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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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From the Blotter

Indiana, MSU basketball teams both have past legal issues

By Caleb Nordgren          Last updated: 02/18/13 6:20pm         

With the Indiana Hoosiers making the trip north to East Lansing for Tuesday night’s game at Breslin Center, From the Blotter takes a look at some of the most recent stories involving police and crime in each school’s basketball program.

MSU: Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne fight before game at Penn State

While this minor altercation never became a big deal — and has pretty much been forgotten, even by those at MSU — the police did respond, which brings the incident into our jurisdiction.

Admittedly, the team was already on its way to the arena by the time the police actually made it to the scene, but still.

The scuffle has been the only blight on the face of the 2012-13 season for MSU, but it was never a major problem and all indications are that Payne and Dawson are fine now.

Indiana: Former Hoosier charged with attempted murder, carjacking

Well, that escalated quickly. About three weeks ago, former Indiana basketball player Devan Dumes arranged to buy a car from a man named Kevin Jones.

However, when they met for the sale, Dumes pulled a gun, shooting Jones in the neck, and attempted to flee with the car. Jones fought him off and Dumes escaped on foot, but Jones identified him to the police and Dumes was arrested.

In addition to being charged with attempted murder and attempted carjacking, Dumes was charged with theft and carrying a handgun without a license.

The gun had been stolen from a local gun shop in November.

Oh, and while this was happening, Dumes was under investigation after allegedly firing 14 bullets into his brother’s house during an argument. So there’s that.

MSU: Derrick Nix charged with drug possession

Given how important he’s been to the Spartans this season, it’s easy to forget that Nix was arrested and suspended indefinitely only 10 months ago.

He was — somewhat obviously — reinstated not long thereafter, but there was a lot of discussion at the time as to whether or not he’d be allowed back on the team after getting caught with marijuana when he was pulled over for running a red light.

Staying safe at parties comes down to following safety tips, experts say

By Rebecca Ryan          Last updated: 10/16/12 9:49pm         

Kevin Hendrickson, a self-defense instructor for Recreational Sports and Fitness Services on campus, shared his tips for dealing with an altercation at a party.

Hendrickson’s courses are offered through MSU, and the Self-Defense Club also offers free self-defense workshops. Although most of the workshops usually focus more on defense from sexual assaults or threats, the instructors teach skills that may be useful when dealing with any type of physical assault threat.

Awareness of surroundings
Hendrickson recommends students look around to determine what type of situation they’re in. If they see alcohol around, chances are the person might be less rational than usual.

Also, he said people should look for potential escape rights and try to gage how other people around might react to a fight. For example, would other people at the party likely join in and assault you, or would they try to stop the fight and protect you?

Try to de-escalate the situation
It is best to try to reason with the person before taking physical action. If they are upset that you might have spilled a drink on them, for example, offer to pay for their dry cleaning or buy them a new drink.

If it looks as if you could take them in a fight, try to explain to them the possible consequences of getting involved in an altercation.

Explain you don’t want to have to explain to a judge why you were acting in self defense.

However, if the person is under the influence of alcohol, they might not be responsive to this type of reasoning.

Try to calm them down by talking to them or be sure to look them in the face if you’re confronting them about why the fight is a bad idea.

Take the least violent route possible
When taking physical action against someone during an assault, it is best to physically impair them so you have time to get away.

Although you don’t want to cause them permanent injury, you should consider ways to delay them from being able to assault you so you can escape the situation.

Try punches or kicks to the person’s throat, solar plexus (the nerves right below the rib cage, testicles and knees or gouges to a the person’s eyes.

These quick hits cause immediate damage or impairment, and while they’re in pain, you can escape the situation.

Social media use questionable in law enforcement

By Kellie Rowe          Last updated: 07/23/12 7:15pm         

When his Facebook status bar prompted Anthony Easterling, “What’s on your mind?” the Delaware police officer was quick to share it.

According to an article from USA Today, Officer Easterling of Wilimington, Del., is facing possible consequences for a questionable post on his Facebook a few days after the Fourth of July reaching 1,346 of his friends.

“A word to the wise never get drunk and trip off of meds and call a cop a n***** results broken jaw and criminal charges……WPD for life,” wrote Easterling, who is black.

Police Chief Michael Szczerba had originally stated the post would concern him if someone filed a complaint but changed his mind this past week.

He called the department’s Office of Professional Standards to evaluate the Facebook post.

Szczerba said the department does not have a specific policy about what an officer can and cannot say on social media.

But on July 10, the city’s administrative board approved a social media policy, saying it was not in response to Easterling’s questionable post but had been an issue under discussion throughout the past few months.

