N.J. State Prison corrections officer, prison employee are among 20 charged with official misconduct and bribery

A senior New Jersey State Prison corrections officer and a civilian prison employee were among 20 people indicted for official misconduct, bribery and other charges.  The charges are in relation to their role in an alleged scheme to smuggle tobacco into the New Jersey State Prison.

The indictment charges Corrections Officer Eric Dawson and Keith Harris, a trade technician at the prison, with multiple charges of official misconduct.  Dawson was also charged with bribery, financial facilitation of criminal activity and bringing a cellular device inside a correctional facility.  It is also alleged that Dawson smuggled in cell phones, jewelry and protein powders.  Eight inmates and 10 civilian defendants are also facing charges of bribery, official misconduct, financial facilitation of criminal activity and possession of a cellular device inside a correctional facility.

Story is here.

If you have been charged with official misconduct or bribery in Mercer County, call us today at 732-773-2768 to discuss your case for free.

Ebola legal issues: possible lawsuits, especially if it is airborne

I was recently asked about whether the nurse that caught Ebola in Texas would have any case for a lawsuit against the hospital, CDC or anyone else.  Since I don’t know all of the facts or all of the laws regarding any possible legal action that can be taken, it is difficult to perform a full analysis.  However, I can at least go through a few possible issues that at least one lawyer out there would surely like to explore.

1.  Does Thomas Eric Duncan’s family have  lawsuit because the hospital sent him home when he came to the hospital and he later died

At this point, just about everyone knows that Thomas Eric Duncan went to the emergency room last month with a fever. Workers sent him home even after he mentioned he recently traveled to Liberia.   He returned days later and the hospital staff finally isolated him at that point.   Dr. Daniel Varga, the chief clinical officer for Texas Health Services has indicated “Despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes”.  Thus, the hospital has admitted that they failed.  The issue here is whether or not this failure to isolate him constitutes negligence/malpractice and whether that led to his death.   So far, he is the only person to have died and he was the only person to have been turned away.  However, the Plaintiff would need to find an expert to indicate that but for them turning him away, he would have recovered.  That could be tough but there are Ebola experts out there.

Story is here.

Legal experts in Texas believe that his family would have a very difficult time winning a law suit because of the strict tort laws there.  However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t try and see if they can settle out of court.  Story is here.

2.  Does Nina Pham have a lawsuit against the hospital or anyone else?

Nina Pham is the first nurse to contract Ebola and first patient to contract Ebola within the U.S.  At first, the hospital indicated that she contracted Ebola due to a breach in protocol.  However, Texas Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey stated, “There’s no specific error that has been identified, I think. We are looking very closely at the protocols and how we can maximize the ability to contain the virus. There’s been no identified item at this time.”  In other words, they are saying that it was a breach but they can’t figure out what the breach was.  Emory Hospital has not had any nurses or other employees contract Ebola so clearly, there is some sort of problem at this Texas Hospital.

So the big issue will be who screwed up.  Its possible that Nurse Pham herself made some mistake but that scenario appears doubtful at this point.  Once it is discovery exactly who screwed up and how, it will be easier to determine liability.  The other interesting thing to note here is that her life will be changed forever as a result of the news coverage.  Thanks to the Internet, her name will be tied to Ebola forever.   If she has a claim, she could add to it that it has damaged her personal life in addition to her health.

Story is here.

3.  Does Amber Vinson have a lawsuit against the hospital or anyone else

Amber Vinson is in the same situation as Nina Pham.  She was a nurse at the same hospital treated Duncan.  There is also no idea how she contracted Ebola.  However, she also was told that it was OK to fly.  We now know that this was improper advice.  Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, said Vinson should not have flown, but a federal official later said she had contacted the CDC and was not prevented from boarding.  Thus, the CDC screwed up here.  However, Vinson may not have suffered any real consequences assuming she recovers.  Thus, her damages, if any, would be in line with Pham’s.

