Posted On: July 31, 2008

Professional Baseball Player Charged with Felony Assault for Involvement in On-Field Brawl

A brawl which occurred during a minor league baseball game in Ohio last week resulted in criminal charges filed against Peoria Chiefs pitcher, Julio Castillo. In the midst of the 10-minute long, bench-clearing melee, video shows Castillo maliciously throwing a baseball, but does not record where the baseball landed. As it turns out, the baseball struck a spectator, who later required treatment at a local hospital, and resulted in criminal charges of felonious assault filed against Castillo.

Castillo was arrested following the fight and was arraigned, via video conference, from the county jail the following morning. The judge ordered Castillo to be held on $50,000 bond. Castillo was also ordered to surrender his passport; a preventative measure to keep Castillo, who is from the Dominican Republic, from fleeing. The charge is a result of “outlandish and inexcusable conduct by a professional baseball player" according to the local district attorney.

Felony Crimes

Felony offenses are the most serious crimes and carry potential prison sentences of over one year if convicted.

If you have been charged with a felony criminal offense, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff immediately. We will assist you in your defense and can potentially lessen or eliminate the charges against you.

Posted On: July 30, 2008

United States Court of Appeals Upholds Ruling that Child Online Protection Act is Unconstitutional

On July 22, 2008, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling in ACLU v. MuKasey, striking-down the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) which was passed in 1998; finding that the act is unconstitutional. The case, decided in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will now likely be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

COPA, which was passed nearly a decade ago, has been the topic of constant legal battles; an almost immediate injunction following the Act’s passage has not allowed the law to ever take effect. The Child Online Protection Act was passed three years after the United States Supreme Court ruled a similar act unconstitutional.

In the decision, Judge Greenberg writes that in order to survive the “strict-scrutiny” test of constitutionality, the law in question must be of a compelling governmental interest and narrowly tailored to its purpose. The United States Supreme Court had ruled previously that “there is a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors”. The Court of Appeals scrutinized COPA under the standard of whether it was narrowly tailored to achieve its purpose.

The Act was written to include “‘material that is harmful to minors’ ” which includes the concept of ‘taking as a whole’ material designed to appeal to the ‘prurient interest’ of minors; and materials which lack ‘serious literary’ or other value to minors.” The Court agreed with the lower court’s determination that such language was overly broad and vague, and could endanger a wide range of communications, exhibits, and speakers. Further, the Court agreed with the lower court’s assertions that programs and filters were a less restrictive, yet successful, way to prevent minors from accessing such content.

The Law Offices of Marc Neff has extensive experience in matters involving child pornography. Mr. Neff has handled numerous cases of this nature. The office employs a team approach using only the must qualified forensic experts. For a confidential consultation, contact Mr. Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email Marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: July 23, 2008

Pennsylvania's DUI Laws Apply to More Than Just Motor Vehicles

A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania resident convicted of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol a few years ago, traded in his motor vehicle for a bicycle; to prevent himself from receiving any future DUI related charges. He never anticipated being charged with a second-offense for Driving Under the Influence, while riding his bicycle.

On July 4, 2007, he was riding his bicycle from a holiday party in Narberth, PA to his home in Havertown, PA, when he was struck by an automobile. He was treated at the scene, and taken to the hospital, where his blood alcohol content was tested. Testing resulted in a BAC reading of 0.155, nearly double the legal limit of 0.08. He subsequently was arrested for drunken bicycling; an offense punishable by the same penalties as Driving under the Influence.

The prosecutor, a Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney, explained that Pennsylvania law considers a bicycle as a vehicle, and that riders are subject to almost all of the same rules as drivers of motor vehicles. “Here, the statute is clear...Someone on a bicycle is subject to the DUI statute and he was pedaling his bicycle while under the influence on a roadway.” The bicyclist was sentenced to 15 consecutive weekends in jail, or 30 days, and 22 months of probation for a second DUI offense within 10-years. He also was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine and court costs, ordered to complete an alcohol-related highway safety program, and must follow any other recommendations after being evaluated for alcohol abuse. His driver’s license has been suspended for up to 18-months.

