Stealing A Meal From Waffle House At Gunpoint Will Earn You 35 Years In The Hoosegow

We can’t imagine that even the fluffiest, most fruit-laden syrupy stack of waffles would ever be worth 35 years in prison, but a judge is sending an Alabama man to the slammer for that stretch for stealing a meal from a Waffle House.

It wasn’t just the stealing that put the man away –Â although we’ve seen our share of people arrested for pilfering from fast food joints — he also pointed a shotgun at workers, reports the Associated Press.

Back in November 2010, cops intervened when the man refused to pay for his meal and then took out the gun. He also had a brief standoff with police as they tried to arrest him during a traffic stop.

His defense lawyer asked for a lighter sentence in the first-degree robbery conviction, arguing that his client has the kind of mental problems that would lead to such an event going down. But prosecutors claim he didn’t use the insanity defense during trial so it doesn’t apply now that he’s been convicted.

Man gets 35 years over Waffle House meal [Associated Press via AZCentral]

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  1. Coffee says:

    This does sound like the kind of thing a mentally disturbed person would do. I wish that our society would look more at the circumstances surrounding an event when determining sentencing. Does he have a history of mental illness? Was he off his medication? Should he be taking medication? Was there a recent traumatic event in his life that caused him to act in this manner?

    I know there are many legal absolutists on The Consumerist, and I’m just going to have to disagree with those who think that 35 years in prison is – barring some very specific circumstances – a fair punishment for the crime.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      He was convicted of first degree felony robbery, not “theft of waffles”. 35 years sounds about right for a first degree felony, especially considering that he’ll serve 1/3 of that time and then get out on parole.

      If he’s mentally disturbed then he should get 35 years in the loony bin instead.

      • who? says:

        Felony robbery means he had a gun. First degree means he had a crappy public defender. 35 years is draconian, and in a civil society it wouldn’t be tolerated. We don’t put murderers away for that long.

        • TheMansfieldMauler says:

          We don’t put murderers away for that long.

          And that’s a problem, too.

          35 years for armed robbery is draconian in your book huh? Tell you what – go do some research on recidivism and what happened when states started kicking prisoners out due to overcrowding. Remember Willie Horton? How about Kenneth McDuff? Here’s a good read for you:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_McDuff

          • Coffee says:

            And the recidivism rate in Norway, where the legal system focuses on rehabilitation and treatment rather than treatment, is far lower than that in the U.S. I fail to see how providing several sad examples really does more than provide shock value.

            • Coffee says:

              *rather than punishment

              I need to self-edit better.

            • rmorin says:

              Believe it or not though, there are people that are against what many would consider rehabilitation and not for the reasons you would think.

              I think that prisoners should have to do something in a routine as a form of rehabilitation. Either go to school, learn a trade, or work just get into a habit just like every contributing member of society does. Sitting around is just going to reinforce the belief that you do not have to contribute, and likely just make you a better criminal.

              There is however backlash from some that making prisoners work at all and not paying them decent wages is somehow inhumane and that work should be optional and well paid. I disagree with this. Every prisoner (up to their physical and mental ability) should be required to work or go to school. No I don’t mean 16+ hour shifts with no breaks or water, please don’t anyone suggest that. While incarcerated, you get the basics (food, shelter, heck even healthcare) taken care of, and a nominal reward for working to spend on the cantine should suffice.

              Even in the example you cite in Norway the prisoners are required to work for 7 hours a day, so I don’t understand why we do not require prisoners to either work or school. Lord knows companies would bite at the cheap labor.

              • Coffee says:

                I agree with you completely, and I’m not saying that prison should be like a resort hotel where people spend all their time in arts & crafts, producing nothing of value to society. One of the things that gets people in trouble to begin with is a lack of self-worth and the feeling that no matter what one does, there is no hope for them. Providing them with the opportunity to learn employable skills and education that will serve them when they are released is, at least, a step in the right direction.

                I think part of the issue centers around how we perceive prisons. What is their function? Is it to incarcerate people for whatever length of time they’ve been sentenced to, then release them because that chunk of time represents their “debt to society”, or is it to rehabilitate people? Personally – and I know this will not happen – I would prefer if prisons had experts who treated the prisoners like patients, releasing them when they’re ready. Unfortunately, our trend toward subsidizing for-profit jails will prevent that from ever happening, but that’s a separate issue altogether.

