12 Shocking Punishments For Minor Crimes

By: Kevin Saltarelli
Since then, rulers have had to devise punishments for unacceptable behavior. Steven Puetzer / Getty Images

Since the dawn of human civilization, rulers have had to devise punishments for unacceptable behavior. Sincere attempts were occasionally made to ensure that the punishment fit the crime, like the concept of an Eye for an Eye. By contrast, the word “Draconian,” attributed to the ruler Draco of ancient Athens around 621 BC, is synonymous with barbaric, ruthless, cruel and authoritarian punishments. According to Draco, all crimes, no matter how small, were punishable by death. While we have come a long way since ancient Athens, we think you’ll be surprised by our list of 12 Shocking Punishments for Minor Crimes.


12. Life without Parole for Stealing a $159 Jacket

Timothy Jackson was caught shoplifting a $159 jacket from a New Orleans Mais Blanche department store in January of 1996. At the time of the offense Jackson was a 36-year-old restaurant cook with a sixth-grade education and a drug addiction problem. After leaving the store with the stolen merchandise, Jackson noticed a security guard in hot pursuit and decided to put the jacket down before attempting to flee the scene.

Since this was not Jackson’s first offense, the Louisiana Court made use of his criminal past, which included a juvenile conviction for simple robbery and two other simple burglary convictions, and sentenced him as a forth-strike offender. Judge Bernette Johnson wrote, “This sentence is constitutionally excessive in that it is grossly out of proportion to the seriousness of the offense.” Unfortunately this judge was unable to deviate from the mandatory life sentence without parole mandated by the habitual offender law.


http://www.bet.com/news/national/photos/2013/11/10-people-who-were-sentenced-to-life-for-non-violent-crimes.html#!111513-national-crimes-timothy-jackson Via BET

11. Life without Parole for Stealing from Your Own Home

At the age of 22, Lance Saltzman was sentenced to life without parole for stealing his stepfather Toni Minnick’s gun. During an argument in March of 2006, Minnick aimed and fired his gun at Saltzman’s mother. Since the bullet failed to hit anyone Minnick was allowed to keep his firearm and no charges were filed. Soon afterwards Minnick pulled his gun on Saltzman’s mother again and threatened to kill her.

Fearing for his mother’s life, Saltzman stole the gun from his stepfather’s room and sold it to a friend. This friend then used the gun in a burglary, was apprehended by the police and then informed the authorities where he had purchased the weapon. Saltzman, who had served time for a burglary when he was 16, was sentenced under Florida’s Prison Releasee Reoffender Law and received the mandatory sentence of life without parole for the burglary of his own home.


http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2013/04/behind-bars-inside-baltimores-jail-through-the-years/#1 Via The Baltimore Sun

10. Life in Prison without Parole for Siphoning Gasoline

This is the story of two eighteen-wheelers in a Pearl, Mississippi parking lot. One of trucks belonged to Ricky Sherman, who had been vacationing out of town, and the other belonged to a small time thief named Philip Young who was foolishly siphoning some free fuel for his ride. As Sherman arrived home he noticed that something was amiss and confronted Young. Young jumped into his eighteen-wheeler and drove around for 40 minutes before being apprehended.

Young had previously been convicted for an unarmed carjacking in which no one was hurt. The district court decided that this conviction still constituted a violent crime and that siphoning fuel from a truck is the equivalent of automobile theft. Young was found guilty of the burglary of Sherman’s truck and was sentenced to life without parole under Mississippi’s habitual offender law. Young will spend the remainder of his life behind bars for stealing gasoline.


https://www.rbauction.qc.ca/blog/big-ticket-truck-and-transport-items-%E2%80%93-august-2014 Via rbauction.qc.ca

9. Life in Prison for Stealing a Couple of Basketball Jerseys

Ronald Lee Washington was a cook, a general laborer and a crack addict. Over the course of 21 years, Washington stole to feed his drug habit and had been convicted of forgery, theft and burglary as a result. In August of 2004, Washington attempted to steal two Michael Jordan jerseys from a sportswear store in Shreveport, Louisiana. One of the jerseys had been returned before leaving the store while the other was found in his possession after being apprehended by mall security.

Washington insisted that the jerseys were on sale for $45 each and that the combined value was less than the $100 minimum needed to classify his theft as a felony. The prosecution argued that the combined value was actually $120 and raised the theft conviction from a misdemeanor to a felony. As a result, Washington was convicted using the habitual offender law and sentenced to life in prison.


https://coloringpages-hd99.rhcloud.com/mike/mike-with-in-nike-logo.html Via coloringpages-hd99.rhcloud.com

8. Life in Prison for Stealing Tools

In 2005, at the age of 17, Patrick Matthews and friends burglarized a pawnshop and a fruit stand while high on methamphetamine. Matthews plead guilty to three counts of simple burglary and received a five-year suspended sentence. In 2007, he was charged again with a fourth burglary charge, which was inadvertently omitted from the original plea agreement, and received an additional two years of probation. As a result, his first offence labeled him a four-time offender.

In 2009, Matthews was accused of stealing tools, a welding machine and a generator with an accomplice. At the time of the arrest he was riding in the truck of the friend who had pawned the tools. Matthew claims that he helped his friend sell the tools but was completely ignorant of the fact that they were stolen. He was sentenced to life without parole for the burglary charge as a fifth-time habitual offender.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2507331/Family-man-given-life-parole-non-violent-crime-stealing-power-tool.html Via The Daily Mail

7. Life in Prison for Uttering a Forged Check Worth $88.30

A Kentucky man named Paul Lewis Hayes was indicted for “uttering a forged instrument” in the amount of $88.30. It’s a crime to create forged checks and if you’re caught doing this you will be subject to legal prosecution. This offence typically carries a two to ten year prison sentence.

The prosecutor offered a five-year sentence if Hayes plead guilty and threatened to charge him under the Kentucky Habitual Criminal Act if he didn’t “save the court the inconvenience and necessity of a trial.” Lewis, who had two other felony convictions, decided that he wouldn’t be bullied into pleading guilty and received life in prison as a result. The trial went to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Hayes’ Constitutional rights were not violated when he was threatened with a penalty beyond the crime in question. The Supreme Court failed to seize an opportunity to make the justice system fair.


http://infodomini.com/2015/02/24/strategy/check-how-to-spot-a-forged-one/ Via InfoDomini.com

6. Life without Parole for Uttering Drunken Threats

In October of 2000, Sylvester Mead got drunk at a party, burned some catfish and lost his temper. His 15-year old stepdaughter called the police. The police arrived at the scene around 2:00 a.m., handcuffed and arrested Mead and placed him into a patrol car. Mead, who had been guilty of two previous crimes, should have known to keep his drunken mouth shut.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Mead apparently told the Shreveport police officer that, “I should have shot you this time…I’ll do everything I can to get your damn badge,” and, “in about two hours, you make the trip back to my house.” Public intimidation under Louisiana law is normally punished by a fine upwards to $1000 or imprisonment up to five years. The court expressed that Mead was never a threat but that the life in prison sentence as a habitual offender was regrettably mandatory.


http://hubcityblues.com/2013/04/16/a-prison-cell-awaits-execution/ Via HubCityBlues.com

5. Scientists Sentenced to Six years in Prison for Failing to Predict an Earthquake

In 2009, an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck the town of L’Aquila, Italy, killing more than 300 people. Six days before the massive quake, Enzo Boschi, one of six Italian scientists investigating a recent series of small tremors, concluded that a large earthquake was possible but unlikely. Government official Bernardo De Bernardinis then told the people of L’Aquila that there was no danger or need to evacuate.

