Brothers charged with delivering, manufacturing marijuana

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Seven months after a fire enveloped a house in the 6800 block of Apple Blossom, two men have been arrested for delivering and manufacturing marijuana in the house.

Twenty-six-year-old Joseph Semma and 25-year-old Justin Semma were charged with two-count felonies for delivering and manufacturing 5 to 45 kilograms of marijuana. One count is for 28 pounds of loose marijuana, and the other count is for the 28 mature and 28 immature marijuana plants found in the house, according to West Bloomfield Police Detective Pete Canelopoulos.

The brothers were arraigned in 48th District Court Sept. 10. Joseph Semma received a $10,000 or 10 percent cash/surety bond, and Justin Semma received a $5,000 or 10 percent cash/surety bond.

Neil Rockind, defense attorney for Joseph Semma, said that at this time, not much is known about the allegations.

“After speaking with my client, however, I anticipate a prompt and favorable outcome once the court proceedings get underway. As is our practice, we will let our work in the courtroom speak for itself,” Rockind said.

Justin Semma did not have an attorney on file with the district court at press time.

Fire crews from Fire Station No. 2 arrived at the house at around 9 p.m. Dec. 29, 2014, and found the garage of the approximately 4,000-square-foot house fully involved in the fire. Heavy smoke was reportedly coming from the roof, and the fire had spread to a vehicle parked in the driveway.

Crews from four fire stations responded to the fire, and crew members initially set up operations for an offensive attack. After several explosions occurred, crew members entered into defensive operations. The explosions were originally thought to be caused by fireworks, but after the fire, firefighters found compressed gas cylinders. The structure was presumed to be a total loss.

West Bloomfield Deputy Fire Marshal Byron Turnquist said the fire is still under investigation.

West Bloomfield police officers recovered 80-90 cans of butane from the house, and Canelopoulos said that officers believe the brothers were making marijuana wax. A limited amount of wax was recovered at the house, but “whatever was left was pretty much burned up,” which is why the brothers are not being charged for the wax, Canelopoulos said.

“We know they were making wax, but even making wax, they didn’t purposely set the fire,” Canelopoulos said. “(Wax) is supposed to be very, very potent and very dangerous to make. … When you make this, you have a 50-50 chance of your house catching fire.”

via C&G News

Police urged to more quickly return biological evidence

SOUTHFIELD (AP) >> A former prosecutor is among those who want Michigan State Police to quickly return biological evidence collected from crime suspects after acquittal.

The agency can store samples containing DNA such as blood for months after a case is resolved, unless a court intervenes, The Detroit News reported. But Neil Rockind, a former assistant Oakland County prosecutor, said police shouldn’t keep biological property.

“We’re starting to see a scaling back of individual rights because the police have such great power and are overreaching,” said Rockind, who runs a Southfield-based firm. “The state of science today is nothing compared to what it will be in two or five years.”

State police spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said biological samples are destroyed two years after they’re collected, but can be kept longer if, for example, prosecutors’ offices request it. Brown said they destroy a blood samples sooner if ordered by a court.

“We retain blood samples for two years because of the potential for retesting and/or additional testing, if ordered by the courts,” Brown said. “The two-year time period provides sufficient time for a case to make it through adjudication.”

The cost of storing the samples is minimal, the agency said.

Rockind was involved in a legal effort to have authorities return the blood sample of a client who was acquitted of a drunken driving charge. He said state police told him his client’s blood samples belonged to the police agency that drew the blood.

An Oakland County judge disagreed and state police released the sample.

“The worry is that they have someone’s DNA and health profile,” Rockind said. “What if the lab mixes up the blood sample? I don’t like the state having that much of a person’s biological property. There is no reason to keep it if the person is acquitted.”

Body fluid samples are not returned to individuals without a court order because that could present a bio-hazard and jeopardize public safety, Michigan State University forensics specialist David Foran said.

Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union, said her organization has been working on the issue of “biological property.” The ACLU was behind efforts to get a provision into law to make sure a person’s DNA is destroyed after the individual is cleared of a crime.

“DNA tells a person’s life story,” Weisberg said.

via Macomb Daily


The joy of the jury

By: Neil Rockind in News Stories

July 24, 2015

“I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine

True then. True today. For 22 years, I have witnessed the magic of juries. Juries breathe life into an overly mechanical and technical legal system. Ask me the one “right” that is indispensable to our society. While some would choose free speech or the right to be free from unlawful searches, I’d say the right to trial by jury. Arguing to Jury.

Perhaps my love for juries stems from my family’s plight. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, chased to this country by homicidal maniacs. There was no jury to deem their innocence or guilt even though no crime had been committed, just a blanket Nazi death sentence for being Jewish.

When my 5th grade teacher accused me of an indiscretion and wouldn’t allow me to defend myself, I was punished for something I did not do. No jury of my peers. I never forgot what it is like to not have a voice or an opportunity to explain myself — or to have someone else consider the situation. You know those childhood moments that shape you? This was mine.

