Hang around a courtroom long enough and you are bound to see some wacky behavior. More often than not, that unusual behavior is coming from the defendants, but every now and again, it’s the judges who get a little “creative” with their sentencing — usually in an effort to make the punishment fit the crime.
Such was the case in a recent U.K. courtroom in which the judge gave a woman accused of road rage the choice between jail time and knitting items that could be donated to charity. Brit Amanda McCabe claimed she had been on her way to buy yarn for knitting when she got into a road rage altercation with another woman that ended when McCabe hopped out of her car and punched the other woman in the face. McCabe has until December to get knitting or face the slammer.
McCabe’s case is unusual, but it certainly isn’t the only time that a judge thought outside the jail cell when handing out a sentence. Here are some of the weirdest sentences given by judges.
1. Here’s your sign
Shena Hardin of Cleveland, Ohio, was frustrated to get stopped behind a school bus that was dropping off students, so she decided to blast past the school bus — by driving on the sidewalk. Hardin was ordered by Cleveland Judge Pinkey Carr to stand near the spot where the incident occurred holding a sign that read, “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.”
2. You’re sentenced to the Copacabana
Judge Paul Sacco of Fort Lupton, Colorado, has an interesting punishment for folks who break noise ordinance laws by blasting their music. He forces them to sit and listen to music at full blast for an hour. And since the perpetrators are usually listening to hip hop or the latest rock and roll tunes, the judge tries to make their punishment as painful as possible with music such as nursery rhymes, TV theme songs and Barry Manilow.
3. Kiddie traffic school
When a woman in Los Lunas, New Mexico, received a traffic ticket because her 6-year-old son was not wearing his seat belt, she pleaded her case to the judge that she does in fact buckle up her son, but he continually unbuckles while she drives. She asked the judge for help in disciplining her child. Judge John Sanchez responded by sentencing the 6-year-old to traffic school. The class was taught by a driver’s education instructor and specially designed for this mom and her son to show the child how important it is to keep his seat belt on.
4. You’ve made your bed, now lay in it
Slumlord Nicholas Dionisopoulos of Cleveland, Ohio, was convicted of a number of building code violations on the dozens of properties he managed throughout the city. His punishment, handed out by Judge Ray Pianka, was six months of house arrest — in one of his own dilapidated apartments. Dionisopoulos also had to pay a $100,000 fine and return the money his tenants had given him for repairs.
5. Spend a night in the cold
Ohio Judge Michael Cicconetti is well-known for his creative sentences in which he aims to make defendants really think about their crimes. So when Michelle Murray was convicted of abandoning 35 kittens in a local park (nine of which died overnight), Cicconetti gave Murray a choice between 90 days in jail for animal abandonment or a $500 donation to the park where she left the kittens and one night alone in the woods without food or reading material and wearing only the clothes on her back. She chose the latter.
6. She got more than she gave
Texas resident Melissa Dawn Sweeney was convicted of animal abuse after leaving two horses outside without food or shelter for four months. Her sentence? Thirty days in jail, the first three of which she was to receive only bread and water. According to Judge Mike Peters, “she got more than her horses got.” Peters also ruled that enlarged posters of her starved horses be posted on the walls of Sweeney’s cell during her incarceration as a reminder of her crime.
7. Take a hike
When 19-year-old Victoria Bascom of Painesville, Ohio, stiffed a cab driver for a $100 mile fare, she went into court expecting to be required to pay a fine. What she didn’t expect was to be given the choice of jail time or walking the equivalent distance that the cabbie drove her — 30 miles. She was also put on probation for four months, and yes, she did have to pay the cab driver the $100 fare.
8. Don’t be a pig
Ohio resident Steven Thompson might have regretted his decision to call a police office a “pig” during a confrontation when he was sentenced by Judge Mike Cicconetti to stand outside the local police station for two hours with a 350-pound pig named “Dolly” and a sign that said “This Is Not A Police Officer.”
9. Buy your wife flowers or go to jail
Joseph Bray of Plantation, Florida, found himself in front of the court to face charges in a domestic dispute that started when Bray forgot his wife’s birthday. Judge John Hurley told Bray that as his sentence he would be required to buy his wife flowers, get dressed up and take her out for a night of dinner and bowling. Bray was also required to undergo counseling.
10. Man forbidden to have a girlfriend
Ontario, Canada: Arrested for attacking his ex-girlfriend, Steven Cranley, 24, was declared by doctors to have difficulty coping with rejection and was thus ordered by Judge Rhys Morgan to refrain from “a romantic relationship of an intimate nature with a female person” for three years. During that time, he received counseling, but half-way through his sentence, he again assaulted a female acquaintance (a different one) and was sentenced to two years in jail.