Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

Special Episode: Gilbert Goons Criminal Law Edition

December 26, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Special Episode: Gilbert Goons Criminal Law Edition
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
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Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
Special Episode: Gilbert Goons Criminal Law Edition
Dec 26, 2023
Attorney Billie Tarascio

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Something very weird is going on in our host's backyard, the town of Gilbert, Arizona. Billed as one of the safest cities of its size in the country, the facade has been pierced by the October murder of a teenage boy in a nearby town with ties to a 'fight club' group based in Gilbert calling itself the Gilbert Goons. 

Parents have been alarmed at uncovering a collection of ill-conceived social media posts among high schoolers in the area showing drugs, weapons and "thrill beatings" that have been taking place with some regularity  over the past year - all without any apparent action by law enforcement.

In this special episode, Billie Tarascio, as a concerned mother of teenagers, talks with criminal defense attorney Lance Standage, based in Kansas, who pulls back the curtain on what happens when gang-like activity occurs and how police and the FBI put together a case.

As an ardent social media poster herself, Billie has been getting private messages from many local parents who have asked her to explain the legal aspects of the case, and shed some light on why no arrests have been made so far.

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Something very weird is going on in our host's backyard, the town of Gilbert, Arizona. Billed as one of the safest cities of its size in the country, the facade has been pierced by the October murder of a teenage boy in a nearby town with ties to a 'fight club' group based in Gilbert calling itself the Gilbert Goons. 

Parents have been alarmed at uncovering a collection of ill-conceived social media posts among high schoolers in the area showing drugs, weapons and "thrill beatings" that have been taking place with some regularity  over the past year - all without any apparent action by law enforcement.

In this special episode, Billie Tarascio, as a concerned mother of teenagers, talks with criminal defense attorney Lance Standage, based in Kansas, who pulls back the curtain on what happens when gang-like activity occurs and how police and the FBI put together a case.

As an ardent social media poster herself, Billie has been getting private messages from many local parents who have asked her to explain the legal aspects of the case, and shed some light on why no arrests have been made so far.

Gilbert Goons Special Edition Audio

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Billie Tarascio: Hello, welcome to the Modern Divorce Podcast. Special edition, I'm Billie Tarascio today joined by Lance Sandage, a good friend of mine who is taking time out of his Christmas Eve to join me to talk about what is happening in our community with the Gilbert Goons and the crime going on. Lance, welcome to the show.

Billie Tarascio: How you doing? 

Lance Sandage: Good, Billie. Happy, happy holidays and Merry Christmas. 

Billie Tarascio: Thank you. Thank you. Okay, so a couple disclaimers. I'm an Arizona attorney. Lance is in Kansas. He is not an Arizona attorney and nevertheless he is going to be giving us his [00:02:00] expertise in criminal law and help us understand this investigation of what might be going on.

Billie Tarascio: None of what I am saying or Lance is saying is your legal advice. Get your own lawyer, all that jazz. So Lance, um, how long have you been practicing criminal law? 

Lance Sandage: Uh, I've been practicing 29 years exclusively criminal for probably the last 27 or 28 years. 

Billie Tarascio: Okay, and you've been involved in a lot of cases involving FBI, gangs, complex investigations.

Lance Sandage: I mean, that's kind of our sweet spot. We're a small law firm in, based in Kansas City. We are two per two person law firm with a paralegal. And we do handle complex criminal investigations, both violent crime and white collar. Um, I've done capital litigations, so I've defended people charged with murders that if convicted could face the death penalty.

Lance Sandage: So yeah, we've kind of experienced all of that over the last 28 years. 

Billie Tarascio: Awesome. Well, I appreciate you giving me your expertise. [00:03:00] 

Lance Sandage: I don't know if that'll be expertise, but I'm glad to provide whatever value to you and others that I can. 

Billie Tarascio: One of the things you asked me before we hopped on is like, why am I interested in this?

Billie Tarascio: Why am I even talking about this? Why am I spending time and resources on something that is outside of my area of practice? Um, and it's because I have teenagers and I live in this community and Gilbert is ranked the second safest city in the country of our size. And so we, um, thought that we basically lived in a place that was crime free and just in the last two weeks have become aware of That not being true.

