Judge Needs Online DUI Class

It is not every day that a trial is delayed because a judge gets busted for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. But that is exactly the case for one judge. One would hope a judge would make smarter decisions. But we must remember – they are humans too.

The sentencing of a convicted killer has been delayed a bit all because the judge is facing criminal charges of her own. As reported in www.wsvn.com.

Cynthia Imperato, who faces DUI charges, is the judge in the capital murder case of Randy Tundidor Sr. The defendant was convicted of stabbing his landlord, Joseph Morrissey, to death in April of 2010. Morrissey was a professor at Nova Southeastern University. A jury recommended he receive the death penalty.

Just when the case was about to be fully-resolved, police pulled over and arrested Imperato in West Palm Beach as they suspected her of driving drunk. Her detention was caught on the arresting officer's dash cam. It took the officer some coaxing to have her surrender.

Again showing poor decision-making, Imperato did not want to cooperate with police officers. She took her time exiting her white Mercedes-Benz, as more police arrived to assist. It turns out the judge was trying to call her lawyer.

The case remains pending, but since her arrest, Imperato had been reassigned to oversee only civil cases. Would it surprise you that Tundidor Sr.'s attorney was upset by this?

Tundidor's sentencing has been rescheduled while Imperato decides whether or not to disqualify herself from the case.

Either way this blog is about a judge getting a DUI. I hope Imperato takes an alcohol and DUI class and remains sober from now on.

Has John Goodman Even Taken an Alcohol Awareness Class?

How long ago was it that playboy John Goodman was arrested driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and manslaughter?

Pencil in late February or early March for the start of Wellington polo executive John Goodman's DUI manslaughter retrial, over objections by prosecutors eager to begin much earlier. As reported in www.sun-sentinel.com.

"Sometime around there," Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath advised attorneys during a hearing Monday, after granting a defense wish to move the trial date for Goodman, 50, beyond January because of pending disputes over evidence. "Sooner rather than later."

Seven months ago, Colbath overturned Goodman's conviction and 16-year prison sentence, ruling alleged misconduct by juror Dennis DeMartin prevented a fair trial in March 2012 for the founder of International Polo Club Palm Beach and heir to a Texas air-conditioning fortune.

Now numerous pre-trial issues must be resolved before a new jury is sworn for the high-profile case, focusing on the charge Goodman drove drunk and caused the Feb. 12, 2010 crash that killed Scott Patrick Wilson, 23.

Media gag order: An unusual joint request by the defense and prosecutors seeks a judicial order barring attorneys and witnesses in the case from making comments to reporters outside of the courtroom until the verdict — or perhaps until the start of the trial if jurors are sequestered.

Local news organizations, including the Sun Sentinel, oppose such a measure. Colbath said he will rule sometime this week.

The gag, said defense attorney Douglas Duncan, is needed to muzzle former lead Goodman prosecutor Ellen Roberts, who, while no longer working for the state, has bashed Goodman in media interviews for more than a year.

"All we want on behalf of Mr. Goodman, like any citizen, is to have a fair trial, a jury unbiased by outside influences," Duncan said.

Roberts was not at Monday's hearing and could not be reached for comment despite calls. She has been quoted attacking Goodman over his claim that his Bentley malfunctioned before the crash; a charge that Goodman last year tampered with his house arrest ankle monitor; Goodman's request to remove the monitor and his bail after his conviction was tossed.

The defense argument is that if newspaper readers continue to see negative comments about Goodman, always followed by a "no comment" by Goodman's lawyers, it's damaging to Goodman.

But on the other hand, the defense acknowledged it might be better for Goodman if the bashing continues.

"Perhaps we shouldn't ask for the gag order because if it continues as it's been going on then it just adds to our motion for a change of venue," Duncan told Colbath. The judge in October rejected the defense's bid to move the retrial out of Palm Beach County because of concerns negative publicity will make it impossible to find impartial jurors.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson gave the gag order request a lukewarm endorsement, noting, "I'm beginning to think that, perhaps, the cure is worse than the disease."

