Top five ridiculous prosecutions

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Twitter has been abuzz with righteous (and rightful) indignation at the prosecution of Paul Chambers, due to the following tweet: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!”

Intended as a joke for a friend, the message was picked up by Doncaster's Robin Hood airport and Chambers was subsequently charged with "sending a menacing message" under the Communications Act, fined £1000 and sacked from his job. As Twitter unites in moral and financial support (with Messrs Fry and Ross leading the celebrity brigade) here are Esquire’s top five examples of unjust prosecution…

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1. Jennifer LaPenta of Illinois was sentenced to 48 hours in prison for wearing an objectionable t-shirt. The slogan "I Have the Pussy, So I Make the Rules" so affronted Judge Helen Rozenberg that she ordered LaPenta (who was attending a friend’s court hearing) to serve a night in the cells, complaining the 19-year-old offered "no excuse" for the garment.

2. Following an awful meal with friends, Philadelphia college couple Leslie Pope and John Wagner opted not to pay the tip. Having been made to wait over an hour for their food and to locate their own cutlery (during which time their waiter went out for a smoke), they felt quite within their rights to leave without an additional gratuity. The owner of the restaurant felt differently and called the police – the couple were taken away in handcuffs on a charge of theft. The tip amounted to $16.35.

3. British motorist Michael Mancini was served with a £60 fine for the act of blowing his nose whilst driving. Understandably incredulous, he announced his intention to not pay the fine. PC Stuart Gray, the officer who levied the fine, is also notable for having once fined someone £50 for the act of dropping a £10 note.

4. A family run pet-shop was fined a total of £1750 for selling a goldfish to a 14-year-old boy. Great-grandmother Joan Higgins was fined £1000 and given an electronic ankle-tag, with her son Mark ordered to pay £750 and complete 120 hours of community service. Remarkably the council had actually arranged a sting, sending in the 14-year-old to test if the shop was complying with the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, which prevents the sale of live fish to under 16s.

5. Michelle Lyn Taylor, 34, may well have expected society’s disapproval when a 13-year-old boy touched her (clothed) breast. What she probably didn’t expect was the subsequent life sentence she received from a judge in Nevada, with parole starting at a minimum of 10 years. As her lawyer pointed out she would have received a lighter penalty had she killed the boy, Judge Mike Memeo helpfully acknowledged that he “wasn’t sure” why the penalty was so severe. Max Olesker