Scott Hollifield: Time to address lax Texas nose-biting laws

Here’s something I didn’t know until today: In Texas, biting off someone’s nose and swallowing it is only a misdemeanor.

I would have thought it at least a low-level felony, but no. Full disclosure here, I am no expert on criminal statutes in the great state of Texas or biting off noses. My information comes from The Smoking Gun website, which used public records and media reports to tell the tale of the missing Texas nose.

I will summarize it thusly: A 41-year-old woman from a suburban neighborhood near Houston was staying with an acquaintance of the alleged victim, the three enjoying some “Sex in the City”-type female bonding at a local watering hole on a Wednesday evening.

The trio eventually returned to the home of the alleged victim, where the suspect wanted to keep the festivities going and requested alcohol and cigarettes for that purpose, the TV station KTRK reported.

The alleged victim, presumably tired of the shenanigans, instead asked the suspect to leave, which didn’t go over well because the suspect pounced on her, pulled her to the ground by her hair, bit off a large portion of her nose and swallowed it – allegedly.

Authorities and medical personnel soon arrived.

“I started calling my husband when I was in the ambulance," the victim told KTRK. “I was screaming, like, ‘I don't have a nose. I'm 28 years old and I don't have a nose anymore.’”

Police charged the suspect with misdemeanor assault. Friends established a GoFundMe account to help pay for plastic surgery. As of July 23, it had surpassed its goal of $12,000, taking in more than $19,000. (Be warned: If you visit that page, you are going to be greeted immediately by a photo of a bloody, mangled nose.)

I’ve always wanted to spend some time in Texas, but now that I am aware of their lax nose-biting laws I am not so sure. That’s why I wrote this open letter to the Texas state legislature.

Howdy, pardners:

As a fan of both kinds of music – country and western – I have always wanted to visit your wonderful state (or republic, according to some) and attend Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic or a taping of “Austin City Limits,” but in light of recent events I am afraid someone will bite off my nose and swallow it with little consequence other than a slap on the wrist. Also, I don’t want anyone slapping my wrist. It’s not quite as bad as biting off my nose, but it is annoying.

I find it strange that biting off someone’s nose and swallowing it is a misdemeanor while something else, let’s say obtaining property by false pretense, is a low-level felony.

Personally, I believe losing my nose is worse than losing my debit card, but I don’t have a lot of money in the bank. And, cannot nose biting itself be considered obtaining property by false pretense in certain cases?

For example, if someone says, “Hold still. There is a tick on your eyebrow and I am going to get it off” then suddenly lunges teeth first and bites off your nose, that person has obtained property (your nose) by false pretense (the old phantom tick trick). Thus, he or she has committed a low-level felony instead of a misdemeanor in my legal opinion, which I formed by watching plenty of Perry Mason reruns.

In closing, I know that Texans enjoy their liberties and biting noses and such. That’s why I propose a compromise. Keep nose biting a misdemeanor, but bump nose swallowing up to a low-level felony, which may result in more nose reattachments and an increase in attendance at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July picnics and “Austin City Limits” tapings.

Hope to see you soon – and keep my nose right where it is.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor

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