Ever since Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger's incredible performance as The Joker, the costume itself has become a mainstay for Hallowe'en costumes.
After all, it's pretty simple to make - just get a purple suit, a bit of green hair dye or spray, white makeup and lipstick and you're good to go. Of course, the other end of it is that the Joker makeup is now associated with some pretty heinous stuff. Here in Ireland, a man was arrested and plead guilty to arson for setting fire to a school in Clondalkin, Co. Dublin while dressed up as the Joker.
Therefore, it's sort of easy to understand why people would be more than little freaked out if they saw someone wearing Joker facepaint in the middle of the day in a parking lot. Even more suspicious is when said person is also carrying a sword with them and that's where our story begins.
Police in Winchester, Virginia were called to a parking lot where nearby residents reported a man wearing facepaint, a black coak and carrying a big sword walking around said parking lot. The man, identified as 31-year old Jeremy Putman, was charged with a felony and, if convicted, is looking at a maximum of five years in jail.
Why's that, you ask? The sword, maybe? No, that's actually legal in the state of Virginia. It's the facepaint that's the problem. According to Virginia Code 18.2-422, "it is unlawful for any person over 16 years of age, with the intent to conceal his identity, wear any mask, hood, or other device, whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered, so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, to be or appear in any public place, or upon any private property in this Commonwealth, without first having obtained from the owner or tenant thereof consent to do so in writing."
The law, however, covers medical reasons, theatrical costumes, Halloween, holiday scenarios and pretty much all the normal reasons for wearing a mask - but not walking around a parking lot with a giant sword. If you're thinking the law itself is a bit draconian, there's a very good reason for it. The law was intended to curtail Ku Klux Klan activity in the area and, as you know, wearing white hoods is a big part of Klan activity.
Putman is currently being held on a $2,000 unsecured bond.
Via io9 / Winchester Police