Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Man who impregnated Plymouth Township teen will serve at least 20 years

Original Story:

A Salem Township man faces 20 or more years in prison over his relationship with an underage Plymouth Township girl who ran away with him for two days last October. An Allegan County Sex Crime Lawyer is looking the case over.

Robert L. Messer, 38, pleaded guilty Friday in Wayne County Circuit Court to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes. Four charges were dismissed: three charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a person under age 13.

The plea agreement also calls for a prison sentence of 20-40 years, said Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

“We are satisfied that justice has been done in this case,” Miller said. Messer will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release, will have lifetime electronic monitoring after prison and is barred from having contact with the victim and her family, Miller said. The Sex Offender Registry can be the often be the worst consequence of a sex crime conviction.

Defense attorney Jonathan Jones said all sides had agreed to the deal. Messer’s plea came nearly four months after a trial on six charges ended with a hung jury and a mistrial. A retrial had been scheduled to start Monday.

“The Wayne County prosecutor’s office, particularly (assistant prosecutor) Aimee Fowler, handled this justly and professionally,” Jones said Tuesday. “We’re very grateful to the people involved and I think everybody is grateful this has come to closure.”

Messer, who remains in the Wayne County Jail, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, Aug. 22, by Judge Qiana D. Lillard. A Wayne County Parental Rights Lawyer may need to be involved if Messer wants to see his children.

Messer had been a friend of the victim’s family and had attended the same church. It was reportedly not unusual for Messer and the girl to go on outings together.

The victim was 15 when she and Messer ran off together last Oct. 27; they left notes declaring their love for each other, authorities say. They were found two days later in Washtenaw County after a witness recognized Messer’s truck from media reports and called police.

The victim has since given birth to a boy fathered by Messer.


Original Story:

Allegations of an inappropriate relationship between a 37-year-old man and a 15-year-old Plymouth Township girl apparently surfaced as early as last year, according to court testimony today.

The girl’s mother testified during the preliminary examination for Robert Messer that Messer’s ex-wife accused the pair of being in a relationship in 2012.

The girl’s mother, however, noted she was not aware that police felt it was a serious matter and that the allegation was from Messer’s ex-wife during a custody fight over Messer’s children.

“I spoke to both of them. They said there was nothing going on,” the mother testified about conversations she had with Messer and her daughter. Messer said, “ ‘No, I couldn’t do that to you guys.’ … He assured me there was nothing going on.”

The preliminary examination began today in 35th District Court in Plymouth and is expected to resume Nov. 19, when the girl will testify. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Aimee Fowler filed a motion with Judge Michael Gerou asking that the public, including the news media, be barred from the courtroom while the girl testifies. Gerou said he would issue a decision later. A Wayne County Sex Crime Attorney said this would be in the best interest for the girl.

The case caught international attention last month when Messer, who did not speak during today’s hearing and remains jailed on $2-million bail, was charged with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct and accosting a minor for immoral purposes. He is accused of having sexual contact with the girl at locations in Wayne and Washtenaw counties. They were found in a Salem Township field with self-inflicted wounds on Oct. 27, two days after they supposedly left for a hiking trip, an activity they frequently engaged in.

The girl’s mother has said that she felt especially betrayed because of the high level of trust the family had with Messer, someone they had met through church about 10 years ago. She said Messer, who lives in Salem Township but has a Northville mailing address, was a father figure to the girl, whose identity is being withheld by the Free Press because she is a victim in a criminal sexual conduct case.

During today’s hearing, the girl’s mother­ — the only person to testify — described her joy at being reunited with her daughter at a Livonia hospital and her concern about the girl’s undisclosed injuries, which required stitches. The girl was dehydrated.

“Her face was sunken in, and she was really pale, which was heartbreaking,” the girl’s mother said, crying as she later described the betrayal she felt from Messer.  A Washtenaw County CPS Lawyer was reviewing the case.

“Of everyone that I knew, he was the one person I thought I could trust,” she testified. “I had no idea that they were romantically involved.”

She said Messer’s 14-year-old son found a note that the pair had left before they disappeared indicating that they were in love and could not live without each other.

