Obiter Dicta

Girl, Interrupted

Vacation Vaporizes as Year-Old Marshmallow Mistake Creates Sticky Situation for Traveler

Posted Aug 1, 2004 10:43 AM CDT
By Brian Sullivan

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“Targeting the people, money and materials that support terrorist and criminal networks.”

That’s the tag line of U.S. Immi­gration and Customs Enforcement, charged with addressing vulnerabilities in the nation’s border, economy and infrastructure.

And ICE agents thought they had spotted a red flag in June. While screening the passenger list of the cruise ship Fascination—docked in Miami—they noticed a warrant for the arrest of one Hope Clarke, stemming from a 2003 incident at Yellow­stone Na­tional Park.

What type of mayhem could a 32-year-old teacher’s aide from Riverton, Wyo., have been involved in? Pick­ing wildflowers? Getting too close to Old Faithful?

The reason Clarke was rousted from her cruise ship cabin at 6:30 a.m., handcuffed and taken to jail was that she had left a bag of marshmallows on the ground at her campsite. That’s understand­ably a no-no in bear country, but still.

Clarke was photographed and fingerprinted, and spent seven trauma­tic hours waiting in jail. “All I could do was cry,” she says. “I was so upset I was throwing up. I experienced the first migraine of my whole life.”

Clarke’s offense—cited officially as “Improper food storage at a national park”—carried a $50 fine, which she claimed was paid before she left the park. The federal database said otherwise. Hence, the hullabaloo.

In court, all it took was a close look at the citation for U.S. Magistrate John J. O’Sullivan to ascertain that the fine had, indeed, been paid. He apologized to a visibly distraught Clarke, and two hours later she was a free woman.

Despite having her vacation cut short by about four days, Clarke says she accepts O’Sulli­van’s apology.

“I think he was sincere about it,” she says, adding that she hopes the same thing doesn’t happen to anyone else. “He told somebody to find out what happened.”

IN YOUR FACE

Principal in a Lather After Student Takes
Too Much Advantage of Rare Opportunity

The Three Stooges would have been proud. Teachers and adminis­trators at Danbury High School in Danbury, Ohio, stepped forward in late April to have cream pies hurled at them—courtesy of students.

The slapstick event was part of an American Cancer Society fund-raiser held in the school’s gymnasium. Stu­dents participated in a raffle to determine who would win the chance to make like Larry, Curly and Moe.

Fifteen-year-old Blake Molnar was chosen to deliver the goods to the face of the school’s principal, Karen Abbott. But Molnar allegedly used enough force to snap Abbott’s head back and knock her off balance.

Abbott wiped the whipped cream out of her eyes and grabbed the boy, and staff members took him to the vice principal’s office.

Abbott called Danbury Township police and requested that an assault charge be filed against the student. Molnar’s father, Donald, also spoke to police and asked that an assault charge be filed against Abbott for manhandling the boy.

The case was sent to Mark Mulli­gan, Ottawa County prosecuting attorney, to determine whether charges would be filed. In June he issued a statement: “In the course of a day, there are many personal interactions. Some of these ... are destined to be unpleasant and disagree­able.”

It went on to say that the conduct displayed in the incident didn’t appear to be of a criminal nature.

Does that mean charges were not filed against either party? Soitenly!

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Stories by (Fremont, Ohio) News-Messenger, Miami Herald; research by Wendell LaGrand

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