Category Archives: Criminal

Facebook Forced To Turn Over Account Info, Photos, and Conversations

The New York Court of Appeals, its highest state court, approved in a 5-1 decision a search warrant that forces Facebook to turn over material on 381 accounts including account information, private photos, and conversations.  This ruling is based significantly on New York law which the court interpreted to mean search warrants issued by judges cannot be appealed to a higher court and the proper venue for challenging search warrants is during a pretrial hearing when a party argues the search warrant is an illegal search.

Read more about this case in this New York Times article here.  The underlying case deals with disability fraud and the Brennan Center provides a concise summary, along with its amicus brief, on its website available here.

One could argue that this opens the door to New York search warrants giving prosecutors access to users’ data on other social networking sites.

The full slip opinion is available here.

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Alternative Sentencing: Judge Approves A Punishment of Reading

Five teenagers in Loudoun County were caught and pleaded guilty to vandalizing a historic schoolhouse in Ashburn, Virginia with racist graffiti.  As punishment, the prosecutor compiled a list of books for the teenagers to read and write reports on.  The Virginia judge condoned the sentence and probation agreed to enforce this alternative form of punishment.  The New York Times published an article about this with further details about the sentence, reasons behind this arrangement, and the full list of books approved.  The article is available here.  In addition, Loudoun County’s Attorney’s Office released a press statement available here.

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New Proposed Legislation Would Require Warrants for Email Searches

The Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing legislation that would require police officers to obtain a warrant before accessing emails.  The Senator from Vermont who is supporting the bill, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), has secured a strong democratic vote and is currently pushing for republican favor in order to fast track the bill.  Read more about this new privacy bill from The Hill article available here.

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Prison Reviews on Yelp

Who could predict such uses for social media?  The Huffington Post published an article about how inmates review prisons and post the writings on Yelp.  Because the reviews are available publicly, lawyers, family members, bail bondsmen, and various investigators use the information to their advantage.  Read more about these reviews here.

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Tragedy at Boston Marathon

My heart goes out to Boston right now.  The tragedy that happened at the Boston Marathon is so senseless.  The public is thankful for everyone who responded to the emergency and helped those in need.  Again, this tragedy is absolutely shocking.

I am using social media to spread the following resources:

The Boston Police is looking for video footage taken near the finish line.  Please call 1-800-494-TIPS if you have any video footage.

If you are looking for a loved one, you can call 617-635-4500 or you can check out the Person Finder Database created by Google which is available here.

In the meantime, everyone please be safe.


UPDATE 5/8/2013:  The complaint against the alleged suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was filed in federal court.  The criminal complaint is available here.

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Casey Anthony Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

On Saturday, NBC News reported that Casey Anthony filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida.  Disregarding all the publicity that she has received and the recent Casey Anthony Lifetime Movie, Anthony alleges that:

[S]he had only $1,084; here are her main debts, according to the Sentinel report:

  • About $500,000 to defense attorney Jose Baez
  • $145,660.21: Orange County Sheriff’s Office
  • $68,540: Internal Revenue Service
  • $61,505: Florida Department of Law Enforcement
  • $10,283.90: to the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation.”

In total, according to the Daily Beast article, Anthony owes “roughly $792,000” and the majority of the debt is for her defense attorney.

Even though Anthony’s criminal trial is over, she still has three active civil lawsuits.  The jury found Anthony not guilty of the murder of her two year old daughter in her infamous criminal trial.

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Bid Rigging at Foreclosure Auctions in Alabama

Last month, the Department of Justice announced the prosecution and guilty pleas of two Alabama real estate investors and their company regarding bid rigging at foreclosure auctions.  The official press release is available here.  The DOJ explains:

[T]he Brannons and their company conspired with others not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama. After a designated bidder bought a property at a public auction, which typically takes place at the county courthouse, the conspirators would generally hold a secret, second auction, at which each participant would bid the amount above the public auction price he or she was willing to pay. The highest bidder at the secret, second auction won the property.

The Brannons and their company were also charged with conspiring to use the U.S. mail to carry out a fraudulent scheme to acquire title to rigged foreclosure properties sold at public auctions at artificially suppressed prices, to make and receive payoffs to co-conspirators, and to cause financial institutions, homeowners and others with a legal interest in rigged foreclosure properties to receive less than the competitive price for the properties.

The initial timeline of the charges were from 2004 to 2007.

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Holiday Helping Roundup

It is that time of year again!  Time for the Holiday Helping Roundup!

–  The Supreme Judicial Court amended Mass. Rule of Prof’l Conduct 1.5(b) and 6.5 that deal with fee arrangements.  The original order is available here.  However, the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers published a helpful article further explaining the new rules which will take effect starting January 1, 2013.

