Man Chooses To Hold "I Was Stupid" Sign Instead of Jail Time

By: Mary Rinzel and Mark Povolny Email
By: Mary Rinzel and Mark Povolny Email

A judge gives a man a choice: Spend time in jail or hold a sign saying "I was stupid."

Wednesday, he made that choice. He decided he'll hold the sign.

We talked to the judge known for his strange sentences. Judge Paul Lenz says over the years, he's handed out 20 or so similar sentences. But, he says for the most part, the criminals pass and choose to sit out their sentences rather than face public humiliation.

They read "I was stupid," "I’m a thief," and "I stole from the families of the dead."

They're all options to reduce jail time.

"It's something for them to think about," Lenz says. "Even if they don't choose to do it, they have to think about it because they have to think about whether they'll select the option. That means they'll think more about the consequences."

Consequences for cases like Shane McQuillan's. He was found guilty of criminal damage to property after he rammed his car into the closed gate at Eau Claire's Waste Water Treatment Plant in March.

McQuillan told an officer he had been drinking and was quote "just being stupid." Now, the 22 year old will hold a sign telling everyone "I was stupid".

"It's an option for the person. It's not something that's forced on them," Lenz says.

The judge says he's also thinking about money when he assigns a sign. In tough budget times, he says keeping non-violent people out of jail makes sense. Then there's the humiliation.

“It's a difficult thing to do if you think about it for yourself. It's basically a public acknowledgment that what you did was wrong and that's difficult for people to do," Judge Lenz says. "It’s also for others who might think about doing that type of behavior to think about."

The judge says there are some guidelines to follow when it comes to a sentence. He says it has to relate to the offense. But, he says his sign options are voluntary and have never been appealed.

We did leave several messages for Shane McQuillan, but did not hear back from him.


There were a couple other interesting sentences handed down recently in our area:

--In July, a tutor in Amery who had sex with her daughter's classmate was banished from her hometown for the next 15 years. The Polk County district attorney says it's not a common sentence, but can happen when the victim is threatened.

--In August, a St. Croix County woman was sentenced to take care of a victim's gravesite for 15 years. She pleaded guilty to homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

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  • by Anonymous Location: wisconsin on Oct 27, 2009 at 11:10 PM
    The kid made a mistake lets help him be right not wrong by making fun of him.everyone has good in them its what they do is wrong.but making fun of him puts you down to the level he was at when he did that.two wrongs dont make a write so help the kid out so he dont do this again.Some kids just need alittle help to guild thm in the right direction in life.
  • by Anonymous Location: black river falls on Oct 27, 2009 at 02:06 AM
    This is funny! They should make him hold the sign some place really busy like a walmart. I would drive by laughing and pointing.
  • by ? Location: Eau Claire on Nov 10, 2008 at 05:20 AM
    When is this supposed to happen?? I would like to check it out!
  • by Dave on Nov 3, 2008 at 04:25 PM
    Evelyn was right on Oct. 15th --unless the press is there (if they can find it) nobody will see him!! The article I read said outside the plant. Which is a dead end street. West-side (Ferry st.) if you can get a map!! Ask for Shawtown!!
  • by Anonymous on Nov 3, 2008 at 05:27 AM
    DUI and BAC are two diffrent issues. You get both when you are stopped for a DUI, but one citation is dropped. Both carry the same penalties and fines.
  • by Ken Location: Gilman on Nov 2, 2008 at 09:14 PM
    I would like to know the date and time when this boy will be holding the sign. I would like to drive past and taunt him while he is fulfilling his obligation.
  • by Ashley Location: Menomonie on Nov 2, 2008 at 09:20 AM
    Is this a joke?! Is this man going to be charged with anything? I looked up his record and almost all of his cases were somehow dismissed. In fact, the first time he was driving under the influence-or as the judge calls "being stupid"-he was found guilty of operating with a PAC of .10 or more but not found guilty of DUI. How is this possible? Driving drunk is a very serious matter-people die. I don't know of anyone else that has had the option to "hold a sign". Why should this case be any different? Is he related to someone in the DA's office?
  • by Stanley People Location: Stanley on Oct 31, 2008 at 07:52 AM
    Sounds like this little hoodlum is getting off pretty easy. Look him up on the Wisconsin circuit court website... How many times has he been in trouble for alcohol related incidences. They should've thrown this drunk in jail just to sober up. Someday he will hurt or kill someone in an alcohol related accident. He has a serious alcohol problem that needs to be seriously addressed, maybe the courts shouldn't have just slapped him on the hand like a little kid.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 23, 2008 at 01:17 PM
    haha.. just casually reading these articles and i stumble upon someone i knoww.. LOl
  • by Evelyn Location: Eau Claire on Oct 15, 2008 at 10:50 AM
    Who is going to see him as it is a dead end road and he isn't stupid.
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