Convicted Murderer Teaches Himself the Law, Obtains a New Trial and Acquittal

DSC00275_1Rodell Sanders is yet another victim of a corrupt criminal justice system in America. In 1993 he was a member of a gang called the Gangster Disciples in Chicago, Illinois. In December 1993 a carjacking took place resulting in a robbery and the murder of Philip Atkins, the male driver of the vehicle. His female companion, Stacy Armstrong, was also gunned down and left for dead, but she gained consciousness and managed to drag herself to a neighbor who called 911.

Stacy Armstrong was shown a photo line-up of possible suspects, one of whom was Rodell Sanders. Despite Ms. Armstrong’s description of her attacker as a 6 foot tall, slender, medium-skinned black man, she identified Rodell Sanders as her attacker. He was a hefty 180 pounds and 5 feet 8 inches. The Chicago police arrested Mr. Sanders and another gang associate of his, Germaine Haslett.

Haslett was persuaded by the police to finger Sanders as the guiding mind in the robbery, murder and attempted murder in exchange for a five year sentence. The police knew that Haslett was fully involved in the crimes but were anxious to turn Rodell Sanders into a gang informant with the threat of a lengthy jail term. Sanders refused their plea bargain of 23 years imprisonment and plead not guilty at trial.

Rodell Sanders knew he was being set up as he had a confirmed alibi supported by affidavits of associates who were with him at a party the night of the crimes. He hired a private detective to interview Haslett to determine why Haslett was lying about him. The detective taped a conversation where Haslett admitted that Sanders was not involved at all but that he was pressured by the police to testify against Sanders.

One of the questions put to Haslett by the private eye was “whether the police had urged him to lie on Rodell Sanders and place him at the scene of the crime?” Haslett answered in the affirmative.

Unfortunately, Sander’s lawyer did not call the private detective to testify and did not cross-examine Haslett about his lies. With the eye witness testimony of Ms. Armstrong and Haslett’s corroborative testimony, Sanders was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison. His appeal of the convictions also failed.

But he knew he was innocent and dedicated himself to learning the law, asking his family to save up some money so he could purchase the legal textbooks he needed to turn his case around. Rather than hanging out with his fellow inmates, he spent eight hours a day, seven days a week pouring over the law. He said he did it for his wife and children and because he did not want to die an innocent man in jail.

By 2003 Rodell Sanders was in a position to file a petition to the court alleging incompetent trial counsel in his bid for a new trial. He was successful in a 2006 hearing and a new trial was ordered, but not before the State filed an appeal, losing it, but delaying a new trial until 2010.

At his new trial, the jurors voted 11 to 1 for a guilty verdict, however, without unanimity it was a hung jury. He had a second trial this week where the jury deliberated for only five hours before acquitting him of all charges. He left prison last week, age 49, after serving twenty years on trumped-up charges.

Mr. Sanders has launched a civil suit against police and the justice authorities for their role in the nightmare he has endured.

As always, I wonder how the State, once in possession of the facts involving a rogue police officer, recanted testimony, and bogus eye witness identification, can be so arrogant as to appeal every court decision favourable to Mr. Sanders. Truly disgusting!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Presides Over Child Support Hearing While Conducting an Affair with Litigant

DSC01152_2 (2)_2If you were the payor father in a child support hearing and you learned that the judge presiding over your case was having an affair with your child’s mother, how angry would you be? How about if you read an email from the judge to your ex, agreeing with her suggestion that you be sent to jail because you’re in arrears of child support?

“I figure if he hasn’t come current by his court date, he gets jail to pay. If he says he can’t bring me the $$, I’ll put him on a tether (electric monitoring) til he brings the receipt…or do “double time”.

You might think this kind of corruption comes from a judge in Russia or Zimbabwe, but you’d be wrong. Judge Wade McCree was, until recently, a judge in Wayne County Michigan, home to two million people, best known for Motown and Motor City, and of late, the 18 billion dollar debt and subsequent bankruptcy of the City of Detroit.

Judge McCree’s judicial career ended ignominiously this Spring when Michigan’s Supreme Court suspended him for six years, after finding his conduct affected not only the litigants involved, but harmed the integrity of the judicial system as a whole.

Initially Judge McCree pulled a “Weiner” by texting a partially nude photo of himself to a female deputy sheriff, and was under investigation by the Judicial Tenure Commission. Rather than minding his “p’s and q’s” while under scrutiny for that indiscretion, he began an affair with Geniene LaShay Mott, who was the complaining party in People v. King, a court proceeding involving the enforcement and collection of arrears of child support against Robert King, who was the father of one of Ms. Mott’s children. He was in arrears of support in the amount of $15,000.

