Saturday, August 15, 2009

61, Do I Hear 62?


Today brings us another look at our old (literally) friend, Ella Orko. Orko, as you may or may not care to remember, is an 86-year old woman with a colorful past and an extremely long and storied career as a professional thief. Her occupation has netted her recognition in the form of an arrest at least 61 times since 1956 and her vivid imagination has allowed her to come up with about 50 aliases, which almost amounts to giving a different name every time she was arrested, give or take about eleven. It's unfortunate she couldn't have put her talents to work doing something besides ripping people off her whole life, but she's 86 now. I highly doubt, at this point, she's going to be taking some classes at the community college to learn a new trade.

This woman came to our attention when Ms. Orko was arrested for stealing $252 worth of a variety of items ranging from packaged salmon (5 packs) to AA batteries (11 packs) to instant coffee (4 jars) to about the one thing that you'd think that an 86-year old woman would steal - anti-wrinkle cream (2 boxes of one brand and 8 boxes of another brand, I believe). She went to court just the other day to answer for this charge and it sounds like it was quite the scene.


She shows up to court like she's supposed to, only she's in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace! Clearly, when you're someone who has been arrested 61 times, you know that you're not going to be able to play the poor, frail, feeble, elderly woman act and get away with it. No, you're going to need some props. And while I understand the strategy, I don't understand the choice of props. Come on, woman! You were caught shoplifting! Did you have that wheelchair THEN? I don't think you did! And the neck brace? For reals? Did someone rear end you in a car that you had stolen? What was that all about?


She even played as if she were hard of hearing. I don't know what that was supposed to do other than perhaps induce the sympathy factor from the judge. It's not like she could pretend that she didn't hear him and they would just give up and let her go. Fortunately, the judge, a one Honorable Marvin P. Luckman, wasn't buying it. His words? "I've been doing this for a lot of years. She's an actress."

According to
CBS2Chicago she "was originally charged with a felony, but prosecutors agreed to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor in exchange for her guilty plea." Right. Because what if she had a felony on her record? That would be terrible! Then she'd always have to check that little box that says "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" on every form that she filled out. That might hinder her from getting a job! It could affect her for the rest of her life! Well, what's left of it.

Even as the judge was shouting in the courtroom, Ms. Orko played up the whole "I'm deaf" facade by mumbling, "I can't hear too good." You don't speak too "good" either. Shocking, I know. Though a man clear in the back row said that he could hear the judge just fine when he was asked, Ms. Orko, right there in front of the judge, claimed deafness. And the judge, not knowing if she was serious, but suspecting that she wasn't, took the matter to the most reasonable level that I can think of. He got off the bench, stood directly in front of her and then bellowed at her, "Do . . . you . . . have . . . any . . . questions?!" MOST excellent.

It's hard to tell if Ms. Orko was embarrassed by the judge's purposeful shouting or if she was merely indifferent, but she did say, in response to his shouted question, "No. Very seldom would some judge [step off the bench]. Thank you so much." And she would know if judges did something often or did something very seldom. She's in court often enough to make that assessment quite accurately, I'd imagine.

She ended up being sentenced to two days in jail, which she had already done after her arrest, so she was credited with time served and released. Apparently she had last been convicted (for retail theft - shocking, I know) in 2006 and served time in prison until sometime in 2007 when she was paroled. Now, I don't know if she was on parole at the time of her arrest, but if so, you'd kind of think that she'd be breaking the terms of her parole, wouldn't you? But really, even if she was, is it going to do anyone any good to send this 86-year old woman to prison again?


Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that she shouldn't be held accountable for stealing things (nor am I saying that she should just keep on stealing, because she shouldn't. Yeah, that should have stopped about 53 years ago!), but I'm saying that during the time that she has left, I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up getting caught more frequently than she has in her past. You know, what with the neck brace and wheelchair and all. If she has been arrested 61 times since 1956, I think it's fair to say that she has probably gotten away with stealing stuff a whole hell of a lot more times than she has been caught stealing stuff. And that has to be one heck of a life to have had (and not in a good way). In a case like this, instead of having her plead guilty to the misdemeanor, I have a different idea.

Tell you what, cupcake, we'll drop the charges in exchange for you sitting down and doing an hour, maybe an hour and a half, interview, but not with a cop or a professional shrink or anything like that. I'm thinking more like local talk show host or newspaper columnist. Someone who can just pick your brain with the typical questions (What was your family like? How was your childhood? Blah, blah, blah.), but also pepper it with some of the atypical questions (Do you watch the Home Shopping Network? How about COPS? Why not just get a job? Did you steal from your mother? Did she steal from you? Was it a generally steal-y family? Did you ride the rails like a hobo in the 1930s?). I think the sociological information gathered from something like that would be much more informative and useful than having her sit in jail for however long.I know that guys always seem to have these "women in prison" fantasies where all of the female inmates are always having pillow fights in their bra and panties (and always with the possibility that they might/probably end up kissing), but do you really want to have her added to the mix of imaginary real-life scenarios in your head? I didn't think so.

Thus, an interview it is! In the meantime, get a job, Granny. Perhaps maybe you could do some acting, just like that nice judge suggested.

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2 comments:

Shawn Robertson said...

I know her. I see her all the time in Ukrainian village.

Shawn Robertson said...

I know her. I see her all the time in Ukrainian village.