“Bill Cosby” Law to Take Effect in California

DSC01152_2 (2)_2In Canada there is no statute of limitations for criminal offences. If you committed a robbery,sexually assaulted a person, or even murdered a person decades ago, the law is coming for you, if they find sufficient evidence to prosecute. Admittedly, historical cases are more difficult to prove: evidence is lost, witnesses die, and memories fade, but Canadians recognize that a crime is a crime is a crime and the passage of time ought not to excuse an offender of his or her criminal wrongdoings.

Not so in the United State, where criminals can beat the system if they have not been prosecuted within certain proscribed time periods.  Justification for limitation laws include that an alleged offender ought not to have to defend himself after a lengthy period of time has passed, again because of lost evidence, faded recollections and other “fairness” arguments. That this approach clearly prejudices victims has apparently fallen on deaf ears, until now.

This week California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that changes the limitation period in California for rape and other sexual molestation cases from 10 years to 20 years commencing in  2017. California’s limitation law reforms are not at the leading edge as  Nevada and Colorado amended their laws earlier this year, again expanding the period to 20 years. All of these legal reforms arise from the allegations of at least 30 women who say they were drugged and assaulted by Mr. Cosby.

According to the California Women’s Law Centre, 17 other States in America have no limitation period for rape.

California attorney Gloria Allred represents 30 women in the Bill Cosby case, most of whom have no legal recourse because of the limitation laws on the books in most states. She notes that the legislation is not retroactive, so it will not apply to her clients.

Proponents of the new law explain that it “tells every rape and sexual assault victim in California that they matter and that, regardless of when they are ready to come forward, they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law.” California state Senator Connie Leyva who brought the bill forward said in a statement. “Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired. There must never be an expiration date on justice!”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Murder, Mayhem, and Matrimony

GeorgiaLeeLang009Yesterday I finished reading an intriguing true crime book called “Guilt by Matrimony” A Memoir of Love, Madness, and the Murder of Nancy Pfister”. The story involved the 2014 murder of wealthy, Aspen Colorado socialite Nancy Pfister, age 57, and was written by Nancy Styler. Both Nancy Styler and her husband Dr. William Styler were arrested for the capital murder of Ms. Pfister. Colorado is a death penalty state.

Nancy Styler was a prominent scientist and her husband a highly esteemed anesthesiologist in Denver, before bad luck reversed their fortunes. Dr. Styler was diagnosed with a degenerative illness and could no longer practice medicine. His lawsuit against the hospital that fired him came to an unsuccessful end after they exhausted their last savings on legal fees. They sold their opulent Denver home for far less than they expected, and were looking to start over, now in their early 60’s.

They ended up in Aspen hoping to open a spa, and met Ms. Pfister, an eccentric member of the “lucky sperm” club, who was looking for a tenant for her home while she was away on an extended vacation in Australia. She seemed like a fun-loving, sophisticated woman, and she said she was interested in investing in their new spa.  The Stylers didn’t hesitate to rent the home.

They moved in immediately, sharing the home with Ms. Pfister until she was ready to leave. They quickly became disillusioned with their landlady who was not what they thought. She was manipulative, mercurial, and had a penchant for pink champagne, in vast quantities. The Stylers met Ms. Pfister’s close friend, Kathy, a bank teller, who did her bidding without question. Sharing Ms. Pfister’s limelight appeared to be sufficient compensation for Kathy.

All was well, until the Styler’s received a brusque message from Ms. Pfister who was returning to Aspen earlier than expected. She rudely told them to get out and accused them of failing to pay the rent. They scrambled to move their furnishings and vacate the home, moving into a local motel.

During the move-out they were grateful their landlady was not home, but became alarmed when they saw her dog was alone in the home and had made a mess all over the house. They called Kathy, who fetched the dog.

Early the next morning, the police barged into the Styler’s motel room, ordered them to strip, took photos, and handcuffed them. They had no idea what was going on as they were driven to the local lockup. After hours of questioning without a lawyer present, Nancy Styler and Dr. Styler were charged with capital murder. Both denied any knowledge of Nancy Pfister’s death. Ms. Styler suspected she had overdosed on pills and alcohol. She later was told that Ms. Pfister received hammer blows to her head and was stuffed in her bedroom closet.  Ms. Styler was gobsmacked, without bail, and with no funds to retain a lawyer a public defender was appointed to represent her. Her husband had separate counsel.

