Crime in Florida is Weird and Wonderful
February 8, 2017 (Fault Lines) — As Chris Seaton pointed out in his uproarious post last week on Fault Lines, crime in Florida is sui generis. As all lawyers know, “sui generis” is Latin for “laugh your ass off.”*
Since the early 50s, I have made the study of crime in Florida a passionate avocation. This is largely because I lived in Pass-A-Grille during part of my childhood and I have yet to recover. As kids, we used to congregate on the beach in front of a home near the aptly-named and especially garish Don Cesar hotel.
We peered over a retaining wall of a beach-front home local lore suggested belonged to Johnny Torrio, the mobster. Once in a while, we would get chased away by large men in suits. What we didn’t know was that Torrio no longer owned the property. He had sold it (no doubt at arms-length) to Sheriff Hugh Culbreath, triggering an investigation by Kefauver’s Senate Crime Committee.
Sadly, my dad, doing a passable imitation of Willy Loman, went broke and we left Florida. But by then I was hooked on comedy and crime in Florida.
Even so, I try my best to keep up on the off-the-wall crime in the Sunshine State. The best chronicler of the eccentric nature of crime in Florida is the famous writer for the Miami Herald and crime novelist, Carl Hiaasen. He was born and raised in Florida. His novels begin with the bones of a true story taken from the pages of the newspapers.
Consider this free excerpt from his new novel about crime and Florida, entitled Razor Girl:
On the first day of February, sunny but cold as a frog’s balls, a man named Lane Coolman stepped off a flight at Miami International, rented a mainstream Buick and headed south to meet a man in Key West. He nearly made it.
Twenty-seven miles from Coolman’s destination, an old green Firebird bashed his car from behind. The impact failed to trigger the Buick’s airbags, but Coolman heard the rear bumper dragging. He steered off the highway and dialed 911. In the mirror he saw the Firebird, its grille crimped and steaming, pull onto the shoulder. Ahead stood a sign that said: “Ramrod Key.”
Coolman went to check on the other driver, a woman in her mid-thirties with red hair.
“Super-duper sorry,” she said.
What the hell happened?”
“Just a nick. Barely bleeding.” She held her phone in one hand and a disposable razor in the other.
“Are you out of your mind?” said Coolman.
The driver’s jeans and panties were bunched around her knees. She’d been shaving herself when she smashed Coolman’s rental car.
“I got a date,” she explained.
“You couldn’t take care of that at home?”
“No way! My husband would get so pissed.”
But I can’t depend solely on Carl. There is so much material that one must also troll the pages of the newspapers and the internet. After all, there is no substitute for independent research. And that brings me to Tallahassee
Tallahassee is the Capital City of Florida. It is located among the hills, moss-draped oaks, and stately pines of Florida’s panhandle. Panfilo de Navaez, the one-eyed Spaniard, first passed through the area in 1528.
Later, Ralph Waldo Emerson called Tallahassee “a grotesque place…rapidly settled by public officers, land speculators, and desperadoes.” Over 150 years ago, Tallahassee’s Police Department was formed to end this lawlessness.
But, as I next explain, the T-town police, despite their years of experience, have not been entirely successful. Consider the recent case of a very angry man who chased a pastor and threatened to kill the godly man with a gun.
Here are the frightening details:
A well-known Tallahassee pastor was forced to flee naked after a husband came home early and found him having sex with the man’s wife.
. . .
According to a Tallahassee Police report, officers went to the Sienna Square apartments on Capital Circle Northeast in the middle of the afternoon of Jan. 17 after a woman called to report that her husband was angry and had a handgun after he encountered his wife and [an a pastor] having sex in the daughter’s bedroom. The man came home early after the school called him to pick up his sick son. The school had tried unsuccessfully to reach the wife.
. . .
After the husband interrupted the tryst, he yelled “I’m gonna kill him” and ran to the master bedroom for his handgun; [the pastor] fled the apartment naked and hid behind a nearby fence.
. . .
The wife then called the police and her husband left with [the pastor’s] clothes, wallet and car keys, which he threatened to drop off at the church. He also threatened to expose [the pastor] on Facebook.
As it turns out, the police negotiated with the aspiring assassin. After a long talk, the man turned the pastor’s clothes and such over and delivered his gun to a neutral third party. State Attorney Jack Campbell, “citing the interests of all involved,” decided against prosecution.
Pour me another Orange Blossom!
Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)
*“Sui generis” can also be used to describe a particularly perverted but hilarious sex act. It involves a species of farm animals (Latin name Sus) and seven emotionally-enlightened young people of various sexual orientations. Since this is a family friendly criminal law blog, I go no further with that particular use of the words.