28 July 2014


Original Story:  Freep.com

An exotic animal whose discovery in suburban Detroit led officials to lemurs, foxes and other animals being kept in a home's garage has been euthanized, the Detroit Zoo announced Thursday.

The white-nosed coati was euthanized last week at the direction of the Macomb County Health Department to test for rabies, the zoo said, after a person living near where it was found roaming July 9 reported being bitten.  A Macomb County Dog Bite Lawyer is searching for more evidence.

A necropsy showed no evidence of rabies, according to the zoo, which is located in Royal Oak. Physicians couldn't rule out the potential for rabies exposure due to the nature of the man's wounds. He has received vaccine treatment.

"Exotic animals require specialized veterinary care, which privately owned animals rarely receive," Detroit Zoological Society's chief veterinarian Ann Duncan said in a statement. "We are following strict quarantine protocols as these animals are examined and cared for."

The white-nosed coati is a member of the raccoon family and is found in the southwest U.S., Mexico, Central and South America. The 29 other animals found in Warren included another white-nosed coati, two ring-tailed lemurs and three fennec foxes. In addition, the garage held a number of rabbits and birds. A Mt. Clemens Dog Bite Lawyer said he was use to receiving calls on dog bites but a coati was new.

The birds and small mammals have been transferred to the Michigan Humane Society, but the other animals remain in the care of Detroit Zoo staff. The animals will be under quarantine for at least 30 days. Permanent homes for the other coati as well as the lemurs and foxes haven't been determined.


Original Story:  Freep.com

Jordan Sytsma misses his dad but says he worries most about his sister, Tyra.

Their father, Craig Sytsma of Livonia, was mauled to death by a pair of exotic dogs while out jogging in Lapeer County after work Wednesday evening. And at 16, Tyra Sytsma will now have to face key life moments -- her prom, her high school graduation -- without his guiding influence. A Hackensack Personal Injury Lawyer is sadden that this could have been prevented.

"It's almost like she'll be growing up without a dad," Jordan Sytsma said Friday, the gravity of the loss of his father weighing heavy on his mind as he spoke from his front porch in Livonia.

For 23-year-old Jordan Sytsma, anger is mixed with mourning and disbelief.

He says he's angry that Sytsma -- a stepfather he considered blood despite a divorce -- was attacked by two Cane Corsos owned by a family with a history of their dogs attacking people.

"To know that there were two previous incidents ... and to know that on the third incident, they killed my dad, that's what pisses me off," Jordan Sytsma said. "They were looking to kill, they were looking to eat a human being." 

Jordan Sytsma wants people to know his 46-year-old father was a solid man who "stayed in his lane."

"It's terrible when people like that get taken out that way," he said.   A Honolulu Personal Injury Lawyer said big dogs can definitly do a lot of damage including death especially when there is more than one dog.

A colon cancer survivor, Craig Sytsma stayed active. He jogged, golfed and played hockey. He and his buddy Mark Raitanen would ride their mountain bikes in Westland or play beach volleyball at the Livonia Family YMCA whenever they had time. And on Friday nights, they would head to Merri-Bowl in Livonia to play foosball. 

"He was very competitive," Raitanen said of the dear friend he has known for 23 years.

Music was a big part of his life, too -- Santana, the Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule. Raitanen remembered a Deep Purple concert the two attended at DTE Energy Music Theatre and a Buddy Guy show in downtown Detroit.

And Sytsma still listened to cassette tapes, he said.

Above all, he loved his children: Tyra, Jordan and 28-year-old Luis.

"He was a dad, he was a family man," Raitanen said.  A Macomb County Dog Bite Lawyer said this tragedy could have been prevented.

Craig Sytsma also had a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that he rode occasionally. Before he learned the gruesome details about his friend's death, Raitanen assumed there had been a motorcycle accident.

"If he were to get bumped off his motorcycle, it would make sense. This just doesn't make sense," Raitanen said of the fatal mauling.

