By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
20. Ron Nielson
Ron Nielson wanted to do something extra scary for the kids on Halloween. He decided it would be totally spooky — not to mention hilarious — to burn a cross at his Palm Bay, Florida, home.
Yet Nielson's uproarious "prank" — his words — went awry when he doused the cross with gas and accidentally set himself aflame, destroying his comedic timing. Medics airlifted him to an Orlando hospital, where he was treated for second-degree burns over half of his body, and doctors struggled to get the punch line.
The 50-year-old is expected to try something more tasteful next year, like hanging an innocent sharecropper from a light pole.
19. Bill Wisth
Bill Wisth is 6-foot-6 and weighs 350 pounds. He also really likes fish. These salient facts made him a regular at the all-you-can-eat fish fry at Chuck's Place, a family restaurant in Thiensville, Wisconsin.
But his devotion to Chuck's turned tragic one evening last spring. Wisth had already pounded 20 pieces of deep-fried goodness, yet still hankered for more. A waitress told him they'd run out. She offered to substitute a more expensive fish, but Wisth was rightfully outraged. The restaurant advertised all-you-can-eat, and he could still eat! He left in a huff, refusing to pay his bill.
Vengeance was his when he began picketing Chuck's with a sign reading "False advertising." Wisth was soon hailed as the Nelson Mandela of Thiensville. If his fight proved in vain, Golden Corral might restrict customers to 17 helpings of coleslaw. The implications were grave.
Yet Wisth's soaring star took a downward trajectory after the media interviewed a waitress. It turns out that Chuck's owner let Wisth run a tab when he couldn't pay for his meals. Worse, on the night in question, he was caught sneaking fish to his dining companion who hadn't ordered the special, a breach of all-you-can-eat etiquette so egregious it was like hitting on your aunt at the afterparty for grandma's funeral.
Wisth was exposed as a mooch and an ingrate. Thiensville soon shifted its allegiance to a more deserving hero: the guy trying to remove the traffic camera on Maple Street.
18. Judge Michael Cook
The first sign that Michael Cook might not be suited for the Illinois St. Clair County Circuit Court came last spring. He and fellow judge Joseph Christ were vacationing at the Cook family hunting lodge north of St. Louis when police were summoned.
They arrived to find Christ, a father of six, dead in a bathroom. It seems he failed to read the fine print on a sizable package of cocaine, which warned that excessive use may piss off your heart, causing it to launch a work stoppage.
Having a dead judge in your bathroom tends to arouse the curiosity of the feds, who started investigating. But that didn't temper Cook's own fondness for powdered happiness. He was later arrested on heroin and gun charges after leaving the home of accused drug trafficker Sean McGilvery. (Cook had dismissed a case against McGilvery two years earlier. No word on whether this entitled him to a house discount.)
The judge resigned and was whisked to treatment in Minnesota. He pleaded guilty in exchange for 18 months in prison.
17. Ernesto Yañez
Ernesto Yañez was a cop in Port Isabel before resigning to pursue a more lucrative profession: burglary. But the former lawman took some unusual lumps during his rookie season.
He and an accomplice burglarized a home in Rio Hondo, scoring a fine selection of tools. But Yañez accidentally left his police-issue pager at the scene. So he called the homeowner at 2 a.m., claiming he'd left the pager behind when he saw someone breaking in while patrolling the area. Fortunately, he'd cracked the case, fingering notorious tool bandit Manuel Manzanares.
There was one small problem with this diversionary tactic: Manzanares didn't appreciate being ratted out, especially since he was Yañez's accomplice. So he in turn ratted out Yañez, allowing police to solve the burglary without lifting a doughnut.
Yañez's burglary business is now for sale, though it has yet to find an interested buyer.
16. Alyssa Pack
Alyssa Pack was spending a delightful afternoon at Twin Hills Park in Crestview, Florida, with a young child and an unidentified man, enjoying the natural splendor. On this day, however, said nature included a trio of geese. They kept following Pack around, perhaps trying to mooch some bread crumbs because they hadn't taken personal responsibility and gotten jobs.
Pack thought it a teachable moment. She taunted the geese by saying, "I'll beat you so hard you won't even know it." Her friend filmed the scene on his cell phone.
As you might expect from unemployed water fowl, the geese didn't speak English. So Pack resorted to the international language of kicking them in the head as the young child laughed in the background.
"Did you get me kicking?" she asked her cameraman, dancing before her adversaries like Manny Pacquiao. "I have now kicked all three of these geese in the face."
