Sunday, May 31, 2009
The rape occured last October 30, after the victim got off of work and took their daughter to kindergarten. Conner was hiding in the victim's home and suprised her in a closet. The perp listened as the victim called her brother, then his roommate. He checked the cell phone numbers, convinced that she was having sex with other men. Then the violence began.
He hit her behind the left ear and batted her head with his hands as if it were a basketball, she said, and then hit her with the butt of a .22 caliber rifle he had brought to the house.“He hit me on the head until the gun broke,” she said.When the stock separated from the rifle, she said he yelled, “You stupid bitch, you made me break my fucking gun on your fucking head.”
After the physical assault, Conner had his victim take off her clothes, when he raped her vaginally and anally. He also thretened a murder-suicide if she screamed, saying “One shot and you’re dead. Two shots and I’m dead.”
Then Conner fired bullets past his victim which landed in their daughter's bedroom, bulletts which passed through a pillow before lodging in the wall. After he did this, he tied the victim up to their daughter's bed, where he raped her again. “He said he was going to tie me up, so he could get away.”
Under questioning by [defense attorney Eric] Ashley, Conner’s ex-wife said their earlier sex life had included anal intercourse but never bondage.The blows to her head caused severe pain, dizziness and nausea, she testified.
“I was still screaming, begging him to leave,” she said. “He threatened to tape my mouth with duct tape so I couldn’t scream.” In response to her pleas, she said Conner eventually allowed her to leave and seek medical attention, but she had to promise to tell emergency-room personnel her injuries were caused by a fall in the shower.
“I had to get my hair wet before he would let me leave,” she said. Conner forced her to drive him to his truck which was hidden behind a Glades Road convenience store, she said.
Instead of driving immediately to the hospital, she said she drove to her brother’s home to ask him to take her to the hospital and then to get her daughter. She said she feared Conner, who had destroyed her cell phone, would retrieve their daughter from school.She was examined at St. Joseph Hospital-Berea, which summoned Berea Police.
Jury deliberations took over 2 1/2 hours. Recommended sentences were 20 years each for the rape and sodomy charges, 10 years for burglary, and 5 years for assault. The verdict form handed to Circuit Judge William G. Clouse stated that the total sentence would be 31 years. Conner was previously convicted of misdemeanor theft, DUI, and and a federal conviction for conspiracy to possess oxycodone with the intent to distribute.
The verdict came after an emotional morning during which Ashley called several members of Conner’s family, including his mother, to testify.Conner’s mother was at times choked by tears as she described how Conner, her only son, had suffered from drug addiction in the years following his father’s death, and pleaded with the jury to show mercy toward her son.
In his closing statement, Ashley had asked the jury for the minimum sentence, focusing on Conner’s young children and the effect a long sentence would have on his relationship with them.“You’ve heard some emotional testimony today about what Jessie Brian Conner means to his family,” Ashley said.
Judge Clouse has to decide which parts of the sentences will be served concurrently and consecutively to arrive at 31 years. Conner must serve 85% of the rape and sodomy charges and 20% of the assault and burglary charges before parole eligibility.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Poe revealed that after arguing with his wife for several hours, at about 2 a.m. on Aug. 8, the victim told her husband that she was not going to do as he wanted and was prepared to leave their home, documents said.
In probable cause documents Poe said that he has “abandonment issues” and that he was not going to let his wife leave him so he hid Eva's car keys and then put on a pair of gloves, turned off the lights, got a butcher knife out and caught the victim in the hallway and stabbed her more than 15 times while holding her by the throat and ignoring her pleas to stop.
Official documents said after the stabbing, Poe dressed Eva's wounds and changed her clothes because she "looked bad." Poe described in documents how he tried to clean up the scene of the slaying by renting a steam cleaner, buying hydrogen peroxide, bleach, charcoal and lighter fluid, tried to clean up the blood on the floor and then stuffed Eva's body into the fireplace and lit it on fire.
Poe said the body burning in the fireplace accidentally caught the house on fire, documents said.
Police said a passerby saw the fire and called 911. Before authorities arrived, Poe put the charred remains of his wife in a bag and placed them in a closet, where they were later discovered, prosecutors said.
The Pierce County medical examiner said dental records had to be used to identify the victim because her body was so badly burned and that she suffered at least 10 stab wounds to the torso, which caused her death.
Police said parts of the victim's body were also found in the home's fireplace.
The victim worked as a medical assistant in a plasma center, where the perp frequently utilized to get money for his platelets. The plea, then sentencing was done in Pierce County Superior Court. Poe's formal charges were 1st degree murder, arson, and disposing of a firearm.
One juror, who asked not to be identified, cried as she hugged a victim. The trial had been helpful to her, she told the woman, because, "I have a daughter that's 19 and I don't tell her a lot of things. "It just takes one time to destroy your life," she said shaking her head.
Another juror stated that they had to remove themselves emotionally from the testimony, finding that Padieu was guilty of aggravated assault. The 45 year sentence was a compromise between prosecutors that wanted life and the defense, who wanted 20 years.
One victim, who remained anonymous, stated that she wishes that she could kill herself because of the stigma surrounding AIDS.
"I consider suicide, because it would be so much easier. It's a battle every single day....If I had cancer, I could tell people - I could tell them without fear or embarrassment or shame."
"I wish you no harm," she said, "And I pray that I can forgive. And I pray for a cure for us all.'"
