Boy o boy, do criminals do some stupid things. Check out these insane stories about the stupidest criminals they've dealt with. Stories have been edited for clarity.
The Potty Thief
“I’ve been a lawyer for 12 years. My client was charged with ‘stealing a mobile toilet.’
After we won, he told me he still owns it. The jerk has the thing in his backyard because he was lazy as dirt (his office was nearby)!
I forced him to deliver it back that night.”
“Now, as a public defender, you don’t so much get asked to take cases so much as assigned.
When you get assigned to a case, you get a file that generally consists of the police report and any witness statements that may have been taken by the police and/or DA. Because the State has a duty to disclose evidence to the accused’s counsel (in the states, anyway), if they know of the existence of video surveillance, generally the DA would stamp in the report ‘KS/WP (Known surveillance/will provide).
I got a routine destruction of property case where my client was accused of destroying a computer monitor. The officers account of the case was simply ‘Surveillance reviewed. The client is taken into custody,’ stamped with the red KS/WP. The client called and sounded much more reasonable than she would turn out to be. She calmly explained that it was a wrong place, wrong time issue where she was passing through and tripped to hit the computer at a receptionist desk. So we schedule an initial meeting for Friday.
Friday came around and about ten minutes prior to the client’s arrival, a runner from the DA’s office delivered the CD with the video. Being a bit busy at the time, I figured I’d watch it with the client when she arrived. She arrived and again, seemed just fine. I mentioned that we had the surveillance and could go ahead and review it, and she pleasantly agreed. She and her reasonably well-dressed husband came in and joked a bit about how awkward this all was, and sat down across from me. I turned the monitor around so we could watch what happened.
In the five minutes of surveillance provided, the first four minutes were a mundane scene of a receptionist answering phones with a pair of double doors behind her. I fast forwarded. Then, cue the music. I watched my client kick open a pair of double doors, screaming at whatever was on the other side. She left, then came back in, screaming again and re-entered the double doors. Then I saw security guards gently escorting her out, as she was screaming at them. Security stopped at the double doors. My client went over to the reception desk, leaned over the counter to, you guessed it, grab the computer monitor, raise it over her head, and bring it smashing to the ground. She gaves a finger to security and left.
We watch the next thirty seconds in stunned silence, then the tape went black. Now, I knew enough to watch my client’s reaction during this, and she was a darn statue. Didn’t move. She just stared at the screen with the smile of someone who has killed before. Probably.
Then, she turned to me and said, ‘So, what are you gonna do about this?’
I didn’t know what to say, just kind of stared at her. ‘Well, uh, probably work on a plea deal. Hopefully, you pay them and get a couple of hour–‘
‘I didn’t do it’
‘Well, yes you did. I just watched it.’
She stood up and, without breaking eye contact, grabbed my computer monitor, lifts it up, and smashed it on the ground. She picked up her purse and walked out. Her husband followed, but turned to me in my doorway and gave me the finger, shaking his head in a ‘for shame’ kind of way.
I did not take the case.”
Dennis The Mence
“I never did much criminal defense, but a man, who we’ll call Dennis, came into my office with a Driving While Wasted charge and an Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle charge – both misdemeanors. Dennis swore up, down, and sideways that 1) he does not drink and was not hammered, 2) he never drove the vehicle, and 3) that he has a valid driver’s license.
I give Dennis the names of some local criminal defense attorneys and suggest he try them out. Dennis refuses, saying I’m the lawyer he wants (in hindsight, I should have realized that he probably had already gone to these other attorneys and only came to me after they refused to take his case).
I charge the guy $200 for an intake and record review fee and contact the local court, police station, and district attorney’s office for information and paperwork. I find out that not only did this guy blow a .18 on the breathalyzer, but the cops did a blood test on him after he kept insisting he wasn’t hammered. The blood test came back with a .22 BAC. As for driving, the separate squad cars witnessed Dennis’s vehicle run over a mailbox and drive off; he was followed and pulled over on the block. Per the police report, Dennis was the only person in the car and was in the driver’s seat with a seatbelt on. Oh, and I tracked down his license through the DMV and it had expired three years ago and was suspended for two years prior to that.
I call Dennis back into my office and told him he did not have a case that should be taken to trial. Dennis admits that he probably had been wasted, but he wasn’t aware he had been drinking. His son must have put Fireball in his green tea and he didn’t realize there was that stuff in his green tea because he was eating red hot cinnamon candies and had a cold/stuffy nose. Anyways, Dennis retains me, but only after I put a clause in his engagement agreement stating I explained his low chance at trial and he understood there was no guarantee of a win.
I take the case to trial and, of course, we lose. I was hoping to convince Dennis to take one of the plea offers given to us in advance, but absolutely not. Dennis was sure the judge would understand (Dennis wanted a bench trial, not a jury trial – I made him sign another document later on that said he understood the difference between a bench and jury trial and he was opting for the bench trial) and he would be found not guilty and everyone would move on. He was sorely disappointed but only got probation after the trial – I think the judge was taking pity on me more than Dennis.
