Category Archives: Violent Crime

Adrian Peterson Child Abuse

Adrian Peterson Reinstated After Child Abuse Charges

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is expected to be back on the field Sunday when Minnesota takes on New Orleans after being reinstated by the team. Peterson was held out of this week’s game after he was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.

The decision to reinstate Peterson is making waves among the talking heads at ESPN and other sports media outlets, and the Vikings owners made it clear that they understand the severity of the charges but they also want to let due process run its course.

“Today’s decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue,” owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said in a statement. “To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action.”

Child Abuse Charges

The public first learned of the child abuse charges Friday afternoon, and the Vikings quickly made the decision to deactivate Peterson for the Sunday’s home opener. According to a statement from his attorney Rusty Hardin, the charges stem from an incident where Peterson used “a switch to spank his son.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a switch is basically a small twig or tree branch.

“Parents are entitled to discipline their children as they see fit, except when that discipline exceeds what the community would say is reasonable,” Hardin said about the incident. According to the grand jury, Peterson’s actions exceeded a reasonable standard.

Peterson will make his first appearance on Wednesday, where he is expected to enter a plea. Peterson will appear in court over the next several weeks, but many involved in the case believe it will be a few months before the case goes to trial.

Child Abuse Penalties

Peterson was officially charged with one count of injury to a child and could be sentenced to up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. He could also be placed on probation and be forced to attend counseling.

In addition to penalties levied by the state of Texas, Peterson could face additional discipline from the NFL. The league recently announced a new domestic violence policy that includes any physical harm, so it’s certainly possible that Peterson would be subject to penalties. Under the new policy, a first time offender would receive a six game suspension and a second violation would result in a lifetime ban.

Related source: ESPN

Twin Towers

9/11 – 13 Years Later

For some, September 11th, 2001 seems like decades ago. For others, it still seems like yesterday.

13 years ago our country was rocked by a national tragedy. More than 3,000 Americans lost their lives  in the Trade Center attacks, at the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. September 11 also took a toll on our bravest, as it stands as the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officials in the history of the United States.

In the wake of the tragedy, Americans rallied together to stand as one. We did what we always do – We persevered. Those we lost that day will never be forgotten, and their loss led to sweeping changes in the way the United States protects its citizens from domestic attacks. Airports added advanced security measures, baseball and football stadiums added metal detectors and reduced what could be brought into games, and the US revamped its efforts to prevent and identify terrorist activities before they occurred.

So today, in honor of those we lost and all those affected by the events of September 11, we ask you to take some time out of your day and think back to that day 13 years ago. Think about where you were, how you felt, and what you did in the following days.

The below video will take you back to that day. As you can probably guess, some of the footage may not be suitable for all ages, but we think it’s worth sharing on the anniversary of 9/11.

 

 

Thank you to all those who gave their lives on that day. We will never forget.

2009-05-07_TCF_Bank_Stadium

Vikings Home Opener: Guns at TCF Bank Stadium?

The Minnesota Vikings will make their home debut in the elements at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, and city officials and law enforcement say they are prepared to handle the large crowd and a few unruly spectators. Uniformed officers have a number of ways to control a drunk or violent guest, as they are permitted to carry lethal and non-lethal weapons into the stadium, but a decision by a Minnesota judge has called into question whether off duty officers should have similar privileges.

As it currently stands, the National Football League bans off-duty police officers from carrying handguns into games, but that policy may soon change. Last week, Hennepin County Judge Ivy Bernhardson ruled that state-law trumps the NFL rule. Under Minnesota law, off-duty licensed peace officers are allowed to carry weapons including firearms into private establishments, even if the business bans guns.

The ruling only further muddles the legal battle. Despite making the ruling, Judge Bernhardson didn’t determine how and when the law would be enforced. While the dust is settling, the University of Minnesota plans to combat the ruling. They are expected to argue that they have autonomy under the state Constitution to ban guns from Vikings games in their stadium, which will host games until the completion of the new stadium.

