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Justice for Erin

Way to go, Erin! (E Online)

Privacy is something most of us take for granted in today’s digital age of smartphones and social media. We simply assume the things we say or do could be broadcast around the world at the push of a button—and many of us do whatever is necessary to prevent this from happening.

Others love this kind of attention and document every mundane activity from their lives on websites like Facebook and Instagram. I mean, why else would people share images of the dinner they’re preparing to eat or post endless, narcissistic “selfies” of themselves making duck lips?

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to the Internet and our digital loss of privacy—a dark side that sportscaster Erin Andrews knows all too well.

In 2008, a video surfaced online of Andrews in a Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University—a nude video. She didn’t film and post it herself, though. A peeping Tom named Michael Barrett did. And the entire video was shot through the keyhole in her hotel room door without her knowledge.

As you might imagine, any video of a beautiful, naked woman garners seemingly endless attention online. And when the woman is as well-known as Andrews, it grabs even more attention. What’s worse is that removing the video once it hits the web does nothing. It exists eternally in cyberspace and, in the case of this video, has been viewed more than 17 million times.

Erin in court (US Magazine)

The good news is that Andrews took action and sued those responsible not only for the video, but for allowing it to be recorded at all. Barrett, the hotel owner and the hotel operator were all deemed responsible. And yesterday, a jury ruled in Andrews’ favor, awarding her a judgment of $55 million.

Andrews took to Twitter shortly thereafter to express her gratitude over the ruling: “I would like to thank the Nashville court, the court personnel and the jury for their service. The support I’ve received from the people of Nashville has been overwhelming. I would also like thank my family, friends and legal team. I’ve been honored by all the support victims around the world. Their outreach has helped me be able to stand up and hold accountable those whose job it is to protect everyone’s safety, security and privacy.”

Personally, I could not be happier for Erin and commend her on being so brave. And I sincerely hope that her life can return to normal now that those responsible have been punished.

Congratulations, sister! I’m proud of you!

Strapped in Georgia

Yeah, this looks like a good idea (GOP USA)

Yeah, this looks like a good idea (GOP USA)

I just heard that Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia signed House Bill 60—or the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014—into law earlier today. Known as the “guns everywhere bill” by its opponents, HB60 specifies where residents can carry firearms and includes provisions that could allow people with concealed weapons permits to bring guns into churches, bars, government buildings, schools and even airports!

The parking lots, shops and other areas in front of security checkpoints, I mean. As far as I know, carrying guns into the airline terminals is still a no-no.

Heavily promoted by the pro-gun group GeorgiaCarry—and opposed by organizations like Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), which called the bill “extremism in action”—HB60 will go into effect on July 1st whether people like it or not. And while it doesn’t allow guns everywhere—business owners can choose whether or not to allow them in their establishments—the bill does have some people worried.

“Among its many extreme provisions, it allows guns in TSA lines at the country’s busiest airport, forces community school boards into bitter, divisive debates about whether they should allow guns in their children’s classrooms, and broadens the conceal carry eligibility to people who have previously committed crimes with guns,” Pia Carusone of ARS said recently. She also mentioned that this legislation was “opposed by Georgia law enforcement, county commissioners, municipal leaders, and the Transportation Security Administration for its potentially harmful impact on Georgians’ safety.”

Of course, the folks at the National Rifle Association could not be happier—especially since they endorsed Deal for governor and gave him an “A rating” during his 17 years in Congress. He returned the favor, so to speak, when he addressed attendees at the picnic where he first announced the bill’s passing: “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should be at the forefront of our minds.”

Celebrate more guns, come on! Rep. Rick Jasperse throws high fives to congratulate his pals on passing HB60 (Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Celebrate more guns, come on! Rep. Rick Jasperse throws high fives to congratulate his pals on passing HB60 (Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

While I agree that Americans’ constitutional rights are important, I still have trouble understanding how more guns in public places will make things better. One argument I always hear in support of guns is that if criminals have them, then so should their potential victims—to even the playing field, you know? I also hear people mention how concealed weapons permits are only issued to citizens who first pass background checks and psychological exams, implying that they are stable and well-adjusted enough to handle this potentially deadly responsibility.