Driving Under the Influence

Pennsylvania law states that “Every person riding a pedalcycle upon a roadway...shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” Pennsylvania statute defines a “vehicle” as “every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway.” Pennsylvania law mandates minimum sentences for DUI and DUI related crimes. Penalties are determined according to elements of the crime, as well as other factors such as prior convictions within the past ten years.

If you have been charged with DUI or a related offense, you should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff.

Posted On: July 21, 2008

Philadelphia Youth Suspected of DUI and Vehicular Homicide Hurts His Defense with MYSPACE Page

Joseph Genovese, Jr., an 18-year old teen from Philadelphia, is suspected of vehicular homicide, resulting in the death of a tourist from St. Louis and severe injuries suffered by her friend last week in South Philadelphia. Police allege that the teen ran a red-light while intoxicated, striking the two victims that were leaving an afternoon Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.

Police became aware of Genovese’s Myspace.com profile following the accident. Genovese, who has a pending charge for possession of marijuana, used his mug shot as his profile picture. Also on his profile were pictures of the teen possessing alcohol, drawing graffiti, and a picture of a speedometer reading 105 miles per hour, with a caption stating “just under 120 on Packer Avenue.” Genovese’s profile also lists his income at over $250,000 and his occupation as a drug dealer. Many of the teen’s friends who posted remarks on his site also seemed to have damaged his reputation and complicated any potential defense. One of the quotes, following last week’s accident, was from a friend who stated he would never drive with Genovese again.

Police used Genovese’s Myspace profile to obtain a search warrant, which was executed earlier this week. The police confiscated his computer and other personal belongings which they hope may shed added light on last week’s accident, as well as some other of Genovese’s activities. Joseph Genovese Jr. is currently charged with involuntary manslaughter, homicide by vehicle, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault, simple assault, and recklessly endangering the life of another. The second victim remains in critical condition.

Driving Under the Influence and Related Crimes

In Pennsylvania, certain mandatory minimum sentences apply to convictions of DUI and related offenses. Homicide by vehicle while DUI, for example, carries a 3-year minimum sentence per victim. There is also a mandatory sentence for Driving under the Influence, which is dependant upon many different factors of the offense. Besides a prison sentence, other penalties applicable include fines, suspension of driver’s privileges, a requirement to complete a highway-safety course, community service, and more.

If you have been charged with DUI or a DUI related offense, it is extremely important to contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. There are defenses which are available to you, which may reduce or eliminate potential penalties. Our office has over 20-years experience successfully defending clients facing DUI and DUI related charges. If you have been charged, or suspect you will be charged with a DUI related offense, contact our offices immediately so that we may begin to assist in your defense.

Posted On: July 17, 2008

Philadelphia and New York City Defrauded of Thousands of Dollars

Richard Gottfried, an ex-convict, concealed his criminal past in order to obtain employment as a court-appointed sentencing consultant in both Philadelphia and New York City. He advertised himself as a mitigation specialist, offering his services to criminal defense lawyers, promising to help gather information that would benefit defendants at sentencing hearings. In doing so, he was able to cheat the Philadelphia Court system out of nearly $400,000 and New York City Courts out of $60,000. Gottfried admitted to the Philadelphia scheme, but pled not guilty in New York, to charges of grand larceny, offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records.

Gottfried was involved in a New Jersey Real Estate scam in 1996, for which he served 20-months of a federal sentence; a crime for which District Attorney dubbed Gottfried a “Great Pretender”. However, he was able to charm himself into a position with the Philadelphia criminal court system. Five years later, he was accused of forging a phony law-degree, a phony psychologist’s license, and forging lawyer’s signatures on invoices which defrauded the city of nearly $400,000. He pled guilty to charges including theft by deception, in February of 2007, and was sentenced to as many as 23-months in prison.

In 2004, Gottfried began working for the New York City Court system and is accused of billing the city for over $60,000 worth of non-existent work relating to 42 defendants, one of which had already closed his case. Gottfried is currently on work-release for the charges he pled guilty to in Philadelphia. He faces a potential 15-year prison sentence if convicted in the New York City case.

