Man accused of breaking into daycare center wearing child's bikini arrested
Robert Brenneman(Credit: CBS- WISH)
Robert Brenneman, 43, was brought into custody today after telling police he was the man seen in a surveillance video breaking into Kidscape Day Care Center wearing a child's pink swimsuit, reports CBS affiliate WISH.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officials say that Brenneman claimed he owned the bikini and had changed into it after unlawfully entering the day care.
Earlier Monday, police reported that Brenneman ran from authorities, sprinting from his apartment into St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, where he was then arrested. The officers had received several tips after seeing the surveillance tape playing on the news.
The bikini enthusiast faces charges of criminal trespass and resisting law enforcement. He was also found to be violating his parole, which will add to charges.
IMPD officials referred to Brenneman as an "obviously dangerous" man who needed help.
LINK TO FOLLOW-UP STORY:
Barmaid who threw tampon at McDonald's worker says prank has ruined her life
Rebecca Crimmins says people need to lighten up.
Picture: Megan Slade Source: The Courier-Mail
A BARMAID who threw a wet tampon at a McDonald's worker "for a laugh" says the drunken prank has ruined her life.
Rebecca Leigh Crimmins, who pleaded guilty to common assault in the Noosa Magistrates Court, said she had "pretty much lost everything" since the tampon-tossing incident in the early hours of September 25.
She accused some people of over-reacting to the incident.
The court last week heard a drunk Ms Crimmins had dabbed a McDonald's worker's hand with a wet tampon, before throwing it at him, when she went through the restaurant's drive-through at Noosaville.
The confessed "27-year-old hooligan" said the tampon was only wet with cordial.
The promotional model, who was sacked from the Noosa Surf Life Saving Club over the incident, said the fast-food staff had "made a mountain out of a molehill".
"When the police came around, I thought 'you've got to be kidding'," she said.
But victim Luke Clareburt said he was shocked by the incident. "I didn't know what was on the tampon," he said.
"She deserves everything she gets. She's got no one to blame but herself."
Ms Crimmins, originally from Rockhampton, said people needed to "lighten up".
"All my friends think it's hilarious," she said. "My parents have been answering the phone saying 'hello, tampon tossers'.
"I have fun but I'm not a bad person."
2:16 p.m. Sunday, October 30, 2011
AP Enterprise: Brown estate was saddled by debt
SUSANNE M. SCHAFER
The Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. — James Brown's charitable trust had withered to just $14,000 and his estate was saddled with more than $20 million in debt before a professional money manager was able to turn it around, an attorney told The Associated Press.
The full details of that settlement and the dire condition of Brown's estate had previously been a mystery and were provided to the AP by David Black, an attorney for the money manager.
And now that deal — which gave about half of Brown's assets to the trust, a quarter to Brown's widow and young son, and the rest to his adult children — could be in jeopardy because the ousted trustees claim the deal should never have been approved and should be thrown out.
The deal brokered by then-South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and approved by Circuit Judge Jack Early ended years of fighting among Brown's heirs, who came to realize no one would gain without an agreement. The disputes had started almost immediately after Brown died of heart failure on Christmas Day 2006.
But the trustees who'd been removed, Adele Pope and Robert Buchanan, argue in briefs filed to the South Carolina Supreme Court that the attorney general didn't have the authority to push through the settlement and want the whole thing thrown out. The court will hear arguments on the matter Tuesday.
The trustees argue they were not party to the negotiations that led up to the settlement, had opposed it, and were removed because of their opposition. The trustees' attorneys declined to comment beyond the court documents.
In their brief, lawyers for the attorney general's office argue the trustees hadn't conducted an appraisal of Brown's estate, had paid themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of Brown's household and personal effects and claimed "$5 million in fees and want to scuttle a settlement so that the litigation will continue." Furthermore, McMaster was justified in getting involved because under state law he must look after those who might benefit from a charitable trust.
At the time of the settlement, the exact value of Brown's assets was not made public and attorneys said his accounts had little money in them. In the summer of 2008, some of his possessions were auctioned off for $850,000, in part to pay for the debt. All agreed at the time that future income from music and movie royalties and the use of Brown's likeness was what remained at stake.
"Placing Pope and Buchanan back into power would be similar to throwing a grenade into the James Brown music empire," said David Black, an attorney for Russell Bauknight, the court-appointed special administrator and trustee for Brown's estate and the charitable trust. Bauknight has not commented on the status of the case since he was named in 2009, nor has he been paid for his work up to this point, Black said.
"We'd have to start from scratch."
Brown's death touched off years of bizarre headlines, beginning with his widow Tomi Rae Hynie being locked out of his 60-acre estate and photographers capturing her sobbing and shaking its iron gates, begging to be let in.
Arguments over his where the soul singer was going to be laid to rest resulted in his body being held in storage in its sealed gold casket inside his home for more than two months. He was eventually buried at one of his daughter's homes. Family members at the time said they wanted to build a shrine to Brown around his grave mimicking Elvis Presley's final resting place at Graceland in Tennessee.
The settlement appears to have smoothed over the rifts among family members. None has sued to overturn the agreement.
Black said Bauknight hired a professional music manager and has poured all proceeds from Brown's music to pay off the estate's major debt, a $26 million loan taken out by Brown that was supposed to be used to pay for a European tour. The final payment will be made seven years ahead of time by the end of 2011, Black said.
As yet, no payments have been made to any family members, Black said. Students in South Carolina and Georgia could start receiving scholarships by next year, Black said.
He said the family members favored the settlement because they found it to be fair, and because it is expected to generate even more revenue in the long term for the charitable trust.
"They believe the settlement provides a result that James Brown would have been proud of and they believe that the global settlement ending years of litigation, and preserving the charitable trust for needy school children, assures Mr. Brown's legacy," Black said.
Purdue associate dean loses job amid shoplifting charges
A Purdue University associate dean who was responsible for making sure that fraternities, sororities and other student organizations kept their activities within campus policies and the law has been fired.
Robert P. "Pablo" Malavenda, was removed from his position as associate dean of students, the university announced Friday, two weeks after he was charged with theft.
Malavenda, 50, was arrested Oct. 9 after employees of Walmart contacted West Lafayette police, alleging he was captured on video stealing items on Oct. 8.
Malavenda was later charged in Tippecanoe Superior Court 5 with theft, a Class D felony, and conversion, a Class A misdemeanor.
Pumpkins, smoke alarms, light bulbs and bedding is what he is accused of stealing from the West Lafayette Walmart.
Attempts to reach Malavenda on Friday were not successful.
Malavenda supervised the student activities and organizations area, which includes more than 690 student organizations, independent housing units, fraternities, sororities and other programs. He joined the university in 1998.
Brett Highley, president of Purdue Student Government, said Malavenda's arrest shocked many students and that his removal will affect some groups.
"There are several prominent student organizations where he was a primary adviser for. PSG was one," Highley said. "That advisory role is so important. ... Pablo had great institutional knowledge and incredible involvement and engagement with students. It's sad when you lose an adviser like this."
According to Purdue's policies, Malavenda has the right to appeal his termination.
Purdue issued a statement that it would comment no further on the issue. Spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said only that Malavenda's "employment was terminated."
Mart Brawner will be interim associate dean of students while the university conducts a search to fill the position.
Malavenda's initial hearing on the charges is Nov. 7 in Tippecanoe Superior Court 5.
Pasadena cops open boot camp probe
PASADENA - The Police Department launched a criminal investigation Thursday into a pair of videos depicting children being taunted and forced to throw up while participating in a Pasadena-based boot camp.
The 2009 videos, obtained by this newspaper and shared on its website, have been viewed by officials at the Police Department. Cmdr. Darryl Qualls said detectives will question Kelvin "Sgt. Mac" McFarland, one of the adults participating in the camp.
McFarland already faces charges of kidnapping, child abuse, false imprisonment, extortion and unlawful use of a badge stemming from a separate incident.
"Looking at the video we can only see McFarland, so we will start the investigation with McFarland," Qualls said. "Based on what the newspaper published and what we saw, that's where the investigation starts."
Victor Gordo, who represents District 5 on the City Council, said he was highly disturbed by the videos.
"I would certainly not subject my son or daughter or any child I know to this type of activity," he said.
Gordo described the videos as the degradation of children being masked as discipline.
"The short clips that I reviewed appeared to be more of a situation of intimidation and humiliation appearing to be employed under the guise of physical activity and discipline," Gordo said.
Sources close to both boot camps said at least one of the adult instructors seen on video was an active member of the Marine Corps. Several calls to the Marine Corps' San Diego press office were not returned.
McFarland, who operates Family First Growth Camp in Pasadena, can be seen in both videos.
In one, he is seen screaming at a boy who was carrying a tire around his neck. The boy falls to ground in tears.
In the other video, McFarland encourages children to drink water to the point of vomiting.
Keith "Sarge" Gibbs, who operated Sarge's Community Base/Commit II Achieve Boot Camp, can be heard on one of the videos.
In 2009, McFarland worked for Gibbs. He was later fired when, Gibbs said, McFarland failed a background check and questions arose about his tactics.
Both men deny being at the camp during the filming of either video.
Qualls said police cannot be sure that Gibbs was present during the taping.
"I can't tell whose voice that is on the video," Qualls said. "It's best to do the investigation and ask the questions."
The videos appear to have been shot at the Firestone Boy Scout Reservation, a popular retreat for Boy Scout troops.
Firestone Camp Ranger Matt Halsig said he is familiar with both Gibbs' and McFarland's boot camps.
McFarland's camp was banned from Firestone before Halsig's arrival for reasons the ranger said he was not familiar with.
But as critics pounce on boot camps for what they see as extreme tactics, Halsig defended the instructors urging the children to gorge themselves on water.
"Unfortunately, if you are not familiar with first-aid tactics, you should be not making assumptions," Halsig said. "Unfortunately, if that person is dehydrated, you have to pump fluids in them and sometimes they throw up."
Halsig said he knows Gibbs personally. He defended the actions he has seen at Gibbs' camp.
"From Firestone's perspective, we have not witnessed anything that is not consistent with tough love," Halsig said.
The videos prompted reactions from City Hall to the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.
"The behavior described in reports of these videos is appalling, and if accurate, those responsible should never again be entrusted with the care of young people," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, said in a statement.
"It also reinforces the need for greater oversight of so-called `boot camps,' which have all too often been the subject of unsafe and unscrupulous conduct."
McFarland was arrested on May 27 and charged with kidnapping, child abuse, false imprisonment, extortion and unlawful use of a badge. The charges stem from a May 16 incident during which police say McFarland handcuffed a truant Pasadena Unified School District high school student and extorted money from her family.
Gibbs was kicked off Pasadena Unified campuses when questions were raised about the harshness of the tactics employed at his boot camp.
An expert in the field of juvenile development questioned the effectiveness of such tactics and pointed to a recent study to support her claim.
"We did a research study with 1,300 serious felony offenders. These were kids who committed aggravated assault and in some cases murder. We followed them for seven years and conducted interviews every six months," said Elizabeth Cauffman, a professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. "We did not find any support for the notion that incarceration in harsh setting promotes the development of self-control or responsibility. And those are the things that are asserted by the proponents of boot camps."
Rep. George Miller, D-Richmond, a longtime boot-camp critic, introduced a bill earlier this month that calls for closer oversight of the camps.
This marks the third time in four years that Miller has introduced such a bill. This version calls for staff training, makes boot-camp instructors mandatory reporters of child abuse and creates a federal database parents can use to check operators' credentials.
"Without regulations and enforcement, this profitable industry will continue to have actors that present unacceptable risks to the children they serve. It is unacceptable that as each year passes without adequate oversight, more children suffer," Miller said in a statement.
"This legislation will help put an end to these horrific abuses that put the lives of too many children in jeopardy. It has passed with bipartisan support in previous Congresses, and I hope my Republican colleagues will take swift action for congressional consideration soon."
While such regulations are outside of the purview of the City Council, Gordo said he supports ramped up oversight of the camps and the tactics used by instructors.