This may be true for some, but how many times have we heard post-tragedy interviews where people say things like “he was always so quiet and friendly” or “I never suspected she was capable of hurting others”? ALL THE TIME!

Don’t get me wrong. I grew up with guns, enjoy shooting them and keep several in my home for protection. Does this mean I’m incapable of losing it, arming myself to the teeth and popping caps in everyone I see? I consider myself to be a fairly sane person—aside from a handful of psychoses, which we all possess to some degree—but even I can’t say with absolute certainty that I would never snap and do something horrible… with or without a gun. We all have a dark side. And no matter how hard we try, it will make the occasional appearance during the course of our lives. Of that you can be sure.

So kudos, Georgia, for ensuring more of your residents will be strapped in public places—especially in bars and other so-called watering holes. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 43 years, it’s that few things mix better than alcohol and firearms!

Upskirts Legal?

You never know where an upskirt photographer will strike! (MotiFake)

You never know where an upskirt photographer will strike! (MotiFake)

In 2010, Massachusetts authorities received numerous complaints from the transit police about 32-year-old Michael Robertson, who was allegedly taking upskirt photographs and video footage of women on the trolley.

For those of you unfamiliar with upskirt photos—and despite the name being pretty self-explanatory—they involve cell phones placed under the skirts of unsuspecting victims (generally females) to snap pictures of their “unmentionables.” Some victims may be wearing underwear while some may be “going commando,” but you can bet all of them end up posted on the Internet sooner or later. There are hundreds—if not thousands—of sites devoted solely to this sketchy branch of voyeurism… or so I’ve heard.

Based on these complaints, police set up a decoy operation to bust Robertson and, true to form, he walked right into their trap. Several officers observed him placing a cell phone video camera up a woman’s skirt. And we’re not talking about just any woman, either—it was a female police officer!

Robertson was of course arrested and charged with two counts of “attempting to secretly photograph a person in a state of partial nudity.” Facing misdemeanor charges that could send him to prison for nearly three years, he immediately filed a motion with a lower court to have the case dismissed. Robertson’s lawyers contended that none of his so-called “victims” were nude or even partially nude at the time their upskirt photos were taken. Furthermore, the victims were also in a public place where none of them had a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Unfortunately for Robertson, his motion was quickly denied—at least until this past week, thanks to some recent developments.

Keep your guard up and your skirt down, ladies! (100 Upskirts)

Keep your guards up and your skirts down, ladies! (100 Upskirts)

On Wednesday, Massachusetts’ highest court reversed the lower court’s decision not to dismiss Robertson’s case because the state law “does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).”

“In sum, we interpret the phrase, ‘a person who is … partially nude’ in the same way that the defendant does, namely, to mean a person who is partially clothed but who has one or more of the private parts of body exposed in plain view at the time that the putative defendant secretly photographs her,” the high court also stated in their ruling.

You read that correctly: it is now legal in Massachusetts to take upskirt photographs of anyone you like. So to all you ladies in that great state, it might be time to consider a little fashion change… to pants!

Or if you must wear a skirt, at least some panties. You just never know who might be watching.

UPDATE (March 7, 2014): A mere day after posting this article, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts signed a bill that criminalizes “upskirting” as a misdemeanor punishable by 2 1/2 years in jail and a $5000 fine. Sorry, perverts. Time to find a new hobby, I guess.

Deadly New Year

How much is enough? (Washington Post)

How much is enough? (Washington Post)

On December 14, 2012, a disturbed 20-year-old named Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother in their Newtown, Connecticut home, traveled to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School and proceeded to gun down 20 children and 6 staff members before taking his own life. This tragic event ushered in a new year that many hoped would be less violent than the last, but sadly, this was not the case.

