John A. Steakely

Attorney John Steakley is a 1996 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. He began his career as the Special Prosecutor for Drug Crimes for a multi-county, multi-agency drug task force in Tennessee, where he represented the State of Tennessee in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases in a 5-county judicial district.

Gwinnett Marijuana Grow House Searched, Bananas Found

Gwinnett Marijuana Grow House Searched, Bananas Found

A Gwinnett County amateur botanist got a hard lesson in the War on Drugs recently.  Police appeared at his door with "information" that he had a marijuana grow house and a search warrant to boot.  They were determined and rude, harassing the innocent homeowner for a confession to a crime he wasn't committing:  

"They said, 'Just say you had plants and you moved them someplace else.' And I just kept telling them the truth. There was never a marijuana garden here," said Scott Smithwick.

Smithwick has set up high intensity lamps, fans and a watering system in two basement rooms in the Lawrenceville home that he shares with his father. He said he does not grow, sell or smoke marijuana and uses the equipment to cultivate mostly tropical plants and flowers.

"I'm a plant freak. Inside I grow banana plants, orchids, and other tropical plants," Smithwick told Channel 2's Tom Regan.

Smithwick has banana trees growing in his basement in January.  Those aren't plants you can grow outside in Georgia in winter.

Several weeks ago, police went to his home twice, the second time with a search warrant. They said they had information that he was producing marijuana.

Information from whom?  Let's name the person who claims this guy was growing marijuana. Additionally, the police should have corroborated the information before getting the search warrant. It sounds like they skipped that part.

Smithwick said he asked if he could videotape officers while they search his home and was told no.

"The sergeant became extremely hostile. His response was, 'Are you serious? I'll handcuff you and detain you in that chair,'" Smithwick said. "They were convinced I had a marijuana garden in here and had just gotten rid of it."

So a guy who is not under arrest and standing inside his own home can't videotape the police while they search for evidence to use against him?  I think otherwise.  In fact, I think Mr. Smithwick would be a poster child for the claim that he has a Constitutional Due Process right to videotape this search as a way of preserving evidence that may be useful in his defense. 

Smithwick said when police found no marijuana they threatened to arrest him for having equipment and materials that could be used to grow pot.

'The sergeant told me based on (the) fertilizers and the lights in the room, I could be charged with manufacturing marijuana and held without bond and sent to prison," Smithwick said.

Uh, no.  Fertilizer isn't a crime.  Grow lights aren't a crime.  Fertilizer and grow lights together aren't a crime.  Even if he was planning on growing marijuana next week, Georgia courts are clear that "preparing to commit a crime isn't a crime."  Purchasing gasoline isn't arson, even if that's why you're purchasing the gasoline.

Smithwick said the threats and intimidation by investigators amounted to harassment.

When the don't have, you know, actual evidence of a crime, threats and intimidation are all they have left and that's what they fall back on.

"As a member of this community, a taxpayer and a voter, I think I deserve some answers," Smithwick said.

We all do, Mr. Smithwick, but don't expect to get them.  Enjoy your bananas.

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Georgia General Assembly Awards Wrongfully Convicted Man $400,000

The Georgia Legislature has quietly awared wrongfully convicted Lathan Rydell Word a total of $400,000 for his eleven years spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AND ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that the Department of Administrative Services is authorized and directed to pay the sum of $400,000.00 to Mr. Lathan Rydell Word as compensation as provided above. Said sum shall be paid from funds appropriated to or available to the Department of Administrative Services and shall be in full and complete satisfaction of all claims against the state arising out of said occurrence. Said sum shall not be subject to state income taxes and shall be paid in the form of an annuity over a 20 year period with an initial lump sum payment of $100,000.00 and monthly payments thereafter. None of the funds provided by this resolution shall be used to pay attorney's fees if such fees are calculated on a contingency fee basis.

Mr. Word was wrongfully convicted of an Armed Robbery and sentenced to fifteen years in prison just as he was about to join the USMC.  After winning a new trial, he refused to plea guilty to time served and demanded a new trial, in which he was acquitted. 

