Adam Woody Law

New Jersey Woman Faces 10 Years in Prison for Deadly Texting While Driving Case

CBS News recently covered the case of a New Jersey woman is facing up to a decade in prison after being convicted in a groundbreaking case. She was texting while driving, and killed a pedestrian, in a state that now considers that just as serious as drunk driving.

Surveillance video shows the moments before Alexandra Mansonet’s black Mercedes plowed into the back of a red Toyota Corolla. The impact was so hard, it bashed into the back of the Corolla, propelling it into 39-year-old Yuwen Wang, who was in the crosswalk. Five days later, Wang died in the hospital.

During Mansonet’s trial, prosecutors claim she was texting about dinner plans. But Mansonet told jurors she looked down for a moment to adjust the defroster.

“The car was right in front of me, so I um, I hit the car,” she said.

“No evidence in our accident investigation that showed that there was evasive action taken, or any skid marks that would show that she braked, so the first time she realized that she had struck something is when the actual collision occurred,” said prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni.

Last Friday, Mansonet was found guilty of vehicular homicide. It’s believed to be the first time a 2012 New Jersey law that treats a texting driver as harshly as a drunken driver was tested in court.

Forty eight states and Washington, D.C. now ban text messaging for all drivers. Fourteen percent of distracted driver crashes in 2017 were linked to cell phone usage.

Mansonet is now awaiting sentencing. It’s rare to have prosecutions in distracted driving cases, though this case might serve as a wake up call for drivers nationwide.


What You Should Do During a DWI Traffic Stop

You’re cruising down the highway, enjoying yourself and suddenly you see police lights in your rear-view mirror. You hope that the officer isn’t coming after you, but you have a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach.

If you find yourself on the side of the road as part of a DWI traffic stop, here’s what you need to do:

  • Stay in your car: If the officer wants you to get out, they’ll let you know. Opening your door before the officer arrives at your window gives them reason to believe their safety is at risk, which can amplify an already touchy situation.
  • Do not consent to any searches or seizures: You do not have to provide the cop with consent to search your vehicle or person. Unless they have reasonable suspicion to search you, you should not consent to a search.
  • Don’t say too much: The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent. Invoking this right can prevent you from self-incrimination. You are under no obligation to answer a cop’s questions, including questions about your residence, plans for the day or criminal history.
  • Stay calm: If you’re put under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, it is important to remain calm. Not only does this help prevent additional criminal charges, such as resisting arrest, but it allows you to more easily take mental notes of what’s happening to you.

When you do these things during a DWI traffic stop, you increase the likelihood of driving away from the scene without any charges.

If you are arrested for DWI, don’t wait to learn more about your legal rights and the details of your case. The knowledge you collect will go a long way in helping you formulate a defense strategy for avoiding a conviction and associated consequences.


Posted in DWI

You Got a Brain Scan at the Hospital. Someday a Computer May Use It to Identify You.

In a disturbing experiment, imaging and facial recognition technologies were used to match research subjects to their M.R.I. scans.

Credit…Mayo Clinic, via the New England Journal of Medicine
Thousands of people have received brain scans, as well as cognitive and genetic tests, while participating in research studies. Though the data may be widely distributed among scientists, most participants assume their privacy is protected because researchers remove their names and other identifying information from their records.

But could a curious family member identify one of them just from a brain scan? Could a company mining medical records to sell targeted ads do so, or someone who wants to embarrass a study participant?

The answer is yes, investigators at the Mayo Clinic reported on Wednesday.

A magnetic resonance imaging scan includes the entire head, including the subject’s face. And while the countenance is blurry, imaging technology has advanced to the point that the face can be reconstructed from the scan.

Under some circumstances, that face can be matched to an individual with facial recognition software.

In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the Mayo Clinic showed that the required steps are not complex. But privacy experts questioned whether the process could be replicated on a much larger scale with today’s technology.

The subjects were 84 healthy participants in a long-term study of about 2,000 residents of Olmsted County, Minn. Participants get brain scans to look for signs of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as cognitive, blood and genetic tests.