–  Peter Madoff, the brother to the infamous Bernie Madoff, is sentenced to ten years in prison for crimes that lead to the failure to detect fraud in the massive Ponzi scheme that swindled millions and billions of dollars from unsuspecting investors.  According to a New York Times DealBook article, Peter Madoff admitted to “falsifying documents, lying to securities regulators and filing sham tax returns.”

–  The Daily Beast published an article about a 52 year old man convicted as a juvenile for a rape that occurred in 1976.  Carlton Franklin was 15 years old at the time of the crime.  The case was heard in a New Jersey family court, and the judge found Franklin killed Lena Triano by bludgeoning, raping, and stabbing her.  Franklin’s DNA matched the semen found in the victim’s underpants.  Franklin spent 17 years in prison for a robbery and kidnapping home invasion committed when he was 18 years old, but he has also been released from prison for 14 years, according to a New York Times article.  Franklin has yet to receive his sentencing by the family court judge.

–  The Department of Justice posted a press release concerning Mercer SME, a New Jersey company.  The company plead guilty for its bid rigging conspiracy involving the sale of municipal tax liens.  The press release states:

The conspirators agreed to coordinate their bids and allocate the tax liens amongst themselves, at the expense of distressed property owners,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program….

When the owner of real property fails to pay taxes on that property, the municipality in which the property is located may attach a lien for the amount of the unpaid taxes. If the taxes remain unpaid after a waiting period, the lien may be sold at auction. State law requires that investors bid on the interest rate delinquent property owners will pay upon redemption. By law, the bid opens at 18 percent interest and, through a competitive bidding process, can be driven down to zero percent. If a lien remains unpaid after a certain period of time, the investor who purchased the lien may begin foreclosure proceedings against the property to which the lien is attached.

–  Keep an eye out for the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) scandal.  The Department of Justice and U.S. prosecutors are going after UBS for manipulating LIBOR interest rates.  The company may enter a safe harbor if they identify others involved in the scheme.  Bloomberg published an article about the fraud and collusion.  In addition, the Huffington Post article states UBS settlement costs are currently at $1.5 billion.  The Huffington Post article goes further to say:

Authorities are loath to prosecute big banks criminally, Enrich writes, because they consider it a “death sentence” for the institutions.  Legal experts aren’t so sure that’s really the case, as they discussed recently on HuffPost Live. But prosecutors don’t dare take the chance, because toppling these behemoths might crush the financial system.

Read more about the charges and incoming guilty plea at the FBI and DOJ website here.

–  A Yelp reviewer is in the midst of a defamation suit after writing an online review about a contractor who worked on her home and allegedly stole her jewelry.  The contractor claims that the online review is false and that he was not paid.  The Yelp reviewer states that the quality of the contractor’s work was poor and that her review is truthful.  Read more about the defamation suit published by the ABA Journal here.

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99 Problems

Have you ever heard of the song “99 Problems” by Jay Z?  If you need to refresh your memory, here are two links to YouTube.  This first link is of the song 99 Problems.  This second link has the song lyrics posted.

Saint Louis University Law Journal published an article by Professor Caleb Mason who does a line-by-line analysis of the song.  The full article is available here.  The Huffington Post wrote an analysis and summary of the law article and the song.  The article is available here and it includes a YouTube video of Jay Z dissecting the lyrics.

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Potential Repercussions: Lab Closes After Accusations of Evidence Tampering

This could be a prosecutor’s worst nightmare.  Earlier today the Hinton State Laboratory was closed due to allegations of evidence tampering.  This laboratory located in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts is under investigation by the Department of Public Health and the State Police.  Read more about the specific details here.

The fall out from this investigation will be severe.  Defense attorneys have already started questioning whether or not other drug evidence is tainted.  But, the investigation is still pending and the final results are unknown.

With one drug lab closed due to the allegations, the drug evidence from several counties will be analyzed out of a different drug lab in Sudbury, Massachusetts.  The closure could delay criminal drug cases because it will take longer to analyze evidence.

NECN listed a news broadcast about the matter available here.  The Boston Herald also published an article about the dilemma available here.

UPDATE 12/1/2013:

Former chemist, Annie Dookhan, was charged with obstruction of justice, perjury, and tampering with evidence in association with the above mentioned drug lab scandal.  On November 22, 2013, Dookhan was sentenced to three to five years in prison followed by two years probation in Suffolk Superior Court.  The chemist admitted guilt to faking drug test results and 27 other crimes.  Read more details about this case in this Huffington Post article, USA Today article, Boston Globe article, and Wall Street Journal article.

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