Category Archives: Violent Crime

Are March Madness Pools Legal?

If you’re like most red-blooded Americans, you filled out a bracket for the NCAA tournament. Maybe you just like to fill a bracket out for fun, but odds are you’re in a pool with friends or co-workers that has a little bit of money on the line.

Now, the feds aren’t going to be kicking in your door for running a $5 March Madness pool, but you may want to be a little careful about how you advertise your pool, because technically, it’s illegal.

March Madness Gambling

According to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, otherwise known as the Bradley Act, it is unlawful for a person to gamble “on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate, or are intended to participate, or on one or more performances of such athletes in such games.”

That said, four states are exempt from the Bradley Act, but Minnesota isn’t one of them. The four states exempt from the Bradley Act are:

  • Nevada
  • Delaware
  • Oregon
  • Montana

Additionally, if you run your pool through, or another online site, you also have to worry about the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006. That act prohibits accepting payments related to gambling.

“There are easy arguments that could be made that outside of Nevada, a bracket of any sort is illegal, especially if you’re moving it online,” says Alexander Ripps, a legal analyst at Gambling Compliance in Washington, D.C.

The act isn’t completely straightforward though, as it has an exception for fantasy sports (think or, and March Madness lands in the murky middle between sporting event and fantasy sport.

Additionally, since the vast majority of pools pay out all the money they collect, authorities aren’t going to be quick to break down your bracket since no third-party is profiting from the pool. That’s why you don’t see many sites taking a cut for a bracket pool. Instead, they offer a free bracket management service, which boosts their ad revenue through extra clicks and pageviews, and they assume there’s no money being exchanged, even though millions of dollars flow through Paypal every March.

In all, the biggest thing you have to worry about if you’re running or participating in a work pool is that you’re violating a company policy. Some larger companies have very strict rules about inter-office gambling, and running a pool could cost you your job. If you’re wondering if it’s against company policy, ask a superior before blindly throwing together a March Madness pool.

If you’re still in the hunt to take home your bracket pool this year, good luck! If you want to see how our Violent Crime bracket stacks up against the actual bracket, click here.

Related source: Free Enterprise, Bloomberg Business


The March Madness Violent Crime Bracket

The NCAA tournament is here, and that means it’s once again time to bust out one of our favorite blogs, the Crime Bracket!

If you missed our bracket last year, we forecast the tournament field based on DUIs per capita. The state with the highest DUIs per capita were given the victory, and that gave us a Final Four of 3-seed Creighton, 10-seed Stanford, 10-seed Arizona State and 15-seed University of Milwaukee. Ultimately, 3-seed Creighton won the tournament.

This year, we decided to tweak the selection process a little bit. This year we advanced the college that had the highest rate of violent crime per student. Here’s a look at the data we used. For example, the University of Arkansas had 15 instances of violent crime at their Fayetteville campus, which boasts an enrollment of 21,405. That means 1 in 1,427 students at Arkansas can expect to be the victim of a violent crime.

So without further ado, here’s a look at the 2015 March Madness Violent Crime Bracket. (Note, if a school did not report it’s findings, it was not advanced in the bracket.

2015 March Madness Bracket

Although it’s unlikely that two 15-seeds will make the final four, it happened in the 2015 March Madness Violent Crime Bracket. Here’s a couple of insights from the bracket:

  • 16-seed Hampton knocks off top-seeded Kentucky in round 1, with a crime ratio of 1:1,050 to 1:3,388.
  • Coastal Carolina pulled off a similar upset against Wisconsin, with a crime ratio of 1:1,090 to 1:3,515.
  • The Final Four features 9-seed LSU, 11-seed UCLA, 15-seed New Mexico State and 15-seed Texas Southern.
  • 15-seed Texas Southern wins the tournament, and the title as the most dangerous college campus for violent crime. 1 in 682 students at Texas Southern were the victims of violent crime at the most recent survey. Texas Southern edged out the other finalist, UCLA, which boasts a violent crime probability of 1 in 953.

Tune into March Madness to see how our bracket compares to the actual results!


Madison Killing Echoes Ferguson Case

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

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

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

Quick Notes About The Case

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

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

Protests Planned

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

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

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

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

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

Related source: ABC, Yahoo, USA Today

Justice Department Clears Darren Wilson in Ferguson Shooting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilson Cleared

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

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

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

Related source: Yahoo, AP

The Link Between Depression and Violent Crime

Just this week we wrote that even though arrests are down, our jail cells are still filing up. The problem is that many of these repeat offenders aren’t getting the mental health help they need. Instead, they are simply thrown in jail and left to their own devices once they’ve served their sentence. The legal system is not addressing the problem.

