Philadelphia Criminal Law News

October 2010 Archives

Vito Granieri Sentenced to Prison for Child Molestation

CBS Philly reported a Montgomery County judge sentenced 47-year-old Vito Granieri from Skippack to 18 years behind bars in state prison for a child molestation case. The former suburban Philadelphia elementary school aide was also ordered to spend 15 years on probation after completion of his prison term.

Vito Granieri's PA criminal defense lawyer Marc Steinberg had primarily asked for a county jail sentence for his client, but Judge Richard Hodgson turned down the proposal and said Granieri was a danger to society. Hodgson also mentioned Granieri originally denied the accusations made against him, which made his victims feel like "outcasts" and challenged their credibility.

17-Year-Old Charged with Vehicular Homicide for Drifting

A 17-year-old Willow Grove teen killed an elderly pedestrian while practicing a hazardous driving technique known as "drifting." According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 17-year-old boy was taken into custody and accused for the 81-year-old Zita Egitto's death. The teen was charged as a juvenile for vehicular homicide.

Drifting happens when a driver pulls on the emergency brake and turns the wheel to make the vehicle slide or "drift" sideways. A car needs to have rear-wheel drive and an adaptive unit to make the rear wheels work together to drift.  The practice first appeared in the 2006 action film "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" and has become a risky stunt popular among local teens.

What Is Double Jeopardy?

The Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution includes the double jeopardy clause, which prohibits the government from prosecuting a person more than once and forcing more than one penalty for a single offense. According to FindLaw, the clause states "no person shall... be subject to the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."

Double jeopardy can also apply to Philadelphia defendants who appear in PA State court. The clause helps prevent innocent people from being wrongly convicted, protects them from the financial and emotional effects of consecutive prosecutions, and upholds the integrity of criminal proceedings.

Makeda Marley Gets Probation for Growing Marijuana

The Daily Local News reported Bob Marley's daughter, Makeda Jahnsta Marley, was arrested in 2009 and charged for growing marijuana in the basement of her home in Caln. She was also charged for tampering with evidence when she attempted to destroy the plants before police confiscated them. Judge Thomas Gavin gave the reggae artist's daughter two choices for sentencing, since Makeda Marley didn't have any prior criminal record.

The first option involved serving two to 23 months in Chester County Prison where she wouldn't have to deal with further court supervision after being released. The second entailed seven years probation with a risk of potentially spending 15 to 59 months in state prison in the event she violates the conditions of her release. Makeda Marley selected the latter option.

Stephen Greb Charged with Fraud for 20-Year Scam

According to MyFoxPhilly.com, former La Salle University official Stephen Greb was charged for creating a phony business company he used to embezzle over $5 million of the university's money. Prosecutors alleged that the 58-year-old Philadelphia man had been operating what they believe was a 20-year scam.

Stephen Greb was La Salle University's former school director of auxiliary services. University officials terminated Greb this past June after they had discovered the fraudulent conspiracy. Philadelphia law enforcement said Greb established a bogus food company, authorizing payments for the business from the school. His job at La Salle had involved supervising the school's food services and on-campus catering.

Common Defenses Against a Criminal Charge

Even though each criminal case varies, there are a couple of common defenses often used in a criminal charge. As any PA criminal defense lawyer can tell you, the most common defenses fall under two categories:

  • "I didn't do it," and
  • "I did it, but I shouldn't be held responsible."

Proving "you didn't do it" is one of the most basic defenses against any criminal charge. The U.S. legal system presumes a defendant is innocent until he or she is proven guilty, which means a judge or jury must think you are innocent until it has been established otherwise.

Michele Kalina Charged with Homicide for Infant Deaths

CBS Philly News reported Michele Kalina, a nurse's aide in Berks County, was charged with homicide after police discovered five sets of infant remains in her apartment. Authorities charged the 44-year-old woman with causing the death of at least four out of the five babies found at her residence this past July.

The incident is an awful one, even for any veteran Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer to hear. According to police officials, Michele Kalina was married but gave birth to the infants through an affair with a man who had no knowledge of the pregnancies. Kalina had one daughter with the man in the affair that she'd given up for adoption in 2003, while her and her husband had a daughter and a disabled son who passed away ten years ago.

