Brett Appelman Completes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Ice Bucket ChallengeBrett Appelman was nominated to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and donations to help find a cure for the rare neurological disorder.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you already know and have likely done the challenge yourself. As of right now, donations to the ALS Association are through the roof. They’ve received more than $75 million in donations, up from $2 million at this point last year.

Brett challenged his brother Avery Appelman, who also accepted and undertook the challenge. Check out Brett’s video below and then swing over to his brother’s blog to see more ice bucket challenge videos. We are unable to embed the video directly onto the blog, but you can click here to view the video in its entirety.

Thank you to everyone who has donated to this cause. We will find a cure! Click here to donate to the ALS Association.

New Law Would Allow Rehabilitated DUI Offenders To Regain Driving Privileges

Suspended LicenseA new bill proposed by Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz would allow rehabilitated DUI offenders in Illinois to apply for a restricted driving permit if they meet all the requirements.

Some residents may be resistant to let repeat DUI offenders back on the road, but the proposal outlines numerous guidelines with which applicants must follow in order to be eligible to drive. According to the bill:

  • Applicants must permanently install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, which prohibits the car from starting if alcohol is detected; and
  • Applicants would only be able to drive during certain hours and to certain destinations, like school, work or church.

As it currently stands, Illinois residents who have three DUI convictions on their record can apply for the above restricted driving privileges, but a license is permanently revoked if a driver has four DUI convictions. The new law would extend the above conditions to any driver with four DUI convictions.

Examining The Proposal

There are many drivers in Illinois who have or are at risk of having their license suspended or permanently revoked because of a DUI-related offenses. A DUI suspension is known as a statutory summary suspension (“SSS”). Being non-criminal in nature, an SSS is not dependent upon a conviction.

A DUI-related revocation is the withdrawal of driving privileges for a period of 1, 5 or 10 years following a conviction. At the end of that specified period, the restoration of an offender’s driving privileges are contingent upon a successful hearing before the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois licensing authority.

Current laws state that a driver with four DUIs or more will have his or her driving privileges revoked indefinitely. While these are serious offenses, is it appropriate to punish these individuals for the rest of their lives for these mistakes?

Multiple DUI offenses can be a strong indicator that a person is dealing with an addiction to alcohol. Many of these individuals are in need of substance abuse counseling and rehab. Oftentimes, many individuals are able to get the help they need and turn their lives around, yet they are still unable to get their driving privileges back, which can significantly impact their daily lives.

This proposed bill would allow rehabilitated drivers to apply for a restrictive driving permit. The permit would allow them to drive under limited circumstances and only after their vehicles are equipped with breathalyzer ignition devices. It should also be noted that no application for a restrictive driving permit can be made until five years after the revocation took effect or five years following the applicant’s release from incarceration. Additionally, the petitioner would be required to demonstrate a minimum of three consecutive years of being completely alcohol and drug free immediately prior to the hearing.

These individuals will be required to meet other requirements of the Secretary of State. Moreover, they must show that they have some sort of hardship which could be the need to go to school, get to work to support their family, or attend medical appointments. Finally, the Secretary of State can only issue a restrictive driving permit, not a full license, and the driver would only be allowed to operate the vehicle that is equipped with an interlock device.

I will keep my eyes on this proposal, as I believe it has enough caveats to ensure only rehabilitated offenders will have the chance to pursue limited driving rights.

Related source: Fox Illinois

Man Accused of Sexually Abusing Peacock Declared Unfit For Trial

CC image Wikipedia.orgAn Illinois man accused of sexually abusing a peacock was declared mentally unfit to stand trial, a DuPage County judge ruled last week.

David Beckman, 64, of Roselle, was found mentally unfit for trial after psychological tests found that he was unable to comprehend legal matters and was unresponsive to questioning. Also citing a history of mental abuse and stress caused as a war veteran, Judge Alex McGimpsey decided that Beckman was in need of psychiatric care before he could stand trial.

Beckman will be transferred to the Illinois Department of Human Services for his treatment. The court hopes to restore Beckman to fitness within a year.

Alleged Abuse

According to the police report, Beckman was booked on misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty, battery, and attempted indecent solicitation of a child. On the charges of soliciting a child, prosecutors allege that Beckman asked a teen boy to “feel him up.”

He is also being looked into for the death of his pet peacock, Phyl. Investigators say Beckman sexually abused the peacock, which has later found dead in the garage.

Beckman’s next court date is set for July 25.

Attorney Miriam Szatrowski comments

Anyone charged with a crime has a right to be fit for a trial, plea, or sentencing hearing. In Illinois, a person who is unable to understand the proceedings and assist in his or her defense because of a mental or physical condition is unfit. If anyone involved in the case – the defense attorney, the prosecutor, or the judge – has a bona fide doubt as to a defendant’s fitness, the issue must be resolved before moving forward with the criminal case.

In these situations, a psychologist will evaluate the defendant, and then a hearing will be held. If the judge finds that the defendant is not fit to stand trial, and that the defendant is likely to be restored to fitness within a year, then the defendant can be ordered to undergo treatment. The treatment ordered must be in the least restrictive setting possible.

In this case, the judge found the defendant unfit due to mental illness. He was ordered to undergo treatment in a locked, inpatient facility, so the judge must have made a finding that a less secure setting would not be appropriate. It is not clear what led the judge to make this finding in this particular case, but it is usually done when the defendant is unwilling or unable to cooperate with an outpatient treatment plan. The defendant will stay in the secure facility until he is found fit, or he is there for one year, whichever comes first.

Related source: Daily Herald

11-Year-Old Dies in Traffic Accident

A chain reaction crash proved deadly Wednesday night as an 11-year-old boy died from injuries sustained in the traffic accident.

The incident occurred around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday while a line of cars were stopped because of an accident on Route 64 near Virgil Township.

According to the police report, Benjamin Black, 28, was driving his Ford Expedition westbound when he came upon the line of stalled cars.  Black was unable to stop in time, and his Expedition crashed into the back of a Chevy Cavalier.  The Cavalier was pushed into a Bucik Luceme, which was knocked off the road.  The Cavalier then continued forward and hit the back of a Hyundai.

All three people in the Cavalier were taken to Kishwaukee Hospital for treatment.  Among those in the car was 11-year-old Matthew Ranken, who died as a result of his injuries.  The other two individuals were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Officials said poor road conditions played a factor in the crash.  Authorities noted that the roads were covered by blistering snow drifts at the time of the incident.

Black was cited with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and operating an uninsured motor vehicle.  Both citations carry a maximum fine of $1,000.

Attorney Sean Sullivan comments

What’s most tragic about this accident is that a young child lost his life, especially since it sounds as if the accident could have been avoided.

The driver was cited with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. No doubt the weather played a factor in this accident, but a driver has an obligation to take the weather into consideration.

With all the electronic devices available to drivers these days, distracted driving is becoming an all too frequent phenomena.  Illinois law expressly prohibits texting while driving (see 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2).   If the investigation clearly shows the driver was at fault because he was distracted or doing something else negligent, then this young child’s family should hold him responsible.  A lawsuit will not bring the child back, but it may help bring awareness to unsafe driving.

Related source:  Chicago Tribune

Illinois Mandates Sexual Abuse Education in Public Schools

Illinois has passed a new law that requires all public schools to teach age-appropriate sexual assault and abuse awareness in their curriculum.

Governor Pat Quinn signed the measure known as Erin’s Law on Thursday, saying “those who are victims, we want to not only protect them but help them become survivors.”

The measure was named after 27-year-old Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused as a child and forced to endure the abuse for seven years before she had the courage to speak out.  Merryn has been pushing for the law for three years, and Thursday’s signing brought an overwhelming sense of relief.

“You do not know how joyous this is for me, how hard I’ve worked for this,” Erin said.

Merryn was the victim of sexual abuse from the ages of 6-8, and again from 11-13.

The governor signed the bill at The Children’s Advocacy Center of North and Northwest Cook County, the same place Erin first spoke up against her abuse.  She hopes the adoption of the bill will help children identify the signs of abuse and speak up sooner.

“This is a place I walked into scared and terrified that I wasn’t going to be believed,” said Erin.  “I never would have imagined 15 years later I would be walking through these doors getting a law passed to give kids a voice in the same place I found my voice.”

Although the bill is the first unfunded mandate in two years, it gives schools the flexibility to decide how they’ll teach the age-appropriate awareness.  Schools can pay to have an outside agency develop a curriculum, or they can teach their staff how it should be implemented.  Merryn says she doesn’t want to negatively impact any school budgets, and she hopes educators train their own staff to talk about sexual assault and abuse.

“Schools don’t just need to hire someone to come in (from) outside the school,” Merryn said. “You’ve got the staff right there that you already pay that are capable of teaching this, with the proper training.”

The law requires abuse education to be taught to children starting in pre-kindergarten.  Merryn said the age-appropriate awareness could be as simple as identifying who to talk to if children have questions or concerns.

Now that Erin’s Law has been passed at the state level, Merryn said she hopes to push for nationwide adoption.

“My innocence was killed, my trust was taken, but I reclaimed my voice and I want every victim of sexual abuse to do the same,” Erin said.

Illinois Attorney Miriam Szatrowski comments

This law, if implemented effectively, will help children understand what sexual abuse is, and where to go for help to make it stop. It may also aid law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting these cases by encouraging victims to come forward immediately, when the evidence and memories of the abuse are still fresh, instead of waiting weeks, months, or even years out of fear or shame.

This may also have the effect of preventing wrongful convictions, because any exculpatory evidence is also more likely to be available if allegations are made sooner.

It is important for people to know that if they are accused of any type of sexual abuse, they should talk to a lawyer immediately, and should not make any statements to police or anyone else before they have spoken with a lawyer.

Related source:  ABC, Chicago Tribune

Medical Professionals Must Tread Carefully in the Digital Age

In the ever-expanding digital age, the lines between personal and professional practices continue to be blurred by social media.  Facebook and Twitter have positioned themselves as personal social media sites, while the site LinkedIn stresses a more professional appearance.  Although people go on to social media sites to share their personal opinions and photos, researchers warn that some professionals should think carefully before they post certain things.

A study by a professor at the University of California sought to determine what is and isn’t acceptable in the digital realm.  For his research, Dr. Ryan Greysen presented a group of state medical licensing directors with a variety of social media scenarios, ranging from mostly innocent to completely absurd.

The survey asked the licensing directors which scenarios would prompt board investigation by their state.  Examples of the scenarios presented to directors include a doctor posting drunken photos to a social media account, and a surgeon using foul and demeaning language on his website.

The questionnaire was “based on things medical boards told us they were concerned about,” said Greysen.  “It’s not hard to find images just like the ones we used with just some limited searching.”

The goal of the research was to help establish social media guidelines for medical professionals, but none of the scenarios prompted unanimous review, meaning that was is acceptable in one state may be deemed inappropriate in another.

Survey Findings

Below are the survey findings and the percent of states that would conduct board review. (48 states reported)

  • Citing misleading information about clinical outcomes (81%)
  • Using patient images without consent (79%),
  • Misrepresenting credentials (77%)
  • Inappropriately contacting patients (77%)
  • Depicting alcohol intoxication (73%)
  • Violating patient confidentiality (65%)
  • Using discriminatory speech (60%)
  • Showing alcohol use without intoxication (40%)

As indicted in the findings, there is moderate consensus for certain actions, but none are unanimous.  Not only is it concerning for medical professionals who are wondering if their actions are acceptable, but it also offers warning that certain illegal activates may go unregulated.

“It’s not 100 percent, which gives you some pause,” says Dr. Vineet Arora who works at University of Chicago Medical Center. “What triggers an investigation in those states? If this doesn’t do it, what does?”

Arora says she believes most mistakes are made by people who are relatively new to social sites and are still learning the appropriateness of social media.  Although there are no defined social guidelines, medical professionals should strongly consider the implications of their actions before posting something for the whole world to see.

Sean Sullivan comments

Medical professionals should heed these warnings very carefully.

Sometimes just the inference of impropriety or unethical behavior can get someone in trouble with the state licensing boards.  The state licensing laws are written very broadly as to what the regulators can penalize professionals for.  Think about what you’re posting so you don’t have to go into a hearing to defend yourself from something you posted online.

Most licensing disciplinary actions are publicized on the Internet, so do some research before delving into the world of social media.  Professionals have to remember that friends and potential patients could be looking for them online.

Related source:

2 Illinois High Schools Involved in Hazing Scandals

Two Illinois high schools have been at the center of the high school hazing debate, and the schools are taking different paths to settle the issues.

Hazing Scandal #1

At Hoffman Estates High School, fourteen members of the high school basketball team were ordered to forfeit three games after alleged hazing incidents.

Officials said members of the basketball team would single out a player for initiation, then pile on top of that player and poke, grab and touch the individual in areas that sometimes included the buttocks and groin.  All players were fully clothed during the hazing incidents and the touching did not occur underneath a player’s clothes.

The Hoffman Estates police department is working with the school during the ongoing investigation.

The team’s coach is also being investigated, but players told school officials that their coach knew nothing about the initiation ritual.

The school has stated that the team will forfeit their next three games as a result of the “horseplay”, and members of the team will undergo training in hazing awareness.

Hazing Scandal #2

In an unrelated high school, the Department of Children and Family Services is looking into possible criminal violations stemming from hazing incidents dating back to 2008.

The DCFS is investigating one or more school officials at Maine West High School who may have known about the incidents and failed to report the conduct to proper authorities.  The Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act requires knowledge of alleged abuse to be reported, and violations range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony.

The investigation comes on the heels of a variety of incidents involving hazing on the boys soccer and baseball teams.

A parent of a freshman on the 2008 baseball team informed the school principal that members of the team had tore off her son’s pants and underwear on numerous occasions, sometimes exposing his genitals.

School officials investigated the complaint and four students were disciplined, but top district officials were not informed.  An internal investigation is being conducted to determine if the school acted appropriately.

The DCFS decided to get involved after the more recent hazing incident surrounding the boys soccer team.  Details about the latest incident have not been released, but six players were charged with misdemeanors after allegedly hazing three players.

Hazing and bullying is a growing epidemic in our schools,” says Illinois attorney Sean Sullivan. “What troubles me most about these two stories is that the Department of Children and Family Services is concerned enough to seek further investigation in one case, but not in the other.  It seems like a slippery slope to define one as ‘horseplay’ and the other as bordering on a sex crime. Both of these cases involve bullying of student athletes, and both deal with hazing related to school activities.  In my opinion both should warrant further investigation, not just one.”

Related source:  Chicago Tribune

Naperville Man Arrested for Recording Video of Neighborhood Kids

naperville child pornLast month police raided the house of Renzo Barduagni – a resident of the Naperville’s Wildflower area and seized a large collection of child pornography.

Police reportedly seized many years of video recordings of neighborhood children and multiple high definition video cameras.

He is charged with the following:

  • 5 Counts of Aggravated Child Pornography – Possess Film/Photo
  • 1 Count of Unauthorized video recording – Victim under 18

Bail has been set at $300,000. He must produce $30,000 cash to be released before his hearing.

Barduagni is an Italian native who moved to Naperville 10 years ago on a work visa. According to neighbors, he lived in the house alone. With these charges, other residents of the neighborhood are obviously concerned that Barduagni may have recorded video footage of other children.

Brett Appelman Comments

I was personally approached by a few of the people that live in the neighborhood in which this case occurred.  Understandably they were angry and scared for their children.  They were wondering if more children had been videotaped by the defendant, and what they could do about it.

In any criminal case, it is important that everyone remain calm and think about possible consequences before they act.  Some of the neighbors wanted to confront the defendant should he be released on bail, others wanted to vandalize his house and cars.

I explained that vandalizing or damaging the defendant’s property was illegal, and would likely get some of them arrested.  We can all understand their feelings of wanting revenge against a man who had violated the neighborhood children.  But being angry is not a viable defense in criminal court.

The best thing to do in a case like this is to contact the prosecutor’s office and explain how upset you are at the defendant.  Tell the prosecutor that you and your neighbors will be in court every time the case comes up and that you will be watching to make sure the case is handled properly.

Another course of action is to call the press and tell them what is going on.  The best pressure that can be put on prosecutors is by reporters asking questions.

Within days the neighbors had spoken to multiple news stations and papers, and made this case a much bigger deal than it might have been without their intervention.

Jenna Jameson Ordered to Pay $92,000 for Missed Appearances

Jameson was ordered to reimburse the Hollywood Palms theater group for promotional expenses and lost revenue after Jameson violated terms of her contract which required her to attend movie premiers at two Illinois theaters.

Jameson did not appear in court, and did not contest the charges.  Representatives for the adult film actress had previously told the theater group that Jameson would not defend the lawsuit.  She had originally hired a local attorney to assist during the early stages of trial, but he later withdrew as counsel.

In the contract, Hollywood Palms had agreed to cover Jameson’s travel expenses and pay her $10,000 for appearances at the Naperville and Woodridge theaters.  The appearances were scheduled to coincide with showings of a movie in which Jameson starred called “Zombie Strippers!”

Jameson notified the theater group that she wouldn’t be able to attend less than 48 hours before the event.  She claimed to have fallen ill, but was videotaped at a celebrity birthday party in California during the same weekend.

Representatives for Hollywood Palms argued that the theater group lost over $40,000 in promotional expenses, ticket reimbursements, concession sales, and travel arrangements because Jameson breached the contract.

Hollywood Palms CEO Ted Bulthaup said the group lost even more in free promotion.  He argued that the theaters use celebrity appearances to generate excitement about upcoming events through advertisements and interviews.  Not only did the company lose out on free publicity, but Jameson’s failed appearance also hurt the credibility of Hollywood Palms.

The lawsuit sought $250,000 in costs and publicity value, although presiding judge Patrick Leston found that number “highly speculative”.  However, he did award the group $50,000 for lost publicity and $42,000 for operational costs.

Attorney Sean Sullivan Comments

I would recommend that the theater group includes a “Liquidated Damages” clause next time they hire a celebrity to promote a film.  In this case, the judge found the $250,000 figure “highly speculative”, but a liquidated damages clause would have defined the revenue the theater group stood to lose.  Although a liquidated damages clause is tricky to draft, it provides an actual value for assets lost due to a breach of contract.

For example, in a contract for the completion of a shopping mall, the builder proposes a certain day that the mall will be finished and open for business.  For every day that the mall is still not completed by the promised deadline, the builder would be charged a certain amount, say $10,000, because the shopping mall owner is losing business each day the mall is not open.  It’s hard to determine the exact amount the owner is losing each day the mall isn’t open, but the liquidated damages clause eliminates the ambiguity of the lost revenue. The builder knows the penalty for not meeting his end of the bargain and the shopping mall owner is compensated per day for his lost revenue at an amount both sides agreed to.  A Judge is much more likely to uphold any damages claimed under this clause then any figure the plaintiff comes up with on their own.

Related Source:  Chicago Tribune

Naperville Woman Accused of Killing 2 Kids

Elzbieta Plackowska, a Naperville woman who is accused of murdering 2 children, is expected to plead insanity at her upcoming hearing.

Plackowska allegedly stabbed to death her son and another child whom she was babysitting. She has since confessed to both murders and is being charged with 1st degree murder.

Prosecutors in the case are now expecting an insanity plea from Plackowska and her attorneys. With that in mind, they are seeking to have Plackowska examined by a psychiatrist to determine whether or not she is insane in the legal sense of the term.

“Society uses the term ‘insanity defense’ quite often,” says Chicago Attorney Sean Sullivan. “It is referenced all the time in movies and on television. What exactly does a defense based on insanity mean?  Legally to be insane a person must not be able to understand the consequences of their actions. They are incapable of understanding the right and wrong of what they did. Most people will think that this woman must have been insane to kill her own child. Was she legally insane however? This is a difficult question that only a trained psychological professional can determine. She would be well served to have a defense attorney who is familiar with mental disease and illness.  Such mental health issues pose serious issues that must be resolved before this case can be tried properly.”

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