Macy’s Liable for Death of Employee

Company Pays $950,000 Fine after Employee Decapitation

The retail giant Macy’s has agreed to pay a fine of $950,000 after an employee in the company’s Los Angeles distribution center was decapitated in a cardboard baler/compactor. The company also pleaded no contest to a criminal misdemeanor charge, according to the Los Angeles County DA’s office.

According to witnesses, 65-year-old Roy Polanco was operating the baling and compacting machine when he fell into the compactor, which had been modified to run without interruption. The machine had sensors designed to shut off the machine in such a circumstance, but the sensors were not working. According to prosecutors, the company removed a metal shield from the compactor, intentionally blocked the sensors, and erected a ladder so that workers could get into the machine. The company was charged with two felony counts of willfully violating safety standards. The district attorney sought a $1.5 million fine, but Macy’s negotiated a settlement.

As a part of the settlement, Macy’s has agreed to inspect all similar machines in its California stores and distribution centers. It must then obtain approval of all balers/compactors from the district attorney’s office.

The plea agreement, however, allows Macy’s to pay the fine and then come to court and have the conviction expunged. Furthermore, the district attorney’s office agrees not to “oppose the termination of probation or the expungement.” When asked why he agreed to such a deal, even though he originally brought felony charges against Macy’s (and a judge ruled that there was enough evidence to take the case to trial), prosecutor Daniel Wright said that the decision was not his, but was made by his supervisors in the LA County District Attorney’s Office. He declined any further comment.

An investigation, though, disclosed that Macy’s was represented in the case by Bill Seki, co-director of the Southwestern Law School’s Trial Advocacy Honors Program. The other co-director, Joseph Esposito, is currently an Assistant District Attorney, the number three prosecutor in Los Angeles County.

Contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To arrange a private meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, contact us online or call our office at 717-233-5292. Let us help you avoid deportation. Se habla Espãnol.

Police Deny that Murder Suspect Asked Siri for Advice on Where to Hide Body

Screen Grab Leads to Misinformation

Smart phoneContrary to what had earlier been reported, murder suspect Pedro Bravo may not have asked his cell phone to give him a recommendation on where to hide the body. Bravo is charged with killing fellow University of Florida student Christian Aguilar in a dispute of a former girlfriend.

According to previous news reports, Bravo had made the statement “I need to hide my roommate” to Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant.” A screen grab introduced by prosecutors in court showed that Siri responded with the question, “What kind of place are you looking for.” The screen grab indicated that Siri had suggested swamps, metal foundries, mines, reservoirs and dumps.

However, upon cross-examination by Bravo’s attorney, a Gainesville police officer admitted that the screen grab was just one of many photos found on Bravo’s phone, and that it may not have been a direct question to Siri. Furthermore, WUFT News, which had reporters in the courtroom, issued an online statement refuting the allegation, stating that the Gainesville detective never testified that there was a Siri search, and further noting that the assertion in most accounts that Bravo and Aguilar were roommates was false.

Other data gathered from his phone, though, was used by prosecutors to build the case against him:

  • Prosecutors say he used the flashlight on his phone nine times between 11:30 and midnight on the night Aguilar disappeared, allegedly to hide the body in the woods, where it was found in a shallow grave by hunters weeks later.
  • Location data gathered from the phone is inconsistent with the account Bravo provided of his whereabouts on the night Aguilar disappeared

Contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To arrange a private meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, contact us online or call our office at 717-233-5292. Let us help you avoid deportation. Se habla Espãnol.

Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Sued Over Civil Forfeiture Actions

Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Sued Over Civil Forfeiture Actions

District Attorney’s Office Accused of Running Forfeiture for Profit Scheme

Loading SUV onto tow truckThe state of Pennsylvania authorized civil forfeiture in 1988, ostensibly to prevent criminals from amassing substantial physical assets as a result of illegal activity. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in August, 2014, attorneys for a number of Philadelphia residents say the city’s prosecutors have aggressively pursued civil forfeiture, turning it into a highly profitable venture, netting the office millions in revenue every year.

According to plaintiff Christos Sourovelis, his son was arrested and sentenced to court-ordered rehabilitation for selling $40 worth of drugs near their home in Philadelphia’s Somerton neighborhood. Approximately a month later, police officers showed up at his home, serving a civil forfeiture action, seeking to take his home.

