Articles Posted in Criminal defense

The FBI filed federal charges against a 34-year-old Morton Grove man who they claimed made threats to kill FBI agents over the phone. However, Matthew Berger was acquitted of all five charges of sending threatening communications to a federal officer. 

Berger has an interesting rap sheet. He has been in federal custody since his arraignment in December and will now be transferred to a Cook County facility for allegedly pulling a fire alarm in a police station. 

The ‘Guy is Annoying but Didn’t Commit a Crime’ Defense

joris-v-541657-unsplash-copy-300x200Liltony M. Van has been charged with first-degree murder after a road rage incident turned fatal. According to reports, the other man, Marquist Boyd had a baseball bat on him and brandished it. Van pulled out a handgun and shot Boyd in the head. It is unclear whether or not Van owned the gun legally, but the only other charge against him is criminal trespass to a vehicle.

To date, 28 states have passed some version of a “stand your ground” law, with Florida’s being the most notable. In Florida, if an individual has reasonable cause to believe that another person is going to harm or injure them, they are within their rights to use lethal force against that individual. If this altercation took place in Florida, it may be hard to even get it before a jury. This is because if a defendant raises a “stand your ground” defense during an indictment, the prosecutor must overcome a burden of proof to follow up with a jury trial. Furthermore, if the case is allowed to proceed to a jury, the defendant may use a stand your ground defense to the charges.

As permissive as Florida’s law is, it is not a proverbial ace in the hole against charges that involve any altercation, and Illinois’ law is less permissive still. Here, we will take a look at what kind of chances Liltony M. Van would have with a self-defense plea.

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200As Illinois moves to become the latest state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, many individuals who have criminal records for possession are about to see those records expunged. Under the new law, possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana at a time is authorized by law. Possessing greater quantities, however, is still considered criminal under Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act

Law enforcement will use an algorithm to go through all the criminal records in Chicago and expunge any record of possession of marijuana that was at or below 30 grams. Those who have been caught with 500 grams or less can also have their records expunged, but they are required to petition the court to do so. 500 grams is over a pound, so this would be considered trafficking territory. 

If you have a conviction for under 30 grams, then you do not have to do anything at all. The court will take care of it automatically and issue you a notice that your record has been expunged. Anything over 30 grams will require you to petition the court for an expungement

drew-patrick-miller-4560-unsplash-copy-300x111Judges have broad discretion when it comes to allowing defendants to represent themselves. In a recent case, a judge denied a pro se petition by Dwight Doty to represent himself in the slaying of a 9-year-old boy whose father was a member of a rival gang. But another recent case outlines the perils of getting what you wish for.

Jovan Battle, a homeless man who was accused of murdering an off-duty police officer was convicted after a jury determined he was culpable for the death of an officer and the wounding of his friend. While the case would have likely resulted in a conviction of some kind, it did not have to result in a first-degree murder conviction and several armed battery counts for which Battle will spend the rest of his life in prison. In fact, Battle never pulled the trigger or opened fire on anyone.

According to prosecutors, Battle mistook the police officer for some another person with whom he had had a fight earlier that night. He directed one of the two other men he was with that night to their car and that man opened fire, killing the officers and injuring his friend. Of course, none of that should have been disclosed to police during the interrogation, and yet all of it was, so it formed the basis of their first-degree murder charge against Battle.

quentin-kemmel-445082-copy-300x20025-year-old Dwight Doty told a Chicago judge that since the trial involved him and he knew what was going on better than anyone else, he should be allowed to represent himself at trial. The judge denied his request. Doty is accused of killing a 9-year-old boy execution-style. 

The judge told Doty that he believed his pro se defense motion was just a bid for delay. When a defendant petitions the court to represent themselves, the judge must sign off on the motion before allowing it to proceed. Famous individuals who represented themselves unsuccessfully include Colin Ferguson and Ted Bundy. In both cases, you had defendants with enough presumed intelligence to carry on the task of questioning witnesses. Both proved to be monumental disasters, however.

