As I travel between our offices in Boston, Cambridge and Salem, I see that the Halloween festivities have begun; each day I notice more and more early revelers prancing around in costume, acting nonchalant and trying to pretend that they always dress that way.
They don’t fool me…but I will return the favor and keep this week’s daily blogs on a Halloween theme. It will culminate with Friday’s blog which will examine whether “witch-hunts” still exist today.
Unfortunately, if the various originally-clad pedestrians believe they are amongst the earliest to so stride, they are too late.
One of the loyal readers to this daily blog has brought my attention to an event dating back to July in which, it would appear New Hampshire resident, James C., 49, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) got a really early start at wearing his costume. Rather than treats, however, he got a trip to the courthouse and charges of robbery.
He was dressed as a tree.
Just as the local Citizen Bank branch opened on a July Saturday morning, the Defendant walked in with leafy boughs duct-taped to his head and torso. Figuring he could never be identified by either teller or camera because of his very local foliage, he robbed the place.
“He really went out on a limb,” local police humorist Sgt. Ernie Goodno said.
No, he did not threaten use of a weapon. After all, trees don’t carry firearms. He simply demanded cash and they gave it to him. He may have figured that the teller would think that if a tree was able to walk and talk, it could probably be a threat in some way. He was apparently right as he was given the money…less than $1,000…stuffed into a black garbage bag.
However, someone not fooled by claims of a talking tree recognized him from video images from the bank’s security camera and called the police with the tip that it had been a human being after all…as well as the Defendant’s identity.
Upon being arrested, the Defendant showed the wisdom one would expect…he told the police all about it. He explained that he decided to rob the bank as he sat drinking coffee at a nearby lake Saturday morning. So, he ripped down branches and taped them to his body before driving to the bank.
After the successful robbery, though, he dropped his loot after a dye pack in the bag exploded.
He was re-planted at the local jail awaiting arraignment.
As I would expect you know, bank robbery, even for trees, is illegal. What you may not know that it is a felony often prosecuted in federal court, not state court, because of the federal jurisdiction. While state courts can be downright harsh, federal courts are known for even heavier sentences and a criminal procedure that gives the defendant fewer rights in terms of preparation for trial, than state court. In other words, it is not a good place for the accused.
You may be surprised to learn that the Defendant, without threatening use of a weapon, was still prosecuted. No, it was not because of his threatening branches. In order to be guilty of robbery, you merely have to use some kind of fear or intimidation. So, yes, appearing in greenery demanding the green stuff of another kind can be prosecuted as robbery. After all, they may have figured that anybody willing to that might well be capable of anything.
Lastly, law enforcement does not give perpetrators of crimes extra points for originally. So, bragging to them how the inspiration of creative genius struck you while having your morning coffee with Mother Nature is not likely to help you when accused.
I realize that today’s Defendant donned his “green” gear in July, which was before I began doing this daily blog. But you do not have that excuse. If you find yourself either being investigated or charged for doing something illegal…in costume or out…you are best advised to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Preferably before making inculpatory statements.
Dare I say it….you would be out of your tree to do anything else…!
Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, P.C. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a defense attorney in Boston over 18 years. He frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network
The full articles of this story can be found at http://www.nypost.com/seven/07102007/news/nationalnews/robber_makes_like_a_tree_nationalnews_post_wire_services.htm and http://www.nypost.com/seven/07102007/news/nationalnews/robber_makes_like_a_tree_nationalnews_post_wire_services.htm