Representatives from the district attorney’s office defended the action, calling it “an important tool in the fight against drug trafficking.” Darpana Sheth, an attorney with the Institute for Justice in Virginia, accused the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office of “turn[ing] this tool into a veritable machine, devouring real and personal property from thousands of residents…converting that property into $5.8 million in average annual revenue.”

The statistics support Sheth’s allegations:

  • Almost 50% of all money and property seized in Pennsylvania since 2002 has been taken in Philadelphia
  • The city has taken more than $64 million in property in the last 10 years, nearly twice as much as Brooklyn and Los Angeles com
  • The per capita amount seized–$43 for every resident of the city—is twice that of any other area

Representatives of the District Attorney’s office admit that the money obtained from civil forfeiture accounts for about 20% of the prosecutor’s annual budget. An estimated 40% of the value of property seized pays for prosecutor’s salaries.

Contact Our Office

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To arrange a private meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, contact us online or call our office at 717-233-5292. Let us help you avoid deportation. Se habla Espãnol.

Ex-Officers Fight Police Abuse

Former Police Officer Leads Team of Ex-Cops Who Investigate Claims of Police Misconduct

Police badgeAllen E. Smith, a former police officer in Fort Lauderdale, now leads an elite team of investigators, most of them former law enforcement officers, who use their experience and knowledge to determine whether police have violated the rights of criminal defendants. Since 1997, Smith has worked for the Broward County Public Defender’s Office. He now supervises nine former cops and two other investigators, who focus their work on allegations of abuse or misconduct by police officers or prosecutors.

Smith, who used to specialize working undercover as a hit man, says that over the years, he has seen ample evidence of substandard police work, as well as racial profiling. He has also learned that some of the people they assume are guilty are actually innocent.

An extremely popular and respected officer while he was on the force, Smith has since had his membership to the Fraternal Order of Police revoked. He has had his picture posted on a police bulletin board with a target on it, and was victimized by a Fort Lauderdale detective who went into a state database to obtain personal information about him. He’s also had former police officers accuse him of “going over to the other side.”

Smith now leads a team with wide-ranging experience within law enforcement, including a former homicide detective, a white-collar crime expert and an undercover narcotics officer. He also has an investigator who served on Fort Lauderdale’s Tech Services Squad, who has extensive knowledge of cameras and communications gear.

Smith says that most cases contain no surprises—many people are guilty. But far too often, his investigators have found evidence of duress or threats of violence, including a situation where a man confessed to a crime he didn’t commit because police had threatened to leave his mother homeless if he did not.

Contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To arrange a private meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, contact us online or call our office at 717-233-5292. Let us help you avoid deportation. Se habla Espãnol.

Dog Day Afternoon – New Documentary Adds to Legend

New Documentary Adds to Real Story Behind Dog Day Afternoon

The movie is an American icon—Al Pacino as the gay man who attempts to rob a bank to pay for his lover’s sex change. From its release in 1975, Dog Day Afternoon always carried the disclaimer/admonition that it was “based on a true story.” Now a documentary has been made about John Wojtowicz, the protagonist played by Pacino. The documentary digs much deeper into Wojtowicz’s personal life, exposing a man with little to no governor on what he might say.

Wojtowicz was a 27-year-old Vietnam veteran in 1972, when he tried to rob a Brooklyn bank so that he could get enough money for his lover, Ernest Aron, to have a sex change operation. The robbery attempt led to a 14 hour standoff, which ended after Wojtowicz’s accomplice was killed by the FBI. Wojtowicz was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison, but served time only until 1978. He apparently lived in obscurity and poverty until his death from cancer in 2006.

According to the documentary, Wojtowicz claimed to have been married four time, “once to a woman.” Aron, one of the persons he named as a wife, has a successful sex change operation. And, according to people who knew him, he spent the rest of his life attempting to capitalize on his fame:

  • He tried unsuccessfully to operate a cab under the name “Dog Day Taxi.” His vision was that he would have the movie playing non-stop in the back seat and he would share stories with his passengers about the attempted bank robbery.
  • He applied for, but was not hired as, a bank security guard. Said Wojtowicz, “With the guy from Dog Day Afternoon as the guard, who’d rob it?
  • He sported a tee shirt with “ I Robbed This Bank” in bold letters on the front, and had his picture taken in front of the bank he attempted to rob.