Philly Students Participate in Red Ribbon Week

According to the U.S. Post Today, this week marks the beginning of "Red Ribbon Week," which is a campaign recognized as one of the largest anti-drug movements in schools all over the United States. Philadelphia students and staff will be joining other American schools this week in standing up to drugs by raising awareness and carrying out educational activities.

Red Ribbon Week was established in memory of Special Agent Camarenam, who was killed in an event related to being part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Classroom activities this week include decorating rooms with red ribbons, passing out pledge bracelets, learning and practicing how to say "no" to drugs, and wearing plenty of red.

Shannon Zimmerman Accused Of Stealing Drugs From Eagleville Hospital

Police arrested 24-year-old Shannon Zimmerman and accused her of stealing over 500 prescription pills while working as a nurse at Eagleville Hospital. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a district judge charged Zimmerman for procurement of drugs by fraud, possessing drugs and related paraphernalia, and criminal conspiracy.

Authorities were called to Shannon Zimmerman's apartment to help 21-year-old Gabrielle A. Gerold, Zimmerman's girlfriend, because she had cocaine and heroin injected into her neck and back. Police officials searched the apartment and confiscated the pills, which they believed all came from Eagleville Hospital. Among the drugs found were non-narcotic painkillers, anti-psychotic medicine, and antidepressants. A PA criminal defense attorney can explain the possible outcome and penalties Zimmerman may face if convicted for the charges held against her.

PA Woman Sexually Assaulted at Chestnut Hill College

According to 6abc.com, a female victim was sexually assaulted on the campus of Chestnut Hill College. Philadelphia police reported the victim is not a student at the school nor is she affiliated with the college in any way. The Special Victims Unit in Philadelphia continues to investigate the incident.

A Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can clarify the range of crimes that fall under sexual assault, such as attempted rape or sexual groping. In this case, the woman was strolling through Chestnut Hill College on Germantown Avenue early Saturday morning when an unknown male assaulted her near a residence hall. The attacker escaped, but the the victim was immediately brought to Episcopal Hospital for treatment.

Joseph Orr Arrested for Armed Robbery

An off-duty police officer shot and seriously wounded an alleged crook during an armed robbery in Northeast Philadelphia at a bar in Mayfair. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Philly police arrested 20-year-old Joseph Orr, the wounded bandit, and three other people and charged them with robbery and related offenses.

According to Lieutenant Ray Evers report, a young man strolled into McNally's Tavern on Brighton Street. Six other people were at the bar, including two off-duty police officers, when the young man ordered a drink. When the bartender asked the young man to show an ID because he looked too young to drink, the young male was unable to prove his age and left the bar.

Rasheed Scrugs Pleads Guilty to First-Degree Murder

35-year-old Rasheed Scrugs was accused of killing Philadelphia Police Officer John Pawlowski in 2009. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Scrugs surprised the Philadelphia Common Pleas courtroom when he pleaded guilty to the charge of first-degree murder

Although his sudden decision to plead guilty is unusual even for a veteran PA criminal defense attorney, it may move the jury to spare his life. In a similar case, John Lewis pleaded guilty to the death of Officer Chuck Cassidy in 2007. Lewis was sentenced to death after several weeks of testimony, but his sentence is now under appeal in the state Supreme Court.

New Guidelines In Crack-Cocaine Sentences Impact Philadelphia

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, changes to the sentencing guidelines for defendants who have been convicted in crack-cocaine cases have been approved by a federal panel. These changes have a greater impact in Philadelphia since 32 percent of defendants have been charged with crack offenses compared to 22 percent of defendants nationwide.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission passed a provisional emergency amendment to sentencing guidelines in response to the new law known as the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. It was signed by President Obama and changed the quantities of crack required for a mandatory minimum jail sentence of five and ten years. The amount of crack needed to sentence a defendant for five years was changed from five grams to 28 grams, while a ten year sentence requires 280 grams instead of 50 grams.

Philadelphia Criminal Rights: The Right To Counsel

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution talks about a criminal defendant's right to an attorney. It requires the "assistance of counsel" for the accused "in all criminal prosecutions," which means a defendant in Philly has the constitutional right to have a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney represent him or her during a trial.

