(844) 815-9632

D.C. Council

Military Sex-Assault Reform Bill Fails in Senate

Military sexual assault reform took a major blow Thursday, as the U.S. Senate voted down a bill designed to overhaul the way the military handles sexual assault cases. The bill sought to give power to prosecute military sex assault cases to an independent military prosecutor rather than high ranking officers, but it failed to get the 60 votes necessary to avoid being thrown out, reports Reuters. What else might this bill have changed in military sexual assault cases? Military Sex Crimes Still an Issue The bill, entitled the Military Justice Improvement Act, was intended to address the alarming amount of sexual assault in the military. A May 2013 Pentagon study revealed that approximately 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact went unreported -- with many blaming the current military justice system. Reuters reports that the bill faced staunch opposition from Pentagon leaders, who worried it would weaken the military chain of command. Supporters of the Military Justice Improvement Act pointed to examples of similar reforms in Canada and Australia, where victims' needs were addressed without jeopardizing the command structure. Part of the insidious nature of sexual assaults in the military is the pressure on service men and women not to report the attacks. The New York Times reports that the bill's sponsor, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, compares telling superior officers about assault to a girl telling her father that her brother has assaulted her. Still, a separate bill, the McCaskill-Ayott-Fischer Bill which supports civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a sexual assault case, is proceeding with unanimous support from the Senate. How Are Cases Reported, Processed Now? Currently, those who serve in the military have two options when reporting sexual assault: They can either report the crime anonymously (called "restricted reporting") and receive medical and victim services, or they can come forward and make an unrestricted report. With restricted reporting, no criminal investigation will be required by military or civilian authorities, leaving many assaults potentially unresolved. If an assault is investigated by military authorities, a court-martial can be convened to evaluate the charges against a service member. However, unlike civilian trials, many of these courts-martial are presided over by senior officers. If an officer is convicted of sexual assault under a court-martial, commanding officers may also dismiss that conviction. Seeking justice for military sexual assault is an ongoing battle, and a military law attorney can be a great ally in that fight. Related Resources: Senate Blocks Bill To Overhaul Military Sex Assault Prosecutions (National Public Radio) 5 Common Questions About Courts-Martial (FindLaw's Blotter) New Citadel Sex Abuse Charges Surface (FindLaw's Blotter) FindLaw.com Proudly Deploys New Military Law Section (FindLaw's Insider)
continue reading

$7M Shoplifting Spree: Ill. Family Arrested

A family from the suburbs of Chicago has been arrested and charged with operating a $7 million shoplifting ring over the last decade. Branko Bogdanov, 58, along with his wife Lela, 52, and daughter Julia, 34, ran a system of stealing baby toys, baby supplies, and household items from retail stores and selling them on eBay, Reuters reports. So what's in store for the family of alleged bandits? Shoplifting Spree Allegedly Spans Several States The trio from Northbrook, Illinois, allegedly stole items such as American Girl dolls, Furby toys, Lego blocks, baby monitors, and steak knives from a variety of retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Dillard's, and Toys"R"Us over the last decade, Reuters reports. The family's $7.1 million shoplifting spree spanned several states including Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. Lela Bogdanov allegedly stuffed items up a long black skirt that was outfitted with a lining capable of holding multiple objects, while her husband and daughter would serve as a diversion. The family members, with the help from an outside person who acted as a fence, sold the items through merchant accounts on eBay, prosecutors allege. Bogdanovs Get Busted The Bogdanovs allegedly raked in a staggering $4.2 million over the last 10 years, but law enforcement finally caught up to them. The three were arrested this week at their upscale, five-bedroom $1.4 million home. Authorities seized the alleged smoking gun: the black dress. The family of accused bandits was charged with interstate transportation of stolen property. You can be charged with that crime when you enter into commerce goods worth $5,000 or more that you know were stolen. Because it appears the Bogdanovs knew the goods were stolen and sold them on eBay (albeit through someone else), the odds of them getting convicted under this statute are pretty strong. If convicted, the trio could potentially be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 10 years. The fence -- described as a person over 70 with no criminal convictions -- admitted to having purchased at least $6 million worth of merchandise over the last decade from "Franko Kalath," an alleged alias for Branko Bogdanov, the Chicago Tribune reports. While news reports don't indicate if the fence is facing charges, that person could potentially be in trouble for receiving and selling stolen goods worth $5,000 or more. Related Resources: Feds seek to detain family accused of running shoplifting ring (Chicago Tribune) Woman Jailed on 22-Year-Old Shoplifting Warrant (FindLaw's Blotter) 3 Ways to Challenge a Shoplifting Charge (FindLaw's Blotter) What to Expect if You're Accused of Shoplifting (FindLaw's Blotter)
continue reading

D.C. Council Passes Pot Decriminalization Bill

The D.C. Council voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use on Tuesday, leaving the mayor to sign the bill into law. If approved by Mayor Vincent Gray, the pot bill will have to weather a congressional review period before going into effect. But according to Washington's WRC-TV, Congress has "rarely used" its powers to veto D.C. laws. But with legal pot possession on the line, the odds seem hardly relevant. Status of Marijuana in D.C. The bill approved by the D.C. Council on Tuesday would make the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil fine or infraction. Like a traffic ticket, under the new bill, the punishment for possessing less than 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use would be a $25 fine. This is in stark contrast to the current law, under which pot possessors can spend up to a year in jail and be fined up to $1,000 for personal possession of marijuana under an ounce. Sale and possession for sale of any amount are still illegal under both D.C. and federal law -- even if this bill becomes law. Both Philadelphia and California have made similar decriminalization efforts in the last four years. In fact, the AP reports that 17 states have effected some form of marijuana decriminalization. Congressional Review The District of Columbia has the authority to pass laws to govern itself (granted by Congress) under the Home Rule Act of 1973. The D.C. Council and mayor can pass and enact laws much like a state legislature and governor, but U.S. Congress retains the power to veto. If this pot decriminalization bill is signed by Mayor Gray, it must then be sent to Congress -- which would then have 60 days to veto the bill. This period is 60 Congressional days, which is often closer to three calendar months. In 2007, opponents of this waiting period discussed a Congressional bill to do away it, noting that Congress has only used its power to change D.C. laws three times out of 4,000, The Washington Post reported. Meantime, the D.C. Cannabis Campaign has called on Mayor Gray to halt arrests for possession during the 60-day period in which Congress is set to consider the new law. Those interested in the proposed law's impact on past, present, or future marijuana charges in Washington, D.C., will want to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Related Resources: Washington, D.C., city council passes pot decriminalization vote (Reuters) Recreational Marijuana Laws OK'd in CO, WA (FindLaw's Blotter) As WA's Pot Law Takes Effect, What's Next? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) WA, CO Marijuana Laws: Will DOJ Really Back Off? (FindLaw's Blotter)
continue reading