"What should be regulated is whether tactics such as these are appropriate when applied to young people," Gordo said.
VIDEOS MADE BE DISTURBING!!!
Memphis Women Accused Of Decorating Apartment With Neighbor's Stolen Belongings
5:55 p.m. CDT, October 28, 2011
When a woman in Raleigh discovered her apartment door kicked in on Sunday and her furniture stolen, she sought out neighbors to see if they had seen or heard anything, according to a court affidavit.
Told to enter a neighboring apartment after she knocked, the burglary victim saw two women sitting on her stolen plaid couch. Her glass and wrought iron dining room set, coffee table and desk also were in her neighbors' apartment at 4126 Yellow Birch, near Raleigh Millington Road and Austin Peay.
One woman claimed they had just bought the furniture from a man called "Black" for $150, and told the victim of the burglary that she would have to pay to get it back, according to the court document.
However, the two women told police that "Black" kicked in the woman's door and that they helped themselves to the furniture, assisted by two other men, according to the affidavit filed by police.
On Thursday, Crystal Jones, 20, and Angela Pittman, 26, landed behind bars, charged with aggravated burglary and felony theft. Both were held at Shelby County's Jail East on $10,000 bond.
Geronimo driving a car, 1905
‘The photograph of Geronimo driving a car was taken on June 11, 1905, at the Miller brothers’ 101 Ranch, located southwest of Ponca City, Oklahoma.
‘The car is a Locomobile, and the Indian in full headdress to Geronimo’s left is Edward Le Clair Sr., a Ponca Indian. Geronimo so admired Le Clair’s beaded vest that it was presented to him later in the day. When Geronimo died in 1909, he was buied in the vest.
‘The photograph was taken during a special 101 Ranch show for the U.S. press. Thousands of newspaper editors and reporters flocked to it.’
- Ivan L. Pfalser
Cross Removed From Whiteville Tower; Sort Of
6:22 p.m. CDT, October 26, 2011
Technically, the cross is gone but it serves as a reminder to what the town was forced to do.
In a letter to Nashville lawyer Alvin Harris, Mayor James Bellar wrote, "This brings to close a sad chapter in the history of Whiteville that can best be described as terroristic, cowardly and shameful! The fear and terror caused our older people here is shameful. So shame on your client and your firm!"
The group called off plans to sue the town, called the mayor's protest "bizarre" and says it will be watching.
The cross was donated several years ago, the partial removal cost the town $4,000 for a crane rental.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says a resident of the town complained about the cross but it has refused to identify the person.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Colorado Springs man in trouble after 2 dates arrive at same time
A man was charged with false reporting when he called in a robbery to Colorado Springs police, after his girlfriend and a Craig's List acquaintance arrived at his apartment at the same time.
At 3:13 a.m., officers were called to the Village Seven four-plex at 4995 Picturesque Circle, on a report of a burglary in progress, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department's blotter.
Five officers arrived at the apartment, where 24-year-old Kevin Gaylor, a resident at the complex, reported the robbery.
Shortly after arriving, police learned of Gaylor's ruse.
A Denver woman, who had only just met Gaylor on Craig's List, was coming to visit Gaylor at his apartment when Gaylor's girlfriend unexpectedly arrived home.
When the woman arrived, Gaylor called police and reported the attempted robbery.
Gaylor was taken into custody and later released. He was charged with false reporting to authorities, a misdemeanor.
Teen injured after boy retaliates in Lawrence
Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011, 10:52 AM Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011, 10:52 AM
LAWRENCE— A 12-year-old boy who was being teased about a play in a pickup football game retaliated by body-slamming his 14-year-old opponent last week, rupturing the older boy’s spleen, police said.
Police are investigating and may levy juvenile charges against the boy following the Oct. 17 incident.
“After the play was done, other kids began laughing at the 12-year-old,” said Lt. Charles Edgar. The boy retalliated against a 14-year-old boy who had tackled him, Edgar said.
Several boys were playing the game at the Eggerts Crossing Village apartments on Johnson Avenue around 3:30 p.m. when the teasing escalated into a verbal altercation.
The 14-year-old immediately felt pain in his side after being thrown to the ground and went to a friend’s house in the complex. From there, he was taken to a hospital for treatment. A police report was filed around 9 the next morning.
Police say the 14-year-old is expected to make a full recovery. The matter remains under investigation by juvenile detectives.
October 24, 2011 5:17 p.m.
Farmer, 87, stopped with 104 bricks of cocaine
DETROIT – An 87-year-old Indiana man arrested with 104 bricks of cocaine in his pickup truck told a judge Monday that he was forced at "gunpoint" to carry the load.
During a boisterous appearance in court, Leo Sharp had trouble keeping quiet, even after he was warned that anything he said could be used against him. There were many grins and occasional laughter from lawyers, spectators and U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Randon.
Federal prosecutors wanted to keep Sharp locked up, but the Michigan City, Ind., man was released on bond, three days after he was stopped on a ticket for improper lane use while driving alone on Interstate 94 near Chelsea, 60 miles west of Detroit.
With the help of a drug-sniffing dog, state troopers discovered 104 brick-sized objects of cocaine Friday, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"You're dealing with a man forced to do what I did by gunpoint," Sharp told the judge.
A criminal complaint signed by a DEA agent is thin on details, and there was no mention in court about Sharp's destination. The judge had to speak loudly after Sharp said he had lost some hearing during a war. Sharp did not elaborate.
Sharp asked that he be allowed to get medicine that apparently had been seized by officers.
"I could have a stroke," he said.
At another point, Sharp said he probably could read better than anyone in the courtroom and that he's writing a book. He "absolutely" promised to return to court on Nov. 10. "You're the boss," Sharp told the judge, who ordered a mental-health evaluation.
"I'm sorry, sir, to be so troublesome," Sharp said.
Outside court, he told The Associated Press he grows lilies on a 46-acre Indiana farm.
"I love plants. It's a serious love – except the crap that makes you high," Sharp said. "I'm innocent. You'll learn about it."
Defense attorney Ray Richards said he believes the amount of cocaine tops 200 pounds.
"This case is going to be challenging," Richards said.
LINK TO PHOTO:
Education Dept. busts 50 city educators playing hooky, fibbing about sick days
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Sunday, October 23rd 2011, 4:00 AM
Another doctored a doctor's note to get out of work, but was caught in the lie after a colleague spotted her at a political gala on television.
And an aide at yet another school called in sick for six days - but in reality, he and his band were rocking out on a cruise ship that sailed from Miami.
They are among the more than 50 city Education Department employees who have been busted for playing hooky from their jobs since 2009, mostly by fibbing about an illness or caring for a loved one.
One was lovelorn Dominique Folino, a 36-year-old former art teacher who worked at the Bayard Rustin Educational Complex in Manhattan.
Folino was granted leave from her job to "care for her ill mother" in October 2008 - but, co-workers said, she went on a Roman holiday "trying to determine whether the relationship with her Italian boyfriend would work out," according to a report by Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon.
When investigators told Folino they had travel documents proving she was in Italy, she 'fessed up and resigned.
The Daily News was unable to reach Folino for comment, but a relative said the love-struck instructor was still living abroad.
Marion Bell, a teacher at Public School 96 in East Harlem, didn't travel far from home when she falsely claimed to be out sick.
On Sept. 29, 2009, Bell was on "medically certified sick leave," from Public School 96, but a television broadcast that night showed her smiling mug at a party in lower Manhattan for Controller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Bell had submitted a "suspicious medical note" to excuse her absence from work that day, claiming she had a foot injury.
She was granted sick leave, but that night Bell was seen standing behind Liu at a podium at a party celebrating his Democratic primary win.
As punishment, Bell received a disciplinary letter in her personnel file but kept her job at PS 96, where she earns $80,987 per year.
"I am not wiggling - this was a medical issue," Bell told The News last week, refusing to explain how she could go to a victory party when she was supposedly sick.
Karl Browne, a former school aide at Public School 91 in Brooklyn, was also out partying when he claimed to be ill, investigators said.
Browne, a jazz and funk keyboard player from Flatbush who performs in nightclubs with the Smooth Improvisation Band, called in sick for nearly a week in October 2010, claiming "he was stressed and self-treated his stress-related illness."
The moonlighting musician was actually out rocking the high seas on the Carnival Cruise liner "Liberty" - a ship whose "clubs are filled with excitement, laughter, and fun," according to its website.
Browne lost his gig as an aide because of his lies, but a woman who only identified herself as his wife insisted he was still a star to those who knew him at PS 91.
"Everybody loves and respects him, from principals to teachers, to all the way down," she said.
With Kerry Burke and Rachel Monahan
First grader brings gun to school after ex-NYPD mom forgets she put it in daughter's backpack
Bob Kappstatter, Rocco Parascandola and Ben Chapman
DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Saturday, October 22nd 2011, 4:00 AM
A retired NYPD detective nearly caused a tragedy on Tuesday when she put a loaded pistol in her daughter's backpack - and the girl inadvertently brought it to school.
Marian Brioso, 46, of Staten Island, put her .25-caliber Taurus handgun in her 6-year-old daughter's book bag, planning to remove it later, police sources said.
But Brioso, who's married to NYPD Capt. Paulino Brioso, forgot to remove the gun and her daughter unwittingly brought it to her first-grade class at the Transfiguration School in Chinatown.
"[The kid] went to school, opened up her bag and took it out. She said something, and a teacher came over," a police source said.
Cops couldn't say why Brioso put the gun in the bag.
School administrators called 911 after discovering the weapon, and police removed it without anyone being hurt, but parents and kids were shaken by the close call.
"No one was hurt - but maybe she don't know it's real gun and bang, bang, bang," said Steve Chang, 60, of Chinatown, whose son is a kindergartner at the Mott St. school.
The girl's scared classmates met with school therapists on Wednesday. The kids and their parents are still upset.
"I'm really worried. I don't know why a child would have a gun," said Emily Lam, of Chinatown, whose daughter is a second-grader at the school.
Brioso wasn't charged in the incident, but police notified the Administration for Children's Services. Cops also removed two other guns that were legally licensed to Brioso from her home.
Brioso, who joined the force in 1994 and retired last year, wasn't around when the Daily News tried to reach her at her house Friday night.
Reached at his office at Police Headquarters, Capt. Brioso referred reporters to the deputy commissioner for public information's office.
Mistakes in life and death cases
Scores of capital murder convictions in Pa. have been reversed or sent back because of errors by defenders, whose low pay can take a high cost.
“I wind up making about $10 an hour, and I’m trying to save your life.”
F. Michael Medway
Willie Cooper, convicted of strangling his brother’s girlfriend to death in a Germantown apartment, was awaiting a jury’s decision on whether he should be sentenced to death, when his lawyer rose to speak on his behalf.
Citing the biblical passage “an eye for an eye,” the lawyer told jurors that the ancient edict called for the death penalty only in the killing of a pregnant woman.
Cooper had killed a pregnant woman.
Inexplicably, his lawyer had forgotten that.
The jury voted to impose the death penalty.
Cooper’s case is among more than 125 capital murder trials in Pennsylvania — 69 in Philadelphia alone — that state and federal appeals courts have reversed or sent back for new hearings because mistakes by defense lawyers deprived the accused of a fair trial.
That amounts to nearly onethird of the 391 capital convictions in Pennsylvania since the modern death penalty took effect in 1978.
An Inquirer review of deathpenalty appeals spanning three decades found that defense lawyers in these highstakes cases failed their clients in ways large and small.
Lawyers fighting for defendants’ very lives often spend little time preparing their cases and put on only the barest defense. They neglect basic steps, such as interviewing defendants, seeking out witnesses, and investigating a defen-dant’s background.
The problem is particularly acute in Philadelphia, where legal experts say the lawyers who handle such cases — typically at taxpayers’ expense because defendants are indigent — are often overworked and underpaid.
Court-appointed lawyers get $2,000 for trial preparation and $400 a day in court to handle cases that a veteran defense attorney said required a minimum outlay of $35,000 to $40,000.
