Friday, August 23, 2013
The latest unjust update in this gay teen sex crimes case just infuriates me. Kaitlyn Hunt has now been thrown into jail pending her trial for allegedly violating the terms of the stay away protective order from the alleged victim in the case: her younger female girlfriend.
As a defense attorney in Los Angeles who handles a tremendous amount of sex crimes cases, I feel that this update highlights not only the anti-gay nature of the jurisdiction in which her court case is held (Florida) but also the horribly antiquated and unjust nature of our sex crimes laws and the age of consent.
It seems patently unreasonable that the age of consent is a black and white issue and a strict liability one at that (ie if you are below 16 years old in Florida you cannot consent to sexual activity.) There is no defense.
There is no court hearing to determine whether the alleged victim, in fact, consented or even initiated the sexual conduct. And no one seems to dispute that this particular couple was engaging in a consensual sexual and romantic relationship that the law does not recognize.
What a terrible waste of judicial resources and an unjust outcome. Kaitlyn now faces felony sex charges, sex registration for life, and 30 years in prison because her proposed plea bargain was pulled off the table. There were plenty of other judicial remedies available with which to punish Kaitlyn for violating the court order: electronic monitoring, community service, community labor, fines, but the Judge simply chose to throw her in jail and to continue to perpetuate the injustice of these out of date sex crimes laws.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Somehow I missed this story when it first surfaced. Essentially an 18 year female, Kaitlyn Hunt, was charged with felony lewd of lascivious battery on a 14 year old female for sexual conduct that was admitted by both parties to be consensual, “but for” the fact that in Florida someone under 16 cannot legally to consent to sexual activity at all.
I handle a majority of sex crimes cases in California and see similar sex charges that California calls unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, otherwise known as statutory rape. I can’t imagine a bigger waste of judicial resources or a more sympathetic set of facts than these type of cases. When two individuals, not that far apart in age, experiment sexually in a totally consensual relationship, the criminal law should not interfere. It is sexist and paternalist for our society to tell females that if you are under 16, you are incapable of consenting to sexual activity with a partner. In California, this is even worse because the age of consent is 18.
It’s time for our statutory rape laws to be reformed to be in accordance with modern day morality. This case is merely another example of our Nation’s hysterical over something perceived to be a sex crime in addition to some obvious anti-gay sentiment. Apparently, the prosecutors in Florida want Kaitlyn to accept a plea bargain which does not involve jail time, or sex registration, but does involve here pleading guilty to two misdemeanors and one felony. Convictions which suggest that she did something wrong in the first place by engaging in consensual sex with another female. I understand that the 14 year old female’s parents are upset by their daughter’s actions, and by Kaitlyn’s actions, but this is a discussion to be had in the home and not in the criminal courts.
I seriously hope this story garners enough media attention so that people realize how badly our statutory rape laws need reform throughout the country. Sadly, this is just another example of our outdated sex crimes laws, as this should not even be defined as a sex crime at all.
Another Example of the Federal Guidelines Being Justly Avoided: Jesse Jackson Jr.’s 30 month sentence
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Although I can’t claim to have followed Jesse Jackson Jr.’s white collar, federal criminal case closely at all, his sentencing hearing and federal prison sentence caught my attention. I have practiced as a federal criminal defense attorney for the last 10 years in Los Angeles and have handled my fair share of white collar case, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax fraud. These cases can be very challenging depending on who, in fact, was allegedly defrauded, the amount of loss, and the client’s ability to re-pay the restitution. In the instant case, it appears to be another example of the Guidelines justly being cast to the wayside by a fair United States District Court Judge.
In Jesse Jackson Jr.’s case, the Judge, Amy Berman, found that the sentence, if imposed according to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, would be excessive and not proportional to the crime committed, so she imposed a 30 month sentence—one below the Guidelines. He will do 85% of this sentence under Federal criminal law. In my experience, in nearly every federal criminal case, the Guidelines, if strictly applied do, in fact, result in draconian type sentences that do not meet the goals of sentencing. Thankfully, the trend I see is that more and more federal judges are truly considering the mitigating factors listed out in 18 USC 3553 and granting departures or variances from the Guidelines calculation to arrive at a more must and appropriate sentence.
Monday, July 08, 2013
So I suppose this does seem a bit stereotypical, even to a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles who handles a large amount of domestic violence cases: Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) a big Hip-hop artist, known for coming from the streets and for having raw talent, being accused of assaulting his girlfriend. By their very nature, domestic violence charges are always challenging to fight on many levels because the cases involve family and loved ones who have turned against one another.
The allegations are that 50 Cent and his baby’s mother got into a fight which resulted in 50 Cent allegedly kicking in the bedroom door and kicking her as well. As such, 50 Cent is facing both domestic violence and vandalism charges. These cases always come down to a credibility contest between the two parties. Clearly, 50 Cent is an easy target for false accusations being both famous, and having money, so only time will tell what really happened, if anything at all.
Fortunately for 50 Cent, if there are no serious injuries alleged, and there is no prior criminal history between him and the alleged victim, then in California domestic violence charges are often reduced down to misdemeanors, rather than felonies, which would make the range of penalties significantly less severe.
Friday, June 28, 2013
A requirement to get registered in a federal sex offender registry is one of the toughest penalties imposed on any person who is convicted of certain sex crimes, especially those that involve minors. However, one company seems to be using a similar registry to blackmail people.
Recently, a man filed a lawsuit against the website sexoffender.com, claiming that the registry which claims to be a national sex offender registry, has posted his photograph, name and other details, and has pasted the term ”sex offender” right across the page. According to the plaintiff, his profile on the website even contains a Google Maps image that points to the location of his home.
