No Free Pass For The Brooklyn IHOP Robin Hood

William Powell’s intentions may have been pure, but that doesn’t mean he gets to do what he thinks is right at someone else’s expense.

A self-proclaimed “modern day Robin Hood” has been arrested after the former IHOP employee allegedly gave out thousands of dollars worth of free drinks to customers in Downtown Brooklyn.

According to the criminal complaint, William Powell, 27, has been charged with multiple counts of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, and petit larceny after he allegedly gave out over $3,000 worth of free drinks to customers between August 2015 and February 2016 at the IHOP at 253 Livingston Street.

The complaint states that Powell defended himself after being taking into custody: “I am the modern day Robin Hood, I am not stealing, I am serving the ones in need, I take from the rich and give to the poor,” he said. “What’s the big deal, I’ve been doing this since I started here.”

Serving the ones in need seems like a wonderful thing to do.  And had Powell pulled cash out of his own pocket to pay for the drinks he served them, but didn’t want them charged for, we would all applaud his charity. Or maybe if he worked for free in compensation for the freebies he was handing out.  Or even if he asked his employer first, obtained permission and then gave the poor free drinks.

All laudable conduct.  What is not acceptable is that Powell decided that it was his right to be noble with someone else’s money.  That ain’t noble. That’s larceny.

Powell insisted that “I am not stealing, I am serving the ones in need. I take from the rich and give to the poor.” His free soda policy lasted for six months. Police say that he was simply trying to “get bigger tips.” Perhaps, but is this really a criminal matter?

That the cop spin seeks to undermine the charitable purpose, to remove the cloak of good intentions, may well serve some purpose to smear Powell. Cops do that. But it doesn’t bear on whether his conduct was criminal.

The state law defines larceny as “A person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner thereof.”

Despite the spin on the tip angle, Powell was not pocketing the money or consuming the sodas. Many restaurants give waiters liberty in waiving such charges. Just as the practice may have benefitted Powell in tips, it also likely benefitted the restaurants in happy and repeat customers. A defense under the state law is “that the property was appropriated under a claim of a right made in good faith.”

This purported defense, of course, is nonsense.  Larceny doesn’t require Powell to keep money for himself. If he causes it to be withheld from its owner, then it’s just as larcenous as if he ransacked the cash register.

Nor is it a defense that Powell’s decision to give away what the owner offers for sale is justified under some amorphous “happy customer” theory.  It’s not Powell’s to give. It’s not Powell’s decision to make. There is no “good faith” involved.

Just because Powell, in his twisted vision of Robin Hood, thought he was entitled to use someone else’s food and drink, someone else’s money, to be charitable to whomever he found deserving, doesn’t mean his imperfect view of kindness entitles him to steal with impunity.

It’s reminiscent of those who decide a law is wrong, and deliberately violate it. They then wrap themselves in the mantle of “civil disobedience,” put on their best plastic Henry David Thoreau mask, and claim they shouldn’t be punished.  Clearly, they don’t get the concept.

You want to engage in civil disobedience?  Knock yourself out. If you feel that strongly about something, then put your ass on the line to prove it.  But just because you call it civil disobedience doesn’t mean there are no consequences. Indeed, that’s exactly what civil disobedience is all about, feeling strongly enough about an issue that you are willing to suffer the consequences for your actions. That is the point.

The same is true for Robin Hoodiness.  Powell feels that the poor deserve free drinks at IHOP?  Great. Buy them free drinks. Pay for it any damn way you please.  Persuade your boss that your cause is so good, so worthy, that he should support it by allowing you to serve his drinks, the beverages he purchased, the revenues from which are used to pay Powell’s salary and buy shoes for his children.  Charity is a wonderful thing.

But there is nothing charitable about using someone else’s money to help others.  Is it a crime? You bet it is, and there is nothing admirable about a guy who wants to pretend he’s Robin Hood on someone else’s dime.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Powell deserves life plus cancer for his crime.  He didn’t put his financial interest above that of his employer. This tips allegation smells awful. If people don’t have the money to pay for drinks, they can’t afford to be big tippers either.  More importantly, the Kings County DA will never be able to prove it.

So Powell’s crime may be real, but his purpose wasn’t venal.  What this appears to be is a great opportunity for a conditional discharge on a reduced misdemeanor charge with restitution.  Powell was clearly wrong, and may not grasp what charity means, but that doesn’t make him evil or a threat to others. Make the point without ruining his life with a felony conviction.

William Powell may be no Robin Hood, but he’s no Al Capone either.

22 thoughts on “No Free Pass For The Brooklyn IHOP Robin Hood

  1. John Barleycorn

    Dammit esteemed one, now every IHOP manager in the country is gonna get a memo about not running the algorithms often enough on the guest tickets and I bet it has to be a royal pain in the ass tracking the probable spillage against the soda syrup inventory invetween  covering shifts for staff calling in sick to attend underground Robin Hood parties.