The girl’s mother testified that the girl is now in counseling and spent days in a hospital psychiatric ward after she was found.

“She thinks that everyone thinks less about her. … She’s ashamed of it, she’s humiliated by it,” the girl’s mother testified.

But Messer’s attorney, Jonathan Jones, indicated through his questioning that he considers the relationship voluntary.

Whatever contact she had was of her choosing, Jones said.

“Well, she is 15, but yes,” the girl’s mother said.

“Fifteen-year-olds pick their friends, don’t they?” Jones asked.

“Sometimes,” the girl’s mother replied. A Wayne County CPS Lawyer said he is considering defending the mother if charges are brought against her.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Original Story:

Last week Amgen, one of the USA's biggest biotechnology companies, reported a sensational quarter.

Earnings per share leaped 25% and revenue jumped 11% from the second quarter of 2013.

Amgen's chief executive officer Robert Bradway called it "robust."

But Amgen also announced it would lay off up to 2,900 workers -- from 12% to 15% of its workforce -- and shutter facilities in Colorado and Washington State. A Memphis Employment Lawyer said this is just not a good move.

The company, which will take at least a $775 million charge against 2014-2015 earnings to cover restructuring costs, will offer voluntary severance packages and maybe jobs for some laid-off employees in expanded research facilities in South San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass.

Wall Street drove Amgen's stock up 5% to an all-time high above $130. "Investors are particularly excited about the restructuring plan . . . that could save $700 million per year," Barron's wrote.

Big layoffs and restructurings aren't new, of course. This year, corporate stalwarts like IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have laid off thousands.

But IBM and HP have struggled to grow revenue, and many of Microsoft's layoffs came from the flailing Nokia mobile phone unit it just acquired.

Amgen, however, announced big layoffs in the midst of plenty. It joins a small fraternity of companies that have combined layoffs with better-than-expected earnings. They include EMC earlier this year and Travelers, American Express, and Cisco Systems in 2013.

In a memo to employees, CEO Bradway said the cuts came "from a position of financial and operating strength."

But maybe not for long, he suggested, alluding to "patent expires and loss of exclusivity for some of our important legacy products."

Like big pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies have a limited time to market their drugs exclusively. When patents expire, generic drug makers can sell them much cheaper, sharply reducing profitability.

Blockbuster Amgen drugs that have lost exclusivity (or soon will) include anti-anemia drugs Aranesp and Epogen (which was manufactured in Colorado) and white-blood-cell boosters Neulasta and Neupogen.

Enbrel, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment developed by a Seattle-based company that Amgen bought, will enjoy patent protection through 2028.

In his memo, Bradway said Amgen must "shift resources from maturing areas of our business to . . . our strongest opportunities," such as oncology and cardiovascular disease and "prepar(e) for new product launches." Cost savings from the layoffs will support that. But a Boston Employment Lawyer disagreed saying that cuts could be made in other areas.

"It is vital for us to invest in our continuing innovation and the launch of our new pipeline medicines," Amgen spokesperson Cuyler Mayer wrote in an email. "We are optimizing the utilization of our sites by closing some sites and concentrating our presence in fewer locations."

Nonetheless, growing Amgen's revenue and earnings and launching new products comprise 80% of the performance goals in top executives' annual cash incentive awards, according to Amgen's proxy statement.

Also, Amgen's board of directors recently changed how it sets equity awards, which comprise 73% of the CEO's compensation. Amgen's total shareholder return (TSR) will now be measured against the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

So, much of top executives' compensation will now depend on whether Amgen's stock beats the S&P, something it has barely done during the past five years. (Amgen has frozen the much smaller cash component of top executives' pay.)

"What will most directly affect the CEO is the stock price growth," says Aaron Boyd, director of governance research at Equilar, an executive compensation and governance data firm, who examined Amgen's compensation plan for USA TODAY. "His incentive is to bring a strong rate of return for shareholders."

At Monday's closing price, Equilar valued CEO Bradway's equity holdings, including options, at nearly $52 million. A 25% advance in Amgen's stock would make his current holdings worth almost $70 million.

