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Dumb Criminals Part 2
Crimes and Misdemeanors by Joe Lavin
Yep, it's time for another exciting edition of Joe Plays With Confidential Files. It's a good thing I'm not a temp in the White House, or the whole scandal of the stolen FBI files would have been much bigger. Instead of writing about the applications that come through the law school where I work, I'd be writing long columns entitled, "The Distinguished Leaders of the Republican Party and the Porno Flicks They Rent."
Lately, I have been reading about crime. The law school application asks the applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime or misdemeanor. Most people say no, but occasionally -- and these are the really fun applications -- some people answer yes. So far, we've had one drunk driving arrest, one arrest for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and several underage drinking arrests.
Each of these applicants must explain what happened. Usually, these explanations go something like this:
"In December 1995, I was arrested along with my brother for killing my parents with a chainsaw. Frankly, I don't know what I was thinking. I was young and foolish at the time, and it was a terrible mistake, but now that I'm out on parole, I feel ready to go on with my life. Luckily, this whole incident has taught me a powerful lesson about the value of the law, and now I want to use my experiences to help people. I feel being a lawyer is the best way for me to help people and ever since decapitating my parents I have been very serious about my studies in the hopes of achieving my dream."
I exaggerate, but only slightly. The amazing thing is that these people seemed to have learned such amazing and valuable lessons from getting arrested. They learn so much I wonder why they even have to go to law school.
After reading one woman's account of her drunk driving arrest, I was practically ready to accept her right that minute. She had learned that even having one extra glass of wine could affect one's ability to drive. She was
grateful that while she saw others routinely drinking too much and driving, she now knew enough not to surpass her limit because, she stressed again, she had learned that even having one extra glass of wine could affect one's ability to drive. This, of course, had made her a better person. I forget how.
Even the guy who was arrested for drinking in a national park at age 18 claims to have learned something. However, it's important to note that he did not mention exactly what he had learned. He may have learned to be more
serious about life and not to throw everything away with foolish behavior. Or quite possibly he may simply have learned not to drink Bacardi 151 straight from the bottle, jump on top of a police cruiser and sing gangsta rap
while taking a leak on the windshield again.
And finally there's my favorite explanation from Kenneth. Kenneth gave a truly virtuoso performance on his application and for that I am awarding him the Whitewater Award for Distinguished Muddling of the Truth.
In response to "Explain the details of your misdemeanor," he responded:
"On December 20, 1993, I was charged with a misdemeanor for a violation of section 487.1 of the Penal Code. A day at the mall with friends from my hometown neighborhood proved to be a life-altering disaster and a lesson learned in one of the most difficult of ways. That day created a new awareness within me, one that allowed me to admit I had done something very wrong but I became determined to learn from my
mistake and put my life back on the right track again. I contemplated what happened to me for months and finally concluded that no matter how much I wanted to change the past, I couldn't. Therefore, my only option was to jump into the future... and that I did. I decided on a career in law and have studied non-stop toward that goal. I managed to turn the most catastrophic event of my past into a positive turning point in my life."
We still have no clue what section 487.1 of the penal code is, and his admission is pending. Still, with an explanation like that, I have a hunch he's gonna be an excellent lawyer. ________Copyright 1996 by Joe Lavin
Two teen-aged robbers in Miami got a little carried away when they attempted to hold up a grocery store. The 18-year-old accidentally fired his gun, hitting his 16-year-old accomplice in the leg. The surprise and pain caused him to tightly grip his gun and it too went off -- hitting the first robber in the leg. "I've had robbers shoot themselves before, but I never had two robbers shoot each other," a police detective said after the two were arrested. "I knew there was a mistake," said Aijaz Rizva, a clerk in the store. "They were the only ones bleeding." (Reuter)
Dubious Achievement Awards, British Division
The following is excerpted from the British Sunday Express giving Gongs (medals) for dubious distinctions.
God star: To Henry Smith, arrested moments after returning home with a stolen stereo. His error was having tattooed on his forehead in large capital letters the words "Henry Smith". His lawyer told the court: "My client is not a very bright young man."
Silver star: To Michael Robinson, who rang police to deliver a bomb threat, but became so agitated about the mounting cost of the call that he began screaming "Call me back!" and left his phone number.
