U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

Incontinence and Incompetence: Diarrhea Leads to 3 Convictions

"The relevant question is not whether he purposefully defecated his pants, but whether he willfully spread his feces all over the bathroom resulting in a nuisance, hazard, and damage. Moreover, the refusal of the CSO to let Strong use the restroom before passing through security may have given Strong motive to soil the restroom."

Yeah, that just happened. Ronald Strong was approaching the security checkpoint at a Federal courthouse when nature came a callin'. He informed the officer of the urgency, but was required to go through the checkpoint before proceeding. His bowels, however, would not wait and he defecated in his pants at the checkpoint before being escorted to the restroom, "intermittently trailing feces on the floor" along the way.

Lest you think we're being gratuitous with the details, we assure you -- they are of vital importance to the outcome of the case. You'll soon understand why.

Upon his departure from the small, single-occupancy, stall-free restroom, much of the floor, the toilet, the sink, the paper towel and toilet paper holders, and allegedly even the lower parts of the wall, were covered in feces. (Pictures of the restroom, post-cleanup, are attached to the PDF version of the court's opinion.)

The cleaning supervisor testified that the "chunky peanut butter" consistency appeared to be smeared, testimony which, from the cold record, supports the majority's opinion of intentional vandalism and the dissent's opinion of panicked, embarrassed cleanup of a mess that coated the entire interior of the man's jeans, underwear, and socks and that the defendant compared to a kitchen spill where one tries to clean up "spaghetti sauce" with meat.

One could point to the estimated seventy-five percent coverage of the floor and think "intentional." (The dissent makes an alternate argument via footnote that it is biologically impossible for one man to produce that much feces, calling the seventy-five percent evidence of intent "incredible as a matter of law.") The "intentional" inference is also supported by his silence, upon exiting, about the condition of the restroom.

One might also be able to picture an embarrassed man, panicked over the fecal matter drizzling down the legs of his pants and over his socks, pulling off his clothes as quickly as possible in the small restroom, then washing himself with paper towels and attempting to salvage the jeans so he wouldn't have to leave bottomless, and in the process, accidentally flinging feces everywhere. Embarrassment also explains the silence.

But, as the majority correctly points out, on appeal, we make inferences in favor of the verdict -- especially where the insufficiency of the evidence claim wasn't properly preserved for appeal.

But you know what stinks about this conviction? Intent aside, it really shouldn't stand. Strong was charged with three misdemeanors for violating regulations (41 C.F.R. § 102-74.380(b), § 102-74.380(d), and § 102-74.390(a)) that, per another regulation (41 C.F.R. § 102-74.365), was required to be posted at the entry of the building.

They were not. Chief Judge Lynch poo-poos this by calling it a mere "bureaucratic mix-up" and stating, somewhat unconvincingly, that because he had, on prior occasions, passed by the wall near the clerk's office where the regulations were posted, that he had plenty of notice.

If you're going to hold the public to the regulations, it is only fair that the court be held to the same standards. Yet, thanks to that double-standard, absent an en banc of porcelain review, or what would be the most amazing Supreme Court oral arguments ever, Mr. Strong will now serve a week in jail for incontinence.

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