News Roundup

A convicted murderer remains on the lam in the suburbs of Philadelphia following his escape from jail last week. The AP reports that the man was serving a life sentence for killing his former romantic partner when he climbed over a razor-wire-lined fence and walked away. The man has been seen around the area at least six times while managing to evade capture and is suspected of breaking into at least one area home. This has understandably caused considerable distress among community residents. Some schools have closed in response to the ongoing situation. The suspect is also wanted by Brazilian authorities in connection with another homicide there. Read on for more criminal law news.

Masterson Sentenced. Following his convictions for the rapes of two women, actor Danny Masterson was sentenced to 30 years to life yesterday in a Los Angeles courtroom. Masterson rose to prominence as one of the central characters in the popular television sitcom, “That 70s Show.” His first trial resulted in a mistrial; the second resulted in two out of three convictions. The sentencing judge imposed the maximum possible punishment for the offenses. According to this report, he will become eligible for parole sometime around 2049. Masterson plans to appeal.

Georgia RICO Indictments. No, not those Georgia RICO indictments. The Georgia Attorney General recently announced the indictment of 61 defendants on racketeering charges relating to their alleged efforts to disrupt the development of the so-called “Cop City,” a large law enforcement and firefighter training center being built in the suburbs of Atlanta. State authorities claim that the defendants are “militant anarchists” who have conducted illegal activism tantamount to domestic terrorism. Activists claim that the prosecutions are politically motivated and violate protestors’ rights to free speech. AP news has more on the story here.

Young Thug Case Off to a Slow Start. Speaking of Georgia RICO cases, the racketeering trial of the rapper known as Young Thug has been stuck in jury selection since January. The rapper’s real name is Jeffery Williams, and he stands charged with leading a criminal enterprise responsible for a multitude of offenses. While some of the delay may be attributable to the numbers of defendants involved in the case—28 in total—there are also reports of multiple issues with courtroom security and decorum. In addition, the defendant and his music are well-known around the Atlanta area where the trial is occurring. That publicity, along with the expected length of the trial (6-12 months), has added to the challenges of sitting a jury in the case. The Times has the story, here.

Hunter Biden Indictment. Special counsel announced their intent to seek an indictment against President Biden’s son, Hunter, for his alleged possession of a firearm as an unlawful user of drugs. This comes on the heels of an unsuccessful attempt by the parties to resolve all of Hunter’s legal troubles by way of a global plea to other, unrelated charges. Defense lawyers involved in the case claim that the prosecution is barred under the terms of an earlier agreement and will argue that Hunter has immunity. The feds disagree. Stay tuned for more developments.

Rare Grant of Habeas Relief to Texas Death Row Inmate. According to this study, the State of Texas was responsible for over 40% of all U.S. executions between 2000 and 2019. In the 21st century, only one Texas death row inmate has received federal habeas relief from their sentence (meaning the verdict or sentence was vacated by the district court and was not later overturned by a higher court). The Fifth Circuit just doubled that number. Finding that the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel, the panel unanimously affirmed the district court’s grant of habeas relief and ordered a new trial. The case is here for those interested.

10-year-old Charged for Nude Selfies. A Nash County father discovered nude photos and videos of his daughter when examining her phone and contacted Rocky Mount police. Officers took custody of the phone, confirmed the pictures were contraband, and ultimately charged the child with felony second degree exploitation of a child based on the images she had taken of herself. According to the WRAL story, the case was diverted and closed without prosecution.

Feline-ious Larceny? WRAL also reports on a brewing dispute over ownership of a cat named “Bob” or “Maui,” depending on who you ask. When Alex Streight recently took her cat of ten years to the vet, employees there discovered the cat was microchipped. This was apparently news to Mrs. Streight. According to the chip, the cat belonged to Carol Holmes of Wichita, Kansas (where Mrs. Streight originally found the cat). When contacted, Mrs. Holmes expressed a desire to be reunited with the animal. The vet apparently refused to release the feline, and Mrs. Streight sought criminal charges for a purr-ported theft. Wake County Animal Control has taken the animal into protective custody while they complete an ownership investigation. Best of luck to Maui/Bob, wherever he lands.

I’m an Expert in Cat Law. Just kidding. But the above story made me think, what is the correct charge for cat theft? Under G.S. 14-81, the theft of dogs, pigs, horses, or cattle in North Carolina is a felony in all cases. That isn’t so for cats. Under G.S. 14-84, any animal may be the subject of a theft. Other than the specific animals in G.S. 14-81, though, the theft will not be felonious unless the pet was worth more than $1,000, was taken from a person, or was taken pursuant a breaking/entering, per G.S. 14-72(a) & (b)(1) and (2), respectively. Cat law experts, please let me know if I’m missing anything there.

Florida Man. For at least the fourth time, a Florida man has attempted an ocean voyage on an inflatable hamster wheel. As NPR reports, this time he was attempting to walk the wheel from Florida to England. Each attempt has been interrupted by the Coast Guard at considerable taxpayer expense. A former Coast Guard officer referred to the vessel as “the hamster wheel of doom.” This time, the man was criminally charged with obstruction of boarding and violating a captain of the port order.

Happy Friday! If you have questions, comments, feedback, or news items to suggest, let me know. I can always be reached at