Author Archive for Andrew Dat

Washington Man Sentenced To 6-Months Jail For Murdering Ex’s Parrot With Fork

Relationships can be messy affairs. Generally people get together hoping that their romance will end in storybook fashion. However, for many that’s usually not the case. One day, you’re trying to sneak as many kisses from each other as possible, the next you’re stabbing your ex-girlfriend’s parrot to death with a serving fork.

Hopefully, most of you will have sense enough to end your union before it gets to this point. Unfortunately, for some even a relationship’s conclusion may not be enough to stop the craziness. Case in point, take Richard J. Atkinson, the man featured in the story in the link above. The 63-year-old Washington man recently pled guilty to first-degree animal cruelty and second-degree domestic-violence malicious mischief. Two fancy ways of saying he’s now slated to spend six months in jail.

So far details are sparse regarding what led to Atkinson killing his former girlfriend’s parrot. But apparently, Atkinson was in their former home when the incident took place. He claims he can’t remember the details due to blacking out from whiskey and his anti-anxiety medication. However, somewhere in this haze Atkinson found a fork to stab his ex’s parrot and then trash the house itself.

Atkinson’s former girlfriend had the parrot for 18 years. For her troubles, the court has ordered him to pay for the dead bird and the other property he destroyed. Atkinson will also be required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and has been forbidden from owning any animal for five years – which makes sense given the circumstances.

Seems like the end of the story, right? After all, Atkinson’s been put away and his ex will get compensated for her losses. Well, dear readers, in the legal world most cases rarely end so cleanly. There haven’t been any reports of intentions by the ex to file a civil lawsuit against Atkinson, but if (and probably when) she does, she could be in for quite a payday.

Now, as most of you probably already know, in our civil legal system pets are considered a form of property, or chattel if you prefer lawyer-speak. As such, the typical award for destroyed property is generally its fair market value at the time of destruction. And in this case, depending on the breed, parrots can live anywhere from five to 100 years. So considering that Atkinson ex’s bird was at least 18 years old, she may not get too much in terms of its fair market value. Fortunately, there’s more than one form of damages available to her. In this case it’s emotional distress and it’s likely to yield much more than a couple of hundred bucks.

Those who own pets know how attached one can become to an animal. After a while the little critters become a part of the family and losing it can be just as traumatic as losing a close human relative. Our civil legal system understands the distinct emotional value a beloved pet can hold for people. After all, they are no different than a unique family heirloom and can have the same irreplaceable sentimental qualities attached to them.

In Atkinson ex’s case, because Atkinson likely killed the parrot intentionally, she could recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. To prevail in such cases, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s conduct was intentional or reckless, extreme or outrageous, and result in severe emotional distress for the plaintiff.

Here, Atkinson’s guilty plea has already done most of the legal work for his ex. His admission likely shows that his killing of the parrot was intentional and most reasonable people would likely see it as outrageous conduct. All his ex would have to do is show that she suffered some sort of emotional distress. And that’s probably not too hard to prove considering she had the bird for 18 years. If the judge or jury is a pet-lover, Atkinson could be really screwed and end up paying through the nose if his ex can prove she sustained severe mental and physical anguish following her parrot’s killing.

But for now, Atkinson appears to be off the hook. Just don’t be surprised if you see a civil lawsuit pop up later.

Ohio Man Jailed For Mocking 10-Year-Old Disabled Girl

The United States has come a long way as a society. Our country has not only grown economically, but also morally as well. While discrimination and prejudice still plague our nation today, these issues are nowhere near what they used to be during America’s early years. It seems that most modern citizens understand the importance of tolerance. Except, of course, those that still think it’s okay to mock little girls with cerebral palsy.

It’s hard not to read that sentence twice. But yes, it’s true. A 43-year-old Ohio man by the name of William Bailey was caught on tape derisively mimicking the physical symptoms of cerebral palsy. His actions were allegedly meant to make fun of Hope Holcomb-Knight, 10, who has the condition. Hope’s mother recorded the incident on her iPod camera. Bailey was at a school bus stop at the time picking up his son and can be seen in the video walking with a limp while pounding his chest, physical symptoms typical in those afflicted with cerebral palsy.