Another victim "thanked" Padieu for "introducing me to a group of 10 incredibly beautiful, brave women who had the guts to stand up here and tell the world their most embarrassing moments to make sure you were stopped. I still wonder why you did this, but I'm not going to let it consume me. Our friendship will last long after you're gone."
Padieu's attorney, Bennie House, said the sentence was "better than life," but he didn't call it a victory.
House said he felt Padieu should not have been prosecuted in the first place because, unlike some other states, Texas does not have an "HIV law" specifically criminalizing the intentional spreading of the sexually transmitted disease. Prosecuting Padieu for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon "absolutely opens the door for any STD prosecution," or even diseases such as swine flu, he said.
Padieu will have to serve 50%, or 22 1/2 years, before being eligible for parole.
This editorial explains why Padieu's victims are just as much victims as a person who gets shot.
In March, a jury deliberated 25 minutes before convicting Earnest Walker, 43, for the August 2007 rape of his 37 year old neighbor. Because of his previous convictions, which Walker attributed to drug and alcohol addiction, he was sentenced to LWOP (life without parole).
Walker was officially convicted of sex abuse, attempted sodomy, and obstruction of justice. The life with parole sentence was made possible by previous crimes including sodomizing a 11 year old California girl.
Walker's latest victim, 37 at the time of the attack, told Stewart in a trembling voice just short of tears that the night she was attacked was the worst of her life.
She said Walker had a "hard heart" and should be kept "behind bars for life."
Finally, she started crying, lamenting that while she was not afraid of death, she believed she was going to die that night and became terrified at the thought of the consequences to her children.
While denying he was the attacker, Walker asked Judge Stewart to sentence him to a lighter sentence than life without parole. He also mentioned that he was a father and grandfather in his futile plea to have his sentenced capped at less than life.
"I have seven kids and seven grandkids...I tried to live the American dream, but I failed."
None of those family members were in court for Walker's sentencing.
The plea Moore gave in March was blind, meaning that prosecutors could, and did seek the maximum sentence of 30 years. However, they dropped an additional sexual assault and a lesser assault count against Moore .Since aggravated criminal sexual assault is a Class X Felony in Illinois, 85%, or 21 years of this sentence must be served.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Shawn Wuertly, 29, has arrest warrants out for burglary from Indiana, and his past Indiana arrest record features charges of escape, intimidation, and a second burglary charge. He's facing attempted murder, sexual battery, and false imprisonment charges in this incident.
Police say Wuertly and the teenager did not know each other before she came to Panama City Beach but Wuertly apparently made contact with her several times. He works as a security guard at the Sandpiper Beacon and has been in town about 6 months.
Major David Humphreys of the Beach Police says Weurtly’s name came up right away.
"He was identified at the scene as a possible suspect. He was interviewed here at the Beach police department. There was not enough evidence to charge him at the time. When we gathered enough evidence we could not locate him. We had phone conversations with him and he indicated he was leaving the state."
Beach Police took this picture of Wuertly Monday morning, when they first questioned him about the incident.
They say he is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black jacket with a yellow shirt and woodland camouflage pants. Wuertly also has two visible tattoos on his neck.
Humphreys says Wuertly does not have a car so he could possibly still be in the area although he told police he was going to visit family in Tennessee.
Update (3-19-08) - Wuertly is captured in the area of Fountain, FL, after hiding in the woods. Three Panama City Beach police officers were reprimanded for letting him go after he was detained, then released.
Tuesday, he was booked into the Bay County Jail on charges of attempted felony murder, sexual battery and false imprisonment. Investigators obtained a search warrant to take hair and other samples from his body before turning him over to the jail.
Update (5-29-09) Wuertly was convicted of sexual battery and aggravated battery during a jury trial in March of this year. Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet sentenced Wuertly to the maximum sentence of 30 years for the Class 1 Florida felonies, but did not order the perp to pay for the costs of the rape investigation.
[P]rosecutor Rob Sale said Friday he forgot to ask Overstreet to reserve the issue for later ruling. Sale asked the judge on Friday to treat a motion for restitution as a request to modify Wuertley's sentence to include the investigative costs and expense of flying in and housing witnesses, which were: $4,300 to the State Attorney's Office, $2,000 to the Panama City Beach Police Department and $16 to the Bay County Sheriff's Office.
Overstreet did not grant the prosecution's request because it would increase Wuertly's sentence, but did order Wuertly to pay $10,345 to the Florida Bureau of Victim Compensation.
Milwaukee County Deputy sentenced to 20 years prison, 10 years extended supervision for shooting "girlfriend"
After a guilty plea in Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski's courtroom Thomas D. Hutchins, 40, was sentenced to consecutive 10 year prison/ 5 year extended supervision terms for two counts of intentional first degree reckless injury, and 2 years prison/ 2 years extended supervision for a single count of endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon.
According to records and testimony, Hutchins went to the home of his girlfriend, Petria Dent, 32, with a gift for their child just before Christmas. The couple soon were involved in a violent argument; he said it was over her spanking their daughter.
Dent said he slapped her and that she defended herself by striking him with a candlestick. Hutchins denied he slapped her, saying her attack was unprovoked and he shot her out of fear for his safety. He also said she had threatened to call the police and he feared his job would be endangered. He said she had earlier made allegations of illegal activity to the sheriff's office that she later retracted.
After Dent was shot, she fled to a neighbor's home, and Hutchins pursued her. The neighbor told Borowski that the scene was like something out of a horror movie. Days later, when the family opened Christmas gifts, they found a bullet in one of them.
