Sunday, March 28, 2010

Woman sentenced to life without parole for shooting ex-"girlfriend" after argument

A Manatee, FL woman who was convicted of killing her ex-"partner" was sentenced to life without parole Friday, March 19. Cynthia Monson, 51, was sentenced to the mandatory life without parole term for the murder of her ex, Patricia Thomas January 2009. While Monson's attorney claimed self-defense, Assistant State Attorney Art Brown said that Monson's re-enactment of the killing proved intent to kill.

“Even though she claimed she was in fear ... she kept adjusting her arm so she could shoot her in the head. It really became clear that it was done with intent and not in self-defense.”

At the time of her arrest, Monson told detectives she and Thomas had been arguing about their past relationship and custody of a child they adopted together.

Monson told detectives that she bought a gun on Jan. 13 after several arguments with Thomas in the weeks prior to the shooting. Four days later Thomas arrived at Monson’s home, in the 6400 block of Second Avenue Northeast, and they argued.

Thomas claimed to have a gun in her vehicle and Monson “determined at that time that it was her or the victim,” sheriff’s reports state. Prosecutors say Monson then opened fire on her ex-girlfriend with the revolver she had obtained days prior. Sheriff’s report say she shot Thomas five times, including in the back of the head.

The Manatee County jury took only two hours to convict Monson. The victim and perp were a couple for a dozen years, up until just before the shooting.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dog killer gets 6 years prison, 4 years extended supervision

A Green Bay, WI man who broke into his ex-"girlfriend's" apartment and killed her dog by placing it in the oven was sentenced to 6 years in prison by a Brown County, WI judge Friday, March 26. Judge William Atkinson sentenced 32 year old Terry Atkinson to 5 years in prison for burglary and a year for animal mistreatment, terms to run consecutively. A jury deliberated only an hour before Kleiman was found guilty.

He broke into the woman's Elmore Street apartment Nov. 23, 2008. When the woman arrived home later, she found her apartment filled with smoke and the 5-month-old Pekingese's body in the oven.

Assistant District Attorney Dana Johnson said the maximum allowable sentence on the animal abuse charge was 1½ years in prison but that Kleiman could have gotten as much as 12½ years in prison for the burglary.

Besides the prison time, Kleiman will serve 4 years of extended supervision, 3 for the burglary and 1 for the dog killing. He was also ordered not to own and pets or date women without parole officer supervision.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Most cases of prison sexual misconduct involve female guards


HELENA, Mont. — Inmate Michael Murphy sought out female guards and prison workers that he knew would be easy to charm.

He started by seeking a small favor, which could lead to a kiss or love letters. In at least five cases, he convinced women to have sex with him or perform other significant illegal favors. And yet Michael Murphy is considered the victim in each case, because inmates cannot legally consent to sex.

In each of those cases, the female corrections employees were caught, shamed and forced out of a job, according to documents detailing an investigation by Montana prison officials and obtained by The Associated Press after an open records lawsuit.

The women officers described Murphy as the aggressor, even as the predator. But that makes no difference in either state or federal penitentiaries, where prison employees — male or female — are the violators if they have sex with inmates.

A Justice Department study shows that cases like Murphy's are common: Female staff are more often implicated than their male counterparts in prison sexual misconduct. While many cases could be considered consensualincarceration experts and female prison guards say the problem is much more complicated than that. In some cases, the women reported that they couldn't say no to the inmate out of fear, or were afraid to go to a co-worker out of shame at what had happened, that one small mistake led to something else.

Experts say there is a culture of silence in the prisons that makes it difficult for female guards to come forward with problems before they spin out of control. But they also cite a double standard in which female guards are treated less harshly when their transgressions come to light.

Documents detailing the state investigation into Murphy's liaisons show he persuaded at least five Montana female prison employees to break the rules over several years. He even convinced his therapist to have sex with him, and was able to arrange one-on-one meetings with her even though prison officials knew of his past success in conniving favors out of female workers.

Charges were filed against one of the female prison workers. Murphy, 36, faced no charges.

The affair cost one female employee her marriage, her career and any chance at a real job. She believes strongly the prison erred in letting Murphy circulate in a less restrictive environment that allowed one-on-one interaction with female guards and workers — even though his past was well known.

