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Stupid crime and punishment

Shane McQuillan told a Wisconsin police officer he had been drinking and was “just being stupid” in March when he crashed his car into a gate at wastewater treatment plant in Eau Claire.

Now, as a punishment, McQuillan has opted to tell the whole neighborhood about his dumb decision. The 22-year-old, instead of spending time in jail, will stand outside the treatment plant for a day wearing an “I Was Stupid” sign.

Judge Paul Lenz of Eau Claire County (Wis.) Circuit Court found McQuillan guilty earlier this week of criminal damage of property. The judge then gave McQuillan a choice between a stay behind bars or becoming a human billboard.

Lenz, in an interview with a local TV station, said the punishment means one less non-violent offender in jail, saving the county money.

Public embarrassment is also a good deterrent both for the sign-wearer and sign-viewers, he added.

im-with-stupid.jpg“It’s a difficult thing to do if you think about it for yourself. It’s basically a public acknowledgment that what you did was wrong and that’s difficult for people to do,” the judge said. “It’s also for others who might think about doing that type of behavior to think about.”

It also means, should I ever visit Eau Claire and meet Shane McQuillan, I have a legitimate reason to wear my “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt.

DANNY JACOBS, Legal Affairs Writer