Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Friday, January 6, 2012

Florida Laws Make Second Chances Rare

A Felon for Life?

By Norm Kent

While everyone wants to be acquitted or have their cases dismissed, if the odds of that are unlikely, a person charged with a crime wants to know what is the next best alternative.

In those instances, the best thing you can do for your client is secure for them a disposition which is known as a “withheld adjudication.”

A court may do one of two things with the disposition of your case- it can adjudicate you guilty, or withhold adjudication of guilt. An adjudication means you have been found guilty and are stuck forever with that finding, in this lifetime and the next. It means you have a permanent criminal record, which can never be sealed or expunged, removed or eliminated, absent a legislative change or pardon from the Governor.

An adjudication of guilt on a felony strips you of a breadth of your rights as a citizen, not only your right to vote but to hold a variety of public service jobs, as well as professional licenses. It takes away your driver’s license for two years, and it impacts your right to collect government benefits. Thus, if you are entering a plea to a criminal charge anytime anywhere, you want to seek a withheld adjudication of guilt, whether it is for a misdemeanor or felony.

In Florida and elsewhere, that is becoming more and more difficult. For example, if you enter a plea to drunk driving, courts have no discretion. It is mandatory that they adjudicate you guilty. Fortunately, that is not a felony, so some of your rights are preserved. But more and more criminal acts are coming under the penumbra of mandatory adjudications, the most frustrating of which are battery cases against law enforcement officers.

Very often, the battery charges evolve out of barroom brawls in which intoxicated patrons do not even know what is going on at the time. Sometimes a Good Samaritan attempting to render aid to a police officer is seen by an arriving officer as possibly assaulting their fellow officer. They are then suddenly struggling with one officer while trying to help the other. In the melee that follows, they wind up in jail too. In other instances, of course, people, good people sometimes do get drunk, and then act badly. There are no second chances.

In addition, more and more legislators are now talking about expanding the concept of mandatory adjudications to many other offenses. Florida, for example, now includes fleeing from a police officer as one of those offenses. Heaven help you if you do not hear those sirens.

A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony. In fact, the word ‘misdemeanor’ is derived from the Latin phrase for ‘misbehavior.’ Unfortunately though, if you are ever adjudicated guilty, even of only a misdemeanor, you will never, under Florida law, ever be able to get your record expunged. And if the adjudication is for a sexual offense, you can be barred from working in nursing homes, schools, and a variety of venues. Those that plea out may be having to deal with those pleas for the rest of their life, as these cases generally can never be expunged or sealed. An expunction erases a criminal charge from your ‘record.’

Many of those arrested for sexual offenses in public parks are charged with the crime of battery. It is easy to prove. All an officer has to do is show that another person engaged in a touching of the cop without his lawful consent. It does not have to be a harmful or hurtful contact, just an innocent touching. But an adjudication on this battery charge will prevent it from ever coming off of your record. This means that forevermore anyone will be able to access facts about your arrest, even if you pled guilty out of convenience, and it was the cop who induced or invited you to touch him in the first place.

Two years ago, I handled a case for a drag queen, Tiny Tina, who had been adjudicated for engaging in a lewd act in 1976, when she hosted a wet jockey contest at the Copa Bar. In the year 2010, she was denied a job at an assisted living facility when a state records search revealed that 34-year-old finding of guilt. Fortunately, I eventually had that horrible ruling overturned.

Still, it is getting tougher to seal or expunge any record of your arrest for misdemeanors or felonies. For example, charges that are now disqualifying, and make you ineligible for an expunction, include sexual offenses, acts of domestic violence, battery, residential burglaries, stalking and fleeing police. State law allows you only one expunction ever, and only if you have never been ‘adjudicated.’

When the term ‘adjudication’ is used in traffic court, the meaning is drastically different. You see, traffic tickets are considered only ‘civil infractions.’ Therefore, if you are found guilty and ‘adjudicated,’ it simply means that you are getting points assessed against your driver’s license by the Department of Motor Vehicles. It does not mean that you have been found guilty of a crime. If that is the worst thing that ever happens to you, then you will have lived a very decent life.

Many people come to Florida on vacation and wind up on probation. Many come from urban populations where certain behaviors are treated more leniently and liberally. In Broward, if you commit a felony, you are more likely to go to jail than almost any county in the state. Sell just one ounce of marijuana to an undercover police officer and our state attorney’s office will make you a plea offer of no less than 18 months in Florida state prison.

Ultimately, these harsh laws present grave consequences to the average citizen who makes one costly mistake. It means that a momentary lapse today can brand you as a felon for life.

This means that years later, your arrest can become subject to permanent public scrutiny, accessible to anyone – friends, enemies, lovers, creditors, employers, credit agencies, and anyone with a computer that has Internet access.

We live in a country where one out of every 100 adults is either in prison or under some form of judicial probation or supervision. For Hispanics and African Americans, those statistics are even more dramatic.

Too many acts have been declared illegal, and too often government has restrained our liberties. Florida is one of those places. Keep it in mind the next time you go off to party. The sun tans as well as burns.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cop Popped for DUI

A report from WAVE...

