The Office: A Moroccan Christmas with a Dash of Kidnapping
As many of you might already know, NBC’s classic comedy, The Office, is being removed from Netflix on January 1, 2021 (insert Michael Scott gif yelling “No! God! Please, no!”). While we, like many of you, will no longer be able to binge our favorite show, we thought a proper tribute was in order. In honor of one of our favorite shows, and the upcoming Christmas season, we found it appropriate to examine one of The Office’s Christmas episodes, “Moroccan Christmas” (Season 5, Episode 11). As you may have guessed from the title of this blog, we wanted to look into Michael Gary Scott’s criminal liability for attempting to take Meredith Palmer to rehab, against her will.
As fans of the show will know, and those who have not will soon find out, Michael Scott is not your typical boss. When one of his employees, Meredith, gets too intoxicated at their Moroccan Christmas party and lights her hair on fire (in the words of Phyllis Vance, this is not your grandmother’s Christmas party) Michael decides to take matters into his own hands. After failing to perform a proper intervention during the Christmas Party, Michael decides it is up to him save Meredith. Michael’s genius plan? Trick Meredith into thinking he is taking her to a local bar, and instead, drop her off at an alcohol treatment facility. Long story short, it does not go well. Meredith refuses to enter rehab, and after Michael attempts to drag her into the facility, he is told she can only enter on her own free will.
After much thought on the subject, our question is whether Michael kidnapped Meredith under Minnesota law, and if so, what would the consequences be? Kidnapping is defined under Minnesota Statute § 609.25 as confining or removing someone from one place to another, without the person’s consent, for purposes of: 1) to hold for ransom or reward for release, or as shield or hostage, 2) to facilitate commission of any felony or flight thereafter, 3) to commit great bodily harm or to terrorize the victim or another, or 4) to hold in involuntary servitude. If a person is found guilty of kidnapping, the sentence will depend on whether the victim was released in a safe place without great bodily harm. If so, a person will be sentenced to up to 20 years and may face a fine up to $35,000. If the victim is not released in a safe place, the victim suffers great bodily harm during the kidnapping, or the victim is under the age of 16, a person could be sentenced up to 40 years and face a fine of up to $50,000.
Michael certainly took Meredith without her consent, once she found out where Michael was taking her, she attempted to exit Michael’s vehicle. However, Michael’s behavior does not appear to fall into one of the four categories required by the kidnapping statute. While Michael’s behavior may have terrorized Meredith, and she may feel that working for Michael is involuntary servitude, we doubt that Michael could be found guilty under the kidnapping statute.
While Michael may not be guilty of kidnapping, Michael would likely face criminal liability under Minnesota Statute § 609.255 for False Imprisonment. False imprisonment requires that an individual, who knowingly lacks authority, confine or restrain a person without the person’s consent. Clearly, Michael fits this definition. Michael had no authority, even though he would disagree, to unilaterally take Meredith to an alcohol treatment facility against her will. Michael could be sentenced to up to 5 years and pay a fine of up to $5,000.00.
For another Christmas blog that dealt with kidnapping and false imprisonment, as well as several other crimes, check out our blog, “Christmas Vacation” which examined Cousin Eddie’s liability in the film Christmas Vacation.