Crazy Taxi is a name given to a group of four cabbies who on July 8th, 1999 went on a rampage in San Francisco, killing 23 people (most notably, famous punk rock bands The Offspring and Bad Religion) and causing $3.21 million of damage to various businesses and public areas. The subsequent trial is well known to be a media circus and is considered by some officials as the "top story of 1999." The name "Crazy Taxi" was given to the group by journalist Stephen Colbert during the trial coverage.
The "Crazy Taxi" incident began at 9:55 am, when cabbies Axel, B.D. Joe, Gena, and Gus started their "shift." After misinterpreting the phrase "you're on the clock" to mean "you need to get the most money you can in a specified time limit, depending on the color around the customer while blaring 'All I Want' by The Offspring," the four assumed that they could ignore all traffic laws and disregard human life.
Within ten minutes, all four were surrounded by 241 members of the San Francisco SWAT team. After firing 3200 warning shots, the "Crazy Taxis" were taken into custody to await trial.
The story first appeared on CNN at 10:03 am, with other news stations soon following suit. Eventually, coverage was put on all major network stations, interupting morning broadcast shows and rising protests out of stay-at-home moms across the country. Journalist Stephen Colbert, one of the first reporters on the scene, provided iconic commentary for MSNBC:
"Get out of the way, get out of the way! Get this, Charlie, get this, Charlie! (unintelligible) [The Taxi]'s crashing! It's a Crazy Taxi! Oh, my! Get out of the way, please! It's burning, bursting into flames and it's falling on the mooring mast, and all the folks between. Oh, this is terrible. This is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world! (unintelligible) Oh, four to five hundred feet down the street. It's a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen, it's smoke and it's flames, now, and Pizza Hut(c) is crashing to the ground, not quite to the parking lot. Oh, the humanity, and all the people screaming around here! I told you, I can't even talk to people (unintelligible) I can't talk, ladies and gentlemen. Listen, folks, I'm gonna have to stop for a minute because this was the... the worst thing I've ever witnessed."
The four were arrested and held in Folsom State Pennitentary, pending trial.
The Trial was held nearly four months later in Los Angeles County Courthouse in order to escape the strong feelings for the case in the San Francisco Bay Area. Evidence brought into the trial included a DNA sample of an unidentified member of the Offspring, Colbert's broadcast, and a Bloody Glove.
Although the trial was closed to members of the press, intreped and inventive journalists snuck in anyway. This caused the public to be innundated with the trial; some Americans started to believe that this was, in fact, the so-called "Trial of the Century."
The trial is also well known for the use of the "Hold It!" defence by lawyer Johnnie Cochran. Based on evidence collected at the scene, Cochran proposed that not a single victim told them to stop their actions, thus bringing it upon themselves; hence, "Hold It!" This inspired the catch phrase, "If they didn't scream Hold It!, you must acquit!."
After a twelve week trial, presiding judge William Reinhold declared that all four cabbies were guilty. They were sentenced to life in prison.
Jailtime and Barbara Walters "Apology" Interview
The Crazy Taxis were sent once again to Folsom Prison for their crimes, and were forgotten to antiquity when some old guy cheated on his wife. Thus, the four were forgotten...until 2004, when Barbara Walters decided to boost the ratings of her poorly received news show by doing an emotionally charged and riveting interview with the four. Here is a transcribed portion of it:
- Ms. Walters: You helped to kill 23 people, including the members of Offspring and Bad Religion.
- Axel: Yes.
- Ms. Walters: Do you regret it?
- Axel: Hell no! They all sucked!
- Ms. Walters: Listen carefully to me Axel...do you regret it?
- Axel: Oh...this is when you told me to cry, right?
- Ms. Walters: Yes.
- Axel: (begins to cry) Every day, Barbara. Every day.
- Ms. Walters: We can edit that in post, right? Good.
The interview garnered Ms. Walters an Emmy for "Best Interview," "Best News Show in the 1-Hour Format" and Axel an Emmy for "Best Acting in a Cameo Role." Tapes of the interview are now shown as examples of exemplary journalism to college students.
As a direct result of the interview, the four were paroled within a year. B.D. Joe has since rejoined the brotherhood of cabbies. Gena married a rich millionare who died under mysterious circumstances. Axel has moved into acting, using his notoriety to land such parts as "Frightened Inmate Number 2" and "Secondary Host of Fox's Sex Island."
And what of Gus? Gus has committed suicide in 2006, hanging himself in his boarding house appartment. According to his suicide note, he was unable to "adapt to the new world" outside the prison walls.
Their story has since been made into a video game called, incidentally, Crazy Taxi