A police officer is facing drunk driving charges in Washington County, Indiana and the arresting officers say he was carrying a message about drug abuse education at the time.

On Wednesday night around 10:30 p.m. Scott and Tina Robbins were just about to go to sleep.

"It was so loud," said Mrs. Robbins. "I was out of the bed on the floor within a spilt second."

They heard a crash right outside their window. "I grabbed the phone and called 911," said Mr. Robbins. "The damage to the truck and the way it looked wrapped in the tree, he had to be traveling so fast."

Indiana State Police say 38-year-old John Newcomb, a Seymour Police Officer, was driving a pick up truck through Salem on Main Street.

"He side swiped a vehicle that was legally parked on the side of the roadway," said Sgt. Jerry Goodin, ISP. "After striking that vehicle, he went on and struck a tree."

It didn't take long for investigators to suspect alcohol was involved.

"He was sitting on the wall out of the vehicle, holding his head," said Mrs. Robbins. But that wasn't the only thing that stood out to the Robbins, it was the trailer Newcomb was pulling.

"It said DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and Seymour Police Department- which made me think he was a police officer," said Mr. Robbins.

Not only a police officer, but according to the Seymour Police Department website, he is the School Resource Officer, responsible for seven schools, acting as a mentor and providing students with a role model. It even states that he conducts lectures on narcotics and alcohol and their effects on driving.

"He's not setting a good example for kids that see this," said Mr. Robbins.

Newcomb, who refused medical treatment after the crash, is charged with operating while intoxicated and was booked in the Washington County Jail.

Newcomb had a dog in the truck with him. He told police the dog distracted him and that's what caused the crash. We are still waiting to hear back from Seymour Police about the current status of his job.

Copyright 2011 WAVE News. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Movies Don't Own First Amendment

Lawsuit filed in 'Rock of Ages' photo ban • Prohibiting people from taking pictures of stars like Tom Cruise andRussell Brand on the Florida set of Rock of Ages is unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday.

The South Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and The South Florida Gay News (SFGN) sued the City of Fort Lauderdale and its police chief Frank Adderley demanding the court issue an emergency injunction.

The lawsuit alleges that the movie production and presence of stars like Alec Baldwin andCatherine Zeta-Jones "are newsworthy events which the local media is entitled to report on."

Signs posted around the Revolution Live nightclub in downtown Fort Lauderdale, where Rock of Ages is shooting, threaten the arrest of anyone taking pictures in the area. (The word "subject" is misspelled on the signs.) The city ordinance cited on the signs has nothing to do with photography or trespassing.

A police department spokesperson says no one has been arrested yet but a number of paparazzi have been warned to put their cameras away. A city official told reporters that the presence of photographers at the film location is a "public safety issue."

Attorney Norm Kent, publisher of SFGN, says the signs are having a "chilling effect upon the exercise of First Amendment rights" and police officers – including off-duty officers hired by producers of the film – are "unwitting agents of unconstitutionality."

The National Press Photographers Association has also questioned the legality of the warning and said it violates the public's right of free speech and access to public property. In a letter to Adderley, the group claims officers have been "harassing, intimidating and threatening" photographers.

"Photography may not be restricted in a public place to accommodate the whims of Hollywood or the desire by your officers to please their 'second-job' employers," wrote attorney Mickey H. Osterreicher.

If the city doesn't rescind the photography ban, protesters are planning to descend on the area with cameras for a "lunch-in" on Friday.

Producers have filming permits for three blocks in the city until June 24.

"Freedom of expression, which includes photography, cannot be controlled by movie studios from Hollywood," said Kent, "even if Tom Cruise is in the film."

courtesy pop goes the

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pot No Longer Criminal in Cali

It’s official. The possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for non-medical purposes is no longer a criminal offense in the state of California.

As of January 1, 2011, Senate Bill 1449 is law. Signed by outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in October, SB 1449 amends the California Health and Safety Code so that the adult possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana is reclassified from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction, punishable by no more than a $100 fine — no court appearance, no court costs, and no criminal record. The Governor’s decision to sign the bill was no doubt influenced by the 2,500+ NORML supporters who contacted Schwarzenegger’s office in the final days of the 2010 legislative session and urged his support for the law change.

The enactment of the law will spare tens of thousands of Californians from criminal prosecution, and will save the state tens of millions in court costs. California’s new law is similar to existing laws in Colorado, Maine,Massachusetts, Nebraska, and New York where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.

You can read more about California’s newly enacted law here

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joe Varon Gone

A JAABLOG poster said it best and succinctly:
'Joe Varon was the finest lawyer to ever walk the halls of the Broward County Courthouse. He was a gentleman whose word was his bond, well respected by everyone who knew him and admired by every trial lawyer in this county. There is no room for sniping about this fine man. He was a credit to the profession and would there be more like him.'
Joe Varon was a mentor, a master, a monster of a lawyer whose tenacity and grit, whose passion and determination has been unmatched in South Florida. I have missed him these past years and will miss him more still.
I know this blog has retired a bit with the responsibilities I took on as a weekly newspaper publisher, but Joe Varon's legacy is simply that he was the best, the classiest, the most distinguished criminal defense lawyer to ever grace the Broward County Courthouse.
And somewhere I have a better picture.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prosecutor Honowitz Works at Making Children Safer

Stacey Honowitz, who has prosecuted sex offenders for 22 years, has written a book to empower kids to tell if someone touches them inappropriately. An article in this week's Miami Herald, by Julie Landry Laviolette shares the important story. It is worth picking up on the blog, seemingly abandoned for months by your author here, as he publishes a newspaper, at But with the paper setttling in, maybe I can get to more posts of legal import and meaning. This is a good one, and Stacey is a great prosecutor, a wonderful person, and individual whose career is worth noting both for her caring and concern, and constant committment to professionalism. Were all lawyers so devoted to their tasks...

