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PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys

College Student Charged with Murder of Parents, Sister

October 20th, 2014

A housekeeper reporting for work at the home of a prominent Duncan family made a grisly discovery–the bodies of the three family members who lived there.

John Hruby, 50; his wife Joy “Tinker” Hruby; and their daughter, 17-year-old Katherine had been shot to death.

The housekeeper told her daughter to call the Hrubys’ son, Alan, a 19-year-old University of  Oklahoma student, to tell him that something happened and he needed to come home.

When police told Alan of his parents’ and sister’s murders, they say he fell apart, wailing and sobbing. However, his emotions weren’t the only thing to collapse, as his alibi soon fell apart as well.

Reports say Alan Hruby had scheduled tweets on Twitter to give the appearance of being in his dorm room in Norman when he was actually in Duncan. He was pulled over at approximately 1:00 a.m. last Thursday, a mile from his parents home. However, despite telling a police officer that he forgot his driver’s license and giving a fake name and birthdate, he was let go with a ticket.

Investigators say Alan continued to his family’s home, where he stole his father’s gun.

John Hruby noticed the missing gun and reported it stolen, but it was too late.

Alan returned to Duncan later in the day, entered the home through a back door, and shot his mother as she texted with a friend. When she didn’t die instantly, Alan shot her again. Tinker Hruby died of two gunshot wounds to the head.

The young  man then waited for his younger sister to come in from washing her car, and he shot her in the neck, killing her instantly.

Investigators say he then waited an hour for his father to return home from work. He shot him twice in the head.

While his parents and his little sister lay dead, reports say, Alan Hruby went to Dallas to party with friends, selling his ticket to the Red River Rivalry and staying at the Ritz-Carlton.

Investigators say that when police told him of the deaths, his histrionics didn’t add up. They say he was wailing and hyperventilating, but there were no tears, and he didn’t ask any questions about the deaths.

Police detained Alan for violating the probation he was serving for fraud charges. Last year, Alan took out a credit card in his grandmother’s name and racked up nearly $5,000 in charges on a trip to Europe. Alan violated probation by drinking and leaving the state, and police used that violation to detain him as they continued to question him about his family’s murders.

Eventually, police say, Alan confessed to the murders. He said that he killed his parents and his sister, a high school junior, simply so he could inherit his parents’ money and not have to share the inheritance with his sister.

He told investigators that he owed $3,000 to a loan shark and he needed the inheritance to pay off the debt.

Alan Hruby is charged with three counts of first degree murder, and those who knew the Hruby family are struggling to understand the depths of greed that would drive a young man to familicide.

Author John Grisham Criticizes Tough Child Porn Sentencing

October 16th, 2014

Criticizing sex offender laws as too severe is not a popular stance. Most people tend to lump all “sex offenders” in the same category as violent child predators, and they feel like the only acceptable reform of sex offender laws is to make theme even more stringent. However, those who know and love a “sex offender” understand that not all sex crimes are equal, and that most sex offenders are actually not a threat to public safety. In fact, the overall recidivism rate for sex offenders is quite low.

And while it has become socially and politically acceptable to criticize mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes, the same acceptance has not reached criticism of lengthy sentencing for sex crimes. One popular novelist has quickly learned just how readily a public can turn against someone for voicing an opinion on the matter.

John Grisham, author of numerous best-selling courtroom drama novels, recently told The Telegraph that he felt that America had “gone crazy” in sentencing and incarcerating what he feels are non-violent offenders–including those who view child pornography.

He told the British newspaper, “We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child . . . but they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Grisham then goes on to describe a “good buddy from law school” who was arrested in a child pornography sting. Grisham said his friend had a drinking problem and one night wandered into a pornography site featuring “sixteen-year-old wanna-be hookers.” The author noted that the girls “looked 30″ and said, “He shouldn’t ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys. He didn’t touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people – sex offenders – and he went to prison for three years.”

