The New York Criminal Law Blog

September 2012 Archives

Ophadell Williams On Trial for 2011 Bus Crash

Accidents happen. If a man falls asleep while driving and crashes, that shouldn't be a crime, right? Not exactly. Sometimes, depending on the facts and circumstances, something as common as a tired driver can lead to charges of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter.

Ophadell Williams told investigators that he was cut off by a semi-trailer, which led to him swerving and losing control of the vehicle. Instead, the investigation and witnesses indicate that there was no semi-trailer. There was an allegedly speeding bus, driving erratically, that drove off the side of the road, flipped, and had the roof sheared off by a pole. The brakes were never applied. The transmission was never downshifted. There was no effort to slow down before the fatal crash, reports Reuters.

Is that Dandruff on Your Shoulder ... or a Kilogram of Cocaine?

Breathe. Just breathe.

Her heart was racing. Her arteries in her neck were bulging. She fidgeted and did not make eye contact with the customs officer.

Breathe.

Perhaps a mild sedative would have saved them from becoming casualties of the War on Drugs. These two women, from Guyana, with unusually massive weaves, were showing signs of deception. Like Edgar Allen Poe’s heart beneath the floor, their telltale bulging neck veins and shortness of breath warranted further investigation, reports the Smoking Gun.

Mona Eltahawy Arrested for Defacing Anti-Jihad 'Hate' Ads

"This is non-violent protest, see this America!" Mona Eltahawy stated to the New York Post's cameras as she was arrested for spraying Anti-Jihad signs with pink spray paint. "I'm an Egyptian-American and I refuse hate."

Yes, this is exactly what happens in America during nonviolent protests. Martin Luther King was arrested. Rosa Parks was arrested. Alice Paul was arrested. It's a fine American tradition to get arrested for what you believe in. After all, if you weren't arrested, would there be any point to the protest (if a tree falls in a forest ...)?

Is it Possible That Pedro Herdandez Did Not Kill Etan Patz?

Pedro Hernandez confessed. Over the course of multiple sessions with investigators, he gave an astonishingly detailed account of how he lured 6-year-old Etan Patz into the basement of the bodega, strangled him, and disposed of the body in a banana box. So why might this all be an illusion?

"There's just nothing else on this guy," an anonymous source involved in the investigation told the New York Post. Despite the very detailed confession, investigators have found nearly no corroborating evidence. Without it, you essentially have a bipolar schizophrenic pointing a finger at himself, screaming, "I did it!" If he were identifying anyone else as the killer, would we even listen?

Prevent iPhone Theft: Register with NYPD, Use Find My iPhone App

We've complained about the NYPD's big brother tactics a bit. We've also pointed out the massive increase in thefts of iPhones and other Apple gear. After all, if you are a thief, that $600 phone is much more tempting than a Walkman, right? If you've spent the last eight days waiting in line, or even just spent a few hundred dollars and sold your soul to a long-term cell phone contract, the last thing you want to worry about is finding a new cell phone after some miscreant rips the phone from your warm, loving embrace.

The NYPD is here to help with Operation I.D. According to NBC New York, officers are posted at six Apple stores, seven Verizon stores and eight AT&T stores for today's launch of the iPhone 5. (Apparently, Sprint gets no love from the boys in blue.) They will be registering the serial number of your phone as well as engraving an optional new serial number (beginning with NYC, of course) on the phone's casing. This will allow them to identify property if it is lost or recovered from a thief.

LiLo Takes New York: Hits a Pedestrian Chef and Runs

It probably felt like a fresh start, moving all the way to Manhattan. Los Angeles has not been good to Lindsay Lohan. Between the drug use, theft charges, DUI, the first alleged hit and run, the accident in June, and the constant paparazzi stalkers, New York has to be better, right?

It might be. She's still getting into trouble though. According to the Daily News, she was arrested this morning for hitting a pedestrian with her Porsche Cayenne and then leaving the scene. Of course, the arrest consisted of a citation and release. She spent no time in jail. Still, after hearing the victim's account, you have to wonder if all of that progress was for naught.

Renato Seabra Trial for Murder, Mutilation; Will He Prove Insanity?

