None of the 87 officers who discharged their firearm in a fatal encounter have faced criminal charges.

The BCA said they sought to uncover even more data, but some stations denied their request, citing privacy laws. David Klinger, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said there’s no reason why the public shouldn’t have access to all the fatal shooting data.

“There’s really no logical reason for us not to have that [data],” Klinger said. “We have data on all sorts of other things. Why don’t we have that on what arguably is the most important thing that the government does in terms of inserting them in the lives of citizens — i.e. trying to put a bullet in their body? There’s not much that is more serious than that.”

St. Paul Sees Troubling Numbers

St. Paul had a rather high number of African Americans die at the hands of a police officer over the past six years. According to the report, more than half of the 11 people shot and killed by St. Paul police were African American. The St. Paul department has been involved in more fatal shootings than any other department since 2008.

Jeff Martin, president of the St. Paul branch of the NAACP, said the high number of fatal shootings is very concerning.

“These are the most serious matters that the community is concerned about,” Martin said. “Even the bad actors among us have constitutional rights, and they shouldn’t be shot at without an opportunity to be taken into custody peacefully.”

A study by the American Civil Liberties Union uncovered that African Americans in Minneapolis were 11 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to whites, even though usage rates are similar.

“In the numbers the ACLU put out, you see in terms of low-level drug arrests you get a lot more African-American males searched for marijuana and then ticketed for marijuana possession than whites,” said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of the ACLU.

Samuelson believes race certainly plays a factor in some confrontations, but he noted that it doesn’t explain why some interactions turn deadly.

Related source: MPR News

Crime Spikes During Home NFL Games

There will be no more home football games for the Vikings or Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium this year, and that could lead to lower crime rates, according to a new study.

Researchers tracked the crime rates in eight cities home to an NFL franchise to determine how home games affect crime rates. Analysts tracked crime rates for Baltimore, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, Newark, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Washington for a two-year period. After comparing the data, researchers found:

  • On days that cities hosted a home game there was a 3 percent increase in total crime.
  • Larceny rates jumped 4 percent on game days, while car thefts rose 7 percent.
  • Noon games are most closely connected to higher crime rates than afternoon or evening kickoffs, as there was a 4 percent increase in total crime and economic crime during midday starts.

“NFL home games are correlated with a higher incidence of crime compared to non-game days or days when the team is playing an away game in another city,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers say the results aren’t surprising, as it’s easier for criminals to strike in large crowds where opportunities are more plentiful. They noted that the increase in car thefts has a lot to do with a large gathering of cars in one area, most of which are left unattended for a few hours. This gives a thief plenty of time to find the ideal opening to strike.

“If stadium, restaurant, bar, and other parking lots are full of cars, it will be easier for thieves to find suitable cars to steal,” the researchers wrote.

Although there is a greater police presence around the stadium on game day than on any other day, oftentimes they are overwhelmed with other tasks, like crowd control or alcohol-related instances. This can provide the perfect cover for thieves.

“A large gathering of people on game day increases the number of potential targets and may also reduce the likelihood of criminal apprehension, as criminals can blend more easily into larger crowds,” the authors wrote.

Researchers concluded that the uptick in crime is costly. They estimated that a 3 percent increase in crime amounts to $85,000 per game day, or about $700,000 per city, per year.

Avery Appelman Comments

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an uptick in certain crimes during NFL games. Not long ago we published another study that claimed domestic violence and assaults increased during football games, especially if the team that lost was expected to win.

I’m not surprised crime rates spike during home football games because we seem to get a few more calls on Sunday night and Monday morning the day after a Vikings game than we do on an average Monday.

The study didn’t look into DUI arrests, but I’d be interested in seeing how DUI rates on football Sundays compare to Sundays without football. I think there would certainly be a spike in the hours after a home game or a particularly important win.

Related source: Herald Net

Man Stabbed After Eating Thanksgiving Meal Too Soon

A Pennsylvania man was stabbed by his girlfriend after he started eating Thanksgiving dinner while she was sleeping off a hangover.

