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Hockey Fights

Are Hockey Fights Actually Cases of Criminal Assault?

The Minnesota Wild are set to open their 2014-15 season against the Colorado Avalanche tonight, and while many have high expectations for the team, anybody who watched other games around the league on Opening Night was reminded just how physical and violent the sport can be.

Two fights occurred last night, one in the Bruins-Flyers game, and the other in the Kings-Sharks game. Although none of the individuals involved in the fights were injured, every year a handful of players miss time because they break a bone of suffer a concussion during a fight. In all, there were 469 fights recorded in the 2013-14 season.

The fallout from hockey fights rarely leaves the rink, but it does happen. Just this year Todd Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks settled out of court with Steve Moore for an undisclosed amount. Moore suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, facial lacerations and a concussion during his rookie season when he was suckerpunched from behind by Bertuzzi. Moore, a rookie at the time, never played another NHL game. Bertuzzi was eventually charged with criminal assault causing bodily harm, but only received a year of probation and 80 hours of community service.

While the majority of Bertuzzi’s punishment came in the form of the undisclosed civil suit, if you were to suckerpunch a person on the street, break their neck and render them incapable of doing their job, you’re likely going to spend a few months, if not years in prison. So why is hockey any different?

The “Code”

Every sport has their “code” or their set of “unwritten rules.” Don’t bunt to break up a no hitter. Don’t bullrush the kneel-down formation. Don’t shoot if you’re up by double digits with just a few seconds left and the defense isn’t fouling anymore. Kick the soccer ball out of bounds if a player gets injured, and give the ball back to the other team if they kick it out when your teammate goes down. These are all unwritten rules in other sports, and hockey is no different.

There exists a fight code in hockey that’s akin to the old adage, “an eye for an eye.” If you hurt the other team’s best player, your best player better keep his head on a swivel. But there’s more to it than that. There’s a whole underlying science to hockey fights, including pairing your best players up with more physical players to do any “enforcing” that may be needed, and picking on someone your own size/skill level. It’s not that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin wouldn’t drop their gloves, they are just too important to their team, and their teammates know that, so a third line defenseman will square off against an opposing defenseman as a way of settling the score, and more often than not, clearing some of the bad blood between the teams.

The problem is, largely due to other sports, the microscope these players are under is growing bigger and bigger, and their on-field and off-field actions are being watched more closely than ever. The NFL recently changed it’s personal conduct policy after a rash of ugly incidents, and the NHL might be the next league to adopt some rules changes. Hockey purists will tell you fights are “part of the game,” and many fans love seeing an impromptu fight between two players, but is it really something we want to be exposing our children too? Fighting is outlawed in youth, high school and college hockey, but children aren’t walking around wearing Edina hockey jerseys and tuning into every high school game. They’re watching the pros, who they literally see taking matters into their own hands.

I do think hockey will change its fighting policy in the future, but I don’t think you’ll completely be able to eliminate it from the game. As a season ticket holder I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy seeing two guys drop their gloves in the middle of the game. It’s the same principle that led me to be a lawyer. Take two sides, let them have it out, be it with words or with fists, and see who comes out on top. I don’t have a perfect solution to address hockey fights, but I do know I never want to see another Steve Moore incident. It’s just interesting to see how assault is treated so differently when it occurs on a rink.

Police Camera

Farmington Police Unveil Body Cameras

Add the Farmington Police Department to the growing list of law enforcement agencies in Minnesota who have adopted police body cameras.

Farmington is following in the footsteps of Burnsville and will likely be watched closely by Minneapolis, who just recently approved a pilot program to outfit a few officers with the video recording equipment. Unlike the Minneapolis project that has a rather extensive budget, Farmington had to make due with much less, purchasing 17 mountable cameras and a year of video storage for $13,000. Despite to bill, Sgt. Gary Rutherford expects the cameras to pay for themselves by showing judges and juries exactly what happened and what pressure situations his officers were faced with.

“The judge and jury will get to see that genuine terror that we see, as opposed to just reading our own words on paper,” he said. “It’s just such a great evidence tool.”

Farmington Police Sgt. Jim Constantineau added that the recordings will keep officers and citizens on their best behavior.

“We’re all professionals,” Constantineau said. “These are going to protect all of us — law enforcement officers and citizens — and make it more efficient for us to do our jobs.”

How They Work

As we’ve documented in the past, the body-mounted cameras clip onto an officer’s cap, collar or a set of clear glasses and record every detail of a citizen encounter. The department began exploring the idea of body cameras after deciding that dash camera footage simply couldn’t provide the necessary evidence that a moveable camera could.

“These days, society is video-driven,” Rutherford said. “This technology is small enough and affordable enough, there was no reason not to go with it now. And it’s such a great evidence collection tool.”

The cameras are expected to help sort out he said-she said affairs and protect the officers against unwarranted claims of misconduct or excessive force, but police also believe the cameras will be especially helpful in cases of domestic abuse. Oftentimes a victim will recant their statement out of fear of retribution, but the cameras will help record the initial interaction that can better portray scenes of abuse or domestic violence. With video evidence, judges and juries will hear honest testimony and see firsthand accounts of what transpired, which should help keep victims from being manipulated by their abuser.

Farmington police have been using the cameras for three weeks, and by all accounts the initial adoption has been a success.

“I can’t imagine life without one now that I have it,” said Rutherford.

Related source: Pioneer Press

World Cup trophy

The World Cup: Red Cards, Pepe, and Assault

The World Cup is under way as 32 nations vie for the chance to call themselves champions of the world. With tension levels at an all-time high, it’s no surprise that players are sometimes left seeing red, literally and figuratively.

The first documented red card was handed out to none other than Peru’s Placido Galindo in 1930, and since then 161 more red cards have been handed out. Three red cards have been shown in the 2014 World Cup so far, which puts referees on pace to dish out 11 red cards this tournament, down from 17 in 2010. Before we get into why a criminal law firm is writing about soccer and red cards, here are some quick facts about red cards in World Cup history.

  • The Brazilians have received the most red cards in tournament history (11), followed by Argentina (10) and Uruguay (9).
  • Australia leads all countries in red cards on a per contest basis. One of their players receives a red card in 40 percent of their World Cup matches. Cameroon is a close second at 35 percent.
  • Spain has only received one red card in 56 World Cup matches.
  • Mexican referees have handed out the most red cards, with half of those cards shown to South American teams.

Punishing Pepe

After he was whistled for a foul on what he believed was world class acting by opponent Thomas Muller, Pepe decided to give the German a piece of his mind. Literally. He gave Mueller his forehead.

Despite the fact that Pepe’s forehead appeared to have miraculous healing powers,  (Did you see how quickly Mueller went from being injured to back on his feet after their heads touched?), you simply cannot headbutt an opponent on the pitch. While it wasn’t a violent headbutt like the one dished out by Zinedine Zidane back in 2006, Pepe’s headbutt still crossed the line.

We bring this up because had this incident occurred in the stands or in the workplace, the headbutter could find himself in legal trouble. According to Minnesota Statute 609.224 Assault in the Fifth Degree, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor offense if they:

  • Commit an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • Intentionally inflict or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.

A misdemeanor offense is punishable by upon to 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Luckily for Pepe his only punishment is missing the remainder of the game against Germany and the following game against the United States.

Keep checking our blog for more criminal analysis of the World Cup as the tournament unfolds.

Related source: DailyMail.uk

Swearing Ticket

Michigan Town Ticketing For Swearing: What the @#%#! 

A 19-year-old attempting to fight a $200 citation had his appeal fall on deaf ears, which is ironic considering his ticket was for two words that were overheard by a local police officer.

The whole incident began back in April when Colin Anderson and some friends were hanging out in a parking lot in downtown Brighton, Michigan. An officer approached the teens and cited one member for skateboarding on private property. Anderson, upset that his friend was ticketed and that the group was told to vacate the premise, uttered four words.

“This is f—— bull—-.”

Anderson claimed that he said the words under his breath and no other parties heard the curse words, but that didn’t stop the officer from issuing him a $200 ticket for disorderly conduct under the clause that Anderson was breaching the peace. Anderson said he only swore because he thought the cops were unfairly targeting the teens.

“What got me to start arguing a little bit, they were asking all of us to leave because he got a ticket,” Anderson said. “That’s not fair. We’re just standing around.”

Brighton Police Chief Tom Wightman accused the teens of tomfoolery before the citations were handed out.

“That’s fine if they want to behave and use the facility like anybody else,” said Wightman. “It’s when they misbehave (that) it becomes an issue. We’re going to be watching.”

Contesting the Ticket

Anderson decided to challenge the ticket before a Livingston County District Court magistrate. He told the magistrate he had never before received a citation of any kind, and that he didn’t even get a warning.”

“[If he would have warned me] I would have respected his authority,” said Anderson. “I don’t think I deserve this ticket.”

Despite his plea, the magistrate upheld the citation. Anderson will have to pay the full $200 fine. He said he learned his lesson, even though he thinks it’s a stupid one and he should be allowed to express his Fourth Amendment rights within reason.

“It’s a bad idea to argue with cops,” he said.

Mel Welch comments

Add this unnamed officer to the list of policemen on a power trip who want to take advantage of the system. It reminds me of the officer who profiled the man with the Colorado license plate or the officer who claimed to smell marijuana so he could search a suspect’s car, even though no marijuana was found.

In each case, the officer evaluated the situation and determined that a court of law would give him the benefit of doubt over the suspect. In cases like this, a judge will be more inclined to believe the testimony of an “upstanding” cop than a “delinquent” teen. But not all cops are upstanding, and certainly not all teens are delinquents.

Anderson doesn’t deny swearing, but if everyone was ticketed for cursing the swear jar would overflow. I’m sure the officer wouldn’t have ticketed a 65-year-old lady if she said, “That f—— hurt like hell,” if she stubbed her toe in the same location where the teens were cited. It’s sad the way officers, and in some cases, the legal system as a whole, view teens and young adults as hoodlums and thugs based on their age and appearance. Anderson did not get just in this case.

Related source: USA Today

2013 Minneapolis Crime Statistics

Minneapolis Crime StatsThe city of Minneapolis recently released its final crime statistics for 2013, and although many of the numbers are encouraging, there is always room for improvement.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau spoke about the findings at a recent press conference, commending the city and its precincts for being tough on crime.

“The second precinct saw the largest crime reduction in the crime, “said Harteau.

Some Up, Some Down

Many of the statistics pointed to a downward trend in crime, but some specific crimes rose in 2013. Here are some of the findings from the annual crime report:

  • Violent crime was up by four percent in 2013, but it remains at one of the lowest levels in 30 years.
  • The number of homicides in Minneapolis fell in 2013.
  • Reported rapes declined in 2013.
  • Juvenile crime fell 4.6 percent in 2013.
  • Overall crime was up by less than one percent.

One of the biggest improvements in 2013 was how the city curbed the number of burglary crimes. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said good policing and community engagement were two reasons why “one hundred and sixty-seven fewer families experienced a burglary this year than they did last year.”

Continued Effort

Local leaders plan to make 2014 an even safer year for Minneapolis residents, and it starts by fostering relationships in the community, said Hodges.

“The solutions there have to do with policing but it also has to do with community relationships. It also has to do with whether or not we are doing job creation, housing,” said Hodges.

Julianne Leerssen, Executive Director of Neighborhood Hub in north Minneapolis, echoed Hodges’ sentiment.

“A lot of crime comes in my opinion in certain communities because there are not a lot of viable options for employment, education and housing and people are continuously struggling,” Leerssen said. “I think the community has got to be really involved.”

While the goal is to lower crime rates across the board, Harteau said two areas would get extra attention in 2014 – robberies and assaults.

Criminal Attorney Avery Appelman believes those are smart areas to focus on.

“Assault cases have been in the news in the recent weeks as there have been a rash of incidents on the U of M campus,” said Appelman. “I’m glad the police are taking a closer look at these incidents and are instituting a year-long plan to cut down on robberies and assaults in the Minneapolis area.”

Related source: Pioneer Press, KSTP

Ex-Viking Darren Sharper Arrested on Rape Charges

Darren SharperFormer Minnesota Vikings safety Darren Sharper was arrested Friday in Los Angeles on suspicion of rape, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Sharper was released from prison late Friday night on $200,000 bail, but his troubles are just beginning. The LAPD said they are investigating Sharper’s involvement in two separate sexual assaults that occurred in West Los Angeles in October and again earlier this month.

Another issue for Sharper is that the LAPD isn’t the only department looking into his past behavior. A report surfaced on Saturday that the New Orleans Police Department is investigating a separate sexual assault complaint filed in September against Sharper.

Remi Braden, spokesperson for the NOPD, said police are taking their time gathering evidence before moving forward with their case against Sharper.

“As with every case alleging sexual assault, information gathered is extremely sensitive and the top priority of the detectives is to protect the person who filed the complaint,” said Braden. “Because this is an on-going criminal investigation, we cannot provide additional information at this time.”

Sharper Suspended

As is often the unfortunate side effect of formal charges, Sharper was suspended without pay from his job as an analyst for NFL Network.

“Darren has been suspended without pay until further notice, effective immediately,” said NFL Network spokesman Alex Riethmiller.

Even if the charges are eventually dropped, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever see Sharper in front of the lens for NFL Network again. Sharper’s case is similar in many respects to that of Harold Reynolds, an analyst for ESPN who was terminated amid allegations of sexual harassment. Reynolds eventually won an out of court settlement with ESPN over his termination, and he later returned to the screen with MLB Network, but the cloud of sexual harassment still follows him to this day.

Potential Sentence

While the exact charges aren’t known, it’s possible that Sharper could face many years in prison for his actions.

Had the alleged assaults occurred in Minnesota, Sharper would likely face charges of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. A charge of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree carries potential penalties of:

  • 30 years in prison, and/or
  • Fines up to $40,000.

Sharper’s first court date in connection with the alleged sexual assaults in Los Angeles is on February 14.

Related source: First Coast News

Study Shines Ugly Light on Arrest Figures of Both White and Black Males

teen in handcuffsAccording to a new study published in Crime & Delinquency, nearly half of all black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. will have been arrested at least once by the time they are 23.

The study, which examined arrest data across age and race, found that a large portion of young males will have felt the cold steel of a pair of handcuffs by the young age of 23. Oftentimes these arrests can make it difficult for young adults to get a job or to get accepted to college.

“A problem is that many males – especially black males – are navigating the transition from youth to adulthood with the baggage and difficulties from contact with the criminal justice system,” said Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina and lead author of the study.

Race Results

When examining national arrest data from 1997 to 2008, researchers found:

  • By age 18, 30 percent of black males, 26 percent of Hispanic males, and 22 percent of white males have been placed under arrest.
  • By age 23, those numbers jump to 49 percent for African American men, 44 percent for Hispanic men, and 38 percent for white men.

The numbers paint a different story when looking at female arrest data.

  • By age 18, 12 percent of white females, 11.9 percent of Hispanic females, and 11.8 percent of black females will have been arrested.
  • By age 23, 20 percent of white females, 18 percent of Hispanic females, and 16 percent of black females will have been arrested at least once.

Brame said it’s very important that future studies examine the impact arrests can have on a young adult’s future. He said that as a society, there has been a lot of research on topics pertaining to the negative effects of lack of exercise or the psychological benefits of youth sports, but few studies have examined the consequential side effects of being place under arrest at a young age.

“As a society, we often worry a great deal about the effects of children watching television, eating junk food, playing sports and having access to good schools,” Brame said. “Experiencing formal contact with the criminal justice system could also have powerful effects on behavior and impose substantial constraints on opportunities for America’s youth.”

While Minnesota recently amended a law that prevents the public from accessing criminal histories of 16- and 17-year-olds, many of the crimes they commit in their youth stay with them well into their adult years.

Brame concluded by saying that these arrests put additional strain on a young adult’s personal and professional life.

“Criminal records that show up in searches can impede employment, reduce access to housing, thwart admission to and financing for higher education and affect civic and volunteer activities such as voting or adoption. They also can damage personal and family relationships.”

Related source: Crime & Delinquency, EurekAlert.com

 

Attorney Mel Welch Discusses Recent Theft Dismissal

Mel WelchToday, Criminal Defense Attorney Mel Welch opens up about a recent dismissal he received in a Minnesota theft case. Similar to another recent blog post by Mel, this case revolved around asking the court to consider if criminal intent truly existed. Congrats to Mel on obtaining justice for his client!

The Right Results

The right results sometimes have a way of working themselves out.

Nearly two years ago, one of our clients was hired to assist in removing trees and yard debris in preparation of a house for sale following a foreclosure. After he and his friend completed their tasks, they found themselves with some leisure time and – as the inquisitive human nature compels – found themselves admiring the property and architecture. During their perusal of the property, they observed a pile of detritus and miscellaneous items within the unlocked, rear three-season porch. The two entered the unlocked porch and helped themselves to what they thought was refuse, taking a bag of rags, a broken rake head, some windshield washer fluid, a couple refrigerator magnets and a diamond in the rough: a cigarette rolling device.

The residence’s neighbor observed the males removing the items and, as any good neighbor would, called the previous owner who contacted law enforcement. The perturbed previous homeowner informed police that he had not given the men permission to remove the items, expressing his anger that they were going through the items instead of fixing the septic system.

When law enforcement spoke with the men, they were both apologetic and honest with them, informing them separately of the same conduct that they believed the items were refuse (i.e., showing reliability of the statements given to law enforcement). Both men had no criminal history or other indications that they were involved in criminal conduct. Law enforcement themselves were understandable, stating that in foreclosure situations like this one it was typical that the items they removed typically are items which are abandoned and later thrown out. Law enforcement also expressed skepticism that the case would even be charged given the nature of the situation.

Penalties for Burglary

However, the case was charged by the county attorney and the men were facing felony charges which could land them in prison for up to 10 years and a $20,000 fine under a charge of Burglary in the Second Degree in violation of Minnesota Statute 609.582, subd. 2.

Burglary in the second degree requires the State to prove that the individual entered a dwelling without consent and with the intent to commit a crime – in this case theft, the intentional taking of the property of another. Here, even the investigating law enforcement understood that the suspects did not have the intent required to show the accused intended to steal.

Facing State Charges

This case is illustrative of the difficulties one finds themselves in when facing charges from the State. The last place a person wants to find themselves is in court arguing – it is not an advantageous position to be in: the stakes are high, the situation is adversarial, the flexibility of parties is limited to pursuing their constitutionally charged obligations, and the collateral effects on the accused are missed opportunities and expended resources in defense of their liberty and reputation. That said, it is helpful when even law enforcement is sympathetic and works on behalf of the client.

The end result was that we were able to get this case dismissed, and the much-relieved client was able to get back to a normal life.

 

 

It’s So Cold Criminals Are Turning Themselves In

Cold CriminalsAn escaped convict had nowhere to go when temperatures dropped into the low single digits in Kentucky on Monday night, so the criminal walked into the nearby Sunset Motel and Restaurant and asked an employee to call the police.

Without cash in his pocket or an accomplice with a spare bedroom, Robert Vick, 42, had few options as arctic temperatures settled in late Monday night. Vick decided his best option was to head back to the warm confines of his jail cell.

“This was definitely of his own volition,” said Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts. “It’s cold out there, too cold to run around. I can understand why the suspect would turn himself in.”

Police and paramedics arrived to the hotel a short while later. Vick was treated for hypothermia before being returned to Blackburn Correctional Complex.

Vick made his escape Sunday night, but he picked a poor time to make a run for it. Dressed in khakis, a shirt and jacket, Vick was no match for Monday’s wind chill, which dropped to -20 in Lexington.

Vick is currently serving a six-year sentence for burglary and a five-year sentence for criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Related source: Associated Press

Identity Theft Is America’s Fastest Growing Crime

Identity Theft TargetEarlier today Target confirmed that as many as 40 million individuals may have had their credit and debit card information stolen after a massive security breach was revealed.

Target’s security systems were breached from the day before Thanksgiving trough December 15. A person who used their card at the retail store or on Target.com may have provided thieves with their:

  • Name
  • Card number
  • Expiration date
  • 3- or 4-digit security code.

A spokesperson for the company said there was “no indication that PIN numbers were exposed,” but that still leaves thieves with enough information to make purchases on your behalf.

“If you shopped at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, you should check your account for any suspicious or unusual activity,” the company said in a statement. “If you see something that appears fraudulent, REDcard holders should contact Target (866-852-8680), others should contact their banks.”

Should We Be Surprised?

Although to security breach has left many shoppers checking their bank statements, it shouldn’t come as a shock that more and more thieves are targeting consumers in the digital realm.

A recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice found that losses as a result of identity theft topped $24 billion in 2012, and the average loss per incident was twice as much as property crimes like burglary or theft.

The problem with identity theft is that, unlike a robbery in your home, you probably won’t realize your information has been stolen until it is too late. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice, the vast majority of identity theft crimes go unsolved because most people don’t report the incident to the police. The Bureau of Justice reported that only nine percent of identity theft victims contacted police in 2012. Most of the time, individuals seek to resolve the issue by contacting their bank or their credit card company, but that rarely results in the thief being brought to justice.

Protect Yourself

As we mentioned in a previous post, there are numerous ways to protect your sensitive information in cyberspace. To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, we recommend:

  • Regularly checking your bank statements for any fraudulent activity.
  • Shred personal information and dispose of the trash in a secure location.
  • Don’t store your password information on your laptop. If your MacBook gets stolen, so will your passwords.
  • Avoid opening or responding to emails from foreign or odd email addresses.
  • Use common sense when sites ask for your personal information. Only share your information with trusted or secure sites.

If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, or if you shopped at Target in the last three weeks, give your credit card statement a quick check and report any suspicious activity as soon as possible.

Related sources: Pioneer Press, The Atlantic Cities