Prison Sentence For Man Who Fired Shots In Fashion Island Parking Lot

Only one day after the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, Marcos Gurrola allegedly took out a .40-caliber Glock handgun in a crowded Orange County mall parking lot and fired 54 rounds toward the Macy’s building. He stopped shooting and surrendered when two Newport Beach police officers on bicycles arrived. Gurrola was in possession of six magazines for his handgun, with even more in his car.

He was charged with 54 felony counts of firing a weapon at an inhabited dwelling, 2 counts of assault, plus two firearm enhancements. The reasons for Gurrola’s actions are inconclusive. He reportedly claimed that when he fired his gun, it made him feel better. Police said in 2012 that Gurrola told a detective he fired his gun because he was angry, but was not aiming at anybody.

Continue reading »

City Administrator Receives Federal Prison Sentence for Tax Evasion

With tax day coming tomorrow, it’s tempting to make a few tweaks to reduce the amount of tax you owe to the federal government. But allow yourself to get carried away and you may find yourself in federal prison on tax evasion charges. The former city of Bell chief administrator was convicted of allegedly falsifying losses on his taxes, but that’s only half the story.

As the city administrator, he reportedly misappropriated taxpayer funds to pay himself a salary far in excess of what he should have received, and then claimed more than $770,000 in non-existent losses to the IRS to inflate his take-home pay up to $1.18 million per year.

Continue reading »

Man Is Arrested, Serves Prison Time for Forging Judge’s Signature

When a man applied for a job selling life insurance, his potential employer pointed out a blemish on his background check that indicated he had an outstanding tax lien. Without missing a beat, the man replied that it had been taken care of and he would send proof. Shortly thereafter, a faxed letter was sent to the company indicating that the tax lien’s “amounts in question have been satisfied completely.” It concluded with, “there are no outstanding fees or penalties due, and your record has been cleared of any restrictions or liens.” The letter was signed in the name of a US District Judge.

The company was suspicious and sent the letter to Alicemarie H. Stotler, the judge indicated on his letter. The judge reviewed the letter and saw her forged signature on it. Surprisingly, the judge knew the man, since she once sentenced him to prison for filing a false tax refund claim. She reported the crime and FBI agents who later confronted and arrested the man, who “was cooperative and made a full confession.”

Continue reading »

Three Nabbed in Driving Sting at Harbor Court

When a judge orders you not to drive, it’s a good idea to not immediately get behind the wheel as you’re leaving court.

At Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, individuals charged with driving-related crimes such as DUI were brought before a judge who notified them that their licenses had been suspended. As such, they were no longer permitted to drive. As they were leaving, deputies followed them out of the courtroom to find out how they were getting home.

Continue reading »

How to Avoid a DUI Arrest on St. Patrick’s Day

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is warning residents of Orange County to plan ahead for festivities tonight that involve alcohol. The agency will be deploying multiple DUI checkpoints throughout the area with the intention of arresting anybody who is driving a vehicle who is under the influence of alcohol.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens recommends planning ahead to get a safe ride home at the end of the night. Such plans can include designating a sober driver, using a taxi service, or calling a sober friend or family member to give you a ride home. They also recommend taking car keys away from any individual who appears to be intoxicated so they are unable to drive.

Continue reading »

Woman Charged For Driving Van Into Ocean With Children Inside

On March 6, a woman described as “delusional” had taken her three children, ages 3, 9, and 10 from their home on a car ride that nearly ended in death. Her sister says the woman was “talking about Jesus and that there’s demons in my house,” according to a 911 call.

The woman had recently got out of a “domestic violence situation” in a different state, but apparently was having issues of mental illness, prompting her sister to call the police when she feared for the safety of the three children.

Continue reading »

Kerry Kennedy Acquitted of DUI

Kerry Kennedy, daughter of late senator Robert F. Kennedy, was acquitted of charges of driving while intoxicated (similar to California’s DUI charges) earlier this morning in a New York courtroom. Jurors spent just over an hour deliberating the facts before delivering their verdict.

Kennedy was found collapsed over the steering wheel of her vehicle after swerving and sideswiping a tractor-trailer on a New York interstate highway back in July, 2012.

