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.

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.

I Think I’m Being Watched on Computer by Police. What to Do?

Computer SurveillanceIn response to a congressional inquiry, mobile phone companies have been forced to disclose just how many times they’ve handed over users’ cellphone data to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. It has been estimated that cellphone companies responded to 1.3 million demands for subscribers’ information last year from law enforcement. Many of the records, such as location data, don’t require search warrants or much court oversight. Both police and cell service providers had long resisted releasing details on the scope of cellphone surveillance.

In practice, your rights to protect snooping on your computer are similar to your rights in real life. Still, knowing what, when, and how others can snoop on what you’re doing is important so you can protect your information the right way. There are a few steps you can take to limit access to others.

• Log off your email. If you check your email on a public computer, it is important to log off your online account. It will limit any snoopers that come to the portal after you.
• If you are using an employer’s computer then your employer has the right to monitor what you’re doing with it. Some employers will monitor all of your conversations on your computer, including installing a keylogger on your computer. In general, your rights don’t extend too far if you’re on an employer’s computer.

• Your personal computer is protected from police searches in the exact same way as your house and body. Police cannot search your computer without a warrant specifically stating that the computer is part of the search.

• Most web services snoop on your data and, in some instances, hand it over to authorities upon request. This means that when you sign a Terms of Service you are often giving a web service access to everything you are doing on their site. In turn, the government may file a subpoena with a web service to take a look at your files,

• Public and private posts on social networks may be used against you. If you’re doing something illegal you should not post about it in a public forum because the police may very well find it with just a little snooping.

If you believe your actions are being monitored by the government, it is important to immediately stop all activity and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can protect your rights. 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.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guidelines in Pennsylvania

An Overview of Pennsylvania’s Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guidelines

Criminal SentencingLike other states, Pennsylvania has implemented mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for a wide range of criminal offenses. When in place, these measures set a floor for the fines or jail time assessed for specific crimes. A judge may not impose a penalty of less than that set forth in the statutes, regardless of age, prior criminal record or other circumstances. Technically, the judge can reject a minimum sentence as unfair, but in practice it rarely, if ever, happens. The only party with any discretion to reduce potential sanctions is the district attorney, who can opt not to ask for adherence to minimum sentencing requirements.

Though Pennsylvania enforces the death penalty, the minimum sentencing guidelines never mandate that punishment. However, for many crimes of violence, the minimum penalty is either life imprisonment or the death penalty, at the discretion of the judge.

Some of the more notable minimum sentencing requirements include:

  • Two or Three Strikes — for violations that qualify under the state laws, the penalty for conviction of a second offense is a minimum of 10 years. For a third offense, the judge has the discretion to order life imprisonment or a minimum of 25 years
  • Drug crimes — Drug crimes in drug free school zones have minimum penalties of two to four years. Drug offenses committed with firearms require life imprisonment.
  • Sex crimes — Sex offenses generally carry a minimum sentence of five years or more. Rape carries a minimum 10 year sentence and repeat convictions for a Megan’s Law offense require 25 years or life imprisonment. Failure to register as a sex offender can lead to two to seven years mandatory, based on the level of the sexual offense.

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.

What Do I Do If I’m Under Investigation?

Police investigationIf you have knowledge that you are under active investigation by the law enforcement community then you have certain inalienable rights afforded to you by the constitution, state, and local laws. You have the rights to leave any interview, have a lawyer present, to remain silent, and to have certain privacies.

No matter if a crime has been committed or not, if a law enforcement agency has a search or arrest warrant you must comply to avoid any charges. A signed and valid warrant gives the officer the right to arrest or search as specifically detailed in the document.

If the government agency cannot produce a valid warrant then you should not give verbal or written permission to any agent to search your person or property under any circumstances. For if the officer or agency does not have sufficient evidence to search then the only way they can search if with your permission. A “search” is not to be confused with a protective “pat down” for weapons that law enforcement officers are allowed under federal rulings.

In the event of any investigation, warrant, or arrest, your first step will be to contact a lawyer to ensure you are properly protected and represented and not to speak to anyone unless directed by your hired counsel.
Contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP
If you would like more information on our specific practice areas within criminal defense or 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.

What Is the Three Strikes Law?

Three strikes laws are statutes enacted by state governments which mandate state courts to impose harsher sentences on habitual offenders who are convicted of three or more serious criminal offenses. Twenty-four states have some form of habitual offender law. Pennsylvania enacted a three strikes law in 1995.

Three strikes laws in Pennsylvania mandate courts to impose harsher sentences on habitual offenders who are convicted of three (3) or more serious criminal offenses. Depending on the seriousness of the current and the prior crimes committed by the offender, the sentence can range from a minimum of 25 years to a maximum of life imprisonment. Pennsylvania’s three strikes rule is set forth in 42 Pa.C.S. § 9714.

If you would like to take advantage of our experience, knowledge, and creative approach to criminal defense, contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP today 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.

What Does Mandatory Minimum Mean?

If you are facing criminal charges, you may have heard of the term mandatory minimum. Mandatory minimum sentencing means a person convicted of a crime must be imprisoned for a minimum term, as opposed to leaving the length of punishment up to judges. Pennsylvania has many different mandatory minimum sentences on its books. In such a circumstance the Judge has no discretion to consider mitigating factors such as age, remorse, character witnesses, no prior record, etc.

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws force judges to deliver fixed sentences to individuals convicted of a crime, regardless of culpability or other mitigating factors. Those that oppose mandatory sentencing argue that this policy has contributed to prison overcrowding and has resulted in racial disparities in convictions. Under Pennsylvania law, mandatory minimum sentences are controlled by the District Attorney. If the District Attorney chooses not to impose the mandatory then it need not be imposed. This frequently occurs where a defendant cooperates with law enforcement or in plea-bargaining.

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we are experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorneys who have extensive trial experience. Our lead attorney, Roger Laguna, is a former policeman who knows what to expect from law enforcement officers and prosecutors. We are relentless in our efforts to protect the rights of people charged with serious crimes. Let us protect your constitutional rights.

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