Criminal Justice News

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sexual Predator Pursued, Captured, Behind Bars

Fugitive Faces Charges of Prohibited Sexual Conduct With a Child

LSFTF LogoTerrell, TX – Albert Paul Woessner, Jr., 44, was arrested yesterday by the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) in conjunction with the Terrell Police Department (TPD) and Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). An arrest warrant was issued for Woessner pursuant to an investigation by the Comal County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) on charges of prohibited sexual conduct with a child.

On August 1, 2013, the United States Marshals Service Lone Star Fugitive Task Force (LSFTF) was contacted by the CCSO for assistance in locating and apprehending Woessner. Task force officers initiated an investigation and discovered that Woessner owned a home in Spring Branch, TX, but previously fled his residence once he realized he was being pursued by law enforcement. Task force officers continued their investigation and through investigative efforts learned that Woessner was living in a tent on a family owned property near the south side of San Antonio. Task force officers approached the location, but found the suspected living area abandoned and the tent burned. Through further investigation and assistance from the TxDPS, TPD, and KCSO, Woessner was found and arrested without incident at the Terrell State Hospital yesterday afternoon.

Woessner is currently being held in custody at the Kaufman County Jail awaiting extradition back to Comal County.

On July 16, 2013, the CCSO began conducting an investigation on Woessner, alleging that he committed prohibited sexual conduct with a child over the past several years. A warrant was issued for Woessner’s arrest earlier this month.

Robert R. Almonte, United States Marshal for the Western District of Texas, stated, “With the appreciated assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Terrell Police Department, and Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office another sexual predator has been pursued, captured, and put behind bars. My prayers go out to the victim, with hopes that she receives support and closure for the physical and emotional anguish that she was forced to endure.”

Members of the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force:

    New Braunfels Police Department
    San Antonio Police Department
    San Antonio Independent School District Police Department
    Bexar County Sheriff’s Office
    Comal County Sheriff’s Office
    Bexar County Fire Marshal’s Office
    Bexar County District Attorney’s Office
    Texas Office of The Attorney General
    Texas Department of Public Safety
    Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Office of the Inspector General
    U.S. Marshals Service

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Former North Carolina Probation Officer Sentenced for Coercing Probationer into Sexual Acts

Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced today that former North Carolina Department of Correction’s Division of Community Corrections Probation Officer Willie James Steele Jr., 43, has been sentenced for violating the constitutional rights of a female probationer that he was supervising by coercing her into sexual acts on two separate occasions.
According to an indictment and evidence presented in court, Steele supervised the female probationer in 2008 after her probation was transferred to North Carolina from another state and he had the authority to recommend to a court or other agency that the victim be incarcerated or otherwise sanctioned if she violated the conditions of her probation.  On Dec. 12, 2012, after a two-day trial, a jury found Steele guilty of two civil rights violations for depriving the victim of her constitutional right to bodily integrity by having non-consensual sexual intercourse with her during two separate probation meetings.
Chief Judge Robert J. Conrad, who presided over the trial, sentenced Steele to serve the statutory maximum incarceration of 24 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release, for his convictions at trial.

“Probation officers are given a great deal of power in order to carry out their critical responsibilities, but this officer abused that power and violated the civil rights of a woman under his supervision,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuels. “We will vigorously prosecute any probation officer who uses his position of trust to prey upon those he supervises.”

“Any time a law enforcement officer breaks the law it undermines the public’s trust in the legal system and we will do everything we can to ensure that trust is not compromised,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins.  “My office will prosecute those who abuse their position of power and use it to violate the civil rights of others.”

This case was investigated by the FBI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by the Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimlani Ford from the Western District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Shan Patel from the Civil Rights Division. 

Justice Department Announces Update to Marijuana Enforcement Policy

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.

In a new memorandum outlining the policy, the Department makes clear that marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce this statute. To this end, the Department identifies eight (8) enforcement areas that federal prosecutors should prioritize.  These are the same enforcement priorities that have traditionally driven the Department’s efforts in this area.

Outside of these enforcement priorities, however, the federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorizes to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. This guidance continues that policy.

For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the Department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department’s guidance. These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding. Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time.  But if any of the stated harms do materialize—either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one—federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Independence, Mo., Man and Woman Plead Guilty to Violating Civil Rights of Family by Torching Their Home

Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, and Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that an Independence, Mo., man and woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to violating the civil rights of an African-American family by setting fire to their residence.
Logan J. Smith, 25, and Victoria A. Cheek-Herrera, 34, both of Independence, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to one count of conspiring to threaten and intimidate an Independence family from exercising their constitutional right to reside in their home because of their race or color and one count of a civil rights violation for committing a racially-motivated arson.  Smith waived his right to a grand jury indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information, whereas Cheek-Herrera pleaded guilty to two of three counts charged in an indictment returned by the grand jury on May 23, 2013.
By pleading guilty, Smith and Cheek-Herrera admitted that on June 26, 2008, they conspired to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate an African-American couple and their minor children in the free exercise of their constitutional rights to occupy and rent their home in Independence, because of their race and color. 
According to the plea agreements, Smith and Cheek-Herrera discussed their desire to set fire to the home of the couple, and they drew a swastika and wrote the words “White Power” on the driveway.  Smith and Cheek-Herrera asked a juvenile acquaintance for gasoline and then created a Molotov cocktail by filling a glass bottle with gasoline and inserting a rag into the bottle to serve as a wick.  Smith and Cheek-Herrera then lit the wick and threw the gasoline-filled bottle into the side of the house that the couple was renting and set the residence on fire.
Smith and Cheek-Herrera each face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for one count of conspiracy against rights and a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for one count of interference with housing rights.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark and Trial Attorney Shan Patel of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Home Buying and Legal Advice

