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true crime

8/26/14 5:30pm

Utah Woman Gets Five Years for Helping Dump Babysitter’s Body

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In the case of Alexis Rasmussen’s death, many of the facts regarding Dea Millerberg’s involvement were clear: the Utah resident and her husband, Eric Millerberg, had employed the 16-year-old as a babysitter and provided the girl with an array of drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine, while engaging in a sexual relationship.

On September 10, 2011, Eric Millerberg injected himself, his wife, and Rasmussen with the aforementioned substances, which led to the babysitter's death from an overdose. The girl’s badly decomposed body was found in a shallow grave a month later, which led to an investigation into the couple’s involvement.

Eric Millerberg was eventually convicted of three felonies, including desecration of a human body, and received the maximum sentence of six years to life. The question that remained in the case was the degree to which Dea Millenberg was involved in the disposal of Rasmussen’s body. On August 21, a state judge in Utah provided the answer by sentencing her to five years in prison.

Millerberg’s attorney had asked for probation, citing the fact that she had agreed to testify against her husband, despite death threats he levied against her, and that she had led a relatively clean life in the three years after Rasmussen’s death. She had suffered from drug and alcohol addiction issues since her early teens, and had endured abuse at the hands of both Eric Millerberg and a previous husband.

The defense attempted to portray Millerberg as a model case of recovery, having regained custody of her children in the wake of her husband’s sentencing. But prosecutors were quick to note that Millerberg was using drugs with her husband prior to and at the time of Rasmussen’s death, and was an active participant in the disposal of the girl’s body, rather than an innocent bystander. With their six-year-old daughter at home and their baby in the car, the couple drove Rasmussen’s body to a remote wooded area for burial.

In his closing statements, Judge W. Brent West called Millerberg’s actions heinous and depraved, and added that he would have handed down a harsher sentence had she not agreed to testify against her husband. “She lost all her common sense, and was not in a position to help Alexis when she needed her the most,” West said.

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By Paul Gaita

smoking teens

8/26/14 3:30pm

Electronic Cigarettes Tempt Non-Smoking Teens to Smoke

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Though electronic cigarettes have been heralded by fans as quit-smoking devices, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the popular tobacco product could actually be tempting more youths into smoking. And when they've tried smoking e-cigs, teens are more likely to switch to traditional cigarettes.

The CDC's study, based on nationally representative youth surveys, found that a quarter-million teens who never smoked before tried an e-cigarette in 2013, which was three times the amount in 2011. Those who have tried cigarettes were also twice as likely to say they would try smoking a conventional cigarette than a person who didn't try electronic smokes.

Health experts are concerned that the fast-growing $2 billion e-cigarette industry could undermine years of successful anti-smoking work in the U.S. Only 15.7% of U.S. teens reported smoking in 2013, a record low.

Anti-smoking forces aren't taking the e-cig invasion lying down. Back in April, the Food and Drug Administration proposed rules banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under 18, but did not propose any restrictions on flavors, online sales, and advertising—the elements most likely to attract children. Attorneys general from 29 states urged the FDA to strengthen these rules earlier this months.

"We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Not only is nicotine highly addictive, it can harm adolescent brain development."

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By Bryan Le

marijuana taxation

8/26/14 1:00pm

State Marijuana Taxation Upheld by Courts...For Now

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State and federal governments have created a major marijuana catch-22 with the taxation of marijuana sales. On the one hand, if the states charge sales tax on marijuana it violates the buyer’s Fifth Amendment rights, or the right to not incriminate yourself. With marijuana taxation, however, buyers are forced to disclose their identity and risk federal prosecution for buying a drug that is federally illegal to possess despite state laws.

So far a Colorado tax on marijuana has been upheld by a state court despite claims that paying it amounts to self-incrimination violating the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiffs wanted taxes on recreational pot outlawed, reasoning that they require businesses and consumers to implicate themselves in federal crimes.

The plaintiffs lost their attempt at acquiring an injunction, but the lawsuit is far from over. The lawsuit challenging the taxes is quite clear: by making the buyer of marijuana pay these taxes the government is forcing the buyer to admit to the government that they are violating federal law. While the lawsuit has legs, it has been difficult procuring witnesses to testify because the testimony would be incriminating as well.

Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal and a controlled substance, even for medical use. And the gulf between federal law and recreational marijuana seems even bigger, with the tax problems of the industry remaining a major impediment.

In 2013, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced two pieces of legislation to de-federalize marijuana policy and create a framework for the federal taxation of marijuana. Polis’ Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act would remove the Drug Enforcement Agency’s authority over marijuana and allow states to choose whether to allow marijuana for medicinal or recreational use. Blumenauer’s Marijuana Tax Equity Act would create a federal excise tax on marijuana. Together, these bills would provide a system of regulation and taxation for marijuana in states where it is legal.

Colorado’s tax law is bringing in considerable revenue, and that may influence attempts to derail the law. Early reports suggested that the taxes might be attacked as unconstitutionally high. But the Fifth Amendment assertions are more sophisticated. As medical marijuana has gained widespread acceptance and now recreational marijuana is taking hold, the federal versus state conflict only grows deeper.

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By Desiree Bowie

porn vs. religion

8/26/14 10:30am

LDS Church Tackles 'Pornography Addiction'

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is putting their energy towards stamping out pornography, claiming that it’s addictive and the work of Satan.

The Mormon Church has released a new video titled Overcoming Pornography Addiction: The Healing Power of Jesus Christ and included resources on its website about how to recover from pornography addiction. Several therapists and clinics in Utah County, considered to be the heart of the LDS community, also claim to specialize in working with clients to overcome addictions to porn.

"It is difficult to overcome. It's different than drugs or alcohol. We can put you in a room and clean your body of those," said Dr. Russell Gaede of the Life Enhancement Center in Provo. "Porn is in the brain. You carry it 24/7 and you can access it any time. It’s like a wave in the ocean. A mile out it may start out as a little tremor and it gets bigger and bigger.”

Adam Moore, clinical director of Utah Valley Counseling in Provo, said that nearly 80% of those who come to his clinic have some sort of sexual addiction. He rejected the notion that viewing porn is normal, believing instead that it destroys families and corrupts youth.

"It is becoming more and more known that compulsive sexual behaviors are damaging to relationships. It's a huge problem in Utah County,” he said. "The challenge kids face is the porn now days is not the same. It is more violent and deviant and they have instant access."

The LDS Chuch also utilizes a 12-Step program for its addicts that’s based on the program used by Alcoholics Anonymous. The programs are run by trained church service missionaries, but stress the same importance of anonymity in their meetings.

However, the church has disregarded the fact pornography addiction is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and does not consider it to be a mental health problem. The American Society of Addiction Medicine recognized “sexual behavior addiction” in 2011, but does not explicitly include porn addiction.

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By McCarton Ackerman

another suspension

8/26/14 8:30am

Yet Another NFL Player Gets Suspended for Substance Abuse

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Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater was facing a year-long suspension from the NFL over a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but has managed to negotiate his punishment down to just four games.

Prater was charged with DUI and leaving the scene of a crash in August 2011, and has been enrolled in the league’s alcohol program ever since. His attorney, Harvey Steinberg, said the NFL star only had a “couple beers” while on vacation and suggested that the league’s policy should be revised.

"No one feels worse about this than Matt Prater," said Steinberg. "He feels terribly for his teammates. It's cost him personally, both professionally and financially. I wonder if we shouldn't take a second look at the policy when only a couple beers were consumed at home while he was on vacation. Having said that, the NFL under the constraints of the policy couldn't have treated us better."

It is unclear what stage of the league’s intervention program that Prater was in, although suspensions can only be administered once a player is in Stage Two. A player moves to Stage Three as a result of two positive tests, two instances of non-compliance, or one of each. Stage Three is the only stage where one year suspensions are doled out.

Once a player moves into Stage Two, they become subject to random drug testing. Tampering with specimens or missing a test because they failed to inform the medical director that they would be on vacation also counts as a positive test. But the current policy language only allows a player to be suspended for one year if they were previously suspended during their time in the program.

Earlier this month, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick was suspended for four games after testing positive for MDMA. He claimed to have taken the substance unknowingly, but accepted the consequences for his actions after an unsuccessful appeal last April.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

8/26/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Aug. 26, 2014

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...nachos, beans and a new husband. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

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