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Visalia Criminal Law Blog

Paul Manafort receives sentence in fraud case

California residents may have heard that Paul Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison by a judge in Virginia. He was charged with bank and tax fraud, which the judge acknowledged were serious charges. The judge said that Manafort's actions were akin to stealing from every taxpayer in the United States. In addition to the jail time, Manafort was ordered to repay $24.8 million and pay a $50,000 fine.

Manafort had asked that the judge show leniency in determining his sentence. His attorneys pointed to the defendant's age, health issues and first-time offender status as reasons why he deserved to serve as little time as possible. Sentencing guidelines from the prosecution called for Manafort to spend up to 24 years in prison. However, the judge in the case said that such a sentence would fly in the face of precedent.

San Francisco expunges 9,362 marijuana cases with automation

The legalization of recreational marijuana in California has led many people to seek expungements of drug-related criminal records. In San Francisco, the district attorney announced on Feb. 25 that the automated clearance of eligible cases had been achieved. A total of 9,362 convictions had been sealed, and some cases reached back as far as 1975.

The district attorney's office managed to process so many records with assistance from Code for America. The organization designed an algorithm to analyze criminal records and identify people eligible for marijuana conviction expungement. The process enabled the analysis of data in bulk and allowed the county to be the first in the nation to finish an automated review of cases.

College student who allegedly made app to sell drugs out on bail

An 18-year-old man, who until recently attended the University of California Santa Cruz, could face decades in prison if convicted on charges of selling cocaine and methamphetamine. Undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security allege that he built a mobile phone application called Banana Plug that enabled the sale and distribution of various recreational drugs like marijuana, cocaine, molly and mushrooms. He paid bail to obtain his release ahead of his next court appearance.

Agents described using the app to communicate with the man and arrange drug purchases on three occasions. A news release from the attorney's office for the Northern District of California revealed that law enforcement arrested him at his dorm room. Indictments on four counts of possession of cocaine and methamphetamine with an intent to distribute have left him facing felonies.

The basis for disturbing the peace charges in California

In California, there are a few ways in which a person could be charged with disturbing the peace. First, a person could challenge another person to a fight in a public place. Second, an individual could cause a disturbance by making or creating noise at a loud or unreasonable level. Additionally, someone who uses language that is considered to be offensive could be charged with disturbing the peace.

To charge someone with disturbing the peace for using offensive language, a prosecutor would need to show that the words were likely to incite violence. In the event that a disturbing the peace charge is related to a fight, a prosecutor only has to show that a challenge was made. No fight has to take place for a person to potentially be convicted of the charge.

California woman sentenced after admitting embezzlement

A 43-year-old California woman was sentenced to five years in a state prison on Feb. 4 for embezzling $474,000 from the owners of a Paso Robles company. Prosecutors say that she took advantage of the elderly owners of the company over a period of about three years after being hired as a bookkeeper. Media reports reveal that the woman is being held at the San Luis Obispo County Jail and may serve her sentence at the California Institution for Women.

Police began to investigate the woman's activities in June 2018 when a manager at the company called to report a series of suspicious transactions. The manager is said to have shown police several forged checks and about $421,000 in unauthorized withdrawals and transactions. Police say that the woman originally claimed that she was working at the behest of her employers and took the money to donate to charity. Some of the money was allegedly used to buy a diamond ring.

Man arrested for drugs after home invasion, car chase

On Jan. 25, California authorities arrested a 26-year-old man for allegedly committing armed robbery, stealing a vehicle, leading police on a car chase and possessing methamphetamine. The incident took place in Humboldt.

According to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, on the afternoon of Jan. 24, deputies were on Pine Creek Road in Hoopa when they spotted a vehicle that matched the description of a car stolen in Orleans earlier that day. The deputies called for assistance and continued following the vehicle as it headed west on Bald Hills Road. As the vehicle approached French Camp Road, it crashed into an embankment and two people, a man and a woman, reportedly jumped out and made a break for the woods.

NFL player facing drunk driving charges after traffic stop

Football fans in California may have seen P.J. Williams most recently when his New Orleans Saints were beaten by the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game. However, they may not know that the promising 25-year-old cornerback was taken into custody for driving drunk after being pulled over by police in Louisiana during the early morning hours of Jan. 23. Media accounts of the incident reveal that this is not the first time Williams has been accused of getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.

According to a New Orleans Police Department report, Williams was pulled over at approximately 1:10 a.m. on Camp Street near Andrew Higgins Boulevard for driving at 80 mph in a 50-mph zone. Police say that the football star was also driving erratically and failed to use his turn signal. The officers involved claim that Williams showed signs of intoxication but declined to submit to a breath test at the scene. Reports indicate that he was released on his own recognizance about three hours after being booked.

Man with dine-and-dash conviction surrenders

A man who pleaded no contest to walking out on checks at restaurants in Pasadena, California, surrendered to police in January, 2019, to serve his 120-day jail sentence. The man, aged 45, allegedly used numerous first dates as an opportunity to not pay for meals at multiple restaurants. In addition to a jail sentence, the man was ordered to pay $240 in restitution to victims and to stay 100 yards away from five restaurants.

The defendant in this case was originally arrested in August, 2018, and then released on a $100,000 bond. Prosecutors initially charged the man with eight felony counts of extortion, but a Superior Court judge dismissed them. The public defender argued that extortion charges were exaggerated considering the nature of the crime. Ultimately, the defendant plead no contest to multiple misdemeanor charges.

Racial disparity in misdemeanor sentencing

Misdemeanors account for about 80 percent of the criminal dockets in California and around the country. Misdemeanors are minor crimes punished by fines, probation or short jail sentences, but the way these sanctions are handed down has been criticized by civil rights groups and criminal justice researchers. Much has been written in recent years about sentencing disparities between white and black defendants in felony drug cases, but studies reveal that these imbalances are even more pronounced in misdemeanor cases.

After studying the outcomes of more than 30,000 misdemeanor cases adjudicated in Wisconsin over a seven-year period, a researcher found that white defendants were 75 percent more likely than black defendants to have the charges against them reduced, dismissed or dropped. The researcher also found that white defendants with no record of prior criminal activity were 46 percent more likely to have misdemeanor charges carrying a possible custodial sentence dropped than African American defendants with clean records.

Temecula man sentenced to federal prison for selling drugs

A 31-year-old California man has been sentenced to state prison for two years for selling cocaine out of his home. He pleaded guilty to multiple charges in December and was sentenced on January 3. Apparently, the plea agreement did not dismiss any of the charges.

According to Riverside County authorities, narcotics investigators received a tip in April that the defendant was selling cocaine from his residence on the 42000 block of Kaffirboom Court in Temecula. As a result of that tip, investigators began surveilling the home and observed another defendant drive up to the home on May 4 and go inside. After he exited the home and drove away, law enforcement officers pulled him over and searched him. They found an unspecified amount of cocaine in his vehicle and placed him under arrest.

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