Tuesday, April 29, 2008
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Wendy Saltzman, CBS46 Investigates
ATLANTA -- Statistics say someone “Googles” a person’s name 50 million times a day.
Atlanta consultant Brandyn Briley can rank her name among the list of millions of people searched every day.
"I got five hits yesterday,” Briley said.
Briley is an avid “Googler” who uses the Internet to check-up on potential clients, her kids, even herself. Now, Web sites like Ziggs.com and Naymz.com give Briley a way to trace who and when someone is cybersearching her.
"It's like being able to peek into everyone's window, and getting to see what the folks are having for dinner," Briley said.
"What is does for the individual is it really gives them a strong sense of who is out there tracking them," said Ziggs.com Tim Demello.
Demello called the technology to caller ID for the Internet.
"I think people sort of hope some long-lost sweetheart is still really interested in them," Demello said.
The Internet is also making Web searches that were once believed to be private very public.
"I could not only know who was looking for me, but also what they were looking for," Briley said.
Each time someone clicks on a Ziggs profile, the Web site sends a real time alert to the user's e-mail, tracking the searcher’s location, the search engine used, and exactly who or what that person was searching for.
"If someone types their name into Google, we track that through and send them a real time e-mail saying you are being searched from Chicago at 8:52 on a Friday," DeMello explained.
Ziggs tracks searchers down to the street and block level. But the one thing the Web site won't tell you is the name or exact address of the person doing the search.
"We don't provide the name of the person searching, and the primary reason is that we believe very strongly in privacy," Demello said.
"I’d love to know more," Briley added. But she said she is shocked by how much information she can trace.
"It's curiosity, the wow factor,” Briley said.
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Listen to this discussion near the end of this blog item.
Beginning Monday, sex offenders will be under a more high-powered public microscope as changes to Utah's Sex Offender Registry go into effect. The changes come as a result of the passage of House Bill 492 - the Sex Offender Notification and Registration bill, or SONAR.
"It's hard to judge recidivism rates in Utah. We do a pretty good job of keeping people in jail for a long time for these [offenses]. When they do get out we have to handle them somehow," says Republican Representative Paul Ray of Davis Countym, sponsor of House Bill 492. "It's a public safety issue. I think the public's safer knowing where these people live. I think this is a good way to prevent future victims and to even let the current victims know where these guys are and stay away from them."
Under HB 492, new information about sex offenders - like secondary addresses, detailed vehicle information, and educational institution affiliations - will be required on the registry. Offenders must also provide employer information, fingerprints, passports and immigration documents, Social Security numbers, and DNA to law enforcement. Department of Corrections spokesperson Angie Welling says failure to comply with the new requirements is a 3rd degree felony.
"This week the Department of Corrections is sending letters to all 6,900 of the registrants informing them of the new requirements and letting them know that it's their responsibility to make sure that those requirements are met," says Welling. "They should look at this letter, realize that they should get themselves to the county sheriff in their area and report the changes."
The new law also adds four new offenses to the registry - voyeurism, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, and unlawful detention.
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LONG BEACH - A new ordinance in Long Beach, which is supposed to take effect Monday, may chase 800 registered sex offenders out of the city, it was reported Sunday.
Some attorneys are formally asking the city council to rescind the ordinance, which was passed by a unanimous vote after Alamitos Beach-area residents expressed outrage when they found out that an apartment building housed 15 registered sex offenders.
"We have a number of clients who are devastated that this law has already been passed without consulting any of the people who will be affected by it," said Sarah Stockwell, a Fountain Valley attorney who is asking for the ordinance to be dropped.
Her petition must be acted on by the city council by June 7, and the lawyer said she has a suit ready to file June 8 if the city rule is not reversed.
Deputy City Attorney Cristyl Meyers said city officials "believe that the application of this ordinance for all sex offenders is defensible and is allowed under state law."
- Yeah, when your country is corrupt and has no regard for the Constitution, anything is possible.
The ordinance prohibits most landlords from renting units to anyone registered as a sex offender under Jessica's Law.
