Ethics Dunce: Cody Pfister, The Mad Licker

What does one do with someone this stupid?

Cody Pfister, 26, of Warrenton Missouri, was arrested after he filmed himself licking various items at Walmart. Apparently he was under the misapprehension that Walmart is a licker store.


But enough levity. In the video he posted to social media, this cretin is seen boasting “Who’s afraid of the coronavirus?” as he sticks his tongue where no tongue should boldly go, especially during a pandemic.

The video, which was apparently made on March 11,  went viral, as they say, circling the globe. The Warrenton police were contacted by residents of the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

“We take these complaints very seriously and would like to thank all of those who reported the video so the issue could be addressed,” the police said in the statement.

After Pfister was taken into custody, Warren County prosecutors charged him with “making terrorist threats.” That seems like a rather large stretch, but “being an asshole in a manner and at a time when it may do a lot of damage” isn’t on the books yet. Professor Turley is dubious:

The statute allows for charges based on recklessness that causes panic. It is a definition that allows for a criminal “reckless disregard” charge. I have no sympathy for these moronic individuals. However, this “coronavirus challenge” trend appears to be a dare rather than a threat….This places us all in a difficult position legally.

In other words, it’s not a threat if no threat was intended. Thus we are thrown back into the same dilemma as with the teens who filmed themselves coughing on food.  That “prank” caused  a grocery store to throw out $35,000 worth of produce .  In the Ethics Alarms poll on what should be done to those dummies

…a lot of the responses seemed to be driven by the youth of the offenders—you know, everything we’re read about how long it takes for the brains of young men to settle down and stop functioning like those of Moe, Larry and Curley.  But this guy is 26. He has previous convictions for burglary, theft of a firearm, drug possession and driving while intoxicated. He’s not growing out of his licking stage. He’s a menace to society every second he’s free among us.

Unless a swift message is sent, this kind of thing could spread.  (Newseek reported that the manager of a grocery store in Wisconsin called police after seeing a woman licked the door handle of a freezer while a manager was disinfecting the store.) Yet we can’t ethically just make up laws after the crimes (this is something Bernie Sanders, among others, has yet to grasp)  and finding the right balance is a challenge, especially when what we’d LIKE to do him is probably “cruel and unusual.” Note that in the poll above, Force them to listen to Jessica Simpson sing “Imagine” 24 hours a day until they beg for death” was almost the winning option.

Now many states are debating whether to let prison populations go free because of the Wuhan virus threat, as long as the inmates aren’t sex offenders or guilty of violent crimes. Pfister exposes the lazy logic of that calculation. He’s a better argument for pre-crime measures than early release. Blogger Amy Alkon was beating the drum earlier this week for expanded measures to protect prisoners from the Wuhan virus, tweeting,

“We owe people in prison protection — no more punishment than they’ve been assigned by state. This means we need to protect them against rape & other crimes & also give them adequate healthcare. Prison on burglary charge should not be death sentence bc of state abdication of duty”

I’m sympathetic up to a point. It isn’t quite Kaufman territory, but on the other hand, as Captain Hook was fond of saying, prisoners are responsible for their unpleasant situation. There is no reason for them to feel that they should be insulated from the same dangers law abiding citizens face. Criminals, including non-violent ones, cost a lot of money. No, they should not be victims of crimes or face abuse in prison, but behind bars is a bad place to be, and if one does not want to be in an environment especially susceptible  to  infection during an epidemic, I recommend not committing crimes. Society is obligated to take reasonable steps to protect its anti-social imprisoned. Letting them out to do the anti-social things pfools like Pfister are likely to do is not reasonable.

Or to be more concise, I am not broken up about the fact that Harvey Weinstein contracted the Wuhan virus in prison.

11 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Cody Pfister, The Mad Licker

  1. If someone hits my car they pay the costs to fix it. If my kid throws a rock and breaks my neighbor’s window I am responsible for the cost the damage. In all these cases, we must assume all product ob display has been tampered with so all must be destroyed for safety. The only appropriate punishment is for the perpetrator to pay restitution.

    Business insurance can pay the claim but they should subrogate the claim against the charged or convicted party .

    The parents of the juvenile idiots that caused 35 grand worth of damage should be made to pay the full cost of making the store whole.

  2. Since Cory Pfister is twenty six and had several prior felonies I think an appropriate penalty would not be probation and restitution. Better would be put him in an isolation cell for a few months with a recording of someone with a dry hacking cough playing 24 hours a day.

  3. I don’t like names that end in ‘y’ which aren’t shortened forms of longer names. Triply so for male names. I worked with a Cody once and asked him what his full first name was. He said “Cody”. I called him ‘Codence’ from that day on.

  4. You don’t have the punishment I feel is appropriate. Find out what the store thinks is reasonable damages. Make him work at a minimum wage job until he pays it back. If he quits or gets fired he serves 6 months in jail.

    • That looked good for a second. Then I realized I wouldn’t have him in my store (or anywhere) for a minute unless his face was encased in a head neck full face balaclava mask.

  5. Yet we can’t ethically just make up laws after the crimes

    Terrorism seems like an absurd overreach? Wouldn’t a charge based on existing vandalism or criminal mischief laws be appropriate and sufficient? Maybe one count per can licked?

    There must also be some law against purposefully contaminating food….

  6. Cody is 26, so he’s an adult and his parents aren’t legally responsible for either his crime or its cost. Whether they are responsible for raising a complete idiot is not, for now, a legal issue.

    By age 26 even the much-reviled male frontal lobe should be developed enough to stop this kind of behavior. Even if you try to get him off because of mental dysfunction, he is clearly a danger to society and should be treated as such. If prison is too harsh, a padded room for life would not only save him, but perhaps the rest of us as well.

  7. If possible, sentence him to 180 days public service….cleaning public restrooms including port-a-johns, cesspits in parks, and every skank-hole in the county of his residence, in his own clothing and without PPE.

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