That's the lesson three Wisconsin twentysomethings learned when they were each ordered to the pokey for five days for stealing a 35mm print of The Phantom Menace.
"It's important you have a taste of being confined," sentencing judge Rod Smeltzer told the sticky-fingered Star Wars fans today.
Charles Phillips, 22, and brothers Mark Stearns, 22, and Matthew Stearns, 25, each pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft. The trio turned themselves into authorities days after the Phantom Menace print was reported missing from the State Theater on May 22 in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
The judge ordered the men to cough up some $7,400 in restitution to the theater owner to make good on screenings canceled on account of the purloined film canisters.
They also were sentenced to 20 hours each of community service and placed on two years probation.
All this trouble from one not-so brilliant plan: Hey, guys, let's borrow the new Star Wars movie!
According to court documents, Phillips and the Stearns siblings crept into the State Theater with the idea of enjoying their own private, late-night Phantom Menace screening. But soon the plan ballooned to stealing the film. All 40 pounds of it.
Unfortunately, the print was not long for the world in their hot hands. With all the acuity of the Watergate burglars, the thieves (1) unraveled the film; (2) washed it in the bathtub (in a bid to remove fingerprints); and, (3) sliced it up and shoved the remnants into garbage bags (in a bid to...God know what).
A law student friend of the bunch who heard their sorry confession advised the men to get themselves to a real attorney--pronto.
The stolen print made nationwide headlines as Hollywood types expressed concern that the film would be corrupted by video pirates. As it is, the owner of the State says he has turned over what was left of the now-mangled print to Fox for possible sale as souvenirs.
"What we did was wrong," Phillips said Tuesday. "I can't believe we've done what we've done. I never considered myself a bad person. I sincerely apologize."
A fourth alleged conspirator is to be sentenced July 12, also on a count of misdemeanor theft.