Mimesis Law
28 May 2017

Tricia Kortes’ Anger Problem

June 22, 2016 (Fault Lines) — When most of us are dissatisfied with a purchase, we just choose not to go back to the store. Or maybe we write an angry online review. If it’s bad enough, we might ask for a manager so we can complain to someone in person. Not a lot of people take measures like Tricia Ann Kortes did:

A customer is being charged with tumultuous conduct after she allegedly drop-kicked a birthday cake in a Bloomfield Hills Kroger.

Tumultuous conduct isn’t just a description of what the customer did. It isn’t a little bit of creative reporting or embellishment, but rather an actual way to commit a misdemeanor. The Bloomfield Hills code defines this as disorderly conduct:

Any person who shall make any improper, loud or tumultuous noise or disturbance which interferes with the peaceful enjoyment of the premises of others.

The facts of Kortes’s case happen to be every bit as ridiculous as you probably expect:

On June 11, officers went to the Kroger store at 4099 Telegraph for a complaint of a customer causing trouble, according to a news release.

Kroger did not have video of the incident, but the store manager told police Kortes went to the bakery to pick up a “Superman v. Batman” birthday cake. Unsatisfied with the decoration, she went behind the counter to fix it, and employees told her she could not be in that area, according to the release.

Kortes reportedly took the cake to the front of the counter and drop-kicked it, causing cake and frosting to “be strewn” around the bakery section of the store, the release said.

Another witness told police she threw the cake to the ground, stepped on it several times and yelled, “They (expletive) ruined my seven-year-old’s birthday cake!”

Kortes quickly left Kroger, but not before kicking over a wet floor sign on her way out of the building, according to the release.

I’d say that Kortes’s kid must really like Batman v. Superman. And cake. I’d say that seven-year-old must have some exacting cake standards, or else it would be especially ridiculous of Kortes to act the way she did. Of course, the reality is that there was probably no justification at all for what she did. Kortes probably freaked out because she was having some mental or emotional issues. All I can really say is that it would sure be great if Kroger did in fact have video of the incident. I know I’d love to see it.

The situation is ridiculous, the sort of thing that most people only see in movies. Few people are going to argue that Kortes responded to a supposedly sub-par cake decoration the way you’d expect an adult to respond. Not a lot of people are going to argue that Kortes didn’t break the law either, as what she did probably was a violation. That’s really the problem with all of this.

Consider how they caught her, and also her ridiculous statements:

Using the name and phone number on file for the specially ordered cake, officers spoke with Kortes, who said she did not kick the cake but that it slipped from her hands. According to the release, Kortes said employees told her to go behind the counter, as well.

She said she was upset about the poor quality of the cake’s decoration and that it was not what she expected, the release said.

And then consider her history:

This isn’t Kortes’ first run-in with the law. On June 3, Kortes plead no contest to disorderly person after being charged with assault and battery in 2015 from an incident in Troy, according to court records. She was fined $500 and required to attend an education program.

Kortes also was convicted of fourth-degree assault in 2003 in King County, Washington, under the name Tricia Schull, according to court records. That charged is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a maximum of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

She was sentenced to 12 months in jail and 136 hours of community service, according to the court. It is unclear how much time she may have served in jail. Her conviction was vacated in December 2015, according to the court.

The picture of Kortes that results is of someone who has some serious anger problems that she can’t control even when she should know she’ll get caught, and that she is probably a serious pain in the ass in general. A lot of people love to tell stories, and some people are so enamored with drama that it’s possible the employees and that other witness exaggerated what happened. It’s unlikely they turned Kortes acting reasonably into her going on a rampage, however.

Practicing criminal law, you hear from a lot of people who think they have really good stories. Kortes probably thought people would believe employees invited her back to fix the cake, that she dropped it accidentally. And that employees and witness then colluded to later falsely deny that they’d invited her back to fix their error and craft a fantastic story about her destroying the cake while having an outburst. Hopefully she listened to her lawyer when he likely told her no one is going to even take that seriously. Sadly, there are some people who won’t, people who will continue to push the stupidest story over the advice of counsel.

The problem with the whole situation with Kortes is really that her case may be an example of the system working just fine. She pled no contest to a similar crime weeks ago. Who knows if she’s even started her education program, which hopefully involves anger management. A decade ago, she did a whole year in jail and a huge amount of community service. She apparently didn’t learn anything. Her recent no contest plea suggests she probably disputed the facts of that case, perhaps with an equally implausible story.

So you have a woman who can’t control herself. She’s willing to flip out over a Batman v. Superman cake. She once got a year in jail for an assault that I wouldn’t be surprised also involved her temper, and more recently, she was convicted of essentially the same crime she now faces. If every conviction has been valid and she did exactly what people claim she did, then what’s the point? They had her name and her number, and yet she still did it.

Another notable thing you start to see doing criminal defense is the revolving door nature of the system. There are some people that just won’t conform their conduct to the law. It’s like the old drunk whom cops pick up every night. He won’t quit getting wasted and trespassing or bugging people, the cops won’t quit arresting him for it, and it isn’t like his petty offenses are ever going to result in a life sentence. The cycle is going to repeat, perhaps indefinitely, and we’re largely ingrained to accept it.

It really isn’t that unreasonable to charge someone for what Kortes did, but the issue is determining what we should do when someone like Kortes just won’t stop it. She’s probably never going to quit doing crazy stuff. She’s probably never going to even admit she did something wrong. All that’s going to happen, over and over again, is the same cat and mouse game, one that’s probably never going to escalate above relatively light sentences for stupid minor misbehavior.

So why bother at all? Even if the crime technically fits, is it really worth using the resources of the criminal justice system to endlessly engage difficult people just because?

7 Comments on this post.

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  • Jason K.
    22 June 2016 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Enforcement shouldn’t cease just because the offender won’t. Ramp it up with a slightly more serious offense, and it should be obvious why. That said, I can see the futility of the current process in dealing with repeat low level offenses. That is one of the cases where we should want a judge to exercise discretion and hopefully find something effective when the system obviously isn’t. ‘Correction’ that doesn’t impact behavior quickly becomes cruelty. So exercising discretion in sentencing is both to be humane towards the offender, and to hopefully provide relief to society at large.

  • Peter H Vanderwaart
    22 June 2016 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    To drop kick an object, you drop it and kick it on the bounce. “Punt” would probably have been a better word.

  • Chris
    22 June 2016 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    A significant amount of actual time in jail will change her attitude. I guarantee that 12 month jail sentence was suspended upon completion of the community service or something like that.

    There is also tons of stuff less than incarceration she can be made to do. Like trash pickup or clean toilets at a public park etc. Frequent status checks to make sure she is on track with her anger management classes, community service, lock her up for a few days every time she falls behind etc.

  • Wrongway
    23 June 2016 at 2:54 am - Reply

    Goal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • MaryK
    23 June 2016 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Just like most folks from Bloomfield Hills, her zip code has given her a false sense of entitlement.

  • Gorp
    25 June 2016 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    You can never have your cake and eat it too unless you pay

  • Sam
    17 August 2016 at 3:13 am - Reply

    She is going to seriously hurt someone one day. It seems to me the biggest thing missing here is a psych evaluation. Adults don’t have temper tantrums. Something much darker is going on here, something jail and fines and anger management classes just won’t fix. She needs healing and wasting money and resources on someone who continues to assault people and have temper tantrums in grocery stores is useless. In other news, here she goes again, this time with ice cream!:

    http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/local-news/192404993-story