She languished in jail for three months while her lawyers investigated the state’s case and concluded they had insufficient evidence to hold Nancy. But Nancy’s release only came when her husband made a startling admission. He said he had gone to the Pfister home early one morning to discuss Nancy Pfister’s allegations, which had enraged him, lost control of himself, and killed her. Nancy Styler didn’t believe him, thinking he was taking the blame in order that she be freed and exonerated. But she was wrong. He had done it. His illness had also affected his mind and the anger and resentment he had carried since losing his medical position exploded that morning. She immediately filed for divorce.

Dr. Styler was convicted of second degree murder, later committing  suicide in his prison cell. He had a one million dollar life insurance policy that was paid to his wife.

Yesterday the Aspen Daily News reported that Nancy Pfister’s daughter, Juliana Pfister, has brought a wrongful death suit against Nancy Styler alleging she assisted her husband in her mother’s murder, suggesting that Dr. Styler did not have the physical capacity to hide the body, as he did. Ms. Pfister is seeking financial compensation from the life insurance funds and the profits of Ms. Styler’s intriguing book.

This story is an enlightening example of how life can change so quickly, from the upper echelons of Denver society to a jail cell in Aspen…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: The Era of the “Green Rush”: Is Legalized Marijuana a Fiscal Bonanza?

As of January of 2014 there are still only two states of twenty American states that have legalized medical marijuana that also permit recreational use as well; Colorado and Washington. These two states, in many ways, will set the stage for other states that are hesitant to embrace legalized recreational marijuana.

Early reports from Colorado indicate that state is generating a successful tax revenue stream since the so-called “green rush”, however, not everyone is sold on the idea of marijuana being widely available to adults, and more available to teenagers.

The marijuana “green rush” is about the thousands of inventors, investors and John and Jane Doe Public buying into the marijuana industry. In states where marijuana is not regulated the revenue that is generated is through the underground marijuana market which provides no fiscal benefit to government coffers. With a fully regulated system, states could see millions of dollars in new revenue, not to mention increased sales from consumers purchasing new inventions and devices created to make the smoking experience more pleasurable. [1]

This boost in the Colorado economy can also help create jobs and new sources of revenue, a significant motive for legislators in other states to consider. In 2012, the Colorado Center on Law & Policy made predictions on the possible financial impact that recreational marijuana could make saying, “the passage of Amendment 64 could be a boom for the state economy. Marijuana legalization would produce hundreds of new jobs, raise millions for the construction of Colorado public schools and raise around $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue for Colorado’s budget.” [1]

Predictions on the potential revenue to be earned in Colorado is on target as sales began in January of 2014. During the first week of retail sales, marijuana dispensaries earned and exceeded the $5 million mark. [2] The state has projected annual sales to reach around $600 million, and estimates $70 million in tax revenue.[2]

The legalization of recreational marijuana is still a hot topic in which supporters and opponents have battled back and forth in regards to the pros and con, especially the message it sends to adolescents and young teens. Critics of Amendment 64 are fearful of the potential greater access that legalized marijuana could have on teens. (Lyman, 2014) [3]

For years, lawmakers have claimed marijuana is not only a harmful drug but one that can lead to a harder drug use over time. There have been serious flaws in both these theories as no study has concluded that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. In fact, studies have found the opposite, concluding that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco and has statistically less health endangering consequences. [1]

Many parents are also on board with marijuana regulation and agree it would be better if their teens were getting the drug from a safer source such as a dispensary, if they choose to use marijuana in the first place. Regulatemarijuana.org is a website dedicated to campaigns that support marijuana regulation and is supported by parents, and even former police officers in Colorado.

