My first cat, adopted from the ASPCA back in 1970, bore the name Geraldine—a tribute to comedian Flip Wilson’s feisty female alter ego, whose trademark excuse for every misdeed was “The devil made me do it!” The name suited my cat well: She delighted in destroying the décor of my New York apartment (for example, knocking over my Christmas tree at least five times), all the while looking on with innocent amazement at what she’d done.

I no longer own my cat, who died at the ripe age of 16, and Flip Wilson passed away in 1998. But Geraldine’s philosophy lives on in some quarters. There’s a swimsuit model named Simone Farrow who shares Geraldine’s penchant for shifting the blame elsewhere. Farrow (whose stage name is Simone Starr) reportedly ran a worldwide crystal meth operation from her Hollywood apartment. When the Drug Enforcement Administration tried to apprehend Farrow, she escaped to Australia.

It took a month for Australian authorities to track her down at a beach motel. But Farrow insisted she wasn’t trying to elude law enforcement:

“The only reason I’ve done this is because someone was trying to murder me,” she said. The long journey from California to Australia was sort of an accident, according to Farrow. “I wasn’t trying to flee the country at all,” she explained. “I was trying to protect myself from being killed or harmed.” She told authorities that she’d been in “relationships with numerous underworld figures or whatever you want to call them and I feel that maybe they feel threatened by my situation.”

Excuses like “the devil made me do it” or (Farrow’s version) “I was trying to protect myself” carry little weight in a court of law. For now, instead of modeling swimsuits for astronomical fees, she’s awaiting a court hearing. Meanwhile her story is garnering worldwide publicity. Perhaps a few potential lawbreakers will start thinking about their own penchant for passing on the blame and decide that the risks aren’t worth it after all.

Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of seven books, including Police Talk (Pearson), co-written with the late Mary Mariani. Visit her website at www.YourPoliceWrite.com for free report writing resources. Go to www.Amazon.com for a free preview of her book The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers.