back to article US soldier cleared of taking armoured vehicle out for joyride – because he's insane, court says

A US Army officer who "borrowed" an armoured vehicle to go on a joyride has been cleared of wrongdoing by a military court – by "reason of insanity". Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, a lieutenant in the Virginia National Guard's 276th Engineer Battalion (the American version of the TA), was reportedly deemed delusional by mental …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My dad did something similar but for a different reason

    Way back in the '50s, after a prolonged booze session, he decided to give a mate a lift back to a neighbouring army camp from his RAF base in a Leyland Hippo (8 ton) truck. He reports that he dimly recalled seeing a row of telegraph poles disappearing under the front but thought he had dreamt it. Turned out he hadn't - truck was written off.

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

      I heard about a young lad in the RE who, having passed his test, took a Ferret out for a drive. To show his mum, who lived not far away.

      I forget his precise punishment, but the CO told him he had exactly the right spirit and it wouldn't go on his record.

      1. gypsythief
        Holmes

        Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

        @ Benson's Cycle

        So your handle commemorates someone who discovered the photosynthetic carbon cycle, but history attributes the discovered to someone else.

        Your post claims history attributes the events you describe to someone else, but the patterns, the patterns cannot be ignored.

        You are the young lad, and I claim my five pounds!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

          Was it Bush?

        2. Benson's Cycle

          Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

          Sadly you are wrong on all counts.

          Benson's cycle was a wonderfully loony thermodynamic cycle intended to improve steam turbines. In Benson's cycle, water is heated to above the critical temperature. The idea is that because there is no liquid water above that temperature, the boiler requires no water drum. Water is injected straight into the steam tubes and immediately turns to vapour. It is then superheated and undergoes a series of expansions so the thermodynamic efficiency can in theory approach the Carnot limit. The boiler can be small, the water capacity low, so it would have been very beneficial for warships. Benson is supposed to have had the idea after seeing a water drum for a large generating set that was over 10 metres long and weighed many tonnes. Unfortunately the control gear of the time would never have been able to cope. I suppose I could have called myself Promising Engineering Dead Ends.

          And although I have been in armoured vehicles it was as a civilian scientist ("boffin"). I can honestly claim that due to my tendency to read warning notices and look where I am going on military sites, I have never been shouted at by a single NCO.

      2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

        I heard that it was pretty common, that any young lad in the army passing their test will take their vehicle home to show off to Mum. Not too bad if it's a Ferret scout car, but a Challenger really annoys the neighbours if you park in their space... especially if their car is there at the time.

        1. OssianScotland Silver badge
          Go

          Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

          Maybe, but at least you don't need to worry about getting clamped

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

            Thanks Cuddly Ken

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD6qdzQvHhE

            Icon because of Hot Gossip shaping my teenage years.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

      in the 90's I lived in an apartment building across the street from a national guard armory. One day some crazy guy stole a tank and went on a rampage, running over cars, fire hydrants, telephone poles, etc. knocking out power for several hours and sending several geysers of water into the air,flooding several streets and wasting boatloads of fresh water.

      The cops stopped him trying to go across a concrete divider on the freeway where he lost a tread trying to cross, and the cops jumped onto the tank. One cop got the hatch open and fired into the tank, killing the driver. Or that's how things went as I understand them [not actually seeing it]. I did, however, have the hours of no electricity and saw the destruction in the neighborhood, and heard the tank roaring down the street.

      In any case, THAT guy was crazy too. Thankfully, the only fatality (or serious injury, for that matter) was the crazy tank driver.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shawn_Nelson_(San_Diego_Tank_Rampage)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

        Real men would have grabbed the bloke, or knocked him out, not shot him dead.

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

          These, however, were real all-American policemen who got to actually use their guns on someone. If you've seen that video of the US pilots shooting up people who turned out to be civilians, you will understand.

          On a less depressing note, another incident I remember being told about was in Germany post-war. The crew of a British tank, in a bit of a mental aberration, forgot to park the gun before driving home down a narrow street, and the gun made a neat hole along the terraced houses, which had to be rebuilt at government expense. Nobody got shot on that occasion.

          Somewhat later, a householder enquired if the Tank Regiment could send a tank down the street with the gun on the other side, because they would like their houses restored to new condition free of charge too.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

        Think I've seen that clip on the TV a couple of times on clip shows -

        First time was a "serious" programme, they had interviewed the copper that had fired the fatal shot.

        Second time was on a more humorous shows - they stopped the footage just as the copper was getting onto the tank, no mention they they shot the driver

    3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: My dad did something similar but for a different reason

      Charlie Drake did something similar with telegraph poles.......

      NSFW https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iovn33lMDts (See icon)

  2. tekHedd

    Weapons?

    "The M577 did not have any weapons"

    Well, it's not exactly a heavy tank, but vs town hall, I'm not sure it needs weapons.

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Weapons?

      That was the issue, if it had he could have told the court he was asserting his Second Amendment right to bear arms (there's nothing there not allowing tanks, heavy bombers, battleships, nuclear missiles), although I don't know if it still apply when the arms bear you....

      1. hmv Bronze badge

        Re: Weapons?

        The wording of the 2nd amendment given the meaning of the relevant words at the time (for example "gun" used to mean a non-portable projectile weapon, and "arms" used to mean hand-portable weapons), does sort of imply that larger weapons (battleships and the like) are not covered. Can you simply slide the new definition of "arms" into the 2nd amendment? I don't know.

        Probably best to revise it <evil grin>

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Weapons?

          The wording of the 2nd amendment

          I wonder if the whole thing was a misunderstanding about being able to wear short-sleeved shirts, and it's all gotten horribly out of hand.

          1. Baldrickk Silver badge

            Re: Weapons?

            Of course not. Its all about the legality of obtaining the fore-limbs of the nearest grizzly.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Weapons?

              https://curlsoat.com/comic/122/

              :-)

            2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Weapons?

              Its all about the legality of obtaining the fore-limbs of the nearest grizzly.

              I will always uphold The Right to Arm Bears.

          2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: Weapons?

            ...misunderstanding about being able to wear short-sleeved shirts...

            Their auto-correct screwed up and nobody noticed during the proof read.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          "gun" used to mean a non-portable projectile weapon

          Are you sure? AFAIK "gun" was used to mean firearms, while "arms" is a more generic term that include cold steel ones.

          That was in an era when you had single-shot guns only, and you needed other arms to sustain a combat - bayonets, swords, knives, etc. Cavalry was still armed with swords and lances well into the XIX century - you could not really think to reload while charging - it played a limited role in the Indipendence War, but in the battles in Europe of the same years, its role was much more important.

          So it would have been quite strange to exclude them from the 2nd Amendment using a more restrictive term. They may have overlooked the improvements 250 years later...

          Sure, today is all about firearms, nobody wants to walk around with a sabre or a foil.

          Still, it would have been better if the writer had less Greek and Latin in his mind, and had written it with less ambiguity and less poetical attempts.

          1. Ghostman

            Re: "gun" used to mean a non-portable projectile weapon

            Sorry, but you are way wrong about there only being single shot firearms during the American Revolution, much less when the Constitution was written.

            The Continental Congress gave a contract to John Cookson for 100 of his lever action repeating rifles based on the Lorenzoni system, which was developed in 1660. Cookson also offered his gun for general sale in Boston Globe advertisements.

            If you are in England,an example of the Cookson repeater can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, Case 5.

            There were also Cookson model repeater handguns, Loernzoni handguns, and eight shot revolvers-yes I said revolvers.

            If you find yourself in Lillehammer, Norway, go to the Maihaugen Museum and ask to see the revolver used by Georg Von Reichwein during the Thirty Years War. Hans Stoppler was the gunsmith and made the revolver in 1636.

            There are many examples of multiple fire repeating firearms during the 1600 to 1800 era.

        3. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: Weapons?

          I've seen credible reports that privately owned cannon were a thing at the time. But no one I have ever read has claimed that the 2A should cover a ship or a tank.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: Weapons?

            You missed the joke alert icon?

            But there were private armed ships at the time. It wasn't uncommon for merchant ships to have a few guns for self-defense. Pirates evidently operated private battleships, often with government approval.

            It was mostly only a matter of money back then. Rich people could (and did) set up private armies. Tanks, of course, didn't exist yet... 'tanks' were heavy cavalry with armor, lances and swords, not forbidden in any way.

            But it was just the beginning of the industrial revolution and fossil fuels machines, so nobody could see what would have come later.

            Anyway, whenever a law is very badly written, it opens a Pandora box.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Weapons?

              Pirates evidently operated private battleships, often with government approval

              ObPedant: A pirate that operates with a government license (or government approval) is no longer a pirate but is instead a privateer.

              Which is no great comfort to those privateered I guess.

              (Sir Walter Raleigh is an example of a privateer - Queen Lizzie 1 gave him license to take Spanish ships at will. It also got used quite a lot in the 18th & 19th centuries in the various wars against Spain and/or France. The UK made quite a lot of money from stealing silver and gold from Spanish treasure ships returning from South America..)

              1. LDS Silver badge

                Re: Weapons?

                Correct, I didn't remember the English term.

                Anyway, what I was pointing out is that in the years the 2nd Amendment was written, it was possible to own privately big weapons - like a ship armed with cannons - and it was not uncommon, so it wasn't "little known extreme cases" the authors couldn't know.

                In those years someone rich enough could buy cannons and install them on his ships. Basically, it was people wealth only to dictate the availability of weapons.

                Thereby, can we be sure the 2nd Amendment excludes some kind of weapons, especially when disregarding the "militia" context and asserting an unrestricted right?

                Next to come: Amazon arms its delivery vehicles to fend off pirates.

                1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                  Re: Weapons?

                  Thereby, can we be sure the 2nd Amendment excludes some kind of weapons, especially when disregarding the "militia" context and asserting an unrestricted right?

                  The "well regulated" part of the militia context is already long and truly disregarded.

                  1. Sanguma
                    Mushroom

                    Re: Weapons?

                    Apparently the US Supreme Court in 1990 struck down a bylaw by the City of Oakland, California, prohibiting the transportation of nuclear weapons through Oakland city limits. Among the reasoning was the highly interesting argument that this bylaw interfered with the US Federal Govt's responsibility to regulate interstate trade, thus for the first time declaring a trade in nuclear weapons legitimate.

                    So theoretically in the United States of America it is legal to acquire a 50 megaton nuke for self-defense. I presume this also means your eight-year-old could swap your 50 megaton device for something else he'd rather have, if he and his school mates agree ...

                    This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper - NOT IN THE US OF A, IT DON'T!!!

  3. David 132 Silver badge
    Happy

    So...

    He was obviously insane to take the vehicle out, but as he’s had the good sense to plead insanity, that implies he’s sane enough to serve in the military. Quite the head-scratcher there. Would make a heller of a novel, if only I could think of a catch-y title...

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: So...

      I think I was actually assigned to read it, or at least part of it, in high school.

      However, just in case somebody reading your post failed to get your reference, it is to the novel "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So...

        And for those of you who still fail to get the reference after having it spelled out for you, I have some chocolate covered cotton you might be interested in trying...

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: So...

          I'll try it right after the scheduled bombing of our own airbase tonight. Contracts come first.

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: So...

          Egyptian?

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: So...

        I was assigned to read it at school.

        I actually read it a few months ago, take that teach!

        It was good, reminded me a lot of Spike Milligan's autobiographies.

        1. Jay 2

          Re: So...

          I read it years ago and still have a copy somewhere. Enjoyed the recent TV series, but from refreshing my memory via Wiki they appear to have left a lot out.

          I've also got Spike's war memoirs and read the condensed omnibus version of the first few many, many times. It's only quite recently I've read the full versions and the last two. Greatly enjoyable, though whilst they start out quite jolly, it's obvious it all really took quite a toll on him.

        2. Benson's Cycle

          Re: So...

          Ah, no.

          Heller's book is a satire on the stupidity, greed and waste inherent in war. The only sane people are the apparently mad ones. University educated frat boys are evil thugs who kill women for fun. The war is actually run by big business for profit.

          Milligan's books are nothing like that. He was in a citizen army fighting against a genuinely evil adversary. Most of the officers are decent blokes who enjoy a joke and are good leaders. Despite being a rebel Milligan gets promoted to Bombardier. When he gets shell-shocked he is treated as well as was possible in the circumstances and ends the war in entertainment with commissioned rank. The contacts he makes help his future career. It's the antithesis of Catch-22.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: So...

            I still laugh about Jumbo Jenkins, the clarinet reed stuffed up with soap & the rissoles.

          2. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: So...

            Certainly Spikes books don't go as far as pointing out the profits to be made from war, but they definitely don't portray his senior officers in a uniformly good light (cf everything he says about 'Jumbo' Jenkins).

            I'm not sure where you get the idea that "Most of the officers are decent blokes who enjoy a joke and are good leaders."? He was clearly fond of some of the brass, but mostly despite their attempts to lead him, not because of.

            Yes he was in a citizen army, but he was conscripted, and did his best to avoid the draft (ignoring the letters, trying to get a medical deferment). Whenever possible, he and his friends would try and shirk their duties and bunk off for a fag.

            The biggest similarity though is Spike's mad sense of humour, which he deployed as the only way to stay sane in the midst of an insane war. Both books have the underlying message that war is a fucking stupid idea, usually thought up by people who will be nowhere near it, but fought by people who have no personal quarrel with their enemies.

            (The other obvious similarity is that they're both set during the invasion of Italy, but that's less of a tonal similarity).

    2. sisk Silver badge

      Re: So...

      The legitimately insane rarely plead insanity themselves. Their lawyers usually do it for them on the advice of mental health professionals, whether their client likes it or not. And "not guilty by way of insanity" can actually be a worse verdict than "guilty". In this particular case he'd have probably gotten a discharge and a year or two in jail with a guilty verdict, but "not guilty by way of insanity" means he gets to languish in a mental hospital until he's no longer deemed a danger to himself or others, which can take a very long time indeed.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Indeed, I know someone in the UK who's still locked up in a mental hospital, for a crime that they'd have been released from prison for a few years ago. They do still need the help though.

    3. Ian Emery Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: So...

      Found insane, so still allowed to buy and stockpile automatic weapons and ammunition then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So...

        It’s the right to bear arms or arm bears or whatever you wish the constitution to say.

        Personally I think arming bears is the more sane option given the current outcomes.

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: So...

          "Personally I think arming bears is the more sane option given the current outcomes."

          Of course, the bears will have to be part of a properly organised Militia.

        2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: So...

          Personally I think arming bears is the more sane option given the current outcomes.

          Ah, you may have stumbled upon the reason why there are more and more occurrences of bears coming into town. Ergo, the way to fix that would be to put a gun shop out in the woods.

          Wow, another mystery solved. Coffee?

    4. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: So...

      This has 22 upvotes. I am considering locking the comments now and preserving this moment of divine intervention for all time.

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: So...

        Dammit, I just pushed it up - should I go back and un-upvote it?

      2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: So...

        I wanted there to be 22 upvotes, but it was already up to 48, so I went ahead and added to the pile.

        Perhaps we should start on the target as downvotes?

    5. TheProf
      Thumb Up

      Re: So...

      I was just about to upvote you when I noticed you have 22 of them already.

      Have a thumbs up.

      1. TheProf

        Re: So...

        Ah. Not divine intervention at all. Pretty close though.

    6. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

      No Time for Sergeants

      I recently watched No Time for Sergeants, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052005/, a movie which never appeared in Germany. Quite a funny movie, and fits to that insanity theme...

      Though Pvt. Will Stockdale is not the one who is insane, but he is so nice an honest to everyone everybody else gets insane.

    7. jmch Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: So...

      @david 132

      A pox on your 23rd upvoter!

    8. andy gibson

      Re: So...

      Or for the modern generation who might not have read Heller, this was a Simpsons episode. Bart has ADHD, gets medication for it, steals a tank.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Name

    One has to wonder if his name might have played a part in his insanity?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Name

      When accused of driving a stolen vehicle, he replied "Yabut, I only borrowed it"

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now I know what they meant by the war on drugs.

  6. WolfFan Silver badge

    How things have changed

    One uncle served in Bomber Command during WWII. (167 operations, mostly over Germany, some Italy. He was supposed to go to Tiger Force to complete the trifecta, but Japan surrendered too soon and, ah, 'spoiled the fun'. He had a strange sense of humour.) He stayed on after the war. His squadron converted to Lincolns from Lancasters. He took the last Lanc out on a 'tour' of cities that he'd 'visited' in 1942-5. He had to stop at an American air base in Germany to refuel to get them all; several were in East Germany, and the Soviets were unamused. Authorisiation? What authorisation? No-one at the base even knew he was gone until he got back. Everyone except the Groupie and the WingCo thought that it was funny; the Groupie thought it was hilarious, the WingCo wanted him shot. They managed to keep things out of the official record, though the Soviets were very insistent that their airspace had been invaded by multiple British nuclear-capable bombers.

    1. hoofie

      Re: How things have changed

      Shades of the old joke about the RAF pilot stopped at Customs at a German Airport years later

      Customs:"Have you ever visited Germany before?"

      Retired Pilot:"Err...Yes...."

      1. OssianScotland Silver badge

        Err...Yes....

        …. but I didn't stop

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How things have changed

        I once knew a guy seconded to a Dutch oil company (no, not THE Dutch oil company) who, on more than one occasion, heard a local tell a lost German tourist "Well you knew where it was in 1940!"

        1. ridley

          Re: How things have changed

          Do the Dutch football fans when Holland are playing Germany still ask the Germans for their bicycles back?

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: How things have changed

            Yes.

          2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: How things have changed

            Only when playing in Germany, we don't expect them anymore to bring those bikes with them when they come visit the Netherlands ;)

      3. bjr

        Re: How things have changed

        Met a Lufthansa pilot years ago who said that Lufthansa flys Boeing's because they were very impressed by the B17 during the war.

      4. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: How things have changed

        One of my aunts was a GI bride. She and her husband visited us in the UK several times in the 1980s and early 90s. My dad took Johnny to the Shuttleworth Collection at Biggleswade once, which he greatly enjoyed although it brought back mixed memories. My dad recounts him standing by the V-1 exhibit, saying to another old fellow next to him, "I remember being underneath one of those goddamn things when the engine shut off." The bloke replied, "Ja?"

        After that, if you'll pardon the pun, they got on like a house on fire.

    2. Benson's Cycle

      Re: How things have changed

      There's an interesting point about the attitudes of different levels of officer in there.

      Blashford-Snell tells a story with a fairly similar outcome, about Guardsmen using the RE's Thunderbox, and the REs booby-trapping it with a small explosive charge. The Guards adjutant goes equally ballistic and complains to the Colonel "Sir, Blashford-Snell is blowing up our guardsmen!". The colonel is unable to conceal his amusement and tells B-S his punishment is to write it up for the regimental comic.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yabut's civilian career was reportedly in infosec when he wasn't with the National Guard

    I think anyone brave enough to work in infosec in todays day and age has got to be insane or would soon become a little crazy or at least overly paranoid.

    Anyways, who hasn't stolen a military vehicle during their time in service? It's almost a right of passage.

    I faintly remember a joy ride taken through the swamps of Louisiana in a troop transport that was left unattended.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yabut's civilian career was reportedly in infosec when he wasn't with the National Guard

      Faintly one assumes because of the general inebriation level?

  8. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

    Tweeting on a casual rampage

    Makes you wonder about the mental health of people addicted to posting on Twitter... not that anyone comes to mind.

  9. RainCaster

    Would that defense work for the idiot who took the USA for a test drive?

    The Cheetoh Tweeter has completely ruined the USA in front of the rest of the world. Can we call an insanity defense for him?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Would that defense work for the idiot who took the USA for a test drive?

      That's not insanity, that's senility.

      1. Sanguma

        Re: Would that defense work for the idiot who took the USA for a test drive?

        He's a senile delinquent.

      2. TranceWarp
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Would that defense work for the idiot who took the USA for a test drive?

        He's insanely senile.

    2. VikiAi Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Would that defense work for the idiot who took the USA for a test drive?

      No, but you may be able to claim it for the voting public.

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge

    And he worked in infosec...

    The paranoia runs deep in this one.

    1. sum_of_squares

      Re: And he worked in infosec...

      Better safe than sorry, or so they say

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: And he worked in infosec...

        How do you know they say that? Have you been listening to them covertly?????

        Obligatory XKCD

  11. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Never mind the vehicle, more on the flying unauthorised to Iraq and back please!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This one's built for gold

    Pin a star or two on him and put him in charge. There's no strategy like an unpredictable strategy.

    Send him to Syria, tell him he's on a public and secret mission; and his job is to find all the terrorists.

    Boom!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twitter?

    They say he was delusionally acting under an untrue order from his boss to test out civilian response?

    The use of twitter on the journey doesn't seem to support that.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Evil_Goblin

    Skip the truck thing, I'm more impressed by the unauthorised flight to Iraq and back!? Top effort

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