Today, we’ve learned of a new study that links mental health issues to increases in violent crime. According to a study by researchers at Oxford University, individuals diagnosed with depression are about three times more likely than the general population to commit a violent offense.

Researchers came to that conclusion after examining a group of roughly 47,000 depressed people and almost 900,000 non-diagnosed individuals over the course of three years. They found that clinically depressed individuals had a higher risk of self harm and harm to others.

While depressed individuals may be three times as likely to commit a violent offense than the average person, researchers emphasized that the vast majority of clinically depressed individuals have not been convicted of a crime, nor will they.

“One important finding was that the vast majority of depressed persons were not convicted of violent crimes, and that the rates … are below those for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and considerably lower than for alcohol or drug abuse,” said Seena Fazel, who led the study at Oxford University’s psychiatry department.

According to the study, crimes more often committed by depressed individuals than the general population include:

  • Robbery
  • Sexual offenses
  • Assault

Depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide, yet we’re still hesitant to talk openly about the disease. Far too often we punish violent offenders for the crime instead of pairing punishment with mental health evaluations and treatments. Without treatment, recidivism is likely.

Fazel said many people want to ensure depressed individuals don’t self harm or commit suicide, but little attention is given to their likelihood of lashing out at others. He hopes to conduct future studies on why depressed individuals are more likely to commit a violent offense.

“Is it about not being able to think through things, not being able to make judgments about risk? Is it irritability? Impulsiveness?” he said. “If we can get more of a handle on that, it could really help treat these people.”

Related source: Fox News

Police Shootings Could Be Added To MN Emergency Alerts

When a child goes missing in Minnesota, the state’s Amber Alert system broadcasts the alert to Minnesotans across the state. A similar alert could soon be in place when police officers are killed or seriously wounded.

A Minnesota House Panel is pushing for advanced legislation that would add officer-involved shootings to the statewide alert system. The new system, sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, would be called the Blue Alert. Cornish served as a law enforcement officer prior to chairing the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee. He argued that the Blue Alert system would keep civilians safe and would help track down suspects.

“Many times after the assault has taken place, or the death, these people escape in a vehicle,” Cornish said. “So this system would really be helpful in apprehension, a quicker apprehension before these people get out into the general public and do more damage.”

The bill comes on the heels of the of the high-profile killing of officer Scott Patrick by suspect Brian Fitch. Fitch drove away after shooting and killing Patrick during a routine traffic stop. Thankfully, anonymous tipsters alerted police to Fitch’s whereabouts later in the day, and police were able to take him into custody, but not before the two sides again exchanged gunfire.

How Blue Alert Would Work

Under the new proposal, the Blue Alert would be very similar to the current Amber Alert system. The Blue Alert would be transmitted through the Minnesota Crime Alert Network and the Emergency Alert system. Both public and commercial broadcasters would take part in sharing the alert.

Rep. Dan Schoen, an active police officer and supporter of the bill, said the Blue Alert proposal would expedite the spread of information, which is vital in instances where a suspect is a serious threat to public safety.

“We want people looking out their windows,” Schoen said. “We want people looking at each other when they’re going down the interstate, and we need the public to be a part of that.”

The House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee unanimously supported the proposal. The bill now moves to the House Transportation Committee.

Related source: MPR News

Preliminary Hearing Scheduled in Slender Man Stabbing

Two Wisconsin teens accused of stabbing a classmate to appease a fictional horror character will find out this week if they’ll be tried on attempted homicide charges.

The “Slender Man” case has garnered national attention for its absurdity and for the ages of those involved. Prosecutors allege that the two Waukesha girls planned to kill another girl in hopes of gaining favor with a fictional character known as Slender Man.

For those of you not up to date on your internet-born fantastical horror entities, Slender Man “came to life” as part of an online contest where users used their photoshop skills to create images that appeared to capture supernatural events on film. Eric Knudson edited a few photos to show a a tall, faceless stranger in the background, and he accompanied the images with text that made it look like the creature was associated with the disappearance of children. The fictional character eventually went viral, and people from all over the web created fan-fiction stories to help the legend of Slender Man grow.

The problem, though, is that the two 12-year-olds at the center of the case had a difficult time separating reality from fantasy. Prosecutors allege they lured another 12-year-girl into a park and stabbed her 19 times. Amazingly, the after the pair left the 12-year-old to die, she was able to crawl to a sidewalk and flag down a passing bicyclist. The biker called 911, and paramedics were able to save the girl’s life. She was released form the hospital a little over one week after the attack.