              • Auron says:

                But those kinds of programs won’t work her in ‘murica. And there is one reason why: It would cost money to implement and run programs like that. And we can’t be spending money on the scum of the earth when that that money could be spent to give more tax breaks to the richest.

            • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

              Are all the nutters in Norway running around with loaded guns all the time just in case they get torqued off over some minor thing?

            • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

              Coffee- Those examples serve to prove your point that our system is broken. Our system is about punishment rather than actually helping reform people, hence why places like Norway are far more civilized and have lower recidivism rates.

      • CubeRat says:

        I have to agree with Coffee in this case. Even with the conviction for first degree felony robbery, the gun, scuffle with police, etc. I think 35 years is excessive, even if he only serves 1/3 of the sentence. (And I firmly believe the death penalty is underused and should be used for child sex abusers too, and some cases of sexual assult.)

        I don’t know if there are additional circumstances, as I’m unable to open the link. Unless this buy is one of those persons with a long history of violent crime, 35 years or 12 1/3 years is too much. And if he as a psychiatric illness, he should be in a facility that will be able to provide treatment.

        • Coffee says:

          The link is similarly vague. If there were more information about his mental state at the time, it would give us more to work with, but there you have it.

    • Schildkrote says:

      No, I think if he’s going to threaten someone’s life, he needs to be kept away from society and people who don’t do things like that.

      Because, y’know, that’s what keeps “our society” from being full of people who wave guns in other people’s faces.

      • Coffee says:

        There’s something in psychology called the Fundamental Attribution Error, which is the tendency for us to ascribe a person’s behavior to someone’s disposition or personality. It happens to everyone to some extent, but the tendency is far stronger in individualistic societies like ours than it is in more collectivistic cultures (like Japan, for example). I think that tendency causes us to have a far more punitive penal system than those in other countries because we cannot conceive of the fact that maybe there’s more to a crime than simply a bad person doing a bad thing.

        The Fundamental Attribution Error, when combine with the Just World Hypothesis, create a very unforgiving legal system and society.

        • PunditGuy says:

          I’m sure you’ll feel exactly the same way when some unfortunately soul who skipped his meds aims a loaded shotgun at one of your loved ones. Just give him a pack of meds and his shotgun back and send him on his merry way. What could go wrong?

          • StarKillerX says:

            Exactly, so many people are understanding when other people’s lives are put at risk, but would likely be less so if it was them or their family.

            As for a patient being off their meds, a girl I used to work with was killed when person who was “off their meds” pushed her in front of a subway train a few months after she moved to NYC. Being NYS his actions were excused because he supposedly wasn’t responsible because he was off his meds, so he “served” less then 6 months in a mental ward to get his meds going again as was released. This despite the fact that 18 months or before he killed this women he had killed another young women the same way after not taking his meds.

            I might cut an undiagnosed person some slack for their actions but once they know they are a danger to others when they are off their meds and they still choose not to take them they should be treated just like anyone else would if they committed the crime. Should we let drunk drivers off, even if they kill people because they weren’t responsible for their actions because they were drunk?

            Sorry, but your comment sent me off on a bit of a tangent. :)

          • Coffee says:

            This is a loaded statement, and honestly, I’m a little surprised to hear it, coming from you, as I believe you’re one of the most rational, thoughtful posters on here. You can extend that reasoning to many things: oh, you think the sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine are too stringent? Wait until a crackhead murders a member of your family. You think that HOA policies are too severe? Wait until the Beverly Hillbillies move next door to you and set up a meth lab in their trailer. Etc. The fact that sad things happen doesn’t just give us carte blanche to lock up every person who makes a stupid mistake for 35 years “just in case”.

            Similarly, your glib “give him some pills and send him on his way” comment is similarly loaded. I didn’t say that he should be written a prozac prescription and sent on his merry. He should be incarcerated and treated. If, during his incarceration, it’s clear that he suffers from something significant enough to render him a danger to himself and others, he should be institutionalized. But we don’t have that option in the United States because Reagan shut down the institutions, relegating the penal system to “take care” of many of the people who, in reality, belong in treatment.