The author said the United States has “gone nuts” in incarcerating people who have never touched a victim, saying that he has “no sympathy for real pedophiles,” but treating all sex offenders equally is a miscarriage of justice. He said of men, like his friend, who view child pornography, “They deserve some type of punishment, but 10 years in prison?”

It often seems that no one has sympathy for sex offenders, mentally classifying them all as violent, predatory pedophiles. Grisham faced significant backlash for his comments and quickly had to apologize for his stance:

“Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography — online or otherwise — should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable. I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all.”

One point made by Grisham’s disappointed fans is that in order for child pornography to exist, a child must be victimized. People who view and download child pornography–even if they themselves never touch a child–fuel the market that makes child sexual abuse profitable.

What do you think? Does Grisham have a valid point? Should those who download child pornography face the same penalties as those who produce and distribute it? Are they equally responsible for the sexual exploitation of children, or do some bear more responsibility than others?

Who is Luring Whom?

October 13th, 2014

In Oklahoma, we call it “Soliciting Sexual Conduct or Communication with a Minor by Use of Technology.” In other states, they call it “Internet Luring” or “Online Solicitation of a Minor.” No matter how it’s termed, the laws against online solicitation of minors are intended to protect the nation’s children from dangerous internet predators–those who lurk anonymously behind a computer screen seeking to lure children and young teens to victimize.

In order to enforce these laws, many law enforcement agencies and organizations, such as the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), have turned to conducting internet stings to ferret out these predators.

Shows such as Dateline NBC’s series “To Catch a Predator” fed public fears that pedophiles skulked behind every computer monitor, seeking children to manipulate and exploit. Producers worked with an organization called “Perverted Justice.” Members of the organization would act as decoys, engaging in explicit online conversations with adults and arranging meetings. When the subject of the sting would arrive at the designated meeting place, a TV show host was there instead, badgering the subject with questions and publicly shaming him or her before law enforcement slapped on the handcuffs.

What many viewers of the show do not realize is that a great many of these cases were thrown out after the judicial process showed conflict of interest and entrapment in making these arrests. It wasn’t law enforcement; it was entertainment. This “showmanship” came at the expense of many men’s reputations, relationships, and professions.

The series is now off the air, but internet stings continue. However, are these “catch a predator” stings any better than the ones drummed up for television ratings?

Many people say they are not, and there are several lawsuits and appeals around the nation indicating that online stings are often entrapment. Some say go as far as to say that “Cops Create Sex Offenders.” In the linked article, a mother writes:

“My son is currently facing charges for Internet luring he went into an adult website where the age was to be 18 he started talking back and forth with a profile seating she was 20 after a few texts back and forth he felt there was a connection and began conversations with her then at some point she stated that she was only about to turn 15 yes he should have stopped communication then, but a few more texts went and the charges came. He was not in any kind of chat room for kids gaming rooms or anything just trying to meet someone his own age which turned out to be a cop in and adult place.”

We reached out to this mother and got a little more information about the case. (DISCLOSURE: This is not a client of our firm, nor is this case even from the state of Oklahoma. We have permission from the mother to share her story. We take attorney-client confidentiality very seriously.)

The woman’s 22-year-old son was visiting an adult chat room that expressly stated that all users must be at least 18 years of age. He struck up a conversation with a female whose profile said that she was 20 years old. The two chatted back and forth, and at some point, the “woman” admitted that she was not 20, but rather a couple of months shy of 15. The young man began to back-pedal, knowing that engaging in sexually explicit conversation with a minor was a bad idea, but the “girl” kept pursuing, even saying that she must “want it more” than he did. Because the young man had already established an online relationship with her when he thought she was an adult, the conversation continued.

Eventually, the two decided to meet. Along the way, however, the young man decided that meeting a young teen–even in a public place in the middle of the afternoon, as arranged–was a bad idea. He arrived at the destination, but instead of getting out to meet the girl, he stayed in his car and drove away.

