Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Are Houston Residents Among the Most Stressed?

We like to think that the holiday season is filled with the laughter and conversation of family and other loved ones, relaxing evenings by the fire and the joy of children as they open that one special gift. And, fortunately, such moments do exist and make these last few days of the year a wonderful time. However, the reality is that the holidays also are counted by many as being some of the most stressful weeks of the year. Whether it’s finishing up projects at work, making sure your shopping is done, or dealing with unpleasant family circumstances that surface around this time, it is not uncommon to feel some additional stress right now.

Do you want some evidence that you are not alone? According to recent research, if you live in Houston then you are in the eighth-most stressed city in our country!

Real estate company Movoto looked at typical stress-causing factors such as poverty, commuting, health insurance coverage, and employment levels. Using these barometers, there was one zip code in Houston that set off alarms for stress levels. Check out the entire analysis to find other areas in which you can expect to find very stressed people.

One item that should not bring you excessive stress during the holidays or any time of year is legal issues. That is because the attorneys at Bertolino LLP are ready to be your advocate and resolve any problem you may be facing. Is there a custody dispute over who gets the kids on Christmas? Have you missed a lot of work due to injuries from a car accident and stretching your money is becoming more difficult every day? Are you nervous about going to your parents’ home and having that annual argument over making sure their estate is in order? We can help.

Please contact Bertolino LLP today and let us get to work for you.

And let us know – if you live in Houston, do you think you are most stressed than residents of other cities? Do you agree with the factors used by Movoto in determining stress levels?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Couple Sues After Sloppy Handwriting Alters Their Family Plans

It’s a story that has been making news headlines all over the country. Jennifer Cramblett is suing the sperm bank that gave her and her partner the wrong vials for Ms. Cramblett’s artificial insemination. Instead of receiving vials from donor 380, a blond-haired and blue-eyed man who resembles the physical characteristics of Amanda Zinkon, Ms. Cramblett’s partner, the couple received the sperm of donor 330, an African-American. Ms. Cramblett is now seeking compensation for the ongoing and growing needs of their family and hoping to prevent this same mistake from happening again.

The motives in this case have been questioned. While they found out about the mix-up five months into the pregnancy, they only now are filing a lawsuit, two years later. Why did they wait so long? Also, there are accusations that the couple is upset about not having a white child and believe they deserve money for being given a daughter with darker skin.

The two have shared that the decision to take legal action was made only after they fully realized the challenges they would be facing. They want to move their family to a town that has more racial diversity, as their small town in Ohio is almost entirely white, so that their child can be around peers who look like her. They also believe such a community will be more accepting and provide the resources they need. The couple is adamant that no matter what, the bond they have with their daughter is strong and unconditional.

While sperm bank mistakes are fortunately rare, there are other instances in which a health care provider or family agency can make an error that dramatically affects your children and other loved ones. If this has happened to you, the personal injury attorneys at Bertolino LLP are ready to help. We will listen and learn and then guide you through the steps necessary to find the justice you deserve.

Have you read about this sperm bank mishap in Ohio? What are your thoughts on the lawsuit?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Drunk Driving is Wrong Regardless of Social Status

Most of us remember when the scandal broke just a few days before the 2000 presidential election revealing that Governor George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving back in 1976. Although the incident occurred almost a quarter century earlier, Bush’s entire presidential campaign team flew into damage control mode. And, as we all know, Bush went on to win the election in one of the closest and most controversial contests in our history.

One of Bush’s companions that evening has spoken out about the incident nearly forty years later. John Newcombe shared in an interview with a Melbourne radio station that he spent the evening drinking with the former president and several others at a pub near the Bush family’s vacation home. The entire recounting can be found in a recent article published by The Houston Chronicle. The main point seems to be that George W. Bush was cordial to everyone involved and the charges were left as part of his part along with the other episodes of his drinking days. And I believe he readily would admit his decisions that night were poor.

Future presidents, much like professors or electricians or dentists, have been known to enjoy a drink after a long day. Done responsibly, this should not impact our trust in their ability to do their jobs. Sometimes, though, people make the decision to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking and this is a mistake regardless of profession or financial status. It is never OK and should not be excused.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of another person’s poor decision to drive after drinking, you deserve to be compensated. Car accidents involving a drunk driver can result in personal and property damages, lost wages, and the psychological impact of such an event. The personal injury attorneys at Bertolino LLP will work tirelessly to make sure that you get everything you deserve. Please call us today.


Monday, October 6, 2014

You Have Legal Rights If Benched for No Good Reason

In front of a prime-time audience of millions, something happened last Monday night that sent shockwaves throughout the world of football. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was benched. Sports commentators and social media users were equally shocked by the sight of the future Hall of Famer riding the bench.