Here is the Herald piece by Laviolette:

There was the tiny girl, not yet 4, whose babysitter sexually molested her while her mom was out working. There was the elderly man who fondled the special needs kids at the private school where he volunteered. There was the adult who, 20 years after he was molested as a child, could not hold down a job.

In her 22 years prosecuting sex offenders at the Broward County State Attorney's Office, Stacey Honowitz of Miami has heard many chilling tales.

But it still shocks her when she meets young victims who never knew there were body parts others shouldn't touch, until it was too late.

Honowitz's self-published book, My Privates are Private, aims to change that.

``So many kids come into my office and their parents have never talked to them about their private parts,'' she said.

In her book, Honowitz, a supervisor with Broward's Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit, created a character named Betty Boodle who tells why it's OK to maintain privacy. Told in limerick form, the 22-page book is aimed to educate kids ages 3 to 12.

``It's a bright, sunny book that teaches about a little girl who says, ``I'm big enough; I'm brave enough to tell if something happens,'' Honowitz said.

The book is not about a child who has been molested, Honowitz said, and it is not targeted to sexual abuse victims.

``It's to empower these kids to tell if someone touches them,'' she said. ``This book needs to be mandatory in every household.''

Honowitz said many parents don't talk to their kids about privacy because they think they are not at risk. And they are wrong, she says.

``Molesters are everywhere. They are in rich homes. They are in poor homes. They are in Jewish homes and Catholic homes. It could be the babysitter, the lawn guy or a neighbor,'' Honowitz said.

One in six boys and one in every four girls will be sexually abused by age 18, she said. Of the victims, half will be abused by someone they trust outside of their family. Thirty to 40 percent will be abused by a family member. Only 10 percent are abused by strangers, Honowitz said.

A frequent lecturer on the topic, Honowitz also has provided legal commentary for Larry King Live, CNN Headline News, Good Morning America and other news outlets. She says when she speaks to groups, parents often tell her they don't know how to broach the subject.

``Parents have difficulty breaking the ice and finding the words,'' Honowitz said. ``I think parents never think that their children will be in that position, so they don't think it's that important.''

Honowitz said her daughter, 2, knows about her private parts. By age 3, a child should know that some areas of their body are off-limits to others.

``People don't want to confront issues like this. It's taboo,'' she said. ``It's time for the secret to be let out.''

My Privates are Private is $12.95 and available at and . To contact Honowitz, e-mail

Read more:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wash this Weed

© The Cairns Post, discovered through Legal Juice and John Mesirow's blog-------for your reading pleasure:

A PROMISING environmental scientist who forgot that he had stashed a 650g bag of cannabis in a washing machine has been let off without a conviction for the offence.

Isha James Segboer, 34, was planning to bake a cake from the cannabis.

Instead he put it in a disused washing machine and forgot about it.

In Cairns Supreme Court yesterday, hewas ordered to serve 100 hours of community service.
But Supreme Chief Justice Paul de Jersey took the unusual step of not recording a conviction, despite two previous drug offences, because he did not want to ruin the high-achieving environmental scientist’s career potential to help others.

"What influences me in the end is the unusual feature of your presenting as a well-educated person with a capacity to contribute substantially to society in your potential area of qualification," Chief Justice de Jersey said.

Segboer’s lawyer Bebe Mellick said Segboer had been given the shopping bag of drugs by an associate and had intended to bake a cake out of it because of its poor quality, but had forgotten about it.

Look forward to blogging again, what with my newspaper now up and running regularly at This week we even have a feature on the Miami Beach decriminalization ordinance proposal recently launched:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gay Nurse Fired for 34 Year Old Lewd Act

You may know or remember Ray Fetcho as ‘Tiny Tina.’ He is a proud gay 61 year old man who has been a licensed practical nurse for the past forty years; four decades of service to people who are ill.

Unfortunately, in 1976, while hosting a ‘Wet Jockey Shorts Night’ at the Copa, he was busted for promoting a lewd act. Today, that incident has come back to haunt him. The state has told him he can no longer be a nurse because of the conviction.

For the past 15 years, Fetcho has been an acclaimed and honored employee at Victoria Villa, an assisted living facility in Davie, recognized for his “compassionate service to the elderly.”

On March 31, 1976, Fetcho, performing as ‘Tiny Tina’ at the Copa in Dania Beach, was charged and convicted of promoting ‘lewd and lascivious’ behavior by throwing small buckets of water on boys’ briefs while hosting the irreverent ‘Wet Jockey Shorts’ contest.