“The number of reversals on these cases is staggering,” said Ronald L. Greenblatt, chairman of the Philadelphia chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “The attorneys who are doing this work, because of the low pay, are not doing it the right way. We really need it to stop.”
The price of replaying such proceedings is costly. Deathpenalty appeals consume hundreds of hours of work by dozens of lawyers, judges, police officers, and witnesses, and, even by modest estimates, cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
They take a toll on victims’ families, who must revisit painful memories at multiple court hearings and often wait years for justice. And in rare instances, they force defendants to languish on death row, only to later be acquitted.
“There are systemic problems in indigent defense,” said Robert Brett Dunham, an assistant federal defender, who handles death-penalty appeals and has tracked the outcomes of capital cases across the state.
Practically everyone in the legal system agrees, including Ronald D. Castille, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Last month, he ordered a review of one aspect of the problem: Philadelphia’s pay rates for court-appointed lawyers in capital cases.
Critics say the fees, the lowest in the state, deter good lawyers and lead inevitably to reversals.
Castille described “intolerable” errors by defense lawyers and some “idiotic” appellate briefs, all but guaranteeing delays and new court hearings that can prolong cases for years and make justice seem elusive.
“That’s why we want to be sure that these cases are done right,” he said. “We want to be sure that these capital cases get decent representation, so we get it right the first time.”
In many cases, mistakes by defense lawyers are so clear that prosecutors do not even contest the appeals and instead agree to new hearings or new trials.
The reversals have a high bar. In Pennsylvania, a defendant must prove not only that his lawyer erred but also that the mistake was severe enough to have prejudiced the case and potentially changed the outcome. In addition to the more than 125 cases reversed for ineffective assistance of counsel, The Inquirer review found dozens more in which courts ruled that lawyers clearly erred but that the mistakes did not reach the threshold of prejudice.
To be sure, many lawyers who handle such cases do a fine job, say judges, prosecutors, and legal experts. Those who don’t fuel an appellate process that can stretch on for years or even decades, clogging an already overburdened court system and leaving defendants and victims alike in a painful kind of limbo.
Every death-penalty conviction in Pennsylvania is automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court, which reviews each case and has the power to overturn the guilty finding or set aside the sentence. That rarely happens. Most cases go through several layers of appeal, beginning with the trial court, then state and federal appeals courts, all of which can send the matter back for new proceedings.
The stale cases — most of which involve resentencing — pour back into a court system already struggling to keep up with fresh murder cases. There were 258 homicides in Philadelphia in 2010 and 271 so far this year.
Philadelphia’s homicide docket is so crowded that such cases can take two years or more to reach trial, a length of time that defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges agree is far too long.
A case in point is the prosecution of the men charged with murder in the highly publicized dual slaying at the Piazza at Schmidts in June 2009. The District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty at trial, which has yet to take place, more than two years after the crime.
Cases sent back following appeals also present difficulties for prosecutors, faced with putting on evidence of crimes that took place long ago. The passage of time fades memories. Witnesses die. They move away. They decide not to cooperate.
Edward McCann, the first assistant district attorney, said the lengthy appeals taxed prosecutors and prolonged the pain of victims’ families.
“The length of time is unconscionable,” he said. “To have to make phone calls to people 20 years after the fact and tell them: ‘By the way, you know that death sentence you thought was final 20 years ago? We’ve got to talk to you about that.’ I think it’s unconscionable to put people through that.”
Concern about the quality of legal work in capital cases has led Philadelphia judges to seek stricter standards on qualifications for lawyers who take on this high-stakes work, going beyond the current state rule that sets a minimum of five years’ experience as a criminal defense lawyer.
Yet the pool of lawyers willing to take on court appointments in capital cases is small — fewer than 30 in a city of 13,000 lawyers.
Perhaps as a consequence, lawyers found to have provided ineffective assistance of counsel are routinely appointed to new cases. At least two lawyers whose work on deathpenalty cases was labeled ineffective, in court opinions, now serve as Common Pleas Court judges: Willis W. Berry Jr. and William Austin Meehan Jr.
A legal challenge from defense lawyers pending before the state Supreme Court says the “absurdly low” fees for defense lawyers create a “presumption of ineffectiveness.”
“No one could possibly do a competent job with those resources,” said Marc Bookman, a former assistant public defender, who challenged the fees on behalf of four defendants now facing the death penalty. “It’s not an accident that so many cases are being reversed.”
The lengthy appeals notwithstanding, executions generally are not carried out in Pennsylvania. In the last three decades, only three people have been executed, and all had dropped their appeals and volunteered to be put to death. The state’s last execution, of torture-murderer Gary Heidnik, was in 1999.
Of appellate cases returned to court for new hearings, most were sent back because of failings in the penalty phase. In arguing for the death penalty, prosecutors present evidence of so-called aggravating factors, such as a history of violent crime or committing a crime in a manner that puts bystanders at risk.
Defense lawyers aim to blunt those factors by pointing to mitigating evidence — the absence of a criminal record, a defendant’s tender age, or a history of mental illness or childhood abuse that might argue against harsh punishment.
Yet this critical aspect of defense work is often given little attention, The Inquirer’s review found. Consider: As a jury weighed whether to sentence Brian Thomas to death for the rape, torture, and murder of a West Philadelphia woman, his lawyer did not call a single witness in a bid to spare his life.
Instead, Lawrence R. Watson 2d delivered a brief but wandering closing argument, after which the jury pronounced a sentence of death.
Getting confused by his own syntax, Watson actually said at one point: “On behalf of Brian Thomas, I would ask that you consider very strongly, in your sentence, to consider the imposition of the death penalty. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen — the non-imposition of the death penalty, and bring back a verdict or a sentence of life imprisonment.”
A federal appeals court later said Watson’s “inept” performance and “incoherent” closing argument had “gravely prejudiced” his client. He “wholly failed in his duty to Thomas,” the court said.
Thomas was convicted in 1986.
Twenty-five years later, after appeals that stretched all the way to the highest court in the land, he is poised to return to court for a hearing on whether his lawyer’s deficient performance helped land him on death row.
Prosecutors, citing the brutality of Thomas’ crime, appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to uphold his death sentence. The high court declined to hear the case, leaving in place the appellate court’s call for a new hearing.
Verbal miscues aside, prosecutors say Watson did an adequate job. His decision not to mention Thomas’ long history of mental illness may have been calculated, they said.
Thomas’ mental-health records included reports that he was a “sexual deviate with sadistic tendencies” who had previously committed “horrifying” violent acts, including attacks on animals and assaults on two young children.
Such evidence “would have painted Thomas in the worst possible light,” wrote Assistant District Attorney Thomas W. Dolgenos in an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Thomas’ appellate lawyers at the Federal Defenders Office countered that evidence of his “severe mental disturbance” might have convinced jurors that he was ill rather than “evil” and did not deserve to be put to death.
In an interview, Watson said he did not remember the case.
Jesse Bond, convicted of killing a North Philadelphia deli manager during a 1991 robbery, was sentenced to death after his lawyer, who later said he was “exhausted” and surprised by the guilty verdict, yielded the crucial sentencing phase of the trial to his cocounsel, a lawyer who had never handled a capital case.
That lawyer, Dean Owens, later testified that he was ill-prepared and spent “no more than 15 minutes” marshaling an argument against the death penalty.
This phase of the trial was all the more critical in Bond’s case because he had a prior murder conviction for a fatal shooting during a robbery at a fast-food restaurant. Prosecutors planned to present this evidence in support of their argument that Bond should be sentenced to death.
By his own admission, Owens did little to delve into Bond’s history of childhood abuse and mental-health problems, including a head injury that doctors said had caused brain damage, all things that could have been cited as factors arguing against the death penalty.
A federal appellate court later ruled that Owens and Bond’s lead lawyer, James Bruno, were “patently ineffective” for failing to raise those issues, which the court said “might well have persuaded the jury” not to impose the death penalty.
While Bruno said that the earlier murder conviction presented a hurdle, he acknowledged that he and Owens could have done more in their bid to spare Bond’s life.
“It’s as a result of cases like Bond that we now have all-day training where you sit for six hours and go through how to do this,” he said. “It’s different now. Back then, you just put on mom and dad” to ask the jury to spare the defendant’s life.
Bond is to return to court for a new penalty hearing.
Sloppy legal work at the sentencing stage of a capital case almost certainly dooms the verdict, said Judge Benjamin Lerner, who presides over homicide cases in Common Pleas Court and who will lead the high court’s study.
“It’s simply a matter of constitutional law that if you want to sentence someone to death, that person has the right to have their life story told in the most sympathetic way to a jury,” he said. “There’s no denying that’s what the law requires, and it requires it in every state in the United States.”
In Willie Cooper’s case, his lawyer, Norman Scott, bid the jury to turn to the book of Exodus, Chapter 21, Verse 24. There, he said, the Bible states, “If there is an assault on a woman and that woman is pregnant, and that woman loses the child, and there is damage beyond that to the woman, then an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
The woman Cooper killed was pregnant.
Scott later said he made the biblical argument “out of habit” because he routinely used it to discourage juries from sentencing defendants to death. In this case, he said, he realized he had made “a terrible error.”
A judge later ruled that by citing the biblical passage, Scott “was effectively telling the jury that the Bible commanded them to sentence [the] defendant to death” and that the Bible “sanctioned death as the just punishment.”
Calling Scott’s remarks “a breakdown in the adversary system,” Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan ruled that he had been ineffective in his client’s defense. She overturned Cooper’s death sentence, and in April 2009 a jury resentenced him to life in prison.
In rare cases, The Inquirer’s review found, a lawyer’s missteps can put a defendant behind bars who later wins acquittal.
Harold Wilson spent 17 years in prison, most of it on death row, for a triple ax murder that a jury later said he did not commit.
At Wilson’s first trial, in 1989, a jury found him guilty of hacking three people to death in a South Philadelphia crack house and sentenced him to death.
After years of appeals, a judge ruled that his defense lawyer, Willis W. Berry Jr., had been ineffective and granted Wilson a new trial.
Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Engel Temin said Berry “made only a cursory, if any, attempt to prepare for the penalty-phase hearing in the case.” She said he made “absolutely no effort” to investigate Wilson’s background or search for evidence that might argue against a death sentence.
Wilson had a history of psychotic behavior, grew up in an abusive household, and suffered a head injury when, as a child, he was hit with a bat. Temin faulted Berry for not telling any of that to the jury as it weighed whether to sentence him to death. She also said Berry was remiss for not emphasizing that Wilson had “no significant history of prior convictions,” which might have argued against a death sentence.
In awarding Wilson a new trial, Temin lamented Berry’s “sloppiness” and his “paucity of preparation and presentation.”
“The record is replete with evidence of counsel’s ineffectiveness,” she wrote. In particular, she criticized Berry for noting at the sentencing hearing that one of the three victims was a drug dealer and arguing that, by committing the crime, Wilson had rid society of a scourge. “Many people may look to my client as a sort of hero — and I don’t know if that’s a morbid way of looking at things,” said Berry, “but to clean up the city and do something that nobody else had done — a lot of people would look at this and say they deserved every little [bit] they got and no more.”
Temin said Berry’s remarks “could only have shocked and disgusted the jurors and hardened their hearts against the defendant.” She said his comments “served no strategic purpose and were extremely prejudicial.”
Wilson went on to two new trials. The second ended in a mistrial. At his third trial, in 2005, he was acquitted.
The verdict came after DNA testing that was not available at the time of the first trial. It showed that blood on a jacket prosecutors said belonged to the killer contained DNA from each of the three victims and a fourth person — not Wilson — suggesting the presence of another person.
“That’s reasonable doubt,” said Robert Brett Dunham, the assistant federal defender, who handled Wilson’s appeal, clearing the way for a new trial at which Wilson was represented by Marc Bookman, then an assistant public defender. “If you’re innocent, that’s the result that you would get.”
Now 53 and living in coastal Virginia, Wilson laments that it took so many years to be vindicated, but says he’s not bitter. “I could not survive with anger,” he said.
Wilson said he had misgivings about Berry, his first lawyer, from the earliest moments of the trial.