Police pulled him over and arrested him, charging him with Internet Luring, a sex crime which, in the state where he was charged, is punishable by 5 years to life in prison and lifetime sex offender registration.

The young man is treated now as an online child predator, even though he was in no way seeking out the companionship of a minor when he entered an adult chat room and began chatting with whom he believed to be a 20-year-old woman. He even tried to back away from the relationship when she said she was actually a minor; however, the adult male decoy posing as a teen pursued.

Are these the acts of an internet predator and pedophile luring children? Or do they seem more to be the acts of a lonely young man who was, in fact, lured himself by law enforcement agents looking to make a high-profile arrest?

Reform of sex offender laws is not popular. Obviously, we want to protect our children from sexual abuse and exploitation. However, something must change in the way these undercover stings are handled. If a predator is actively seeking a child to exploit, is he or she going to look in an adult chat room intended for those 18 and older? Or will he or she be more likely to visit sites heavily populated by children? If a subject tries to avoid further communication with a decoy, does the decoy’s continued pursuit of sexual conversation constitute entrapment?

Clearly, entrapment is illegal. However, law enforcement agencies seem to blur the line between undercover investigation and entrapment in online sex stings.

In Florida, a number of arrests are being challenged after internet stings conducted by an ICAC task force. In these cases, the investigating officer posing as a minor is the one who actually initiated a sexual conversation, in violation of ICAC rules.

Similar cases around the nation will reveal that these online predator stings are little more than modern-day witch hunts, with the only true victims being those ensnared by unethical law enforcement practices.

 

 

Oklahoma Sex Offender Sentenced to 40 Years in Federal Child Porn Case

October 9th, 2014

A Norman man with a prior conviction for possessing child pornography was sentenced in federal court this week for producing child pornography.

Anthony Ray Sackett, 35, pleaded guilty this summer in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to a charge of producing child pornography. He faced 25 to 50 years in prison because of a prior Cleveland County conviction of possession of child pornography.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton sentenced Sackett to 40 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.

The case came after Sackett used a cell phone to take pictures and record video of himself engaged in sexually explicit conduct with a 2-year-old girl. He then distributed the images through Kik, a mobile instant messaging app.

Typically, producing child pornography is punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison under 18 U.S. Code 2251; however, with a prior sex crime conviction, Sackett’s potential sentence was enhanced to a maximum of 50 years. If he were to be subsequently convicted a third time, he would face a maximum life sentence.

The prior conviction came in 2002 after Sackett took a computer to a pawn shop. When he did not reclaim the computer within 90 days, shop employees began to prepare the device to sell. In doing so, they came across several images of adult males engaged in sexual activity with minors. They notified authorities and Sackett was arrested and ultimately convicted of possessing child pornography.

He served more than two years in prison for child pornography, forgery, and jumping bail before being released in October 2004.

In 2011, he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender and given a 5-year suspended sentence.

In Oklahoma, a first offense of possession of child pornography is a Level I sex offense. This is the lowest risk-level classification in Oklahoma, and anyone who is convicted of a Level I sex crime must register as a sex offender each year for 15 years.

However, any subsequent sex crime conviction classifies a person as a habitual sex offender. This places him or her in the highest risk-level category as a Level III sex offender. Level III sex offenders must register with local law enforcement every 3 months for life.

Sex offender registration carries with it numerous restrictions and prohibitions. It allows public awareness of one’s past offense, essentially acting as a modern-day “Scarlet Letter.” Lifetime sex offender registration makes this stigma and these challenges inescapable.

Learn more about Oklahoma sex offender registration.

Actor Allegedly Confesses to Child Molestation in Secret Recording

October 7th, 2014

He played Reverend Eric Camden, a pastor and father seven children on the wholesome family television series “7th Heaven.” Now, Stephen Collins is accused of molesting 3 young girls several years ago. The accusation comes after the release of a covert audio recording in which a man alleged to be Collins admits to child molestation.