Continue reading »

What is “mitigation?”

If there is one thing that being an Orange County criminal defense attorney has taught me it is that good people do bad things. And all people have reasons for doing what they do. When a loved one has come into contact with the criminal justice system, it is the role of his criminal defense attorney to make the prosecutor and/or judge understand why. Few actions can be accurately summarized by knee-jerk or one-word responses such as “greed,” “anger” or “lust.” Like the fictional Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables who stole a loaf of bread for his starving sister, many have motives that most would find sympathetic. It is the criminal defense lawyer’s job to find out what, in particular, was going on in a defendant’s life when an incident occurred.

Was he subject to unusual pressures?

Continue reading »

What To Do If You Are Suspected of Shoplifting

With the holidays approaching, more shoppers will come out in force to pick up a holiday gift for their loved ones. Understandably, retailers will be keeping a closer eye on their products to ensure that the shoppers don’t become shoplifters.

Shoppers can unwittingly become victims of the criminal justice system, even if they’re not shoplifters. High-end retailers have been under recent scrutiny for acts of discrimination against potential buyers, in one circumstance even telling a black woman that she would not be able to afford the item she was looking at, before the clerk realized she was Oprah Winfrey.

Continue reading »

The Dos and Dont’s of a CPS Visit

What to do when Social Services has been called—

You and your husband were arguing the other night. Neighbors called the police. The police told you that they had to arrest one of you and he chose you. You’ve bailed out of jail, you’ve contacted an experienced Orange County domestic violence or criminal defense attorney,  you are prepared for court and then you come home and there it is out of left field- a business card left on your door from the Department of Child and Family Services with a note that you must call a social worker. You call as instructed and are told that “your social worker” needs to investigate “your case.”

Continue reading »

Coming Soon: Dangerous Dog Registry?

Orange County may soon create a registry-style website for dangerous dogs. If the measure is approved by the Orange County board of supervisors there would be a few new definitions for “dangerous” or vicious” in regards to your pet.  What are the ripple effects?  You can expect higher home insurance premiums in some areas, home prices potentially affected, and less foot traffic in certain areas to business.  The recent proposal for a website that shows you the location of these dangerous animals is most likely in response to recent attacks in other counties in Southern California that resulted in bodily injury and in one Antelope Valley case death.

What does this mean for criminal law? If you have a vicious or dangerous dog and this website comes into existence, your neighborhood, depending on volume of “dangerous” or “vicious” dogs, could become a target by law enforcement.  A person having mere custody of such a dog may make them liable regardless of ownership.  If you have a guard dog or a breed that is prone to aggressiveness, you may want to consider that a photo of the dog and your address will be published to the public at large. Vigilantes have been known to occasionally target sex offenders based on the published sex offender registry, so the safety of your dog, your home, and potentially even you and your family could be at risk if the information is published in a similar dangerous dog registry.

Continue reading »

Do Judges Ever Get Into Trouble?

In an earlier post, I detailed an example of a lawyer who got herself into some trouble in an incident involving alcohol, police, and a whole bunch of negative publicity. That fiasco was the result of a series of poor decisions regarding her personal life that unfortunately affected her professional career. But certainly any attorney—or even a judge, for that matter—would never allow a lapse of professional conduct in the courtroom to jeopardize his or her career, right?

Prosecutors, district attorneys, and judges like to be viewed as “tough on crime.” In the case of judges, that’s how many of them get elected to their positions. Although many are objective, fair, and just in their rulings, there are some who secretly challenge the “innocent until proven guilty” paradigm of criminal proceedings. An unfortunate few officials have convinced themselves that anyone who stands before their bench must somehow be guilty; the question is, “how guilty?

Continue reading »

How a Simple Assault Conviction Can Ruin Your Life

In February, Joe Hundley was aboard a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta to pay a final visit to his brain-dead son in the hospital and take him off of life support. He had not slept the previous night and was consuming alcohol as a method of coping with the pain and stress of the situation.

He was seated next to Jessica Bennett, who was holding her 19-month old son on her lap. When the flight made its final descent to Atlanta, Bennett’s son began crying. Hundley became agitated and allegedly leaned over to Bennett and told her to “shut that (N-word) baby up.” He repeated the phrase to Bennett before reportedly slapping the child on the face, leaving a scratch below his right eye.