Buying your first home can be an exciting yet confusing experience. Many people face the prospect of buying a home in Sydney with a certain degree of confusion. By following a few tips, you can be assured that your first home buying experience is a positive one.

Research the Area

The first step in getting into the home of your dreams is to research the area in which you want to buy. Get information about property values and sales trends. Make note of any new developments that may cause your intended property’s value to rise and fall. New shopping areas, proposed highways and tourist attractions can mean an increase in the property’s value over time. The Real Estate Institute of Australia has valuable information that will help you make the right purchase decision.

Don’t fall in love with a home only to find out that you will have to replace the roof in a year. Have the properly thoroughly inspected before you sign any paperwork or pay any money. Inspect the property at different times of the day and night to get a true feel of the neighborhood. Visit on a rainy day to see if the roof is leaking or there are problems with flooding.

Get Legal Advice

Buying a house is a huge legal decision. Get some Sydney legal advice before signing any contracts or paying a deposit. Your Sydney lawyer can explain your purchase contract and give you advice on how to proceed with buying the right home. Your lawyer will also represent you during negotiations and help you to get the best price for the home of your dreams.

Negotiate a Fair Price

Getting the best price for your home is essential to making the best purchase choice. The seller wants to get the highest price he can for his home, while buyers want to get the best home for the least amount of money. Striking a balance during negotiations can be tricky. It is best to know all of the facts before trying to negotiate a price. If the house has been on the market for a long time and the seller is motivated to sell quickly, you can often negotiate things like repairs and appliances.

By following a few simple tips to make the right home purchase decisions, you will be turning the key to your new home in no time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

10 Police Cars Chasing a Moped

Ten police vehicles in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in pursuit of a moped.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bartenders get bystander intervention training

by Staff Sgt. Luther Mitchell Jr.
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/23/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Airmen from the 56th Security Forces Squadron, Club Five Six staff and the 56th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office recently conducted a joint bystander intervention exercise Aug. 14 at Club Five Six.

The goal of the exercise was to reinforce and train Club Five Six bartenders in bystander intervention skills and observe the responses and procedures of security forces during the joint sexual assault scenario.

"We are trying to facilitate more unit cohesion," said Staff Sgt. Steve Albavera, 56th SFS evaluator. "With sexual assault prevention being a big topic in the Air Force right now, we want to be proactive and do the training before the problem escalates. It happens too many times and many people don't acknowledge it. We want to put the word out there that bartenders, security forces and the SAPRO are being trained to handle these situations."

Three role players, selected from different units across Luke Air Force Base, acted out a scenario with one male and two females at a bar. One of the females is being harassed by the male. The bartenders were unaware of the exercise. The goal was for the bartenders to become aware the male was harassing the female and call security forces.

"The goal of the exercise was to enhance sensitivity toward victims of harassment and assault," said Joice Jones, SAPRO coordinator.

After some time, the bartender picked up on the harassment and called security forces. Security forces Airmen arrived and began questioning suspects and witnesses at the scene. The simulated victim was later taken to another section of the room where counselors from the SAPR office counseled her and informed her of reporting options.

Bartenders received bystander intervention training from the SAPR office prior to security forces arriving. Alyce White, Club Five Six bartender, said she welcomes the training.

"I'm looking forward to learning something new," White said. "I haven't seen anyone sexually harassed but you never know. Everybody seems to be pretty well mannered. I've never even had to tell someone they have had too much to drink."

Alcohol is often involved in cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Training bartenders to recognize signs of sexual harassment and sexual assault and informing the community are important in the prevention of similar cases.

"More than 80 percent of sexual assault allegations come out of a date rape drug scenario with alcohol being the number one date rape drug," Jones said. "The line between consent and nonconsent when alcohol is used can become blurred, just like one's ability to drive. In an environment where alcohol is served, there is a role for bartenders to keep an eye out for the dynamics of a person under the influence of alcohol to prevent negative outcomes."

The training is part of a larger effort in Arizona to increase awareness and participation in bystander intervention of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, through the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Program has an "Arizona Bar Bystander Project," a program to train targeted bar staff and bar patrons in bystander intervention, Jones said. This joint training exercise is in conjunction with the state's efforts to engage the same type of prevention strategies here at Luke.