Last month, that dated conviction from his past became a nightmare. Last week, Ray Fetcho was summarily fired from the job he has loved and cherished. A state licensing agency, the Agency for Health Care Administration, doing a routine screening inspection of nursing home employees, told him he would be ineligible to remain on the job at his facility “because of the lewd act conviction” from thirty plus years ago.

During the 1970’s and 80’s, the Copa was the most renowned and preeminent gay bar in South Florida. It was an international destination for tourists and a ‘coming out’ venue for anyone local, gay, and seeking an all night dance club.

30 years ago, John Castelli, and his partner, the late Bill Bastiansen, were the owners of the Copa, which hosted renowned drag queens like Tiny Tina, Nikki Adams, and the late Dana Manchester.

Today, Castelli is a respected broker of Castelli and Associates in Wilton Manors. After being told of Fetcho’s plight Saturday morning, Castelli commented: “Oh my God! What century are we living in? It was such an innocent situation. The boys always wore briefs. No one was exposed. That was during the Anita Bryant era, a lifetime ago.” Castelli even remembered the incident, noting he and his partner had to bond Fetcho out of jail.

Unfortunately, those acts then have impacted Fetcho’s life today. Unless he petitions and receives an exemption for his past misconduct, the Department of Health can stop him from working anywhere in the state as an LPN, a job which has paid him close to $40,000 a year.

Lucie Eichler, his now former employer from the Villa thought the decision was equally incredible, “Fetcho has been a valuable addition to our company. He is so well-liked that he still maintains relationships with the families of residents who have since passed.”

Eichler attests to Fetcho’s, “reliability and strong ethical character,” and says that she is “sorry to see him leave.”

Ann Garfinkel, the daughter of a Victoria Villa resident, was in disbelief when informed of Fetcho’s firing. “His termination is a great loss to the residents of Victoria Villa and the nursing profession in general.” She continues, “I believe the State of Florida is making a big mistake.”

Added Linda Greenfield, “Ray took care of my mother while she was suffering from dementia at the Villa. He is the most caring and considerate nurse you can imagine; he brings patience and love and humor to his work.”

Ironically, Fetcho has a new job waiting for him in a new Coconut Creek assisted living facility. Kelley Madigan, the administrator at Dayscape, a senior activity center told SFGN, “I was Fetcho’s supervisor at the Villas for six years. He is dedicated and pleasant, dependable and compassionate. I am prepared to employ him the moment he clears this hurdle.”

Fetcho has retained long time Fort Lau­derdale constitutional rights attorney, Russell Cormican,, who is taking the case on a pro bono basis, “I promise you that this injustice will be cured and that Ray Fetcho will get an exemption- and be restored to his tenure as an LPN.”

Cormican has to petition the Department of Health and make a case to its administrators. He explained the legal process that Fetcho must initiate: “Employees seeking an exemption have the burden of setting forth sufficient evidence of rehabilitation, including the circumstances surrounding the criminal incident for which an exemption is sought, and the time period that has elapsed since the incident, and the history of the employee since the incident,” Cormican said.

For his part, Fetcho is upset and concerned about his future. “I love being a nurse and I love my job and I can’t believe this is coming back to haunt me 30 years later. It was stupid then. It is ridiculous now.”

Added Fetcho, “I should be working up to my retirement in five years, not looking back at something from the past. I never mixed my two careers together. One was show business, one was real. I had the best of both possible worlds but if I have to fight today to help some other nurse tomorrow, they are going to have to fight ‘The Queen’ in her court.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

'EX-Gay' Icon is Also Ex-Con



A joint investigation by the organization Truth Wins Out and the has revealed that the spokesperson for a New Jersey based national religious group seeking to ‘cure’ homosexuals is a convicted felon who has been hiding his past.

The leader of JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, Arthur Abba Goldberg, is now also serving as President of his Jersey City temple. He was sent to federal prison 20 years ago for a conspiracy to defraud the United States of America.

Additionally, Goldberg is presently the Executive Secretary of NARTH- the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. The group hopes to heal “unwanted homosexuality” through “therapeutic care.”

One more group he supervises is PATH- Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality- a coalition of religious, ministerial, and ex-gay groups promoting “non-gay alternatives to homosexual lifestyles.” He is their President.

Goldberg, who reinvented himself in 2000 as the founder of JONAH, was found guilty in 1989 of numerous felonies in multiple jurisdictions. The charges ranged from federal mail and wire fraud to conspiracy counts as a result of a bogus bond writing scheme.

Goldberg was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment in the Central District of California, which he served concurrently with a an Illinois sentence imposed at the same time. It was followed by five years of supervised probation and a $100,000 fine, eventually paid on November 24, 1999.

K. William O’Connor, the U.S. attorney who put him away, said at his sentencing that Goldberg was “a man who habitually took advantage of people who were economically dependent upon him; that he did not hesitate to lie or cheat or cover up to achieve his criminal aim. His greed has cause incalculable harm...”

Goldberg’s arrest and conviction rocked Wall Street when it went down two decades ago. A purported whiz kid and investment guru, he had been often referred to on the Street as “Abba Dabba Do” and “Abba Cadabra.”