Bronze star: To Paul Monkton, who used as his getaway vehicle a van with his name and phone number painted in foot-high letters on the side.
A would-be burglar was arrested after using a manhole cover to break the plate-glass window of a store.
To avoid the shattering glass, he stepped back, away from the window, and fell into the open manhole.
Excerpted from the book, "America's Dumbest Criminals," by Daniel Butler, Alan Ray & Leland Gregory, Rutledge Hill Press, 1995
A blundering wannabee robber with speech difficulties just couldn't win for losing. He entered a cafe in Louisiana and, speaking in his thick, backwoods Cajun accent, ordered the waitress to "give me all the money." Unfortunately she couldn't understand a word he said; to her, it sounded like he was ordering "a sieve with all the honey."
In desperation the robber turned to a patron and told him to hand over all his money. The diner could have sworn that Sam (the robber) said to "live a big pile of bunny." When the patron couldn't understand him either, Sam got so frustrated that he pulled out his gun.
Now they would hear the unmistakable voice of his .38. Sam pulled the trigger. Click. The gun wouldn't fire. So he grabbed the cash register and began to run. But he didn't get far -- only about three feet. The register was still firmly plugged into the wall and he quickly ran out of cord; it was jerked out of Sam's hands, and he fell. Humiliated and frustrated, he ran out of the cafe.
Waitresses and patrons breathed a sigh of relief; someone hefted the register back up to its place on the counter.
But five minutes later, Sam was back, and this time he made sure he unplugged the register before making off with it.
He was ecstatic--for about three feet. A bystander who had witnessed the whole comedy of errors knocked Sam down and made a citizen's arrest.
Stupidity Abounds Courtesy of Paul Harvey's radio news (and Neil's memory):
Two criminals took advantage of a traffic accident while they were being transported, and used the opportunity to escape. Handcuffed to each other, they fled down the street -- and came to a telephone pole. One ran to the right, the other to the left...
One night, a purse snatcher grabbed a purse and attempted to evade capture by running into a dark wooded area -- while wearing the typeof sneakers that light up with each step you take...
According to WMIX, a local radio station in Baltimore, MD: Three men robbed a liquor store, and were so excited that they pulled if off, they began jumping up and down and ran out of the store.
Sometime later, upon realizing that they had LEFT THE MONEY ON THE COUNTER in all the excitement, they returned to the store -- whereupon the police officers who'd been called to investigate
promptly arrested them.
This kid is a real thorn in his neighbors' side, because he has a tendency to skip school and to have loud parties with his other little friends who are skipping school during the day. The neighbors call the police all the time, but somehow the kids all manage to escape getting caught. One day there is a really raucous party going on. The neighbors, as usual, call the police to put an end to it. When the police get there, they knock on the door, and only one child is there -- the one who lives in the house. He tells the officers he is the only one home, and he is at home sick. The officers ask for permission to search the house, and he gives them permission. They find no other children. Well, just as the police are about to leave, the ceiling gives way, and a multitude of children fall through, apparently too heavy for the attic floor they had been hiding on. How do you explain that one to Mom?
The police get a burglary-in-progress call. The first officer arrives on the scene and is walking around the house investigating. He sees a broken window and speaks into his radio, announcing that he has found what must be the point of entry. As he is talking, a burglar, not bothering to look out the window, apparently goes to make his escape by jumping out the window he broke to get in. He lands directly on the cop. The officer promptly arrests him. Almost immediately after he gets the kid cuffed, another brilliant soul, again not looking out of the window to see what is going on, drops out the window and lands on the cop. The cop promptly cuffs the second one.
Turns out there is a third kid in the house. He goes to go out the front door, but sees some more officers and the owner starting to come in that way, so he turns around and -- that's right -- jumps out the same window that his other buddies jumped out of and -- you guessed it -- lands directly on the police officer, who is now out of handcuffs. (He managed to hold the kid until a second officer assisted with another set of handcuffs).
P.S. -- The cop was out for two weeks for injuries sustained from the burglars landing on him.