The Long Beach ordinance would keep a 2,000-foot buffer around all schools, parks, day care centers and beaches. It includes almost every housing unit in Long Beach, with a few small exceptions.
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Wow, this is a major slap on the wrist. If this were an average citizen who done the same as this man, they would have gotten a lot more than this. Got to protect the "Good Ole' Boys!"
FREEHOLD — A former Fair Haven official has been sentenced to one year's probation for endangering the welfare of a child in a case that involved his using a work computer to download child pornography, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said.
William Acker, 52, of Fair Haven, was sentenced Friday by Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr.
Acker pleaded guilty in February to one count of the fourth-degree crime of endangering the welfare of a child.
New Jersey law has a presumption that people without criminal records who are convicted of such an offense be given probationary sentences, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said.
Acker was employed by Fair Haven as borough deputy court clerk and tax collector from December 2004 to March 2006. Acker is also a retired 20-year veteran of the Fair Haven Police Department.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office was called in to investigate Acker in March 2006 after Fair Haven Police received a complaint alleging Acker had accessed an adult pornographic Web site while at work.
Following his resignation last month, police found erotic stories dealing with child sex in Acker's former work space that had been downloaded from the Internet.
An examination of Acker's work computer by the Computer Crimes Unit of the Prosecutor's Office found approximately 13 images in the computer user's account depicting children under the age of 16 engaged in prohibited sexual acts.
Terms of Acker's probation require him to continue psychological counseling and to submit to unannounced searches of his personal computers. It also forbids him from downloading or viewing pornographic materials.
Acker's sentence also prohibits him from holding any public office in the state, and he must surrender his emergency medical technician certificate. He also is permanently prohibited from serving on an ambulance squad.
"Acker engaged in deplorable conduct that constituted an affront to the citizens of Fair Haven," said Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin.
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By AARON SANBORN (email@example.com)
DOVER — A New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union suit against the city claiming its sexual offender ordinance is unconstitutional has been dropped but the ordinance remains under fire from a new angle of attack.
NHCLU attorney Barbara Keshen filed a motion to dismiss the suit last week at Strafford County Superior Court, which was granted on April 22 by Judge Kenneth Brown.
Keshen said the NHCLU would now argue the legality of the city's ordinance at the lower court level when it defends registered sex offender Richard Jennings at his ordinance violation hearing on June 3 at Dover District Court.
The civil suit had been filed on behalf of Jennings.
"We're shifting forums to district court in Dover and asking them to dismiss it because it violates a myriad of Mr. Jennings' rights," Keshen said. "It's a different way to attack the ordinance."
The city's ordinance, Dover city code 131-20, bans registered sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school or day-care center. It was adopted by the City Council in October 2005.
Jennings, 41, was charged with violating the ordinance in November 2007 after being charged with felony level failure to register as a sexual offender, for not notifying police that he moved from Portsmouth to 175 Locust St. in the city.
Since 175 Locust St. is located about 1,200 feet from My School Kindergarten at 118 Locust St., police added on the ordinance violation.
Jennings was convicted in May 2000 on a charge of felonious sexual assault on a minor. Since the victim was 15 at the time of the offense, Jennings is required to register as a sex offender for life.
Keshen said she hopes to file a motion to dismiss the violation by the beginning of next week and will represent Jennings at his hearing. If Jennings wins his case, Keshen says she expects the state will appeal the decision. If Jennings losses the case, Keshen said she will appeal.
Either way, the case will likely go before the New Hampshire Supreme Court at some point, Keshen said.
"We felt that all things being equal, this is a faster way to get the matter to the Supreme Court," Keshen said. "Since Mr. Jennings was seeking no damages, there was no advantage to a civil case."
The original civil suit alleged the ordinance was unconstitutional because it essentially banned Jennings from the city because it encompasses virtually the entire downtown, where most of the affordable housing is located.
Keshen wouldn't disclose whether she would argue the same points in her motion to drop Jennings' violation charge.
