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6 ridiculously bizarre court sentences
The Week, 26 June 2012.

For a few creative judges, punishments can vary wildly from the usual menu of fines, prison sentences, and community service.

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A Colorado judge was sick of handing out simple fines to noise violators, so he decided to make offenders listen to Barry Manilow and the Barney and Friends theme song. Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto.

A wise man once said that if you want justice you'll have to wait for the next world - in this one, you have the law. And the law can be an unpredictable force, particularly if the judge has a few ideas of his own when it comes to meting out punishment. From snipped ponytails to enforced Barry Manilow listening, idiosyncratic judges around the world have put their peculiar stamp on sentencing over the years. Here, six bizarre punishments:

1. Cut your hair

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Valerie Bruno (left) and Judge Scott Johansen (right) [Source]

In a classic Mean Girls moment, 13-year-old Kaytlen Lopan and her friend started chatting up a 3-year-old in a McDonald's play space in Utah, and then suddenly decided to chop off the long blonde hair that fell down the toddler's back. Kaytlen was hauled before a court, where Judge Scott Johansen ruled that he would reduce her time in detention if she chopped off her own ponytail. Her mother, Valerie Bruno, proceeded to snip it off, but the 3-year-old's mother said it wasn't short enough. Johansen ordered Bruno to keep hacking away. Bruno is now suing Johansen.

2. Tweet an apology 466 times

New Picture (5)Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet [Source]

In May, two French politicians won a novel conviction against a critic who had been calling them names on Twitter. In addition to paying a fine and court costs, the critic was ordered to tweet the same message 466 times over 30 days: "I have severely insulted Jean-Francois Cope and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. I regret and apologize."

[Comment: This punishment is not the first of its kind. There was one occurring right here in Malaysia in June last year, involving an opposition politician's aide, Fahmi Fadzil. This case is already well known in our blogsphere. Read foreign media reports here and here.]

3. Apologize on Facebook

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Mark Byron [Source]

After Mark Byron, a photographer from Cincinnati, Ohio, called his estranged wife "evil" and "vindictive" in a Facebook post, Judge Paul Meyers ruled in January that Byron had broken the law by violating a temporary protection order that had been granted to his wife. Meyers said Byron could face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine - or he could catch up with his child support payments and post an apology to his wife for 30 straight days on Facebook. (Byron ended up only posting the apology for 26 days, but another judge said it was enough.)

4. Go straight to the kiddie pool

New Picture (7)The Ohio couple serving their sentence [Source]

In 2011, a young Ohio couple decided it would be fun to ride a flood-swollen river on a raft, prompting an hours-long search by emergency workers. The couple did not wear life preservers, and the pair were found guilty of misconduct during an emergency. Their punishment? Standing in a kiddie pool at a town festival, where they wore life jackets and handed out water safety brochures.

5. Confess publicly once a week

New Picture (8)Daniel Mireles serving his sentence [Source]

Public confessions are normally associated with the Spanish Inquisition and Communist Party purges, but Daniel Mireles of Texas is now intimately familiar with the punishment. After stealing $250,000 from a crime victim's fund, Judge Kevin Fine in 2010 ordered Mireles to stand on a busy city street holding a sign proclaiming his crime - every weekend for the next six years. Mireles claims that while some passers-by heckle him, others express sympathy for his humiliating ritual.

6. Listen to Barry Manilow

New Picture (9)Judge Paul Sacco [Source]

Judge Paul Sacco of Colorado, tired of doling out ineffective punishments for people playing their music too loudly, in 2008 decided to fight fire with fire. Instead of the usual fine, he ordered repeat offenders to listen to his music selections for one hour at high volume. Sacco's eclectic collection included easy-listening maestro Barry Manilow and the theme song from the children's show Barney and Friends. "This is a way, when I look back, of teaching manners to people," Sacco said.

[Source: The Week. Some images and links added.]

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