In New York City, a woman was caught stealing a loaf of bread.
Fiorello LaGuardia was the city's colorful mayor at the time and he frequently rode with the firefighters and police officers to get a better sense of his city.
The night the woman faced the judge, the mayor himself was in the courtroom, serving as judge. She had taken the bread, she told him, because her daughter was sick, she had been abandoned by he husband, and her grandchildren were starving.
But the shopkeeper refused to drop the charges. he wanted her conviction to teach other people a lesson.
Mayor LaGuardia thought for a minute. "I have to punish you." he told the woman, "because the law is quite clear." Her sentence: $10 or 10 days in jail.
But as he spoke, the mayor reached into his own pocket and drew out a bill. "Here is the $10 fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom 50 cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat."
The $47.50 that was collected was given to the woman.
- Little Burgundy Book, Diocese of Saginaw