Sunday, July 23, 2006

Snake joke could lead to jail

In this file photo, a boa constrictor peeps from among the undergrowth at an animal rescue center in China.

A man's idea of a joke -- putting a pet 6-foot boa constrictor in his mailbox to startle a mail carrier -- could bring him time behind bars.

"It was an incredibly stupid practical joke that wasn't funny," said James R. Mell, 31, an auto mechanic from the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

Mell put the snake in his mailbox July 7, The Detroit News reported.

"I thought it was funny. Looking back on it, it isn't, and it wasn't," he said.

On Monday, federal prosecutors charged Mell with obstructing the delivery of the U.S. mail. The charge carries a penalty of up to six months in prison.

Postal carrier Nakeema Anderson was making her rounds when she opened Mell's mailbox and found the snake, court records say.

"Anderson reported observing a white male in the driveway laughing," said a report from U.S. postal inspector Andrew Gottfried.

Mell wrote a letter apologizing to Anderson and said he hoped that would settle the matter.

The pet snake is not poisonous, does not bite and has tiny teeth.

"It will only strike at something that it can actually eat," Mell said.



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