Former High Profile Client Sentenced in Delaware County to 1-2 Years in State Prison for Attempted Main Line Kidnapping. Part 1 of 2
Please note that the information contained in the following article is taken from public sources such as court documents and newspapers in order to protect client confidentiality. No confidential information was used in writing this article.
You may recall in the news last November when an elderly man from Miami, Florida named John Felder attempted to kidnap and hold for ransom a wealthy resident of Villanova at the Montgomery Scott Mansion. My office represented Mr. Felder at his preliminary hearing last year and secured his pre-trial release. He was represented by his third attorney on the case at his most recent sentencing hearing. Although I represented Mr. Felder at the start of his case, I did want to highlight how my office had Mr. Felder released on bail.
This case was covered in all the major news networks and newspapers. The case was covered in media outlets as far as Miami and San Francisco. The headlines read that Mr. Felder went to the Montgomery Scott Mansion in Villanova posing as a flower delivery man. A member of the McNeil family of McNeil Pharmaceuticals (the inventors of Tylenol) lived in this mansion. When Mr. McNeil answered the door, Mr. Felder tased him in the chest where McNeil fell on his doorstep. The plot was unsuccessful and Mr. McNeil escaped the incident and Mr. Felder left the scene. A parking ticket in front of the flower shop led police to Mr. Felder up in the Poconos where he was attending a gun show. Mr. Felder was caught by Radnor Police with a ransom note, a list of other wealthy executives, 2 stun guns, a taser, a mask, .38 caliber revolver, night vision security equipment and the list goes on. The Radnor police cited financial difficulties as the motive for the kidnapping.
Can I get a DUI in Pennsylvania for taking Prescription Meds and Driving? A Synopsis and Criminal Defense Lawyer's Opinion.
In the last year I have noticed an influx of cases involving prescription medications. I have also noticed that more and more of my clients are being charged with DUI for taking prescription medication under the direction of a doctor. My cases have involved clients taking many types of legally prescribed prescription drugs such as Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Suboxone, Dilaudid, Nuerontin and various antidepressants. Most of my say emphatically "how can I get a DUI if I have a prescription?" The short answer to that question is that it does not matter if you have a prescription. You can still be charged with a DUI in PA if you are taking a legally prescribed drug. Pennsylvania law states that you cannot drive or operate a vehicle if you are under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs which impairs your ability to drive a vehicle. This statute can be found in the Pennsylvania Motor vehicle Code at 75 Pa.C.S. §3802(d)(2). The definition of a drug is expansive in Pennsylvania. Under PA law "a drug" is defined as any substance that affects the function of the human body." Therefore, you could be charged with DUI for driving and taking any medication that impairs your faculties. Theoretically, you could be charged for taking over-the-counter medications that cause drowsiness.
In order for prosecution to convict you of a DUI for taking legally prescribed drugs, it must show that the drug(s) you were taking impaired your ability to drive. The prosecution will try to prove to the judge or jury that you were impaired in a number of ways. The following are examples of the types of evidence the Commonwealth may produce at trial or a preliminary hearing to show your driving was impaired because of the drugs: a lab report showing the drug in your blood; expert testimony that the drug or combination of drugs impairs your ability to drive, your pill bottle indicating the medication causes drowsiness or instructing you not to drive or to use caution while operating machinery; field observations of the police officer such as slurred speech, dilated pupils; fumbling for license or registration, unsteady balance; evidence of erratic driving or an accident.
This case was a major victory for the Antoine firm in 2011. Donna Crowe's case was a TV movie in the making, full of drama, anger, and heartache, local news coverage on 6abc.com and even the arrest and removal of the Assistant District Attorney on this case, Mike Donahue, on unrelated charges, see my blog dated November 16, 2011.
When this firm began its representation of Ms. Crowe in early February 2010, she was incarcerated at George W. Hill Correctional Facility and held on $25,000.00 cash bail. Ms. Crowe was arrested on charges of Identity Theft, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Receiving Stolen Property by Upper Providence Police Department. She was released from prison on 10% of the $25,000 cash bail. I then started the process of filing various motions on her behalf to which the Commonwealth kept requesting continuances and delaying the case. After almost a year of continuances and motions, I was able to plead Ms. Crowe out to a Disorderly Conduct citation with a $100.00 fine.
