Sonja Sohn’s full testimony at ‘Defending Childhood’ hearing

“I remember lying in bed on alert late one night as I heard an argument brewing in my parents’ bedroom, only to be shocked by the deafening sound of my mother’s jaw being crushed. I remember watching in horror as my mother’s head lay on the chopping block of our kitchen counter while my father held a large butcher’s knife to her throat, as she cried and begged to be put out of her misery.”

When “Wire” actress and activist Sonja Sohn testified at the Defending Childhood Task Force hearing on Tuesday morning, she didn’t speak long — almost exactly 10 minutes — but she managed to fill in the major parts of her life story.

Sohn’s mother was physically abused by her father and it continued to affect her and her family for years.

She brought a small cushion with her to the hearing and placed it at her lower back as she sat. She remained composed throughout her testimony, which she calmly read off of her Macbook Air.

“When you grow up in a household where domestic abuse is a regular occurrence, you see things that — though you may heal from — you will never forget,” she said.

Watch the full video from her testimony below:

Live blog from Defending Childhood Task Force

Daily Record legal affairs reporter Danielle Ulman did some live blogging from the Defending Childhood Task Force at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

11:45 a.m.

A panel on the consequences for youth and society exposed to daily violence hit hard on some areas that might be ineffective in helping kids to turn things around.

Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation said he finds institutions for juvenile delinquents wholly ineffective. Many youths come out of these programs with worse behavior than when they started, he said.

Sonja Sohn, an actress most famous for her work on The Wire, also started the ReWired for Change outreach program to rehabilitate at-risk youth involved in criminal activity. She told her very personal story of abuse.

Sohn’s mother was abused by her father — once Sohn witnessed her father put her mother’s head on a chopping block in their kitchen and threaten her with a knife. She said she had daydreams about killing her father, and at one time considered running away at the age of 10 to be a prostitute in New York.

But Sohn’s story is one of rehabilitation. She said her family has learned to heal from the past abuse, and her father has gotten help.

Also on the panel was student Nigel Cox, chair of the national youth board of Students Against Violence Everywhere. Cox, who is a senior in high school in North Carolina, said he tries to preach the word nonviolence.

10:25 a.m.

We’ve heard from some victims of sexual and physical abuse and while their stories are hard to hear, they are important. Both women who spoke mentioned that by speaking out they are breaking the cycle of violence, which is exactly what the task force is hoping to do.

Rosa Almond, who was physically abused by her husband (and sexually abused by her grandfather at the age of 7), finally had the courage to leave and press charges when her husband beat her in front of her children.

Jacquelynn Kuhn was abused by a neighbor when she was just five years old. Kuhn explained that the teenager who molested her was a master manipulator, and told her that if she told on him, he would do worse things to her brother and sister. Kuhn only told her parents about the abuse as an adult, after she divorced an abusive husband.

Earl El-Amin, resident imam of the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore spoke about the rise of community violence in town. He attributes a lot of the problems to what he calls the “absent daddy club.” El-Amin says “If you don’t see a man, you can’t be a man.”

9:45 a.m.

Frightening stat: Baltimore children are 8 times as likely to die from homicide than other children in the country.

Joe Torre just opened up to the group about his experiences as a child with abuse. He never was personally abused, but he watched his mom get abused by his father, who was a police officer. Torre said he kept it to himself because he was embarrassed by it and thought he was the only one experiencing it. Now, Torre says children need to know that violence should not be a secret.

There are some very interesting voices on the task force, including Sarah Deer, an assistant professor at the William Mitchell  College of Law, who is focused on violence on Indian Reservations. According to Deer, reservations have the highest rate of violent crime in the nation.

Then there’s The Rev. Gregory Boyle, who runs Homeboy Industries in L.A., helping gang members from rival gangs to work side by side. Another interesting stat: his group offers 10,000 laser tattoo removals to gang members each year.

Attorney General Eric Holder has called the work of protecting children from violence “a priority” for his department, which has lots of other weighty issues on its plate.

Other big names on the roster for today are  Joe Torre, co-chair of the Safe at Home Foundation. The foundation’s Margaret’s Place is a tribute to Torre’s mother, which provides children with a safe place to talk to each other and counselors trained in domestic violence intervention.

The Wire’s Sonja Sohn (who played Detective Kima Greggs) will also be speaking today.

Law blog roundup

Happy Monday and welcome back from the holiday weekend! Here are some law morsels to chew on while you decide if Mom’s turkey meatballs will still be good for one last lunch:

Top 3: ‘I had no idea, and it’s a wonderful honor’

With The Daily Record closed Thursday and Friday, this week’s Top 5 has been modified by two. Among the top stories this week was Under Armour’s latest trademark infringement lawsuit and Gov. Martin O’Malley weighing in against the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic litigation against Eastern Shore chicken farms. Here are this week’s Big Three:

1. Daily Record honors 25 for leadership in law — by Andy Marso

Baltimore lawyer Andrew Jay Graham took the top award Friday at The Daily Record’s annual Leadership in Law awards luncheon.

