Back in 1982, Paul Wright’s future had been bright. He graduated Lake Worth High in a speedy three years. The young man set his sights on a career in law enforcement and eventually became a military police officer stationed in Washington.
But the pay wasn’t great and in a rash moment he decided it’d be quick money to rob a drug dealer.
The drug dealer pulled a gun and Wright fired his.
The worst phone call in his life soon followed, when he had to dial up his parents to tell them he was sitting in jail charged with killing a man. “Your son’s a cop,” Wright recalled. “You don’t expect him to be calling from jail.”
He was sentenced to 25 years.
Who knows how it would have turned out if not for a box of cereal.
Read the full story of how Wright became a nationally recognized authority invited to brief Yale law students about prisoner rights and the publisher of Prison Legal News.
A Palm Beach County student is in trouble for playing a part in the wave of clown fear that plagued schools this week. District officials say this student didn’t pen the very specific written threats against students and teachers but unwisely shared a doctored photo that placed a clown on the Dreyfoos School of the Arts campus.
“But that alone caused the campus to be on edge,” said Schools Police Chief Lawrence Leon. He did not disclose the student’s name or school and said he expects the discipline to be handled administratively. “There really wasn’t a threat, it was just implied.”
It’s not clear if the photo was ever posted to social media or simply circulated among students. Details about what rules were violated and the potential punishment were not immediately available.
Meanwhile, district investigators are working with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Delray Beach Police Department to track the original threats that surfaced Monday and are similar to those circulating nationally.
The culprits behind those threats can expect the district to pursue criminal charges, Leon said.
Similar arrests have been made elsewhere, most recently the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 12-year-old who authorities believe is behind a threat to kill students at a middle school – a threat posted with a clown image. The threat posted on the app music.ly under the handle “Clowning_Around” was specific to the school and the date.
In Palm Beach County, the first threats discovered Monday named five schools as intended targets. That evening, someone had posted more expansive threats vowing to kill teachers, principals and children at every school in the county.
“Our detectives are actively investigating these threats, and once we find the person or people behind them, they will face criminal charges,” Leon said. “We know this is a hoax, but we take it very seriously, and will arrest those people responsible.”
They are not alone in their pursuit.
Time Magazine reports the frenzy was born when unsubstantiated accounts surfaced that clowns were spotted trying to lure children into the woods. “The craze has since ignited a national phenomenon, with scary clown sightings reported from Alabama to Wisconsin. While many were hoaxes, a handful of the incidents resulted in arrests: in Alabama, at least seven people face felony charges of making a terrorist threat connected to “clown-related activity,” Rainbow City Police Chief Jonathon Horton told the Times-Picayune.”
Clown costumes have been banned in one Connecticut school district. Schools in Cincinnati closed after a woman claimed she was attacked by a knife-weilding clown – a story that was later discredited and ended in the woman’s arrest.
iTunes cards are great for gifts or buying music, but if someone calls you and tells you the IRS needs you to buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth to pay off delinquent taxes, don’t. It’s a scam – one that has particularly targeted college students.
The Detroit Free Press reports Maggie Passino, 20, first ignored the calls, but repeated rings wore her down. When she answered, a man claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service told her she owed back taxes and taxes for school – and if she didn’t pay them, she would be arrested.
“He said, ‘You’re going to be receiving a call from 911 and if you pick that up, you’ll be arrested,'” Passino told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m a college student. Being arrested for a college student looks really terrible, so I was really worried. That can affect your financial aid … really mess up your life.”
Perhaps the tip-off should’ve come when the caller told her how to pay off the debt: with $1,762 in iTunes gift cards.
But Passino apparently didn’t pause. She told the paper she drove to a nearby Kroger grocery store and purchased three gift cards for $500 and $262 on a fourth using her debit card. “I was freaked out,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “It was horrible. It’s the first day of classes — and everything is already in jeopardy. … They’ve got the intimidation thing down for sure.”
The Free Press reports that once the targets buy the gift cards, the scammers ask their victims to read off the 16-digit codes on back allowing the scammer to cash the cards to accounts online.
On Sunday, the IRS tweeted that they don’t operate that way. No payments due by iTunes card, no arrest threats.
Of course, not everyone falls for the scam, and at least one woman turned the game around, guilting a caller with a story of her own that made the caller so remorseful for trying to take her money that he confessed.