20. Ron Nielson
Ron Nielson wanted to do something extra scary for the kids on Halloween. He decided it would be totally spooky — not to mention hilarious — to burn a cross at his Palm Bay, Florida, home.
Yet Nielson's uproarious "prank" — his words — went awry when he doused the cross with gas and accidentally set himself aflame, destroying his comedic timing. Medics airlifted him to an Orlando hospital, where he was treated for second-degree burns over half of his body, and doctors struggled to get the punch line.
The 50-year-old is expected to try something more tasteful next year, like hanging an innocent sharecropper from a light pole.
19. Bill Wisth
Bill Wisth is 6-foot-6 and weighs 350 pounds. He also really likes fish. These salient facts made him a regular at the all-you-can-eat fish fry at Chuck's Place, a family restaurant in Thiensville, Wisconsin.
But his devotion to Chuck's turned tragic one evening last spring. Wisth had already pounded 20 pieces of deep-fried goodness, yet still hankered for more. A waitress told him they'd run out. She offered to substitute a more expensive fish, but Wisth was rightfully outraged. The restaurant advertised all-you-can-eat, and he could still eat! He left in a huff, refusing to pay his bill.
Vengeance was his when he began picketing Chuck's with a sign reading "False advertising." Wisth was soon hailed as the Nelson Mandela of Thiensville. If his fight proved in vain, Golden Corral might restrict customers to 17 helpings of coleslaw. The implications were grave.
Yet Wisth's soaring star took a downward trajectory after the media interviewed a waitress. It turns out that Chuck's owner let Wisth run a tab when he couldn't pay for his meals. Worse, on the night in question, he was caught sneaking fish to his dining companion who hadn't ordered the special, a breach of all-you-can-eat etiquette so egregious it was like hitting on your aunt at the afterparty for grandma's funeral.
Wisth was exposed as a mooch and an ingrate. Thiensville soon shifted its allegiance to a more deserving hero: the guy trying to remove the traffic camera on Maple Street.
18. Judge Michael Cook
The first sign that Michael Cook might not be suited for the Illinois St. Clair County Circuit Court came last spring. He and fellow judge Joseph Christ were vacationing at the Cook family hunting lodge north of St. Louis when police were summoned.
They arrived to find Christ, a father of six, dead in a bathroom. It seems he failed to read the fine print on a sizable package of cocaine, which warned that excessive use may piss off your heart, causing it to launch a work stoppage.
Having a dead judge in your bathroom tends to arouse the curiosity of the feds, who started investigating. But that didn't temper Cook's own fondness for powdered happiness. He was later arrested on heroin and gun charges after leaving the home of accused drug trafficker Sean McGilvery. (Cook had dismissed a case against McGilvery two years earlier. No word on whether this entitled him to a house discount.)
The judge resigned and was whisked to treatment in Minnesota. He pleaded guilty in exchange for 18 months in prison.
17. Ernesto Yañez
Ernesto Yañez was a cop in Port Isabel before resigning to pursue a more lucrative profession: burglary. But the former lawman took some unusual lumps during his rookie season.
He and an accomplice burglarized a home in Rio Hondo, scoring a fine selection of tools. But Yañez accidentally left his police-issue pager at the scene. So he called the homeowner at 2 a.m., claiming he'd left the pager behind when he saw someone breaking in while patrolling the area. Fortunately, he'd cracked the case, fingering notorious tool bandit Manuel Manzanares.
There was one small problem with this diversionary tactic: Manzanares didn't appreciate being ratted out, especially since he was Yañez's accomplice. So he in turn ratted out Yañez, allowing police to solve the burglary without lifting a doughnut.
Yañez's burglary business is now for sale, though it has yet to find an interested buyer.
16. Alyssa Pack
Alyssa Pack was spending a delightful afternoon at Twin Hills Park in Crestview, Florida, with a young child and an unidentified man, enjoying the natural splendor. On this day, however, said nature included a trio of geese. They kept following Pack around, perhaps trying to mooch some bread crumbs because they hadn't taken personal responsibility and gotten jobs.
Pack thought it a teachable moment. She taunted the geese by saying, "I'll beat you so hard you won't even know it." Her friend filmed the scene on his cell phone.
As you might expect from unemployed water fowl, the geese didn't speak English. So Pack resorted to the international language of kicking them in the head as the young child laughed in the background.