"People kind of look at us as if we are the dirt under their fingernails. That is a hard place to be," she told The AP in a telephone interview Thursday. "Everyone needs to be held accountable. I need to be held accountable, and I think I was. The prison needs to be held accountable, and Michael Murphy needs to be held accountable."

The woman spoke on condition of anonymity because she feared repercussions from her current employer if she were identified.

Murphy claimed, in letters to newspapers and in a request to the ACLU of Montana, that some of the women sexually assaulted him. No sexual assault charges were filed at the time due to lack of evidence.

But a confidential and lengthy internal investigation tells a far more complicated tale about how an inmate manipulated prison staff.

The therapist, for instance, told internal investigators that from the start that she knew she had been manipulated and compromised. "And then he kissed me one day in my office and I just thought, 'What the f--- did I just do, what just happened?'" she said in a 2008 interview she was told would be confidential. "From that point on I just, I felt like I couldn't do anything, I couldn't say no to him, I couldn't get myself out of it. It's like he had that over me, and he continued to push."

The agency first disclosed in 2008 that three female workers were resigning after an investigation into sexual misconduct connected to Murphy. Two of the workers reached at the time by The AP — including the therapist — denied any wrongdoing. But copies of the investigation show they were indeed under the thumb of Murphy, in prison for theft, forgery and other charges.

The therapist told the internal investigator that she was soon giving Murphy money and oral sex. "I was just like, 'What, you know, what are you thinking, what?'" she told a Department of Corrections investigator. "You totally got duped by this guy and, you know, it was just embarrassing."

The man who once ran New York City's corrections department has little sympathy for female prison workers who see themselves as victimized in these cases.

Martin Horn, now a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said he female workers who have sex with inmates are often treated less harshly by officials than male worker who do the same. "As long as we have a double standard we are going to see these kind of behaviors," Horn said. "It is a very slippery slope we go down if we say we are not going to hold female officers to the same standard."

A 2007 U.S. Department of Justice study analyzing the prevalence of sexual assault in state and federal prisons found that 58 percent of staff perpetrators of sexual misconduct were female.

One expert on the issue says the "culture of silence" in prisons makes it tough on the female workers.

"Even if the staff did small favors, they should have felt free enough to communicate with their superiors about the fact that they were by being blackmailed by the inmate," said Brenda Smith, a law professor at American University who has studied prison rape issues. "How could this pattern of conduct go on without others knowing? That may also relate to the culture of silence."

Montana corrections officials said they have cases dating back to 2003 where two female workers at the state prison in Deer Lodge were disciplined for some sort of undisclosed involvement with Michael Murphy. That same inmate in 2008 then again rocked the prison when it was learned three more had become involved with him.

The prison launched a lengthy internal investigation.

Only after the the promise that no criminal charges would be coming, and the ill-fated pledge of confidentiality, did the prison workers speak somewhat candidly.

"They need to do something about protecting women from predators like him, I know he's a predator," said the corrections officer who was charged with failing to report the activities. "I know he's done it to several people before and, I didn't know until after the fact, after all this stuff happened, but I found out all about Michael Murphy."

Murphy, who was later transferred to a facility in Glendive, meanwhile, continues to get involved with staff.

Prison officials say an ongoing investigation seems to implicate Murphy in the case of a female food worker caught smuggling contraband into the prison.

Montana State Prison Warden Mike Mahoney said 41 percent of the system's employees are female. He said it is impossible to separate female staff from any particular inmate, even one who has proven skilled at compromising workers.

He said the prison always stresses with workers not to get involved with inmates in even the smallest way, and to never reveal personal details of any type. The warden said Murphy's case, though, will likely provide lessons to improve the training.

The issue is huge, Mahoney said. When staff are compromised, the potential for harm is "limitless."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stalker of ESPN Reporter gets 2 1/2 years in federal prison

LOS ANGELES -- An Illinois insurance executive who secretly shot nude videos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was sentenced Monday to 2-1/2 years in prison after giving a tearful apology that was harshly rebuked by his victim.

Michael David Barrett pleaded guilty in December to interstate stalking after prosecutors accused him of following the reporter to at least three cities and shooting the videos through hotel peepholes. Barrett, 48, of suburban Chicago, agreed to a 27-month prison sentence after pleading guilty but it was up to the judge to decide how long he would actually serve.