According to the police criminal complaint filed by Upper Providence Police Department, Donna Crowe was hired as a nanny by the Aitken family to care for their younger daughter, in October of 2009. Ms. Crowe had answered an ad posted on the website, Sittercity.com by Michelle Aitken. The two met for an interview where a background check was performed and subsequently Ms. Crowe was hired. By mid-November, Ms. Aitken noticed the memory card was missed from the family camera that was kept in her daughter's stroller. Ms. Aitken questioned Ms. Crowe about the missing camera card, to which Ms. Crowe told her she "had no idea." In the next couple weeks, Ms. Aitken noticed a change in Ms. Crowe's mood. When Ms. Crowe did not show for work one day, Ms. Aitken called to ask why and received different answers to the question. It was then the Aitken's family decided to end their working relationship with Ms. Crowe.
Morgan Marie Mengel of West Goshen Township in West Chester, Pennsylvania was not happy in her marriage. Instead of filing for divorce, she is on trial for his murder. According to public sources Ms. Mengel is accused of conspiring with her young lover, Stephen M. Shappel, to poisoning and fatally bludgeoning her husband, Kevin Mengel, Jr. on June 17, 2010.
On June 20, 2010, Kathleen Barton, Kevin Mengel's mother, reported her son missing after she received suspicious texts supposedly from her son stating he was "leaving the area and did not want to be bothered by anyone" stated West Goshen Police Chief Michael J. Carroll. On June 25, 2010, police investigators went to Mr. Mengel's landscaping business, MKB Property Maintenance to interview employees. While police were still on the premises, Ms. Mengel and Mr. Shappell, who was an employee at the landscaping business, arrived together and upon seeing the police, Mr. Shappell fled the scene in Ms. Mengel's truck. Police questioned Ms. Mengel. She first told police her husband left the area. Later she finally admitted that Stephen Shappell murdered her husband and she was aware of the murder.
Everything You Need to Know About the ARD Program for First Offense DUI's in Delaware County, Pennsylvania
In Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania the ARD program is offered to certain first time DUI offenders that opt to be accepted into the program. The major benefit of ARD is that you or your attorney will be entitled to file an expungement petition once you complete all of the requirements of the program. This will result in your criminal record being expunged and destroyed if the court so orders. Click on the following link Delaware County ARD program to read my prior blog for more information on the benefits of the ARD program.
Moving forward, this blog will take you through the ARD process in Delaware County, PA from start to finish.
1. Post-Arrest: Preliminary Hearing Paperwork will be Mailed to you by the District Court - after you are arrested and charged with a first offense DUI in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, paperwork will be sent to your house from the District Court that retains jurisdiction over you. After you are arrested, the Magisterial District Court will send you two letters: one certified and one by regular first class mail. Both of the letters are duplicates and contain the same information. Enclosed in your letters will be three items. The first is called a "Police Criminal Complaint." This document contains the caption of the case, identifies you as the defendant and designates which crimes you are being charged with along with other information. The second item is called the "Affidavit of Probable Cause." The Affidavit of Probable Cause is a brief recitation of the facts which occurred in your case as written by the police officer. The third item in your letters will be a scheduling notice. The scheduling notice will let you know the time and place of your preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing will be heard before a Magisterial District Judge. The court may also mail you a fingerprint order, ordering you to report to the police department where you were arrested to be fingerprinted, if you were not fingerprinted on the night of the offense.
Please be patient. If you have been arrested for a DUI, these items may take a few weeks to get out to you. I have even seen it take months for clients to get their paperwork. However, if you have been arrested for a DUI in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, rest assured, you will receive these items in the mail. After you have been arrested I recommend that you hire an attorney at your earliest convenience to avoid any complications with the case. Jason R. Antoine, Esquire, Pennsylvania ARD DUI lawyer can be reached for free DUI advice at (610) 299-0295.
Michael Donahue, a former Delaware County Assistant District Attorney was arrested Monday, November 14 and charged with aggravated assault, accident involving death or personal injury, recklessly endangering another person and other crimes. Mr. Donahue was charged as being the driver of the car who struck a 14 year old boy who was walking with three of his friend across Township Line Road in Upper Darby on November 4, 2011. The boy was struck violently, the skateboard he was carrying was split in two. According to witnesses, Mr. Donahue left the scene. The victim was taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where he suffered a brain bleed, two hip fractures and several lacerations. Since the date of the accident the victim was released and has been given a good prognosis.
On the night of November 4th, he decided to end his week with friends at a local bar/restaurant in Media. According to court documents, Mr. Donahue left the bar/restaurant around 9:00 p.m. alone and drove to meet a friend to pick up food. He then met friends at a local firehouse in Haverford to eat with them and then left with a friend and drove to another firehouse in Upper Darby. Mr. Donahue then returned to the Haverford firehouse to drop off his friend. Around 10:15 p.m., Mr. Donahue left the firehouse alone and called his friend to let him know he was driving back to Upper Darby. Unfortunately, while Mr. Donahue was talking to his friend on his cell phone, the friend heard him say a curse word then seconds after that a beeping sound, like a car door was opened while still running. Then the phone went dead.