The prosecutor also accused the defense of intentionally dragging out the pretrial proceedings by seeking out new experts and going over old files just acquired from Goodman's former attorneys.

"This is a dilatory tactic," Johnson said.

Goodman's medical records: Prosecutors want the court to approve a subpoena for Goodman's medical records from a doctor in Texas for the year preceding the crash. A post-crash blood test showed traces of hydrocodone from a prescribed dose of Vicodin that Goodman was taking for back pain.

The state wants to explore whether this drug contributed to Goodman's impairment — the blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit — on the night of the tragedy, prosecutor Sherri Collins said.

The state wants to know more about the prescription so a toxicologist can better assess Goodman's tolerance, she said. These medical records should indicate the dosage, when it was prescribed, and whether Goodman was advised not to drink alcohol with the pills.

Defense attorney Elizabeth Parker said the records request is unlawful, and a "fishing expedition." Colbath said he'll issue a ruling from his chambers.

Motion to dismiss the charges: Goodman's attorneys are arguing a key piece of evidence — the 2007 Bentley Continental GTC driven by the defendant during the crash — has been spoiled because it was released by the State Attorney's Office after the first trial.

Defense experts are heading to Texas to inspect what remains of the smashed vehicle by Dec. 13, with the cooperation of its new owner, who apparently bought it for parts. Prosecutors don't oppose the inspection, but they said the car is unnecessary for the retrial because of expert reviews by both sides before Round One.

Colbath asked the attorneys to return Jan. 14 to discuss the status of pre-trial preparations. But the judge said he'll also schedule a separate day-long hearing to address the Bentley and a slew of other pleadings.

One is a defense motion to throw out Goodman's post-crash blood test results because the blood sample was taken without a warrant.

This year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in a Missouri case that police officers usually must have a search warrant before requiring a suspected driver to have blood drawn. The justices said the Fourth Amendment's ban on "unreasonable searches" means that unless there is an emergency police need a warrant before invading an individual's privacy and taking blood.

Goodman's attorneys say this decision can be applied retroactively to Goodman's case, the motion contends.

Goodman initially declined to give a blood sample after 1 a.m. crash, when authorities say he ran a stop sign at 63 mph and smashed into Wilson's Hyundai Sonata, at the intersection of 120th Avenue and Lake Worth Road in Wellington. Wilson's car flipped into a canal, and he drowned.

Goodman relented to a blood test only after a deputy told him he had probable cause to draw blood forcibly, according to arrest records. The blood samples taken three hours after the crash showed a blood alcohol level of .177, exceeding the .08 legal limit. Goodman testified he drank liquor in a "man cave" after the crash to dull the pain of a broken wrist.

If You are Affluent do You Need an Alcohol Education Class?

Can simply being rich be an excuse for getting out of a drunken driving violation (DUI)? Apparently it can.

In North Texas back in December, 2013 a juvenile court judge sentenced a 16-year-old from a well-off family to 10 years’ probation for killing four people in a drunken-driving crash. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

The judge declined to give the teenager, Ethan Couch, the punishment sought by Tarrant County prosecutors — 20 years in prison — and instead ordered him to be placed in a long-term treatment facility while on probation. The judge’s order came after a psychologist called by the defense argued that Mr. Couch should not be sent to prison because he suffered from “affluenza” — a term that dates at least to the 1980s to describe the psychological problems that can afflict children of privilege.

Have you ever heard of a case where the defense tried to blame a young man’s conduct on the parents’ wealth? It is no surprise that the judge’s sentence has outraged the families of those Mr. Couch killed and injured, as well as victim rights advocates who questioned whether a teenager from a low-income family would have received as lenient a penalty.

Criminal defense lawyers said it was not uncommon for minors involved in serious drunken-driving cases and other crimes to receive probation instead of prison time, even in a tough-on-crime region such as North Texas. Other experts said it was part of a growing trend of giving a young person a second chance through rehabilitation instead of trying him as an adult.