When the civil suit was filed at the end of March, many city officials spoke up and said they would aggressively defend the ordinance, calling it a tool for public safety officials and the public. City Manager Mike Joyal stood by that stance Monday evening.
"We continue to stand by it and will continue to enforce the requirements of the ordinance," Joyal said. "We remain confident the ordinance, the way it's written, is fine."
- If you knew and read the constitution, you'd know it's not constitutional.
Shortly after the suit was filed, Jennings again found himself in trouble with police for living at the same Locust Street address and not registering with city police. Jennings had claimed he was living with his parents in Epping but several neighbors tipped police off about Jennings still living at the address, which led to police doing surveillance in the area.
He was arrested April 3 and charged with felony level duty to report. Police arrested Jennings while he was walking through the woods near the Rutland Manor apartment complex; police say he was trying to walk to his vehicle parked at the complex. He had previously been at 175 Locust St. with his fiancee.
Jennings is being held at Strafford County Jail on $25,000 cash bail.
Keshen said the change in legal strategy has nothing to do with Jennings' legal troubles.
"That's not a matter that concerns us. We're addressing the legality of the ordinance and that's our concern," she said.
Jennings' fiancee, Janice Sessler, 47, also faces criminal charges for allegedly harboring Jennings by not answering the door when police came to arrest him on April 3. This allowed Jennings to escape the apartment through a fire escape, police said.
She was arrested last week and charged with one count of registration of criminal offenders, a Class B felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. She was released on $750 personal recognizance bail and is scheduled for arraignment in District Court May 9.
The communities of Franklin, Tilton, Northfield and Boscawen all have similar ordinances, while the town of Derry recently voted down a similar ordinance. During discussions about the ordinance in Derry, a town councilor voiced concern about complications the ordinance could have and referenced the lawsuit against Dover.
A violation of the city ordinance results in a $500 fine for the first violation and a $1,000 fine for a second.
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Driver's license code would have identified people who had committed sex crimes.
Jefferson City -- Registered sex offenders may be spared from having a special code on their driver's licenses indicating they've been convicted of sex crimes.
The Senate's judiciary committee voted 5-0 Monday in favor of a bill requiring registered sex offenders to re-register their driver's licenses annually.
But the panel stripped a provision that would have placed a special code on the sex offender's license so police could detect their prior convictions.
- So why do they ask for your drivers license when you are pulled over? And the computer in their car to check their criminal record? Why isn't that sufficient enough? Because they want to stamp you with the Scarlett Letter to humiliate you, that is why.
Police agencies require sex offenders to inform authorities when they've moved so their movements can be tracked.
"This would make them come forward every year," said Sen. Matt Bartle (Contact), chairman of the committee.
Bartle said the proposed special code might not pass constitutional muster.
"I worry about their constitutionality," Bartle said of so-called "Scarlet A" provisions. "I'm afraid we're going to push so that we're going to have a lot of our sex offender legislation overturned."
- Good, Abraham Lincoln once said:
The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.
Bartle said he also fears it would not take long for citizens outside of law enforcement to figure out the code -- further branding the past offender.
Rep. Ward Franz (Email), R-West Plains, is sponsoring the legislation, House Bill 1649.
On April 21, the House passed the bill 143-2 with the special code provision.
It now moves on the full Senate for further consideration.
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Passing the House of Representatives on a voice vote, S. 1858 has been sent to President Bush for signature. The Newborn Genetic Screening bill was passed by the Senate last December. The bill violates the U.S. Constitution and the Nuremberg Code, writes Twila Brase, president of the Citizen’s Council on Health Care (CCHC). “The DNA taken at birth from every citizen is essentially owned by the government, and every citizen becomes a potential subject of government-sponsored genetic research,” she states. “It does not require consent and there are no requirements to inform parents about the warehousing of their child’s DNA for the purpose of genetic research. Already, in Minnesota, the state health department reports that 42,210 children of the 780,000 whose DNA is housed in the Minnesota ‘DNA warehouse’ have been subjected to genetic research without their parents’ knowledge or consent.”