In life, there are many different levels of crazy. There’s the odd blogger than can quote obscure lines from mid-1990s rap and screams “SPRING BREAK” in the middle of December. There are mentally impaired crack addicts living on park benches. And then there’s the guy that cut off his lover’s testicles in a fit of homophobic rage.

While crazy may be in the eye of the beholder, legal insanity is not. Insanity seems to be what 22-year-old Renato Seabra will have to show after he allegedly cut off his 65-year-old lover Carlos Castro’s testicles with a corkscrew. Jury selection begins on Wednesday. After that, Seabra’s attorneys will have to convince them that their client was insane at the time of the murder and mutilation.

Central Park Rape Suspect Arrested in Attack on Woman, 73

She is an avid bird watcher and regular visitor to the Strawberry Fields area in Central Park. She refers to it as "my park." She was bird watching the first time she came across her alleged attacker, 42-year-old David Albert Mitchell. She caught him masturbating in the park. She snapped a photo of him. He immediately threatened her and tried to seize her camera. She escaped unharmed.

A week later, the 73-year-old Upper West Side resident was again bird watching when Mitchell approached her and asked if she remembered him. He then allegedly raped her and slammed her face into the ground multiple times. In addition to the trauma, scrapes, and bruises, she also suffered a broken eye socket. Hours later, she told the New York Post:

NYPD Uses Facebook to Catch Criminals; Here's How They Can Do It

A guy walks into a bar. He has too many drinks and starts telling his friends about a murder that he committed. One of the friends rats him out. That's fair, right? What if the friend was never a friend at all? What if he was an undercover cop? That's also presumably legal.

Extrapolate that onto the present-day Internet. For years, cops have posed as cyber-Lolitas to catch pedophiles. No one protested, except the pedophiles. Now, they're taking it further and some departments, the NYPD included, are monitoring suspects Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Miranda Rights and Deaf Defendants: Neutral Interpreters Required?

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

Simple Miranda rights, right? At least in one case, they may have been lost in translation. Gabriel Thompson, 48, was nabbed on a 25-year-old murder charge in 2010. According to the New York Post, he allegedly stabbed and killed a man that was sleeping with his girlfriend. When the hearing-impaired suspect was interrogated, a fellow police officer acted as the interpreter.

Ex-Theater Director, While On Probation, Caught With Child Porn

According to the Associated Press, Vincent Sparagano is still on probation for sending suggestive emails to a 14-year-old back in 2010. As part of his probation, his computer and cell phone are monitored by probation officers.

Why then, would he be so stupid as to allegedly look up child porn? According to the Long Island Press, detectives with the Computer Crimes Division were helping the probation officers monitor his computer when they stumbled upon images of child pornography. He has since been charged with one count of possessing a sexual performance by a child.

Two Violent Incidents at Gas Stations Leave Attendant, Attacker Dead

It was a bad night for gas station employees. In the first of two violent altercations, a pair of thieves arrived at RC Petroleum on bikes. After robbing an outside attendant for $30, one entered the station and robbed 28-year-old Lamin Sillah. During the altercation, the robber shot Sillah point blank. He then shot him again, went through the victim's pockets, and took off, reports the Daily News. He has not yet been identified. Sillah did not survive.

A few hours later, a drunk gas station patron had issues with an ATM. After questioning the clerks about the malfunctioning machine, one of the attendants came out to assist him. That's when the 28-year-old drunk attacked the worker. The fight spilled out into the street, where the attendant eventually put his attacker in a choke-hold. At the end of the fight, only the attendant was left standing. The attacker was dead, reports the Daily News.

'Popeye' Slits Two Kids' Throats While High on PCP and Weed

In an attack reminiscent of the wave of "bath salt" attacks that occurred over this past summer, a man is now in custody after committing a horrific act while under the influence of illicit drugs. According to the Daily News, Osvaldo Rivera, 31, also known as Popeye, slit the throats of a six-year-old boy and his twelve-year-old sister while under the influence of marijuana laced with PCP. The younger child, Dominick Andujor, did not survive. His older sister, Amber Andujor, fled her attacker and summoned help.

The combination of drugs, known as "wet", can cause aggression and hallucinations, much like bath salts. Two weeks ago, a mother in Camden decapitated her two-year-old son and stabbed herself while under the influence of "wet".