Posted On: August 29, 2008

Man Convicted of Sexual Assault in Philadelphia, Extradited to Idaho to Stand Trial on Additional Charges of Rape

Jeffrey Marsalis, convicted on two-counts of sexual assault by a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas judge last year and sentenced to 10 ½ to 21 years in prison, has been removed from the Forest County Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania and extradited to Blaine County, Idaho to face a third rape trial. Marsalis lived in Philadelphia between 2003 and 2005 where he attended Drexel University. Authorities alleged that during that period, Marsalis drugged and sexually assaulted at least 10 women; most of whom he met through the internet dating site “match.com”. At trial, seven women testified against Marsalis, claiming that Marsalis would pretend to be a doctor or an astronaut. His former fiancée also testified that Marsalis had duped her by claiming to be a CIA agent. The jury convicted him on two counts of sexual assault.

Marsalis now is accused of raping a woman who worked with him at a ski resort in Idaho. Marsalis worked as a security guard and allegedly committed the October 2005 rape in the employee dorm of the resort. Marsalis fought the extradition proceedings against him, but lost at a hearing last month in Idaho. He will now face his third jury trial for rape within the next 180-days, said Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim J. Thomas. He will remain in a Blaine County, Idaho jail until his trial commences.

Extradition

Extradition, or rendition as it is commonly referred to when dealing between different states, is the process by which one nation or state requests the surrender of a suspected or convicted criminal from another nation or state, to face prosecution for crimes committed in their jurisdiction. There are laws which govern the process of extradition. Criminal laws often differ slightly between states, and differ greatly between nations; extradition between nations is governed by treaty. Extradition is a complicated area of law, requiring the expertise of an experienced and competent criminal defense attorney.

For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff immediately via telephone at (215) 563-9800 or e-mail Marc@nefflawoffices.com. We will assist you through your extradition proceedings, as well as all other aspects of your defense.

Posted On: August 28, 2008

Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds Conviction of Attempted Murder, Despite Absence of Deadly Weapon

A man convicted of attempted murder of a police officer, and aggravated assault in relation to others, recently had his convictions upheld by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Edmond Jackson was convicted on charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault, stemming from a shooting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2004. Police officers were investigating a shooting which had occurred earlier in the day of the incident, when Jackson and others approached the officers and the people they were questioning. Jackson and the other men were armed and began shooting at the officers and civilians. In total, between 50 and 80 shots were fired by the defendant and his associates; police returned fire.

One detective took notice of the defendant Jackson, particularly the shirt he was wearing. When the shooting ceased, the gunmen dispersed and immediately, the officer began chasing Jackson. Jackson, at one point, turned towards the detective and raised his arm as if he was carrying a firearm. The detective fired a single shot, missing Jackson, from which Jackson subsequently surrendered. Jackson did not possess a firearm when searched.

Jackson appealed his conviction on two issues; the first relating to the attempted murder charge and the second to the counts of aggravated assault. Jackson argued that since he did not possess a firearm when he raised his arm to the officer, he could not be found guilty of attempted murder because the offense is defined in part as “[taking] a substantial step toward the commission of a killing, with the specific intent in mind to commit such an act”. Jackson disputed the attempted murder charges since he did not have a weapon. The Superior Court examined the issue and determined that the test for what constitutes a substantial step focuses on the acts the defendant completed, not the steps remaining to complete the act. The Court therefore ruled that as the fact-finder, the trial court reasonably found that Jackson took a substantial step towards intentionally killing the detective; based on his having a firearm earlier, firing the weapon at his intended victim, and then raising his arm towards the detective while fleeing the scene.

Felony Crimes

Felony offenses are the most serious crimes and carry potential prison sentences of over one year if convicted. In Pennsylvania, violent crimes committed while visibly possessing a firearm carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 5-years in prison if convicted. Other circumstances can increase the sentence.

