Posts belonging to Category lawyers

Manslaughter charge finally dismissed against Greene County game warden

About time.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Charge dismissed in death of teen:

A judge dismissed a voluntary manslaughter charge yesterday against a game warden who shot and killed a Greene County teenager during a traffic stop in January.

Robert Orrin Ham III, the first Virginia game warden charged in a line-of-duty shooting, had pleaded not guilty in August. Game wardens are sworn law-enforcement officers authorized to make arrests.

Authorities said Ham and a deputy sheriff, responding to a report that Allen Michael Cochran had abducted his girlfriend, stopped Cochran’s car on U.S. 33 on Jan. 24. When Ham tried to remove the girl, the 16-year-old driver accelerated the car and struck Ham, who then fired into the vehicle, authorities said at the time.

Cochran’s family later disputed the claim that he had abducted his 15-year-old girlfriend, saying the two were running away together and that the shooting was unwarranted. Ham was placed on administrative duties after he was indicted by a grand jury.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronald L. Morris and defense attorney Steven Benjamin said in court yesterday that if the case had gone to trial, it would not have resulted in a conviction.

Uh, why did you get an indictment against him then? Idiot…

“There was no crime. This was a necessary, justifiable shooting,” Benjamin said after court.

Col. Mike Bise, chief of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Law Enforcement Division, said an internal investigation also found that Ham acted appropriately.

“It was an unfortunate and tragic event, but we have been confident the court would reach this decision,” Bise said.

Some more information from a prior post:

Cochran’s psychiatric history will likely take center stage as the case moves forward. Ham’s lawyers are requesting Cochran’s medical records in hopes of gaining further insight into the teen’s thinking the night of the shooting.

Court filings indicate the defense is looking for evidence that Cochran was suicidal, perhaps homicidal, when he and Ham crossed paths Jan. 24.

“It is our understanding and belief that Mr. Cochran was . . . very disturbed,” defense attorney Steven D. Benjamin said.

Two weeks before the shooting, Benjamin said, Cochran underwent a psychiatric evaluation after threatening to kill former classmates at William Monroe High School and members of his girlfriend’s family.

The night of the shooting, Ham, whose duties include law enforcement, was assisting sheriff’s deputies who were looking for Cochran in connection with the disappearance of his girlfriend, Chelsea Walker.

Authorities spotted a 1995 Chrysler with Walker in the passenger seat near the entrance to the Woodridge subdivision.

According to the defense, Ham approached the car but Cochran drove forward and struck the 24-year-old game warden, throwing him onto the hood and continuing through the intersection.

Benjamin said his client fired at Cochran only after unsuccessfully warning the teen to stop the car.

Rulings delayed in Caroline slaying case

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Rulings delayed in Caroline slaying case:

A judge postponed ruling yesterday on whether to move the retrial of a Caroline County woman convicted of killing her law-enforcement husband.

Caroline Circuit Judge Horace A. Revercomb III also delayed ruling on whether jurors could hear about a life-insurance policy that was to benefit Donna L. Blanton. The prosecution argued during Blanton’s first trial that she was in financial straits.

Blanton, 42, is scheduled to be tried again starting Nov. 29 in the October 2003 killing of her husband, Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Taylor V. Blanton.

She was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 28 years in prison during her first trial in 2005. But the Virginia Court of Appeals this year found that gender wrongly played a role in how Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Latney Jr. selected which potential jurors he did not want to hear the case.

During a pretrial hearing yesterday, Revercomb said he will first try to seat a jury, rather than ruling beforehand on the defense request to move the trial out of Caroline.

Blanton’s attorney, Mark Murphy, told the judge a defense-hired investigator conducted an informal survey of 100 county residents and found that 44 percent of them did not believe Blanton could get a fair trial in the county. He also said 90 percent of those surveyed knew Blanton had been convicted of murder and that those people also knew the retrial was granted because of a legal technicality related to the jury.

Bull. Are you saying that all 100 people that you surveyed knew who Donna Blanton was and there was a trial? I find that hard to believe when only around 25% of people in the county bother to come out to vote (6,811 or so voters in the last election, 15,345 or so registered voters, 27,000 or so people in county).