Get ready Pennsylvania, no more texting while driving. The state Senate has sent an amended bill to the desk of Governor Tom Corbett, making it a primary offense and grounds for police to pull your vehicle over and write you a violation. The violation does carry a fine. The Governor is expected to sign the bill and it will go into effect 120 days after signature. Currently, there are 30 other states that have the same ban.
Pennsylvania does not ban talking on cell phones while driving without a hands-free device. Law makers are considering banning cell phone use while driving without a hands-free device. Nine other states have bans on using your cell phone while driving without a hands-free device, such as a Blue Tooth.
In an age where you do mostly everything from your phone from paying bills to looking up directions, one has to ask themselves "what did we do before this technology?" Have we become so reliant on taking care of everything with electronics that we forget about our safety and most importantly the law. State Senator John Wozniak (D) of Cambria County, PA gave a floor speech on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 in Harrisburg before voting took place. In his speech he posed this thought "All the rest of your life for the simple thing of texting a friend you have to live with the fact that you did not have control of your vehicle and you killed somebody".
Recently a 76 year old Montgomery County, Pennsylvania doctor was arrested for writing close to 1800 prescriptions for the narcotic Oxycontin. Authorities estimate that to be nearly 240,000 pills over the year to his patients. Dr. Richard Ruth is accused of turning his Souderton practice into a walk-in "pill-mill". Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman reported the doctor would perform minimal examinations and the patient would walk out of the office with a prescription, as long as the patient brought cash. District Attorney Ferman stated that patients were still arriving at the doctor's office as police made their search, unaware the office had now become a crime scene.
At what point in a doctor's career does one decide to commit crime? In the case of Dr. Ruth, it was the second time he has made this decision. In 2005, the doctor lost his license for writing prescriptions but had his license restored in 2009. This bad decision will now have Dr. Richard Ruth facing charges of prescription fraud, identity theft and insurance fraud.
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, contact Jason R. Antoine, Pennsylvania Criminal Lawyer. Our office may be able to have your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. My office
As I said in previous blogs, it is possible to have charges such as simple assault, harassment or disorderly conduct dropped or reduced to a summary charge. In order to achieve this goal, the DA's office or the court may want you to attend anger management classes. Anger management is typically ordered by the court in domestic violence situations. In Delaware County, Pennsylvania there are various anger management programs that are convenient and cost-effective. The following is a summary of the programs available in Delaware County.
Rose Tree Counseling Center
1033 N. Providence road
Media, Pennsylvania 19063
Rose Tree is a private counseling center. It offers individual counseling for your court ordered "anger management" requirement. Eight individual sessions will normally meet your obligation. The cost of each session is $75.00 each. Rose Tree Counseling may accept your insurance to help offset this cost.
Starting on October 1, 2011, the Chester County Council on Addictive Diseases (COAD) will no longer be participating in the Chester County DUI ARD program. The Chester County Adult Probation and Parole Department will be taking over these duties. The probation department will provide Alcohol Highway Safety School (AHSS), Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluations and referrals for drug and alcohol evaluations to offenders.
I always recommend to my clients that they attend their CRN evaluation and AHSS in advance of their ARD court date because Chester County will waive the requirement that you perform 50 hours community service if these tasks are performed within 60 days of the ARD hearing date. My advice is to get these items completed as soon as possible unless you or your attorney have reason to believe your ARD application will be denied. Performing 50 hours of community service is hard to do on top of all the rigors of daily life.
Disorderly Conduct Citation Dismissed by Oxford District Court Judge: The Importance of the "Cooling Off Period" or the "60-90 Day Continuance" in Pennsylvania Preliminary Hearings and Summary District Court Hearings Involving Fights, Assaults, Harassment
Last week, I had a Disorderly conduct citation dismissed by Judge Farmer in Oxford District Court in Chester County. I wanted to write about the strategy used to get this citation thrown out. This same strategy can be applied to Pennsylvania Simple Assault cases at preliminary hearings. The facts are as follows*: my client, a prevalent executive at a marketing firm, was cited for Disorderly conduct stemming from an incident that occurred while he was picking up his daughter from her boyfriend's house. The short version of the story is that the boyfriend's father was drunk and shouting obscenities at my client's wife who was sitting in the car. My client approached the boyfriend's father, pushed the father, the two shouted obscenities back-and-forth and eventually got the boyfriend's father in a choke hold before being jumped by other members of the family. The boyfriend's father and my client were cited for disorderly conduct. I was prepared to take this case to trial based on the premise that my client was defending his wife. Just as you are allowed to defend yourself in a self-defense case, you are allowed to use the same force to defend 3rd parties from harm. My client stated that the boyfriend's father was pointing at his wife and "going after her." His daughter and her boyfriend told police that this was not true. The attorney representing the boyfriend's father approached me in the hallway and we decided to request a cooling off period to have the charges dismissed. I spoke to the Pennsylvania State Police Trooper and he was alright with this disposition to the case. My client was obviously happy that the charge would be dismissed. Rather than going through a trial, my client agreed to this disposition.
