Readers who are also aspiring bank robbers please take note: although it may seem like a clever idea to stay near the bank afterward on the theory that it'll be the last thing they expect, the police have actually thought of this. And while I will award you bonus style points for sitting down and calmly having lunch in the meantime, said bonus points have little if any value in prison.
The latest example of this strategy took place on Saturday, when Henry Elmer reportedly visited a Wells Fargo bank in Yuma, Arizona. The 56-year-old, two-first-named former Oklahoman allegedly then pulled a knife, demanded and got an undisclosed amount of cash, and left. Elmer fled, if you can call it that, to the Village Inn Pizza Parlor, which is basically right next door to the bank:
Employees at the pizza parlor noticed that their new customer looked "agitated," but were not otherwise suspicious. He ordered a beer and some pizza, and then had a seat in the back of the dining room. According to an employee, "As he sat down a cop walked in and saw the guy. Then the cop asked me if the guy had been here that long, and I told him 10 minutes tops.... That's when the rest of the cops came in."
You may be thinking, that's a pretty good response time. It is, but on the other hand the cops did not have too far to travel, since the Yuma police station is basically also right next door to the bank:
This is why Elmer did not get any pizza, although he did just have time to guzzle a beer.
Elmer's apparent plan was similar to, but much less entertaining than, a plan that Lee Harris carried out in 2003 in San Francisco (in fact just down the street from our firm's office at the time).
Harris allegedly visited a Citibank branch on Market Street to ask about opening a bank account. He returned about an hour later with a gun and an empty bag, suggesting he had been paying no attention at all during the earlier conversation, and fired a shot into the ceiling. He ordered the teller to fill his bag with money, and then departed. But as he was leaving, he paused, turned back and shouted, "I'm the silver wolf! God bless."
The bonus points awarded for something like that might actually have some value in prison. Hard to say.
Anyway, the Silver Wolf was not finished by any means. He, too, visited a nearby restaurant for lunch, although he did at least put two or three blocks between him and the bank. Employees at Le Central Bistro, obviously a French restaurant, took note of him entering because he was wearing desert camouflage fatigues and carrying a bulging duffel bag. (Dress is typically casual in San Francisco, but not that casual.)
Harris ordered smoked salmon and a glass of red wine - again coming under suspicion - and then went to the bathroom. He emerged wearing a black turtleneck, black sunglasses and a woman's black hat. I actually am not sure whether this would draw any attention in San Francisco, but it didn't matter because employees had already called 911. In addition to the unusual wine pairing, there was apparently lots of police activity in the area, and so that plus the costume changes seems to have triggered the call.
The Silver Wolf did manage to get through half his meal. God bless!
Please remember, even if it's only traffic court, you should at least appear to be taking things seriously.
The Queensland Times reported recently that a 27-year-old woman irked a local magistrate with her response to his questions about her driving offense. Asked if she had any reasons for driving without a license, she replied, "I'm a full-time student, single mother, and ... yadda yadda yadda."
As you may recall, the phrase "yada yada yada" became famous in a 1997 Seinfeld episode, "The Yada Yada," in which George's girlfriend perplexes him with it. (I assume "yadda" with two Ds is the Australian spelling.) It means, more or less, "and so on," with the sense that there are a bunch of minor details the speaker doesn't really want to get into.
According to this item on The Straight Dope, the term can actually be traced back at least to Lenny Bruce in the 1960s, and probably derived from variants like "yaddega yaddega yaddega" or "yatata yatata yatata," which the author claims were used by vaudeville comics in the 1940s. Use of the term skyrocketed, though, after the Seinfeld episode aired, as you can see from this graph (which I made with a Google app and yada yada yada).
But don't use it in court.
The magistrate didn't sanction the woman for her attitude, but told her he wouldn't "accept her babble" as a reason for her actions. She then said she had just forgotten to renew her license when it expired (a few months before). She was fined $120.
The report also says that a 35-year-old man was "sent to the watch house" last year for repeatedly calling another magistrate "mate" rather than "Your Honor."
This was because he didn't want to catch the flu from a witness.
