Philadelphia Criminal Law News

September 2012 Archives

Teen Girls Beat Mentally Challenged Woman, Post Video on Facebook

It's become more and more common for law enforcement to use social media to identify and investigate those accused of criminal activity. It seems more crimes are being discovered now that we share just about everything we do with people over the Internet.

Case in point: A group of teenage girls in Chester who allegedly beat a mentally challenged woman on the front stoop of her house, and then posted video of the attack on Facebook, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. The six girls appeared to be dancing and rapping in the street when one was heard saying, "I'm gonna f--- this b---- up," which led all six to attack the woman.

The woman ran into her house to escape, but the teens followed her in and continued the beating, according to the Daily News. As of now, four of the six girls have been arrested, according to the Associated Press.

What charges could be brought against these girls?

What a Waste: Woman Hurls 30-Pack of Beer Out Window, Hits Cops

If you are upset, it seems the best thing to do is throw things out the window. TV and movies typically portray the angry wife/girlfriend/lover throwing the husband/boyfriend/lover's things out on the street or in the lawn or even in the garbage after some domestic dispute.

In all of these portrayals, not once is there food or beverage spilled. However, a domestic disturbance in Butler, north of Pittsburgh, led to Diane Pusateri throwing a 30-pack out of a second-floor window at the three cops who responded, according to the Associated Press. Pusateri was allegedly arguing with a female housemate and called police. Two of the three responding officers were hit in the head, shoulder, neck, and thigh.

Now Pusateri is in jail after being arrested for aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest, according to the AP. Does she have any potential defenses?

Flight Attendant's Gun Goes Off at PHL Security Checkpoint

It's no secret that U.S. Marshals are on airplanes and packing heat. It also shouldn't be a surprise that pilots can also be armed. But what about flight attendants with firearms?

A flight attendant for Republic Airlines, an operator of US Airways Express flights out of Philadelphia, caused a bit of alarm Sunday morning when she put her handbag through the X-ray machine with her loaded pistol in it, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. When TSA agents saw the gun, they alerted Philadelphia police officers at the airport. One of the officers attempted to unload the gun and ended up firing the gun into the floor. No one was injured.

The flight attendant, who had a concealed carry permit, was issued a citation, but she could potentially have been charged with far more.

SEPTA Train Shooting Injures 2 Teens: Was It Attempted Murder?

We all grew up with high-school rivalries. The rivalries then grew into college rivalries, which then blossomed into city rivalries. Nobody from Penn State likes Pitt and vice-versa. Just like nobody from Philly is going to root for the Giants.

While these rivalries only extend to name-calling and boos on the field, some school-to-school animosity may have made itself known on SEPTA's Broad Street Line in North Philadelphia. Two teenagers in a subway car were shot, one in the arm and the other in the leg, by another teen on the platform at the Susquehanna-Dauphin station, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The train was carrying students from Simon Gratz High School, Samuel Fels High School, and John F. Hartranft, a K-8 school.

Can this shooting be classified as attempted murder, or will it just be aggravated assault?

How Does the Death Penalty Work in Pennsylvania?

It has been 13 years since a prisoner was executed in Pennsylvania. Now capital punishment is back in the news with regards to two separate cases: jury selection for Kaboni Savage's murder trial, and the denial of a pardon for Terrance Williams, who is set to be executed in October.

Savage is already in prison, serving 30 years for a 2005 drug conviction. In 2009, Savage was charged with 12 homicides, including the 2004 firebombing death of two women and four children in North Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for him and three accomplices.

Williams was convicted of the 1984 murder of Amos Norwood and sentenced to death in 1986, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. His legal team has been trying to commute his sentence to life without parole based on the argument that he was sexually abused as a child.

These cases raise the question of how the death penalty works in Pennsylvania.

