The versatile law degree, University of Wisconsin edition

Guns don’t cause crime, student loans do:

A man who wore a three-dimensional Bucky Badger hat when he allegedly robbed an East Side credit union last week told police that he wants to go to prison and needed the money because he has $250,000 in student debt.

Randall H. Hubatch, 49, of Madison, was charged Friday with armed robbery for the Jan. 11 robbery of the Summit Credit Union, 1799 Thierer Road. What stood out about the robbery was Hubatch’s choice of apparel, which included the Bucky Badger hat.

“If the district attorney agrees to send me to prison for a long time, then I will confess and plead guilty,” Hubatch told Madison police Detective Tom Helgren after his arrest on Monday, according to a criminal complaint. “Otherwise, I have nothing else to say, and if released I will do it again.”

Hubatch told police he is “slightly autistic” and diabetic and can’t afford his prescribed medication.

An online UW-Madison directory lists Hubatch as a lead custodian at Union South on the UW-Madison campus. University spokesman John Lucas said Hubatch is not a current student but earned a bachelor’s in English in 1998 and a law degree in 2004.

When Hubatch was arrested he was wearing the Bucky Badger hat. Police said they found a bus receipt in the motel room where Hubatch was staying and a ticket in his pocket indicating that he was at the Field Museum in Chicago on Sunday.

According to the complaint:

With a plastic Star Wars toy gun in his pocket, Hubatch told police, he wrote a note demanding $500 and told a teller not to stall because he didn’t want to hurt anyone. He said he also wrote that he would shoot anyone who followed him to his car, noting to Helgren that he put in the reference to the car to throw people off because he doesn’t have a car.

He told Helgren he has $250,000 in student loans that he can’t pay. He said he asked for $500 because he thought Summit would not care about $500 and would simply give it to him.

Can you wear a Bucky Badger hat that has more (or less) than three dimensions?

. . . I should emphasize that there’s a temptation to minimize this kind of thing by assuming that this person is “crazy.” While no doubt his behavior and statements both give evidence of a crumbling mental world, we shouldn’t underestimate the extent to which the experience of graduating from a fairly high-ranked law school (after graduating from an excellent undergraduate university) only to find oneself a few years later working as a janitor with no way of paying a quarter million dollars in non-dischargeable debt creates the kind of deep desperation that in turn leads to what we label as madness.

73 comments on this post.
  1. J. Otto Pohl:

    This almost sounds like something out of a Confederacy of Dunces.

  2. c u n d gulag:

    Don’t laugh.

    Prison’s my retirement plan, too.

  3. rm:

    I like this guy. He didn’t use a real gun, and he only asked for $500. He was being reasonable. Not going for too much.

    $500 doesn’t go very far; when he needed more was he going to do another robbery? Had he already gotten a payday loan but been frustrated that you can only get one at a time? (That it has to be paid back with 800% interest, too, obviously). I’m fascinated by his thought process. Poor guy.

  4. Paul Campos:

    He said he also wrote that he would shoot anyone who followed him to his car, noting to Helgren that he put in the reference to the car to throw people off because he doesn’t have a car.

    There’s a Werner Herzog movie in there somewhere.

  5. Xenos:

    It all works as a fairly effective bit of civil disobedience. Especially if he has enough of a work history that he will get social security and medicare when he turns 67. Being a bit autistic he ought to be able to handle the social isolation of prison life, too.

  6. Joey Maloney:

    You ever been on a cellblock? They’re noisy and chaotic as hell. Not the kind of place at all that a person prone to sensory overload would do well.

  7. Xenos:

    That is a good point. I have managed to stay out of such hostelries, myself.

    I think Sol Wachtler spent his sentence at a federal prison in Minnesota that might be where Hubatch will be staying – he did not care much for the environment. His descriptions matched those in ‘A Man in Full’ pretty closely. As it turns out, Tom Wolfe is a friend of Wachtler, and that part of Wolfe’s book was based on Wachtler’s experience.