And 90% bothered to follow the trial from arraignment, trial, to appeal? Again, bull.

I’m sure I could “conduct an informal survey of 100 county residents” and get results that 90% of “county residents” have never heard of Donna Blanton!

“The prejudice against Ms. Blanton is widespread in the citizenry,” he said.

The truth is prejudice?

Murphy also said widespread media coverage, some of which he said included inaccuracies, could hinder his client’s chances of getting a fair trial in Caroline.

Eh? What inaccuracies? Please provide a list.

Latney countered that the survey was unscientific.

Alright, I agree with Latney for once…

Court officials have summoned more than 175 potential jurors for Blanton’s new trial, far more than for her first trial.

Blanton, who did not testify during her trial, told police an unidentified man broke into the couple’s home before dawn on Oct. 16, 2003, shot her 46-year-old husband in the couple’s bed while their children were at home and then fled.

She told investigators she fired at the fleeing killer, but police found no sign of a break-in or footprints on the dew-covered grass, and she quickly became a suspect.

Nice one Kiran. Stick it to Murphy!

More defense attorneys love Harvey Latney…

I wonder why…no, wait, I don’t.

Here’s the list, with a link to the complete PDF at the bottom:

Name: Law Firm Amount of Contribution Certified Court-Appointed Attorney for Caroline County?
Russell Eubank Booker Unknown $500 Yes.
Bowen, Champlin, Corr, Foreman and Rockecharlie Bowen, Champlin, Carr, Foreman and Rockecharlie $500 Yes.
Ramon Chalkley Law Office of R. E. Chalkley, III (formerly of Murphy & Strickland) $100 Yes.
Brian Grossman Crowgey & Grossman $250 No.
Harrison Hubard Hubard, Samuels, & Lewane $100 No.
George Hettrich Unknown $100 No.
Murray Janus Bremner, Janus, Cook, Marcus & Stone $100 No.
Kristie Kane Kristie L. Kane, PLC $100 Yes.
Jean Marie McKeen Tomlin & McKeen $500 Yes.
John Leo Mahoney John L Mahoney, Att-at-Law $500 Yes.
ParisBlank, LLP ParisBlank, LLP $250 No.
James F. Sumpter James F. Sumpter, PC $100 Yes.

$3,100 more from defense attorneys! You’re in fine company there Maxie!

Listen to this gem from Crowgey & [Brian] Grossman’s site:

We believe it is wrong to punish conduct which injures no one and poses no threat to society.

Unfortunately, until the law changes there will continue to be situations where otherwise innocent people find themselves ensnared in the clutches of the legal system facing potentially serious consequences. If you have fallen into such a predicament then you may need the services of an experienced lawyer to help you out of a bad situation

Apparently, this includes drug offenses, drunk driving, traffic accidents, reckless driving, and habitual offender violations according to his own website!

Some information on Murray Janus, from Virginia Business: Top Criminal Defense Lawyer:

When Janus recounts his most significant cases, he points to losses more than wins. It’s all about guts and good lawyering, even though those aren’t always enough to acquit a defendant. In the mid-70s, when the toxic chemical Kepone was dumped in the James River and virtually destroyed the Virginia seafood industry, Allied Chemical hired Janus. In the cases he tried, Allied was acquitted. Janus was champing at the bit to maintain the defense. But awash in a tsunami of bad publicity and facing a growing number of indictments, the client insisted on a plea of no contest to two charges of criminal pollution. The admission led to a $13 million fine, the highest ever awarded in an environmental case in America at the time. In the mid-80s, when the great-grandson of Reynolds Metals’ founder was charged with the violent rapes of three Richmond women, Janus was at the defense table. His client went to jail. But the case epitomized Janus’ reputation for not shying away from a reviled defendant.

Every defense attorney knows that some losses are as good as a win. In 1978, when a half-dozen elected officials were convicted of bribery-related charges and ejected from U.S. Congress in the history-making ABSCAM trials, Janus got the bagman in the case a minimal sentence of a year and a day. Not a win, but not the loss it could’ve been.