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: August 20, 2008

Pennsylvania Man Given Permission to Enter ARD Program, Despite Being Convicted of a Prior Felony Which was Expunged

A recent Pennsylvania Superior Court decision upheld a ruling by the Court of Common Please, York County, allowing a defendant with a prior felony conviction to enter an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program; following his arrest for Driving Under the Influence. Brian Fleming was arrested and charged with two counts of Driving Under the Influence and a summary traffic offense in March of 2007. He applied for acceptance into the ARD program, which is a program for first-time offenders who would like to avoid the lengthy process of a trial and accept some alternate consequences. On the application for ARD, one of the questions asks whether the defendant has a record of any crime committed, juvenile or adult, which would result in the application being rejected. Fleming answered the question honestly, stating that he had a prior felony drug conviction in the state of Maryland in 1998, which was immediately expunged from his criminal record.

Upon conducting a criminal background search of Fleming, the Commonwealth discovered the felony conviction on his record. Fleming was therefore rejected as a candidate for ARD. Fleming, who truthfully believed the conviction had been expunged, immediately contacted Maryland authorities who issued an immediate order to expunge his record. He then appealed the rejection of his ARD application, and the Court of Common Pleas, York County, ordered his acceptance into the program; to which the Commonwealth promptly appealed to the Superior Court.

The Superior Court determined that Fleming answered the question on his ARD application truthfully, and based on the resulting facts, ruled that the felony conviction should have been expunged at the time he applied for ARD; the order was issued as soon as Fleming discovered it had not already been expunged, as he believed. The Court took into consideration Maryland State law regarding expunction and determined that the expunged conviction was a “prohibited consideration” for the district attorney in rejecting Fleming’s application. The Court ruled that the district attorney’s office may keep a list of people who have participated in an ARD program, for the purpose of ensuring that a defendant can not enter the program more than once; however a prosecutor may not consider a defendant as a recidivist offender when the previous conviction has been expunged.

Expunction

Expunction is the process of obtaining a court order which directs law enforcement agencies to destroy criminal records. There are certain criteria which must be met in order to do so. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands the process of expunction and will take the steps necessary to help clear your record.

If you have been arrested and you would like the arrest information expunged from your criminal record, or if you are currently charged with an offense, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. For a confidential consultation, and to determine the best course of action for your situation, contact our office via phone at (215) 563-9800, or via e-mail at Marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: August 18, 2008

Recorded Phone Conversation Ruled Inadmissible in Pennsylvania Sex Abuse Case

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently upheld a Trial Court’s decision that a taped phone conversation between a child and her alleged abuser was inadmissible at trial. David Deck, a resident of Cumberland County, was charged with statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, and sexual abuse of children, when the child accusing Deck of the abuse gave police a tape-recorded phone conversation between the two parties.

Deck was living with his girlfriend and her minor daughter, who claimed that Deck was sexually abusing her. The child, attempting to obtain proof of the alleged abuse, phoned Deck while he was at his office and told him that he was on speakerphone. She did not mention, however, that she was recording the conversation on an answering machine tape. She then gave the taped conversation to police who later arrested and charged Deck with the crimes.

At Deck’s suppression hearing, the trial court ruled that the tape could not be admitted as evidence since Deck had not consented to the recording. The Commonwealth appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court who upheld the trial court’s ruling. The Court strictly interpreted the Wiretap Act, noting that state law could provide for greater, but not lesser, protection than the Federal Wiretap Act. The relevant sections of the Act define the crime of wiretapping, oral communication, wire communication, and aural transfer. The Commonwealth argued that the conversation between the parties was an oral transfer, which by statute, requires the party injured to have had a reasonable expectation of privacy during the conversation, in order to suppress; Deck’s office door was open during the phone conversation, thereby reducing his potential claim for reasonable expectation of privacy. However, the Court determined that the phone conversation was defined as a wire transfer, not requiring a reasonable expectation of privacy but rather consent. Since Deck never consented to the recording, the Court upheld the decision to suppress the recording at his trial.