  8. Mudge:

    About Bucky Badger. The hat is always 3-dimensional, but Bucky is usually a 2-dimensional representation. I’m thinking the hat had a 3-D badger, like having a small stuffed buffalo on a Colorado hat.

  9. Ken:

    Can you wear a Bucky Badger hat that has more than three dimensions?

    I don’t think so, but it’s a great idea for a Call of Cthulhu roleplaying scenario.

  10. DrDick:

    Proof of the value of the education provided by Prof. Ann Althouse!

  11. John:

    This isn’t “a fairly effective bit of civil disobedience.” Dude is obviously mentally ill.

  12. sue:

    If you click through to the story, they have a picture of him from the surveillance video. It’s a hat that looks like you have a badger head is enveloping your face (I live in Madison, and a lot of people wear them).

  13. DrDick:

    There are actually a fair number of destitute people who commit minor crimes for the express purpose of going to jail so they have somewhere warm to sleep and food to eat. Mostly these are misdemeanors in the county jail.

  14. Dave:

    Yeah, and where have we heard *that* before?

  15. RepubAnon:

    One wonders how long it will be before student loan debts that have not been paid during the life of the debtor are automatically assigned to the debtor’s children, spouse, parents, siblings, cousins… After all, can’t have these deadbeats ignoring their debts just because they’re dead, now can we?

  16. Substance McGravitas:

    It’s probably going to cost Summit $500 in employee time to put the guy in jail.

  17. Hogan:

    So in our brave new world, it’s the debtors who choose to put themselves in prison. Progress!

  18. Joshua:

    When I graduated college I had a lot of student loan debt. I refinanced at a low rate and put every spare dollar towards it. People thought I was nuts and/or dumb because I could have earned a far higher return by putting it into stocks. My response was that the downside of carrying student loan debt is way higher than anything else thanks to non-dischargeability. That isn’t priced into that rate. Now I’m debt free and don’t regret a thing.

    People have really been suckered into passing higher college costs onto their future selves and state legislatures have exploited that to cut funding. This sort of thing isn’t exactly an endgame but a lot of people are finding out that student loan debt is far nastier than the serious people say it is.

  19. elm:

    I believe that in Japan, parents are responsible if their (adult) children fail to pay off their student loans. At least, one of my students told me that they would take her parents’ house if she was unable to pay off the loans.

  20. cpinva:

    the president we had, for the first 8 years of the current century.

    “Yeah, and where have we heard *that* before?”

  21. Scott Lemieux:

    This took way too long. Let’s get with the game, people!

  22. The Dark Avenger:

    I don’t think they can go after the estate of the deceased, but I do know that any and all income streams are subject to be garnished, including SS and SSI.

    I used to joke that the only way to be clear of a student loan without paying it off was to become the victim of an alien abduction.

  23. Anna in PDX:

    We all slept in this a.m., clearly.

  24. Anna in PDX:

    I agree, I was lucky to only have about $10,000 in debt and it was one of the reasons I chose to never go to grad school even though it is hard to know / read tea leaves as to whether your earning potential will eclipse the amount you have to pay on the damned loans. I well remember getting the letter from Sallie Mae saying I was finished paying off my student loan, 10 years after graduating. I felt so free!

  25. Pestilence:

    thats ok, they’ll dock it from their employees pay cheques

  26. STH:

    What a sad story; poor guy sounds like he’s at the end of his rope. What struck me is that he can’t even afford his medication–he probably thought that at least he’d get some medical care in jail. What must it feel like to know you’ve got complications of diabetes in your future and you can’t do a thing about it? Jesus.

  27. wjts:

    Could it be that the house was put up as collateral for the loan?

  28. Pestilence:

    The Shoggoth that spawned a thousand head-eating badgers?

  29. elm:

    I believe so, but the student explained that this was common. If the parents have assets, they are used to secure the government provided student loans, something that is not done in the U.S.

    Depending on parent-child relationships, this could either give a strong incentive to pay back the loan, or to renege on it.

