Archive for the ‘Alabama’ Category

“To Kill A Mockingbird” Author a Victim of Elder Abuse

July 29, 2013

In her 1960 courtroom drama “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee created one of American literature’s most beloved figures – the courageous Southern lawyer Atticus Finch. Told from the perspective of Finch’s young daughter, the book details Finch’s defense of a black man falsely accused of rape in Depression-era rural Alabama.

Now, at age 87, Lee is in court with her former literary agent, Samuel Pinkus, who Lee claims took advantage of her declining health and tricked her into surrendering her royalties to him. The book still sells 750,000 copies per year, according to Publisher’s Weekly, translating into more than $1.5 million in annual royalties.

Elder financial abuse cases often involve friends and relatives, and this one is no exception: Pinkus is the son-in-law of one of Lee’s oldest and dearest friends, the late Eugene Winick.

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit filed in a Manhattan court this May claims that in 2007, Lee suffered a stroke and was not well enough to comprehend the papers that Pinkus gave her to sign. “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see” and he deliberately sought to take advantage of her. The papers gave Pinkus control over “Mockingbird”’s copyright and royalties. Lee was – and still is – living in an Alabama assisted living facility. She claims to have no memory of signing away her rights.

“She’s 95 percent blind, profoundly deaf, bound to a wheelchair,” Dr. Thomas Butts told London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper two years ago. Butts is a close friend of Harper’s who lives in the same Alabama town, Monroeville, that Lee has long called home. He added that Lee’s short-term memory was poor, but that her longterm memory was in good shape.

At the time of that interview, Lee’s legal affairs were handled by her older sister, Alice, an attorney who still maintained an active law practice at age 99. But Alice did not file the suit against Pinkus. Manhattan-based intellectual property attorney Gloria Phares wrote the complaint and is representing Lee in the suit. Phares, who often represents literary clients, once engaged in a battle over the rights to the C.S. Lewis children’s fantasy, “Chronicles of Narnia.”

The August 2013 issue of Vanity Fair examines the complex case and the relationship between Lee and Pinkus. Winick, Pinkus’s father-in-law, was Lee’s agent while she was writing “Mockingbird” and read various drafts of the book. Around 2002, Winick’s health became too frail for him to continue representing Lee. Pinkus took her on as a client. One of Lee’s friends told Vanity Fair that she came to admire Pinkus enough as a person to give him the Medal of Freedom bestowed upon Lee by former President George Bush.

The complaint filed by Lee’s attorney Gloria Phares asserts that Pinkus took the “Mockingbird” royalties and moved them among several shell accounts. Phares has said that “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see” and he deliberately sought to take advantage of her.

Full Article and Source:
“To Kill A Mockingbird” Author a Victim of Elder Abuse

Etowah Co. man indicted for allegedly abusing nursing home resident

July 28, 2013

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) – Attorney General Luther Strange’s office says that a former Etowah County nursing home employee has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a resident.

James Dean Justice, 44, of Altoona, was arrested July 24 and has been released on bond. Justice has been indicted for abusing a protected person, which is a class C felony. The alleged abuse took place Dec. 26, 2012.

The investigation into the case began after Altoona Health and Rehabilitation, Inc. reported the incident to the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Justice had been employed there as a certified nursing assistant.

Full Article and Source:
Etowah Co. man indicted for allegedly abusing nursing home resident

Alabama Probate Judge Arthur Crawford to Fight Assault Charge

June 1, 2013

Hale County Probate Judge Arthur Crawford will fight a misdemeanor assault charge filed against him in April.

An employee who worked as a security guard with Crawford at Mercedes Benz U.S. International claims Crawford, 56, injured his shoulder when he hit him on Feb. 19, 2010.
Crawford said during a hearing in Tuscaloosa County District Court Wednesday that he is not guilty and plans to hire an attorney, He declined to comment further after the hearing.

Alabama AG Applauds the Protecting Alabama’s Elder’s Act

May 30, 2013

Attorney General Luther Strange applauded final legislative passage of the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act. The bill extends and strengthens legal protections from financial exploitation and physical or emotional abuse for all people aged 60 and older.

“I am pleased that the Legislature has strengthened our state laws to provide special protections for all who are 60 years or older,” said Attorney General Strange. “Previously, such protection applied only if the victim was defined as physically or mentally impaired. Sadly, experience tells us that criminals repeatedly target older people as victims, and the law passed today is a strong weapon to combat this.”

The Attorney General’s Office was actively involved in leadership of the Interagency Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, which crafted the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act. The Council was created by the Alabama Legislature to examine this problem and suggest solutions. Members include representatives of about 30 various law enforcement, judicial, legal, health and senior advocate agencies and other organizations.

Full Article and Source:
AG Luther Strange Applauds The Protecting Alabama’s Elder’s Act

Alabama Social Worker Employee Charged With Abusing Her Physically and Mentally Handicapped Brother

May 29, 2013

A social service worker with the Alabama Department of Human Resources has been arrested after the elderly brother shecares for was found with laying in his own feces with multiple bed sores, according to the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office.

Yolanda Thurman is accused of abusing her mentally handicapped, adult brother, said Lori Myles, public information officer for MCSO. She is facing one count of elderly abuse and neglect, a felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Her brother was identified as Byrd Bunkley Jr., a mentally and physically handicapped adult who needs 24-hour care.