So, Bradway, a former top investment banker at Morgan Stanley for 20 years, is pursuing a strategy that's in sync with Amgen's incentive plan.

The workers who are losing their jobs can't say that.

"Companies today have broken the social contract relative to individual employees and relative to individual communities to achieve their financial goals," says Washington State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, who represents the Seattle district where the Amgen facility is located.

"We know in a very painful way that the downside is very real."


Original Story:

Suspects in crimes large and small can escape justice without going very far.

Chapter 1

Not all fugitives are wanted
In many cases, pursuing suspects is a judgment call
LAS VEGAS — Their arrest warrants pile up by the thousands: One for a man accused of punching his girlfriend in the face. Another for a man who crashed, drunk, into a liquor store. Another for a man charged with killing a teen in a joy ride that went wrong. A Westchester County Criminal Lawyer said that there are just too many cases to get to them all.

But the authorities are not searching for any of those fugitives, and even if they happen to find them, they will not pursue them beyond the county line.

Across the United States, a USA TODAY investigation has found, police routinely allow as many as half of the people wanted for crimes large and small to escape justice simply by venturing a few miles from where they are wanted. In the Las Vegas area alone, police records list more than 408,000 arrest warrants for fugitives who won't be pursued beyond the edges of Clark County.

And although most of the fugitives face minor charges, law enforcement records in Nevada and other states list thousands of fugitives wanted for domestic violence, sexual abuse, manslaughter and repeat drunken driving who can evade arrest simply by traveling a county or two away. In New York, records list six rape suspects police won't pursue beyond a neighboring county.

Police say they have little choice but to let them go. "It really does come down to cost," says Jack Manning, the head of a small police force responsible for tracking down people wanted by Las Vegas' municipal court. He said he could not recall the last time his officers traveled outside Clark County to retrieve a suspect. An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer said he sees people get away with crime.

USA TODAY found earlier this year that law enforcement agencies across the country would let more than 186,000 felony suspects escape justice if they turned up in a different state, including thousands of fugitives wanted for robbery, sexual assault and even murder. Police and prosecutors said they lacked the time and money to navigate the occasionally cumbersome process, known as extradition, for retrieving fugitives from another state.

Records suggest that well over a million fugitives need not travel even that far to get away.

In three states alone, confidential law enforcement databases list nearly a million fugitives who need not fear being arrested if they're found beyond the next county, let alone in the next state.

Chapter 2

'My son was screaming his lungs out'
Wanted for manslaughter, but only if he returns to Clark County

Irma Delgadillo's reaction was common when she found out exactly how far the police were willing to go to pursue the man charged with killing her son: "Wow."

Her son, Giovanni Saavedra, was 17 on the night in November 2007 when he jokingly jumped onto the covered bed of his friend's pickup. The two had been laughing about what would happen if his friend started driving with Giovanni still atop the slick, plastic cover.

A moment later, Giovanni's friend did just that, according to police reports. He backed out of the driveway of the teen's North Las Vegas home and headed around the block. He turned one corner, then another, headed back toward Giovanni's house. Another man riding in the truck's cab said the second turn was "too sharp" and that the driver "lost control of the truck."

The sharp turn flung Giovanni from the truck's bed; he landed on the pavement beside a gravel-strewn city park, cracking his skull in four places. When paramedics reached him, he was lying on his back, bleeding from his mouth.

Giovanni was already connected to a ventilator by the time the police summoned his mother from the casino where she worked as a waitress. She heard what happened secondhand, from police officers and witnesses. Neighbors, she recalled, "said my son was screaming his lungs out and saying, 'Stop, stop.' "

Three days later, Giovanni showed no signs of progress. A doctor told Delgadillo that there was no hope of recovery, that "his brain would just start dissolving." That afternoon, gathered with Giovanni's brother and two sisters in his hospital room, she authorized doctors to disconnect the ventilator. He died that afternoon.