WHen the defendant's attorney Bridget Boyle said that he fired the shots to see if the victim was OK, the victim responded from the gallery, "He shot me in the face! What does she mean he wanted to see if I was OK?"
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Kenney asked Judge Borowski for a 25 year prison sentence because of the proximity of children to the crime scene. The 12 year old girl injured was hit in the hand and leg, while other kids present had to undergo counseling.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Michelle Vanmeter, a 35 year old former teacher and employee of a group home, was sentenced Friday, February 29 to 30 years in prison and five years of probation for sexually abusing three boys and a young deaf man with an IQ of 58. She gained access to three of her victims, who were brothers, through working with their mother at a Ft. Wayne group home.
According to court documents, VanMeter had sex with the boys between June 2006 to April 2007, and when Allen County Superior Court Judge Fran Gull sentenced her to 30 years in prison (which is 15 years for good behavior), followed by 5 years probation, giving her credit for over 15 months served.
VanMeter’s lawyer, Bart Arnold, argued that self-esteem issues and depression were to blame for his client’s behavior. Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said VanMeter preyed upon the families she victimized and Judge Fran C. Gull called the trust she violated worse than a parent violating the trust of a child. “My intentions were to never hurt anyone,” said VanMeter through tears at her sentencing.
Three of VanMeter’s victims were brothers. Two of them were teens, ages 13 and 15, while the third was the man, who is deaf and mentally challenged. He told his mother by sign language of their sexual encounter, according to court documents. After that the other two boys admitted the same.
According to the court documents, the trio would spend considerable time with VanMeter who met with their mother after they confessed and before she went to the police. VanMeter had just given birth to a baby girl whose pregnancy she kept secret, but then said had been the result of a one-night stand at a bar.During dinner with VanMeter, the victims’ mother saw the baby and later told police it looked like her 15-year-old son.
After the mother of the victimized brothers came forth and police filed charges, the father of a 12 year old boy came forward with concerns he had been molested she was eventually charged with that crime as well.
VanMeter eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of child molesting, a count of sexual misconduct and a count of sexual battery in order to have her prison sentence capped at 30 years. Friday, her lawyer asked for considerably less time in order for VanMeter to see her child.
“I would like my daughter to know her mother while she was young,” said VanMeter, who said the girl laughs and smiles whenever she has the chance to talk to her on the phone.VanMeter’s family is sharing custody of the girl with the boy’s family, though Richards said the boy’s family has spent thousands of dollars to secure exclusive custody of her.“
(VanMeter’s) caused trauma to that young man and his family,” argued Richards in her request that VanMeter receive the maximum penalty.Though several people wrote letters to the court, saying they noticed changes in her in the past two years as stress took a hold of a “good” person, nobody testified on her behalf.
Reading from a letter, VanMeter said as she looked back over the last few years, she could see that things weren’t “going well” for her and that she was no longer the “joyful” or “happy” person people knew.
“My intentions were never to hurt anyone,” she said, adding she brought life into the world as a result of her actions and considers her daughter a gift from God.
Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards argued VanMeter fit the classic pattern of a child molester – male or female.
VanMeter preyed on the boys, going out of her way to cover up her conduct and to buy their silence with gifts, Richards said.
And she asked Gull not to differentiate between a male child molester and VanMeter in sentencing.
“Does it matter if you are a man and you (molest) out of a position of power and control, or if you are a woman and you manipulate a position of trust?” Richards asked.
The victims have been damaged by VanMeter’s actions, particularly the teen who found himself a father and will have to deal with that stigma, Richards said.
Both the boy’s family and VanMeter’s parents have been in a heated custody battle costing the boy’s family thousands of dollars, Richards said.
Though VanMeter had no prior criminal record, Gull said that she was in an "extraordinary position of trust," and her assaults "appeared calculated." She said to VanMeter, "Sort of murder, there's nothing more serious than a Class A felony. You jumped right in." "You were not only in a position of trust;you were in an extraordinary position of trust."
(Update 5-27-09) The family of 3 of Vanmeter's victims have filed a civil lawsuit against AWS under the doctrine of respondat superior. Respondat superior states that the employer is responsible and liable the actions of an employee at all times while the employee is acting within their employment scope.
Filed [May 19] in Allen Superior Court, the unnamed plaintiffs, identified only by their initials "L" and "J" on behalf of their children "A," "D" and "J," sued AWS, formerly known as Anthony Wayne Services, for compensatory and punitive damages.
The suit alleges that Vanmeter became acquainted with the family by being a personal assistant to their oldest son. It was through this that she became sexually involved with them."As a result of the molestation … each of them have suffered pain and suffering, mental distress, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, physical and psychological trauma, counseling expenses and other damages and injuries," according to the lawsuit.
Because Vanmeter got pregnant and decided to carry the victim's daughter to term, raising the grandchild is "directly attributable to the sexual molestation and statutory rape of their minor son."
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Swogger faces 33 additional charges, including stripping for three men and three boys January 16 in the residence of a 15 year old Natrona, PA boy. Police claimed that Swogger allowed the men and boys to touch her inappropriately, and that weed was used in the party. Swogger also allegedly performed a sex act on a 15 year old boy in February 2 while a man watched after the striptease incident.
A third incident, where a 17 year old boy from Harrison, PA, admitted to starting a sexual relationship with Swogger for a few weeks starting in January, was also mentioned in a criminal complaint.
Photos, taken with a cell phone camera, surfaced on the Internet in the days after Swogger's arrest.
If the Pennsylvania AOC is 16, and the “victims” were not encountered during Swogger’s employment as a teacher’s aide, then sexual activity with over 16’s isn’t illegal. Immoral, yes, but not illegal.
She is accused of having sex with the boy in her rented house in Natrona Heights and "on numerous occasions" gave him alcohol and marijuana.
When confronted with that by New Kensington police, Swogger allegedly asked police, "How serious is that?"
Swogger was charged with numerous counts relating to a party with teens that she had in a hotel room last February 22. She faced charges of corruption of minors, possession with intent to deliver cocaine, and trying to get two 15 year old girls to have sex with her.
A 17-year-old male and an adult witness told investigators that Ms. Swogger drove them to a house in Arnold and gave another juvenile $500 to purchase crack cocaine, which they took to the hotel. The 17-year-old also told police that he witnessed Ms. Swogger sell smaller portions of the crack to two adults -- one a $20 transaction, the other for $100.
When they initially searched the hotel room, police found two bags containing different amounts of crack. They also found a digital scale and a box of baggies. One of the two 15-year-old girls who was in the hotel room told investigators that Ms. Swogger had rubbed her leg and attempted to touch her breasts. Then, she said, Ms. Swogger told her that the two of them and the other 15-year-old girl should all have sex together, but the girls refused.
As a result, Ms. Swogger faces additional charges of unlawful contact with a minor and criminal solicitation to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
Ms. Swogger had admitted having sex with the 17-year-old male, and police found numerous discarded condom wrappers in the room. On Feb. 28 after Swogger's arrest, she allegedly left her house and asked two girls to give a cell phone to one of the youths from the hotel party. Her bond was revoked for leaving her house without authorization.
She also allegedly offered to give two girls $40 to beat up another girl who allegedly posted one of Swogger's nude photos on the Web. Besides the charges from the hotel party, Swogger was charged with unlawful contact with minors, corrupting the morals of minors, and soliciting sex from two teenage girls. Duke George, her attorney, called the new charges "even more ridiculous than the previous ones."
Prosecutors from Westmoreland and Allegheny counties have agreed to combine all of the charges into one case to be prosecuted in Allegheny County.
District Judge Carolyn Bengel is scheduled to preside over Swogger’s preliminary hearing, scheduled for May 1.
Swogger remains in the Westmoreland County jail.
(Update 5-2-08) All of Swogger's charges will be consolidated into three cases and heard in Allegheny County. The former teacher's aide and stripper is being held on $150,000 bond and her preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 15 before District Judge Carolyn S. Bengel.
(Update 5-15-08) Swogger had her preliminary hearing today, and she's being held on about 40 charges. Some of the boys testified about sexual and drug-laced encounters, charges that Swogger said were lies.
"I thought it was outrageous. They're lying to save their own butts from getting in trouble for the things that they've done."
All told, Swogger is charged with involuntary sexual deviate intercourse, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, furnishing liquor to minors, unlawful contact with minors and possession with intent to deliver.
One of the January incidents is described by local police like so:
"Swogger danced for a period of time before stripping off the outfit and appearing in the nude. During the performance, all of the males present were permitted by Swogger to touch her nude body including but not limited to her breasts and genital areas. Swogger posed nude in various positions while being photographed by the participants. One of these photographs depicts her sitting nude on a couch with six of the victims. While at this party, the participants consumed the provided alcohol and were exposed to or ingested marijuana."
Defense attorney Duke George said the sex charges are even more ridiculous than those filed for the alleged party at the hotel.
Swogger is being held on $150,000 bond, an amount her attorney said Swogger cannot raise.
(Update 5-26-09) This morning, Swogger changed her plea to guilty as a bench (non jury) trial was scheduled to start in her case. She pleaded guilty to 11 charges involving a 15 year old victim in her case. 17 more charges were dropped. Her total sentence is 3 to 6 years in a Pennsylvania prison, followed by 36 years of probation. Conditions of her probation include registering as a sex offender for the rest of her life, undergoing substance abuse treatment, and having no contact with the victim in her case.
“I want to say I’m very sorry for hurting anyone. I’m sorry for not being the role model I should have been. I’m very, very sorry," Swogger said during the hearing turned sentencing.
Assistant District Attorney Laura Ditka stated that the plea was done, because in her own words, "I wanted to make sure she was not working with children anytime in the near future. These charges should preclude her from working with children for the entire time of her life. She doesn’t have good judgment when she has access to minors.”
Saturday, May 23, 2009
The trial ended last Thursday afternoon and guilty verdict was delivered by the jury Friday morning shortly before 11 a.m.
"It was absolutely the right verdict," Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Stringer said."The biggest hurdle for me was to get the jury to focus on the evidence and not to take into account Sako's status and age. It was a relief to find out that they did just that."
Sako had previously attended OSU on an ROTC scholarship and was an active member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He was arrested Nov. 1 and according to the OSU Registrar, dropped out of classes shortly after, where he returned to live at home in Menlo Park, Calif., until the beginning of the trial.
While Sako had also been charged with 1st and 2nd degree kidnapping, his defense attorney successfully argued to presiding judge Janet Holcomb to dismiss those charges. However, according to Stringer, those charges, if they had stuck, would have resulted in the same 100 month sentence for Sako. Coffee Creek Correctional Facility is Sako;s next stop, where he will be evaluated before Oregon prison officials decide what medium or high security prison he'll be spending his time at.
Stringer hoped that the victims of other sexual assaults are encouraged to report their perpetrators, particulary on campus.
"I believe that sexual assault at OSU is highly underreported. The victim did everything correct in her situation and I hope that others can learn from her example by coming forward."
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Nelson targeted women who advertised erotic services on Craigslist. Two women testified during the trial that Nelson called them over to his apartment to perform "services" on them, according to District Attorney spokesman Nick Muyo. When the women showed up, they testified that Nelson robbed and sexually assaulted them. Muyo said a third woman reported being sexually assaulted and robbed by Nelson, too, but she committed suicide before she could testify.
Nelson videotaped parts of the assault on one victim, while both women said that he taped them. The perp had a previous assault conviction in 2002.
Besides rape in the 1st degree, McCloud's felony convictions include second-degree attempted assault, grand larceny, and identity theft. $11,000 of fines and fees were imposed. Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne characterised McCloud as a rapist who may qualify for civil commitment after his prison sentence is over, and as a serial abuser of ex-"girlfriends" who has victimized at least 4 other times.
"I'm obviously very pleased with the court sentencing the defendant to such a long period of time. I am absolutely convinced he has victimized other women in the North Country. The other accusations are highly credible and very detailed and of a very similar nature."
McCloud's lawyer, Greg La Duke of Lake Placid, said he plans to appeal the verdict based on a number of grounds. One, he said, is that some of the charges that should have been severed because, La Duke said, they were different criminal acts were instead charged bundled together, which he said prejudiced the jury.
Also, La Duke said, "The complainant said she was strangled three times on either July 16 or July 17. So that's problematic. She says the third time she was strangled, she was strangled so hard she thought she was going to die and it seemed to last forever, but, ironically, there wasn't a bruise on her."
Champagne admitted that the police report was filed some time after the attack, but said that numerous witnesses, including a nurse who treated the victim, saw the woman's injuries.
The conviction stems from the attack on the waitress at the Crestmoor Country Club on April 18, 2008. After closing time, Sickels and Christensen held the victim down as Sickels proceeded to rape her. Sickels then offered the chance to rape the victim to Christensen, who declined to do anything but pet the victim's hair during the ordeal. The rogue officers were arrested in June of last year.
The officers' arrests in June sent shock waves through Creston, a southwest Iowa town of about 8,000. Christensen and Sickels were fired after they were charged. The trial was moved from Union County to Woodbury County to ensure fairness.The verdict capped an eight-day trial that was often contentious. Four hours of closing arguments became so heated that Judge Arthur Gamble twice sent jurors out of the courtroom so he could referee disagreements among the attorneys.
Sickels' lawyer charged that prosecutors deliberately tried to mislead jurors about which side was responsible to prove Sickels' guilt. Defense lawyers also raised questions during the trial about the accuser's statements, her reported drunken memory lapses in the past, and the tactics used by state investigators.
Prosecutors cited conflicting statements from Sickels and Christensen about the incident, their admitted request that night for oral sex, and the woman's unwavering story.
Sickels initially denied that he had sex with the woman, then twice changed his story when questioned by a state agent. Both men argued in court papers that prosecutors misstated facts and denied them a fair trial.
Gamble ruled that prosecutors broke no rules of evidence because the conviction was supported by evidence, including Sickels' admission that he had sex with the victim.
"Given the physical evidence at the crime scene and the admissions of the defendants, the state's case was strong. The complainant's testimony was credible. Her statements to the DCI, her deposition testimony and her trial testimony were consistent on her central allegation of sexual abuse. The testimony of the defendants was neither consistent nor credible."
Spectators included members of ICASA, the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, whose spokeswoman, Catherine Fribley, said, "We are pleased to see a measure of justice brought for a survivor who experienced sexual violence at the hands of someone who was supposed to protect her. It's difficult to report people who are in prominent and important positions."
Both defendants read statements before the sentences were handed down, but neither apologized to the victim. Sickels criticized the trial as unfair and said "the system failed me." Christensen told the packed courtroom that he was sorry his relatives and friends "had to endure this."
After the hearing, Sickels' mother, Janet Jackson, said that "justice was not served here today. I'm proud of him and what he's done for the community. This was a setup from day one. You have two police officers with impeccable records, and one night of drinking that led to consensual sex. She lied and she lied on the stand."
Sickels and Christenson have 30 days to appeal their sentences, and both will be on Iowa's Sex Offender Registry for life.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
On January 14, an appellate court stated that because Washington's educator sexual abuse statute stated only sex with minors were criminalized, teachers had a free reign to have sex with their 18 year old students.
State lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, are outraged.
"There's expectation from parents that when their children go to school, they are protected by adults, because they're students. These are places where they go to learn. Not learn how to have sex. They're going there to learn. We don't expect our teachers to start having sex with them," said Kessler.
Kessler, a Democrat representing the north Olympic Peninsula, is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to close the loophole. House Bill 1320, which awaits a hearing in the House Public Safety Committee, would allow prosecutors to charge offending teachers and school employees with a Class C felony.
The crime would give a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and registration as a sex offender for teacher student sex when the student is 16 to 21. Sex offender registration is not currently involved when teachers have sex with Washington State students over 16.
(Update 4-22-09) The Washington State House has passed HB 1385 by an 82-16 vote. This bill makes teacher/student sex with victims between 18 and 21 a felony. Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, wrote the bill because courts decided that the existing teacher-student sex acts only applied to minors, those under 18.
"It's been a long road but to have this legislation pass the Legislature and sent to the governor's desk is truly one of the highlights of my legislative career. As elected officials, one of our paramount duties is to protect our citizens. Keeping our families, communities and students safe is of the highest priority.
The parents of the Tri-Cities never let me forget for one minute that this was a fight for the safety of their kids," Delvin said. All day, every day they entrust their children to teachers and school employees who have pledged to keep their children safe. Today's legislation makes it crystal clear that all students in Washington state secondary schools are protected from teacher sexual misconduct to age 21, the age limit for secondary school children. I particularly wanted to protect the students with developmental disabilities and this legislation will do it."
(Update 5-19-09) Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed the bill into law two weeks ago yesterday, or May 4. Besides teachers, janitors and bus drivers caught having sex with students between 16 and 21 will have to register as sex offenders if convicted.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The victim, who attended the sentencing but did not speak on her behalf, graduated from a different high school, and her family is planning to sue the New Britain Board of Education in the next few months. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Debra Collins read the victim impact statement, which read in part,
“My trust against people has been limited and my self-esteem has lowered a lot. There were times I didn’t want to look in the mirror because I was so disgusted with everything.”
Morris’ attorney Martin Rizzi argued that an expert from the Institute of Living determined his client wasn’t wholly responsible because he was improperly trained by the school system on how to deal with students. However Collins said she believed in a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to inappropriate behavior on the part of school staff.
“There should be no touching between a teacher and a student and there should be no requirement of that being taught that,” said Collins, who has previously prosecuted cases involving illicit teacher and student relationships.
New Britain Superior Court Judge Joan K. Alexander ordered the 53 year old Morris to undergo 5 years of sex offender probation, which requires that Morris stay well away from places that children congregate, including schools. Judge Alexander did not require a listing on the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
After considering factors such as lack of priors, public humiliation, and her youth, Staskal decided to sentence her to probation, despite stating prison could be justified. Besides the aforementioned punishments, Judge Staskal also fined Rohwer $750 plus restitution to the victim and court costs, and he barred contact with the victim, his family, or other students.
"I struggled a lot to decide between probation and incarceration. Clearly, incarceration would send a powerful message. But I have concluded that incarceration, while it would definitely be warranted, is not an appropriate sentence given the other considerations." While Judge Staskal questioned Rohwer’s remorse, he decided to give her "the benefit of the doubt."
The former English department director was arrested in January and charged with sexual exploitation by a school employee for what school administrators described as a "possible inappropriate relationship" with a male student.
Rohwer, hired in 2003, was suspended after Dowling officials discovered the relationship. In a letter to parents, school president Jerry Deegan said he believed the relationship took place away from school.
In the 10 years ending in 2008, 31 teachers have had their licenses revoked by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners for sexual relationships with students. Sexual exploitation covers professionals who have sex with clients, parishioners, and other subordinates who are legal adults. A single encounter is an aggravated misdemeanor, and a pattern of sexual misconduct is a felony. Besides teachers, priests, counselors and a psychiatrist have been prosecuted for exploitation, according to Polk County Attorney John Sarcone.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The victim told investigators that Jackson, who supervised her work duties, first approached her in February of 2008 in the basement of the correctional center, at 615 W. Keefe Ave., which is run by the state Department of Corrections. The woman said Jackson's contacts with her escalated from indecently touching to other sexual acts, some in vans off of the center grounds.
After several contacts, the woman said, she began to resist Jackson's advances in September of 2008 and he began writing her up for various actions. She said she was afraid to report the allegations earlier because of threats he had made for removing privileges and interfering with her ability to be released from the center, according to the complaint.
The victim's complaint stated that she"was very frightened of the threats and the power and authority that Jackson had over her." Jackson is currently being held on $50,000 bail in the Milwaukee County Jail.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Fayette County Judge Paschal English stared at the 48 year old defendant in the packed courtroom as he gave his denunciation.
"I have observed you during this trial, and I don't think it ever sunk in with you. You laughed, you smiled, you cut up with people. I don't believe you ever thought for one second that you would be convicted."
Judge English also said that the defendant's conduct besmirched the Air Force, where Michael Ellicott flew an F-15 fighter jet, and Delta Air Lines, where he worked before being charged.The jurors, after 11 hours of deliberation, returned a guilty verdict at 4:40 PM local time Friday, May 1 of guilty of five counts of aggravated battery (family violence), four counts of aggravated assault (family violence), two counts of aggravated sodomy, one count of false imprisonment and one count of rape.
Michael Ellicott testified Wednesday [April 29], denying that he ever struck or raped his wife. His testimony came after the jury was shown disturbing photos of his wife Pamela’s injuries. The photos were taken at the hospital where she was treated after police were called to their home Jan. 20.
Shown graphic images of deep bruises on various parts of Pamela Ellicott’s body, Michael Ellicott resolutely said that he did not cause any of them. He also contended that while he did not strike his wife with drumsticks as alleged, she was striking herself with the drumsticks during the incident.
The victim, Pamela Ellicott, stated the the beatings started around a year and a half before the January 20th attack in the couple’s basement. Pam did not seek divorce because she still loved her husband “It wasn’t until the last year that I stayed out of fear,” she testified Tuesday, April 28.
Mrs. Ellicott testified that the January 20, 2008 beating was interrupted by a phone call from a woman her husband identified as his mistress. After he took the call, she grabbed a cordless phone and called 911 from their neighbor’s home.