Contact Our Office

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To arrange a private meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, contact us online or call our office at 717-233-5292. Let us help you avoid deportation. Se habla Espãnol.

Drug Trafficking Charges in Pennsylvania

If you are under suspicion for or have been charged with the sale, distribution or trafficking of controlled substances in Pennsylvania, you want to know your rights. Your best option is to retain an attorney as soon as possible. However, there are other steps you can take to protect yourself.

Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID)

Police labelling bundles of drugsThough you may be arrested for attempting to sell illegal drugs to an undercover police officer, more often than not, drug trafficking charges arise out of a possession charge. You can face a PWID charge for a variety of circumstances:

  • Law enforcement officers found you with a substantial amount of controlled substances in your possession, more than police believe could have been for your own personal use
  • Police found evidence of drug trafficking at your home, apartment, place of employment or in your vehicle or possession. Items may include scales, large sums of cash, chemicals or other paraphernalia related to drug cultivation or manufacture
  • Law enforcement officers claim to have witnessed you selling or dealing illegal drugs

What Must Be Shown to Prove Possession

In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with possession if you have on your person, in your car or in your home either illegal substances or prescription drugs without a valid prescription. As in all criminal cases, the prosecutor must prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. To successfully prosecute you for possession, the state must show that you knowingly and intentionally had control of an illicit or illegal drug. This requires that you knew the drugs were illegal, that you knew the drugs were under your control, and that you specifically intended to either use them or control them.

Contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To arrange a private meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, contact us online or call our office at 717-233-5292. Let us help you avoid deportation.

Se habla Espãnol.

Megan’s Law and Sexual Predator Violations

Under Pennsylvania’s version of Megan’s Law, if you plead guilty to or are convicted of certain sex crimes, you must register with the state police as a sex offender. The registration may be for as little as 15 years, but may also be for the rest of your life. Once you have registered, you may be required to provide detailed information to any member of the public, including potential employers, landlords, neighbors and family members. Whenever you move, you must notify local law enforcement officers of your registration. This information may then be made available to schools, daycare facilities and others in the area.

Requirements When Moving to Pennsylvania

Man under stressIf you are registered as a sex offender in another state, you must report personally to an approved registration/verification site within three days of your arrival in Pennsylvania, whether you are entering the state to go to school, become a permanent resident, take a job, or simply be in the state for more than three days.

Under Pennsylvania law, Megan’s law offenders fall under certain categories or “tiers.”

  • Tier 1 violators must register for a minimum of 15 years. Tier 1 offenses include, but are not limited to, video voyeurism, indecent assault, luring a child into a structure or motor vehicle, using misleading words or images on the Internet and sexual abuse of children.
  • Tier 2 violators must register for 25 years. These offenses include, but are not limited to, statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, child pornography, and sexual abuse of a minor or ward.
  • Tier 3 requires registration for life. These crimes include, but are not limited to, rape, kidnapping, incest, aggravated sexual abuse and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Contact Our Office

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To arrange a private meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, contact us online or call our office at 717-233-5292. Let us help you avoid deportation.

Se habla Espãnol.

Juvenile Violations: What is a Status Offense?

So-Called “Status” Offenses in the Juvenile System

In Pennsylvania, juveniles can be charged with summary offenses—acts that would be considered crimes if committed by adults. They can also be charged with what are known as “status offenses”—conduct that only brings sanctions because of the person’s status as a juvenile.

Common Types of Status Offenses

Some status offenses are obvious—violation of laws requiring that you be a certain age to engage in specified acts, such as drinking, driving or smoking. Status offenses also include, however, such offenses as truancy (specifically defined as failing to attend school as required), curfew violations, and running away from home.

Penalties for Status Offenses

In Pennsylvania, authorities seek to impose consequences that both preserve family relationships and serve as a disincentive to future criminal activity. AccorTeenage girl smokingdingly, penalties for status offenses are far less severe than for other illegal acts. A juvenile may be required to pay a fine or make restitution to the victim, or may face the loss of driving privileges. The court can order counseling or attendance at an educational program, or may determine that it’s in the child’s best interests to be placed in a foster home or other environment away from parents.