Story is here.

4.  Does anyone have a case against CDC for allowing Vinson to fly?

I am by no means an expert on suing agencies such as the CDC, but there are a number of legal issues here.  CDC clearly screwed up.  The people on the plane with Vinson, the people at the airport and Frontier Airlines have all been damaged in one way or another; some more than others.  If the people on the plane (hopefully) do not contract Ebola, they will have less damages so a class action would be the way to go instead of a bunch of individual lawsuits, again assuming a case can be made against the CDC.  Normally, I think it would be tough to bring a cases against an agency such as CDC for issuing general guidance, but when they give wrong information to a specific person, that’s a different story.

Story is here.

5.  Does the hospital have a case against the CDC for not providing proper protocols?

Dallas’ chief political officer, County Judge Clay Jenkins, has been a vocal critic against the CDC.  He stated that the protocols weren’t given to the hospital to give them to the nurses.  In addition, another nurse who helped treat Pham came forward to say the Dallas hospital was unprepared for the emergency and lacked proper protective gear.   Briana Aguirre told NBC’s “Today” show that nurses were not briefed or prepared for Ebola and that no special precautions were taken when Duncan was admitted to the hospital.  This raises a number of question as to what the CDC should have done before Ebola came to the U.S. and what the hospital did or should have done before and after Duncan came to the hospital.

Story is here.

6.  Is Ebola is airborne and if so, does anyone have a case against the CDC or anyone else?

No one yet knows how Pham and Vinson contracted Ebola.  That has led to speculation as to whether or not Ebola is now airborne.  The  Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization officials continue to insist Ebola cannot be transmitted by air from one person to another.  However, an Army manual clearly warns the virus could be an airborne threat in certain circumstances.  The handbook published by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, USAMRID, titled “USAMRID’s Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbook,” indicates that this is possible.  Furthermore, the latest edition was published in 2011, so its not like this is something that just came out.

Read more here.

Furthermore, Dr. David Sanders, professor of biological science at Purdue University, has cautioned that Ebola has the possibility of mutating to become airborne cannot be ruled out.  He stated that “our own research that we published with our collaborators, demonstrates that Ebola has the inherent capacity to enter lung tissue, human lung tissue, just as influenza does”.  Dr. Sanders is not alone.  Last month, Canadian researchers said their research found the strain of Ebola afflicting West Africa can be transmitted between humans by breathing.

Read more here.

So you have two parts of the government, the US Army and the CDC saying different things about whether or not Ebola can go airborne.  Furthermore, you have several researchers contradicting the CDC.   Hopefully the CDC is right but if it turns out that they were wrong and the information to the contrary existed for years before this outbreak, a number of legal issues will be raised about how CDC botched this issue.  Combine this with all of the other mistakes they have already admitted to making and that spells a really bad case for the CDC.

 

Bonus:

One lawsuit has already been filed due to Ebola  Larry Klayman is already suing the government over the Ebola outbreak.  However, I wouldn’t expect this one to go anywhere.  Read more about it here.

 

Appealing a temporary restraining order

Appealing a temporary restraining order

In New Jersey, you have the option of appealing a temporary restraining order.  This is a rare move but with the right attorney and the right argument, it can a smart tactic to help your case.  The most common reason why someone files an appeal of a temporary restraining order is to remove or relax some of the restrictions contained in the TRO.  For example, the TRO may bar the defendant from going back to his/her own house.  If the victim doesn’t even live at that house anymore, the defendant can file an appeal to get back in the house.  Another example is where the defendant’s parenting time is impacted.  An appeal can get the defendant right back in court to adjust or otherwise remove these restrictions.

