Michael P. Fay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Michael Fay
Michael Peter Fay

(1975-05-30) May 30, 1975 (age 47)
OccupationCasino manager
Known forCaning in Singapore
Criminal chargeViolation of the Vandalism Act
Criminal penalty
  • Six strokes of the cane
  • Four months' imprisonment
  • A fine of S$3,500
Criminal statusReleased
  • George Fay (father)
  • Randy Chan[1] (mother)

Michael Peter Fay (born May 30, 1975) is an American who was sentenced to six strokes of the cane in Singapore in 1994 for theft of road signs and vandalizing 18 cars over a ten-day period in September 1993, which caused a temporary strain in relations between Singapore and the United States.[2] Fay pled guilty, but he later claimed that he was advised that such a plea would preclude caning and that his confession was false, that he never vandalized any cars, and that the only crime he committed was stealing road signs.

Although caning is a routine court sentence in Singapore, Fay's case garnered some controversy and was widely covered in the media in the United States, as it was believed to be the first judicial corporal punishment involving an American citizen.[3] The number of cane strokes in Fay's sentence was ultimately reduced from six to four after United States officials requested leniency. He was caned on May 5, 1994.

Early life[edit]

Fay was born in St. Louis, Missouri.[1] His mother, Randy, divorced his father, George, when he was eight.[1] As a child, he was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although Fay mostly lived with his father after the divorce, he later moved to Singapore to live with his mother and stepfather, Marco Chan, and was enrolled in the Singapore American School in Woodlands.[1]

Theft and vandalism in Singapore[edit]

In October 1993, The Straits Times, Singapore's main English-language newspaper, reported that car vandalism in Singapore was on the rise.[4] Fay and his friends damaged their neighbours' cars at apartment blocks with hot tar, paint remover, red spray paint, and hatchets, and had eggs pelted at them. Taxi drivers complained that their tires were slashed. In the city center, cars were found with deep scratches and dents. One man complained that he had to refinish his car six times in six months.[4]

The Singapore police eventually arrested 16-year-old Andy Shiu Chi Ho, a Chinese citizen from Hong Kong. He was not caught vandalizing cars, but was charged with driving his father's car without a license. After questioning Shiu, the police questioned several foreign students from the Singapore American School, including 18-year-old Fay, and charged them with more than 50 counts of vandalism.[4] Fay pleaded guilty to vandalizing the cars in addition to stealing road signs. He later maintained that he had been advised such a plea would preclude caning and that his confession was false, that he never vandalized any cars, and that the only crime he committed was stealing signs.[2][5]

Under the 1966 Vandalism Act, originally passed to curb the spread of political graffiti and which specifically penalized vandalism of government property,[1] Fay was sentenced on March 3, 1994, to four months in jail, a fine of S$3,500 (US$2,814 or £2,114 at the time), and six strokes of the cane.[6] Shiu, who pleaded not guilty, was sentenced to eight months in prison and 12 strokes of the cane.[7]

Fay's lawyers appealed, arguing that the Vandalism Act provided caning only for indelible forms of graffiti vandalism, and that the damaged cars had been cheaply restored to their original condition.[8]


Public reaction[edit]

Following Fay's sentence, the case received coverage by the American, Singaporean and international media.[9]

Some U.S. news outlets launched scathing attacks on Singapore's judicial system for what they considered an "archaic punishment", while others turned the issue into one of Singapore asserting "Asian values" towards "western decadence".[10] The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times ran editorials and op-eds condemning the punishment.[11] USA Today reported that caning involved "bits of flesh fly[ing] with each stroke."[12] It was claimed that the punishment had to be carried out by "trained warders holding high grades" in martial arts.[13]

However, Singapore also found supporters among the foreign media and the American public; a survey of 23,000 people conducted by the National Polling Network (now merged with the Pew Research Center) found that up to 60% "favored whipping and other harsh sentences as an acceptable deterrent to crime in the USA".[14] The support stemmed largely from an appreciation of Singapore's low-crime rate environment, and a belief that this was made possible by its strict laws. Some, including a number of U.S. legislators, even suggested that the U.S. could learn from Singapore and adopt caning in its sentences.[15]

From the United States government[edit]

Despite the widespread endorsement among Americans, the Clinton administration ultimately expressed its objection to Singapore's decision to cane Fay. The official position of the United States government was that although it recognized Singapore's right to punish Fay within the due process of law, the punishment of caning was "excessive" for a teenager who committed a non-violent crime.

