Washington’s attorney might seek change of venue

Former Missouri football senior captain Derrick Washington will be tried for two counts of misdemeanor domestic assault Dec. 8. He is pleading not guilty.

Associate Circuit Judge Deborah Daniels set a preliminary hearing for Washington’s felony sexual assault charge for Monday, but defense attorney Christopher Slusher asked that it be waived.

Slusher said he planned to request a jury trial for the felony case and said he is considering requesting a change of venue.

Ashley Lane/Graphic Designer

Washington did not appear in court Friday because, though he is required to appear for his sexual assault case, he is not required to appear for his domestic assault case.

The former Missouri tailback is accused of hitting and choking an ex-girlfriend in September and sexually assaulting a former MU tutor in June.

Slusher said having the misdemeanor case tried by jury would push the court date back again, past December.

“We are considering requesting a jury trial (for that case),” he said.

Preliminary hearings are never held for misdemeanor cases, but they are typical for felony cases. Slusher said preliminary hearings are rarely held in Boone County.

“We’re waiving our right to something we’re never going to get,” he said.

Washington is living and attending school in Kansas City. He was dismissed from the Missouri football team in August after he was charged with sexual assault. He later withdrew from MU, forfeiting his scholarship.

Washington’s bond stipulates that he cannot have contact with any of his alleged victims or commit any law violations. Daniels raised his bond amount to $10,000 in September, given that he committed his second offense while out on bond for his first.

Sunne, S.A. (2010). Washington’s attorney might seek change of venue. The Maneater, 77. Retrieved from http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2010/11/9/washingtons-attorney-might-seek-change-venue/

Washington court date set for December

Derrick Washington will be tried for two counts of misdemeanor domestic assault Dec. 8. He is pleading not guilty.

Associate Circuit Judge Deborah Daniels set a preliminary hearing for Washington’s felony sexual assault charge for Monday, but defense attorney Christopher Slusher asked that it be waived.

Slusher said he planned to request a jury trial for the felony case and said he is considering requesting a change of venue.

Washington did not appear in court Friday because, although he is required to appear for his sexual assault case, he is not his domestic assault case.

The former Missouri tailback is accused of hitting and choking an ex-girlfriend in September, and sexually assaulting a former MU tutor in June.

Slusher said having the misdemeanor case tried by jury would push the court date back again, past December.

“We are considering requesting a jury trial (for that case),” he said.

Preliminary hearings are never held for misdemeanor cases, but they are typical for felony cases. Slusher said preliminary hearings are rarely held in Boone County.

“We’re waiving our right to something we’re never going to get,” he said.

Washington is currently living and attending school in Kansas City. He was dismissed from the Missouri football team in August after he was charged with sexual assault. He later withdrew from MU, forfeiting his scholarship.

Sunne, S.A. (2010). Washington court date set for december. The Maneater, 77. Retrieved from http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2010/11/5/washington-court-date-set-december/

Suspect poses as cop over PlayStation

The Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force investigated a man who contacted a teenage boy in Moberly through the boy’s PlayStation earlier this month.

They found that the man, who was posing as a Missouri police officer, actually lives in the Northeast region of the United States.

The MMIC Task Force traced his e-mails to that location, but could not take its inquiries any further. It concluded its investigation Oct. 4, according to a task force news release.

Task force coordinator Andy Anderson said he did not know whether the suspect would be arrested.

“That probably depends on the authorities back in the area where he resides,” Anderson said. “We kind of have to depend on them.”

If they catch the suspect, Anderson said, he would probably not face charges in this state because impersonating an officer is a misdemeanor and a non-extraditable offense in Missouri.

The man instant messaged a 15-year-old boy over an Internet-connected PlayStation game, claiming he was a 10-year-old girl, the news release stated. He asked the boy personal questions and became sexually suggestive.

When the boy refused to continue the IM conversation, the man said he was an undercover officer with the Missouri State Police Sex Crimes Unit. That unit does not exist, and there is no Missouri State Police department.

The Moberly Police Department contacted the MMIC Task Force for assistance. Task force members traced e-mails the man had sent using information from the boy’s father’s MySpace site.

Anderson said the task force, which is a member of the statewide Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, has had previous cases where suspects made contact through gaming consoles.

“We have seen it before over a multitude of interactive games,” he said.

MOICAC Task Force Director Joe Laramie said games are one form of communication available to offenders because they are a common use of technology among children.

“Offenders look for where kids are,” Laramie said.

He said offenders play the interactive games and contact other players.

“What it does, is it allows the bad guy to be able to break down barriers very easily because they’re just playing the game,” Laramie said.

Recently the MMIC Task Force, the MU Police Department and the Boonville Police Department arrested a Boonville man on suspicion of enticing a child. The man had IM’ed a member of the task force who was posing as a 14-year-old online, Anderson said.

Anderson said it is not actually a crime for anyone to converse with a child over the Internet or ask that child personal questions.

“In fact, it is not a crime in Missouri for someone to try to talk a child into meeting them,” Anderson said. “If that’s all they’re doing.”

It is illegal for someone more than 21 years old to have sex with someone who is 16 or 17, but it is not illegal for that person to solicit sex from that teenager.

“It’s a crime if the suspect is over 21 years of age and they solicit someone who is 14 or younger to engage in sexual conduct,” Anderson said.

Sunne, S.A. (2010). Suspect poses as cop over playstation. The Maneater, 77(15), Retrieved from http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2010/10/15/suspect-poses-cop-over-playstation/

Sentencing cost calculator spurs mixed reactions

An online application that calculates the cost of sentences for felony cases has spurred mixed reactions among members of the justice system.

The Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission added this feature to its sentencing-recommendation application in August. For a second-degree robbery conviction, a sentence of five years probation with enhanced supervision would cost the state almost $9,000. A five-year prison sentence for the same charge would cost almost $55,000.

Megan Swieca/Graphic Designer

Most judges already know these figures, 13th Circuit Court Judge Gary Oxenhandler said. The feature simply provides them with even more information to help them make a decision.

“You hope that if you give judges a lot of information, that they’ll come up with the right punishment for the crime,” said Oxenhandler, who is a member of the sentencing advisory commission.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight said he is concerned the application gives cost concerns too much influence on a judge’s decision.

“It’s just very difficult, I think, to calculate the financial cost of doing justice in these cases,” Knight said.

A defense attorney, he said, might argue that a defendant who deserves incarceration should not go to prison because it would be too expensive. Columbia Trial Office District Defender Tony Manansala said judges might utilize the cost calculator because both Boone County and the state are facing budget crises.

“The state cannot afford to incarcerate as many people as they have been on low-level offenses, nonviolent offenses,” Manansala said.

Oxenhandler said the cost of a punishment is one of the least important factors judges consider.

“We’re more concerned about public safety than we are about what it costs,” he said.

In light of the state’s budget crisis, though, judges do have to take costs into account. Oxenhandler said judges and attorneys in Boone County might use the cost calculator more than anywhere else.

“Everybody’s broke right now,” he said.

Defense attorney Christopher Slusher said he didn’t think the application would have much influence on cases here in Columbia because judges already know that sentences require substantial amounts of money.

“I don’t think judges are going to consider the cost factors as much as some of the other things in the case,” Slusher said.

When the Prosecutor’s Office makes a recommendation to a judge regarding a sentence, it considers factors such as the severity of the offense and the likelihood of the defendant reoffending, Knight said. It also considers the victim’s wishes and the defendant’s criminal history.

Knight said is it extremely rare for his office to recommend prison for a first-time offender committing a nonviolent crime, even if that crime is a felony.

Manansala said the cost calculator might affect borderline cases, when the judge is on the fence between sentences. The application works for all felonies, but it would probably only be used for less severe offenses such as property crimes, he said.

But, calculations for dangerous felonies such as rape and murder are available on the application. Knight said he wondered why the commission made this information available if they didn’t plan for anyone to use it.

“Then why is it available, if it won’t be considered?” he said.

Sunne, S.A. (2010). Sentencing cost calculator spurs mixed reactions. The Maneater, 77(13), Retrieved from http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2010/10/8/sentencing-cost-calculator-spurs-mixed-reactions/

Obama talks student debt, affordability in conference call

In a conference call with college journalists Monday, President Barack Obama expressed his intention to make college more affordable and help students graduate without debt.

Obama said he wants to increase financial aid funding, investigate the rising costs of public universities and keep in place a change in health care policy that allows people to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26.

President Barack Obama speaks on the telephone during a conference call with students from various college publications in the Oval Office on Monday. The call provided college journalists the opportunity to ask the president questions, most of which related to higher education. Photo courtesy of The White House Media Affairs.

“All of those things can be helpful in moving us forward, but the single most important thing I’ve got to do is make sure that we get this economy back on track,” Obama said during the call with students from several college publications, including The Maneater, across the nation.

He said his three priorities regarding education are to make it affordable, ensure that it prepares students for the jobs of the future and to assist students in graduating.

Obama said, starting in 2014, student loan payments will be capped at 10 percent of a person’s salary. Residual student loan debt after 10 years will be forgiven for students working in public service, such as teachers and police officers.

Dave Roland, a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute, said this action is nothing more than a federalization of the student loan business, an action that is funded by taxpayers.

Obama also suggested investigations into the rising costs of public university tuition. He said an improved economy would provide state governments with more tax revenue, which would provide universities with more funding.

Ruth Ehresman, Director of Health and Budget Policy for the Missouri Budget Project, supported that proposal.

“We track the state budget very closely, and we know that there’s less scholarship money available for students both for need-based scholarships and for achievement-based scholarships and that’s very concerning,” she said.

MU raised out-of-state tuition by 2.7 percent in April due to state budget cuts.

“So if the federal government can help fill the gaps, you know, that have been created by budget cuts in Missouri, we think that’s a very good thing,” Ehresman said.

Obama said another possible reason for the upward trend in tuition costs is that many schools seem to spend a lot on amenities such as food courts and athletic facilities.

“It’s sure a lot nicer than it was when I was going to college,” he said. “Somebody has to pay for that.”

Roland said one reason for the above-average facilities on campuses is that schools are trying to outdo each other, and have garnered high amounts of money due to virtually inexhaustible demand from students.

“My concern as a free market voice is that the expenses that these colleges are going to are not inherently bad, it’s just a question of whether they are responsible,” he said.

Obama said he also wants to improve the economy so that students have better employment prospects. Despite living in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, he said, young people getting college degrees should have no trouble finding a job.

“If you’ve got skills in math and science, or good communication skills, there’s still jobs out there even in a tough environment,” he said.

Obama also implored students and young people to vote in the midterm elections coming up Nov. 2. He said the success of many of his proposals would be influenced by votes in this election.

“You can’t suddenly just check in once every 10 years or so on an exciting presidential election, and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

Sunne, S.A. (2010). Obama talks student debt, affordability in conference call. The Maneater, 77(10), Retrieved from http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2010/9/28/obama-talks-student-debt-affordability-conference-/