Archive for October 19th, 2010
PENNSYLVANIA – A state appellate court upheld the conviction and life sentence for a Virginia man who was found guilty by a Luzerne County jury of killing a rival porn producer in Dallas Township in 2007.
Harlow Cuadra, 29, sought a new trial claiming mistakes were made by the judge, Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., before and during the two-week trial in March 2009.
Cuadra said Olszewski erred in disqualifying attorney Demetrius Fannick from representing him and permitting prosecutors to play two audio recordings during the trial.
The secret recordings of his conversations with two witnesses cooperating with investigators violated Pennsylvania’s wiretap law despite the recordings taking place in California, Cuadra said. The jury heard the recordings and was provided with written transcripts over objections by Cuadra’s trial lawyers, Paul Walker and Joseph D’Andrea.
Cuadra was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of Bryan Kocis, 44, inside Kocis’ Dallas Township home on Jan. 24, 2007. Investigators said Cuadra and his partner, Joseph Kerekes, 26, killed Kocis, their rival in the gay pornography industry, before setting the house on fire.
Kerekes pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in December 2008 and was sentenced to life in prison.
Investigators said in arrest records that Cuadra and Kerekes did “reconnaissance” of Kocis’ home before Kocis was killed.
Cuadra challenged the audio recordings played to the jury because the transcripts of the recordings made a reference to “We” when it was actually “He,” which referred to Kerekes as the person who did the surveillance of Kocis’ home.
Olszewski in March 2008 disqualified Fannick from representing Cuadra after prosecutors argued there was a conflict of interest after Fannick had met Kerekes at the county prison. Cuadra said his rights were violated when he was not afforded the opportunity to choose his own lawyer by hiring Fannick, noting prosecutors were biased because Fannick had defended Hugo Selenski, who was acquitted of killing two men after a jury trial in March 2006.
In a five-page ruling issued on Oct. 14, the Superior Court upheld Cuadra’s conviction and sentencing, stating Olszewski’s rulings before and during Cuadra’s trial were “well detailed and well-reasoned.”
“We can find no error in its factual findings and corollary legal conclusions,” the appellate court ruled on each of the issues Cuadra challenged.
Cuadra is jailed at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township in Northumberland County, and Kerekes is jailed at SCI-Huntingdon Township in Huntingdon County.
Olszewski lost his bid at retention in the November 2009 election.
from The Times Leader
BEAVERTON, OREGON – A student teacher who was fired at a Beaverton school after letting students know he was gay told KGW in an exclusive interview that the district discriminated against him.
Seth Stambaugh, 23, wanted to be a teacher his entire life.
“It’s the energy I get when I walk into a classroom. It’s joyous beyond belief,” said Stambaugh.
He grew up in New Mexico, where he was bullied and felt sheer terror by the notion of “coming out.”
“When I came out at 16, I felt like it was a huge relief,” he recalled.
He visited Portland and felt the city was very welcoming of gays and lesbians. He couldn’t wait to move here.
The Lewis and Clark grad student felt compelled to teach students through a program for teaching education. But he never thought that he would be tossed out of a school after he said he just told a student the truth.
It was September 10th, when a fourth grader asked him the question.
“The student asked me if I was married, I responded ‘no.’ He asked ‘why?’ I said it was illegal for me to get married. I said ‘it’s because I want to marry a man.’”
Days later, Stambaugh was fired and he said no one told him exactly why.
He told KGW he suspected that it was because of his conversation with that 4th grader.
“I felt extremely hurt and discriminated against. Everyone in the school is free to talk about their marital status as long as they are heterosexual,” he said.
In a statement, the Beaverton School District wrote, “We understand this action has resulted in the student teacher alleging discrimination. The concerns were about professional judgment and age appropriateness. While the details of this issue remain confidential, the district’s policy and practice is non-discrimination.”
So what do parents say?
“He or she should not be fired,” said parent Paul Chen.
“I don’t think anybody should be fired for giving a well though-out articulate answer to a kids’ question, ” said parent Mike Speer.
But some parents wonder why Seth would reveal his gay marital status to a 4th grader?
“I think that 4th graders know that gays exist, they hear it on the playgrounds,” Stambaugh said. “To say this guy, meaning me, came out and should disappear sends a negative [message] to a gay child who could be questioning their own sexuality.”
The superintendent was reviewing whether to reinstate Stambaugh. In the meantime, he’s student teaching at a Portland Public School.
NEW YORK - A former JetBlue flight attendant — who reportedly cursed a passenger over a plane’s public address system, deployed the plane’s emergency evacuation slide, and used it to dramatically exit a flight at JFK airport in August — pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted criminal mischief as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Steven Slater pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted criminal mischief, a felony, and fourth-degree attempted criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. Under terms of the plea deal, he must enter a yearlong mental health program. During the program, he must take assigned medications and not get arrested. If he does not comply, he could receive between one and three years in jail.
If he successfully completes the program, Slater can apply after one year to vacate the guilty plea to the felony charge and will receive a year of probation, according to terms of the plea deal. He must also pay $10,000 in restitution to JetBlue, the cost of repairing or replacing the chute.
“I want to thank everyone for their support and kindness that got me through to this day,” Slater said after the hearing. “The public interest in this was surprising, unexpected and encouraging. At the end of the day, I am a grown adult and must accept responsibility for my actions. Therefore, I am looking forward to moving forward with my life and I’m very grateful to the court for making these arrangements which allow me to do so.”
JetBlue suspended Slater immediately after the August 9 incident and he resigned from the airline last month.
Terms of the deal were announced and Slater entered the plea Tuesday in Queens Supreme Court.
Slater defense attorney Daniel Horwitz said last month he was negotiating a plea deal with Queens prosecutors. “We look forward to resolving this matter amicably with the district attorney,” Horwitz said.
And Queens District Attorney Richard Brown had said his office is considering “an alternative sentencing program, at the defendant’s request.”
Brown initially charged Slater with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and criminal trespass, all of which could theoretically carry a seven-year sentence in prison. Slater at first pleaded not guilty.
Slater’s first court-appointed attorney had said a passenger hit Slater on the head with either the overhead bin or luggage, triggering his outburst. But some passengers who were on board the flight raised questions about that account.
Slater’s apparent “Take this job and shove it” action generated hundreds of thousands of fans on the internet. Hollywood public relations veteran Howard Bragman agreed to represent Slater amid speculation the former flight attendant’s notoriety could lead to a television contract.
“The court is the first issue,” Bragman told CNN. “I want to resolve that and then we’ll deal with the rest.”