Entries in Conviction (8)


Court Frees Rapist, Rules Only Married Women Protected by Law

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A California appeals court overturned the rape conviction of a man accused of pretending to be a woman's boyfriend when he snuck into her bedroom and had sex with her, concluding that the law doesn't protect unmarried women in such cases.

Citing an obscure state law from 1872, the panel ruled that an impersonator who tricks someone into having sex with him can only be found guilty of rape if he is pretending to be a married woman's husband.

"Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes," Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr. wrote in the court's decision.


The court found that the woman consented, even though she was tricked. Had she been married the law defines such a deception as rape, but as an unmarried woman it does not.

The court ruled unanimously, if reluctantly, and sent the case back for retrial.

"We reluctantly hold that a person who accomplishes sexual intercourse by impersonating someone other than a married victim's spouse is not guilty of the crime of rape of an unconscious person," Willhite wrote.

Julio Morales was accused of raping an 18-year-old woman in February 2009, after the woman, Morales, and her boyfriend attended a party together where they were drinking. After coming home together Morales allegedly snuck into the woman's room while she was sleeping and had sex with her.

It was not until a beam of light from a window illuminated his face, that the woman realized she was not having sex with her boyfriend, but with Morales, according to prosecutors.

He was sentenced to three years in a state prison.

The three justices found that prosecutors advanced two theories at the time of trial. One was the impersonator theory, which the appeals court threw out. But prosecutors also suggested Morales raped a sleeping woman. When the case is retried, prosecutors will have to rely only on that theory, the court found.

The panel implied that their hands were tied given the law and implored California lawmakers to "correct the incongruity that exists when a man may commit rape … when impersonating a husband, but not when impersonating a boyfriend."

Justice Willhite said the California law had not been consistently applied. A similar law led to an acquittal in Iowa in 2010. That state's legislature amended the law to cover all women last year.

Reached by ABC News, Morales' lawyer Ed Schulman declined to comment.

Calls to the California Attorney General's Office were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Drew Peterson Jury Says Hearsay Convinced Them to Convict

Giovanni Rufino/NBC NewsWire(JOLIET, Ill.) -- Eleven members of the Drew Peterson jury were convinced by the end of the first day of deliberations that the former cop had murdered his wife, despite the absence of physical evidence or eyewitnesses tying him to the crime.

According to Eduardo Saldana, the foreman of the Joliet, Ill., jury that convicted Peterson on Thursday of first-degree murder, the group quickly coalesced around the idea that Kathleen Savio was murdered.

"When the deliberations began, we first talked about what the doctors had to say, and we pretty much all agreed that it was a homicide. We did not think the death was accidental. After that it was just getting things right," Saldana, 22, told reporters at a juror press conference Friday.

The case revolved around the fact the Savio's 2004 death was initially categorized as accidental after she was found dead in her bathtub. It was only in 2007, when Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, mysteriously disappeared, that police exhumed Savio's body and reexamined it. Forensic experts changed their findings to death by homicide and police charged Peterson. He has not been charged in the case of Stacy, who is still missing.

Juror Teresa Mathews said that the jury had their own theories about how Peterson might have killed Savio, though they said they would never know for sure.

"We have some theories about how it could have happened. She was grabbed from behind, and could have possibly stuck her head [on the] bathroom sink and got that big gash on the back of her head," Mathews said.

The jurors said that the most convincing testimony was hearsay statements allowed into evidence under a new law, known as "Drew's Law," named after Peterson. Prosecutors successfully fought to have statements made by Stacy Peterson and Savio to acquaintances admitted into evidence.

Drew and Stacy Peterson had begun dating and were living together at the time of Savio's death in 2004, while Savio and Drew were divorcing. Stacy made statements to her pastor and, later, to a divorce attorney about Drew's behavior the weekend Savio died.

It was the testimony of Stacy Peterson's pastor, Rev. Neil Schori, and her divorce attorney, Harry Smith, that was most important to the jury, Saldana said. Stacy Peterson told Schori that she woke up in the middle of the night and could not find Drew, and that he later showed up near the washing machine in their home, with women's clothing.