I wish these things would get more publicity.  Out of a jury pool of 50, I will typically get at least 5 people willing to admit that they think anyone in court charged with a crime must be guilty of something.  They naively believe that there are filters in place to prevent innocent people from getting to trial, and that their job as jurors is little more than to rubber-stamp the indictment.  It is that sort of thinking that costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars down the line with the innocent person finally wins their freedom.  Jurors ARE the filter, and more of them need to realize it.

Note how the bill prohibits any of the award from being used to pay attorney fees.  By doing so, the legislature protects itself.  By prohibiting attorney fees, the legislation eliminates the financial incentive for attorneys to take these kinds of cases, which reduces the number of times the legislature has to deal with it, and makes it more difficult for people like Mr. Word to get the legal assistance he needs. 

The entire bill, including details about Mr. Word's case, can be found here.

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Fifty Years Later, And It Still Doesn't Work

Fifty Years Later, And It Still Doesn't Work

A full half-century after the Gideon v. Wainright decision from the U.S. Supreme Court holding that indigent people accused of crimes are entitled to taxpayer-funded attorneys for their defense, the system still isn't working, says the American Bar Association.  Clarence Earl Gideon was a homeless drifter in his 50's accused of breaking into a pool hall.  He was convicted without an attorney and sent to prison.  He appealed. 

In its Gideon decision, the justices unanimously overruled a 1942 case, Betts v. Brady, and held that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of counsel was a fundamental right made applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment. Justice Hugo L. Black wrote for the court that it was an “obvious truth” that a fair trial for an indigent defendant could not be guaranteed without the assistance of counsel. The “noble ideal” that every defendant “stands equal before the law … cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him,” Black wrote.

It always sounds wonderful when people promise other people stuff for free.  It is the foundation of modern politics.  The problem, though, is that it rarely works: 

A year ago, addressing the American Bar Association’s National Summit on Indigent Defense, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that across the country, “public defender offices and other indigent defense providers are underfunded and understaffed. Too often, when legal representation is available to the poor, it’s rendered less effective by insufficient resources, overwhelming caseloads and inadequate oversight.”

In short, Holder said, “the basic rights guaranteed under Gideon have yet to be fully realized.”

There you have it: United States Attorney General Eric Holder speaking fast and furiously about how people who rely on public defenders get a level of service that is "less effective" because of "insufficient resources, overwhelming caseloads and inadequate oversight."  But Holder isn't the only person who knows it: 

Daniel T. Goyette, the chief public defender for Jefferson County in Kentucky, and a member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, says that “despite some genuine efforts and notable advances, the criminal justice system and, more pointedly, the leadership of our executive, legislative and judicial branches of government—both state and federal —have largely failed to carry out the constitutional mandate of the Gideon decision.”

He adds: “Sadly, it has not been a priority, and we are constantly taking one step forward and two steps back.”

This isn't a new problem:

A 2004 report by the ABA, Gideon’s Broken Promise: America’s Continuing Quest for Equal Justice (PDF), laid out the top concerns. The chief one is that indigent defense services are not adequately funded, leading to an inability to attract and compensate good lawyers, as well as to pay for experts and investigators. Meanwhile, defenders of the indigent are often inexperienced, fail to maintain proper contact with their clients, or are not competent to provide services that meet ethical standards. And judges sometimes fail to honor the independence of defense counsel and routinely accept representation of indigent defendants that is patently inadequate.

That report shouldn't have shocked anyone, because public opinion polls from years earlier already showed that Most Would Not Trust A Public Defender.  But that was in 2004.  Surely the problem was solved, right?  Think again:

Fast-forward to 2009, and a report of the National Right to Counsel Committee and the Constitution Project found little progress. Despite an overall increase in funding, “inadequate financial support continues to be the single greatest obstacle to delivering ‘competent’ and ‘diligent’ defense representation,” said the report, Justice Denied: America’s Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (PDF).

The most visible sign of such inadequate funding is public defenders with “astonishingly large caseloads,” sometimes more than 100 clients per lawyer at a time. Such lawyers cannot interview their clients properly, file the appropriate motions, investigate their cases, responsibly negotiate with prosecutors, or perform other tasks.

