Woman argues with judge and ends up with 300 days in jail

Bottom line: Don't argue with the judge.  This woman turned an arraignment into a 300 day jail sentence.


ELYRIA — Ebony Burks earned the dubious distinction earlier this month
of drawing the longest jail sentence that Elyria Municipal Court Judge
Gary Bennett has ever handed down for contempt of court.

300-day stay in the Lorain County Jail came out of an Aug. 14 hearing
during which she was being arraigned on domestic violence and assault
charges in separate cases.

Tweeting During Trial Could Land You In Jail!

12 angry men Well, it's official.  If you're doing your civic duty as a juror in California and you Tweet (or Facebook or e-mail or… name your technology) about the trial, you will officially be in criminal contempt of court.  What does that mean to you?  It could mean six months in the klink! 

    No tweeting Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Friday (Assembly Bill 141, authored by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Los Angeles) which requires trial judges to tell jurors that existing bans on conducting their own research about the case, or talking to outsiders about it, applies to electronic and wireless communication. Violations by jury members will be punishable by up to six months in jail for criminal contempt.

No facebook     Having just served as a juror last week on a criminal matter and as an attorney trying a civil matter just a couple of months ago in Santa Monica, I can attest to the fact that judges take the use (or misuse) of technology very seriously.  They admonish the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone including their significant others or the jury when not in actual deliberations.  They further stress, and I mean STRESS, the rules forbidding the use of electronic devices to Tweet, text, Facebook, e-mail or in any other way, shape or form any information, thoughts, questions or other communication about the case.  Jurors are not to use electronic devices to research the case or any facts about the case.

    As a lawyer, I actually think that these are good rules.  Verdicts are to be based upon the evidence admitted during the trial.  Verdicts are not to be based on a jurors' independent research.  I believe that the integrity of the judicial system must be preserved.  Read California Criminal Jury Instructions 101-102.

    You may also be interested to read what others are saying about this new law.  Most think that it's just one more useless law designed to quash the First Amendment and ultimately create more crowding in our already overcrowded jails.  Here are links to other articles and comments about this bill:

California Jurors Tempted By Technology Could Face Jail Time (Article) (Wall Street Journal Blog)

California Jurors Tempted By Technology Could Face Jail Time (Comments) (Wall Street Journal Blog)

Jurors To Be Told Not to Tweet Under New Law (SF Chronicle)

California Governor Sends Message to Jurors: No Tweeting (Law Technology News)

What do you think?

Drinking and Driving – It’s Never Been Said This Well

Someone sent me this video.  It speaks for itself.


On December 10th 1989 the first TAC commercial went to air. In that year the …

more info

On December 10th 1989 the first TAC commercial went to air. In that year the road toll was 776; by last year 2008 it had fallen to 303.
A five minute retrospective of the road safety campaigns produced by the TAC over the last 20 years has been compiled. The montage features iconic scenes and images from commercials that have helped change they way we drive, all edited to the moving song Everybody Hurts by REM.

This campaign is a chance to revisit some of the images that have been engraved on our memories, remember the many thousands of people who have been affected by road trauma and remind us all that for everyones sake; please, drive safely.
Transport Accident Commission Victoria.

Sexting and the Law (Part One)


         Yikes!  Sexting may
sound harmless but it is far from it! 
Sexting can land the sender in prison for a felony and can
cause that person to have to register as a sex offender for the rest
of his or her natural life!  This is no
laughing matter and the powers-that-be (i.e. police and prosecutors) take
sexting very, very seriously.

exactly, is sexting? Well, according to Wikipedia, “Sexting is
the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between
mobile phones."

Sexting is made a crime by Penal Code Section
which basically says that it’s a crime to send a message to a minor
if the message is intended to arouse or seduce the minor.  This crime applies even if the sender is himself or herself a minor and that minor can be prosecuted!

            Although we all
know that a minor in California
is defined as someone who is less than 18 years of age, click here to read www.sexlaws.org‘s interesting discussion of
California Statutory Rape.

are the consequences?  Well, for starters
up to three years in prison.  Then,
pursuant to California
Penal Code Section 290
, someone convicted of Penal Code Section 288.2 shall
be required to register as a sex offender. 
For life!

            Recent Arrests of Alleged Sexting Violators

Sexting teen austin butler ABC News: A Stockton student was arrested on suspicion of "sexting" - sending
inappropriate sexual material via text  – to a minor, according to a
school district spokesperson. 

The arrested teen was identified as Austin Butler, 18. "Apparently the evidence suggested that the texting back and forth had been sufficient to establish a pattern," said Lee.

Sexting ione police department CBS News:
An accused serial sexter" is behind bars for allegedly harassing hundreds of women with offensive text messages.

Police say there are victims across California and at least two other states.

Steven Sharp, 30, was arrested at his home in Hayward, California after the Ione Police Department conducted a sting operation. A
police officer apparently posed as a 13-year-old girl, and in one week,
Sharp allegedly made 100 phone calls and sent 2,000 text messages to

Read about the real life dangers of sexting In Sexting and the Law (Part Two), coming soon.