  30. GFW:

    If he’s 49, then he was born in ’63 (or the first half of January, ’64). Hence he was likely 35 when he got that BA and 41 for the LLD. Clearly there’s a lot about his life we don’t know from this story.

  31. wjts:

    You can wear a two-dimensional Bucky Badger hat, but only while you’re reading Edwin Abbott’s College Football Prospectus.

  32. wjts:

    Yeah, that’s what I was trying to get at – whether or not parents’ property is used as collateral for student loans and whether or not that’s the typical practice.

  33. Warren Terra:

    Is tuition in Japan as expensive as in the US?

  34. Informant:

    How does he have $250,000 in student loan debt from a BA and JD at the University of freakin’ Wisconsin??? I can’t immediately find specific historical tuition information for UW, but based on what I paid for tuition while going to school at almost the exact same time (BA/BS 1993-97, JD 1999-2000, both from private schools) I can’t believe in-state tuition for the undergrad degree was much more than $10,000 a year at the time (approx. 1994 to 1998) and maybe $18,000 a year for the JD (approx. 2000 to 2004).

  35. Informant:

    Sorry, that should be “JD 1999-2003.”

  36. LeeEsq:

    Nothing wrong with doing that on a lazy Sunday.

  37. J. Otto Pohl:

    That will all come out in the novel or movie about his life.

  38. Jeremy:

    Yes. I teach at a private (2-yr) vocational school, yearly tuition is $20,000. I have no idea why.

    And talking to friends with 4-year degrees, it’s at least that expensive elsewhere.

  39. DocAmazing:

    “Anthem and the Cop”, by O. Henry. Not a new practice, but the absence of affordable health insurance has caused people to seek longer sentences.

  40. Pestilence:

    or just, you know, emigrate

  41. Roger Ailes:

    and Introducing Randall H. Hubatch as Ann Althouse’s Next Husband.

  42. Anon21:

    I don’t know that what he did was reasonable even given the absence of a real gun and the “small” demand. He probably terrified the poor teller, and he put customers and employees at non-zero risk of being shot by a trigger-happy security guard or cop.

    I don’t know what the perfect victimless crime is that will get you a long stint in prison. (It probably involves intellectual property “theft.”) But it isn’t bank robbery.

  43. Paul Campos:

    It’s not that hard to believe, assuming that he made no loan payments on his undergrad debt while it was in forbearance between undergrad and law school, and that he didn’t subsequently make any payments on his law school loans.

    It’s been nine and 15 years respectively since he graduated from undergrad and law school so his loan collective loan balances could have more than doubled over that time with capitalized interest. If he debt financed both degrees he probably took out more than $100,000 for tuition and living expenses combined. A current balance of $250,000 is quite plausible.

  44. DrDick:

    Indeed. There really are worse things than prison, which may explain the propensity of the poor for crime.

  45. GFW:

    Downloading a million academic journal articles?

  46. Hogan:

    Obviously we need to make prison even worse, amirite?

  47. Bill Murray:

    or we need to drastically up the punishment for those who are not to be deterred.

  48. The Dark Avenger:

    That’s if they let you have a passport. You think with tens of thousands of dollars on the line, they’ll just let you fly to Rio de Janero and still the bank that made the loan in the first place/

  49. The Dark Avenger:

    “stiff the bank that made the loan in the first place?”

  50. Bill Murray:

    so this guy was imprisoned for preaching the lie of three dimensional passing?

  51. Johnny Sack:

    Is our children learning?

  52. DrDick:

    Alternatively, we could improve the lives of the poor enough that prison does not seem preferable.

  53. John:

    This guy graduated from college 15 years ago at the age of 34 or 35. It seems rather likely to me that he was already working as a janitor at UW and got his degrees via night school.

  54. rea:

    Well, note that this guy counted as “employed” for purposes of UW Law’s statistics . . .

  55. GiT:

    Outrageous!

  56. GiT:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but how do PLUS loans not count as something like this that is done in the US?

  57. RedSquareBear:

    SOCIALISMZ!