Andrews urged the judge at the hearing for a harsher sentence and said she fears for her life every time she enters a hotel. "You violated me and you violated all women," Andrews told Barrett. "You are a sexual predator, a sexual deviant and they should lock you up." After the sentencing, she said, "Thirty months isn't enough."

Barrett admitted renting hotel rooms next to Andrews three times and shooting two videos of her while she was naked. He was accused of posting the videos online and trying to sell them to Los Angeles-based celebrity gossip site TMZ last year.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real said he gave Barrett the maximum sentence under the law. "The victim, Andrews, will be suffering with this problem for the rest of her life," Real said. "There is no life sentence that can be imposed upon him, except his own guilt."

Barrett cried as he addressed Andrews in court, saying he would spend the rest of his life regaining the respect of his friends and family and atoning for his mistakes. "There are no words to tell Ms. Andrews how sorry I am for what I've done to her," he said. "I hope someday she can forgive me."

Andrews, visibly nervous as she spoke, said she had no sympathy for Barrett's claim he was publicly humiliated. "It's my body on the Internet," she said. "I'm being traumatized every single day for what he did.... This will never be over for me."

Barrett, who has until May 3 to surrender, was ordered to have supervised probation for three years after his release, during which he will be prohibited from contacting Andrews, her family or friends.

He will not be allowed to stay in a hotel without approval of a probation officer and if he accepts employment somewhere, Andrews will be notified. Barrett was also ordered to pay $5,000 in fines and $7,366 in restitution, but the judge said further restitution may be imposed to compensate ESPN.

Barrett's lawyer, David Willingham, said his client is undergoing psychological treatment and "has sought the path of redemption. Mr. Barrett has lost everything he built throughout his life," Willingham said. "He's lost his career, his fiancee and his life savings. He knows that he brought this on himself."

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have agreed not to pursue further charges against Barrett. However, he could face criminal action in other states stemming from other videos he allegedly shot of unsuspecting nude women through peepholes.

Andrews' attorney, Marshall Grossman, has said there could be as many as a dozen other women that Barrett taped. A sentencing memo filed last month in federal court says Barrett uploaded videos of 16 other women to an online account.

Barrett also allegedly conducted 30 Internet background checks that can produce birthdays and home addresses, the document said. The filing did not name the other alleged victims or say what information he obtained or how he may have used it. Prosecutors claim that 32 videos provided by show Barrett "victimized approximately 16 other women in almost precisely the same way that he victimized" Andrews. They did not identify the women.

Andrews testified in December that Barrett's actions had a devastating impact on her and her family because she is constantly reminded that his videos appeared online and is subjected to cruel taunts from sports fans when she works as a sideline reporter.

Andrews has agreed to appear on the new season of ABC-TV's "Dancing with the Stars" -- an offer she said ABC made before the stalking allegations. She said she doesn't want to seclude herself from the public eye because other victims would get the wrong message.

"I did nothing wrong. Just trying to live my life," she said. "I had to deal with a lot of people who said I deserved it, that I had played to a certain audience." Her attorney said she will not file a lawsuit against Barrett.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Suburban Toronto police officer charged with physical, sexual assault on "husband"

A female police officer assigined to Burlington, ON, has been charged with sexual assault, forcible confinement, and 3 counts of assault after a man, believed to be her common-law husband, filed charges against her. According to a spokeman, the charges cover incidents lasting from February to November 2009. Halton Region Constable Melanie Fedun, 32, will have her first court appearance April 23, and is suspended with pay.

Criminal with history of violence sentenced to life for killing 18 year old wife

A "man" who shot his bride in the face, killing her, was sentenced to life in prison for the crime. 26 year old Charles Reese was sentenced by District Judge Lori Valenzuela Thursday, March 12 after a jury convicted him the previous day of murder of 18 year old Shamika Sanford. Though they had been married less than a month, but according to her grandmother, Margaret Sanford, had a history of domestic violence.

Reese told police the two had been fighting and after he ordered her to get in the car on March 10, 2009, she refused and began walking away. After shooting her in the chest, knocking her to the ground, he said he emptied his clip into her head because he “didn't want her to live through life knowing the person she loved shot her.”

Reese was at large for 4 days, and according to officials, confessed to numerous people that he killed his wife. Besides the gunshot would to the head, Sanford suffered wounds to her face, chest, and neck and hands. He did not testify at the trial, but gave a videotaped statement of his innocence.

