Student Wears Joker Mask to Colo. Theater, Gets Arrested

A 17 year old student was in a juvenile detention center Sunday night after wearing a joker mask to a Colorado Century movie theater in Boulder. He didn't have a weapon or make any threats, but 5 patrons were scared enough to leave and call 911, which police say is enough for 5 misdemeanor menacing charges.

Menacing (18-3-206)

A person commits the crime of menacing if, by any threat or physical action, he or she knowingly places or attempts to place another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. Menacing is a class 3 misdemeanor, but, it is a class 5 felony if committed: (a) By the use of a deadly weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to cause a person to reasonably believe that the article is a deadly weapon; or (b) By the person representing verbally or otherwise that he or she is armed with a deadly weapon.

Police say the student knew about the Aurora theater shootings which occurred while the Dark Knight was scheduled to be shown. Is that enough to show he knowingly placed people in imminent fear of bodily injury? Probably. [More...]

Menacing is a general intent crime requiring only that the defendant be aware that the defendant's conduct is practically certain to cause the result. People v. Zieg, 841 P.2d 342 (Colo. App. 1992); People v. Segura, 923 P.2d 266 (Colo. App. 1995); People v. District Ct., 17th Jud. Dist., 926 P.2d 567 (Colo. 1996); People v. Saltray, 969 P.2d 729 (Colo. App. 1998); People v. Shawn, 107 P.3d 1033 (Colo. App. 2004).

.... it is only necessary that the defendant be aware that his conduct is practically certain to cause fear. People v. District Ct., 17th Jud. Dist., 926 P.2d 567 (Colo. 1996); United States v. Blackwell, 323 F.3d 1256 (10th Cir. 2003).

Why did he do it?

The teen told police he wore the mask to scare his friends and planned to dress as the Joker character for Halloween next year, police said.

Pretty lame excuse. But even if his act turns out not be criminal, it sure was stupid.

< Sunday Evening Open Thread | Monday Morning Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    I do think that it was very stupid, (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Zorba on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 08:40:57 AM EST
    but I hope the judge dismisses the case.  Actually, what I would suggest is for the judge to dope-slap the kid, tell him he was stupid and don't do it again, and then dismiss the case.  But I suppose that ain't gonna happen.   ;-)
    I would also ground him for a good long while, if I were his parents, but I think charging him goes too far.  What next?  If someone in the theater is afraid of you because of the shirt you're wearing, or your tattoos, or because your face looks "mean" to them, do the police get to arrest you?

    Actually, I'd bet that's a pretty good prediction (none / 0) (#5)
    by Peter G on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 08:59:05 AM EST
    of what will happen to him, Zorba.  Interested to hear whether J concurs.

    interestingly, in va it's illegal to wear a mask (none / 0) (#7)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 11:39:26 AM EST
    in public, absent a specific reason (halloween, a public party, etc.). the law goes back to reconstruction and the KKK. i don't know if it's a felony or misdemeanor, but people have been arrested for it within recent memory. perhaps CO has a similar law, for a similar reason?

    We expect kids to make mistakes... (none / 0) (#34)
    by yankee2 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 02:11:59 AM EST
    so we should give them at least half a break when they do. I doubt this kid expected to attract quite so much attention. I think he probably thought it would be funny. What it turned out to be is stupid. I think most kids do something like this at some point in their youth, if they have any imagination.

    The more I think about it, the more I tend to go with the slap on the wrist contingent. I don't want to seriously injure a young person's psyche, but he has to learn that being or even making people think he is a menace (i.e. A THREAT) is NOT acceptable.

    I think a few days in jail (and JUST a few days, in a low-security facility) might teach him to stay out of trouble.

    And maybe 100 hours of community service would work just as well.


    Silly... (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 11:58:11 AM EST
    Are Joker costumes now forever banned in theaters, what if it was Halloween or another batman movie.  No Jokers allowed.

    It was clearly in bad taste, but it's not criminal IMO.  I don't like laws that define ones action by another's belief of what might occur.  IOW, this is a crime in theater A because the people feared he might cause them bodily harm, but in theater B, it isn't because the people there aren't scared of their own shadows, and thought it was funny.

    He didn't do anything but wear a mask, something millions do every year on Halloween.  Had he acted or communicated in way that threaten people, then there is a crime.  But wearing a mask isn't a crime no matter how idiotic it is.  I would also add that there are folks out who scare the hell of me in their normal garb, but I don't think they should be arrested because of my preconceived notions of what a violent person looks like.

