Welcome to the first annual Slate Crime Blog Crime Awards, honoring the year’s most notable achievements in the field of crime, or, at least, the most notable criminal achievements that I have noticed. Fair warning: I am not very attentive, so if this list seems incomplete, it’s not you, it’s me. I’m only one man!
Dumbest Criminal: Was there ever any doubt that the year’s dumbest criminal would be Derrick Mosley, the guy who tried to rob a gun store armed only with a baseball bat? When I first wrote about Mosley in August, I suggested that he might be “the dumbest dumb criminal of them all.” Now, I give him that title with confidence. Congratulations?
Most Valuable Cop: This one goes to Constable Derek Chesney, the kindly Canadian police officer who wrote this heartfelt tribute to Alvin Cote, Saskatoon’s town drunk, who died in April. “I found out today that Alvin passed away a few days ago and, I admit, I feel an emptiness,” wrote Chesney. “It will be different as I walk my downtown beat knowing that he will not be in one of the banks and I won’t have to make a special trip to go check on him. As an officer, you encounter many individuals, but you remember certain people because they are special, and Alvin was one such special person.” Three cheers to Chesney for reminding us that cops can be as soft-hearted as anyone else.
Least Valuable Cop: Undercover NYPD detective Wojciech Braszczok was riding with the Hollywood Stuntz motorcyclists this fall when they attacked motorist Alexian Lien on Manhattan’s West Side. Not only did Braszczok allegedly fail to intervene to stop the attack, he allegedly failed to tell his superiors about his involvement until days later, when a video of the attack had already gone viral. I know, I know, he was undercover, but if there’s ever a time when a cop should break his cover, it’s when a motorist is being beaten with a motorcycle helmet.
Best Exculpation: There were a lot of people freed from prison this year after serving time for crimes they didn’t commit. But I’d especially like to remember Olutosin Oduwole, an Illinois college student who was convicted in 2011 of attempting to make a terrorist threat after police found a threatening note in Oduwole’s car. But the car was locked. The note was facedown. And the “threatening note” was apparently just a draft of some rap lyrics. Oduwole never tried to threaten anyone, and although he was freed this spring, it’s shameful that it took the state of Illinois that long to realize it.
Worst Excuse: I am a connoisseur of lame criminal excuses, and this year there was none lamer than the one offered by Kenneth Webster Enlow, an Oklahoma man charged with “peeping Tom” crimes after authorities found him hiding in the depths of a public toilet in the women’s restroom at a Tulsa-area park. Enlow claimed that his girlfriend had knocked him unconscious with a tire iron and dropped him inside the toilet for some reason. This excuse was implausible for many, many reasons, but primarily because his girlfriend had died in 2012.
Biggest Mystery: In February a woman named Elisa Lam was found dead inside a water tank atop the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Since then, authorities and Internet sleuths have been trying to figure out how she got there. Was she murdered? Nope, the coroner has classified her death as an accident. Was she on drugs? Nope, toxicology reports found nothing in her system that contributed to her death. At this point, the prevailing theory seems to be “supernatural forces.”
Least Successful Fugitive: Walter Lee Williams, a former college professor accused of sexual exploitation of children, was named to the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on June 17. He was captured in Mexico one day later.
Most Cinematic Heist: I am on record as saying that elaborate heists aren’t worth the effort—they tend to bring a lot of police attention, and they involve far too many people—but some praise is definitely due to the people who stole $50 million worth of diamonds from the tarmac at Brussels Airport in February. Yes, police made 33 arrests in the case this May and recovered some of the loot, but, still, the thieves get points for boldness, and for giving Hollywood an idea for a great new Colin Farrell vehicle.
Lowest-Stakes Robbery: This prestigious award goes to Kevin Grinnell, an upstate New York man who allegedly smashed the door of a convenience store cooler in order to steal a Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita, a disgusting and inexpensive malt beverage favored by underage girls and sugar junkies. There’s no reason to drink something that costs so little and tastes so terrible, let alone steal it.
Most Valuable Criminal: To qualify as Slate’s Most Valuable Criminal, your crime has to be great and you need to make an enormous contribution to the broader criminal community. With that in mind, there’s no better choice for 2013’s MVC than Annie Dookhan, the Boston-area crime lab technician who recently pleaded guilty to tampering with or mishandling evidence in nine years’ worth of drug cases. Some have suggested that fixing Dookhan’s mistakes might cost Massachusetts up to $100 million. In the meantime, thanks to Dookhan, hundreds of prisoners have been freed and the state has declined to prosecute more than 1,000 others. In November,the New York Times wrote about a “Dookhan defendant” named Jamell Spurill, “who had been jailed on drug charges. He was quickly rearrested for possession of a stolen gun. When he was picked up, prosecutors say, he told the police: ‘I just got out thanks to Annie Dookhan. I love that lady.’ ”
TODAY IN SLATE
The Irritating Confidante
John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.
My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee
Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?
Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?
Driving in Circles
The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.