Often when people hear that a person has been charged with theft, they imagine highly-organized thieves, or violent break-ins to homes or businesses. Many times, however, the truth is more prosaic. Theft charges can come with relatively harmless intentions a teenage prank, for example.
One such prank appears to have gone all wrong here in Connecticut. A 19-year-old Milford man was recently charged with theft and assault following an attempt to steal an advertisement from a gas station.
The ad features David Hasselhoff, the well-known singer and actor, promoting an iced tea product. There is currently something of an Internet fad revolving around the signs, leading many to attempt to steal them.
The 19-year-old Milford man was aware of the fad, and allegedly decided to take a sign. The man, accompanied by his girlfriend and another friend, drove up to the gas station in an SUV, took the advertisement off of a light pole and put it in the back of the SUV. An employee of the gas station saw this and came running to the passenger window. He allegedly told the occupants to return the advertisement, but police say that at this point the 19-year-old drove away.
The attendant was still hanging on to the car at this point. He fell as the vehicle accelerated away and struck his head on the sidewalk. The victim suffered serious brain damage, requiring weeks in the intensive care unit. His long-term prognosis is unclear.
The next day, the young Milford man saw the story on the news, and, according to him, was overcome with grief. He turned himself in to police, explaining that he was the one who had been behind the wheel of the SUV. He says he had no idea that the attendant had been holding on to the vehicle, and was unaware that the man had been injured. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.
This is an example of a case in which a juvenile prank, the theft of an advertisement, led to much more serious consequences. In cases such as this one, it's important to consider the intent behind the crime when determining criminal charges. In this case, for example, it seems likely that the 19-year-old did not intend to cause injury and was mortified when he learned that he did.
Source: The Valley Independent Sentinel, "Hasselhoff Sign Theft Suspect Pleads Not Guilty" Ethan Fry, Nov. 18, 2013