Billie Tarascio: Me, for me, it's been in the last two weeks, I found out that, um, there is a group of teenagers or multiple groups that are terrorizing the community and regularly engaging in awful, awful assaults, and so now it's all coming out of [00:04:00] nowhere, and so we're dealing, I think, as a community with 

Lance Sandage: Yeah, that, I mean, that, yeah, we all don't want that in our community, that's pretty a fair statement.

Lance Sandage: I live in a, in a community where crime is relatively low as well, and it's scary when you hear about that stuff, so it makes sense, 

Billie Tarascio: Billie. Yeah, and we're talking in our backyards, like in places that I'm at all the time, and I, I just, I never ever saw it. So, um, It's crazy and it's, I've got people, um, emailing me and DMing me saying, you know, my kids are scared and we tried to get help from the school and they're not helping us and nobody's talking and so it, it just feels like I feel a little bit of outrage.

Lance Sandage: That's fair. Well, uh, using your platform to, um, inform others is probably, there's probably value in that. So hopefully the community appreciates that. 

Billie Tarascio: I hope so. I hope so. I hope we can help, um, get this cleaned up and wrapped up, but let's [00:05:00] talk about kind of what's going on. So just a little bit of background.

Billie Tarascio: Um. I had heard that a boy was killed, um, and there were no arrests, but I didn't really understand what was happening until an azcentral article came out with allegations that, um, this boy who died, Preston Lord, was um, just the latest in a series of victims by the same or similar group of boys that was randomly attacking people and that they were identifying themselves as the Gilbert goons and that even since that attack on Preston that killed him, There have been other attacks that are recorded in public by these same groups of boys.

Billie Tarascio: And so yeah, the, the community is, is going crazy. And, and the other reason that the community is going crazy is because everybody pretty much thinks they know who was [00:06:00] involved in the attack based on Snapchat, social media posts, and what kids are saying. So tell me, have you ever seen anything like this?

Lance Sandage: I think that's pretty common, honestly. One, as a criminal defense attorney, I'm always going to say, uh, kids, anybody is always innocent until proven guilty. The state works at a very slow pace on these type of cases. It's not unusual. Um, and, um, Yeah, social media and today in 2023 and moving forward, it's a large part of almost every criminal investigation.

Lance Sandage: I, you know, I anecdotally will tell people that in the beginnings of our days, we would get a couple of binders of evidence, police reports and lab reports. And now it'll be. Thousands of gigabytes of information and most of it is social media or forensics off of people's phones. So, and that takes a lot of time, not only for a defense attorney or defensive team to look at, but also for the state when they're investigating.

Billie Tarascio: So when you [00:07:00] have this amount of evidence, does it actually make it harder or easier, um, in terms of criminal law, either defending or prosecuting? 

Lance Sandage: Um, I can't really speak specifically to a prosecutor. I mean, it's obviously anytime there's more volume that slows things down and that can kind of be a pressure point exactly of what you're talking about.

Lance Sandage: The community, the pressure point the community might have. They want, uh, immediate justice or reaction or something done and, and the state is going to be, um, careful in that because there's a lot of evidence that they have to go through and they're not going to, uh, bring charges until they felt like they have a handle on all of that evidence.

Lance Sandage: Um, as far as a defense, a defense attorney or defending somebody, yeah, it's very challenging, um, because there's just so much to go through and candidly, um, Clients sometimes don't make the best decisions. That's why they become my clients. Um, and then also, they talk about it, and they [00:08:00] record it on videos, or they, uh, social media, and so that's there forever, um, in most cases.

Lance Sandage: And then it comes back, and, um, you sit through a trial where you listen to phone, jail phone calls, or you watch videos of people, you know, your client recording things, or pictures from Facebook, and you can't, it's hard to defend that sometimes. Sure. 

Billie Tarascio: Okay. Um, one of the things that people are talking about is civil lawsuits, um, and Whether or not these parents are liable, whether or not they can be sued, what's your take on that?

