Friday, September 24, 2010

Crime of the Century (A Rose by Any Other Name Division)

EAST HANOVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Last July, a man who goes by the winning moniker of David Kliss posted two protest signs in the yard of his house at 436 Pheasant Road, in East Hanover Township.
   That each featured the word "CRAP" drew a swift and sound rebuke from the township enforcement agency, according to a Sept. 21 report on, the Web site of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
   Mr. Kliss, not one to take any "CRAP" lying down, recently filed suit, in the U.S. District Court in Scranton, Pa., against the town for denying his constitutional rights to freedom of speech, press, petitioning government and due process. 
   Will a major legal shit storm follow? It is difficult to imagine otherwise. 
   The township contends that the signs violated a zoning ordinance holding that, "No Loud, Vulgar, Indecent or Obscene Advertising matter shall be displayed in any manner." 
   (This is a direct quote from the Inquirer. Presumably, staff writer Peter Mucha lifted it from the actual ordinance. To capitalize any words other than the sentence-launching "No" seems an odd if endearing affectation. Maybe it dates back to days when Some words Were Given prominence by Capitalizing Them. It is possible that this grammatical oddity was even applied to words and phrases having to do with Tangy butt Nuts.)
   The Inquirer reports that the brouhaha began when the township mandated, for residents, a sewer tie-in. Not being familiar with the processing of keester cakes, we here at First of All have no idea what that is. But Mr. Kliss knew it would cost him thousands of dollars. 
   In response, he posted the signs, which read, "$10,000 TO TAKE A CRAP." The following week the butt driblet-like township enforcers not only notified Mr. Kliss that he needed a zoning permit to post the signs, but also that the signs were, as the Inquirer put it, "illegally attached to trees on a right-of-way property."
   The township enforcers appear to possess a stupefying level of pettiness. Even casual observers might be hard pressed not to consider them a bunch of ass-sneezing sewer serpents.
   This may not, however, be a surprise to anyone familiar with East Hanover Township. It is a smallish place - thirty-nine square miles - with a population of just 5,400. So notes the town Web site, which also contains this historical nugget: "East Hanover Township was part of the original West Hanover Township in Dauphin County. In 1842, West Hanover Township was split into three separate municipalities; West Hanover Township, East Hanover Township, and South Hanover Township." 
   Is it us, or is it getting dizzy in here? 
   The area was settled by Scotch-Irish and German people. Their descendants, at least those on the township enforcement agency, appear to be upholding the possibly unfair cliche, endemic at least to our Germanic friends, of having a penchant for humorless, niggling oppression. 
   Mr. Kliss, apparently no slouch in dealing with these types of corn-eyed butt snakes, relocated the signs to his lawn and painted over the word "CRAP." The Inquirer notes that "[H]e resisted the urge to use a synonym, such as dump, leaving the sign to read, '$10,000 TO TAKE A.'" 
   Perhaps the admirably law-abiding Mr. Kliss would have flown in under the township enforcement radar had he written, "$10,000 TO DROP SOME FRIENDS OFF AT THE LAKE," or "...BLOW MUD," or "...DROP A BLACK BANANA," or "...SQUEEZE OUT A FEW ASS GOBLINS," or "...SERVE A BOWL OF TOILET STEW."
   Mr. Kliss' suit contends that the township ordinance does not adequately define "vulgar," "indecent" and "obscene," and that the signs featured no offensive or graphic images. 
   His attorney, a man named Aaron Martin, has devised what at first appears an inspired legal strategy.    
  "In my brief," he told the Inquirer, "I used an episode of Seinfeld from 1993, in which the word 'crap' was used four times in fifteen seconds, to demonstrate that our society does not view that word as unspeakable."
   This strategy, however, is risky. It is arguable, and we will argue it, that Seinfeld, as a show and a cultural phenomenon, had all the appeal of a commode overflowing with hardened fudge nuggets. 
   The township, for its part, is playing things cool at the moment.
   "I don't think we're going to have any comment," township solicitor Scott Wyland told the Inquirer. "The matter is under review." 
   It is incidental, but for that no less thrilling, that Mr. Wyland is employed by a law firm with the stirring name of Hawke McKeon & Sniscak. It is comforting to know, in these chaotic times, that some law firms still sound like they exist in a Marx Brothers film. 
   Would that the East Hanover Township enforcers had such a jolly approach to life, rather than being content to stink up the place like a household bog swimming with blind eels. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Crime of the Century (Crap Kerfuffle Divison)

