Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Pets and various small animals should be removed from a room that is about to be fumigated. Anyone applying pesticides would know that just by reading the directions on the label.

So when Sammy Sabic went into an apartment to spray for bedbugs, he removed a resident guinea pig first. And for that, he was arrested.
Excuse me but what did I do wrong and why am I arrested please?

Mr. Sabic is originally from Bosnia where they do things differently than you'd find in Chicago. He was working as a handyman for his landlord, which is a big help to a man who doesn't have the language skills to land most other jobs. What is a Bosnian refugee going to do for work, anyway, considering the state of the economy and the unemployment rate among the unskilled. He had something of an occupation, and when his boss told him to go spray an apartment for bedbugs, Mr. Sabic wanted to do the best job ever to show that he was worth employing. He had a good work ethic, and nothing would deter him from completing his assigned task.

What caused him a bit of trouble was the tenant who had complained to the landlord about the bedbugs. The tenant would not let Mr. Sabic into the apartment when the handyman showed up to spray for bugs. How was he supposed to do his job if the tenant was blocking his way? It was the building's owner who was his boss, not the tenant, and the tenant was not going to give him orders that contradicted an order from the boss.

Mr. Sabic found a way to get into the apartment, using ingenuity to open a window. He was going to spray that apartment no matter what the tenant said. Once he got in he noticed that there was a little guinea pig in the apartment, and he would never spray deadly chemicals around without first safeguarding the rodent. So he removed it.

The tenant had Mr. Sabic arrested, and Mr. Sabic entered the twilight zone of bureaucracy and the Cook County legal swamp. Dig anyone listen to him when he said he was just doing his job? Of course not. He was a foreign man with a heavy accent and a resident claimed he was a burglar who stole a guinea pig after entering through a window like a thief.

Like the average person getting by on a hustle, Mr. Sabic had no hope of making bail, and so he sat in jail for 45 days, wondering what he had done that was so wrong, and wondering if he was ever going to get out. It was the most lonely time of his life, when he was friendless and confused and frightened.

His public defender argued in court that the charges were absurd, and they are indeed absurd. Mr. Sabic's landlord testified to the facts as Mr. Sabic detailed them in the first place, that he was working as a handyman who was told to debug an apartment and that's all that he did. He removed the guinea pig because it would have been pet murder to leave it in place.

Having already gone through the process of arrest and prosecution, the court could not just drop the case and admit that the system failed Mr. Sabic in a spectacularly idiotic way. Instead, the judge sentenced the man to eighteen months probation, just for show.

Mr. Sabic can go back to being a handyman for his landlord, but he will forever be hesitant to perform even the most simple task, out of fear that he might be doing something that someone would say was illegal and have him arrested again. He will spend the rest of his days looking over his shoulder, in search of the acclaimed American justice he heard so much about when he was trying to escape Bosnia.

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