Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Update: What if the DA Agrees to Change Venue?

What if the DA agrees to change venue?

In my August 25th post about change of venue, I did not address the possibility that the DA might to agree to change venue.  A change of venue would address the issue whether it is possible to obtain an impartial jury not already influenced by pre-trial publicity of this case.

Andrea Sneiderman wants to find jurors that know absolutely nothing about this case.  She wants jurors who have not seen the Hemy Neuman trial or her testimony from that trial. She wants jurors who have not yet been swayed against her by the pre-trial publicity.  She would contend that it is impossible to seat an impartial jury from DeKalb County.  She would contend it is impossible to find a panel of jurors that has not been prejudiced by pre-trial publicity.  In short, she wants a change of venue in order to seat a jury that is unaffected by the pre-trial publicity. 

While the DA may see an advantage by keeping this trial in DeKalb County for many reasons, the DA might agree to a stipulation to change venue for other strategic reasons.  A stipulation as to a change of venue would eliminate any ground Andrea would have to appeal an unfavorable verdict (e.g. guilty) based on an inability to obtain an impartial jury on account of pre-trial publicity.  

I would suspect all parties would prefer to keep the trial at the DeKalb County court house for convenience.  As nice as some of Georgia's remote counties are, spending five weeks away from home for a trial can be a strain on anyone.  Nevertheless, if the parties agree on how to pay the costs to import a jury from one of Georgia's 159 Counties and house them for the anticipated 5 week trial, Andrea would get her new jury pool and everyone could stay local.  In the alternative, the parties could agree to move the trial to a different county, in a different court house, and even with a different Judge.

If the matter is moved to a different County, Judge Adams may still preside over the trial.  Do not forget, however, that Judge Adams has several cases that he must handle while presiding over Andrea's trial, and those cases are not paused during the pendency of a long trial.  Judge Adams cannot be away from his court room for five weeks.  If you recall, there were several occasions that the Judge would pause the Hemy Neuman trial for an afternoon, or for a day, so that he could conduct other business, i.e. attend to other cases, or personal matters.   Thus, for Judge Adams to handle this case in another County would mean having to coordinate attending to other matters.  It is possible, but would certainly put a strain on the Judge.  

I would remind readers that a change of venue is, first and foremost, a method of changing to a jury pool that is unaffected by pre-trial publicity.  It does not necessarily mean a new physical location or new Judge.  For fans of Judge Adams, I think it is still likely Judge Adams will preside over this trial even if there is a change of venue either by order of the Court or by stipulation of the parties.  Judge Adams is very familiar with this matter, and the law favors the resulting judicial economy and efficiency from having a judge familiar with the case, parties, counsel, etc.

I mentioned above that Georgia has 159 Counties.  Outside the metro areas of Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, Columbus and Savannah, Georgia is less metropolitan.  I am a Georgia native.  I love my southern roots.  I thoroughly enjoy day trips to Georgia’s rural cities.  However, for the purposes of litigation strategy, you have to consider that Georgia's rural areas are considered to have conservative juries presenting an entirely different challenge to overcome as opposed to pre-trial publicity. 

If I were Andrea's defense team, I would have serious reservations about moving this trial into a rural area where Andrea Sneiderman could ostracize the jury merely because she is not like them, e.g. she is Jewish, wealthy, highly educated, married a Harvard graduate, etc.  “My Cousin Vinnie” was a movie, but recall the jury animosity towards the Karate Kid at the outset of that trial?  It was creative Hollywood scriptwriters that wrote an acquittal.  In the real world, jury selection is an industry in and of itself.  Perhaps that is why Andrea’s lawyers may have suggested Savannah, as reported by the Crier?  Savannah may not be as metropolitan as Atlanta, but it is certainly not as rural as some county seats, such as Talbotton, in Talbot County, Georgia. (To the 7000 residents of Talbot County, and the 1200 or so in the city of Talbotton, please direct your comments to my address below).