By the time 2013 reached its halfway point—somewhere around May 31st—the number of people killed by guns in the United States had already surpassed the number of American troops killed during the entire Iraq War, according to ThinkProgress. In March, a college student in Florida pulled a dorm fire alarm and tried to slaughter his classmates as they poured into the hallways. In September, a defense contract employee marched into the Washington Navy Yard and gunned down 12 people. And these are only a few examples of what became an extremely violent year.

Reeves and his victim Chad Oulson (Reuters)

Reeves and his victim Chad Oulson (Reuters)

I was hoping things would improve in 2014, but that obviously isn’t going to happen given some of the shootings we’ve seen in only a few weeks’ time. And this week has been especially deadly thanks to guns and the people who use them for evil.

First it was Curtis Reeves, a 71-year-old retired police officer who shot and killed a 43-year-old man on Monday for sending text messages to his 3-year-old daughter in a Florida movie theater last Monday. That day also saw 48-year-old Jennifer Berman of Florida murder her children—16-year-old Alex and 15-year-old Jacqueline, both promising musicians—before turning the gun on herself.

Mason Campbell used a shotgun in Roswell (KRQE)

Mason Campbell used a shotgun in Roswell (KRQE)

Tuesday morning came and it was a 12-year-old who decided to inflict more gun violence, this time with a sawed-off shotgun. He walked into Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico with three shells, fired them all and injured two students before being detained and arrested. Now a child too young to see a PG-13 movie faces three counts of aggravated battery.

On Wednesday evening, a man walked into a grocery store in Elkhart, Indiana with an automatic handgun and murdered two women before police shot him to death a short time later. Police still have no idea what prompted his attack.

No matter how bad things get in this country and how many people die as a result of gun-related violence, it still seems as if very little is being done to prevent future shootings. Universal background checks for all gun purchases got shot down—pun intended—yet we still face mass shootings every year. And from the look of it, 2014 will be just as deadly as the last few years.

When will it ever end?

Arias Addresses Jury

Jodi addresses the jury, complete with crocodile tears (courtesy of HLN-TV)

As I am writing this, Jodi Arias is standing before the same jury that convicted her of murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008, tugging at their heart-strings and trying her best to convince them not to sentence her to death.

Of course, this comes roughly a week after Arias told reporters that she preferred death, which she viewed as the ultimate freedom. Personally, I (and many others) felt this proclamation was little more than reverse psychology designed to influence the jury to spare her life so she could “suffer the consequences” of her crimes behind bars.

And based on what Arias has been telling jurors today, it appears that we were right. She does want to live, and she has plenty of reasons why, at least in her mind. Jodi also seems to regret her actions and the pain she’s caused to so many. I don’t buy it, but I suppose the jury might.

Here are a few highlights and notable quotations from the convicted murderer:

  • Arias apologized to Alexander’s siblings for causing them so much pain, which she said she never intended.
  • She referenced suicide: “Every time that I’ve had the thought or desire to commit suicide, there’s one element that has always—almost always—caused me to waiver. They’re sitting right over there. They’re my family.”
  • Arias mentioned how her time in prison could be used for something positive and beneficial to society: “If I get permission, I’d like to implement a recycling program… each week huge loads of waste are hauled off to landfills. A substantial proportion of that could be kept out of landfills and recycled instead. It may even create new jobs for the people there. This is one small thing that could have a positive and far-reaching impact on the community and planet. I’d like to start a book club or reading group. Something that brings people together in a positive and constructive way so that we can share and recommend other good books and stimulate discussions of a higher nature.”
  • Some family pictures were shared with the jury, obviously in an attempt to humanize Arias more. Having people view you as something besides a heartless murderer is always a good idea, I think.
  • On the fact that she will never be a mother: “Because of my own terrible choices I have to lay that dream to rest.”
  • At one point, Arias claimed that she never knew herself to be capable of such violence. She also apologized for “throwing mud on Travis’ name.” I think that’s the least of her concerns since a muddied name is far better than a bloody corpse, don’t you?