She knew her performance would make a wonderful educational video for the National Forest Service or the Ted Cruz presidential campaign. So it was loaded to Facebook.
But instead of celebrating her tough love, viewers began ratting Pack out to the cops. She was charged with animal cruelty and rocking a Macaulay Culkin hairdo in public.
Today's lesson, boy and girls: Stay in school, even if you're only pursuing a community college degree in kidnapping.
Exhibit A: Miguel Ortiz and Sergio Maldonado, inattentive students.
One evening, a man was standing outside his Los Angeles home when the two gangbangers decided he'd make a fine if unwilling chauffeur. They forced him to drive them on a few errands before reaching their final destination, Bare Elegance, a strip joint favorably reviewed by criminals on Yelp.
Our heroes let their chauffeur go. He naturally called police. But since Ortiz and Maldonado failed to bone up on the getaway section of their kidnapping studies, they were still at the strip joint when the cops arrived.
The pair was arrested for kidnapping, robbery and setting a poor example for America's youth.
14. Maria Caya
It was the last day of school. Fourth-grade teacher Maria Caya was slated to take her young charges to a Janesville, Wisconsin, bowling alley to celebrate. So she prudently began drinking at 6 a.m. to get a jump on the festivities. Good teachers are always prepared.
Though eight other school employees attended the field trip, no one noticed that the 50-year-old educator had slightly overshot her intake capacity. Until she passed out at the bowling alley. With a blood-alcohol level of 0.27. Enough to fuel a Viking ship for three months.
Caya was accused of violating district policy on holding your liquor during field trips. She was paid $18,000 in exchange for her resignation.
13. Ronald Dean
A gym teacher at the AmeriSchools Academy in Phoenix led a class of kids ages 10 to 13 out to the playground for a little exercise. That's when they saw a middle-aged man in a nearby alley. His pants were down, and he appeared to be masturbating.
Police arrived to find Ronald Dean smoking crack and masturbating in full view of the school. Dean didn't understand what the fuss was about. "I was just sitting here getting high," he told the cops.
The officers patiently explained that pleasuring oneself in front of kids is generally frowned upon in Arizona. It took some doing, but Dean finally got the gist of their argument, conceding that he could have chosen a better locale to polish his manly sword.
"I guess I could have gone underneath the bridge overhang," he sheepishly admitted.
He was charged with indecent exposure and possession of narcotics.
12. Matthew Supran
Delray Beach, Florida, chiropractor Matthew Supran was watching his son's hockey game when a 14-year-old opposing player elbowed his boy in the face. A ref ruled the hit non-malicious, giving the kid a five-minute penalty under hockey's sentencing guidelines of assault.
Yet Supran had neglected to teach his son the game's prescribed response for an elbow to the face: a succession of retaliatory punches. Clearly he sucked as a hockey dad.
So the 230-pound Supran ran onto the ice, punched the teen offender in the face, then grabbed his helmet and slammed his head into the boards in a naked attempt to compensate for bad parenting. He was arrested on charges of child abuse.
11. Greg Abbott
Dallas couple Jeffrey and Henry Buck were married in Massachusetts, only to see their love wither two years later. A Dallas family court granted their divorce.
This caused Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to blow a gasket. He's a strident opponent of gay marriage, fearing it will spur an outbreak of elegant kitchen remodeling that makes no allowances for gun racks. And since he's also running for governor, he wanted to appease the state's many followers of Mean Jesus, the pissed-off version of the leading brand.
So Abbott appealed the decision. Since Texas law banned gay marriage, he argued, the Bucks couldn't legally divorce either. A state appellate court agreed, reportedly signing its decision in drool.
Abbott got his wish: The Bucks were forced to stay gay married.
The case is now before the Texas Supreme Court justices, who are expected to hire someone who can read it to them.
10. Kent and Jill Easter
Kelli Peters, a volunteer at an Irvine, California, elementary school, had punished a boy after tennis practice. Enter the kid's Parents from Hell, Kent and Jill Easter, who believed their son suffered grave emotional damage from the incident.
The married lawyers sued Peters, tried to get her fired and even sought a restraining order. But she kept volunteering.
So one night, Kent left a bag filled with pills, weed and a used pipe on the seat of Peters' car, which was parked at the school. He then anonymously called police, claiming he'd seen someone driving erratically and trying to hide nefarious contraband in the school parking lot.
Unfortunately for them, the cops didn't believe Peters was dumb enough to leave her dope in full view on the seat. Suspicions soon turned to the Easters, whose track record of ham-fisted revenge fit the modus operandi of the caper.
Detectives traced the anonymous police call to Kent. Cell phone records also showed he'd been in contact with Jill that night, presumably providing a play-by-play of their gleeful dance with vengeance.
The damning phone records caused the glee to dim. Jill pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and the couple separated.
But Kent fought the charges, invoking The Hen-Pecked Defense. He claimed his wife forced him to make the call, and said Jill actually planted the dope while he was home sick in bed. Alas, this was contradicted by his own cell records, which showed him outside Peters' home on the night in question.
He's now again awaiting trial after his first trial ended with a hung jury. In the meantime, the couple has sued the Los Angeles Times, the Irvine Police Department, the Orange County District Attorney's office and 100 other unnamed people for defamation and being mean to them online. But since Kent has been fired by his law firm, it's unknown whether he can afford to provide all those defendants with free weed and pills.
9. Rojorlo Naranjo
Rojorlo Naranjo had previous convictions for kidnapping and sexual assault, granting him entry to Colorado's prestigious list of registered sex offenders. This, the 57-year-old knew, was exactly the kind of pedigree that left women quivering globs of longing and desire. Which is why he chose the romantic setting of a Greeley, Colorado, bus to drunkenly hit on a much younger woman.
Perhaps Naranjo was off his game. Perhaps the woman left her desire on the kitchen table that day. Either way, her inexplicable rejection of Naranjo was emphatic enough that the bus driver told him to quit creeping her out.
Yet Naranjo couldn't let this assault on ego and honor pass, lest all the other sex offenders mock him. So he sucker punched the driver, threw him off the bus, and began kicking him in the head.
Alas, his pummeling was insufficiently gallant to reverse the woman's heart. But it did get the attention of police, who charged him with harassment, "endangering public transportation" and trying to date over his head. Naranjo was sentenced to 18 years.
8. Adam Savader
Adam Savader was a budding Republican operative who interned for Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Despite his access to the halls of power, he was unable to score with the ladies. That's because he's a frumpy little man-child with voodoo eyes that make him appear to be the product of an amorous weekend between Michele Bachmann and Charles Manson.
Still, Savader would not be denied love — or at least his weird approximation of it. So he began hacking into the email accounts of former classmates at George Washington University and his high school in Great Neck, New York.
Whenever he discovered selfies of bare-naked women intended for someone other than Adam Savader, he would send his targets anonymous texts, demanding they beam him additional naked photos. If they refused, Savader threatened to not only send his existing trove to their mothers, but to their sororities and — gasp! — the Republican National Committee, where they would likely be shared with known degenerates, such as congressmen from Alabama.
One victim attending college in Michigan went to police, who traced the anonymous texts to Savader. Though detectives say he attempted to extort 14 women, he was allowed to plead guilty to one count of stalking, for which he'll spend at least two years in the slam.
A homeowner in San Pedro, California, knew something was amiss when he heard his 80-pound akita make a "huge yelp-like shriek" in the backyard in the middle of the night. The man went outside to find that an intruder had left behind his cell phone.
Two weeks later, the dog made the same unusual yelp. This time the man discovered the prowler had left a gate open. Fearing that someone was casing his house, he installed security cameras.
It wasn't long before the man awoke one Sunday to find the akita's hair strewn about the backyard. A review of security tape would reveal something worse than a garden-variety burglar.
The tape showed 22-year-old Christopher Caceres, a neighbor's grandson, drugging the akita to get it to relax. Caceres then spent from 2 to 4 a.m. having sex with the animal, a remarkable feat of depravity and stamina.
Caceres has been charged with burglary, sexual deviance, bestiality and rape of a dog, with more charges expected.
La Crystal King-Woolfork spent a September night partying with a female friend at the Shake Your Booty club in Indian River County, Florida, a known home to refinement, mystery and romance.
At 4 a.m., the friends repaired to La Crystal's boyfriend's house to perform oral sex on each other. The boyfriend, who'd been sleeping, awoke to the bare-naked festivities. La Crystal asked him to make it a three-way tournament. The boyfriend declined.
His refusal harshed the atmosphere, so the female friend left. That left La Crystal and her man to argue over proper etiquette for hosting a guest.
At some point, La Crystal chose to accentuate her position by hitting him in the face with a metal candle holder and smashing her cell phone on his head. Then she stabbed him in the eye.
La Crystal confessed to her role in the candle holder/cell phone attack, but denied jabbing a knife in her boyfriend's eye. She'd always maintained strict rules about sticking to unconventional weapons, feeling it was more creative.
Police charged her with attempted murder.
5. Thomas Lowe
Eagan, Minnesota, divorce lawyer Thomas Lowe was representing an abused woman with mental troubles. His services included more than unlimited bluster and threatening paperwork. He also provided full-immersion discovery, bedding her just to ensure that he'd probed every last detail of the case.
It is said that Lowe possesses the erotic fury of a caged ferret. The woman was smitten — even though Lowe was actually billing her for their time in bed.
Six months later, the married lawyer declared the bedroom phase of the case concluded. But his decision was premature, perhaps clouded by the fact that her bank account was running low. She responded by trying to whack herself.
The affair was revealed at the hospital, which led the state Bar Association to accuse Lowe of conduct unbecoming, even for a lawyer. Though he had upheld the profession's highest calling — the blind pursuit of billable hours — his law license was indefinitely suspended.
Aside from spending the diaper money on Wild Turkey and crack, nothing quite says "I love you" like unbridled jealousy. Or so thought Marcus O'Neal.
He's not the most self-confident man. It's a reasonable position, since he's also a moron and a candy-ass. The evidence: His girlfriend had "liked" a photo on Facebook that showed a female friend and another man. O'Neal equated the like with lust for the man and flew into a rage.
He closed the windows so the neighbors couldn't hear, then began beating his girlfriend, calling her a whore and threatening to kill her as four kids in the home shrieked in horror.
At one point, the woman nearly blacked out. O'Neal ripped off her clothes, "inspecting for signs of infidelity," according to police. Because he'd never watched CSI, he was unaware that electronic images can't be detected on the human body.
Springfield, Missouri, police charged him with three counts of domestic assault.
There's a reason tornadoes always ask for directions to the nearest trailer park whenever they come to town. They're looking for people like Jonathan Savas.
Savas was hanging at a friend's mobile home in Sha-De-Land, Florida, with his 10-month-old baby and the child's mother. The child wouldn't stop crying, presumably interrupting Savas' thoughtful discourse on Keynesian economics. So he decided to sit on the baby's head. Nothing quite silences a fussy infant like suffocation by buttocks.
The friend confronted Savas. The child's mom told him to stop. But Savas invoked his paternal right to be an asshole. "It's my baby," he allegedly responded. "I can do whatever I want."
Police contested his thesis by arresting him for child abuse.
William Woodward had a longstanding beef with a neighbor. The man had borrowed a roll of duct tape that went unreturned. Woodward simmered, since it's apparently very difficult to find duct tape in Brevard County, Florida.
His rage turned to a boil on Labor Day, when his neighbors were holding a cookout. Woodward claims he heard someone yell, "Come on, boys. ... We're going to get him. We're going to get him, all three of us." Or maybe he just imagined it, since the phrasing sounds suspiciously like the wooden dialogue on Rizzoli and Isles.
Either way, he sneaked up on the party and shot three men, killing two of them. The third survived despite being shot 11 times.
Yet Woodward thought it a righteous shooting. He asked that murder charges be dismissed, citing Florida's Stand Your Ground law and the Bush Doctrine.
Legal experts believe the Stand Your Ground defense may be a long-shot, since the law was intended to let Floridians shoot black kids who enjoy Skittles, not white guys cooking meat.
The Bush Doctrine shows more promise. It was used by President George W. Bush to justify the Iraq War. Though Iraq had yet to attack the U.S., he reasoned, it probably might. So he considered himself legally justified in blowing Iraq up now, rather than waiting until we're all wearing veils and getting squeamish over hot dogs.
Woodward awaits trial on murder charges.
1. Wells Fargo
Retiree Larry Delassus suffered from a rare blood-clot disorder that often left him disoriented and hospitalized. But this disability would prove minor compared to a more serious affliction: He was a customer of Wells Fargo.
The bank held the mortgage on his Hermosa Beach, California, condo. Unfortunately for Delassus, Wells Fargo mistook him for another customer, who happened to owe 13 grand in back taxes. Despite his protests, it doubled Delassus' mortgage to pay off the nonexistent taxes. He quickly fell behind.
At some point, Wells Fargo discovered it had confused Delassus with another resident of his complex. But the company foreclosed on him anyway.
Being a banker means never having to say you're sorry. And you get to take people's homes. It's a win-win situation.
Delassus lost his condo and was forced into assisted living.
He sued Wells Fargo for negligence and discrimination, but died one day in court. A coroner ruled it heart failure. Delassus' friends believe the bank killed him.
There is a happy ending, however. The American Bankers Association gave Wells Fargo its Benito Mussolini Award, bestowed annually for "the exemplary persecution of orphans, widows and sickly old guys." It is considered the industry's highest honor.