Yes, I was not only guilty, as charged, but I was caught red-handed, in the act. From that perspective, I deserved being cuffed with a misdemeanor. But my punishment was, actually, much worse.
As a freshman at Emory University, I decided to do something absolutely stupid that was harmless to anyone but myself because I was caught. My crime, attempting to steal a stop sign at Emory’s Candler Estate. Donated to Emory by the owners of Coca Cola, the beautiful estate, now part of the campus, was a wonderful place to take a date to see the stars.
Or to watch someone like me try to take a mostly useless sign. Unfortunately, I failed to do that because the estate’s security guard caught me and reported me to the appropriate Dean. Less than a week later, I was summonsed to the Dean’s office.
As punishment, I was assigned to ‘hard labor’; for a total of thirty hours over a period of a month, I had to work with Emory’s ground crew. That meant I had to ride with them in their dump truck around the campus to gather debris. Not only did I have a good time riding in the back of the truck where I waved to fellow classmates, but I also gained in popularity because I became so well recognized while I was a candidate for the student Senate.
By the end of my punishment, I’d become buddies with the ground crew; they were cheering for me to win.
But that’s when I was called into the President’s office. Although I expected to be commended for my good behavior, I wasn’t. Instead, I was told that a new campus rule had been made. It
could have been called ‘The Barry Rule’ because it was directly aimed at me.
Stated simply, anyone who was caught doing what I had done was ineligible to run for the student Senate. As arbitrary as that ruling was, there was nothing I could do to protest or appeal it. In actuality, I was punished twice for a harmless, and failed, prank.
Because that was more than fifty years ago, it’s obvious that I’ll never forget having been punished twice.
In so many ways, I’m reminded of it because of similar senseless measures taken now by Alvin Bragg, Manhattan’s D. A. Although Bragg has committed a purely political stunt under the guise of law, he has less standing in the matter than the campus cop who caught me.