Articles Posted in Criminal defense

josh-calabrese-527813-unsplash-copy-300x200In most courtrooms, you will note the image of Lady Justice who carries scales and is blindfolded. This carries the connotation that justice or the criminal justice system should be (but is not) blind to prejudice and other characteristics of the baser intellect. No better (nor ironic) evidence of this fact can be shown in the case of a black teen who was given 76 years on the word of a legally blind witness.

How did this happen? Well, let us take a look.

First, you have a defendant who is wearing an orange jumpsuit. Second, you have a compliant witness who probably could not pick the defendant out of a lineup but nonetheless could pick out an orange jumpsuit. Then, the prosecutor asked the witness if he could identify the man who shot two people, killing one and wounding another. The witness identified the man in the orange jumpsuit.

smn-bcc-601011-unsplash-copy-300x200Adel Daoud will now face sentencing after pleading guilty (sort of) to conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempts to commit terrorism. Daoud was led by the hand to commit acts of terror against the American people by undercover FBI agents. He pushed a button on a detonator that he believed would set off a 1000-pound car bomb that could have killed hundreds of people. Daoud sat in the passenger seat of a car beside a federal agent and prayed that this would be their first operation, not their last.

Daoud had set himself up for the sting after lengthy social media posts alerted the federal government to his attitude. They say that he believed he was on a mission from God to harm infidels. The federal agent coaxed Daoud to commit an act that he believed was terrorism against the American people.

Does That Constitute Entrapment?

ehimetalor-unuabona-270319-unsplash-copy-300x199Insanity pleas are notorious because they are often dramatized in television shows and movies. In the real world, they are very difficult to prove.

There are two things you should understand about an insanity plea, and these things are often confused. Before there is a trial, the judge will need to determine whether or not you are fit to stand trial. That requires that you understand the charges against you and are able to participate in your own defense. If you cannot face your charges, you are remanded to the care of a psychiatric facility until they stabilize you enough so that you can stand trial for the crimes with which you are charged.

That is completely different from an insanity plea. If you plead insanity, the judge has already ruled that you can stand trial for your crime, but as a defense, you are saying you were not in your right mind when you committed the offense and should, therefore, not be held responsible for it. It is very difficult to prove because the criteria for proof is very high. Sometimes, it works.

emiliano-bar-1266993-unsplash-copy-300x199James Gibson, the man who was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of a double homicide, is finally a free man. After an appellate court tossed a conviction against him, the district attorney’s office dropped the charges. It was unclear if they were going to retry Gibson for the case, but it did not appear likely. Gibson was convicted on a confession made under duress during which he claimed he was tortured over the course of two days into admitting to the slayings. Gibson later recanted the confession and pleaded not guilty at trial. The prosecution leaned heavily on that confession in order to make their case against Gibson.

In addition to the confession, the prosecution had two witnesses that later recanted their testimony. The appellate court vacated the conviction and James Gibson waited to find out what the prosecution would do. Had they wanted, they could have tried Gibson again for the same charge. However, lacking sufficient evidence, they decided to let Gibson go which seems like the right thing to do.

How an Innocent Man Goes to Prison for 28 Years

filios-sazeides-540219-unsplash-copy-200x300Did Governor Pritzker remove toilets from an unoccupied mansion next door to his own personal residence in order to defraud taxpayers of over $300,000? Federal authorities sure seem to think so. Pritzker has been under federal investigation since October for the toilet-removal scheme, but did not initially appear to be implicated in the scandal. Adding to the intrigue is the question of whether or not the report was leaked to weaken Pritzker’s position during a critical time in his office. Here, we will discuss the actual crime of which Pritzker is being accused.

Was Pritzker Involved in the Toilet Removal?

The IRS does not necessarily care if you went out of your way to commit a crime. Indeed, many folks who never committed a crime in their lives are held accountable for text debts that are owed to the IRS. How? The IRS is not going to look for what you did or did not do. The IRS is going to look at whether or not you benefited from what was done.

rawpixel-1055781-unsplash-1-300x201Erick Maya has successfully appealed his conviction by arguing that he suffered from ineffective assistance of counsel. This is despite the fact that he was represented by one of the most highly-regarded criminal defense attorneys in Illinois, George Lenard. Maya was accused and convicted of murdering Romeoville 15-year-old Briana Valle in 2014 in a highly publicized criminal trial. The case brought to light several issues in the age of the internet including Facebook stalking.

