Friday, February 19, 2010

Response to Yesterday's Attack Offers Another Reason to Have Pride in Austin

On this day, I cannot imagine writing a blog other than about the attack made yesterday on an Austin office building on Hwy 183, which is a building that I pass by every morning and evening when I drive to our Austin office. It came as a complete shock to my wife and I yesterday as we were preparing to drive to work. Now I am not writing this blog because I wish to give the perpetrator of this violent act any more media attention than he already has received, so I will not mention his name or his motivation here. Instead, I want to take a few moments to share how I was reminded of what an amazing city we have in Austin. I am proud to call Austin my home and my place of business.

Yesterday morning at 9:56am, a four-seater plane dove at full speed into the Echelon I building in Northwest Austin, a location that houses offices for the Internal Revenue Service. Two bodies have been recovered from the crash site, with one assumed to be the man who intentionally committed the criminal act. While there were a couple of other serious injuries, most of the 200 employees who were inside the building as the plane struck managed to escape without significant problems.

I am sure that more stories of bravery and kindness will emerge over the next couple of days, but one of the first heroes to be recognized is Robin Dehaven. He was on his way to work when he saw the plane strike the building. He pulled over and ran to see what he could do to help.
Robin's efforts possibly saved lives, as he helped four women and a man down from a second story room that was filled with smoke.

The residents of Austin, and Texans in general, are ready to help out one another in times of crisis. We take pride in our city and the work that we do here. Therefore, I have no legal stories or advice to offer today. I just want to say "thank you" to Mr. Dehaven and the many others of you who approached the aftermath of these events with strength and a devotion to our great town.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Texas Man Gets Some of His Lottery Winnings Back

The story really does play out like a movie script. An unemployed Austin man walks into a convenience store and tries to turn his luck around by purchasing a Mega Millions lottery ticket. When he returns to the same store two days later to check on the value of the numbers printed on the card before him, he is told by a clerk that the ticket is worth $2.00. The clerk knows, however, that the ticket holder actually is entitled to a $1 million prize ($750,006 after taxes) and so he submits the ticket as his own. After claiming the substantial prize, this clerk flees to his home country.

This amazing story is reality for Willis Willis, who handed over what he believed to be a $2.00 ticket to store clerk Pankaj Joshi. Mr. Joshi is believed to have returned to his home country of Nepal, where funds believed to be gained from the lottery have been frozen. As of now, just over $395,000 has been recovered from U.S. bank accounts and an additional $30,000 was returned to authorities by relatives of Mr. Joshi. Yesterrday, State District Judge Bob Perkins declared that all of the seized funds would be returned to Mr. Willis.

Meanwhile, authorities are searching for Joshi, as he is now considered a fugitive. He has been indicted in Travis County on a second-degree felony charge of fradulently claiming the jackpot.

If you have been accused of stealing lottery money that righfully belongs in the bank account of another person, you will need a criminal defense attorney. If you have been fired from your job after being falsely accused of stealing a scratch-off ticket, perhaps an employment lawyer is what you require. Either way, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. If you are in need of legal assistance, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Houston Man Kills Girlfriend Over Her "Nagging"

Many of us are familiar with A Time to Kill, either the book by John Grisham or the movie version starring Matthew McConaughey and Samuel Jackson. A father decides that becoming a vigilante is the only way of ensuring justice, so he murders the young men accused of raping and beating his young daughter as they enter the local courthouse. The story that unfolds offers a complex question of morals and values. Are there instances of justified homicide by private citizens in our society? For those who are parents, such as myself, it's hard to imagine not wanting to seek revenge on someone who harmed our child.

The ethical question is more clear cut concerning a murder that took place in Houston on Saturday night. William Robert Stone, a man who had just been released from prison in Saturday, killed his live-in girlfriend because he was tired of her "nagging." While I have respect for the skills of experienced criminal defense attorneys, it is hard to imagine a jury will have much sympathy for Stone in this instance. He has admitted to beating and strangling Renee Longoria and then wrapping her body in a blanket. Stone now sits in the Harris County Jail awaiting his next court appearance tomorrow.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who are committed to the Constitutional right that every person has to a fair trial and the best possible representation. Whether you have been accused of littering in your neighbor's yard or causing bodily harm to another person over their choice in music, we can stand by you and defend your rights during your day in court. If you are facing criminal charges, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Nurse Acquited After Filing Anonymous Claim with Texas Medical Board

As a member of the medical profession, you are expected to put the needs of your patients first and to be upfront at all times regarding the treatments and therapies being recommended. Unfortunately, there are instances in which doctors are perhaps not as meticulous as they should be or they use their position for inappropriate financial gain. If you are a nurse and you see such behaviors occurring in your office, what course of action should you take? Is there a fear out there of retribution by your employer? Perhaps a jury's decision today in Texas will help ease the mind of a medical professional who has witnessed wrongdoing but has been hesitant to come forward.