Could this be Arias’ last bed? (courtesy of Berkeley Law)

Aside from a few other comments here and there, this is pretty much the gist of Arias’ presentation. After closing arguments and a rebuttal from Kirk Nurmi, Arias’ defense attorney, it will be up to the jury to determine her fate. Either Arias will receive the death penalty—which will undoubtedly be followed by years of appeals—life in prison without parole or life with the eligibility for parole after 25 years.

Either way, Jodi Arias is going away for a long time… perhaps even forever. And nothing she said today convinced me that she deserves anything less than death for what she did. I only hope the jury agrees.

More to come!

Arias Verdict is In!

Is she a killer or a victim? We’ll know soon (courtesy of MySpace)


The jury in the murder trial of Jodi Arias—the Arizona woman accused of slaughtering and nearly beheading her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander five years ago—finally reached a verdict earlier today.

It is expected to be announced at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon, which is basically a half hour after the posting of this update.

Be sure to tune in so you can learn the fate of this unusual—and potentially psychotic—woman. Either she’s a victim of abuse who acted in self-defense or a cold-blooded killer. We’ll just have to wait and see which the jury believes she is.

It’s worth noting that before taking lunch today, jurors revealed they had reached a verdict. Most jurors were smiling and sighing in relief—having survived such a long, grueling and high-exposure case–but at least one was seen wiping tears from her eyes.

Granted, she could be upset because Arias is going free and she feels badly for Travis Alexander and his surviving family members. Personally, though, I believe the opposite to be true: Arias will be found guilty and, once convicted, could face the death penalty or life in prison.

My Nostradamus hat is on, so let’s see how well it works. Stay tuned, peeps!

UPDATE: Okay. Maybe it didn’t take a psychic or prognosticator to figure out what the jury in the Jody Arias trial would do, but I still gave myself a little pat on the back when I heard she was GUILTY OF FIRST-DEGREE MURDER. Justice was served, brothers and sisters! Yes!

Of course, Jodi has yet to be sentenced. That circus is scheduled to begin tomorrow. And even if she is condemned to death, years of appeals will undoubtedly follow. For now, though, Travis’ family can breathe a little easier in the knowledge that the person responsible for his death will either pay with her own life or spend the rest of her days in a tiny, claustrophobic jail cell.

Unless Jodi stages some kind of daring prison break, that is. And given all the crazy shit that’s gone down so far, I certainly wouldn’t put it past her.

Legal or Illegal? Choose.

SPARC pot dispensary

The selection at Sparc in San Francisco (courtesy of Fast Company)

Is it just me or is anyone else confused and annoyed by all the marijuana legalization bullshit in this country?

We all know marijuana is illegal, at least in federal terms. But things are much different on the state level. At last count, 18 states had legalized marijuana for medical use. And two others—Washington and Colorado—legalized pot for recreational use.

Obviously, more Americans seem to support marijuana legalization in one form or another. Current data from the Pew Research Center actually supports this, as the following chart shows:

4-4-13 #1

In 44 years, Americans who support legalization rose from a meager 12% in 1969 to 52% this year. And I suspect this support will continue to grow faster than weed farmers can cultivate the plants needed to support this booming industry.

Of course, the people needed to maintain “legal” marijuana businesses in these progressive states are under fire from the federal government and could lose everything at any time. This makes running a medical marijuana dispensary or some other weed-based business a risky venture.

Riskier still if you consider that banks won’t give loans to business owners they deem “sketchy.” And marijuana entrepreneurs certainly qualify, at least where this stigma is concerned.

Heaven forbid someone get credit for being a shrewd businessperson despite selling a substance that most Americans find rather harmless.

But I digress.

Personally, I don’t care which way this issue goes as long as it gets resolved soon. All this back and forth, legal and illegal crap must end. And I think I have the solution.

Remember when the politicians we elected to represent us in Washington went against the wishes of the people and rejected universal background checks for gun purchases? When representing constituents became serving special interests?

Hasn’t this gone on long enough? (courtesy of The LA Times)

If we can convince these “elected officials” to actually do their jobs, then the logical solution would simply be to represent the people, which means representing the majority of the people.

Isn’t that how we have always done things?

Think about it this way: If a national poll revealed that 95% of Americans felt the death penalty should be abolished, wouldn’t the chances of this actually happening shoot way up?

Of course they would. And why should marijuana legalization be any different?

No, 52% support is not the same as 95%, so I understand the decision can’t be as automatic. However, allowing people to grow, sell and smoke pot in some states—then turning around and busting them for doing what their states deem legal—is just stupid.

Either marijuana is legal or it isn’t. You can’t have your pot-laced cake and eat it too, people. Choose and put an end to all this speculation once and for all, would you?

We have more important things to deal with, of that you can be sure.

Judge Not

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The judge just threw the book at me (courtesy of

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to avoid any serious entanglements with the law. About the worst thing I ever did–or ever got caught for–was drive too fast. Anything else either wasn’t serious or never harmed anyone beyond myself–usually both.

I was also pretty crafty and knew not only how to cover my tracks, but also how to plan for every possible circumstance or situation. Close attention was paid to every little detail and loose ends were rarely left untied. More importantly, though, I never got into any real trouble and still have a clean record to this day.

Some of my friends weren’t so lucky. There were the usual charges of underage drinking, possession, minor vandalism and public drunkenness, to name a few, but there were also rumors of drug trafficking, assault and even hard time behind bars.

I hate to admit it, but a handful of my buddies completely lost it after high school. And if drugs were involved, they certainly weren’t pot or psychedelics; they were cocaine, crack and maybe even crystal meth.

And if you know anything about crystal meth, you know that it’s serious BAD NEWS. Just check this out if you don’t believe me.

At any rate, I was lucky and when I have visited a court room, it’s normally been for a minor traffic offense or jury duty. My general practice is to avoid anything that might land me in court and force me to speak with a judge. But if I did land there–Heaven forbid–I would be sure to behave in a respectful manner and to address the judge politely. After all, this person could send me to jail at any time, so why take chances?

I wish someone had asked Miami teenager Penelope Soto the same question. She just disrespected a judge in Florida and paid a pretty hefty price for it.

Soto was busted recently for illegal possession of the muscle relaxer Xanax and found herself in front of Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat. As he was preparing to set her bond, the judge asked about her jewelry and she laughed.

“It’s not a joke, you know. We are not in a club,” Rodriguez-Chomat told Soto. “Be serious about it.”

She apologized to the judge, who then set her bail at $5,000 and said, “Bye bye.” Again Soto laughed, but this time she followed it with a smarmy “adios” and started to walk away.

What happened to you, Penelope? (courtesy of NBC Miami)

Rodriguez-Chomat was not amused.

He immediately called Soto back and raised her bond to $10,000.

“Are you serious?” she asked him in disbelief. And she quickly got her answer.

“I am serious,” the judge told Soto before giving her a taste of her own medicine. “Adios.”

The smart response and cheers from the crowd must have bothered the young drug offender because this time, she flipped Rodriguez-Chomat the bird and said, “F— you!”

Not a smart move, sister.

The last laugh came within seconds of Soto’s bad behavior and belonged to Rodriguez-Chomat: he added a contempt charge and sent Soto off to jail for the next thirty days.

So congratulations, Penelope Soto. You’re my new “Dumb Ass of the Week.”

And trust me: you earned it.

Return of the Movie Theater Massacre

Holmes in court on Monday (courtesy of CBSLocal Denver)

Although July 20th seems like a distant memory now that 2013 is in full swing, the horror of the Aurora movie theater massacre returned to the public eye as 25-year-old shooter James Holmes began his preliminary hearing on Monday.

Holmes is accused of slaughtering 12 people and injuring dozens of others in a shooting at a late-night premiere of the film “The Dark Knight Rises.” He now faces 166 counts of attempted murder, murder and weapons charges.

In a preliminary hearing, the state tries to prove that it has enough legitimate evidence to go to trial. Since Holmes was arrested outside the theater once the massacre ended and basically confessed to the crime, there is little doubt that a trial will occur.

