Roger Goodell

NFL Implements New Domestic Violence Protocol

The National Football League has decided to implement stronger penalties for domestic violence offenders in the wake of public outcry over the two-game suspension handed down to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

In a memo to all 32 teams, commissioner Roger Goodell stated that he “didn’t get it right” in reference to the decision to suspend Ray Rice for a mere two games. Anyone who saw the video of Rice dragging his wife’s unconscious body out of the casino elevator probably feels the same way.

“At times…despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals,” Goodell wrote in the memo. “We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. … My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values.”

New Policy

The new personal conduct policy on domestic violence reads as follows:

  • The policy applies to all incidents of physical force, not just domestic violence.
  • A player would be subject to a six-game suspension for a first offense, and that suspension could be longer according to the circumstances.
  • A player would receive a lifetime ban for a second incident, although they could apply for reinstatement after one year.
  • The policy applies to all NFL personnel, not just players.
  • The policy is not retroactive. Everyone comes in with a clean slate.
  • Counseling is available for all parties, and the NFL will seek out “at-risk” individuals to offer pre-incident counseling. The player can refuse, but his refusal could affect future discipline.

The league also made it clear that the policy only applies after a court decision, not simply by arrest. Should a player be found guilty or enter a plea agreement, the NFL would make a decision as to whether or not the person violated the new policy.

Roger Goodell also noted that although individuals will enter the NFL with a proverbial “clean slate,” if they had a previous incident in high school or college, they could be subjected to harsher first-offense penalties should they have another incident. He said he wants this to be a top-down change in behavior.

“We will expand the educational components in our college, high school and youth football programs that address domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell concluded.

Related source: ESPN

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

Car Impounded

Minnesota Extends Fourth Amendment Rights to Civil Cases

The Minnesota Supreme Court has expanded search and seizure protections in civil cases after authorities went beyond their legal rights while collecting evidence to create their case.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of the citizen in two separate cases that limit when a cop can legally search seized property. In the first case, Daniel Garcia-Mendoza was stopped for driving 63 mph in a 60 mph zone. The officer asked Garcia-Mendoza for his vehicle registration and found the car was registered to Ricardo Cervantes-Perez, an alias of Garcia-Mendoza. Daniel procured a Mexican ID showing the alias, but he didn’t have a valid license.

The officer decided to have the vehicle towed because he believed it was creating a traffic hazard. Prior to towing the vehicle, the officer searched the vehicle and found a small amount of methamphetamine. Garcia-Mendoza was arrested, and authorities also seized $611 he was carrying with him at the time.

Garcia-Mendoza filed a claim to regain possession of his car and cash. While he was waiting for the court to process his request, he pleaded guilty to a federal crime of distributing a controlled substance from a 2011 charge. As part of that agreement, he agreed to forfeit all property used to commit the crime.

When it came his turn to challenge the seizure of his car and cash from the latest incident, a District Court judge ruled the stop unconstitutional, but said the forfeiture would remain because of his previous agreement from his guilty plea. His attorney challenged the ruling in Appeals Court, citing the exclusionary rule, but the Appeals Court sided with the District Court.

Garcia-Mendoza’s attorney filed one last appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing because the stop was illegal, police should not have been legally able to seize the property. In a monumental decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with the little guy, ruling that the exclusionary rule – a law that states illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in a criminal trial – must also extend to civil cases.

Second Case

Another local case extended 4th Amendment protections in regards to searched vehicles that were improperly impounded.

In this case, a Blaine police officer stopped Erica Rohde for a turn signal violation. A subsequent check revealed Rohde was operating the vehicle without a valid license or registration.

When she initially saw the police lights in her rearview mirror, Rohde pulled over to a residential side street.  She stopped along the curb in a valid parking spot, but authorities decided to impound her vehicle anyways. Once at the impound lot, police searched the vehicle and found two small bags of meth and two glass pipes.

Rohde challenged the evidence collection, agreeing that although her stop had been legal, the subsequent search was unconstitutional because authorities were not within their right to impound the car. The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with Rohde, noting that her parked vehicle posed no safety threat to other drivers. They sent the case back to Anoka County District Court with the recommendation the evidence be suppressed.

Avery Appelman comments

These are both great rulings for citizens and for our Fourth Amendment protections. In the end, the Minnesota Supreme Court is basically saying, “The ends do not always justify the means.” Even though the officers found drugs in the vehicle, they did not follow individual protections guaranteed by our forefathers in the constitution.

Everyone else has to follow rules at their job. Cops must do the same. In the end, this ruling will make officers better at their job, which everyone will benefit from. I applaud the Minnesota Supreme Court for upholding citizen protections.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Minnesota State Fair

Crime at the Minnesota State Fair

The state fair opens today, and although the weather isn’t the greatest you can bet thousands of Minnesotans will head off to the Great Minnesota Get-Together after work. A state fair isn’t typically a place for criminal activity, but incidents certainly do occur.

Two years ago, two men were stabbed during a fight that broke out at the Minnesota State Fair, and there have been plenty of incidents at the Wisconsin State Fair over the past few years. Below, we share some ways to have fun and stay safe at the state fair.