If you are looking to appeal a temporary restraining order for any reason, call our New Jersey domestic violence attorneys today at 732-773-2768.  We are available 24/7/365

Average retainer:  $1,500

Prosecuting a restraining order

Prosecuting a restraining order in New Jersey

Our Domestic Violence lawyers can help you if you have a temporary restraining order on someone and you are looking to make it final.  Domestic Violence is a complicated area of law as it combines elements of criminal defense and family law.  Thus, if you hire a lawyer that only handles criminal defense or only hires family law, he or she may not be able to fully assist you in prosecuting your restraining order.  Our tough, smart lawyers are experienced in both criminal defense and family law.  As a result, we can handle all aspects of your domestic violence case.

In some cases, you may just want a final restraining order to be left alone.  In other cases, you may want something else.  Support, exclusive use of the house, custody of the children, etc.  While restraining orders shouldn’t be signed to obtain a bargaining child in a divorce, family law or criminal case, the fact is that there are trade offs that can be negotiated in certain cases.  Please note that we will never force you to settle but we would not be doing our job if we just went straight forward into a restraining order hearing without exploring all possibilities.  There are many ways to help you obtain the protection you want while also getting you the support and other rights that you deserve without extensive litigation.

In short, you have options and we will help you explore all of them. We will go through the pros and cons, the costs and the risks.  In the end, you will make the final decision.  Call us at 732-773-2768 to discuss.

Average retainer:  $1500

Seven juveniles charged in Sayreville football hazing case

Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey announced in a news release that six of seven juveniles were taken into custody for alleged attacks upon four victims in four separate incidents at Sayreville War Memorial High School.  The hazing scandal has made national news.  The charges were expected as numerous victims were interviewed over the last few days.  One additional juvenile was being sought at the time of the release. All of those taken into custody ranged from 15 to 17 years old.

Charges for three of the defendants included aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the juvenile victims.  One of those defendants, as well as the remaining four juveniles, were charged with various counts including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of the remaining victims.

According to the Middlesex County Prosecutor, the defendants are charged with holding victims against their will while other defendants improperly touched the victims in a sexual manner on various dates between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29. A victim was also kicked in one instance, according to the charges.

The primary concern for all of the defendants will be whether or not the cases are waived up to adult court.  At juvenile court, the punishments are nothing compared to the 10 to 20 years in prison that at least three are facing for aggravated sexual assault.  The defense for the other four will be to flip on the other three as soon as possible to avoid greater punishment and to keep the charges at juvenile court.  There are numerous other defenses for all of the defendants but they will largely depend on who they hire for defense lawyers, how quickly they hire the lawyers and the skill level of each lawyer.  The faster the lawyers can jump on the case, the easier it will be to avoid lengthy prison sentences, especially for the first three who have the most exposure.

Sayreville Aggravated Sexual Assault Lawyers

Will Ray Rice face new charges in Atlantic City as a result of the new video released this week?

Just about everyone knows what is going on with Ray Rice and the new video that was released this week. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) took to Twitter to ask whether this video will and/or should result in new charges. The video shows Ray Rice punching his now wife out cold in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. What Rep. Castro doesn’t realize is that Rice was already charged with aggravated assault. The Prosecutor’s Office already knew what happened and he was charged accordingly. The events depicted in the video were not new to them. The video is just new to the public.

Rice is already in the PTI program. Public outrage cannot lead to new charges and/or dismissal from the program. He cannot be charged twice for the same course of conduct. Thus, he will not be charged with any new offenses. But for him violating PTI (which is almost impossible), his case is over.

New Jersey Aggravated Assault Lawyers

Jonathan Koppenhaver aka War Machine found and arrested for assault on Christy Mack

Jonathan Koppenhaver aka War Machine found and arrested for assault on Christy Mack

War Machine, whose real name is Jonathan Koppenhaver has been found and arrested in California by US Marshalls.  The manhunt received a lot of media attention and social media has played a big part in the development of the story.  First, Christy Mack posted her version of the events and pictures of the alleged assault on Twitter.  Meanwhile, War Machine also took to Twitter to imply that he would rely on the defense of self defense.  However, he indicated that he was afraid that cops would not be fair so he didn’t know what he would do.  Clearly, he went on the run.  Even celebrity bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman, better known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter indicated that he would help in the search for War Machine but it appears that he didn’t do anything to help in the capture.

