It’s not often that you see the words “anti-slavery” in a contemporary article, but Beth Happick and Jeanne Allert, in their opinion piece for the Baltimore Sun, use those words and more in their call for our politicians to continue funding anti-human trafficking and anti-slavery efforts nationwide – and to set a good example for the rest of the world when it comes to sex crimes.
The crime of sex trafficking isn’t some far-off problem. It happens here in Baltimore City, too. Happick and Allert begin by telling one girl’s story, a story of drug addiction and forced sex and continued prostitution just to stay alive.
It began after her parent’s divorce (she goes by the pseudonym “Melissa”). After the divorce, Melissa began to use drugs. Shortly thereafter, a sex trafficker masquerading as Melissa’s boyfriend made sure she was regularly high and “sold her for sex up and down the I-95 corridor,” dumping her on Baltimore City streets once she was “used up.”
Today she’s addicted to drugs and engages in prostitution – it’s the only thing she knows as a victim of human trafficking, the “second largest and fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world,” according to Happick and Allert.
Happick and Allert write that dollars we spend in three weeks fighting the “War on Drugs” is what we spend in an entire year fighting human trafficking.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Fight the scourge of sex trafficking,” by Beth Happick and Jeanne Allert, 08/15/2011
The troubled son of actor Ryan O’Neal and the late Farrah Fawcett has been arrested and charged with drug possession and gun possession crimes. Redmond O’Neal was pulled over by law enforcement after allegedly running a red light. During a search of the vehicle, the officer allegedly found heroin.
Redmond is now facing a felony heroin possession charge following the traffic stop. The 26-year-old has faced drug charges in the past. He has spent time in and out of jail and rehab since struggling with drug addictions and substance abuse since his teen years.
Redmond is also facing a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm because officers found a .9mm handgun in his apartment when they searched it following the drug arrest. Redmond pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday. He will next have a court date on August 24 because he is charged with violating the terms of his probation.
Redmond’s attorney is hopeful that his client will be able to receive further substance abuse treatment for his drug addiction, rather than having to return to prison. According to CBS News, he is “cautiously optimistic” that further rehabilitation could be an option available to his client.
Sometimes non-violent drug offenders can be sent to rehabilitation and probation with special conditions rather than given jail time, especially if drug courts are operated in their area that specialize in this kind of alternative sentencing. Redmond has a history of addiction. He could face up to four years in prison if he is convicted of the crimes and the judge opts to send him to jail for the maximum amount.
Source: CBS News, “Redmond O’Neal pleads not guilty to drug possession, gun charges,” Casey Glynn, Aug. 5, 2011
An assault charge is serious. However, when an assault charge accompanies a hate crime allegation, the potential penalties become even more severe. In Maryland, a hate crime conviction carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, as well as a hefty $10,000 fine.
Two females charged in connection with the beating of a transgender woman at a McDonald’s in a Baltimore suburb last month have been indicted by a grand jury on various charges, including hate crime charges. The two defendants, an 18-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl, have been charged with one count of first-degree assault, three counts of second-degree assault and a recently-filed hate crime. The Baltimore County state’s attorney apparently spent weeks determining whether to file hate crime charges in connection with the incident and ultimately chose to do so.
The grand jury indictment also charged the two defendants with assaulting a manager who worked at the restaurant, as well as a 55-year-old customer who attempted to stop the attack.
The incident from which the charges stemmed occurred April 18. According to the authorities, the two defendants allegedly assaulted a transgender woman inside a McDonald’s store while a number of restaurant employees watched. One McDonald’s worker apparently taped the incident and posted the video online. This worker’s employment was later terminated.
The older defendant insists she is innocent, asserting that she acted in self-defense. Her mother stepped up to her defense, insisting that her daughter could never have done the violent acts she has been accused of committing.
Both of the defendants are currently being held in jail without bond.
Back in March, we posted about the arrest of Felicia Pearson, the actress who played Snoop, a hitwoman in a Baltimore drug gang on the HBO series “The Wire.” Last week, the actress pleaded not guilty to drug conspiracy charges and requested a jury trial. The trial is tentatively scheduled for August 9.
Pearson, 31, was arrested in March along with more than 60 other individuals in a state and federal sting referred to as “Operation Usual Suspects.” The authorities believe she funded an extensive drug organization responsible for selling heroin and marijuana throughout the Baltimore area.
Originally, Pearson was held without bail after her arrest. However, in April a judge released her on $50,000 bond. The actress is now able to travel to Philadelphia for film work, but she is subject to electronic monitoring for that purpose.
Pearson’s defense attorney voiced his belief in his client’s innocence. In a public statement, he announced that prosecutors had not presented “any facts … that show that [Pearson’s] guilty.”