NAPERVILLE, ILL., Sept. 19 - A woman who stepped in dog droppings outside her apartment Wednesday allegedly exacted swift and sure revenge upon a neighbor who owns the dropping-dropping dog. 
   Evidently, Susan M. Miller (left), who lives at the Brittany Springs apartment complex, on the 800 block of Beaumont Drive in the Chicago suburb of Naperville (pop: 144,560), has had it up to the top of her shoe with pooch-poo left lying around.
   The Naperville Sun ("Member of Sun-Times Media") reported Sept. 17 that Ms. Miller allegedly wiped cur ordure (dog shit) on the neighbor's porch, hurled it at her patio door, and filled bags with it and left them on the patio, to which she also relocated an apartment-complex sign urging residents to pick up their pets' waste. 
   These are creative, if rage-fueled, responses to the conundrum of festering dog logs. Granted, dog guardians - Ms. Miller is one - have the unenviable task of picking up their animals' ca-ca, often using bags that leave naught between hand and excreta except thin plastic. So some owners naturally balk, on occasion, at doing their duty when their dogs do their dooty.
  Still, what's more annoying than stepping in mutt faeces? Answer: neighbors who leave it around to be stepped in. 

   Alas, the law is the law. A Naperville police report cited by the Sun notes that Ms. Miller, who is forty-three, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. She is free on bail. The unnamed neighbor apparently got off scot-free, but not to worry: God'll git 'er someday.
   A side note. Sun reporter Bill Bird couldn't help pecking out this lede: "Dog is man's best friend. Dog feces, not so much." 
   This sort of writing is causing readers to leave newspapers in droves, which accounts for the decline and fall of the Fourth Estate in America. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crime of the Century (Criminal Politesse Division)

NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina -- A man walked into a branch of the Wachovia bank here Tuesday and handed a teller a note saying he was there to rob the place. He asked for $30,000. When told, however, that the teller hadn't the money in her cash drawer he left, but not without first telling the teller "thank you."
   This man is one of the last of a dying breed: mannerly Americans. A Sept. 13 Associated Press story neglects to say whether the man, Melvin Jesse Blain, thirty-one, has ever attended etiquette classes. Plainly, however, he was an infant so nice his folks named him thrice, and from there they sure done raised him right.
   Under influences as disparate as politically-oriented shouting-heads talk shows, video games, reality TV, Tea Party rallies and the dispiriting artistic decay of Lindsay Lohan, Americans more and more appear to believe that good manners are a thing of the past and therefore are to be eschewed. That a man who allegedly planned to rob a bank showed better manners than do most drivers on American roads sounds a clarion call to his countryfellows: it's time to shape up... please.
   Mr. Bain didn't get far after leaving the bank: police officers discovered him walking near it. This suggests, although the AP does not confirm it, that Mr. Bain's mannerliness derives from a leisurely approach to life. How many would-be bank robbers take casual strolls near the banks they almost rob?
   The eminently polite Mr. Bain told police he had only recently been released from prison after spending almost four years there on a bank robbery charge. He added, according to the AP story, that he "didn't want to go back."
   Well, of course not. Politesse only gets you so far; one imagines that in prison that's not very far at all.
  Perhaps the judge in Mr. Bain's imminent case will recognize in him a thoughtful soul and will sentence him to perform community service in the guise of offering etiquette classes to the public. No doubt were the judge to hand down such a sentence he would receive from Mr. Bain a heartfelt "thank you," likely more than he receives from the bulk of the vulgarians appearing before him.
   As it happens, issues of fading politesse, though distressingly acute in America, can be international in scope. We now join the case, in Lisbon, Portugal, of an aide to the mayor of a suburb called Oeiras. The aide, insulted that a young police officer addressed him employing the informal form of "you" without adding the honorific "sir," bit one of the officer's colleagues on the arm, necessitating for that officer a hospital trip.
   A Sept. 13 Reuters story, forwarded to us by a regular reader who is a legal eagle and therefore has an eye for these sorts of things, reports that Esequiel Lino (no age given) had gone to the police station angry about officers having recently towed his daughter's car.
   Reuters quotes a police spokeswoman as saying that Mr. Lino "started verbally abusing the officers, kicking the desk and was warned several times, but it didn't stop him."
   Now, no one likes having one's offspring's car towed. Yet even from a standpoint of enlightened self-interest, Mr. Lino shot himself in the foot (bit himself in the arm?) by baiting police officers in their own "house."
   In the end, the incident demonstrates that rudeness always comes a-cropper.
   It is not without irony that, as Reuters flatly reports, "Lino's responsibilities in the mayor's administration include [maintaining] links with the police." These links, it is safe to assume, do not include gnawing on officers' arms, a notion which the kindly Melvin Jesse Bain, in his community service etiquette classes, would no doubt stress.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crime of the Century (Waste Case Division)

GREELEY, Colo., Sept. 15, 2010 - "If you're trying to escape from police, you might want to take a hint from Adam Segura, who learned an important lesson Thursday: Don't steal a police car, especially if you're drunk."
   This eminently reasonable advice appears in the lede of an non-bylined Sept. 11 story posted on the Web site of the Greeley Tribune, the newspaper of record in Greeley, Colo., a township of 98,596 people located forty-nine miles north-northeast of Denver. (This according to Wikipedia, the site containing the scribblings both of fact-loving obsessives and of, well, liars. The population figure comes from 2006 Census Bureau estimates, so we can assume it is correct. Then again, it appears on Wikipedia, so who knows?)
   It all began last Thursday at one in the afternoon, as so many things do. A Greeley police officer with the likably anonymous name of Craig Miller stopped Mr. Segura, who is thirty-two, for allegedly driving 62 mph in a 55 mph zone. In chatting with Mr. Segura, Officer Miller, as the mysterious Tribune reporter puts it, "noticed signs of drinking including glassy eyes, an odor of alcohol on [Mr.] Segura's breath and slurred speech."
   While these symptoms may indicate drinking to excess, they also could be the result of a love-partner conversation gone wrong. After one of those, any sane man would want to hit the road for a bit and might presently find himself driving as fast as he is thinking. So it's difficult to say whether Mr. Segura was, in fact, drunk, because... oh, wait.
   "'The defendant [Mr. Segura] also admitted to officer Miller that he'd drank alcochol,' according to [an] affadavit," according to the Tribune. Is it nitpicky to point out that the affadavit should read, "admitted to officer Miller that he'd drunk alcohol"? (Emphasis mine.) Perhaps so; often, officers of the law are simply too busy, what with catching criminals and so forth, to toy with the niceties of correct grammar.
   Officer Miller quite sensibly handcuffed Mr. Segura's hands behind his back, and then placed him in the back seat of an unmarked police car. He then buckled Mr. Segura's seat belt. (Safety first, even for miscreants.)
   Mr. Segura, showing the ingenuity that often, oddly, is the hallmark of those in the grip of an alcoholic blackout, managed to maneuver his hands, still locked in the handcuffs, around in front of him. He unbuckled the seat belt and climbed into the front seat of the car, unobserved by Officer Miller, who was busy chatting with (or, in police parlance, "questioning") a woman in Mr. Segura's car.
   To the no doubt great surprise of Officer Miller, a backup officer, and possibly the woman in Mr. Segura's vehicle and Mr. Segura himself, Mr. Segura zoomed off in the cop car. Officers chased him down U.S. 34 for roughly a mile, at which point Mr. Segura inexplicably stopped.
   The Tribune neglects to say whether Mr. Segura activated the car's siren, which would have been, like, totally awesome. The Trib does report that Mr. Segura was stopped near the entrance to the Greeley Mall, so it is possible that Mr. Segura had more important things on his pickled brain than blasting sirens, such as stopping at Hot Topic and buying his girlfriend a Tartan skirt and a skull-embossed black t-shirt.
   Mr. Segura is now in the Weld County jail and faces no fewer than twelve charges, which really kind of puts him in the drunken-police-car-stealing hall of fame. Charges include aggravated motor vehicle theft, escape, vehicular eluding (a lovely locution), speeding, no proof of insurance, resisting arrest, obstruction of a police officer, two counts of driving under the influence (he blew a .26, three times the legal limit), and three counts of being a habitual traffic offender.
   This last suggests that this is not the first time Mr. Segura has engaged in vehicular shenanigans (including eluding?). Some people simply aren't meant to drink; others aren't meant to drive; still others aren't meant to drink and drive, lest they wind up in the clink with the book t'rown at 'em.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crime of the Century (All Fall Down Division)

