Articles Posted in Crime

David Lee Windecher grew up poor in Miami in a community burdened by guns and drugs. Against the odds, Windecher rejected the world in which he was a self-described “gangster,” to become a lawyer and mentor for at-risk youth. Before renouncing gang life, Windecher was arrested 13 times. He is now using his story to inspire others that are attempting to make something of themselves when a life of crime, drugs, or violence is all they know. He wrote a book entitled The AmerIcan Dream: HisStory in the Making.

Windecher should serve as an inspiration for troubled offenders at any age. He is living proof that you can turn your life around if you put your mind to it. He joined the Georgia bar in 2012 and the Florida bar last year. He recently set up his own criminal defense practice. A portion of the proceeds of his book fund his nonprofit RED Inc. (Rehabilitation Enables Dreams). RED Inc. funds a GED program, together with a program run by the office of DeKalb County Solicitor Sherry Boston.

Windecher was reluctant to share his story at first. “I talk to my clients about my background, and a lot of times they get emotional. At first I was hesitant; being that transparent can make you vulnerable.” He and his siblings grew up in poverty. He was first arrested at the age of 11 for shoplifting. He chose to join a Hispanic gang after a beating by local black gang members. He needed money, so he formed a crime ring before he could even drive. His crime ring dealt drugs, stole cars, and robbed businessmen. As a teenager, his life consisted of gang activity and he was arrested repeatedly for various offenses including grand theft, battery, assault, and conspiracy.

California voters passed Proposition 184 in 1994. Proposition 184 created the “Three Strikes” sentencing law, significantly increasing the penalties for second and third offenders of serious felonies. According to the California Penal Code, when a defendant has at least two previous “strikes,” he or she is eligible to be sentenced to a prison term of 25 years to life. However, the judge has discretion to dismiss one or more of the defendant’s serious or violent penalties if he or she does not feel 25 to life is an appropriate punishment. In 1996, the California Supreme Court decided “People v. Romero,” granting the judge this discretion.

In order for the judge to exercise this discretion, the defense attorney must submit a Romero Motion declaring that dismissing defendant’s previous strike would be in the best interest of justice. Under California Penal Code 1385, the judge must state his or her reasons for dismissing defendant’s previous strikes. Under a Romero motion, the judge will consider several factors in defendant’s case, including:

  • Age at the time the previous crime was committed

A felony conviction can result in time spent under incarceration for at least one year. But a felony’s impact does not end there. In California, various privileges and civil rights enjoyed by the general population can be lost due to a felony conviction. It can be increasingly difficult to find gainful employment. A felony conviction can make life difficult for years after jail time or probation has ended, making rehabilitation into society difficult for convicted felons.

When applying for a job, one must disclose felony convictions on applications. Disclosing a felony conviction may result in not getting hired. However, failure to disclose a felony conviction on an employment application may result in termination of employment and an inability to receive unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, an employer is legally allowed not to hire a candidate based on a prior conviction. However, a prior conviction may also be a pretext to decline to hire a felon on the basis of illegal bias, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin). Federal guidelines only recommend that employers do not automatically disqualify convicted felons on the basis of their conviction. California has adopted this, but an employer may still refuse to hire a convicted felon if there is a valid business reason for the refusal. For example, if the potential job involves access to narcotics, you may be disqualified based upon a felony drug conviction.

If you have been convicted of a felony, it is important to know your rights regarding employment interviews prior to interviewing. You need to know what is illegal for the potential employer to ask and what information you need not disclose. It is important to consult an attorney if you feel you have been illegally discriminated against for past crimes. For example, a prospective employer may not ask you about:

Okay, California will probably not legalize prostitution, but one California nonprofit thinks it could be possible. Erotic Service Provider Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLER) is trying to legalize the profession by arguing that prostitution’s illegality violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. ESPLER argues in its complaint that laws prohibiting prostitution and solicitation violate substantive due process rights and violate one’s liberty interest in one’s private, sexual relationships. ESPLER argues in its brief that California laws criminalizing prostitution “deprive individuals of the fundamental right to engage in consensual, private sexual activity; deny individuals the right to choose for themselves how to earn a living and who to enter a contract with; limit how and with whom an individual can associate in private; discourage safe sex because the possession of condoms is used as evidence by prosecutors; California has failed to provide a legitimate rational to continue denying individuals the right of free speech, the right to earn a living, and the right to freely associate; and the Penal Code is so vaguely worded that it criminalizes the mere discussion of paying for erotic services between consenting adults.”

Veronica Monet, a former sex worker and current relationship counselor, is behind ESPLER’s fight to legalize prostitution. She says that criminalizing this behavior pulls the industry underground and sets “up antagonism between law enforcement and women who want to run their own lives, or women who are in it for survival.” Monet and ESPLER believe that decriminalizing the profession and setting up an open dialogue with sex workers can help prevent major problems with the industry, for example, underage women forced into prostitution, abusive pimps, or rapists.

There is no doubt that ESPLER has a difficult fight ahead of them, and it remains to be determined whether the court will buy their arguments. In order to prevail in court, ESPLER must demonstrate that the denial of the rights mentioned above “offends decency and fairness,” and that the rights are “deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” Time will tell if this fight is successful, but until then prostitution remains illegal in the state of California. If you are accused of prostitution, you will need to consult an experienced attorney.

Past convictions can be expunged to help you better your future. Often, a criminal record can be a barrier to certain schooling, obtaining licenses, and certain employment. Sean F. Leslie, Attorney at Law can help expunge your criminal convictions and clear your record. If you have been convicted of a felony, then we will first work to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor prior to obtaining an expungement. In many cases, this is an easy process, and all you will need to do is provide your name, date of birth, and the court in which you were convicted. And you may never have to go to court to clear your record. We have handled hundreds of criminal record expungements for clients in and out of San Diego.

