Not exactly master criminals
November 2, 2013 1:54 PM   Subscribe

"At the trial, the DA told the jury that Joseph was a criminal type who had never been able to hold a steady job because he was simply too lazy to work. Joseph lost his head. The sheriff took him back to his cell. Joseph told the sheriff that the DA had made him mad when he called him lazy. He wasn’t lazy. He had robbed Wilbert German. That proved that the DA was wrong, as no one who was as lazy as the DA said he was would have gone through with the job.

The sheriff took the confession to the DA. Joseph was sentenced to two to four years in the Alleghenny workhouse." -- The story of Joseph Copple is but one of the real life crime stories found at Small Town Noir, a blog about the criminal history of New Castle, PA, from the 1930s to the 1950s.
posted by MartinWisse (12 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Having driven to New Castle every August for the past mumble mumlble years to dress up funny, drink beer and beat my friends with sticks, it's shocking to me how often it comes up. Thanks for this.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:59 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to work in a job that involved looking at prisoner's criminal records to get certain statistics. It was pretty amazing to read some of them - such stories I could tell! Like one about the young man who climbed a large fence to break into an area where the police had burned a bunch of marijuana that had been collected as evidence for various trials. When the night guard discovered him, with his arms smudged almost up to his armpits in ashes, he claimed he was "looking for souvenirs." Sure ya were, kid.

It became obvious very quickly that most of the people in prison aren't terribly smart. I supposed that makes sense; otherwise they would have avoided prison in the first place.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:38 PM on November 2, 2013

Here's the story of a man who was guilty of nothing: Sidney Fell, "Sodomy," 21 August 1960.

He owned his father's window-washing business, and was a community-theater producer in his spare time. There are several comments and emails from people who remember him fondly, as the "friendliest, sweetest man they’d met." Even though he "took a few beatings."
posted by Countess Elena at 4:41 PM on November 2, 2013

One of my favorite examples of storytelling by blog.
posted by doctornemo at 4:57 PM on November 2, 2013

I've lived an hour from New Castle for twenty years and have never had a reason to go there. I'm surprised that enough ever happened there to fill a blog with.
posted by octothorpe at 5:36 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised that enough ever happened there to fill a blog with.

With very few modifications, the posts on that blog could come straight out of any county courthouse in the country at just about any time after 1900.

Most people don't have any personal interaction with the criminal justice system and so don't have any real idea of exactly how much stupid, dangerous shit goes down on any given day. Even the smallest of towns tend to have That One Bar where on any given weekend it's more likely for there to be a fight than not.
posted by valkyryn at 6:55 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up just north of New Castle. None of this surprises me in the least.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:34 PM on November 2, 2013

Here's another New Castle bit of history for you Octothorpe. Like I said, it comes up in the oddest places.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:13 PM on November 2, 2013

This guy was a master something.
posted by telstar at 10:10 PM on November 2, 2013

Society might agree some things are criminal acts. That does not mean some people are criminal types.
For someone who is not lazy to be called lazy is upsetting. I have a lot of sympathy with him.
People who are lazy with their lives I struggle with.
posted by manoffewwords at 1:55 AM on November 3, 2013

"Jimmy Pasta made his money running illegal numbers games. He called himself a bill collector."

AMAZING. Every one of these men belong in a Coen Brothers movie.
posted by timshel at 3:41 AM on November 3, 2013

Were it not for the mugshots, I would picture half these guys looking like Martin Sheen in Badlands.

Down in the part of town where if you hit a red light you don't stop
Johnny's wavin' his gun around, threatenin' to blow his top
When an off-duty cop snuck up on him from behind
Out front of the Club Tip Top they snapped the cuffs on Johnny 99

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:25 AM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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