Saturday, September 27, 2008

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part VI): Property crime and other miscellany

The September 18, 2008, issue of the Newton County Times was in the mail yesterday, and it features only one law-related story on the front page. The story's headline is "Adjudicated court cases reviewed," but as far as I can tell, it reviews only criminal cases. Eleven cases are reviewed, but I will mention only those that have not been covered in recent issues of the paper, which I've written of in this blog. That means that most of the cases to be discussed here arose from property crimes, not the more headline-grabbing crimes against the person that have been the recent focus of front-page stories.

Here are the basics on crimes that happened as long as six months ago:
  • 20-year-old female charged with financial identity fraud after submitting credit applications and receiving credit cards using another person's identity. The woman obtained more than $3,500 worth of merchandise with the cards. She was placed on five years' probation for each count, to be served concurrently, and sentenced to 100 hours of community service. She was fined $500 pus court costs and fees and ordered to make restitution.
  • 44-year-old man charged with "making and uttering hot checks" for the total amount of $830. He was placed on probation for a year and fined $83 plus costs and restitution.
  • 34-year-old man charged with not paying child support. He was placed on 10 years probation and fined $100. He was also ordered to pay past due support totaling more than $12,000. A fine of $100 is not much of a penalty for a man in arrears on his child support to the tune of $12K. Bear in mind that unless this man and the child(ren)'s mother are anomalous within Newton County in terms of income level, that $12K could represent literally years worth of unpaid child support. I wonder what mechanisms are in place for actually collecting on the debt.
  • 24-year-old man and 23-year-old man charged with theft by receiving, a Class C felony, for possession of property, valued at $1,745, stolen from a sawmill. Each defendant was placed on a year's probation, and each was also ordered to do some community service and pay restitution.
  • 22-year-old man was charged with aggravated assault, a class D felony, for holding "an individual at gunpoint and [making] threats to kill the victim." He also stuck the pistol in the victim's mouth. The defendant entered a guilty plea and received a three-year suspended sentence. He was also ordered not to come into contact with the victim, and to pay court costs and fees. Interestingly, the gender of the victim is never mentioned in the story.
  • 58-year-old man was judged guilty of harassing communication, a class A misdemeanor. Prosecutors dismissed an additional felony charge of terroristic threatening. The man was accused of telephoning the Newton County Sheriff's office and stating that if anyone at that office continued to have contact with his brother or family, he would kill that officer. The man was placed on unsupervised probation and fined $200 plus court costs.
  • 51-year-old man who had been charged with arson and theft of property had charges dismissed. The man apparently burned a house from which he had been evicted and from which he had taken items. The file from which the journalist made the report did not indicate the reason why the case was dismissed.
  • 24-year-old man was charged with theft of property, "taking money that belonged to a jail inmate." The circumstances of that theft are not explained -- that is, was this man the jailer? Or did he simply take advantage of the owner's presence in jail to steal from his home? The man had earlier been charged with commercial burglary and theft of property. He was sentenced to six years in the Arkansas Dept. of Corrections and ordered to pay court costs and other fees, plus $566 in restitution. The value of the property stolen is not specified, but his sentence does seem disproportionate to the others.
The back page of the paper features more current news: the county sheriff in the midst of harvesting 108 marijuana plants. The captions to two related photos indicate that the plants are valued at $750 to $1500 per plant, and also that 189 other plants were recently pulled in other parts of the county. The sheriff notes that he "appreciates" tips from citizens about the location of such plants.

The headline for these photos is "Marijuana eradication progresses." I have long thought that it's convenient that marijuana eradication season falls so close to Election Day. It gives the Sheriff a great opportunity to show he's tough on crime not long before voters go the polls, while also -- I presume -- eradicating the plants just before harvest. But, wouldn't it have made sense to harvest some of these plants earlier in the season, to preempt some consumption?

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