According to reports, Collins filed for divorce from his wife, actress Faye Grant, in 2012, after 27 years of marriage. Grant said she was “devastated,” by the filing, but the true shock came when he allegedly admitted to her that he had exposed himself to three young girls, even placing the hand of one of the girl on his penis.

Collins and Grant have been involved in a long and difficult divorce process since the filing, and now it has come to light that Grant secretly recorded a 2012 therapy session in which she questioned him about the sexual abuse and in which he allegedly admits to it.

Reports say that Grant was informed by her lawyer that it was legal for her to secretly tape the therapy session, because California law allows covert recording in order to gain evidence of a felony.

Now, New York police confirm that they have begun an investigation of Collins as a result of the tape, since two of the girls mentioned lived in Manhattan at the time of the alleged incidents. They say that they investigated Collins for sexual abuse before, but that the statute of limitations on that case expired before charges could be filed.

As of this writing, Collins has not responded to the reports of child sexual abuse.

It is interesting to note, however, that the recording was allegedly made in 2012 under the guise of gaining evidence of a felony–yet the alleged confession was not revealed to  New York police until recently. A New York Police Department source said that investigators with the NYPD Special Victims Unit traveled to Los Angeles “a few weeks ago” to question Collins.

If the reason for the secret recording was to gather evidence for a crime, shouldn’t that evidence have been turned over to police when the evidence was gathered? Is it possible that an angry partner in a heated divorce held on to a tape for leverage, only releasing it when the demands were not met? Is it possible that the voice on the tape isn’t even Collins?

Regardless of whether or not Collins did, in fact, sexually abuse and expose himself to pre-teen girls, the squeaky-clean image he generated on 7th Heaven is forever tarnished.

Whether the girls are victims of Collins as a sexual predator, or whether the actor is a victim of lies and manipulation, hopefully, justice will prevail.

Dallas Cowboys Player Accused of Sexual Assault

October 2nd, 2014

On the heels of a lawsuit filed accusing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of sexual assault come allegations that special teams player C.J. Spillman sexually assaulted a woman at a Texas hotel in September.

A woman filed a police report accusing Spillman of raping her at the Gaylord Texan hotel in Grapevine on September 20. The football player has not been charged and has played in two games since the alleged incident.

Today the team announced that he will continue to practice, with coach Jason Garrett saying that Spillman’s status with the team will not change unless he is arrested or charged.

Some people say that with scrutiny on the way the NFL is handling other domestic violence and sexual assault cases–particularly in relation to the Ray Rice case–the team and the league should act quickly to suspend a player accused of sexual assault.

However, Garrett told reporters, “I think you have to be careful with just accusations and allegations in this situation. When someone is officially charged or arrested for something, that’s when it becomes a different situation in our minds. For now, he’s a member of our football team and will take part in everything we do to this point.”

Garrett’s protection of due process seems to be self-contradictory, since earlier this week, he told his players that the team will enact a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence. Anyone involved in a domestic violence incident will be suspended from the team, “regardless of due process.”

Playing around with due process–a constitutional right in courtroom matters–can be a tricky thing. If all players accused of sexual assault were suspended prior to investigation and verification of the veracity of the claim, it would certainly be easy to manipulate the sport. Want your team to win? Just accuse the opposing quarterback of rape.

Some professional athletes have a sense of entitlement that leaves them to believe that they can take what they want and that they are above the law. Others may simply be high-profile targets for manipulative people seeking either attention or a large settlement.

As such cases show, an accusation alone can tarnish one’s reputation and have a tremendous impact on a career. Ben Roethlisberger was accused of rape but never charged. Kobe Bryant was criminally charged after a rape claim, but the case was dismissed after his accuser refused to testify. Both of these men, despite having no criminal conviction for the acts of which they were accused, are eternally linked with the accusations.