Defense attorneys Michael Hoyle and Charles Bunk asked jurors to give Reese 25 years in prison, saying he grew up in an abusive environment, with both of his parents serving prison terms for drug offenses and an uncle going to prison for killing his wife.

“What is it children crave?” Hoyle asked. “They want love and attention from others. He didn't get it ...That 25 years of need, frustration, anger and rage comes out through that gun. ... It doesn't make it any less horrible. But it explains why it happened.”

Prosecutor Yvonne Gonzalez and co-counsel Daryl Harris argued that the "grusomeness" of the crime and need for accountability warranted a life sentence. “Shanika was the first time a woman demanded his love, his fidelity, his commitment. When he realized he couldn't give it, he took her life in the most brutal way any of us could imagine.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pottstown (PA) teacher convicted of corruption of minors for sexual relationship with student

A former Pottsgrove High School teacher was convicted yesterday of misdemeanor charges of corruption of a minor in connection with a relationship she had with a 17 year old student of hers. 34 year old Rebecca Ann Harvey, of Stowe, PA, was found guilty after a bench trial presided over by Judge Joseph A. Smyth.

Harvey met the student while she was dating an adult friend of his in July 2008, according to court papers. When the student's friend broke up with Harvey, Harvey allegedly initiated conversation with the student via text message.

In February, Harvey invited the student to her residence where they had sex, with Harvey providing the student transportation to and from her residence, court papers indicate.

According to police, the relationship lasted for five months, until July 14 2009, when police found them in a car with the windows fogged up outside a Pottstown business. Harvey initially told police she thought the boy was 18, and when they figured out that he was a Pottstown High student, she said she didn't know that and that "it's a big school."

The Pottstown School District also investigated Harvey for text messages between her and the victim which took place during March and April 2009. The student, who babysat Harvey's two children, claimed the texting was about his babysitting job, but officials believed the messages, which were deleted before they could review them, were sexual in nature.

After Harvey insisted at her bench trial that the boy was 18 when she met, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Quigg challenged her. "They knew each other about a year. She knew he was a student there. She looked up his academic records which would have showed his age," he said.

Quigg said about the relationship, "She was in a position of authority and trust. She abused that position for her own sexual gratification. The fact you're dealing with a relationship between a student and teacher is what makes this so egregious."

Harvey will be sentenced by Judge Smyth later this year, after a Megan's Law evaluation and pre-sentencing report is completed. She faces 5 to 10 years imprisonment for her crime.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Teacher gets 11.5 to 23 months in prison for "affair" with 17 year old student

A former Council Rock, PA teacher was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in prison Wednesday, March 10 for a sexual "relationship" with his 17 year old student. 43 year old Robert C. Hawkins was a former math teacher at Council Rock High School South when the "affair" started.

Hawkins had sex with the girl three or four times a week in his Newtown, PA home, and had her research the AOC laws showing that she was over Pensylvania's AOC. The relationship ended last July after police found out about it. Hawkins was charged with corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child in December.

Before hearing his sentence, Hawkins, 43, of the 1800 block of Society Place, Newtown, apologized to the court for his actions and the hurt that he caused the family of the victim, his friends, students, the Council Rock School District and the community.

Hawkins said to the court, “A little over a year ago I fell from grace. I made choices that were wrong and utterly disgraced myself and my career as a teacher. I am ashamed, sorrowful and guilt-ridden,” he said. Hawkins, who has lost his job, career, teaching certificate and the respect of many as a result of his actions, told the judge he’s ready to accept his sentence.

His statement to the victim's parents is shown below.

I apologize to the family. There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel horrified by the pain that I caused your daughter and the rest of the family … I hope that you can believe me that I absolutely meant no harm, especially your daughter.

There is no excuse for my decision to engage in a romantic relationship with your daughter,” he said. “As unbelievable and unimaginable as it may sound to some, I truly believe we had fallen in love,” said Hawkins. I was struck up with true admiration, friendship and feelings that spiraled out of control.

There was never anything ugly, manipulative, evil or underhanded in how it evolved. I acted selfishly and I was overcome by emotional response. I allowed my emotions to get in the way of my common sense and judgment. I should have known better. There were boundaries that I shouldn’t have crossed and exercised very poor judgment.

Bucks County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Schorn said that Hawkins “leads two lives -- one where he praises himself as an inspirational teacher and the other where he uses his talent and ability to groom and get close to students so that he can victimize them.”