The Law Offices of Marc Neff have over 20-years of experience successfully defending clients charged with fraud and related offenses. If you are under investigation of fraud, or have been charged with a criminal offense, contact our offices immediately. There are defenses available to you, and the Law Offices of Marc Neff can assist in developing a successful defense.

Posted On: July 11, 2008

Philadelphia to Begin Enforcing Law Requiring the Reporting of Lost Firearms

Mayor Nutter and City Counsel plan to announce that enforcement of a controversial gun law will begin in early August of 2008. The law, which requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24-hours of discovering their disappearance, was one of a bundle of five laws signed by Mayor Nutter in April. Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan struck down two of the laws, citing them as unconstitutional, however ruled that groups such as the NRA, local gun-owners, and other plaintiffs, had no standing to challenge the remaining three, which included the requirement to report lost or stolen firearms.

The remaining three laws will not only require the reporting of lost and stolen firearms within 24-hours, but also establish criminal penalties for the failure to do so and restrict gun ownership from unstable individuals or those subject to an order of protection. Judge Greenspan’s ruling, which struck down two of the five laws, is currently being appealed in Commonwealth Court. Meanwhile, the NRA has threatened to seek an immediate injunction if the City of Philadelphia begins enforcing the reporting law.

It is expected that the final decision regarding Philadelphia’s gun laws will be made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Recently, the United States Supreme Court struck down a handgun-ban in Washington D.C.; however Mayor Nutter believes that the Supreme Court’s decision still leaves some room in its opinion for local regulation of handguns.

With gun laws ever changing both locally and nationally, it is extremely important to seek the expertise of an experienced criminal defense attorney when charged with a gun-related offense. An experienced criminal defense attorney has the skill to interpret the changing laws and develop the best available defense to your charges. If you have been charged with a gun-related offense, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff immediately.

Posted On: July 9, 2008

Mortgage Fraud Increase Leads to FBI Crackdown

The late 1990’s saw the beginning of a housing boom, brought on by Federal programs which made buying a home easier through government-sponsored loan programs; such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This led to a sharp appreciation in housing values throughout the country; however it also led to a growing rate of mortgage fraud. Mortgage fraud continues to top the list of white-collar crimes throughout the country, and is considered a major factor in the bursting real-estate bubble we see today. Even now that the bubble has burst, we continue to see an increased rate of fraud in the form of foreclosure fraud and subprime shenanigans, says Michael J. Anderson, who oversees the FBI’s white-collar crime division in the Dallas, Texas area.

Federal Agencies have stepped-up their efforts to crack-down on the problem of mortgage fraud. In an operation dubbed “Operation Malicious Mortgage”, 406 people have been charged in 144 different cases throughout the country, between March 1 and June 18 of this year. Over the past 3-years, the FBI’s mortgage fraud caseload has doubled to about 1,400 cases. Although neither Pennsylvania nor New Jersey is considered amongst the top-10 states experiencing mortgage fraud, cases have been brought in the Delaware Valley. The FBI is focusing its efforts on fraud committed by industry insiders, such as appraisers who inflate a properties value for purposes of attaining a loan. During the housing boom, this practice was masked by the fact that housing values were increasing, making the value catch-up to the inflated rate of appraisal. However once the bubble burst, housing values slowed to a halt, making such fraud easily apparent.

According to the FBI, common forms of mortgage fraud include Property Slipping, Silent Second, Nominee Loans/ Straw Buyers, Equity Skimming, Inflated Appraisals, and Foreclosure Schemes. According to Anderson, “Mortgage fraud has continued to be a growing crime trend and it’s just a matter of how quickly can law enforcement catch up.”

Mortgage Fraud is just one area of white-collar crime handled by our offices. Marc Neff has over 20-years of experience successfully defending those accused of fraud and similar white-collar offenses. The Law Offices of Marc Neff can assist in your defense. For a confidential consultation, please contact our office at your earliest co

Posted On: July 8, 2008

MONEY LAUNDERING CASES NOW POSE GREATER BURDEN FOR PROSECUTION

The Supreme Court of the United States decided two cases on June 2, 2008, pertaining to charges of money laundering. In the first case, the charge of money laundering could only be applied to profits from an illegal gambling ring, and not payouts to bettors or employees. In the second case, the Court held that money laundering charges cannot be applied to a person simply hiding a large amount of cash in the trunk of a vehicle; the driver was stopped on the way to the Mexican border.

