By now, you’ve probably read about Hannah Sabata, the Green Day-loving Nebraska teenager who stole a car and robbed a bank, bragged about it on YouTube, and was promptly arrested for her troubles. (If this is the first you're hearing of it, well, drop everything and watch this video.) As it turns out, Sabata’s not the first person to upload incriminating video for all the world’s law enforcement to see. The Internet, like the real world, is full of reckless and stupid people. Here are a few of them. (Unfortunately, all of the following videos have been removed from YouTube.)
1. Evan Emory
Tenacious D’s HBO series. Weird Al’s “Eat It” video. Allan Sherman’s sex tape. Everybody knows that making a video is the key to musical comedy stardom. So how did things go so wrong for Evan Emory? In 2011, the 21-year-old Michigan man posted to YouTube a cleverly edited video in which he appeared to be singing a sexually explicit song to a room full of first-graders. The tape made him famous, but probably not in the way he expected: Emory was accused of manufacturing child pornography. The charge was later reduced to “unlawful posting of an Internet message with aggravating circumstances,” and Emory was sentenced to 60 days in jail. Comedy: you either get it or you don’t.
2. Happy slapping
Say you’ve got an itch to go beat up some strangers. Would you A) Conceal your identity with sunglasses or a ski mask so you can get away scot-free, or B) film the whole thing and upload the incriminating evidence to YouTube? If “B” was your answer, well, then you’re probably one of the many teenagers who get their kicks from “happy slapping,” which involves punching random pedestrians, whooping and hollering for the camera, and then posting it all online. In 2009, the StarTribune reported on several happy slappers who had been terrorizing the Minneapolis/St. Paul area:
Edited and set to music, the video shows the group of what appear to be teenagers or young men taking turns saying, "Watch this," before knocking down victims and running away, laughing.
In the six-minute, 20-second video, entitled "Watch This T.V.," the perpetrators give full names and nicknames such as "Lil Stain," "Shark" and "Gun Play." Police wouldn't say whether they believe the full names are real, but they say they have identified the perpetrators and are trying to track them down.
Lil Stain, buddy, we’ve been through this. If you’re going to go tape yourself happy slapping, you can’t use your real nickname. Use a pseudonym. Call yourself “Big Stain” or something like that.
3. The great Taser caper
Though bad news tends to dominate the headlines, the world is full of random acts of kindness. Look at what happened to Paul Crowell, for instance. At 3 AM on New Year’s Day 2008, Crowell drove his car into a ditch. But did he spend the rest of the night stuck in the snow? No! A kindly policeman drove Crowell to a gas station so he could call for a ride.
How did Crowell pay it forward? By stealing a Taser out of the back of the police car, filming him and his father zapping each other with it, and posting the footage to YouTube. Though this must have seemed like a great idea at the time, it had its flaws: since the policeman knew Crowell’s name and address, it didn’t take long to arrest him. Crowell, who was already on probation, was sentenced to two years in prison. It just goes to show that roadside kindness is for suckers.
4. “Fire in the hole!”
It’s not bad enough that America’s fast-food jockeys have to deal with low wages, greasy workplaces, and brusque, squeaky-voiced managers. Now they’ve got YouTube pranksters to contend with. In 2008, some Florida teenagers decided to pull a fast one on Taco Bell employee Jessica Ceponis. As Keyonna Summers wrote for USA Today:
Ceponis handed a carload of teens their soft drinks. When she returned to the drive-through window to give them their change, they yelled, "Fire in the hole!" hurled a 32-oz. cup of soda and ice at Ceponis and sped off.
The teens posted a video of the incident on YouTube.com, alongside a number of other videos showing similar pranks. Today, the teens are scheduled to post another video on YouTube: an apology that shows them face down and handcuffed on the hood of a car.
Poetic justice, I guess. But if the judge really had wanted to make the punishment fit the crime, he or she would have made the teens eat every single item on the Taco Bell menu, including the Mexican pizza. Talk about fire in the hole!
Thus ends my second week at Slate’s Crime blog, a week filled with domestic violence statistics, Truman Capote references, and inept pseudonyms. Thanks for your patronage and for your patience. Don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with tips, questions, comments, or poison-pen letters. I’m a bit behind on my correspondence, but I promise I’ll catch up this weekend.