“I had no idea, and it’s a wonderful honor,” Graham said as he accepted a glass bowl to go along with the diamond-shaped glass plaque that he and the other 24 honorees received.

Leadership in Law, now in its 11th year, celebrates those who provide outstanding contributions to the legal profession, public service and mentoring in Maryland.

Graham co-founded Kramon & Graham PA in 1975 after working for Shearman & Sterling in New York and serving three years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland.

2. Under Armour sues Energy Armor for infringement, cybersquatting — by Ben Mook

Under Armour Inc. is suing Energy Armor, a Florida company that makes silicone bracelets imbued with “negative ions,” accusing it of trademark infringement and cybersquatting.

Baltimore-based Under Armour filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, claiming that Energy Armor was selling sporting apparel like bracelets, hair bands and baseball caps that imitate Under Armour products. The Jacksonville company’s tagline — “Protect Your Body” — is also too similar to Under Armour’s “Protect This House” motto, Under Armour alleges.

Under Armour is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a permanent injunction to keep its competitor from using the Energy Armor name and “Protect Your Body” tagline on its products.

3. O’Malley stands by criticism of environmental law clinic — by Steve Lash

Gov. Martin O’Malley on Friday stood by his right to criticize the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic for continuing litigation against a family-owned chicken farm on the Eastern Shore, despite strong objection from the law school’s dean.

O’Malley ignited the contretemps with a Nov. 14 letter to Dean Phoebe A. Haddon in which he assailed the “costly” litigation as an “ongoing injustice” against farm owners Alan and Kristin Hudson.

In response, Haddon urged O’Malley to back off and let the litigation run its course.

Law blog roundup

Happy Thanksgiving week. Here’s a little taste of what’s going on in the legal world in this shortened work week.

  • This one’s a doozy: A Georgia woman has been arrested for administering illegal silicone injections into the hips and rear ends of strippers. The FDA began its probe into Kimberly Smedley’s work after a Baltimore stripper became ill following the injections.
  • On the injection front, here’s another story of an arrest made after a “doctor” used a mix of super glue, cement, oil and tire sealant to enhance a woman’s backside.
  • Defendants win their fourth victory in four months under the Fourth Amendment in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Now to find a four-leaf clover…
  • Maryland and D.C. lag in reporting mental health records to gun-check databases.
  • A Louisiana court has affirmed a ruling that citizens can make DUI arrests. (I’d love to see one of those arrests go down.)
  • It could take 21 years to sell all of Maryland’s foreclosed homes.
  • Add this to Wesley Snipes’ debts: American Express says he owes them $29,300. Snipes is serving a three-year sentence for tax evasion.

Top 5: ‘Then he realized he was in over his head’

The family of a 25-year-old woman who died of lung cancer winning in a  Frederick County trial and how one man’s battle against his cooperative association over secondhand smoke might become an issue before the General Assembly are among the most-read legal affairs stories of the week. That list also includes how one woman’s medical malpractice lawsuit turned into a legal malpractice suit and an appellate court overturning a murder conviction. Here are the Top 5 stories:

1. Court of Special Appeals overturns murder conviction — by Danielle Ulman

A man convicted of murder is entitled to a new trial because his first jury heard, three times, that he was on parole at the time of the killing, the Court of Special Appeals held Monday.

The court said the prosecutor should not have referenced Marquis Evans’ parole in opening statements or solicited testimony that Evans “just got home” and was being supervised by a Violence Prevention Unit.

2. From medical-malpractice case to legal-malpractice claim — by Andy Marso

Linda Cartzendafner says her husband died of an infection after nurses at Ruxton SurgiCenter injected him with a needle that became unsterile during failed attempts to place an IV.

Cartzendafner filed a lawsuit Nov. 4 in Baltimore City Circuit Court — not against Ruxton or its staff, but against attorney Barry S. Brown, who she claims bungled her medical malpractice suit against Ruxton.

Continue reading

Jack and Leslie Johnson phone calls released by FBI

The FBI has released audio excerpts from phone conversations between former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife, Leslie Johnson.

Jack Johnson

Have you forgotten about the Johnsons already? Perhaps these partial transcripts will “refresh your recollection” as to why these conversations — and this story — made national news almost exactly a year ago.

Here’s s a partial transcript from the first clip.

Leslie Johnson: “What do you want me to do with this money? They are banging! What do you want me to…”

Jack Johnson: “Put it… put it in your panties and walk out of the house.”