Dr. Erika Joye, a nationally certified school psychologist working with the campaigns quotes, “Marijuana prohibition is the worst possible policy when it comes to keeping marijuana out of the hands of teens. If we do not regulate marijuana across the board, we are guaranteeing that sales will be entirely uncontrolled and that those selling it will not ask for ID. We are also forcing consumers into an underground market where they are likely to be exposed to other, more harmful products.” [4]

It is clear that Colorado and Washington are setting the stage for the rest of the country, with the New York Times predicting that Oregon and Alaska will be next.

[1]Ferner, M. (2012, August 28). Why marijuana should be legalized: ‘regulate marijuana like alcohol’ campaign discusses why pot prohibition has been a failure. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/why-marijuana-should-be-legalized_n_1833751.html
[2]Ferner, M. (2014, January 8). Colorado recreational marijuana sales exceed $5 million in first week. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/08/marijuana-sales-colorado_n_4552371.html

[3]Lyman , R. (2014, Feb 26). Pivotal point is seen as more states consider legalizing marijuana . New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/us/momentum-is-seen-as-more-states-consider-legalizing-marijuana.html?_r=0

[4]Unknown. Moms and dads for marijuana regulation post yes on 64 billboard . (2012, June 28). Retrieved from http://www.regulatemarijuana.org/news/moms-and-dads-marijuana-regulation-post-yes-64-billboard

This article is a guest post by BRENDA ABBOTT, Executive Assistant at Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Saint Jude’s offers the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement. Brenda enjoys doing research and writing articles, spending time with her family, and is currently beginning to write her first book.

Family Law Nightmare: Nozolino v. Nozolino

BarristerIf you thought you had an ugly divorce, you may reconsider after hearing about Nozolino v. Nozolino. The Nozolino’s from Colorado were divorced in 1999. Unhappy with the outcome of his family law trial, Bruce Nozolino, a software engineer in his 50’s, appealed the decision before Chief Justice Gil Martinez, regarding division of property, attorney’s fees and several other issues. To no avail, as his appeal was dismissed.

But Court was not over, it was merely adjourned to await the next battle. And there were many.

The Nozolino’s fought over every issue, whether large or small. They fought over the cars, his wife’s pension, her jewellery, the burgundy leather ottoman and particularly over the kids, how much time they would spend with their dad and how much money Bruce Nozolino would pay for their support.

Mr. Nozolino eventually fired his lawyer and redirected his fury from his allegedly adulterous ex-wife to her lawyer, John Ciccolello, a leading Colorado attorney, who he insisted was unethical and unprofessional, delaying hearings to prejudice Mr. Nozolino and making false statements against him.

At one point, Mr. Ciccolello sought to bring trespassing charges against Mr. Nozolino in respect of Nozolino’s attendance at his office, but the charges did not proceed. Meanwhile, Mr. Nozolino took every opportunity to bring Ciccolello to the attention of the Court, seeking sanctions for serious ethics breaches. None were ever proved.

In the midst of the divorce battle in October 2001 a shot was fired at the home of Chief Justice Gil Martinez. No arrests were made but soon after the Chief Justice removed himself from the Nozolino case. Most people thought it was just a coincidence until it was revealed that bullets had also been fired into the home of John Ciccolello a few months earlier.

On January 23, 2002 attorney Ciccolello was in his second floor office when a sniper’s bullet pierced the window and lodged in his eye socket . He believed he was going to die, but thankfully survived his injuries and even with his loss of vision and related hearing problems, continued his thirty year family law practice.

All eyes turned to Bruce Nozolino as the attacker, but with no inculpating evidence, charges could not be filed. Mr. Ciccolello spent years watching over his shoulder wondering and worrying what might be next.

He left the Nozolino case shortly after the shooting and in August 2002, the Court ordered that Mr. Nozolino pay his former wife’s attorney fees in the amount of $30,000.00. By this time, Mr. Nozolino was barred from having any contact with Ciccolello, his ex-wife and his children.

Colorado Springs lead investigator Terry Bjorndahl continued to pursue the investigation against Nozolino and also found himself the subject of a lawsuit brought by Nozolino against him. Nozolino alleged that when Detective Bjorndhal seized Nozolino’s gun collection, Bjorndahl had made the seizure in order to sell the guns to ensure that Bjorndahl’s divorce lawyer, none other than John Ciccolello, was paid his attorney’s fees arising from the Nozolino case. The suit was dismissed.