However, Holmes’ defense team is expected to argue that he suffered from diminished capacitywhich means he was unable to make clear decisions due to some kind of mental issue. Since Holmes was once a psychiatric patient at the University of Colorado, there’s a good chance this strategy will succeed. Either way, though, Holmes will never see the light of day again… unless it’s from a jail cell or a room in some mental institution, that is.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Day one of Holmes’ preliminary hearing included testimony from several police officers who responded to the shooting in Aurora on that fateful night.

A tribute to the survivors (courtesy of FOX-40)

Officer Justin Grizzle fought back tears as he described the gruesome scene inside the theater. Mangled bodies were everywhere, including children. Blood made the floor slippery and difficult to traverse. And cell phones went unanswered as families attempted to reach their loved ones.

Twelve hours after the crime, Detective Matthew Ingui arrived at the scene with investigators. They discovered hundreds of rounds of ammunition and did their best to outline the bodies despite the endless pools of blood and carnage surrounding them.

Some of the most disturbing testimony came from Officer Jason Oviatt, who was the first to encounter Holmes after the shooting. When Oviatt arrived at the back of the theater, he saw Holmes wearing a helmet and gas mask and standing with his hands on top of his car.

“He was just standing there,” Oviatt said in court. “All the other officers were running around, trying to get into the theater.”

Once he realized Holmes was the shooter, Oviatt took him into custody and yesterday reflected on how calm and compliant the murderer was.  He described Holmes as being “relaxed” and “very detached from it all.”

Officer Aaron Blue even testified later that Holmes told him about the explosives rigged in his apartment without being asked. He told Blue that if they went off, it would be because the cops set them off.

The details surrounding the Aurora massacre are grisly and unbelievable, to be sure, but this is only the beginning. One of the worst things about a tragedy like this one, aside from the loss of innocent lives and the irreparable effects on survivors and victims’ families, is that the killer lived. Now in addition to all the heartbreak, people have to experience the horror again in the preliminary hearing and eventually, the trial itself. And this one promises to be a long, drawn-out media frenzy of a hot mess.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by this horrible crime. And I sincerely hope they find peace once the tidal wave of news coverage hits later this year. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, dear readers. I know I will.

Keep Your Sperm to Yourself

Sperm Donor Tees

A good thing as long as you go through the proper channels!

When William Marotta of Topeka, Kansas decided to donate his sperm, he never expected it to come back to haunt him. But that’s exactly what happened recently when the state declared him financially responsible for a child spawned from his genetic material.

In 2009, Marotta replied to a Craig’s List advertisement by a local lesbian couple and eventually sent them several free cups of his sperm.

“I donated the genetic material,” he told WIBW. “And that was it for me.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t it. Although Marotta expected the lesbian couple to visit a physician for a proper insemination, that never happened. I suppose the couple heard that each insemination attempt costs $3000 and selected the cheaper “turkey baster” method. Who can blame them?

One of the women gave birth to a daughter and for a time, it seemed as if everything worked out for the best. Then the couple separated and one of them got sick and stopped working. She applied to the state for help and that’s when Marotta got the call about child support.

William Marotta of Topeka (courtesy of USA Today)

Now he’s expected to make another donation, this one worth roughly $6000, to a child he met only once. Marotta and his wife bumped into one of the mothers and his daughter in town one day.

It’s hard to ignore the irony here. This poor guy makes a donation (sperm) that produces a child who may receive another donation (the cash) from him soon. Freaky.

The odd thing is that Marotta supposedly had signed agreements in place when he made the initial sperm donation. They indicated that he would not be financially responsible for any child his sperm produced, but that wasn’t good enough for the state of Kansas.

According to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, these agreements don’t apply because a doctor didn’t perform the insemination. Since one of the lesbians inseminated herself, and since there is no way to prove that she and Marotta were never lovers, the state considers him to be the child’s father.

So my advice to all you guys out there is this: if you ever find yourself in Kansas, do yourself a favor and keep your sperm to yourself. It will be a whole lot cheaper, believe me.

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