Her lawyer is not the only person supporting her. Early on, David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” said he believed this was a case of guilt by association. He claimed the actress deserved the benefit of the doubt and noted the war on drugs had devolved into “war on the underclass.”
When someone is charged with conspiracy, the defendant is accused of planning a drug offense with someone else. A defendant does not have to actually commit the crime to be charged with conspiracy. All prosecutors look for is evidence that the defendant played a role in the offense. This means even someone who had only a peripheral role in a drug transaction can face the same charges as the leader.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “‘Wire’ actress ‘Snoop’ Pearson pleads not guilty in drug case,” Tricia Bishop, 17 May 2011
Two Ohio teens were recently found guilty of raping a young girl and will spend significant time in a juvenile detention facility. Ric Simmons, a former prosecutor and now a law professor, opines on CNN that this case shows that the “rules have changed,” both when it comes to evolving societal standards regarding sexual conduct and the way social media impacts criminal cases.
Simmons says that these were two high school football stars who took advantage of a highly-inebriated girl, a girl who was not able to consent to sexual activity as a result of her intoxication. In the past, argues Simmons, these football stars may have been given the relative equivalent of a slap on the wrist, their conduct chalked up to what happens when kids party.
Simmons also says that social media – in the form of a picture posted on the Web of the girl being carried by her wrists and ankles – as well as damaging text messages sent by the defendants referencing how she “was like a dead body,” had a huge impact on the prosecution’s case.
After all, the girl apparently did not know anything had happened to her until she went online and saw the relevant pictures and posts.
But the rules may not have “changed,” necessarily. After all, any sexual conduct that a person doesn’t consent to could lead to a rape charge against the alleged perpetrator, whether or not society’s standards on sexual conduct are truly evolving. A rape charge is a rape charge.
The only difference in this case is the significant role social media played in bringing the allegations to light. And, certainly, this is where the rules have changed regarding criminal cases.
Source: Opinion: Steubenville case shows how the rules have changed
It is a question that many drivers ask when they are pulled over because of suspected drunk driving: Do they have to take a breathalyzer test? In some cases, Maryland residents may be able to refuse a breathalyzer test, though that choice does come with consequences. Law enforcement officers may still be able to obtain a warrant for your blood, urine or breath even if you refuse a preliminary screening. Refusal may ultimately help your DWI case, though it could also lead to unnecessary license suspension.
The consequences for refusing a blood test are generally far less severe than those for a DUI charge. For example, refusing a test could lead to an automatic suspension for up to a year, depending on the number of previous violations. Thus, those drivers who may have a blood alcohol content far above the legal limit of 0.08 percent may be better served to consider breath test refusal, especially considering the penalties for high-BAC drunk driving.
In some jurisdictions, officers may forcibly draw your blood for a BAC test if you fail to consent. This generally occurs when a defendant has been involved in a major crash. Forced blood draws always require a warrant, though they are rarely performed.
Refusing to take a BAC test does not mean that you are automatically off the hook for your DUI charge, though. Officers can compile other evidence to bring against you in court, including observations about your behavior. Ultimately, breath test refusal is only advisable in certain select circumstances. Drivers must consider their level of intoxication and legal restrictions before refusing a test — although you may be able to call an attorney before submitting to a breathalyzer.
Source: FindLaw, “Should I Take a Blood Test or a Breathalyzer Test if I am Asked” Sep. 17, 2014
One of the members of the hip hop duo OutKast is facing drug charges after U.S. Customs and Border Protection allegedly found him in possession of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia after he disembarked from a cruise ship.
Antwan “Big Boi” Patton was leaving a cruise ship with a group of friends last week when a dog trained to sniff out drugs alerted Customs and Border Protection agents to Patton. Agents allegedly found Patton in possession of ecstasy pills and powder. They also reportedly found Viagra pills in Patton’s possession, but the artist did not have a prescription for this prescription medication. In addition, drug paraphernalia was found with marijuana residue on it.
The cruise ship was reported by some news outlets to be the Carnival Valor, but that was not confirmed by Carnival Cruise Lines. The 36-year-old artist was booked into jail following his arrest. He was later released after he posted the $16,000 bond. The musician is now facing charges of drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to USA Today, Patton’s defense attorney says that he believes his client will eventually be exonerated. He says that a small amount of drugs and drug paraphernalia was found in the collective luggage of Patton and his group of friends, but that the charges against his client will eventually be dismissed.
Big Boi is a member of the Grammy-winning group, OutKast, along with Andre 3000. Andre 3000 created the hit song “Hey Ya!” which was released as a single and included on OutKast’s 2003 double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.