080: Grave Mistake

Stella Case No. 080, Originally Published: 27 October 2004

Brad Graves and Ronald Hicks are both life-long residents of Etna, Maine, population 1,000. Using his computer, Hicks made a joke “wanted poster” featuring a photo of Graves; it identified him as “Abdul Graves, suspected leader of the outlaw organization Extreme Activist Terrorism Militia of Etna” (or “EATME”) and posted it on the cash register at the Country Corner Variety store for one day. Rather than laugh, Graves tore it down — and called his lawyer.

There’s not a lot of town in that town: Etna. (Image: Google Maps)

Attorney Brett Baber said Graves was “mortified” by being called a terrorist. “In this day and age, anytime one is alleged to be a terrorist and part of a terrorist group, it does inherent damage to one’s reputation,” Baber says, helping justify his filing a lawsuit against Hicks in Penobscot County Superior Court. The suit seeks “reasonable” compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs.

“Reasonable”? Like, maybe, two bits?


  • “Etna Man Sues over Fake Wanted Poster,” Bangor Daily News, 16 July 2004.

Case Status

The case was featured in the ABA Journal (a publication of the American Bar Assn.) It quoted Hicks’ attorney: “This is the kind of case that gives lawyers a bad name,” attorney Terrence Harrigan said. “It was a joke gone bad.” He noted Graves was asking for $10,000. Reasonable?

But, again, I found no update on the case.

My 2021 Thoughts on the Case

Wikipedia notes that by 2010, Etna had grown significantly — nearly 25 percent! — to 1,246. But the U.S. Census 2020 estimate is down to 1,194. It’s almost like some people don’t feel welcome there.


Cathy, a Register Nurse in California: “Just wanting to encourage you in this work you do. It is gratefully received and so right on target. Every time I receive your column I am reminded of a great quote from Edward Everett Hale: ‘I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to so something I can do.’ Thank you for being ‘one’ who is willing to do ‘something.’”

I indeed do hope to help spur action by others. First, by giving real (not falsified) cases to discuss. Second, by giving suggestions on how to look at them, how to argue against them. And third, by suggesting how the mess can be fixed; how the system can be cleaned up.

This newsletter does the first two; the third part is too complex and long for a newsletter, so that’s the job of my upcoming book.

- - -

Email Subscriptions

No new cases are being published, so please don’t try to submit cases.

My Flagship Email Publication This is True continues to come out with new stories every week. It’s “Thought-Provoking Entertainment” like Stella, but uses weird-but-true news items as its vehicle for social commentary. It is the oldest entertainment newsletter online — weekly since 1994. Click here for a This is True subscribe form.

4 Comments on “080: Grave Mistake

  1. The Correct response would be to tear the poster down and kick the shit out if the moron that posted it. Keep it personable.

    • Even that would be a many-orders-of-magnitude over-reaction. A facile little tongue-in cheek poke does not merit physical violence. If you really have to retaliate (and an argument could be made for simply ignoring the joke), put up something in similar vein and *then* drop it.

  2. Would that be a one-horse town, or a two-jackasses town?

    But seriously, with friends like that, Graves doesn’t need enemies.


Leave a Comment