Tomlin & [Jean Marie] McKeen refers to themselves as a “DWI Law Firm”.

Oh, and by the way, Ramon Chalkley was also an attorney for Donna Blanton during her first trial and subsequent appeal.

pdficon_small PDF of the complete report.

Oh, I’m going to blush, Part 2

From The Free Lance-Star: Court opponents help support Latney’s race:

Defense attorney Ed Vaughan donated $500 to Caroline County Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Latney’s re-election campaign and plans to help Latney out of a bind in his private practice.

Vaughan was one of eight local attorneys or firms who donated to Latney’s campaign. Overall, defense attorneys gave $4,750 of the $5,000 Latney raised over the summer.

The only donor listed on the report who was not a defense attorney was Supervisor Maxie Rozell.

“Anybody who gave Harvey Latney money did so without expectation,” Vaughan said.

All of the attorneys who donated to the campaign have had at least one case in Caroline County in the last six months.

But Latney said money made no difference in how he handled the cases.

“No one is getting any special treatment just because they think I’m the best person for the job,” he said. “These are people who believe in me and believe I’ve done a great job.”

Uh, because you let their clients off?

A review of Caroline Circuit Court cases over the past six months shows a majority of those that involved donating attorneys were reduced, dropped or nol prossed (dismissed with the potential to bring the charge back at a later date).

But so were most of the cases involving attorneys who did not contribute to Latney’s campaign.

And the largest donor was Mark Murphy, who defended Donna Blanton in the slaying of her husband. Latney won a murder conviction in that case, but an appeals court ordered a new trial because of the jury selection.

Tony Spencer, a former Richmond prosecutor opposing Latney in the incumbent’s first contested election in 30 years in office, did not have any donations listed from defense attorneys on his most recent campaign finance report.

Spencer said he doesn’t think contributing attorneys got preferential treatment in Caroline. But he said the high number of dismissals and reductions in charges are a concern.

“With Mr. Latney in office, Caroline County is a defense attorney’s paradise,” he said. “If I were a defense attorney practicing in Caroline County, I’d contribute to Harvey Latney.”

A Richmond attorney who donated $250 to Latney’s election campaign said he did so because he thinks the Caroline justice system is fair and works well.

“I donated to him to maintain status quo,” said John LaFratta, who often works as a court appointed attorney in Caroline. “If I thought he gave preferential treatment, I wouldn’t practice in that court.”

The status quo that all the criminals get off?

Bill Neely, commonwealth’s attorney for neighboring Spotsylvania County, said it is not unusual for defense attorneys to donate to a prosecutor’s campaign.

“You have to raise money where you can,” Neely said.

Though Neely is unopposed this year, he said he sought funds from defense attorneys when he faced challengers in the past.

“I sent solicitations to every member of the bar,” he said.

Vaughan said he thinks the reason the majority of Latney’s campaign funds come from attorneys is because those are the people he sees regularly.

“You look for money from your friends,” Vaughan said. “And his friends happen to be defense attorneys.”

Vaughan also said he plans to give to a fund for Latney’s private law practice because, “You hope people do the right thing in the time of need.”

Latney owes clients about $300,000 for money missing from their estate accounts he was managing in his Richmond-based practice.

His secretary of 27 years, Sheila Boone, is charged with theft. Although Latney is not suspected to be at fault criminally, he is held responsible for repayment. His insurance carrier has refused to cover the loss.

Craig Cooley, a Richmond defense attorney, said he set up the fund and sent a letter soliciting donations because Latney “is not a high-income person but is a very high-integrity person.”

“He was victimized by a trusted employee,” Cooley said. “It could happen to any of us.”

Cooley also said he felt the fundraiser would have no effect on treatment in Caroline courts.

The only client Cooley has represented in Caroline Circuit Court was John Ames, who was charged with killing his neighbor in a dispute over a bull. Ames pleaded self-defense and was acquitted after a trial.

Cooley would not say how many people he sent the letter to, how many have donated or how much money has been raised.

Why not? Scared of what might come out if you released the information?

He said he doesn’t plan to try any more cases in Caroline anytime soon.