Over the years, the study has accumulated over 6,000 M.R.I. scans. (Participants are not told the results of their tests.)

After the participants agreed to the experiment, a team led by Christopher Schwarz, a computer scientist at the Mayo Clinic, photographed their faces and, separately, used a computer program to reconstruct faces from the M.R.I.’s.

Then the team turned to facial recognition software to see if the participants could be correctly matched. The program correctly identified 70 of the subjects. Only one correct match would be expected by chance, Dr. Schwarz said.

Admittedly, he added, this was a fairly simple test. The facial recognition software only had to search through photos of 84 people, not thousands or millions.

But the fact that this was a straightforward test is “beside the point,” said Aaron Roth, computer scientist and privacy expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

“It is clear that eventually this will be a worrying attack” on stored medical data, he said.

The more likely abuse may be even easier than the method tested by the Mayo researchers, Dr. Roth said. Imagine that a bad actor already knew that a particular person was a study subject, and perhaps had some information regarding age and gender.

Under those circumstances, it should be far less difficult to find that person’s M.R.I. than to start with the scan and discover the subject’s identity. The task is “unfortunately reasonably straightforward,” Dr. Schwarz said.

The privacy threat is real, said Dr. Michael Weiner of the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Weiner directs a national study called the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, which has enrolled 2,400 healthy people in an effort to find signs of dementia before a person shows symptoms.

With the publication of the research by the Mayo Clinic, he said, the initiative’s administrators will send letters to participating research centers informing them of the potential for privacy breaches.

The data in the study are stripped of identifying information, like participants’ names and Social Security numbers, but their M.R.I. scans do include faces. The only privacy protection for subjects so far has been the fact that researchers who want to access data from the study have to sign agreements saying that they will not try to identify participants.

“There have been millions of image downloads,” said Dr. Arthur Toga of the University of Southern California, whose group sends out M.R.I. scans and other data to researchers who request them from A.D.N.I. About 6,300 investigators have received study data, he said.

Dr. Weiner is himself a participant in that study, and his brain scans are included in the research data.

“My genetics are there,” he said. “All my tests are there. I bet there are a lot of images of me on the internet. You could match me to an A.D.N.I. subject code and look at all of my data.”

“The question is, what can we do now?”

The obvious way to fix the problem would be to remove faces from M.R.I. scans stored in databases. That process, though, blurs the image of the brain.

Also, fixing images in that way would not help protect the privacy of millions of subjects whose brain scans are already stored by A.D.N.I., the Mayo study and other large research projects.

Dr. Schwarz said his group is working on another solution, but declined to say what it is. Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a privacy researcher at Imperial College London, questioned whether an easy fix even is possible.

“If it doesn’t exist, that raises a lot of questions about how M.R.I. data is used,” he said. The Mayo group’s letter, he added, “is a good warning.”


Man Convicted of Murder Argues His Life Sentence Was Fulfilled When He Briefly Died

DES MOINES, Iowa – A man convicted of murder was rushed from the Iowa State Penitentiary to a hospital in 2015 where his heart was restarted five times.

He claims his life sentence was fulfilled by his short-lived death, and he has overstayed his prison time by four years.

Benjamin Schreiber, found guilty of first-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole, was hospitalized in March 2015 after large kidney stones caused him to develop septic poisoning, according to court records.

By the time he arrived at the hospital, he was unconscious, records show.

Though Schreiber signed a “do not resuscitate” agreement years earlier, medical staff called his brother in Texas who told them, “If he is in pain, you may give him something to ease the pain, but otherwise you are to let him pass,” according to court records.

Doctors proceeded to save his life by administering resuscitation fluids through an IV. Then he underwent surgery to fix the damage done by the kidney stones.

Schreiber filed for post-conviction relief in April 2018, claiming that because he momentarily died at the hospital, he fulfilled his life sentence and should be freed immediately.

He was sentenced to life without parole “but not to life plus one day,” Schreiber argued in court, records show.