"When Stacy couldn't find him, and he showed up by the washing machine with women's clothing and told her she was going to be interviewed by police, that was kind of key evidence," Mathews said.

"One thing Drew said when he was going up the stairs [that night] was, 'they're going to think I did it.' That kind of confirmed it for us," Saldana added.

"The hearsay was the biggest part about this," Saldana said. "Neil Schori opened things up, but the lawyer's testimony was the thing that got us the most."

Saldana also said that the jury was distrustful of the police officers who initially investigated Savio's death and ruled that it was an accident. Drew Peterson was a Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant at the time of Savio's death.

"We thought any death should be investigated fully, that they should take their time. From the testimony, it was 10, 20 minutes that [the death investigator] was at the scene before he left, and we felt that was really wrong," Saldana said.

Mathews said that when the jury first began deliberations, seven people were convinced of Peterson's guilt, four jurors thought he was not guilty, and one was undecided. They said the disagreements mainly revolved around how to treat the hearsay statements. The group then asked the judge to have the hearsay testimony reread to them.

Mathews also took credit for the jurors' decision to wear coordinated outfits for much of the trial.

"There was no message. Just one day I said, 'hey do you want to wear blue tomorrow?'" Mathews said, laughing. "We spent a lot of time together and got along well, and we spent more time in the jury room than the court room, so we just would talk about what we wanted to wear and got the judge's all clear."

"We were bored," Saldana added.

The jury reached their guilty verdict after two days of deliberations, following six weeks of testimony in the case against the former Illinois cop.

A third juror, Jeremy Massduy, also appeared at the press conference. He said that jurors had some knowledge of the Stacy Peterson case, even though lawyers were barred from mentioning it during the trial.

"We judged (him) based on evidence presented during case," Massduy said.

One alternate juror, Patricia Timkey, attended the conference. She said that if she had been in the deliberation room, she would have voted to convict Peterson as well.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Missing Defendant in Texas Gang Rape Case Found Guilty

Comstock/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND, Texas) -- A defendant who vanished from his Texas gang rape trial has been found guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Eric McGowen was not present for his conviction Thursday. He took off during a court break on Wednesday and the Liberty County Sheriff's Office told ABC News Thursday that they are still looking for him.

McGowen was out of jail on bond during the trial, but after his disappearance Judge Mark Morefield issued an arrest warrant for him and increased the bond from $35,000 to $250,000. Testimony continued without him.

The Liberty County Sheriff's Office told ABC News Thursday that they still have not found McGowen.

McGowen, 20, and 13 other adults are accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting an 11-year-old Texas girl over a three-month period in 2010. Six juvenile suspects have also been charged.

McGowen was the first defendant to face trial in a Liberty County court.

McGowen disappeared from the courthouse after a tearful testimony from the now-13-year-old victim. Her testimony included the showing of a graphic video of one of the assaults, according to KTRK.

The alleged assaults occurred in Cleveland, Tex., a town about 60 miles northeast of Houston.

The girl testified under a pseudonym since she is a minor and the victim of alleged sexual assaults.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys did not comment on the disappearance due to a court-issued gag order placed on those involved in the case.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Detroit Brothers to Get New Trial in 1987 Killing

ABC News(DETROIT) -- Two Detroit brothers, convicted of murder 25 years ago, have now been granted a new trial, but a judge Monday declined to release them from prison.

In 1987, Robert Karey, an elderly marijuana dealer, was murdered at the back door of his Detroit home. Two brothers, Raymond and Thomas Highers, both now 46, were convicted of the killing in a three-week trial the following year.

But last Thursday, Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon threw out the convictions and ordered a new trial after a 2009 Facebook post prompted new witnesses to come forward. Two of those witnesses said they saw Karey being shot by two black men at the back door of his house. The Highers brothers are white.

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At a hearing Monday packed with friends and relatives, Talon was expected to release the brothers on bond as they await their new trial.

But he delayed a ruling on their release for two weeks while he seeks a recommendation from pretrial services based on their behavior while in prison. Meanwhile, prosecutors are appealing his decision to overturn the original conviction.

"It's been terrible, absolutely horrible," Scott Highers, Raymond and Thomas's little brother told ABC's Detroit affiliate WXYZ. "We've lost both of our parents. They're deceased. Growing up without your older brothers -- you know, I'm the baby, they're someone to look up to -- I never had the chance to do that."

During their 25 years in prison, the Highers brothers committed several offenses, including drug possession and starting fights.

The key witness in their 1987 trial was Thomas Culberson, a security guard who went to Karey's home to buy marijuana on the night of the murder. Culberson said he saw two white men fleeing the scene in a car, and later identified Raymond Highers as the driver and Thomas Highers as a passenger.

After a former Detroit resident, Kevin Zieleniewski, came across a Facebook post by Mary Evans about the men's life sentences in 2009, he reconnected with a former law school friend, John Hielscher, who told him decades ago that he had been at Karey's that night, and that Karey had been killed by black men, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Hielscher agreed to testify at an evidentiary hearing in March along with his friend James Gianunzio, who was also at Karey's when the shooting happened.

Hielscher and Gianunzio testified that they were at Karey's back door when they saw armed black men approach them and heard a gunshot before they fled, according to the Free Press.

Their testimony raised doubts over whether the Highers brothers were the white men Culberson saw fleeing.

On Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Ana Quiroz argued in court that there was a conspiracy to free the Highers brothers, and that the new witnesses were not credible, according to the Free Press. Prosecutors argued in the original trial that the Highers brothers, who had bought marijuana from Karey before his murder, killed him in a dispute over money.

Judge Talon set a new hearing date of Aug. 13, when he said he would issue his decision on the brothers' release, WXYZ reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jurors Convict Accused Ringleader in Teen Burning Case

Comstock/Thinkstock(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- Jurors in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Tuesday evening convicted 17-year-old Matthew Bent of aggravated battery for his role in the 2009 torching of Michael Brewer, his middle school classmate.

Prosecutors failed to secure a conviction on Bent's second-degree attempted murder charge. Bent would have faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted on that charge. The maximum sentence for aggravated battery is 15 years.

After three days of testimony from Brewer, his parents and several other boys who'd witnessed the attack, a six-person jury in the Broward County Courthouse began deliberations Monday afternoon, but adjourned after three hours without a verdict. Tuesday's deliberations were delayed when jurors said they could not understand what was being said in an audio recording of a conversation between Bent and his alleged accomplices taped by police following their arrest.

At noon on Tuesday, the jury sent a note to Broward County Judge Michael Robinson asking for a transcript of the recording, but Robinson replied that no transcript was available.

Prosecutors argued that Bent was trying to avoid responsibility for the violence by offering others money to hurt Brewer, who was 15 at the time. But defense attorneys claimed that Bent never intended the attack, calling the case an example of "prosecution overkill."

Robinson will sentence Bent on July 23. The prosecution will seek the maximum sentence, and the defense has requested a pre-sentencing investigation.

On Oct. 12, 2009, Bent and two boys, all 15 at the time, surrounded Michael Brewer, their middle school classmate, near an apartment complex in Deerfield Beach, Fla. One boy poured rubbing alcohol on Brewer, and another flicked a lighter, setting Brewer ablaze.

Brewer survived the attack by jumping into a nearby pool, but not before second- and third-degree burns covered nearly two-thirds of his body.

While Bent played no physical role in the attack, the prosecution accused him of orchestrating it in pursuit of cold-blooded revenge against Brewer. In closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Maria Schneider stressed to the jury the disputes between Bent and Brewer in the day leading up to the attack.

The previous day, Brewer's parents reported Bent to the police for allegedly attempting to steal a family bicycle. Brewer said he stayed home from school on Oct. 12 fearing possible retaliation by Bent, who he testified Thursday was targeting him because he refused to buy drug paraphernalia from Bent.

Denver Jarvis, 17, who is serving eight years in prison for pouring the alcohol on Brewer, testified Wednesday that Bent offered him $5 to do so, Schneider reminded jurors. Other witnesses testified that Bent had offered money to anyone who would beat up Brewer.