"’That’s to the point of absurdity that anybody would think that’ a campaign contribution would affect the way a case is handled."

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Wife may request outside jury for her retrial:

An attorney for Donna L. Blanton appears to be laying the groundwork to ask that a jury from outside Caroline County hear her retrial for the slaying of her husband.

Defense attorney Mark Murphy requested subpoenas be issued to about 25 television stations and newspapers, including The Times-Dispatch. The subpoenas seek copies of articles and broadcasts about the case, a common precursor to trying to persuade a judge that extensive publicity would make it difficult to seat a jury from within the locality where a crime occurred.

Murphy declined to say yesterday whether he plans to file a motion seeking either to move Blanton’s upcoming trial from Caroline or to bring in jurors from outside the county.

Donna Blanton, 42, is scheduled to be tried again starting Nov. 29 in Caroline Circuit Court for the October 2003 slaying of Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Taylor V. Blanton.

Blanton was convicted of first-degree murder in 2005 and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. But the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled in April that gender wrongly played a role in how Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Latney Jr. selected potential jurors.

Blanton, who did not testify during her trial, maintained that an unidentified man broke into the couple’s home, shot her husband in bed and fled.

She is being held at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover County.

Interesting that Mark Murphy has already contributed $1,500 to Harvey Latney’s campaign fund.

I’m absolutely certain he wasn’t thinking he would get special treatment…

John Ames’s defense attorney soliciting contributions for Harvey Latney

From Craig S. Cooley (PDF link below):

I write on behalf of our mutual friend, Harvey Latney, Jr..

As you are probably aware, a few months ago Harvey learned that his longtime trusted legal assistant had stolen funds from client accounts. These thefts occurred from an estate account, as well as his trust account, and his personal earnings. The assistant has been indicted but the disposition of the stolen funds is unknown and it appears she is unable to make any restitution.

Harvey’s malpractice insurance carrier denies coverage from theft. He will litigate that coverage question in Richmond Circuit Court, but even if he prevails, the insurance coverage is inadequate and this process is time consuming.

The client losses appear to be nearly $300,000.00. Harvey does not have the personal resources to repay these losses. Obviously, despite the fact the losses result from theft, he is ultimately responsible to his clients. Of course, he depends upon his continued professional practice for income and it now appears his ability to continue practicing law may depend on quickly repaying these client losses.

We have long known Harvey to be a man of honor and integrity and an underpaid but devoted public servant. He needs our help.

Therefore, I am asking that you consider a donation to assist in the immediate repayment of these client losses. Please send any amount you can afford, payable to “Craig S. Cooley, Trust Account” so that we can keep clear records of all contributions and document all payments made to Harvey’s clients. Please reference “Harvey Latney Client Restitution” on the memo of your check.

Thank you for your help. Please let me know of any other citizen or member of the Bar that I should contact for this purpose. With kindest personal regards, I am

Very truly yours,
Craig S. Cooley

This is the same Craig S. Cooley that represented John Ames in his first-degree murder trial. This is the same Craig Cooley that managed to secure bond for someone charged with first-degree murder. He managed to secure bond for someone that had previously been charged with attempting to run over a Virginia State Trooper! Charges that Latney nolle prossed! Why is it that Latney didn’t mind Ames being released on bond but both Donna Blanton and Thomas Monroe (both also charged with first-degree murder) were denied bond?

pdficon_smallPDF of letter (recipient’s name and address redacted).

Who do defense attorneys want as Commonwealth’s Attorney in Caroline County?

Why, Harvey Latney, of course; at least, that’s if you go by contributions to his campaign.

Latney has so far received $4,750 in campaign contributions from defense attorneys this election.