If the defendant doesn't have enough money to pay for a lawyer, the government will generally appoint one to handle the case without financially charging the defendant. Still, some people may wonder how a defense attorney can help an individual in a criminal case. The specific tasks a lawyer has typically depend on the nature of the case and the charges, but the lawyer's role is incredibly significant in almost every criminal case.

Lewis Palmer Charged with Assaulting Leslie Fleisher

A trial has begun concerning former Common Pleas Judge Leslie Fleisher, whom police found bleeding and injured inside her Old City home. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Fleisher, 48, told the jury that her ex-boyfriend Lewis B. Palmer III banged her head against a closet door, choked her, and then kicked her after chasing her outside and slamming her into a brick wall.

49-year-old Lewis Palmer was previously detective assigned to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. Now he is standing trial based on these allegations. Palmer was charged with simple and aggravated assault and violating wiretap laws for allegedly recording six phone calls made by Leslie Fleisher three days after the incident.

Home Invasions And Robberies On The Rise In Philadelphia

Home invasions are on the rise in Philadelphia, and over 700 residential robberies have occurred in the city each year since 2005. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, less than half of those robberies have resulted in arrests, all of which may very well be causing countless of Philly residents to feel unsafe in their neighborhoods.

Experts say the residential robberies may be taking a physiological toll in the minds of Philadelphians. Michael Alexander, for instance, was robbed at home in December of 2008 by four men who left with $4,000 worth of jewelry, over $400 in cash, home goods and electronics. He was also stabbed in the armpit with a knife and knocked in the head with a gun. Alexander attended counseling sessions to deal with the memories and learn how to move on.

Michael Lane Arrested for Impersonating A PA Cop

Former cop Michael Lane was charged with impersonating a police officer in Upper Darby after forcing a mother and daughter off the road at Lansdowne Avenue and Cedar Lane. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Lane believed the women cut off his vehicle while driving, which brought him to pull up beside their car and identify himself as a fake police officer.

Michael Lane was driving a Mercury Grand Marquis when he pulled up next to the mother and daughter, revealing a badge. Authorities said he went off on the women and made profane outbursts after he distinguished himself as a supposed police official. Lane fled the scene once the women took out their cell phones to call 911.

Two PA Men Wanted for Assaulting SugarHouse Casino Winner

According to NBC Philadelphia, two men allegedly assaulted and attempted to rob a 26-year-old man after he won almost $2,000 at Philadelphia's SugarHouse Casino. One of the attackers apparently overheard the man talking on a cell phone about his winnings, which convinced both attackers to follow the victim as he left the casino.

While the man called for a cab to head home to Cinnaminson, New Jersey, the assailants struck the 26-year-old victim on the head and tried to take the man's winnings. Both attackers were armed with handguns, and they wrestled and pinned the SugarHouse winner to the ground. The victim luckily managed to break away and call Philadelphia law enforcement, causing the muggers to run away from the scene. 

Two PA Men Convicted Of Hate Crime

A jury convicted Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky of a federal hate crime for beating an illegal Mexican immigrant to death. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Scranton jury found that the two men attacked 25-year-old Luis Ramirez mainly out of hatred against Hispanics.

Luis Ramirez died in 2008 after a group of white high school football players confronted him in Shenandoah, an old mining town. Federal charges were brought against Donchak and Piekarsky after another jury previously acquitted the men from state charges. Hispanic activists complained about the 2009 verdict, referring to Ramirez's death as one out of an escalating number of hate crimes happening against Latinos in Pennsylvania. The case was appealed to a Justice Department prosecution.

Michelle Costello Escapes to Philly After Husband's Murder

The FBI is assisting the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on a search for a mother and son wanted in Las Vegas for a homicide. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 43-year-old Michelle Costello and her 19-year-old son Peter left Vegas and may have run off to Philly after the death of Michelle Costello's husband.

Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can presume that Michelle Costello and her son might face considerable penalties for escaping the law once they are found by Philly law enforcement or the FBI. Officials believe Costello's husband, who is also her son's stepfather, was murdered last month. They found the victim inside an apartment after responding to a report about a suspicious death. No information has been released on the victim's name or the cause of death.