Although he grew up in Grand Rapids and lived in Odessa, Texas, for a time, Craig Sytsma loved Detroit's sports teams. Jordan and his father had planned to get season tickets for the Pistons when the time came.

"Sports was kind of like our way of communicating," Jordan Sytsma said.

Craig Sytsma beat colon cancer within the last year or so but did not like to talk about it.

"I'd say, 'I'm here for you, Pop,' but I wouldn't ask questions," Jordan Sytsma said, noting that it was a difficult topic for him.

Neighbors on Sytsma's quiet, tree-lined street in Livonia appreciated how he maintained his lawn, even though he was renting his house. Harold Peruski, who lives a few houses away, said he finds the tragedy hard to comprehend.

"It's unbelievable. I saw him cleaning his yard, and then 24 hours later he's dead," Peruski said.

Neighbors also noticed how he would leave early to drive to his job at Eltro Services in Oxford Township, where he worked as a metallurgical engineer, plasma-heat treating metal parts like crankshafts, camshafts and gun barrels. It was a path he began during his days at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, where he received a bachelor's degree in metallurgical and materials engineering in 1992.

Cheryl Hurick lives across the street from Sytsma's brown ranch-style house, which has a pool in the backyard.

"How ridiculously needless," she said of his death. A Mt. Clemens Dog Bite Lawyer agreed.

Services have been set for Craig Sytsma.

Visitation is 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at Harry J. Will Funeral Home, 37000 Six Mile Road, Livonia, and 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Cook Funeral Home's Jenison Chapel, 1889 Baldwin, Jenison, Mich., near Grand Rapids.

Sytsma will lie in state Friday from 10 a.m. until the start of the funeral service 11 a.m. at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 1481 Baldwin in Jenison.

Visitation is 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at Harry J. Will Funeral Home, 37000 Six Mile Road, Livonia, and 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Cook Funeral Home's Jenison Chapel, 1889 Baldwin, Jenison, Mich., near Grand Rapids.

Sytsma will lie in state Friday from 10 a.m. until the start of the funeral service 11 a.m. at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 1481 Baldwin in Jenison.

25 July 2014


Original Story:  USAToday.com,

DETROIT — A pair of dogs attacked and mauled to death a man as he jogged down a quiet, dirt road in rural Michigan. A Mt. Clemens dog bite lawyer said dogs often attack in packs.

Craig Sytsma, 46, of Livonia died of his injuries Wednesday night at a local hospital, police in Metamora Township said.

"He was jogging, doing what everybody else does out there, running and riding bikes," said Metamora police Officer Sean Leathers, who was one of the first on the scene. Sytsma, a divorced father of three, was unconscious and undergoing CPR when Leathers arrived.

Sytsma worked in nearby Oxford and had apparently decided to go for a jog after leaving work.

The dogs were apparently running free on the road where the attack took place. Neighbors fired shots into the air to try to scare the dogs off the jogger.

Afterward, the dogs retreated to their owner's home.

The dogs are cane corsos, an Italian mastiff-type breed that the American Kennel Club says were property watchdogs that hunted wild boar in their native country. Their name derives from the Latin "cohors," meaning guardian or protector, according to information on the club's Website.

The dogs, which are younger than 5-years-old, are currently quarantined at the Lapeer County Animal Shelter while the investigation continues. Lapeer sheriff's Detective Jason Parks said the dogs were brought in by their owner. Authorities will seek to have the dogs destroyed if the owner relinquishes his rights to them or they will take the matter to court if he fights to keep them.

No decision has been made on criminal charges, but the Lapeer County Prosecutor's Office is involved and the owner has possibly retained a Warren dog bite lawyer.

Given the nature of the attack, Parks said, it would be in the public's best interest to destroy the dogs.

Parks described the dogs as black and brindle in color, well-muscled and aggressive. Cane corsos typically weigh 90-110 pounds, Parks said, noting that the dogs involved in the attack appear to be of average weight for the breed.

