Category Archives: Local Legal News

Drunk Driving Scandal In West Bloomfield

According to Detroit’s Channel 4 News a drunk driving scandal has surfaced involving West Bloomfield Township supervisor Michele Economou Ureste and her husband.

The supervisor’s husband was pulled over in mid-August for a suspected DUI.  He failed a breath test but was not ticketed or arrested.  Instead the officer on scene put the couple in his police car and drove them home.  He has claimed he was worried about how an arrest may have a negative impact on an upcoming millage in the town.

Other township leaders are upset by what they call an abuse of power used by the Supervisor.

Ironically the officer who pulled over Ureste’s husband is the same officer who arrested Jalen Rose, a local celebrity who received 20 days in jail for his DUI.

It is important for everyone who drinks and drives to be held responsible for their actions regardless of who they are.  Instances like this may tarnish the police’s authority and support backlash against strict drunk driving laws in the state and Oakland County.

To read channel 4’s coverage of this story click here

Read the Detroit Free Press coverage here

If you have questions about a drunk driving charge in Oakland County contact Daniel Ambrose at 248-624-5500 or visit our website at www.ambroseduiattorney.com

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What’s Next For Marijuana Dispensaries?

Authority figures seemingly love to use the word “pot” rather than marijuana because to them it signifies something dirty, something dangerous. A drug that belongs in the gutters of society and at the centerpiece of shady drug deals, not in the hands of patients with debilitating illnesses who find relief in the leafy, green plant. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was happy to use the marijuana alternate a day after medical marijuana dispensaries were declared illegal by the state Court of Appeals. “These pot shops need to be closed down,” he proclaimed. “This ruling is a huge victory for public safety and Michigan communities struggling with an invasion of pot shops near their schools, homes and churches.”

Law enforcement will be given the ‘tools’ they need in order to start closing down the 400-500 marijuana clinics throughout Michigan, Schuette said. “Nobody voted to have pot shops across from schools and churches,” he went on to say. “The court of appeals unanimously cleared the air that these dispensaries, these pot shops – really drug houses – are not legal.”

So where does this leave the hundreds of people who have invested everything they have into opening a new dispensary? What about the 100,000 or so people with state-issued medical marijuana cards that rely on dispensaries for their medicine?

Fortunately, in some areas, a county-wide eviction and complete termination of all dispensaries is not that simple. City officials have drafted ordinances to license dispensaries that allowed them to operate, giving them the impression that they were doing so legally. This creates somewhat of a sticky situation, as county prosecutors don’t want to hang medical marijuana patients out to dry when they were under the impression that they were creating a legal business relationship with their local dispensary.

Additionally, some lawyers think that the ruling is merely political. Dispensaries could remain open for business regardless of the court’s ruling, according to Royal Oak Attorney James Rasor. He believes that the Court of Appeals “kind of missed the point”, and that the ruling “does nothing but impermissibly infringe on the rights of the voters.”

What happens in the weeks ahead will go a long way in defining what kind of future medical marijuana will have in the state of Michigan. It’s hard to see the logic in sending ill patients to the streets and stranger’s homes to get their medicine.

If you have been charged with a crime related to medical marijuana contact Daniel Ambrose 248-808-3130 or  at www.marijuanlawyermichigan.com

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Headlines In This Week’s Legal News

Father Who Drowned Toddlers Sentenced To Life In Prison

Mother Found Guilty Of Murdering Infant In Microwave

Couple Arraigned on Murder Charges In Death of 4-year-old Boy

Police Get Tips on “Mad Hatter” Thieves

If you have a question about a legal matter contact Ambrose Law Group at (248) 624-5500

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West Bloomfield Police Officer Charged In Traffic Ticket Scheme

From macombdaily.com

A West Bloomfield police officer is denying his role in a scheme to fix tickets for $2,000.