The quarterback change took place in the fourth quarter of a game against Kansas City, one in which the Chiefs went on to win by a score of 41-14. Brady’s management of the game was marked by punts and fumbles and the hand-wringing of fantasy football players across the nation. His performance offered a legitimate reason to take him off the field and give the backup quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, a chance to show what he could do (which, at least on this particular night, was play better than Tom Brady).

Maybe someone who lives in a state with the NFL team that had the worst record in the league last season (not to be repeated this year) should not point out the flaws of a great player who has led his team to three Super Bowl victories. But, that moment points to the broader idea that if your performance is not up to expectations, you will get pulled for someone else.

At Bertolino LLP, all of our attorneys are dedicated to working their hardest every day to take care of our clients. We know that the men of women of Texas have plenty of options when choosing counsel to represent their professional reputation or help them receive compensation following a car accident or work with family members to develop a plan that is in the best interest of the children when a marriage comes to an end. We never take for granted that our clients have entrusted us with these important tasks and work diligently to maintain the right to stay on the field.

Yes, ethical and dedicated work should be expected in any profession. Unfortunately, though, there are instances in which individuals get “benched” at their jobs for no legitimate reason. Due to discrimination based on race, sex, religion or other characteristics, people get passed over for promotions or even fired altogether. If this has happened to you, it is not right and there is legal recourse. Please call our office today and let us get to work in claiming the justice you deserve.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Good News for Kids in Texas

When it comes to the welfare of the children in our state, any good news is welcome. There is no more important task put before our communities, our elected officials and our families than caring for and protecting the youngest and most innocent among us. Therefore, while knowing that even just one child in Texas dies from abuse or neglect is tragic, it should be recognized as progress that the number of boys and girls who pass away under such horrific and often preventable circumstances is declining.

The state’s Department of Family and Protective Services has reported that 149 children died from abuse or neglect in the past fiscal year, which marks the fourth consecutive year that this number has dropped. We are still failing some of our kids and the systems in place must continue to improve, but more children are staying alive in Texas than they were a few years ago. This is a good thing and it makes the statement that Texas is focused on improving the lives of its children and families.

In some of the instances that created the drop in cases, the intervention of social services made the difference. Other times, an adult in the room demanded change because in order to save the lives of children, a dangerous relationship must be brought to an end. I see both men and women in my office who realized long ago that their marriages were not healthy and those ties needed to be severed, but it was finally acknowledging the impact that abuse or addiction was having on kids in the home that forced them to act.

If your children are being harmed, or if you are facing violence in your home, you need to leave. It can be frightening to stand up and defy the abuser, but there is help out there. At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who first will listen as you share your individual situation and then develop a legal plan that will get you safe and moving forward.

Please contact our office today. We do not have all of the resources you need to rebuild a safer and stronger family, but we definitely are an important and helpful part of the strategy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Labor Day Reminds Us that We Must Protect the Legal Rights of All Employees

I hope that many of you were able to enjoy the recent three-day weekend that Labor Day provided. This holiday, first celebrated nationally following an act of Congress in 1894, celebrates the contributions and achievements of workers across our country.  While it more commonly seems to be appreciated as an opportunity for grilling burgers, heading out to the lake, or enjoying one more afternoon poolside before the gates are locked until next Memorial Day, the intent should not be forgotten.

Workers in a variety of professions find themselves in dangerous situations more often than you might think. There is the commercial truck driver who travels our crowded highways every day. There is the factory worker who handles machinery that, even when that person is expertly trained, can break down and cause injury. There is the electrician who climbs into tight spaces and handles wires that have malfunctioned.

And there is not only the physical harm, but other less noticeable injuries that can occur. Perhaps there is a female doctor in a medical practice who is harassed by her male peers. Or a black man who is passed over for promotions again and again for reasons that cannot be explained.

In all instances, workers need advocates who will stand up for their rights and protect them in the courtroom when needed. There are personal injury issues and worker discrimination cases and other reasons that employees need outside help when their bosses are not acting in an upright manner. I

If you find yourself in such a situation, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We are experienced advocates who are dedicated to developing relationships with our clients and doing all that we can to get them what they deserve under the law. Please contact us today and let you know your story and how we can be of help to you.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Parental Rights versus Medical Expertise

When do parental rights trump the advice of medical professionals and vice versa? From the decision not to vaccinate children to refusing drug intervention for a sick child on religious grounds, we have seen multiple headlines in which the notion of who knows best and who has the legal right to make such a determination has been debated. There is now another story developing with the same questions at play and while the events are occurring overseas, the details have parents in the United States talking as well.