Those names and that past were all secreted when Goldberg founded JONAH after getting out of prison. Abandoning the conspicuously identifiable middle name of ‘Abba’, Goldberg authored a book for Red Heifer Press under the name of ‘Arthur Goldberg.’

Titled “Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change,” Goldberg re-created himself as an author and spiritual leader, purporting to help individuals struggling with their sexual identity, telling gays “you can change.” He certainly did.

“We have long considered Arthur Goldberg a con-artist, but our investigation shows he is also an ex-con,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out.

“His diabolical past mirrors his dishonest present-day work with JONAH. Whether it was shady deals on Wall Street or shading the truth on gay issues, Goldberg is someone who lacks credibility and can’t be trusted,” said Besen.

“The Torah is the Book of Truth,” Besen concluded, “and Goldberg has now delivered us a book of lies.”

Born in 1940, Arthur Abba Goldberg identified himself his entire life by using all three of his names, at least until he got out of prison and started JONAH.

The TWO and SFGN investigation into his past revealed that when he authored articles for the American University Eagle in 1961 as an undergraduate, his byline was ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’

When he received his bachelor’s degree from American University in 1962 and his law degree in 1965 from Cornell University, the diplomas were given to ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’

When he authored land use articles for the Urban Law Journal in the early 1970’s as a young lawyer it was under the name of ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’

It was also under the name ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ that he was admitted to the New Jersey and Connecticut Bar Associations, and it was under that name he served as the executive vice president directing Matthews & Wright, Inc., a New York underwriting firm, in which he was a major stockholder.

It was in the capacity as shareholder and vice president that Goldberg orchestrated a scheme of selling $2 billion in fraudulent municipal bonds for communities ranging from the impoverished city of East St. Louis to Chester, Pennsylvania, to the West Pacific U.S. territory of Guam.

The stories of his criminal acts were methodically detailed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a paper based near the Chester community scammed severely by the fraud.

It was under the name of ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ that a United States grand jury on Guam indicted him in late 1987 on 52 counts of bribery, fraud, and conspiracy.

On September 26, 1989, ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to three counts of mail fraud. He was sentenced to 18 months as part of a plea bargain.

The trial had actually been moved to California because so many residents of Guam had been financially harmed by the bogus investment scheme it was thought a fair trial in that venue was impossible.

Goldberg and others also indicted at Matthews & Wright had knowingly conspired together to enter into a fraudulent scheme to sell fake bond issues but take commissions on them anyway. They arranged to bribe officials, deceive investors, and issue bogus checks to non existent parties.

In exchange for underwriting $300 million in bogus deals, Goldberg and his investment firm, Matthews & Wright, received a fee of $10.5 million. They created the impression these bonds would be used to help construct desperately needed single family housing in Guam and elsewhere.

Separately, Goldberg also pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in another falsified bond-writing scheme. In that matter, Goldberg participated in a conspiracy to ensure that the bonds were deemed prematurely to take advantage of a favorable tax law relating to transactions.

The 900 page presentence report prepared by prosecutors prior to his sentencing was scathing. It indicated that Goldberg’s conduct was “knowingly and willfully dishonest and fraudulent.”

K. William O’Connor described Goldberg as having engineered “a conspiratorial fraud of spectacular scope,” which purposefully duped “unsophisticated Pacific Islanders.” One witness against Goldberg said he treated the citizens of Guam as if “they were cannibals.”

O’Connor said that Goldberg’s deceitfulness crippled Guam’s economy, crushed investors, undermined public confidence in the bond industry, and cost the U.S. Treasury millions in lost taxes.

U.S. District Judge Jesse W. Curtis, Jr. then sentenced ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ to 18 months in prison, allowing both the Illinois and California sentences to run together. He imposed fines and restitution totaling $400,000, an amount later reduced by an appellate court.

In a separate civil proceeding, the Disciplinary Review Board of the New Jersey State Bar Association recommended taking away his law license. They found “Goldberg’s criminal convictions clearly and convincingly demonstrated his participation in activities that reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court then disbarred Goldberg on November 9, 1995, citing his criminal convictions and his “reckless indifference to a conspiracy of considerable magnitude.”

New Jersey’s highest court even noted that “We are aware of respondent’s active involvement in community service and his efforts to resettle numerous immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.” But, they concluded, “Goldberg’s conscious participation in the illegal activities leading to his criminal convictions outweighs these mitigating factors.”

In his capacity as the Director of JONAH, Goldberg formed and serves as a director of a tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, whose website promises that it is “offering hope, compassion, direction and vitally needed information to gay strugglers, their families, friends, and surrounding community.” He formed the group using the name Arthur Goldberg, sans Abba, one month after getting his federal supervision of five years’ probation concluded.

In a 2001 interview not long after he began his religious crusade, Goldberg told the Herald News in Paterson, New Jersey, that homosexuality is the result of “psychological trauma.’ And that “six months to three years of weekly therapy and prayer can cure it.” He did not say anything about whether 18 months in a federal prison might also help.

Today, on the NARTH website, despite his conviction and disbarment, Goldberg proudly holds himself out as a ‘doctor of jurisprudence,’ displaying the title of ‘J.D.’ adjacent to his listing.