47-year old Jacklyn Blake began drinking early on Thanksgiving and decided she’d take a nap prior to dinner. While she slept off her bender, Blake’s boyfriend helped himself to a heaping helping of turkey and mashed potatoes. Blake became enraged when she woke up and discovered her beau had started eating without her. According to the police report, Blake grabbed a knife and stabbed her boyfriend in the chest. She then threw the knife at his face, which resulted in a cut below his left eye.

When police arrived Blake’s boyfriend was holding a towel over his chest. He was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

As for Blake, instead of a warm meal she’s been served with charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, simple assault, reckless endangerment and making terroristic threats. It was unclear if she had retained an attorney since her arrest.

Possible Penalties

We won’t speak for Pennsylvania, but had this crime taken place in Minnesota, Blake could face the following possible penalties:

  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon carries potential penalties of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
  • Simple assault in Minnesota is usually termed as Assault in the Fifth Degree. It is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Instead of Reckless Endangerment, Blake likely would have received a charge of disorderly conduct in Minnesota, which is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

Needless to say, Blake will certainly want to seek legal counsel to assist with the pending charges.

Related source:

Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Report Published

As we mentioned back in August, experts tasked with reviewing Minnesota’s current sex offender program asked to have their report deadline pushed back until mid-November. Today, they published their findings in a comprehensive 108-page report.

In all, the experts issued a list of 44 recommended changes for the program. Some of the most prominent recommendations include:

  • The state’s civil commitment statute should be modified to ensure it only applies to sex offenders and those at the highest risk for recidivism.
  • Expediting the process to move the only female resident to another location.
  • Re-evaluating each resident to see if they truly meet the criteria for commitment.
  • Institute a discharge plan for an offender as they are admitted to the program. The old program left many with ambiguous guidelines and little hope of being released.
  • Both the state and the program should begin preparing communities to meet the needs of future discharged residents.

The report mirrors a state task force finding from 2013 which stated that the current sex offender reform system “captures too many people and keeps too many of them too long.” Officials at the Department of Human Services are currently reviewing the 108-page report to determine the state and the program’s next move.

When you look at the data, it’s hard to suggest the program has been anything but a life sentence for current offenders. Under the program’s 20-year history, of the more the 700 offenders admitted to the program, only two have ever been discharged.

In addition to the changes proposed in the report, the program faces another obstacle in the form of a class action lawsuit. A group of sex offenders has sued the state claiming the old process was a violation of their due-process rights. Their case is expected to presented to a judge in February.

Related source: Star-Tribune, Pioneer Press


Report: Peterson To Plead No Contest To Misdemeanor

Adrian Peterson is expected to plead no contest to one count of misdemeanor reckless assault at his hearing this afternoon.

The deal would still need to be accepted by the presiding judge, but it seems unlikely the judge would deny the two sides their agreed resolution. Under the proposed deal, Peterson would:

  • Pay a $2,00 fine.
  • Be placed on probation.
  • Ordered to preform 80 hours of community service.
  • Have his adjudication deferred two years, meaning the plea deal could be thrown out if he violates any probation guidelines set forth in the next two years.

As for Peterson, the agreement means the felony charge would be reduced to a misdemeanor, and the amended charge would make no reference to family violence or violence against a minor. Previously, Peterson faced the possibility of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine under the felony charge.

What’s Next?

As we mentioned yesterday, Peterson isn’t out of the woods yet. Although his legal issues may soon be resolved, Peterson still has be reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell and welcomed back by the Vikings.

There was also the issue of Peterson admitting to smoking pot, but according to ESPN it’s going to be difficult to prove whether he smoked marijuana before or after he was given his bond conditions.

Even though his legal issues appear to be coming to an end, we stand by yesterday’s prediction that Peterson will not suit up for the Vikings the rest of the way. The team is on a bye this week before they enter the final seven-game stretch to end the year. Peterson is probably still near game shape and certainly still has knowledge of the offense, but the biggest thing working against him is the Ray Rice situation and the public perception of domestic and child abuse.

Ray Rice was suspended for the remainder of the year and cut by the Ravens after video surfaced of him punching his now-wife Janay Parker. Many voiced their displeasure in Roger Goodell after the commissioner only initially suspended Rice for two games, and the Ravens only released Rice after mounting backlash from the video. Rice’s incident has led to two common themes:

1. The NFL has decided to take a harsher stance against violent offenders, as they instituted a six-game suspension for incidents of domestic violence. They also don’t want the public perception of being lenient on crime.

