March 2012 Archives

March 27, 2012

D.C. Criminal Defense Watch: Sex Crimes on Metro Targeted

A new campaign has been launched by the transit authority to reduce instances of sex crimes on D.C. subways.

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Washington D.C. sex crimes attorneys
don't deny that instances of sexual harassment and abuse sometimes occur on the Metro.

However, statistics may be overinflated, and these cases are difficult to prove. Just brushing up against someone - easy enough to happen innocently on a packed train - can result in allegations of a sex crime. But there are a lot of elements that need to be in place in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Having an experienced defense attorney on your side to analyze all the unique circumstance of your case is your best hope of avoiding a lengthy prison sentence, as well as the stigma that follows someone who has been accused of a sex crime.

The campaign, on which the Metro partnered with the advocacy group Collective Action for Safe Spaces, will be formally launched April 2. It informs riders "It's not Ok," meaning verbal sexual harassment or groping. An e-mail and website have even been established in order for alleged victims to report allegations. And despite the fact that the campaign isn't even formally underway yet, there are already four complaints that have been logged and that are under investigation by Transit police, according to MyFoxDC.Two of those complaints are for verbal sexual harassment, one is for simple assault and the fourth is for indecent exposure.

A similar public awareness campaign was launched in Boston in 2008. Since then, the Boston transit authority reported an alarming 32 percent increase in the number of complaints and a 40 percent increase in the number of arrests for battery and indecent assault.

Organizers of the campaign say that's proof that the campaign works. However, what's not being considered is whether some of these cases go too far. Last year, the Metro reported 84 cases of harassment or sexual assault. What they don't tally at this point is verbal harassment, though they are now going to start.

The danger here is that you could face prosecution for complimenting someone, if that compliment makes someone uncomfortable. As one advocate of the program put it, it is "unacceptable to make comments that are unacceptable to other people with regard to sexual comments."

But who is to say what exactly crosses the line? A compliment is a suggestive thing. What could be considered welcome to one person might not be to another. Does that make the action criminal?

Certainly, unwanted sexual touching is considered a crime (usually, a misdemeanor sexual abuse under D.C. Criminal Code 22-3006), but what if the touching was unintentional or misinterpreted? If there are no other witnesses, it becomes your word against someone else's. That's where having a skilled defense attorney is going to become crucial.

Penalties for misdemeanor sexual abuse - in which the state must prove the person engaged in sexual contact with a person when they knew or should have known they did not have permission to do so - could result in a maximum fine of $1,000 and 180 days in jail.

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March 25, 2012

Accused of a D.C. Crime? Supreme Court Says You Deserve a Good Lawyer

Individuals in need of D.C. criminal defense received encouraging news in the form of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that bolsters their rights during the plea bargaining process. balance.jpg

Washington D.C. defense attorneys know how important it is for clients to have competent counsel in the plea bargaining stage. That is because a huge percentage of criminal cases - about 95 to 97 percent - are resolved through plea bargaining. Having an effective attorney can help you reduce felony charges to misdemeanors, cut down on long prison sentences and ultimately help you restore your life to normalcy.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it your right to have proper counsel in this crucial phase of justice.

The ruling stems from two cases brought before the court - Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye.

In the first case, an individual was given a 30-year prison sentence after his case went to trial, following erroneous advice that was given to him by a defense attorney. The defendant was accused of shooting a woman multiple times in the thigh and buttocks. He was told - wrongly - by his attorney that he couldn't be convicted for attempted murder if the alleged victim was shot below the waist. While the prosecutors in the case had offered a plea deal that would have resulted in a 7-year prison term, the defendant decided to press on to trial, believing, based on his lawyer's advice, that he couldn't be convicted on the charge of which he was accused.

The second case involves a college student in Missouri, who was charged with a felony following his 4th offense for driving on a revoked license. His attorney failed to convey to him a deal from prosecutors that would have reduced that charge to a misdemeanor and compelled him to serve 90 days in jail. Instead, he moved ahead in pleading guilty to the charge with no special conditions, and was sentenced to three years in prison. The student argued that if he had known about the deal from prosecutors, he would have accepted it.