“Willis Berry was scary,” he said. “It was all new to me, but I knew he wasn’t doing what he needed to do.”
When Wilson made suggestions on trial strategy, he said Berry told him, “If you’re so <snip> smart, Harold, represent your <snip> self.”
Berry declined to be interviewed. Through his lawyer, Samuel C. Stretton, he said he had handled the case ”appropriately.”
After he became a judge, Berry ran a real estate business out of his judicial chambers for more than a decade, using his taxpayer-paid secretary to collect rent on a string of ramshackle apartments he owned in North Philadelphia. In 2009, the state Judicial Conduct Board handed him a fourmonth suspension after ruling that he had violated judicial canons and brought “disrepute” to the bench. Berry was briefly transferred to the civil division but later returned to hearing criminal cases in Common Pleas Court.
Wilson has sued the city, the District Attorney’s Office, and the police officers who arrested him, alleging wrongful conviction.
“I was innocent from the start, and they failed to protect my rights,” he said in an interview. “I’m a living witness. If you don’t have the money, you’re not going to get quality representation at trial.
“In death-penalty cases, by law, you should be represented by the best-quality lawyer — the quality that only comes from experience in litigating death-penalty cases,” Wilson said. “You’re not talking about purse-snatching or parkingmeter vandalism; you’re talking about the state putting you through a process to put you to death.”
Despite the verdict, prosecutors continue to maintain that Wilson committed the crime — a position that galls him.
“The evidence of his guilt was overwhelming,” said Edward McMann of the District Attorney’s Office. “The fact that we had to try the case 16 years later, that’s an unbelievably difficult proposition. Trying to resurrect a case of that age and try it and put it before a jury is so difficult. I don’t think the result was just.”
William Nieves, too, was sentenced to death for a crime a jury later said he did not commit. Nieves spent six years on death row after he was convicted of shooting a man to death in Hunting Park in 1992 in what prosecutors said was a dispute over drugs.
At trial, Nieves was represented by a divorce lawyer with no criminal-trial experience who was paid $2,500 to handle his case. The lawyer, Thomas Ciccione, prevented Nieves from taking the stand in his own defense by telling him — wrongly — that this would allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of his prior drug convictions.
“It was just not true. That’s like Law School 101,” said Jack McMahon, who represented Nieves at retrial after a judge ruled that Ciccione had been ineffective.
McMahon learned from the court file that witnesses had given police a description of the killers that bore no resemblance to Nieves. They described the two shooters as tall, thin black men. Nieves, a lightskinned Hispanic, weighed 225 pounds.
Ciccione, who is now deceased, had not called the witnesses to testify.
McMahon put the witnesses on the stand at Nieves’ second trial in 2000, and he was acquitted.
After his release from death row, Nieves spent years crusading against the death penalty. In 2005, he died at age 39 from complications of hepatitis C that he had contracted in prison.
McMahon, a prominent defense lawyer and former homicide prosecutor, said the Nieves case illustrated the need for the courts to appoint quality lawyers in death-penalty cases — and to pay them accordingly.
“The government gives people a constitutional right to an attorney, but by lowering the [lawyers’] fees to pauper’s level, they have severely hindered that right,” he said. “To me, that’s inexcusable, particularly in a homicide case, where the government is either seeking to kill you or put you in jail for the rest of your natural life.”
McMahon, who estimated the minimum cost to defend a death-penalty case at $35,000 to $40,000, said the courts’ practice of paying low wages and, thus, attracting some less-thancapable lawyers, was shortsighted.
“To me, it’s just unconscionable,” he said. “For not paying on the front end, you’re paying on the back end,” with years of appeals.
Shortcomings in legal representation are not limited to the trial itself, The Inquirer review found.
In some cases, deficient legal work extends to appellate cases, where the very lawyers hired to correct the errors of others themselves prove ineffective.
Appellate lawyers sometimes file legal challenges that make only the most meager arguments in their clients’ defense. They cite little or no case law, mangle grammar, and miss key filing deadlines.
Consider the case of James Melvin Smith. In 1985, Smith was convicted of the revenge killing of a West Oak Lane woman he suspected of killing a friend. Appeals in his case dragged on for more than two decades before prosecutors agreed to a new sentencing hearing in 2009, saying Smith’s trial lawyer had been ineffective.
That result came only after years of delays and mistakes by a series of court-appointed appellate lawyers.
Jeremy Gelb, the lawyer initially appointed to represent Smith on appeal, continued the proceedings 19 times and did not file any documents, so a Common Pleas Court judge dismissed Smith’s initial challenge to the verdict.
Smith, acting without a lawyer, later filed an appeal on his own behalf, and the court appointed a new lawyer, Richard Hoy. Hoy, in turn, failed to file documents, defying a judge’s order to do so, and did not appear for key court hearings, according to court records.
In an interview, Hoy, a Philadelphia lawyer, said he only vaguely remembered the case. One of the problems, he said, was finding time to travel the nearly four hours to see his client on death row at the state correctional institution in Waynesburg, Greene County, in Western Pennsylvania.
“Unless I want to go to the Creamery [ice cream shop] up in Penn State, I’m not going to be up there, so unless you can get them [capital defendants] down here, your hands are tied. And it’s not easy to do that. The whole system is laid out with obstacles and roadblocks.”
The court dismissed Hoy and appointed new counsel. After additional appeals, the state Supreme Court granted Smith a new sentencing hearing earlier this year. He awaits that hearing.
Justice Thomas G. Saylor decried the quality of the legal work on Smith’s behalf.
“Several attorneys who have represented [Smith] on postconviction did very little or nothing to advance the case,” Saylor wrote in a March 2011 opinion. He said the case was emblematic of the “unconscionable delay, disarray, and inconsistencies” in death-penalty appeals in general. “This case, and many others like it, demonstrates the need for immediate reform.”
When lawyers working on capital cases make mistakes or have their cases overturned on appeal, The Inquirer’s review found, they are rarely sanctioned.
In fact, two ascended to the Common Pleas Court bench.
William Austin Meehan Jr. was the defense lawyer for Saharris Rollins, who was convicted of killing a North Philadelphia man in a drug-related shooting in 1987 and sentenced to death. Meehan later told a judge he did not begin to prepare for the penalty phase of the trial until the day before sentencing. He did little investigation of his client’s background, did not prepare the few witnesses he called to testify on Rollins’ behalf, and did not have Rollins tested by a psychologist to examine his mental health.
Last year, a federal appeals court said Meehan’s performance had prejudiced Rollins, and it ordered a new sentencing hearing. Meehan did not return phone calls seeking comment on the case.
“The dirty little secret is these lawyers are perfectly respectable members of the bar,” said Dolgenos of the District Attorney’s Office. “It’s not a black mark.”
“They never get disciplined,” agreed Deputy District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg, the office’s chief of appeals.
In the rare cases where lawyers who do shoddy work are punished by the state disciplinary board, that is no bar to future court-appointed work. Nor is a criminal conviction.
In 2009, lawyer Bernard L. Siegel was publicly censured by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for repeatedly failing to comply with a judge’s orders to file briefs on behalf of two clients whose cases he handled on appeal. In both cases, Siegel ignored those orders and did not file the required documents.
The disciplinary board said he violated the rules of professional conduct for lawyers by failing to act with “reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client” and by engaging in conduct that was “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
Yet Siegel continued to receive court-appointed work in Philadelphia, handling several capital cases until earlier this year, when he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
Thomas McGill was publicly censured by the state disciplinary board in 1995 after a federal conviction for tax evasion. That did not keep him from receiving court appointments to represent clients in death-penalty cases.
McGill was found guilty of failing to pay taxes for three years in the mid-1980s. In the same case, he was acquitted of charges that he conspired with a Philadelphia judge to fix an embezzlement case. McGill told the jury he paid $1,000 to Common Pleas Court Judge Kenneth S. Harris, but said the payment was one in a series of about 10 “referral fees” he paid the judge for sending him clients.
One of McGill’s recent clients, Lionel Campfield, said he had no idea his lawyer was a felon.
“They should have told me that,” said Campfield, who was facing the death penalty for his role in a drug-related shooting that killed two people, including an 11-year-old boy, when McGill was appointed to represent him in 2009.
Campfield said McGill and his cocounsel, Gary Server, paid little attention to the case. With his life on the line, Campfield said, he was frustrated that his lawyers barely spoke to him and asked few questions about the 2005 shooting that led to his arrest.
In fact, it was not until about two weeks before trial that they realized he had been 16 at the time of the shooting and, thus, not eligible for the death penalty.
This elementary mistake cost Campfield and his family two years of anxiety while the specter of the death penalty loomed.
“I went to sleep every night thinking about it, whether I would live through this,” Campfield said in an interview from prison, where he is serving a life sentence. “They were supposed to be fighting for my life, and they didn’t even come to see me until like two weeks before the trial.”
McGill could not be reached for comment.
Although Campfield’s date of birth, as listed on his arrest report, put him at 16 on the day of the crime, Server said other documents contained conflicting information about Campfield’s birth date.
Server said he and McGill worked hard on the case and filed a motion to bar the death penalty as soon as they had confirmed Campfield’s age.
“It was really of no consequence that he shouldn’t have been facing the death penalty,” he said, “because whether it was a capital case or a noncapital case, you still provide the defendant with a full range of social services.”
The mistake, Server said, “didn’t really result in any acute stress to anybody.” Campfield begs to differ. “It was hard dealing with that,” he said. “I laid down with that every night. I was scared. I was 16 when they said I did this. It was [the lawyers’] responsibility to do something about that.”
Server said the low fees for court-appointed work did not factor into his handling of the case and were not a concern to him. “Most of us who do this work, we’re true believers,” he said. “We don’t do it for the money.”
He said he was “ambivalent” about the legal action seeking higher fees. “If they raise counsel fees in homicides dramatically, you’re going to get a lot of lawyers who don’t have the expertise, but who are in it for the money.”
Since the 2004, Sustate preme Court has required lawyers who accept court appointments in capital cases to have at least five years of criminal experience and to take 18 hours of training in the handling of death-penalty cases. Philadelphia wants to go a step further and adopt even more rigorous requirements, including requiring that lawyers have experience as lead counsel in a minimum of 10 felony cases and at least one deathpenalty case.
“Those of us who have sat homicide have seen some pretty scary situations where lawyers are in over their heads,” said President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe of Common Pleas Court. “Particularly for the death-penalty cases, we just want to be awfully sure that these cases are handled properly.”
The proposed Philadelphia rules, which must be approved by the state Supreme Court, would take effect in January.
Skeptics say the new requirements alone will not increase the quality of legal representation.
“If you go to a track and you see a horse that’s run 30 times and never won, that’s not a horse you’re going to bet on,” said Bookman, who with his colleague Dana L. Cook, is challenging the fees paid to court-appointed lawyers. “Lawyers that continue to do a bad job, that continue not to see their clients, that don’t file motions, those lawyers should not continue to do capital cases.”
In cash-strapped Philadelphia, lawyers for indigent defendants facing the death penalty are paid such low fees that many lawyers simply will not take on such work.
A key reason for that, defense lawyers say, is money. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that leaves funding for lawyers for the indigent up to local counties. The result is a mélange of programs of varying quality and disparate funding.
“Effective assistance goes hand in glove with the money that’s being paid to court-appointed counsel,” said F. Michael Medway, a veteran defense lawyer who handles court-appointed capital cases. He said he does so out of principle — and at a significant financial loss.
“I wind up making about $10 an hour, and I’m trying to save your life.”
Medway said the low fees were a disincentive to good lawyers.
Prosecutors scoff at this. “The ethical obligation of an attorney to zealously represent a client once that representation has been undertaken does not vary with the fee,” Assistant District Attorney Hugh J. Burns Jr. wrote in response to the fee challenge. “No one is forced to practice law if they are dissatisfied with its financial emoluments.”
Defense lawyers say that’s precisely why so few lawyers are willing to take court-appointed work in capital cases.
“You get what you pay for,” said Ellen Greenlee, head of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “So many [cases] have been overturned, it’s really amazing.”