As you can probably imagine, Bailey’s alleged antics didn’t sit very well with Hope’s family. Her mother posted the video online, viewable here. It soon went viral and a public outcry followed. Hope’s mother then filed a complaint with city prosecutors who, surprisingly, pressed charges against Bailey. And even more surprising is that Bailey was actually convicted and sentenced to a month in jail, ostensibly for taunting Hope.

In Bailey’s defense, he claims that he was only reacting to name-calling directed toward his 9-year-old son. The incident was apparently the result of a culmination of rising tensions between the two families. Regardless, the more interesting aspect of this story is how a person can be criminally prosecuted for taunting another person. Well, prosecutors figured out a way. They charged Bailey with disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing, both misdemeanors in Ohio.

We’ve talked about disorderly conduct many times before. It’s basically a catch-all law that prohibits any conduct that’s likely to cause public alarm and/or annoyance. In Bailey’s case, his alleged cerebral palsy mocking was sufficient to secure a conviction under the state’s statue. However, what’s odd here is that in Ohio a disorderly conduct conviction doesn’t allow for any jail time. Bailey was actually put behind bars because of his aggravated menacing conviction.

Aggravated menacing is basically a form of assault where a defendant causes another to believe that they will cause serious physical harm to that person or their family. Hope’s mother claimed Bailey threatened to choke her with a chain on the same day of the original incident. And this was actually the charge that landed Bailey a jail sentence.

Now you may be thinking that we pulled a switcheroo on you, what with our attention-grabbing headline. “Wait, Bailey was jailed for menacing, not taunting a cerebral palsy girl. You sneaky blogger, stop trying to drive traffic to your website!” However, before you jump to conclusions, the chief assistant city prosecutor for the case actually admitted that Bailey’s alleged mockery was a major factor in securing his jail sentence. Have a little faith in us, geez.

Of course, what this also means is that a somewhat disturbing precedent has been set against the rights of Ohioans. While Bailey’s alleged actions were no doubt heinous and he should be reprimanded in some way for them, jail isn’t necessarily the best way. After all, people make fun of others every day. People also curse each other out and do all manner of rude things to each other, too. What of these people?

Theoretically, Bailey’s conviction could serve as a basis to help justify disorderly conduct and/or menacing convictions for these folks as well. In which case, where does the line get drawn? Certainly, no rational person would agree that making fun of a child with cerebral palsy is acceptable behavior, but how about an overly sensitive person with irritable bowel syndrome or a bad haircut? Such a person could undergo a similar level of trauma as Hope, but should they be able to secure convictions against their mockers, too?

Probably not, but as you can see, the line is murky at best. While there is no word yet on whether Bailey plans to appeal his sentence, as it stands, his conviction sets an uneasy justification against the basic rights of citizens. Certainly, our world would be much better without jerks. But much like our eventual robot overlords will surmise, everyone can be considered a jerk.

Berkeley Law Students Allegedly Decapitate Exotic Bird At Las Vegas Casino

Despite what you’ve been told, whatever happens in Las Vegas does not simply stay within the confines of the city’s limits.  In fact, the exact opposite usually happens.  Whether it’s cheating on your spouse or losing your life savings at a craps table, the repercussions often spread to the rest of your life.  Nothing stays in Las Vegas.  Actually, that’s too strong of a statement.  If you commit a crime in the city, jurisdiction will usually remain within Sin City.  Just ask these guys.

By now you’ve probably seen this story in the news rounds, but in case you’ve yet to hear this fascinating tale of law students and animal cruelty intrigue, here’s a quick review.  Eric Cuellar, 24, and Justin Teixeira, 24, are law students at the University of California, Berkeley.  The two were on a trip in Las Vegas when a witness allegedly saw them emerge from bushes inside the Flamingo hotel and casino’s Wildlife Habitat.  Not too strange by Las Vegas standards.  After all, as The Hangover has taught us, people can end up in weird places while staying in Vegas.

But apparently the duo took their hijinks too far.  Teixeira was allegedly holding the decapitated body of a 14-year-old helmeted guinea fowl, an exotic bird in the hotel’s Wildlife Habitat.  Teixeria allegedly threw the dead fowl at Cuellar while stating, “I f—ing killed wildlife.”

Doesn’t sound like very lawyerly behavior, huh?  Nor for that matter, very humane either.  A witness certainly didn’t think so.  She called the cops and the two were arrested.  And like any good aspiring attorney, both men refused to talk to police and instead asked for a lawyer.  Guess they were paying attention in criminal procedure class.