The vast majority of “status” offenses among minors involve truancy or absence from school. Typically, school districts set standards for maximum numbers of absences, and will initiate enforcement of truancy laws. Because of studies linking truancy with future delinquency, many school districts have started to work with law enforcement agencies to address problems related to school absence.

Contact the Law Firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP

At the Law Firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 717-233-5292 to set up an appointment. There is no charge for your initial consultation. We are available to meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

Questions to Ask Potential Attorneys

Attorney and client interview
If this is your first time hiring an attorney, most likely you are unsure of what to ask the attorney before hiring the attorney. The following is a handy checklist of basic questions to ask before you hire an attorney

The Lawyer’s Experience

  • How long have you been practicing in this field or area of law?
  • Have you ever handled matters like mine before?
  • Do you have any special credentials in this practice area? Are you certified as a legal specialist in this practice area?
  • I would like a reference from a former client.

Managing the Case

  • What are the possible outcomes of my case?
  • What are my alternatives in resolving the matter?
  • Approximately how long will it take to resolve?
  • How will you let me know about what’s happening in my case?
  • What kind of approach will you take – aggressive and unyielding, or will you work to reach a reasonable settlement?

Legal Fees & Costs

  • Do you have a written agreement for representation that I can read beforehand
  • What are your rates and how often will you bill me?
  • Do you charge by the hour, a flat fee for a particular service, or a contingent fee?
  • If you charge an hourly fee, will I be billed for telephone calls and emails?
  • Is an advance payment or a deposit required at the time that we agree that you will represent me? If so, will the money be held in a trust account? When will the money be paid to you for your services?
  • If I terminate the representation before the matter is resolved, what will happen to any money that I advanced that has not been spent on legal services?
  • Will I be charged for expenses or overhead and, if so, what expenses should I expect and how will you charge me for overhead?
  • If you charge a contingent fee, what services does the percentage fee cover?
  • What is a ballpark figure for the total bill, including fees and expenses?

Who Will Do the Work?

  • Who else in your office will work on my case?
  • Can paralegals in the office handle some of legal work at a lower rate than what you charge
  • What is the best way to communicate with you (letter, phone or email)?
  • How will you inform me of developments in my case?
  • If I call you (or email) for information, when can I expect a return phone call (or email)? Will you or a paralegal call me back?

If you would like to speak with attorneys Roger Laguna or Laura Reyes Maloney about the particulars of your case, we invite you to contact our firm and schedule a free initial consultation. We provide a free initial consultation. Contact our office by e-mail or call us at 717-233-5292 for an appointment.

Juvenile Violations in Pennsylvania

Juvenile Offenses in Pennsylvania — What to Expect

Teenager in handcuffsIn Pennsylvania, most juvenile offenses fall into one of two categories: delinquency or summary offenses. Delinquency involves acts that would be considered crimes if committed by an adult — if you are charged with delinquency, you will be required to go through juvenile court proceedings to resolve the matter. A summary offense is a crime in the adult criminal code that has been committed by a juvenile. Summary offenses are considered less serious than other types of crimes.

If police officers have probable cause to believe that you are either engaged in illegal activity or have committed an offense, you can be detained or taken into custody. The probable cause may stem from information from witnesses, leading officers to obtain a warrant for your detention. Police may also detain you based on evidence they personally observe.

With probable cause, police may either question you on the scene, or may take you to a precinct for questioning. They can also arrange to release you to the custody of a parent or guardian. If the offense with which you are charged is a misdemeanor or felony, law enforcement officers may obtain fingerprints or take photos for your permanent record. In limited circumstances, they can also seek a DNA sample.

Police officers do not have to release you to the custody of your parents. They can place you in a juvenile detention center, a child welfare approved group home, or in any other environment approved by the court. Police may only put you in a secure detention facility, though if one of three conditions exists:

  • You have no parent or guardian to whom you can be released
  • There is a reasonable concern that you will leave the jurisdiction before your hearing is scheduled
  • You need to be confined for your own safety

Contact the Law Firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP

At the Law Firm of Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 717-233-5292 to set up an appointment. There is no charge for your initial consultation. We are available to meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

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