Senate Committee Approves Eliminating and Reducing Certain Criminal Sentences

On January 30, 2014, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would abolish mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders who do not have a prior criminal history, as well as reducing by 50% mandatory minimum sentences for specified nonviolent drug offenses. The proposed law among other things eliminates mandatory minimum sentences if there is a finding by the Judge that the defendant does not have any previous conviction for crimes involving a firearm, violence, terrorism, a sex offense, racketeering or conspiracy involving illegal drugs. It would also reduce mandatory minimum sentences from 20 to 10 years, from 10 to five years, and from five to two years. There would be no change lowering the maximum sentence.

Opponents believe this law could result in prosecutors being unable to curtail gangs and drug organizations (drug cartels, etc.). Moreover, it is argued that there are very few criminals in federal prison for only simple drug possession, and the rest are mainly drug dealers that are the subject of the bill.

Proponents site the overcrowding and excessive costs of our Federal prisons, the latter estimate being as much as $3 billion over 10 years. They also claim the current laws do not sufficiently distinguish career criminals from low level offenders, and further that nonviolent drug offenses only would be the subject of the new law if it is passed by the full Senate, and goes through the rest of the process in which new laws are made.

Former BP Engineer Convicted of Obstructing Justice

In New Orleans today, there was a jury verdict after the U.S. Department of Justice charged Kurt Mix, a former BP engineer, of deleting hundreds of text messages from his iPhone, thereby thwarting the investigation of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although none of the top executives of BP have been charged with crimes, this corporate entity acknowledged its responsibility earlier this year by pleading guilty to manslaughter charges for the deaths of 11 workers; and thereafter, BP agreed to pay $4 billion in penalties.

Mix was part of the team of experts involved in the efforts by BP to stop oil from gushing out of their blown-out well using a technique called “top kill.” He had access to internal data about how much oil was actually flowing from the blown-out well. It was reported that Mix received 10 individual BP notices that he was obligated to preserve all of his spill-related records. One of the texts messages was an exchange with his supervisor in which Mix estimated there were about 630,000 gallons of oil spilling per day; this amount was actually about three times greater than the estimate BP disclosed to the public at the time. By deleting text messages, the BP engineer was destroying inculpatory evidence, which would be critical proof that would tend to establish guilt of BP and its agents and employees.

 The sentencing hearing is set for March 26, 2014, and Mix faces up to 20 years in prison for this conviction.

Fort Hood trial resumes

The soldier on trial for the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood is continuing to represent himself after his standby attorneys claimed that he was trying to get the death sentence for himself.

The judge refused the attorneys’ request to be either removed from the case or be allowed to take over, saying that the lawyers simply did not agree with Maj. Nidal Hasan’s defense strategy. But they insisted, and said that they would file an appeal with a higher court.

The lawyers face an untenable conundrum in having a client refuse to follow their advice. The importance of trust and confidence as well as cooperation cannot be overstated as they are critical to the attorney-client relationship. The judge also has to struggle with guaranteeing the defendant is afforded the constitutional safeguards including the right to due process, even when the defendant refuses assistance and clearly inhibits the opportunity for a fair trial.

COMENTARY BY SAM SPITAL, SAN DIEGO CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER

Couple pleads not guilty to child endangerment charges

A couple pleaded not guilty to felony child endangerment charges.

They were accused of leaving their 4-month-old son in a car. His temperature rose to dangerous levels, and he died in a hospital.

Can anyone reconcile a parent’s lifetime guilt as a result of allowing their child to die because they were using narcotics and forgot they left their infant child in the car when they remained inside their residence (perhaps using more drugs), notwithstanding the ever rising and burning temperature in their closed vehicle from the summer heat?  It is despicable and unforgiving.

This type of conduct only underscores the failure in our system to educate individuals at a very young age as well as adults through relentless media Public Announcements that drugs destroy one’s ability to exercise judgment, causing obvious lapses in memory as well as an inability to function in simple daily activities.

Is there a scintilla of evidence the parents are remorseful? The reporter failed to include any such references, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusion(s).