The bird, whose name is Turk, was valued between $150 to $175.  Both men were jailed for suspicion of conspiracy and willful malicious torture/killing of wildlife.  Surveillance video on the scene apparently shows a third male suspect, but police have yet to locate him.

In case you’re wondering, no, this is definitely not the way one should endeavor to start their legal career.  While this story may sound a little silly, the charges these men face are no joke.  Conspiracy and animal cruelty are serious felony offenses.  If convicted, the pair could face potential five-figure fines and more than a year in prison.  And so far, the evidence seems pretty damning.

Malicious torture or killing of wildlife is the intentional harm or destruction of an animal without any purpose.  In Teixeria and Cuellar’s case, the dead bird speaks for itself.  But this isn’t quite an open-and-shut case.  The pair may have a possible reprieve regarding whether they actually possessed the necessary mental intent to kill the bird.

For Teixeria, it’s definitely not a good thing that a witness claims to have heard him admit to beheading the bird.  However, as we all know, witness testimony doesn’t always necessarily lead to a person’s conviction.  Credibility plays a big role in determining whether to believe a witness’ statement.  This case is no different.

But assuming the statement is believed, the duo could always fall back on an intoxication defense.  Remember, the animal cruelty law they’re accused of breaking requires an intentional action.  And courts have long held that being drunk can prohibit a person from developing the necessary mindset for an intentional crime.  This, it would seem, would be Teixeria and Cuellar’s best bet to dismiss or reduce their charge to a lesser offense.

For now though, there haven’t been enough facts released about the story to make a proper guess as to the case’s outcome.  The two are due to return to court soon.  Both men have clean criminal records.  However, that might not be the situation for long.

A felony conviction is an ugly blemish to have on one’s record, but for law students, the negative effects are far worse.  Don’t forget, to become a lawyer one has to also pass a moral character examination.  And there’s no better way to fail these background checks than by having a felony conviction on your record.  For Teixeria and Cuellar, the outcome of their criminal investigation could be what decides whether they become lawyers or be forced to find new careers.

Florida Couple Accused Of Having Sex In Front of Parents And Kids Likely To Go Free

We live in a fast-paced world.  For most of us, it can seem like there aren’t enough hours in a day.  That’s why any personal time off is precious, especially for those raising a family.  These few moments become a rare reprieve from the daily grind of work and offer a chance to bond with loved ones.  That’s why it can suck real big when others aren’t considerate to this fact of life.

Men, women, children, and families of people young and old had their night out to a Florida restaurant ruined by a couple of jerks.  Jeremie Calo, 32, and Tiffani Lynn Barganier allegedly had sex atop an outdoor table at Paddy Murphy’s, a local Orlando establishment.  Apparently, their lust for one another was so great that they couldn’t wait to get back to whatever sleazy motel room they probably crawled out of and instead gave a live sex show to awe-struck witnesses that included children.

But it only gets worst from there.  Not surprisingly, onlookers weren’t too happy with the display and complained to the restaurant’s management.  A manager was dispatched to quell the deviant behavior; however, Calo and his gal would have none of it.  When they were told to stop their lewd conduct and pay their bill, Calo crudely responded that Barganier couldn’t “get up at this time.”  To make matters worse, he then allegedly refused to pay his tab and scuffled with restaurant staffers.  Oh, and the couple was also apparently drunk as skunks.

Fortunately, police eventually arrived and arrested Calo for defrauding an innkeeper due to him allegedly not paying his bill.  However, neither party has been charged with the more obvious crime of public lewdness and/or indecent exposure.  Why?  Because apparently no witnesses are willing to come forward against the couple.  Mind you, this is a group that includes parents of children who saw first-hand the alleged sex act.

Every state in the country has laws prohibiting indecent public behavior.  Many even classify it as a type of sex crime.  Typically, convictions in these matters aren’t too difficult to secure as proving the offense under most state laws basically boils down to showing that the defendant was naked in public for their own arousal and that someone saw it.  Not exactly a CSI episode.

However, one thing that people can overlook about the criminal justice process is that there needs to be evidence in order for a defendant to be successfully prosecuted.  And witness reports often play a big part in securing a conviction.

Going back to CSI again, in the real world forensic evidence teams aren’t usually the deciding factor in most criminal cases.  This is one of the rare instances in which Law & Order rings more true to real life.  The vast majority of criminal prosecutions begin with a complaint supported by a witness statement(s), whether it’s from a cop or a member of the public.  Without them, most criminal case wouldn’t get past the arrest phase.