The case involved drug charges against a juvenile, and a petition by the State to have him declared "delinquent." State in Interest of R.G., 963 So. 2d 475 (La. App. 2007). Under Louisiana law, such petitions have to be resolved within 90 days, although the court can grant more time for good cause. When the case was called for trial, the State asked for a continuance on the grounds that one of its witnesses had the flu, although it said he would come to court if necessary. The trial judge rejected this, saying that if the State was not ready to go he would dismiss the case, which he did. As the Court of Appeals noted, however, there was more to it:
The transcript of the hearing is revealing and leads this Court to draw a different interpretation of what transpired. It is obvious that the trial judge did not solely base his judgment on [the 90-day rule] but also on the fact that he did not want to subject himself to the "flu." [He said:] "And I don't want [the witness] sitting next to me. I wouldn't no more want him sitting next to me with a flu [sic] than I would if he'd been on a heart machine or some other life preserving machine." This is a clear abuse of discretion.... Fear of exposure to the "flu" virus is not cause to dismiss the case.
I thought it might be possible that the flu concern was a pretext for getting rid of the case, which as the Court of Appeals pointed out involved a charge that in Louisiana carries a penalty of up to 30 years at hard labor, which seems awfully harsh for possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. But the trial had been continued several times already, and so if the trial judge just wanted a reason to dismiss the case he could have used this excuse before.
Much more puzzling is that the judge is apparently terrified of heart machines or "other life preserving machines." What does he think he's going to catch from those? Is he worried he'll turn into a Borg?
I knew a guy once who couldn't watch a TV show if he knew one of the actors in it was now dead. It just creeped him out too much. I'm not really sure why that popped into my head in connection with this story, except that it seems to involve a similarly baffling technofear.
Anyway, the Court of Appeals reversed. Whether R.G. is now doing hard labor for selling pot is something I haven't had time to check on.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Hooters of America, which you will not be surprised to learn is the operator and franchisor of Hooters restaurants, has sued a former vice-president and his new company for allegedly stealing Hooters' trade secrets.
The new company, La Cima Restaurants, is planning to open some restaurants called "Twin Peaks."
The more cynical among you may be thinking that there is nothing especially "secret" about Hooters' game plan, but you have misapprehended the nature of the case. (Disclaimer: our firm actually represents Hooters of America, although not in this case.) It is not based on a claim that Hooters was the first to think of hiring attractive women as waitresses or (thankfully) that nobody else can do so. Instead, according to both the report and the complaint, Hooters alleges that its former VP Joseph Hummel downloaded "sensitive and highly confidential information" such as marketing plans, contracts, and sales figures and took it with him when he went to work for a competitor.
The concept for "Twin Peaks," as I hope you have guessed, is similar to Hooters' except that it is "snow-lodge-style" rather than "beach-themed." If you are thinking, though, that this means the waitresses are warmly clad, you are not correct. Fifteen Twin Peaks restaurants are currently operating in other parts of the country, but La Cima is allegedly planning to open dozens across the South, where they would directly compete with Hooters.
I think there is some irony in the fact that Twin Peaks itself previously sued "Grand Tetons LLC" over the latter's plan to open a series of restaurants called "Northern Exposure."
According to this report, these sorts of establishments - those mentioned above and others, such as "Bone Daddy's" and "Tilted Kilt" - are doing quite well. "At a time when other chain[s] are struggling," the report said, "the so-called 'breastaurants' have been seemingly recession-proof."
Hooters' website is an entertaining read, for a number of reasons. The company does not shy away from the debate over whether its approach is discriminatory or exploitative, and in addition to recounting some of its legal victories, it has this to say:
The chain acknowledges that many consider 'Hooters' a slang term for a portion of the female anatomy. Hooters does have an owl inside its logo and uses an owl theme sufficiently to allow debate to occur over the meaning's intent. The chain enjoys and benefits from this debate. In the end, we hope Hooters means a great place to eat.
Normally a voluntary departure means no unemployment benefits, but if your boss is offering cash prizes for guessing who will be fired next, you can probably quit and still get paid. "Egregious and deplorable," said the ALJ who approved Misty Shelsky's benefits claim. "It was very degrading," Shelsky said. "We looked at that, then looked at each other and said, 'OK, we're done.'"
Last month, a UK judge ruled that four men accused of being part of the online group "Anonymous" would not be banned from social networking services, but would be precluded from using their existing "online personas." Because one of them uses the name "Peter," which happens to be his real first name, the order effectively requires someone accused of being Anonymous to use a fake identity online.
Last week, the consulting firm Big Communications announced the results of the $140,000 study it was asked to conduct to come up with a new name for "Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport." The new name: "Chattanooga Airport." The firm said this would be simpler and would make the airport seem less "metropolitan," and it does seem hard to argue with either point. In 2007, the University of California at Berkeley accepted similarly expert advice and renamed its law school the "UC Berkeley School of Law." That seems like a bargain now, though, since it only cost $25,000 but involved changing more words.
