Zukerman successfully defends minor sex felony charges and beats ICAC
A little over a year ago, Larry Zukerman, Brian Murray and Adam Brown successfully defended a client caught in an undercover sexual predator sting through thorough investigation techniques and aggressive pleading practice.
As Memorial Day rolls around each year and Americans everywhere stop to think about those who have fought to protect us, local and federal law enforcement are preparing to act on an almost year-long digital undertaking known as “Operation Memorial Dazed.” Many who have seen the popular TV show “Dateline NBC: Chris Hanson vs. Predator” are familiar with the concept of sex crime sting operations – as in Hansen vs. Predator, the Cuyahoga County Sherriff’s office and the Internet Crimes Against Children/FBI operation includes a police officer posing as a child online in order to lure potential offenders into messaging them and making plans to meet up in person (at which time the suspect is detained). This local mission arrested 22 suspects in 2018 alone on charges related to the pursuit of a sexual encounter with a minor.
Our client, one of the 22 people taken into custody during Operation Memorial Dazed, was charged with a number of felonies tied into his alleged intent to have sex with an underage person. These counts include:
Attempted Unlawful Sexual Conduct With a Minor
Importuning [solicitation of a minor]
Possessing Criminal Tools [the devices he used to contact the officer in disguise]
Given that these crimes are classified as Fifth-degree felonies in the state of Ohio, our client was facing several years in prison in addition to compulsory registration as a sex offender for life. As such, he contacted Zukerman Lear & Murray to ensure that he had the best sex crime defense lawyers to represent him in court.
After careful and thorough examination of the facts, attorneys Larry Zukerman, Brian Murray, and Adam Brown here at ZLM found and asserted that the affidavit for the search warrant was defective and therefore the search was unconstitutional (and all related evidence needed to be thrown out); after placing our client under arrest for suspected sex crimes, procedural errors and shortcuts taken by law enforcement included the following:
- When our client initially arrived at the sting house (where the online sting operation officer had instructed him to go), he was immediately pulled inside and taken into custody by the officers who were waiting for him. They placed him in a room upstairs where he waited for a half hour before moving him to another room to be interrogated. Before reading him his Miranda Rights, a constitutional protection to which any person is entitled before being interrogated, the officers began asking him questions and obtaining his permission to search through his social media accounts. All three attorneys at Zukerman Lear & Murray saw upon reading the arrest reports that this constituted an illegal interrogation and search of his belongings.
- After the interrogation regarding his alleged sex crimes was complete – and our client had been read his Miranda rights during the interrogation period – the officers on sight took our client to jail where he would be more permanently detained. Once they had arrived, the law enforcement officers searched his car (and then subsequently the laptop and flash drive they found). Zukerman, Murray, and Brown saw that, because this was done without a warrant or his consent, this was another illegal search of our client’s belongings.
With these two violations of our client’s constitutional rights in mind, we knew that we had more than enough to properly defend this individual against an illegal investigation of this kind. Our legal basis for our defense against the sex crime allegations against our client rested upon four specific constitutional principles:
The 4th Amendment: Law enforcement obtained our client’s consent to search his phone and his social media accounts before reading him his Miranda Rights. They also searched his car, computer and flash drive without consent or a warrant. These actions constituted a potential violation of his protection against unlawful search and seizure.
The 5th Amendment: By failing to read his Miranda Rights to him before the interrogation, law enforcement did not give our client all of the protective information to which he was entitled. Our attorneys argued that this was a violation of his right to avoid self-incrimination.
The 6th Amendment: One of the guarantees provided to all citizens by the constitution is the right to proper legal representation, which is specifically mentioned in the Miranda Rights read to every citizen under arrest. Because they did not explain this to our client before proceeding to question him, we asserted that law enforcement violated his right to an attorney.
The 14th Amendment: Finally, given that law enforcement acted illegally both during the initial interrogation and the subsequent searches of our client’s belongings, their failure to follow Justice System protocol constituted a potential violation of his 14th amendment right to due process and equal protection under the law.
While these violations may seem obvious in retrospect, it is often impossible for all except for the best criminal defense attorneys to discover the inconsistencies and unjust actions undertaken in such a complicated and nuanced case. Thanks to the intensity with which our attorneys searched over the records of our client’s arrest, we were able to build a strong case that argued for the evidence obtained during these illegal searches/interrogations to be completely dropped from the record. While our client may otherwise have been forced to serve years in prison for the sex crime charges being brought up against him, we managed to reduce these felony charges to only a misdemeanor and a $500 fine.
Regardless of the charges or circumstances of arrest, we believe that every individual has a right to excellent and thorough representation under the law. If you or a loved one has been charged with sex crimes or has been arrested in a similar operation, call Zukerman Lear & Murray to speak about how we may be able to aggressively protect your rights as legal counsel.