My innocence in that particular situation notwithstanding, school was difficult for me. I struggled in school with what was certainly undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. At the time, there was no such diagnosis. We were labeled “bad kids.” Paying attention, following detailed homework assignments and test taking — staples of elementary and high school education — flummoxed me.

The worse I did in school, the more I disliked school. Ultimately I compensated for my difficulties by learning to communicate verbally, face to face, person to person. But I still struggled. A proud graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, I attended Oakland Community College for one year before transferring. I still see myself as the underdog — and ultimately chose to defend the underdog, too. But I could never do it without a jury.

Ah, the joy of the jury! The cornerstone of our legal system.

In Alice in Wonderland, during the trial of the thief of the queen’s tarts, Alice repeatedly advises the king and others that the jury must not decide the case until they have the facts. In this simple example, we see the value of the jury: the king cannot tell the jury what to do. The one limitation on the power of the monarch was a jury.

History lesson: William the Conqueror brought to England a system of having witnesses who knew about a matter to tell a court of law what they knew. The English word juror comes from the Old French jurer which means “to swear.” In 12th Century England, juries were a tool for the king, employed to discover and present facts in answer to questions by the king.

By the end of the 15th century, the jury system came to be regarded as the most valuable feature of English common law, but it was not until the late 17th century that a jury could return a verdict of “not guilty” and not be in fear of fines or imprisonment. Hardly the impartial jury we now rely upon!

In the United States, the jury system became more important after the Revolutionary War. The right to trial by a jury of one’s peers became a symbol of the overthrown power of the king. Our ideal of equal justice for all probably could not have evolved without this strong belief in the wisdom of the jury.

Of all my responsibilities as a trial attorney, I find jury selection both sacred and the most rewarding. I love selecting a jury! I think if more citizens were aware of the significance behind their civic obligation, they would relish the opportunity to serve.

Well, maybe not relish, but at least they might not dread it — and instead, fully commit to upholding this foundation of freedom set forth in our U.S. Constitution.

Neil Rockind is a criminal defense attorney and founder of Southfield, Michigan-based Rockind Law. In 2015, he was named a Michigan Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

via Michigan Lawyers Weekly

Rockind Law welcomes paralegal to its professional team

Southfield, Mich. — July 23, 2015 — Neil Rockind, founder of Southfield-based criminal defense law firm, Rockind Law, announces that Breanna Weiner has joined the firm as a paralegal.

“We are pleased to welcome Breanna Weiner to our team as we continue our tradition of outstanding client service and advocacy,” Rockind said. “Whether an attorney or paralegal, all members of Rockind Law hold a professional degree to provide our clients with superior legal representation in criminal defense.”

In her role as paralegal at Rockind Law, Weiner will assist with legal research and fact-finding, draft legal documents and assist the legal team with casework and trial preparation.

Immediately prior to joining Rockind Law, Weiner worked as a receptionist at the law offices of Moss and Colella. Previous experience includes working as a legal assistant and in a variety of customer service roles.

Weiner holds a Paralegal Associate of Business degree from Baker College and is a graduate of Clawson High School.

Rockind Law is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its founding in 2015.

About Rockind Law  

Rockind Law is a Southfield, Michigan-based criminal defense law firm aggressively pursuing justice for individuals facing criminal charges, including white collar crime, drunk driving, narcotics and assault.  To find out more about the firm’s services and resources, visit

Brothers-in-law plead guilty in $1.7 million food stamp scam

TROY — A Troy man and his brother-in-law from Shelby Township will serve time in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding customers in a food stamp scam at their Detroit store from June 2007 through December 2011.

U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh III sentenced Adnan Kejbou, 47, of Troy, to 21 months in prison, and Ayad Yatooma, 44, of Shelby Township, was sentenced to serve 18 months.

In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Steeh sentenced the men June 25 and 30, respectively.

Both pleaded guilty to over $1.7 million in food stamp fraud, which they engaged in at Caesar Food Center on West McNichols in Detroit, the store they owned and operated, which was an authorized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, dealer.

According to court documents, the two perpetrated fraud known as discounting, in which SNAP benefits issued to legitimate beneficiaries were sold to the store at a 50 percent discount. As a result, the SNAP customers only received half of the value of their SNAP benefits, while 100 percent of the benefits were credited to the store’s account. Kejbou and Yatooma also sold cigarettes and liquor, unauthorized SNAP products, in exchange for SNAP benefits, at inflated prices.

Upon their release from prison, Kejbou and Yatooma are ordered to serve two years probation and pay $1.74 million in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Assets of the store and the store itself were seized.

Kejbou’s attorney could not be reached for comment before press time.

“He stepped up and accepted his responsibility for his participation,” said Yatooma’s attorney, Neil Rockind. “Eddie (Ayad) found himself in a very difficult situation, taking over a family business and essentially continuing doing things. … In hindsight, he wishes he acted differently, sold his interest in the company or backed away.”