    The kid is lucky one of these gun wielding idiots didn't decide to save the world that night.

    i'm going to assume this was meant as satire, (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 02:19:48 PM EST
    poorly done.

    wearing masks in public, has always been associated with potentially criminal activity (see: KKK, highwaymen, stagecoach/train robbers, bank robbers, etc.). the assumption being, absent a good reason (halloween, a masqued ball, etc.), that it is an attempt to hide one's identity, from one's future victims. were i in a dark movie theatre, and someone came in wearing a mask, without a good reason for doing so, i would immediately leave my seat and go notify the manager.

    as a rule, there's no particularly good reason for hiding your face in public (again, absent legitimate reason), unless you have ill intent in mind. you may think (and i use the term in its loosest sense) it shouldn't be cause for concern, but it is, and always has been. go read some history.


    I assume that you would consider (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Zorba on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 02:57:34 PM EST
    a conservative Muslim woman wearing a niqab (face veil) to have a "legitimate reason."  
    But how would the police know that any particular veiled woman was really an observant Muslim?  If the individual is dressed in a full abaya or chador with a niqab, you wouldn't be able to tell just by looking whether it was even a woman under there, as opposed to a man who wanted to disguise himself.  So, do the police have the right to demand that the individual removes her niqab?
    Same thing holds with a person who wears a surgical mask in public, either because he/she is fearful of germs in general, or because that person is immune-deficient and must limit exposure to airborne pathogens.
    Yes, I'm sure that most people would not view such examples with alarm, unlike the idiot in the theater with the Joker mask, but I could envision someone masking him/herself in this manner for nefarious purposes.  Where do we draw the line?  I think that such laws are an example of a "slippery slope," and I don't approve of them because of the possible abuses by law enforcement authorities.

    I Am Going to Assume... (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 04:52:26 PM EST
    ...you don't know a ski mask is and that you have never been to Disney World, witnessed a surgery, never seen a fireman in action, been to New Orleans, or opened your eyes on Halloween.

    They are plenty of reasons to wear a mask, but even if there wasn't, this is American and we can wear a GD mask when we feel like it.


    Try it (none / 0) (#15)
    by CoralGables on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 05:02:18 PM EST
    the next time you walk into a bank

    Would the bank (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Zorba on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 05:08:05 PM EST
    get freaked out over a Muslim woman wearing a niqab?  Just saying....

    I can tell you (2.00 / 1) (#19)
    by CoralGables on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 06:43:56 PM EST
    I got stopped at the door for wearing sunglasses and told to remove them. I have no problem with that and the reason is pretty obvious. On the way out I noticed the sign that said no hats or sunglasses.

    You may not have a problem with this, (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Zorba on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 07:09:35 PM EST
    but I would imagine that an observant Muslim woman would have a problem if asked to remove her face veil.  Wearing sunglasses and being asked to remove them is not the same thing at all- it is not a religious imperative for you to wear sunglasses.  
    So, basically, I am not impressed with your take on this, and I think that you are exhibiting an astounding lack of sensitivity for those whose beliefs are different from the so-called societal norms.

    My orginal comment (2.00 / 1) (#21)
    by CoralGables on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 07:25:48 PM EST
    wasn't in response to you and had nothing to do with religion, a niqab, or a burqa, but if we're now trying to equate religion with a clown mask in Boulder I think we've already jumped the shark on this topic.

    Your "original comment" (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Zorba on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 07:59:49 PM EST
    may not have been directed to me, but you responded directly to my comment #17, with your comment #19.  If you did not intend to reply to me, then you had best take a bit more care with your responses.
    And, BTW, I do not directly equate a Joker mask with religion, but I do worry about the laws and the police responses.  Little by little, our civil liberties are being eroded.  Halloween masks are not the point.  The point is, what will be the next thing that the authorities ban, and the thing after that, and after that?

    I am very sensitive to intrusions of police into p (none / 0) (#32)
    by yankee2 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 12:16:50 AM EST
    olice into private affairs, but I don't think this has anything to do with our civil liberties being eroded. Except in certain cases, like Halloween and certain parties, etc., I think masks ARE menacing, and SHOULD be prohibited. I don't think people should walk around with guns, either.

    We must adapt to security reality (none / 0) (#31)
    by yankee2 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 12:06:03 AM EST
    It could be that, in the 21st century, with all of its pretty significant security issues, the naqab and burqa should probably be phased out.

    I know it is a major Islamic tradition (is it required by Islam?), but I think it is important to be able to see who people are. It's a major component of passive security.

    It may be acceptable in Islamic countries, if they continue to choose it, but it should not be tolerated abroad (for them). Perhaps Western women should wear them in Islamic countries?

    We should always seek ways to accommodate other people, but it shouldn't be necessary to sacrifice so much security in the process.


    that niqab is a security risk... (none / 0) (#30)
    by yankee2 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 11:54:31 PM EST
    The matter of total coverings for women of the Islamic religion is very problematic, from a number of perspectives. For one thing, it seems like a security risk. Some security comes naturally when we can see who people are, and identify them if they commit crimes. What about burqas and niqabs? EVERYBODY could be carrying all kinds of weapons, and nobody knows. We can't even see who anybody is! That seems like, potentially, a big problem. I admit that I like to know what the people around me look like.