2. Teams need walk a tight line between distancing themselves from violent offenders and wanting to win. Nobody doubts that Peterson gives the team the best chance to win, but at 4-5, the team may decide distancing themselves from Peterson will do more good than hoping he can guide them to a 6-1 or 5-2 record in the final seven games. The last thing the team wants is to hurt its public image and miss the playoffs.

Final verdict – We still think it’s a long shot that Peterson will play this season.


Peterson Could Reach Plea Deal in Child Abuse Case

Adrian Peterson and his representatives are in talks with prosecutors to reach a plea deal in his child abuse case that could reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.

Peterson currently faces one felony count of reckless or negligent injury to a child after it was revealed he struck his 4-year-old son with a small stick as a form of punishment for misbehaving. According to a source close to the situation, Peterson is open to pleading in the case so long as the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor.

Not only would a misdemeanor charge greatly reduce Peterson’s potential jail sentence (Odds are he wouldn’t spend any time in jail under a plea deal), but it would also likely reduce any punishment handed down by the National Football League. Peterson is currently on the commissioner’s exempt list, meaning he must be reinstated before he can return to the Vikings.

The plea deal could be reached as early as tomorrow, as both sides are scheduled to appear before the judge at 1:30 CT. Another issue that will be discussed at Tuesday’s hearing is Peterson’s admission that he smoked marijuana while out on bail. If he did in fact smoke pot, Peterson would be in violation of the terms set forth in his bond agreement. In the event that a deal isn’t reached, the marijuana admission could put Peterson behind bars until his case goes to trial.

Possible Outcome

As we mentioned above, it seems unlikely that Peterson will spend any time in jail assuming the two sides are able to strike a deal. Probation, community service and public speaking engagements are all much more likely outcomes.

As for the NFL side of all this, the league adopted a new personal conducted policy in wake of a few disturbing off-field incidents. The proposal calls for a six-game ban for anyone involved in a physical or domestic violence related altercation. Peterson could also face additional discipline for his marijuana admission, and of course, he still needs to be reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell.

If we had to guess, although we’d venture to bet that Peterson won’t spend any time in jail, it’s still a longshot that he’ll return to the Vikings this season. Two potential suspensions loom, and there is still the negative stigma associated with his actions. Even if he’s reinstated, the Vikings may opt to keep him on the sidelines. We’d be surprised if #28 was back on the field for the Vikings this season.

Related source: ProFootball Talk, ESPN

Crime Rates Surge in South Minneapolis

An analysis of police statistics revealed that some historically safe South Minneapolis neighborhoods have seen a noticeable uptick in violent crime in the past year.

The Lake Nokomis neighborhood saw the biggest spike in crime, as violent crime rose 26 percent since last year. The community also saw an increase all four crimes that fall under the violent crime category. The four crimes that make up the violent crime category are:

  • Murders
  • Rapes
  • Robberies

Police spokesman John Elder said law enforcement plans to increase patrols in areas where crime has increased.

“We continue to add extra resources to the areas where we have seen this slight uptick in violent criminal activity,” said Elder.

Last year authorities increased patrols and civilian contacts in many North Minneapolis areas that had a higher than average crime rate, and it appears the added presence has been successful. Crime rates dropped in most Northeast and North Minneapolis communities where police intensified enforcement efforts.

“Our initiatives to increase firearms seizures from people not entitled to carry them has paid off and we certainly hope that has kept violent criminal activity increases to a minimum,” added Elder.

Despite the success in some North Minneapolis communities, overall crime is up five percent from last year, with 3,111 violent crimes on record. Police noted that although crime rates increased so far through 2014, the city of Minneapolis is still approaching 30-year-lows. This is consistent with national crime rates, which have also tapered off since the 80s and 90s.

Elder concluded by saying the war on violent crime is a constant, ever-changing battle.

“Every week we reassess where our criminal hot zones are and we continue to increase patrols and adjust shifts to combat these crimes,” Elder said.

Related source: Star-Tribune

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

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