Tag Archives: criminal law

When truth is stranger than fiction: a revenge plot foiled

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Or at least would make good fiction.

Straight from the pages of the New York Times comes this story about rape, revenge, conspiracy, mistaken identity, and an innocent wrongly accused. It’s definitely good enough for an episode of Castle, if not for one of Dick Wolfe’s many iterations of  Law and Order.

It started when Seemona Sumasar, a young restaurant owner in New York, met Jerry Ramrattan in her restaurant. He said he was a police detective, and they hit it off, began dating, and soon he moved into her place. However, from there the relationship went south. Seemona asked him to move out. Not only would he not, but she claims that he one day cornered her, duck taped her mouth shut, and raped her.

Then it gets weird. After she accused him of rape, and he released on bond, Ramrattan began to get his revenge, sending friends to intimidate her. Not only that, they threatened that he would see her put in jail in his place.

It worked.

One night, Ms. Sumasar was pulled over by the police. Before she could speak, detectives slapped handcuffs on her. “You know you did it,” she said one later shouted at her. “Just admit it.”

Just like that, and suddenly Seemona was a criminal.

Booked on charges of armed robbery, police arrested her “based on what the police said was a wealth of evidence, including credible witness statements and proof that her car was the getaway vehicle.” With bail set at $1 million, the plot would not unravel until just before Sumasar was supposed to go to trial in December of 2010 when a fake witness  finally confessed to the police.

The key to his scheme, prosecutors [of Ramrattan] said, was to spread fake clues over time, fooling police into believing that all the evidence pointed to Ms. Sumasar.

They said he coached the supposed victims, driving them past Ms. Sumasar’s house so that they could describe her Jeep Grand Cherokee and showing them her photo so they could pick her out of a police lineup.

The setup began in September 2009, prosecutors said. An illegal immigrant from Trinidad told the police that he had been handcuffed and robbed of $700 by an Indian woman who was disguised as a police officer and had a gun, according to court documents.

Prosecutors said Mr. Ramrattan had persuaded the immigrant to lie, telling him that he could receive a special visa for victims of violent crimes.

Six months later, another man said he had been robbed in Nassau County by two police impersonators and described the main aggressor as an Indian woman about Ms. Sumasar’s height. The man said he had managed to take down the first three letters of the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s New York license plate — AJD.

The final fake crime was conjured in May 2010, officials said, when an acquaintance of Mr. Ramrattan said she had been held up by a couple posing as police officers. She said they were driving a Grand Cherokee, but she gave a full Florida license plate number.

She said she heard the pair call each other by name — “Seem” and “Elvis.” Elvis was the nickname of another former boyfriend of Ms. Sumasar, who owned the Jeep.

When the police looked into the Florida plate number, they found that the day after the purported March robbery, the title and the plate for the Cherokee had been transferred from Elvis to Ms. Sumasar’s sister in Florida.

Ms. Sumasar, who holds a Florida driver’s license, had driven the car to Florida to register it. To the police, she seemed to be covering her tracks.

 If “[h]ell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” then I don’ t know what you would say about Ramrattan. As a result of his insidious revenge, Seemona has changed her number, uses credit cards instead of cash to provide a papertrail to back her up, and checks with New York State’s Rikers Prison web site each day to assure that Ramrattan has not been released. If Ramrattan’s plot has failed and backfired, he’s still managed to extract a revenge that will continue to haunt Seemona down the road.

Worse, I don’t know what you could say about law enforcement in this case, either. Not only did they get the wrong guy, but they let a ‘Law and Order’ junkie manipulate them into arresting the victim at the perp’s behest. That’s worse than justice blind justice–that’s incompetent justice.

Find the story at “A Revenge Plot So Intricate, the Prosecutors were Pawns” in the New York Times.

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Victim in Jeffs’ case speaks out

ST. GEORGE, UT - NOVEMBER 14:  Several thousan...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Jeffs’ victory in the Utah Supreme Court, however short lived it may be (Texas and the feds are eagerly awaiting in the wings), has bolstered Jeffs and his followers across Utah, Texas, Arizona, and British Columbia.  But it will also have a chilling effect on other potential victims, says the woman who was the victim in Jeffs’ case.