Alcohol Intake – There are hundreds of different beers to choose from at the state fair this year, including Mini-Donut Beer, but you’ll want to avoid overindulging. Even if you have a safe ride home, being drunk and surrounded by thousands of people can be a recipe for disaster. Alcohol can turn a misunderstanding into a fistfight, so drink responsibly.

Safe Ride Home – If you sample enough brews to elevate your BAC above the legal limit, you’ll want to make sure you give your keys to a friend. Plan ahead so you know you have a sober driver before you get to the fair. Between cabs and free shuttles, there’s no reason why anyone should get a DUI after the state fair.

Eat Some Cookies – Simply put, it should be a crime to visit the state fair and not have at least one cookie from Sweet Martha’s Cookies. Grab a bucket and head over to the All You Can Drink Milk Stand to experience true bliss.

Lock Your Car Doors – To most people, locking their car doors is second nature, but make sure your doors are locked and windows rolled up before heading into the fair. If you traveled from outside the metro area and used a GPS to get there, store the unit in your glove box while you’re at the fair. The vast majority of the time nothing would happen if you left your doors unlocked, but a lot of thefts happen because of opportunity, not out of necessity. Maybe the thief has no real use for a GPS, but if you left it on your dashboard with the windows rolled halfway down to cool off your car, you’re basically inviting him to take it.

Avoid Certain Carnival Games – You know the game where you have to lob a softball into a tilted plastic bucket and keep it from falling out? This one? It’s rigged. Don’t play it. (Just kidding. We may just be bitter about our inability to win at this one.)

Most importantly, have fun at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year!

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

Kluwe and Cunningham

Two Former Minnesota Athletes Earn Lawsuit Victories

Two former Minnesota athletes – one a Viking, the other a Timberwolf – got some good news regarding their lawsuits on Monday. One saw assault charges dismissed, while the other won a generous ruling. We’ll explain both cases below.

Cunningham Gets Assault Charges Dropped

Former Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham had been charged with felony domestic assault, but Hennepin County prosecutors dropped the charges on Monday, noting there was “not proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the charged offense.”

Cunningham had been accused of choking his girlfriend in their Medina home back in April. Police took statements from the involved parties and felt their was enough evidence to book Cunningham on felony domestic assault charges, but a later investigation revealed holes in the prosecution’s case.

Cunningham’s attorney said the free agent forward was “very grateful” when he was informed of the news over the phone on Monday.

“He’s has this cloud hanging over his head,” said his attorney Emanuel Serstock. “He’s going to get back to his agent and start working with his future.”

Cunningham played his last two seasons in Minnesota, but he became a free agent this offseason and has yet to find a new team.

Kluwe Settles Case

The Minnesota Vikings and former punter Chris Kluwe came to an agreement on Monday that ended a seven-month ordeal surrounding homophobic remarks and claims of wrongful termination.

Kluwe, an outspoken advocate for same-sex rights, penned an article on Deadspin.com back in January claiming that he was released from the team because of his outspoken views on the matter. He also accused special teams coach Mike Priefer of making homophobic remarks during the season prior to his release.

Investigators looked into the matter and produced a 150-page report, but the Vikings only shared a 29-page summary of the report. Kluwe demanded they release the whole findings or he would sue. Prior to filing a lawsuit, the two sides met and reached an agreement that resolves the matter in lieu of going to court. According to reports:

  • The Vikings will make undisclosed donations to five LGBT groups over the next five years.
  • The 150-page investigation will not be released.
  • Kluwe will not receive any monetary compensation.
  • Priefer was suspended for three games, but this occurred prior to the two sides striking a compromise.

“I hope we can all move on to our lives now and enjoy playing football,” Kluwe told reporters after reaching the deal. “The agreement is fine.”

Related source: Pioneer Press

Ice Bucket Challenge

Geoff Saltzstein Takes on the Ice Bucket Challenge

Over the weekend, partner Geoff Saltzstein was challenged to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice cold water over your head in an effort to raise awareness and donations for the neurological disease ALS.

Although their is no specific correlation between the disease and a bucket of ice cold water, the social movement has taken the world by storm. After a person is challenged by someone else, they are told to partake in the challenge within 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS research. If they accept the challenge, they are also asked to make a smaller contribution to ALS research before nominating three friends of their choosing to participate in the challenge.

Donations to ALS research are up over 700% so far this year, and more than $15 million has been raised for research and support. To learn more about how the movement gained traction, check out this inspiring and emotional video about Pete Frates, a star athlete who continues to battle the debilitating disease. I wouldn’t watch it in the office if I was wearing mascara, as his story pulls on your heart.

 

 

Geoff was more than ready to go to bat for ALS when he got nominated by his friend Maggie. He used his video editing skills to produce the video seen below, and he made a contribution to the ALS society after he dried off.

 

 

Word on the street is that Avery Appelman may be next in line for the Ice Bucket Challenge. We’ll post his video if and when he gets nominated. Click here to make a donation to ALS research.

