Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Man Wears 'Idiot' Sign for Threatening to Kill Ex-Cop

An Ohio man has been wearing an "idiot" sign in public this week, pursuant to a judge's order. It seems "public shaming" is now a sign of the times.

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey Carr ordered Richard Dameron, 58, to stand outside a local police station with a sign bearing an apology to "all police officers for being an idiot." The sign also says, "I'm sorry and it will never happen again."

What did Dameron do to warrant such an embarrassing apology?

Threatening an Officer

Dameron called 911 while drunk, threatening to killed a retired police officer, Cleveland's WEWS-TV reports.

Making a threat usually falls under the general category of harassment. Ohio's harassment statute forbids "intimidation" of a public officer, and states:

No person, by unlawful threat of harm to any person or property, in bad faith or in a wanton or reckless manner, shall attempt to influence, intimidate, or hinder a public servant [or] party official.

Intimidation is a third degree felony in Ohio.

Not Quite Cruel and Unusual

But does Dameron's public shaming punishment fit the crime?

Genreally speaking, the Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishments in criminal cases. While there is no definition for what constitutes "cruel and unusual," some examples are obvious. Anything that is clearly inhumane or violates human dignity isn't allowed. Disproportionate punishments can also be challenged as cruel or unusual.

While Dameron's public shaming is admittedly embarrassing, it likely doesn't cross the line into being "cruel and unusual." Indeed, he only has to stand with the sign for three hours each day, for one week. Judge Carr also sentenced him to 90 days in jail.

This is not the first time Judge Carr has sentenced someone to public shaming with an "idiot" sign. Last year, Carr ordered a woman to wear a similar sign for driving around a school bus.

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