by Richard Read, special from The Car Connection
Judge Michael A. Cicconetti, based in Painesville, Ohio, began ordering anyone convicted of driving under the influence to install a ride-sharing app like Lyft or Uber to their smartphones and to enter credit card information. (Image courtesy of MGN)
You might’ve heard of Judge Michael A. Cicconetti. Based in Painesville, Ohio, he’s become widely known for meting out punishments that are often thoughtfully matched to the wrongs of the convicted. For example:
- He ordered a woman who abandoned 35 kittens in the woods to spend a night in the woods herself without food, water, or entertainment. (The woman also had the option of choosing a 90-day jail sentence. She chose the woods.)
- He gave another woman who’d skipped out on a 30-mile cab ride the option of spending 30 days in jail or walking 30 miles. (She chose to hoof it.)
- And instead of a more conventional sentence, he gave a man who stole a Salvation Army donation kettle the option of spending 24 hours homeless.
Now, Cicconetti is applying that same “eye for an eye” model to drunk driving. Late last month, Cicconetti began ordering anyone convicted of driving under the influence to install a ride-sharing app like Lyft or Uber to their smartphones and enter credit card information. Though offenders don’t actually have to use the app, Cicconetti believes that having it set up and ready to go makes the option of hailing a ride much more attractive for drivers when they’ve had one too many. He was inspired to add the requirement by an acquaintance who’d been convicted of driving under the influence four times. Cicconetti asked the man why he didn’t just install Lyft or Uber on his phone, and the man simply replied that he didn’t know how. Shortly afterward, Cicconetti made installing such apps part of the probation for drunk drivers.
Asked about whether he was promoting a particular business, Cicconetti scoffed: “I m not promoting Uber or Lyft. I have no monetary interest in Uber or Lyft. In the next 20 years, they ll have self-driving cars anyway so we won t have to worry about it.”
Do Cicconetti’s policies work? To hear him tell it, they do. Nationwide, the recidivism rate for criminals is around 75 percent. However, Judge Cicconetti says that the recidivism rate in his court is only about 10 percent.
by JAMES NORD and BRADY McCOMBS , Associated Press
This frame grab from KSFY Television video shows polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs arriving at the Federal Courthouse Thursday, June 15, 2017 in Sioux Falls, S.D. Jeffs has been captured in South Dakota while apparently living out of his pickup truck after nearly a year on the run. Authorities had been hunting for Jeffs since he escaped home confinement in Utah on June 18, 2016, ahead of his trial in an alleged multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme. (KSFY Television via AP)
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) Polygamous leader Lyle Jeffs’ one-year run from justice was ended by pliers, sharp-eyed pawn shop workers and an astute off-duty detective in a small town in South Dakota. The events leading to Jeffs’ capture Wednesday in a lakeside area near the South Dakota-Nebraska state line where he was living out of his truck started a day earlier when a pawn shop owner called police about a man who had come to his shop twice acting nervous and fidgety. After Jeffs sold two pairs of Leatherman pliers for $37 and provided his ID on Tuesday, a suspicious employee at River City Treasures and Pawn in Yankton looked up online the name he had been given and realized the man was wanted by the FBI, owner Kevin Haug said in an interview Thursday.
Haug said Jeffs re-arranged his name during the transaction, going by Jeffs Lyle Steed.
“That was his shot at fooling everybody,” Haug said. Haug alerted police and his employee called the FBI providing authorities with store video of Jeffs, pawn paperwork bearing his information and the vehicle Jeffs was driving: A silver Ford-F-150 pickup truck.
“Every once in a while, when someone’s weird, we look into them for no apparent reason other than we’re just bored sometimes,” Haug said. The tip proved to be the break the FBI had been craving since Jeffs used olive oil to slip out of his ankle monitor and escape home confinement in Utah on June 18, 2016, ahead of his trial in an alleged multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme.
