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La Gurardia Paid His Fine

As mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia liked to keep in touch with all the various departments under him. Often he would fill in for the department heads or officeholders as a way of accomplishing this. One time he chose to preside over Night Court. It was a cold winter night and a trembling man was brought before him charged with stealing a loaf of bread. His family, he said, was starving.

“I have to punish you,” declared La Guardia. “There can be no exceptions to the law. I fine you ten dollars.” As he said this, however, The Little Flower was reaching into his own pocket for the money. He tossed the bill into his famous sombrero. “Here’s the ten dollars to pay your fine—which I now remit,” he said.

“Furthermore,” he declared, “I’m going to fine everybody in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a city where a man has to steal bread in order to eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant!” The hat was passed and the incredulous man, with a smile on his face, left the courtroom with a stake of $47.50.

Bits & Pieces, August 20, 1992, pp. 19-20

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