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Police say stakeout snares Brighton tree ninja

Boston Police report arresting Joseph Rizza, 65, this morning after detectives say they caught him in the act of killing yet another Brighton Center tree - this time with a hammer.

He was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon and five counts of willful and malicious destruction of property, police say, adding they continue to investigate the deaths of trees in the neighborhood over the years.

At his arraignment today, Brighton Municipal Court Judge Patricia Bernstein set bail at $7,000 - $2,000 more than prosecutors requested - but even if he can make that, he won't be going anywhere anytime soon, because she revoked his bail in an earlier case in which he was also charged with slicing up trees to make them die, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office reports.

Police say detectives set up surveillance outside the Brighton Elks hall, 326 Washington St., several weeks ago. Early this morning, police say, Rizza's decade-long reign of leafy terror ended:

While in the area, detectives observed a male matching the suspect’s description enter the Elks parking lot and begin to cut down a tree. As detectives approached the suspect, he immediately attempted to conceal the hammer he was using to damage the tree. The suspect was ordered not to move and was taken into custody by the detectives.

Rizza has spent time in Bridgewater before, however, but has always returned to the neighborhood to kill more trees, police said last year.

Rizza's alleged MO was not to cut trees down outright, but to damage them enough that they either died or had to be taken down. The constant attacks on trees in Brighton Center got so bad the city parks department refused to plant any new trees because they would just get killed.

Innocent, etc.

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Comments

Let's sentence him to some tree-planting community service.

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It says he liked to damage the trees, not cut them down outright, so I wouldn't trust him anywhere around new trees. He might switch to something even subtler like poisoning them or intentionally planting them wrong. Put him to work picking up litter or dogshit or shoveling the parks in the wintertime, but don't let him touch the trees as part of his service.

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Make him rake leaves. That will really irritate him.

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We're going to need 50,000 toothpicks out of that."

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Seems there's a mismatch of his interests and skills, and his location. Can we get someone to get him into a work program to start doing some logging up in Maine?

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Thank goodness he's in the hands of the criminal justice system. They're sure to take quick, decisive action to get him the help he so obviously needs and set him on the road to recovery.

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This is obviously a case for the criminal justice system as that's always been a super effective means of dealing with mental health and public health issues!

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Because the mental health and public health systems have been so super effective at keeping him from doing this exact same thing over and over again for 10 years! We should definitely keep trying the same thing and expecting a different result!

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That's the problem - there is no effective funding and delivery of services. What services there are are tied to a punitive system that is ill equipped to deal with them. Because the law and order frenzy lacks accountability and statistical evaluation, and people love to punish rather than fix things.

So these people fall into the criminal justice system - and that doesn't work.

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Yet his mind was operating pretty darn sharply to know he had to "hide" the weapon when the police surprised him!

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Because all mentally ill people are irrational, drooling idiots, right?

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Not retarded.

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Mental health issues are a likelier explanation than criminal malice, so no joking matter.

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I'm not cracking wise about his mental health, I'm cracking wise about the criminal justice system's likely ability to do anything to help him.

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my earlier joke.

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He's been there before; why couldn't he go there again?

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"They come with fire, they come with axes (and hammers)... gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning! Destroyers and usurpers, curse them!" - Treebeard

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Comes from his preference for a) going out late at night and b) wearing a ninja suit (sorry, should have included that in the post).

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An orc ninja sounds terrifying.

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and regular outbursts of "Garn!" Noisy ninjas are bad ninjas.

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So the best punishment would be to sentence him to work on a pirate ship. Pirates hate ninjas, and it's not like he can kill any trees on a pirate ship.

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The judge actually set bail higher than prosecutors requested.

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Massachussetts tree-hugger judges

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with the fact he was charged with carrying a weapon. a weapon is used to harm a person or, at most, an animal. a tool is used to demolish inanimate objects.

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Trees are alive, as opposed to "inanimate". They may not elicit the same feelings of warm fuzziness in some that kittens or baby squirrels do for much of the human population. (Adorable, Elmer?) But anyone who intentionally harms living things in such a way to cause a slow lingering death is clearly doing so with a weapon, whether it be information, technique or tool. (Can "information" be a "weapon", in a legal sense?)

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As several people have pointed out, this guy is mentally ill, and the criminal charges are going to do absolutely zero to help him or change his behavior. He should certainly be held civilly liable for the damage he's caused to property, either paying restitution or doing some sort of community service for the parks he's damaged, but beyond that, he needs some sort of medical/psychological treatment, not processing through the criminal "justice" system.

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the criminal charges are going to do absolutely zero to help him or change his behavior

True that, but, on the other hand, he can't chop down trees if there aren't any trees where he's locked up.

I have no interest in retribution or punishment, and my interest in reform and rehabilitation is waning as I age. I just want bars between guys like this and me and the people and things I care about. Make his side of the bars comfortable, luxurious even; I don't care.. the intent isn't to punish him or deter others; it's just to keep the damn hammer out of his hands.

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For something as petty as this, he'll only be incarcerated for a month or two.

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Even new street trees (plus installation, and watering service contracts) are worth thousands of dollars each. Depending on the evidence they have they can stack up a lot of destruction of city property charges.

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...would you call it petty?

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Their retirement benefits sucked, their SS couldn't buy dog food, so they do something to get thrown in the can for 10-12 months, then they get 3 hots and a cot, a secure place to live in, better medical care for free and other old guys to commiserate with in the yard, knowing that the younger inmates like to leave them alone.

Maybe that's why the Judge set high bail?

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I saw a clips of a docu once that spotlit dvdoff's comment and it's sad but true. Longterm mental healthcare for the noninsured/homeless/poor pretty much consists of either the revolving door of state hospitals, short jailstays, or group meetings at a shelter. And you can forget about the poor mentally ill beingable to pay a doctor or for the expensive meds. Any suggestions doctors, politicians, and pharmaceutical companies?

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I don't know myself, but isn't there at least some coverage for psychiatric meds?

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Their retirement benefits sucked, their SS couldn't buy dog food, so they do something to get thrown in the can for 10-12 months

Apparently this guy's been doing this for years, so if that was his plan, he needs a better one.

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There was a guy that used to go around Coolidge Corner and rip all the flyers off of poles, bulletin boards, etc. Maybe it's the same kind of thing?

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No, that's just standard brookline craziness.

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and throw away the key. If he lived in my neighborhood and was killing every tree I wouldn't give one shite about his mental illness or otherwise.

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