Authorities ramped up their search for Jeffs based on the tip, and an off-duty Yankton police detective spotted Jeffs going into a bathroom at a marina-resort area next to picturesque Lewis and Clark Lake and then as Jeffs drove through the marina, Yankton County Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Rothschadl said. Jeffs complied with officers when he was arrested and acknowledged he was the fugitive they had been searching for, said Eric Barnhart, FBI special agent in charge for the Salt Lake City Division. Authorities believe he had been in the area for about two weeks, running low on resources and struggling without the help of fellow sect members, Barnhart said. A falling out with his brother Warren Jeffs, who runs the sect while serving a life prison sentence in Texas for sexual assault of underage brides, led to the lack of support, the FBI has said.
Their group, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is based in a small community on the Utah-Arizona border. Members of the sect believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The group is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago. The group also has a small compound in far west South Dakota that was established more than a decade ago. Known to the faithful as “R23,” the compound sits along a gravel road, secluded by tall pine trees, a privacy fence and a guard tower. Lyle Jeffs was some six hours from that compound when he was captured. Barnhart said they do not know yet if he spent time there during his year on the lam.
He said the FBI is working to determine if the unidentified tipster will get paid the $50,000 reward. Haug said if he gets a reward, he would take a vacation.
“That’s not why I did it, but if they’re going to offer it we kind of gave them the tip that he was here,” Haug said. “That would be nice.”
Jeffs will likely face at least one new felony charge connected to his time on the run, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said. In a federal court appearance Thursday in Sioux Falls, Jeffs waived a detention hearing until he returns to Utah in coming days to face the pending food stamp fraud charges, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah. Jeffs was the last of the defendants in the food stamp fraud case still behind bars when U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart last year in June reversed an earlier decision and granted his release. Prosecutors argued Jeffs was a flight risk.
“You have those times when you don’t want to say, ‘I told you so,’ but that’s kind of where we’re at,” Huber said Thursday. “We had very serious concerns.”
McCombs reported from Salt Lake City.
by Larry D. Curtis and D.J. Bolerjack, KUTV
Lyle Jeffs (Photo: Police)
(KUTV) Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leader Lyle Jeffs is behind bars in South Dakota almost a year after fleeing federal custody in Utah. Sources told KUTV Wednesday evening that Lyle Jeffs, 56, had been located in South Dakota. Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, confirmed Thursday he was being held with no bond on a Federal Marshals Service hold, meaning Jeffs’ warrant for arrest was issued by a United States District Court.
The jail’s website lists Jeffs as an inmate as of 11:43 p.m. June 14. Jeffs fled custody in 2016, less than two weeks after a judge allowed him to await federal trial from a Salt Lake County area home.
Lyle Jeffs is a religious leader and brother to Warren Jeffs, who leads the FLDS Church, a sect of Mormonism that reveres him as God’s prophet on earth. Warren Jeffs is currently jailed for child rape and leads the FLDS church from there, according to federal authorities.
Warren Jeffs was convicted of child rape of one of his underage brides in what his religion considers a “spiritual marriage” and was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years. DNA evidence showed he fathered a child with a then 15-year-old girl in 2008.
Lyle Jeffs was known to correspond with his brother, including since he has been avoiding federal custody. The U.S. Attorney in Utah has issued a warrant for the arrest of Lyle Jeffs, who absconded home confinement.
The FBI said in June 2016 that it was leading the investigation and search for Lyle Jeffs with the assistance of local and federal law enforcement.
Warren Jeffs’ son, Thomas Jeffs, told KUTV in 2016 that FLDS followers and family would be expected to help him while he evaded authorities and those who did not help could face consequence from the FLDS community. Private investigator Sam Brower posted a letter he said was between the Jeffs brothers on Facebook months ago. Lyle Jeffs was awaiting trial on conspiracy charges that include a multi-million dollar food stamp scheme and money laundering, was granted release from jail on June 9, 2016
KUTV spoke with Lyle Jeffs shortly after a judge granted him home confinement.
Lyle Jeffs, a leader in the polygamist communities in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, was one of 11 members of the FLDS church who was facing charges of conspiracy to commit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The home confinement order allowed Lyle Jeffs, who was to stay at a home somewhere in Salt Lake County, to leave the residence for doctors appointments, religious services and a job.