Five-year-old Ashya King, who is battling brain cancer, was removed from a Southampton Hospital in England by his parents recently as they were frustrated that the hospital not would allow them to seek proton beam treatment for their son. Brett and Naghmeh King took off for Spain in hopes of selling a home they have there and pursuing alternate treatments for their son. But, their faces were soon recognized by hotel employees and they were arrested.

The couple waited in a Spanish prison several days before a prosecutor in London decided to drop the charges and they were released. The Kings have been reunited with their son, but officials still will not allow the boy to leave the hospital. He remains in a hospital bed with armed guards.

The Kings insist they have done nothing wrong and simply want the opportunity to pursue a treatment that they have researched extensively and believe will benefit their son. The government in the United Kingdom counters that to remove the boy from his established medical care is harmful and constitutes neglect or even abuse on the part of the Kings.

Unfortunately, there are other instances in which medical providers not only disagree with family members on a course of treatment, but wrongfully diagnose a patient and then proceed with measures that exacerbate an illness or cause death. When this happens, patients and their families must be afforded their legal recourse and the personal injury attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help.

If you or a loved one has been affected by the consequences of a wrong diagnosis, please contact our offices today. We can help. (continued on next page)

What do you think of the situation in the United Kingdom with the King family? Is the legal system overstepping its bounds by demanding the boy stay in the hospital, or is this the right approach to take in order to protect the child’s health?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

San Antonio Police Gain National Attention for Mental Health Efforts

While other high-profile stories making the headlines this week are depicting (unfairly or not . . . that is an entirely different matter and article topic) members of our law enforcement as being disconnected from the communities they serve, it was wonderful to see our very own San Antonio police force being commended for the steps it has taken to change the way officers approach those with mental illness. With criminal courts and prison cells being crowded with offenders who are struggling with one form or another of psychiatric issues, an alternative perspective is certainly welcome.

San Antonio has developed Crisis Intervention Training, which is a required program for every member of the police force. Additionally, some officers are given more in-depth training and become specialized in the conversations and tactics that must be employed when dealing with an individual who is not mentally well. Instead of shuffling criminals who are charged with misdemeanors in and out of the criminal justice system, law enforcement is working with community groups and medical professionals to place men and women in rehab facilities or counseling centers so that the root of the problem can be addressed.

National news outlets and criminal psychologists are taking note of this progressive initiative taking place in San Antonio and it is exciting to see this great city recognized and its efforts replicated.

There is no doubt that members of the San Antonio police department have made positive changes that will benefit all members of the greater community, from taxpayers who are responsible for the costs of every inmate to citizens concerned about crime levels to individuals who need psychiatric help instead of time behind bars. As partners in creating a legal system that provides justice with compassion for the people involved, Bertolino LLP is excited to see the continued positive outcomes of this outreach by San Antonio officers and the impact it will have on other police departments across the nation.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Houston Radio Personality’s Legal Battles with His Employer Come to an End

Photo: The Houston Chronicle
You are probably going to have a disagreement with your boss every now and again. Maybe it is over allotted vacation time or the way a project is being handled or your repeated and simple request for a copy machine that doesn’t jam paper multiple times a day. In most instances, you hopefully can manage to come to a resolution that satisfies both of you. Or, you just deal with it because you are not the boss and you need your job. There are times, however, that the dispute is one of greater significance and you need to seek legal assistance to defend your reputation and livelihood.

Michael Harris, a popular radio personality who had been with Houston station KCOH for nearly four decades, sued his boss, station president Jesse Dunn, on the basis that he had been given false information as a way of investing thousands of dollars into projects for the station. Harris filed a fraud lawsuit last fall and this month Harris County judges finished the paperwork that removed any liability from Mr. Harris for debts the radio station still owes.

This story seems to have a happy ending. Michael Harris was relieved of a large financial burden that he believes was created in a crooked fashion and last month he seems to have mended fences with his employer as he revived his popular talk show. Sometimes it does not end so neatly.

The glaring example of whistleblowers from the Veterans’ Administration testifying in Congress that their jobs were threatened because they spoke out about the cover ups concerning wait times shows all of us that employees need protection from a boss that is not completely honest or ethical. If you have found yourself threatened with a job loss or being passed over for a promotion because you refuse to participate in questionable activities at work, we can help.

Bertolino LLP has attorneys who specialize in issues of workplace discrimination and wrongful termination. If we can be of service to you, please contact us today.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Houston Dad Accused of Beating Daughter Who Danced with Black Friend

Most of us would hope that the days are behind us when children were told they could not attend school or play with or date those of a different race. And society certainly has come a long way in terms of integration and moving forward as a diverse group of people. However, we occasionally come across stories that remind us some individuals are still unwilling to let go of discriminatory attitudes. In a recent incident in Houston, one father allegedly reinforced his racist views with violence.