The Supreme Court decided in 5 to 4 votes in both cases that defendants have a right to be properly represented during the plea bargaining phase. As one justice put it, the issue of plea bargaining is not some outlying part of the criminal justice system. Given its pervasiveness, it IS the criminal justice system. As such, an attorney needs to make sure his or her client has been properly informed of any plea deal that is on the table, as well as a correct explanation of the consequences of accepting it or not.

The effects of this ruling are widespread, and could impact thousands of cases across the country. What this ruling does is provide another protection for individuals who may have gotten ineffective counsel. Of course, the better option is to make sure you have adequate defense attorney BEFORE you end up in that position. That means not simply accepting a government-employed public defender and thoroughly researching the qualifications of the attorney you intend to hire.

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March 21, 2012

D.C. Forgery Charges Alleged Casino

A man is alleged to have forged a $250,000 check - which he cashed - at a casino in a strange case of fraud and forgery.
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As of right now, he is still wanted and believed to have fled the country.

Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys know that forgery and fraud are outlined in DC ST 22-1510. What the law essentially says is this: check fraud over $100 is a felony. You can face thousands of dollars in fines and up to three years in prison. For any amount under $100, it's considered a misdemeanor, for which you'll face a maximum $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

Laws can vary from state to state.

This case reportedly involved a Vienna man who cashed the check at a casino in Atlantic City, NJ. According to authorities, the situation is very similar to another case that occurred in 2003.

Here, a 36-year-old reportedly deposited two checks totaling more than $130,000 into a Maryland bank at the end of January. The account that they were deposited into reportedly had less than $100 in it at the time, and was in the name of an incorporated company - of which the suspect is president.

The next day, the suspect went back to the bank and took out several thousand dollars in cash, as well as a cashier's check for a few hundred dollars. Then, that afternoon, he took a version of that check that had been digitally altered to say $250,000 to a casino in Atlantic City. He then cashed it for that amount.

He and his wife have reportedly fled the country, boarding a plane using passports that showed phony names and birth dates, according to police. Authorities did not reveal where that flight was headed, though he was Kurdish Iranian-American.

Two weeks later, investigators searched the suspect's home, taking with them computers, guns and filing cabinets. He worked at a local law office, assisting with immigration cases, according to his co-workers. His biography indicated he had immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager.

Those who worked with him expressed shock an dismay - though it's important to remember, we don't yet have all the facts.

Another strikingly similar case involved an attorney in Vienna who was alleged to have embezzled almost half a million dollars from the firm for which he worked. He then wired half of that to a casino in Atlantic City, cashed it and then took off to Argentina. He was reported to have returned to the U.S. eventually and turned himself into authorities.

These types of cases are typically more complex than the typical theft or simple check forgery, and really require the skill of an experienced Washington D.C. white collar crimes attorney.

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March 16, 2012

Washington D.C. Assault Alleged in Basketball Spate

Washington D.C. assault charges have been filed against one of the country's most influential basketball brokers, a man whose organization is aptly termed "D.C. Assault."

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Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys recognize that convictions on assault charges can range anywhere from probation to 10 years in prison. It truly depends on the unique circumstances of the case - namely, how badly someone was hurt and whether a weapon was used. Assault is outlined in the District of Columbia's Official Code, Division IV, Title 22, Subtitle I, Chapter 4.

In this situation, according to The Washington Post, Curtis Malone, has been charged with second-degree assault following an incident last month at Oxon Hill High School in which a basketball coach claims Malone and two others punched and kicked him in a hallway during an event. The alleged 39-year-old victim says his teenage son witnessed the entire incident, as did several other adults and children who were present.

Malone runs the D.C. summer basketball program, which is renowned for its talent and has frequently grabbed the attention of NBA scouts.

According to what witnesses have told police, the alleged victim coached the son of one of the other men who reportedly attacked him. In fact, he had been close with the family, hosting them for dinner and other events.The child is one of the top basketball players in the country, according to The Post.

The relationship was warm, apparently, until the child left his first coach's program for Malone's more high-profile program over a year ago.