Officer Jeffrey Pindzia, 38, was led into court Tuesday wearing dress clothes and handcuffs for an arraignment before 48th District Court Judge Diane D’Agostini in Bloomfield Township. Also in the courtroom was his co-defendant, 31-year-old Rudi Gammo, wearing a blue jail house jumpsuit.

Pindzia was charged with a common law offense and conspiracy to commit a common law offense, Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said.

Gammo, a convicted felon who was discharged from probation in May 2010, was charged with conspiracy to commit a common law offense.

Read the full story here

 

Holly@ambroselawgroup.com

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Michigan Town Torn Over 20-year-old Facing 20 years in Jail For Child Pornography

From the nytimes.com

MUSKEGON, Mich. — People in this economically pressed town near Lake Michigan are divided into two camps: Those who think Evan Emory should pay hard for what he did, and those who think he should be let off easy.

Mr. Emory, 21, an aspiring singer and songwriter, became a household name here last month when he edited a video to make it appear that elementary school children in a local classroom were listening to him sing a song with graphic sexual lyrics. He then showed the video in a nightclub and posted it on YouTube.

Tony Tague, the Muskegon County prosecutor, stands firmly in the first camp: He charged Mr. Emory with manufacturing and distributing child pornography, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and 25 years on the sex offender registry.

“It is a serious, a huge violation,” said Charles Willick, whose 6-year-old daughter was one of the students, all readily identifiable, in the video. “He crossed the line when he used children.”

Mr. Emory, who had gotten permission to sing songs like “Lunchlady Land” for the first graders, waited until the students left for the day and then recorded new, sexually explicit lyrics, miming gestures to accompany them. He then edited the video to make it seem as if the children were listening to the sexual lyrics and making faces in response.

Mr. Emory’s supporters, including the almost 3,000 people who have “liked” the “Free Evan Emory” page on Facebook, say the charge is a vast overreaction to a prank gone astray, and a threat to free expression.

“I think they’re making a very huge deal out of it ,and it’s really not that big of a deal,” said Holly Hawkins, 27, a waitress at the Holiday Inn downtown. “None of the kids were harmed in any way.”

Legal experts say the case — and the strong reactions it has drawn from places as far as Ireland and Australia— underscores the still evolving nature of the law when it comes to defining child pornography in the age of Facebook, YouTube and sexting.

The Supreme Court has ruled that child pornography is not subject to the same First Amendment protections as adult pornography, since it is assumed that the child is being abused.

But with the rise of technology, said Carissa B. Hessick, an associate professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State and an expert on child pornography and criminal sentencing, “now we have situations where people are being arrested and charged” in connection with digitally altered images, where no child was abused.

There remains much uncertainty about how the law should be applied in such cases, she said. But because most defendants take plea bargains instead of going to trial, the courts are often deprived of the opportunity to sort it out.

Mr. Tague argues that the state statute covers not only filming a child in a sexual activity but also making it appear that a child is engaging in that activity. But Ms. Hessick questioned whether the Michigan law could be applied in Mr. Emory’s case or “whether they’ve overcharged him.”

Even the Muskegon County sheriff, Dean Roesler, whose deputies arrested Mr. Emory after parents complained about the video, acknowledged that the case represented uncharted territory. While he found the video alarming and offensive, Sheriff Roesler said, “I realize the Internet is just a whole new arena that we’re learning to deal with in law enforcement, and actual legislation is having a hard time keeping up.”

Mr. Emory said the idea for the video arose out of planning for a Valentine’s Day variety show at a downtown club. He wrote the explicit song when he was 16, he said, and had played it in bars before. But for the variety show he wanted to pair it with “an inappropriate audience” as a comedy segment. He thought of using elderly people, he said, but decided instead on young children.

He has admitted that he deceived the teachers at Beechnau Elementary School, in the small farming community of Ravenna, about his intentions. Mr. Emory included a disclaimer with the video, saying that no children had actually been exposed to the sexual lyrics. He said that his friends — fans of Daniel Tosh and other edgy comedians on the Internet and cable television — all thought the video was hilarious when they saw it at the local nightclub or on YouTube. (It has since been removed.)

