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Friday Roundup

Better Space Invaders than home invaders.  Although the recession that supposedly started in December of 2007 supposedly ended sometime in 2009, that's a hard sell to anybody here in Cleveland, or just anyplace else for that matter:  millions of people are still desperately seeking jobs, housing is still in the toilet, and every day of good economic news seems to be followed by a day of bad.

But while the unemployment rate isn't going down, the crime rate certainly is:  to the bafflement of experts who'd figured that tough economic times would result in higher crime rates, as has happened in the past, violent crime continues to decline, hitting the lowest rate in nearly 40 years

Theories abound for why this is true, but, with a hat-tip to Sentencing Law & Policy, comes another possibility:

the Internet also reduces crime in a very unique way. Most of street crimes - personal or property - are committed by juveniles and young people. Since juveniles and young people are spending more and more time on the Internet, gaming, surfing and networking, they have little time to commit crime.

So if your surly teenager -- but I repeat myself -- disdains any contact with you or other humans in preference to sitting in his room playing computer games by the hours, despair not.  Sure, his job prospects might be limited -- after all, not many companies place a premium on an employee's ability to get beyond the 7th level in Dragon Age: Origins -- but at least he's not out selling crack or mugging somebody.

Employee of the Month.  Speaking of employees -- and notice the smooth transition there -- former Cleveland State University cashier Gayle Schmitz lucked out earlier this month:  after she pled guilty to embezzling $173,000 from the school, the judge changed his mind and gave her five years probation instead of a prison sentence.  That's better than Colleen Kempf or Juanita Myrick did; Kempf wound up doing four years for stealing $500,000 from a local Catholic girls school here, and Myrick got hit with a whopping two decades for ripping off the Cuyahoga County Department of Employment and Family Services of three quarter of a mill. 

But when it comes to low-down, scummy employees, you'd have a hard time topping Scott Wellington of New Hampshire.  He told his employers a couple years back that his wife had found a lump in her breast.  Soon, that escalated to breast cancer, which required a double mastectomy.  He got about $7,000 in donations from other employees to help him deal with his wife's illness -- and to help their four children, all under the age of 10 -- and last Christmas the company gave him four weeks off, paid, to attend various medical procedures with his wife.  All in a lost cause; she died earlier this spring.

Well, not really.  Wellington made the whole thing up.  His wife found out about it when she opened a sympathy card from the employer commiserating with Wellington on his loss.  She called the company, they tipped off the cops, and Wellington was arrested.

Well, that's what happens when you use Hooters as a recruiting ground for paralegals.  A long time ago, I tried the first case involving a Cleveland ordinance making it a crime to leave a gun laying around so that a minor could get ahold of it.  The victim was a three-year-old boy, who'd killed himself with the gun.  The rules allow the prosecutor to have someone sitting at the trial table with him, which is usually the investigating detective or some other police officer.  In this case, the prosecutor wanted to have the mother sitting with him.  I wasn't too keen on the jury having that reminder throughout the trial, and the prosecutor eventually relented.

Thomas Gooch had a different problem of that sort.  In a recent motion in a civil case, Gooch filed a "Motion in Limine" re the "Presence of Plaintiff's Counsel's Companion at Counsel's Table at Trial," asserting that

Defendant's counsel is anecdotally familiar with the tactics and theatrics of Plaintiff's counsel, [redacted].  Such behavior includes having a large breasted woman sit next to him at counsel's table during the course of the trial.  There is no evidence whatsoever that this woman has any legal training whatsoever, and the sole purpose of her presence at Plaintiff's Counsel's table is to draw the attention of the jury away from the relevant proceedings before this court, obviously prejudicing the Defendant's in this or any other cause.  Until it is shown that this woman has any sort of legal background, she should be required to sit in the gallery with the rest of the spectators and be barred from sitting at counsel's table during the course of this trial.

The plaintiff's lawyer quickly fired back his own broadside; the "companion" in question was his paralegal:

a) Plantiffs' paralegal is clearly qualified for the work she performs before and during trials, and there is no reason to believe that her appearance at Plaintiffs' table will have any detrimental effect on Defendants' presentation of its case to a jury; and b) Defendant's motion does not cite any existing law or make any good-faith legal argument for the proposition that a woman may be barred from a counsel's table at a jury trial because she is "large breasted."

And let's hope that precedent is never established.

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