"They definitely react when people are inside the room. … They're aggressive dogs," Parks said.

Parks said authorities have not been able find anyone who recalls another fatal attack on a human by an animal in Lapeer County in at least 50 years.

"It's something that is out of the norm, and it's something you'd hope would never happen," Parks said.

24 July 2014


Original Story:  USAToday.com

NEW YORK — Seven people around the world have been arrested in connection with an international cybercrime ring that illegally accessed 1,600 StubHub accounts and stole more than $1.6 million in tickets. Do you need legal help with Intellectual property in Atlanta?

Authorities still don't know how the suspects gained access to the accounts, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said at a news conference on Wednesday. Once inside the accounts, the cyberintruders used the victims' pre-existing credit card information and credit cards stolen from additional victims to purchase tickets.

In coordinated arrests, three people were taken into custody in London, two in the New York area, one in Toronto, and one in Spain.

"Today's law enforcement action reflects the increasingly global landscape in which financial and cybercriminals operate," Vance said. "Fighting cybercrime today, as this demonstrates, requires international cooperation."

StubHub, a website where customers buy and sell tickets to entertainment events, first discovered that more than 1,000 accounts had been breached in March 2013. Soon after, the company alerted police, who started an investigation.

Authorities say they soon learned that two men, Vadim Polyakov, 30, and Nikolay Matveychuk, 21, were allegedly buying the tickets illegally, then e-mailing them to three Americans, Daniel Petryszyn, 28, Laurence Brinkmeyer, 29, and Bryan Caputo, 29. According to Vance, the three men then resold the tickets and worked with several people, including Sergei Kirin, 37, of Russia, to launder the money using international wire transfers and PayPal.

Kirin is accused of advertising his money-laundering services online and turning a profit for his part in the ring.

Analysts in the district attorney's office investigated receipts and transaction records and eventually traced the exchanges to Internet protocol addresses, PayPal accounts, bank accounts and other financial accounts used and controlled by the suspects.

Each of the indicted men face a number of felony charges that include money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property, grand larceny and identity theft.

Vance made the announcement alongside several officials, including Sgt. Richard Rollings of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Robert J. Sica, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service's New York field office.

"Criminal organizations such as this aspire to exploit and compromise our financial systems," Rollins said. "Their criminal activities are not restricted by our borders. In fact, they seek to exploit jurisdictional boundaries for their illicit purposes. We simply cannot allow this to occur."

Authorities said Polyakov and Matveychuk bought more than 3,500 tickets for various events, including Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake concerts, New York Yankees games, and The Book of Mormon, a Broadway play. People across the world were victims of the scam, the law enforcement agencies said.

Polyakov was arrested on July 3 while vacationing near Barcelona. Petryszyn and Caputo were taken into custody in the New York area Wednesday and went before a judge. Brinkmeyer, of Bergen County, N.J., is expected to surrender in the coming days, Vance said.

Although Matveychuk and Kirin remain in Russia, authorities are hoping they will be brought to justice, Vance said.

He added that officials believe they have identified the primary actors in the scam though the investigation continues.

Robert Capps, a former security executive at StubHub, said the arrests might change the way criminals operate. "You are no longer safe to travel and operate outside of your home country, without significant risk of arrest and prosecution," he said in an e-mail. "Isolation is a powerful force in the effort to change behaviors. Confined within the borders of their home country, I suspect we'll see a change in behavior of some of these criminals."

David Szuchman, executive assistant of the Manhattan district attorney, said it's possible the indicted men may have met on an Internet forum for hackers, though their relationship is not entirely clear yet.

At Wednesday press conference, officials displayed a poster board of an online conversation between Petryszyn and Brinkmeyer. It included comments like "...this guy (Polyakov) is pretty much admitting he is a hacker" and "...I don't give a f--- I will launder all the money they want."

Meanwhile, Vance warned that people should vigilantly monitor their accounts and report any activity they don't recognize.