“This puts the power back in Warren’s hands tenfold,” said Elissa Wall, who was 14 when she first married.

In a phone interview from her Utah home, Wall, now 24, said she fears the impact on children inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who may be looking for help.

While I’m no expert on domestic abuse or on the wrongs of polygamy as practiced, I do recognize the conundrum that exists and is inherent to the justice system.  By requiring a retrial, the victims of polygamy may become fearful that they cannot speak out, for fear that those victimizing them will not be held accountable.  While an attorney may understand that the legal system often requires, for the purposes of fairness and justice, that there are retrials, the outside observer may not, but may see this as a failure of the justice system to protect the victim.

So on one side we have the victim, seeking the protection of the state.   On the other side is the accused, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not of public opinion.  And there is a third-party, if indirectly, in that society as a whole has rights and interests, in seeing that criminals are taken off the street, etc.  And it is the job of the prosecutor, judge, and defense attorneys to uphold all three, each for their own part.

But where is the balance leaned in a case like this?  Will victims be afraid to speak out as a result of the Utah Supreme Court’s ruling?

In the short-term, Jeffs’ faces, as mentioned before, extradition to Texas where he faces statutory rape charges for raping one of his own child wives.  But in his role as spiritual advisor, how many women have been victimized by his complicity in granting marriage to an older male, against the wishes of the younger, usually teenage, woman?  Will his retrial encourage the practice to continue?

(Thanks to USA Today)

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Hell hath no fury…

Men are not always the abusers in abusive relationships….despite what you may have heard, there are crazy women out there (and not just the Russian femme fatale variety).  Believe me.  I’ve dated at least one of them. (but I’ll save that for another post…)

The latest, though, managed to get her ex and his sister-in-law thrown in jail.  Several times.  And, in contrast to this woman, who used her cell phone to save her life, used only a cell phone to do the job.

From Simple Justice, here’s the story in it’s entirety as edited, per request of their request, with the original posted there:

Deputy District Attorney Mena Guirguis said that after Manunga and her former boyfriend stopped dating in 2008, she took out a pre-paid cell phone in his sister-in-law’s name, and started sending the threatening text messages to her regular cell phone.

Manunga then went to three different police departments on at least 19 occasions and claimed that the ex-boyfriend and the sister-in-law were behind the threats.

Manunga apparently sent hundreds of threatening and harassing text messages.  To herself.  And it worked.

They were arrested on false charges of making criminal threats and required to post thousands of dollars in bail. The sister-in-law was arrested three times, and spent some time in custody before she could gather enough funds to pay the bail on her third arrest.

Her scheme was uncovered when the victims went to the phone store, talked with the salesman and learned that Manunga had bought the pre-paid phone under the sister-in-law’s name, Guirguis said.

They reported that information to a Costa Mesa police detective, but by then a third arrest warrant had been issued for the sister-in-law.

During a follow-up investigation, the detective discovered that most of the threatening text messages were sent when the pre-paid cell phone was in close proximity to Manunga’s home or work, Guirguis said.

Notice that it was left to the defendants to investigate?  That’s because the police already had their perps in custody.  They were high-fiving, munching stale donuts and praising each other’s brilliant detective work.  Woo hoo, nailed them text message harassers.  Time to hand out the medals.  Even after the defendants’ investigation panned out, they were taken in on the open warrant, forced to await the “follow-up investigation.”  Of course, there can’t be a follow-up until there’s an initial investigation.  Details.

The most painful part of this story is how a scheme by a woman scorned was subject to no scrutiny whatsoever, and resulted in a man and woman being detained to sate the “victim’s” need for vengeance.  Crazy stuff happens.  It wouldn’t kill anybody in the system to do that little bit of legwork that would reveal the purported victim to be the criminal.

It really can’t be this easy for someone to hatch a scheme and use the machinery of the legal system to her own advantage.

Yes, it really can be that easy.

(Thanks to Simple Justice)

(This is an updated post as of July 14, 2010)

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