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Jewish World Review August 5, 2004 / 18 Menachem-Av, 5764

Tony Snow

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Consumer Reports

The Sandwich Board Effect | The hero of the week award goes to Wimoco County (Md.) District Court Judge D. William Simpson, who recently crafted a unique punishment for 18-year-old Sherelle Purnell, a gasoline thief. Purnelle tried to pull a bait-and-switch maneuver earlier this year with the proprietors of Gordy's Tiger Mart in Salisbury, Md. She put $4.52 worth of gas into her car, then strolled in and inquired about cigars. After looking over the selection of stogies, she nodded her head, "no," strolled out and drove away. Surveillance cameras caught the whole thing, and Purnell quickly had to face the music.

Which leads us to Judge Simpson. He decided to make the teen put on a large sandwich board, bearing in bold red letters the declaration: "I WAS CAUGHT STEALING GAS." She was to appear last Friday at noon in front of Gordy's and stroll for three hours next to the busy highway that leads to the station.

The judge clearly understands the importance of shame. He wanted Purnell to feel a sense of keen embarrassment for a stupid and arrogant crime, knowing that a good dose of humiliation often can persuade young would-be criminals to walk the straight and narrow. (Would that other judges understood human nature as well, and were as committed to teaching young scofflaws to appreciate the difference between right and wrong.)

The good news is that the good citizens of Salisbury agree with Judge Simpson. A lot of parents came to Gordy's last Friday at noon (the appointed hour) so they could show their kids what happens when young people do bad things. But Purnell didn't show — or at least didn't appear for 90 minutes. Once on the premises, she and her boyfriend allegedly complained about the heat and discomfort of the sign. Don't be surprised if she doesn't make national news again. When Judge Simpson hears about her antics, he's not likely to be amused.

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