The federal government lacks the Constitutional authority as well as the competence to develop a newborn screening program, states Rep. Ron Paul, M.D. (R-TX). He states that all hospitals will probably scrap their own newborn testing program and adopt the federal model, whatever its flaws, to avoid the loss of federal funding.
“Drafters of the legislation made no effort to ensure that these newborn screening programs do not violate the privacy rights of parents and children,” Dr. Paul noted.
Ms. Brase has called on President Bush to veto the bill.
WARNING: Contains some strong language, viewer discretion is advised!
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The young man who jumped in front of a Metrorail train last week had a troubled past and was facing a dark future.
By ERIKA BERAS (eberas@MiamiHerald.com)
Camilo Molina-Rezk, who faces charges that could lead to his deportation
The teenager who suffered grave injuries last week when he jumped in front of a moving Metrorail train is a Design and Architecture Senior High School graduate who was facing a felony sexual assault charge.
His name: Jose Camilo Molina-Rezk.
He remains in a coma at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, with little chance of recovery, his family said.
In February 2007, he was arrested on charges of sexual assault and lewd and lascivious behavior by someone over 18 on a child under 12.
He spent three months in jail and then was fitted with a monitor and released on house arrest. The 19-year-old was awaiting trial.
Tuesday night, his assistant public defender sent Molina-Rezk's mother an e-mail discussing the case and the new prosecutor assigned to it, said the teen's stepfather, Hector Nuñez.
"If he accepts her plea offer, there is a substantial likelihood that he will, at some point in the future, be arrested by immigration authorities and detained until he is deported," read the e-mail.
His mother, Adriana Molina, and stepfather believe the prospect of being labeled a sex offender and serving lengthy house arrest or prison time only to be deported afterward caused him great anxiety. 'He told us, `I don't think I can take this anymore,' " said Nuñez. "We told him to be strong."
Thursday morning, Molina-Rezk awoke early. He showered, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and asked his stepfather to lend him a few dollars so he could get to classes at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus. Conditions of the house arrest allowed him to go to school and church. He left his Coral Gables house and arrived at the train station just after 7 a.m.
As the Metrorail train approached the Douglas Station, he jumped in front of it.
Three cars rolled over him. After a rescue effort that halted train service for several hours and left thousands of commuters stranded, he was taken to Jackson, where he remains.
On Monday, his mother and stepfather said their son has led a difficult life. As a child, he was sexually abused and spent a huge chunk of his teenage years in therapy, they said. At age 15, he spent time in the psychiatric ward at Jackson after telling a therapist he was going to kill himself, they addded.
In a March 2007 letter, DASH guidance counselor Luz Rivera wrote: "We are dealing with a young man that appears to have experienced traumatic experiences that impact his current behavior. I firmly believe that Jose's intellectual, social and emotional development has been seriously impaired to the extent of him not being able to understand right from wrong and that with intensive psychotherapy and medical treatment he can heal and become a responsible, productive adult."
It was a month after his arrest.
After taking classes at Miami Dade, he hoped to serve in the military in Colombia, then follow in his stepfather's footsteps and become an architect.
"All that we are left with now is a broken heart," said his mother as she sat in the trauma center's waiting room, a Bible in her lap, underlining passages in the Book of Ezekiel with a pen. "At this point he is more dead than he is alive."
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Illegally withheld evidence probably caused a man who will be exonerated today to spend more time behind bars than anyone in the country cleared by DNA, the Dallas County district attorney's office and the Innocence Project of Texas said Monday.
James Lee Woodard is expected to be released today by state District Judge Mark Stoltz and become the 17th man exonerated by DNA in Dallas County, which has more DNA exonerations than any other county in the nation.
Mr. Woodard, 55, was sentenced to life in prison in 1981 for the strangulation and rape of his 21-year-old girlfriend, Beverly Ann Jones.
But information that Ms. Jones was with three men – including two later convicted of unrelated sexual assaults – around the time of her death was not disclosed to the defense nor was it thoroughly investigated, said prosecutor Mike Ware, who oversees the Dallas County district attorney's office conviction integrity unit.