    I Would Expect to Be Asked to Remove It... (none / 0) (#24)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 12:46:08 PM EST
    ...not arrested.

    Nope, not true (none / 0) (#29)
    by yankee2 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 11:45:18 PM EST
    Nope, we CANNOT wear a mask "when we feel like it." Walk into a bank in a mask, and you'll likely attract the police. Go just about anywhere, in public, and especially if you seem weird in some other way, and some people are going to get scared, and call the police. Most people KNOW that a mask is scary, so if you wear one, unless you have a good case that you DIDN'T know, expect to be visited by police, and likely charged with being a menace. If you want to walk into a bank in a ski mask, it had better be cold out.

    I think it's fair enough, given several similar in (none / 0) (#28)
    by yankee2 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 11:36:14 PM EST
    I think it's fair enough, given several similar incidents in recent years, to prohibit masks (ironically) in theaters. A person in a mask is threatening under most circumstances.

    Oh, UGH (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by womanwarrior on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 02:14:06 PM EST
    So, what about wearing a hockey mask?  Or a Zombie mask?  Or nasty tattoos?  Or a ninja costume?  Or you growl at people?  Or if you have a scary scar?  Or you have black skin in a white neighborhood and you wear a hoodie?  Sounds void for vagueness to me, but then I thought we had a first amendment.  

    Your reference to the First Amendment (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Peter G on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 05:07:02 PM EST
    yep, pretty stupid. (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 01:50:09 AM EST
    of course, 17 year-olds tend to do stupid things, which is why they're not allowed to sign valid contracts, vote or legally buy/consume alcohol. they can, however, be drafted, sent off to war, and be killed. go figure.

    oops! (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 03:38:19 AM EST
    wrong about the draft, have to be 18. but, you can enlist at 17.

    Yes, you can (none / 0) (#13)
    by Zorba on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 03:00:35 PM EST
    My father enlisted at 17 during WW II, but he had to have a parent's okay.

    I'd say it was inconsiderate. (none / 0) (#3)
    by firstfall on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 06:14:05 AM EST
    But IMO the 5 that freaked out over reacted. Now if the majority of people in the theater were upset that would have been different.

    re: Aurora, CO MASKED shooting (none / 0) (#33)
    by yankee2 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 12:26:48 AM EST
    For the recent 2012 Aurora shooting, in which 12 people died and some 72 were shot (among the largest numbers in history), the shooter wore a mask. I'm pretty sure that was why this kid wore his, and why those people freaked out. That recent incident was fresh in the minds of these people, who feared that this might be another killer. I don't think I blame them all that much.

    I think the kid should first be scared (none / 0) (#6)
    by TeresaInPa on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 08:59:36 AM EST
    to with in an inch of his life, forced to do some community service, then have his record wiped clean.  He did something stupid.  He's a teenager, it comes with the territory.  Unfortunately for him he was born in the 90 and not the 50s.  He gets to be a teen now and not when I was when this sort of thing would be funny or annoying but certainly not criminal.
    By scared within an inch of his life, I mean have his life examined for every single freckle and flaw, so that he can see what it is like when you stupidly invite the law in to your personal space.  Hopefully he will never give them a stupid reason to get involved with him again.

    Throw his parents in jail... (none / 0) (#10)
    by unitron on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 02:19:06 PM EST
    ...for raising such a jerk.

    Oh for pity's sake. Don't throw anyone (5.00 / 5) (#18)
    by caseyOR on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 06:20:01 PM EST
    in jail over this. Verbally smack the kid upside the head, perhaps with a well-aimed pocketbook, make him do some community service and then expunge it from his record.

    Yes, he did a foolish thing. He clearly did not think it through. What's that? Oh yeah, he's a 17 year old boy. Is it really so surprising he did such a thoughtless and dopey thing?

    Across the spectrum of dopey things done by 17 year old boys, this one isn't even in the top 5.


    I say let him spend a weekend... (none / 0) (#27)
    by yankee2 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 11:32:25 PM EST
    I say let him spend a weekend, or a week in jail, a real jail, but separate from any dangerous prisoners. This kid knew what he was doing, and he did commit the crime of menacing (which was very disruptive), but he's still just a kid. He needs to be taught a lesson, but also to be given a break.

    The kid is too young to be very harsh (none / 0) (#26)
    by yankee2 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 11:28:07 PM EST
    The kid is too young to be too harsh. 17 yo kids might seem practically adults, but males in particular are are commonly quite immature at 17. That's why we don't sell them alcohol. He deserves to be punished, but not too harshly.


    the wisdom of wearing a joker mask to a movie (none / 0) (#25)
    by yankee2 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 11:25:17 PM EST
    NOT! We can be pretty sure this kid knew what he was doing, but perhaps not its stupidity. I wonder if he's learned his lesson? He probably will, by the time he's served what I hope will be a very short sentence in jail.