January 18, 2007

Physical assault, head shaving, a chocolate with a liver center...

Did you watch "Top Chef" this week? That was nutty!

AN ADDED, LAWPROFFY QUESTION: How many crimes were committed?


Anonymous said...

gawd...... I was wishing they would have shaved that Mr. Softee hair off Marcel. It's not enough that he's annoying, but his hair is just soooooo distracting or something. I want to know how much product he uses in it to get that weird updo. He's a strange dude. Unfortunately, I really cannot care about how the food is because I can't taste it. Unlike other reality shows where I can judge things for myself, I am more into the characters and their interaction than their product.

Daryl Herbert said...

Before leaving the loft for good, Cliff actually apologizes to Marcel and the other cheftestants for letting the "joke" get out of hand.

So he won't apologize for his bad behavior, only for a botched joke...

chrisburp said...

In a previous interview Cliff said he was a "jock" in school...his behavior was definitely "jock-like"...except when he was a jock he probably got away with picking on the nerdy Marcel types.

db said...

"AN ADDED, LAWPROFFY QUESTION: How many crimes were committed?"

Under Wisconsin law, borderline disorderly conduct (the conduct was arguably "boisterous" or "unreasonably loud" and was "under circumstances in which the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance" [947.01]), false imprisonment (intentional restraint w/o consent [940.30]) and attempted simple battery (bodily harm includes "impairment of physical condition, which could potentially apply to Marcel's carefully coiffed mane [940.19(1); 939.32(1g)]).

That said, I wouldn't be too worried if I was Cliff. I doubt there's a prosecutor in the country who would bring charges (except maybe Mike Nifong)...

Anonymous said...

I'll stick up for Marcel, no problem. He's there to cook, and doesn't care that the other chefs have treated him like crap since pretty much the beginning. Yes, he's young, but he is talented, and he has borne a significant amount of guff very well. It showed a lot of class when Marcel told Cliff, "I'm sorry it worked out this way," after Cliff assaulted him.

I loved that Padme (I can never remember her real name after reading TWoP, she'll always be Padme to me) called them all idiots.

I can at least partially judge the food even though I can't taste it. I can peg an error in presentation and technique... and it's not too hard to imagine most of the flavor combinations. Some of them you just know are a bit off, like Sam's beet sauce with the lobster and scallop: there's no way to tone down beets enough so that they wouldn't over power the shellfish, which was indeed one of the criticims leveled against the dish.

I've really enjoyed this series.

James Wigderson said...

Can they imitate the last season of Project Runway any more? "All four of you get to go" and next week, one of them even gets accused of cheating! Why not just Marcel do impressions and get it over with?

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt said...

Sounds like fun.

Let's see.... Cliff seems to be guilty of assault, battery, and false imprisonment. Keep in mind that I am a DC-based law student from New England, but I seem to recall that California's penal code would allow at least Ilan and Elia to be slapped with charges of conspiracy to commit assault, battery, and false imprisonment. I forget which one said he wouldn't actually shave Marcel, after Cliff was already pinning Marcel to the ground, but it doesn't matter-one of the three conspirators (Cliff) had already taken an act in furtherance of the conspiracy, and thus the conspiracy crime was complete. Elia could be part of the conspiracy, I'm not sure what her role in this was beyond not helping Marcel or Cliff when the event was actually occuring.

Oh, and again, *waves hand* DC-based law student from NE here, but it may be possible for a kidnapping charge to be brought, depending on the CA rule (which I am too tired to research on Westlaw right now). In DC, for example, asportation is not a requierd element of kidnapping. Instead, it would be sufficient for Cliff to have intentionally seized and/or confined Marcel, and to have held or detained hin. That standard certainly seems to have been met.

To go beyond Professor Althouse's crimes question, Marcel could certainly bring a civil suit for assault, battery, and false imprisonment against Cliff and the conspirators, and I also believe he could bring a negligence suit against BravoTV for their failure to take reasonably and prudent steps to ensure the contestants' safety, especially after observing all of the warning signs leading up to this incident. They allowed the environment of hatred against Marcel to build, because it made for good television. Their knowledge of this situation is demonstrated by Padma's blog at bravotv.com, where she says that she saw this coming and even points to a prior blog entry where she made a Lord of the Flies analogy, referring to Marcel as the contestants' Piggy, due to their verbal ganging up on him.

