The Legal Week That Was – Sheriff Racial Profiling, Underage Same-Sex Accusations, and Amanda Bynes
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UPDATED: May 25, 2013
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This week in American legal news, a celebrity downward spiral takes another dramatic turn, a Florida teen defends herself from sexual battery accusations, and a mother takes embarrassing her children to an entirely new level. Details forthcoming, but first a quick stop in Arizona where a US Federal Judge has handed down a ruling that has Immigrants’ Rights advocates celebrating.
Arizona’s “Toughest Sheriff” Racially Profiling Latinos
Self-proclaimed as Arizona’s toughest sheriff, Maricopa County’s Joe Arpaio was at the wrong end of a federal ruling today as Judge Murray Snow found his office responsible for systematic racial profiling targeting Latinos. The ruling, coming a civil lawsuit filed by a small group of Latino citizens, will not result in jail time, but serves as a significant decision nonetheless. With Arizona at the center of the controversy over aggressive immigration legislation, Sheriff Arpaio’s actions will likely inflame both sides – escalating an already hot-button issue.
The decision will have an immediate impact in the form of court-mandated changes in procedure, which are to be determined in the middle of June. However, as supporters of either side entrench themselves in pre-existing beliefs and sling accusations and denials regardless of the ruling, whether or not the decision has a longstanding influence on policy or public opinion is a more difficult question to ponder. For now, proponents of liberal immigration reform and immigrants rights group have a notch in their belt, and a warning has been issued to legislators and sheriffs who support increasingly tough immigration laws that the courts are watching their behavior closely.
Florida Teen Rejects Plea Agreement in Underage Same-Sex Case
Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old Florida teenager accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl, has rejected a plea agreement, and chosen instead to bring the matter to trial. Ms. Hunt faces up to 15 years in prison and sex-offender label if convicted, but insists that she has done nothing wrong since the relationship was allegedly consensual. Claiming she has been targeted because the relationship was same-sex, Hunt decided to turn down a deal that would have forced her to remain under house arrest for two years and required her to attend sex-offender counseling.
Her attorneys echo the belief that the case has been sensationalized, saying “If this case involved a boy and girl, there would be no media attention to this case.” It is likely that Ms. Hunt and her attorneys are correct in their belief her case has gained national attention because it involves two young women, however, the critical biological fact that determines her guilt or innocence in this case is not the girls’ gender, but their age. National attention to hot-button same-sex issues notwithstanding, the jury will be asked to decide if Ms. Hunt engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor – a serious crime in Florida.
Former Teen Star Amanda Bynes Arrested Again
Turning to lighter news, former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes was arrested in her New York apartment after allegedly smoking marijuana and disposing of a smoking device by throwing it out her 36th floor window when confronted by police. Criminal charges of possession of marijuana, reckless endangerment, and felony tampering of evidence greeted the 23 year old after a brief psychiatric evaluation. Bynes faces court in mid-July, leaving a small window of time for Lindsay Lohan to one-up her in the pairs’ dueling criminal behavior.
Virginia Mom Convicted of Mooning Bus Driver – Sentenced to Six Months in Jail
Finally, a touching story from Suffolk, Virginia to remind us all just how embarrassing parents can be when we are in middle school. Lisa Marie Grant, age 34, has paid the criminal price for mooning her son’s bus driver and 45 of his classmates after the driver would not let her on board the bus. Grant’s son had been issued a conduct notice warning, a step before being disciplined, that she apparently took issue with. When she confronted the driver, he offered to talk with her but not let her on the bus – leading the irritated mother to allegedly expose her buttocks and one breast. While all but one month of Grant’s six month sentence is suspended, her son will likely struggle to live the incident down any time soon.