UPDATE –

“Avery, recognizing that last weekend was your anniversary, I thought it best to hold off on your nomination. The holding off has gone on long enough. I hereby nominate you, Avery Appelman, and since I would hate for Branson to feel left out, Branson Appelman you too are nominated to take the ALS ice bucket challenge. Good luck boys.”

Minnesota School Bus

Minnesota Truck Driver Charged For Failing to Yield to Bus

An Apple Valley truck driver who sped by a stopped school bus on a two-lane highway is lucky to only be facing two misdemeanor charges considering his actions nearly took the life of a sixth grade student.

Allen H. Morris, 48, was charged with failure to obey the bus’ flashing lights and a “stop arm” violation in connection with the May 30 incident.

On that day, Morris was driving his truck behind a school bus on a two-lane section of Hwy 23 between New London and Paynesville. That stretch of road has a speed limit of 55 mph, and Morris may not have been expecting the school bus to stop in an area with such a high speed limit. Regardless of whether he wasn’t paying attention, following to closely or thought the move was legal, Morris blew by the bus on the right shoulder of the road.

As you can see in the video below, sixth-grader Alexis Schwartz was mere inches away from being struck by the truck, which was traveling between 45 and 50 miles per hour as it passed.

 

 

“It just kept coming and didn’t stop, and it didn’t even stop when it passed me,” Schwartz said after the accident. “My heart was pounding awfully fast and my hands were shaking, because I was so scared to have it come up that close.”

The Minnesota State Patrol posted the dashcam video on social media platforms in hopes of identifying the driver. Although he didn’t showcase the best decision making back in May, Morris made the conscience decision to turn himself in to authorities after learning that they were looking for him.

Morris is scheduled to appear in court on September 10. The two misdemeanor charges each carry potential sentences of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Morris has a rather clean driving record. He only has one past driving citation on his record, which occurred back in 2007. His relatively clean record and the fact that he turned himself in will work to his advantage. I expect that he’ll have to pay a fine and complete community service or take a driving class.

In the end, I’m glad nobody was injured. School is about to start up again, so parents and drivers should start mentally preparing to see school buses back on the road. Now may be a good time to refresh your knowledge of the law by taking out Minnesota School Bus Law Quiz!

Related source: Star Tribune

Mike Vanwagner

Coon Rapids Driver Who Killed Teen Had 0.29 BAC

The Coon Rapids driver who hit and killed a Brooklyn Center teen was operating his vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of nearly four times the legal limit, prosecutors said during their opening statements Tuesday.

The case has drawn national media attention, but not because of Michael VanWagner’s abnormally high blood-alcohol or because he was driving without a valid license or insurance. Instead, people from all over the country are chiming in on the nonchalant attitude Vanwagner expressed on social media the days after the accident.

In Facebook posts that have since been taken down, VanWagner posted a photo of his totaled car with the text, “That’s the front end after I got done with her lol :)” In the comments on the photo, a friend asked what happened, and VanWagner replied, “Going into a turn lane and weird ass speed bump flew my left front driver front into a poll then flip and smashed the other side….. 252 and 83rd.” He later added, “I’m all good slept a day in the hospital then came home and did yard work lol.”

Mike VanWagner

The problem is the “weird ass speed bump” VanWagner hit was actually the rear end of a car driven by 16-year-old Jason McCarthy. According to an accident reconstruction team, VanWagner was traveling at roughly 60 mph when his car struck McCarthy’s car. Both cars were thrown into the air, and as fate would have it, McCarthy died in the accident while VanWagner walked away relatively unharmed.

Social Outrage

Although VanWagner wasn’t aware that he killed someone until a few days after the accident, he continued to share some questionable pictures in light of the events that transpired. He shared three captioned photos five days after the accident that depicted:

  • An officer asking a driver “Any drugs or alcohol?” The driver is shown saying, “No thanks, I’ve got everything.”
  • A picture of a woman driver captioned, “You call it ‘road rage,’ I call it ‘aggressively maneuvering around assholes that don’t know how to fucking drive.”
  • Two cars on the road with the caption, “If you tailgate me, I drive slower to piss you off…”

VanWagner has since made his Facebook profile private, but that hasn’t stopped folks from weighing in on other social media platforms. Some top comments from a Reddit post detailing the accident include:

  • “This is a total stranger that killed another total stranger, so this shouldn’t affect me too much. Yet, seeing the screenshot of his Facebook status and the utter disregard towards the fact that he hit and killed a teenager while driving drunk, fills me with a ridiculous amount of rage. I can’t even imagine the level of burning fury the parents must feel after hearing about this.” – Boo-Wendy-Boooo.
  • “Why would you ever brag about drunk driving? That’s like being proud of getting an STD from a one night stand. – gasstationclerk4life
  • “His Facebook isn’t going to do him any favors when he goes to trial for killing a kid.” – IamOfficial

VanWagner was officially charged with two counts Criminal Vehicular Homicide which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine, and one count of Failure to Stop for Accident to Property, which carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. He is currently being held without bail.

Related sources: Reddit, Star Tribune, CityPages

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

by Appelman Law Firm