I tend to think Andrea would do better staying in an Atlanta metro-area county and screening a large jury pool, searching for individuals who have not followed the pre-trial press. Yes - as unlikely as it may seem to some of you reading this blog from the other side of the globe, there are people in Atlanta, lawyers in my office even, who reside in DeKalb county, who would not recognize such names and phrases as “Andrea Sneiderman,” “Hemy Neuman,” “Shayna Citron” or “Dunwoody Daycare Murder.”  

Regardless of whether there is a change of venue, we all should still be able to view the trial unless a new court or judge determines it does not want cameras in its courtroom. 

For inquiries or more information: 

(404) 844-5700

Monday, September 24, 2012

Join the Dunwoody Murder Trial Discussion Club #DMTDC

If you are enjoying the debates about the Andrea Sneiderman and Hemy Neuman murder cases, there are other people that want to meet you, especially if you are in the Atlanta area.  

I lead a periodic in-person discussion group called the Dunwoody Murder Trial Discussion Club (#DMTDC, for short).  We have been featured on InSession and in local Atlanta news outlets. While we have more than 60 online members, our gatherings usually attract 6 to 12 individuals for happy-hour discussions at a Dunwoody pub.  

If you want to be part of the best Dunwoody day care murder trial discussion, on and off the internet, then visit the  Dunwoody Murder Trial Discussion Club Facebook Page.

I practice law with Winter Capriola Zenner, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia.  I grew up in Dunwoody and live in the Atlanta area.  I litigate business and real estate disputes, and also provide legal analysis and commentary regarding high-profile civil and criminal cases in the Atlanta Area.  I regularly tweet and welcome your comments and questions.

For inquiries or more information: 

Email David Weinberg

(404) 844-5700

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What if Andrea Sneiderman Seeks A Change of Venue?

What if Andrea Sneiderman Seeks a Change of Venue?

Venue is typically thought of as the geographic location of a legal proceeding, and most important in this case, the location from where the jury pool will be picked.  Currently, venue for the Andrea Sneiderman murder case is in DeKalb County, Georgia.  This is the County in which the alleged crimes occurred.

Andrea Sneiderman's lawyers have hinted they will file a motion with the Court asking for a change in venue.  Given the historically low chance of obtaining a change in venue, Andrea Sneiderman may put her attorney’s resources to better use.  However, should she move to change venue, this purpose of this article is to look at what that motion really means and try to provide an educated guess as to the likely outcome. 

In this case, the focus of a change of venue motion will be the pretrial publicity given to this case and whether because of such publicity it is possible to have an impartial jury. 

But, before we reach that primary issue, regardless of whether venue is moved from DeKalb County to a different county, Judge Adams is likely to remain the presiding judge (unless he is disqualified – an unlikely event). Georgia's Uniform Superior Court Rule 19.2 provides that:

When a criminal action is to be transferred to the superior court of a county different from that in which initially brought, the superior court judge granting the venue change, unless disqualified, shall continue as presiding judge in the action.

The main issue for the Judge to determine in considering a change in venue is whether an impartial jury may be obtained.  This does not mean that a potential jury must possess absolutely no knowledge about the case, but rather that the juror must be impartial – in other words, the potential juror must not have already been swayed as to Andrea Sneiderman’s alleged guilt as a result of the pretrial publicity.  For you reading this article, you are probably very familiar with this case, and you have may have formed an opinion to some degree regarding the merits of this case and/or Andrea Sneiderman’s guilt.  While I would admonish you to try to remain impartial until the evidence is presented at trial, you should also recognize that there are people somewhere, and perhaps in DeKalb County that have no knowledge about this case.

As to a Motion for Change of Venue, the proper place to start is the rules the Court will apply in making its decision.  Georgia statute § 17-7-150 provides, in pertinent part:

(a)(1) The defendant ... may move in writing for a change of venue, whenever ... an impartial jury cannot be obtained in the county where the crime is alleged to have been committed. Upon the hearing of the motion it shall not be necessary to examine all persons in the county liable to serve on juries, but the judge shall hear evidence … in support of or against the motion. If … the judge is satisfied that an impartial jury cannot be obtained ... the judge shall grant a change in venue; the judge shall transfer the case to any county that may be agreed upon by the prosecuting attorney and the defendant or the defense counsel... [or a County selected by the Judge].