Lance Sandage: I mean, it's not uncommon in any, uh, in any criminal case, there's always going to generally be a parallel or another claim, a civil claim where, um, The plaintiff, the person that brings a lawsuit, would have some sort of, uh, in a civil lawsuit, there's money in play, where in criminal cases, it's, um, uh, freedom, candidly.

Lance Sandage: And so, [00:09:00] yeah, there's always parallel claims that can be had. Um, you know, more often than not, you don't see the civil claims until after criminal cases have either been brought or, often until they've been concluded either by a guilty plea or a trial with a conviction or no little. And, you know, I think the example that I, that I give in these situations when talking to clients and people is, um, I think OJ Simpson trial, even though that seems like forever ago, that's a really, I think a simple example, right?

Lance Sandage: Uh, OJ was tried, acquitted of the criminal case. And then soon thereafter, the Brown family brought a civil suit against them. Uh, for basically the exact same claims and got a civil judgment against them. So, I think that's how you see it more often, is criminal and then civil, but there's nothing keeping them both from happening at the same time.

Billie Tarascio: If you do the civil suit, well, actually, in, do the, do the criminal and the civil suits, they both have their own discovery process. They both get to gather their own information. Doesn't it get shared? 

Lance Sandage: Uh, no. Not [00:10:00] normally. The state who normally has the evidence in a criminal investigation will not share that evidence in a civil case.

Lance Sandage: So the 

Billie Tarascio: victims won't get the evidence that the prosecution 

Lance Sandage: has. I mean, this would be one of those times where I can't really weigh in on what Arizona law might look like, but I will say this, that the general rules are that civil law enforcement or prosecutor's office are not required to turn over discovery to civil lawyers, especially before a criminal case has been brought.

Billie Tarascio: Sure. That makes sense. Okay. Okay. So in this case, um, One of the issues is that you've got crimes happening in multiple jurisdictions that people are now, um, tying together as gang activities. So we've got a whole lot of, like, layers to discuss here, and one of the municipalities has invited the, um, FBI in to aid in the, in the [00:11:00] investigation.

Billie Tarascio: What, why does that happen? 

Lance Sandage: Um, you know, anytime, smaller communities have resource restrictions, so they just don't have the ability to do an investigation that is complex in nature. I don't know if that's the case for this community, but it's not unheard of that the federal government has a lot of resources.

Lance Sandage: And the FBI has digital teams that can look at social media and do cell phone investigations, and maybe local law enforcement doesn't. have that. Um, and, you know, look, uh, the federal government, FBI, they, they are, um, the best at investigating complex, difficult cases. And so they might just ask for some help on that.

Lance Sandage: I don't think it means, um, that anybody should read into it that the federal government is investigating these crimes, but then again, they might be as well. Oh, okay. 

Billie Tarascio: So just because the FBI comes in to aid an investigation does not mean [00:12:00] that federal crimes. will take place or that federal charges will be brought?

Lance Sandage: No, no. Okay. Not all. You, you see, you can see, uh, federal law enforcement in kidnapping cases or the, just complex cases they'll get involved in and share resources to help that community or that local law enforcement resolve that investigation. That does not mean that the federal government will also bring 

Billie Tarascio: charges.

Billie Tarascio: Another question that the community has is, if it's clear to the community, um, that somebody is guilty, why would law enforcement wait to make an 

Lance Sandage: arrest? Well, that's, that's a very difficult question to answer, honestly, and, um, it's hard for me since I'm a criminal defense attorney to try to jump into the head of a prosecutor, but, um, what the, what we, the community thinks and what the prosecutor thinks.

Lance Sandage: They have far more information at their disposal and [00:13:00] resources and evidence that we might not have. Um, that's one. Two, uh, there's a variety of different crimes that they could be investigating. One could be, um, the, the alleged assaults against, uh, the person, but there could be more in play and more people are being investigated for a wide range of crimes and so they don't want to disrupt that investigation by bringing one charge and they're looking at other charges.

Billie Tarascio: Okay, so if they're investigating multiple charges, let's say they're looking at drugs and assaults and, you know, sexual assaults or whatever, they'll wait to gather all the information before they charge any of the crimes. 