This summation of Hawkins' character was echoed by the victim's parents. The mother said that "What he did was chillingly pre-meditative. She idolized him. In turn, he used her trust and his authority to target her, pursue her and prey on her during a very vulnerable time of her life. As he groomed her, he told her every step of the way that there was nothing wrong with what they were doing because he loved her and wanted to marry her."

The father said that "Little did we know that the defendant made a practice of grooming students and essentially brainwashing and manipulating them for his own pleasure. He had her under a spell and he was good at it. It's not surprising. He had a lot of practice. If a bright, attractive girl came through, he would steal her youth for his own personal pleasure...The impact is immeasurable.

I will never be able to fully describe all the aspects of our lives that have been forever damaged by these crimes.There is no way to undo the impact, but we will move on and look forward to a future that has the defendant in prison. Maybe in prison he will take the time to reflect on his actions and for the first time take accountability for them. If nothing else, incarceration will prevent him from preying on other vulnerable young women."

Judge Clyde Waite said that instead of falling from grace,  Hawkins' behavior was a ongoing pattern which needed to be stopped. "It gives me no pleasure in doing this, because you have a talent that could be put to a better use. But unless there's some period of incarceration, I don't think you will take it seriously...The manipulation and isolation of impressionable people is pretty much what a pimp does and that’s kind of close to what you were doing here, not just with this young lady but others as well.”

The others referred to by the judge included an 18 year old woman Hawkins used to teach who he had an "affair" with after she graduated.

As part of the sentence, the judge ordered Hawkins to reimburse the victim's family $3,780 for counseling services already rendered to their daughter. In addition, Hawkins will have to pay $540 a month for ongoing counseling for the extent of the victim’s undergraduate education.

Waite also gave Hawkins 10 days to decide whether to participate in a deposition with the Council Rock School District and the District Attorney's office regarding other teachers who may have known about the relationship but never came forward.

Some of those teachers have been fired, and others have resigned as a result of the probe into their possible cover-up of the "affair." Judge Waite said that those teachers, some of which submitted character references for Hawkins, downplayed the seriousness of the crime by their support. "The seriousness of what you have done is accommodated by them, and I don't think it should be," Waite said.

The victim's parents said after the sentencing, Hawkin's punishment "sends a strong message that his reprehensible conduct will not be tolerated," the victim's parents said in a statement afterward. As parents, none of us should have to worry that when we send our children to school they will be preyed upon by their teachers."

Ex-officer sentenced to 10-12 years for rape

On February 25, 2009, Judge Janet Kenton-Walker sentenced a former Rutland, MA police officer to 10-12 years imprisonment and 5 years probation for sexually assaulting a prostitute in the fall of 2008. 37 year old Jason Briddon was officially sentenced after a jury conviction, to the prison term for aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and assault for the rape.

The 30-year-old victim in the case testified that Mr. Briddon repeatedly raped and beat her and held her against her will on the morning of Oct. 9, 2008, after she agreed to engage in a sex act with him for money to support her crack cocaine addiction.

She said the assaults and kidnapping took place in the basement of a house at 178 Burncoat St. that was owned by a friend of Mr. Briddon.

Assistant District Attorney Paula J. Frasso was hoping for a 25 to 30 year sentenced and the aggravated rape and kidnapping charges to run consecutively, calling the attack predatory and pre-planned. Though a streetwalker, “she didn’t deserve what happened to her,” said Frasso in her closing arguments.
In her victim impact statement, the victim told the court that “He showed no mercy to me and the court would be wise in showing none to him."
Describing his client as a hard-working family man with no prior criminal record, Mr. Briddon’s lawyer, Christopher P. LoConto, recommended a sentence of 5 years to 5 years and a day.

Mr. Briddon made a personal plea for leniency, telling the court he “saved lives” as a police officer and always provided for his family. He called his convictions a “miscarriage of justice.”

Wendy Briddon, his wife and the mother of his two children, asked the judge to keep in mind that her husband was “somebody’s father.” “He’s been a wonderful son,” said Mr. Briddon’s mother, Carol Briddon.

Judge Kenton-Walker said that the brutal attack by Briddon not only physically injured the victim, but also caused “severe emotional and psychological trauma which continues to this day.” Factors used to arrive at her sentence included “punishment, deterrence, protection of the public and rehabilitation.”