“The home was in such poor condition,” said MCSO’s Lt. Paul Burch. “Mr. Bunkley was laying in his own feces with bed sores all over his body. I do believe we saved his life.”

According to Myles, authorities were alerted to possible abuse after the victim’s niece called Mobile County Emergency Medical Services following a visit to her uncle.

Full Article and Source:
Mobile County DHR Employee Charged With Abusing Her Physically and Mentally Handicapped Brother

Alabama: State Senator Cam Ward Stirs Support for Elderly Abuse Legislation

April 27, 2013

As the Alabama Legislature approaches its home stretch, state Sen. Cam Ward of Shelby County and others at a press conference this morning stirred support of a bill he sponsored that protects seniors from criminal abuse.

Ward has sponsored Senate Bill 29 that expands the opportunity for prosecution as well as the penalties associated with cases of neglect, mistreatment and financial abuse of elderly. A virtually identical bill in the House sponsored by Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood is also awaiting passage.

“One of the things we oftentimes don’t think about until it happens to us is the terrible tragedy of elder abuse,” Ward said. “It’s unfortunate that every day in this state there are instances of abuse.”

Full Article and Source:
State Sen. Cam Ward Stirs Support for Elderly Abuse Legislation in Alabaster

AL: Probate Employee Charged With Stealing Tens of Thousands of Dollars

April 9, 2013

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office charged a county employee with stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of attorney fees from a public office.

Sherre Johnson Wells, 51, of Pleasant Valley, was charged with theft of property after allegedly stealing between $10,000 and $50,000 from the Calhoun County Probate Office, said Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Matthew Wade.

Wade said Wells, an assistant at the Probate Office, had “developed a scheme” in which she redirected into her personal account state funds meant to cover attorney fees for the probate office.

“This isn’t like reaching into somebody’s pocket and taking their wallet,” Wade said. “This is thousands of dollars she stole over time from various accounts.”

Wade said Probate Judge Alice Martin called the Sheriff’s Office on March 6 to report money had been stolen after she requested an audit for missing funds from the state examiner’s office.

The Sheriff’s Office issued warrants for Wells’ arrest and she turned herself in late Tuesday, Wade said. She was released after posting a $30,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in court on May 2.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Employee Charged With Stealing Tens of Thousands of Dollars

‘Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act’ Bill Passes House

April 8, 2013

The bill known as the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act passed the House. The bill proposes to create new articles in the Criminal Code to combat elder abuse and financial exploitation. The bill is different from the version that passed the Senate so it will go back to the chamber for approval.

The legislation will strengthen Alabama’s laws to protect seniors and provide law enforcement agencies with the tools needed to punish those who hurt them.

“I am pleased the House passed this important legislation so we can make sure law enforcement have the tools that they need to prosecute those who attempt to take advantage of Alabama’s seniors,” explained Representative Paul DeMarco, House Sponsor of the bill.
The legislation will create additional sections in the criminal code for elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. These new sections will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with additional avenues to prosecute elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

Currently, the penalties are found in the Adult Protective Services Act and apply only to victims who could be categorized as a “protected person.” The proposed legislation does not change the current APS penalties, but adds new sections to the Alabama criminal code. The new criminal code sections would apply to victims who are 60 years of age or older, regardless of mental competency, so all that law enforcement officials will have to prove is the victim’s age.

Elder abuse and neglect can be prosecuted as first degree, second degree, or third degree abuse or neglect depending on the type and severity of harm to the victim. The penalties range from a class A misdemeanor for elder abuse and neglect in the third degree to a class A felony for intentional abuse or neglect which causes serious physical injury. A class A felony carries a sentence of ten years to life in Alabama.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Abuse Bill Passes House

Former Alabama Judge Dan King Indicted on Theft Charge

April 2, 2013

Former Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff Circuit Court Judge Dan King has been charged with theft in Calhoun County.

King was indicted by a Calhoun County grand jury earlier this month on the theft of property first degree charge stemming from theft of money from a law firm.

The March 4 indictment states that King, sometime between April 1, 2011 and Feb. 25, 2013, knowingly obtained, “by deception”, control over more than $2,500 that was the property of the law firm Stewart & Stewart P.C. The exact amount of money was unknown to the grand jury, according to the indictment.

No other details were available.

Full Article and Source:
Dan King, Former Bessemer Cut-Off Judge Indicted in Theft Charge in Calhoun County

Alabama: Legislation Would Protect Seniors From Physical Abuse, Monetary Crimes

December 15, 2012

A group of Alabama legislators and government agency officials [12/10] announced proposed changes to state laws they said will boost protection for people 60 and older in cases of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

State Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster and Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood attended the press conference at the Heardmont Senior Center to show their support of the proposed legislation they are sponsoring.

“This is the opportunity to finally go in and look at where some of the loopholes have been,” DeMarco said about state laws pertaining to elder abuse and financial exploitation.

The bill would target caregivers, people with power of attorney, legal guardians and anyone else who monetarily takes advantage of elderly or physically abuses them. It expands the criminal penalties associated with such acts and provides more avenues for prosecution.

Full Article and Source:
Legislation Would Protect Seniors From Physical Abuse, Monetary Crimes