I like the "panic" charge. In fact, I'm quite jealous, I wish Wisconsin had a "panic" statute. How cool would it be to say that you got busted for "causing panic?" Here's what these blokes are charged with:
"Whoever possesses, transports, uses or places or causes another to knowingly or unknowingly possess, transport, use or place any hoax device or hoax substance with the intent to cause anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort to any person or group of persons shall be punished by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than two and one-half years or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment."
"(b) For the purposes of this section, the term “hoax device” shall mean any device that would cause a person reasonably to believe that such device is an infernal machine. For the purposes of this section, the term “infernal machine” shall mean any device for endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire or explosion, whether or not contrived to ignite or explode automatically."
The big problem here is proving intent. How do you prove that guys hanging up a Lite Brite-type device intended to cause unrest/fear/anxiety? It's pretty clear that by hanging up a glowing cartoon character they intended to producy whimsy. I think that charge will go away.
The charge of disorderly conduct (or "DC," if you are in the criminal law game) is a catch-all charge that prosecutors add on all the time. This frequently occurs to "rack up" a lot of charges and "scare" you into taking a plea deal. Sometimes it's used when you have no other charging option, as it is quite easy to prove in court - did somebody's conduct, whether in public or private, tend to cause a disturbance? Think about it - swearing at somebody would satisfy this, or squealing your tires...It goes on and on. I think they could get these two on this one, but I wonder if they'll plea out for some probation.
The judge seeing the case even questioned the strength of the prosecution's charges. We even have a system for inducing fear. Nonetheless, I think there is a great lyric waiting to be written about inciting panic among the people. Where is Vanilla Ice?