Bam Margera Stalker Arrested After Waking Him With Naked Kiss

It seems as though being famous has some downsides -- although non-celebrities may not call attention from admiring fans a "downside." Maybe after you've done insane stunts and risked your life, having a naked 24-year-old wake you up with a kiss is just one risk too many.

"Jackass" star Bam Margera was asleep in his West Chester home when he was awoken by a kiss by a naked female intruder, according to Philly.com. The freaked-out celebrity immediately called police and threw the woman out of his house. West Chester police picked her up, still without clothing, in the rural area around Margera's home.

Did the woman not think what she was doing was a crime?

Bath Salts Defense in Naked Head-Gnawing Attack?

What's the best thing about blogging about criminal law? All the crazy stuff that people do. Luckily for crime writers everywhere, there is the new bath salts craze.

The other day, Richard Cimino Jr. of Doylestown allegedly consumed bath salts, stripped to his underwear, attempted to break into a home, failed, took off his underwear, then walked into a vacant home. After entering the vacant house, the 20-year-old jumped out the second-floor window, injuring himself. Then he saw two women walking down the street, so he tackled one and started "gnawing" on her head, according to The Scranton Times-Tribune. The women were able to fight Cimino off and call the police.

Cimino was found by police lying in the road covered in blood with severe injuries, according to the Times-Tribune. Cimino allegedly punched the medic who attended to his injuries, and police subdued him with a stun gun.

Is allegedly being high out of your mind a defense to the 13 charges against Cimino?

7-Eleven Clerk Killed During a Robbery: Felony Murder

It is shocking that convenience stores still get robbed and that convenience store clerks still get killed. Every storefront clearly states that there is not more than $100 in the register and that the clerks do not have the code to the safe. Beyond there being a sign, it is pretty well known by anyone who watches movies or television shows.

However, it does continue to happen and sadly for a Newark, Delaware man, it cost him his life. Early Wednesday morning two men wearing masks burst into a 7-Eleven and demanded money. Once they had received the money, the two ran out when one turned and fired at the clerk, hitting him in the upper body and killing him, according to Philly.com.

It's clear that the man who shot the victim would be guilty of murder, but what about his sidekick?

Blogger Charged for Threatening Philly Cop, DA on Facebook

Sure, we've all had our moments with the police. We've been pulled over for speeding, told to move along, or even arrested. While such incidents can make us angry, we usually don't act on that anger.

But one Philadelphia blogger acted differently. Joshua Scott Albert has been charged with solicitation to commit murder, making terroristic threats, and harassment for setting up Facebook pages that support the killers of Officer Moses Walker. Albert also called for the murder of the district attorney and the head of the police union, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Facebook has already taken down the pages, and Albert defended his actions on his blog by pointing out there are other Facebook groups calling for the deaths of public figures like Karl Rove.

Is there a clear-cut line between online rants and real threats?

Birthday Bomb Hoax Diverts Plane Back to Philly

People do some dumb stuff on birthdays, like subjecting the birthday boy or girl to a birthday spanking. Or they pull stunts like putting plastic wrap on the toilet seat.

But Christopher Shell was the subject of what could possibly be the worst birthday stunt ever when an anonymous tip to authorities caused his US Airways flight to turn around and return to Philadelphia, according to NBC10. The hoax caller said that Shell, 29, was smuggling explosives on board the plane.

Besides causing a huge pain for everyone involved, what consequences could the caller face?

Washing Friend's Car Gets Man Arrested as an Accomplice

You wouldn't think that helping a buddy wash his car would cause any problems with the law. But depending on what you're washing off the car, you might become an accomplice to a crime.

In Pittston, Daniel Antonini helped power wash the car that hit and killed two people in front of a fast food restaurant, according to the Associated Press. Antonini was charged with evidence tampering after the car's owner asked him to clean off blood and glass from the car. The car's owner was arrested on unrelated drug charges.

What evidence would be needed to charge Antonini with being an accomplice to a crime, also known as being an accessory or aiding and abetting?