A special one to note is Mark A. Murphy (who donated $1,500), a partner of the Law Office of Murphy & Strickland, who is currently representing Donna Blanton. She is charged with the first-degree murder of her husband Taylor Blanton, a twenty-three (23) year veteran and a first sergeant of the Virginia State Police. A complete breakdown is below:

Name: Law Firm Amount of Contribution Certified Court-Appointed Attorney for Caroline County?
George Davis George H. Davis, III, P.C. $500 Yes.
John Lafratta Main Street Law Offices $250 Yes.
Steve Marks Steven M Marks, Att-at-Law $500 Yes.
Mark A. Murphy Law Office of Murphy & Strickland $1,500 No.
Robert Reibach Chucker & Reibach $500 No.
Kristina Fitzgerald The Law Office of Kristina K. Fitzgerald $500 Yes.
Ed Vaughn Ed Vaughn, Attorney at Law $500 Yes.
Woodbridge, Ventura, and Kelly Woodbridge, Ventura and Kelly, P.C. $500 Yes, Yes, Yes.

pdficon_small PDF (2.94mb) of the Campaign Finance Report for July through August.

I’m guessing the phrase “equal protection” doesn’t mean anything to you… Part 13, I’m getting sick of writing about this…

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: ‘Rational basis’ for driver law at issue:

Was the General Assembly rational when it exempted residents of other states from Virginia’s new and controversial driver-fees statute?

Obvious jokes aside, both the lawyers and the judge homed in on that issue yesterday in the Richmond Circuit Court appeal case that challenges the constitutionality of the driver law.

Judge Walter Stout heard brief arguments from Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring, who defended the law, and from lawyer N. Barton Chucker, who is representing a traffic-court defendant.

(Anyone know if Walter Stout is related to a Neil Stout of Stout, Billy, & Seli?)

The “civil remedial fees” statute is meant to generate revenue from dangerous drivers — people convicted in court of certain traffic violations ranging from drunken driving to manslaughter.

At least they’re honest, I wonder what the average speed of the legislators is on I-95. I sure hope it isn’t about 80 MPH…

Chucker argued that the law is unconstitutional on due-process grounds because it applies only to Virginia residents and exempts others who drive in the state.

But the law could pass constitutional muster if the assembly had a “rational basis” for deciding the fees would be imposed only on Virginia residents. Proponents of the law as written say the fees would be too difficult and costly to collect from people in other states.

Yesterday, Stout wondered: “Isn’t the cost of collecting from out-of-state drivers a rational basis for making the distinction [between Virginia residents and others]?”

If you’re an out-of-state driver and you fail to pay your fine (not fee) when found guilty, your license will be suspended by your state; how much does that cost?

He decided he will make his ruling later.

Herring said he shares some of Chucker’s concerns about the law. “As an officer of the court and commonwealth’s attorney, I think the statute as it stands is constitutional,” Herring said. “It could be improved.”


Chucker represents Joseph C. Fields, on whom the law would impose a $1,050 driver fee for his reckless-driving conviction in Richmond General District Court.

Judge Thomas O. Jones of Richmond General District Court convicted Fields on July 7 and fined him $100 plus court costs. Chucker appealed the automatic driver fee, which was to be paid in three equal annual installments.

At a hearing Aug. 3, Jones sided with Chucker when he ruled that the law is unconstitutional.

“For me, it’s an absolute no-brainer,” Jones said from the bench.

Apparently, not for everyone else.

Herring, noting that every commonwealth’s attorney is obligated to defend state laws in court, appealed the case.

It’s pretty ironic that he had to note that.

What a freakin’ joke…

From the AP via NBC 4 in Washington, D.C.: Former Va. ACLU President Gets 7 Years For Downloading Child Porn [emphasis mine]:

A former president of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has been sentenced to seven years in prison for downloading child pornography.

The prison term imposed on Charles Rust-Tierney, 52, of Arlington, is one year less than the minimum sentence suggested under federal sentencing guidelines. But it’s more than the five-year term requested by defense attorneys. Rust-Tierney also received 10 years of supervised release following his prison term.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III gave Rust-Tierney credit for what he said was “an otherwise exemplary life” that included decades of service as a public defender in the District of Columbia representing the mentally ill. Several dozen people wrote letters to Ellis on Rust-Tierney’s behalf, and more than 20 people attended Friday’s hearing in support of him.


According to court documents, Rust-Tierney started accessing child pornography online as early as June 2004. He used his home computer to access child pornography Web sites at least five times between March 2005 and October 2006. In a two-week period in January 2006, he accessed more than 850 digital images and videos of child pornography from one Web site. About 560 images and 137 videos of child pornography were found on computers and digital media taken from Rust-Tierney’s home.