Police charged Giovanni's friend, Edgardo Martinez-Tapia, with manslaughter. They had sought to charge him with a felony, but prosecutors instead said he could be charged only with violating a Nevada law that makes it a misdemeanor to kill someone while disobeying traffic laws. A North Las Vegas judge issued a warrant for Martinez-Tapia's arrest, and officials logged it into a statewide database of fugitives.  A Poughkeepsie Criminal Defense Lawyer was watching the case closely.

Why didn't they put him away?
Irma Delgadillo, whose son's accused killer is a fugitive

Those databases are among the main ways police catch fugitives. Every time police stop someone for speeding or book them into jail, they can find out within seconds whether the person is already wanted, and for what. The databases also indicate how far the agency is willing to travel to pick up the person.

For Martinez-Tapia, officials said they would go only as far as the county line. That means if he is stopped by the police anyplace else, authorities would not go get him.

USA TODAY was unable to locate Martinez-Tapia. North Las Vegas officials did not respond to questions about why they would not go farther to pursue him.

Delgadillo, Giovanni's anguished mother, wonders: "Why didn't they put him away?"

Chapter 3

Distance is not the only hurdle
No way to count how many suspects police allow to escape

Those unwanted fugitives underscore an often overlooked reality for U.S. law enforcement: For all the advances police and prosecutors have made in their ability to solve crimes, they still struggle with the basic step of making sure that the people they arrest show up to answer the charges.

Exactly how often police decide not to pursue suspects even within their states is impossible to know. Some states don't systematically track the limits their officers put on warrants. In others, officials said warrant records are secret.
Las Vegas Fugitives scene.

Still, police records and databases from across the United States make clear that it happens routinely:

• In Michigan: Half of the roughly 1 million people with outstanding arrest warrants would be picked up only if police found them within 25 miles of the city where they're wanted, according to the Michigan State Police. Among them are approximately 1,000 people charged with felonies.

• In New York: Nearly half of the state's fugitives would be arrested only if police found them in New York City or its immediate suburbs. Among them are at least 361 people charged with sexual abuse and more than 11,000 people charged with assault.

• In Nevada: Among the 408,000 arrest warrants Las Vegas area police and court officials have decided to serve only within the county are nearly 6,500 for people charged with either assault or battery. Nearly 300 others are for people charged with drunken driving for at least the second time.

"I don't think that's a good idea, but it all probably comes down to dollars," says Kathleen Bienenstein, the program coordinator for Mothers Against Drunk Driving's Nevada chapter. "When you have repeat offenders and people who think it's a joke, that's a problem."

Even some police officials said they were surprised Las Vegas-area authorities wouldn't pursue some fugitives at least as far as the state border — particularly those charged with drunken driving or manslaughter. "We're hopefully more responsible than that," said Tori Shumway, who manages a Nevada Highway Patrol warrant unit.

Brandon McManaway is wanted on charges that he grabbed his girlfriend by the neck during a Christmas Eve argument in 2009, then punched her in the face four times with a closed fist.

Reached at a community correction center outside Columbus, Ohio, where he is serving a sentence for an unrelated drug charge, McManaway denied hitting her. He said he did not know that he was wanted in Las Vegas and asked what the charge was.

"I'm not worried about that," he said when he heard. "They won't come get me for that."

Chapter 4

Wanted: More manpower
Few officers, thousands of warrants

In Las Vegas, as in many cities, police can barely afford to keep up with fugitives who don't run.

The police force responsible for tracking down people wanted in Las Vegas' city court, for example, has just 20 officers to serve more than 117,000 outstanding warrants — when they're not busy providing security inside the courtrooms.

One way or another, most people are going to be held accountable. It's just a matter of time.
Jack Manning, Las Vegas Municipal Court.  A Birmingham Criminal Lawyer agreed.

Instead, police count on suspects to eventually get tired of the routine inconveniences of being wanted and to turn themselves in. Nevada, for example, won't issue a driver's license to someone with an outstanding warrant. And pending criminal charges, even minor ones, can derail job applications if they turn up during background checks.

"One way or another, most people are going to be held accountable. It's just a matter of time," Manning said.

Other states take a different approach. In Massachusetts and North Carolina, for example, arrest warrants generally are good anywhere in the state, and officers who find a fugitive can simply take him to a local judge instead of having to find someone to ferry him to the other side of the state.