BravoTV had a duty to protect the contestants under their control. They breached this duty by allowing the hatred and dehumanization of Marcel to build, and still forcing the contestants to live together. They had full knowledge of the situation and did not take any actions to stop it. Causation may prove tricky-I won't go so far as to say that the attack would not have occured but not for BravoTV's inaction, but there was a demonstrable link between the two. And because of this breach of duty, Marcel suffered physical and psychology harm-hence, damages.

An intentional infliction of emotional distress suit would be a stretch. Not only did he probably not suffer enough harm from this incident, but the incident itself would not constitute IIED on the part of BravoTV, as it was not their intent for it to occur. Instead, an IIED suit against them would need to be for allowing the hostile environment against Marcel, but as this is reality TV, they could defend themslves by saying that Marcel agreed to that possibility as part of the contract.

Daryl Herbert said...

Consensual head-shaving can't be a crime. Laughing at someone for wimping out can't be a crime.

Dragging someone from the couch may or may not be a crime--hard to say if it was more or less consensual (or reasonable for Cliff to think such roughhousing would be consensual).

But the description of "forcing" Marcel to the ground and that it was awkward for him to be kept there suggests that Cliff committed assault and battery. If Cliff wanted one of the other guests to shave Marcel's head that is perhaps attempt and/or solicitation for some further crime (intentional infliction of emotional distress? another battery?).

Not interfering with someone else's criminal behavior can't be a crime unless you're somehow responsible for it (e.g., you were cheering them on). So Sam should be off the hook. As should the two head-shavers: nothing about shaving your own head can reasonably be construed as cheering Cliff on.

Holding a camera, of course, can reasonably be interpreted as cheering the crimes on. Perhaps Cliff would not have done such things if he was not playing to the camera. So the cameraman may be guilty of abetting Cliff (a kind of accomplice liability to all of Cliff's crimes). It would be necessary to prove that the presence of the camera encouraged Cliff and that the cameraman knew better. If the D.A. really wants to get the cameraman, he might cut a deal with Cliff to testify against the cameraman.

If Cliff was "acting out some potentially repressed tendencies," that suggests some type of sexual assault may have taken place, depending on how that crime is defined. Obviously, it would be a low-level assault, as there was no penetration or anything else that would make it serious.

As Marcel was not a minor, the bystanders had no responsibility to report such an assault, even in a state like California, with some beefed-up reporting laws.

Marcel apparently had no business hitting the cameraman. That's an assault and battery. It's obviously not self-defense (no imminent threat) so it can't have been justified, but the emotional stress on Marcel may partially excuse it (his punishment would be lowered if the D.A. even bothered to bring charges)

Daryl Herbert said...

Also, hiding liver inside a chocolate could be a battery if the intended recipient did not know the liver was there, did not want to eat it, and the chef knew about the recipient's preferences.

Cedarford said...

I won't even get into the folly of criminalizing all bullying behavior.

Frankly, my bigger "beef" with the show is that they are all showing they are at best half-ass cooks and half-ass, immature adults. A big drop in quality from season 1.

I blame the producers for deciding that they would cast for "drama" and not talent. A cast stuffed with really unlikable people with festering dysfunctionalities that make all LESS likable than their already poor start with the passage of time...

And then run the show so it is 10% cooking and 90% contrived and real "conflict".

What crap. The only positive over season 1 was replacing Billy Joel's Stepford-like child bride with Padma.

Anonymous said...

In case any of you might be as fanatical as me:
1. We were probably not shown the correct order. It looks like they tried to shave Marcel before they shaved their own heads.
Here's a screenshot showing Marcel walking to his room after the incident and Elia is laughing on the floor with a head full of hair.

And in response to daryl herbert, Marcel has arguable grounds for self defense when he pushed the cameraman. According to his interview, the group followed him into his room after the incident and threw chocolate at him. http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/2007/01/18/feature2.html