Never a group to pass up a chance at publicity, the ACLU has their own project outlining the failings of the public defender system in their "Unfulfilled at 50" project.

The real goal of all this public criticism is to generate more money from politicians for public defenders, but I think this theme that "public defenders don't do a good job because they don't get enough taxpayer dollars" does more harm than good, because it also means that until there is a vast increase in taxpayer dollars for attorneys to defend the accused, public defenders will continue to do a poor job. 

In Georgia, most counties are part of the statewide public defender system.  A few places, like Gwinnett County, Cobb County, Cherokee County and a few others fund their own systems that are independent of the statewide system.  I think clients get more attention in the independent systems, but those systems and the lawyers who work within them are still economically limited in what they can do for their clients.  Even in those counties, my advice to someone facing criminal charges would still be to hire your own attorney. 

With the United States Attorney General, the National Right to Counsel Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Bar Association all going on record describing public defenders as underfunded, understaffed,  less effective, having insufficient resources, overwhelming caseloads and inadequate oversight, the answer to the question of Should I Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney? should be more crystal clear than ever:  YES

UPDATE: This isn't a slap at the dedication of the individual lawyers who work in PD offices.  This is a criticism of the highest levels who use these overworked lawyers as hostages to extort more money from taxpayers instead of advocating for stricter limits on who qualifies for a PD. 


Fifty Years After Gideon v. Wainwright . . .

Despite the "True Believers," The Public Defender System is Broken

Should I Hire A Defense Attorney?

Most Would Not Trust A Public Defender

Attorney General Holder's Remarks on Indigent Defense

The Right to Counsel: An Unfulfilled Constitutional Right

Failing Gideon: An Indigent Defense System In Crisis

Gideon at Fifty: A Problem of Political Will


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Half of Americans Now Have Smartphones

Half of Americans Now Have Smartphones

Apparently we are at the 50% mark of citizens that have smartphones (mostly iOS, Android, and Windows).  I imagine almost all of those telephones have the ability to record audio and video in better quality than digital cameras could just a few years ago. 

With the rise of cameras in everyone's pocket, I anticipate we will see more and more conflict between citizens who want to film the police and the police who do not wish to be filmed.  As a general rule, anyone can film anything in public, so long as they aren't causing a problem by doing so.  Your rights to film in public do not includ the right to film from the middle of the street at rush hour, for example. 

For my work and thoughts on the issue, look here and here.   As always, if you find yourself in a bind because you recorded an officer, give us a call.

Some Cops Never Learn

The Sad Case of Lester Eugene Siler Founder Adam Mueller Appeals Convictions

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0 Comments Founder Adam Mueller Appeals Convictions co-founder Adam Mueller was convicted of felony wiretapping in connection with recorded calls to school and police officials about the arrest of a student at Manchester High School West in New Hampshire.  He has appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court

This shouldn't even be a crime.  His biggest problem, though, was that he made the horrible mistake of representing himself: 

Ten days after his August trial, he mailed a motion to the court, seeking to have the verdict set aside or reversed, the charges dismissed with prejudice, the conviction vacated and his release ordered, or, alternatively, a new trial ordered and the remaining sentence stayed. He argued he had been confined in jail, without access to legal materials, and that is why he hadn't filed the motion sooner.

The prosecution objected to the motion and the judge denied it, saying it was not filed within the required seven days and that Mueller himself had requested immediate sentencing after the verdict was returned, and Mueller is an "experienced pro se litigator and knows the rules."

The fact that he has been in court before doesn't mean he "knows the rules" or that he's a lawyer.  Rather, this is a good example of how just because someone represents themselves, it doesn't mean that the court will bend the rules to accomodate them.  He seems like a smart guy and smart guys often convince themselves that they can sit through a Law & Order marathon and then go try their own case to a jury.  That's not how it works. 

