The town of Pekin, Ill., doesn't know what to do with Robert Norton. He doesn't kill people or strangle kittens or worship Satan. But he does irritate the citizenry.
Norton is a habitual nudist. He particularly enjoys working naked in his yard. He has been arrested more than 20 times for public nudity because his neighbors don't fancy seeing Norton casually mowing his lawn in the nude. Last week, the authorities sought to teach him a lesson, and threw the 77-year-old Norton in jail for a year.
Since 1962, Norton and the town have followed the same routine. He works in his yard naked, the neighbors complain, he is arrested, he acts as his own attorney in the courtroom, claiming his nudity is protected by the U.S. Constitution, and then it's off to jail, where he reportedly surprises his cellmates by shedding his issued jail clothing. After a period of time, he's released, and it starts all over again.
Judges don't really know exactly what to do with Norton. Over the years, many have attempted to solve the puzzle of the naked yard worker.
"I have beaten my head against the wall, almost literally, to come up with an appropriate sentence," Judge J. Peter Ault told Norton during one hearing in 1999. Ault expressed the conundrum during the trial: If Norton is tossed in jail, he is released and goes back to working nude in his yard. If he's put on probation, he doesn't comply with the rules.
But when Norton was arrested (again) in April and released after he posted bail, he refused to leave the lobby of the sheriff's department. According to court testimony, officers repeatedly asked Norton to leave the building, and then tried to arrest him for criminal trespassing. The elderly nudist became angry and kicked a sheriff's deputy. He was arrested.
Last week, after hearing all the gory details of the deputy-kicking incident, Tazewell County Judge Glenn Collier found Norton guilty of two misdemeanor charges and sentenced him to county jail for one year, plus $600 in fines.
Norton will get day-for-day credit, according to the Peoria Journal Star, and his sentences will run concurrently, so he'll probably be released after serving six months. And then it's back to yardwork.