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Assorted Stupidity #143

Mar 26, 2021 01:00 pm | Kevin



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  • Not many things would be more frightening than waking up at 4 a.m. to find someone pointing a gun at your head and demanding that you give him your cats. Well, until he got to the word “cats,” which would turn at least some of the fright to confusion. In this particular case, police believe the suspect knew the homeowner, so it’s possible this was a custody battle. The suspect took one of the homeowner’s two cats, and it’s currently unknown whether he still had the cat when he was arrested shortly after the break-in. (He either did or he didn’t, so I interpret “Laurium police told TV6 … that it is unknown” So yes, this could be an example of a “cat burglar,” at least in a sense, but it could also be an example of a cat liberator. We don’t yet have enough facts to know.
  • Speaking of animal liberation, earlier this month authorities liberated numerous goats from the property of Nancy Burton, a former lawyer who was disbarred for repeatedly accusing Connecticut judges of corruption without ever producing any evidence. According to the recent report, Burton adopted her first goat in 2008, adding additional goats thereafter until the total goat population had risen to 50. (Local zoning rules permit a maximum of nine.) According to Burton, testing the goats’ milk was an important part of her project to monitor radiation releases from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is upwind of Burton’s property. There does not appear to be a law against setting up your own goat-milk-based radiation-monitoring station, but one is required to otherwise adequately care for the animals, which authorities said Burton was not doing.
  • “I know you want to control this room,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Marlena Pavlos-Hackney on March 14, “but this isn’t Burger King.” This was at a hearing after Pavlos-Hackney was arrested for violating a contempt order directing her to follow coronavirus health restrictions at her Michigan restaurant. Initially, Pavlos-Hackney refused to respond to any of the judge’s questions, including a fairly important one at the start about whether she would swear to tell the truth. That might fly at BK, the judge suggested, but BK this was not. “When the sign changes to Burger King you can have it your way,” she continued. “Right now this is my courtroom, and you will answer my questions.” At last report, the sign still had not changed.
  • In other refusing-to-wear-masks-for-some-reason news, a 24-year-old man was arrested in Denver on March 9 after a flight from Seattle, not just for refusing to wear a mask but because he “swatted” at the flight attendant who asked him to wear one, and later “stood up, took out his penis, and began peeing” in what may (or may not) have been a further protest. Court documents show the man admitted drinking in Seattle during a layover. An FBI agent wrote that the man “had one beer, and then had three to four beers”—I interpret this as meaning he had a total of four to five beers—”and ‘a couple of shots’ before boarding….” Six or seven drinks during a layover likely contributed to the behavior. In an unfortunate coincidence, the aircraft also “experienced an unspecified ‘mechanical issue'” that required an emergency landing, for which the crew was said to be preparing at the time of the alleged urination event. The odds that a mechanical issue will arise at the exact moment you are trying to urinate on a plane must be astronomically low, although, obviously, the chance is not zero.
  • Meanwhile in London, a man was fined £2,748 after his “terrible” karaoke singing prompted at least 150 noise complaints. According to the Evening Standard, Jason Harvey held regular karaoke parties at his home in Romford, and witnesses testified that he also “embarked on late-night DIY sessions,” which I at least assume also refers to karaoke. “It has been a nightmare,” one neighbor said. “I dreaded Saturday nights. It was so loud and his singing was terrible.” Harvey received a noise-abatement notice in 2019, but ignored it. Officers reported specific complaints about his renditions of songs by Abba as well as the Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton duet, “Islands in the Stream.”
  • Long-time readers are likely aware of the significant risks posed by poor karaoke performance and/or song choices, risks that range well beyond potential fines up to and including injury or even death. Karaoke-involved homicide is one of those things that I should not find funny, but do. See, e.g., “Good Reason to Kill #11: Sang ‘My Way’ Poorly” (Oct. 27, 2010) (discussing the “My Way Murders” in the Philippines and a similar incident in Thailand reportedly triggered by “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”) Just one of the many reasons that karaoke should be avoided at all costs.
  • Finally, as you’ve probably heard, there’s a very large ship stuck sideways in the Suez Canal. If you want to know whether it’s still stuck, you can find out at isitstillstuck.com, which provides real-time updates on whether it is, in fact, still stuck. As of the date and time I wrote this, it was still stuck, and it didn’t look like it would be moving anytime soon. Not really on topic, but I provide this as a public service.

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Houston Water Escape: Another Exception That Proves the Rule?

Mar 23, 2021 01:22 pm | Kevin



The Rule, as you know, is that an attempt to escape from the authorities will fail if it involves water. See, e.g., “Seriously, Can We Get the Word Out Re: Water Escapes?” (Oct. 3, 2018). Not that I need to explain this again to you, but the basic problem is that once you are in the water, you are at a serious disadvantage in terms of speed, maneuverability, and in some cases survivability. All the authorities really have to do is wait until you realize this.