    Poor Mr. Smith, I bet he is gonna miss his free soup on Fridays with his grilled cheese during the managers split shift.

    P.S. What do you think the over under is gonna be on this “kid” just trolling the cops and the press?

    That’s not such an easy bet to book these days, now is it….

      1. John Barleycorn


        I think you could use a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity stack today. Heck, you should probably go with extra whipped cream and side of bacon too.

        Nothing like some cafe comfort food to level things out and calm a guy down just a little, when one of those days is afoot.

        I heard they got some pretty decent freshed squeezed as well.

      2. REvers

        Just for the record, I went to IHOP and got a strawberry Rooty combo. It was delicious.

        My doctor would be appalled.

        And it’s all your fault for mentioning it in the first place.

        1. John Barleycorn

          Not to worry, if your Doctor is working for the same HMO as mine he might throw in an extra EKG for free and don’t forget to work those nurses for some Robin Hood pharmaceuticals to help your widowed aunt manage her back pain.

          1. John Barleycorn

            Oh yeah…I almost forgot. But seeing as how we are getting this mornings record straight, I had to get out of the cab after the esteemed one kept insisting on rolling down the window to taunt all the homeless millennials wondering around aimlessly at the intersections staring at their smartphones in-between panhandling.

            He was rambling on about “Don’t they have an app for that yet, and something and something or another.” But lucky for me there was a lounge in an alley about a block away called the Le Merde Inn.

            I thought about having their corned beef hash special, but then the bar tender offered me another bloody marry on the house if he could bum a smoke.

            I sure do hope the esteemed one went with the extra whipped cream and a side of bacon….

            He didn’t return my text messages when I sent him the coordinates of the Le Merde Inn and told him to bring a carton of smokes and some pickled asparagus. Too bad to, as I was kind of looking forward to picking his brain about how CDL’s keep up with the shifting social norms and socioeconomic quandaries of explaining the boundaries of the larceny lines to juries when making their opening statements in felonious larceny cases involving corn syrup.

            P.S. The, ‘was the “kid” trolling the cops and the press’, bet went off at 3:1 that he was not trolling. I put a grand on it after consulting with the cocktail waitress when I was looking to see if they had any Zappa on their jukebox. She was pretty hesitant to talk to me at first but when I pointed out that I recognized the Salut Salon tattoo she was sporting on her neck she not only gave me her opinion on the bet but also gave me the address to an afterhours party tonight.

            So, if the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity stack with extra whipped cream and a side of bacon didn’t do it for you this morning esteemed one I can send you the address for the party tonight. There should be German women there.

    1. Kathleen Casey

      He needs more. Community service and lots of it would be right. A city mission, homeless shelter, food pantry or some other place that serves the poor would make the lesson sink into his little brain.

      1. bmaz

        Heck yes, let’s saddle this idealistic young kid with a conviction and onerous probation to teach him to serve the poor.

        You know, the very thing he did in the first place. Brilliant.

  2. Bruce Coulson

    Didn’t Thoreau spend time in jail because of his criminal (if, in the eyes of some, laudable) actions? And I don’t remember him saying that because he was righteous, he shouldn’t be punished. Those who try to assume his mantle ought to remember that accepting the penalties for your acts is part of being civilly disobedient.

  3. losingtrader

    I’m convinced you are justifying your failure to fund the GREENFIELD ISLAND BAIL/BOND CHARITY.
    The cost of refilling a soda is 3 cents (bring your own cup). I got that stat from a fellow juror who runs a nightclub.
    Do all the 3 cent crimes get added together?

    1. SHG Post author

      A business owner sells beverages to make revenues, whether for overhead or profit. That’s the amount that’s stolen from him, not his cost of doing business (and I have no idea whether it’s 3 cents or not, but it’s irrelevant). And even if it was only 3 cents, it’s still 3 cents stolen. Of course, you should feel free to reach out to Powell and offer to pay off any restitution because you’re such a charitable fellow traveler in the cause.

      1. David

        You’re the expert, but given the intent and wrongfulness requirements, and assuming it’s correct that “…Many restaurants give waiters liberty in waiving such charges….” (which comports with my own experiences), did IHOP grant explicitly or implicitly (unspoken workplace practice that managers knew about but turned a blind eye to) such permission to its servers generally and this guy just served more free drinks than they liked so wrongfulness is in issue? Or did the server believe they had such a policy and he was just taking it further to everybody and intent is in issue? Or both?

  4. Vin

    Always with the MOB. Why is it that every time a criminal act is discussed, someone has to mention the name of an Italian?

    This discriminatory ethnostereotyping should be outlawed.

    Poe is in full effect.

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