The USDA-Office of Inspector General investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Weier prosecuted the case. He could not be reached for comment before press time.

via C & G News

Gorcyca: Parental alienation is issue in Bloomfield Hills divorce case

The two buzz words that came out of an Oakland County divorce case last week were “kids” and “jail.”

When Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca sentenced three children to the Oakland County Children’s Village maximum security youth facility those words garnered the headlines. Two other words are more significant in family courts these days – parental alienation.

Gorcyca and other people involved in the Tsimhoni case acknowledge that alienation has become a significant issue within the divorce. Their parents, Maya and Omer, are now in their fifth year of trying to work out a feasible situation for everyone involved.

Three children sentenced

State and local officials have been sounding off on the case since Gorcyca made her ruling on June 24 and subsequently reversed it on July 10 and sent the children – ages 14, 10 and 9 – to a summer camp.Friday’s order to release them to summer camp

The backlash the case has received is based on the apparent drastic action taken by Gorcyca.

“No child should be jailed for trying to stay safe,” Mary Keefe, Executive Director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCEDSV) said the day after Gorcyca’s ruling. “It is equally outrageous and telling that the children’s father has left for a trip to Israel and the children remain in juvenile custody. The court seems to rely on the long debunked theory of parental alienation as a rational reason for the detention.”

State and local officials have been sounding off about the case

The judge was looking to have the children sit down and have a meal with their father and when they refused, all three opted to go to Children’s Village.

The case has garnered international attention

Based on court documents, all of the rancor and animosity in the case appears to stem from an incident at a West Bloomfield park in August of 2010.

A scheduled visit with their father devolved into two of the children being locked in a car to protect themselves from him. The third child avoided him while perched atop a piece of playground equipment and later claimed that the father threatened to kill him if he did not get down.

Police reports were filed after one of the children called 911 from inside the car and their mother claimed that the father struck her outside of the vehicle.

A West Bloomfield police report found no probable cause to make an arrest at the time, but the father later admitted that he took his son down by force in order to put him in a time-out.

Reports throughout the case files claim that that incident, along with the fact that the children felt abandoned when their father took a job with General Motors in Israel in late 2009, are at the heart of the children’s fear and animosity toward their father that the courts have been trying to rectify for the past four years.

Ms. Tsimhoni filed for divorce in December of 2009.

Multiple supervisors, visitation sites, communication alternatives and therapists have rotated in and out of the case since then and left Gorcyca frustrated.

Gorcyca voiced her opinions on how severe the parental alienation was during a February 2012 hearing by explaining things to Ms. Tsimhoni, the alleged blockade to the children having a relationship with their father.

“I see kids who have been physically abused, tortured, raped, that still want to talk to their father; that still respect their father,” she said after reading a report by a parenting time coordinator on the case. “Your kids have none of those things.”

Last Friday, Gorcyca again let it be known that every other avenue had been investigated before handing down her contempt ruling.

“Every alternative presented to this court has been exhausted,” she said. “This is a custody arrangement that has become completely harmful to the children’s well being.”

Gorcyca pointed out at her July 10 hearing that the children were not sent to the maximum security section of Children’s Village, but rather to Mandy’s Place. That area of the facility is billed as short-term housing for kids who have been removed from abusive homes.

A representative of Mandy’s Place reported that the children were making “slow, but hopefully steady progress.”

Meanwhile, Gorcyca has said that Mr. Tsimhoni has had no criminal charges filed against him, no warrants issued and according to the judge has “moved mountains to be a part of these children’s lives”.

On the other hand, despite her claims after the judge’s ruling on July 10 to transfer the children from Mandy’s Place that none of the claims of hindering the process of allowing the children to have a relationship with their father were true, Ms. Tsimhoni agreed to spend a day in detention back in March and spent time volunteering at an animal shelter for violating Gorcyca’s orders.

Although some believe the term “parental alienation” to be an unsubstantiated clinical term, it has been prevalent in this case.

Court documents show one psychological evaluation did not go as far as formalizing “Parental Alienation Syndrome” as a specific diagnosis, but did state that “the Tsimhoni children are alienated from their father”.

Neil Rockind, founder of Southfield-based criminal defense law firm, Rockind Law, expressed opposition to Gorcyca’s decision to send the children to the county’s juvenile detention center for contempt of court.

“Regardless of whether the children want communication and a relationship with their father, they are still children and learned their behaviors from one or both parents,” Rockind said. “The key point, though, is they committed no crime.”

Murray Davis, Board President of the National Family Justice Association Midwest Office in Southfield, does advocate for the use of the term.

“Court records appear to indicate the children are the victims of tenacious parental alienation against their father by their mother,” he said in a statement.

Davis is also one of the few who stood by the decision to temporarily take the children away from not one, but both parents.

“She (Gorcyca) should be praised and respected for attempting a just resolution that permitted both [responsible] parents to exercise their rights to be actively engaged in the lives of their children despite their acrimonious divorce,” he said.

The case is set to go back to court for a review on July 20.

via Oakland Press