            • PunditGuy says:

              The problem with your examples is that they’re hypothetical worst-case scenarios. What I’m talking about actually happened. Regardless of the reason, and frankly I don’t give a flying fuck what the reasons were, this guy pointed a lethal weapon at actual persons — and you don’t hand out pitty party invitations for that sort of thing. Not in the real world.

      • pgr says:

        Oh, you mean Republicans from Florida who are “Standing Their Ground”?

    • czechyoself says:

      I apologize in advance for the legalese, but it sounds like his attorney “screwed the pooch.”

      • Coffee says:

        Pretty much…our legal system, in all its adversarial glory (and yes, there are non-adversarial legal systems out there) is inherently designed to favor people who can afford good advocates and punish those who can’t.

    • dolemite says:

      I’m not really worried about the medication/mentally disturbed aspect except…how does he own a gun?

    • Jawaka says:

      I really don’t care if he has a mental illness or not. If he’s out there in the public pointing shot guns at people he should be put away. Feeling sorry for the guys illness only lasts until he shoots your wife or kid.

  2. dush says:

    Should have stolen billions from the taxpayers instead. No prison time.

  3. jbandsma says:

    And maybe the public should know if he’s been sentenced to a for profit prison.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Wow, that’s some stretch you made there.

      • Coffee says:

        Not really. There has already been at least one case of a judge facing prison time because he took kickbacks to levy unreasonable and unwarranted punishments.

        • StarKillerX says:

          Oh I understand that buy sentencing someone to prison for threating a bunch of people with a shotgun and then getting into an armed standoff with police isn’t exactly an unreasonable sentence, little lone one made to benifit the prison system, public or private.

  4. bdgbill says:

    He stuck a gun in someone’s face, let him rot. Hope that waffle tasted good, douche.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    He should be sentenced to wash dishes for 35 years at the waffle house and be paid minimum wage. I think this would be the most equitable solution to a common problem in today’s society.

  6. Michael Belisle says:

    You are a thief!
    I stole a loaf of bread.
    You robbed a house!
    I broke a window pane.

    Five years for what you’ve done.
    The rest because you used a gun.

  7. frodolives35 says:

    Prison the new insane asylum. Crazy is ok but crazy waving a gun over a meal need’s to be locked up somewhere.

    • Coffee says:

      And punished. You forgot punished.

    • humphrmi says:

      Blame his lawyer, not the system. Arizona does have asylums, as you call them. His attorney chose not to raise an insanity defense during his trial, but rather waited for sentencing. So either he knew that his client didn’t meet the standard for an insanity plea and his client’s trying to game the system, or he’s incompetent.

    • George4478 says:

      You say ‘waving a gun over a meal’. I say ‘ threatening numerous people with a shotgun during a robbery, police chase, and armed standoff.’

      I guess if he shot someone you’d think he was only guilty of ‘littering of biological products’ or ‘shooting a firearm indoors’.

  8. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Steal one meal = 35 x 365.25 x 3 free meals.

    The poor guy has a mental condition…. but somehow carries a loaded gun. Bad combo.

    • Coffee says:

      Ironically – and I know I’m generalizing a bit here – the people who want him in prison the longest are the same people who would die for his right to own the gun. It’s a mad world.

      • IR1 says:

        Well it is in the constitution… along with the right to due process which he got.

        • Coffee says:

          Isn’t there something in the Constitution about cruel and unusual punishment?

          • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

            I think one could argue, given the deplorable conditions of prisons and the abject mistreatment of inmates which is commonplace therein, that ALL forms of long-term imprisonment are by there very nature cruel.

            • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

              their. Damn, I’m getting old too fast.

            • Peri Duncan says:

              That’s why prior to mid-19th century, there were no long-term prisons and most felonies had the death penalty. The thought at the time was that death was less cruel. Try to win that argument now as more states are going to life without parole and ending the death penalty, then patting themselves on the back as being enlightened.

              As for lesser crimes, again, no year or months in jail; people were branded so everyone they met knew they were a thief or man-slaughterer (Boston Massacre for example). That might be a good idea now with overcrowding and expenses, but again, a judge who ordered a guy to stand on the corner with a sign displaying his crime (instead of going to jail), was accused of cruel and unusual punishment.

              Two hundred years from now, what we are doing, or think is appropriate, will be denigrated, and we might be appalled by what they consider fair punishment.

      • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

        I don’t believe that 2nd Amendment advocates want mentally ill people to own guns. Can you please provide a link to the data that supports your claim?

