Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Caution: Losing Your Temper May Be Terroristic

Maybe it was the medication. Maybe it was the profane sass he got from the other end of the telephone line.

But an Ohio man lost his temper with a telemarketing firm and said some things he most likely regrets. Now he sits in jail 450 miles from home on terrorism charges.

Where are you, ACLU?
An Ohio man, fed up with deceptive junk mail, made the mistake of losing his temper while on the phone with a St. Louis company pitching an extended auto-service contract. Now he finds himself behind bars, where he is charged with making a terrorist threat.

According to court documents, Charles W. Papenfus, 43, allegedly told a sales representative during a May 18 telephone call that he would burn down the building and kill the employees and their families. He was indicted for making a terrorist threat, a Class D felony; and he could be sentenced to up to four years in prison if convicted.

Papenfus' wife, Tracie, said she hasn't seen her husband since his arrest on June 27, when he was lured to a Fostoria, Ohio, police station with a false story about being suspected in a tavern fight there. Charles Papenfus, a self-employed mechanic who sometimes works on the department's police cruisers, dropped by the station to clear his name, she said.

Tracie Papenfus said she still can't understand why her husband is held 450 miles from home at the St. Louis workhouse on a $45,000 bond she can't afford to pay.

"He shouldn't have mouthed off on the phone, but this is overkill," Tracie Papenfus said. "He just can't handle it in there. He's not a criminal. ... They make it sound like he's a terrorist, and he's far from it."
The firm is one of those infamous auto service warranty firms that are (illegally in some cases) telephoning every household and cellphone in America. Let's be honest with ourselves: haven't you just once thought about how good it would feel to rip out the phone lines in their HQs? Of course, we may think these evil thoughts but most of us banish them from our heads quickly, since they can only lead to no good. Then again, most of us are not on pain medications as was Papenfus, which might explain his outburst.

Then again, he could've been provoked.
Tracie Papenfus said her husband called a St. Louis telemarketing firm — she didn't know the name — after getting a mailer stating that the factory warranty had expired for the 1996 Ford Taurus driven by his 23-year-old son. The car, bought as-is for $3,000, hasn't had a factory warranty for years.

"He wanted to know, 'Why are you sending this when we've never had a warranty?'" Tracie Papenfus said.

In fact, Charles Papenfus asked that same question several times. He called the firm after receiving the mailer, then he called the company back to complain some more, said Douglas Forsyth, a local attorney representing Papenfus. The call during which Papenfus allegedly made a terrorist threat was initiated by the firm, in a response to a voice-mail message left by Papenfus, Forsyth said.

"They insulted each other," Forsyth said, adding that Papenfus called the company "a scam" and the telemarketer called Papenfus "a jackass or (an expletive) or both."

Forsyth said that, several minutes into the call, Papenfus said something about burning down the firm's building.

Tracie Papenfus said the outburst was unusual for her husband, who she described as "a cool-headed guy." However, she said, he hadn't quite been himself after taking prescription painkiller medication for a compound wrist fracture he received in a motorcycle accident a few days before the call occurred. Irritability can be one side effect from those drugs, Forsyth said.
A spokesman for the Better Business Bureau in St. Louis, Charles Thetford, said he could understand Papenfus' frustration.
"While it's not something we condone, it is something we can understand," Thetford said. "Oftentimes, consumers feel pushed and pushed. ... It's a frustration we hear from consumers every day when they talk about the extended-service contract industry."
The question now becomes: When will common sense rear its beautiful head and someone in the justice system send this poor man back home?

The real criminals are the people who run these telemarketing outfits that insult the intelligence of American consumers thousands of times daily, who run roughshod over the traditional bounds of etiquette, who specialize in commercial mendacity to frighten folks into buying their products, and then curse them when they do not buy.

We protect their right to free speech on the telephone because it is the American way to put up with such nonsense.

But we should also protect the right of free speech for people to occasional tell them to go to hell.

Prosecuting this poor man as a terrorist because he lost his temper is a cruel joke and unworthy of America.

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At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The funny thing about the whole ordeal is how so many people toss death threats around and yet explode into fits of rage when people respond to them with any consequences for attempting. It's funny because I saw someone freak out after they received a hostile response from a guy they said they would 'take out and beat up like hell'. I hope they see this for the ideal talk it is and send this man home with a clear record.


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