Representing yourself is always a bad idea. Worse, this guy may have had a Constitutional claim that he failed to raise and is now likely prohibited from raising. (See my Washington University Law Review article on the subject of recording the police with Professor Glenn Reynolds of


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TN Lawmakers Investigating "Policing for Profit"

TN Lawmakers Investigating "Policing for Profit"

You may have read here or elsewhere about the abuse of civil forfeiture laws by police.  It looks like Tennessee lawmakers are considering changes: 

Tennessee lawmakers are prepared to consider a major overhaul of laws that allow police to take cash off of drivers to fund their agencies.

Rep. Barrett Rich's bill, as drafted, would completely outlaw the practice known as civil asset forfeiture. That practice allows police to take people's cash or property without charging them with a crime.
While Rich didn't believe he had the votes to go that far, he said that there is an emerging consensus over other reforms to protect the innocent.
A prime example, Rich said, is the New Jersey man who had $22,000 cash taken from him during a traffic stop. An officer took George Reby's money based on his suspicion that it might be drug money.

Rep. Rich said that story "opened a lot of people's eyes" and has created a chance for reform.
"If we arrest a criminal, they are given an opportunity to have a preliminary hearing," the lawmaker said.
"I think that when the government does a taking of property, they should be given that opportunity immediately to be given at least hearing in front of an elected judge, a real judge."
Rich added that he wants to make sure that police are still allowed to take real drug money off the streets, while protecting the rights of the innocent.

Let's hope.  When police can seize property with impugnity, then things have gone way too far.  Hopefully, other states like Georgia will follow Tennessee's lead in trying to reign in this growing problem.

Judge Calls Civil Forfeiture "State-Sanctioned Theft"

Civil Forfeiture: Guilty Until Proven Innocent?



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How a Single Oxycontin Pill Nearly Ruined One Man's Life

How a Single Oxycontin Pill Nearly Ruined One Man's Life

Most people think of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine when they think of "drugs."  But many of the drug convictions in the US are from possession of prescription drugs.  Because these drugs often fall into the same drug schedules as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, the penalties can be just as devastating.

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ELEVEN False Rape Claims

A woman in England has been arrested for making false rape allegations for the eleventh time:

Elizabeth Jones, 22, was exposed when CCTV footage disproved her allegation against a man she ‘did not like any more’.  She had made her first false rape claim in 2004 when she was just 13. . . . Between 2005 and 2007 she made another eight allegations which police investigated and dismissed. . . .   In 2009 she was sentenced to a ten-month detention and training order for a similar offense. 

Jones’s latest victim was a boyfriend against whom she made the allegation after the pair had an argument.  Police began an investigation after Jones . . . persuaded a friend to report she had been assaulted.

So not only does she fool the cops, she fools her friends.

She later went to the police station for a medical examination and repeated her allegation. The man was arrested and questioned for nine hours before being released without charge.  Prosecutor Jennie Rickman said he denied rape and detectives later viewed CCTV covering part of the house in which Jones claimed to have been attacked.  The video did not support her story that the man forced himself on her.

So because she screams rape and puts on a show, some poor guy gets arrested, booked, photographed, fingerprinted, and interrogated for nine straight hours.   That's the sort of thing that leads to innocent peple making  false confessions just to get the cops off their back.

What if the CCTV footage hadn't existed?  It wouldn't just be her word against his, because these medical examinations almost always find a way to support the accuser.  It's usually some weasel words like "the medical findings are consistent with the patient's accusations" or are "not inconsistent with sexual assault."  Jurors latch on to that as proof of rape, even when the medical evidence is just as consistent with consensual sex.

I feel sorry for any man accused of rape, because they don't get fair trials. I've tried several rape cases in my career, and I'm always amazed at how closed-minded some potential jurors are. I've had potential jurors say, "A woman would never lie about being raped" and they mean it.  I guess these people have never heard of the Runaway Bride

It's tough for a man accused of rape to get a fair trial.  Men accused of rape or any other sexual offense need to make sure they have an experienced attorney on their side before walking into the courtrom.  


UPDATE:  Here's another example of an innocent man accused of rape because the "victim" didn't want to confess to consensual sex with her friend's boyfriend.