Since then, the alleged victim had been granted a restraining order against the child's father. It's not clear what sparked the animosity.

What has so far been reported about this incident is that as the alleged victim and his son were leaving the event, Malone, the boy's father and a third, unidentified man approached him in the hallway and reportedly attacked him. The alleged victim said he continue to be struck even after curling into a fetal position. The incident lasted about 90 seconds, according to witness accounts.

The man said he tried to defense himself, and did land a single punch on the boy's father, but then curled into a ball.

The alleged victim them called 911 twice, saying there were cuts on his face and his forehead and face were beginning to swell.

In addition to Malone, the young basketball star's father is also facing second-degree assault charges.

Administrators from the high school have been quoted as saying there are cameras in the hallway where the incident reportedly occurred, yet there is no recording of the alleged attack. It's not yet clear whether that will become an issue but it seems sure to as the case moves forward.

What may also work against these defendants is that there was more than one individual reportedly attacking a single person. This is going to be seen as a more serious offense in the eyes of the law.

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March 11, 2012

D.C. Criminal Traffic Charges for Councilwoman

A councilwoman for Prince George is facing Maryland criminal traffic charges in a case that has stirred controversy and garnered unwanted headlines for the public official.

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Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys knows that criminal traffic tickets are more than just an inconvenience. As this case illustrates, they can be a stain on your career and reputation. Because they are public record, any employer can look them up, and they could even serve as a basis to deny you employment, depending on your line of work and the nature of the charges.

An experienced Washington traffic defense attorney can help you determine your best options, and fight to have charges dismissed or reduced.

In this case, Prince George County Councilwoman Karen Toles was stopped in late February for traveling more than 100 miles per hour in her county-owned vehicle. The officer who stopped her cited her for an unsafe lane change, but didn't give her anything for speeding. This would have resulted in a small fine and a warning.

But then a panel was asked to review the incident - likely given Toles' high-profile position - and then police announced they would be giving her another citation for reckless driving. The police chief said that the officer who made the stop should have issued a ticket for speeding, but didn't because he wasn't armed with his radar detector gun at the time of the incident.

More than likely, it had a great deal to do with the media attention on the situation, which hounded the councilwoman for comment following the incident.

She later gave a press conference statement, in which she apologized for what happened, and expressed a desire to move forward.

Toles later said she was running late to a meeting. She added, however, that didn't justify her actions.

Given those two charges, it could be enough to have her license suspended. A charge of reckless driving can be worth as many as six points on your license. Toles already reportedly has two points on her license for previous offenses.

Criminal speeding violations are those for which the driver is going more than 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. They can be punishable by a fine and three months in jail. In this case, however, the fact that the officer didn't have radar detection calls into question how anyone could tell exactly how fast the councilwoman was going. This would be an aspect of the case that an experienced traffic defense attorney might want to examine, were she to take it before a judge.

Reckless driving is considered operating a vehicle with careless disregard for the safety of others on the roadway. This can include the speeding mentioned above, or it could mean not stopping or slowing down for police or other emergency vehicles, following too closely or any other conduct that is deemed dangerous. In addition to the six points you could get on your license for this charge, you're also at risk for a 90-day jail sentence.

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March 9, 2012

Fight withTransgender Prostitute leaves D.C. Cop Facing Criminal Charges

An off-duty police officer has been indicted on a slew of Washington D.C. assault and weapons charges, following an altercation during the officer's alleged attempt to hire transgender prostitutes. He is also facing two counts of solicitation of prostitution.

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As our Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney understands it, the officer is being made to answer to nine charges in all, which could amount to more than 30 years behind bars if he's convicted.

The details, according to the Washington Post, are somewhat sketch, but here's what we know so far:

The 48-year-old Washington D.C. Metropolitan police officer was reportedly outside a local drug store on First Street around 5:30 a.m. There, he was allegedly attempting to hire two transgendered prostitutes by the name of "Kayla" and "Chloe." While talking with one of the individuals, another person approached and began arguing with him.

