Friday, March 28, 2014

Houston’s Growth Brings Potential and Problems

The most recent census estimates tell us what those who live in the Houston area already know. The city is growing. In fact, the population grew last year more than any other region in the country. This draw that Houston apparently has to individuals looking to relocate and grow their families reflects a larger trend, as Texas’ population grew last year more than any other state in our country. With a booming economy and the jobs that go with it as well as a cost of living that is not as steep as other large metropolitan areas, the city of Houston and the state of Texas are an appealing place to call home.

With new faces comes exciting possibilities. New businesses will open and more ideas in science and arts and industry will be birthed as minds come together. But, the possible growth also has the potential to create or exacerbate certain problems. Roads are more congested, lending themselves to more car accidents and angry drivers. People from different regions and backgrounds are working side by side, which brings, unfortunately, more frequent misunderstandings. Maybe someone moves to the area for employment in the oil industry and gets injured during the physically grueling work.

The law offices of Bertolino LLP are available to help with a variety of legal problems that you may face. Whether you are seeking compensation following a painful motor vehicle accident or believe you were passed over for a promotion based on your sex or race or other protected designation or you came to Houston for work and got injured while on the job, we can help. Call our offices today and share your story with us. Then, we will let you know what we are going to do to provide you with the justice you deserve.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Drunk Driver Kills Two during SXSW Festival

South by Southwest has grown into Austin’s signature event over the nearly three decades since its humble beginnings nearly three decades ago. What started as an opportunity for unknown bands to find a new audience and try to make a name for themselves has become a multimedia event that attracts creators of music, movies, and technology from across the globe. Household names like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber and even Edward Snowden are making appearances (the last one by video, of course).

The festival, which is running this year from March 7 to March 16, is always an exciting time for our state’s capital to be on display as a creative center in our country.  Unfortunately, this year, SXSW also made headlines for foolish tragedy.

Rashad Charjaun Owens was arrested on the streets of Austin early on Thursday and now faces two charges of capital murder and twenty-three counts of aggravated assault. Owens was trying to evade police who suspected he was driving drunk by plowing his car through a street barricade and directly into the huge crowd still gathered after midnight for music. Even after hitting unsuspecting pedestrians with his vehicle, Owens continued his efforts to escape arrest by exiting his car and running. It finally took a stun gun to stop him and take him into custody.

While some shows at the venues by which the murders took place were cancelled, the festival moved forward, surely with thoughts of the victims on the minds of all performers and those in the audience.

The lives lost can never be returned and some with critical injuries now face a long road of rehabilitation and lives forever changed, all because one person made the horrible decision to turn the car ignition after a lot of drinking.

If someone you love has been hurt or killed by a drunk driver, you need to seek justice. You deserve to be compensated for injuries and grief and trauma. The automobile accident attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact us today and let us get to work for you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Doctor and Nurse in San Antonio Honored for Saving Lives

The many wonderful medical professionals in the state of Texas are heroes every day as they save lives and educate the public about better health in our communities. Rarely, though, do these heroes get much media attention, so it’s nice to see an instance in which their knowledge and compassion are recognized.

The San Antonio Fire Department held a special ceremony this week to honor Dr. Dale Crockett and nurse Amber Myers for saving several lives with their quick thinking last month. When a family arrived at Methodist Hospital complaining of severe illness, Dr. Crockett identified their symptoms as being caused by high levels of carbon monoxide in their system. When Amber Myers learned that these patients lived in an apartment complex, she realized that others likely were in danger. She called the fire department and those who responded to the scene found multiple individuals affected by the poisonous levels of carbon monoxide in their system, including three who had to be hospitalized. If more time had passed, it is likely that at least some of the victims would have fallen asleep and died.

Yes, you could say that Dr. Crockett and Amber Myers simply were doing their job when diagnosing the presence of poison gas and treating the patients in front of them. But they also thought about the others back at that apartment complex who probably needed help, and their decision to reach beyond those hospital walls was one of life or death.

There is a reason that doctors, nurses and others in the medical field need to be licensed in order to work. When lives are at stake, we want to know the people taking care of us are qualified. Sometimes, the years these men and women study to earn their qualifications and then to build a professional reputation can be destroyed in no time at all by one person who thinks he has been wronged and complains to your licensing organization. If you are a doctor or nurse and a patient or peer is threatening your credentials, there are attorneys at Bertolino LLP who can help. We will protect your livelihood and affirm your good standing. Please contact us today. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Texas Town in the Spotlight Again for Racial Division

Photo Courtesy: The New York Times
For many people who live outside the area, the only association that they have with the town of Jasper, Texas is the brutal dragging death of a black man, James Byrd, Jr., by three white men in 1998. Unfortunately, publicity returned to this small east Texas town over the past couple of years and once again for reasons of racial division and distrust. 