The same statute also provides that although the jury pool may come from a transfer county, the trial may still take place in the original county.  O.C.G.A. § 17-7-150(a)(3).  That’s right, even if the Judge grants a change of venue, not only can Judge Adams still preside over the case, with the same prosecutors, he may choose to do so in his courtroom in DeKalb County.  Historically, trials may have been physically transferred to a distant county when there was a fear that a defendant may be lynched or was otherwise in physical danger.  Thankfully, we have progressed beyond those barbaric practices, and maybe one day the internet lynch mobs will subside and the presumption of innocence to which we are all entitled will prevail. 

So, how does a Court decide whether to transfer venue in a criminal case?

According to a Georgia Supreme Court case, “a capital defendant seeking a change of venue must show that the trial setting [is] inherently prejudicial as a result of pretrial publicity or show actual bias on the part of the individual jurors.”  Gissendaner v. State, 272 Ga. 704, 706 (2000).  Furthermore, “[t]he decisive factor in determining whether a change of venue is required is ‘the effect of the publicity on the ability of prospective jurors to be objective.'”  Id.  “A change of venue is required when a defendant can make a substantive showing of the likelihood of prejudice by reason of extensive publicity.”  Id.

The background facts from the Gissendaner case are interesting as well as instructive. Gissendaner, is factually similar to the Andrea Sneiderman case. Defendant, Kelly Renee Gissendaner was not originally suspected to have any involvement in the murder of her husband.  Gregory Peter Owen, with whom Gissendaner was involved in a relationship however, plead guilty and received a life sentence.  Gissendaner was convicted in Gwinnett County, Georgia (part of the Metro-Atlanta area) and received the death penalty.  Here is the Georgia Supreme Court's summary of Owen's testimony at Gissendaner's trial: 

it was [Gissendaner] who first raised the idea of murder and that she later raised the idea again several other times. Owen suggested divorce as an alternative, but Gissendaner insisted upon murder because she believed she would receive insurance money from her husband's death and because she believed he 'wouldn't leave [her] alone by just divorcing him.' Gissendaner had previously stated to Owen's sister that she intended to use the victim's credit to get a house and then 'get rid of him.'

In addition, “After the murder, Gissendaner concealed her relationship with Owen from police and claimed not to have initiated contact with him for some time. Telephone records, Owen's testimony, and other witness testimony proved otherwise.” Gissendaner v. State, 272 Ga. 704, 705 (2000).
Okay – back to the venue issue.  In Gissendaner, the Court waited until voir dire – the individual jury selection process – to decide the venue issue and ultimately did not transfer venue.  The Court examined the pretrial publicity that may have been damaging to Gissendaner's defense, particularly a statement of admission that was later suppressed at trial.  The Court also reviewed newspaper and television coverage and concluded that it was neither “so extensive and inflammatory nor so reflective of 'an atmosphere of hostility' as to require a change of venue.” Id

The trial Court excused 13 of 111 jurors in the jury pool based on their exposure to pretrial publicity.  Jurors with some exposure to pretrial publicity but with limited and vague memories of their exposure were properly permitted to serve on the jury.  “A prospective juror need not be 'totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved' in a criminal proceeding in order to be qualified to serve.”  Gissendaner v. State. at 707.  In short, the jurors permitted to serve on the jury had no recollection of the substance of the pretrial publicity that created prejudice against the defendant.

So what does all this mean for Andrea Sneiderman?  It means that her attorneys must first find and introduce the pretrial publicity that they content prejudices potential jurors.  They must then present the evidence to the Judge at a hearing on the motion to transfer venue.  The Judge may then decide to deny the motion, grant the motion, or withhold ruling pending voir dire of the jurors at trial.  It also means that Judge Adams may decide to pool 300 potential jurors, like the Hemy Neuman trial, and find 12 plus alternates that have no knowledge of this case.

