Joe Munch holds the record for the shortest prison sentence ever
Crime and punishment stories are filled with extremes, especially in sentencing. Thai native Chamoy Thipyaso was a woman sentenced to an incredible 1,41,078 years for her involvement in a pyramid scheme that conned more than 16,000 Thailand residents. Years later, a law passed in Thailand stipulated that the maximum prison term in fraud cases could not exceed 20 years. This law reduced Thipyaso’s sentence from over one million years to just over eight years.
In 1972, Gabriel March Granados, a 22-year-old mailman in Spain, failed to deliver 42,784 letters. He opened 35,718 of them and stole their contents totaling 50,000 euros. March was charged with thousands of counts of fraud, wrongful appropriation of documents, and theft, resulting in an unprecedented prosecution request of 384,912 years in prison and a 19-million-euro fine. Instead, the judge sentenced March to 14 years and two months in prison and a fine of 9,000 pesetas.
In the United States, Terry Nichols was sentenced to 161 life sentences plus 9,000 years with no possibility of parole for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. It stands today as the longest affirmed sentence handed down globally.
The case of Joe Munch is the exact opposite. He was a soldier at Washington State’s Fort Lawton, one of several built in the 1890s to guard Puget Sound. On Aug. 13, 1905, a bored Munch walked off the base and proceeded to get drunk at the nearest saloon.
Appalled that a man in a military uniform was so aggressively shit-faced drunk, a policeman arrested him and took him to the station. In court the next day, Judge Gordon sentenced Munch to 30 days in lockup for being drunk and disorderly.
Munch’s court-appointed attorney appealed the case to the King County Superior Court. There, Judge Archibald Frater took the unprecedented step of reducing Munch’s sentence from 30 days in the county jail to … precisely one minute.
Frater was not an eclectic or frivolous judge and not one to take sentencing lightly. Born in Belmont County in 1856, he went to college with future president Warren G. Harding, who remained a lifelong friend. After moving to Snohomish in 1889, the Republican was…