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November 2012 Archives

Cop Caught in Hit and Run, False Police Report

It looks like that “Blue Shield of Silence” only goes so far. Officer Michael Bergeson, 33, found the limits of the code of silence after he allegedly hit a pedestrian on a bicycle and fled. He’s now facing a Class 1 felony and a Class 4 felony and could spend the next couple of decades in prison.

On August 3, Bergeson’s F150 reportedly clipped a female bicyclist, whose boyfriend was behind her and witnessed the accident. The force of the crash flung her over the hood. She landed on the street, bleeding from a head wound, reports NBC Chicago.

U.S. Supreme Court Punts on Eavesdropping Law; Recording Cops Legal?

Illinois cares about your privacy ... and the privacy of cops, regardless of what those officers might be doing. Remember the infamous Rodney King tape? That recording could have resulted in felony charges and fifteen years in prison for the camera man had it happened in Illinois.

Not anymore. It looks like police officers will have to give up on beating up camera-equipped witnesses, as the Supreme Court refused to overturn the Seventh Circuit's opinion, which found that the eavesdropping law violated First Amendment rights, reports The Associated Press.

Things We're Thankful For: The Fight for the Right to Bear Arms

Men trained in arms from their infancy, and animated by the love of liberty, will afford neither a cheap or easy conquest.

The Declaration of the Continental Congress, July 1775.

Thanksgiving is a time for Americans to look back at our history and give thanks for our freedoms, our loved ones, the food on the table, and of course, the .375 Holland & Holland that is secured in a locked safe in the garage.

Hostess Closes: The Death of the Twinkie Defense?

There was good (and bad) news from Hostess today. Maybe childhood obesity will trend downward a bit after the snack cake maker ceases operations. That's right. No more Twinkies. No more HoHos. No more Ding-Dongs.

And for many, this is tragic news. Another mainstay of our childhoods has been destroyed. Rest in peace, yellow fluffy indestructible goodness. You will be missed.

But does this tragedy also mean the end of sugar-fueled asinine criminal defense theories? Not likely. In fact, the infamous Twinkie Defense, which has since become a pejorative term for any unusual and unconventional legal defense, didn't actually blame Twinkies for the defendant's actions.

Bail Fail: When Can the Cops Keep You Locked Up?

Back in August, FindLaw's Legal U series brought you The Price of Freedom, an exhaustive description of the types of bonds available to spring a loved one from jail pre-trial. About a week after that, we updated the post when law enforcement stopped releasing people on their own recognizance (release without bail).

Of course, that wasn't the whole story. Bail is supposed to ensure that the defendant shows up in court. The prospect of losing thousands of dollars keeps defendants from fleeing the jurisdiction. For true ballers, however, money is no object. Also, when you are facing a life sentence or death, losing a million dollars might seem worth it. Here are two ways in which a judge can keep a person behind bars, before they are even convicted.

CeaseFire Shooting Blanks? Anti-Violence Program Questioned

Chicago has a problem. It involves lead bullets and bodies. While the city has always had murders and murderers, the spike in shootings over the past summer was alarming and demanded action.

With lives at stake, the city took a throw it at the wall and see what sticks approach. They razed buildings that served as stash houses and crash pads for criminals. They closed down businesses that attracted gang crime. The Nation of Islam even joined the fight briefly.

Two More Politicians Win Re-Election Despite Charges

We thought Derrick Smith’s re-election, while hilariously stereotypical in light of Chicago’s political history, was an outlier, a quandary, and a comical confluence of voter ignorance and party line voting. Sure, a guy facing 10 years in prison, recently expelled from office, won re-election. But that was a fluke, right?

Not exactly. Consider two other Chicago-area politicians who were also re-elected: Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Cook County judge Cynthia Brim. The former has been absent from work while dealing with mental health issues (and an ongoing corruption investigation) while the latter is planning on pressing the insanity defense in a battery case stemming from a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies.

Just another election in the Chicago Circus, right?

Derrick Smith Reelected After Indictment, Impeachment, Expulsion

If you want to win a political office in ChiTown, simply having the Democratic "D" next to your name can nudge you to victory ... even if you are currently facing federal bribery charges, were recently expelled from office, and your own party is running an "independent" candidate against you.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Illinois state Representative Derrick Smith. Last year, he was appointed to the seat to fill a vacancy. Back in March, he was indicted for allegedly taking a bribe in exchange for writing a grant recommendation for an early childhood education center, reports the Associated Press. Shortly thereafter, he made dubious history by being the first person to be expelled from the House in 107 years. According to the Chicago Tribune, the vote in favor of expulsion was 100-6.

Daniel Baker is Guilty, but Mentally Ill; What Does That Mean?

Guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty by reason of insanity. Guilty but mentally ill. All four were possible outcomes at Daniel Baker’s trial, but the last verdict was the one chosen by the judge, and it is not the same as the insanity defense shown on movies and TV.

For those unfamiliar with Baker’s case, he was accused of bludgeoning his girlfriend’s mother, Marina Aksman, to death after she told Baker that he could no longer see her “cognitively impaired” daughter, reports the Chicago Tribune. Baker threatened the deceased woman, and her husband, in a voicemail. He then drove to their home, crashed his car, beat Aksman to death with a baseball bat, and then took off with his girlfriend in her parents’ car.

Babysitter Mom Told Kids to Pray Before Murdering Son, Witness

She first told investigators that an intruder had broken into the home and murdered the children. Her story then shifted to tales of voices from the devil commanding her to perform the act. Later, she said that the children were poisoned by society and didn't listen to her as they should. Eventually, however, Elzbieta M. Plackowska admitted that she murdered her 7-year-old son, and his 5-year-old friend, because she was mad at her husband, reports the Chicago Tribune.

She told the children to go to bed. Instead, Justin and Olivia began jumping on the bed in the master bedroom. According to prosecutors, Plackowska went to the kitchen, found a knife, entered the bedroom, and then told the children to pray. She told Justin that he was going to heaven before cutting his throat and stabbing him 100 times. She then stabbed Olivia about 50 times because she was a witness. Two dogs were also stabbed to death in the rampage.