Ellis said Friday that the pornography downloaded by Rust-Tierney “was of the most abhorrent kind,” including torture and sexual assaults on children as young as 6.


Prosecutor Edward McAndrew urged Ellis to impose an eight-year sentence, in line with federal sentencing guidelines. He suggested in court papers that many of Rust-Tierney’s supporters would be less likely to stand with him had they actually seen the type of pornography that Rust-Tierney was receiving.

“The children of this country are at maximum peril when their guardians exploit them,” McAndrew said.

More details from The Washington Post: Va.’s Ex-ACLU Chief Gets 7 Years for Child Porn [again, emphasis mine]:

A former Arlington County youth sports coach and civil rights lawyer who once headed Virginia’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter was sentenced today to seven years in federal prison for buying child pornography that prosecutors labeled sadistic and masochistic.

Charles Rust-Tierney, 51, pleaded guilty in June to downloading hundreds of pornographic images of children as young as 4. Authorities said Rust-Tierney used a computer in his 11-year-old son’s bedroom to view the files, which included a six-minute video that depicted sexual torture of children, set to a song by the rock band Nine Inch Nails.


Authorities said Rust-Tierney used his home computer to purchase Internet access to commercial child pornography Web sites at least five times between March 2005 and October 2006, spending about $420. During one two-week span, he accessed more than 850 digital image and video files of child pornography on one site. Many of these files showed children under the age of 12 being forced to engage in sexual acts with adult males, authorities said.

Rust-Tierney has been in jail since his arrest.

A federal magistrate who declined to release him in March described the images she viewed as “the most perverted and nauseating and sickening type of child pornography” she had seen in 10 years on the bench.

Ellis also refused to release Rust-Tierney, saying he posed “a serious risk of harm to the community.” The judge added that “the term ‘child pornography’ does not convey the depravity” of the images that were downloaded.

Yet, more details, from WUSA 9 in Washington, D.C.: Youth Coach In Court On Child Porn Charges [again, emphasis mine]:

They say Rust-Tierney had video showing, among other things, the sexual torture of infants and toddlers. The judge said she’d never heard of child pornography that vile and said because of that, Rust-Tierney would stay behind bars until his trial.

And finally, from Bill O’Reilly (whom I can’t stand to watch or listen to): A Journalistic Cover-up [again, emphasis mine]:

Tierney apparently told the feds that he paid for the child porn using a Paypal account and then downloaded images of prepubescent girls being violently raped onto CD-Rom disks, which the authorities seized in his home.

One of the images Tierney was in possession of showed a little girl tied up and screaming while being violently raped.

And you have no control over what you do?

From WUSA 9 in Washington, D.C.: Arlington Prosecutor: Movie Theater Pressured Me Into Action:

Arlington County’s top prosecutor says a movie theater chain pressured him into going after a woman who admits she recorded 20 seconds of the “Transformers” movie. Richard Trodden tells the blog “Threat Level” that Regal Theatrer [sic] Group urged him to go after 19-year-old Jhannet Sejas.

Sejas was arrested last month at the Regal Theater at the Ballston Common Mall in Arlington. She admits she recorded 20 seconds of the “Transformers” movie with her camera. Sejas says she wanted to show her younger brother a small part of the movie.

Trodden says Regal wanted to make an example out of Sejas. Talking with the blog Threat Level, he says Regal “wanted to make sure the message gets out… This was kind of trying to address the concerns of the theatre people, and the fact that it was not an outrageous crime.” He pursued charges of filming a potion picture in a movie house against Sejas. She pleaded guilty. Trodden stresses that Sejas broke the law, but says “it was not an egregious case.”

As part of a plea deal, Sejas will have the conviction removed from her record within a year, provided she has no more run-ins with the law.

Regal Cinemas did not respond to Threat Level’s requests for comment.

Too bad no one is running against this idiot.

Are you elected by the people of Arlington or Regal Entertainment Group? The last time I checked it was the people of Arlington.

Makes me wonder if you received a political donation from Regal…