Last week the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a conviction against Ronald Strong of Maine, sentenced to seven days in jail for willfully smearing poop all over the courthouse bathroom in Portland, and leaving a really gross mess described extremely graphically in terms of food in court documents.
Specifically, Strong was charged with willfully damaging and creating a hazard and a nuisance in the federal courthouse. His story was that, while on business at the courthouse, he was seized with an attack of uncontrollable diarrhea caused by his heart medication. The attack, he said, was so bad that he pooped his pants, and left a mess trying to clean himself up, but did not make the mess intentionally. He claims to have been so incapacitated by the attack that he had to be escorted to the bathroom by a guard. He described, “Strong intermittently trailing feces on the floor” that were “liquid and there was pieces in it” that ran down his leg and “all the way to my ankles.” He also pointed out that there was no sign posted specifically prohibiting such a mess.
According to the janitor, who was stuck cleaning the mess, “seventy-five percent of the floor was covered in feces,” and “smeared more than two feet up on the walls,” as well as “on the paper towel and toilet paper dispensers, on the toilet paper itself, and on part of the toilet seat and the left side of the toilet bowl.”
Strong argued that she was exaggerating, that it was hard to clean up, like spaghetti with meat sauce.
The court ruled that there was no way anyone could make such a mess by accident, “The relevant question is not whether he purposefully defecated his pants, but whether he willfully spread his feces all over the bathroom resulting in a nuisance, hazard, and damage.” The majority opinion noted that Strong had twice lost Social Security cases in that courthouse, and that those losses could serve as a motive for vandalizing the bathroom.
According to the dissenting opinion, the fact that there were no feces on the mirror, drywall or sink indicated that it was not vandalism, and that “Contrary to the majority’s view, the fact that seventy-five percent of the floor was covered with feces does not support an inference of willfulness.” Dissenting Judge Juan R. Torruella also took issue with the court’s interpretation of the cleaning woman’s use of the word “smear,” saying that she testified that the smears were “not necessarily like finger smears but just chunks — chunks and smears, pretty much, kind of like chunky peanut butter,” and that “no rational factfinder could infer willfulness from the consistency of feces.”
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Strong lost the appeal.
It’s just a guess at this point, but we bet this goes all they way to the Supreme Court.