September 9, 2012 – Week in Review

Zombie Royals, a rare intersection of tax law and exotic dancing and what’s a guy got to do to spend time in prison in this country?  What, no Republicans?  Here’s a look back at some of the weirder stories from last week.

Zombie Royals

There’s something about Canadian artists and the royal family.  First there was Charles Pachter, famous for (among many other things) his painting of the Queen riding a moose (as an aside, if you ever get an opportunity to speak to Charles Pachter, take advantage of it, he’s a fascinating fellow).  Now, here comes Rob Sacchetto and his zombified drawings of the Queen and Prince Charles (among other celebrities) which kicked off a mini-stir in the UK last week when they were published by the Daily Mail.

Ok, Charles Pachter he ain’t.  Plus, his drawing of zombie Prince Charles is slightly less desiccated than the real Prince Charles.  Still, it’s nice to a local boy making a name for himself.  Hey, if you’re interested (though I can’t imagine why you would be), Sacchetto offers a zombified portrait service.  He’ll take a picture of you and/or your loved ones and “zombify” them.  Actually, that’s not a bad idea for wedding photos – it allows the happy couple to get a sense what they’ll look like after being married for a few years.

And people say that tax law isn’t interesting…

A couple of stories about the tax treatment of, ahem, exotic dancers caught my professional interest this week (courtesy of the Above The Law Blog).

Molly Parker
Molly Parker (Photo credit: Josh Jensen)

The first story is about a suburban Albany strip club which is trying to avoid liability for state sales tax on admissions and lap dances  (quick aside: Do I want to know how they collect sales tax on lap dances?) on the grounds that lap dancing is a “dramatic or musical arts performances” exempt from state sales tax.  Seems reasonable to me.  The state’s counter-argument, as far as I can tell, is that “hey, this ain’t the Bolshoi” and that “nobody would visit the  club if the dancers didn’t remove their clothes”.  Maybe, but the same could be said of Molly Parker‘s movies, which are generally considered “art” films, so I’m not sure that’s a compelling response.

The second story involves a lawsuit by a stripper named Esther Sue Eliazio (Esther?  A stripper named Esther?) against Baby Dolls Topless Saloons, a chain of strip-joints in the Dallas area.  The gist of their allegations is that Baby Dolls violated US employment laws by characterizing their dancers as independent contractors (and not employees), thus avoiding minimum wage and other employment standards laws.  Since the distinction between independent contractors and employees is one of the messier areas of tax and employment law (both in Canada and the US), it’ll be interesting (from a purely professional stand point, you understand) to see how this case gets sorted out.

God, I love being a corporate tax lawyer!

What’s a guy gotta do to stay in jail in this country?

I also caught a couple of stories last week about our criminal justice system.  These stories aren’t shockingly outrageous in a “WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY THINKING?” kind of way.  They’re more sad commentaries on the irrationality and inefficiency of our criminal justice system.

The first story was a Toronto Star report about a “violent prisoner”  who assaulted two police officers while they were flying him from Calgary to Toronto in February 2011 (although the story doesn’t go into detail, presumably he was in custody at the time).  He was convicted and sentenced to a hefty one-day prison sentence.  Now, unfortunately, the story doesn’t go into much detail, but I had two immediate reactions.  First, he assaults a couple of cop and all he get is one day in jail?  Oh my, well, that’ll learn him.  Second, it how the hell does it take 18 months to process this.  I can’t even fathom the cost of trying this guy.  And for what, a one-day sentence?  If our criminal justice system takes 18 months to process these sort of crimes, it’s a testament to the lengthy life expectancy of Canadians that people who commit really serious or complicated crimes live long enough to be convicted.

And then there was the story of Jacob Allen Mann, a CRIMINAL GENIUS who applied his massive intellect to cleverly escape from the College Park courthouse in Toronto by, well, just walking out of court.  According to the Toronto Star:

On Thursday, he and another prisoner, whose charges were about to be dismissed, were in the prisoner’s box. Mann stood up and left when the other man’s name was called, according to police

Ok, Shawshank Redemption this isn’t (and judging by his picture in the Star, he’s no criminal mastermind).  What a country we live in, where people flying to Moose Jaw to visit their aunt Milly need government ID, but a prisoner with a history of violence can just walk out of court, no questions asked.  The worst part is that, predictably, this isn’t the first time that this has happened.  According to the Star, two prisoners pulled a similar stunt in Brampton last year, and it happened at least twice in the 1990s.  Doesn’t say much about the learning curve of court security.  Thank god criminals are stupid, or they’d do it more often.


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