As you might guess, questions about the girls’ mental state arose. After hearing from mental health experts, a judge ruled that both girls were competent enough to stand trial. Now that competence has been established, a judge will rule if there’s enough evidence to move forward with a trial.

Based on the preliminary evidence, it seems likely that the court will move forward with a trial. Prosecutors are pursuing first-degree attempted homicide charges against the girls, which carries a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

The Importance of Pre-Trial

As we mentioned, it seems likely that the case will head to trial, but the pre-trial proceedings are actually a pivotal part of a defense attorney’s strategy. Criminal defense attorneys use this time to determine how the prosecution plans to attack their defendant’s credibility.

Avery Appelman, a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, said pre-trial hearings allow lawyers to get in the mind of their opposition.

“If you have a sense of how the other side is going to attack your defendant, you can begin to plan a better defensive strategy,” said Appelman. “Additionally, if a prosecution’s witness says something during pre-trial that you can use to strengthen your case, you can ensure you have a line of questions ready for cross examination.”

We’ll keep tabs on the Slender Man case as it moves forward.

Both Sides Clash Over Minnesota Sex Offender Reform

After months of investigation and data collection, a trial to determine the legality of Minnesota’s current sex offender reform program has finally begun.

Attorneys for both sides issued opening statements Monday in a trial that is expected to last several weeks. Dan Gustafson, the attorney representing more than 700 sex offenders in the civil commitment program, issued a strong challenge of the current system, asking Judge Donovan Frank to rule the program unconstitutional. Gusatson noted that only one individual has ever completed the program, which showcases that the current rehabilitation system is failing.

Conversely,  Deputy Minnesota Attorney General Nathan Brennaman argued that the program did not infringe the rights of the offenders. He believes the program is constitutional, and he noted that an unconstitutional ruling could jeopardize the safety of Minnesotans by placing many former offenders back on the streets.

Whatever is decided, it’s clear that some changes are needed. Imagine if you had a graduating class of 700 individuals, and even though you went to class and received good grades, only the valedictorian was allowed to graduate. Certainly nobody would argue that the school program was working. On a smaller scale, a similar ideology can be applied to the sex offender program. Individuals who serve their time, receive clearing from mental health experts, show remorse, have made positive strides in their life, are unlikely to re-offend and who are monitored after their release are certainly deserving of a second chance. They shouldn’t be forced to wallow in a purgatory-like state for years and years.

Although he may not rule it unconstitutional, it seems likely that Judge Frank will order that the program undergo a few changes. As he wrote in a 75-page report, Frank said the current structure has “grave deficiencies” and needs sweeping changes. We’ll keep tabs on the case as it continues over the next few weeks.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Warm Spell May Be To Blame In Campus Crime Uptick

The University of Minnesota has seen a rash of violent crimes over the past week, and campus officials believe the warm winter weather may be contributing to spike in crime.

University police issued three crime alerts last weekend for incidents that took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All three victims were robbed by a group of thieves.

University of Minnesota Police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said criminals venture outdoors when the weather warms up.

“Typically, it is very cold this time of the year,” he said. “It was a bit warmer last weekend, so that could have had an impact on the suspects going out and looking to create crime.”

Three Separate Thefts

The first instance that prompted a campus crime alert occurred Friday. According to the police report, an unidentified individual was robbed on campus near Williamson Hall. Three suspects were arrested in connection with the robbery, but as of posting the police did not have even evidence to charge them with a crime.

The second incident occurred Saturday at 6:30 a.m. near the intersection of 15th and Como. Logan Brion, a University of Minnesota-Morris student, was robbed while in town visiting a friend. According to Brion, he was walking down the street when he noticed three men were following him. Brion decided to run, but the suspects caught up to him and began to punch and kick him. The criminals demanded his wallet and became enraged when Brion told them he didn’t have it with him.

“One of them threatened to shoot me with a gun and said he was going to kill me if I didn’t comply with them,” Brion said. “I didn’t provoke them or anything, they could’ve gotten everything they wanted without violence.”

The suspects made off with Brion’s iPhone, winter coat and drawstring bag.

Although Brion noted that he was able to track the iPhone to a housing project near the Cedar-Riverside area, the suspects still remain at large.

“There is nothing like this in Morris,” Brion said.

The final incident that spurred a crime alert happened Sunday morning in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. Rory Traut was walking near Van Cleve Park when four masked men approached him and demanded his personal items. Three of the men took his iPhone, phone charger and wallet while a fourth held a gun to Traut’s neck.

“I’m from a small town — it makes me a little more nervous about going to Dinkytown or Minneapolis,” Traut said.

The items were later recovered by police, but fingerprint testing proved inconclusive. The police are classifying the case as an ongoing incident.

Related source: MN Daily

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