Unlike Gissendaner, Sneiderman has maintained her innocence as to all charges to date.  The inculpatory statements made by Andrea Sneiderman occurred during the trial of Hemy Neuman.  Nevertheless, there has been extensive media coverage of this case, perhaps far more extensive than the Gissendaner case.  The Neuman trial was streamed live on the internet, broadcast on cable, and has recently been replayed on TruTV and in clips on the internet. 

Andrea Sneiderman's attorneys have said that you would have to live under a rock to not have any knowledge of this case – and they may be right.  To that claim, the DA will likely argue (1) the proper test is whether a juror is prejudiced and lacks impartiality, not whether they have a complete absence of knowledge about the case, and (2) there are people in DeKalb county that have no knowledge of this case, we will find them during jury voir dire, i.e. we will look under the proverbial rock.

As a fun exercise, during the last meeting of the #DMTDC at the Firkin & Gryphon in Dunwoody, about 1 mile from the site of Rusty's murder, I asked a few random people if they recognized Andrea's photo, her name, or were familiar with the Dunwoody daycare murder.  Not one person recognized Andrea's photo or name, and only one person had heard of the case, but had no concrete recollection of what it was about.  Likewise, I work with attorneys, one of which lives in DeKalb County, who have no knowledge about this case.  While my sample size isn’t large enough to be statistically relevant, it is indicative of the possibility that Andrea Sneiderman can obtain an impartial jury in DeKalb County. 

While I am not immune to being incorrect, it is my opinion that the likely outcome of a change of venue motion is denial.  At best, Andrea could expect a different jury pool, but Judge Adams is likely to keep this case in his Court in DeKalb County. 

David Weinberg practices law with Winter Capriola Zenner, LLC in Buckhead.  He grew up in Dunwoody and lives in the Atlanta area.  He litigates business and real estate disputes, and comments on high profile civil and criminal cases in the Atlanta Area.  He regularly tweets and welcomes your comments and questions.

For inquiries or more information: 
(404) 844-5700

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What to Expect at the Andrea Sneiderman Bond Hearing

What will happen at the Andrea Sneiderman Bond Hearing?

Shortly after Andrea Sneiderman's August 2, 2012, arrest, Judge Gregory Adams scheduled Sneiderman's bond hearing for August 21, 2012. Andrea Sneiderman has been sitting in the DeKalb County, Georgia, jail since the arrest.  This post addresses the bond hearing prior to its occurrence.

First, I have received several inquiries from people wondering why Sneiderman's bond hearing was set 3 weeks after her arrest instead of within 48 hours or some shorter time. In Georgia, there is a procedure by which someone arrested for certain crimes may be held without bail. In those circumstances, a bail hearing need only be granted within 30 days of the arrest. It appears that Andrea Sneiderman was held without bail, and her bail hearing was set within 30 days of her arrest. See O.C.G.A. §17-6-1.

The next issues are what is a bond hearing, and what can happen at a bond hearing?

A bond hearing is the procedure by which the Court determines whether someone is “too risky” to be released into the public. Georgia statute 17-16-1(e) provides guidelines for the Court:

A court shall be authorized to release a person on bail if the court finds that the person:
  1. Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required;
  1. Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community;
  1. Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial; and
  1. Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.
Notice that the statute requires the Court to find that all four requirements be met. There is a rich history of case law providing further guidance to the Court regarding when to permit bail. For example:
  1. The state/DA has the burden of persuasion by a preponderance of evidence to show that Andrea Sneiderman is not entitled to pretrial release. Constantino v. Warren, 285 Ga. 851, 853 (2009).
  1. A defendant who has filed a petition seeking release on bail has the initial burden of showing, by means of evidence indicating roots in the community, employment, that the defendant does not pose a significant risk of fleeing, threatening the community, committing another crime, or intimidating a witness. The defendant's guilt or innocence of the underlying charge is not an issue at the bail hearing, especially since the defendant enters the proceeding cloaked with a presumption of innocence. Cowards v. State, 266 Ga. 191, 193 (1996).
  1. The amount of bail to be assessed in each criminal case is generally within the sound discretion of the trial judge. When fixing the amount of bail, the judge is to consider chiefly the probability that the accused, if freed, will appear at trial; other factors to be considered include the accused's ability to pay, the seriousness of the offense, and the accused's character and reputation. Spence v. State, 252 Ga. 338, 341 (1984).
To arrive at its decision regarding bail and pretrial release, the Court holds the bond hearing, and both the prosecution and the defense will be permitted to call witnesses and present other evidence in an attempt to influence the Court. Let's look at each requirement from the statute, and opine on the possible outcomes.
  1. Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required.
This is the primary question whether Andrea Sneiderman will appear at trial; is she a flight risk? Andrea Sneiderman's attorneys are likely to argue that Sneiderman has been a long-time resident of Georgia, was employed here, has friends and family here, her assets have been frozen here, she does not have the means to flee, her kids live here and that she is not a flight risk.