According to the prosecution, Valle met the young woman on Facebook when she was 13 years old. The two carried on a romantic relationship of sorts until, at some point, the relationship went downhill. The prosecution accused Maya of threatening to rape Valle and kill her family and then shoot her to death. They say that Maya then hired a taxi driver to bring him to Valle’s home. He got cold feet and left but, later, he went back and carried out his threat. He was charged in the murder of Briana Valle and the attempted murder of her other family members, including her mother whom he shot in the neck.

Attorneys for Maya appealed the verdict, which saw the defendant sentenced to 122 years for the murder and attempted murder. The appeals court has not yet overturned the verdict in the trial nor have they ordered a new trial. They did, however, rule against the circuit court’s decision that Maya received a fair defense.

For the past 28 years, James Gibson has maintained his own innocence. For 28 years he has remained behind bars. This is despite the fact that Gibson ostensibly confessed to the murders of an insurance agent and his friend. Gibson has always said that, over the course of two days, he was beaten by former Chicago police officer Jon Burge and the confession elicited during interrogation was coerced. Burge was accused of torturing confessions out of at least 200 suspects during his 19 years on the force. While the statute of limitations had elapsed on many of Burge’s crimes, he was eventually convicted in 2008 of obstruction of justice and perjury. He was sentenced to four and a half years, but released in 2014 after serving less than three.

As Burge’s crimes became public, Governor George Ryan pardoned four of those who had been convicted of crimes with confessions obtained by torture. Still, there are many behind bars who were convicted on phony confessions. James Gibson is among them. After 28 years, an appellate court threw out his conviction and ordered a new trial. Nonetheless, Gibson will likely remain behind bars until his friends and family raise the $20,000 necessary to release him on bail and will require electronic monitoring for the duration of the trial. 

Gibson Has Always Maintained His Innocence

chris-liverani-552652-unsplash-copy-300x22510 of 12 jurors did not believe that the state had proven its case against Jitesh Thakkar, but the remaining two refused to budge and thus the criminal trial resulted in a hung jury. The federal government had accused Thakkar of “spoofing,” which, in the context of illicit trading and finance, means utilizing algorithms to place trades for the sole purpose of manipulating stock prices. The spoofers place bids on stocks and then cancel the trade. The traders can then time trades to maximize their own profit while disrupting the market.

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, spoofing is defined as “the illegal practice of placing a bid with the intent to cancel before execution.” The legislation outlawing spoofing was passed in 2010 and outlines some of the pitfalls of market trading in a post-machine-learning world that allows algorithmic trades.

Spoofing is closely tied to the practice of layering. As an example, a trader may offer a number of stocks below asking price to drive the cost of stocks down. They repeat this process as the price of the stock becomes lower and lower until they place a legitimate bid at far below the stock’s value.

sawyer-bengtson-279792-copy-200x300While the city is still fuming over the Jussie Smollett plea bargain, four Chicago cops are facing termination after the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. At least part of the accusations surrounding that teen’s death claim that the police officers covered up key elements of the case to clean their hands in the shooting. While shooting deaths of young black men have taken center stage in the media over the past few years, resulting in the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement and riots in both Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, convictions of police acting in the line of duty remain rare.

Five Years Later, an Evidentiary Committee Will Decide Their Fate


While for many, it may appear reassuring that these four officers are being held accountable for the killing, there is an intriguing question as to why the case is being brought before committee now. Laquan McDonald was shot to death in 2014. Part of the reason has to do with whether or not the four officers involved in the shooting lied to investigators and gave false statements. However, five years seems an awfully long time for the officers to remain on the force while the slow wheels of internal affairs built a case against them.

michael-d-beckwith-579345-unsplash-copy-300x253In another case of a high-profile defendant being able to buy his way out of felony charges, Aaron Schock has been offered a plea in which the prosecution will drop all the corruption charges against him if he pays the IRS tens of thousands of dollars and repays his campaign committees. Schock came under fire when he spent what seemed like exorbitant amounts of money redecorating his office in the style of Downton Abbey—a show he must really, really like. He was indicted on two dozen counts of fraud and falsification of election commission filings. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

The plea, which was offered by federal prosecutors, allows them to drop the charges against Schock if he repays the IRS within six months, but also allows them to pursue charges if he does not repay the $68,000 that he owes. Schock failed to report earnings on his income taxes and hence became the target of the IRS. Schock was accused of selling world series and super bowl tickets for $42,000 in profit and misreporting mileage that was a part of his campaigning.

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