"We are all capable of being victims of cybercriminals," Vance said.

21 July 2014


Original Story:  freep.com

A St. Clair Shores woman whose dog was shot multiple times by city police last year has filed a federal lawsuit alleging two police officers responding to a barking dog complaint set out from the start to kill the mixed breed even though it was posing no danger. A St. Clair Shores Dog Bite Lawyer is appalled by the case.

Brittany Preston charges in the lawsuit that her dog, Lexie, was shot four times by police and then dragged away wounded to an animal control truck. Instead of being taken to a veterinarian for treatment, the dog was shot four more times, the lawsuit alleges.

Preston filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court against the City of St. Clair Shores, police Officers David Jacquemain and Jeremy Moskwa, and animal control officer Tom Massey.

Interim City Manager Michael Smith did not return calls Friday seeking comment. City Council is to address the lawsuit during its meeting Monday, when Smith recommends denying the claim and referring it to the city attorney for a response, according to council’s online agenda packet.

Preston is claiming constitutional rights violations in the Nov. 22 death of her 44-pound, 18-month-old, female dog, which was shot outside her home on Princeton. Preston lived in the home with her grandfather, Thomas Warunek.

The lawsuit alleges that immediately upon arriving on the scene, one of the two officers was recorded on a dash cam as saying he was going to shoot the dog. The lawsuit claims the officers shot the dog three times as it stood on the side porch and then, after it ran into the bushes, yelping in pain, shot it a fourth time.

Officers used a neck noose on a pole to drag the wounded dog to an animal control truck, where the lawsuit says it was left for at least 90 minutes. A police report said the dog died as it was being transported to get medical help, according to the lawsuit. A Warren Dog Bite Lawyer said this was animal cruelty.

But Christopher Olson, Preston’s attorney, said a later necropsy conducted by a veterinarian hired by Preston showed the dog at some point had been shot four more times.

“What really is shocking to me and upsetting to Brittany is after it was taken … it has 15 (entry and exit wounds).”

Warunek accidentally left the dog outside the home in the early morning hours of Nov. 22. About 7:15 a.m., a neighbor reported a loose pitbull at Princeton and Walton that had been barking for 90 minutes and was on someone’s porch.

Officers arrived and while the dog was barking from Preston’s front porch, an officer was recorded on police dash cam stating “The only thing I’m gonna do is shoot it. I do not like dogs.” Subsequent dash cam audio recording revealed an officer stating “I don’t do snares, I don’t do dogs … I’ll shoot the (expletive) thing.”

Police claimed the dog was shot because it attacked them, but the lawsuit alleges the dog was merely barking, not targeting the officers.

At a Jan. 6 City Council meeting, police presented preliminary findings from an internal affairs investigation that concluded no wrongdoing based, in part, because no witnesses contradicted the officers’ accounts, according to the lawsuit.

Aside from monetary damages, Olson said he wants to “make sure this doesn’t happen again.” He said because of the incident, which has gone viral and has a Facebook page “Justice for Lexie,” he is receiving many calls from people across the country relaying experiences of officers shooting dogs.

10 July 2014


Original Story:  Freep.com

State school Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced Monday he is giving notice to Michigan’s charter school authorizers that he will exercise his “statutory authority” to prevent them from granting new charters if their performance overseeing the schools does not measure up.

Flanagan said a recent Free Press special report on charter schools led him to make the decision.

“This series of news articles has prompted me to think differently about whether to suspend an authorizer’s ability to open new charter schools,” Flanagan was quoted in a news release by the Michigan Department of Education. “It’s my authority in state law, and I will be using it.

“We are getting serious about quality choices for Michigan students. This is not just about getting academic results. It’s about total transparency and accountability.”

Flanagan’s office said he would not comment beyond the MDE news release, which contained several statements from him.