[Update: the item above has replaced a previous item that dealt with San Francisco's now-defunct anti-circumcision ballot measure, on the grounds that the new item is significantly less creepy and, more importantly, funnier.]
The public works director of Martinez, California, on why officials forced an artist to paint over a beaver he put in a mural they commissioned: "Everyone's saying we hate beavers, but this is not about liking beavers or not liking beavers," said Dave Scola. "We went through a lengthy planning process, and never once did anyone ask for a beaver. Not one person said, 'Hey, I have an idea, let's put a beaver in there.'"
The artist on the same topic: "I feel they do not respect me.... Every day, people ask me, 'Where is the beaver?' So I want to please the people and I put in a beaver. It was really a very small beaver. But the city did not want it."
It's too bad Clyde Gardner gave up on his first plan for killing his ex-girlfriend, because step one involved an encounter between him and a bear. Most likely, no one would have had to bother with Clyde Gardner any more after that.
There would have been a couple more minor tasks for the bear, I suppose.
Last week, Gardner was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for plotting to kill his ex-girlfriend after an acquaintance he asked to do the job turned him in instead. The final plan involved faking a car accident, but the real story was the plan Gardner had apparently abandoned: to make it look like a bear did it. How might one do that? As Assistant DA Elizabeth Crawford explained, just the way you'd expect:
The original murder plot was for Gardner to hunt down a bear on the [acquaintance's] property, then skin it to take off its four claws and its pelt.
The hired killer was to put the pelt on like a suit and wear the paws like boots and gloves, then maul the woman to death to make it look like an animal had killed her.
"[Gardner had] been watching her from the woods, so he knew exactly when she would take her garbage out, so it was supposed to look like she got mauled by a bear," Crawford said.
"The claws were to be worn as boots and on his hands so there would be only bear tracks, no human tracks."
Reports have differed as to who, exactly, was supposed to pose as the bear in this scheme. The AP report says it was Gardner, but the Plattsburgh Press-Republican (quoted above) said it was going to be the "hit man." It didn't happen either way, though, because of the one problem with this otherwise foolproof plan: the hit man "said he only had three acres to hunt on, and no bears."
I don't want to be too critical, but it does seem like you shouldn't mention your bear-disguise murder plan to anybody until after you've figured out whether you can actually get yourself a bear.
With no bears handy, a new plan was needed, and that's when Gardner came up with the car crash. He told the other man how to make it look like an accident, something in which Gardner claimed special expertise because he is "an experienced demolition derby driver."
Given that he also owns a junkyard and has a history of abusive and violent behavior, it's hard to understand why she kicked him out in the first place.
The acquaintance said he went to police as soon as he realized Gardner was serious, which (not surprisingly) was only after the second plan was discussed. He wore a wire and recorded Gardner talking about the murder plot.
Gardner eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy, but asked for leniency because, he said, he had been drunk at the time and had intended to call everything off once he had sobered up -and, darn the luck, he had actually been arrested while on his way to the hit man's house to cancel the job. "There is absolutely no proof" of that story, said the judge, who called the grand-jury testimony "chilling." Which I'm sure it was, except for the part that was hilarious.
Area bears denied any interest in the intended victim's garbage.
Here's some free advice. If you find yourself telling someone that you are "invisible" and "unstoppable," and the person you are telling that to is a police officer, you are neither one of those things.
I guess that's really all there is to say about that one.
The last "invisible man" I wrote about was the South African man who pointed a gun at police, apparently believing that the muti (a kind of ritual preparation) he was wearing would make him invisible. See "South African Police Shoot Invisible Man," Lowering the Bar (Mar. 3, 2006). It didn't make him bulletproof, either.
Lest you think I am just making fun of unschooled Africans, I also wrote more recently about a Wyoming man who showed a similar grasp of science. Knowing that police were en route to his home because of a domestic-violence call, and knowing that they carry Tasers, he prepared by covering himself in white latex paint. In what was apparently a strategy of deterrence, he then told them that because the paint was "water-based," shooting him with a Taser would kill him. See "Tip: Covering Self in Paint Will Not Deter Taser Use," Lowering the Bar (Sept. 28, 2010). He survived.
I actually think I would give the South African the nod on this one. Neither one of these are at all likely to work, but at least muti would not make you an easier target.
"As a writer, I get a lot of books. My husband usually [just] glances at them .... This one, he hasn't put down. I can't get it out of his hands. Every time I look over, he's reading and laughing.... [C]heck out this awesome book." —Allison Leotta, novelist and author of The Prime-Time Crime Review