NARTH is one of the country’s most vocal critics of the American Psychological Association’s position paper concluding that homosexuality is normal, not aberrational. NARTH advocates the doctrine that homosexuality is a ‘developmental disorder’ and a ‘treatable condition.’

The ‘Jewish State’ is a central New Jersey newsweekly that Goldberg gave an interview to in 2007. He identified himself as a former deputy attorney general and Connecticut law professor, telling the reporter that “gays have been led astray in terms of your authenticity to yourself.” Meanwhile, he failed to disclose his criminal past.

“People are not born gay; there’s no such thing as a gay gene,” he added, complimenting that remark with the statement all gays “can readapt” from “their gender deficiency.” He then said homosexual children should be treated the same way as “if a child was addicted to drugs or alcohol.”

Goldberg is presently living conspicuously as the President of Congregation Mount Sinai in Jersey City. The temple offers itself out as a “welcoming environment for all people to express, deepen and rediscover their Jewish heritage.”

Last year, as a guest in the audience at the end of a Montel Williams show discussing ex-gays, he shouted from the audience at the host, interrupting the show, to say gays needed help. You can see it on You Tube.

“I’ve always been one to try to help the underdog,” he said.

But that is not what Judge Curtis concluded at Goldberg’s sentencing on September 26, 1989.

“I find,” the court stated, “that, Arthur Abba Goldberg, you have openly conspired against the United States by knowingly and recklessly engaging indifferently in a series of dishonest acts of considerable magnitude.”

JONAH’s website brags that it teaches that ‘homosexual strugglers can journey away from homosexuality with psychological and spiritual help, peer support, and personal empowerment.’

In 2007, JONAH established a separate division, The Jonah Institute for Gender Affirmation, to provide research and clinical strategies for “growth out of homosexuality.”

Maybe Arthur Abba Goldberg should have started a peer group for “growth out of felonies.” His days of failing to own up to his are over.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Season Cometh

Well I may be out of action with a different blog pretty soon, but I could not resist this one.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Federal Court Limits the Use of Tasers, NY Times Reports

Published: December 31, 2009
My only comment is About Time !!!!- Norm

In a case that could set the first broad judicial standards for the use of Tasers, a federal appeals court in California has ruled that the police can be held liable for using one of the devices against an unarmed person during a traffic stop.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, said the electrically disabling device constituted excessive force when used against an unarmed man who did not pose a threat, and it refused to allow a police officer immunity for its use.

In a vividly worded opinion issued by the court this week, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw described a “bad morning” for Carl Bryan, a 21-year-old Californian who drove over large stretches of Southern California to retrieve car keys mistakenly taken by a friend and ended up being Tasered by a Coronado, Calif., policeman and breaking four teeth when he fell to the ground.

Mr. Bryan was stopped twice on his driving odyssey, once for speeding and once for not wearing his seat belt. After the second stop, he was “agitated, standing outside his car, yelling gibberish and hitting his thighs, clad only in his boxer shorts and tennis shoes,” the court said.

The judge noted, however, that Mr. Bryan did not threaten the officer, Brian McPherson, and was not trying to flee — all elements of a three-part test that the United States Supreme Court has used to determine when significant force is justified. As for the third factor in the court’s test, the severity of the offense at issue, the Ninth Circuit judges observed that “traffic violations generally will not support the use of a significant level of force.”

The court found that the policeman’s use of force so exceeded the threat posed by Mr. Bryan that it denied his request for immunity for his actions and for a quick dismissal of the case against him. Instead, the judges will allow the case to go forward.

Eugene G. Iredale, a lawyer for Mr. Bryan, hailed what he called a “landmark decision.”

Orin S. Kerr, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at George Washington University Law School, called it “an important case” that was unusual in the way it set a broad rule without giving deference to the use of force by the police.

Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina who recently completed a four-year study of Tasers for the Department of Justice, said that Tasers and other “conducted electrical devices” were used by more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies and that some departments had already upgraded their rules to allow their use only in the case of an “active or immediate threat.”

If the Ninth Circuit ruling is not overturned, Professor Alpert said, the Bryan case “is going to impact a lot of departments that have not changed their standards.”

Monday, December 28, 2009

Minnesota Man Chalks Up 20th DUI Arrest!

Paul D. Garay has a history of drunken driving. And by "has a history," we mean "has a lifetime 20 arrests for drunk driving." Over Christmas weekend this 55 year old dude pitched his Chevy into a ditch in Minnesota again, sporting a BAC twice the legal limit.

Alcohol problems aside, Garay's hardly a shining beacon of responsible citizenship; from 2003-2006, he served a drug-related sentence, and his latest arrest constitutes a violation of parole, so he was held without bail. Jay Hurley was getting married, and tends not to cover Saint Paul cases, so we did not get to hear him opine on this particular defendant.

Now even as a defense attorney this next fact shocks me: because of the way Minnesota law works, Garay won't have to worry about being charged with a felony for his latest escapade. A fourth DUI within a 10-year span carries the force of a felony, but only two of Garay's 20 DWIs happened in the last decade, so the crime will be charged as a gross misdemeanor instead. He has been a good boy, apparently- at least over the last ten years or so.