On March 3, the day the sentence was passed, Chargé d'Affaires Ralph Boyce at the United States Embassy in Singapore had also said that the punishment was too severe for the offence.[16] The embassy claimed that, while the graffiti and physical damage to the cars was not permanent, caning could leave Fay with permanent physical scars.[1]

Bill Clinton, the then President of the United States, also called Fay's punishment "extreme" and "mistaken", and pressured the Singapore government to grant Fay clemency from caning. Two dozen United States senators signed a letter to the Singapore government also appealing for clemency.[17]

From the Singapore government[edit]

The Singapore government stood its ground and defended the sentence and the country's right to uphold its own laws. On March 3, in response to Boyce's comments on Fay's sentence, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that it was Singapore's tough laws that kept the country orderly and relatively crime-free, unlike "in cities like New York City, where even police cars are not spared the acts of vandals".[16] Various Singaporean ministers also spoke publicly about the case throughout the episode. In April during a local television program, Lee Kuan Yew, then Senior Minister, said that the U.S. was neither safe nor peaceful because it did not dare to restrain or punish those who did wrong, adding, "If you like it this way, that is your problem. But, that is not the path we choose".[3]

Nevertheless, on May 4 that year, the Singapore government via Ong Teng Cheong, then the country's President, announced that the number of cane strokes would be reduced from six to four out of consideration for President Clinton as it valued the good historical relations between both countries.[18] Shiu's sentence was later also reduced, from 12 strokes to six, after a similar clemency appeal. Fay was caned on May 5, 1994, at the Queenstown Remand Centre.[19][20]


Describing the caning day, Fay told Reuters he did not know the time had come for punishment when he was taken from his cell. He said he was bent over a trestle so his buttocks stuck out, with his hands and feet buckled to the structure. He was naked except for a protective rubber pad fixed to his back. The flogger, a doctor, and prison officials were also present.

Fay told Reuters the caner walked sharply forward three steps to build power. "They go 'Count one'—you hear them yell it really loud—and a few seconds later they come, I guess I would call it charging at you with a rattan cane." He noted that a prison officer guided him through the ordeal saying: "OK Michael, three left; OK Michael, two left; OK one more, you're almost done." Fay reported that when the fourth stroke was delivered he was immediately unbuckled from the trestle and taken to a cell to recover. The caning, which Fay estimated took one minute, left a "few streaks of blood" running down his buttocks, and seven weeks later, left three dark-brown scar patches on his right buttock and four lines each about half-an-inch wide on his left buttock. He said that the wounds hurt for about five days after which they itched as they healed. "The first couple of days it was very hard to sit," Fay reported, but he said he was able to walk after the caning.[21]


After his release from prison in June 1994, Fay returned to the United States to live with his biological father.[22] He gave several television interviews, including one with his American lawyer on CNN with Larry King on June 29, 1994, in which he admitted taking road signs but denied vandalizing cars.[23] While he did not detail his experience, he claimed that he was "ill-treated" at times during questioning, but had shaken hands with the caning operative after his four strokes had been administered and the prison guards when he was released.

Several months after returning to the United States, Fay suffered burns to his hands and face after a butane incident.[24][25][26] He was subsequently admitted to the Hazelden rehabilitation program for butane abuse.[24] He claimed that sniffing butane "made [him] forget what happened in Singapore."[27] In 1996, he was cited in Florida for a number of violations, including careless driving, reckless driving, not reporting a crash, and having an open bottle of alcohol in a car.[28] Later, in 1998, still in Florida, Fay was arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, charges to which he confessed but was acquitted[29] because of technical errors in his arrest.[30]

During an interview with China's CCTV in June 2004, Lee Kuan Yew, then Senior Minister of Singapore, said that Fay assaulted his father upon his return to the United States, which was suppressed by the American media.[31] In June 2010, Fay's case was recalled in international news, after another foreigner in Singapore, Swiss national Oliver Fricker, was sentenced to five months in jail and three strokes of the cane for trespassing a rail depot to vandalise a metro train that is a part of the country's Mass Rapid Transit.[32]