An eight-day Free Press series showed that MDE has never suspended an authorizer. Flanagan had said previously that the Legislature needs to provide specific guidelines for shutting down authorizers — the universities, community colleges and school districts that authorize and oversee charter schools’ performance.

The series, “State of Charter Schools,” found that Michigan charters receive nearly $1 billion per year in taxpayer money, often with little accountability or transparency on how those dollars are spent.

The series also reported that academic performance is mixed, and charter schools on average fare no better than traditional schools in educating students in poverty. Many poor-performing charter schools are allowed to continue operating for years by their authorizers.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a professional organization for the state’s charter schools, said the move by Flanagan is good — and is proof Michigan already has tough oversight laws.

“He has had this authority for a number of years,” MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry said. “This statutory responsibility is part of Michigan’s strong system of charter school oversight, so it’s ironic that this announcement comes following a week of stories about how weak our state oversight is.

“We urge the state superintendent to base his decisions on academic performance and to work on oversight of all public schools. Charter schools have always been the most accountable of all public schools. What we need now is legislation that holds all public schools to this same level of accountability.”

MDE said that Flanagan has directed its staff “to establish rigorous principles that measure the transparency, academic and financial practices of the charter schools of each authorizer. The result of these measures will determine which authorizers would lose their chartering capabilities.”

In a statement, Flanagan also said: “There are many good charter schools in our state, which operate in the best interest of the students they serve and not to the best interest of the adults who run them. The news articles over the past several weeks have heightened attention to the issues that have shrouded charter schools with suspicion and contempt among some in the education community and the public — sometimes deserved, sometimes not.

“Let’s support what works and change what doesn’t.”

More than 140,000 students attend state-funded charter schools across Michigan, and in 2013-14 the state had 296 charters operating some 370 schools. In 61% of them, charter school boards have enlisted full-service, for-profit management companies — which contend that the taxpayer money they receive to run a school is private, not subject to public disclosure.

There are more than three dozen authorizers in Michigan. The largest in number of charters overseen are Central Michigan University with 64 and Grand Valley State University with 47.

Grand Valley spokeswoman Mary Eilleen Lyon said in an e-mail to the Free Press that the university has no problem with scrutiny:

“A report released by Supt. Mike Flanagan’s office last year showed that Grand Valley’s charter schools, as a whole, outperform all other authorizers using state tests as the assessment standard. Grand Valley has always acted in the best interest of the charter school students we serve. We believe in accountability ... and that our oversight procedures should be used as a model.”

Flanagan’s announcement drew praise from critics of the current system.

“It’s high time and it’s what we should be doing and should have been doing for some time,” said John Austin, president of the State Board of Education. “I welcome that.”

But Austin, who has been pushing for a stronger charter regulations, said a loophole in the law would need to be fixed. A suspended authorizer would still be able to maintain its existing charters. And nothing in state law would prevent those charters from expanding and opening new campuses.

Austin said it’s one of many legislative fixes that are needed in the charter law “to ensure transparency and to ensure clarity.”

The Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers said it hopes to sit down soon with Flanagan to talk about the changes.

“Multiple Michigan authorizers have been recognized nationally as model authorizers,” Jared Burkhart said in a statement. “In fact, many of the recommendations mentioned by Superintendent Flanagan are already in state law or are based on best practices already in place in Michigan.”

Flanagan received a series of letters during the Free Press series from Greg Richmond, the president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Richmond, who also sent letters to the governor’s office, urged that Michigan toughen its standards — especially in accountability and financial transparency.

“Our organization believes in accountability in education — for charter schools, traditional public schools, authorizers and school boards,” Richmond said. “No one should get a free pass. We all need to earn and maintain the public’s trust. A good accountability system for authorizers should have clear standards and a fair, transparent process.”

Flanagan said tougher standards are in authorizers’ best interests, too.

“All authorizers, especially the boards of trustees of the colleges and universities that authorize most of the charter schools, must pay better and closer attention to how their schools are operated,” Flanagan said. “The integrity of their institutions is at stake here, too.”