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Dumb crooks:

CHICAGO (AP) -- The convict couldn't stand another day in his
Rhode Island prison.


Faced with a 90-day sentence for disorderly conduct, he spent 88
days concocting a scheme to break out. On the 89th day he
successfully made his escape -- only to be caught a few months later
and sent back to prison for 1 1/2 years.


"The crimes are real, but the names have been changed to
protect the ignorant," quipped author Leland Gregory, who
collaborated with two others on the new book, "America's Dumbest
Criminals."


Gregory, Daniel Butler and Alan Ray toured the country for four
months beginning last November talking to police officers in big
cities and small towns. Among some of the most stupid criminals
were:


  • A Nevada robber who let a convenience store clerk make one
    phone call during a hold-up, then seemed surprised when police
    showed up.


  • A Rhode Island man charged with breaking open vending machines
    who paid his $400 bail entirely in quarters.


Those criminals might seem too stupid to be real, but that's all
the better, the authors said.


"We wanted to let kids know that criminals are not really
glamorous characters," said Gregory, an actor, writer and TV
producer who lives in Chicago.


"Films like `Seven,' `Copycat,' `The Silence of the Lambs,'
with intellectual, conniving criminals -- that's all fiction," he
said. "The truth is a guy gets drunk, tries to steal a TV and gets
his foot caught in an air vent."


The authors say they also have enough material to make 26
half-hour TV shows, which are currently being produced for
syndication. They have sold the rights for a "World's Dumbest
Criminals" show to producers in Spain, France, Italy and Sweden.


"All of these people in the book are victims of their own
crimes," said Butler, an actor and writer based in Nashville,
Tenn.


One such ill-conceived exploit was a man's plan to blow up Percy
Priest Dam near Nashville and flood the city. He figured that with
the country music capital submerged, he could strap on scuba gear,
dive through the city and plunder its riches.


Never mind that he had never been scuba diving before. And the
dynamite explosion he rigged managed only to knock down the door of
an old wooden shed near the top of the dam.


Then there was the thief who liked to smash windows of jewelry
stores and grab whatever he could. One store he robbed replaced its
windows with unbreakable plexiglass. When the thief returned and
threw a cinder block at the window, the block bounced back, hit him
in the head and knocked him out.


"They sent us a video," said Jerry Atnip, national secretary
for the Fraternal Order of Police, based in Nashville. "It was a
humorous side to the sometimes ugly business that we're in."


The book, published by Rutledge Hill Press, was released earlier
this fall.


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