COMMENTARY BY SAN DIEGO CRIMINAL DEFENSE AND PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY

 

Sheriff’s deputy charged with 11 different counts

A sheriff’s deputy in Los Angeles County was accused of raping women and soliciting bribes while on duty. He is set to appear in court on Wednesday.
28-year-old Jose Rigaberto Sanchez was arrested in his home on Monday night after a three-year investigation. He is being charged with 11 different counts.
The article did not include any interview with the officer &/or his lawyer; no discussion regarding officer’s family,  social history and mitigation, if any. What has happened to honest and balanced journalism? It seems more and more we are provided with short references to events with little analysis and even less about the people and their background to invite a dialogue &/or serious reflection.
Clearly, our system of justice requires that he be given the benefit of doubt and not be tried in the news, regardless how serious and horrific the alleged crimes are, and for which our hearts go out to the victims and their families.
Commentary by Sam Spital, San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer and former Deputy Attorney General. 

“Buckets of Money” creator faces charges

Ray Lucia Sr., the creator of the retirement strategy called “Buckets of Money,” was charged by a judge with knowingly and fraudulently misleading potential investors.

Lucia has promoted his investment plan for years, both in books and on his San Diego-based financial show. However, he claimed that he performed backtests, which are methodical calculations. But when he was asked about the calculations, he said he did some in 1990 and no longer had copies.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, if they agree with the judge’s decision, will fine Lucia $300,000, bar him from associating with investing firms, and strip him of his investment adviser registration.

When it comes to investments, people should think twice about who they trust. Consult with multiple experts to find the best path.

 

Human trafficking charges brought against Saudi princess

A Saudi princess was charged on Wednesday with human trafficking after a Kenyan woman escaped from a condominium where she said she was being held against her will.

The 30-year-old Kenyan woman said that she had been hired in Kenya in 2012, taken to Saudi Arabia, and promptly had her passport taken away from her. She then was forced to work long hours for less than she was promised she’d be paid, and she was not allowed to leave.

Meshael Alayban, one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, did not appear in court on Wednesday.

Treating other humans as pieces of property is a grave offense. Alayban said that she will address the charges, so it will be interesting to hear her explanation of the events.

 

Former Marine accused of killing girlfriend in Panama

The disappearance of 42-year-old Yvonne Baldelli took a twist on Thursday when her boyfriend was accused of murdering her, then concocting an elaborate cover-up. He allegedly sent fake emails from her account, telling her family that she was having a great time, and he withdrew money from her bank account.

Brian Brimage, a 37-year-old former Marine, pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice and making a false statement to a federal officer.

Our hearts go out to Yvonne’s family during this difficult time.

 

The George Zimmerman trial begins

In February of 2012, George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, allegedly in self-defense. The crime sparked a nationwide debate about gun control and racial profiling.

This week, his trial begins. Zimmerman will plead not guilty to second-degree murder for reasons of self-defense. The prosecution argues that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, who was wearing a dark hooded shirt on that night. A jury of six women has been set.

It’s still unclear whether or not Zimmerman will testify. Defendants often take the stand in self-defense cases, but his lawyers may want to keep him off the stand so he doesn’t say anything harmful to his case.

The trial is sure to be contentious and well-covered in the media.

 

 

Corrupt US border agents to be sentenced

Since 2004, over 150 Border Patrol agents have been charged with some form of corruption, including taking bribes and cooperating with human trafficking groups.

Raul and Fidel Villarreal, who are both former Border Patrol agents, will both be sentenced today for running a smuggling operation.

The operation, which was run along the international border in San Diego, was lucrative for the brothers. The prosecution argued that they smuggled thousands of people across the border in exchange for $10,000 per group of ten people. Officers estimate that they earned between $1 and $2.5 million.

The UT news did not report any mitigation argued by defense counsel, which is an essential ingredient and a key component beyond the defense and offense one argues on behalf of a client who has been charged with and/or convicted of a crime. The reader is left to ask whether this aspect of the presentation at sentencing was not emphasized at all or only minimally.

 

Ratings and Reviews

Top ContributorAward 2012Samuel Eugene Spital Samuel Eugene SpitalReviewsout of 207 reviews
10.0Samuel Eugene Spital Samuel Eugene SpitalClients’ ChoiceAward 2020 Clients Choice Winner, 2007 to 2019 in Administrative Law Clients Choice Winner, 2007 to 2019 in Litigation avvo rated 10/10 in Federal Crime Law avvo rated 10/10 in Administrative Law avvo rated 10/10 in Criminal Defense avvo rated 10/10 in Juvenile Law avvo rated 10/10 in Licensing avvo rated 10/10 in Personal Injury