By Sam Pollak
The Daily Star
---- — Before you criticize someone — goes this oft-quoted advice — you should walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you’ll be a mile away from him when you say it … and you’ll have his shoes.
It is in that spirit of wisdom that we announce the eighth annual edition of the coveted Sammy Awards.
The eponymous Sammies recognize not only everyone who knows what “eponymous” means, but those individuals who have come to my attention over the last 12 months almost exclusively through fault of their own.
The “I Thought His Face Looked A Little Familiar” Sammy goes to:
Lowell Turpin, of Clinton, Tenn.
Mr. Turpin, who is 40 years old, 5-foot-8 and 320 pounds, got suspicious of his girlfriend on July 31 when he looked at her Facebook page and found a picture of a handsome, mature man, reported the New York Daily News.
According to the incident report filed by police, Turpin confronted his girlfriend and “angrily demanded to know who the male was.” One thing led to another, and, police said, Turpin ripped her laptop out of her hands, smashed it against a wall and smacked her in the face with a closed fist.
The woman suffered an injured wrist and “busted lip,” and Turpin was arrested on suspicion of domestic assault.
Oh, and the graying gentleman in the photo that so enraged Mr. Turpin was … Mitt Romney.
The “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” Sammy goes to:
A curious 24-year-old man in Stockholm, N.Y.
Back in May, the Associated Press reported that state police in St. Lawrence County had arrested 25-year-old Shawn Mossow for wounding his friend in the right leg with a .22 caliber rifle.
Mossow, who was charged with reckless endangerment, had been hounded by his buddy — unnamed by the police — to shoot him.
Because — authorities said — the shootee (who corroborated Mossow’s story) just wanted to know what it feels like to be shot.
Well, now he knows.
The “Criminal Mastermind” Sammy goes to:
Arthur Brundage, of East Syracuse.
In October, the Huffington Post reported that an unarmed Brundage, 28, went into a bank and demanded $20,000.
The teller, after initially refusing, gave the young man some money, and Brundage left with his ill-gotten gains.
But he came back later. Police found him at the bank’s locked front door, claiming he was shortchanged because the teller didn’t give him the whole 20 grand.
Brundage has been charged with fourth-degree grand larceny.
The “Consumer Reports” Sammy goes to:
Suzanne Besham, of Springfield, Mo.
Ms. Besham, 47, was involved in a business transaction in which she paid $40 for what she had every reason to believe was crack cocaine, according to the Buster website in January.
Upon discovering that her purchase turned out to be sugar, she called the local police and demanded that they arrest her drug dealer and get her a refund.
Police discovered that Ms. Besham had a crack pipe, and she was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia.
The “You Can Get Into Big Trouble If You Break This Law” Sammy goes to:
Giulio Cesare Fava, mayor of Falciano del Massico, in Italy.
Newscore reported in March that Signor Fava had forbidden any of the town’s residents to die.
“It is forbidden for residents,” the mayor said, “to go beyond the boundaries of early life, to go into the afterlife.”
It seems Falciano del Massico’s 4,000 residents are building a new cemetery, and until Mayor Fava gained the right permits, the townsfolk had to stay above ground or risk breaking the law.
The “Parents Of The Year (Second Runners-Up)” Sammy goes to:
A couple with joint (and dubious) custody.
There was this pizza party at a Chuck E. Cheese in Harford County, Md., back in March. Well, you know how it is. The parents are separated but try to be there for their 3-year-old little girl, so they both attend the gathering.
The trouble was, each apparently thought the other was taking the girl home, and both parents left the restaurant without her. It wasn’t until they heard the news of an abandoned child at Chuck E. Cheese on an 11 p.m. newscast that they realized what they had done.
Or, more accurately, hadn’t done. The little girl’s name is Harmony, probably the only time that word was used when the couple talked over how they abandoned their child.
The “Parents Of The Year (First Runners-Up)” Sammy goes to:
Two Indiana (Hoosier Daddy?) joy riders. (Now, this is a very important designation. If at any time our winners should not be able to perform the responsibilities of winning a Sammy, these parents will serve in their place.)
In May, according to The Smoking Gun website, Aaron Stefanski, 29, of Fort Wayne, ratcheted four children, aged 4, 5, 6 and 7, to the hood of his car with a tow strap, and then drove off.
Stefanski, the biological father of three of the children, was arrested for drunken driving — his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit — and child neglect. His in-car passenger, Jessica Clark, the mother of the other kid, was charged with child neglect.
Asked by the cop who pulled him over why he turned the children — who were unharmed — into hood ornaments, Stefanski said: “I thought they would like it.”
The “Parents Of The Year” Sammy goes to:
An Egyptian couple with a flighty idea.
Overwhelming the fierce competition in this category were an unidentified mom and dad who tried to smuggle their 5-month-old baby in their luggage at the Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates in July.
“When customs officials saw the baby inside the bag at the X-ray scanner, they were stunned,” police officials told Gulf News. “This machine is very dangerous for anyone, let alone a baby in a bag, to pass through.”
Police said the couple resorted to the dangerous subterfuge because the infant didn’t have a passport or visa, and “they wanted to have him with them in the UAE.”
Authorities said the baby could have died after being put into the luggage.
A truly scary thought: How did the visa-less baby and his parents get through airport security in Egypt on their way to the UAE?
The “You’re Certainly In The Right Class” Sammy goes to:
Misty Lawson, of Louisville, Ky.
WDRB reported in February that Ms. Lawson, 30, was in a classroom when a counselor saw her punch her 10-year-old son multiple times in the face and body, bruising his right cheek.
The counselor reported Lawson to the police and Child Protective Services, and she was charged with fourth degree assault, a misdemeanor.
The beating occurred in the middle of the class Lawson was taking … an anger management class.
The “Ingrate Of The Year” Sammy goes to:
The world’s worst boss.
Jackie Bruscia was not only Debbie Stevens’ boss at the Atlantic Automotive Group in West Islip on Long Island, they were pals — at least that’s what Stevens, 49, thought.
That’s why when Bruscia, 61, needed a kidney transplant, Stevens went to the extraordinary measure of donating one of her kidneys. Since they weren’t a perfect medical match, reported the New York Post, Stevens donated her left kidney to the national pool, helping Bruscia get a transplant sooner than she might have otherwise.
And they all lived happily ever after … right up until Bruscia fired Stevens.
Well, actually, not even that long.
“Something was very different when I got back,” Stevens said. “I don’t have words strong enough or large enough to describe her treatment of me. Screaming at me about things I never did, carrying on to the point where she wouldn’t even let me leave my desk. It was constant, constant screaming.”
“I will always be grateful that she gave me a kidney,” Bruscia told 1010 WINS-AM radio. “I have nothing bad to say about her. I will always be grateful to her — she did a wonderful thing for me.”
Wonderful or not, Stevens is out of a job.
“You hate me so much, and I’m so despicable,” cried Stevens, “give me my kidney back!”
In October, the New York State Division on Human Rights ruled that Stevens had been unjustly fired, noting that there was “probable cause” that the dealership engaged in a discriminatory practice because of the transplant, and paved the way for Stevens’ $15 million lawsuit against Bruscia and the company.
Stevens may well get her pound of flesh, but Bruscia, at last report, is keeping the kidney.
Sam Pollak is the editor The Daily Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.