Suppression of Evidence

In a criminal trial, the burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. There are rules regarding evidence, both State and Federal, which govern what evidence is admissible. Often, some or all of the evidence the prosecution wishes to use was obtained illegally, either by police or third party. An experienced criminal defense attorney is an expert in the field of evidence. Upon reviewing a defendant’s case, a criminal defense attorney will determine if some of the evidence can and should be suppressed, and will take the appropriate actions.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff via phone at (215) 563-9800 or e-mail Marc@nefflawoffices.com for a confidential consultation.

Posted On: August 15, 2008

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling Requires More than Police Experience to Constitute Probable Cause to Search Following a Perceived Drug Deal

A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania man, who was arrested outside of a bar when patrolling police officers witnessed what they perceived to be a drug deal, has had his conviction overturned by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Philadelphia Police were driving by when they observed the defendant exit the bar and approach a man who had been standing out front. The officers, experienced members of the Narcotics Field Unit, parked their vehicle and observed the defendant engage in conversation with the man. The officers saw the defendant hand the man currency with his left hand and receive some object(s) with his right, which he then placed in his pants pocket. The defendant then walked to a vehicle and entered the passenger side. The officers approached the vehicle and ordered the defendant to exit. Upon searching the defendant, the officers discovered two containers of crack-cocaine and arrested the defendant.

The defendant appealed his conviction to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. The defendant based his appeal on the premise that the evidence against him should have been suppressed. The Superior Court held that despite the totality of the circumstances present in this case (specifically the extent of the officers’ knowledge and experience, the area in which the crime occurred, etc.), the Court’s hands were tied based on a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Commonwealth v. Dunlap. In Dunlap, the facts were similar to those in this case, and the Supreme Court ruled that police observation of a single transaction was not enough to constitute probable cause to search a suspected drug-dealer; since there was only one transaction observed, the object transferred could not be assumed to be illegal contraband.

Drug Possession and Delivery

Delivery of a controlled substance is a crime which carries harsh penalties. Depending on the quantity of controlled substance you are found to possess, you may even be charged with intent to deliver or drug trafficking. For example, possessing between 2 and 10 grams of crack-cocaine with intent to traffic carries a minimum penalty of 1 year in prison for a first offense, and 3 years for subsequent offenses. Larger quantities mandate longer minimum sentences as well.

Drug offenses are serious matters which involve serious penalties. If you have been charged with a drug offense, there are many defenses which may be available, including challenging the constitutionality of a police search. Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately, so that your situation can be assessed and a defense to your charges can be developed.

Posted On: August 13, 2008

Charges Filed in International Credit Card Fraud Ring

The United States Department of Justice has charged eleven people in connection with an international credit card fraud ring; three U.S. citizens, including an informant for the United States Secret Service, and the rest citizens of Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, and China. This hacking and identity theft case is said to be the largest of its kind to ever be prosecuted by the Department of Justice. The defendants allegedly hacked into the wireless computer networks of TJX Cos., BJ’s Wholesale Club, Office Max, Boston Market, Barnes and Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21, and DSW, where they would set up programs to capture and save customer credit and debit card numbers.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that the total dollar amount of the theft is “impossible to quantify at this point.” However, authorities have discovered two servers in the Ukraine and Latvia where 25 million and 16 million card numbers were stored, respectively. The data breach was initially discovered and disclosed by TJX in January of 2007, but it is believed that the fraud began in July of 2005. Visa and MasterCard have pledged support of nearly $65 million combined to help cover losses to banks and retailers due to the fraud.

According to the indictment, the ring operated mostly in Eastern Europe, the Philippines, China, and Thailand, with the alleged foreign conspirators remaining outside the United States. One of the U.S. citizens involved was an informant for the United States Secret Service, who would help uncover similar scams; however it is now known that the informant was likely divulging information to other criminals as well. The informant, Albert “Segvec” Gonzalez of Miami, is alleged to be the ringleader of the credit card fraud ring, and has been charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy. He remains in custody in New York, facing life imprisonment if convicted on all the charges. Extradition proceedings have begun in the cases of the foreign conspirators allegedly involved in the ring; some of whom are already in custody abroad for other offenses. Some of the alleged participants remain at large.

