Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More than tweets help establish webcam case

Dharun Ravi, after being accused of a hate crime for allegedly setting up a webcam to spy on the same-sex encounter of his college roommate, is learning that it's not only what you post on twitter that can get you in trouble, but also what you delete.

Ravi, the roommate of Tyler Clementi, has been accused of using the soil tool Twitter to publicly exploit Clementi's most private moments. He was charged with numerous counts of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. But what was just as eye-opening were the charges Ravi acquired after tampering with evidence that resulted after he attempted to delete text messages and a Twitter post that initially got him in trouble.

It's new age story of taking old-school evidence-tampering charges into a digital era of social media and cyberspace, said Bradley S. Shear, an attorney who advises clients about social media and intellectual property law.

"It can help demonstrate that your virtual behavior, online activities, are just as important, if not more so, than everything you do in your everyday life," he added.

19-year old Ravi, along with another student, Molly Wei, were both charged with invasion of privacy for actions that occurred in the days leading up to September suicide of Tyler Clementi in which he jumped off the George Washington bridge.

Case officials claimed Ravi used Wei's computer in her room to activate the computer in his room using Skype. They were then able to breech Clementi and another man's private moments. Ravi has been accused of attempting the same action a few days later by inviting others to view the webcast.

The death of Tyler Clementi was amidst a flurry of gay teenagers committing suicide after facing social scrutiny among peers. The news quickly galvanized efforts nationwide by gay rights activists to battle suicide and the bullying of young gays.

Just last week a grand jury indicted Ravi on additional charges, including bias intimidation and evidence tampering.

Messages left on the answering machine of Ravi's attorney, Steven Altman, were not returned.

Prosecutors and Pittsburgh business lawyers involved in at least one other case in the U.S. have argued that a defendant's actions to delete his social-media postings concluded to be considered evidence tampering.

A former member of the Air Force accused of killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter was charged with evidence tampering. Authorities said he asked his father to omit his Facebook, MySpace and email accounts in an effort to try to conceal potential evidence.

Prosecutors ultimately dropped Jerimie Hicks' charges, saying they did not believe the charges could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hicks faced charges of deliberate homicide and a different evidence-tampering solicitation charge involving a bloody uniform. He was sentenced to 100 years in prison.

The different result of each case's evidence tampering charges can be distinguished by defining the law. Evidence tampering entails proving someone didn't just try to rid the evident, but rather destroyed evidence, Pittsburgh intellectual property lawyers say.

"It's fairly routine that until they become suspects, people are deleting electronic files," said Orin Kerr, a Law School professor at George Washington University. "It's an understandable impulse to take it down."

But Kerr also said that intent is the key to crime.

"If someone deletes information because they don't want it to be a news story, that's different than trying to keep police from arresting them," Kerr said.

Alleged harassment of Clementi and the charges put against his roommate will serve the case's top attorneys as basis for many of both roommates' own words from their social-media postings.

For matters involving Clementi, his words provide insight into his mindset before committing suicide. In the case of Ravi, his words will be used against him in court, as well as the evidence he tried to erase.

"The evidence of this case has made the investigations very interesting." said one Boston intellectual property lawyer looking into the case.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Divorce Grows Among Rural America

The growing trend of divorce is emerging far beyond the metropolitan cities of America. Even in the most rural, conservative communities, marriage separation is rising at alarming rates.

In an eye opening article by the New York Times, the social behaviors amidst a quaint county in Iowa reflect "a fundamental change in the patterns of family life."

A major factor that is taking divorce to the next level is the education gap among couples. Growing opportunities to get a college education is allowing either husband or wife to become more intellectual. As a result, the manner in which couples can relate to each other takes a drastic social shift.

Law professor and co-author of “Red Families v. Blue Families,” June Carbone, pinpoints social class as reliable predictor of family patterns. "College-educated Americans are now more likely to get married and stay married than those with only a high school diploma, a change from 20 years ago", said Carbone.

The growing accessibility of post-high school educational opportunities are shifting American families.

Key trends that are driving divorce are: women are becoming more educated, gaining autonomy, and establishing a presence in the workforce. Additionally, women are changing the values and order among traditional families.

In North Carolina, the Raleigh divorce attorneys of a local law firm offer seminars and counseling to address such issues and help them understand the nature of marriage separation. They better educate couples and families about the complexities of family law in Raleigh, and offer counsel to facilitate issues among the family.

When one individual in a relationship changes his or her way of thinking, it can create a mismatch between expectation and reality. For women, that can result in becoming frustrated with her companion, and eventually leaving.

Divorce trends have been particularly significant for rural communities, which have fallen further behind urban ones with respect to education, according to census data. Just one in six rural residents have college degrees. This is far fewer than in metropolitan areas, where one in three have a college education.