The district court denied Schreiber’s request, writing that it found his claim “unpersuasive and without merit.”

The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision Wednesday, agreeing that Schreiber’s sentence isn’t up until a medical examiner declares he is deceased.

The district court did not address Schreiber’s additional claim that his due process rights were violated when the doctors failed to follow his “do not resuscitate” request, court records show. The court of appeals said in its ruling that it could not address the matter either as a lower court had not made any judgment on it.

Schreiber’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.


AG Inventory Finds Greene County Failed to Test 312 Sexual Assault Exam Kits

New reports show that Missouri law enforcement and other agencies have almost 6,200 boxes of sexual assault exam kits that have never been tested and 1,700 that are not associated with any police reports, including 312 in Greene County. The recent inventory conducted by the Attorney General’s office, using $700,000 in federal grant money, found 312 sexual assault exam kits in Greene County that were untested, including 234 in possession of the Springfield Police Department, 30 held by Greene County Sheriff’s Office, 17 at Cox South, 12 held by Republic Police, and 8 held by Willard Police.

Former Jasper County Judge M. Keithly Williams stated that “The important thing to do is to get the profiles done, uploaded into CODIS and respond to hits,” Williams said. “One of the things we have done is to make sure there is an investigation to follow up on CODIS hits.”

The inventory consumed about $700,000 of the federal grant and the creation of a tracking system is the next project that the grant will support. Attorney General Schmitt projects that the grant should provide enough money to test about 1,250 of the kits in inventory.

We expect an increase in the number of arrests and charges for sexual assaults in the near future in Greene County and Southwest Missouri, due to the testing of old sexual assault kits. It is never to early to get an attorney on your side to deal with law enforcement or prosecutors for you. If you or a loved one is suspected, arrested, or charged with a sex crime, it is critical to hire an attorney as early as possible to fight on your behalf.


Court Rules Police Need a Warrant to Get Data From Your Car

Your connected car data might be safer from prying eyes — Georgia’s Supreme Court has ruled that police need a warrant to obtain personal data from cars. The decision overturns an earlier state Court of Appeals ruling that defended police obtaining crash data from a car in a vehicular homicide case. The state and appeals court “erred” by claiming that the data grab didn’t violate defendant Victor Mobley’s Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures, according to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court determined that a car is included in the “effects” covered by the constitutional amendment. It also found that the state hadn’t identified an exception to that rule that would apply in this case, and that claims this would be an “inevitable discovery” (and thus exempt from requiring a warrant before the search) didn’t hold up. Police officers weren’t even looking for a warrant at the time they took data from the car’s Event Data Recorder, according to the ruling.

Not surprisingly, the reversal has already pleased privacy advocates. The ACLU, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Mobley in the case, argued that the court had acknowledged the “danger of warrantless access” to car data. Black boxes like the EDR often contain extremely detailed information about not just the behavior of the car, but connections to other systems that can include phone contacts, location history and other sensitive info. The civil rights group also contended that this was no different than searching other computers without a warrant — it just happens to be a “computer on wheels,” ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler said.

Barring a US Supreme Court challenge, this could have a significant impact on how law enforcement searches cars in the future. Simply put, they’ll have to make clear that they either have or are seeking a warrant before they even think of taking data from a car. The timing is appropriate as well. Numerous automakers are developing intensely connected cars that could have a raft of personal data. Without privacy protections, American police could theoretically abuse their power and obtain details about your personal life with few consequences.


Senate passes bill making animal cruelty a federal crime

The U.S.

Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that makes animal cruelty a federal offense.

The PACT act, which stands for Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture, passed the Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support.

The president and CEO of the Humane Society released a statement hailing the bill’s passage.

Pact will revise a previous law passed in 2010.

Current federal law only explicitly prohibits animal fighting and only criminalizes offenders if they make and sell videos showing the animal cruelty.

PACT allows for prosecution for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling animals and sexually exploiting them.

There are exceptions for hunting.

Offenders would face felony charges with fines and up to seven years in prison.

The bill now goes to the president’s desk.