Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Top Ten

One of my many loyal and devoted readers suggested recently that I write about current events and other things people are actually interested in rather than obscure topics of little interest to anyone. To me, writing about things that people are interested in borders on pandering, but since no obscure topics spring to mind this week, I'll give it a try.

I guess the world can breathe a huge collective sigh of relief now that Warren Jeffs has been captured. Warren Jeffs is, of course, the leader of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints -- a Mormon sect that practices polygamy.

Whatever your personal beliefs about polygamy happen to be, it's illegal in the United States, so anyone who engages in such a practice in this country is subject to arrest.

The interesting thing to me is that being a leader of a polygamous sect didn't simply make Jeffs a common criminal -- it somehow put him on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, right up there with Osama Bin Laden and eight other guys.

Unfortunately, the Top Ten List doesn't rank these guys, so we don't know if the FBI considers any one of them to be more wanted than the others. If there were such a ranking, I have a feeling Bin Laden would be on top of the list, but there's no way to tell from looking at the web site.

But just to give you an idea of what sort of things you have to do to get on the list, I'll provide you with a short summary. Quoting from the web site:

Jorge Alberto Lopez-Orozco is wanted for allegedly shooting to death three people in Elmore County, Idaho.

Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez is being sought in connection with the manufacture and distribution of multiple tons of cocaine, knowing or intending that it will be imported into the United States.

Victor Manuel Gerena is being sought in connection with the armed robbery of approximately $7 million from a security company in Connecticut in 1983.

Richard Steve Goldberg is wanted for allegedly engaging in sexual activities with several female children under the age of ten in Long Beach, California, from January through May of 2001.

Usama Bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed over 200 people. In addition, Bin Laden is a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world.

James J. Bulger is being sought for his role in numerous murders committed from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s in connection with his leadership of an organized crime group that allegedly controlled extortion, drug deals, and other illegal activities in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.

Robert William Fisher is wanted for allegedly killing his wife and two young children and then blowing up the house in which they all lived in Scottsdale, Arizona in April of 2001.

Glen Stewart Godwin is being sought for his 1987 escape from Folsom State Prison in California, where he was serving a lengthy sentence for murder.

Donald Eugene Webb is being sought in connection with the murder of a police chief in Pennsylvania who was shot twice at close range after being brutally beaten about the head and face with a blunt instrument.


And then, of course, there's Warren Jeffs:

Warren Steed Jeffs, the leader of a polygamous sect, is wanted for the alleged sexual assault on a minor in 2002. He is also wanted for one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor in 2002. Additionally, Jeffs is wanted for rape as an accomplice in Utah.

So what's my point in mentioning all this? First of all, it seems like who gets on the list and who doesn't is pretty arbitrary. Bin Laden should definitely be there, but most of the other guys seem like ordinary felons to me. What I mean is, considering all the violent crimes that get committed every year, what these guys did just doesn't seem that noteworthy. Their crimes may be despicable and unforgivable, but they're probably no more gruesome or violent than thousands of others.

Second, if I'm not mistaken, Bin Laden is believed to be responsible for the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City. I don't know why there was no mention of that on the web site, but it seems like a pretty big omission.

Third, I really don't know what Warren Jeffs is doing on the list. Being the leader of some non-violent religious cult just doesn't seem like that big a deal to me -- at least, not as big a deal as murdering someone or stealing millions of dollars or blowing up buildings.

So let's look again at what Jeffs is wanted for: the alleged sexual assault on a minor, conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, and rape as an accomplice. It's pretty sleazy stuff, but my understanding is that all these charges result from the fact that Jeffs arranged marriages between adult men and underage women. ("Rape as an accomplice" means he facilitated the sexual intercourse between a man and a girl -- he didn't have sex with her himself. And "sexual assault on a minor" means that at least one of his many wives was underage.)

I'm not defending the guy or condoning his behavior or anything like that. It's just that I can't help thinking that somewhere in this great country of ours, there are a lot of other guys who did something a whole lot worse.

If you visit the FBI's web site, you'll see that Jeffs is now listed as "Captured." So my first question is, can someone be "Captured" and "Wanted" at the same time? Technically, I suppose you could be, but I don't really see the point in having a Most Wanted List of people who are already in custody. So I assume that Jeffs will eventually be removed from the list and replaced with someone else. And that brings me to my second question, which is who that person is and what crime he committed. My third question is, who decides who gets on the list and on what criteria do they base their decision? I'll probably never know the answer to that one, but it doesn't matter since I don't really care anyway.

In any event, I'll continue to check the web site from time to time, so I can let you know when a new Most Wanted Criminal has been selected. Or you can just check the web site yourself and let me go back to doing what I do best, which is writing about things that have little or no interest to anyone.