Judge McCree’s offences included:

1. Conducting an affair with Ms. Mott while he was presiding over her child support hearing;
2. Engaging in sexual relations with Ms. Mott in his judicial chambers;
3. Allowing Ms. Mott to access the court house through a rear, private door and utilize the judicial parking lot;
4. Surreptitiously arranging for Ms. Mott’s cell phone to be delivered to her in court by a sheriff so she could call him during the hearing;
5. Texting Ms. Mott from the bench while presiding over other cases;
6. Accepting Ms. Mott’s suggestions as to how he should deal with her child’s father;
7. Giving money to Ms. Mott, as much as $6,000;
8. Lying to the Judicial Commission concerning the date that he ended his affair with Ms. Mott;

But there was even more. Judge McCree presided over People v. Tillman, reducing Mr. Tillman’s bond in another child support case. Tillman was a relative of Ms. Mott’s, a fact known to McCree. And when his affair with Ms. Mott cooled down he lodged a complaint with Wayne County’s Prosecuting Attorney, alleging that Ms. Mott was stalking him and extorting him by demanding $10,000 in exchange for terminating her pregnancy and not revealing the affair and pregnancy to Judge McCree’s wife. In fact, the alleged crimes never occurred.

While Judge McCree’s attorney argued “no harm, no foul”, the judicial panel, comprised of seven judges, disagreed, saying the judge was well aware that his conduct was egregiously inappropriate as evidenced by an email he sent to Ms. Mott:

“Second, you are the complaining witness on a case that is before me. Naturally if it got out that we were seeing each other before your baby daddy’s case closed, everybody would be in deep shit”.

As for the aggrieved Mr. King, he filed a lawsuit against Judge McCree alleging constitutional violations, including the right to equal protection under the law and the right to be treated fairly in legal processes. District Court Judge Avern Cohn ruled against Mr. King finding that Judge McCree’s decisions in King’s case were “judicial acts” covered by “judicial immunity”, a protection that applies even if a judge’s actions are negligent, incompetent, or malicious.

Unfortunately for Mr. King, this week the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals endorsed Judge Cohn’s decision while declaring Judge McCree’s behavior “reprehensible”:

“Casual readers of this opinion…may erroneously conclude that…we are somehow endorsing Judge McCree’s conduct or going out of our way to protect one of our own…We do nothing of the sort.”

The Appeals Court also noted that “the best justice possible” was achieved by the Michigan Supreme Court when they suspended Judge McCree for six years.

Is this the end of Wade McCree’s judicial career? Only the people of Detroit can decide that, since Michigan State judges are elected, not appointed.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

DISBARRED- The Series: Roy Cohn

10950859361151CDP

Roy Cohn was a Jewish lawyer from the Bronx who gained fame and later notoriety as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy in his investigation into Communist activities in the 1950′s. Son of a judge and graduate of Columbia Law School at the age of twenty, Cohn had to wait until he was twenty-one to begin his legal career as a prosecutor in the Department of Justice offices in Manhattan.

Cohn worked on the Alger Hiss trial, an American lawyer, accused of being a Soviet spy, and was on the team of prosecutors who obtained espionage convictions and the death penalty for Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in 1951. Cohn often told others that it was his cross-examination of Ethel Rosenberg’s brother that sealed the convictions. He also bragged that it was his personal recommendation to the judge that the death penalty be imposed on the Rosenberg’s.

In 1954 Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation chose Roy Cohn over Robert Kennedy to act as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, the decision apparently made to avert any accusations of anti-Semitism. Several years later McCarthy and Cohn were investigated for the zeal they employed in the McCarthy hearings, including their condemnation of both communist sympathizers and homosexuals. Cohn bore the brunt of the criticism, while McCarthy’s career lay in shambles.

Cohn left the Department of Justice and went into private practice for thirty years, acting for high-profile clients such as Donald Trump, Mafia figures Tony Salerno and John Gotti, Studio 54 owner Steven Rubell, the Roman Catholic Diocese in New York and the New York Yankees Baseball Club.

In the 1970′s and 80′s, federal investigators charged Cohn with professional misconduct, perjury, witness tampering and financial improprieties involving city contracts and private investments, but he was never convicted.

However, in 1986 a five member panel of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division disbarred Roy Cohn for unethical conduct, misappropriation of client funds and pressuring a client to amend his will. The “will” incident happened in 1975 when Cohn attended upon a dying, comatose, multimillionaire client in hospital; lifted his hand, placed a pen in it and had him make a mark on a will that benefitted Cohn and his client’s granddaughter.