I have previously recognized an exception to The Rule, an exception that may apply in rare cases in which the escape-attempting party has access to the necessary kind of watercraft. See Speedboat Escape Is Exception That Proves the Rule” (Aug. 3, 2018) (discussing the temporary escape of the thieves who stole the Swedish crown jewels and fled via Lake Mälaren). A recent case involves this same exception, and arguably a second one that may have made the difference here (at least for now).

Last week, the Houston Chronicle reported that two people who tried to burglarize the Bayou Bend museum “remained on the run … after fleeing by boat on the Buffalo Bayou and escaping from authorities through a storm drainage tunnel.” The museum is located in the former mansion of a Houston civic leader and philanthropist (who was, by all accounts, a truly wonderful person despite being cursed with the name “Ima Hogg” by her father). It is only about 100 meters from Buffalo Bayou, a waterway that travels through central Houston before eventually emptying into Galveston Bay. According to the report, the burglars tripped an alarm, a security guard called police, and officers spotted the man and woman fleeing the building. They headed for the bayou, and normally that would be the end of our story, according to The Rule. But it turned out they had arrived by boat, and they used that boat—which, importantly, had a motor—to make their getaway.

Or at least to start their getaway. The fact is that they didn’t get very far by boat, because they ran into one of The Rule’s ramifications almost immediately. If the waterway you have chosen is a river (or is shaped like one, as Buffalo Bayou is), then the number of directions you can flee is quite limited. Specifically, it is limited to two. And if the waterway runs through an urban area, there will probably be many points at which it is crossed by bridges, upon which police with guns can stand. So—unlike the Swedish case, which involved one of the largest lakes in Europe—these thieves had all the disadvantages noted above. According to KHOU 11, officers were able “to get on the Shepherd bridge and the Loop bridge and kind of block them in,” thus rendering the boat pretty much useless:

In fact, it was so useless that the police didn’t even deploy a boat of their own. Instead, they called in a dive team. This was probably because the bayou also connects with Houston’s sewer system via drainage tunnels that aren’t navigable, so boats would be of no use to anyone in there. And, in fact, the dive team found the suspects and their boat hiding under a culvert. When officers moved in, the suspects fled into one of the tunnels. Officers followed, but called off the search after about an hour, concerned because they were out of radio communication. To date I haven’t found any reports of an arrest being made in the case, so we do seem to have here an example of at least a temporary escape by water.

And while it did involve a boat, and that boat had a motor, under the circumstances we might need to make another limited exception to The Rule, because they did not escape by boat. They escaped because they were willing to flee into a sewer. This is not just nasty, but also dangerous. While there was no significant precipitation in Houston around this time, there is another potential problem you should be aware of when considering whether to flee into Houston’s sewer system in particular.

Alligators.

I of course can’t say for sure whether alligators infest Houston’s sewers, or even whether there are any alligators in there at all. But if I were considering fleeing into Houston’s sewer system, I would absolutely assume that a horde of alligators were in there waiting for me to do just that. There is ample evidence that this is entirely possible. See, e.g., “19 Alligator incidents in the Houston area you might remember,Click2Houston.com (June 14, 2019) (one of which was “Gator wranglers in Galveston County show how to handle [gator] stuck in drain”); “Houston fire chief warns of risks from sewer bacteria, alligators,” Reuters (Sept. 9, 2017) (also snakes); “Alligator calls storm sewer home,” Houston Chronicle (Jan. 10, 2005); and of course most importantly seeBad Places to Hide: Island in Alligator-Infested Lake,Lowering the Bar (Mar. 30, 2016) (describing an escape attempt that ended in a lake just north of Houston, shortly after the suspect noticed the gators). In fact, Click2Houston quoted one local resident as saying he had personally seen “alligators and snakes and stuff” in Buffalo Bayou itself. (Ordinarily I’m not sure I’d rely too heavily on those residents’ testimony, but here other evidence corroborates it.)

So while we might say that fleeing into a sewer system is an arguable exception to The Rule, in that it may increase the chance of escape, it’s still a bad idea for all the reasons noted above. I would point out that although the suspects haven’t been captured yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve escaped. For one thing, they had to abandon their boat, and police may be able to trace that back to them. Given where they chose to flee, though, escaping from the police may be the least of their worries.

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More to read:

In Blatant Power Grab, D.C. Circuit Tells Lawyers to Stop Using Garamond
Moms Arrested for Hacking Cheerleading and Homecoming-Queen Competitions
“Is That a Rocket Launcher?”—Criminal Lawyer Reacts

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