Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crime And The Elderly

When people discuss the problem of the elderly and white collar crime, generally, they are referring to the problem of how senior citizens are often the targets, or victims, of fraud.  But that certainly isn't the only connection between senior citizens and crime!  Today, I read a CBS News report which indicates that, in Harrison, New York, an elderly woman is actually the accused perpetrator of the crime.  Specifically, the report indicates that Ms. Florence D'Imperio, a 90 year old woman, has been accused, along with several others, (including local government employees), of stealing food from their local food bank.  The elderly woman had reportedly been a volunteer at the food bank.  The report also suggests that the food wasn't being taken simply because the accused individuals were hungry.
As a former prosecutor and, currently, as a criminal defense attorney, I never cease to be amazed at what people will do!  Have you heard of any unusual crimes like this one?  Of course, it is important to emphasize that Ms. D'Imperio is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Here's also hoping that she will get a good criminal lawyer to help her deal with her own special problem involving crime and the elderly! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Parents of Amanda Knox Indicted For Libel

What do you think about the news reports from Italy, this week, indicating that Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, the parents of Amanda Knox, have been indicted by Italian authorities for criminal libel?  You will recall that Amanda Knox is the American teen who is currently appealing her murder conviction in Italy.  The new libel charge against the parents is reportedly based upon a June, 2008 interview of the parents by the Sunday Times of London.  During the interview, Curt Knox, the father, simply alleged that Italian police had been abusive in their interrogation of his daughter.  Yes, that's it!  That's all the parents supposedly did wrong!  Two parents are now essentially accused of a crime simply for making statements critical of the authorities while publicly defending their daughter!
Again, what do you think about these charges?  On second thought, perhaps you should refrain from making any comments which could be construed as being critical of the Italian authorities!  After all, no one wants to get indicted simply for expressing an opinion!  I am just happy that, in the United States, the First Amendment to our Constitution protects freedom of speech, including the right of all parents to criticize our government!   
What is your opinion?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Berlusconi, Public Corruption, and Having a Bad Day!

So, you may have thought that you had a bad day!?  At least your day probably hasn't gone as bad as the day of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.  According to various news reports, Berlusconi has been charged with prostitution with an under-aged girl, along with abuse of power in connection with an alleged cover up of the prostitution charge.
The Italian prime minister already had previously faced other criminal charges including tax fraud and bribery.
Berlsuconi reportedly denies all wrongdoing and claims that he is a victim of over-zealous prosecutors.  It will be interesting to see how Berlusconi's criminal lawyers deal with the latest criminal charges. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Theft, Embezzlement, and the Bull Dogs

As a "Double Dawg," (i.e. a proud graduate of the University of Georgia, both undergraduate and law school), I try to keep up with all the "goins' on" at my old alma mater.  Usually, I enjoy reading about the University of Georgia Bull Dogs football team.  But today, I read news reports about a new criminal case at the school.  According to the reports, a former university business manager has been charged with racketeering and theft by conversion.  (In Georgia, theft by conversion is the statutory name for what is frequently called embezzlement in other states.  Did you know that the 50 states often have different names for many of  the same generic crimes?)
In this case, the news reports indicate that, between 2005 and 2009, the business manager, (at the University's Carl Vinson Institute of Government), embezzled about $220,000 by allegedly submitting bogus petty cash disbursement receipts while utilizing fictitious names.  As a former prosecutor, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense attorney), it would appear that this may be yet another case in which the victim institution failed to have adequate checks and balances in place to prevent theft.  In my experience, as we have discussed here before, embezzlement is generally a crime of opportunity.  Offenders can often get away with it, often over lengthy periods of time, simply because no one is looking over their shoulders.
Here's hoping that the next news reports I read about UGA are happier ones dealing with my beloved Bull Dawgs!  Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Police Surveillance Cameras: Is Big Brother Watching You?

What is your opinion about the trend for police departments to install more and more surveillance cameras throughout American cities?  According to a new report by the ACLU of Chicago, there are now more than 10,000 cameras located in public places in Chicago, generally on street corners.  But the Windy City is certainly not unique! Police surveillance cameras are probably coming to your community soon, too! 
Law enforcement agencies reportedly utilize these cameras to watch gang and other criminal activity.  The cameras could also be helpful in the fight against terrorism, too.  In many cases, police can actually use the cameras to zoom in on anybody they are tracking.  In my opinion, that is where potential Fourth Amendment violations are most likely to occur.
So, what do you think about this trend?  Do you want more and more cameras watching not only the "bad guys," but also you and me, too?  As a former federal prosecutor, part of me recognizes the usefulness of cameras to law enforcement.  However, as a freedom-loving American citizen, part of me also fears the potential for abuse and invasion of privacy, too.
What is your opinion?  Do you mind if Big Brother is watching you, too?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Prison Alternatives: Good Ideas and Bad Ideas

In his inaugural address, last month, new Georgia Governor Nathan Deal wisely suggested that Georgia, like other states, can no longer afford to try to lock up all of its law-breakers and throw away the key.  In an era of tight state budgets, the costs of incarceration are simply too much.  Now, please don't misunderstand! No one, including the Governor, is suggesting that dangerous recidivists, or violent offenders should be given probation and a slap on the wrist.  In other words, most observers would agree that prison remains the only viable option for convicted murderers, rapists, and armed robbers.  But what about non-violent offenders?  What are some of the ideas being considered for the bad check writers, forgerers, and other white collar criminals?  Well, in my opinion, there are some good ideas and some bad ideas being considered.  Let's talk about one of the bad ideas being considered first!
Some legislators in Atlanta are considering privitization of state prisons as a solution to our overcrowded, expensive corrections problem.  As a former state and federal prosecutor, (and currently, as a criminal defense attorney), I strongly disagree with this proposal.  For instance, I believe that the state must not shirk its responsibility for inmate care by turning it over to a private, profit-driven business.  Private businesses would be focused only on the bottom line and not on inmate care, or community safety.  In addition, while state corrections officials may not be very accountable to the public now, just imagine how unaccountable private companies will be!  This is a terrible idea, in my opinion!
On the other hand, I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of Georgia investing more money in drug courts and minimum security diversion centers for non-violent offenders.  These alternatives will result in real savings to the taxpayers and help inmates make restitution to victims.  Also, the defendants would be required to get out, get jobs, and pay the costs of these alternatives, too!
What do you think? 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Celebrities and Crime Allegations: Lindsay Lohan

Various news reports indicate that it is anticipated that California prosecutors may seek an arrest warrant next week against troubled actress Lindsay Lohan for allegedly stealing a necklace from a Venice, California jewelry store.  A representative for Lohan has reportedly indicated that it is all just a mistake and that the borrowed necklace has been returned. 
Of course, this sad news report follows on the heels of repeated news stories about the talented actress' recent problems in drug rehab, along with her other past visits to California courts.  Laying aside any questions of guilt or innocence in this criminal case, I am confident that Ms. Lohan is tired of going to court and retaining criminal defense attorneys to help her.
Here's hoping that the talented Ms. Lohan will be able to address whatever problems she may face, or that some judge, or family or friends, will be able to intervene and help her.