The official stripping of his license to practice law occurred in the last month of Cohn’s life in August 1986 at the age of 59. Mr. Cohn was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984 but kept his illness a secret. It was reported that Mr. Cohn’s goal was to die completely impecunious, owing money to the U.S. tax authorities. He apparently succeeded.

Roy Cohn’s life and legacy survives in today’s popular culture. In the award winning “Angels in America”, written by Tony Kushner, Cohn was played by actor Al Pacino as a hypocrite haunted by the image of Ethel Rosenberg as he lays dying from AIDS. Characters modeled after Roy Cohn have also appeared in The Simpson’s, The X-Files, a Kurt Vonnegut novel and a song written by New Yorker, Billy Joel.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee

Divorce Revenge

_DSC4179 - Version 2A Supreme Court judge in New York recently referred to a divorce litigant as “despicable”. What could possibly garner this strong reaction from an otherwise cool, calm and collected judicial official?

Just before the litigant’s wife filed for divorce, her husband decided to come clean with the tax authorities and filed amended tax returns for 2004 to 2007, disclosing an additional $1.6 million of income from his contracting business.

As a result, he owed the government $1.2 million in taxes, a sum that was coincidentally equivalent to the value of the family home. He also made it very easy for the tax authorities by attaching to his amended tax returns details of the assets he owned, the bank who held the mortgage on the family home, and other pertinent collection information.

The wife was shocked and horrified because the law in New York, as in many other jurisdictions, including British Columbia, provides that a debt incurred during the marriage for the family will be a family debt that is sharable between spouses. Unpaid income tax owed on family income is considered family debt.

The couple had been married for almost fifteen years and had four children.

The New York Supreme Court considered the husband’s evidence of the large family debt and determined that the husband had made the disclosure, not because he was being audited or investigated, but because he wished to cause as much pain as possible to his wife.

The trial judge found that his conduct was malicious and revenge was his motive.

Unfortunately, for this husband, his plan backfired, as the court held that given the egregious circumstances, he would be solely responsible for the debt.

Confucius once said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Lawyers Behaving Badly

49afd8240a58bf0fb97d4a86105572c1I’ve been told that sociopaths have three favorite occupations: practicing law, running large companies/CEO’s or holding government office/politicians! It’s a joke, but I’m sure more than a few people would agree. This week two “bad” lawyer articles came to my attention, thus my title “Lawyers Behaving Badly”.

The first is Fort Wayne Indiana lawyer James Allen Hanson, age 41, who in a fit of pique penned a Facebook message to the ex- husband of his matrimonial client, Nachole Mevis. Hanson was acting for her in respect of her divorce and in regards to an assault charge she faced where her former husband was the victim. It’s not clear why Mr. Hanson was so riled up, although media reports indicate his client was in jail for domestic assault. The message he sent read:

“You pissed off the wrong attorney. You want to beat up women and then play games with the legal system…well then you will get exactly what you deserve. After I get Nachole out of jail. I’m going to gather all the relevant evidence and then I’m going to anal rape you so hard your teeth come loose. I tried working with you with respect. Now I’m going to treat you like the pond scum you are. Watch your ass you little (expletive). I’ve got you in my sights now.”

Ms. Mevis’ former spouse, Chad Vice, contacted the police and attorney Jim Hanson was arrested and charged with felony intimidation, admitting that he sent the message to Mr. Vice while protesting that Mr. Vice gave as good as he got.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia Pennsylvania another lawyer came off the rails. Francis Malofiy brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against pop star, Usher, and nineteen other defendants in regards to Usher’s song, “Bad Girl”. In the course of representing his client, Dan Marino, Mr. Malofiy was described by trial judge Paul S. Diamond as “a paradigm of bad faith and intentional misconduct”, an unflattering portrait that was close to an understatement.

In a pretrial discovery/deposition of a certain witness, attorney Malofiy was deliberately abusive and obstructionist, making lengthy, baseless objections. He was also rude and sexist. In one exchange with defendant’s counsel he said “Don’t be a girl about this..” Opposing counsel responded “I would appreciate you not referring to me as a girl, which you have done repeatedly on the record and off the record.”

He continued to volley insulting and intimidating comments including:

“Counsel you’re defending thieves and you’re acting like somebody who should be hanging out with them at this point”

“You coached him to hell and the Judge came out and slammed you. Slammed you!”

“You’re like a little kid with your little mouth”

During one deposition Mr. Malofiy’s behavior prompted this response from the deponent:

“And for the record I’d like to say that I feel menaced and threatened by Mr. Malifiy and his continual outbursts and seemingly anger-driven conduct today.”