Lance Sandage: I think that's a fair way. I mean, like, it's a very, um, fact specific type of inquiry, what you're asking.

Lance Sandage: So, I don't think any two cases line up the same way. Um, you, and especially if you're talking about multiple jurisdictions involved, you, you know, law enforcement are going to have to [00:14:00] collaborate on that. And, uh, in, again, going back to something we talked about a few minutes ago, the, um, in the digital world and all of the social media and did that really does slow down investigations quite a bit.

Lance Sandage: Um, they have to be very particular about how they acquire it just because they see it on the internet that might not be admissible into court. So they have to go back to the source code, whether that's Facebook or Snapchat, and try to get it so they can bring it into evidence. Just because we see it doesn't mean that they could ever play it in front of a jury.

Billie Tarascio: I'm really glad you mentioned that. It makes a lot of sense, and it'll help answer a lot of questions that the public has. Another question that is coming up a lot is the question of vicarious liability, felony murder. Um, if there were many people involved in the assault that ended up killing the teenage boy, Preston, would all people involved be charged with murder?[00:15:00] 

Lance Sandage: If the state believes that they can find evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one or more people committed a crime that they can, uh, then they're free to bring those charges if they're ready to do that. It's hard, it's hard to say about. Um, those type of questions without knowing more of the facts.

Lance Sandage: And again, it, you know, it's easy to, to jump to conclusions when it just seems so plain and obvious, but there are just so many different things that are in play on the law enforcement side that they're trying to slow and steady. Honestly, even as a criminal defense attorney, it makes my case, my cases and my ability to defend harder.

Lance Sandage: But as a member of a community, you would want your law enforcement to get it right the first time because they, they don't get second chances. 

Billie Tarascio: Okay. And talk to me about co conspirator liability. How does that work? 

Lance Sandage: Uh, I don't know what, uh, Arizona's, if they even have a conspiracy statute, uh, [00:16:00] at the state level, but, um, in a conspiracy case, if, uh, I think, uh, maybe I'm a, I'm big on examples.

Lance Sandage: Um, if, uh, you decide to rob a bank, um, and, uh, you ask someone to be a getaway driver, and that person under agrees to be the getaway driver, but did not know that a co conspirator, somebody else who was robbing the bank, brought a gun, and they thought that there weren't gonna be guns involved, and they went in to rob the bank, and that person, uh, discharge the firearm, maybe even killing somebody, the getaway driver could be held responsible because that person agreed to conspire to commit the robbery, um, of the bank, and so therefore they're responsible for the, the collateral consequences from that.

Billie Tarascio: I do think that's relevant because at least the prevailing theory currently is that nobody, these boys didn't necessarily intend to kill Preston, but it [00:17:00] happened, and so if they intended to assault him. Then they could still be charged with murder. Is that correct? 

Lance Sandage: I mean, they're on most states have a variety of different homicide classifications murder and what we don't commonly call murder in the first degree that is premeditated murder that means that premeditation can happen very quickly, but it is that You were premeditated to kill that person.

Lance Sandage: Uh, then there's murder in the second degree, which is, uh, can be felony murder, like what you just asked earlier about, and it can also be what we call heat of passion, so a bar fight turns in and someone dies, that's, you know, that can sometimes be what we would consider murder in the second degree. And then there's what we normally call manslaughter, and that normally is some sort of reckless behavior that results in death.

Billie Tarascio: Okay. Normally, when juveniles are involved in crimes, are their parents held [00:18:00] accountable for anything? 

Lance Sandage: Um, again, I, I, that's a tough question. Um, I mean, a parent's Not always, not often, to answer your question. I mean, you know, we could come up with 100 examples where it would, and we can probably come up with 100 examples where it wouldn't, so I think the best answer to that question is the law enforcement is just going to examine the facts of the case and determine 

Billie Tarascio: all of that.

Billie Tarascio: Okay, so if, if parents knew about it, then is it possible they would be held responsible? 

