Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2014

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Columnist Tom Gorman: What would be his brand of justice in tree vandalism

Tom Gorman's column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (702) 259-2310.

At the movies, I grieve more over the injured dog than over the wholesale slaughter of thousands of warriors.

A motorist taking two parking spaces at the mall drives me battier than someone doing 90 on the freeway.

And getting shortchanged a dollar at the store is more aggravating than dropping $50 on Wheel of Fortune without getting a bonus spin.

So when it comes to dealing with criminals, my view is skewed, too: Burglars and embezzlers don't anger me as much as the fellow who was caught the other night in the posh foothills of Henderson.

This guy is suspected of skulking around his neighbors' homes in Sun City Anthem, wrapping his paws around tender young trees, bending them over the way a monster might grab a victim's throat, and dragging a saw across the tender bark, back and forth quickly until they snap.

Maybe someone would do that to preserve a view or to get rid of messy flowers or seeds. But neither is an excuse for such a mean spirit.

Henderson Police have arrested an Anthem resident, Douglas Hoffman, in connection with the most recent felony vandalism. We're told he was caught red-handed with a saw. There have been no arrests in connection with four previous episodes of tree-cutting over the past year. Altogether, about 500 trees have been destroyed.

The person who collared Hoffman is a retired Ventura County, Calif., sheriff's captain, Bill Edwards. He noticed some freshly felled trees as he was heading home late at night, drove around, saw Hoffman bending over his next victim and confronted him after first arming himself with an 8-iron out of his car trunk.

Edwards walked Hoffman to a nearby fire station where they waited for the cops. It's obvious that Edwards was a veteran of law enforcement; that 8-iron would have done some damage were it in the hands of someone like me.

Police said Hoffman, who posted $3,000 bail to get out of jail, proclaimed his innocence.

If Edwards lets me, I'm going to buy him and his wife lunch at Trumpets, Osaka or Black Mountain Grill, his choice. This guy is my hero. They should make him the grand marshal at the next Arbor Day parade, or host them for a couple of nights at, say, the Palms.

Hoffman, of course, is innocent until proved guilty.

The entire CSI team should be assigned to this case. I hope they swabbed his hands for sap residue, cataloged any sawdust they might have found in his pockets, checked for scratches on his fingers and examined his cutting saw for any flakes of green wood.

I don't know what Las Vegas Mayor Oscar (No-Thumbs) Goodman would suggest, but if this fellow is convicted of committing mayhem on trees, the punishment should fit the crime.

If it were left to me, I'd hang him from the highest tree, if there are any left.

Or lash him with the branches of one of his tortured crepe myrtles or chitalpas.

No. Let's instead chain him to a tree trunk, pour honey over him and let the ants take care of matters. Or tie him to a tree at a dog park.

Of course, none of that would happen. It's just my fantasy notion of justice. Maybe Oscar and I share certain Neanderthal instincts. That's scary.

But the person responsible for this crime should have to do more than just pay restitution. (The value of all of the cut trees has been estimated at about $250,000).

He should be forced to some hard labor -- by planting each replacement tree, one by one.

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