But the hilarity vanished when sheriff’s deputies showed up at Mr. Emory’s house and seized his computer and his iPhone.

He realized “they were looking for things that a pedophile would have,” Mr. Emory said recently during an interview in his lawyer’s office, and it horrified him. He cried several times during the interview. During the night he spent in jail, he said, “I just thought about how much I regretted this and how funny it wasn’t anymore.”

Since his arrest, he has been suspended from his job as a waiter at Applebee’s, he said. The court expenses have forced his father, a power plant insulator who was laid off in November, to go out of state to find work.

And Mr. Emory, who has no criminal record, said he worried that people who did not know him would think he was a child pornographer. While out on bond, he is restricted from having contact with children or performing music.

In an interview with the local NBC affiliate shortly before his arrest, Mr. Emory, asked if he regretted making the video, said, “I guess we’ll see how many views it gets on the Internet.”

The acrimony over the case has been heightened in a small town where relationships often stretch back decades. Mr. Emory attended Beechnau Elementary and has known some of the teachers there all of his life, augmenting feelings of betrayal and loss of trust.

Joyce Emory, Mr. Emory’s mother, worries about running into people she knows and has hardly left the house for weeks, except to go to her job as a pharmacy technician. After her son’s arraignment, she said, their car was followed by angry parents who yelled and took pictures with cellphones.

“I see their side, but they have to see my side, too,” she said, adding about her son, “The kids, they just don’t think.”

The parents of children in the video have also been singled out — one mother received harassing calls and messages on her Facebook page from people angry about the charges against Mr. Emory.

Terry J. Nolan, Mr. Emory’s lawyer, and Mr. Tague, the prosecutor, have a unique connection: In 2002, Mr. Tague’s office prosecuted Mr. Nolan for possession of cocaine, sending him to the county jail for six months — an experience that Mr. Nolan, who regained his license in 2009, said has helped him empathize with clients like Mr. Emory.

“He’s a beautiful kid,” Mr. Nolan said. “He’s got a great spirit.”

The fact that the sheriff’s office found no evidence of child pornography in Mr. Emory’s home or computer is helping to nourish the seed of compromise.

Mr. Tague defends his original charge but says he wants to resolve the case in a way “that will send a message that this is wrong but will not ruin the young man’s life.”

One path under discussion, Mr. Nolan said, would be for Mr. Emory to plead to a lesser charge, receiving some jail time, probation and community service. He would not have to register as a sex offender. But any deal would need approval from a judge. A hearing is set for next Monday, Mr. Nolan said.

Mr. Willick and other parents said they were happy that Mr. Tague took an aggressive stand, if only to help keep it from happening again.

But the anger is far from gone.

“Does 20 years fit the crime? No,” said Dan Peebles, one of the parents. But, he added, “Would I care if he got 20 years? No.”

Correction: March 8, 2011

A previous version of this article misstated the timing of an interview Evan Emory gave to an NBC affiliate; it was before his arrest, not after. It also missated where Terry J. Nolan served time for possession of cocaine in 2002; it was county jail, not prison.

What do you think? Are the charges too harsh? Should he face time on the sex offender list?

Holly@ambroselawgroup.com

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Detroit’s Project 14

From detnews.com

Officers may buy a residence for $1,000, get up to $150,000 in federal rehab grants

Leonard N. Fleming / The Detroit News

Detroit —Mayor Dave Bing says he’s so serious about wanting to make Detroit more attractive, livable and safe, he’s practically giving away homes to lure police officers back to the city.

Bing unveiled an unprecedented plan Monday to offer 200 tax-foreclosed homes in the East English Village and Boston-Edison neighborhoods to officers. The plan calls for officers to pay up to $1,000 for the homes while receiving as much as $150,000 apiece in grants to rehabilitate them.

Backed by federal funds, the “Project 14” plan could be a model for the nation, Bing said. The proposal’s name refers to police code for “back to normal.”

