Category Archives: Violent Crime

Little Falls

Little Falls Murderer Must Pay $21,000 To Victims’ Families

Byron David Smith, the 66-year-old Little Falls man who was found guilty on two counts of premeditated murder in the first and second degree after he killed two teenage intruders during a home invasion has been ordered to pay over $21,000 in restitution to the victims’ families.

The Little Falls saga began nearly two years ago when Nicholas Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, broke into Smith’s home on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith’s home had been frequently burgled, so when he heard people breaking into his house, he waited in the basement with a shotgun. Brady was the first to enter the basement, and Smith shot him as he descended the stairs. Smith then walked up to an injured Brady mortally wounded him with a shot to the face.

Kifer descended the stairs a short while later. Smith again shot the teen as she was coming down the stairs, but when he went to shoot her again, his gun jammed. Smith then retrieved a handgun, and as he stated during his testimony, delivered “a kill shot.”

The case made national news as pundits discussed how far a homeowner could go to protect his or her dwelling. Ultimately the jury decided that Smith’s actions went above and beyond “reasonable measures” in protecting his home, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Court Costs

After the guilty verdict was read, Brady and Kifer’s families submitted a restitution request. They hoped to to recoup $42,000 in restitution costs for expenses like funeral costs, transportation costs during trial, and loss of wages by the parents.

Ultimately the Morrison County District Court met the families half way, awarding them a total of $21,421 in restitution. Brady’s family was awarded $9,577, while Kifer’s family received $11,844.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Minnesota Sex Offender

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


Wisconsin DUI

Wisconsin Judges Lenient on Chronic Drunk Drivers

A review of drunk driving cases by a Wisconsin media company found that many chronic offenders throughout the state receive lenient sentences.

Moreover, in at least a dozen cases, judges imposed sentences below the mandatory minimum. Sometimes this was done by negotiating around vaguely worded statutes, while other times judges blatantly disregarded mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Ben Kempinen, a Law School professor at the University of Wisconsin, said it’s strange that judges who are tasked with upholding a law are blatantly overlooking current statutes.

“If (legislators) say you have to give the guy at least a year and (judges) are not doing it, then they’re not complying with the limits on their power,” Kempinen said.

More From The Review

The analysis of over 900 DUI cases across the state uncovered:

  • Some judges failed to institute probation upon an offender’s release from jail, while others let offenders serve some sentences simultaneously.
  • A Green Bay man convicted of seven drunk driving offenses should have been sentenced to three years in jail based on mandatory minimum laws, but he received a two-year sentence and ultimately only served nine months in jail.
  • The same judge handed down a similar sentence in another case. When the mandatory minimum called for three years, he sentenced the offender to two.

Avery Appelman comments

On the surface level the report might seem concerning that judges aren’t following the law to the letter, but there’s more to it than that. For example, the judge in the case above said he only went below the mandatory guidelines based on recommendations of prosecutors. He also said it’s his job to interpret the law and apply it on a case-by-case basis.

“I think the Legislature has a right to express their opinion that these are mandatory, in their opinion this is the sentence that should be imposed, but I don’t think I’m a computer. I don’t think I’m a robot. I try to listen to what everybody has to tell me,” said Judge Donald Zuidmulder. “I do respect that and probably follow it 99 percent of the time or 98 percent of the time.”

I think Judge Zuidmulder’s take is a good one. No two cases are the same, so a one-size-fits-all law isn’t going to be perfect 100 percent of the time. I’d much rather have a judge like Zuidmulder than one who doesn’t consider all the factors in the case and rules, as the judge referenced, as a robot.

Related source: Gannett News Media, Pioneer Press

Daylight Savings Crime

Daylight Savings Crime

November has brought plenty of changes here in Minnesota. We turned the clocks back to get an extra hour of light in the morning, and Mother Nature dropped a few inches of snow on our heads. So while you may be better able to see the snow on your car windshield when you scrap your car off in the morning before heading to work, today we want to focus on how daylight savings time impacts crime rates.

A study out of the University of Virginia found that daylight savings time has a large impact on the number and types of crimes committed. As you might guess, the earlier it gets dark, the more crimes occur. This happens for three main reasons:

  • It gets dark earlier.
  • It stays dark longer.
  • Less witnesses are outside due to decreasing temperatures.

The cover of darkness and the fact that their are less potential witnesses outside to observe crime are prime reasons why criminal activity increases in the late fall and winter.

What Crimes Increase?

Not all crimes increase in the cold months. For example, disorderly conduct and DUIs tend to drop as people aren’t typically outside as much in the cold winter months. The crime that increases the most is robbery.

Jennifer Doleac, co-author of the study, said robberies increase 7 percent overall, and 27 percent during the sunset hour. She says the cover of darkness provides thieves and other criminals with the discretion they need, and discussed the drop in crime when we turn the clocks forward in the spring.

“We find an increase in light during the hour of sunset impacts a number of socially damaging crimes, including robbery, murder, and rape, with a total estimate social cost avoidance of over $550 million per year,” Doleac wrote. “We also find suggestive evidence that much of the avoided crime comes through criminal deterrence, which means not only fewer victims but also a lesser need for the expensive and potentially damaging incarceration process.”

Nicholas Sanders, an economics professor at the University of Virginia who co-authored the study with Doleac, added that the increase in crime in the fall is most noticeable during the hour of sunset.

“The majority of those effects are really concentrated in the hour of sunset which is to say 6,  7 o’clock in most areas, the hour that sees the biggest change in the amount of light that’s present is the hour that sees the largest change in crime,” said Sanders.

However, he says the morning hours are a different story.

“In the morning the criminals still haven’t had their coffee, they haven’t gotten up and gotten their day started.”

This blog isn’t meant to keep you indoors every night after 5pm, but it should serve as a warning to stay alert to suspicious activity. Always lock your car doors if parking on the street, and make sure other areas, like garages and storage sheds are also secured once night falls.

Related source:

Peterson case

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.


Adrian Peterson

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

South Minneapolis

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

Police Gun

New Police Weapon Technology on the Horizon

In an effort to quell concerns about policy brutality and use of deadly force, a Silicon Valley company has developed a new technology that will allow law enforcement to track when a gun is pulled from its holster, as well as when a weapon is fired.

Not only that, but the technology will allow law enforcement agencies to track the trajectory of the shot and the location of the weapon at the time it was fired. Jim Schaff, who works for Yardarm Technologies, the company developing the equipment, said the technology works through Bluetooth connectivity and real-time location sensing.

“It’s the same kind of sensor your iPhone uses to change the screen from vertical to horizontal when you turn your phone to the side,” said Schaff. “But ours is way more powerful.”

Schaff also noted that the connectivity is not linked up to the trigger mechanism, so there is no possibility that the gun could be fired remotely. It will simply track when the gun is drawn and record any discharge data.

Proponents of the technology believe it can help clarify exactly what occurred during a particularly tense or ambiguous encounter. The data could also help forensic scientists determine who fired a fatal shot, or if an officer exercised unnecessary force by drawing his weapon on a suspect.

The tracking technology also has one big benefit for police officers; Instant notification of a gun being drawn. If an officer needs to draw his weapon, odds are he’s facing a dangerous or potentially life-threatening situation. If the station gets a notification that an officer has drawn his or her weapon, they can immediately dispatch backup without the responding officer needing to divert attention from the situation to radio in a call. In hostile situations, those extra few seconds can be the difference between life and death.

“That’s the worst nightmare for any police officer in the field,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak in regards to an officer’s inability to radio for backup.

Schaff concluded by saying he hopes the technology is implemented nationwide by the end of next year.

Related source:

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