In spite of the ruling, off-duty officers cannot bring firearms into TCF Bank Stadium until further court action. Judge Bernhardson stopped stop of demanding that off-duty officers be allowed to bring their weapon to the game, saying that those individuals have other ways of keeping up with the Vikings if the want to do so with a holster on their hip. She said the TV, Internet or radio will have to suffice in the meantime.

Avery Appelman comments

It goes to show that state-law still trumps private businesses, even those as large as the NFL. With all the new precautions NFL stadiums are adding to prevent individuals from bringing weapons into the game, I don’t necessarily see the need for off-duty officers to bring their weapon into the game, but I certainly understand their right to do so.

It will be interesting to watch this legal battle unfold in the coming months. Go Vikings!

Ray Rice Elevator

Ray Rice Cut By Ravens, Suspended by NFL For Domestic Violence

The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens took action against Ray Rice after new video evidence emerged showing the runningback punching his now-wife in a casino elevator.

The video, which can be seen below, shows Rice and his fiancé Janay Parker embroiled in an argument in a casino elevator. Parker moves towards Rice, and he throws a hard punch with his left hand. Parker strikes her head on the handrail as she falls, and she remains unconscious for a few minutes.

 

 

Rice was originally charged with felony assault, but Parker refused to testify and the charges were later dropped on the condition Rice seek court-supervised counseling. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games for the incident, which led to stark criticism from public. Feeling that he made a mistake in only suspending Rice for two games, Goodell created new suspension guidelines for anyone found guilty of domestic or physical assault. Still, the general public felt that both the NFL and the Ravens, who didn’t administer any further punishment, had dropped the ball in regards to Rice’s situation.

That is until yesterday, when “new” video surfaced that showed the punch in its entirety. Sensing that they could salvage their public image, the Ravens released Rice and Goodell suspended him “indefinitely.”

“It changed the course of things,” Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh said of the video.

Cut the Crap

While some will argue that in the end, the team and the league made the right move to cut and suspend Rice, as attorneys, we don’t just look at the end result; we examine the whole process.

The biggest issue I have is that it’s impossible for me to believe that the NFL and the Ravens did not know this video existed prior to yesterday. For starters, the incident happened in a casino elevator. Everyone knows that there are cameras everywhere in a casino. Why would the elevator be any different? At the absolute least, the NFL should have inquired about the existence of a video recording inside the elevator. The casino surely knew they had video, so why did it take six months for the video to surface?

TMZ was the first to release the video to the public, and they took a strong stance against the NFL’s claims that they had no idea the video existed. TMZ’s Harvey Levin said the NFL knew of the video, and he claims to have proof of their knowledge.

“Prosecutors had this, police had it, I know people had this video, too,” Levin said. “The NFL, it almost feels like they didn’t want to know.”

It will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds if TMZ can back up their claims. At this point though, I must agree with Keith Olbermann, who blasted those who turned a blind eye to this domestic violence, including the league, the NFL, and the county prosecutors.

 

 

Related source: NY Times

Body cameras for police

Police Chief: Only Bad Officers Fear Body Cameras 

The tragedy in Ferguson has once again revived the debate over whether or not police officers should be required to wear body cameras. While some departments have sought out the technology to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits, other agencies aren’t so keen on the idea.

One city that wants to get the ball rolling on body cameras is Denver, Colorado. Although it is expected to cost about $1.5 million to equip all 800 officers on the force, police chief Robert White said the cameras would help restore the community’s faith in the police.

“Citizens should know that officers are being held accountable,” said White. “The body camera will help clear up those moments of conflict.”

In a pitch to Denver’s city council, White informed officials how the cameras will record audio and video of police and civilian interactions, and all the footage would be stored, “in the cloud.”

White added that the cameras would be beneficial for police, as it could protect them from false allegations of excessive force. He said there is no reason why a cop should be hesitant to wear a body camera.

“The only officers who would have a problem with body cameras are bad officers.”

Funding Biggest Issue

The biggest issue facing the Denver police department and many agencies across the country is a lack of funding. Equipping the officers with the cameras is only half the battle. Video logging and storage, cloud technology and expert analysis of footage all adds to the cost of body cameras.