In a written submission to the court Mr. Malofiy addressed his argument “Response in Opposition Re: Joint Motion for Sanctions by Moving Defendants Who are Cry Babies.” The content of the argument included such brilliant points as “this is hogwash and claptrap”; “defence counsel are lying through their teeth”; “defence counsel is bizarre, off-kilter, absurd and professional complainers”.

Even worse than Malofiy’s abusive tongue, however, was his conduct in misleading an unrepresented defendant to believe he was merely a witness and was not being sued, behavior which drew the court’s most rigorous criticism. Mr. Malofiy defended himself by saying that he was a relatively unexperienced lawyer who needed a mentor to help him, protestations that were met with disdain from the court, who sanctioned him, leaving more stringent discipline, including disbarment, to be determined.

Two more reasons why lawyers are often branded as bullies!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Should US White Supremacy Group Forfeit Bequest in Canadian Will?

GEO_edited-1In an intriguing case from New Brunswick a court will decide whether a bequest in Robert McCorkill’s will to an American Neo-Nazi group should be declared void because of the racist views of the organization.

National Alliance, a white supremacy group in West Virginia, was gifted a collection of valuable coins from ancient Rome and Greece, an antique Iranian sword, and other artifacts and investments said to be worth a minimum of $250,000 and as much as $1 million dollars.

Robert McCorkill, who died in 2004 in New Brunswick, lived primarily in Saskatchewan and Ontario during his lifetime. He was a geologist and a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, who had spent time at National Alliance’s headquarters.

The challenge to his Will was brought by his sister, Isabelle McCorkill, who maintains that it’s not about the money but a reflection of her moral duty to intervene in what she describes as an offensive and illegal bequest.

The Attorney-General of New Brunswick agrees with her, as do B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs who were granted intervener status and made submissions at the hearing.

In their arguments against upholding the will, the interveners argued that the National Alliance’s profile had declined with the death of its founder ten years before, and that the bequest would provide funds to the organization to resurrect itself and its mandate to deny the Holocaust, and promote racial cleansing and genocide.

However, the Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE) argued that the will should stand as representing Mr. McCorkill’s testamentary wishes which are paramount and should not be subject to court intervention simply because the intended beneficiary espouses a message that is unpopular or even contrary to the Criminal Code or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

CAFE also argued that it was not up to a judge to determine the worthiness of a beneficiary and to do so would open a Pandora’s box, illustrating their point by querying whether a bequest to the Hell’s Angels or to a drug dealer or even to Greenpeace could be subject to attack.

They also noted that the National Alliance is a lawful corporation in good standing and had no criminal convictions either in Canada or the United States.

A very thorny question and one that will require wisdom. Is such a gift an affront to Canadian public policy and should the Court interfere with testamentary wishes? How do you think the Court will rule?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Why Trinity Western Law School is Good For Canada

BarristerElaine Craig, an assistant professor at Dalhousie Law School wrote an article in the Globe and Mail on December 18 concerning the accreditation of Trinity Western University’s Law School. As a Vancouver lawyer and arbitrator and a committed Christian I have listened to the critics rage on since TWU made their application to the Federation of Law Societies to obtain the necessary approval.

The good news is that the Federation approved TRU’s application, quickly followed by the assent of British Columbia’s Ministry of Advanced Education. With these obstacles out of the way, TWU Law School will now move forward, much to the chagrin of Ms. Craig and others who have decried the establishment of a faith-based law school.

In her article Ms. Craig scolds the Federation for refusing to act in the interests of “equality and justice” by virtue of TWU’s Covenant which states that students, staff and faculty must “abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”.

What she and others of her ilk ignore is that freedom of religion co-exists with the right to equality. However, in the case of private institutions, religious freedom trumps equality.

Section 41 of British Columbia’s Human Rights Code provides a specific exemption for non-profit religious organizations where the organization’s primary purpose is to promote the interests and welfare of an identified group, characterized by a common religion.

Ms. Craig also repeats the tired refrain that TWU’s Covenant is evidence of their anti-gay stance, when she knows the prohibition of sex outside of marriage applies equally to heterosexual couples.

In Ms. Craig’s world there is no room for divergent opinions and the accommodation of different beliefs, even though tolerance of opposing views is the centerpiece of a democracy. In her view, the curtailment of religious freedom is necessary in order to promote the beliefs of another group. Ironically, Ms. Craig is a strong proponent of human rights, so long as the rights are not of the religious variety.

The basic mission of religious law schools, of which there are many in the United States, is to educate students to be lawyers in democracies founded on Judeo-Christian principles. How can Christian ethics and morals be considered inappropriate?

TWU will undoubtedly lead the way in Canada “integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice”. (Taken from the mission statement of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, a Catholic school in Florida)

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang