Fifth Student Alleges Hazing at Maine West High School

CC image Wikipedia.orgAnother student has come forward in the wake of the Maine West High School boys soccer team hazing scandal. The juvenile is the fifth member of the team to claim that he was the victim of a hazing ritual during a team-building event in 2012.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, and it claims that a fifth member of the soccer team was assaulted during a “campus run” by older teammates. The juvenile, whose name was not released, alleges that older players held him on the ground and physically and sexually assaulted him.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time Maine West High School has been in the news for a hazing incident. Late last year we learned that the Department of Children and Family Services was investigating MWHS for hazing allegations dating back to 2008.

The school district voted to fire Maine West coaches Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriquez for their roles in the incidents. Divincenzo was charged in May with multiple misdemeanors, including hazing, battery, and failure to report abuse as dictated by law as a teacher and a coach.

Attorney Sean Sullivan comments

This is a story we’ve been following closely, and we’ve commented on it before. Sadly, it seems another accuser has come out, which seems to support the conclusion that there was a pattern of abuse and hazing at this school. Acts of severe hazing (such as the actions described here) are the most egregious and should result in criminal charges being filed, but it is not just these individual acts that should be punished.

What is most troubling to me is that it seems the school district and the school itself should be facing a civil lawsuit for a complete lack of oversight and failure to address this situation such that it fostered an atmosphere where these hazers felt that this behavior was acceptable. Hazing is never an acceptable behavior and this school and the school district are just as complacent as the individual perpetrators.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

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Suing Your Landlord For Your Security Deposit

CC image For Rent by Michael Mandiberg on FlickrAs an attorney, I often have clients ask me the following question about landlord-tenant disputes:

“My friend told me I can sue my landlord for withholding my security deposit and I can recover twice the amount, right?”

My answer to this is maybe; it depends upon whether your landlord meets certain requirements.

The Illinois Security Deposit Return Act (765 ILCS 710) is the law that governs when and how your landlord can withhold your security deposit. However, what most tenants do not realize is that this act only applies to landlords who own 5 or more units.

In other words, this only applies to commercial landlords and property management companies. If your landlord rents you a single unit or even rents out another unit to some other tenant, this act will not apply to him. What governs in these cases is the terms of the written lease. If you are unsure how to determine the legal holdings in your lease, you should contact a lawyer who has experience in landlord-tenant issues. We routinely handle these type of cases.

The above post was written by Civil Litigation Associate Sean Sullivan.

Chicago Limo Driver Charged With DUI While Driving Teens to Prom

CC image Wikipedia.orgA Chicago limousine driver who was over the legal limit was arrested for DUI earlier this week when he drunkenly shuttled more than 20 area teenagers to their prom.

Richard L. Madison, 54, was charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving after students reported that he was driving erratically while chauffeuring the students to prom.

According to the police report, Madison allegedly backed into a ditch and slammed on the brakes numerous times during the ride.  Kelly Dano, who was aboard the limo, said Madison’s driving put everyone in danger.

“”He hopped over a median and cut off 3 cars and then…he took us to the wrong hotel, he took us to the Hyatt hotel instead of Abbington Place so we had 5 more miles to go,” said Dano.

Some fearful students even called their parents during the ride to inform them of Madison’s behavior.  Students later alerted two off-duty police officers about Madison’s driving once they arrived at Abbington Place.

Madison eventually submitted to a Breathalyzer test.  He blew a 0.22, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Madison claimed mechanical issues caused the ride to seem erratic.

“I’m not guilty, but it is what it is,” said Madison. “The bus needs wheel alignment and that’s why it was moving the way it did.”

A spokesperson for the limousine company said a full inspection was ordered, and no mechanical issues were revealed.  The company fired Madison earlier this week.

Brett Appelman comments

A limo, taxi, bus or truck is considered a “Commercial Vehicle” in the state of Illinois. To be licensed to drive a commercial vehicle in Illinois, you must test for and receive a Commercial Driver’s License, commonly referred to as a “CDL”.  The standards of driving while licensed with a CDL are much more stringent than with a regular license.  A DUI will get your CDL revoked, and make it very difficult to ever get it back in the future.

Aside from the licensing issues, this driver is facing an Aggravated DUI charge.  Aggravated means that there were special circumstances that make the charges worse; they carry heavier penalties.  Committing a DUI with children in the vehicle is an automatic aggravator.  If any of the prom-goers were 16 or under, this driver is facing mandatory jail time and community service, on top of the usual DUI penalties, such as fines, and alcohol treatment.

He immediately lost his job, and likely will lose his CDL if he is convicted on the DUI charges.  He needs to find a lawyer that is experienced in DUI defense, and with CDL issues, to try to save his livelihood.

Spousal Support in Illinois

CC image from 401(K) 2013 on FlickrIt is very rare in divorce proceedings that both parties have the capacity for equal finances after the divorce. One party is almost always going to have the ability to earn more money than the other party. The courts address this through a distribution of assets of the marital property or by awarding spousal support. Most people traditionally refer to this as “alimony”. Alimony is the age old traditional term for spousal support that really is not in use anymore. Nowadays, Illinois courts use the term “maintenance”.

What is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance awards can be either temporary or permanent. Temporary awards are ordered by the court to preserve the status quo of the parties’ finances while the divorce is proceeding through the courts. Permanent awards are typically what the parties agree to in the marital settlement agreement at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings, which will govern the future finances of each party once the divorce is final.

Maintenance can be waived, but only upon a showing that the party waiving it is doing so freely and voluntarily. However it is most important to note that once maintenance is waived, it is forever waived. The party that waives it cannot not go back and change their mind and ask the court to award it at a later date.

Maintenance is calculated by looking at several different factors viewed by the court as a whole. No one factor is the sole determining factor that triggers the court to award maintenance. Typically the court considers the earning power of each party, the lifestyle during the marriage, the education level of each party, and if either party forsaken educational opportunities to support the family while the spouse has sought more schooling.

If you are contemplating divorce, you should consult an attorney to discuss your options and how to best protect yourself and your rights going forward.

Illinois Woman Charged With DUI While Celebrating the Reinstatement of her License from Previous DUI Conviction

CC image Wikipedia.org58-year old Erin James had a little too much fun on Friday when she was out celebrating the reinstatement of her driver’s license, which had been revoked because of a previous drunk driving conviction.  James had a few too many alcoholic beverages, and then decided to get behind the wheel and drive home.

Unfortunately for James, she pressed the pedal to the metal during her drive, and authorities stopped her for speeding.  James consented to a breathalyzer where she blew a .155, nearly twice the legal limit in Illinois.  She was ultimately booked on DUI charges.

In addition to the DUI charge, James was cited for failing to equip her vehicle with a breath alcohol Ignition Interlock Device.  James was required by law to install an IID under the conditions of her initial DUI conviction.

“The fact that she was driving a vehicle not equipped with a BAIID shows that she had every intent of drinking and getting behind the wheel,” Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said in statement.

James originally had her license suspended in 2012 after an arrest for drunk driving in North Riverside.  When she was pulled over Friday, she told the officer on the scene she was out celebrating the imminent return of her license.

Odds are James will need to wait a lot longer until her license is reinstated this time around.

Defense Attorney Miriam Szatrowzski comments

Sadly, many people who get DUIs have serious alcohol problems, and the mandatory treatment for the first DUI is not enough to overcome them. Others just don’t make very good decisions.

Either way, since this is her second DUI, she will face more serious penalties, both in the criminal court and with her driver’s license. In the criminal case, she will not be eligible for supervision, so if found guilty she will get a conviction on her record. If this happens, she will probably get probation, but many judges will also give people jail time for second offenses. She is also facing a mandatory minimum of five days in jail or 240 hours of community service because it is a second DUI. She is lucky that she only blew a .155 and not a .16, because blowing twice the limit adds in extra penalties. In this case, it would add a mandatory two days in jail and $1,250 in fines. As for her driver’s license, if she is convicted, her license will be revoked for a minimum of one year, and she will have to get treatment and have a hearing in order to get her driving privileges restored.

Hopefully, she will never do this a third time, or she will be charged with a felony and may end up with a prison sentence.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Man Sentenced in Bizarre Attempt to Kidnap, Extort Illinois Attorney

Mr. Banks reportedly planned to kill the attorney using a cat, a radio and a hot tub. CC image Screen Capture from Youtube video "Cat falls in Hot Tub" by Jeff Martin

In a story that sounds like the plot of a bad cable movie, an Illinois man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly plotting to kidnap a lawyer and hold him for ransom money.

Brett Nash, 46, received his sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to a charge of solicitation of a crime of violence late last year.

Thankfully the plot didn’t involve any of the attorneys at Appelman and Associates, but the report says Nash targeted a lawyer from Granite City, Illinois.

What puts the story over the top is the amount of information that was gathered about Nash’s kidnapping plan.  Much of the evidence used against Nash was provided by a tape recorder that was planted on a co-worker who Nash enlisted to help carry out his plan.  Some of Nash’s ridiculous plans are detailed below.

  • Nash planned to kidnap the lawyer and force him to write checks for “labor”, which Nash could then collect.
  • If the attorney wouldn’t comply, Nash planned to force the attorney to wear a fake explosive suit and walk into his bank.  The attorney would then need to withdraw all his funds or risk being blown up.  Nash said he got the idea by watching a show on the Discovery Channel.
  • Nash planned to wear makeup or a mask, saying “This is Mission Impossible (expletive)”.
  • Nash eventually planned to kill the lawyer by staging an accident involving a hot-tub, a cat, and a radio.
  • During one of the recordings, Nash told his colleague that he was willing to buy a cat, a litter box, and pet food to further his staged suicide plan.
  • Nash told the would-be accomplice they could avoid leaving behind DNA evidence by using copious amounts of hair gel to keep their hair from shedding.

Nash’s accomplice wanted no part of the operation, and he agreed to wear a recording device for the FBI.

“I’ve been playing with this for a year. Fine tunin’ this (expletive),” Nash said on the recording.

During trial, Nash’s attorney argued that the plot was too outrageous to be real.  Unfortunately for Mr. Nash, the jury didn’t see it that way.

Attorney Brett Appelman comments

Many people think that with a few simple tricks, they can steal a lot of money without being caught.  Shows like CSI and Law & Order depict mastermind criminals who use science and technology to thwart law enforcement, but some people need to be reminded that those are fictional TV shows.

This guy thought that with a few tricks he picked up from Mission Impossible and The Discovery Channel he would be able to pull off a sophisticated kidnapping, extortion, armed robbery, and possibly murder scheme.  Unfortunately for him he was brought down by the simplest and cheapest technology available these days: a recording device.  Most of the techniques depicted on these shows are not as useful in the real world as they appear to be on TV.  Hair gel will not prevent the hair on your arms or eyelashes from falling out at the crime scene, a way in which many criminals have eventually been caught.  Masks are never as effective as they seem to be on TV, and I cannot even speculate on the attempt to commit murder with a cat.

He got caught and he will be doing serious time behind bars.  Hopefully he will spend the next few years in the prison library, not in front of the TV.

Related source:  St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Moving out of State with a Child – 5 FAQs

CC image Wikipedia.orgThis post was written by Sean Sullivan, head of the Family Law department at Appelman & Associates.  Sean is committed to providing his clients with the best representation in a variety of civil matters. He has also served as volunteer law clerk with the Cook County Public Defender’s prestigious Homicide Task Force.  For more information about Sean, check out his bio or give him a call at (630) 717-7801.

In my daily practice, one recurrent theme I deal with is parents who have moved out of state with their child, or are contemplating moving out of state with their child, and suddenly find themselves in a legal battle with their ex who opposes the move. It becomes particularly frustrating for clients when it seems the party objecting to the move is doing so “to get back at me and not because they really care about our child”. That very well may be, but my answer is always the same; in order to move, you have to get permission from the Court.

If the child was born in Illinois, or has resided in Illinois for the last six months, then Illinois has jurisdiction over the child. If Illinois has legal jurisdiction over the child, then the child cannot be removed from the state (on a permanent basis) without the permission of the Court. Your ex may be taking you to Court just to fight you and not out of concern over your child, but it is their legal right to do so.

What do I need to do if I want to move out of state and take my child with me?

You need to contact an attorney and seek their help in filing a motion with the Court asking for permission to remove the child from the state.

What if I am just taking the child out of state temporarily, do I need the permission of the Court?

Maybe.  It depends upon the language that was agreed upon in the joint parenting agreement or the marital settlement agreement. Both agreements typically have some language that allows for removal of the children for short periods of time, but it is best to consult an attorney and have them review either your JPA or MSA to determine this for sure.

I already moved out of state, and did not get the Court’s permission. Is anything going to happen to me?

It is very likely you could be held in contempt by the Court for taking the child out of state without permission. You should attempt to return the child to the state as soon as possible and contact an attorney.

What factors does the Court consider in letting me move my child out of state?

There are many factors the Court takes into consideration and each can be given different weight by the Court. Overall, the controlling factor in the Court’s determination is what is in the best interest of the child.

I am getting remarried, how will the Court look at that?

The Court will consider that as one of the factors it makes in its determination of what is in the best interest of your child. Getting remarried or not getting remarried is not necessarily a predictor of what the Court will decide one way or the other.