Briddon's probation conditions include sex offender treatment and registration, no contact with the victim or her family, GPS monitoring, undergoing any other treatment deemed appropriate, and no weapon posession.

Briddon is facing charges that he raped a 29 year old woman who rode home with him from a bar. A mistrial was declared last year after a hung jury.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Husband" gets 5 years for infecting wife with HIV

A 51 year old suburban Cleveland man was sentenced to 5 years in prison for giving his wife HIV, which because of lack of treatment, progressed into full-blown AIDS. Fernando Castro pleaded guilty to felonious assault February 10 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Judge Timothy McGinty said, "This is a crime that calls for punishment. There is a price to pay for such irresponsible behavior."

Castro began getting treatment for HIV from MetroHealth Medical Center in 1993, medical officials testified.

His first wife died of health problems caused by the infection the following year.

When he met his current wife in 1995, he told her that his first wife died of cervical cancer. He got treatment behind her back and even got his son from his first marriage, who is now 17, tested. He never told his current wife, however, that he was infected and made up excuses when she saw him taking pills.

The victim was charmed by Castro's knowledge of the Bible and basketball. "I thought he was going to be a real good father figure to my children," she said. Warning signs she sped past included sugessting that she drop contact with her family. "He never wanted me to have any contact with his family at all. My family always thought he was sneaky." They married in 2004.

Then she started dropping weight, feeling cold and getting the chills. She chalked it up to the cool temperature in the lab, then decided she was catching a cold. By the end of July, she was running a fever, coughing and having trouble breathing. Her doctor diagnosed a respiratory infection and prescribed antibiotics.

Instead of getting better, she grew worse. On Aug. 5, she went without her husband to the emergency room at Fairview Hospital. Doctors admitted her immediately and kept her for more than a week. "They thought I was going to die," she said.

While she was in the hospital, her husband moved out of their Cleveland home and into an apartment in Beachwood. Finally, doctors confirmed she had had HIV for years and that it had developed into AIDS. She ordered her family out of her hospital room, and, as she cried, she remembered a fight she once had with her husband.

"He said, 'One of these days you're going to get what's coming to you,' " she said. "I told him, 'If you hurt me in any kind of way, I'm going to press charges.' "

She had never thought he would do anything to hurt her, but now that she inexplicably had AIDS, she went to Cleveland police. Officers pulled her husband's medical records, which revealed that he had been getting treatment for HIV since at least 2004, the year they married.

It was then that Castro abandoned his victim. He was charged in October, and this exchange occurred on Castro's 51st birthday, when the victim's 7 year old adopted son sent Castro a card. "I said, 'What, were you waiting for me to die? I was at the hospital and you didn't even tell me. That way they can take care of me right away rather than me waiting 10 days [in the hospital] to figure it out so they can give me the right medicine.'

The hospitailzations and treatment cost the woman her job as a dialysis worker. SHe sold her wedding ring to support her family, including the 7 year old boy. However, she still needs assistance in getting the divorce finalized. When one of her older children got married earlier this year and their HIV tests came back healthy, "I cried the whole ceremony. I'm not going to let this destroy me."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

20 years to life for cyanide death of wife

By Leila Atassi, The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Street vendors and barflies in Beirut have heard the story of how and why former Gates Mills doctor Yazeed Essa killed his wife with calcium capsules emptied and refilled with hand-crushed cyanide.

The man who harbored him during his days on the run said that Essa bragged constantly about his handiwork to whomever would listen.

But Tuesday, days after a Cuyahoga County jury found Essa guilty of aggravated murder, Rosemarie Essa's brothers demanded to hear the story, too -- from Essa himself. Rocco and Dominic DiPuccio stood before their former brother-in-law, challenging Essa to come clean and ask for forgiveness.

"Are you man enough?" Dominic DiPuccio said. "Are you? Forget that appeal. Stop wasting your brother's money. This is your last chance to save your soul. Are you a man or not?"

But on his attorneys advice, Essa remained silent, avoiding eye contact and swiveling nervously in his chair.

Common Pleas Judge Deena Calabrese sentenced Essa, 41, to life in prison with parole eligibility after 20 years -- placing the capstone on a trial that ranks among the most highly publicized in the court's history.