In 2011, Rodney Pearson was chosen to be the first black police chief in Jasper’s history. Almost immediately, some protested that his appointment was racially motivated and that Pearson was put in the position over more qualified white candidates by a City Council on which four of the five members were black. When a new slate of City Council officials were elected the following year, the racial composition of the legislative body had been flipped on its head. And, one of the first acts of this new council was to fire Mr. Pearson for what they claim was his inadequate work as leader of the police force.

Pearson’s firing caught the interest of the Texas NAACP as well as the federal Department of Justice. The contentions now existed that Pearson had both been hired and fired due to his skin color. This week, Rodney Pearson was successful in arguing that his termination based on race and he was awarded more than $800,000 as a settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The sad reality is that discrimination still does occur in workplaces across the country. However, there are strong legal protections at the local, state and federal level that mean recourse is available if you think you’ve been fired, passed over for a promotion or just treated differently at work due to your race, religion, gender and other defining characteristics. If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, please let the attorneys at Bertolino LLP help you achieve the justice you deserve.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Possible Teenage Serial Killer Claims Crimes in Texas

A teenager who recently offered a confession that, if true, would make her one of the most prolific serial killers in American history claims that part of her crime spree occurred right here in Texas. Miranda Barbour was arrested in Pennsylvania, along with her husband, on charges of criminal homicide in the stabbing and strangulation murder of Troy LeFerrara. The couple met LeFerrara through an ad on Craig’s List. It did not take long for her to tell authorities that she was responsible for “more than 22” but “fewer than 100” other deaths.

Barbour claims that she murdered people in multiple states from Alaska to Pennsylvania, including a stop in Texas, and could pinpoint the location of each crime. She states that this was done while she was under the allegiance of a satanic cult but she does not regret any of her actions because she only killed bad people.

There are doubts to her story, however. Law enforcement in the various communities in which she claims to have murdered know nothing of deaths to which she could be connected. Instead, her father argues that she is a troubled nineteen-year-old who was a victim of sexual abuse as a young child who always struggled, including with an admitted drug addiction.

It appears that investigations into Barbour’s possible crimes is far from over, as she has presented detectives with a lot to unpack.

Bertolino LLP is not a firm involved in criminal defense, or in prosecuting the crimes of a possible serial killer. However, this case, into which our home state has been drawn, at least peripherally, serves as a reminder of the complicated nature of the work faced by police officers and other members of law enforcement. Our attorneys do see this work every day as we handle cases ranging from motor vehicle accidents to protective orders. We certainly trust that justice will be done in this case as well.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fort Worth Couple Accused of Locking Boy in Closet and Other Traumatizing Abuse

Photo Courtesy Houston ABC Local
Every person deserves equal protection under the law. Our state and federal constitutions were crafted to allow innocence until proven guilty and a fair set of consequences for those whose guilt is confirmed. So while we must strive for this treatment for everyone, it is hard to argue that children do not particularly deserve our protection from harm. These most innocent among us are often unable to defend themselves and need us to keep them safe. Unfortunately, sometimes this means keeping boys and girls safe from their own families.

A couple in Fort Worth, Texas, Jorge and Aide Estrella, have been arrested for keeping their nine-year-old son locked in a closet for several days. The boy was fed once only daily, was not allowed to go to school and when he finally escaped, investigators found other signs of abuse on his body. Overall, the boy stated the abuse had been occurring for at least a year. The alleged acts of abuse include being struck with a Taser, hit with a hanger and burned on a gas stove. The Estrellas, who are the boy’s father and stepmother, now face multiple charges of injury to a child.

This heartbreaking story joins many others we have heard of young children in Texas who face horror at home instead of love and protection. The hardworking professionals at the state’s Child Protective Services have caseloads that would overwhelm and upset any person with a heart for children.

In addition to educators and those in social services, attorneys have a role to play in protecting kids in Texas. We can appeal to the court to get children out of dangerous situations and to make it a violation of law for perpetrators to come anywhere near them. If you are concerned about a child in your family, please contact our offices today. We will listen and then we will get to work in helping you protect those you love.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Houston Drivers Not Accustomed to Recent Icy Conditions

Perhaps as part of the now infamous polar vortex that has affected a majority of the country with its Arctic grip, Houston is experiencing a phenomenon that is largely foreign to our city – icy roads. Many roads, particularly those with bridges or overpasses, were shut down altogether for hours on end on Friday. School systems were closed. People were advised to stay off the streets if at all possible. Some drivers just stopped where they were rather than drive one more foot in the dangerous conditions.