On November 30, 2008, 46 year-old Richard Schreiner was outside his Colorado Springs home shoveling snow when he was gunned down on his front sidewalk. Good police work uncovered information that indicated that during the Nozolino trial, his name had come up as a “friend” of Mrs. Nozolino’s.

After nine years of investigation and a three-month grand jury hearing, Bruce Nozolino was arrested in July 2010 and charged with thirty-one counts, including the murder of Richard Schreiner and the attempted murders of John Ciccolello and Chief Justice Gil Martinez. A public defender was assigned as counsel for Nozolino, who was being held without bond. Not one to lay idle, Nozolino was also busy tampering with witnesses and had five additional charges levied against him.

In September 2012 Nozolino was convicted of tampering with witnesses and perjury in relation to the grand jury inquiry into the murder of Richard Schreiner and the attempted murders of the judge and his wife’s lawyer. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

His trial on the remaining charges is scheduled for January 2014. Colorado is a death penalty state. You don’t say?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Amber Alert No Hindrance to Child Abductor Crossing the Border

DSC00507 (2)A recent child abduction by a father in Colorado, who fled with his three-year-old son to Manitoba, reminded me of the angst and heartbreak these cases bring with them.

Monte Turner, of Colorado, was barred by court order from contacting his former wife and their son Luke Turner. However, as is common in abduction cases, a court order did not get in the away of Mr. Turner last month when he arrived at his former wife’s home while Luke was playing in the backyard.

Turner overpowered Brandy Turner with pepper spray and an electrical stun gun, grabbed his son, and fled on a bicycle. His escape route was planned with the assistance of Luke’s grandfather, who is also under investigation.

An Amber Alert was issued throughout Colorado and the surrounding states, but no one thought to alert the Canadian border crossings because Colorado did not share a border with Canada.

It appears that Luke’s mother was unaware that her son had a passport, thus making it so much easier to be spirited out of the United States. Fifteen hundred kilometers later, Mr. Turner with Luke, checked into a motel in Brandon, Manitoba.

Fortunately, Mr. Turner made a simple mistake by using his credit card to pay for the motel room and within minutes, the motel owner was shocked as lights and sirens converged on his motel, where Turner was arrested.

This story, unlike many others, has a good ending as Luke was returned to his mother shortly thereafter, while Turner remains in jail in Manitoba awaiting deportation to face charges of kidnapping, burglary and menacing.

So, are there steps parents can take to foil the chances of a successful abduction? Of course there are.

In cases like these, the custodial parent is usually well aware that abduction is a possibility. In the Turner case, Monte Turner had taken his son the year before when there was no custody order in favour of his wife, to stand in his way.

Counsel for Brandy Turner ought to have ensured that a copy of the court order awarding her custody and preventing her ex-husband from contacting her or Luke, together with notice of the Amber Alert, was sent to as many border crossings as possible.

One can never be too careful and the fact that Luke had his own passport, albeit without Ms. Turner’s consent, is a reminder that it is prudent in high-risk cases for a parent to contact the Passport Office to determine if a fraudulent application has been made by another person.

Nonetheless, where a parent is determined to commit the ultimate crime they will take whatever steps are necessary, including forging consent letters and travel authorizations so that border authorities have no reason to suspect foul play.

What is really needed in Canada are judges who will mete out appropriate punishment for abducting parents as a general deterrence to others and specific deterrence to the abductor. A slap on the wrist, community service, or a probation order does not cut it. Parents who steal children commit the worst form of child abuse and deserve lengthy prison terms.

I suspect that Colorado will not be shy to ensure that Turner pays for his crimes, as he awaits trial with a $500,000 bail requirement.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Legal Marijuana and Family Law

BarristerThe abuse of alcohol is often a factor in contested child custody and access hearings. While “social” drinking has never been a concern, where a parent has a history of alcoholism, binge drinking, or drinking and driving, a court will seriously examine whether alcohol abuse is present and take steps to ensure children are protected from its impact.