Expungement: What You Should Understand

In California, criminal record expungement is governed by Penal Code 1203.4. One of the most important things to understand about expungement is that once it is granted, your case is not sealed. Expungement doesn’t actually mean erasure, as if the crime had never been committed. It is more equivalent to dismissal; your conviction will stay on your record for certain purposes, including sex offender registration and immigration. Penal Code 1203.4 states that the defendant is “released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense.” This statement, however, has limitations.

California’s Three Strikes sentencing law was enacted in 1994. The law enacted a life sentence for essentially any offense, even an extremely minor one, if the offender has two previous convictions for “serious” or “violent” crimes (according to the California Penal Code). Under the law, if a defendant is convicted of any felony, and already has a prior conviction of a serious or violent felony, the defendant will be sentenced to twice the prison term originally provided for the felony. If a defendant is convicted of any felony with two or more prior felony convictions (or “strikes”), the sentence is a prison term of at least 25 years to life. The three strikes sentencing structure was enacted to ensure that violent offenders are kept off the streets. However, an unfortunate side effect of this law has sentenced over half of inmates convicted under it for nonviolent crimes.

How is a “Serious” or “Violent” Felony defined?

Serious and violent felonies are defined in California Penal Code sections 667.5(c) and 1192.7(c). These types of felonies include burglary, robbery, kidnapping, murder, sex crimes, any offense in which a weapon was used and/or serious bodily injury occurred, arson, crimes involving the use of explosives, or any attempt to commit the aforementioned crimes.

Prior to the U.S. Department of Justice uncovering a history of racial profiling and discrimination in Ferguson, MO, a group of attorneys filed suit claiming that municipal courts in the town were arresting and imprisoning a large number of people for unpaid traffic tickets and other minor offenses. In 2013, 33,000 arrest warrants were issued for residents, earning the city $2.6 million. Ferguson is not the only town in America profiting off of residents’ debt. This is a problem here in California as well. Four million people in the state have suspended licenses for failing to pay citations, and are deeply in debt because of this.

Traffic Courts & Inequality

A coalition of civil rights groups issued a report entitled “Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California.” The report found that a driver who commits offenses as small as littering or driving without a seatbelt is subject to a $490 fine. Many Americans are not able to afford such a fine, and if the driver does not pay the fine in full quickly enough or misses a court appearance; the punishment is a suspended license. This creates a real problem for many Californians – they only way they can pay off their fine and lift the suspension on their driver’s license is to drive without a license to work. They then risk even more fines ($300-$1,000) and six months in prison for getting caught driving with a suspended license. This creates a cycle of debt that many are unable to break.

Alan Long was re-elected into the Murrieta city council last week after choosing to step down from his position as mayor. A type of scandal erupted when Long was caught driving under the influence (DUI) and mishandling his pickup truck, causing him to lose control of the vehicle and ram into the car in front of him. The car he hit contained four teenage girls, all high school cheerleaders ranging from the ages of 14 to 17; they came out of the accident with injuries. Long was already being charged with one count of felony DUI causing injury and now the girls who were injured are suing him as well. Long, who has a job working as a battalion chief for the Anaheim Fire Department, is in over his head and is scheduled for arraignment on December 11. Long’s attorney, apparently, still hasn’t seen the lawsuit being brought against him. In the upcoming weeks more about the story will unfold and the perspective of the injured girls from the accident will be heard.

Sources:
“Councilman Sued For Alleged DUI Crash With Teens” – UT San Diego

Unfortunately, there will always be people out there who are willing to sacrifice the life of someone else in order to obtain money; especially life insurance rewards. Toni Henthorn, a 50-year-old woman at the time, married to Harold Henthorn, 56, went on a vacation for their twelfth wedding anniversary to a scenic place called Deer Mountain, located in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. Toni was excited and wanted to get as close to nature as possible for her photography, so the two went off the trail slightly and closer to the ledge in order to get the shot she was aiming for. The suddenly, Toni fell off of the ledge and tumbled face first down the side of the mountain; it took Harold fifteen minutes to find her body and remarkably she was still breathing. By the time the paramedics arrived, however, she was dead. The shocker? Toni was sitting on life insurance policies worth four and a half million dollars and the inheritor of all of her bank accounts was Harold. According to the coroner, homicide cannot be ruled out, which lead to the indictment of Harold Henthorn over two years after the incident occurred on September 29, 2012. He was taken into possession and charged with first degree murder for the death of his wife, Toni Henthorn. Eerily enough, Harold was married before he met Toni and his ex-wife died in what he called a “car accident”; the car crushing her to death during a tire change mishap. According to Toni’s relatives, Harold had always seemed like a shady, money obsessed guy who turned Toni into a shell of her former self in order to be with him.

Sources:
“Woman Killed In National Park Had 4.5 Million Life Insurance” – UT San Diego

The man arrested on Friday said he was 34-year-old Marcelo Marquez of Salt Lake City when he was taken into custody, but his fingerprints matched biometric records of Monroy-Bracamonte in a federal database, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. He was first removed from the country in 1997 after a conviction for possession of drugs for sale in Arizona, then arrested and repatriated to Mexico again in 2001. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told The Sacramento Bee on Sunday that he may have lived under multiple identities and that he may have had troubles with the law under another name.

“We’re not convinced we have a full picture of his identity,” Jones told the newspaper. “Immigration has come up with one identity. We are not entirely convinced that is his only identity.”

Mauro Marquez, his father-in-law, told the Los Angeles Times that he always knew him as Luis Monroy and said his son-in-law worked as a house painter. He said the couple married about 14 years ago in Arizona and moved to Utah a couple of years later.