All dollared up, no place to go | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (March 24, 2023, 2:39 PM EDT) --
Marcel Strigberger
“Please pardon me for doing this, but this is a robbery. Please give me $1 thank you.” 

This is what Donald Santacroce scribbled on a note he handed a teller at a Wells Fargo branch in Salt Lake City, Utah. The gentleman insisted his reason for doing this was that he wanted to end up in a federal prison. The teller actually gave him a dollar bill, but he refused to leave saying he was waiting for the police. Is the world getting totally bizarro? 

Now if the man wants justice; i.e. a long-term federal prison relocation, won’t he and his lawyer actually have to play their cards in negatively — do everything to blow the case?

Let’s start with the arrest. His lawyer will have to argue that his client was given the Miranda caution and that this violated his right to no lawyer. I’m not familiar with the American Constitution, but it would not surprise me if there were some amendment which says something like, “In addition to the right to bear arms, you also have an inalienable right on arrest not to remain silent.” In my view the prosecution’s case is toast unless the police gave the accused the Un-Miranda caution.

Then there is the bail hearing. I understand Santacroce is no longer in custody. Presumably just to spite him, the prosecution likely insisted bail be set at $1. If so, there went his winnings. Can we conclude that in this case in a way crime paid?

And to achieve his goal to ultimately end up in jail, it would make sense to retain an incompetent lawyer. Utah must have its share of lousy lawyers. Maybe they even advertise on television. “Hi. Charged with a minor crime or misdemeanour and want to end up in federal prison? Give me a call: Louie the loser.”

The trial should be interesting. For one the accused will want to ensure the jury is not composed of his peers. His lawyer will want to interrogate the prospective jurors hoping to land a jury that will find his client guilty. I can just envisage the questioning:

LAWYER: Madam, are you a banker?

JUROR: No sir.

LAWYER: Challenge!

As well there may even be some argument from the prosecution to drop the charges based on the principle of “de minimis;” i.e., the law does not concern itself with trifles. We all know given current inflation that a dollar does not go too far anymore. Most often these days it cannot even buy you anything at one of those dollar stores.

The man’s lawyer will have to come up with some nifty arguments to parry this argument if raised. I doubt he will succeed given that he already lost the initial sally as his client is out on bail.    

And of course in the event that a jury should find the gentleman guilty of robbery, how would the trial judge deal with sentencing?

JUDGE: A prime consideration in sentencing is general deterrence. The court is concerned that if we go easy on you, others will follow in your footsteps and commit a similar nuisance of a crime. I take into account that your holdup note to the teller was courteous. Your robbery activity included a please and a thank you. There was no weapon involved. You waited patiently for the police to arrive. There was no collaborator waiting in a running getaway car, polluting the air. This type of conduct has to stop.

Your lawyer has argued cogently that I send you to federal prison. Actually no judge ever listens to Louie the Loser. I sentence you to time spent waiting in the bank. In addition given the financial problems some banks are facing these days; I order you to make full restitution to Wells Fargo in the amount of one dollar.”

Who ever said the justice system always works out? I think of a comment by one of my favourite philosophers Yogi Berra. He noted, “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His just launched book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.
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