Dennis later sued me for his retainer because I didn’t adequately defend him. As proof of my inadequate representation, he offered the judge’s verdict rendering him guilty. The case was thrown out quickly.”
Doing The Right Thing
“I’m a prosecutor, so I don’t get hired to represent anyone (I work for the government), but I do have discretion over how the prosecution progresses, i.e. deciding to proceed, deciding what to offer in the event of a plea bargain, deciding to withdraw the charges, etc. I had a case a few months ago where a man was charged with shoplifting. Turned out he was 70 years old, had absolutely no criminal record, and had shoplifted a SANDWICH which he ate politely in the store. He honestly thought he had paid for it. I was so angry that he was ever charged in the first place. When I saw him in court, he was absolutely terrified. I withdrew the charges and wished him well. I have no idea how it progressed that far.”
A Lying Liar Who Lies
“I’m in immigration, so most of my ‘stupid’ cases involve people trying to con the system or ‘forgot’ to tell us material information.
One lady stood out, though. She was referred to us as a pro bono case. She was filing for asylum based on the fact that’s she’s a Chinese national and she’s also a devout Christian. If she was sent back, she would be persecuted based on religious reasons. So nothing weird up to this point. She provided me with statements about how she and her family were harassed by the local police and how certain members of her congregation were arrested.
So I was looking at the statements and the names and places sound familiar. Sure enough, a quick googling showed this was one of the ‘bought’ stories. Essentially what happens is there are people on the internet that sells these packages of fake documents and stories for a successful asylum case. From what I’ve heard, it usually is a real case that was successful, and someone got a hold of the supporting documents and started mass producing them and selling them. I’m guessing you’re supposed to change the names from the original, but this lady didn’t. Another red flag was the fact that in her supporting documents, the witnesses kept referring to her in the male form. At first, I thought the English translation had typos, but yeah, the same thing was in the original Chinese ones. I always thought it was more of an urban legend amongst immigration lawyers.
Needless to say, I did not take her case.”
A Pretty Stupid Thief
“When I was in law school, I did the criminal defense clinic where we ‘help’ a public defender. I say help because they just give you small cases to do by yourself.
I had a guy accused of shoplifting a yellow FUBU shirt.
Guess what he wore to the trial? A freaking yellow FUBU shirt.
I asked the prosecutor to reoffer the plea deal, she did, and I convinced the guy to take community service and probation (if I remember correctly).
Our public defender system is tragically overworked and underfunded.”
“This was a paralegal gig I worked. A guy wrecked his car, wrapped it around a pole. The guy claimed he swerved to avoid a cyclist and that the stop sign he should have avoided wasn’t noticeable. Neither excuse really acquitted him of his behavior, but whatever, your paid to render services and assistance, not necessarily get 100% of what’s asked.
After lengthy discovery and document dumps that filled a spare office, a few days before trial, we came across something that had us tell the client we were dropping them.
A report by the EMT on the scene that related the following scene: the client, injured, in the driver’s seat with his pants down and adult videos streaming on his phone. To his credit, he was cavalier about his position: that the document was forged.”
A Waste Of Everyone’s Time
“I defended a guy who was charged (with theft) for stealing some crowbars. The crowbars were found in the back of his pickup truck.
At the trial, the ‘victim’ (of the ‘theft’) and two of his buddies came in and testified that the crowbars (which had been taken into evidence and properly labeled for the trial) definitely belonged to the victim, and the buddies remembered seeing the victim use them.
Then my client, his brother, and his girlfriend testified that the crowbars were definitely my client’s, they had all been using them together earlier in the day.
That was pretty much it.
The jury found my client not guilty, and one juror later wrote a letter to the judge saying that she was a high school civics teacher, and she believed jury duty was very important, and that the trial was the stupidest waste of time she had ever endured.”
How A Tomato Slice Almost Landed A Kid In Jail
“I was a public defender and did a short stint doing juvenile cases.
My best one: A kid was arrested for battery because he threw a tomato slice at his mother. Our defense was self-defense. The mom made him a sandwich and he whined because he didn’t like tomatoes. His mother then threatened to slam his face in the sandwich if he didn’t eat it. The kid picked up the tomato slice with his fingers and proceeded to fling it at his mom. State tried to argue that the mother was exercising corporal punishment, but we countered by saying slamming his face into a sandwich is beyond the scope of corporal punishment and could lead to serious bodily injury, thus necessitating a preemptive self-defense. The judge bought it. Or maybe he thought it was too ridiculous. Who knows. Not guilty is all we cared about.”
Grumpy Old Men
“I represented a nursing home attendant who had an ongoing feud with a vocally-racist resident of said nursing home.
During the last of their altercations, my client grabbed a handful of elderly man-chest and hair and gave a hearty twist, in the presence of witnesses no less. I think my guy thought it’d be funny. He was charged with felony assault (bumped up from a misdemeanor because of the victim’s age and vulnerability).
I enjoyed watching the judge try to keep a straight face while the deputy DA explained the case’s background during the plea hearing (because yes I pled that nonsense down; screw a trial on those facts).”