According to the Associated Press, the government brings money laundering charges against nearly 1,300 people every year, and the Court agreed with defense attorneys that the bounds of the law have been stretched too far. The Anti-Money Laundering law was passed in 1986 intended to remedy problems associated with organized crime and drug-trafficking. The law has frequently been applied in the world of white-collar crime; often tacked on to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which applies to American’s who bribe foreign officials.

The intention of the Anti-Money Laundering was for law enforcement to fill a gap and prevent the concealment and reinvestment of money derived from criminal activity. Between $8 billion and $25 billion dollars of Mexican and Columbian “drug money” is transported out of the United States every year. The Court’s rulings increase the government’s burden in money laundering cases. Specifically, prosecutors must show that money transported in money laundering cases was done so to conceal the defendant’s ownership, source, or control.

Money Laundering

Money laundering is the practice of engaging in financial transactions in order to conceal the identity, source, and/or destination of money. A violation of the law carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence, along with heavy fines upon a conviction.

If you have been charged with the crime of money laundering, contact an experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. There are defenses available to you, and a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney will assist in developing your defense.

Posted On: July 7, 2008

PHILADELPHIA JUDGE RULES DEFENDANT NOT IN VIOLATION OF IMPLIED CONSENT, OVERTURNS LICENSE SUSPENSION

All licensed drivers in Pennsylvania are subject to the state’s Implied Consent law, which states:

“Any person who drives, operates, or is in actual physical control of the movement of a motor vehicle in this Commonwealth shall be deemed to have given consent to one or more chemical tests of breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of blood or the presence of a controlled substance if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person to have been driving, operating, or in actual physical control of the movement of a motor vehicle.”

Refusal of chemical testing warrants an automatic one-year suspension of driving privileges, regardless of the outcome of the DUI case. The officer must read the suspect his or her O’Connell Rights which inform the suspect of the implied consent law, as well as his or her right to appeal, etc. Pennsylvania case law defines refusal of chemical testing as “anything substantially less than unqualified, unequivocal assent to chemical testing.”

Edward Solomon was awakened by Philadelphia police who found Solomon asleep in the driver’s seat of his vehicle on a cold, snowy night in January of 2007. The vehicle was parked in between a parking lot and a nightclub at approximately 3 am; the area was frequently used for parking. Although the engine was running, the car was in park, headlights were off, and there was no evidence that the car had been moved or that Solomon intended on doing so. Upon questioning, Solomon told the officer that he had a few drinks at the nightclub, and because it was snowing, went to his vehicle to sleep; the engine was running so that he could use the heater to keep warm. The officer arrested Solomon for Driving under the Influence and took him to the station for chemical testing. The officer’s testified that upon arrival at the station, Solomon was read his O’Connell warning to which he responded, “Go f--- yourself and do what you’ve got to do.” Solomon testified that he was upset with the officer because the officer would not tell him why he was being arrested. Nevertheless, the officer perceived the remark as a refusal, subjecting Solomon to the 1-year automatic suspension.

On appeal, the Court reviewed two issues: Whether Solomon was operating or in actual physical control of his vehicle in order to merit the DUI, and whether Solomon in fact refused chemical testing. Pennsylvania case law has ruled in many instances that driver’s found asleep in their running vehicles are subject to DUI, however the standard used to determine control is a totality of the circumstances. In this instance, the Court found Solomon’s testimony believable, in that the only reason the car was running was for the heater. Further, the car was found in a designated parking area with no evidence that it had been moved. The court further found that “do what you’ve got to do” was enough to show acceptance of chemical testing, and that although the officer may have been offended, Solomon’s comment was not a refusal. Therefore, both the DUI conviction and license suspension were overturned.

Drunk Driving

Driving under the influence in Pennsylvania is a serious matter, as it is in every state, and carries minimum penalties required by Pennsylvania statute. The mandatory minimum is based on elements of the conviction, with increases in the mandatory minimum based on any previous conviction for DUI or comparable offense within the past ten years. Penalties can range from 6-months probation to up to one year in prison; along with other fines and penalties.

