“Step away from the marshmallows!”

Last year, teachers’ aide Hope Clarke went vacationing in Yellowstone National Park. While she was there camping out, she was slightly negligent—she failed to put away a sealed bag of marshmallows after sipping hot chocolate around the campfire. This is viewed as bad behavior because, as we all know from TV, food attracts bears eager to steal pick-a-nick baskets. Perhaps bears can smell marshmallows through plastic, I don’t know. Anyway, rules are rules, and for her food storage crimes Ms Clarke was handed a fine for $50.

The next year, Hope Clarke booked a cruise ship vacation on Carnival’s ship “Fascination”. Little did she know that the wheels of justice were slowly turning back on dry land…

A federal database had flagged Clarke’s name, saying that she had never paid her $50 fine. A warrant for her arrest was issued automatically. Her devious cruise ship vacation was soon investigated by federal agents, and the dragnet began to tighten…

At 06:30 in the morning as the ship returned to port, federal agents burst into Hope Clarke’s cabin. They had traced her whereabouts and knew all about her chocolate and marshmallow crimes, and they immediately put her in handcuffs and turned her over to federal marshals. She was photographed, fingerprinted, and thrown into jail. That afternoon she was dragged into court in leg shackles.

It was at that point that U.S. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan noted that he had a copy of Clarke’s original citation on paper as part of the filings for the case, and it said that she had paid her $50 fine before leaving the park, as everyone fined in Yellowstone is required to do.

The Assistant US Attorney considered the matter, and conceded that there were some “discrepancies” surrounding the case. He suggested to the judge that Ms Clarke be released temporarily, and told to return at a later date to clear up the matter.

The judge ordered Clarke released, and apologized to her. A mere 2 hours later, after almost 9 hours in custody, Clarke was released. She was reunited with her fiancé, who admitted that he was the fiend who had left the marshmallows out. In fact, the only reason the feds had Hope Clarke’s name to start with, was that she’d used her credit card to pay the fine.

Sources: Billings Gazette, South Florida Sun Sentinel, etc.