Continue reading »

DUI After Just One Drink?

More than one drink may soon be too much and could lead to a DUI arrest. As many know, the legal driving limit in California is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than 0.08%. This level was drastically lowered from 0.15% in the 1980s and may now be lowered again.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that the limit be lowered to 0.05%. Although the NTSB has no authority to make changes itself, it is an influential agency, and can encourage lawmakers to make changes in their respective states, as well as provide financial incentives for states to adopt their suggestions.

Continue reading »

Mixing Booze With Diet Soda Increases BAC

We knew it wouldn’t be long until there would be a tie-in between drinking and dieting. For those of you watching your waistlines, you may want to be extra responsible when thinking about driving, especially if you are inclined to choose a sugar-free mixed drink.

The results are in: a recent study conducted by a cognitive psychologist at Northern Kentucky University shows that if you drink with a sugar-free mixer, your blood alcohol content (BAC) will actually be higher than if you consumed the same amount of alcohol with a sugar-sweetened mixer. We presume that the sweeter the drink, the greater the effect. Margaritas, which are heavily sweetened, can pack a much greater punch when consumed with a sugar-free mix.

Continue reading »

Fined For Adding Bling To An Ankle Bracelet

Home confinement is often an attractive alternative to doing jail time, but in some cases, making your ankle bracelet attractive carries its own punishment.

Rebecca Gallanagh was charged with the crime of public disorder for being involved in a fight outside of a local nightclub in the UK. As an alternative to incarceration, she was fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet that monitors her position through GPS satellites. She was ordered to adhere to a strict 9PM curfew in her home that officials could monitor through the signals received by the device.

Continue reading »

Man’s License Restored After Fraud Allegation Dropped

A Florida man Lazaro Sopena, wanted to help his new wife carry on her Vietnamese surname, and so decided to change his last name to Dinh when they were married in honor of his wife–opposite the usual custom of women adopting their husbands’ surnames.

After their marriage, he presented his marriage license to his local DMV showing that he had a new last name in effort to obtain an updated driver’s license, just as a woman would. The agency granted his request and issued a new license without any complications.

Continue reading »

Why Police Lie Under Oath

Imagine you’re in court, charged with a crime, telling a judge the facts surrounding your case that show your innocence. Now imagine a police officer taking the stand and contradicting everything you’ve just said. Who is the judge going to believe? Who would a jury believe? Overwhelmingly, in a battle of credibility, a cop is going to win most of the time.

Cops are sworn to serve and protect their communities, right? They dress sharp, they’re well-groomed, wear a shiny badge and appear completely trustworthy. On the witness stand, they are relaxed, confident, and nearly anyone is going to believe what they say.

Continue reading »

What To Do When Websites Report Your Arrest

Being arrested is not only embarrassing, but it can also endanger your employment, licensing, marriage, and reputation. And although you are technically “innocent until proven guilty,” society at large often doesn’t see it that way. Even though they don’t know all of the facts surrounding your case, if you were arrested, you were probably doing something you shouldn’t have been, right?

Not always. Arrests happen all the time, and not always with probable cause. In the case of DUI, field sobriety tests are designed to make you fail, even when sober. In a domestic violence call, an officer will make an arrest for even minor physical contacts, or when one party simply admits that some kind of physical contact occurred during their argument. People can be arrested for an assault and/or battery in self-defense, and mistaken identity occurs a lot more frequently than you would imagine.

Continue reading »

Charlie Brown’s Voice Arrested

Peter Robbins is a 56-year-old actor that provided the voice of Charlie Brown in the television specials that aired in the 1960s. The “Peanuts” series includes “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” He has also appeared in other shows such as “My Three Sons” and “Get Smart.”

Recently, Robbins was arrested at the Tijuana-San Diego border where an agent discovered that he had an outstanding warrant by the San Diego County Sheriff’s office. He was booked at the San Diego County Jail website, where he is charged with allegedly committing six felony crimes including stalking and threatening to cause death or great bodily injury. His bail has been set at $550,000.

Continue reading »