        • Coffee says:

          The people who want him in prison obviously don’t think he has a medical condition severe enough to prevent him from going to prison for 35 years. So if he’s not crazy, he should have the right to own a gun, no? Or is he just crazy enough to be denied a gun, but not so crazy as to avoid a lengthy prison sentence? Down the rabbit hole we go. Calling him too crazy to own a gun, but still advocating that he should spend 35 years in prison, that’s lunacy.

          • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

            I think your confusing mental illness with legal insanity. Folks who are legally insane do not know the difference between right and wrong and are subject to a different set of rules — as it should be. A person can be batshit crazy and still understand that robbing a waffle house at gunpoint is wrong.

            Mentally ill people should not own guns, but if they are not legally insane then they are subject to the same laws that the rest of us are, This includes going to jail.

            I don’t know of one responsible gun owner who wants to put legally insane people in prison, or allow any person with a mental illness to own guns.

          • StarKillerX says:

            Where do you want to draw the line? For example, the news are full of stories every week of people committing acts that no sane person would do, should they all walk?

            Look no further then Jerry Sandusky, is a grown man being attracted to prepubescent children sane?

            • Coffee says:

              Of course not, and that kind of reasoning is an abuse of slippery slope arguments. Of course everyone should be evaluated independently and reevaluated after the period of incarceration has ended to prevent recidivism. Of course serial offenders like Sandusky should have the book thrown at them. I’m not saying anything like that.

  9. thenutman69321 says:

    Wow, that is an extreme sentence for robbery. He must be a habitual offender or something. Under 10 years is usually about the norm for this kind of crime.

  10. Guppy06 says:

    Stealing a meal at gunpoint: 35 years.
    Selling a gun to the kind of man who would steal a meal at gunpoint: NRA’s blessing.
    Gotta love Arizona!

    Also: smells like three strikes and/or piss-poor public defender.

  11. finbar says:

    I for one feel safer.

  12. Captain Obvious says:

    He should have shot them.
    Man shoots and kill wheelchair bound man and gets 20 year sentence, which judge has suspended pending his appeal. This is how it works in Alabama. I’ll give you one guess about which case involved a black defendant and which one involved a white defendant.

    http://www.timesdaily.com/stories/Phil-Campbell-man-sentenced-to-20-years-in-shooting-death,190165

  13. dush says:

    Now he’ll get free room/board/medical for 35 years.
    He’s 57, so basically he’s retiring to the big house.

    • Coffee says:

      And rape…don’t forget rape.

      • Stickdude says:

        Yes, because there are MEN in that prison. And we all know what MEN will do when given the chance…

        (Don’t worry, I will let that one go eventually – just not today)

      • Libertas says:

        Hey, you said rape twice

      • Peri Duncan says:

        First, let me be clear–one rape is one too many (unless the victim is a child molester, or certain other types of offenders–personal opinion).

        People, me included, are/were under the impression that rape is prison is guaranteed to all prisoners, i.e. 100%. However, various studies report between 5-14% of (male) prisoners are victims of rape or non-consentual sexual assault. If you take into consideration that not all victims are likely to report the crime, it could be more like 10-28%.

  14. Mr. Kelly R. Flewin says:

    While I agree the gun pulling makes this a SERIOUS offence from just plain stupidity… 35 years is pushing it. I mean no shots fired, no one got killed. 10.. MAYBE 15… but 35? Yeesh.

    Then again if this happened in Canada and mental illness was cited…

  15. shthar says:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say, white judge, black prisoner.

  16. Difdi says:

    If he’s that desperate for waffles now, he’ll REALLY be desperate for them in 35 years.

  17. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    This is certainly important consumer-related information. Or not.

  18. ap0 says:

    Once you bring guns into the situation, it’s over for you. I don’t care about his mental state. If he’s capable of threatening people with a gun (even if he never intended to use it), he goes away for a long time. If he just got up and left without paying, I would say it’s excessive. Pointing a shotgun at innocent people just trying to serve waffles, then getting involved in an altercation with cops later, indicates to me that he’s not really someone I want freely roaming in society.

  19. Libertas says:

    It’s unfortunate, but prisons have become the defacto place to lock the crazies up. Also unfortunate, you have to wait until they create victims in order to get them off the street.