Ashleigh Loder, 25, wasted at least 100 hours of police time by inventing the assaults.  She first told officers she had been attacked by two strangers in an alley before changing her story to say a man she knew had forced her to have sex in her home.

In the UK, there's more aggressive prosecution of false claims than in the US.  Note, though, that this article is written to complain about the prosecution of false claims, not applaud it.

UPDATE II:  To make the double standard worse, we have people like Zerlina Maxwell arguing that any woman claiming rape should be automatically believed.  That's the attitude men are up against in court.


Famous False Confession Cases


Woman Cries Rape Because She Didn't Enjoy It


False Confessions Plague Criminal Justice System With Wrongful Convictions and Wrongful "Guilty" Pleas


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Judge Calls Civil Forfeiture "State-Sanctioned Theft"

Judge Calls Civil Forfeiture "State-Sanctioned Theft"

A judge has said out loud what most lawyers already know:  civil forfeiture is legalize theft.

In the forfeiture case, the state wanted to seize Gregory Palazzari’s gas station in State College, Pa., for allegedly being a storage and selling place for cocaine. Palazzari pled guilty to drug trafficking charges, but argued that the gas station should not be forfeited under the law. The government argued Palazarri was not entitled to a hearing in court to present evidence against the forfeiture.

It IS state-sanctioned theft. The photo in this post is an overhead view of a lot full of seized cars.  Most civil forfeiture cases begin with a drug case. Civil forfeiture cases are entirely separate cases with their own case numbers, court dates and rules. Sometimes they will have the same judge and prosecutors, but not always. You can lose your property even if you win the underlying criminal case. In fact, their doesn't even have to be an underlying criminal case. The police can take your property even if they can't prove you did anything wrong.

In this remarkable case from Tennessee, police seized $22,000 from a man simply because he couldn't prove where it came from. That's outrageous. Your money is your money. You shouldn't have to prove that you got it legitimately. Rather, the burden should be upon the government (police) to prove that you didn't.

If you get involved in a case like this, please don't try to handle it yourself. There are some deadlines and required filings that will kill your case if you miss them. Call us. We can help.


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Woman Cries Rape Because She Didn't Enjoy It

A Tennessee woman falsely accused a man of one of the most serious crimes on the books because, well, because she just didn't enjoy the sex:

Police said Lynette Lee admitted to a Clarksville detective last week the rape claim she had made earlier in the month was false. She said she had only made the claim because she did not enjoy the date.

On November 23, Lee had told police that after meeting up with a man she met online at, she and the man had gone back to a hotel together. According to a report, Lee said once at the hotel the man removed her clothes and, despite her protests, had sex with her.

The suspect in the case was called in by Clarksville police and told officers he and Lee had been out on a date and engaged in consensual sex.

During a second interview with police on November 27, Lee told the detective she wanted to drop the entire case because it was a lie. Police said Lee told them she had lied about the incident "because she did not enjoy it and it was bad."

Police charged her with filing a false report.

It's always wrong to falsely accuse anyone of a crime, but something like rape is especially horrible. At least they were kind enough not to put this guy's name on the internet. Long before she confessed, though, she probably enjoyed lots of attention and special treatment as a "victim" of crime that never happened. 

I feel sorry for any man accused of rape. I've tried several rape cases in my career by as a prosecutor and defense attorney. I'm always amazed at how closed-minded some potential jurors are. I've had potential jurors say, "A woman would never lie about being raped" and they mean it. I don't think they are just trying to get out of jury service. I sincerely think that they are clinging to this centuries-old idea that a woman who "admits" a rape is somehow lowering her own reputation in the community, so a woman would never devalue herself like that by falsely claiming rape.

That's just not the case anymore. Society accepts premarital sex as normal. A virgin bride over 18 isn't expected anymore. Therefore, women are now "free" to falsely accuse men they don't like of rape without lowering their own standing in the community. Unfortunately, the older idea that a woman would never do that persists in the minds of many potential jurors. Because of that, men don't get trials that are as fair and balanced as they should be.

UPDATE:  Here's another example of an innocent man accused of rape because the "victim" didn't want to confess to consensual sex with her friend's boyfriend.

