News item: A 23-year-old Jupiter man has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon for throwing a live 3 1/2 foot alligator into a Wendy’s restaurant in Royal Palm Beach.
Joshua James and some friends found the alligator on the side of the road and thought it would be a fun prank to pull up to the drive-thru window and toss the gator into the restaurant where another one of his friends was working, he told WPTV-Channel 5.
“We’re just like outdoors kind of people, and just anything we find we catch, and so ideas started popping and one thing led to another.” he said. “I got in a lot of trouble for doing this, so I definitely don’t recommend doing it.
“This is probably the last time I’m going to do this.”
May it please the court. Your honor, I rise to speak for Joshua James, to offer a few arguments that call for mitigation of the charges in this case.
First of all, assault with a deadly weapon is a serious felony, far too serious for actions that might alternately be described as essentially making an unauthorized menu suggestion.
“See what’s fresh at a Wendy’s near you,” the fast-food chain proclaims on its website, an invitation for customers to be surprised by the fresh food items within their stores.
Well, for an evening at one location in Royal Palm Beach, there was some fresh alligator.
And while I’m not saying that it’s a good idea to use the drive-thru window as a suggestion box or delivery portal, I think it’s clear that Wendy’s shares some responsibility in this.
This whole episode might have been avoided if the fast-food chain had put a disclaimer on its website that clearly indicated that Wendy’s is not interested in augmenting its fresh menu to include gator nuggets, double-stack opossum burgers, or Asiago ranch feral cat tenders.
I see you frowning, your honor. So let me move on to my next argument, which is the injustice of calling a baby alligator a “deadly weapon.”
This is clearly a case of over-charging. A deadly weapon should be something that causes reasonable people to be in fear for their lives, a weapon that renders its victim compliant due to the potentially fatal danger it presents.
This is simply not the case here. When’s the last time anybody robbed a 7 Eleven with a baby alligator?
“Nobody move, or I release this small reptile I am holding!” are words you’ll never hear during a stickup.
If you were looking for deadly weapons in the Wendy’s that night, you’d be on firmer ground pointing to the 1,070-calorie Dave’s Hot n Juicy 3/4-Pound Triple Patty with Cheese burger. Now, that’ll kill you.
On to my final argument.
As Mr. James so poignantly stated, this Wendy’s episode is “probably the last time” he’s going to throw a live alligator through the drive-thru window at a fast-food restaurant.
I believe this is a heartfelt admission that his actions on that night were, upon deeper reflection, somewhat foolish.
So, I’m willing to stipulate that Mr. James acted foolishly.
But it also needs to be noted that this is Florida, where being foolish is rarely criminalized. In fact, foolish behavior is celebrated as our national identity. Idaho has potatoes. Maryland has crabs. And Florida has people like Mr. James.
Being a haven for fools is our most identifiable state crop.
The moniker “Flori-duh!” was coined long before Mr. James joined the long line of Florida men and women who have provided countless hours of amusement for the rest of America, which has come to expect Florida as a place where weird things — like throwing a live alligator through a drive-thru window at a fast-food restaurant — happen with regularity.
So the just thing to do here is catch and release Mr. James. He has learned his lesson. Probably.
It also bears pointing out that to single out this one foolish act of a lone Floridian during a time when Florida is a month away from thousands of Floridians casting votes for a theoretical President Donald Trump is to severely punish one small act of harmless foolishness in the midst of a statewide epidemic of foolishness with severe consequences.
If it pleases the court, I would like to use my remaining time to address the serial goat rapist on the loose in the Panhandle.