That's when a security guard working at the drug store asked all of them to leave. The officer then reached for his handgun, which was in the glove box of his Cadillac. He brandished it to the individuals standing there before getting in his vehicle and driving away.

The two prostitutes then met up with other individuals and left the store in another car. Then in an odd development, the car driven by the officer collided with the car containing the prostitutes.

That's when investigators said the officer dove on top of the hood of the other car and began firing his gun into the windshield. Bullets were said to have struck one of the passengers in the arm and hand. At the time, witnesses said the officer was shouting that he would kill all of them.

He was later arrested on the scene.

This all may seem somewhat straightforward, given the fact that several witnesses are attesting to the facts in the case. However, there is some additional background information that could play in the defense's favor.

First, any potential jury is going to have to weigh the credibility of a veteran officer against statements made by known prostitutes.

Secondly, the officer's attorney has been quoted by media as saying the officer was defending himself. He hasn't expounded on that, but it will be interesting to see what approach is taken.

And finally, the officer had been on sick leave at the time of the incident. His defense attorney may need to parse out more details about the nature of that illness and whether it may have played a role in the events as they unfolded.

Prosecutors say the officer had a pattern of reckless behavior, and had been fired from the force 8 years ago for drunk driving. But that decision was later reversed and the officer was allowed to attend a diversion program before returning to work.

At the time of this most recent incident, the officer was said to have been intoxicated.

Continue reading "Fight withTransgender Prostitute leaves D.C. Cop Facing Criminal Charges" »

March 3, 2012

Washington D.C. Murder Case Presents Defense Challenges

The Washington D.C. murder trial of a socialite accused of killing his wife has taken some strange twists.

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According to a detailed story by Fox News Washington, the case has captivated many in the D.C. community, both because of the wealthy status of the alleged victim and the courtroom antics of the accused. The suspect has reportedly claimed to be an Iraqi general. He was known to walk around his neighborhood in military gear while smoking cigars. He has also suggested his wife's murder was the work of an Iranian hit man, and has gone on hunger strikes while comparing himself to Judeo-Christian religious figures.

All this brings up two important points that most D.C. criminal defense attorneys deal with frequently.

The first is that media coverage of a case can absolutely impact the opportunity for the accused to receive a fair trial. In some cases, defense attorneys may even request a change of venue due to the publicity the case might have garnered before it has a chance to be heard by a jury. The group of individuals from which attorneys have to choose during voir dire, or the selection phase, may all be somewhat swayed when has been heavily covered in print, broadcast and online.

The second issue is that sometimes, Washington D.C. defense attorneys have the challenge of defending a client who does not aid in his or her own defense. Self preservation would indicate that this would be a rare circumstance, unless the individual suffers some mental illness. Such a sickness could have played a part in the alleged crime as well, although proving insanity as a criminal defense is rare in Washington D.C., as well as throughout the country.

Anyone accused of homicide in Washington D.C. needs to immediately secure an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to work in the best interest of a client, regardless of the challenges of a given case. Sometimes, this is done with the help of experts in the medical, forensic and psychological fields.

In this case, the 91-year-old Georgetown victim had been a foreign affairs journalist with a taste for fine art and fashion. Her German husband was 40 years younger and had been known for rather eccentric tendencies. Over the years, he had claimed to be everything from a spy from East Germany to a CIA operative. He wore an eye patch at times, which he said was due to losing an eye while serving as a bodyguard for a U.S. ambassador in Paraguay.

The reality, however, was that this was a man who was unemployed and supported by his much-older wife, who seemed to tolerate his antics.

There had been some accounts that the suspect had struck his wife in the past.

Then last August, he called 911 to report he had found his wife deceased in the bath tub. He e-mailed an obituary to the local media, stating it was a fall that caused her death. A medical examiner, however, ruled her death was a murder.

A neighbor told police she had heard soft cry and a "sinister laugh" around the time of the woman's death.

Her husband has since been charged with second-degree murder.

Eccentric behavior doesn't prove guilt, any more than a neighbor who heard laughing (sinister is an subjective characterization) around the time a 91-year-woman was found dead.

It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.

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