Ashleigh Loder, 25, wasted at least 100 hours of police time by inventing the assaults.  She first told officers she had been attacked by two strangers in an alley before changing her story to say a man she knew had forced her to have sex in her home. 

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Wireless Telephone Tapping

Wireless Telephone Tapping

In many criminal cases the police use "tapped" cellular telephone data to help build their case.  Unfortunately, this can sometime be done even without a warrant. 

"[T]he Senate voted to grant blanket immunity to companies like AT&T, which conspired with the NSA to monitor American digital conversations without government oversight after 9/11. Today's vote continues that immunity, and provides further carte blanche for the American intelligence-gathering apparatus. Phone calls, texts, and emails are all fair game—and a judge doesn't have to give the OK, so long as it's in the name of counterterrorism. Which is a very easy guise.

Read more here.

Compare this to the FBI's Carnivore program from the late 1990's. 

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Mandatory Sentences Face Growing Skepticism

Mandatory Sentences Face Growing Skepticism

Two decades ago when the current "tough on crime" wave was really getting going, people believed that tougher sentences would send a powerful message and result in FEWER people ending up in jail. These tough sentences would apply to non-violent crime as well, the theory being that the non-violent drug users will graduate up to being violent drug dealers and we save lives and money by locking them up before that happens.  It SOUNDS catchy, but that's just not how life works

“Even though you have been involved in drugs and drug dealing,” Judge Vinson told Ms. George, “your role has basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder but not actively involved in the drug dealing, so certainly in my judgment it does not warrant a life sentence.”

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Supreme Court Skeptical About DNA Collection

Supreme Court Skeptical About DNA Collection

There is no big DNA database containing the DNA sequence of every American.  What little DNA database their is was mostly collected from convicts and parolees.  So while police may collect an unknown DNA sample from a crime scene, they often can't link it to any specific person, unless that specific person has already committed a crime and is already in the database. 

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Top Ten Ways to Damage Your Criminal Case

Top Ten Ways to Damage Your Criminal Case

Being accused of a crime is bad enough, but some people still manage to make their bad situation even worse.  Based on my seventeen years in this profession, here are the top ten ways I see people damage their criminal cases:

1. Skip bail.  If you fail to show for court, you're going to lose whatever respect the judge may have for you as well as give the proseuctor an argument for why you aren't a good candidate for probation.  The judge will issue a warrant for your arrest which will pop up at the worst possible time, like when you are standing at the airport trying to leave for vacation or when you get stopped for speeding on the way to your daughter's wedding.

2. Move, but don't tell anyone.  If I can't find you then your bail bonding company probably can't find you and the court can't find you, so now it looks like you've skipped bail, because you won't get court notices in the mail and you won't get letters from your attorney.  See #1.  Just because you may have told the Post Office your new address doesn't mean the Judge has it.  It is not the job of the court system to hunt you down. It is your job to keep them informed of your whereabouts.  If you don't want to do that, at least tell your lawyer and bail bondsman.

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Hemingway's Cats Are A Federal Matter

Hemingway's Cats Are A Federal Matter

The federal government has long used the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution to regulate pretty much anything it wanted to regulate.  The theory goes that since the federal government has the power to regulate commerce between the states, anything affecting that commerce is also subject to federal regulation.  A farmer growing his own corn to feed his pigs is a federal matter, they say, because that farmer won't be buying his corn from another state.  Since that affects commerce, the feds can regulate it.

In a great example of just how far this power goes, a federal court has ruled that the feline descendants of Ernest Hemingway's cats living on the grounds of his former home in Key West, FL (about as far as one can get from any other state in the union) are subject to federal regulation.

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"SWATting" is the act of convincing a heavily-armed band of local law enforcement that they need to raid a house.  Sometimes this is done as a prank.  Sometimes it is done maliciously.  Everytime it happens, innocent lives are placed in danger.

 Imagine you're sitting at home, comfortable on the couch, watching the Food Network, when all of a sudden a heavily armed SWAT team breaks down your door and storms into your living room.