If You, Or Someone You Know, Was Arrested for Sexting

Call For Your Free Consultation

Please Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger
Immediately at

  (323) 852-1100  or (877) 487-8221


Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the
Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

Digital Copiers Loaded With Secrets

Identity theft      I was absolutely blown away by the CBS News Report on the danger of digital copy machines to your security. Digital copy machines manufactured after 2002 all contain hard drives which take a picture of every document that they scan, print, copy and e-mail.  When the machine is put on the used copier market, it can be purchased by anyone.  The data on the hard drive can be read by generic software which is found free on the Internet.  

    The data can include anything from copies of a grocery list to your social security number and sensitive medical information.  Encryption software is available and can be installed on these copiers but if the users don't know that (1) there is a hard drive and (2) the software is available, how can they protect the unwary public from this risk of identity theft?

    Watch this CBS Investigative story.  You'll be as blown away as I was.

Related articles:

Buffalo News: Police Data on Copiers Causes City to Scramble

Buffalo News: Scrub Copiers' Memories Before Discarding

Legal Holds and Trigger Events Blog: Copier Hard Drives Pose Preservation Problem

PR Log: How to Protect Your Photocopier Hard Drive

Questions? Concerns? 

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

(323) 852-1100


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"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

Internet Crime: Fraudsters on Social Networking Sites

Social-networking-sites     The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center has prepared a report entitled "Techniques Used by Fraudsters on Social Networking Sites."  Basically, the fraudsters hijack accounts in order to spread malicious software  via various techniques:

  • Use of spam to promote phishing sites, claiming a violation of terms of agreement or some other issue that needs to be resolved
  • Asking you to download an application or view a video
  • Some spam appears to come from a friend's e-mail, thereby giving the appearance of legitimacy
  • Some involve applications advertised on social networking sites, again giving the appearance of legitimacy.  

Mommy's fraudster


Once the victim responds to the phishing site, downloads the application, clicks the video or link, their computer, telephone or other digital device becomes infected. Others install malicious code or rogue anti-virus software.  Yet others give the fraudsters access to your profile and personal information and begin sending messages to your "friends" list instructing them to install the new application, too!!!


The IC3 has graciously provided the following tips to avoid these tactics:

  • Adjust Web site privacy settings to help protect your identity
  • Computer thiefBe selective of your friends because your "friends" can access any info marked as "viewable by all friends"
  • Provide only limited access to your profile to those with whom you don't feel comfortable sharing personal information
  • Disable options and then open them one by one such as texting, photos sharing, etc.  If you're using the site only to keep in touch with people, it may be better to turn off the extra options that won't be used
  • Be careful what you click on.  Posting a link or video to someone's wall doesn't insure that it's safe
  • Familiarize yourself with the site's policies and procedures.  Check their FAQ's.

If you experience a fraudster type incident, report it to www.IC3.gov

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an accident, please contact me immediately at

(323) 852-1100


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"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

Woman Charged with Insurance Fraud for Second Time in Two Years

Insurance commission Commissioner Poizner Announces Bakersfield Woman Charged With Insurance Fraud For Second Time In Two Years

Commissioner Steve Poizner announced today that Shawn Rene Dodd, 43, of
Bakersfield, was arrested on Wednesday, and charged with uncertified
practice of medicine, making false or fraudulent insurance claims,
money laundering, commission of a felony while on bail and selling
stocks without a license.  Dodd's bail was set at $1,000,000. If
convicted, she could face a maximum of nine years four months in prison
for these charges.

"I will not tolerate those who abuse the insurance system to
satisfy their own greed," said Commissioner Poizner. "CDI experts are
quick to stop anyone who attempts to scam insurance companies and drive
up the cost of insurance for all consumers."

Insurance fraud

Since her previous arrest in 2007,
Dodd allegedly continued to operate medical corporations, which were
used to fraudulently bill insurance carriers.  At one point, insurers
were billed for medical services reportedly rendered when there were no
doctors present. It is alleged that Dodd attempted to defraud insurance
companies of at least $100,000. The California Department of Insurance
and the Kern County District Attorney's Office jointly investigated
this case.

Dodd allegedly operated these fraudulent companies while on $500,000
bail for previous felony charges.  In January 2007, Dodd was charged
with felony insurance fraud, workers compensation insurance fraud, tax
evasion and money laundering.  She was released from Kern County Jail
and remained free on bail until her arrest on Wednesday. 

The Kern County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting this case.

Commissioner Poizner oversees sixteen CDI Enforcement Branch
regional offices throughout the state.  Close to 1900 insurance
fraud-related arrests have been made by the Department of Insurance's
Enforcement Branch since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 –
more arrests than have been made during any other two year period,
under any previous insurance commissioner.    