If a professional athlete is guilty of rape, he deserves the professional and legal consequences of his actions. If he is falsely accused, doesn’t he deserve the same due process rights guaranteed to all of us under the United States Constitution?

Second Oklahoma Man Threatens Beheading

September 29th, 2014

A day after Alton Nolen, also known as Jah’Keem Yisrael, beheaded a co-worker and attempted to behead a second co-worker at Vaughan Foods in Moore, another Oklahoma man was arrested for making a terrorist threat when he told a co-worker he was going to cut off her head. The threat was made before the deadly rampage in Moore, but the arrest came the day law officers publicized the details of the brutal attack.

Image Credit: Oklahoma County Jail

Image Credit: Oklahoma County Jail

On Friday, Jacob Magambi Muriithi, 30, was arrested following a threat made against a co-worker at an Oklahoma City nursing home earlier this month.

The woman says that on September 19, she and Muriithi, a native of Kenya, were working together at the nursing home, when Muriithi told her that he was a Muslim who “represented ISIS.” He told her that ISIS “killed Christians,” and when she asked why, he responded, “This is just what we do.”

According to the woman’s report, her co-worker asked her what time she got off work, and she jokingly asked if he was going to kill her. She says the man said that he was going to cut off her head with a “blade” and post images of the killing to Facebook, repeating the threat again as she left work that day.

The woman told authorities that Muriithi seemed to be serious and never said or acted like he was joking.

Muriithi is held in the Oklahoma County Jail on $1 million bond on a complaint of threatening to perform an act of violence. He is held without bond on an act of terrorism complaint.

Law enforcement officials say that there is nothing to indicate the threat earlier this month is connected with the beheading in Moore.

However, the two incidents raise questions about the true motives behind such acts of violence. Although the suspect in each case identified with militant Muslims, there is no indication that their acts meet the state’s definition of terrorism:

“Terrorism” means an act of violence resulting in damage to property or personal injury perpetrated to coerce a civilian population or government into granting illegal political or economic demands; or conduct intended to incite violence in order to create apprehension of bodily injury or damage to property in order to coerce a civilian population or government into granting illegal political or economic demands (21 O.S. § 1268.2).

Some investigators are saying that Nolen’s act is a brutal form of workplace violence, but is not an act of terrorism. An Oklahoma House Counterterrorism Caucus disagrees, saying, “Unfortunately, jihadism is no longer confined to foreign soil. We must be alert to it here and take steps to counter the doctrine, institutions and organizations that foster it.”

Again, let’s look at the motive. Were the attacks in Moore perpetrated to further the cause of Islamic extremism? Or were the attacks acts of vengeance against a woman who complained about a co-worker who complained against him and the employer who disciplined him?

ISIS beheadings–as well as beheadings in Mexico and among other militant groups–have captured headlines. It is possible that what we have here are men who use or threaten the violence they see on television, much in the same way that disenfranchised students who threaten school violence are often found to watch news footage and documentaries about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two teens who perpetrated mass murder and violence at Columbine High School.

Copycat violence may occur after the Oklahoma beheading. It is important, however, that the general public remains calm and does not let these random acts incite fear and retaliatory violence against any ethnic or religious group. Islamic extremists do not represent true Muslims any more than Westboro Baptist Church represents true Christians.

11-Year-Old Girl Shoots Intruder

September 25th, 2014

An 11-year-old girl came to her mother’s rescue when she shot a man who broke into their home.

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Reports say Leonard Demon Henry, 25, broke into a trailer home in southeast Oklahoma City early Wednesday morning. He allegedly began savagely assaulting a woman identified as his ex-girlfriend, stabbing her repeatedly in the face and neck.

The woman’s daughter intervened in the attack, grabbing a gun inside the home and shooting the intruder. Henry attempted to flee but was quickly apprehended.

Both Henry and the stabbing victim were transported to a local hospital.

Oklahoma court records indicate that the victim filed an emergency protective order against Henry last week in Cleveland County.