A judge in a criminal trial has a vested interest in ensuring that the proceedings are carried out fairly. In this case, the judge grilled Doty on his education and asked him why he thought he was qualified to try a case against two skilled defendants. Doty did not seem to have a good answer to that question, but was that good enough for the judge to deny his motion?

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224It is the kind of crime that you see documentaries about on TV: A mother and daughter duo are charged with two counts of first-degree murder after police say that they killed an expectant mother and cut the baby from her womb. They have been charged with both the murder of the mother and the baby that she carried.

According to police, the women cut the baby from the mother’s womb and then delivered it to the hospital. Clarisa Figueroa, a former certified nursing assistant, passed the baby off as her own. 

Police contend that the two plotted for weeks to steal Marlen Ochoa’s baby. They further contend that the Figueroas met Ochoa in a Facebook group called Help a Mother Out. The Figueroas offered to help Ochoa purchase new clothes for her baby. Police claimed that this lured her to their home where they proceeded to murder her and take her baby. The elder Figueroa, who had her tubes tied prior, claimed that she was also pregnant, going so far as to post pictures of the ultrasound.

fabian-grohs-396734-copy-300x240One of the problems with social media, anonymous interactions, and our current political climate is that people who are mere profiles are “less real” than they are when you are facing them in person. For some reason, people feel emboldened to make threats against institutions that they do not like online much more frequently than they would in person. 

Recently, a 19-year-old man was charged with threatening to slaughter doctors, patients, and visitors of a Chicago abortion clinic. The threats were made over a social media site known as iFunny where users can share humorous or amusing memes with one another. Of course, afterward, Farhan Sheikh claimed the entire thing was a joke. But making a hoax threat is still illegal.  

However, Sheikh basically threatened to slaughter anyone he saw at an abortion clinic that was about four miles away from his house and then warned FBI agents that his account was not satire and that they should take his threats seriously. Obviously, not very funny.

tim-gouw-ScWvHUtQca4-unsplash-copy-300x200There are quite a few threads in this one. According to police, 28-year-old Jason Taylor posed as a rideshare driver to assault a woman he met on Tinder. Police say that Jason Taylor used a false identity on the app and appeared to be stalking college students

Police also say that Taylor began chatting with two Northwestern students who later refused to meet with him. He then began harassing them online. 

In the case of the woman whom he did allegedly assault, it is unclear what their interaction was prior to the event. Taylor is being questioned in connection with a number of other sexual assaults that occurred around the Evanston area and beyond. Northwestern police are asking that anyone with information come forward at this time.

hajran-pambudi-403848-copy-300x199Bernard Harvey, an Indianapolis man, has been charged with unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon the day after he discharged it outside a VA hospital several times before entering the hospital. This, of course, created a panic as the man entered with the semi-automatic rifle. No one was harmed during the event.

Harvey will be charged in federal court and under federal law for restrictions involving felons who illegally possess weapons. 

Felon in Possession of a Firearm

sam-mcghee-KieCLNzKoBo-unsplash-copy-300x169John Coli Sr., a former Teamsters union boss, has been charged with extortion. Coli Sr. has an interesting reputation. Known for his brash and uncompromising language, he once told an attorney in a deposition to go “fudge” themselves. For years, controversy surrounded many of his decisions. He was accused of nepotism, cronyism, and having ties to criminal organizations

According to the FBI, Coli was recorded urging a West Side film studio to dump one of its executives after the exec refused to pay him extortion money. Coli used gay slurs to describe the man as a rat and a whistleblower. Interestingly, however, Coli then pleaded guilty to the corruption charge and offered his own testimony in exchange for a lenient sentence. 

Coli was accused of extorting over $300,000 from the aforementioned film studio by threatening labor strikes. Major television shows such as Empire and Chicago Fire are filmed at the studio as well as major films.