Evidence that could benefit a defendant is required by law to be turned over to a defendant, though there is no criminal punishment for not doing so.
Mr. Ware said Mr. Woodard received a "fundamentally unfair" trial. He said he believes the evidence is something that prosecutors at the time should have investigated, "or at least turn it over so the defense could investigate."
Before the district attorney's office agreed that the DNA that exonerated Mr. Woodard of the rape also exonerated him of the murder – in itself an unusual step – a forensic pathologist examined the file and concluded that Ms. Jones was killed about the same time she was raped.
Her body was found New Year's Eve 1980 near the Trinity River in a wooded area near South Loop 12. The night Ms. Jones was killed, she was with Theodore Blaylock, who was convicted of an aggravated rape committed three weeks after Ms. Jones' death, according to Mr. Ware and testimony from a 1981 post-conviction hearing.
Mr. Blaylock testified at the hearing that he was drinking with Ms. Jones, Edward Mosley and Eddie Woodard, who is not related to James Lee Woodard, one morning in late December 1980.
Mr. Blaylock said he and Mr. Mosley went with Ms. Jones to a South Dallas convenience store where Ms. Jones left and got in another car with three other men. Mr. Blaylock could not provide descriptions.
In 1982, Mr. Blaylock was shot and killed when he tried to rape another woman in her car. She pulled a gun from under the seat and shot him several times, Mr. Ware said.
Eddie Woodard is now a registered sex offender involved in a brutal sexual assault, who the district attorney's office said has absconded from probation. Mr. Mosley's whereabouts were unclear late Monday.
Prosecutors want to compare DNA from the men to the genetic evidence from the rape to find the true culprit.
James Lee Woodard was seeking a new trial at the 1981 hearing, alleging that prosecutors did not fully disclose information about Ms. Jones' whereabouts the night she was killed. The judge, John Ovard, who was also the trial judge, denied the new trial and formally sentenced him.
The judge and the district attorney's office could have righted Mr. Woodard's wrongful conviction in 1981, just months later, said Natalie Roetzel, executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas.
"It's one of the most disturbing things about this case," she said. "Essentially, that was ignored because the investigators had the suspect they wanted."
Also, a prosecution witness changed his testimony since the Innocence Project of Texas, a nonprofit independent legal clinic, began investigating Mr. Woodard's conviction. Ms. Jones' stepfather testified that on the night she was killed, Mr. Woodard came to the apartment in the middle of the night looking for her.
Oscar Edwards now says he believes Mr. Woodard was not the person who came to his door and did not kill his daughter, Mr. Ware said.
Mr. Woodard, who has a record for nonviolent crimes, is the second man cleared by DNA during a review of 350 defendants' requests for DNA tests that were denied under previous District Attorney Bill Hill.
Like many in Dallas County exonerated by DNA, Mr. Woodard was convicted during the era of District Attorney Henry Wade. Current District Attorney Craig Watkins has repeatedly said he believes that during this time, prosecutors were more focused on convictions than justice.
In several handwritten letters, Mr. Woodard begged Mr. Wade to reinvestigate his case and always maintained his innocence. He said that his letters were always answered by a prosecutor saying nothing could be done because a jury convicted him.
In a March 1985 letter, Mr. Woodard wrote to Mr. Wade: "If you found out for yourself that I was innocent, would you let me go?"
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RALEIGH - Four sex offenders hooked up to satellite tracking systems had ankle bracelets and signal boxes removed after a Wake Superior judge ruled they couldn't be subject to the lifetime monitoring.
The recent ruling by Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand was the latest court decision to reject the state's attempts to track sex offenders who have finished their prison or probation sentences.
Across the state, 122 people are under the tracking systems and many are contesting the satellite monitoring.
Ultimately, these court decisions in North Carolina and other states may result in a more definitive ruling by a higher court, experts and lawyers say.
"The courts, us, everybody is a little confused," said Hannah Rowland, who manages the monitoring program for the state Corrections Department in North Carolina. "We're all trying to work this out as best as we can."
