The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

Criminal Law Newsletter September 2018

The following is a compendium of news reports over the past month that may be of interest to our AG offices who are involved with criminal law issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Association of Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of news accounts, nor as to the positions expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked articles. 

The FBI has released its Uniform Crime report for 2017. The report shows a violent crime decline in 2017. Although the report shows that the rate of rapes increased by 2.5 percent and the aggravated assault rate increased by 1.0 percent, the robbery rate decreased by 4.7 percent and the murder rate by 1.4 percent from 2016 levels.

Jeffrey Winder, a Virginia man, was convicted of punching Jason Kessler, the organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally. The infamous rally by white supremacists was held in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. Winder was fined one dollar for the assault and battery, which took place as Kessler was conducting a news conference. Winder could have been sentenced to up to 12 months of jail time and $2,500 in fines.

Thousands of rare insects were stolen from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion at the end of August. No arrests have been made, although authorities suspect that it was an inside job and that these rare insects were stolen for resale at exotic pet shows.

Ryan Murphy, a Vermont MMA fighter, passed away after sparring with another MMA fighter on September 9th. Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo told the Burlington Free Press, “When an MMA fighter hits another MMA fighter in a consensual boxing match with boxing gloves among friends and he subsequently dies of that, it is a homicide but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a crime.”

George William Graham, a California man, was sentenced to five years in prison on September 10th for starting a fire in the Joshua Tree National Park that burned around 10,000 square feet of the park. He was also ordered to pay $21,019 in restitution to the National Park Service. Graham, who had two prior arson convictions, pleaded guilty in June to a felony charge of unlawfully setting a fire.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced on September 10th that Virginia will be the first real-world testing ground for a new device to combat DUI crashes. The device resembles a small air vent that is attached to the dashboard in front of the driver, but rather than the forced exhalation required by breathalyzer and interlock systems, this device can measure the driver’s blood alcohol content with normal breathing. Those involved with the program in Virginia hope to make the device an option to be included when buying a new car.

An inexpensive test strip is being used help heroin users detect potentially deadly fentanyl in their drugs. Over 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, a 10 percent increase from 2016, according to preliminary U.S. government data. Since fentanyl is often added to heroin without the buyer’s knowledge, these strips have been heralded by some as an important tool against the opioid epidemic. But some question the strips’ accuracy and overall effectiveness.

US DOJ News

On September 25th, Attorney General Sessions spoke in favor of legislation which counters threats from unmanned aircraft systems. Sessions stated, “[t]he Preventing Emerging Threats Act would finally give federal law enforcement the authority we need to counter the use of drones by drug traffickers, terrorists and criminals while protecting the freedom to use drones lawfully.”

A former Tuskegee, Alabama Police Lieutenant, Alex Huntley, has been sentenced to 36 months in prison and three years’ supervised release for beating a handcuffed and obedient arrestee on Christmas Eve 2014. Huntley pepper sprayed the handcuffed arrestee’s face. Then, after moving inside the police station, he knocked the still-handcuffed arrestee to the ground, stomped on him, and repeatedly kicked and punched him.

On September 12th, Peteris Sahurovs, a Latvian man, was sentenced to 33 months in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sahurovs, who was extradited from Poland, was involved in a “scareware” scheme that targeted visitors to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s website. Sahurovs will be removed from the United States to Latvia following his prison sentence.

On September 7, Kelli Davis, a program manager for the U.S. Department of State, received a sentence of 13 months in prison for accepting kickbacks and stealing federal funds. Davis pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging her with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and theft of public money. The money was part of a federally funded exchange program for foreign athletes and coaches managed by George Mason University.

On September 24th, Ryan Keith Taylor, a soldier at Fort Polk, was sentenced to 135 months in prison for manufacturing, possessing and detonating a chemical weapon in the Kisatchie National Forest adjacent to the Fort Polk Army installation in Louisiana. Taylor caused an explosion in April of 2017. Soldiers investigating the explosion were seriously injured when they inhaled chlorine gas at the explosion site.


Andy Wright is the Editor of the Criminal Law Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6257.The Criminal Law Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail awright@naag.org.

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