Obiter Dicta

Illegal Tender

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You can’t blame a person for trying, but two people in separate cases recently stretched the limits of plausibility a bit thin.

In January, an Ohio wom­an showed up in court, ostensibly to begin a jail sen-­ tence for violating her probation. But she had one final card to play.

In a lighthearted attempt to hang onto her freedom, Roarie Golder, 56, handed Judge Patrick Dinke­lacker of Hamilton County Com­mon Pleas Court a “Get Out of Jail Free” card from a Mon­opoly board game.

Dinkelacker played along and good-naturedly called the local sheriff’s office to inquire as to whether the card could be redeemed at face value. Getting the expected no, the judge then sent Golder off to begin her 30-day sen­tence.

And in Vancouver, Wash., a man already in jail asked his mother to bail him out. In the process, she almost got put away herself.

Trilane Ludwig, 24, was arrested after a traffic stop on New Year’s Day. Angela Beckham picked up her son’s car, dog and wallet from police for safekeeping, and took $500 out of the wallet to pay his bail.

A clerk immediately recognized the bills as counterfeit–they were badly made and not even the right size–and called police while Beckham waited.

Both Ludwig and Beck­ham denied knowing the bills were bogus, and the matter was referred to the Secret Service and county prosecutors.

You can only push a mom so far–Beckham reportedly refused to bail out her son with bona fide bucks.

Ungodly Request?

Church’s Response to Dithering Donor: Thou Shalt Not Renege

Making change from the collection plate might be tacky, but it probably won’t keep you out of the express lane at the pearly gates. Taking back a six-figure do­nation, on the other hand, …

But, as the good book says, judge not lest ye be judged. And it might be a judge who eventually settles a dispute between a man and his church.

Marcel Mager, 55, filed a lawsuit in 2002 against the Gospel Tabernacle Church of Clo­quet, Minn. It seems he made a rather sizable donation ($126,000) during a 1999 bout of depression and turmoil in his life, stem­ming from the break­up of his marriage.

After months of counseling and other forms of treatment, however, Mager had a sort of epiphany–he wanted the money back.

No way, says the church board. A gift is a gift. And besides, says the pastor, Rev. Richard Doebler, the church’s annual budget is only about $400,000, making such a refund near impossible.

Mager reportedly went public with the dispute only recently in an attempt to garner the support of fellow church members.

The church’s attorney, Michael Haag of Minneap­olis, says Mager’s donation was spent on the expansion of church facilities. And the money will not be refunded, he says, because it was a valid, completed gift.

One expert was quoted as saying that if Mager is to prevail in his lawsuit, he will have the onerous burden of proving he was not of sound mind when he made the donation. Which means he can hope for a miracle, but he might not have a pray­er of getting that money back.

Price of Freedom

Judge to Cop Impersonator: Just Read the Stupid Statement

Donald Sebastian wanted to be a cop in the worst way–and that’s how he did it.

Sebastian, 54, of Middle­burg Heights, Ohio, had a habit of identifying himself as a U.S. marshal, even though his criminal history precluded him from ever becoming one.

Carrying the ruse too far, Sebastian–reportedly with a phony badge and a gun–pulled over a motorist one day and then called for police backup. That proved to be his undoing. Sebastian was apprehend­ed and charged with impersonating a federal agent. At a pretrial hearing, U.S. Magistrate David Perelman had the choice of jailing Sebastian, as prosecutors wanted, or allowing him to remain free until his trial.

Deciding that incarceration was un­necessary, Perelman chose to embarrass Sebas­tian instead.

“You’re lucky you didn’t mess with the wrong person and get your damn fool head blown off,” Perelman scolded. “Did the thought ever occur to you that you could end up dead from nonsense like this?”

Then, after jotting something down on a piece of paper, Perelman handed it to Sebastian and told him to read it aloud if he wanted to avoid being jailed until his trial. “I promise that I won’t do anything stupid,” Sebas­tian read from the statement. “If I do anything stupid, I’ll likely end up in pretrial de­tention.”

Calling Sebastian a danger not only to the public but also to himself, Perel­man added one more condition: Sebastian must post the “stupid” statement in a place where he will see it each morning.

Research by Wendell LaGrand.

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