Misdemeanor and summary offense charges have been filed against a Nashville Predators fan who had the audacity to throw a dead catfish onto the sacred ice of PPG Paints Arena during Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals last night. Jacob Waddell of Nolenville, TN, who was lucky enough to procure a ticket which should have gone to a more-deserving Penguins fan, erroneously believed that throwing a dead catfish onto the ice would be as legally permissible in Pittsburgh as it is at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Neither Pens fans nor the Pittsburgh Police were amused by this rude gesture, and not only was Wadell ejected from the game, he now also finds himself charged with possessing instruments of crime, disrupting meetings and disorderly conduct.
I have not taken the time to do the research, but my guess is that this is the first time in the history of Pennsylvania that an alleged instrument of crime is a dead catfish. Normally, instruments of crime are things like tools used for burglaries or breaking into cars, but the definition of this crime is actually broad enough to cover just about any object, including a dead catfish. Pursuant to Section 907 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, an instrument of crime, is “anything specially made or specifically adapted for criminal use,” or “anything used for criminal purposes and possessed by the actor under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses it may have.” According to media reports, Waddell vacuum sealed the catfish and smuggled it into the arena in his compression shorts. He then pulled out the catfish in the restroom and hid it inside a promotional t-shirt handed out to fans as they entered the venue. Thus, Waddell specially modified the catfish for a criminal purpose, and he did not use it for the lawful purpose of cooking or feeding it to a fish-eating pet. Possessing an instrument of crime is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of 2.5 to five years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000.
Disrupting meetings is a rather obscure crime defined by Section 5508 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code as disturbing or interrupting a lawful meeting or gathering with the intent of preventing it or disrupting it. Waddell was unable to prevent the Pens 5-3 victory, but he did disrupt it for a short time until the dead catfish could be removed from the ice. This offense is a third degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of six to 12 months of incarceration and a $2,500 fine.
Lastly, Waddell is charged with the summary offense of disorderly conduct pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. 5503(a)(4). Disorderly conduct takes various forms, with Subsection (a)(4) defined as creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose. I doubt that a Pittsburgh judge would be open to the argument that throwing a catfish onto the ice served the “legitimate purpose” of bringing good luck to the visiting Predators. A disorderly conduct conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
I have to give the Pittsburgh Police credit for being creative enough to charge possessing instruments of crime and disrupting meetings. When I watched the crime unfold live in the comfort of my living room, I thought Waddell would only be charged with disorderly conduct, which is the usual charge associated with inappropriate fan behavior at Pennsylvania sporting events.
All joking aside, I doubt Waddell is looking at any jail time for his stunt. In fact, if he has no prior criminal record, he may be able to avail himself of Pennsylvania’s ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) program, which allows criminal charges to be dismissed and expunged after a defendant fulfills certain obligations. Usually, a defendant is required to perform community service, pay court costs and in some cases, undergo drug and alcohol counseling or anger management classes. Given the fact that Waddell is neither a Caps nor Flyers fan, he should be a good ARD candidate if he has not prior record.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, PA, and a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. http://www.mattmlaw.com/About-Attorney-McClenahen/