International Criminal Law and Extradition

Extradition is the official process by which one nation or state requests and obtains from another nation or state the surrender of a suspected or convicted criminal. Extradition between nations is governed by treaties, and varies between nations. In general, a nation requesting extradition must show that the relevant crime is sufficiently serious, there is a good case against the individual sought, the event in question constitutes a crime in both countries, a reasonable expectation of fair trial exists in the requesting country, and that the likely penalty will be proportionate to the crime.

The Law Offices of Marc Neff has extensive experience in dealing with these types of matters. We retain experts in the fields of immigration and international law, as well as certified interpreters in nearly every language and dialect. For a confidential consultation, contact Marc Neff via phone at (215) 563-9800 or via email at Marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: August 11, 2008

Scientist Believed to be Responsible for Anthrax Terror was Tracked via DNA

Bruce Ivins, the biological weapons scientist who committed suicide last week amidst investigation relating to the 2001 anthrax terrorism, was apparently tracked by the FBI through DNA evidence. According to the Associated Press, the FBI used advanced DNA fingerprinting techniques on samples of the anthrax which was mailed to the victims in 2001, as well as DNA of the victims themselves; five people were killed after opening mail containing anthrax powder. Former Democratic leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle, was one of the intended targets of the deadly letters; fortunately, the letter was intercepted prior to its opening. Investigators tracked the strand of anthrax used to the biological weapons laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, where Ivins was in charge of overseeing the anthrax research.

Information on exactly how the FBI focused its investigation on Ivins remains a secret, as court documents are still sealed. Since Ivins’ death last week, it is likely the FBI will close its case, allowing sealed court documents to be disclosed. As of now, it is unclear how prosecutors used the DNA analysis, which narrowed the investigation to a small number of scientists, to prepare murder charges against Ivins, begin discussion of the death penalty, and potential plea deals. According to the NY Times, evidence against Ivins was likely circumstantial at best.

If court documents are unsealed, we will learn more of the advanced techniques being used by the FBI to track and prosecute suspected criminals. Questions are already being raised about the screening measures used by the United States Military to hire its scientists; most scientists are not subject to screening for lingering psychological problems.

Capital Crimes

Capital crimes, or capital offenses, are those crimes which are punishable by death. Generally, capital punishment is only associated with first-degree homicide, however it can also apply to crimes of treason, espionage, other crimes against the United States, or as part of military justice. Capital offenses are governed by both state law and federal law, depending on the crime.

If you are under investigation or have been charged with a capital offense, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Our office works closely with experts in the fields of DNA, forensic toxicologists, forensic pathologists, and others. For a confidential consultation, contact Mr. Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email Marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: August 1, 2008

New Jersey Lawmaker Resigns amid Child Pornography Investigation

New Jersey Assemblyman Neil Cohen resigned from his position on Monday, following allegations of suspected child pornography found on his computer. Colleagues of Cohen’s, who use the same legislative district office, alerted law enforcement officials last week of the alleged images found on Cohen’s computer. According to State Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, the investigation of Cohen began when a staffer in the Union office found a printed-out photo of a nude female, suspected to be in her early teens or younger.

The case has been referred to the State Attorney General’s office for investigation; Cohen has yet to be charged with a criminal offense. Cohen, a divorce lawyer, has served in the assembly for nearly 20-years. Cohen, who is regarded highly by his peers, will now have his legacy overshadowed by these allegations according to colleagues and other State officials. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine released a statement expressing his shock and disturbance by the allegations. “Child pornography reflects a horrible debasement of children that is totally intolerable. Creating, distributing and using child pornography should be pursued vigorously by law enforcement wherever it is found." said Corzine. Cohen remains in psychiatric care, and pending further investigation, will likely face criminal charges.

Child Pornography

Federal Law defines child pornography as “a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where it a) depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or b) depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Possessing, Making, and Distributing child pornography is illegal in all 50 states, including Pennsylvania, and it is an offense which carries serious legal penalties.

If you have been arrested and charged with owning, making, or distributing child pornography, the Law Offices of Marc Neff can help. There are defenses which are available to you, so do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff immediately.