This kid goes to his hearing, and the hearing gets continued. The sheriffs are bringing him back to jail, and they have his hands shackled in the front. Somehow, right outside of the detention center, he manages to get a good punch in to the sheriff that is escorting him, and he takes off running and escapes the premises of the detention center. So he goes running down the street, hands shackled and all, and just about gets away. How did they catch him?
After getting about 500 yards down the road -- and passing a bunch of miscellaneous buildings -- he sought refuge in the lobby of one of the buildings along the way. The building he selected happened to be the GBI. (Georgia Bureau of Investigations)
WHANGAREI, New Zealand (AP) -- A drunken driver who wanted a bite to eat ended up helping police take a bite out of crime. The 21-year-old woman pulled up to a police van on a country road 80 miles north of Auckland on Saturday, apparently thinking the van was selling meat pies (a popular snack food in New Zealand). "Two male passengers got out and sprinted up," said Senior Sgt. Alastair Ward. "They got within a certain distance before pulling up, and one was heard to say 'That's not the bloody pie cart.'" In fact, it was part of a drunken-driving checkpoint. The hungry passengers ran back to the car, but couldn't get away before an officer tested the driver for intoxication. Her breath-alcohol reading was well over the legal limit. The police van had foot-high "Police" signs painted on its sides, and would be hard to mistake for a commercial meat pie cart -- a roving diner on wheels.
"Somewhere around Townawanda, NY": A burglar decides to break into a mall by popping the ventilator hood on the roof and dropping down the shaft into the mall at night when everything's quiet. Unfortunately, he picked the grill exhaust for a large restaurant stove. He also got stuck in the shaft and passed out. A day or two later, restaurant workers noticed a very bad smell in the area -- after which a very dead, very cooked burglar was removed from the shaft.
Quebec, Canada: Someone tried to hold up a Dunkin' Donuts last year. Needless to say, he got caught.
Dubious Achievement Awards, British Division
The following is excerpted from the British Sunday Express, giving Gongs (medals) for dubious distinctions:
To British Rail, which ingeniously solved the problem of lateness in the InterCity express train service by redefining "on time" to include trains arriving within one hour of schedule.
To John Bloor, who mistook a tube of superglue for his hemorrhoid cream and glued his buttocks together.
To the passengers on a jam-packed train from Margate to Victoria, who averted their eyes while John Henderson and Zoe D'Arcy engaged in oral sex and then moved on to intercourse ... but complained when the pair lit up post-coital cigarettes in a non-smoking compartment.
To Percy the Pigeon, who flopped down exhausted in a Sheffield loft, having beaten 1,000 rivals in a 500 mile race, and was immediately eaten by a cat. Alas, the 90-minute delay resulting from finding his remains and handing his ID tag to the judges relegated Percy from first to third place.
To Julia Carson, who, as her tearful family gathered round her coffin in a New York funeral parlour, sat bolt upright and asked what the hell was going on. Subsequent celebrations were short- lived, due to the fact that Mrs. Carson's daughter, Julie, immediately dropped dead from shock.
To poacher Marino Malerba, who shot a stag standing above him on an overhanging rock -- and was killed instantly when it fell on him.
Reported recently in the New York Times: A man was selling marijuana from a motel room. He sold some marijuana to 5 men, who returned later and stole some more. So he -- you guessed it! -- called the police.
One of my favorite "Stupid Criminal" tales involves a group of house burglars who decided to trash the house and take pictures of themselves in the act with the victim's camera before they left. They forgot to take the camera with them.
"Inmate Says He Lost Job for Criticizing Policy"
SAN FRANCISCO -- Corrections Department spokeswoman Christine May defended the firing of inmate Boston Woodard as editor of a prison newspaper, saying he tried to sidestep the state's new ban on face-to-face interviews with prisoners. Another new rule allows guards to open mail sent by prisoners to reporters.
The Corrections Department says the ban on interviews will promote security by preventing prisoners from becoming celebrities, and the mail-opening rule will guard against escape attempts. News organizations and prisoner-rights groups say both rules will keep the public from learning about prison conditions.
May denied Woodard's allegation that he was punished for criticizing the policy, saying inmates and their newspaper were free to voice criticisms.
In an interview with The Recorder, a legal newspaper, Woodard said prisoners fear the restrictions are part of an effort to shut the public out of the prison system.