Her office, which represents 20 percent of all indigent defendants in the city, zealously defends capital cases, puts on extensive mitigation evidence, and, since it began taking on death-penalty cases in 1993, has not had a single client sentenced to death.
Greenlee declined to say how much her office spends on average to defend such cases, but she acknowledged that it was expensive, which is why the Defender Association won’t increase its caseload.
Following the guidelines set up by the American Bar Association, two lawyers are assigned to each case, along with a mitigation specialist and an investigator.
“We will spend what we need to spend on a case,” said Greenlee. “We have our protocols in place, and we won’t do any less on a case.”
The contrast between how the Defender Association prepares cases and how other court-appointed lawyers handle them is stark, say judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers.
This will be part of the review that Lerner, who preceded Greenlee as chief defender, will conduct for the state Supreme Court.
Castille said the court was concerned about the pattern of errors and reversals — and attendant court delays — and wanted to study whether money was a factor.
While that review is under way and while the city moves to step up requirements for lawyers in capital cases, judges and lawyers say problems with court-appointed defense work persist.
“If you are a judge who sits on these cases, it can be very painful to watch a lawyer who is not qualified,” said Carolyn Engel Temin, now a homicide judge. She recalled a recent trial in which a defense lawyer repeatedly stumbled. “I kept thinking, This is just going to come back” on appeal, she said.
Just a few weeks ago, Temin granted new sentencing hearings to two men sentenced to death for a 1998 murder and kidnapping, whose lawyers she said did an abysmal job. That case will now return to Common Pleas Court.
For the families of victims, such delays prolong an alreadypainful process.
“When you are hit with these appeals, it is truly a sucker punch,” said Kathleen Boyle Wrigley, whose brother, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Boyle, was killed in 1991 by a man now facing the death penalty. “It truly takes the wind right out of you. It all comes flooding back.
“Literally, it makes you sick to your stomach to have to go back to court,” she said.
Edward Bracey, the man convicted of killing her brother, has filed repeated appeals, including one that unsuccessfully alleged ineffective assistance of counsel. Another challenge to the case is pending.
“It’s hard to get closure,” said Wrigley. “It’s one step forward, 10 steps back. Two steps forward, five steps back. It’s endless.”
Drunk man caught driving with just three tires, two-year-old son riding in backseat: cops
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, October 21st 2011, 11:09 PM
A Long Island man was arrested after he took his two-year-old son on a drunken ride in a car with just three tires, said police.
Christopher Weiss, 29, was driving a 2002 black Ford Focus westbound along route 25 in Huntington, in Suffolk County shortly after midnight Friday, when a fellow motorist called 911 to report his erratic driving, said police.
The tipster followed Weiss while providing directions to police and they stopped him Commack Road near Vanderbilt Parkway in Commack about 12:30 p.m. said police.
When cops stopped him, they found his front tire had been blown out and it was shredded and he was driving on the steel rim, said police.
Cops also found the front of the vehicle had significant damage, an indication he may have been involved in a crash, said police.
In the back seat of the car they found his two-year-old son and police immediately determined Weiss had been drinking, said cops.
Weiss was arrested and charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child, a felony under Leandra's Law, and child endangerment.
The law is named after Leandra Rosado, 11 of Manhattan who was killed in October, 2009, on the Henry Hudson Parkway after the mother friend, who had been drinking at a birthday party, flipped her vehicle with six children inside.
Weiss's son was unharmed and he was turned over to family members, said police.
Mom left boy in car to play at strip-mall casino, cops say
Elizabeth Tato, 46, left her 11-year-old son in her car, then called police when it was repossessed, police say.
Elizabeth Tato, 46, was arrested on a charge of neglect of a child without great harm. (Orange County Jail / October 21, 2011)
6:14 p.m. EDT, October 21, 2011
A Sanford mother was arrested on Thursday, police said, accused gambling in an Internet café while her child waited in the car — which was later towed with the boy inside.
Edgewood police say the incident began when 46-year-old Elizabeth Tato drove with her son to a Family Dollar on South Orange Avenue on Thursday afternoon.
Tato told police she noticed The Winner's Circle, a so-called strip-mall casino, was nearby and asked her son, age 11, if he wanted to come in with her, but he elected to stay in the car.
She told police she was only inside for 15 to 20 minutes, but a security officer at The Winner's Circle said she played games for about an hour, before noticing her car was gone.
Tato reported the car stolen, but it had actually been repossessed, an arrest report states. Unaware that there was a child inside, police say a tow driver removed it from the lot.
When the tow truck driver noticed the child, police say he moved the boy to the truck's cab. He then drove to a RaceTrac gas station, and left the child with its manager.
The boy told police he fell asleep in the car when his mother left, and awoke to find it was being towed. He said he wasn't hurt, police said, and appeared to be fine physically.
Tato was arrested on a charge of neglect of a child without great harm. The boy was turned over into his father's custody, the arrest report states.
20 Oct 2011
The Philadelphia Inquirer
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Candidate defends sex-tip tweet
Running for N.J. Senate, he says it’s sound marital advice.
It wasn’t until his sex tips were discovered on Twitter that Republican New Jersey Senate candidate Phil Mitsch started receiving close attention. Then he drew Democratic hellfire. “Women, you increase your odds of keeping your men by being faithful, a lady in the living room and a whore in the bedroom,” he wrote in a Sept. 2 post to his more than 44,000 Twitter followers.
“ That’s a great tip,” he said Wednesday in a meeting with The Inquirer’s editorial board. “That shows the utmost respect for women. … What I was trying to say to men was, ‘Men, look, if you got to go out and play around and you can’t be honest with a woman and respect her, then you’re better off just doing pay, play, and get the ‘F’ away.’ ”
Mitsch, 62, a retired real estate broker from Merchantville, faces Democratic Sen. James Beach in a Camden County district with 2-1 Democratic registration. Political observers say Mitsch is a long shot.
But that hasn’t stopped members of both parties from calling on him to drop out of the race before the Nov. 8 election.
“ Phil Mitsch’s remarks make him unfit for public office,” said Rick Gorka, spokesman for the New Jersey State Republican Committee.
Republican Sen. Diane Allen of Burlington County’s Seventh District said she had not seen Mitsch’s tweet, but added that it sounded inappropriate.
“ Anybody who would put anything like this out for real is not suited for public service,” she said Wednesday. “It’s not that it’s outdated, it’s wrong. I don’t think it was ever the way we should have looked at women.”
Democratic Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who is running for reelection in the same district as Mitsch, was the first elected official to call for Mitsch’s withdrawal from the race Friday when the tweets came to public light.
“ These chauvinistic remarks about women are derogatory, they’re harmful, and they’re disgusting,” she said. “I find the thought process to be just disgusting.”
Mitsch says he won’t step down. And Thomas Booth Jr., chairman of the Camden County GOP, supports him.
“Certainly it’s a poor choice of words, and it’s not words I would use to convey the concept,” he said. “But I think it’s Phil’s first time in running for public office. He probably didn’t appreciate the level of scrutiny that his comments might enjoy.
“Phil is a fantastic candidate; his ideas and his knowledge of the economy and his ideas for turning around the economy are innovative, they’re fearless, they’re bold, and I think that the citizens in Camden County appreciate that fresh perspective.”
Asked about the state GOP’s feeling that Mitsch is not suitable to be a state sena-
tor in the Sixth District, Booth said, “I think we’ll let the voters decide that.”
While Mitsch acknowledges making the “whores” tweet, he now says another Twitter exchange attributed to him was fabricated.
The Inquirer received a screen shot of a direct-message exchange from April between Mitsch and one of his followers in which Mitsch offered dating advice. Direct messages function like e-mail messages through Twitter and cannot be read by a user’s other followers.
“tell your women they can’t talk to you but they can moan,” Mitsch wrote, according to the screen shot. “Life is far far less stressful when implementing this sex survival tip! lol”
In an interview last week with The Inquirer, Mitsch said the message was taken out of context. He said the comment about “moaning” simply meant that people should not damage their relationship by fighting.
“I definitely did not mean that sexually; I meant don’t take the time to argue. … It’s much easier in life to just agree to disagree rather than to argue,” he said last Thursday.
He then said the message might have been sent by one of his associates at his office, who sometimes manage his Twitter account when he is traveling on business.
“Is it possible that I did? Yes, but I don’t recall,” he said.
At the Wednesday editorial board meeting, Mitsch said he could not find the direct messages on his account. He said he thinks the screen shot is a fake and an attempt to smear him.
“I did not post the tweets in question,” he said. “They took phrases from tweets and rearranged them in order to make it appear — I feel deliberately and maliciously — that I was anti-female, and I have never acknowledged those tweets.”
The follower who claims to have had the exchange with Mitsch is a 37-year-old man who did not know Mitsch but followed him because Mitsch offers financial and real estate advice. He now works for a Democratic politician in another state and said he did not want his name used for fear of losing his job.
He denies that he fabricated the exchange or baited Mitsch into making the statements, but he said the platform he used for Twitter did not save his sent direct messages, so he could provide no proof of his own comments to Mitsch.
Mitsch described his 67,000-plus tweets as riffs on finances, politics, life lessons, and relationship advice. He said he considers himself something of a Dear Abby and a motivational speaker.
Some of his tweets link to the blog on his website, philmitschforamerica.com, where he gives his explanations for the country’s economic woes.
Some tweets read like motivational posters.
“Leadership Tip — great leaders do not control their followers. They lead them in the right direction,” he wrote Monday.
Others are hard to characterize.
“Drinking draino and smoking dutch cleanser will only get a very few people through life,” Mitsch wrote Sept. 1.
On Wednesday, Mitsch said he wanted voters to focus on his ideas for helping the economy, not his tweets, which he describes as sometimes infused with his “dry sense of humor.”
Mitsch said New Jersey’s 2 percent property-tax cap, which Gov. Christie signed into law last year, is “a total failure.” He advocates an immediate cut to property taxes of 30 percent to 40 percent. Cuts to the state budget could pay for the plan, he said.
“Gov. Christie, of course I understand he doesn’t have my business background and understand the economy the way I do, so I don’t mean it as a personal attack on him, but he seems to be content just taking his foot and putting it lightly on the brake,” Mitsch said. “But the car’s still going to hit the wall and kill all the passengers in the car. What Phil Mitsch wants to do is, I want to take the pedal, push it through the floor onto the pavement, and stop.”
Beach, who supported the property-tax-relief program, said Mitsch’s plan was unreasonable.
“Obviously, he doesn’t understand how the Legislature works,” said Beach, 64, a senator since 2009. “You would have to get 21 senators to agree, you would have to get 41 Assembly people to agree, and the governor to agree. Or they’re just words.”
Outrage after school hands out bracelets to students with X-RATED pictures
Last updated at 10:36 AM on 20th October 2011
'Slap bracelets' with pictures of naked women have been handed out to school children being recognised for their fundraising efforts.
Pupils at Jay Elementary School in the Panhandle, Florida, were given the X-rated accessories to mark their charitable work.
However, officials were left red faced when the nude images were discovered underneath the bracelets' cloth coverings.
Jay Elementary School in Florida where the bands with pictures of naked women were discovered
They have now started to try and retrieve around 160 of the bands which work by folding themselves around the arm when they are 'snapped' from their original rigid position.
Those that were handed out to the children at Jay Elementary had been made from recycled metal tape measure covered with a colourful cloth.
One of the children became curious and removed the cotton, uncovering the pornographic images which has so far been found on four of the bracelets.
Santa Rosa County School District spokesman Bill Emerson said there was initially some disbelief at the discovery.
'It was one of those calls you get from parents where you say "really",' he said. 'Then it turns out to be true.'
The finger is being pointed at a Chinese company that manufactured the bracelets for a Nashville-based company that sourced the shipment of the novelty items.
Mr Emerson doesn't believe, however, that all the bracelets will be returned. 'Curiosity is bound to get the better of some of [the children],' he said.
The children are expected to receive another reward for their fundraising efforts.
