Seemingly Silly Outbursts of Frustration Lead to Criminal Charges

February 24, 2009 09:03 AM
by Anne Szustek
Whether smashing keyboards, shooting at TVs or even sinking yachts, some people seem to find increasingly destructive ways to vent their frustrations.

Man Sinks Ship Out of Frustration

The Jubilee, a 1967 Chris Craft Cavalier docked near Seattle, had a history of engine problems. So many, in fact, that owner Brian Lewis apparently drilled a hole in the bottom of the boat with the intention of sinking it.

According to court documents, on March 22, 2008, Lewis took the boat out into Puget Sound Bay, rowed a dinghy back to shore and left the boat to sink. That same day, he flew to Kodiak Island, Alaska, to work aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship.

A few days later, Lewis filed an insurance claim saying that the Jubilee sank due to “unknown causes.”

The Washington state Department of Natural Resources spent $2,866 to haul the vessel out from Puget Sound Bay, due to environmental concerns. Insurance investigators examined the boat and found a hole drilled in its bottom. There was also evidence that the boat’s bilge system was intentionally damaged.

Armed with the information, local and federal authorities questioned Lewis about the boat’s demise. According to court documents, Lewis admitted that he lost his temper over the boat’s engine trouble and the financial strain.

The investigators’ affidavit stated, “The engine trouble he experienced caused him to lose his temper. In his rage, he smashed the sea strainers with a hammer and drilled the hole to sink the vessel.”

Prior to the sinking, the boat had been listed for sale for $28,500. Lewis now faces a felony insurance fraud charge.

The nationwide switchover to digital television also inspired rage that, like the Jubilee incident, has led to criminal charges. An elderly Missouri man shot his TV set last week after being unable to get his new digital converter box to work. The man has been charged with unlawful use of a firearm. According to his wife, the 70-year-old had been drinking prior to the incident.

Related Topic: Frustrated outbursts

A hammer was also the tool of choice for 75-year-old secretary Mona Shaw. Shaw vented her frustrations with Comcast for apparently failing to install her “Triple Play” bundled phone, cable and Internet service in a timely manner in 2007.

According to the Associated Press, no Comcast representative arrived on the day service was scheduled. Two days later, the technician arrived but left without finishing the installation. “Two days after that, Comcast cut off all their service,” reported the AP. Shaw and her husband then went to the Comcast office in Manassas, Va. to talk to a manager. They waited two hours before being informed that the manager had left for the day.

The following Monday, Shaw arrived at the same Comcast office armed with a hammer that she used to smash a keyboard, phone and computer monitor.

"I figured, 'Hey, my telephone is screwed up, so is yours,'" Shaw told the AP.

She was fined $345 and received a three-month suspended sentence in connection with disorderly conduct charges. She was also forbidden from going near the Comcast office for a year.

Sometimes the source of technology-based irritation is from one’s own workplace. Shaw’s hammer incident is reminiscent of the 1999 cult movie “Office Space” and the scene where the three protagonists give their workplace printer, prone to paper jams, its due.

When the source of workplace irritation is coworkers rather than communications technology, however, hammering the offender is even more likely to spark a criminal charge. A Boston Globe poll revealed coworkers’ gum snapping, loud cell phone rings and talking on speakerphones as among common sources of workaday aggravation.

Like workplace woes, city council meetings have also been witness to impatience and irritation gone awry.

While debating the privatization of the city’s emergency medical service, Charles McAuliffe, a city councilman for Hackensack, N.J., shouted at a resident, “I didn’t ask for your fat mouth’s support.” The council called a five-minute recess. 

Amid the shouting and curses, many wonder when our society became so disrespectful. A 2005 Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that 69 percent of respondents believe people are ruder than they were 20 and 30 years ago. Of those respondents, 69 percent blamed America’s rudeness on parents’ failure to teach manners, 44 percent blamed TV shows and movies, and 38 percent blamed celebrities, athletes and public figures.

Reference: Counseling guide


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