“Detroiters want to live in safe, stable neighborhoods, and they deserve no less,” Bing said. “This is just step one of many things that we think we’re going to have to involve ourselves in as we bring our city back.”

The project appeals to Detroit Police Officer William Booker-Riggs, who left the city nine months ago with his 11-year-old daughter for Southfield and wasn’t intent on moving back until the mayor announced the plan.

Now the 37-year-old single father said he’s eyeing everything from “three-bedroom bungalows to mini-mansions.” His daughter has already “asked for three bedrooms for herself.”

“I’m very excited,” Booker-Riggs said at a news conference Monday in City Hall as Bing unveiled the plan.

“It was more so the mayor’s vision to bring the city back. It was a vision of his staff, and I just wanted to be a part of it.”

Bing was flanked by police brass and uniformed officers as he outlined the plan. Bing said officers “living in neighborhoods have the potential to deter crime, increase public safety and improve relations between the community and our sworn officers.”

Bing is using $30 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds for the program that intends to cut crime and stabilize a city that has lost half its population since it peaked at 1.8 million in 1950. The city plans to release a list of the available homes Friday, and Bing said the plan won’t cost city taxpayers anything.

It follows a decade of abandonment by police officers since the state Legislature banned residency laws requiring officers to live in cities that employ them. At least 53 percent of Detroit’s 3,000 police officers live in the suburbs, and Bing said the percentage is higher for firefighters.

The program is centered on the two neighborhoods, but the city also could offer houses in others, city officials said. The program could eventually expand to include firefighters and provide financial relief to officers who remain in the city once more federal funds are secured, city officials said.

Bing said Boston-Edison and East English Village were chosen because of their stability, high-performing schools, variety of churches, open space and recreation centers.

‘The right direction’

The program is encouraging to Trallis Bailey, 54, who lives on Atkinson Street in Boston-Edison near at least six vacant homes.

But he said it needs to start soon because thieves are stripping the boarded-up houses “and there’s not going to be anything to move those police in.”

“It’s a start in the right direction,” said Bailey, whose sister is a police officer who lives in the city. “I think it will help the quality of life.”

William Barlage, the president of the East English Village Neighborhood Association, said residents “are all very excited about the potential” of police officers moving into the neighborhood with an active block club, street watch, good schools and private security patrol.

“For our area, it’s nice to have a police officer on the block,” said Barlage, who added that 5 percent to 7 percent of the neighborhood’s 2,100 homes are abandoned. “You’ll deter a lot of crime and everything else if you have people on the block in terms of houses being filled again.”

The city is partnering with the Detroit Land Bank Authority, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Michigan State Housing and Urban Development Authority, the Michigan Housing Trust and other private interests. The program includes safeguards that would require police to repay money for the house if they sell it to someone other than a police officer.

Bing said one major benefit is job creation because of the rehabilitation needs of the homes. The officers also will be able to pick out the carpet and cabinets and receive new appliances, administration officials said.

Specifics were not released, including how many officers have expressed interest or the names of other neighborhoods being considered for the plan.

Police Chief Ralph Godbee, who along with the majority of the command staff lives in the city, predicted the program would be a success.

Success expected

“Our residents have told us loud and clear about the challenges that their neighborhoods face as more homes have become vacant and abandoned, threatening the stability and safety of our community,” Godbee said. “What we’re looking for is moving back to some normalcy in police-community relations.”

Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said he “applauds the mayor’s vision” and believes the program is a “step in the right direction” to turning around Detroit.

“I support anything that can be used as a way to get people to come back to the city,” Cockrel said. “I do think that we can’t lose sight of the fact that the ultimate incentive to get people to come to Detroit and to stay in Detroit is to fix a lot of the issues that are wrong with the city. It’s to improve public safety, it’s to have streetlights which work and are on, it’s to have streets which are clean and safe.”

Do you think this plan could help make Detroit a safer place to live? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Holly@ambroselawgroup.com

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