The school was contacted by Sandra Lambeth whose daughter discovered the image when she took one of the bracelets apart.
Jay principal Danny Carnley said that one person had described the images as being something you might see in a country garage.
He told North West Florida Daily News: 'I would call the images terribly tasteless, but not x-rated.'
In an apology, Elijah Collard, president of Reading for Education, apologised adding: 'I can assure you that we are just as shocked and frustrated as you to discover inappropriate printing on the interior metal of the "slap bracelet".
'We have notified the U.S. supplier about the problem who has, in turn, contacted the manufacturer in China. We are returning all "slap bracelet" inventory to our supplier and discontinuing their use.'
Atlanta woman arrested by mistake, jailed 53 days
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta police are launching an internal investigation into the case of a woman who was arrested by mistake and held in jail for nearly two months, Channel 2 Action News reports.
“I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to get out this situation,” Culpepper told Channel 2.
The woman’s nightmare began Aug. 21, when she called police to report her truck had been taken from in front of her Hawkins Street home. She ended up being arrested for an aggravated assault allegedly committed by another woman named Teresa.
“Her birth date didn't match. Her address didn't match. Her description didn't match. Other than the name Teresa, nothing matched,” said Culpepper’s attorney, Ashleigh Merchant.
Channel 2 tracked down the Teresa actually wanted by police, and the woman told the TV station she had never been arrested for the alleged offense.
Culpepper finally was released Oct. 12 after her public defender got the crime victim to come to court and say the woman in custody was not the attacker.
“I was like real rejoiceful, glad and happy that it came to an end and that somebody was out there, out there trying to help me,” Culpepper said.
Ashleigh said the city now must either settle with her client or face legal action.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Elderly woman breaks hip at Niagara hospital, told by staff to call ambulance
Doreen Wallace, 82, fell at the main entrance of the Greater Niagara General Hospital and was on the ground for almost 30 minutes before medical staff tended to her.
When Doreen Wallace fell and broke her hip in the lobby of a Niagara Falls hospital, she figured at least she’d get help — and fast.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, the 82-year-old Wallace — who was leaving with her son after visiting her dying husband at Greater Niagara General Hospital on Oct. 8 — was told by staff no one could help her until an ambulance was called.
To a hospital.
“It was horrible. It really was. Everybody who walked through the door stopped and stared at me,” said Wallace, who already had a broken arm from a previous fall. She ended up spending almost 30 minutes on the ground.
“I was inside the hospital. Why did they have to wait for an ambulance to come and pick me up?”
As she lay face down on a metal grate, her right arm slashed, a security guard called for help and two nurses from the emergency room came over. But Wallace’s son said they refused to help until paramedics arrived.
“I was floored,” said Mike Wallace. “We’re probably, maybe, like a 50-yard walk, literally, down to the emergency department.”
In the meantime, Wallace’s head was wrapped in a dirty blanket and the security guard helped wipe away her blood with paper towel.
Eventually, an orthopedic surgeon came across the scene and with the help of an assistant, moved the elderly woman into a wheelchair.
Shortly afterwards, paramedics finally arrived at the main entrance — their ambulance allegedly originating in St. Catharines because no one at the hospital in Niagara Falls was available to help.
The supervisor of the Niagara Health System said the incident stemmed from a communication problem among staff.
“We shouldn’t have called the emergency room,” said Dr. Kevin Smith, who was hired on to aid the beleaguered region at the end of August.
He said when a person is hurt in hospital, staff should call a “code,” meaning a team — not necessarily in the ER — is paged to help immediately.
When asked why staff felt the need to call for an ambulance, Smith said that may have been an old rule at the hospital. He said staff has now been briefed on the correct policy and a review is underway.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said the situation is unacceptable. “Clearly this is very disappointing and isn’t the standard of care that people should expect,” she said, adding she is pleased a review is being done.
This isn’t the first time the Niagara hospital has encountered controversy.
Last April, 39-year-old Jennifer James died from a “catastrophic heart event” a few days after emergency department staff refused to help her in the parking lot after her boyfriend drove her there when she lost consciousness and stopped breathing. He was told to call 911 instead.
And in July, local Councillor Joyce Morocco, who has a history of heart problems and asthma, was semi-consciousness when taken to the same hospital by her husband. He was also told to call an ambulance.
Morocco survived, and the hospital’s then-interim president apologized.
Apparently, hospital staff wrongly thought they would not be covered by insurance if they treated a patient outside a hospital building.
Two Toronto hospital presidents said their facilities provide emergency care anywhere on hospital grounds, although both acknowledged there could be situations where 911 would also be called.
Dr. Tim Rutledge, president of North York General Hospital, said he has come to the rescue himself when people have run into trouble in areas other than the emergency department.
“Even with my suit on, if there is an arrest in our parking lot or whatever, I am out there,” said Rutledge, who still works in the ER once a week.
At Toronto East General Hospital, president Rob Devitt said staff respond to emergencies wherever they occur. But he noted that at larger hospitals with numerous buildings it might make sense to send an ambulance to bring a patient to ER.
As for Wallace, she simply wants an apology — something the Niagara Health System claims it has done, but she hasn’t yet received.
“All I want is that if this happens again, nobody’s treated like that.”
LINK TO VIDEO:
LINK TO 911 CALL:
LINK TO VIDEO:
LINK TO ORGINAL STORY:
Gold nugget worth $424,000 found in Russia
A gold nugget weighing 7 kg 650 g (16,87 lbs) was discovered by Vostok mining partnership at Irkindan deposit in Ayano-Maisky district of Russia's Khabarovsk region.
The finding was tentatively evaluated at 12.7 million rubles ($424,000), officials said. The final cost of the nugget will be announced later, Finmarket reports.
The nugget looks pure and outwardly resembles a boxing glove.
"This is the first big finding that we've had in 40 years of work in the region. We found a large gold nugget in this region in 2007, and it was 1.7 kilos," officials of the enterprise told Interfax.
Rare disease causes 26-year-old to age decades
Mystery condition makes woman age 50 years in just a few days
Doctors have been left baffled by a strange condition which saw a woman of 23 age 50 years in a matter of days.
8:38AM BST 14 Oct 2011
Vietnamese woman Nguyen Thi Phuong now looks like a septugenarian after the rapid aging affliction took hold following an allergic reaction to seafood.
Her sad story began in 2008, when her youthful beauty began to fade over the course of just a few days, leaving her with sagging, wrinkled skin all over her face and body.
Until now she has been forced to wear a mask in public to hide her appearance from prying eyes, but now doctors are attempting to establish what caused her sudden and horrifying aging.
Her husband, carpenter Nguyen Thanh Tuyen says his love for his once beautiful wife has not faded while Phuong, now 26, says her condition has only worsened since she was first struck with the condition.
The couple, from the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, in Vietnam, have agreed to talk to the media for the first time in order to ask for help.
The syndrome with no cure leaves its victims with loose folds of skin all over their bodies, wrinkled faces and the gaunt features of people decades their senior.
The condition is extremely rare and out of around seven billion people on the planet, only 2,000 are thought to have lipodystrophy.
Displaying photos of a beautiful 21-year-old woman on her wedding day in 2006, Phuong said: "Five years ago, I was rather pretty and not so ugly like this, right?"
Phuong explained she has long been allergic to seafood and that she had suffered a particularly bad reaction in 2008.
She said: "I was really itchy all over my body. I had to scratch even while sleeping."
Phuong said she took some medicine bought at a local pharmacy instead of going to the hospital because her and her husband Tuyen, now 33, were too poor to afford it.
She said: "After one month of taking the drugs, I became less itchy but hives remained on my skin.
"Then I switched to traditional medicine and all the hives disappeared, together with my itching. However, my skin began to sag and fold."
Phuong then took another kind of traditional medicine to treat her rapid-aging skin problem - but to no avail.
The couple do not remember what the medicine was or which pharmacy they got it from.
Phuong said: "We considered that it was our destiny and I quit treatment in 2009. Now I always wear a face mask whenever I go out.
"The skin on my face, chest and belly have folds like an old woman who has given birth several times although I have never had a child.
"But the rapid-aging syndrome hasn't affected my menstrual cycle, hair, teeth, eyes and mind."
In 2010, the couple migrated to the southern province of Binh Phuoc's Bu Dop District where they rent a small wooden house.
Tuyen continued to work as a carpenter while Phuong got a job at a cashew-nut processing factory.
Both earn a total of VND3 million - less than £92 a month - which means they cannot afford an examination at a major hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
Tuyen said his wife's disease has not affected his love for her or their relationship.
He said: "I married Phuong when she was a beautiful woman. I have followed her through her disease and have never been shocked at all.
"It's not easy to talk about one's own marital affairs. Just simply understand that I still love her very much."
Phuong said her husband's love is the reason she is able to persevere in the face of adversity.
She said: "He still loves me like before despite the fact that I look old and ugly. With him, I feel more confident to live and work."
On October 2, doctors from Nguyen Dinh Chieu Hospital in Ben Tre Province said they would examine Phuong for free and send her to the HCMC Dermatology Hospital if they failed to diagnose her condition.
Meanwhile, stories about Phuong in the local media have prompted a variety of diagnoses from local doctors. Many of them do not believe that Phuong has lipodystrophy, saying instead that Phuong may be suffering the side effects of too much steroid medication.
Barber is facing jail for cruel cut
15 Oct 2011
A BARBER faces jail for shaving FOOL into the hair of a man with severe learning difficulties.
Unsuspecting Michael Ricketts, 49, was thrilled with his cut before the inch-high word was spotted by friends.
They told cops and barber Michael Campbell, 35 was arrested. He claimed he had written "cool".
Minister Vincent Visser told how Mr Ricketts went to church "happy because of his hair cut". But he added: "I saw 'fool' in capital letters."
Care worker Jackie Lester said colleagues pointed out the word when Mr Ricketts arrived at his day centre the following morning. She said: "I was shocked." His head was then shaved.
Campbell, of Hartcliffe, Bristol, denied assault but was found guilty by the city's magistrates yesterday. He was released on unconditional bail for sentencing next month.
Florida hotel worker fired for refusing to take off American flag lapel pin
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, October 16th 2011, 4:25 PM
Sean May, 26, was canned from his front desk supervisor job at the Casa Monica hotel in St. Augustine on Friday after he refused to take off the little pin, which said he's worn to work every day for two years, local station News4Jax reported.
"I've actually gotten probably more compliments about it than any of the service I've actually done at the hotel, which is an interesting concept," May told the station.
The Casa Monica hotel said the firing was a matter of company policy – not patriotism.
"The property reflects its pride in America and great patriotism by flying the Stars and Stripes high over the hotel," the hotel said in a statement ton News4Jax.
"However, our employee handbook clearly states, 'No other buttons, badges, pins or insignias of any kind are permitted to be worn.' No matter an individual's national preference, political views or religious affiliation, it is a standard regulation which ensures equality for all (employees)," the statement said.
May said the hotel had recently come under new corporate leadership, and he suspected members of the new brass at its parent company, Kessler Enterprise, were responsible for the dress code crackdown.
"It seems silly. It seems so, so silly in the long run," May said. "They're so upset about a little pin," he said.
May was sent home on Thursday after refusing to remove the pin from his suit jacket. He was fired the next day.
Angry locals were calling for a boycott of the hotel.
"Anybody who takes a chance on his livelihood to take a stand for patriotism is a hero and should be treated like a hero," local Air Force veteran Bruce Whalen told the station.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Police in Zimbabwe on Friday charged three women found in possession of 33 condoms containing semen with 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault in a case that may be a break in a string of sex attacks over the past two years by women targeting male hitchhikers.
Prosecutor Michael Reza told a court in Harare that the counts were for each of the 17 men who had positively identified the women as having sexually assaulted them in 2010 or 2011.
The women, all of them in their mid-20s, were arrested Sunday in Gweru, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Harare, when their car was involved in an accident. Police found the condoms in the women's car. Police appealed to any other victims to inform police.
The three were taken Wednesday by police to Harare.
