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Clown Panic Creeping Into Criminal Justice

This week has seen the arrest of one creepy clown and one child who intended to fend off creepy clowns with a knife if necessary.

Bell County Detention CenterBell County Detention CenterThe great U.S. menacing clown revival continues unabated, with tales of creepy, woods-lurking carnival rejects spreading from South Carolina apartment complexes to Alabama college campuses to Pennsylvania parkways. And while most of the reports have turned out to be either bogus or harmless, the clown panic is triggering serious criminal charges for a few.

The first story presents a prime example of public-school discipline run amok, with what could have been handled by a school sanction instead inviting criminal charges. An 11-year-old Georgia girl brought a knife with school to, she told school police, fend off fiendish clowns she had heard about on social media. The knife was confiscated and the child released to her mother—but only after Athens-Clarke County police charged the girl for possession of a weapon on school grounds. Whatever happened to detention? In-school suspension? What good could criminally sanctioning a scared, overly imaginative 11-year-old do?

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Middlesboro Police reported that 20-year-old Jonathan Martin was arrested Friday for lurking outside an apartment complex around 1 a.m. while wearing a clown costume and creepy mask. Martin was allegedly jumping out at people and trying to give them a scare. As of Friday afternoon, Martin remained in the Bell County Detention Center.

Martin's arrest seems, at least, justified—he was booked for disorderly conduct in the second degree (as well as for outstanding warrants, for failure to pay a city fine and failure to appear in court). The only criminal charge that's questionable is one for breaking the city's anti-mask law.

Not that Martin wasn't wearing a mask—he can clearly be seen getting into a police car in one hell of a creepy clown mask. But the anti-mask statute in general is a weird one. Middlesboro, like a slew of other U.S. cities, bars the wearing in public of "any hood, mask or device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer."

Anti-mask laws became popular in the first half of the 20th century as a way to criminalize the Klu Klux Klan. And like any authoritarian, illiberal law fashioned to fight the good fight, it's wound up being used not only against bad guys and bigots but against people engaged in peaceful protest and activism, such as Occupy Wall Street protesters wearing Anonymous masks. The KKK has previously challenged some anti-masking ordinances on First Amendment grounds, with some success.

Photo Credit: Bell County Detention Center

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  • Invisible Finger||

    Seems like this whole phenomenon involves nothing but millennial hillbillies.

  • Rhywun||

    I was thinking juggaloes, so... yes.

  • ||

    Middlesboro, like a slew of other U.S. cities, bars the wearing in public of "any hood, mask or device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer."

    Are Muslims excluded ?

    /asking for a friend

  • You Sound Like a Prog (MJG)||

    "I can't take a stupid Harry Potter test; I'm writing about clowns!"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • You Sound Like a Prog (MJG)||

    No joke - no joke! - the randomness of this comment made me burst out laughing.

    Happy weekend, everyone.

  • AlmightyJB||

    And then there is this poor woman

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/.....rgery.html

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Do you guys just do google searches for "Vagina"? OK I do too but I don't click on shit like this.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Agammamon||

    A man known for extraordinarily high rents? Its like they're a joke party or something. Just not, you know, actually funny.

    http://www.omrlp.com/

  • SIV||

    MAGA

  • Agammamon||

    Ok, ENB I thought you were on the sex beat. So this sudden spate of articles on the clown menace (started by Skenazy on the 'parents today are horrible' beat) is getting kinda disturbing, all things considered.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    She is obviously in the deep, cartoonish pockets of Big Clown, using her bully pulpit to help the depraved jokers leave their giant footprint of fearsome hate all over this great nation.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'll stuff myself into a tiny car with you.

  • DenverJ||

    Look who's talking

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Martin's arrest seems, at least, justified—he was booked for disorderly conduct in the second degree (as well as for outstanding warrants, for failure to pay a city fine and failure to appear in court). The only criminal charge that's questionable is one for breaking the city's anti-mask law.

    Should scaring someone really be a crime? I'd argue it would justify an instinctive violent reaction on the part of the victim but "disorderly conduct" in this case seems a bit of a stretch for being obnoxious.

  • Agammamon||

    I'd be in the 'you scare someone and injure them - that's a tort and can be handled that way. If you get punched, don't bother calling the cops 'cause you got what you deserved'.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Should scaring someone really be a crime?

    Yes. "Scare-orism."

    The misdemeanor version of "Terrorism."

  • Trigger Hippie||

    Haven't a multitude of briefly lived television programs been centered around this concept?

    If this sort of thing really gets your rocks off I suppose the prudent course of action is to have a buddy hold a camera and a clipboard full off fake release forms and claim this a Netflix series original documentary.

    Most people are dumb enough to buy that.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Clown Panic Creeping Into Criminal Justice

    Clown panic is nothing new.
    Just look how many clowns we have in the Politburo, the Soviet Supreme Senate and the White House Dascha the past few decades.