"This is frightening, man, being here and not having access to you or anybody like you," he said.
He scoffed at the Corrections Department's policy of allowing reporters to talk to any prisoners they encounter randomly on a visit. "They'll make sure you're in an area where all the inmates you talk to randomly will have the IQ of a cinderblock," he said.
This one happened few years ago in Switzerland: A man went to a photo shop, had pictures taken, and -- while the photographer developed the pictures -- he took off with the cash register. Leaving behind, of course, the pictures.
Excerpted from the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal-Star, 25 May 96
A high school teacher from the small town of Clearwater, Nebraska, and her students had their van robbed of more than $5000 worth of items -- including a camera -- during a music contest being held in Lincoln. Several weeks later, the Clearwater high school received a package of pictures.
A Lincoln couple had found an undeveloped roll of film on the street, had it developed, saw that some pictures showed uniformed players from Clearwater's basketball team, and forwarded the photos to the school with a note expressing their hope that the pictures could be returned to their owner.
While reviewing the pictures, school officials realized that they didn't recognize the people posing with the stolen items and the van. Hmmmm.
Epilogue: the Lincoln police department looked at the pictures, the detective recognized one of the smiling faces, and the department identified the other two men. Two of the would-be models have been arrested; they are looking for the third.
Excerpted from the Lexington Herald-Leader, 9/23/94
NOT TOO SHARP: Police in Union City, Calif., arrested Gardner Forster, 32, in January after he fled nude from a burglary scene after hiding in the homeowner's closet. Forster leaped over a fence, but landed in a neighbor's cactus garden. Forster was easily subdued.
Massachusetts: A bunch of young punks decided they'd rob the McDonald's in Bedford a few years ago. Unfortunately for them, none of them could keep their mouths shut about the plan, and when they showed up to rob the place they were greeted by half a dozen cops -- behind the counter, in McDonald's uniforms.
Stupid Criminals, Stupid Cops
Excerpted from the NY Times:
Thief tries to steal cop car, with the cop in it.
Thief jumps in driver's seat, while cop #2 (the driver) is in a deli. Cop #1 is in passenger's seat. Cop and robber start to slug it out in the front seat.
Good Samaritan #1 passes by, tries to help cop #1 by leaning into driver's window and beating on robber who is still in driver's seat. Good Samaritan #2 sees the mess, runs into the deli, and alerts cop #2 -- who runs out, sees Good Samaritan #1 leaning in the window, thinks that he's the perpetrator, and starts to beat on him.
Shaken, Rattled, and Shot Excerpted from the San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 1996, pg. A13
[When] a moderate earthquake centered about 10 miles east of San Jose rolled through Northern California ... the rumbling scared one San Jose man into accidentally shooting himself in the foot, police reported. Edvardo Meneses, 21, told officers that he thought someone was breaking into his home, so he seized a loaded handgun, shoved it into his pocket and ran upstairs to protect his mother, according to San Jose police spokesman Louis Quezada.
The gun went off, wounding Meneses in the left leg and foot. Officers later determined that Meneses' handgun had been stolen from its owner in Shasta County, Quezada said. Meneses was taken to a local hospital, and the Santa Clara County district attorney will probably file charges today."
[Ben adds a note for the non-California readers (including me): Meneses had to go through a lot of work to shoot himself; Shasta County is about 250 miles north of San Jose. You would think that he would steal a little closer to home...]
A man in Pennsylvania was recently given 24 years imprisonment for armed robbery. He and an accomplice had not worn masks when they held up a bank. Instead, they had rubbed lemon juice on their faces in the belief it would blur their images on the security camera.
Disposable Income Story provided courtesy of Paul Harvey.
A would-be bank robber made off with a bag of what he thought was money from a heist. After he was safely away from the scene of the crime, he opened the bag only to find that it contained not the $100 bills he had demanded, but instead, these real-money-sized pieces of play money with oversized pictures of Ben Franklin. He threw the whole bagful down a storm drain.
It actually was real money.
Some Guidelines for Bank Robbers
According to the FBI, most modern-day bank robberies are "unsophisticated and unprofessional crimes," committed by young male repeat offenders who apparently don't know the first thing about their business. This information was included in an interesting, amusing article entitled "How Not to Rob a Bank," by Tim Clark, which appeared in the 1987 edition of The Old Farmers Almanac.