PICO RIVERA, Ca., Sept. 12, 2010 -- The grand if evidently malevolent plans of a local man named Jose Parada got smashed when Parada crashed through the ceiling of De Le Cruz Jewelry, in Pico Rivera, and landed more or less in the arms of sheriff's deputies searching for whoever might have been burgling the jernt. 
   A Sept. 11 report in the Whittier (CA) Daily News notes that deputies responded to a burglar alarm at an establishment with the charming name of William's Boots, at 9233 whittier Boulevard, at about seven a.m. that morning. Upon arrival, one officer saw a person moving about inside the jewelry store, which sits near the boot emporium.   
   Police officers, including a K-9 (or "dog") unit, searched the store. (Whitter Daily News staff writer Brian Day, not to be confused with Queen guitarist Brian May, reports that police "...called in a K-9 for a search...." Either Mr. Day meant to write, as First of All has just done, "a K-9... unit," or the organs of the mainstream media are showing an alarming informality when reporting about coppers and their mutts.)
   Deputies heard a noise coming from the attic. They ordered whoever hid there to show his face soonest, although it is possible that in the heat of the moment they said something more along the lines of, "Come out NOW, motherfucker!" 
   Perhaps Mr. Parada - for it was he in the attic - is a sensitive soul, or a religious one offended by references to Oedipal coitus. He declined the offer. Police shot pepper spray into the attic. This occasioned Mr. Parada's downfall. He actually fell through the ceiling -- or, as Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. John Adams, not to be confused with America's second president, told the Daily News, "He actually fell through the ceiling." 
   A police dog ("a K-9") grabbed Mr. Parada's clothing, "but did not bite him," the Daily News reports. That detail is interesting. First of All is anything but cynical - ho ho - but it's difficult to imagine that the information did not come from police sources whose department would have a strong desire to forestall - don't you see? - a bite-related lawsuit. 
   Police believe, and so allege, that Mr. Parada (shown below), who is twenty-three and hails from Montebello, CA., burgled no fewer than three businesses along Whittier Boulevard, in Pico Rivera, on Saturday morning. Both Montebello and Pico Rivera have populations of roughly 65,000; could Mr. Parada's alleged burglaries be emblematic of a larger inter-burgh rivalry? The otherwise informative Whittier Daily News piece doesn't say, so it seems likely, and therefore sad, alas, that we shall never know. 
Jose Parada, 23, of Montebello