Friday, May 28, 2010

Crab Traps and Felonies -- jcarolek

Yesterday, as I was driving into the long drive that leads to my old farmhouse, I spied my neighbors in their yard.  Since life has been particularly hectic of late, it had been easily two weeks since last I stopped by to say, "hi."  So I stopped and we chatted.  Eventually, we ended up inside the house, and they asked if I had read the paper.  Well, no, I had not, but they pointed to the local paper, sitting on the kitchen table.  I wasn't sure why I was going to look at the paper, but it was clear they wanted me to.

So I obliged them and started skimming through the paper, on a hunt for I knew not what.  After a few minutes I did find it.  A small blurb, in the "local arrests" section.  There, I read, that my neighbor, Jim, had been arrested on a grand larceny charge, a felony.  Well, I wasn't exactly sure how to react to reading this news, standing in Jim's kitchen, with Debbie and Jim looking on.  I asked what it was all about, and, of course, they told me.

Jim is a 67 year old, retired welder, retired military, and, at least as far as I have been able to determine in the four months or so I have known him, a guy who will always bend over backwards to help others... anyone.  So, this little article seemed a stretch to me.  The tale is a little convoluted, but as they told it, I was convinced they were telling the true course of events.

It all started, they say, with a loan Debbie made to a long-time friend of Jim's.  He was down on his luck and she lent him $2500.  She also sold him a nice, used truck -- he was to make monthly payments on the truck.  Jim also allowed this 77 year old friend to store a pole barn and lots of tools and equipment on his property, rent-free.  That was six months ago.

In the early spring, Jim worked very hard to help another friend, this an 86 year old, regain his commercial crabbing license, and Jim then worked with this elderly fellow to build crab traps to complement the crab traps the old man already had.  Jim was leaving before daybreak, and returning home, exhausted, well after dark, spending his time helping the old guy with the crabbing.

After a few weeks, it became apparent, the crabbing idea, while a dream the old man had wanted to relive, was really more than he could sustain.  Jim and the old guy decided to call it quits on the crabbing operation.  Jim, the 86 year old and the 88 year old brother, moved the crab traps for storage purposes, onto Jim's land. There was a group of six older traps that they had not used in their crabbing this year, but were stacked on the old man's property.  When they were moving the crab traps to the storage on Jim's land, Jim inquired as to whether the six older traps also belonged to his friend.  Being told they were, in fact, the 86 year old's, Jim and the two elderly brothers picked the old crab traps up and tractored them to the storage on Jim's land.

MEANWHILE, Debbie and Jim have decided that six months is long enough to wait for even a single payment on either the truck or the $2500 loan, and they decide to recover the truck from the 77 year old friend.  He was not happy with them for taking the truck, and he let them know it.  That didn't phase Jim, and he continued allowing this guy (Hunt) to store his pole barn, building materials and equipment on Jim's property, free of charge.

Hunt indicated to Jim that the six older crab traps belonged to Hunt.  Jim told Hunt that if he wanted the traps, he was welcome to come and get them.  Instead, this week, Hunt filed a complaint with the local Sheriff's Department. Hunt insisted on charging Jim with a felony, and, according to the newspaper blurb, the Sheriff did not swear out the warrant... Hunt did.  In the Commonwealth of Virginia, $200 or more theft qualifies as grand larceny....  Hunt valued the crab traps at $200.

Now, the case is a little goofy sounding to me.  I mean, I had this idea that when men get older, they mellow and are more responsible, but this incident would challenge that idea.  According to Jim and Debbie, Hunt is mad because they took the truck back... the truck he'd been driving for free for six months.

Well, the attorney Jim had to retain, thinks it's a ridiculous case, as does the Sheriff, and the Magistrate.  Nevertheless, the COST of the case has already started biting Jim, to the tune of $1000 in attorney's fees... and that is ONLY if the case gets dismissed at the first hearing. 

I have no idea what will come of this case, but it seems very sad to me that a guy would do something like this to an long-time friend.  Jim is upset about the charges, but I think his feelings are really hurt by this friend's betrayal of the friendship.  In fact, his accuser STILL has his pole barn and equipment stored on Jim's property...for free...

I used to work with a guy who always told me, "no good deed shall go unpunished."  These days, I am really beginning to think he was right.  And we wonder why our youth struggle with decency and respect for their elders... perhaps there IS something to living a life that EARNS that respect rather that simply DEMANDS the respect.  Nevertheless, I will take a lesson from this.... before I move any crab traps, or allow any old friend to store his crab traps on my land, I will make certain he PROVES he owns them....  Better yet, I think I will just not let friends store crab traps on my land... JUST SAY NO TO CRAB TRAPS!!

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