Man who stole kettle ordered to serve “homeless” sentence
Judge orders thief to sleep on the streets.
by Patrick O’Donnell, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer –
Nathen Smith, 28, of Painesville, Ohio, recently received a creative sentence from Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael Cicconetti. As punishment for stealing one of The Salvation Army’s iconic collection kettles shortly before Christmas, Smith was given the choice of the standard sentence of 90 days in jail or spending the next 24 hours as a homeless man. Starting immediately.
When Smith chose the latter option, Cicconetti made him empty his pockets and turn over all his money and credit cards. Court officers strapped a Global Positioning System device to his ankle to monitor his whereabouts and he was sent out onto the streets of Painesville with no advice or guidance.
“He was like everyone else who finds themselves out on the street,” Cicconetti said. “I didn’t want him to have any money on him. I want him to learn. It’s not going to hurt to be a little cold.”
Weather forecasts predicted 10-degree temperatures with wind chill as low as minus 5.
He was banned from going home or staying with friends. The GPS system tracked his movements, a print out of which would be given to the judge upon Smith’s return to serve just three days in jail and learn what community service he must do.
Smith, who lives with his mother and is unemployed, used a public phone at the nearby Department of Job and Family Services office to call his mother. She brought him a sweatshirt and ski pants, but no money or food.
The rest of the afternoon, he said, he walked around downtown Painesville looking for ways to keep busy and warm. Though Painesville has the county’s only homeless shelter, Smith never tried to seek a bed there.
Knowing the sheriff’s headquarters has a large lobby, Smith headed there about 4 p.m. It was either there, he said, or the emergency room waiting area at the county hospital. His plan, he said, was to stay in the lobby all night, at least out of the wind. Even as other homeless men gathered in that same lobby for the nightly bus to the shelter, he stayed put.
“If I had a chance to go back, I’d change things so that I never took it, period,” he said.