On the night of the incident, Ethan Couch and several friends stole beer from a Walmart and went to his parents’ home to have a party. Later, he swerved off the road killing four pedestrians: Breanna Mitchell; Hollie Boyles and her daughter Shelby, 21; and Brian Jennings. Ethan had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24, three times the legal limit for drivers.

So, to recap, one person is paralyzed, four people are dead and the perpetrator gets his wrists slapped. How do you feel about this verdict? Did he get off because he was rich? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Alcohol Classes are Needed for Amsterdam’s Trash Collectors

Do you think paying alcoholics in beer and cigarettes is a good idea? What is your initial impression when I mention the European city of Amsterdam? Would it surprise you to know that the government there actually funds such a program?

It is true! The program pays chronic alcoholics and drug addicts a six-pack of beer, a pack of cigarettes and about $14 per day to pick up trash. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

While the mayor of the city applauds the program, conservative members of the Amsterdam City Council have derided what they call the “beer project” as a waste of government money and a misguided extension of a culture of tolerance that has already made the city a mecca for marijuana users and spawned Europe’s best-known red-light district.

The idea of providing alcoholics with beer in return for work was first tried in Canada. It took off in the Netherlands in part because the country has traditionally shunned “zero tolerance” in response to addiction. Amsterdam now has three districts running beer-for-work street cleaning programs, and a fourth discussing whether to follow suit.

The basic idea is to extend to alcoholics an approach first developed to help heroin addicts, who have for years been provided with free methadone, a less dangerous substitute, in a controlled environment that provides access to health workers and counselors.

To shield the government from criticism that it is subsidizing drinking, the Rainbow Foundation insists that it pays for the beer out of its own funds.

Is this a crazy idea or do you think it has merit? Would the government be better off sponsoring a series of alcohol awareness classes and counseling for these alcoholics?

Amsterdam Officials Enabling Those in Need

For those of you who are my loyal readers, this is the follow-up blog on a program started in Amsterdam where the government pays homeless people to pick up trash. The kicker is that the majority of their pay is in a currency known as beer. Yes, that is the malted-fermented beverage that contains alcohol. And many of these “employees” are known to be chronic alcoholics!

The program, started last year by the Rainbow Foundation, a private but mostly government-funded organization that helps the homeless, drug addicts and alcoholics get back on their feet, is so popular that there is a long waiting list of chronic alcoholics eager to join the beer-fueled cleaning teams. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

One of the project’s most enthusiastic supporters is the district mayor of eastern Amsterdam. As a practicing Muslim who wears a head scarf, she personally disapproves of alcohol but says she believes that alcoholics cannot be just ostracized and told to shape up. It is better, she said, to give them something to do and restrict their drinking to a limited amount of beer with no hard alcohol.

In the program, the workers are paid about a six-pack per day, as well as a pack of smokes and $14.

What do you think about this program? Do you think they should mandate these workers to take a 30 hour alcohol educational class?

Amsterdam Government Administrator’s Need Alcohol Class

What the heck are they thinking? Why would employers pay their employees with alcohol – especially if they suffer from chronic alcoholism. Could this only happen in the European city of Amsterdam?

As an alcohol awareness class counselor, I scour the news for stories about how alcoholism is treated around the world. This is one of the most ridiculous things I may ever have read. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

One chronic alcoholic describes his workday as beginning unfailingly at 9 a.m. — with two cans of beer, a down payment on a salary paid mostly in alcohol. He gets two more cans at lunch and then another can or, if all goes smoothly, two to round off a productive day.

This is not the employer enabling his addiction, but the government. He is the grateful beneficiary of an unusual government-funded program to lure alcoholics off the streets by paying them in beer to pick up trash.

In addition to beer — the brand varies depending on which brewery offers the best price — each member of the cleaning team gets half a packet of rolling tobacco, free lunch and 10 euros a day, or about $13.55.

Does this sound like a good idea to you? I guess if you had a family member who was on the street you would prefer to see them having some form of employment. I look forward to hearing what you think.