U.S. Marshals Capture Suspect Wanted for Multiple Pittsburgh Murders

Pittsburgh, PA – U.S. Marshal Steve Frank announces the arrest of Pittsburgh Police homicide suspect James Lawrence. Lawrence was apprehended this morning at approximately 10:50 am following a brief foot chase by members of the United States Marshals Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force as he fled from officers attempting to arrest him. Lawrence, age 21, and co-defendant Michael Lyons, age 22, were originally charged by the Pittsburgh Police Department with Criminal Homicide, Conspiracy-Criminal Homicide and Firearms not to be Carried without a License, in the shooting death of Steven Lee Jr. of McKees Rocks on March 30, 2013. Lee was shot multiple times after he was pulled from a party bus which was stopped at Chartiers Avenue and Universal Street in the Sheraden Section of Pittsburgh. Lyons was captured by the Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force on May 21, 2013 pursuant to those charges.

Lawrence was also wanted on a second homicide warrant for his alleged involvement in a February, 2013 Beeltzhoover shooting. In that particular case, Lawrence and co-defendant Dorian Peebles, age 22, were both charged by the Pittsburgh Police Department on June 7, 2013, with Criminal Homicide, Conspiracy-Criminal Homicide, Carrying a Firearm without a License, Aggravated Assault and Recklessly Endangering another Person following a lengthy investigation into the shooting death of Tiona Jackson on East Warrington Avenue. A second victim was shot multiple times during this incident and later recovered from his injuries. Like Lyons, Peebles was apprehended by the Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force pursuant to these charges on June 12, 2013.

As task force officers attempted to arrest Lawrence this morning at a residence in the 7000 block of Chaucer Street in Pittsburgh, he ran out the back door where he scaled a chain link fence, wearing a bullet proof vest, before being captured by officers outside a residence in the 1500 block of North Murtland Street.

Investigators recovered a sizable amount of suspected crack cocaine and approximately $700.00 in U.S. currency during a search incident to arrest. Task Force members also recovered an assault rifle from the residence where Lawrence fled from.

Marshal Frank stated “…that the Task Force has arrested nearly 500 violent fugitives in the past year, but this was one of the most significant arrests of year. Lawrence was believed to be a serious threat to the community.”

The U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force is comprised of officers from the Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Sheriffs and Westmoreland County Sheriffs. These agencies, along with the United States Attorney’s Office, are participating members of the U.S. Marshals Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force (WPAFTF).

8 Year Fugitive Captured on Tybee Island

Savannah, GA – A Waycross man wanted for Failure to Surrender for Sentence and Bond Violation for a 2005 conviction by the United States Marshals Service was arrested on Tybee Island, Georgia by the United States Marshals Service Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Tybee Police Department on August 22, 2013.

Mark Ashley Griffin, 37, was wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service in a warrant issued in 2006 for Failure to Surrender to serve a sentence and Bond Violation. Griffin was convicted in U.S. District Court in Waycross, Georgia for Conspiracy to distribute, possession with intent to distribute, and manufacture in excess of 50 grams of cocaine base (crack). Griffin was sentenced to serve 110 months in federal prison on December 14, 2005. Griffin was allowed to self-surrender to the Federal Prison in Jesup, Georgia on January 17, 2006. Griffin failed to surrender and has been on the run since the date of conviction.

Numerous leads and interviews were conducted over the last almost eight years in Georgia and Florida to try to locate Griffin. Information was generated early on that said Griffin had fled the country to an island that did not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Although this was never confirmed, the investigation continued to try and find him. The U.S. Marshals have a reputation of being excellent fugitive hunters and as good as we are, we are also grateful for a little luck in the form of anonymous phone calls. Griffin’s luck ran out on August 22, 2013, when the U.S. Marshals Savannah office of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Tybee Island Police department located him in an apartment a 13 Izlar Street on Tybee Island, Georgia. Griffin had gone to great lengths to hide his true identity by using the alias of Dave Van Guard, had grown out his hair and dyed it blond, covered his distinctive tattoos with new tattoos and worked on a cash basis. Griffin had nothing in his name. Griffin had taken on the proverbial “surfer dude” look, totally opposite of his 2005 appearance. Griffin has laid low for the last almost eight years and never surfaced to the attention of law enforcement on Tybee Island other than being seen all over the island. Griffin even taught surfing lessons to the children on the island. An anonymous tip was received by the Marshals Task Force that stated that Griffin was in the area of 16th/17th Streets on Tybee Island. The task force set up surveillance in the area and observed Griffin come out of the Izlar address. Marshals went to the address and arrested Griffin without incident. Griffin was transported to the McIntosh County jail to await his court appearance on the outstanding charges.

Annually, investigations carried out by the U.S. Marshals result in the apprehension of over 36, 000 federal fugitives. More federal fugitives are arrested by the Marshals Service than all other federal agencies combined. In 2011, U.S. Marshals led task forces arrested more than 86,000 state and local fugitives, which cleared over 113,000 warrants.

The Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force has three offices: Atlanta, Macon, and Savannah. The task force covers the whole state of Georgia. The Savannah Office of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force is a team comprised of investigators from the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department, the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, the Hampton County Sheriff’s Department, and the United States Marshals Service. The task force objective is to seek out and arrest fugitives charged with violent crimes, drug crimes, sex offenders, and other felonies.