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Guys just wanna have fun ... 

I’m all for dudes just being dudes, hanging out, shootin’ the breeze over a few brewskis, robbing a bank or two, eating some feces, organizing a mayoral recall effort, maybe stealin’ some cash from a family trust. Y’know, just hanging out and enjoying the good life.

As the proud inventor and proponent of the Pop-Tarts diet, I don’t really have any business judging people for what they happen to decide to stuff into their mouth while they happen to be on the witness stand after being charged with robbing a bank. And as someone who sneaks $5 bills out of grandma’s purse whenever she happens to be napping, I don’t really think I have any place going after a guy charged with stealing $65,000 from a family trust.

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I do think it’s fair, however, to deliver a well-meaning “na na na na na na” on behalf of Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons against the man arrested on charges of embezzling $65,000 from his family, who also happened to be one of the organizers of the long-since failed effort to recall Irons. At the time, I saw the recall effort as the last, pitiful gasp of an old guard that knew it was dying off and wanted to blame its woes on some young progressive.

I guess the truth is, I still see the recall effort that way. Only now, one of the effort’s supposedly upright and reputable supporters is facing charges of embezzlement, which were filed on Feb. 27. And, if that weren’t enough, on March 25 he was arrested in Santa Barbara on suspicion of driving under the influence. Now, we all make mistakes. Just look at the San Luis Obispo City Council, which is trying to go into the business of regulating smells.

But if there’s one thing I can’t stand—beside turtles and water—it’s hypocrisy, someone pretending to be an upstanding good ol’ boy sanctimoniously pointing the finger at a political opponent while dipping his other hand into the family cookie jar allegedly.

I guess there is one other thing I can’t stand: Our legal system’s inability to adequately address mental illness. Also, talking about serious stuff when I’d rather be making a list of SLO Mayor Jan Marx’s most and least favorite smells.

I can’t deny that my initial reaction to the news that a local man found guilty of robbery and burglary of a Bank of America branch had eaten his own feces while on the witness stand was to laugh somewhat hysterically. Then I saw the photos. And the video. And I did some thinking. It doesn’t take a psychologist from a fancy online university to figure out that the man is somewhat batty, even if he isn’t.

So how is it that now that he has been found guilty of robbery and burglary, he’ll likely be sentenced to while away his time in a jail intended for the mentally fit?

You could argue that eating poop was a blatant bid to convince the jury of his lack of sanity—a theory the jury apparently bought—but even if he was trying to act crazy, isn’t the fact of publicly eating your own shit, even if you have a really good reason, sufficient proof of insanity? Then you factor in a mental health expert who testified that he saw the man hitting himself in an attempt to silence the voices in his head, and, well, maybe this story should be more than a punchline? Maybe it should be, I dunno, a real conversation about mental illness, hopefully resulting in efforts to enact some kind of change to ensure people with mental illness aren’t treated like criminals.

Whether this bank robber does or does not suffer from mental illness—and obviously I think that he does—should not be decided by the 12 people who couldn’t manage to wrangle their way out of jury duty, and who, presumably, have no special training or understanding of mental illness.

Don’t get me wrong: I have a great deal of respect for what large and relatively random groups of uneducated Americans are capable of accomplishing. Just look at our two-party system, our lengthy history of legalized discrimination against every imaginable minority (special shout out to Indiana governor Mike Pence!), the fact that we have to post signs to remind people to wash their hands after using the bathroom, the nearly 40 percent of Americans who still don’t believe human-influenced climate change exists, and all of the people who bought a concert ticket to watch Justin Bieber “perform.”


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