The DA is likely to argue that Sneiderman put her house up for sale and no longer shows an intent to remain in Georgia.  She has lived with her parents for the past 6 months, is currently unemployed (this is an assumption of mine), was arrested in Putnam county, is originally from Ohio, has the financial means to flee the jurisdiction and is otherwise a flight risk.

 Given what we know, and without the benefit of additional evidence and witnesses that may be presented at the hearing, I think it is likely that the Court will find that Andrea Sneiderman is not a flight risk.
  1. Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community.
I am aware of little evidence that Andrea Sneiderman is a threat to persons or property in the community. She does not have a criminal record, appears to not have been in any trouble before. Perhaps Sneiderman will call friends and family to testify on her behalf. It would be interesting to see who they call. If I were the defense, I would call Andy Lipman, because Rusty was one of Andy's best friends, and Andy's character and truthfulness is unassailable. As far as character witnesses go, Andy Lipman is the best I know in this case. You can see Andy's blog here: http://thedriveat35.blogspot.com/

If the DA is going to argue Sneiderman is a threat, he will concentrate this effort with regard to witnesses, as described in #4 below.  Nevertheless, I think the likely outcome is that Sneiderman is not a significant threat.
  1. Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial.
You may be thinking that elements 1 and 2 overlap with 3 – and you would be right, in this case. Thus, the same evidence used to argue Nos. 1 and 2, would likely be used to establish that Sneiderman is not a significant risk of committing a felony pending her trial.
  1. Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.
Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road.  This element will likely be the focus of the DA's argument that Andrea Sneiderman should not be released on bail. The local media has briefly mentioned the obvious argument here: During the Hemy Neuman trial, Andrea Sneiderman allegedly threatened Shayna Citron, a witness. I have heard other reports that Andrea Sneiderman visited the witness room during the HN trial and made witnesses uncomfortable. Citron is likely to testify as she testified, outside the presence of the jury during the HN trial, that she felt threatened by Andrea Sneiderman. 

Furthermore, usually the spouse of a murder victim is permitted to remain in court during trial.  However, Judge Adams barred Andrea Sneiderman from not just the Court room, but from the entire COURT HOUSE as a result of her outrageous behavior.

The DA is going to hammer Andrea Sneiderman with this evidence, and I would suspect the state has already interviewed the witnesses from the Hemy Neuman trial to determine if Andrea Sneiderman made any contact with them during or since the Hemy Neuman trial. If so, expect them to testify at the bond hearing.

Andrea Sneiderman's one contact with Citron may not be enough to convince the Judge by a preponderance of evidence that Sneiderman is a significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the admission of justice, but, Sneiderman is going to have to address this evidence to avoid staying in jail pending her trial.

