- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

Nobles: Peter Benchley, a writer whose imagination still captivates — and terrifies — all who venture into the deep.

Considering how many would-be ocean swimmers Mr. Benchley must have deterred from the water, one might be inclined to place the author of “Jaws” into the Knave category. Rarely has a work of fiction touched so powerfully on one of humanity’s greatest fears, as unreasonable as that fear might be. But that’s precisely why a writer of Mr. Benchley’s talent deserves recognition for lifetime achievement. He set out to scare the pants off readers and succeeded to the tune of 20 million copies sold since 1974.

Then, of course, there was the film with its signature score that became an instant blockbuster and cinematic classic — no doubt helped along by Mr. Benchley’s screenplay. The movie premiered in the summer of 1975 and is credited for giving America the perennial “summer blockbuster,” not to mention Hollywood’s less notable habit for producing tawdry sequels. (“Jaws” had three.)

His place in Americana secured, Mr. Benchley continued to write and even became known as a staunch shark conservationist. He died Feb. 11 at 65.

For creating a masterpiece of horror, Mr. Benchley is the Noble of the week.

Knaves: The Spotsylvania County sheriff’s office in Virginia, for moonlighting at the Moon Spa.

Sometime criminal investigations require the investigators to engage in otherwise illegal activity. But how hard is it to compile evidence of a prostitution ring being run out of a massage parlor without partaking of the parlor’s offerings? According to Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard Smith, that’s the only way to do it. “If I thought we could get the conviction without that, we wouldn’t allow it,” he told The Washington Post. “This has to be done.”

As The Post reported, during several visits to the Moon Spa last month, Spotsylvania detectives acted as patrons on four occasions. On one occasion, a detective left his “masseuse” a $350 tip.

Of course concerned citizens must wonder if that tip money came from the officer’s own pocket or was it a gift from the office? In either case, that’s taxpayer money.

The sheriff’s further claim that this kind of behavior is similar to buying drugs from a dealer doesn’t wash. An undercover detective doesn’t have to use the drugs to get a conviction, nor should one have to go through with the sex act to prove prostitution.

For defending the indefensible, the Spotsylvania County sheriff’s office is the Knave of the week.

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