Fun Time: ‘Stupid’ Crimes Deserve ‘Stupid’ Punishments
I’ve never committed a crime that required me to go before a judge—and I hope I never do. But if I ever have to face a judge, I hope it’s a judge who doesn’t just want to throw me in prison.
I hope it’s someone who is creative—someone like Municipal Court Judge Gayle Williams-Byers of South Euclid, Ohio.
Williams-Byers once sentenced a 62-year-old man named Edmond Aviv to sit on a street corner for five hours with a sign that read: “I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in.”
Aviv was punished for harassing and insulting his neighbors, who had adopted two black children with developmental disabilities, according to a UPI article. Aviv was also sentenced to 15 days in jail, seven months on probation, and 100 hours of yoga.
Actually it wasn’t 100 hours of yoga, but 100 hours of community service. Yoga would have been better— it’s the perfect punishment for inflexible people. (If you love yoga, please don’t take offense. Yoga is truly a blessing for many people, including me. I feel blessed whenever I watch other people do yoga.)
The judge also ordered Aviv to undergo counseling and take anger management classes. Unfortunately, we don’t know whether the sentence made Aviv a better human being. That’s partly because newspapers don’t print articles with headlines such as “Ohio man shares cookies, sings ‘Kumbaya’ with neighbors.”
Prison is certainly a just punishment for serious crimes, but there are too many people in prison. I’d like to see more judges being creative in their sentencing. Not only will the wrongdoer learn a lesson, it will benefit society as a whole, saving society the need to pay for entertainment.
Providing entertainment to society should never be a judge’s primary motivation, of course. It’s just a side benefit.
Few judges have provided as much entertainment in their careers as Michael Cicconetti, a municipal court judge in Painesville, Ohio.
“The message I want to send to the defendant is, ‘Look, you did something stupid and you’re going to pay for it by doing something stupid,’” Cicconetti told The News-Herald upon his retirement in 2019.
After a woman stiffed a cab driver following a 30-mile ride, Cicconetti sentenced her to walk the 30-mile distance wearing an ankle monitor. After a woman abandoned 35 kittens in the woods, Cicconetti sentenced her to spend one night in the woods without food, water and entertainment.
Perhaps my favorite sentence of Cicconetti’s was this: after a man and a woman, both 19, vandalized a baby Jesus statue from a nativity scene, the judge ordered them to walk through their town with a donkey from a petting zoo while carrying a sign that said, “Sorry for the jackass offense.”
Cicconetti also sentenced them to 45 days in jail, drug and alcohol treatment, and 100 hours of yoga. No, he didn’t actually sentence them to yoga. He was a lenient judge.
If I were a judge, I’d be a little harsher. Here are a few newspaper summaries that my sentences would produce:
- “Man vandalizes Mahatma Gandhi statue in Queens, New York. Judge sentences him to stand beside the statue, dressed like Gandhi, for the entire winter.”
- “Woman caught shoplifting at IKEA store in Chicago. Judge sentences her to 100 hours of assembling IKEA furniture.”
- “Man found guilty of trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Judge sentences him to spend the rest of his life in Florida.”
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Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.
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