But the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Mr. Garay has apparently not conquered inner demons. Needs to try again, if not for his own safety, than that of all the others in his neighborhood.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Whites Smoke Pot; Blacks Get Arrested

Hope you had a Merry Merryjuana Christmas.

Here is an article from the NY Times worth reading. Comes down to this.

Whites smoke pot. So do Blacks. Guess who goes to jail more often >?

Last year, black New Yorkers were seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession and no more serious crime. Latinos were four times more likely.

Surprise, surprise

Percy Sutton Passes

A king in the field of civil rights law, Percy Sutton, passed away today, at the spry age of 89.

The son of a slave, Percy Sutton became a fixture on 125th Street in Harlem after moving to New York City following his service with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. His Harlem law office, founded in 1953, represented Malcolm X and the slain activist's family for decades.

The consummate politician, Sutton served in the New York State Assembly before taking over as Manhattan borough president in 1966, becoming the highest-ranking black elected official in the state.

Sutton also mounted unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Senate and mayor of New York, and served as political mentor for the Rev. Jesse Jackson's two presidential races.

In 1971, with his brother Oliver, Sutton purchased WLIB-AM, making it the first black-owned radio station in New York City. His Inner City Broadcasting Corp. eventually picked up WBLS-FM, which reigned for years as New York's top-rated radio station, before buying stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and San Antonio between 1978-85.

Among Sutton's other endeavors was his purchase and renovation of the famed Apollo Theater when the Harlem landmark's demise appeared imminent.

Sutton's father, Samuel, was born into slavery just before the Civil War. The elder Sutton became principal at a segregated San Antonio high school, and he made education a family priority: All 12 of his surviving children attended college.

In addition to representing Malcolm X for a decade until his 1965 assassination, the Sutton firm handled the cases of more than 200 defendants arrested in the South during the 1963-64 civil rights marches. Sutton was also elected to two terms as president of the New York office of the NAACP.

Sutton was among the first voices raised against the Vietnam War, surrendering his delegate's seat at the 1968 Democratic convention in protest and supporting anti-war candidate George McGovern four years later against incumbent President Richard Nixon.

Even if you were not from up north, Sutton's legacy of fighting for the right causes reached the deep south. A man to be remembered, a pioneer to be commemorated, and a lawyer to be reckoned with...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Who Owns the Beachfront?

If you are the owner of beachfront property and the state comes along and widens the beach, do you own the new land or does the state?

Will the vision of hot dogs stands, port-a-johns and partying spring breakers lead the Supreme Court to overturn part of a Florida law designed to replenish lost beach sand?

Will Justice John Paul Stevens’ ownership of a beachfront Fort Lauderdale condo wind up effecting the result of a major judicial decision?

Early this month, the Supreme Court heard arguments evolving out of a dispute about the ownership of new land created by Florida's beach replenishment program. The state claims it controls the new land it creates. Interesting debate I have been meaning to blog upon.

A group of disgruntled beach-front property owners on Florida's panhandle don't see the program as an environmental blessing. Instead, they contend it is a naked land grab by the State to turn private beaches into public hands.

The private landholders' concerns were echoed loudly in the courtroom by skeptical justices who raised numerous concerns over the possibilities of what could happen on the new land. Chief Justice John Roberts wondered if a hot dog stand could go up on the new beach. Justice Samuel Alito asked about the possibility of a televised spring break beach party.

Florida Solicitor General Scott Makar argued that the state controls all land it creates on its side of the dividing line though it preserves the private landholder's right to access the water.

That concession didn't go over well with Justice Antonin Scalia who said, "The notion that the only purpose of the contact with the water is so that you can have access, that is -- is that not silly?"

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that the owners might have more to fear than a lone hot dog vendor, wet or dry. “You could have televised spring-break parties in front of somebody’s house.”

Roberts also seemed dismayed at Makar's suggestion that the hog dog-stand scenario wasn't on point because it wasn't part of the justification to create new beach land. It was an intriguing debate.

"That is what the whole case is about," Roberts said. "Whether [the private owners] have a right to contact the water or not."

Justice Kennedy first expressed concern about handing down a ruling leading to federal judges getting mired in questions of state law. But later in the argument he took issue with the potential consequences of the state's control of the new land. "I'm asking whether or not a state beach with, what do you call them, port-a-johns and hot dog stands and what-not, isn't a substantial impairment of the (private) owner's use?

In a somewhat surprising development, Justice John Paul Stevens did not take part in the arguments. There was no immediate explanation for his apparent recusal, but he owns a beachfront condominium in Fort Lauderdale. A tie would automatically affirm the lower court’s decision, meaning the property owners would lose.
My only thought is I don't want to see Justice Stevens give up the condo. I like seeing him quietly have an omelette at the Floridian every so often.

Dad Prosecuted for Taking Child to Hooker to Make Him 'Straight'

An Australian father who is accused of forcing his teenage son to have sex with a prostitute — out of fear that he was gay — may face rape charges.