The man, who has never been convicted of a sex crime in his life, says that he was shocked to learn that his details had been uploaded on the website. When he approached the owners of the website to get his name and photograph removed, he was told that he would have to pay for the privilege.
The website apparently charges up to $299 to remove a person’s details from the website, even when these details are inaccurate, and the person in question has never been convicted of a sex offense.
However, he was told that he would have to pay between $ 79 and $ 299 for the information to be removed. For $ 79, the information would be removed within 45 day. For a payment of $ 299, the information would be removed within 24 hours.
This website however, has nothing to do the federal sex offender registry that persons convicted of sex offenses are required to register themselves on. This particular registry is not affiliated to the federal government.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The Santa Barbara Teen Court program allows juvenile offenders who have been arrested for the very first time for minor offenses that are usually related to drug and alcohol violations, to be judged by their peers. Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers find that this is a much quicker and more efficient way to deal with youngsters who get into trouble with the law for minor offenses that are usually committed out of lack of knowledge or peer pressure. The Teen Court allows these people to avoid a life of crime, and the kind of delays that are typically seen in juvenile court.
The Santa Barbara Teen Court recently made some changes to its rules, which now allow deputies to cite teenagers cited with certain minor offenses directly into the teen Court without having to go through the traditional route. In the traditional route, the child may be referred by the Juvenile Probation Board, schools and parents or through a infraction report. That is a much more extensive process, and usually, the reference comes several weeks or even months after the citation was issued.
With the new change in the Santa Barbara Teen Court program, however, deputies will now be able to cite teenagers directly into the program, without going the traditional road. This new collaborative effort between the Teen Court as well as the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office means that teenagers who have been arrested for minor drug and alcohol-related offenses will be sentenced quickly, and given a chance to fix the mess they have gotten themselves into and resume a normal life as quickly as possible. Sentencing is typically in the form of treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
Karen L. Goldstein selected as a 2013 California Rising Star in Criminal Defense by Super Lawyers Publication
Monday, June 10, 2013
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, Karen L. Goldstein, has been named to the California Rising Stars list for 2013 as one of the top up-and-coming criminal defense attorneys in the state. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state receive this honor. The selection for this respected list is made by the research team at Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a rigorous multi-phased process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice areas.
Thursday, June 06, 2013
This seems to be the type of story that we are seeing more and more often: a professional person in a position of power accused of a sex crime. As a criminal defense attorney who focuses a good deal of her practice in sex crimes, I have represented numerous professionals such as, doctors, coaches, and teachers, accused of having committed sexual offenses.
In the instant case, Steven Leong, an internal medical specialist at Claude Hudson Medical Center has been charged with sexually assaulting 4 separate female patients from December 2010 to February 2013. The four women allege that Mr. Leong took them into an exam from and then proceeded to forcefully kiss, fondle, and grab them.
Accordingly, he has been charged with misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment, four misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, and five misdemeanor counts of battery. Although these charges are all misdemeanors, if he were to plead guilty to sexual battery, he would face mandatory registration as a sex offender—something that often results in people fighting their cases to trial instead of agreeing to accept a plea bargain that requires sex registration.
Of course, as a sex crimes attorney, who has seen a lot of these type of cases, there are always thoughts in the back of my mind such as the fact that a place like a hospital has “deep pockets” and would likely be able to pay out significant money to anyone accusing its staff of criminal wrongdoing. That being said, being in a position of trust—such as being a medical professional—also means that the courts and the DA’s office are likely to look very harshly on these type of sexually related allegations and to prosecute the case accordingly.
Friday, May 31, 2013
As a sex crimes attorney in Los Angeles who has been practicing criminal defense since 2003, I can tell you that having an LAPD Officer accused of child molestation is not a very common scenario. This story caught my attention because a typical person in the community tends to believe that police officer and/or deputy sheriffs do exactly what they are supposed to “protect and serve” and would never commit a crime. The truth is as a criminal defense attorney, I know that the lines blur a great deal more than we would like and that law enforcement are not always ethical, law-abiding citizens.
Last week, 28 year old LAPD officer Miguel Schiappapietra was accused of, and arrested for, two counts of child molestation, also known in California criminal law as committing a lewd or lascivious act on someone under 14 years old. He had served as an LAPD officer for 6 years on the force with apparently no prior issues. The allegations are that Mr. Schiappapietra lured two girls, under the ages of 10, back to his house in Castaic and sexually abused them.
Mr. Miguel Schiappapietra, through his attorney, has stated that he has been falsely accused and that he is innocent of the charges. Certainly, Mr. Schappapietra is in for the fight of his life. False accusations involving sex crimes are devastating and can result in a significant amount of state prison time and sex registration for life.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
The deterrent effect of DUI checkpoints is a proven resource in reducing the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol or drug involved crashes. Research shows that crashes involving alcohol drop by an average of 20 percent when well-publicized checkpoints are conducted often enough.
A 1987 California Supreme Court case, Ingersoll v. Palmer, outlines the procedures that California law enforcement must follow.
Before conducting the California DUI checkpoint, the following guidelines apply:
- Choosing a time, duration and location where there is a high level of alcohol-related arrests.
- Announcing the DUI checkpoint before it occurs.
- Making sure there is proper lighting, warning signs and signals and clearly identifiable vehicles and officers.
During the DUI checkpoint, guidelines include:
- Sticking to a formula, i.e.. stopping every driver or every second, third or fourth driver.
- Keeping the length of detention of each motorist minimal.
- Making sure the check is not intrusive.