Stupid criminal tricks: Mugshot mishaps among notable perps and suspects

I was viewing the mugshot photo of Haithem Ibrahim (right), one of four Cal Poly fraternity members arrested this week in the December hazing death of his “little brother” during a pledge ritutal. Look at that grin on Ibrahim’s face! Like he’s posing for his high school graduation or his driver’s license photo.

The photo of this 20-year-old Lafayette resident was snapped when he was being booked on felony charges that he and three fellow frat brothers were responsible for the alcohol-induced death of an 18-year-old pledge. Couldn’t Ibrahim have donned an expression that shows some sensitivity to the tragedy of that young man’s death, or some understanding of the gravity of his own situation? He’s facing three years in prison.

He, or, more likely, his Lafayette family, posted the $50,000 bail. I’m also assuming his family is also shelling out lots of dollars to hire an attorney to—they hope—work out some sort of plea bargain that will keep Ibrahim out of state prison. Maybe just some county jail time?
So, if the family has hired an attorney, couldn’t that attorney have given his/her client a quick bit of advice on how to appear in his mug shot? I’m also assuming that Ibrahim, his family, and his attorney knew that the young man’s death was part of an ongoing investigation and that an arrest was coming.

Demeanor, facial expression, grooming: Attorneys usually tell their clients to adopt a calm, neutral, respectful demeanor when they make court appearances. That bit of advice should start with the booking photo. Listen up, lawyers! That photo will become the public face of your client, especially if your client is a suspect in a high-profile local, national, or international case—or your client is a celebrity. It does no good for them to come off looking shifty, arrogant, cocky, or oblivious to the seriousness of the situation.

Then again, maybe these mugshots, snapped in the harsh, non-photo-studio surroundings of a police or jail booking office, still manage to capture, artfully, like a Richard Avedon or Annie Leibovitz photo, something of the subject’s true nature. Dare, I say, that these mugshots might offer windows into these perps’ souls?

Anyway, with Ibrahim’s mugshot mishap in mind, here are some other perps or suspected perps—locally or internationally infamous—who could have used some mugshot preparation so that they would appear, well, less arrogant, wacky, creepy, sociopathic, and/or idiotic.

Ernie Scherer, III: This mugshot gets my nomination for creepy mugshot of the year. It is of the 30-year-old gambler son of former San Ramon Valley school district trustee, Ernie Scherer, Jr. Dad Sherer, also a prominent local Republican activist, along with his wife, Charlene Abendroth, 57, were found brutally beaten in their Castlewood Country Club home in Pleasanton in March 2008. Son Sherer was arrested in February in connection with their murders. Known as “Skip,” son Sherer was in serious debt and suspected of trying to get his hands on his inheritance.

Drew Peterson: The former police officer from Bolingbrook, Illinois was arrested on charges of murdering Wife No. 3 in 2004. She was found drowned in an empty bathtub, and police reopened the case after Wife No. 4 of Peterson, Stacy, went missing in October 2007. Peterson has been taunting authorities for months and years to come get him. Well, they did May 7, and he still can’t hide that smirk.

O.J. Simpson: He looks positively serene in this photo, taken in 2007, just after he was arrested for the armed robbery of a memorabilia dealer in Las Vegas.

Scott Peterson: Just after his April 2003 arrest, for murdering his wife, Laci, and unborn son. He’s sporting blond highlights and a goatee. Not because he was trying to evade authorities. No! Rather, he was trying to escape the prying, annoying media who were hounding him during his golf outings.

Rush Limbaugh: Along with Darth Cheney, the conservative talk show host has become the new hero of the Republican Party. He wasn’t so heroic in April 2006—just a sad painkiller junkie—who was charged with doctor shopping and had to surrender for booking to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Leonna Helmsley: Taken right after the hotel magnate, then 67, was booked in April 1988 after pleading not guilty to federal income tax evasion charges. Can’t knock her grooming or style, but that big grin betrays a confidence that she could beat the rap. She didn’t. She later spent 18 months behind bars.

Finally, the infamous Nick Nolte mugshot, snapped after he was arrested for driving under the influence in September 2002.

By the way, to view more fun mugshots of celebrities, sports figures, and infamous criminals throughout history, check out The Smoking Gun website’s Mugshot Mania—Arresting Images page.

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