What is undisputed is that War Machine went to Mack’s home and as a result, an assault occurred.  Apparently, Mack was at her home with another man who was reportedly thrown out of the house.  Mack then alleged that War Machine assaulted her, cut off her hair, tried to rape her and almost killed her.  War Machine hasn’t presented his side of the story but it will be difficult for him to argue self defense because 1) Mack is a woman, 2) her injuries are likely much more severe than War Machine’s (assuming he has any), 3) the “fresh complaint” of Mack running naked to a neighbor for help shows that she did not have time to fabricate a story, 4) the other man who was thrown out can verify Mack’s story, 5) if War Machine was innocent, he would have called the police himself instead of going on the run and 6) as a trained professional fighter, its nearly impossible to claim that someone such as Mack or this other man used so much force against him that he could not fight them off easily.

Of course, having the name War Machine isn’t going to help.  His lawyer will likely ask the court to exclude any references to that moniker.

Story is here.

Will Tony Stewart be arrested and charged with murder?

On Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr were racing in a sprint cup race, which is raced on modified cars on a dirt track.  Although known for his success with NASCAR, Stewart, like other drivers, also participate in other races as well.  About half way through the race, Ward was spun out by Stewart.   Racing officials slowed the race with a yellow caution  flag and Ward got out of his car to confront Stewart who was still racing in his car.

It is undisputed that as Stewart approached Ward, Stewart’s right rear tire hit Ward, dragging him underneath and then throwing him down the track.  Ward was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.  Amateur video was posted to YouTube, taken down and has since been resposted.  While the video is tragic, it is important to view from a legal perspective.  Unfortunately, it does not show the entire track, just the part where Ward crashed and is then struck.

The incident is being investigated by Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero.  Stewart was questioned after the crash and the Sheriff indicated that he was fully cooperating.  He also described Stewart as visibly shaken by this accident and has indicated that he was not conducting a criminal investigation.

However, that hasn’t stopped many on various websites and social media to debate whether this was intentional and thus, whether Stewart will and/or should be charged with murder (or some other crime).   Some have suggested that Stewart has a history of playing very dirty, even more so than his reputation would suggest.  Some have suggested that while other cars slowed, he hit the throttle as he got close to Ward.  Others suggest that Ward is to blame by walking out into an active raceway.  The debate is fueled by those who are fans of Stewart or those that hate him for various reasons having nothing to do with this accident.   Thus, I decided to take an objective look at this issue to detail the various issues the District Attorney will face when deciding how to pursue this case.

1.  Celebrity Status

The first thing the DA will run into here is that if they decide to charge Tony Stewart is his celebrity status.  This will easily be the trial of the decade.  He has the money to assemble the next dream team.  Ontario County has a total population of 100,000 people.  Thus, this is small town America and with all due respect to the DA, they may find it very difficult to deal with the crush of publicity that such a prosecution would bring.  In addition, they may not have the manpower to handle the attack of Stewart’s dream team.  We can all debate as to whether or not celebrities get special treatment, but lets face it, it happens.

2.  Lack of intent

Stewart did not hit Ward with the front of his car; Ward was struck by the right rear tire as the car skidded out.  Clearly if one wanted to intentionally strike Ward, he would be run over with the front of the car.  More importantly, it would be obvious to anyone, but especially Stewart, that striking someone head on at high speed would surely cause serious injury if not death.  For one to believe that Stewart had such an intent would require Stewart to suddenly decide to throw his entire career away to possibly cause the death of another drive.  Stewart would have to suffer some type of psychotic break for this to happen and I based upon his reaction after the crash, this does not seem likely at all.