For those who are transplants to Texas from parts of the country that experience this snow and ice every year as part of a typical winter, our paralysis in cold and wet weather conditions can be amusing. But the reality is that the residents of this city do not have to deal with snow and ice very often and, just like anything else, no practice on such wintry roads on a regular basis will mean bad decisions and fear behind the wheel. Some also may not know a few simple steps that can be taken to maximize safety when driving on ice.

Keep your distance. Plenty of it. You should have no knowledge of the details of the rear bumper attached to the car in front of you. If you do encounter ice, do not slam on your brakes and do not try to steer out of it. Just allow your car to move with the ice. Black roads are not necessarily safe roads. Black ice is very dangerous and just one small patch is enough to send your car spinning. Bridges and overpasses freeze first—proceed with extra caution. These all may sound straightforward, but reminders never hurt!

Inevitably, these weather conditions are going to lead to an increase in car accidents. If you are involved in a collision that was due to another’s reckless driving as we deal with these difficult weather conditions, we can help. We have attorneys who specialize in automobile accidents and who will be an advocate for you as you recover the compensation for property and personal damage that you deserve. Give us a call today.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Did Former Cowboy Have Seventeen Drinks the Night of a Fatal Crash?

Many football fans not just in Texas but around the country will remember the tragic accident involving then Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent and his teammate Jerry Brown, Jr. After a night of partying at a Dallas club with other members of the team, Brent and Brown left with an allegedly intoxicated Brent being the one to get behind the wheel. The drive ended with Brown dead and Brent facing charges of intoxication manslaughter. The trial is now unfolding in a Dallas courtroom.

Brent was found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit of 0.8. As the technician who analyzed Brent’s lab work testified in court, that number in a man of Brent’s size would come from drinking seventeen alcoholic beverages. Brent has insisted that he consumed no more than five drinks on the night in question.

There was great controversy when Brent stood on the sidelines with the rest of the Cowboys at a game right after this deadly incident, as many thought it offensive to have an alleged murderer of sorts being present for a game and perhaps not taking the charges against him so seriously. Others believed it was right for the team to support a fellow player after a tragic accident and even Brown’s mother endorsed Brent’s presence. The truth is, though, the poor decision that Brent made to drive his car after an apparent night of partying and drinking does have very serious consequences. If convicted of intoxication manslaughter, or the lesser charge of manslaughter that also is being made an option, Brent faces up to twenty years in prison for his actions.

If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you understandably want compensation for the suffering you have endured. We have attorneys at Bertolino LLP who specialize in helping those who have been injured by drunk drivers. We will be by your side through every step of the process as we make sure you are compensated for your medical and property damage bills and lost wages and the emotional trauma you endured. Do not let anyone minimize the lasting effects that such an accident can have on you and your family. Call us today and let us get to work for you.
Update: Josh Brent was found guilty of intoxication manslaughter on January 22, 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Omaha Toddler in Protective Custody after Disturbing Video

Many of you probably have seen by now, or at least heard about, the video of the toddler in Omaha, Nebraska being cursed at and cursing in return. The video was posted first by a relative or friend of the boy’s mother and then shared by the Omaha Police Officers Association, the local union, for the purpose, it said, of highlighting problems in the community. The treatment of the boy has sparked national outrage and highlighted difficult problems that continue concerning teen pregnancy, relationships between police officers and the neighborhoods they protect and exploitation on social media.

The mother of the young boy, whose name has not been made public as she is only sixteen herself, has come forward to say that she takes good care of her son and the cussing was not indicative of his normal behavior. However, the concern is more with the teenagers and adults involved in this situation and their questionable judgment, as well as additional the revelation that this same young boy was injured in a shooting that took place in the home several months ago.

The police union has been criticized by the ACLU and other community action groups for posting the video, stating that it only serves to further exploit the child and cause further distrust for officers as some claim the decision to share the post was racially charged.

The boy, along with three other children in the home, including the boy’s mother, have been removed from the residence and placed in protective custody.

 All children deserve to feel safe and loved in their homes. Sadly, we read too many instances in which this is not the case. If you need protection for your child from another family member or if you believe a child in your family is being neglected or abused and you want to take action, the family law attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We are parents, too, and will work tirelessly to protect the most innocent among us. Please contact us today.