Section 1543(a) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code penalizes driving on a suspended driver's license. Section 1543(b) penalizes driving on a suspended license because of a DUI conviction or ARD admission. Driving on a DUI suspended license carries a mandatory jail sentence of 60 to 90 days. If you get caught driving on a DUI suspended license and you are lucky, the police will cut you a break and write you a citation for a §1543(a) which carries no mandatory jail time, but an additional license suspension of one year. Many people are ecstatic about this because they avoid the jail time. However, when the novelty wears off and they begin serving their one year license suspension, they are not as ecstatic. My advice is to always plead not guilty to these citations. The goal of a criminal lawyer in these type of cases is to have the case plead to 75 Pa.C.S. §1501 Driver's required to be licensed. My firm has had a lot of success having §1543(a) cases plead down to §1501. §1501 carries no license suspension and no points. If convicted of §1501, you will merely be required to pay a fine. Some of my clients get nervous when I tell them it is possible for the officer to amend his citation to a §1543(b) from a §1543(a) if they plead NOT guilty and request a hearing. Some clients do not want to go forward because of the risk involved. My advice is still the same: plead NOT guilty and do not worry about it. In my experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney, the police have never amended to a §1543(b) and even if they did, at that point you could probably back down and plead guilty to a §1543(a). Earlier this year I had a §1543(b) case plead down to §1501 and my client was driving on a DUI suspended license for a third offense DUI. If you use finesse with police officers, they can be very accommodating. It is important to have an attorney that is good with people and has experience dealing with police officers. I worked with police officers on both sides of the aisle: as a defense attorney and as an Assistant District Attorney. I know it pays to be polite and appreciative.
Always Plead NOT Guilty to Pennsylvania Underage Drinking. PA Supreme Court Case Makes Portable Breath Testing Devices Inadmissible in Court!
When I worked in the District Attorney's Office in Chester County, I prosecuted several underage drinking cases and they would usually go down as follows. A cop would bust a party at a frat house or apartment. Let's say it happened in West Chester. They would always line the kids up and make them stand against a wall. The cops would then id the kids and if they were under 21 they would administer what is called a portable breath test or "PBT" for short. This test is similar to a breathalyzer used in a DUI prosecution. The test requires the subject to blow into a mouth piece. Once the subject blows, it will immediately give the officer a digital blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading. This test works similar to a breathalyzer but it is not nearly as accurate. The test is convenient for police because it is easy to administer and it saves the officers time. Unlike a breathalyzer or blood test in a DUI prosecution, there was no necessity to bring the underage drinker back to the station to administrate the test. All of the students at the party could be tested and cited on spot.
When I was a prosecutor it was easy for police to obtain underage drinking convictions in court. All the police had to prove was that you were under 21 and that the PBT showed a positive reading. Last October of 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case of Commonwealth v. Brigidi came out and changed everything. In this case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court states that PBT's are NOT admissible in a judicial proceeding for evidentiary purposes. This means that PBT's should not be admitted into evidence in an underage drinking case.
Antoine Firm has Theft Charges and Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle Charges Tossed Out by Linwood District Judge
I wanted to write about a preliminary hearing in Linwood, Pennsylvania that was held last week that is worth noting.
A lady from Camden, New Jersey dropped her 1999 Kia Sephia off at a Leonard's Body Shop in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania in March of 2010. She paid $1500 to have her car repaired. My client who was the shop owner's girlfriend, worked the front end of the business. She took the customer's cash and wrote out a receipt for the$1500. Her boyfriend owned the shop and performed all body work. After she dropped the car off months went by and no work was ever performed on the car. Subsequently, the owner was forced out of the shop and was forced to put the building up for sale. The customer could not locate her car. The police found out that the owner/boyfriend moved the car to his residential garage, never gave the car back and never contacted the customer. The shop owner basically kept the woman's car and never told her where it was. The Marcus Hook Police charged the boyfriend/owner and my client with Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Deception, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle and Disorderly Conduct.