With the legalization of marijuana in Washington State and Colorado, and the introduction of decriminalization bills in New Jersey, Texas and New Hampshire, family court judges will be faced with a fresh dilemma. When smoking marijuana was against the law, it was clear: a parent who broke the law may not be a suitable custodial parent in some jurisdictions. More often both parents engaged in the activity so the issue never saw the light of day in a courtroom.

But in states where marijuana is now legal and government regulated, it can’t be any different from the consumption of alcohol, which is not a problem unless it results in dangerous behavior affecting the child.

Also consider whether smoking pot in a state where it is not legal but has been decriminalized is any different? Marijuana advocates, who favour legalization, realize that in many jurisdictions legalized pot may be difficult to achieve, but who can argue against decriminalizing marijuana possession in small amounts?

It is inevitable that the legalization/decriminalization debate will come to Canada, particularly if the Liberals are able to oust the Conservative Harper government.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: Is Marijuana the 21st Century Bootleggers’ Moonshine?

Whether they realize it or not, residents of Colorado and Washington have traveled back in time – 80 years, to be exact.

The first two states to decriminalize recreational marijuana are sharing in the national experience of 1933: the end of Prohibition. And the similarities are uncanny, says Prohibition-era researcher and author Denise Frisino.

“As with Prohibition and the criminalization of alcohol production and sales, after marijuana possession was banned in 1937 there were many unintended negative consequences,” maintains Frisino, author of “Whiskey Cove,” (www.whiskeycovebook.com), a novel based on firsthand interviews with Prohibition-era bootleggers in the Pacific Northwest.

“The most obvious is the proliferation of corruption and organized gangs. After Prohibition became effective in 1920, America saw the rise of unprecedented crime.”

And, as was true in the 1920s, increasing crime means a greater need for – and expenditures on – law enforcement and judicial services. Enforcing the Prohibition cost the federal government more than $300 million.

In the interest of learning from history, Frisino cites these additional parallels to Prohibition and our contemporary problems with criminalized marijuana:

• Public safety: During Prohibition, there was no regulatory oversight on the production of alcohol, which meant some illegally brewed and tampered with liquors were downright dangerous. “Bad booze actually killed people,” Frisino says. On average, 1,000 people a year died from drinking tainted alcohol.

Marijuana, too, can be dangerous when dealers lace their product with chemicals to make it seem more potent. One benefit of decriminalization is that the quality of substances can be monitored. In Colorado, the growing process is strictly monitored from seed to sale.

• Tax revenues: The federal and state governments lost $11 billion in tax revenues during Prohibition, which was especially painful for states like New York, where nearly 75 percent of revenue came from liquor sales. Today, with the country still reeling from the Great Recession, legalization of marijuana will provide some much-needed extra tax income for Washington and Colorado.

• Medical uses: Like marijuana, alcohol has medicinal uses. Physicians of the early 20th century prescribed it for a variety of ailments. During Prohibition pharmacies could sell medicinal liquor, which led to a spike in the numbers of pharmacies as bootleggers set up shop.

• Common criminals: As with marijuana, outlawing alcohol turned many average Americans into outlaws. During the 13 years of Prohibition, jobs were lost and families crumbled as breadwinners went to jail and became stigmatized as lawbreakers. The number of federal convicts increased 561 percent, according to Mark Thorton’s, “Policy Analysis: Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure.”

In 2004, more than 12 percent of the drug offenders in federal and state prisons in the United States were convicted of crimes involving marijuana, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And that’s just prisons – it doesn’t include local jail populations.

The Prohibition era holds valuable lessons about the unforeseen outcome of criminalizing “vices,” Frisino points out. Rather than reducing alcohol consumption, which was the goal, it actually increased from 1929 to 1933, she says. In addition, legitimate jobs and businesses were destroyed and even restaurants and other entertainment businesses suffered.

“History teaches us that going about change by criminalizing certain behaviors can have a very negative impact on society,” Frisino says.

DENISE FRISINO is a writer, actress and arts teacher who lives in Seattle. She is the author of “Whiskey Cove” (www.whiskeycovebook.com).