There are plenty of concocted, fraudulent lawsuits out there, which have negative consequences for society, the legal system, and Wendy’s-chili profits, but few of these plots are as dumb as the one hatched by Duane Haffner and Leotis Allen, from my home state of Missouri.
Haffner would call police to “tip them off” that a man fitting Allen’s description would be at the county courthouse the next day with a bomb in his shoe. Allen would then visit the courthouse, presumably walking strangely, and would be tackled/assaulted/roughed up/given “smart lumps” by police and would then sue for injuries he incurred in the struggle. Allen would give Haffner $25 for making the call and Allen would handle the lawsuit. What could go wrong?
What Could Go Wrong:
- A jury might not look favorably on someone who was involved in a bomb threat.
- There might actually be a law against making bomb threats.
- A detective might wonder why a real terrorist would employ a tiny “shoe bomb,” which might be dangerous to a plane, but to a courthouse, not so much.
- A detective might recognize Haffner’s voice on the phone.
- The same detective might know where Haffner was staying.
- Haffner might tell police it was Allen’s idea.
- There is a law against making bomb threats.
- And an even tougher law against making “terroristic threats.”
- Which you might get convicted of doing.
This plot only got near a courthouse during trial, after which both men were sentenced to several years in jail under the law against “terroristic threats.” These are defined under Missouri law as “statements made for the purpose of frightening 10 or more people.” (Nine people? Fine. 10 or more? Terrorism.) Haffner ended up with five years, while Allen got four, which seems a little unfair since it was all Allen’s idea.
Even the prosecutor, improbably named “Morley Swingle,” seemed to think that using this particular statute on Haffner and Allen might be a bit much, saying, “This was more a crime of stupidity rather than terrorism.” Still, he felt the plot should be taken very seriously. “My feeling,” he said, “is that 9/11 took all the humor out of bomb threats.” I think he’s saying that if we stop laughing at bomb threats, the terrorists win. At least, that’s how I’d like to interpret it.