In some cases the cameras would pay for themselves by preventing lawsuits against the department, but it’s tough for some agencies to find money in the city budget to get the program off the ground.

“I’m hoping financially we can afford them,” White said. “Technology is such that they are affordable. It’s achievable.”

The Denver city council is currently reviewing the department’s proposal.

Related source: Denver Post

Summer Crime rates

Warm Weather Brings Uptick in Violence

Researchers analyzing crime trends in the United States found that violent crimes such as assault, domestic violence and rape occur at a much higher rate when the weather is warm.

In their report titled “Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends,” researchers examined patterns in violent and property crime over the course of 18 years. They found that although the overall rate of crime has decreased since 1993, annual crime tends to spike during the summer months.

“Good weather means people are out and about. It also means there are more opportunities for crimes,” said one police chief. “During cold weather, people tend to stay inside.”

According to the data, winter rates of rape or sexual assault were about nine percent lower than the summer, while crimes rates dipped about 10 percent during the Fall.

Why The Spike?

There are a number of reasons crime spikes in the warm summer months. Avery Appelman explains below.

Temperature – As alluded to above, the warm weather means more people are outside. The days are also longer. When you have more people outside in parks, bars or at the beach, you’re bound to have more interactions, some of which could be physical.

Alcohol – This one goes hand in hand with the temperature. The warm weather lends itself to barbecues, trips to the beach and late nights on a bar’s outdoor patio. Alcohol can escalate a situation and make it harder for a person to think rationally. It’s no surprise as a DUI law firm that our busiest weekends of the year are Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, as these three-day weekends are often rung in with spirits.

School is Out – I’d be interested in seeing how juvenile crimes fluctuate during the summer, but it makes sense that certain property crimes like vandalism or trespassing would spike in the summer when children aren’t required to be in school. If children aren’t kept busy during the summer, their boredom may lead them to commit risky or criminal activities.

Minnesota Sex Offender

Experts Seek Delay in Sex-Offender Program Review

It doesn’t appear that four experts tasked with evaluating the current state of Minnesota’s sex offender program are going to meet the requested deadline to issue their report.

The experts originally told the court they would issue a comprehensive report on the current state of the program by the end of August, but it appears they bit off more than they could chew. They are now asking for an extension into mid- or late November, which can’t sit well with U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who just last week announced that he wanted to expedite the review.

“We are aware that the stakes are high and that the Court and parties wish to expedite the process; however, the complexity of the issues at hand and our respective responsibilities and schedules … interfere with our ability to complete a detailed report before the end of August in the professional manner required,” the experts told the court.

Frank said the involved parties “will be discussing this and its implications” during a status conference on Thursday.

Moving Along Slowly

The experts are tasked with reviewing the current Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Program that requires some sex offenders to report to high security facilities after they’ve completed their prison sentence. Residents filed the class action lawsuit in 2011, claiming treatment is inadequate and indefinite.

As we mentioned in a previous post, of the more than 700 residents deemed sexually dangerous or psychopathic, only one resident has ever been released in the last 20 years.

In their letter to the court, the experts announced that they have reviewed more than half of the residents and have met with program leaders and staff, but added they still wanted to review a random sample of program residents and examine re-integration plans prior to releasing their findings.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Class Action Lawsuit

Judge Expedites Sex Offender Class-Action Lawsuit 

Despite denying an offender’s petition for immediate release, U.S. District Judge Donavan Frank noted that he planned to expedite a class-action challenge of the current sex offender program’s constitutionality.

Frank has been a staunch critic of Minnesota’s current sex offender program for some time. Back in March he issued a 75-page ruling chastising the current system and calling for reform. In his ruling, Frank said the current program had “grave deficiencies” and inmates were left in a purgatory-style state with “no sex-offender-specific treatment whatsoever is provided in Phase I,” which is concerning because “64 percent of Minnesota Sex Offender patients were in Phase I.”

Frank’s opinion of the system hasn’t changed much over the last five months. The class-action suit by the inmates alleges that they are locked up indefinitely with no realistic hope for release, and the statistics show that they may have a point. Of the nearly 700 people who have finished their prison terms and have been transferred to high security sex offender facilities, only one inmate has been given conditional release from the program since 1994.

