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July 26, 2008

Six Years in Prison for Shooting his Toro Lawn Mower?

By: Bernard Chazelle

A 56-year-old man from the Midwestern US state of Wisconsin has been arrested after shooting his lawn mower in his garden because it would not start... He could face a fine of up to $11,000 and a maximum prison sentence of six-and-a-half years if convicted.

KEITH: Hey Billy, how did you get 6 years?

BILLY: I shot Jimmy. Wouldn't pay up.

KEITH: [sigh]... damn drug dealers!

BILLY: Hey Keith, how did you get 6 years?

KEITH: I shot my Lawn-Boy Insight Series 21-Inch 6.5 HP Gas Powered Self-Propelled Mulching Mower. Wouldn't start up.

BILLY: [sigh]... damn lawn mowers!

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at July 26, 2008 12:23 PM

he was angry, frustrated and visibly so.
Few citizens are permitted public displays of valid human emotions today.

Posted by: RICH at July 26, 2008 12:59 PM

he was angry, frustrated and visibly so.
Few citizens are permitted public displays of valid human emotions today.

Posted by: RICH at July 26, 2008 01:00 PM

It starts with the lawn mower, but next it'll be the Chevy that won't start one January morning, and soon Our Way of Life will be shot full of holes.
RICH: what are "valid" human emotions, and which are invalid? Just aiming to stay out of the slammer.

Posted by: donescobar at July 26, 2008 01:32 PM

Doesn't this guy know that one should express frustration
on fellow quail hunters?

Posted by: Paul Avery at July 26, 2008 01:46 PM

shooting his lawn mower in his garden because it would not start

Man, I've been there.

There's an old Roz Chast cartoon I've always loved called something like "Graph of Susan's Silliness Index." One of the points on the graph where it spikes has a little arrow pointing to it, with a label that says "got angry at inanimate object."

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 26, 2008 01:53 PM

I've owned several of those 2 stroke Lawn Boys. If the plug gets fouled they get hard to start. I NEVER shot one but beat a couple of them to death with a hammer, possibly ONLY a two year offence.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 26, 2008 02:52 PM

Fess Up Time: I was once caught shaking a Coke machine like mad because my dime was caught in it. (Yes, cokes in Salt Lake City in 1973 went for 10c!) This big tall guy saw me and looked threatening "Stop shaking that thing, you're going to break it." I replied "It is broken."

And then, and then... my coke fell to the bottom and I collected it triumphantly. I assuaged the guy by telling him there's a theory in physics that explains why shaking something fixes it.

I was bullshitting.

Or so I thought.

But I WAS NOT! I then read an article in a SERIOUS magazine (damn, Mike's disease is contagious) that indeed banging on gadgets fixes them (warning: does not apply to people or nations).

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 26, 2008 02:58 PM

remember the scene in Doctor Strangelove where Keenan Wynn is (very reluctantly) persuaded by Peter Sellers to shoot the soda machine but warns him that if there's any trouble coming as a consequence he'll have to answer to the Coca Cola Company?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at July 26, 2008 03:40 PM

His crime was an offensse against patriotism.
lawn-boys are made in the USofA
if he'da shot a kub, or a honda, he'da only got 6 mos, deferred...

Posted by: woody, tokin librul at July 26, 2008 04:16 PM

The mower had it coming...

Posted by: Sal Kilmister at July 26, 2008 06:05 PM

What do we learn from this story?
"Anything not factory recommended would void the warranty," said Dick Wagner, local mower dealer.
The system works, but poor, angry Keith stepped outside the system. His warranty is void.
How Kafka and friends would have roared with laughter.
Leave it to the Germans to write the perfect-sounding headline for this fable:
"Mann schiesst auf kaputten Rasenmaeher - festgenommen."

Posted by: donescobar at July 26, 2008 07:21 PM

Just saw on the news that a minor league baseball player who threw a ball into the crowd during a fight could get up to 8 years.

Posted by: scudbucket at July 26, 2008 11:10 PM

Hey, do us a favor and read the articles you're linking to, ok? Five bucks if you go back and figure out what this man was actually charged with.

I can't believe how far this blog has fallen. Truly sad.

Posted by: Guest at July 27, 2008 01:08 AM

My lawn mower is electric - it needs a long extension cord, but it never has any trouble starting. This is a fact.

On the other hand, the following is a joke. There was a guy who THREATENED to shoot his neighbor for breaking his lawnmower when he borrowed it. The accused replied - a)it was actually your neighbor on the other side who borrowed it b)well, maybe it was me, but I returned it in good condition c)now that I think about it, it was already broken when I got it.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 27, 2008 01:13 AM

"Guest" has a point.
I had to go back and reread said article.
I thought it read: "he shares his mother with the rubbish."
Seriously, a 56-year old man living in his mother's home, you think he drinks??
While I have no respect for most if not all local law enforcement types, having to answer domestic calls to arrest refuse like this can't be fun.
On the bright side, at least he didn't shoot his mum. This time.

Posted by: uncle buck at July 27, 2008 10:06 AM

Yikes. I grew up with a guy who shot an actual person (they lived) and got 6 years. Then again, Toro does make a pretty good mower.

- Robert ToTeras

Posted by: RTT at July 27, 2008 02:30 PM

i am constantly irritated by news stories which proclaim "X could face 6 years in jail" when that is in truth a theoretical maximum. it's reported this way to to elicit excitement, outrage or to assure us that "it's being handled appropriately."

remember this from 2003?

"On Wednesday, the Securities & Exchange Commission filed suit against Martha Stewart for allegedly using inside information to sell her stock in ImClone before it fell in price. And the Justice Department indicted her for activities stemming from the alleged insider trading. If found guilty, she could face 30 years in prison."

she served five months. there was never even the beginnings of a chance that she would be sentenced to 30 years. but by saying she could, the "seriousness" of her crime could be whipped up beyond what it actually was. (i realize i'm skating on thin ice "defending" potential insider trading here.)

but without that "oh, my god, the lawn-mower shooter could really go to jail?" aspect to this story, it's just a person caught coloring outside of the lines.

the lives we lead are incredibly artificial constructs and it's no surprise that periodically someone busts out with a move which is outside of the permitted script.

i'd like more discussion of how truly challenging it is for individuals to navigate through the avalanche of incredibly complex stuff we all have to deal with, much of which many of us don't have the knowledge, ability or talent for.

want to piss me off? show me one more commercial declaring "most people don't realize how unprepared they are for retirement."

human beings are not all bean counters, some are in fact very bad bean counters and should not be allowed near beans, but does that mean that they should lose their share of beans? in this world it does.

i certainly wandered a bit here, but it's all related, because the constant low murmur of warnings keeps us both within the lines and distracted while our beans are stolen.

Posted by: karen marie at July 27, 2008 03:42 PM

I think the BBC was trying to be funny.

The humor rests on the reputation of the US for excessive sentencing. (Do you believe the reputation is not deserved?)

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 27, 2008 04:18 PM

"that indeed banging on gadgets fixes them (warning: does not apply to people or nations)."

Dawkins talks about this in "A Blind Watchmaker" and he in turn stole the idea from Ronald Fisher in "A Genetical Theory of Natural Selection". Give some complex system a teensy weensy little bang and alter its configuration very slightly in umpteenth different ways and there's a 50/50 chance you've nudged it closer to its optimum position in phenotype space.

Run into it with a Hummer at 75 mph, though, and you've probably made it worse.

Not sure I totally buy this. I mean, has it been shown that mutations of very tiny effect have a 50 percent chance of improving the organism's fitness? I asked a biologist this at another blog and the answer seemed to be "Well, maybe not that high" as best I could tell.

All that aside, I've shaken a few vending machines myself.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at July 28, 2008 12:18 AM

The mower was concealing a blade, so I'd say it was self-defense.

And you might think this guy got carried away, but he must be acquitted to avoid a slippery slope: if we can't exercise our right to fight back against machines that don't do what we want, then the next thing you know, we'll all be slaves of Skynet.

(sorry; channeling my inner NRA there for a minute).

Posted by: Whistler Blue at July 28, 2008 02:40 PM