Essa's attorneys, Steven Bradley and Mark Marein, said their client plans to file an appeal. They asked, however, that he be declared indigent and assigned new legal counsel to work on his case. Essa's brother, Firas, had bankrolled the defense because Yazeed Essa's assets are frozen pending a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the DiPuccios.

Assistant County Prosecutor Steven Dever asked the judge to order Essa to reimburse taxpayers for $41,000 -- the cost of extraditing Essa from Cyprus when he was captured in 2006 after 18 months on the run.

The judge granted the motion. But first she invited Rosemarie Essa's friends and family members to speak about the woman they call Rosie and the cavity left in their lives when she died.

Rosemarie Essa's parents, Rocco and Gee Gee DiPuccio, told the judge how lucky they were to have four beautiful children, who grew into well-rounded, compassionate adults.

But on Feb. 24, 2005, Rocco DiPuccio said, their luck ran out when Yazeed Essa handed their 38-year-old daughter the contaminated pill. "I've seen a lot of court cases where they talk about closure," DiPuccio said. "I never understood that word until now, and I still don't understand it because there is no closure. The only thing I'm hoping is that from now on, maybe there will be less nights when my wife cries herself to sleep."

Gee Gee DiPuccio called Essa an evil, murderous coward and wished him misery in his lifetime behind bars. "You see, Yaz, our family has something you don't have," she said. "Heart, love, compassion and strength in a higher power that will get us through this."

Others invoked Essa's conscience and wondered aloud how it could bear the weight of what he had done. They reminded him of the two children he left behind, Armand, 9, and Lena, 7, who are now being raised by Dominic and Julie DiPuccio. And they spoke of the children's suffering and confusion in adjusting to life without either of their biological parents.

Dominic DiPuccio read a statement he wrote from the perspective of Essa's children, listing all the ways in which they have grieved in their mother's absence from holidays and landmark events in their lives. He vowed to raise the children as his own and said he hopes their memories fade of the man they refer to as their "old dad."

The memory of "Mommy Rosie," however, will survive, he said.

"My children, our children, have had to face fear and confusion that no child should ever have to face," DiPuccio said. "I miss my sister terribly each and every day. She will never get to hug her children or feel the sun on her face again. So I see no reason why (Essa) should ever get to as long as he lives."

Judge Calabrese asked Essa if he wished to remain silent. And the once suave playboy, now dressed in bright orange prison scrubs, paused for several seconds before answering, "Yes."

Then the judge told Essa that he has such little respect for women that she doubted her words would have much of an impact on him at all. Calabrese said his lack of emotion or remorse is unfathomable and that she regrets that the law would not allow her to sentence him to life in prison without parole.

"I cannot imagine the evil you have done to these people, especially your children," Calabrese said. "It is my great hope that they forget you and that whatever legacy you have is wiped away... I am so glad that you will be leaving my courtroom and that I hopefully will never have to look upon you again."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Liberty University professor sentenced to 6 months for groping student in office

A former Liberty University professor was sentenced to 6 months in jail and 5 years suspended by a Lynchburg, VA judge Friday for molesting a 21 year old student of his. Joshua Young Moon, 45 and of Durham, NC, molested a then 21 year old student April 21 while she fell asleep during a massage in his office. Moon, her statistics professor, massaged her to relieve injuries suffered during a car crash.

Before being sentenced, Moon apologized to the woman, her family and his family and friends. Moon’s wife offered tearful testimony on his behalf during the hearing, saying she was still proud of him. She staggered when trying to return to her seat and had to be helped by a deputy.

Moon, 45, of Durham, N.C., said he did not intend to hurt the woman, and asked for forgiveness. He said his only hope now would be to live the rest of his life as a useful member of society. “I wish I could go back and do things differently,” he said.

His defense attorney, Randy Trost, said the "socially naive and sexually inexperienced" professor misinterpreted the woman's massage request and help she got on exams as welcoming the groping. He said that his client's psychological testing indicated a low likelihood of further sexual assaults.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Rebecca Wetzel said that Moon was a sexual predator because he used his influence to do the same thing to two victims present in the courtroom. "This defendant is a minister and held a position of trust and authority at Liberty University." She also said that Moon acted out the bondage and massage porn he stored and viewed on his computer at Liberty University. "The defendant took advantage of the fact he had a sleeping woman in his office to act out a pornographic act,” said Wetzel.