The suspect, also known as Leo Henry, was charged with misdemeanor domestic assault and battery in Oklahoma County last year, but that case was dismissed with costs early this year.

This isn’t the first time a little girl in Oklahoma has shot a home intruder. In 2012, a sixth grader in Bryan County was home alone on fall break when she heard someone trying to get into her house. Kendra St. Clair, 12, called her mother and said that someone was continuously ringing the doorbell and banging on the door, but suddenly stopped. Her mother told her to grab a gun, go into a bathroom closet to hide, and call 9-1-1.

That’s when Kendra heard the man break in through the back door. While the girl was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher, she saw the closet’s doorknob began to turn. Terrified, she shot through the door, striking 32-year-old Stacey Adam Jones.

Jones tried to flee but was quickly apprehended. He was convicted last year of first degree burglary after a prior felony and sentenced to 30 years in prison, with the last 5 years suspended.

And, of course, we cannot leave off the tale of 18-year-old teen mom and recent widow Sarah McKinley, who barricaded the door to her home with a sofa in an effort to protect herself and her 3-month-old baby.  When the intruder was not deterred by her blockade, McKinley shot and killed 24-year-old Justin Shane Martin as he came into her home.

There is an urban legend circulating, but disputed on Snopes, that says an 11-year-old Montana girl shot and killed two illegal immigrants breaking into her home. While that story is not true, and is simply a tale to support gun rights and a person’s right to defend himself or herself at home, the stories of these three brave Oklahoma girls show that such a scenario is entirely possible.

Oklahoma supports the Castle Doctrine, saying that a person has a right to be safe in his or her own home, and it allows the use of lethal force in a home invasion in order to protect the safety of the home’s occupants. Breaking into an occupied home is first degree burglary, which is punishable by 7 to 20 years in prison. If you break into the home of an armed Oklahoman, though, your sentence could be death.

Housekeeper Charged with First Degree Rape

September 22nd, 2014

A Cyril mother’s gut instinct and clever deception led to the arrest of a 31-year-old housekeeper accused of raping the mother’s 13-year-old son.

Around 11:30 p.m. last Monday night, the mother called police to report that Robbie Elaine Capshew had molested her son. She reported that when she at the home where Capshew was working, she saw the housekeeper coming out of the bathroom and her son trying to leave the house.

She felt that something was amiss, so she asked her son what was going on. When the boy didn’t respond, she told him that there was a hidden camera in the house and urged him to tell the truth. When she asked the boy what the video would reveal, the boy allegedly said that it would show him having sex with the housekeeper.

There was no hidden camera and no video, but the boy’s admission was enough for the mother to call police.

The boy allegedly told police that Capshew had called him into a bathroom earlier that night and asked him to perform a sex act with her. He says he complied, but then left to go to his own home to get something to drink. When he returned to the home where the woman was working, he says she called him into a bedroom, where she took off her pants, asked him to do the same, and the two began having sex. The boy says that he soon told the woman, “I can’t,” and tried to leave the house. That’s when his mother walked in, having nearly caught the two in the act.

Police went to Capshew’s home to investigate, but she refused to discuss the matter with investigators–a wise move to protect her right to silence. She was arrested and booked into the Caddo County jail, where she is held on $35,000 bond. She is being appointed a public defender.

In Oklahoma, sexual contact with a minor under the age of 16 is prosecuted as lewd acts with a minor. It is a felony sex crime punishable by 3 to 20 years in prison, unless the victim is aged 12 or younger. In that case, it carries a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 16 can be charged as either first degree rape or second degree rape, depending on the age of the victim. While sex between and adult and a willing minor aged 14 or 15 is prosecuted as second degree rape, or statutory rape, sex with a minor aged 13 or younger is always prosecuted as first degree rape. First degree rape carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Rape and lewd or indecent proposals or acts to a child under 16 are both Level 3 sex offenses which mandate lifetime sex offender registration upon conviction.

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PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys