This is one of the first cases in Pennsylvania to be resolved.
I am pleased to have successffully represented a client who was unconstitutionally required to register as a sex offender since 2012. In 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to require a person to register under 42 Pa.C.S. Chapter 97, where that person’s registration requirement had expired. This decision focused on the SORNA legislation passed in 2012.
The SORNA legislation required individuals who for example, had a 10 registration requirement for certain offenses, to now register for life regardless of the initial registration requirements. The Court got this one right and held that registration is in essence a penalty and therefore, requiring an additional penalty was ex post facto and unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a challenge to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Muniz filed by the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.
Generally one may think that the criminal cases are often won or lost based on what forensic evidence is presented to jurors. However, this article reveals that even forensic evidence can be fallible. The reality is that not all forensic scientific evidence is backed up with rigorous scientific research.
Throughout the article you will see how different types of forensic evidence made its way into the courtroom. It discusses the reliance by the prosecutors, FBI and the defense. What is interesting about the chronological studies is the way that science has evolved in order to form a more “exact” science as used in the courtroom. I encourage you to read how the forensic evidence was first used and how it is being used today.
Evidence refers to information or objects that may be admitted into court for judges and juries to consider when hearing a case. Evidence can come from varied sources — from genetic material or trace chemicals to dental history or fingerprints. Evidence can serve many roles in an investigation, such as to trace an illicit substance, identify remains or reconstruct a crime.
I have had many trials where evidence was produced and where experts testified that the science is 100%. We now know this not to be true. In the end, cases are often won or lost on what evidence is produced.
Believe it or not, there are ways to challenge scientific and forensic evidence, such as attacking the chain of custody of blood samples or the improper calibration of a machines used to provide testimony.
Serious crimes warrant a serious defense. The experience, dedication, and strategy of your Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer will make the difference in your case.
Pittsburgh attorney Steven C. Townsend represents all those who face state and federal charges. Steven Townsend, is a leading Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney with an unprecedented reputation of integrity, professionalism, experience and results. With Eddy DeLuca Gravina & Townsend in your corner, you can trust that you made the right decision.
If you are being investigated or have been charged with a crime, and/or arrested, you need immediate legal help. As a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer, Steven C. Townsend will take the necessary time to meet with you to understand your situation so he can best proceed in your defense. Regardless of the crime, Steven C. Townsend will take immediate action to ensure that your rights are protected.
Many of our clients have never been involved with the criminal justice system. Each has a unique set of circumstances that prompted a criminal investigation or arrest. We carefully evaluate your case and proceed with the most compelling and aggressive criminal defense possible.
We handle cases in all areas of criminal law including:
Homicide and Violent Felonies
Federal Indictments and Investigations
White Collar Crimes
Contact Pittsburgh attorney Steven Townsend today by calling 412-281-5336, Toll Free at 877-900-5336 for a FREE CONSULTATION
A Collier man claiming to be part of a New York survivalist group pleaded guilty Wednesday to possessing eight Molotov cocktails in his home last December.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski sentenced Jacob Leo Phillips IV, 24, to five months of probation.
Collier police joined agents from the ATF and FBI in serving a search warrant Dec. 8 on Phillips’ home, where they found the eight homemade fire bombs, according to the criminal complaint against Phillips.
The complaint said Phillips and his landlord said they were both members of the New York-based Minutemen Militia, though criminal defense attorney Steven Townsend said it was actually the “Watchmen,” which was more of a survivalist group than a militia.
“It’s not a proactive organization, more of a reactive one … He was in the infancy stages, just getting his feet wet with this group,” Townsend said. “He’s now severed all ties.”
The only training Phillips had with the Watchmen, Townsend said, was in CPR and first aid.
Phillips told police he’d only used one of the Molotov cocktails and that was in a backyard fire pit the year before. But police said he had no license to make or possess them, and keeping them in a residential neighborhood was reckless.
Police charged Phillips with eight felony counts of unlawfully possessing or manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) as well as a risking a catastrophe charge and eight misdemeanor counts of making an offensive weapon.
As part of his plea, prosecutors reduced the weapons of mass destruction charges to misdemeanor possession of incendiary devices, to which Phillips pleaded guilty. The other charges were withdrawn.
Townsend said the case was “overcharged” as WMD, since the law for incendiary devices specifically covers Molotov cocktails.
Phillips also had legally-owned firearms, ammunition, body armor and a cache of food and water in the home. Townsend said that under federal law, Phillips is now barred from possessing the guns and is in the process of determining how he will sell or transfer them. The items remain in the custody of police until such arrangements are made.
Don’t underestimate the consequences of SEXTING
Call or text Steven C. Townsend for a FREE CONSULTATION. 412-901-7352
A conviction for teen sexting or child pornography can have extremely serious consequences. If you or your child is charged with such a crime as a result of teen sexting, you should contact Pittsburgh Attorney Steven C. Townsend, He has the experience handling these types of cases in juvenile and criminal court. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide you with appropriate legal advice and inform you of the potential consequences of a conviction, including under what circumstances juvenile defendants may be required to register as sex offenders. Steven C. Townsend can tell you what to expect in court and help to you prepare the strongest possible defense.
Sexting is the sending of nude or suggestive photographs by text message, and, when teenagers do it, it can be illegal. Pennsylvania lawmakers have enacted a specific law that makes teen sexting a crime, but a less serious one than child pornography. However, depending on the circumstances, teen sexting could also be considered child pornography or obscenity.
Prior to the enactment of Pennsylvania’s teen sexting law, one case there received a lot of media attention. School officials discovered that students had been exchanging photos of nude and scantily clad teen girls and notified the local District Attorney. He met with the parents of the girls depicted in the photos and told them that the girls would have to participate in a diversionary program or face charges for possessing and distributing child pornography. The girls’ parents refused the diversion program, noting that the photos (one featuring a topless girl and another depicting two girls in their bras) were not pornographic and that the girls were the victims of someone else distributing the pictures. After the families sued, a federal court found that the proposed diversion program violated the girls’ and their parent’s constitutional rights and granted a restraining order to stop the prosecutor from pressing charges against the girls.
(Miller v. Skumanick, 605 F. Supp. 2d 634, 647 (M.D. Pa. 2009), aff’d sub nom. Miller v. Mitchell, 598 F.3d 139 (3d Cir. 2010).)
Teen sexting. Teen sexting cases are often handled in juvenile court, where judges typically have greater discretion as to the outcome than they do in adult criminal court. Teens who possess images of other teens or who share images of themselves can be convicted of summary offenses. Summary offenses are punishable by up to 90 days in a jail and a fine of up to $300. The court may refer the teen to a diversionary program that includes an educational program about the consequences of sexting. If the teen successfully completes the program, the charges are expunged.
Sharing a teen sext depicting another person is a misdemeanor of the third degree, punishable by up to one year in jail and no more than $2,500 in fines. It is a misdemeanor of the second degree (punishable by up to two years’ incarceration and no more than $5,000 in fines) for a teen to share a sext of another teen without permission and in order to harass the child depicted. Under the teen sexting law, any cell phone or electronic communication device involved can be forfeited (taken by the state without compensation to the owner).
By Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Former Coraopolis police chief Alan DeRusso, who pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from a crash he caused last year that seriously injured another driver, has no memory of the incident, his attorney said.
“This is the main reason why he decided to plead guilty,” lawyer Steven C. Townsend said. “Due to the severity of the accident, he basically lost memory from two weeks prior to the accident to a week after. He doesn’t remember anything.”
Mr. DeRusso, 56, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person. As part of the plea deal, the Allegheny County district attorney’s office agreed to drop one felony count of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle. Sentencing is set for Jan. 28 before Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani.
The crash occurred at 8:14 a.m. Aug. 7, 2014, at Route 51 and Thorn Run Road in Moon. Moon police said Mr. DeRusso’s unmarked police vehicle ran a red light and struck a woman’s vehicle, which had a green light as it crossed the intersection.
The driver of that vehicle, Kristy Grazier, lost her appendix and 17 inches of her intestine, had a concussion, a chipped vertebrae and had a broken skull bone.
Mr. DeRusso was charged in January. A police affidavit said the chief was driving 80 mph three seconds before the crash, though Mr. Townsend said the vehicle had slowed to about 50 mph by the time of impact. Investigators wrote that they found no evidence that Mr. DeRusso was responding to an emergency.
Mr. Townsend said his client does not remember where he was headed.
Mr. DeRusso, who has been on administrative leave since January and is receiving workers’ compensation, submitted a letter Thursday taking early retirement immediately.
Mr. Townsend said his client apologized in court to Ms. Grazier, a single mother with two children.
“Will I ever be able to drive through an intersection without hesitation again?” Ms. Grazier wrote in a victim-impact statement. “I’m hoping that another person will never have to go through an ordeal like this again because of someone’s irresponsibility.”
A hearing was held Friday for two Ohio teenagers accused of going on a multi-state crime spree in June that included a robbery in Elizabeth.
Rose May, 15, and Triston Kindle, 16, appeared before a judge and learned that their cases will be moved to juvenile court.
“Having them transferred Lucky Patcher latest APK Downloadback to the juvenile court is significant so they can get into some kind of treatment, for rehabilitation vs. punitive consequences in criminal court,” said Steve Townsend, May’s attorney.
The teenagers are accused of committing multiple crimes in three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Police said the spree started in Ohio, where the teens stole guns and a truck. They then made their way to Pennsylvania, where they were allegedly behind a robbery during which an officer was dragged by a vehicle at a BP gas station in Elizabeth. The duo eluded authorities for several days before surrendering in West Virginia.
Townsend said it was bad decision making on May’s part. “There really is no explanation. She has no explanation. She’s 15, she’s very impressionable,” he said. “What they did was unbelievable. She has no prior history with law enforcement or trouble in school, so there was no rhyme or reason why she was involved in this crime spree.”Wireless Gaming Headset in 2017
May has been at a juvenile detention center, and Kindle had been in the Allegheny County Jail.
When the judge asked Kindle how the jail had been, Kindle said he didn’t like it. Both teenagers are now in a juvenile detention center. A hearing in juvenile court is scheduled Tuesday for Kindle and May.
By By SAM HANANEL
WASHINGTON (AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that the government can’t prevent a convicted felon who is barred from possessing firearms from trying to sell his guns after they are confiscated by authorities.
The justices sided with Tony Henderson, a former U.S. Border Patrol agent who agreed to turn over his collection of 19 firearms to the FBI as a condition of release after he was arrested and charged with distributing marijuana.
After he pleaded guilty, Henderson wanted to sell the weapons valued at more than $3,500 to a friend, or transfer them to his wife. But lower courts found that doing so would technically give Henderson possession of the weapons in violation of the law. Prosecutors also said they were concerned that Henderson’s friend or wife might give him access to the weapons.
Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan said letting a convicted felon sell or transfer guns is allowed as long as a court is satisfied that the person getting the weapons won’t give the felon control over them.
“A felon cannot evade the strictures of (the law) by arranging a sham transfer that leaves him in effective control of his guns,” Kagan said.
Kagan said the district court could have ordered the guns turned over to a federally-licensed firearms dealer, who would sell them with proceeds going to Henderson. She said the lower court also could allow Henderson to transfer the guns to another person who will not allow him “to exert any influence over their use.”
She said the government’s reading of the law goes too far in saying Henderson would illegally “possess” the weapons just by being allowed to sell them.
The case had drawn the attention of gun-rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, which argued that the government’s attempt to prohibit any sale or transfer prevents law-abiding citizens who want to buy the guns from doing so.
The Coraopolis police chief pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges connected with a crash on University Boulevard that left a woman seriously injured, and witnesses described what they saw moments before the crash.
Alan DeRusso is charged with aggravated assault by vehicle, recklessly endangering another person and a handful of driving violations after an August crash in neighboring Moon Township that sent him and another driver to the hospital.
Allegheny County police said in court papers that they could find no emergency that DeRusso would have been responding to that would have justified him running a red light on University Boulevard on the morning of Aug. 7.
The police chief was driving an unmarked police car toward Coraopolis when he crossed Thorn Run Road and T-boned a vehicle driven by Kristy Sue Grazier, who spent six days in the hospital with serious internal injuries and a concussion.
“Evidence will come out that 95 percent of calls that go through that borough are not by 911 or dispatch, they’re on personal observations,” DeRusso’s attorney, Steven Townsend, said. “The fact that they didn’t find evidence of that does not mean the evidence is absent.”
DeRusso is still the police chief, but he’s been on administrative leave since the charges were filed Jan. 14.
Police interviewed several drivers who were nearby at the time of the crash. Townsend said those witness accounts are not consistent with each other.
“We’re not disputing that there was an accident,” Townsend said. “We’re not disputing that both parties were severely injured. But the fact that this accident occurred and the way it occurred does not rise to the level of a felony.”
Grazier has returned to work, but she is still not completely recovered from the crash and has surgery scheduled for next month, said her attorney, Bob Behling.
“We’ve been waiting for the results of this investigation, and Kristy is glad it coincides with her recollections of the events that day, that she was not at fault or responsible for the accident itself,” Behling said.
“I’m not so sure that they’ve proven this case,” said attorney Steve Townsend, who is not involved in Ferrante’s trial and is providing legal analysis for WTAE. “This is the sort of case where everyone feels like he did it, but can the commonwealth prove it? And do I think they’ve done enough in this case? That’s a tough call. It really is.instagram login online I think the defense has an uphill battle coming for them next week, but I’m not sure right now that the jury is convinced.”
Cyanide Poisoning Trial Day 7: Testimony includes husband-wife email, medical analysis
Dr. Robert Ferrante charged with homicide, accused of poisoning Dr. Autumn Klein; Follow #FerranteTrial on Twitter for updates
PITTSBURGH —A man with whom the prosecution says Dr. Robert Ferrante suspected his wife was cheating on him was called as a witness Friday in the seventh day of Ferrante’s homicide trial.
Also on Friday, an email was read in court about a trip that Ferrante’s wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, was scheduled to take.
In the email, which Ferrante sent to Klein on April 16, 2013 — the day before prosecutors claim he poisoned his wife — he wrote, “You seem to be in such a great mood up until last evening.” It went on to say, “I am obviously missing something here; it seems obvious to me now that you want to go to Boston alone.”
He told her he was sorry for inviting her parents to town and for suggesting the two of them get away together. The email went on to say, “My exuberance of going to Boston together and also having your mom celebrate Mother’s Day with us was perhaps too much. You know me. I think of the fun and not the work behind it.”
Prosecutors pointed out that “Boston” referred to a trip Klein was scheduled to make in May to visit her colleague, Dr. Thomas McElrath, who took the witness stand Friday morning.
Prosecutors say Ferrante was jealous of McElrath and did Internet searches on him.
McElrath told the jurors he and Klein attended a conference together a few months before she died, and that they had been colleagues who worked together for about eight years.
He told the jury he invited Klein and her husband to stay with him at his home, then told defense attorneys that he had never met Ferrante.
Prosecutors then called Jennifer Janssen, assistant chief toxicologist with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office, who discussed the blood samples that were taken after Klein was admitted to a hospital.
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Janssen testified that Klein’s blood tested positive for cyanide and that the ME’s office was not aware of the problems NMS Labs had until days later.
She went on to explain that because of a time lapse from when the blood was drawn to the knowledge of problems with the lab, the decision was made to not send the blood to the Mayo Clinic — a move that the defense says should have been made to get an accurate reading.
Dr. Todd Luckasevic, who conducted Klein’s autopsy, testified that his examination and information from Quest Diagnostics led him to conclude that “Dr. Autumn Marie Klein died as a result of cyanide poisoning” and that her death was a homicide.
Defense attorney Bill Difenderfer aggressively questioned Luckasevic about that on cross-examination, asking, “There are a number of ways human beings can get cyanide in their system, correct?” The doctor agreed. Then Difenderfer asked, “It all looks the same, correct?” The witness agreed once again. Then the defense questioned how cyanide in Klein’s system means that she was murdered, adding, “You don’t know how it was put there, right?” The doctor replied, “Right.”
Marla Priestley, a fingerprint expert for the ME’s Office, testified that Ferrante’s print was on a bottle of cyanide seized from his lab.
When the trial resumes Monday morning, the prosecution will call its final expert witness, who was unable to attend court Friday.
“I’m not so sure that they’ve proven this case,” said attorney Steve Townsend, who is not involved in Ferrante’s trial and is providing legal analysis for WTAE. “This is the sort of case where everyone feels like he did it, but can the commonwealth prove it? And do I think they’ve done enough in this case? That’s a tough call. It really is. I think the defense has an uphill battle coming for them next week, but I’m not sure right now that the jury is convinced.”
Townsend said the Ferrante case has been full of testimony that may be tough for the jury to follow.
“I’m not sure a lot of it they’re comprehending,” he said. “I’m not sure a lot of it I’m comprehending, with the medical and technical jargon that’s going on in there, because I don’t think either side is doing a very good job of explaining it to the jury. What I do believe they’ll come away with is the emotional testimony and the medical examiner testimony, especially since the commonwealth’s witness today saying the cause of death is consistent with cyanide.”
Allegheny County DA
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s office released the follow emails and fingerprint images from those entered in evidence today’s court proceedings against Dr. Robert Ferrante.
Read more: http://www.wtae.com/news/cyanide-poisoning-trial-day-7-begins-with-stunning-new-testimony/29456802#ixzz3IfTGlrxt