Kathleen Kremis Arrested for Stealing School Computers

Philadelphia teacher Kathleen Kremis was accused of stealing 42 laptop computers from Ethan Allan School in Northeast Philly and selling them to a Kensington pawnshop. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, police said the fifth grade school teacher had apparently been hiding the fact she was also a heroin addict. Philly police officials immediately arrested 35-year-old Kathleen Kremis along with her former husband Thomas Perry, 37.

The issue behind the stolen Apple laptops from the school surfaced when the pawnshop owner contacted the police in August. Evidently, he had bought computers from Kathleen Kremis and Thomas Perry since November. After peeling off flower-shaped stickers stuck on the laptops, the owner found seals revealing the computers were actually the property of the School District.

Adegbola Ige Charged for Murder of Mother

The Philadelphia Daily News reported Germantown resident Adegbola Ige is currently in trial for charges of murder and possession of an instrument of crime. In a preliminary hearing, a court testimony revealed that Ige tortured his mother Esther Ayodele, and Assistant Medical Examiner Chase Blanchard related the 273 gashes and wounds found all over Ayodele's body in vivid detail.

63-year-old Adegbola Ige stated that he was his mother's sole caretaker and provider. After he found his mother lying perfectly still on the floor three days before Mother's Day, he contacted the paramedics. Once they arrived at Ige's home, the paramedics immediately pronounced Esther Ayodele as dead. The next day, Ige admitted in an interview with police that he used to hit his mother with an extension cord.

Danielle Wallace Acquitted of Theft Charges

Northeast Philadelphia local Danielle Wallace was arrested for theft a year ago, but a Walmart surveillance video revealed that a different woman, who looks nothing like Wallace, was in fact the actual thief. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Common Pleas Judge Robert Coleman agreed that the thief caught on tape is not Danielle Wallace and acquitted the 21-year-old of felony theft charges.

The Walmart video showed a cashier processing four different transactions, and the store discovered that the debit cards used in each purchase totaled $2,012. Walmart also found that the cashier had given more cash than necessary to the second male customer, adding $98 to the store's loss. Thomas Morell, an asset-coordinator for Walmart, interviewed Danielle Wallace four days later and accused her of stealing.

Expungement In Pennsylvania: What Is It?

Expungement in Pennsylvania is referred to as a court-ordered process where an individual's legal record of an arrest or criminal conviction is erased in the eyes on the law. If an arrest or conviction is "sealed," it means the criminal record has limited accessibility unless viewed by the certain government agencies or by the person who was arrested or convicted.

A Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer can provide a detailed understanding on how you could go about getting your records expunged in PA, but typically you would have to file a petition to the court with jurisdiction over your criminal records. Then, the court will have to send a certified order to the agency with control over the records. With an arrest, judges can order the expungement of a defendant's arrest record when they dismiss the charges against the individual.

What Happens When A Minor Is Accused of A Crime In PA?

According to FindLaw, Pennsylvania juvenile delinquents under the age of 18 go through a different criminal justice system recognized as the "juvenile justice" system. Minors under the age of 7 typically cannot be tried, but their parents may be liable for the child's actions. Any young person between the ages of 7 and 15 can be brought to go to juvenile court. However, there have been instances where children between the ages of 12 and 18 have been tried in criminal court for serious offenses.

A PA criminal defense attorney familiar with juvenile court cases can provide more detail with regards to how a minor gets to juvenile court, but generally a probation officer makes the decision to dismiss the matter, handle the case "off the record," or file formal charges once a case is referred to juvenile court. If charges are filed, the underage defendant can expect arraignment, a hearing, to enter a plea, trial, sentencing, and post-sentencing.

Two Philly Officers Arrested for Drug Crime

In a sting operation to capture two corrupt Philly cops who allegedly robbed some drug dealers, the 25th District officers weren't expecting to arrest Sean Alivera, 31, and his partner Christopher Luciano, 23. The two men were not formerly suspected of any misconduct nor were they the primary targets of the investigation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Two Philly officers had been identified as accomplices for a local drug dealer by an informant. Authorities had organized a sting to catch them robbing a courier, who was really an undercover officer, of cash and marijuana. The undercover officer arrived at the scene with $3,000 in cash and 20 pounds of pot when Sean Alivera and Christopher Luciano took the undercover cop into custody.