  • Agammamon||

    Martin's arrest seems, at least, justified—he was booked for disorderly conduct in the second degree (as well as for outstanding warrants, for failure to pay a city fine and failure to appear in court). The only criminal charge that's questionable is one for breaking the city's anti-mask law.

    Nah. I'd say the 'disorderly conduct' charge is even more bullshit than the anti-mask law.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Am I going to be arrested for frequently going around wearing a mask of self-respect and respectability? Huh?

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Best response ever. Go home, internet.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Hold on, East German judge only gives an 7.9.

  • ||

    Will I be arrested when I walk around wearing a burka ?

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Martin's arrest seems, at least, justified—he was booked for disorderly conduct in the second degree (as well as for outstanding warrants, for failure to pay a city fine and failure to appear in court). The only criminal charge that's questionable is one for breaking the city's anti-mask law.


    This does not sound justified. None of it.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Shifting the clown panic we've all been feeling within the social justice system.

  • __Warren__||

    My dad was a clown and he wanted me to take over the family business, I passed because those were some big shoes to fill.

  • SQRLSY One||

    STOP yer clowning around!!!!

    Else Government Almighty will fill yer clown shoes with concrete...

  • SQRLSY One||

    Concrete Man,
    Please Listen...
    You don't know,
    What yer missin'...
    Sitting in yer concrete land...
    Playin' with yer concrete gland...

    (Whut cums next, pleeeeese help me be a poet....)

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    'but only after Athens-Clarke County police charged the girl for possession of a weapon on school grounds. Whatever happened to detention?'

    Weapons-free zones is what happened.

  • The Grinch||

    Like all good Americans I hate clowns but this shit is the stupidest fucking panic I've ever heard of. If some dumbass wants to dress as a weird clown, unless he's actually messing with people then who gives a fuck?

  • The Grinch||

    Should have read the article first. I stand behind the stupid fucking panic comment though.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    People with legitimate phobias of clowns. Look, if the entire country has to reconfigure itself for .5% of the populations peanut allergies, we're going to have to make some accommodations for the clown-averse.

  • __Warren__||

    If we let these clown spawings alone then soon people will start planting mime fields and do we want that?

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Martin's arrest seems, at least, justified—he was booked for disorderly conduct in the second degree (as well as for outstanding warrants, for failure to pay a city fine and failure to appear in court). The only criminal charge that's questionable is one for breaking the city's anti-mask law.

    Kentucky Revised Statute section 525.060: Second-Degree Disorderly Conduct

    "Intentionally causing public inconvenience, annoyance, alarm, or wantonly creating a risk thereof in public".

    http://tinyurl.com/z6osw5q

    Second Degree Disorderly Conduct is what they charge you with when you play music too loud.

    It's a bullshit charge, and holding him overnight in jail for it rather than just writing him a ticket is bullshit.

    And if the guy is maybe being unfairly maligned for bad taste in practical jokes, maybe Reason shouldn't participate by publishing his photograph. What's the point of that?

    Maybe the only thing worse than Clown Panic is participating in Clown Shaming--even during a post that calls out Clown Panic as bogus.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    +1 Jackie Coakley

  • ||

    There needs to be a law, congress has to do something!

    I wish I was joking. 30 years from now, people will be wondering how dressing up as a clown ever got to be a felony. The next case of a flash grenade burning up a baby at 4am in the morning will be because police mistakenly thought someone dressed as a clown was seen at that residence.

    It's almost like we just HAVE TO see how ridiculous things that make Americans shit their pants can get.

  • The Grinch||

    It really is pathetic.

  • waffles||

    Uncle Sam is a clown.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    Crazy Joe Davola hardest hit.
    Oh so a crazy clown is after you?

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Over/under on how long before some poor schmuck trying to eke out a shameful living is gunned down by an idiot, uniformed or otherwise?

  • GILMORE™||

    some poor schmuck trying to eke out a shameful living

    Like this guy

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

  • GILMORE™||

    Better safe than sorry = Shoot Clowns on Sight

  • CptNerd||

    But not unless it's clown season. Looks like we're coming up on it, they're wandering out of their normal habitat. Just don't leave cotton candy or other of their natural foods as lures, and make sure you stay under the limit when you bag them. Cull the herd, don't eliminate it.

  • __Warren__||

    "What's your name, punk!"

    "Kerr, Joe Kerr."

    "Well I'm gonna run you in for....gasp gurgle gahhh.."

  • CptNerd||

    Middlesboro is my hometown, and I have to say he's lucky he got arrested. If this had happened there many years ago, there wouldn't have been anyone to arrest, especially if he'd tried that up in some of the local hollers.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, I was going to say, the woods of KY doesn't seem like a good place to do that.

  • The Fusionist||

    "beep beep!"

  • S1||

    John Kerry was also stopped for questioning under the anti-mask law, but after a few minutes police confirmed that that was his real face.

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