"If I knew as a criminal that someone will only go 25 miles to get me, what would prevent me from driving 26 miles to the next jurisdiction?" said Hickory, N.C., Police Chief Tom Adkins. "Our citizens would expect that if we start a criminal process, that (the warrant) is served."

But authorities say it's common that police do not have the time or money to pursue people wanted for minor offenses.

"I would think that in every town, city and hamlet across the country there are thousands of in-county warrants for minor offenses," said Scott Burns, until recently the head of the National District Attorneys Association. "That probably has broad support among the taxpayers; why should we expend the time and money to go find these people?"

He said authorities should use their limited resources to focus on people who might pose a danger to others.

But in Las Vegas and elsewhere, law enforcement won't pursue even some people charged with violent offenses. Jennifer Bueler, for example, faces two separate battery charges.

One afternoon in 2011, police charged, Bueler shoved her mother into a wall as they tussled over $32. Another night, police said, she pushed her mother down a flight of stairs as they fought over $80. Bueler's mother told a police officer she feared her daughter would try to kill her. "I looked up at her eyes, and they were just total blackness," Bueler's mother, Sharon Bueler, said later.

Jennifer Bueler is in prison in Arizona on an unrelated charge. Sharon Bueler says she doesn't want to see her daughter freed there only to be dragged back to Nevada to face battery charges. A Greenville Criminal Lawyer said you really need to know all of the details first.

Her daughter's lawyer, Julian Gregory, says there's little chance of that. The two warrants for Bueler, like nearly all of those issued by the city's municipal court, are for pickup in Clark County only.

"Defendants have this perception that I can bounce and nobody's ever going to come find me," he said.


Original Story:

The owners of two dogs that mauled to death a jogger in rural Metamora Township are being charged with second-degree murder, the Lapeer Prosecutor’s Office announced tonight.

Sebastiano Quagliata, 45, was already in custody Thursday night and his wife, Valbona Lucaj, 44, was expected to turn herself in shortly, Prosecutor Tim Turkelson told the Free Press.

The pair will be arraigned in Lapeer District court at 9 a.m. Friday. They face up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Prosecutors also charged the couple with possessing an animal causing death.

Two Cane Corso dogs owned by the couple are blamed for attacking and killing Craig Sytsma, 46, of Livonia on July 23 as he jogged past their home on a rural Metamora Township road. Dogs owned by the couple had been involved in at least two previous, non-fatal attacks.

It’s unusual, but not unprecedented for a dog owner to be charged with murder in a fatal attack. When two large Perro de Presa Canario dogs attacked and killed lacrosse player and coach Diane Whipple in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building in 2001, one of the dogs’ owners was convicted of second-degree murder and the other was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

In 2008, a Livingston County woman was convicted on two 15-year felony counts of keeping dangerous animals causing death and sentenced to 3½ years in prison after her American bulldogs mauled to death a neighbor man and a woman who was jogging along the road in rural Iosco Township.

Sytsma, a father of three, had gotten off work in nearby Oxford, in northern Oakland County, and gone for an early evening jog when he was attacked. He died of his injuries at a nearby hospital.

Police and court records show that in the the past two years the couple’s dogs have attacked and bit walkers and terrorized the neighborhood.

The couple never showed up for a court hearing last year after the wife was issued two civil infraction tickets when their dogs charged an older man and bit him in the leg. Ultimately, they paid $280 in fines, and the case was closed.

In May 2012, one of Lucaj’s dogs charged April Smith, 25, tearing open her leg in three spots, as she walked down the road. In that case, animal control officials did not issue tickets, nor were the owners fined. Instead, they were ordered to keep the dog quarantined for 10 days. Smith filed a lawsuit against the dog owners and was awarded a $20,000 judgment.

Neighbors told the Free Press that the dogs roamed the neighborhood, growled at people in their own yards, and sometimes went into garages. Complaints to animal control officials went unanswered.

Meanwhile, federal officials say Lucaj, of Albania, and Quagliata, from Italy, are in the U.S. illegally. The couple has been fighting deportation for years.