15 Criminal Sentences That Are Incredibly Strange

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Staff Writer


1. Hold This Sign for Awhile
Shena Hardin, a woman in Cleveland, decided she couldn’t wait, and disobeyed the ‘STOP’ sign on a school bus. The bus was letting out students, when Hardin drove onto the sidewalk to get past the bus. Hardin was caught and her license was suspended and she was also fined. However, the judge also decided to have her hold a sign that read, “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.” Any questions?

Marvin Fong /The Plain Dealer /Landov

2. Cut It Out
A Colorado judge used a clever way to punish a 13-year-old girl who had made friends with a three-year-old girl, then cut off her ponytail for no good reason. In court, the judge gave the teenager a month in a detention center and nearly 300 hours of community service. However, he then told the teenager’s mother that if she cut off her daughter’s hair, he would lower the sentence. The mother smartly lopped off her daughter’s ponytail, but then later felt bad about it and filed a motion against the the judge.

3. Get Yourself Some Church
In 2013, a drunk Tulsa, Oklahoma teen named Tyler Alred smashed his truck and killed his friend, John Luke Dum. The Dum family urged the judge not to ruin Alred’s life with a long sentence, and the judge complied. The judge’s sentence was less punitive than challenging. Alred was ordered to graduate high school, obtain a welding certificate, undergo alcohol and tobacco tests for 12 months, attend victim’s impact sessions and best of all, go to church for 10 years. Alred especially liked that last sentence, because he was already a consistent churchgoer.

4. Early Childhood Traffic School
A New Mexico judge presided over the case of a mother who was ticketed for not having her son in a seat belt. The mother protested to the judge that her son would remove the seat belt every time she buckled him in, and she couldn’t get him to stop doing it. Sensing a teaching moment, the judge sentenced the boy to attend a seat belt safety traffic school class. His mother, of course, was also ordered to attend, and chances are that the boy probably doesn’t unbuckle himself anymore without permission.

5. Talk About ‘Clean’ Living
The city of Cleveland is known as being one of the unluckiest sports towns in the U.S., and is also known because one of its rivers caught on fire. In 2008, a landlord named Nicholas Dionisopoulos, was brought up on charges of failing to observe the proper building codes in his rental homes. As a result, residents were living in broken down houses for years. Judge Ray Pianka sentenced Dionisopoulos to live in one of the rundown rental homes for six months, fined him $100,000, and ordered him to use rent payments to make the repairs.

Tony Dejak, AP file

6. You Can Take a Horse to Water
Texas is known as a state filled with big ranches, farms, and tons of horses. Two of those horses were the subject of an unusual case in 2005, in which a Texas woman, Melissa Dawn Sweeney, who owned the horses, was accused of starving them. Judge Mike Peters sentenced her to a month in jail, and ordered jail officials to mount giant photos of the starving horses on Sweeney’s cell door. Strangest of all, Sweeney was only allowed bread and water for the first three days of her jail term.

7. Rob You Blind
Michael A. Cicconetti, an Ohio judge, known for his weird sentences, topped himself in the case of Jeremy Sherwood, an 18 year-old who stole porn from an adult video store. Sherwood was sentenced to stand outside the store for three days with a blindfold on, wearing a sign, “See no evil.” But it isn’t all bad, because Sherwood was given the choice of that humiliating punishment or 30 days hard time. Given what happens in county jail, Sherwood’s three days of shame was preferable to a lifetime worth of scarring in a real jail cell.

8. Making an ‘a**’ out of Yourself
Let’s stay with Cicconetti for another example of making the punishment fit the crime. The Ohio judge struck again in 2003, when Brian Patrick and Jessica Lange showed up in his courtroom. The two were convicted of vandalizing a baby Jesus statue in a nativity scene outside a church. In addition to a 45-day stint in county jail and drug and alcohol counseling, Patrick and Lange had to walk a donkey in public with a sign, “Sorry for the jacka** offense.”

9. But Words Will Never Hurt Me
Texas doesn’t fool around with thieves, and Judge Kevin Fine of Harris County walks as tall as any sheriff. In 2010, he was fortunate enough to preside over the case of Daniel and Eloise Mireles, convicted of embezzling $255,000 from a crime victim’s fund. The duo got the standard sentence to pay back the money, and community service, but then Judge Fine made them post a sign on their front door that read, “The occupants of this residence, Daniel and Eloise Mireles, are convicted thieves.”

Melissa Phillip, Houston Chronicle

10. Here, Kitty, Kitty
Since Judge Cicconetti has been kind enough to provide two incredibly strange sentences, it’s only fitting that he appears on the ballot one more time. In 2005, Michelle M. Murray was convicted of leaving 35 kittens in a park, resulting in nine deaths and multiple incidents of starvation. Cicconetti gave Murray several options, including a fine, two weeks in jail, house arrest for 15 days, or spending a night in the woods without food or camping equipment. Murray took the night in the woods, but was permitted to build a fire since it was November when she served her sentence.

11. This Book Will Keep You From Sin, or Sin Will Keep You From This Book
In 2012, Cassandra Belle Tolley of South Carolina drove drunk and hit another car, injuring two passengers. Judge Michael Nettles gave her five years probation along with eight years in jail and drug abuse counseling. However, then he asked Tolley if she would also agree that as part of her sentence she read the book of Job in the Old Testament and summarize what she learned. Job is a book that chronicles a man who suffers many calamities, but stays faithful to God and is rewarded in the end. Ironically, Nettles couldn’t have ordered this last sentence without Tolley’s consent.

12. Earn Your Own Pocket Money!
In 2011, a 25-year-old Spanish man in Andalusia took his parents to court for stopping his allowance. The man’s parents wanted him to get a job and stop relying on them for support. Instead of restoring the man’s allowance, a judge reversed course and ordered the man to leave his parent’s house within 30 days and get a job. The judge deemed that the man was fit and capable of working, and that his parents had no obligation to provide him with pocket money.

13. Bah Humbug
Judge Michael Holbrook of central Ohio isn’t one to be crossed. When Bettina Young appeared in his court in 2013, convicted of providing falsified ID cards and licenses to illegal immigrants, Holbrook gave her five years of probation, which seems appropriate. He also tacked on three days of jail before, during and after Christmas for each of the five years Young was on probation. Any violation of this sentence would trigger an automatic 15-year jail sentence.

14. Face the Music
In 2008, Andrew Vactor of Urbana, Ohio was fined $150 for blasting his rap music at levels beyond city ordinances. Judge Susan Fornof-Lippencott made Vactor an offer she didn’t think he could refuse: spend 20 hours listening to classical music, and the fine would be reduced to $35. Vactor agreed, but 15 minutes into the beautiful strains of Beethoven, he quit and paid the full fine. Vactor said he just didn’t have the time to listen to that much classical music, and that basketball duties pulled him away. He’s definitely not the first defendant who couldn’t face the music.

15. Tightening the Noose of Justice
In 2013, Ohio teen, Matthew Hermann was convicted of tying a noose around the neck of a black student and yelling racial insults. Judge James Linn sentenced Hermann to two years of probation, but didn’t stop there. Hermann was also ordered to pen an essay about lynching in America, which presumably would follow the five-paragraph format of introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. Hermann was also sentenced to take part in a peacemaking circle with his victim, his victim’s family, and school counselors.