LJ: “No! But I mean all this cash, Jack! I got the one from down…”

JJ: “Put it in your panties, Leslie.”

LJ: “Oh my god. Okay.”

Click here to listen to the first clip (mp3)

And here’s a partial transcript from the second clip:

Continue reading

Bealefeld talks Tasers on ’60 Minutes’

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III was interviewed for a “60 Minutes” piece on Tasers that aired Sunday night.

Bealefeld expressed some skepticism about the electric shock devices, saying he was “not a fan” and that he feared they could be used as a “short-cutted method” for getting people to comply.

Bealefeld said that less than 500 Tasers have been issued to the department’s 2,800 sworn members.

Even so, the department has at least two lawsuits pending against it for allegedly using Tasers unnecessarily. Leon Coley, a 66-year-old man with heart ailments, sued two police officers last month, saying they shocked him with a Taser twice while he was sitting on his couch in his home. According to the suit, the officers were responding to a phone call from Coley’s wife, who was in a verbal argument with Coley.

The department is also currently in litigation with Carl Jackson, a disabled Navy veteran with ”skeletal issues” who says two officers assaulted him and shocked him with a Taser outside his home “without reason or cause” in June 2010.

Watch the video from “60 Minutes” Sunday night:

Law blog roundup

Welcome back to work on this sunny Monday. Check out the links below to brighten your day.

  • University of Maryland School of Law students are proposing stronger measures to protect children who are bullied in schools.
  • For couples who can’t agree, getting a divorce in Maryland is easier now.
  • DLA Piper’s Frank Burch has denied reports that his firm is set to merge with Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain. Earlier this year, Burch told The Daily Record that DLA planned to make a move into the great white north.
  • Prince George’s County had the most civil trials in Maryland last year.
  • Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has hired a D.C. lawyer, King & Spalding’s J. Sedwick Sollers III, to represent him in the child sex abuse scandal that erupted last week in the wake of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s arrest. Paterno is not charged with any criminal wrongdoing in the case.
  • A North Carolina lawyer is bugging out over sharing an Air Tran Airways flight with some cockroaches.

Top 5: ‘I have tremendous support’

State. Sen. Ulysses Currie was acquitted of all charges this week, and the owner of famed ‘Cafe Hon’ has decided to give up the trademark of the word ‘Hon,’ which caused much controversy earlier this year. Those stories and more in this week’s legal affairs top 5.

1. Café Hon owner to give up trademark – by Steve Lash

Poke it with a fork, because it looks like the controversy over “HON” is done.

Denise Whiting, the embattled owner of Café Hon in Hampden, said Monday she will give up the registered trademark she has on the word “HON.” Whiting added she did not fully appreciate the “passion” Baltimoreans have for the term of endearment.

“Please forgive me for everything that I’ve done,” Whiting said on the radio broadcast. “I am taking that piece of paper that says [‘HON’] is registered [and] I will just take it off the register.”

2. Cardin: Obama to nominate Russell to federal court – by Steve Lash

President Obama intends to nominate Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge George L. Russell III to the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said Thursday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Russell will succeed Judge Peter J. Messitte, who took senior status nearly three years ago.

3. Baltimore doctor wins $3M for repetitive-use injury – by Danielle Ulman

A Baltimore doctor was awarded $3 million by a U.S. District Court jury that found she lost the fine-motor skills needed to be a cosmetic dermatologist after regularly operating a piece of medical equipment.

Dr. Supriya Goyal worked as a research fellow with the Maryland Laser, Skin & Vein Institute LLC for doctors Robert and Margaret Weiss, a husband-and-wife team. That’s where she often used Thermage Inc.’s ThermaCool device, which she said caused her to develop an ulnar nerve entrapment affecting her hand and arm.

4. Sen. Currie acquitted on all counts – by Andy Marso

State Sen. Ulysses S. Currie remained calm and poised Tuesday in the hall outside the federal courtroom where a jury had just acquitted him of all charges in a corruption scandal. He thanked his legal team, called the verdict a win for the General Assembly and his constituents and said he was headed to visit his ailing sister.

Then Currie and his supporters got on the elevator and their wild cheering could be heard from behind the thick metal doors.

5. Redskins fight ex-punter’s workers’ compensation claim – by Steve Lash

The Washington Redskins on Tuesday urged Maryland’s top court to sack prior decisions requiring the team to pay Maryland workers’ compensation benefits to ex-punter Tom Tupa, who suffered a career-ending back injury during preseason warm-ups at FedEx Field in Landover in 2005.

The team’s lawyer told the Court of Appeals that Tupa’s contract expressly called for any workers’ compensation claim to be resolved under the laws of Virginia, where the Redskins are based.