  58. RedSquareBear:

    Silly poor, thinking that education was a road out of poverty.

    He should have put that money to something with the possibility of a better life.

    Clearly, he should have been playing the lottery.

  59. NonyNony:

    Wow. I read this bit from Campos:

    While no doubt his behavior and statements both give evidence of a crumbling mental world, we shouldn’t underestimate the extent to which the experience of graduating from a fairly high-ranked law school (after graduating from an excellent undergraduate university) only to find oneself a few years later working as a janitor with no way of paying a quarter million dollars in non-dischargeable debt creates the kind of deep desperation that in turn leads to what we label as madness.

    And my thoughts immediately turned to Lovecraft. I didn’t even think of the man eating hat.

  60. DrDick:

    CHEAPER than prisons!

  61. brian:

    Yes he clearly has some mental problems, but that didn’t seem to matter on the front end of this mess. When they were happy to loan out 250K. Shouldn’t there have been some checks in place for someone with his mental condition, that amount of debt, and a degree that has limited usefulness?

    As an aside, that is my credit union, and the branch I use weekly, bit too close to home.

  62. MLK Day Links « Gerry Canavan:

    [...] * “If the district attorney agrees to send me to prison for a long time, then I will confess and plead guilty,” Hubatch told Madison police Detective Tom Helgren after his arrest on Monday, according to a criminal complaint. “Otherwise, I have nothing else to say, and if released I will do it again.” The versatile law degree, University of Wisconsin edition. [...]

  63. Downpuppy:

    Nah, just living out a Brandi Carlile video.

    I blame the media.

  64. Snarki, child of Loki:

    No doubt he still will be counted as “employed”, after sent to prison.

    Will he have a job making license plates? Surely that counts.

  65. John:

    I wasn’t saying anything of the sort. I do get fed up with Campos’s irritating habit of taking weird, extreme stories and acting as though they’re evidence of larger trends (unsurprisingly, they’re always evidence of larger trends he has a gigantic hobbyhorse about!). This guy isn’t evidence of anything. He’s one weirdo.

  66. Snarki, child of Loki:

    I don’t *think* the State Dept does a credit check before issuing a passport.

    But they do try to extract back taxes, etc, from people that are trying to renounce US citizenship.

  67. Anon:

    “Can you wear a Bucky Badger hat that has more (or less) than three dimensions?”

    Yes, in theory. Of course, if this perp could operate exclusively in the second dimension, he’d be able to sneak into any vault he wanted. But how would he pick up the three-dimensional money??

  68. ajay:

    Yes he clearly has some mental problems, but that didn’t seem to matter on the front end of this mess. When they were happy to loan out 250K.

    Maybe he developed them later?

  69. Hogan:

    The only mental condition I’ve seen specified is “slightly autistic,” and apparently that didn’t keep him from finishing two degrees.

  70. The Dark Avenger:

    You think they’re not keeping a registry of people who have an enormous debt of student loans that is checked against passport applicants?

    That is very naive thinking.

    The results of fleeing student debt aren’t pretty at times:

    Haunted for Life

    Now living alone, Bridges, the college professor, wakes up daily at 4 a.m. He spends at least one hour each morning surfing the Internet, reading expat discussion-group chats, and researching countries he can go to in order to again flee his student loan debt.

    “I’d love to stay here. I’ve got friends in this area I’ve had for almost 30 years,” he says wistfully. “But the alternative is being persecuted and prosecuted.”

    Just leaving America, however, won’t end the constant reminders that he owes money he can never possibly pay back. That’s because next year, when he turns 66, Bridges will start to collect Social Security.

    But those who default on federal student loans can have 15% of their Social Security retirement benefits garnished. So for the rest of his life, Bridges says, “I fully expect they’ll take that, too.”

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/08/20/student-loan-horror-stories-whats-the-worst-than-can-happen/

    And unless you pay the debt back, it’s a one-way trip, which is worth considering as well.

  71. Law Spider:

    FTW

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