By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY December 11, 2001 Sometimes a local community just cant get enough crooks, and officials look forward to having too many jailbirds in the lock-up.
With that in mind, about 50 area residents turned themselves in to local authorities in the guise of Judge Judy (aka Renee Prairie) and a bunch of hard-nosed bailiffs on loan from Gershowitz Bus Company in the hopes that friends, relatives and coworkers would bail them out of the clink.
But it was all for a good cause, as the jailbirds were participating in the Muscular Dystrophy Associations (MDA) 11th Annual Lock-Up, a program designed to raise money to fight neuromuscular diseases that affect more than one million Americans.
After the stern-faced judge convicted everyone who appeared before her bench, she gaveled home the sentence of an hour of community service and set bail at $2,000. After processing and a complimentary mug shot to show their friends back home or in the office, the jailbirds were sent off to various cell blocks located at the Days Inn of Liberty, where they made calls to solicit some bail money.
Two thousand dollars helped pay for a wheelchair or a set of leg braces; $450 funded a week of fun, friendship and laughter for a child at an MDA summer camp; $100 covered a follow-up visit at an clinic; $50 funded a minute of scientific research in the worldwide effort to develop treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy and related disorders; and a $20 bill payed for a flu-shot, a potential lifesaver for kids and adults who experience severe respiratory distress due to progressive neuromuscular disease.
According to Lynn M. Wells, MDA district director at the Binghamton office, the local Lock-Up hoped to raise about $25,000, of which 75 percent goes to provide services locally (25 percent covers administrative costs).
Several local folks were Locked Up For Good but got released on their own recognizance after raising thousands of dollars in bail money. Topping the list: Anthony Coviello of Beejeez, a local tavern, made the most wanted list with $2,009; Dennis Croswell of the Monticello office of the NYS Department of Health raised $1,815; and Rosemary Rosenberger of Sullivan County Community College brought in $1,219.42.
The dollars that are raised stay local to the area, said Wells.
Jim Boxberger, owner of Monticello Farm, Home & Garden, said he was wrangled into getting arrested.
As he was being led off to jail (thanks to a bailiff/driver from Gershowitz), Boxberger said his loyal employees started chanting, Put him in cuffs, put on the cuffs!
After Boxberger arrived at the lock-up, he was photographed by Teresa Roosa of RSVP and shown how to fill bail bond forms by RSVP volunteer bail bondsmen Angelo and Mildred Poliseno.
After Sept. 11 and with the economy being down, organizations arent getting the dollars they would normally get, he said. Every little bit helps.
The local business owner said he was going to tell his employees that the fund-raising effort has a revenge program hes protected under the witness protection program in which he can add their names to next years list of arrest warrants.
So, someone set you up to be a jailbird? Now its your turn to pay them back, reads the revenge program flyer.
In other words, if you nominate somebody for MDA Lock-Up, watch out!
A couple of local pastors showed up as first time jailbirds: Rev. James Smith and his wife Terry of the United Methodist Church of Monticello and Rev. James Matthews of the First Baptist Church of Monticello.
Rev. Smith has a good reason to support fund-raising efforts on behalf of muscular dystrophy.
We believe in it because I had a trace of it when I was little, he said. It has not gone any further, but it could at any moment, so we have a vested interest.
Its a disease that needs a lot of research because the solution is found in research, and research is funded by people like the good people of Sullivan County, who are giving money today to bail us out. Its about raising money and awareness.
Rev. Smith showed a bit of heavenly humor as he summed up his situation.
I suspect this only confirms the deepest suspicions of some of my colleagues that I should be in jail, he said with a grin, before slipping out of a pair of handcuffs.
Rev. Matthews has been the spiritual leader of the local Baptist church for 32 years and said he was going to make a career of it.
I turned myself in, and they locked me up, said the local reverend. Members of my congregation bailed me out with $240.
For information about the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and their fund-raising opportunities, call Lynn M. Wells at 607-723-7431, of visit the national MDA website at www.mdausa.org.