Aaron Aranza is said to have become upset after he learned that his fourteen-year-old daughter had picked an African American friend to be her dance partner as she practiced for her upcoming quinceanera party. Aranza immediately put a stop to the dance rehearsal and shoved the teenager with whom his daughter had chosen to dance. He then allegedly beat his daughter, pulled her inside the house and then beat her some more with a belt, telling her that she would no longer live with her mother but come and stay with him, assumedly so that he could more closely monitor her social decisions. When she tried to run from the house, he dragged his daughter across the yard. Then he left the premises.

Aranza is currently being held in jail, unable to make bail. Already not the custodial parent, he hopefully now will face even greater restrictions in getting to spend time with his daughter. In addition to the horrible abuse that is the greatest misgiving here, Aranza likely made his discriminatory worldview a regular part of his interaction with his child and hoped to pass on these beliefs.

Racism is taught. We learn it from our parents, other family members, those whom we value in our community. It not only has the sad effect of limiting who we can come to know and call a friend, but also surfaces as very real threats to job security in the workplace. If you feel that you were fired or passed over for a promotion due to your race, we can help. Please contact Bertolino LLP today and we will work diligently to make sure justice is served.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Drunk Driver Released from Custody before Facing Charges of Manslaughter

Photo Courtesy: The Houston Chronicle
A man was driving the wrong way on a major road in Houston, his blood alcohol at a level that is capable of killing some people. He crashed into the rear of a SUV with three adult occupants, one of whom died two days later from his injuries. The drunk driver also was hurt and had police monitoring him while he was treated at the hospital. You would think the next part of this true story would be the man was arrested as soon as he was released from medical care and will stand trial for charges of manslaughter and DWI any day now. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Florian Quintanilla-Riva had a blood alcohol content that was six times the legal limit and is responsible for the death of 79-year-old Steven James. However, for reasons they cannot, or choose not, to explain, the Houston Police Department released him from custody before any charges were made. Several days later, Quintanilla-Riva was charged with intoxication manslaughter and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Now if only the police could find out where he is.

The prevalent assumption is that the suspect has fled the country. How authorities will manage to find him now is unknown, especially as he has been missing for a month and a half. He may now be hiding in his home country of El Salvador. The James’ family can only hope that their opportunity for justice will come.

Drunk drivers are one of the biggest menaces on Texas roads. These men and women make an irresponsible decision to get behind the wheel of an automobile when their thinking and reflexes are severely impaired and the consequences are all too often horrific.

If you have been the victim of another driver’s choice to drink and drive, you deserve to be compensated for your pain and suffering, as well as medical bills and lost time from work. Let us work with you to get you all that you deserve. Bertolino LLP has attorneys who specialize in DWI accidents and they will be strong advocates on your behalf. Contact us today.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Woman Attends San Antonio High School under Pretense of Being Only Fifteen

Credit: KLTV (Gregg County Jail and Facebook)
It may sound like a reboot of the 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street, but in addition to Johnny Depp being nowhere around, Charity Anne Johnson was committing a crime instead of going undercover to solve one.

Ms. Johnson, who is thirty-one years old, has been attending New Life Christian School in San Antonio for the past eight months under the false pretense that she was only fifteen. She was enrolled in the school after befriending Tamica Lincoln and telling her that she was an abused and abandoned teen. Lincoln took her into her home and cared for Johnson as if she was her own child. When Lincoln learned that she had been scammed by Johnson, she contacted the school and the police.

Charity Johnson, who attended the school under the name Charity Stevens, is now facing charges of failure to identify and giving false information and is currently in jail and unable to make bail.

This is a sad story that appears to have several victims. Most obvious among them is Tamica Lincoln, who only wanted to offer care to someone who she thought was only a child. But I also wonder what circumstances led Charity Johnson to choose a path of deception. While her actions are in no way justified, I hope that this arrest will allow her to get whatever help she needs so that she no longer is compelled to assume the identity of a teenager. And let us not forget the staff and student body at New Life Christian School. I imagine it was a little disconcerting for the kids to learn a person who they thought was a peer was instead much older and not who she claimed to be.

Tamica Johnson should be applauded for her desire to open her home when she saw a need. Unfortunately, there are many instances in Texas when children who truly are too young to care for themselves have parents who cannot or will not assume the responsibility. In such cases, new guardianship must be determined by the court for the protection of the children.

If you need assistance navigating the legal steps for securing a safe home for children you know, please contact the family law attorneys at Bertolino LLP. We can explain your rights and work with you to determine the best course of action.

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.