If you have been arrested for Drunk Driving, DUI, DWI, or Underage Drinking, contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. There are defenses which are available to you, which can reduce or eliminate penalties associated with these charges.

Posted On: July 3, 2008

U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES ABSENT WITNESSES CANNOT HAVE TESTIMONY ADMITTED

Last week, the United States Supreme Court ruled that an absent witness’ testimony cannot be admitted to prove a defendant’s guilt, unless the defendant engaged in acts of misconduct specifically intended to procure the absence of the witness. The criminal justice system has never imposed a duty on a defendant to help the prosecution in proving his or her guilt; however, a defendant has an affirmative duty to refrain from actions that destroy the integrity of the criminal-trial system. The commonly known “Rule of Forfeiture by Wrongdoing” provides that a defendant forfeits his or her right to confrontation of a witness at trial, if that defendant procured the absence of the witness by wrongdoing.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Giles v. California last week interprets the Rule of forfeiture to only apply when a defendant “...engaged in acts of misconduct that were specifically and intentionally designed to prevent the witness from testifying.” The case involved a defendant on trial for the murder of a domestic partner. The police had taken a statement from the victim following a domestic violence incident, and intended to admit the statement at the defendant’s murder trial; citing the Rule of Forfeiture to allow admission. The prosecution’s argument countered the defense’s argument based on United States v. Crawford, which ruled that testimonial evidence should be excluded on confrontation clause grounds; the right of the defense to cross-examine a witness’ testimony. The California State Appeals Court ruled in favor of the prosecution, deciding that the defendant procured the absence of the witness through murder.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturned the lower court’s ruling, and held that at the time of the Constitution’s adoption, the Rule of Forfeiture only applied in situations where the misconduct demonstrated the defendant’s specific intent to procure the absence of the witness; and further, the rule had never been implied to cases of murder. The defendant accused of murder in Giles, if convicted, would not have committed the murder specifically and intentionally to procure the victim’s absence at trial. Therefore, the victim’s testimony was inadmissible. The Supreme Court’s decision will likely influence the New Jersey Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in State v. Byrd, relating to New Jersey’s rules of evidence; currently there is no provision for the exclusion of the confrontation clause due to misconduct.

The Rules of Evidence, both individual state and federal, are complicated and require careful study. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows the Rules of Evidence. If you are charged with a criminal offense, or have begun the criminal-trial process, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Posted On: July 2, 2008

ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE BILL EXPECTED TO PASS U.S. SENATE VOTE WITH EASE

Recently, a piece of legislation which would make it illegal for federal prosecutors to order companies to turn-over privileged documents as part of a cooperation agreement, passed a U.S. House of Representatives vote; and now is backed by a dozen U.S. senators, 32 former federal prosecutors, and coalitions such as the ACLU. The practice of federal prosecutors obtaining privileged information through cooperation agreements has led to the obtaining of information which would otherwise have never been uncovered and in-turn, larger investigations and convictions. The Bill, which would make this practice illegal, has not been described as “pro-company” or “pro-business”, but rather based on the fundamental principles of legal counseling. Attorney-client privilege has always been a staple in our legal system, and the practice of forcing a company to disclose such privileged information contradicts this basic standard.

The Bill comes after a federal judge threw-out several individual indictments against employees of KPMG, after learning that federal prosecutors banned KPMG from paying their employee’s legal fees. The judge ruled such imposition on the individuals as onerous. Stemming from this decision, and similar decisions following the ruling, the Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act was written; and if passed, would limit the right of prosecutor’s to demand privileged information from companies attempting to seek a plea agreement or deferred prosecution agreement. The Bill would not impose penalties on prosecutors who violate the law, however, it would make information obtained illegally inadmissible. The Bill is expected to pass either before the Senate’s summer recess or soon after the inauguration of the next President.

Attorney-client privilege is a legal concept that protects communications between a client and his or her attorney and keeps those communications confidential. For a confidential consultation regarding current or potential legal issues, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at your earliest convenience.