Because they did not know what inspired the online message, both city officials and the chief of police declined to comment about the appropriateness of the post.

The state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights prohibits the city from releasing information regarding Easterling’s rank or time of service during the investigation of his post, Rich Neumann, communications director for Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker, told USA Today.

The issue emphasizes the grey line between what is deemed appopriate or inappropriate for a person in the public eye to release on social media. For Easterling, he cannot escape his title as a police officer and even on a personal webpage, his information, thoughts and ideas can be accessed by many individuals.

Mark Marshall, sheirff of Isle of Wight County, told USA Today that offensive posts can provide evidence for defense lawyers to impeach a police officer’s testimony in court.

The city denied a Freedom of Information Act request for police or incident reports related to Easterling’s Facebook post.

Social media usage has been a trending topic throughout the nation and something students should be aware of. The State News’ Rebecca Ryan met with Bill Morgan, experiential learning & on-campus internship coordinator for Career Services Network, this past March and talked about what students should be careful of when using social media, specifically Facebook.

Lottery winner abuses system

By Lauren Gibbons          Last updated: 04/18/12 11:32pm         

Amanda Clayton, a 25-year-old lottery winner from Lincoln Park, Mich., is facing felony charges after failing to report her winnings to the Department of Human Services, according to news reports.

Controversy has surrounded Clayton ever since a local news station reported that she was still using her Bridge Card even after she won a $1 million jackpot in the Michigan Lottery in October 2011.

Clayton was unemployed at the time of her win, but collected more than $500,000 from the winnings and purchased a new house and car with part of the earnings.

Prosecutors said Clayton did not report her changes in income to the government, and allegedly collected about $5,475 in food and medical benefits she would have not have been eligible for otherwise.

Clayton was arrested on felony fraud charges Monday and is now headed to district court.

Legislation recently was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder to block lottery winners from getting benefits from the government and prevent actions such as Clayton’s from repeating.

Lansing 13-year-old faces life sentence

By Lauren Gibbons          Last updated: 04/05/12 12:07am         

A Lansing 15-year-old’s entire future is on the line as he awaits a sentence that could send him to prison for life on first degree murder charges.

In February, Lansing resident Charles Lewis Jr. was convicted of first degree murder for the 2010 homicide of 19-year-old Lansing resident Shayla Johnson, along with his father and six other adults, according to a Lansing State Journal report.

Lewis was 13 at the time of the murder.

Lewis was designated as an adult in the case, even though the trial is listed in juvenile court in official court documents.

Lewis’ sentence was held to a later date to review further testimony given by psychologists and juvenile court officials, according to news reports.

Because of the nature of the case, Lewis could be sentenced as an adult, a juvenile or a blended sentence. He would be held in juvenile detention until he reaches legal age and have is case re-reviewed.
If tried as an adult, Michigan law requires that Lewis be given a life sentence without parole.

Lewis’ sentencing likely will come back before the court April 10.

Missing DeWitt man reunited with family after two weeks

By Lauren Gibbons          Last updated: 03/28/12 10:52pm         

A 19-year-old DeWitt, Mich. man who had been missing for about two weeks was reunited with family members Monday in California, according to a Facebook page dedicated to his safe return.

Matt Hygh, a freshman at San Diego Christian College and a graduate of DeWitt High School, was reported missing March 13 in California.
In response, family members created a Facebook page and Twitter feed to raise awareness and promote the search. More than 3,000 people joined the Facebook page during the time Hygh was missing.

On Monday, Hygh called his father’s cell phone after a young man encouraged Hygh to reconnect with his family.

The Lansing State Journal reported Hygh had decided to take a spiritual journey and “disconnect from society” by traveling throughout California and living out of his 2000 Hyundai.

Hygh made this decision without telling anyone, sparking the search for him and motivating his father to travel to California to look for him.

Members of the family noted on the Facebook page that they were happy to be reunited with Hygh and were thankful for the time and effort friends, relatives, law enforcement and concerned strangers spent in search of him.

E.L. resident decides to forgo police complaint

By Lauren Gibbons          Last updated: 03/23/12 12:15am         

An East Lansing man who was frustrated with the way two East Lansing police officers handled the killing of a wounded deer on a roadway said his story was blown out of proportion and claimed he only wanted to address an issue, not make a fuss.

Michael Malott, an East Lansing resident, was passing by with his autistic child on Abbot Road when officers fired shots at a wounded deer near the roadway.

Malott initially threatened to file a formal complaint with the department because he was concerned about the safety of his child, fearing the shots that were fired were in too-close proximity to driving passerby and could have ricocheted to hit surrounding passerby.