3.  Recklessness vs. invited risk

This seems like the best path for the DA to build a case but it is not without its own problems.    They will have to look at it this way: out of all of the cars on the track, why is it that Stewart’s car is the one that hit Ward?   Of course, one can argue that Ward was going to confront Stewart so he placed himself closer to his car. If I am the DA, I would want to see the entire lap. Did Stewart’s car go faster than the other cars or otherwise act differently?  When was Stewart able to see Ward out of his car?  Keep in mind that these cars are going fast and are not easy to control.  There are other cars on the track to look out for and the drivers are strapped in, have visors on their helmets and have limited neck movement.  Furthermore, the track doesn’t have a lot of room and you cannot just slam on your brakes like you can in a normal car.  One also doesn’t expect that drivers will start walking around on the track even under caution.

Once the DA can figure out when Stewart saw Ward, his actions at that point will be scrutinized millisecond by millisecond.  Does Stewart have a split second to react or more?  Some have argued on social media that Stewart saw Ward and was attempting to scare him or kick dirt on him which is why his car speeds up and skids out.  As a result, (if true) this was in fact an accident but one that was caused by Stewart acting recklessly.  So while Stewart did not act intentionally, his recklessness in attempting to get back at Ward for chasing after him caused the accident which led to Ward’s death.  While Ward would not be charged with murder (since same requires intent) he could be charged with a lesser form of homicide such as manslaughter.

However, just about every sporting event has a level of invited danger that is built into the participation of that sport.  Its the reason why football players are not charged when one player seriously hurts another.  In racing, it is expected that crashes will occur and sometimes, people get seriously hurt or even die.  Thus, it may be very difficult to prove that Stewart was acting recklessly when the very nature of racing on a dirt track involves bumps, spin outs and crashes with cars that are difficult to control.  Furthermore, Ward, a young but experienced driver, knew the dangers of walking on a track and approaching a speeding car.  A defense team would argue that the dangerous nature of the sport itself combined with Ward’s own conduct led to an unfortunate accident and that Stewart did not act recklessly.

4.  Stewart’s statement

The most crucial piece of evidence will be Stewart’s own statement.  It is impossible to get in the head of another person so police typically rely upon statements from the accused to build a case.  Here, Stewart spoke with law enforcement right away without an attorney present.  This statement will be scrutinized up and down to determine if he admitted to anything that can be used against him or if he lied.  For example, if he stated that he saw Ward and was attempting to kick dirt on him, that would help support a case for reckless homicide as indicated above.  However, if he indicated that he did not see Ward until the last minute and swerved to avoid him, that would help show that this was just an accident.  On the other hand, there may be other evidence such as a dash cam in Stewart’s car (that may or may not exist) that could show that his story is not accurate.  In that event, his lies will be used to show that he not only acted recklessly but he attempted to cover it up.

Conclusion

Its way too early to draw any conclusions as to what will happen here.  The DA will likely take its time to analyze every possible aspect of this case to either bring a good case against Stewart or to demonstrate that they did not give Stewart any special treatment by declining prosecution.

 

 

Story on Forbes is here

Vehicular Homicide charges filed in Middlesex County crash

Andrew Frazell has been arrested and charged with two counts of vehicular homicide in Middlesex County.  Police say that he was driving the wrong way on an entrance ramp onto the parkway.  He then allegedly crahsed into another car causing the death of two people.

New Jersey Vehicular Homicide Lawyer

Mental Health Expungements in New Jersey

If you have had a commitment in a mental health institution, there will be a record of your commitment kept by the County Adjuster’s Office.  This record of commitment gets entered into a database that can seriously impact a person’s rights.  Quite often, clients contact us because they are looking to get a gun permit.  Without a mental health expungement, obtaining a purchase permit or firearms ID card may be impossible.  Even if one can obtain the permit, a NICS denial may make the permit worthless.

Our team of lawyers can help you with your mental health expungement in New Jersey.  Call us at 732-773-2768 to discuss your case.

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