The Top 10 Most Ridiculous Prison Sentences in Recent History

By 01.14.10


The world is full of strange laws prohibiting people from doing ridiculously specific things: the sale of gum is prohibited in Singapore; it’s illegal to leave the house without wearing underwear in Thailand; missionary is the only legal sex position in Florida; and fishing for whales on Sundays is illegal in Ohio. Generally, as a society, we tend to accept and obey these laws, as silly and specific as some of them can be (except maybe the missionary one). Nonetheless, some folks become ensnared in the criminal justice system for bizarre reasons, ending up in the clink for strange reasons such as claiming to be Jack Bauer, farting at a police officer, or having sex with a street sign. We’ve rounded up 10 strange and ridiculous prison sentences in recent memory, ranging from the absolutely absurd to the downright unfair to the absolutely infuriating.

Four years for possession of 0.003 grams of marijuana


In September 2007, a British man was jailed in Dubai for possession of a microscopic grain of weed. The London Daily Mail reports that Keith Brown was arrested at the Dubai International Airport when customs officials found a crumb of weed on the tread of Brown’s shoes. Brown, a father of three and a council youth development officer in the United Kingdom, was transferring flights from Ethiopia to London at the time. According to the Mail, the fragment of marijuana weighed only 0.003 grams. The particle of pot was invisible to the nekked eye; however, it was still enough to violate the United Arab Emirates strict zero-drug policy. The Daily Mail warns that customs official in the sheikdom use state-of-the-art equipment to discover the smallest traces of narcotics.

One afternoon for not admitting to a cell phone ringing during a hearing


Emotionally strained by a tumultuous personal life, Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert Restaino sentenced an entire courtroom to an afternoon in prison in March 2005 when a cell phone rung during a routine hearing proceeding. At the time, the judge of this kangaroo court barked “everyone is going to jail” from the bench. Despite the threat, no one confessed. Staying true to his word and hungry to make an example out of the disobedient courtroom, Restaino ordered 46 people into criminal custody for the afternoon. Unfortunately, 14 people present in the courtroom could not post bail. These “prisoners” received the full criminal justice system treatment, including shackles and busing from the holding facility to another prison. Later in the afternoon Restaino ordered the prisoners to be released. According to Fox News, the short-tempered judge was later removed from the bench by the New York state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Five years and 1,000 lashes for boasting about his sexual encounters on a television show

There’s nothing unusual about 32-year old Abdul-Jawad. In fact, his only so-called “crime” is really being just another eligible bachelor with a tried-and-true technique for picking up women and racking up notches on his bedpost. Unfortunately, he happens to live in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s strictest countries when it comes to sexual promiscuity. Abdul-Jawad was arrested when he openly boasted about his preferred pick-up method and bedroom conquests on a nationally televised talk show. In October, Reuters revealed that Abdul-Jawad is facing five years in prison and 1,000 lashes for speaking openly about his sexuality in the conservative Republic. Three of his friends were sentenced to two years and 300 lashes for appearing on the television program as his loyal wingmen. Despite the flogging and severe prison sentence, Abdul-Jawad should count his blessing. Lawyers revealed to Reuters that Abdul-Jawad could have received the death penalty for the offense. The controversial video is posted above.

Six months for yawning in a courtroom


In August 2009, Clifton Williams was attending his cousin’s hearing at the Will County, New York courthouse. According to an NBC New York report, Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak was in the midst of sentencing Williams’ cousin for a felony drug when he exhaled a powerful yawn. According to judge, Williams “raised his hands while at the same time, making a loud yawning sound.” The judge believed the act was a disrespectful interruption of the court room. Instead of proceeding with the trial, Rozak threw out his cousin’s case and sentenced Williams to six months in the county pen for contempt of court. After the incident, Williams’s 79-year-old grandmother told NBC, “This is ridiculous — you’ve got all these people shooting up kids, and here this boy yawns in court [and gets 6 months]. It’s crazy.”

One year for stealing 50 cents 24 years ago

Balgovind Prasad, a 75-year-old doctor from India, took a 50-cent bribe to issue a street sweeper a medical certification 24 years ago. He was caught by a policeman at the time. According to Reuters, Prasad was formally convicted in 1992 and the elderly doctor appealed the charge. His term was reduced to three months. Prasad was finally found guilty in February 2009, nearly 24 years since the crime transpired.

Six months for violating a restraining order by getting back together with a spouse

When a couple in Spain decided to make amends and smooth out a rocky relationship, they were both found in violation of a court-issued restraining order. According to the London Telegraph, the couple was legally barred from coming within 1,640 feet of each other. However, the couple was arrested in early December when Spanish Civil Guard officers spotted them eloping together. The Telegraph reports the husband was sentenced to six months in prison for violating the restraining order, even though both admit they were together based on a mutual agreement. The wife received a sentence of four months.

Four hours of wearing a blindfold in front of an adult video store for stealing adult entertainment


According to an ABC affiliate in Cleveland, Jeremy Sherwood was caught stealing adult entertainment from an adult movie store in Painesville, Ohio. Known for a history of creative criminal sentences, Judge Michael Cicconetti cut the teenager a deal: he could either serve 30 days in jail or stand in front of the video store wearing a blindfold and holding a sign that read “See no evil.” Sherwood opted for the blindfold and the sign for four hours on a Saturday afternoon rather than a month in prison.

Two hours of standing with a pig for calling police officers “pigs”


After calling a police officer a “pig” and giving the officer “an obscene hand gesture,” Steven H. Thompson was sentenced to standing on a street corner with a pig. The pig was to wear a sign reading “This is not a police officer.” The incident occurred in 2002 while police were responding to a disturbance call in Thompson’s neighborhood. Thompson’s unusual sentence was dished out by the same Ohio judge who sentenced Jeremy Sherwood to standing blindfolded in front of a adult entertainment stop.

25 years for taking his own pain medication

Richard Paey was sentenced in 2004 to a minimum of 25 years for taking powerful pain killers. Paey, a paraplegic, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and suffered chronic back pain resulting from a car accident in 1985. He was prescribed a high dose of an opioid painkiller to alleviate his chronic pain. In 1997, however, Paey was arrested on drug trafficking charges for possessing an unusually large quantity of the pills, all of which were prescribed to his name. Paey appealed his case to little success, insisting he had done nothing wrong. The decision to uphold his 25-year minimum sentence was upheld in 2006. After intense media scrutiny, Paey was granted a full pardon in December 2007 by Florida Governor Charlie Crist and released from prison.

Three years for creating a spoof Facebook profile of the Moroccan Prince


Identity theft is very illegal, but Facebook appears to turn a blind eye when it comes to creating spoofed celebrity profiles. The ‘book is loaded with hundreds — if not thousands — of fake celebrity profiles, ranging from Jerry Garcia to Hitler to Bill Gates. However, when a 26-year-old Moroccan engineer decided to immortalize the Moroccan king’s brother with a fake Facebook profile, the Moroccan government didn’t find the joke very funny, according to the New York Times. It sentenced Mourtada to three years in prison for “villainous practices” and “stealing the identity of the crown prince.” He received a royal pardon and was released from prison in May 2008.

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