And this is exactly what’s currently going on in Calo and Barganier’s case.  Since no witnesses have agreed to come forward to verify the alleged public tryst, a charge for public lewdness not only wouldn’t be likely to stick, but it also wouldn’t have been reasonable for cops to levy either.

So far reports don’t indicate why a statement from the restaurant manager wouldn’t be enough to secure a charge for public indecency.  It’s baffling for sure since it seems like he definitely saw the deed go down.  Regardless, the more shocking aspect of this story is that no one else is willing to go on record at to the event.  Again, there are parents in this witness pool.  You’d think that in this age of overbearing mothers and fathers these people would be jumping at the chance to ensure Calo and Barganier get convicted for their alleged actions.  Apparently, it turns out that most would rather let them walk than spare a few moments of free time.

Neither party has released a statement to the press as of yet.  And that’s probably a good move as staying quiet is usually the best way to make an embarrassing news story like this one go away. This is especially true if everyone that can make a difference is doing the same thing.  Hopefully though, someone will eventually come forward as a witness.

Covington & Burling Law Firm Gets Disqualified For Violating Duty To 3M

Lawyers often get a bad rap for being greedy amoral people who care more about securing their next paying client rather than protecting their current and past ones.  Nowadays this reputation is mostly undeserved.  However, it’s all the more unfortunate when stories like this one emerge to prove that bad apples still exist.

Legal powerhouse Covington & Burling LLP was recently disqualified from a case by a Minnesota judge.  Covington was representing Minnesota at the behest of the state’s attorney general in an environmental lawsuit again 3M Co., as in the company that makes the majority of your company’s office supplies.

In big cases like these, it’s not unheard of for a government prosecutor’s office to feel overwhelmed and turn to the private sector for help.  This case is no different.  So what’s the problem with a major law firm helping to prosecute a major corporation?  Nothing.  Except when the major law firm used to represent the major corporation currently being prosecuted.

Apparently 3M was a former client of Covington in the past.  But somehow the big firm lawyers failed to inform the court of this pertinent fact.  And that’s exactly why the judge decided to kick Covington to the curb.

You can probably guess the problems that could arise in a situation like this.  Imagine you’re in high school and you have a friend that you confide all your deepest and darkest secrets to.  Now imagine if you had a falling out with this friend who then suddenly buddies up with your sworn enemy.  What do you think the chances are that the whole school will know you wet yourself in terror whenever you see donuts?  Wait, hold that thought, the entire student body is clearing out every bakery in town.

And that’s why attorneys aren’t supposed to go against their old clients.

You may also be surprised to learn that there are actually ethical rules against this sort of behavior, too.  Every state’s bar association has their own version of lawyer conduct rules, but they all generally fall in line with the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility.  Basically, it’s a code of conduct that tells lawyers how to handle various professional moral dilemmas.  And chief among these rules is protecting your client’s confidences and secrets, which Covington allegedly failed to do by taking arms against its old client, 3M.

Like doctors, lawyers are entrusted with highly sensitive information from their clients.  It’s a necessity in order for the attorney to give the best representation possible.  The problem is that this same information, if misused, could be turned against those very same clients.  To prevent this, Courts and bar associations impose a duty on attorneys to protect their clients’ secrets.  And in the case of a conflict of interest between representing a new client against an old client, most state rules of professional responsibility only allow the lawyer to do so if they get an informed written consent from their old client first.  Some state bar associations go even further by requiring consent from both parties and the court.  And even still, a lawyer can be disqualified if the information they possess about the old client is directly relevant to the heart of the new lawsuit against them.

Unfortunately for Covington, the judge found the firm failed on all accounts.  The court held Covington “exhibited a conscious disregard for its duties of confidentiality, candor, full disclosure, and loyalty to 3M by failing to raise its conflicts” stemming from its previous representation.  Short of being disbarred, it doesn’t get more embarrassing than that for a renowned international law firm.

In practice, conflicts like these can lead to all sorts of problems for the new client, too.  Not only do they have to find a new lawyer, but sometimes their case can even be dismissed.

As for 3M, the company can breathe a temporary sigh of relief as the prosecution regroups.  But as horror movies have taught us, one must always be wary of the proverbial hand emerging from the lake.