As the rest of the family celebrated Christmas 2007, the father allegedly took his son to a motel in North Rockhampton, where he paid the prostitute to have sex with his son, according to The Morning Bulletin, a newspaper in Rockhampton. And jiminy cricket!, the kid was only 14.

He left the room, demanding that the boy show him a used condom as proof he finished with the prostitute. A magistrate decided on Tuesday that there was enough evidence to bring the father to trial.

“First [he] didn’t want to say anything to me,” the boy's mother testified. “Then he told me his father took him to a motel room and there was a prostitute there.

Detective Christine Knapp said police first became aware of the situation when the father tried to report his son to authorities six months later, in May 2008, saying the boy was abusing his younger brother. Seems to me the dad had some courage in reporting the sexual abuse of one of his teenagers. Could not have been easy when the accused is the other sibling.

The father said he “tried to sort it out himself by taking his son to a prostitute” to no avail. The alleged prostitute has yet to be found. Somehow I don't think the dad kept tax records.

I don't buy into this kind of prosecution. I think most kids would get off, forgive the phrase, on their dads bringing them to a hooker. Not a gay kid, though, to be sure. Not at the age of 14. Not very bright of the dad. Shows a considerable lack of understanding; that the pops need attention too. I think there are some more serious issues here, though, which deserve some serious counseling and intervention, don't you?

It's just hard to blame the dad for tryin.... just sayin'..... Most dads want their kids to grow up to be like Tiger Woods... :-) They have a hard time believing they raised Harvey Fierstein instead. But getting the courts and the justice system involved. I think there are other issues to deal with.

The Film 'Forgiven' Debuts on Cable, DVD

Matt Kelly blogs on Criminal Justice. his blog, of a film I know little about, and look forward to catching this next week. I kept on hearing about it, missing it, and look forward to seeing it. So here is a review for you by another lawyer who says it is compelling:

"I recently saw the film “Forgiven,” Paul Fitzgerald’s moving and thoughtful directorial debut, which ponders the injustice of a wrongful conviction, the healing and redemption possible in the aftermath, and the politics that can get in the way. It became available (streaming and DVD) on Netflix this week, and it’s well worth moving to the top of your queue.

The well-crafted (though sometimes meandering) indie flick explores the fallout of a wrongful death sentence and the inherent dangers in society’s thirst for tough-on-crime policy. Fitzgerald plays a conservative young district attorney making a bid for the U.S. Senate. His commitment to conviction may have been too strong, however, and an exoneration threatens to overwhelm his political ambitions. The movie has plenty of twists and turns and I won’t spoil it here.

“Forgiven” raises several sensitive and critical issues around wrongful convictions and criminal justice policy. The injustices dealt by our court system are very real, and they won't end soon. For countless reasons, we can't continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering of our fellow citizens imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit. This film makes this reality painfully clear."

On this Christmas Day, I pay tribute to all those in the criminal justice system, working daily to work out the kinks which make our justice system unjust.

I applaud those working to make things fairer for everyone, whether you do so wearing a badge or by writing from a blog; whether you wear a robe or a hospital gown. If you get up in the morning and can fight doing things as usual, avoid the apathy which can invade our lives, and stand for what is right, bucking the tide, swimming against the stream, I applaud you, your energy, your vision.

May you find a song in your heart and a smile on your lips.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Healthy Holiday?

Anyone that wants to place their faith in the government ought to look at how many people get elected to office running against it.
Merry Christmas.

Escaped Prisoner Updates Facebook Page

This story is too much fun not to write about. It is certainly going to make Jonathan Bleiweiss very jealous, you know the popular ex BSO officer in jail on charges of sexually assaulting immigrants he detained on traffic stops. Not pretty. But here is the story:

British police have appealed for information about the whereabouts of an escaped prisoner who has been telling the world via Facebook about his life as a fugitive.

Craig Lynch, 28, escaped Hollesley Bay open prison near Suffolk, eastern England, back in September, but has continued to update his Facebook status regularly -- describing everything from his meals to who his next girlfriend will be.

"Mmm... Just had a 12lb venison steak. Roasted veg and chips, bangin meal. I feel stuffed but still got room for the j.d's . Hope you enjoyed the meal babe's. We'll have to eat here again" Lynch wrote on his wall.

In another posting from earlier this week Lynch wrote "Is thinkin, which lucky girl will be my first of 2010!!." Police are trying to use clues left by Lynch on his Facebook to track down where the convicted burglar may be hiding. And they are appealing to the public. I think the guy is going to become a cult hero. We just live in that kind of world.

Lynch was sentenced to a seven-year prison term for aggravated burglary and was serving his sentence in an open prison before his escape, according to a police spokeswoman.

"Obviously we're taking what he's saying on Facebook with a pinch of salt because he's now aware that people may be reading what he's writing." News that Lynch's Facebook was being updated broke yesterday and since then, he has written several times of his life on-the-run. It made today. Probably the national news tomorrow. What a world we live in.

By the way, Lynch is not all that optimistic. This afternoon he wrote:

"well what can i say fellow friends. The run is nearly over. Sorry some of you had to find out like this. I know some of you might take offence that i never told you personally. But you know me. I Trust No One. Its the only way to be."

Well, is there a prison newspaper he can run ?