Although he initially was very upset with the situation, Malott said he merely wanted to raise an issue and make sure the officers were doing their jobs appropriately, not cause a stir.
“I just thought that it was a very intense situation for us,” Malott said. “It’s a small thing that was brought up because it concerned me.”

A statement released by the East Lansing Police Department to the Lansing State Journal said the officers obtained permission from their supervisor to shoot the wounded deer in that location and maintained that the public was not in danger at any time during the incident.

The statement said the deer was trying to get up and move into the roadway, causing a potential risk for oncoming traffic, and said all pedestrians in the area were asked to move prior to the shooting.

Malott said he has discussed the situation with police officers and will not file a formal complaint, but believes the situation is being handled appropriately by officers at this time.

Sunshine week celebrates government transparency

By Lauren Gibbons          Last updated: 03/16/12 12:26am         

Although most students have been focused on the sun rays coming from the sky, information seekers throughout the country have been celebrating the process of bringing facts to light with Sunshine Week.

Initially founded by the American Society of News Editors in 2005, the purpose of Sunshine Week, held March 11-17, is to bring attention to the information members of the general public should have access to in local, state and national government entities.

The issue is still relevant in the eyes of many of Sunshine Week’s supporters because a large amount of potentially damning information still could be hidden from the public light.

One way for those interested in finding out more about government is through the Freedom of Information Act.

In Michigan, the Freedom of Information Act allows for all records from state or local authority, with the exception of some personal information and investigative processes, open to disclosure.

Any member of the public can submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act — it is not limited to reporters, lawyers or to any specific professions.

Under the act, the agency on the receiving end of the request has five business days to respond, after which it could ask for an extension, charge various fees associated with obtaining the information or deny the request based on various aspects of the law.

According to a March 11 article published in the Detroit Free Press, several topics of potential interest to the Michigan public are not easily accessible — including criminal history lookups from the Department of Corrections’ Offender Tracking Information System and misuse of the Law Enforcement Information Network by Michigan law enforcement officers to obtain material for “settling scores.”

For those who support an open government, Sunshine Week serves to continue to promote free and easily accessible public information.

Supreme Court lays down decision on prisoner interrogation

By Lauren Gibbons          Last updated: 02/22/12 11:18pm         

In a 6-3 decision handed down Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court determined investigators are not required to read Miranda rights to inmates during some jailhouse interrogations.

The decision was made concerning Michigan prison inmate Randall Fields, who confessed to sexually assaulting a minor during an interview conducted while he was serving a 45-day sentence for disorderly conduct.

After being sentenced 10-15 years in prison for criminal sexual assault, Fields appealed the use of his confession in the case, claiming he was not read Miranda rights before the prison interview.

Miranda rights, which stem from a 1966 court decision on the case of Ernesto Miranda, require law enforcement officers to tell suspects they have the right to remain silent and can have a lawyer represent them in court.

According to court documents, Fields was told several times that he was allowed to leave and return to his cell. Although Fields stated that he no longer wanted to talk to the investigators, he never asked to go back to his cell.

The majority opinion, led by Justice Samuel Alito, held that “custody” as defined by the Miranda decision does not apply in situations such as Fields’, determining mere imprisonment was not enough to qualify a suspect for that purpose.

Justice Ruth Ginsburg and two other justices said in their dissenting opinion that the decision could limit the rights of prisoners and keep them from being adequately informed of their rights.

Fields’ appeal was denied with the ruling and he will serve the sentence he initially was prescribed.

Attorney General announces public safety legislative initiative

By Lauren Gibbons          Last updated: 02/15/12 11:53pm         

An initiative rolled out by Attorney General Bill Schuette last month could put more police in Michigan’s streets.

On Jan. 25, Schuette announced a public safety legislative initiative to disperse 1,000 new police officers throughout the state during a two-year time span.

In a conference call, Schuette said the paychecks of the new officers could be funded by about $140 million of the state’s budget surplus throughout the course of two years.

Schuette also called for a change to state policy for those convicted of four or more felony crimes, proposing a minimum 25-year sentence for such criminals.

The move was in part spurred by the fact that several Michigan cities have been pegged as some of the most dangerous in the U.S., including Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw, Schuette said.

However, the plan would focus on the entirety of Michigan — not just those cities prone to violent crime, he said.

Although the plan still is in its preliminary stages, the plan could help local municipalities such as East Lansing.

East Lansing police Capt. Bill Mitchell said he hopes the city’s public safety department will benefit if Schuette’s proposal comes to fruition.

Because of budget cuts, Mitchell said the city has had to stretch dollars and consolidate positions to make ends meet.

Additional police officers, even if it were only one or two, would go a long way to bolstering public safety in the area, he said.