Frank told attorneys for both sides to come to next Thursday’s pretrial conference with trial dates in mind.

Release Denied

Although Frank said he would expedite the class action lawsuit, he stopped short of granting an inmate’s petition for immediate release. However, that doesn’t mean Frank believes the system has treated the inmate justly.

According to court documents, the inmate, identified as E.T., has been in the program for over a decade for crimes he committed between the ages of 10 and 14. E.T. is now 24 years old, and he said he feels lost in the current system. An expert testified that the inmate never should have been placed in the program, he doesn’t need sex offender treatment, and he doesn’t pose a risk to the public. Frank stopped short of granting immediate release, but upon hearing the testimony he noted that, if not for the class-action lawsuit, E.T. “would likely have languished for years in the prison-like environment of (the state sex offender program at Moose Lake) without any realistic hope of gaining his freedom.”

Prosecutors of the class-action suit expect the trial to begin in September or early October.

Related source: Pioneer Press

New Minnesota Laws

New Minnesota Laws Go Into Effect August 1

Laws passed during the 2014 legislative session set to go into effect tomorrow include a ban on weapons for individuals convicted of domestic assault and increased fines for speeding in construction zones, among others.

Quick Overview

Below is a quick run through of some of the bigger changes that affect criminal law that will go into effect on August 1.

Ban on Guns for Violent Offenders – Starting tomorrow, any person convicted of domestic violence or stalking will be unable to legally obtain a firearm in Minnesota. The law prohibits any person subject to an order for protection in a child or domestic abuse case from possessing a weapon for the length of the order. Offenders would also have to submit any firearms they previously possessed if the court decides it is necessary.

Additionally, Minnesota added three crimes to the state’s crime of violence statute. Any person convicted of one of the following crimes will be unable to legally possess a firearm in Minnesota for life:

  • Fifth Degree Assault
  • Felony Domestic Assault
  • Felony Domestic Assault by Strangulation

Work Zone Speeding Fine Increase – This cut and dry law is aimed at keeping construction workers safe. Beginning August 1, motorists caught speeding through a work zone will be fined $300. “The law is important because it provides added protection in areas that can be vulnerable to careless drivers,” said Charlie Zelle, Minnesota DoT commissioner. The law would also include drivers who fail to obey directions from work zone flaggers.

Expanded Drug Law – Legislators expanded the statutory definition of a drug in an effort to remove synthetic drugs from Minnesota communities. The new law states that an illegal drug is, “any compound, substance, or derivative that is not approved for human consumption under Minnesota law [when introduced to the body induces an effect similar to that of scheduled drugs.]”

Related source: Wahpeton Daily News

Cespedes

Violence Mars Home Run Derby 2014

All eyes were on Minneapolis on last night as some of baseball’s biggest stars took center stage at the 2014 Home Run Derby. Fans expected to see a show, but they were instead treated to a crime spree that would make Bonnie and Clyde blush.

After the event unfolded police charged Home Run Derby Champion Yoenis Cespedes with 30 counts of assault with a deadly weapon after he violently smashed 30 baseballs towards spectators who had unwisely chosen to sit in the left field bleachers. Cespedes could face punishments of up to 20 years in jail and fines up to $20,000 If he is found guilty of Assault in the First Degree.

Cespedes wasn’t the only All-Star who faced charges at the end of the night. Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton was booked on a Weapons Charge for carrying his Louisville Slugger bat in a crowded area. Authorities decided to move forward with charges after witnessing Stanton hit a baseball that was projected to travel 511 feet.

And last but not least, Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig was taken into custody on a Breach of Contract violation. Puig entered the Home Run Derby with much fanfare, but he failed to hit a single ball over the fence. Authorities felt that his inability to hit a single home run during a home run exhibition was enough of an injustice to charge the young slugger with Breach of Contract.

Despite their alleged crimes, all three players are expected to participate in the 2014 All-Star game, which gets underway at 7 p.m. tonight.