Hollywood's glitterati have rushed to support a retired carpenter named Ed to prevent him from being transported by law-enforcement personnel from Green Bay, Wisc., to Charleston, W. Va. to face sentencing for rape of a minor.
Sam Schnuckatelli, 76, was taken into custody Monday in Des Moines, Ia., where he has lived for more than 31 years after fleeing a sentencing hearing in Charleston. As part of a plea bargain in 1977, Schnuckatelli admitted to charges of statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl and charges related to plying her with alcohol and depressant prescription drugs before committing the rape.
Taking a new life in Des Moines, Schnuckatelli settled in to his old vocation of carpentering, winning the admiration of Iowans for miles around for his skill in "whole cabinet" construction. In 2003 he was actually named the recipient of the coveted Best Carpenter in the Universe award for his rehabilitation of a Louis the VXI chest on chest that had fallen to near ruin. A friend accepted the award on his behalf because the presentation was made back in Charleston, and Schnuckatelli darn sure wasn't going back there.
(So grateful was the French government for Schnuckatelli's salvation of the kingly furniture that it offered Schnuckatelli permanent asylum, even saying it would work something out to get him a home in Gstaad. But Schnuckatelli reportedly refused, saying, "Buncha of frogs, they need to shave their legs and pits. I ain't going.")
However, Monday Schnuckatelli made the fateful error of driving his 1981 Chevy Suburban from Iowa, whose authorities had told the West Virginians to "stuff it," to Green Bay, Wisc., to attend a Packers game. And that, as they used to say back home, is where he dropped his molasses jug. Apparently not realizing that Brett Favre (or as Schnuckatelli pronounced it, "Favor") left the team years ago, Schnuckatelli pitched a conniption fit when he learned Favre was playing for the Vikings.
So raucous was Schnuckatelli that stadium security was called, who learned through running a name check that the West Virginia warrant was still valid. Figuring that they could toss their problem over to Mountaineers, state police held Schnuckatelli in custody to await extradition.
Schnuckatelli used his one phone call in jail to call Woody Allen, who was outraged that drugging and raping a minor child would not be forgiven by West Virginia prosecutors. Allen emailed all his Hollywood friends and within hours, a massive movement among the most glittering stars, directors, producers and key grips had sprung up.
Whoopi Goldberg, who used to be funny, said on her TV show The View that Schnuckatelli should immediately be set free because drugging and raping a minor child isn't, you know, really rape:
More than 100 film industry figures have now signed a petition calling for the release of Schnuckatelli, the acclaimed maker of bookshelves, side commodes and rocking chairs.Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times piled on, too:
They include leading Hollywood figures Martin Scorcese, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Pedro Almodovar, Tilda Swinton and Monica Bellucci.
One celebrity supporter, the actress Debra Winger, said it was a "three-decades-old case that is dead but for minor technicalities. We stand by him and await his release and his next masterpiece." Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein said Schnuckatelli was a "gifted carpenter" who had been the victim of a "miscarriage of justice". He said: "We will have to speak to our leaders, particularly in West Virginia. I'm not too shy to go and talk to the Governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin III, and to ask him once and for all to look at this."
But at a time when West Virginia is shredding the safety net that protects the poor and the unemployed, not to mention the budget of the public school system, you'd hope that Charleston prosecutors had better things to do than cause an international furor by hounding a carpenter for a 32-year-old sex crime.Though not a popular stand, the Hollywood elites' closure around Schnuckatelli continues their long tradition of standing up for the little man even at risk of their reputations and profits.
"None of us had even heard of Schnuckatelli before this week," confessed Hollywood mogul David Lean Goldmayer. "But if we don't stand with him, who will? This isn't about us. It's about Sam Schnuckatelli. We're just navel lint."