Lance Sandage: I don't, what, um, what do you mean by knew? I mean, you know, I'll throw it back at you. What do you mean by knew about 

Billie Tarascio: it? I mean, I, yeah, so let's pretend, and I have no idea if this is true, this is completely hypothetical.

Billie Tarascio: Let's pretend that the parents Most of some children knew that their children were involved in activity that involved fighting random people. And the prosecution could prove that the parents knew that their children were [00:19:00] engaged in this type of activity. Do they have any liability? 

Lance Sandage: I think that'd be a really tough case.

Lance Sandage: So 

Billie Tarascio: now, most of the time, juveniles are independent of their parents, and their crimes are treated independently. 

Lance Sandage: I mean, I think that's probably a fair answer again. I'm not trying to backtrack on the answer, but that is so fact specific. Um, now civil liability, and I'm not a civil attorney, um, but civil liability might have a different answer to that question, but from a criminal liability standpoint, um, that's probably a pretty hard connection to make.

Lance Sandage: Yeah. 

Billie Tarascio: I don't know that I've ever heard of a parent being criminally charged for crimes of their children. I've never heard of that. Yeah. 

Lance Sandage: Yeah, I mean, it would be, you know, I've seen situations where there's been at least investigation or allegations where a young person, a juvenile is driving a [00:20:00] vehicle.

Lance Sandage: And they're aware that, uh, uh, that they've driven it recklessly. And then the parents are someone held responsible, or they try to make them being held responsible, or they have weapons in their home and they don't do a good enough job protect, restricting those weapons from their kids. And so you'll see an investigation into parents in those situations, house parties, where people get injured can sometimes, or a criminal behavior happens, parents can be investigated for that type of allowing that to 

Billie Tarascio: happen.

Billie Tarascio: Sure, and that, that may be an issue here since this assault happened at a house party hosted by a father, so we don't know what's happening there. Um, we do know that the police department said that they had executed over 59 search warrants at a certain point in time. Is any of that information public record?

Billie Tarascio: No. Um, are arrests public record? [00:21:00] 

Lance Sandage: No, not, not that I'm aware of. 

Billie Tarascio: Okay, so what, what is public when it comes to 

Lance Sandage: criminal records? If, if someone was arrested and charged, it would probably become a public record, but if you were to go up to the local police department and say, I want Lance's criminal record and I don't have any convictions, but I was arrested and never charged, you're probably not going to get a copy of that.

Billie Tarascio: Got it. Okay. Super helpful. Um, let's see. Have I missed anything? Can you, well, you've worked on cases with gangs. How are those treated differently from individual criminal cases? 

Lance Sandage: That's fair. Um, you know, I, I don't know if I, I've dealt with, uh, allegations that our clients have been involved in gangs that are normally involved in drug or, uh, robberies of location businesses, um, and, I mean, those are extremely [00:22:00] complex because those can trigger um, Very, um, I wouldn't want complex criminal statutes, um, because you're trying to do kind of what you've asked a couple different times is you're trying to hold, uh, individuals maybe irresponsible primarily, which means they go to prison for other people's conduct, right, and a gang's conduct.

Lance Sandage: And so, um, They're just, they're, they're way more involved and they require a lot of work on the behalf of law enforcement to try to connect those dots. It's a lot easier when there's just a, if it's a single crime of a single assault of two people in a, in a fight, then it's, I think it's easier for law enforcement to investigate that and bring a charge than if they're going to be trying to connect the dots and trying to figure out what a, a group of people, whether we call them on the, gang or an association or whatever.

Lance Sandage: We want to call them what they do collectively and if the gang has a goal, you know, are they put together? Is it really a truly a gang where they're doing it for financial [00:23:00] benefit or retribution in the, you know, for whatever the reason, or is it just a group of people that call themselves a gang, but they all kind of just do their own thing?

Lance Sandage: Okay, so all that matters. It all matters, yeah. I mean, yeah, absolutely. 

Billie Tarascio: Okay, wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate this. I think that the community will really appreciate these answers. I really do. So, um, I appreciate you and Merry Christmas. 

Lance Sandage: Yeah, bye bye, Billie. Have a good one.

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