Slammer for scammer was justified
I suggested last week that 10 years in prison for a guy who ripped off $42,000 in a home-repair scam was a harsh sentence considering the wrist-slaps that Hawaii judges usually hand out even hardened criminals.
For instance, a week after that column ran, a former police officer was given five years probation for possession of a dangerous drug, drug paraphernalia and a firearm. What made the sentence seem a tad lax is that the man had served 10 years in prison for being part of a burglary ring while he was a cop.
So, if five years probation is considered appropriate for a former corrupt police officer found to be in possession of crystal meth, cocaine, a Winchester rifle and 83 rounds of ammunition, is 10 years in prison appropriate for a guy who took money for home repairs he never finished?
The answer is yes, according to several readers who let me know in no uncertain terms (I checked for any uncertain terms and couldn't find any) that Henry Leo Kaiser deserved the 10-year prison sentence.
"Don't feel sorry for the time this creep has to spend in jail! He deserves every bit of it," wrote one of the more dispassionate readers.
The reader, whose identity I will protect right up until I am called before the grand jury investigating Karl Rove's CIA leak, said Kaiser had offered to do work on her Hawaii Kai home. He started the work, she said, but then stopped. He demanded more money, which she refused to give. Then he told the police that she had ripped HIM off, which, come on, you gotta admit shows a bit of chutzpah.
Unimpressed by his chutzpah, which he apparently carried around in the back of his truck next to some drywall board, our fearless reader showed the cops receipts proving she had bought all the building materials, not him.
Kaiser was never charged in connection with that incident and our reader hopefully has learned not to engage unlicensed contractors bearing chutzpah (or any other Yiddish construction materials) for home remodeling projects.
Another reader related a similar tale but with more venom and a veiled reference to the death penalty possibly being appropriate punishment in home remodeling scams.
I don't know if Circuit Judge Steven Alm took any of these anecdotal accounts of remodeling malfeasance into consideration when he lowered the boom on Mr. Kaiser. But knowing Alm was a former federal prosecutor with no love of criminals of any stripe (or polka dots or paisleys, for that matter) and the fact that Kaiser initially didn't show up for sentencing, Kaiser might have been lucky getting off with just 10 years in the slammer.
Deep within the details of these various criminal acts a moral lays hidden. If not a moral, then perhaps a aphorism or apothegm or one of those other "a" words relating to lessons needing to be learned. The lesson may be that a fool and his money are soon parted, particularly if that fool is a homeowner looking for cut-rate labor. Or perhaps it's that life isn't fair, so that a remodeling scammer gets 10 years while someone who brutally beats up a tourist gets only probation (see: State of Hawaii vs. Balbirona). Or that the former cop who ran the burglary ring was lucky to only get 10 years in prison because if he had not only burglarized the houses but offered to put on new roofs and then didn't, he would have gotten life.
Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org