More on Insurance Fraud

Big RIgging Lawsuit against Great American Insurance Company

Coalition Against Insurance Fraud – Fascinating site with latest news, articles and fraud related stories

What is Consumer Fraud? – California Department of Insurance

National Insurance Crime Bureau

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you, or someone you know, has been injured in a motorcycle or
automobile (or similar) accident, please call me, Lowell Steiger,
immediately at

(323) 852-1100 or send an e-mail to me at lowell@steigerlaw.com

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

Contempt of Court: Woman Sentenced to 30 Days for Texting in Court

Texting behind bars The unthinkable has finally happened – Susan Henwood appeared in court for a debtor's hearing in an effort to ask the judge to continue the hearing because her husband was sick and could not attend and she was sentenced for 30 days in jail for texting him the updates of the hearing!!! According to an article in the Journal of the American Bar Association

Susan Henwood, a mother of four, started serving the sentence in the Tooele County Jail on Monday, according to KSL.com.
Henwood’s husband, Joshua Henwood, told KSL that his wife went to court
to ask for a continuance in his case because he was sick and couldn’t
attend. He also asked her to keep him updated.

Susan Henwood sent two messages from the courtroom, according to the
story. The first read, "It doesn't look good for you." The second said,
"They're coming for the Polaris Ranger."

In California, in order to be jailed for contempt of court the following elements must be met: (1) the making of a valid court
order, (2) knowledge of the order by respondent, (3) ability of
the respondent to render compliance, and (4) willful disobedience
of the order. Warner v. Superior Court (1954) 126 Cal. App. 2d
821, 824.

I would imagine that the rules in Utah are similar and, if so, did Ms. Henwood's act of texting her husband as described above satisfy these elements?  I think not.  To start, there is nothing indicating that a valid order existed which means that elements 2-4 would be moot.

The judge let Ms. Henwood out of jail after only a few days ostensibly because she's a mother and her kids needed her, not because his ruling was wrong.  Well, you be the judge.

As you know, I continually rail against texting while driving – that's a danger to the driver and everyone on the road.  But texting in court?  Do we leave our First Amendment Rights at the courtroom door?

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automobile (or similar) accident, please call me, Lowell Steiger,
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"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

Brown Obtains Guilty Plea from Woman Who Operated Sophisticated Loan Scam

BrownPortrait LOS ANGELES- Continuing his crackdown on mortgage fraud, Attorney General
Edmund G. Brown Jr. late Thursday won a guilty plea from 22-year old Anna
Santos, who conned thousands of dollars from homeowners in a "cruel and
sophisticated" loan scam.

Santos will be formally sentenced on May 20 in
Los Angeles Superior Court. She is expected to receive 2 years in prison.

"Santos conned thousands of dollars from homeowners trying to save their
homes through a cruel and sophisticated scam," Brown said. "She held out hope,
but in reality did not provide an ounce of loan modification, leaving her
victims unprotected and in far worse straits."

Santos was arrested on
March 12, 2009 after she used forged documents to convince victims to hand over
thousands of dollars for non-existent loan modification services.

obtained a fictitious business permit through the City of Los Angeles for
"Payment Processing Department." She opened several bank accounts and two post
office boxes under that name. She mailed flyers to vulnerable homeowners that
appeared to be from victims' lenders or a government agency. The flyer used a
large, bold header that read "Final Notice" and advised homeowners that they
qualified for a special program to save their home from foreclosure.

After signing up for "loan modification services," homeowners then
received what appeared to be "confirmation" that their lender had been notified.
Many victims also received loan modification documents that appeared to be from
their lender. These documents were all forgeries.

The victims were
informed they had been placed in a "probationary" program and their mortgage
payments should be submitted to "Payment Processing Department" and sent to a
given post office box address. None of the payments were credited to the
victims' home loans.

Payments sent to the post office box were retrieved
by Ms. Santos and deposited into the bank accounts she had opened.

Santos targeted seniors and homeowners on the verge of foreclosure. It
is believed that she scammed more than 100 victims. On average, victims lost
approximately $3,000, at a time when they could not afford their mortgage, let
alone additional fraudulent expenses.

Since taking office, Attorney
General Brown has shut down loan modification and foreclosure rescue scams and
fought companies that have misled vulnerable borrowers:

  • In March 2009, Brown shut down Foreclosure Freedom, a fraudulent loan
    modification company that continued to collect fees and mortgage payments from
    dozens of homeowners without ever providing any loan modification services.
  • In November 2008, Brown arrested three members of First Gov after the
    company demanded an up-front fee, ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, to participate
    in a loan-modification program and never renegotiated the loans.
  • In October 2008, Brown announced an $8.68 billion settlement with
    Countrywide Home Loans after the company deceived borrowers by misrepresenting
    loan terms, loan payment increases, and borrowers' ability to afford loans.
  • In May 2008, Brown shut down a team of scam artists that acquired deeds to
    hundreds of homes in foreclosure by convincing desperate consumers to pay
    $10,000 to place their property in a land grant, a phony and worthless real
    estate document, and then tricked homeowners into signing over the deed to their
    home and paying the company rent.
  • In March 2008, Brown shut down Lifetime Financial, Nations Mortgage,
    Greenleaf Lending, Virtual Escrow, Olympic Escrow and Direct Credit Solutions
    after the companies ran a complex predatory lending scheme using bait and switch
    tactics to victimize thousands of homeowners, many of whom lost their

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you, or someone you know, has been injured in a motorcycle or
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"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"