Judge Mosby Perrow ordered Moon, who was behind bars after pleading guilty on January 22, to pay for the woman's counseling, serve 2 years of supervised probation, and register as a sex offender and undergo sex offender treatment. He was also orderd to have no contact with the victim or children outside of his family. “If I could give you five years for what you’ve done to your wife, I would give you five years for that, too,”  he said.

"Wife" sentenced to 5 years probation for murder-for-hire plot

A woman who was accused of soliciting the murder of her now ex-husband got off with 5 years of deferred adjudication and an no contact order for the victim and their three children. Catherine Shamp was sentenced Wednesday morning in a Houston courtroom. Catherine Shamp could have received 99 years in prison.

The Shamps' bizarre story started in November, when a confidential informant -- later identified as Nathan Blake, the ex-boyfriend of the Shamps' daughter, 18-year-old Ashley Shamp -- contacted Texas' Harris County Sheriff's Office and said Catherine Shamp had asked him to kill David Shamp, police said.

The sheriff's homicide department equipped Blake with recording devices before he met again with Catherine Shamp. That conversation was recorded. "The CI [Blake] recorded Catherine Shamp stating she wanted her husband murdered and would be willing to pay the 'hit man' approximately $20,000," the sheriff's office said in a statement in December.

Armed with the recording, police arrested Catherine Shamp in late November. Two days later, police arrested Ashley Shamp for allegedly being involved in the plot, but she was later released.

Ashley said that while her mother talked about getting rid of the victim, she believed that it was a joke. "She pulled me into the spare bedroom and said sort of laughing, 'Hey, I bought these pills, let's put them in your dad's beer,' and I was like, 'Why would you do that?'"

The victim was shocked to learn about the plot, believing that it was a prank at first, but his disbelief turned to devastation after police showed him recordings of his wife soliciting the hitman. David had spent Thanksgiving with the perp's parents, and there seemed to be no problems in the Shamp marriage.

The reason why Catherine did not get prison was because Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kari Allen said that the victim wanted it. "From the very beginning, he stated he did not want his wife, the mother of his children, to be put away," she said. In the courtroom, David said, "I just want to say to her the pain she gave this family, not just me, her parents, my parents." That pain included losing their home and a car.

Outside the courtroom, he said, "I have to [forgive] because I'm raising three children and if I keep that anger bottled up inside of me, then I'm going to take that home and my children are going to feed off of that anger."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Louisville ex-EMT sentenced to a dozen years in wife's death

A former Louisville paramedic was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday, February 22 for the overdose death of his wife. 26 year old Michael A. Whitehead pled guilty to reckless homicide, practicing medicine without a license, two counts of theft by unlawfully taking more than $300, and theft of a legend drug. in exchange for prosecutors dropping murder and wanton endangerment charges.

Whitehead was accused of stealing medication from his employer, Yellow Ambulance, and giving it to his wife, 24-year-old Ashley Shanahan Whitehead. She died March 26, 2009 after being in and out of hospitals, according to family members. He was indicted in Jefferson County, KY in September, and Indiana State Police arrested him just across the border in Jeffersonville.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Tom Van De Rostyne said about Whitehead, "He engaged in intentional acts, giving his wife IVs that contained a mixture of drugs he had stolen from his employers. By doing that repeatedly, it was only a matter of time before she either became seriously ill or died.”

Van De Rostyne said medical experts told him that many of the side effects of Ashley’s supposed illness may have actually been caused by the drugs she was being given by her husband. She eventually overdosed on hydrocodone.

The medical examiner found 37 needle holes in her body and pill filler in her lungs. Van De Rostyne said that the pill filler, which is meant to pass through the digestion system but can go into the lungs if too many pills are taken, is sometimes fatal.

The victim’s father also testified in court that he feared for the safety of Whitehead’s young child who still lives in Indiana if Whitehead was released.

Major argued before Jefferson County, Ky., Circuit Court Judge Irv Maze that Whitehead should serve his sentence on probation, but the judge denied that request. Major said he plans to argue for shock probation, a law in Kentucky which allows a judge to release someone from prison if it is found that the crime was so traumatic that the offender was scared straight.

Whitehead's attorney Don Major said that "The amendment to reckless homicide from murder by definition means it was not an intentional act. I believe the evidence shows he was actually trying to help her but that it went terribly awry.”