For years, I’ve been chronicling some of the best, worst, and most unusual aspects of the legal system. Many of the strangest claims, defenses, and even the litigants themselves deserve their own special kind of notoriety, so I made up the “Justie” Awards, for some of the weirdest denizens of our legal system.
Here are the latest contenders.
The “Ask a Stupid Question” Award goes to 28 year-old Dustin Nelson of Aurora, Colo. On Sept. 10, Dustin walked into his local police station and asked if there were any warrants out for his arrest.
Guess what? There were two.
A surprised Dustin was then taken into custody, and is currently a resident of the DuPage County jail. But should it have really been a surprise? Since 2001, Dustin has been convicted of at least 14 crimes and traffic offenses, serving jail time in 2002, 2005 and 2006.
The “Were You High When You Came Up With This Idea” Award goes to Abdul Jamar. The California man, who’d been previously busted for growing marijuana on his property, thought he’d come up with the perfect way to keep his growing operation undetected by police. He would simply disguise them as Christmas trees!
Imagine his surprise when police busted him again—after all, 1,000 pot plants disguised as Christmas trees in the California desert aren’t going to attract any attention, are they?
Especially since marijuana leaves look nothing like pine needles, and the “trees” were somewhat tall for pines in the summertime. At least for the sheriff’s department, it was a Christmas miracle.
The “Most Creative Defense” Award goes to 35-year-old Dustan Edward Carpenter of Auburndale, Fla. On Sept. 12, Carpenter was stopped on suspicion of DWI by a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputy.
Carpenter refused to take a sobriety test because “I done seen it on the Mythbusters.”
“Mythbusters,” of course, is a popular show on the Discovery Channel that seeks to debunk popular myths and legends “by mixing scientific method with gleeful curiosity . . . to create a signature style of experimentation.”
Unfortunately for Carpenter, “Mythbusters” has never done a show exposing any misconceptions behind sobriety tests. Deputies busted Carpenter—who allegedly was driving without headlights and had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech—for driving under the influence.
The “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” Award goes to Ori Feibush of OCF Realty in Philadelphia. The coffee shop owner and real estate developer, like many residents of the Point Breeze neighborhood, had grown weary of the eyesore that was the vacant city-owned lot that bordered his coffee shop.
After calling the city’s Redevelopment Authority 24 times, visiting its office in person four times, and even submitting seven written requests to buy or lease the lot, Feibush had had enough with bureaucratic inaction.
Spending more than $20,000 of his own money and removing more than 40 tons of debris, Feibush transformed the lot into a lush community garden filled with carefully-tended plants and wooden benches instead of trash, weeds and broken glass.
But the city—the lot’s owner—is not happy. Paul Chrystie of the Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development is threatening to take legal action against Feibush for trespassing, and Feibush says that the city has sent letters and emails demanding that he “return it to the condition we found it in immediately.”
Said one longtime resident of the neighborhood, “They liked it filled with garbage and broken glass? I can’t imagine why the city would be upset.”
The “It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Puts an Eye Out” Award goes to Medieval Times. A lawsuit has been filed in Southern California against the popular Middle Ages-themed dinner theater chain by a South Dakota man, Dustin Wiseman.
Wiseman and his wife were on their honeymoon, and had front row seats at Medieval Times. The lawsuit alleges that during the clash of swords during one battle recreation, a shard of metal flew into Wiseman’s left eye, requiring three surgeries and leaving him legally blind.
Now the “castle” is under siege by a scourge no lords or knights ever dreamed of—lawyers, who are seeking $10 million in damages.
The “Cojones” Award goes to Cecilia Gimenez of Borja, Spain. Gimenez made headlines when her well-intentioned effort to clean up the face of Christ on a priceless fresco in the local church wound up defacing the painting (some say it gives Christ a monkey face).
With all the attention drawn to the ruined work of art, the church is charging admission, and internet entrepreneurs have put the ruined image on T-shirts, wine labels and other souvenirs. Gimenez has now hired lawyers to see if she can get a percentage of the money being made off of these reproductions.
So, if you want to deface a priceless artwork and then try to cash in on your blunder, Spain is apparently the country for you. When you think about it, that mentality kind of explains why Spain’s economy is in the toilet.
Finally, we come to the “This is Texas: Leave Our Longnecks Alone” Award. As anyone who’s ever frequented a bar or listened to country and western music knows, longneck beer bottles are a Texas tradition.
But are they “an unreasonably dangerous product,” designed to be suitable for use as a weapon? That was the argument in a recent Texas appellate case, Gann v. Anheuser-Busch, in which a plaintiff was suing the makers of the longneck bottle for injuries suffered when a rowdy bar patron used it as a weapon.
Both the trial court and the appellate court rejected that argument, saying that Anheuser-Busch couldn’t be liable for the criminal misuse of its product by some third party. And besides—this is Texas, and we like our longnecks.