"Since Monday, 17 men came and positively identified the women as having raped them," said a police official in Harare who refused to be identified. "Most of the men said the women would offer a drink either laced with something to tranquilize them or were forced at gunpoint."
Watch Ruparanganda, a professor of sociology at the University of Zimbabwe said : "Some sections of the society use these sperm for ritual purposes. The thinking is that it can be used for regeneration of life since they are source of life (biologically). Some people think that they can have their bad luck gone by using semen. I am sure that explains all this we have been witnessing (men being forced)."
The prosecution identified the suspects as Rosemary Chakwizira, 24, Sophie Nhokwara, 26, and her sister, Netsai Nhokwara, 24.
They were to be held in custody until their next appearance, set for October 28, when more charges may be filed.
"We might have had more victims come identify these women," said the police source.
Family says six-year-old girl was dropped off from school bus at stranger's home
Steve Jeffery (right) says his six-year-old daughter Sydnee (left) was dropped off at a stranger's house rather than taken to school in Beausejour, Man. on the bus.
Updated: Thu Oct. 13 2011 18:47:29
A Beausejour-area father says his six-year-old daughter found herself in an emergency situation Wednesday morning.
Steve Jeffery says his daughter Sydnee was en route to classes in Beausejour when she told the driver she wasn't feeling well.
Jeffery says the driver dropped her off at the home of a stranger in a village 10 minutes north of Beausejour, instead of taking the six-year-old to school with the rest of the children.
"Why was she dropped off there? And there (are) public nurses there at the school. They said they don't understand why the bus driver dropped her off at a stranger's house," says Jeffery.
Sydnee fortunately remembered her home number and called her family, he said.
"Well, I was shocked. A six-year-old little girl – we're lucky she knew her phone number," says Jeffery.
The school division says the bus driver in this case has been suspended, pending the outcome of an investigation. That is expected to be completed by late Monday.
Jeffery says he's upset by the incident, but is grateful the woman who was tasked with looking after his daughter helped her phone home.
"She knows that she's not supposed to go to a stranger's house, but what do you do when the school bus (driver) tells her it's okay?" asks Jeffery.
The school division says it wasn't sure if the driver received his suspension notification before his morning route Thursday.
Jeffery said he refused to put his daughter on the bus Thursday to avoid taking any chances.
"They wanted her to go on the same bus route with the guy and I don't trust him, so why would I send my little girl with someone you don't trust?" asks Jeffery.
The Sunrise School Division would not say how long the bus driver had been working for the division, or what penalties he may face if the allegations are true.
- with a report from CTV's Jeff Keele
Woman Accused of Dragging Grandson From Car While Driving Drunk
Marie Shipley, 55 (Booking Photo)
October 12, 2011, 4:24 a.m.
Chesco police chief left scene of own accident
The Kennett Township, Chester County police chief rear-ended another vehicle while on patrol last week, then left the scene and returned to it after hearing the 911 dispatch, state police said Tuesday.
In an incident report released Monday, state police from the Avondale barracks said the crash caused by Kennett Township Police Chief Albert J. McCarthy occurred Oct. 4 at 12:33 p.m. on southbound Route 82, south of McFarlan Road. McCarthy, "suffering from a medical condition, lost focus, and struck the rear" of a 2000 Jeep driven by Paula a. Shapre, 38, of Hockessin, De. No charges have filed against him
Trooper Corey Monthei, a state police spokesman, said Tuesday that investigators had concluded that McCarthy, "had no intention of avoiding responsibility" when he left the scene and showed no signs of alcohol impairment.
"There's no reason to dispute that he was anything but confused, suffering from an illness," Monthei said, adding that privacy laws prevented him from elaborating.
He said McCarthy, who was on patrol in his 2008 Crown Victoria police vehicle, did not know he had hit the other vehicle. He returned after the other driver called 911, not realizing that he was responding to a crash he had caused, Monthei said. When state police arrived about 20 minutes later, McCarthy was at the scene and "cooperated fully," Monthei said.
Allan F. Falcoff, chairman of the Kennett Township board of supervisors, said McCarthy, whom he described as "a valuable asset," is on sick leave.
"We're waiting to hear from his doctor about what happened," Falcoff said of the "low-speed" collision. "Then we'll go from there."
According to the police report, both drivers were wearing seatbelts. Monthei described the damage to both vehicles as minor.
He said in cases like McCarthy's, where no criminal conduct has occurred, sometimes PennDot may take action, such as requiring a driving test or suspending a license.
Falcoff said if it turns out that McCarthy is unable to drive, the township will explore ways in which he could keep his position.
For the past four years, McCarthy, a well-known presence in the township of approximately 7,500 residents, has served as a one-man department, acting as chief, patrol officer, traffic cop, lead detective, and chief arbiter.
"He's probably most valuable . . . in what I call his role as chaplain," said Falcoff. "He ends up settling a lot of disputes that might have escalated; he just has a way with people."
Before working for Kennett Township, McCarthy was a long time officer with the Kennett Square force.
McCarthy joined the Kennett Square force as a patrolman in 1973 and became the borough's chief in 1988. He continued in that position until a contentious parting that culminated with his resignation in September 2007 - and litigation over back pay McCarthy said he was owed.The federal case was dismissed in May 2010 "without cost to either party," according to court records.
5 October 2011 Last updated at 21:00 ET
Many people now rely on their smartphones, sat-navs or other GPS devices to find their way around. But when these fail us, and there's no-one to ask for directions, there's a more natural way to navigate, says Tristan Gooley.
It's not every week that a massive solar flare knocks out the GPS network, but all it takes is a flat battery or a mechanical fault to hobble your automated orientation aids.
And if there's no-one around to ask and no paper map on hand, you could be in trouble.
Natural navigation may be just what you need. This involves working out which way to go without using maps, compasses or any other instruments. It relies on awareness and deduction, so does depend on retaining some awareness of direction throughout each journey.
1. TV satellite dishes
These really are the "get out of jail free" cards in an urban area.
This is because the dishes point at a geostationary satellite, one that stays over the same point on the Earth's surface.
In the UK there is a dominant satellite broadcaster, hence nearly all the dishes tend to point in the same direction - close to southeast.
The same applies in rural areas - especially those blessed with pubs screening sport.
2. Religious buildings
From earliest times, religious buildings and sacred sites have been laid out to give clues as to direction.
Christian churches are normally aligned west-east, with the main altar at the eastern end to face the sunrise. Gravestones, too, are aligned west-east.
To find direction from a mosque, you need to go inside and look for the niche in one wall, which indicates the direction for prayer. This niche, known as al-Qibla, will be the direction of Mecca, wherever you are in the world.
And synagogues normally place the Torah Ark at the eastern end, positioned so worshippers face towards Jerusalem. (Synagogues in countries east of Israel will face west.)
The wind comes from the southwest in the UK more often than from any other direction. This results in asymmetrical weathering patterns on buildings - similar to the erosion seen in nature.
Look up, above the cleaned glass and metals of the lower floors, to the natural stone or weathered bricks higher up.
Notice how the building's corners all show subtly different weathering patterns.
The contrast between southwest and northeast corners is the greatest. But the shifts in colours, where the rain and pollutants have left their mark, can be read on all sides with a little practice.
Trees, too, indicate direction, with the very tops combed over by the prevailing wind.
4. Flow of people
Pacific navigators learned to follow the birds in their search of land. They quickly realised that while an individual bird can behave eccentrically, a pair - or even better a flock - will follow a pattern.
The same is true of human beings. There is no point following an individual, you could end up anywhere. But following a crowd in the late afternoon will take you towards a station or other transport hub. In the mornings, walk against the flow to find these stations.
At lunchtime in sunny weather, crowds move from office blocks towards the open spaces of parks and rivers.
5. Road alignment
Roads do not spring up randomly, they grow to carry traffic - and the bulk of traffic is either heading into or out of a town. So the biggest roads tend to be aligned in a certain way, depending on whether you are in the centre or on the outskirts.
In the north or south of town, the major roads will tend to be aligned north/south. In the northwest or southeast, they will have a bias towards northwest/southeast. This is why road maps of big towns show a radial pattern.
It is common sense, but very few people realise this when they feel lost in a big city.
One of the best ways not to lose your sense of direction is to hold onto it. My favourite way of doing this in a city is to orientate myself - using some of the clues above - and then note the direction the clouds are moving.
The wind pushing the clouds will remain fairly constant, providing there's no dramatic change in the weather.
This technique really earns its keep on underground journeys, especially to a new part of town. Simply look up before you head underground, and remember the direction of the clouds. When you emerge in a strange part of the city, look up again and you'll be able to work out which way is which from the clouds overhead.
Man attacks son with sword for not doing chores, police say
A Ventura man was arrested Sunday after police said he attacked his 18-year-old son with a sword, accusing him of being lazy and not doing chores around the house.
Antonio Gutierrez, 43, was in a heated argument with his son, John, when he picked up a 4-foot-long sword, police said. The son tried to use his hands to defend himself, police said, but his hand was lacerated by the blade and he bled profusely.
When officers arrived at the family's residence, the father had left, police said, but he returned several hours later and was arrested and booked on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
New Castle man arrested for attempted bank robbery
|Thomas J. Love|
PHOTO OF ROBBER:
World's oldest running car sells for more than $4 million
Published: Friday, October 07, 2011, 11:11 PM Updated: Saturday, October 08, 2011, 11:51 AM
When the world’s oldest driveable car crossed the auction stage Friday night at the Hershey Lodge, it was expected to fetch between $2 million and $2.5 million.
But with the final gavel pound — after 15 minutes of tense back-and-forth bidding — the 127-year-old, steam-powered vehicle belonged to its fifth owner.
Final price bid, $4.2 million. Final price, with a 10 percent buyer’s premium: $4.62 million to an undisclosed bidder.
The De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout, or La Marquise, was the star of the show at Friday’s auction by RM Auctions.
It might run on steam, but the vehicle — which resembles a locomotive as much as a car — has four wheels, front-wheel steering, seating for four and a top speed of about 38 mph.
A one of a kind, the Dos-A-Dos boasts a well documented history with only a handful of owners.
That plus its age and meticulous maintenance all combined to drive it into the million-dollar-plus price range.
There are older cars, but unlike other museum pieces, La Marquise is the oldest known vehicle to still be running.
Start the boilers, pop in some coal or coke, wait 45 minutes for the steam to build up pressure, and it could be driven around town.
RM’s auction team proved that point Friday evening to the delight of the crowd when it drove the contraption across the stage.
It’s exhaust fumes were a white cloud of steam.
After 10 Years, U.S. War in Afghanistan "Halfway Done"
McChrystal: "Frighteningly simplistic" view of the country has crippled the war effort.
Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, at 12:01 PM ET
It has already surpassed Vietnam as the longest military conflict in U.S. history. The most discouraging part? The mission is only a little more than halfway toward achieving its goals, according to Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of coalition forces in the country.
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, McChrystal said the United States had a “frighteningly simplistic” view of the country when it invaded, CBS News reports. Even today, McChrystal argued, the country lacks the understanding needed to complete the mission successfully.
“We didn't know enough and we still don't know enough,” he said. “Most of us — me included — had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.”
Knowledge isn’t the only problem, he added. President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was a costly diversion that has tarnished Muslims’ perception of the United States.
The most difficult task still ahead, he continued, is building a credible Afghan government that could rule the country peacefully once outside forces withdraw.
McChrystal commanded coalition forces in the country from 2009-10. President Obama fired him after he and his aides sounded off about the commander in chief and other top U.S. officials in a now-famous Rolling Stone magazine article.
His comments on the occasion of the war’s 10th anniversary were corroborated by aid groups, who told the BBC that improvements in Afghanistan have been spotty at best. Drought, limited access to health care and schools, insecurity and corruption are some of the problems that will continue to afflict the country for the foreseeable future.
The BBC notes that U.N. figures show more than 11,000 civilians have died in Afghanistan in the past five years alone. More than 2,500 coalition troops have also been killed, most of them American.