Clark reported that, despite the widespread use of surveillance cameras, 76 percent of bank robbers use no disguise, 86 percent never study the bank before robbing it, and 95 percent make no long-range plans for concealing the loot. Thus, he offered this advice to would-be bank robbers, along with examples of what can happen if the guidelines aren't followed:
1. Pick the right bank. Clark advises that you don't follow the lead of the fellow in Anaheim, Cal., who tried to hold up a bank that was no longer in business and had no money. On the other hand, you don't want to be too familiar with the bank. A California robber ran into his mother while making his getaway. She turned him in.
2. Approach the right teller. Granted, Clark says, this is harder to plan. One teller in Springfield, Mass., followed the holdup man out of the bank and down the street until she saw him go into a restaurant. She hailed a passing police car, and the police picked him up. Another teller was given a holdup note by a robber, and her father, who was next in line, wrestled the man to the ground and sat on him until authorities arrived.
3. Don't sign your demand note. Demand notes have been written on the back of a subpoena issued in the name of a bank robber in Pittsburgh, on an envelope bearing the name and address of another in Detroit, and in East Hartford, Conn., on the back of a withdrawal slip giving the robber's signature and account number.
4. Beware of dangerous vegetables. A man in White Plains, N.Y., tried to hold up a bank with a zucchini. The police captured him at his house, where he showed them his "weapon."
5. Avoid being fussy. A robber in Panorama City, Cal., gave a teller a note saying, "I have a gun. Give me all your twenties in this envelope." The teller said, "All I've got is two twenties." The robber took them and left.
6. Don't advertise. A holdup man thought that if he smeared mercury ointment on his face, it would make him invisible to the cameras. Actually, it accentuated his features, giving authorities a much clearer picture. Bank robbers in Minnesota and California tried to create a diversion by throwing stolen money out of the windows of their cars. They succeeded only in drawing attention to themselves. A teenage girl in Los Angeles tried to distract attention from her face by wearing a see-through blouse with no bra while holding up banks.
7. Take right turns only. Avoid the sad fate of the thieves in Florida who took a wrong turn and ended up on the Homestead Air Force Base. They drove up to a military police guardhouse and, thinking it was a tollbooth, offered the security men money.
8. Provide your own transportation. It is not clever to borrow the teller's car, which she carefully described to police. This resulted in the most quickly solved bank robbery in the history of Pittsfield, Mass.
9. Don't be too sensitive. In these days of exploding dye packs, stuffing the cash into your pants can lead to embarrassing stains, Clark points out,not to mention severe burns in sensitive places--as bandits in San Diego and Boston painfully discovered.
10. Consider another line of work. One nervous Newport, R.I., robber, while trying to stuff his ill-gotten gains into his shirt pocket, shot himself in the head and died instantly. Then there was the case of the hopeful criminal in Swansea, Mass., who, when the teller told him she had no money, fainted. He was still unconscious when the police arrived.
11. Study your history. Don't try to stick up the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. Jesse James tried it 111 years ago, and the townsfolk took just seven minutes to kill two and capture three of his gang. Nobody tried again until 1984, and the customers chased the guy down. They're tight with their dollar, those Minnesotans.
12. Speak to the right teller. One robber in Upland, CA, presented his note to the teller, and her father, who was in the next line, got all bent out of shape about it. He wrestled the guy to the ground and sat on him until
13. Go easy on the disguise. One robber, dressed up as a woman with very heavy make-up, ran face first into a glass door. He was the first criminal ever to be positively identified by lip-print.
14. Be aware of the time. Or the chagrin of the bank robber in Cheshire, Massachusetts, who hit the bank at 4:30 PM, then tried to escape through downtown North Adams, where he was trapped in rush hour traffic until police
15. Be strong. Then there was the case of the hopeful criminal in Swansea, Massachusetts, who, when the teller told him she had no money, fainted. He was still unconscious when the police arrived. His getaway car, parked nearby, had the keys locked inside it.
In view of such ineptitude, it is not surprising that in 1978 and 1979, for example, federal and state officers made arrests in 69 percent of the bank holdups reported.
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