Rolling In The Roller
“My dad is a public defender and he had to defend this guy that stole a cop car from the jail parking lot. He claimed that it was a gift from God and was intended for him.
Of course, a police chase ensued and it went into the nearby highway (I-5 for those who know it). When he was finally pulled over about 5 minutes and 7 miles later, the guy got out of the car completely naked except for a pair of leather cowboy boots.”
“Well, one time I had to represent these two guys who broke into someone’s house while the owner was home. It was late and the guys bust down the front door with a sledgehammer when the owner was right near the entrance way. They smacked him in the head with the sledgehammer and split. However, their hammer attack didn’t knock the guy out, and he got to the window to see them speed off in a bright purple PT Cruiser, not the best getaway car.
The guy called 911 and an APB is put out for a purple PT Cruiser. An ambulance and some cops get to the guy’s house. The police find a single leather glove on the ground and the homeowner says it belonged to the guy who hit him.
About half an hour later, not too far away a purple PT Cruiser is pulled over and it has two passengers. The driver is wearing one leather glove and at his feet is a bloody sledgehammer.
The best part: they wanted to plead not guilty.”
It’s Not His Tape!
“Not a lawyer (yet) but this happened while I was doing my 1L summer internship. I worked at a Law Library in a county lock-up (jail). There were plenty of interesting stories.
An inmate was charged with felony possession and was coming down almost weekly to do research. He was basically looking for a way to get rid of a Walmart receipt and video (which indicated that he had purchased a box of bullets, giving officers cause to search and find the weapon). One day, he brought in one of the law books he purchased and had reviewed. He pointed to the section the discussed ‘Reasonable Expectation of Privacy’ and argued that the officers had not asked his permission to view the video and thus had invaded his privacy. I pointed to parts of the book that explained Reasonable Expectations, but he still wasn’t getting it. Finally, I asked him who owned the video. ‘Walmart.’ Then wouldn’t it be their decision? ‘But it’s me in the video.’ Who’s video is it? Rinse and repeat for about 5 minutes before he finally huffed off.”
A Sad State Of Affairs
“I was called by a gentleman (I use the term loosely here) who wanted me to ‘get his son-in-law out of jail’ from a possession charge. Before I could respond, he started spilling the story.
The police were called to the mobile home park for a domestic disturbance between the man and his wife. The caller said he was ‘beating the snot out of her in the front yard for the whole neighborhood to see,’ and they had better hurry. When they arrive on site, the man has calmed down and was sitting in his truck smoking, and the woman was bloody, (she had a couple of broken bones if I remember correctly) and screaming from the front porch; throwing his personal items out the front door.
As is the regular habit, the first thing the police do was ask if there are any weapons around they need to worry about since she has gone back inside. The man says, no his weapon should be in the box in the back seat. Police asked him if they can open the box to verify it was there. He said sure. When they did, they find no weapon, but lots of illegal substances. He said, ‘Oh right, weapon’s under the passenger’s seat.’ Police retrieved the weapon and took him into custody for the substances.
What makes this the stupidest case is that I got my call from the man’s father-in-law, who wanted to hire me to go get the guy out of jail and defend him on the charges. I thought a minute about the parties, then asked, ‘If he is your son-in-law, then wouldn’t your daughter be the woman who he was beating?’
He said ‘Yeah, but he is probably the best she is going to do for herself.’ I did not take the case because I am a patent lawyer. I don’t practice criminal or family law, and definitely, do not want to.”
“So I’m kind of known in my area for taking the guilty cases. About 9/10 of them are cases where the husband killed his old lady. It happens more than you think. Anyway, this one guy had been all over the news like mad, everyone says he’s guilty of killing and dumping the missing wife’s body. All the evidence pointed to him, his house was made to look like a struggle happened, there was her blood on the floor that was mopped up (poorly) and he had a mistress and a huge credit issue because he bought all this man cave stuff (golf clubs, video games, huge tvs, and so much adult smut, really hardcore stuff). Anyway this dude came to me and told me his wife is still alive and framing him for all this stuff just to get back at him for cheating but he couldn’t prove it… I took the case (charged the dude a $150,000 retainer) and it turns out he was telling the truth, she was trying to frame him and she was alive.”
Creepy Gangsters And Super Dogs
“Criminal defense attorney here: Depends on your definition of ‘stupid.’ There are a couple different kinds:
One was the creepy Eastern European gangster dude wanted to pay cash to make prior felony conviction (and thus immigration problems) disappear. Stupid. He had the deadest eyes of anyone I’ve ever met. Didn’t take the case. Every day I wake up somewhere other than the river, I breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t take homey’s money only to fail.
Court-appointed ‘dangerous dog’ case, fee-capped at $120. Total. When the ‘punishment’ is euthanasia. STUPID case to take. Took it. Filed and argued a motion to suppress as unconstitutional. The ‘one-dog show-up’ identification process, as well as motion in limine to prevent the introduction of expert opinion regarding the content of fecal matter. Trial alone took the better part of a day. Stupidest case in history. One of my happiest wins, when the client/dog went home for Christmas.”