Bent's attorneys rested their case Monday morning without calling a single witness and told the court that Bent would not testify in his own defense.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Johnny McCray said Bent "will have scars for the rest of his life" because of the trial, and argued that convicting an "innocent child" would not bring justice for Brewer.

Defense attorney Perry Thurston called the allegation of Bent's offer a fabrication on Friday. The attack happened spontaneously after the boys chanced upon a jug of rubbing alcohol on the street, he said.

Brewer has undergone extensive skin graft surgery and physical therapy since he was attacked. His mother Valerie Brewer testified that her son still requires therapy in order to keep his muscles flexible enough for routine functions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Casey Anthony Appeals Lying Conviction

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Casey Anthony, acquitted of charges that she murdered her daughter Caylee, filed an appeal Friday of her conviction that she lied to law enforcement officers.

The appeal came days before Anthony, 25, is scheduled to leave jail. She was sentenced to four years on four counts of lying to investigators about Caylee's death. Since she has already served three years and is credited for good behavior, she will be released from the Orange County jail on Sunday.

The jury that acquitted her of murder agreed that she broke the law when she told police she worked at Universal Studios, that she left her daughter with a babysitter named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, when she claimed that Caylee was missing, and when she claimed that Caylee was still alive and she had spoken to her on the phone July 15, 2008. None of those statements were true.

Besides the jail time, Judge Belvin Perry fined Anthony $4,000.

Casey Anthony's father has joined a campaign to sign the Caylee's Law petition to create new laws that would have made it a crime for his daughter to not report Caylee's disappearance or death.

Caylee Anthony died in June 2008 and wasn't reported missing for 31 days. Casey Anthony claimed for three years that she was kidnapped by a babysitter. Her decomposed body was found six months later in a swampy area near the Anthony home.

At the beginning of her murder trial, Casey Anthony's lawyer said that Caylee actually drowned in the family pool.

When Casey Anthony leaves jail, she will have to deal with several lawsuits, including one filed by Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez who claims Anthony cost her a house, a job and subjected her to death threats when Anthony claimed that a babysitter of the same name stole Caylee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Homegrown Terrorist Convicted, Inspired by Al Qaeda's Anwar al-Awlaki

USDJ(NEW YORK) -- A New York man who was inspired by al Qaeda internet videos to carry out attacks on U.S. troops abroad was convicted on terrorism charges Thursday.

Betim Kaziu, from Brooklyn, became radicalized in part by watching internet videos featuring Anwar al-Awlaki, one of al Qaeda's most high profile commanders, as well as fighters from Somalia's al Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab, according to the FBI.

Kaziu was convicted of several charges including conspiring to commit murder overseas and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

According to the government’s account, in 2009 Kaziu and another man, Sulejah Hadzovic, traveled from New York to Cairo, Egypt, where they attempted to acquire automatic weapons.

From there, Kaziu considered traveling to Somalia to join al-Shabaab but instead went to Albania where he recorded a martyrdom video of his "last few moments." From Albania, Kaziu traveled to Kosovo where the FBI said he planned to carry out attacks against U.S. troops, but instead was arrested in September 2009. By then, he had already purchased a ticket to travel to Pakistan.

"[Kaziu] made these trips with the full intention of joining a jihadist group to kill U.S. soldiers overseas," Department of Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd told ABC News.

In the midst of their travels, however, his friend Hadzovic got cold feet, returned to the U.S. and eventually became the primary witness in Kaziu’s trial where he gave "damning testimony," according to the FBI.

Kaziu's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4, where he could face life in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Three Men Sentenced in NY Terrorist Plot

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Three men convicted in a plot to blow up synagogues and military aircraft were sentenced Wednesday in New York.

Prosecutors called James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams "ticking time bombs" who needed to be put away for life.  

Cromitie said, "I've never been a terrorist and I never will be a terrorist" as he apologized for getting caught in an FBI sting.  

The judge sentenced all three, convicted of plotting to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at Stewart Air National Guard Base, to 25 years.  She said the government "created acts of terrorism" out of their fantasies of bigotry.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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