Today in Winkler County, a jury took only one hour to acquit nurse Anne Mitchell on charges of misuse of official information. Along with another nurse at Winkler County Memorial Hospital, Mitchell submitted an anonymous complaint to the Texas Medical Board regarding the practices of Dr. Rolando Arafiles. The standard procedure is to file grievances with the hospital, but Mitchell claims that previous complaints had not resulted in any consequences for Dr. Arafiles.

The story encompasses many of the details you would expect in a small-town controversy. The sheriff is good friends and possibly a business partner with the doctor, and this relationship was used to track down the source of the anonymous compaint. The doctor made claims in an interview with The New York Times that he was being "brutalized and abused." In a place where everyone knows each other, disputes can get personal and ugly quickly.

The law offices of Bertolino LLP has attorneys who are experienced at presenting cases before the Texas Medical Board. If you have had a complaint submitted against you, as Dr. Arafiles did, we can be the essential partner in your defense. Or, if you are being threatened with termination from your job or even jail time because you decided to stand up a be a whistleblower at your place of employment, we can help you as well. Please contact our office today if you are facing a complaint. Do not go it alone!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Several Hundred Teachers in Houston Face Termination

Educating our children is one of the most important functions of local government. What type of curriculum should be offered, where should the schools be located, and how are we going to pay for the structures and the staff are all questions that our elected officials have to handle. Even if you do not have any children or you send them to private school, you still are affected by the quality of the education that is being offered in our public schools. Today, the city of Houston announced that up to 400 of its teachers may not be performing well enough in facilitating success for our kids.

The superintendent for the Houston Independent Schools District, Terry Grier, has asked the school board to approve a policy that would make way for the firing of teachers whose students do not show expected and acceptable progress on standardized tests. Based on the unanimous vote for initial approval last month, it appears that the possible termination of some of Houston's teachers may be imminent. Before these dismissals would occur, however, Grier assures educators there would be training and mentoring provided so that the at-risk teachers have an opportunity to improve their performance.

Both the Houston Federation of Teachers and the Congress of Houston Teachers are opposed to the proposal, as they believe the statistical method used to analyze student scores has only been in place for a few years and has not been sufficiently proven to be effective.

If you are facing what you believe to be an unfair termination, whether you are a teacher or a nurse or a CEO for a Fortune 500 company, the lawyers at Bertolino LLP can help. We have attorneys who are experienced in the area of employment law. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today and tell us your story.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Laura Hall Removed from Austin Courtroom and Taken Back to Jail

Anyone who has lived in the state of Texas for the past several years is likely familiar with the name Laura Hall. She was found guilty of hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence following the 2005 murder of Jennifer Cave.

Ms. Cave was a 21-year-old legal assistant whose body was found in the bathtub of her friend and University of Texas student Colton Pitonyak. As if the discovery of a murdered body is not gruesome enough, the young woman's head and hands had been severed and placed in bags on the bathroom floor. Pironyak admitted to killing Cave while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and told investigators that he called on Laura Hall to help with a cover-up of the crime.

Until today, Laura Hall had been living outside the walls of a prison, free on bail and awaiting an appeal to her sentencing hearing. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, however, refused to hear her appeal and she was taken back into custody at a Travis County courtroom. As it stands now, Hall is back in jail and starting to serve the remaining 3 1/2 years of her five-year sentence. And, she is none too happy about it. Ms. Hall was heard screaming for several minutes after being removed to a holding cell.

At Bertolino LLP, we believe that the appeals process is an essential piece of the judicial process and deserves just as much attention as the original trial itself. At our offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, we have attorneys who are experienced in reviewing court documents and procedures to make the strongest case for your appeal. If you believe that your day in court deserves another look, please contact us today. Sometimes, as with Laura Hall, your appeal may not be granted, but this is no reason not to pursue your full rights under the law.