As a reminder, the Judge need only answer one of these four questions in the affirmative in order to deny bail. If the Judge permits Andrea Sneiderman to be released after her bond hearing, here are the possible types of release she may receive:
  1. Release on Own Recognizance – Sneiderman will be released on her promise to return for hearings and trial without posting any property or assets.  This is extremely unlikely.
  2. Unsecured BondSneiderman will be released with the promise to pay a fine if she does not show up at trial. This is an unlikely outcome.
  3. Security BondSneiderman will be released upon the posting of a bond in the amount set by the Court , commensurate with the ability to pay and to secure attendance at trial. The bond is put up by a surety (bail bondman), after Sneiderman pays 10-12% of bail amount. E.g. If bail is set at $2,000,000, then Sneiderman has to pay bondsman $200,000. If Sneiderman doesn't show up at trial, then she owes the entire bond amount to bondsman. Sureties determine the flight risk of Sneiderman and may require collateral (house, other property) as security.  This is a likely outcome.
  4. Cash BondSneiderman will be released upon the posting of a cash bond in the amount set by the Court. Sneiderman comes up with all the cash in this scenario instead of using a surety. If Sneiderman does not have all the cash perhaps her parents give it to her as a loan, gift, or advance on inheritance?  This is also a likely outcome.
There has been question whether Andrea Sneiderman can afford bail given that a reported $2.3 million in assets has been frozen under the State's RICO statute. However, Andrea Sneiderman reportedly had an additional $600,000+- in cash and liquid assets, and her parents/family may also be able to help her  financially. The Judge should consider Sneiderman's ability to pay when setting bail.

So, I hope you will tune in to the bond hearing, and tweet or email me your questions and comments. Remember, Rusty Sneiderman lost his life, and our justice system, with all its flaws, is still the best system on Earth at determining the truth.

For inquiries or more information: 
(404) 844-5700
Twitter @SpeakerDave

Friday, August 3, 2012

Why is Andrea Sneiderman Charged with Racketeering?

Why is Andrea Sneiderman charged with Racketeering?

            On August 2, 2012, the DeKalb County Grand Jury indicted Andrea Sneiderman on 8 counts, the first being a Violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, otherwise known as Georgia RICO, O.C.G.A.§16-14-1, et. seq.  For many, the term RICO immediately makes one think of organized crime, the mafia, the Godfather, Henry Hill, criminal enterprises, etc…  However, most people, and probably a significant portion of lawyers, do not fully understand RICO’s broad applications. 

The purpose of this post is to briefly explain RICO in general, to apply RICO to the Andrea Sneiderman murder case, and then opine on why they DA would want this count in addition to the other 7 counts in the indictment.

RICO – Generally

I want to quickly draw a distinction between the Federal RICO Act and the Georgia RICO Act.  While similar in form and function, the two laws are separate, distinct and present different requirement that the government must satisfy to secure a conviction.  Because Andrea Sneiderman is only charged with violating Georgia RICO, this post refers only to Georgia RICO unless otherwise noted. 

In general, a person violates RICO when, through a pattern of racketeering activity (“predicate acts”), she acquires or maintains an interest in or control of property or business. In simple terms, if someone commits at least two crimes listed in the RICO statute (the pattern of racketeering activity), and she gets money or controls a business from committing those crimes (gain control of property or business) she violates RICO.

O.C.G.A. § 16-14-3 lists the crimes that constitute “predicate acts” of a RICO violation.  For example, committing or attempting to commit any of the following crimes constitutes predicate acts under RICO: 

-          Gambling
-          Murder
-          Kidnapping
-          Extortion
-          Arson
-          Robbery
-          Bribery
-          Dealing in a controlled substance
-          Counterfeiting
-          Embezzlement
-          Fraud
-          Acts of terrorism
-          Drug trafficking
-          Prostitution and pandering
-          Influencing witnesses
-          Forgery
-          Bootlegging alcohol
-          Perjury and other falsifications
-          Certain copyright violations
-          Securities violations
-          Insurance fraud
-          Assisted suicide

A RICO conviction subjects the defendant to criminal penalties and separate civil lawsuits from victims of the RICO violations.  The criminal penalties include 5 to 20 years in prison and not more than a $25,000.00 fine.  In addition, the state may seek forfeiture and/or seizure of all ill-gotten gains resulting from the RICO violation before or after conviction.

Application of RICO to Andrea Sneiderman’s Case

There are three prohibited acts specifically spelled out in Georgia’s RICO Act, only one of which is referenced in the Andrea Sneiderman indictment (O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4(a)), and provides as follows:

It is unlawful for any person, through a pattern of racketeering activity or proceeds derived therefrom, to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise, real property, or personal property of any nature, including money. 