"Sometimes it is quite obvious that a marriage is bound to split. The woman in the relationship no longer has the same connection with her other, and that lack of connection results in a divorce." said a Raleigh family lawyer.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Union Law Unjust

Wisconsin and Ohio public workers are in fear of new legislation that will take away all their union bargaining rights except for the topic of wages.
The showdown over Wisconsin's law that strips most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights shifted from the Statehouse back to the courts Tuesday, but it remained unclear when or even whether the measure would take effect.
The law strips away workers' rights to collectively bargain for anything except wages. It also requires most public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance.
In Ohio, meanwhile, Republican legislators pushed legislation forward to similarly deny workers bargaining rights.
Wisconsin's Republican lawmakers pushed through passage of the law earlier this month despite three weeks of massive protests that drew up to 85,000 people to the state Capitol and a boycott by Democratic state senators. Opponents immediately filed a series of lawsuits that resulted in further chaos that might not end until the state Supreme Court weighs in.
That appeared even more likely after a hearing on Tuesday, when a county judge again ordered the state to put the law on hold while she considers a broader challenge to its legality. She chastised state officials for ignoring her earlier order to halt the law's publication. She also is considering claims by some officials that the law technically took effect last weekend after a state agency unexpectedly published it online.
The back and forth amplified the often angry debate between new Governor Scott Walker, his Republican allies in the Legislature and the state's public sector unions.
Walker and the Republicans have aggressively pushed forward their effort to remove the bargaining rights of state workers, using a surprise parliamentary maneuver to break a weeks-long stalemate to get it passed and then finding another route to publish the law after the judge’s order blocked the secretary of state from doing so.
The law has been a flash point of controversy since Walker introduced it in February.
The measure requires most public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance. It also strips away their rights to collectively bargain for anything except wages. Walker, who wrote the law, insists the measure is necessary to help close the state's budget deficit. But Democrats see the law as a political move to cripple unions, who are traditionally among their strongest campaign supporters.
Tens of thousands of people staged almost non-stop demonstrations at the state Capitol for nearly three weeks and Senate Democrats fled the state for Illinois to block a vote in that chamber.
Republicans who control the Legislature ended the stalemate by removing what they said were the fiscal elements from the plan on March 9, allowing the Senate to vote without a quorum. The Assembly passed the measure the next day and Walker signed the measure into law on March 11.
In Ohio, a legislative committee approved a measure Tuesday that would limit collective bargaining rights for 350,000 Ohio government workers.
The committee's changes make the measure even tougher on unions, making it more difficult for them to collect certain fees. But the committee also removed jail time as a possible penalty for workers who participate in strikes and made clear that public safety workers could negotiate over equipment.
A vote on the bill in the Republican-controlled Ohio house could come Wednesday. The Senate then will have to agree to the House changes.
Republicans, Democrats, and public employees of Wisconsin and Ohio continue the battle and the outcome is unsure.

Affordable Care Act

Parents whose children have chronic diseases and handicapping injuries report how their children can access health care without rejection by insurance companies because of previously diagnosed conditions. This is thanks to the Affordable Care Act that was signed into law a year ago.

This act allows young adult children with chronic conditions to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 as the children work to get employment. Parents are no longer in fear about the loss of their children’s health insurance or annual or lifetime caps on their insurance for their children born with birth defects or suffering from the aftermath of prematurity.

Parents and Doctors alike appreciate the legislation and hope that more help is to come. Both express how important health care is for children and want to see more health care reform and are voicing their opinions to legislators to keep the ball rolling.

Ted Nugent voices opposition to Michigan's Gov. over hunting regulations

Rock n' Roll legend and Michigan hunting advocate Ted Nugent delivered a personal message to Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday regarding the state's current hunting laws. The thesis to his message: Ditch state regulations that (1) prompt hunters to other states and (2) cost Michigan millions of dollars in business.

Nugent cites a examples like the ban on using bait for hunting deer in the Lower Peninsula, and the requirement of obtaining a license to shoot wild turkeys, which Ted said "are as prolific as mosquitoes."

"Michigan has so many opportunities that are not being utilized because of so many silly, illogical, antiscience regulations that represent a blockade to sportsmen," Nugent claimed to reporters before meeting the governor.

He argued that the state of Michigan should permit more bear-hunting licenses and should also stop trying to ban private preserves - such as the one he owns in Jackson County - that allows wild boar hunts.

"I hunt with hundreds of hunters every year and share intimate campfires where they open up and express stuff," Nugent said. "And it's embarrassing. They laugh at Michigan."

One government official, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, agrees with Nugent.

"Cabela's down in Monroe, No. 1 tourist attraction in Michigan, over a million people a year," said Richardville, referring to the outdoor retailer. "They come here, they buy their hunting and fishing equipment and go hunting in Indiana and Illinois."

The governor's spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said on behalf Snyder that he is "always happy to talk with people who are passionate about Michigan."

Nugent is not the only one voicing an opinion over some of the state's hunting rules. One of the top attorneys in Michigan (who prefers to remain anonymous) has sent letters to the state's government regarding licensing restrictions.

Challenging Nugent's statements is the spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources Mary Dettloff. She said the 2008 deer-baiting ban in the Lower Peninsula prevents the spread of chronic wasting disease among white-tail deer, and bovine tuberculosis in northeast lower Michigan. Dettloff said the Natural Resources Commission may lift the broad-based baiting ban.

She also said license fees for turkey hunting pay for wildlife management that maintains healthy wild turkey populations.

Many Michigan law firms with practices in environmental law and gaming law are taking an interest in the rocker's views.