The four men had ankle devices and the transmitters that hung around their waist removed after Rand's decision. They joined 21 sex offenders who have fought North Carolina and had judges side with them.
The state legislature passed laws in 2006 and 2007 requiring lifetime satellite monitoring for sex offenders classified as repeat offenders, aggravated offenders, sexually violent predators, or who victimized children. The N.C. Department of Correction was assigned to attach the $1,400 units to the ankles of offenders who fell under those criteria. The Corrections Department spends nearly $3,000 a year tracking a single offender.
Defense attorneys around the state have raised questions about the constitutionality of the program, with the latest round of petitions aired in Wake County after an earlier ruling in Cumberland County. They argue that the sex offenders have served their punishments and shouldn't be subject to the close monitoring.
North Carolina started its sex offender registry in 1996, requiring people convicted of certain sex crimes - particularly repeat or violent offenders - to register their address and have their image and conviction data available to the public. Since then, the legislature has steadily created more oversight as public concerns about sex offenders increased, said John Rubin, a University of North Carolina professor who has studied the programs.
The Corrections Department and district attorney's offices around the state have asked for clarification from the N.C. Attorney General's Office, said Julia White, a spokeswoman for that office.
In his recent ruling, Rand skirted constitutional issues brought up by Charles Caldwell, a Wake public defender. Caldwell had said the monitoring violated the four men's constitutional rights.
Caldwell also questioned why the Corrections Department purchased a system that required daily charging, forcing an offender to stay home at least six hours a day.
Rand ruled that the state couldn't force the sex offenders to be monitored because their offenses occurred before the law took effect Dec. 1.
Rowland said the Corrections Department will continue to screen offenders to see which ones should be subject to the monitoring.
After that, it's up to judges to decide if those offenders should be subject to satellite monitoring.
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ORLANDO - Eyewitness News uncovered that former Orlando Police officer Durond Vann will only get one year of probation and community service, after a prostitute claimed that he paid her to have sex with him, while he was on the job last year.
Vann resigned from the Orlando Police Department. During an internal investigation, he admitted to sexual misconduct on the job. Vann’s attorney said his client could have gotten a sentence of 120 days in county jail, but before he went to trial, Vann made a plea deal.
His attorney gave Channel 9 a statement that said,” Although he (Vann) maintains his actions constituted no crime. He (Vann) felt his family’s best interests were served by avoiding a trial.”
A former police officer said Vann deserved a much harsher punishment.
“The fact that this cop got a sweet deal… this officer got off lightly considering the way this district attorney goes after people,” said Jose Miranda, an activist with the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
Miranda believes police officers should be held to a higher standard. “We are supposed to be above that. It’s a shame officers are falling down and letting the public at large down,” said Miranda.
Channel-9 asked the State Attorney’s office about Vann’s sentence. In a statement, a spokesperson said, “This sentence is not lenient at all. It’s probably more severe because he (Vann) forfeited his certification and therefore his livelihood.”
Vann was forced to give up his Florida Department of Law Enforcement certification as part of his sentence. He will not be able to serve as a member of law enforcement again.
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HOUSTON - A father was arrested at a high school Monday where he allegedly stabbed a boy he thought had witnessed a sexual assault against the man's daughter.
Both of the girl's parents were in a security area outside the main campus of Wunsche High School north of Houston when the father saw the boy and stabbed him three times with a knife, district spokeswoman Karen Garrison said.
"A campus police officer was nearby when the incident occurred and very quickly intervened and arrested the man," Garrison said. Since the assault occurred just outside the main doors, other students were not nearby, she said.
The stabbing victim was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in good condition.
The parents were at the school to talk to administrators about the alleged assault of their daughter, which they reported over the weekend.
Garrison said the sheriff's department is still investigating that alleged assault of the girl; a call to the sheriff's department was not immediately returned Monday evening.
The father, identified as Ruben Carlos Cuellar, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. There were no records Monday afternoon to indicate whether he had an attorney.