Deputy Sue Austin always gets her man. She knew attorney Richard Pinto, a fugitive from justice, was hiding out in his office on Friday. Pinto's door was locked and the lights were off. But Austin said that through a window she glimpsed the top of Pinto's head poking from beneath his desk.
While Austin and others took turns tugging on the door, Pinto, they said, was on the other side trying to keep it shut. "He was standing there pulling on that door but we got him," Austin said with a laugh.
After being tossed in the hoosegow and threatened with hanging, Pinto finally relented and paid his debt, Austin said.
Pinto is a real attorney. Austin was only a deputy for the day. It was all a part of the two-week-long San Juan Capistrano Heritage Festival that coincides with the return of the swallows but which helps entertain tourists and residents.
Hoosegow Day is an annual event that has been around for at least 20 years, said Fiesta Assn. Parade Chairman Bill Fielder. "It's all tongue-in-cheek. But it raises about $1,000 to $1,200," which helps pay for the two-week festival, Fielder said.
The event involves about 20 Fiesta Assn. members who don jeans, black vests, cowboy hats and pack toy rifles or pistols at their sides. They drive a pickup truck around town, loaded with a black cage big enough to hold at least five people. Anybody not dressed in Western clothes or not wearing the official "San Juan Capistrano, Smooth Puss" badge is suspect and can be tossed into jail.
The badges could have been purchased for $1 around town for the past couple of weeks. But on Friday, if the hoosegow brigade caught an unsuspecting victim without a badge, the price for getting out of jail doubled. People wearing Western attire but still not sporting the badge could still be arrested. "It just depends on how the sheriff feels at the time," Fiedler said.