Tim Misny to Sponsor MADD Death Notification Training: Getting Legal 106

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This week on Getting Legal, I am talking once again with Julie Leggett, the executive director of the northeastern affiliate office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). We have both been waiting eagerly for today to come, as it is the first session of the 2013 MADD Death Notification Training Seminar Series in Northeastern Ohio.

This series will allow officers from over 800 agencies, spanning four counties, to receive education on techniques for notifying individuals about the passing of a loved one. As a former police prosecutor, attorney for the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, and 32-year personal injury lawyer, I know first-hand how devastating this type of news can be.

Everyday police officers put their lives on the line to do this difficult work. By sponsoring this training series, I hope to help officers and first responders approach one of the most daunting aspects of the job, and consequently, help family members cope with what will be one of the hardest experiences they will ever face.

Click here to learn more about MADD and the 2013 Death Notification Training Seminar Series in Northeastern Ohio.

Getting Legal airs on CBS 19 every Friday morning at 7:55 a.m.

The Tip of the Iceberg: Social Media Brings Guilty Verdict in Steubenville Rape Case

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Texting in Steubenville rape caseThis past weekend, a Jefferson County judge found Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt of rape and distribution of a nude image of a minor.

The sensational circumstances surrounding the two Steubenville high-profile football players, and the accompanying social media frenzy, drew international attention to the Ohio Valley town.

During a night of partying in August, the boys and the victim, a 16-year-old Weirton, West Virginian girl, were drinking. Testimony indicated that the assault occurred while the girl was drunk and subsequently passed out.

During the trial, the most damaging evidence for the defense came in the form of text messages recovered from cell phones belonging to the accused, the victim, a witness, and friends and acquaintances of those parties.

The most appalling piece of evidence was a photo of the two boys dragging the unconscious victim by her arms and legs.

Joann Gibb, who works for the Ohio state lab, retrieved hundreds of text messages from the 17 phones seized during the investigation. During her four hours of testimony, she read graphic and often expletive-laced text messages that went back and forth like a pinball between the Steubenville-area teens following this hideous event.

While the defendants admitted they knew they had committed a crime, the most shocking text came from the 17-year-old Mays to a friend wherein he said, “I got Reno. He took care of it and sh– ain’t gonna happen, even if they take it to court.”

This young man was referring, of course, to Reno Saccoccia, the head coach of the Steubenville powerhouse football team.

Enter Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Moments after the courtroom cleared on Sunday, DeWine announced that a grand jury would be convened on April 15 to investigate whether more charges would be filed against others. He said that his office will use information gathered by more than 15 state investigative agents who have already interviewed 56 people, including the high school principle, district superintendant and 27 other football coaches. Sixteen people refused to cooperate.

Because the defendants, Mays and Richmond, are juveniles, Judge Tom Lipps was limited to sentencing the boys to the Ohio Department of Youth Services for two years and one year, respectively.”

Special Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said, “They showed absolutely no regard for what happened to the victim.

The crimes committed on that August evening are in and of themselves horrific, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. In the ensuing weeks and months, we will learn that coaches, parents, administrators, and family friends circled the wagons to protect these star players and their esteemed football program at the expense of pursuing justice for a 16-year-old girl.

They repeatedly failed to do the right thing, a reality we have seen time and time again in juvenile rape cases involving groups and institutions such as the Catholic Church and Penn State university.

Hopefully, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s investigation and subsequent criminal prosecution will show that in the age of social media everything we do and say is transparent, and the days of a good ol’ fashioned cover-up are long gone.

Special Guest from MADD on St. Patrick’s Day Safety: Getting Legal 105

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This week on Getting Legal, I welcomed Julie Leggett, executive director of the northeastern affiliate office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Julie and I were able to discuss not only what her invaluable organization does, but also to remind our viewers to be safe and responsible on St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, especially those going to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Cleveland.

MADD serves our community by providing victim services, campaigning for tougher drinking and driving laws, and educating our community about this national issue. Theirs is a cause I feel strongly about, and I encourage everyone to rally in this fight for a safer future.

Getting Legal airs on CBS 19 every Friday morning at 7:55 a.m.

Zack Reed Arrest and St. Patrick’s Day Parade Remind Cleveland Not to Drink and Drive

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This week on Getting Legal with Tim Misny CBS 19 at 7:55am, we’re discussing the hot topic issue of drinking and driving.

This issue is front and center for Cleveland residents for two reasons.  Not only is St. Patrick’s Day around the around the corner, but also because of the recent arrest of Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed for suspicion of driving while under the influence.

Zack Reed had DUI convictions in 2005 and 2007. This past Wednesday, he pOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAleaded not guilty in response to his third DUI arrest.

I know Zack Reed personally. As a councilman, his work in providing local services to those in need is unparalleled.

It’s easy to jump on the media bandwagon and pass judgment, but we must keep in mind that Zack Reed is, indeed, innocent until proven guilty. However, even if the facts surrounding the 2:00 am Tuesday morning arrest are taken in the best light possible for the councilman, it ain’t good.

According to the arresting officers, Reed displayed obvious traits of drunkenness, not to mention his failure of the roadside sobriety test.

Julie Leggett, the Executive Director of the Northeastern Ohio Affiliate of Mothers against Drunk Driving, weighed in on Reed’s three DUI encounters by saying, “That’s three potential times that someone could have lost their life.”

When we put a spotlight on the drinking and driving problem in our society, the illuminated statistics are shocking, if not numbing.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9,878 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2011. This translates into one death every 53 minutes. The Center for Disease Control determined that the average drunk driver has driven under the influence 80 times before his or her first arrest. And possibly the most foreboding mention is that one in three people will be involved in an alcohol related crash in their lifetime.

Unfortunately, the Zack Reed scenario is not the only case of DUI recidivism in the Buckeye State. Last year alone there were 147,000 three-time offenders and 33,000 five-time offenders.

Our legislature has enacted stiff penalties in terms of fines, incarceration, and drivers’ license suspension, but their efforts have proven to be ineffective deterrents.

As a former prosecutor, I have represented the state against hundreds of drunk drivers, and as a plaintiff personal injury lawyer, I have helped many victims of drunk driving and their families. I can tell you from first-hand experience that all the tough laws in the world won’t make a bit of difference.

My suggestion is that first offenders, in addition to spending a weekend at a cushy hotel watch videos on the horrors of drunk driving, should have to spend a week with a victim of a drunk driving accident or someone whose life has been turned upside down by drunk driving.

The devastation left in the wake of accident caused by a drunk driver is often times beyond devastating and, in fact, incomprehensible. I have represented families that were destroyed by drunk drivers and the toughest fact for the family to deal with is that the drunk driver has gotten on with their life and walked away unscathed.

These concerns are timely in light of this Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. While the bars will be filled with people dressed in green excessively consuming libations, I know that they would think twice about getting behind the wheel if they had ever spent five minutes with a victim of drunk driving or someone whose life has been turned upside down by drunk driving.


Click here to learn more about my involvement with MADD and the 2013 Spring Death Notification Training Seminar Series.