Champaign State's Attorney Julia Reitz recently decided not to charge Mark Nepermann with a felony for his theft of Edgar Heap of Birds' "Native Hosts" art display. He was instead charged with a misdemeanor, because the art display consisted of signs that were manufactured for less than $300, the cut-off point in Illinois for felony theft.

Smile Politely believes this to be a great opportunity for thieves all over Champaign-Urbana. If objects are to be appraised based on the value of their constituted parts, rather than, say, their actual value, we wonder what other objects around town might be available at the risk of a mere misdemeanor charge.

Parking meters Think of all the trouble (and communication failures) that Cool Hand Luke could have avoided if the Florida penal code would have been as forgiving as Ms. Reitz. There can't be more that $10-15 worth of steel in those suckers, right?

 

Corn Liquor Wanna knock over the local Piccadilly and not do hard time? Stay away from the cash, and just grab the Everclear. Every bushel of corn, trading at about $3.80 on the CBOT today, will produce 2.77 gallons of ethanol, so every fifth of Everclear (retailing at $15.99 on the internets) is really only worth 27 cents. So make sure to back up your pickup truck: That's more than 1,100 bottles before you stand to get in any real trouble.

ATM Machines. The cost of metal and plastic in the machine, as well as the cost of the paper and cloth itself in currency surely does not exceed $300 when melted down and sold for raw materials. The downside, for anyone who has seen Barbershop, is how to access these raw materials without hurting yourself.

Human Bodies. The raw materials in a human body are valued at a measly $4.50. This means enterprising thieves can steal up to 66 people without incurring a felony charge in Champaign County. Be careful not to steal that 67th one though, or Julia Rietz will be all over your ass.

Paper files at State's Attorney's office 5,000 sheets of paper for $36. That means you could nab at least 40,000 pieces of documentation from Julia Rietz's office before having to serve real time!

On the other hand, be careful if what you've stolen has been bought in the last week, in which case it would be harder to argue it is worth less than what it was bought for. Here's a partial list of some items that are more valuable in Champaign-Urbana than Native American art, and could land you in bigger trouble than Mark Nepermann if you were to relieve someone of their possession:

  1. '94 Ford Escot ($350)
  2. Used HP Laptop ($400)
  3. Used Craftsman lawn mower ($450)
  4. Tickets to Cubs-Brewers game ($350)

Despite these risks, it has never been a better time to be a thief in Champaign-Urbana. Mz. Reitz is up for election in just three and a half short years though, so enjoy while the gettin' is good.