Italian officials, who are sometimes considered unusually stubborn, were looking for someone to blame for the disaster and decided that the scientists were responsible. In 2012, these six scientists were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison for failing to predict the earthquake. According to Seth Stein, a professor of Earth sciences at Northwestern University in Illinois, “Our ability to predict earthquake hazards is, frankly, lousy.” In November 2014, an appeals court overturned the scientists’ convictions.


http://www.sarconiweb.it/gazzettavaldagri/terremoti-i-pozzi-petroliferi-non-li-scatenano-ne-disturbano-le-balene/ Via sarconiweb.it

4. 25-Years to Life for Approximately $15 Worth of Methamphetamine

Don’t do drugs. Seriously, they aren’t good for you, it’s illegal and depending on your history this illicit form of reckless recreation can land you with some hard prison time. Just ask Californian inmate Shane Taylor, convicted under the Three Strikes Law that was passed with overwhelming voter support in 1994.

Taylor’s first two strikes came in 1988 when he broke into two unoccupied homes. He stole a checkbook from one home and left fingerprints in the other without stealing a thing. He was convicted of using the stolen checkbook to buy a pizza. Eight years later police discovered 0.14 grams of meth in his car while falsely being investigated for underage drinking. Judge Howard Broadman had no choice but to impose a 25-year sentence for Taylor’s third strike. A decade later the judge wrote a declaration supporting Taylor’s release saying, “Shane Taylor was a mistake.” Taylor remains in prison.


3. 15-Year Prison Sentence for Attempted Suicide

The story of Todd Hannigan had been a troubling and trying tale long before being sentenced to 15 years behind bars for the possession of Vicodin. Hannigan had struggled for years with addiction and had already been in and out of jail several times. In December of 2009, he decided to take his own life. He walked to a park with a six-pack of beer and enough Vicodin to successfully commit suicide. Unfortunately, the Police discovered Hannigan before being able to ingest all of the painkillers and charged him for having an open container of alcohol in a public place.

At the time of his arrest Hannigan still had 22 grams of hydrocodone, or 31 Vicodin pills in his possession. According to Florida law, having between 14 and 28 grams of this particular painkiller requires a mandatory 15-year sentence. This shocking punishment has allowed Hannigan another unwanted lease on life.

http://famm.org/todd-hannigan/ Via FAMM.org

2. 1,000 Lashes and a 10-Year Prison Sentence for Blogging

The international community has strongly spoken out against the Saudi Arabian government for the outrageous and inhumane punishment of blogger Raif Badawi. Raif is guilty of creating the Free Saudi Liberals blog and attempting to start a dialogue about human rights, woman’s rights and secularism. According to the laws of Saudi Arabia the official crime is insulting Islam.

Since May of 2014, Raif has been serving his 10-year sentence and was scheduled to receive 50 lashes every Friday. A committee of eight doctors examined him in prison and determined that he is no condition to endure another flogging. Despite Raif’s mental and physical state the lashings are expected to resume at any time. Even worse is the prospect of a retrial where Raif may be charged with apostasy, a crime punishable by death. Raif’s wife and three children have relocated to Quebec, Canada where they are fighting for his release.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/raif-badawi-saudi-arabia-urged-to-halt-flogging-of-liberal-blogger-sentenced-to-1000-lashes-9967008.html Via The Independent

1. 384,912-Year Prison Sentence for Failing to Deliver the Mail

Gabriel March Grandos from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, was 22 years old when he was sentenced to 384,912 years for failing to deliver 42,768 letters. Failing to deliver mail apparently constitutes fraud according to the Spanish judiciary. Grandos was sentenced to 9 years for each of the letters that he failed to deliver. While it is unclear if the outrageous sentence requested by the Spanish prosecution has been reduced, it still remains the longest prison sentence in history.

By comparison, 34-year old William Morse of Dawson Springs, Kentucky, failed to deliver close to 45,000 letters between 2011 to 2013. According to his lawyer, Morse was divorced and was responsible for picking up his children during the day. To speed up his route Morse decided to dump the undelivered mail in the basement of his deceased mother. William Morse was sentenced to 6 months in jail and given a $15,000 fine.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mailbox_USA.jpg Via Wikimedia