That's what happened to 18-year-old Stephanie Milan, who was watching TV in her family's Evansville, Ind., home last Thursday (June 22), when a team of police officers broke down her storm door — the front door was already open — and tossed a flash-bang stun grenade into the room.

"The front door was open," Ira Milan, Stephanie's grandfather and the property owner, told the Evansvile Courier & Press. "To bring a whole SWAT team seems a little excessive."

Turns out, however, that the SWAT team had the address wrong.

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Irish Council May Allow Drunk Driving

Link shared on 25-02-2013



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Registration Leads To Confiscation




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Elderly Couple Stopped, Interrogated for Buckeye

Elderly Couple Stopped, Interrogated for Buckeye

A couple of senior citizens driving through Tennessee were stopped and interrogated for being Ohio State fans: 

Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni, 65, and her husband were driving home to Plano, Texas from Columbus after attending her mother-in-law’s funeral when a pair of black police SUV’s stopped the couple a few miles outside of Memphis.

Apparently, Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni, former president of the Ohio State Alumni Club in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had an Ohio State Buckeye football decal on her vehicle.  Police mistook it for a marijuana leaf. 

They were very serious,” she said. “They had the body armor and the guns.”

Because the couple’s two schnauzers were barking furiously, one of the officers had Jonas-Boggioni exit the car so he could hear her better.

“What are you doing with a marijuana sticker on your bumper?” he asked her.

She explained that it is actually a Buckeye leaf decal, just like the ones that Ohio State players are given to put on their helmets to mark good plays.

“He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language,” she said.

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You Are Probably A Child Pornographer

Much like the Jeff Foxworthy "You Might Be A Redneck If . . ." series, I wish someone would start a "You Might Be A Child Pornographer" series to demonstrate just how far and wide government powers go, to the point that it's difficult to avoid stepping over the line.

Do you have children? When they were young did they ever run around the house naked? Did you ever take a picture or video of it to show your spouse? If so, then you might be a child pornographer.

Judge Throws Out Case Against "Child Pornographer"

A judge sided with Todd Hoffner, head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato, by throwing out the child porn charges against him last Friday.

The judge said the cellphone video was nothing more than children playfully dancing naked after a bath.

"I'm just so thankful to be waking up from this nightmare," Hoffner said after the ruling, which came more than three months after the coach was escorted off a practice field and later arrested.

Now, Hoffner said, he wants to get back on the sideline. But it's unclear when that may happen.

The university said he would remain on leave until its own investigation was complete, and school spokesman Don Benson said he had no timetable as to when that might happen.

Hoffner was charged after a school employee found the video on his university-issued cellphone and notified authorities. Hoffner had taken his problematic phone to work to be checked out.

Hoffner testified earlier that his three young children asked him to videotape a skit they had concocted after taking a bubble bath.

A search of his home computer found no evidence of child porn, and social workers found no evidence that the couple's children had been abused.

Good job, judge. Now the citizens of that town need to make sure their DA doesn't get re-elected.
While this sounds like a happy ending, read between the lines.  This guy:
  1. was arrested
  2. was booked into jail for child pornography
  3. had his home searched
  4. had his computer searched
  5. had his friends interviewed
  6. was put on leave from his job
  7. had his children interviewed by social workers
  8. had to post bail
  9. probably couldn't be alone with his kids
  10. had to hire a lawyer

    Sounds like a "nightmare" indeed.

In Georgia, pretty much ANY picture of ANY naked child for ANY reason (other than medical) counts as child porn, and it does not matter that the person in the picture is the one doing the sending.  A teen who sends a single topless picture of herself to a boyfriend via internet or cell phone is committing a felony and can go to prison. People caught up in cases like this get branded "child pornographer" for life even if the charges are dismissed. Georgia's new "Restriction of Records" law (2013) may not help.

If you get caught up in a nightmare like this guy, call us. We can help.

- John


For an excellent and quick read about the overcriminalization of, well, just about everything, check out Professor Glenn Reynold's "Ham Sandwich Nation: Due Process When Everything Is A Crime."

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