There is a truly disgraceful story out of Lakewood, New Jersey where homeless man Ronald Leggatt, 65, was offered $5 by a stranger to pour a hot cup of coffee over his own head — twice. Carlos Mejia, 22, of Jackson, posted a video of Leggatt discussing the demeaning act. Mejia witnessed the scene and at first thought the man was going to help Leggatt and was horrified as Leggatt poured the coffee over his own head. The coffee reportedly left burn marks on Leggatt’s face. Mejia confronted the man who paid for the act. Mejia said that the culprit was an Orthodox Jew, who allegedly told Mejia that nothing would happen to him because “we run the town.” (Lakewood has a large Orthodox population). The police located the sadist but decided that there was no crime to charge because the act by Leggatt was voluntary. Others in the Orthodox Jewish community were ashamed by the conduct of the culprit and came forward to help Leggatt.
Leggett lives in a cinder block dugout at at local ball field and told a reporter “Never thought I’d be in this position at 65.”
Members of the Orthodox community located the culprit and brought him to Leggett. The resulting videotape only showed the young man from behind. The young man gave him $20. That seems rather low for such an outrageous, disgusting act. Other members of the community responded with kindness, took Leggatt out for food, bought him clothes, gave him a haircut and put him up in a motel for a couple days.
I agree with the police that a voluntary act cannot be charged as a crime. It is not crime even to pay for people to hurt themselves. Presumably, a crime could be brought if this sadistic display was used to make money commercially. Thus, it has long been a crime to arrange prize fights on wharfs and in alleys. In this case, it is a dare between two individuals.
Of course, none of this alters the culpability of the stranger. The culprit is obviously someone without an ounce of humanity or morality despite his association with a religious community. He is dangerous preciously because he enjoys seeing people demeaned and subjugated.