In applying this specific RICO prohibited act to the Andrea Sneiderman case, the first step is to identify the “pattern of racketeering activity” she is alleged to have committed.  The indictment (included in the first post in my blog) lays out all the alleged predicate acts.  Among them are murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, insurance fraud, false statements and perjury.  Thus, the state must first prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that Andrea Sneiderman committed at least two of these predicate acts, i.e. that Andrea Sneiderman engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity.” 

The next step is to consider whether through the commission of this “pattern of racketeering activity” Andrea Sneiderman obtained money or property.  The state alleges that Andrea Sneiderman obtained at least $960,000.00 in individual and joint accounts belonging to Andrea and Rusty Sneiderman, and that Andrea also obtained $2,000,000.00 in insurance proceeds from two policies on Rusty’s life.

            In short, the RICO count is essentially the State alleging that Andrea Sneiderman got money as a result of committing one or more of the crimes of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, insurance fraud, false statements and/or perjury.   

Opinion on DA’s Strategy for Charging with RICO

So, why would the DA choose to include a RICO count against Andrea Sneiderman?  The following are two main reasons I think the State may have charged Andrea with RICO instead of just charging here with committing the predicate acts of murder, attempted murder, insurance fraud, false statements and perjury. 

First and foremost is the option to seize and/or seek forfeiture of the money Andrea Sneiderman allegedly obtained as a result of committing the predicate acts.  The State, presumably, may want to seize almost $3,000,000.00 to prevent them from being squandered during the pendency of this matter.  The State wants the funds to be available in the event Andrea is convicted, and the Court eventually orders that Andrea be disgorged of the alleged ill-gotten gains. 

Another reason to include the RICO count is quite possibly that the State is hedging its bets.  The state could have charged Andrea with only the underlying predicate acts, i.e. murder, attempted murder, insurance fraud, false statements and perjury.  If that were the case, and the State were unable to obtain a conviction on the more serious murder/attempted murder counts or insurance fraud count, at best, the jury might convict for false statements and/or perjury. 

False statements carry a maximum 5 year sentence/$1000.00 fine (O.C.G.A. § 16-10-20), and perjury carries a maximum sentence of 10 years/$1000.00 fine (O.C.G.A. § 16-10-70).  Thus, the sentences for false statements and/or perjury as stand-alone counts are less than the minimum 5 years and maximum 20 years for RICO.  Thus, if the State can convince a jury that Andrea made false statements and/or lied under oath and as a result of those misrepresentations obtained money or property, a jury may convict her for RICO, thereby giving the State an avenue seek a longer sentence even though it may not get a murder conviction. 

I suspect as I continue to this about this case that I will have additional thoughts as to why the State added the RICO count.  Faithfully, I will try to blog and respond to your tweets @SpeakerDave or emails Dweinberg@wczlaw.net in an attempt to make sense out of our  sometimes complicated justice system.  

In closing, please remember that Rusty Sneiderman lost his life, and left behind two young children who will never know their father.  

For inquiries or more information: 
(404) 844-5700
Twitter @SpeakerDave

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Andrea Sneiderman Arrest Photo Montage

Here are photos of the arrest of Andrea Sneiderman... step....by....step

For inquiries, please email me.

Andrea Sneiderman's MUG SHOT - 8/2/12

Andrea Sneiderman was arrested and booked into the DeKalb Conty, Georgia jail on 8/2/12 for her alleged involvement in the murder of her husband, Rusty Sneiderman.  Follow me on twitter for a lawyer's insight and other tweets.

By the way, here is Andrea's MUG SHOT

For inquiries, email me:  David B. Weinberg, Esq.

State v. Andrea Sneiderman - The Indictment

Here is the indictment of Andrea Sneiderman related to her arrest for her alleged involvement in the murder of her husband, Rusty Sneiderman.  Andrea Sneiderman was arrested August 2, 2012.  Rusty was murdered by Hemy Neuman on November 18, 2010.

This link will open the indictment in .pdf format in a new window.

State v. Andrea Sneiderman - Indictment

If you cannot read this, please email me for a copy.

David B. Weinberg, Esq.