Three Philly Cops Cleared from Fatal Playground Shooting

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, three police officers have been cleared of any unlawful activity or wrongdoing with regards to a fatal Germantown playground shooting that happened this past April. District Attorney Seth Williams concluded that Philly cops James Allan, Bryan Outterbridge, and Oronde Watson "acted properly" in the situation involving the Vincent Parson.

The three policemen spotted 26-year-old Vincent Parsons on the front porch and mistook the man for his brother, who was wanted on a bench warrant for weapons charges. Allan, Outterbridge, and Watson were working a plainclothes duty and identified themselves as officers when they went to approach Vincent Parsons.

Arsenio Snell Arrested for Vigil Gunfire

Gunfire broke out and instigated panic among a crowd of Philly residents who had gathered together for a vigil dedicated to the memory of 16-year-old Rodger Stockton, who was hit and killed by a garbage truck while riding his bike. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the shooting injured four teenagers who attended the vigil in West Philadelphia.

A fight had been brewing between two rival groups near the location of the vigil, which involved one set of teens from 58th and Elmwood and the other from 61st and Elmwood. Southwest Detective Lt. John Walker reported 20-year-old Arsenio Snell, who was part of the 61st and Elmwood group, had fired nine shots using a .40-calibur gun into a crowd of nearly 75 people. The detective believes Snell was just being reckless and that the gunfire was not related to the vigil.

Juan James Rodriguez Charged With Indecent Exposure

Though many people could rattle off what they would do for a million dollars, one New Yorker decided to streak and expose himself in front of thousands of Philly residents and television viewers nationwide in Philadelphia.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had arrived in Philly to encourage voters to participate in next month's elections.  During the rally in Philly's Germantown, police officials arrested 24-year-old Juan James Rodriguez after he ran near the stage in his birthday suit with the web address battlecam.com marked across his chest. According to CBS Philly, Rodriguez sought to earn a million dollars for the stunt by being the first person to streak in front of the president.

Woman Assaulted and Robbed In Her PA Home

Pennsylvania police are investigating a case where a 39-year-old Vietnamese businesswoman had allegedly been sexually assaulted and battered inside her home in Parkwood Manor. The Philadelphia Daily News reported neighbors found the victim crying for help, dragging herself towards the sidewalk with her hands and legs in plastic cuffs and duct tape on her face and hair.

The Vietnamese woman was able to open her garage door enough to roll underneath and loosen the duct tape around her mouth to yell for help. A 76-year-old neighbor and her husband rushed to assist the victim and held her in their home until the cops arrived. The elderly couple said the victim and her husband had two daughters and worked next to each other at a nail and beauty salon in another neighborhood.

Kimberly Williams Accused of Theft and Faces Trial

In February of last year, Pennsylvania police arrested Kimberly Williams and accused the 45-year-old woman of stealing tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry, silver, gold coins, and cash. CBS Philly reported Williams allegedly stole from five Lower Merion homes in Delaware County while working as a cleaning lady in the area.

A Philadelphia criminal defense attorney could refer to this type of theft as larceny. Larceny generally refers to nonviolent theft where an individual has taken a victim's personal property without authorization and intends to deprive the owner of that possession. Depending on the value of property taken, most states recognize the degrees of theft like "petty" or "grand" theft.

Rasheed Scrugs Faces Death Penalty Trial

A death penalty trial is underway as the first 250 prospective jurors go through the process of jury selection. Twelve jurors will be chosen to hear the case regarding Rasheed Scrugs, who is accused of killing Philly cop John Pawlowski.

The potential jurors were brought into the Common Pleas Court at Philadelphia's Criminal Justice Center as Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes began asking the group questions. The judge inquired about how much each prospective juror knew about the February 13, 2009 shooting and how each felt about the death penalty. Those who make it through the first cut will then come back for individual questioning by Assistant District Attorneys Edward McCann and Jacqueline Juliano Coelho, PA criminal defense attorneys Lee Mandell and David Rudenstein, and Judge Hughes.