Lucille Benoit was minding her own business while waiting for a bus on a bright summer day in St. Paul, Minnesota, a few years ago.
A man approached and started talking to her about her hair. She backed away from him, but as she did the man, John O. Sexton, grabbed a long, thick braid of her hair and started cutting.
Police arrived on the scene and arrested Sexton. He pleaded guilty in court to felony theft and got 45 days in jail, a stayed sentence of a year and a day, five years probation and a $100 fine. He was also ordered to pay Benoit $54.50 in restitution.
The way things are
“I wish the laws were a little bit different,” Benoit said. “I think he should have gotten a little bit more, but you know, that’s the way things are now.”
Sexton said he was embarrassed and humiliated and plans to get treatment for a problem that troubled him for years. He admitted to having “urges” about long hair.
Sexton’s lawyer, Mary McMahon, said her client was genuinely remorseful for his crime.
“He said this is a cry for help. He’s been bothered by this problem for a long time,” McMahon said. “He really doesn’t know how to deal with the situation.”
Another woman, Anita Wachtler, came forward and told police she thought Sexton was behind a telephone call to the restaurant where she worked in Roseville, Minnesota. The caller convinced the hostess he was Wachtler’s father and got her to clip Wachtler’s long ponytail.
She sued Sexton in Ramsey County Conciliation Court to recover her expenses, including a decent haircut to repair the damage.
Sexton denied making the call and won that case. Wachtler was satisfied anyway because Sexton was convicted in the bus stop shearing and then had to take time off from work and hire an attorney to represent him in the telephone call case.
Sexton’s lawyer says her client is a changed man.
“My client accepts responsibility for his actions,” McMahon said. “I don’t think we will ever see him in the criminal justice system again.”