My buddy Kevin, from MySpace, sent me an article today that made me ponder my position on the nature of some crimes. Read the summary of the original article here, and my comments afterward

136 stolen cars, 1 suspect: “He enjoyed driving”
He had fun, fun, fun -— until the police took his screwdriver away.

Until that happened, Seattle police say, 23-year-old Liam Moynihan had been on a one-man crime wave, stealing more cars than anyone in King County history. Armed with only a screwdriver and hammer, they say, he jimmied his way into at least 136 vehicles during a six-month joyride of epic proportions.

From last November until his arrest in May, Moynihan allegedly stole enough cars to stock a good-sized dealership, averaging one theft every 32 hours.

And unlike many car thieves, Moynihan didn’t sell the stolen cars for parts, say detectives in Seattle’s Major Crimes Task Force, which investigates car thefts. Instead, they say, Moynihan simply liked to drive, often taking a stolen car out for a spin for a few hours, sometimes until the gas tank ran dry, and then stealing another.

“He’d just drive around, deciding to go to Kenmore or Tukwila one day. He needed to get from Point A to Point B – he enjoyed driving,” said the undercover detective who investigated the case. Police have requested the detective not be identified because of ongoing undercover work.

“He was a nice kid, very forthright, intelligent. But he knew how to do this certain thing, and he was good at it,” the detective said.

Many of the cars were either stolen or recovered in the Ballard-Crown Hill area of Seattle, near where Moynihan lives. In some cases, the cars were recovered just blocks from where they were stolen.

Moynihan was charged Thursday in King County Superior Court with 25 counts of first-degree theft. Police think he actually stole 153 vehicles during that six-month period, and many more in his lifetime.

King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said he planned to send a message to other car thieves by pursuing an exceptional sentence of 10 years for Moynihan. The maximum sentence range for the charges would normally be 3 ½ to 5 years. A jury would have to agree that the crime had aggravating factors to award the higher sentence.

Moynihan is being held in jail in lieu of $150,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.

Even if Moynihan is found guilty and sentenced to 10 years, he is eligible to have half that time shaved off for good behavior. “Those laws need to be reformed,” Maleng said.

Okay. I look at this and think: “Is this really the type of criminal we need to put behind bars?” I mean, granted, this is a crime, and crime deserves punishment, but this is the sort of thing that we romanticize and make movies about as a culture: A smart fellow with a crazy girlfriend who is impressed by stolen cars. It’s a life of adventure, romance, and action. Only the ending is slightly different from the movie: he goes to jail for 10 years, and recieves nothing but derision from the authorities.

Take Catch Me (If You Can) subject Frank Abignale. They made a movie about him, sent him to jail pending a trial, and then hired him at the FBI. Or take, for instance, the shoulda-been-a-James-Bond-movie The Thomas Crown Affair. This is the sort behaviorour we love as a country and a culture. Should we really discourage it and heavily penalize it like we did to this guy:

Map Thief Caught: Edward Forbes Smiley III was once one of the most respected dealers in antique maps in the country but that was all taken away from him after he was caught stealing maps from Yale University’s rare-book library. Saddled with a need for extravagant living and rising debts, Smiley started stealing maps about 7 ½ years ago from some of the most prestigious libraries in the world including British Library, the New York and Boston public libraries, the Harvard and Yale university libraries and a Chicago library. In total he stole more than $3 million worth of maps. After being caught Smiley was facing 6 years in prison but after cooperating with federal authorities to retrieve most of the maps that he stole, the judge gave him leniency and lowered his sentence to just three and a half years along with a fine of $1.9 million in restitution for the theft of 98 maps.

I’m just saying. Let’s not be hypocritical.


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