Besides the January 20 attack, the victim testified her husband broke both of her wrists, and one time, his blows were meant for her head, but she deflected it. The victim also told of anal sexual assaults she endured, leading to buttock injuries which required surgery, making it painful to walk.
Michael Ellicott testified that adultery on his part and on his wife’s part played a role in friction between the couple.
Michael Ellicott said several days before his arrest he had noticed red marks on his wife and encouraged her to see a psychiatrist who had previously helped her on the self-abuse matter.
A co-worker at Delta Airlines whom Michael Ellicott admitted to having an affair with testified that in December 2007 he had told her about Pamela Ellicott’s self-abuse problem.
Michael Ellicott admitted that he hoped to divorce his wife but prosecutor Warren Sellers reminded him that in his answer to Pamela Ellicott’s divorce suit he is asking for the marriage to remain intact.
“I still do love Pam. I understand the situation but I’m not happy with it,” Michael Ellicott said. “I don’t want to go to jail for 400 years sir. I thought she would come to her senses.”
Before the sentencing, but after the vercict, Judge English made a lenghty statement about the nature of the crimes committed against the victim.
However, I have listened to more cases than I can count, and I can say that these are the worst injuries I have ever observed on someone who lived. I can't understand why a man who was 6-3, 270 pounds would deliberately break the arms of a frail woman who was the mother of his two children. Then try to tell us those wounds were self inflicted.
It begs all logic, and it underscores the individual I saw trying to hide behind such an unbelievable story. I've seen torture at the hands of an enemy. But I have never seen it and hope to never see it again, from someone who confesses to love someone. What a charade.
English also spoke of Ellicott's use of drumsticks to beat his wife."The drumsticks are irony," he said. "They represented to a young woman horrific pain from beatings that no one can imagine. On the other hand, a different drum beat began, because that drumbeat represents the death of a monster, and that's you Mr. Ellicott," English said.
"You were provided the best of best, with a pristine military career, a job most would love to have, friends through Delta. But you turned your back on your family, friends, employer, and your military and country. How can someone who fought for the freedom of others, so willingly jeopordize those freedoms at the end of two wooden drum sticks?""You have changed a lot of lives, none for the better. This woman may never live a normal life again."After the sentencing, the victim praised the judge, the DA's office, and the Peachtree City Police, but said that she and her kids "have a long road ahead of them." she also said that she would like to one day help other victims.
I think the judge said it all. But I know this is not the end of this. We have a long road ahead of us, but my kids and I are strong and we will get through this. Now is not time for me to walk away, it's time for me to step up to the plate and help anyone else that I can help. They protected me and my children. Their conviction to do the right thing never waivered nor stopped. The work they put into this was amazing. The process worked this time.”
Jones and his lawyer, Louis Wellemin went in front of an appellate judicial panel to argue that instead of life, Jones should have been sentenced to 12-20 years for the most serious charge, attempted murder. Besides the murder attempt, Jones was convicted of 1st degree assault and violation of a protective order.
On April 23, Jones' attorney, Louis Wellemin, argued to the three-judge panel — Howard County Circuit Court judges Louis Becker, Diane Leasure and Richard Bernhardt — that Jones, who had stopped short of killing his wife, should be sentenced according to state sentencing guidelines for attempted first-degree murder, of which Jones was convicted.Those guidelines, Willemin said, should reduce the sentence to between 12 and 20 years.
But Assistant State’s Attorney Claude de Vastey Jones emphasized the brutal nature of the crime, stressing that Jones had hid behind a trash can and waited for his wife, and that her skull had been cracked. She said Jones’ ex-wife still has to wear makeup and style her hair in a particular way to conceal the scars.
The decision, which was released Thursday, April 30, states that “Given the conduct of the defendant in the perpetration of the offense, the permanent and potentially fatal injuries suffered by the victim, and the circumstances of the offenses, the sentence imposed by Judge [Lenore] Gelfman was not excessive or unjust.”
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Ciro Jimenez was found guilty Thursday, April 30, of rape and kidnapping, Class Y felonies in Arkansas, and the Class D felonies of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a minor in the first degree. The assault charge was enhanced because it was done in the presence of their 5 year old son.
The jury recommended that Jimenez serve 15 years for rape; 20 years for kidnapping; five years for aggravated assault; five years for the enhancement; and five years for endangering the welfare of a minor.
The panel did not recommend whether Jimenez would serve the sentences concurrently or consecutively, but [Benton County Circuit Court Judge] Clinger ordered Jimenez to serve five years each for the aggravated assault and the endangering convictions. The judge sentenced Jimenez to five years for the enhancement charge. Clinger sentenced Jimenez to 15 years for rape and 20 years for kidnapping. He ordered the sentences to be served consecutively.
His wife testified that Jimenez forcibly held her in their home for about 20 hours. She testified he attacked her and tied, taped and gagged her. He also raped her on two occasions, she testified. She was able to call 911, and a Benton County Sheriff's Office deputy responded to the scene.
The deputy was met by an armed Jimenez, who pointed a .45-caliber gun toward the deputy. Jimenez was holding his 5-year-old son as a shield. The deputy retreated behind his vehicle for cover and drew his weapon.
After several minutes, Jimenez dropped his weapon and was arrested. After Jimenez was placed in the patrol car, he was recorded telling his nephew to have his (Jimenez's) wife killed. Jurors listened to and watched the recording.
Due to the above account of the attack, Deputy Prosecutor Carrie Dobbs asked all sentences to be run consecutively. "'I will get out one day and get my revenge," Jimenez said before the attack.
The judge presiding over the trial was Benton County Circuit Judge David Clinger, who described the crimes of conviction as violent crimes leaving a woman and her son victims. While the gun was not discharged during the standoff according to Clinger, "the deputy sheriff had to respond. It's his job. He walked into the face of death."
Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan sentenced Brown for 20 years, the maximum sentence, for attempted murder. Judge Marrinan also sentenced Brown for 4 counts of terroristic threats against Robinson and the couple’s three kids, and additional counts of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree assault.
"We are here on attempted murder [rather than murder] only because your wife's mother had the presence of mind to batter down that door, get to her daughter and apply pressure to those wounds," the judge said.
Prosecutor Janice Barker summed up the case during her closing argument: A court order prohibited Brown from living at Robinson's apartment in the 300 block of Birmingham Avenue on St. Paul's East Side after he was charged with whipping her middle child with a belt.
He grew tired and frustrated with living out of his car and returned to the apartment Aug. 2 "to claim what he believed he was entitled to," Barker told the jury. Robinson awoke from a nap when she heard Brown rifling through her kitchen drawers. That's apparently where he grabbed a large box cutter. She tried to avoid an argument by leaving to run an errand, but Brown was still there when she got back. Again, she tried to ignore him.
Robinson didn't know he had a box cutter until he raised his hand and brought it down on her cheek. He continued slashing and, "She thought she was going to die in front of her children," Barker said.
Brown fled, crashing through a window. He called 911 and told a dispatcher that Robinson had tried to cut him and "I had to defend myself."
Robinson cried in her mother’s arms as Barker read her victim impact statement. The statement said in part, "[The attack] has changed my life forever ... I have to worry what people will think when they look at my scars. The kids will always know who did this to me."
Brown attempted to explain his actions that August night before sentencing. "At the time, it was like she was taking everything from me. I'm not blaming her in the least. I wish I could take back my actions. I'm just sorry for what I did… My wife IS a wonderful woman. My kids are wonderful."
After the sentencing, Barker said about the victim, "She is an amazing woman. She has developed into a wonderful mother. She works to support her children and did everything to keep them safe.”
Saturday, May 2, 2009
St. Clair Shores, MI teacher originally charged with 4th degree CSC - convicted of attempted stalking
A suburban Detroit culinary arts teacher is charged with 4th degree criminal sexual conduct for engaging in sex acts with a 16 year old and a 17 year old boy on a boat belonging to the parents of a former student.Tha alleged victims are current students at South Lake High School in St. Clair Shores. Melissa Lavender, 33 was charged with 2 counts of 4th degree CSC when arraigned by Judge Joseph Craigen Oster.
After her lawyer, Warren, MI based Michael Dennis, waived the formal reading of the charges and entered a not guilty plea on Lavender’s behalf, Judge Oster scheduled a pretrial conference for August 26, set bond at $25,000, which she posted, and set conditions on her release.
The conditions include – no contact with the alleged victims or witnesses, no unsupervised contact with minors, and no alcohol or drug use. Lavender must also submit to random Breathalyser tests 4 times a day.
Police and prosecutors accuse Lavender of engaging in sex acts with two teens on a boat belonging to the family of a former South Lake High student. The two are ages 16 and 17 and currently attend the school.
The boat was docked in a marina in St. Clair Shores at the time of the alleged incidents, which police said occurred in the overnight hours of June 26. Police said Lavender was the only teacher aboard the boat at the time of the incidents.
Alcohol is believed to be a factor, Bergeron said.
Dennis, who called the charges serious, said "from what everyone says, all the students and parents who know her love her. These allegations are totally out of character."
According to Deborah Thompson, South Lake School District Superintendent, Lavender, worked as a culinary arts teacher in the district for 6 years, rising to the head of the culinary arts program from a food teacher. Lavender is being suspended with pay, pending the results of the investigation.
"Students and parents came forward…. We're deeply saddened by these allegations. Our first priority is to follow our policies, ensuring the safety and support of all our students."
Thompson also posted a letter to "South Lake Families" on the high school's Web site, acknowledging that she's been informed of "alleged serious misconduct involving a high school teacher and students."
According to the Detroit News, a substitute culinary arts teaching position was also posted on the site. There were no takers, yet. 16 is usually the AOC in Michigan, but it rises to 18 in regular teacher/student cases, and 26 if the teacher is a special education teacher. This law took effect July 1.
4th degree CSC is a 2-year misdemeanor in Michigan.
(Update 3-20-09) Lavender pled guilty to attempted aggravated stalking Monday March 16. Attempted aggravated stalking is a 5 year felony, so the plea to a greater offense was presumably to get off of the sex offender list. Both 4th degree CSC counts were dismissed at part of the plea agreement, and Lavender signed a document voiding her teaching certificate.
Lavender teared up as she told the court she tried to contact via electronic device two male students in a "harassing manner." Police say although the students were of the age of consent, state law forbids teachers from having relationships with students.
The Macomb County Prosecutor's Office will seek at least 5 years probation when sentencing is held April 29.
(Update 5-2-09) Lavender was sentenced to the agreed upon 5 years probation by Macomb Circuit Judge Matthew Switalski on Wednesday, April 29. The reason prosecutors did not seek prison time was because of her 1st time status.