The Guardian adds to the grim mood, writing that a forthcoming British government review of the Afghan war will report that there are “significant risks” of civil war or a Taliban takeover of portions of the country once NATO withdraws troops. The drawdown is scheduled to wrap up by the end of 2014.
Police: Cell phone thief posts photo of himself on victim's Facebook page
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Henry County investigators looking for a man suspected of breaking into a car got some unexpected help when the alleged thief inadvertently posted a photo of himself on his victim's Facebook page.
Henry County Police Dept. Suspect in car break-in in Henry County who took photo of himself and it automatically uploaded in victim's Facebook page.
The victim's vehicle was broken into on Sept. 26 at East Lake Academy daycare in McDonough and her purse was taken, according to Henry police Major Jason Bolton.
"The suspect apparently took a picture of himself on the victim's phone, and due to her settings, it automatically uploaded to her Facebook page," Bolton said.
Bolton said that the victim had pulled up at the daycare around 5:30 p.m. to pick up her child, and parked next to a black Toyota RAV 4 with tinted windows, but thought that the driver of the SUV was a female because of the long braids.
He said the victim did not lock her car when she went inside to get her child. “It wasn’t until she got home that she realized, ‘oh, no, someone took my purse,’” Bolton said.
He said that at some point in the next 12 hours or so, the victim pulled up her Facebook page “and she notices this picture that has been automatically uploaded, and she thinks, when she sees it, ‘oh, this is the person that I saw right next to me, but it’s a guy, not a girl.’”
“Obviously, this individual had no idea that her phone had these settings on it that caused it to automatically upload to Facebook,” Bolton told the AJC.
“I’m thinking he’s going to be pretty surprised,” Bolton said. He asked that anyone recognizing the suspect call investigators at 770-288-8266.
“We don’t normally get pictures with this sort of clarity, and it’s just real exciting to have a picture that the quality is this good that we can put out there,” Bolton said. “We feel confident that he’s definitely going to be recognizable.”
Oct 5, 2011 6:45pm
GOP’s Alternative Buffett Rule: Voluntary ‘Tax Me More’ Check Box on IRS Form
Scalise said he plans to submit a bill Wednesday night that would add a line to the 1040 tax form allowing people who feel they do not pay enough income tax to opt-in to paying more.
“I wanted to make sure that there was an option out there on the IRS tax form for those out there who wanted to send more of their money into Washington to help pay down the deficit,” Scalise said. “It’s an idea that solves a few problems and ensures that taxes won’t be raised on America’s job creators.”
Scalise said his bill will allow Buffett to “put his money where his mouth is” and “send in a check” to the U.S. Treasury.
Grover Norquist, the founder of the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, sent a letter to Scalise praising him for the bill, but said when similar “tax me more” lines were tried at the state level, the “limousine liberal set” did not “put their money where their mouth is.”
“Mr. Buffett should be able to voluntarily pay extra income taxes if he feels the need to – without imposing broad, job-killing tax hikes on our nation’s small employers,” the statement said. “Taxpayers are calling Mr. Buffett’s bluff with this legislation. It’s his move.”
While Scalise may be the first congressman to propose an alternative Buffett Rule bill, he is not the first to suggest that Buffett voluntarily send in a check rather than have the president ignite “class warfare” by implementing a mandatory tax hike.
“If he’s feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check … but we don’t want to stagnate this economy by raising taxes,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in September.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Obama’s Buffett Rule would “simply divide this country more.”
“It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy,” Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday” shortly after the president announced his rule. “Class warfare may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.”
Sarah Palin on 2012 run: I won't be running for president, but will be helping candidates this cycle
Thomas M. Defrank and Alison Gendar
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
Wednesday, October 5th 2011, 6:59 PM
"After much prayer and serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for President of the United States," Palin said in a letter to supporters obtained by ABC News.
"As always, my family comes first and obviously Todd and I put great consideration into family life before making this decision. When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family and country. My decision maintains this order.
"I believe that at this time I can be more effective in a decisive role to help elect other true public servants to office - from the nation's governors to Congressional seats and the Presidency."
While the former Alaskan governor did not say who she would endorse, she said she planned to play a role in national politics.
"I will continue driving the discussion for freedom and free markets, including in the race for President," she wrote.
"In the coming weeks I will help coordinate strategies to assist in replacing the President, re-taking the Senate, and maintaining the House."
Republican party officials have predicted for months Palin wasn't running because she'd be forced to give up a lucrative speechmaking business earning her millions of dollars a year.
"The tipoff was that she wasn't doing any homework on the issues," explained a senior Republican with close ties to Palin. "As Rick Perry has learned, you have to be prepared in debates to talk about stuff you don't know, and she wasn't preparing."
Another GOP consultant said Palin's diva reputation tempted her to run, but a series of recent polls have shown a majority of Republican voters don't want her to be the party's candidate.
"Her negatives are high and she turns off independents," the consultant said. "Obama would have a field day running against her."
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found only 31% of Republican primary voters wanted her to run for President. Two-thirds of those surveyed said she shouldn't get into the race.
Palin's decision to stay out, a day after after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would also not run, means the field is Republican candidates is likely set.
Mexico Offers 2-Year Marriage to Curb Divorce Rates
Mexico is considering offering a 2-year marriage license in an effort to curb divorces in Mexico City. They would issue temporary marriage licenses. Can you imagine that?
Marriage in Mexico City is getting political. Earlier liberal leaning members of the assembly made gay marriage legal in the city, which angered conservatives. This latest 2-year marriage license proposal is further infuriating the city's conservative faction.
With these new marriage licenses, couples could decide on how long they want their commitment to last meaning it isn't automatically for life—the minimum is 2 years. However, can you imagine getting married, and putting an amount of time on it? That seems unlikely, but it is possible that some people would take advantage of the new civil code in Mexico City. Those who aren't willing to commit for two years will simply have to be satisfied with dating.
Leonel Luna co-authored the bill, and he said, "The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends. You wouldn't have to go through the tortuous process of divorce."
In addition to angering the conservative faction of the city, the proposal has also irritated the Catholic Church. They believe that the proposal goes against the nature of marriage. Of course, they are talking about the religious nature of marriage and not necessarily the legal aspect of the union.
What do you think of this unique 2-year marriage license proposal? Do you think it could be helpful, and do you think it could work in other countries in the world?
Firing contest by boss leads employees to quit
State judge sides with ex-workers, citing 'intolerable' work environment
10:25 PM, Oct. 1, 2011
A Bettendorf businessman, branded as the “boss from hell” by some of his employees, offered prizes to workers who could predict which of them would next be fired.
A state judge has called that a “deplorable” act and sided with the company’s ex-employees.
William Ernst, 57, the owner of a Bettendorf-based chain of convenience stores called QC Mart, sent all of his employees a memo in March, outlining a contest in which the workers were encouraged to participate. The memo read:
“New Contest – Guess The Next Cashier Who Will Be Fired!!!
To win our game, write on a piece of paper the name of the next cashier you believe will be fired. Write their name [the person who will be fired], today’s date, today’s time, and your name. Seal it in an envelope and give it to the manager to put in my envelope.
“Here’s how the game will work: We are doubling our secret-shopper efforts, and your store will be visited during the day and at night several times a week. Secret shoppers will be looking for cashiers wearing a hat, talking on a cell phone, not wearing a QC Mart shirt, having someone hanging around/behind the counter, and/or a personal car parked by the pumps after 7 p.m., among other things.
“If the name in your envelope has the right answer, you will win $10 CASH. Only one winner per firing unless there are multiple right answers with the exact same name, date, and time. Once we fire the person, we will open all the envelopes, award the prize, and start the contest again.
“And no fair picking Mike Miller from (the Rockingham Road store). He was fired at around 11:30 a.m. today for wearing a hat and talking on his cell phone. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!”
QC Mart cashier Misty Shelsky of Davenport was shocked by the memo — although, she says, Ernst had a long history of unprofessional conduct with regard to lower-ranking workers.
“This guy was the boss from hell,” Shelsky told The Des Moines Register. “He treated pretty much all of us like dirt.”
Shelsky said she and her store manager, along with a few other employees, quit as soon as they saw the memo and realized it wasn’t a joke or a prank.
“It was very degrading,” she said. “We looked at that, then looked at each other, and said, ‘OK, we’re done.’ ”
When Shelsky applied for unemployment benefits, Ernst challenged the claim, saying she had resigned voluntarily. The dispute led to a recent hearing at which QC Mart Area Supervisor Anna DeFrieze testified that the contest was created by Ernst because his employees weren’t following company rules.
“None of them were doing their job,” she testified. “They’ve repeatedly been told not to use their phone while they’re working, that bad language is totally unacceptable and, you know, playing video games while you’re working is not acceptable. They just broke all those rules.”
Shelsky testified that she and her colleagues quit due to the hostile work environment created by the contest.
“My entire store was up in arms over it and that’s why we all left,” she testified.
State records show that at least two QC Mart employees sent letters to company managers objecting to the contest. One worker wrote that the contest was “bizarre and unprofessional.” Another worker wrote that it had “created an atmosphere of distrust, intimidation and paranoia.”
Administrative Law Judge Susan D. Ackerman sided with the workers, calling the contest “egregious and deplorable.” Shelsky was awarded unemployment benefits.
“The employer’s actions have clearly created a hostile work environment by suggesting its employees turn on each other for a minimal monetary prize,” Ackerman ruled. “This was an intolerable and detrimental work environment.”
Ernst could not be reached for comment. DeFrieze declined to comment on the case.
Burglars pick the wrong night to break into Salem restaurant
Lonny De Hut (left) and Kurtis Kent (right).
SALEM, ore. - Instead of making away with whatever they were planning to steal, two burglars who broke into a Chinese restaurant ended up getting busted.
On Thursday, the owner of the Blue Willow on Lancaster Drive decided to stay late to work on his security system. Around 4:30 a.m. on Friday he was still there and heard people making noise on the building's roof. So he did what anyone would do in that situation - he called police.
It turned out that two men had pried a hole through the roof and dropped into the restaurant. But by then, police had the place surrounded. One man tried to run out the back door and the other out the front. Both were quickly taken into custody.
"We always say that we generally don't catch the smart ones because we're too busy with the dumb ones," said Lt. Steve Birr with the Salem Police Department.
The suspects were later identified as 43-year-old Lonny De Hut and 47-year-old Kurtis Kent. The two are facing charges of first-degree burglary, second-degree theft, first-degree attempted aggravated theft, first-degree criminal mischief and identity theft. They are being held at the Marion County Correctional Facility.
Woman gives homeless guy $5 demands he give it back
SALEM, Ore. - What happens when you give a homeless guy some money and then ask for it back?
It gets you arrested - well at least it did in one woman's case.
The whole situation went down Thursday outside a PetSmart store on Lancaster Drive N.E. in Salem.
According to police, 26-year-old Meghan Fleming went shopping at the store and on her way out decided to give a few bucks to a homeless man who was outside.
So far so good but police say Fleming changed her mind about handing over the cash after getting to her car. So she drove up to the man, pointed what looked like a handgun at him and demanded that he give the money back to her. A man in the car got involved as well and also demanded that the homeless guy hand it over.
The homeless man ended up giving back the money, which wasn't much (police say it was $5). He then walked into the PetSmart store and told workers there he had just been robbed. Those at the store were familiar with the woman the man said had robbed him and were able to give police her name.
Fleming was arrested a short time later at her home. Police say she had her two 2-year-old twins in the car with her when the incident unfolded and they were turned over to relatives.
"Meghan certainly could have asked for her money back, but that was not the case," Lt. Steve Birr with the Salem Police Department said in a news release. "She crossed the line when she pointed what looked like a firearm at him and demanded he hand over the money."
The man who was in the car with Fleming - 19-year-old Timothy Fleming (her nephew) - later turned himself in to police in Turner. He is pictured at right.
The 'gun' turned out to be a BB gun.
Police say the victim was just out of prison and didn't want to press charges, but the District Attorney's office decided to pursue the case.
Both Meghan Fleming and Timothy Fleming are charged with robbery and are now sitting at the Marion County Correctional Facility.
February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008