It was reported by a Singaporean news outlet in August 2018 that Fay was working as a casino manager in Cincinnati, Ohio.[33]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Oliver Fricker, who was sentenced to three strokes of the cane and seven months in jail in 2010 for a similar offence.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Reyes, Alejandro (May 25, 1994). "Rough Justice: A Caning in Singapore Stirs Up a Fierce Debate About Crime And Punishment". Asiaweek. Hong Kong. Archived from the original on May 11, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Shenon, Philip (March 16, 1994). "A Flogging Sentence Brings a Cry of Pain in U.S." The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 23, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Wallace, Charles P. (March 9, 1994). "Singapore Blasts Back at Clinton in Caning Case". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Tan Ooi Boon (October 7, 1993). "9 foreign students held for vandalism". The Straits Times. Singapore. p. 1.
  5. ^ "Cane teen says he's innocent". Daily News. New York. June 22, 1994.
  6. ^ Wallace, Charles P. (March 4, 1994). "Ohio Youth to be Flogged in Singapore". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008.
  7. ^ Stewart, Ian (April 22, 1994). "Flogging for vandal". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. Archived from the original on September 20, 2010.
  8. ^ Chong, Elena (April 1, 1994). "Fay loses appeal". The Straits Times. Singapore. Archived from the original on September 20, 2010.
  9. ^ Parascandola, Rocco (August 1994). "Singapore Hosts Some Most Unruly Guests". American Journalism Review. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved February 24, 2007.
  10. ^ Stone, Andrea (March 10, 1994). "Whipping penalty judged too harsh – by some". USA Today. Washington DC. Archived from the original on June 17, 2020.
  11. ^ "What US columnists say about Fay's caning". The Straits Times. Singapore. April 8, 1994. Archived from the original on September 20, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  12. ^ "Don't copy Singapore". USA Today. Washington DC. April 5, 1994. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009.
  13. ^ Raman, P.M. (September 13, 1974). "Branding the Bad Hats for Life". The Straits Times. Singapore. Archived from the original on May 7, 2020.
  14. ^ Royko, Mike (March 30, 1994). "Readers get 'behind' flogging of vandal". Daily News. New York. Archived from the original on June 17, 2020.
  15. ^ Usborne, David (April 2, 1994). "'Joe Public' backs caning of American". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on October 5, 2017.
  16. ^ a b Fawcett, Karen (March 9, 1994). "Americans in Singapore condemn caning for teen". USA Today. Washington DC. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2009.
  17. ^ Richardson, Michael (May 5, 1994). "Responding to Clinton's Plea, Singapore Cuts 6 Lashes to 4". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 9, 2017. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  18. ^ Branigin, William (May 5, 1994). "Singapore Reduces American's Sentence". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 8, 2015.
  19. ^ Wallace, Charles P. (June 22, 1994). "Singapore Frees Flogged U.S. Teen-Ager". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 13, 2016. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  20. ^ Shenon, Philip (May 6, 1994). "Singapore Carries Out Caning of U.S. Teenager". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 24, 2017.
  21. ^ Arkus, Michael (June 25, 1994). "Teen tells of scars in Singapore caning: Fay says Flogging Lasted about a minute". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on February 26, 2019. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  22. ^ "The Road From Singapore" Archived March 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Daily News, New York, June 22, 1994.
  23. ^ "Larry King Live" Archived March 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, CNN, June 29, 1994.
  24. ^ a b "Michael Fay," People Magazine, December 26, 1994, p. 60.
  25. ^ "Drug Rehab For Teen Caned in Singapore," Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1994, p. 14.
  26. ^ "The Nation," USA Today, Washington, D.C., September 29, 1994, p. 03A.
  27. ^ "Teen Punished in Singapore Has Drug Habit – Michael Fay Was Sniffing Butane," Times-Picayune, New Orleans, September 29, 1994, p. A24.
  28. ^ "Q&A," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 13, 2003, p. B2.
  29. ^ Boy Caned in Singapore Makes News Again Archived June 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine," Christian Science Monitor, Boston, April 9, 1998, p.18.
  30. ^ "Drug Charges Dropped," Asiaweek, Hong Kong, June 29, 1998, p. 1.
  31. ^ "Conversation with LKY (CCTV) Part 1/2 (June 2004)". Youtube. October 7, 2011. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  32. ^ "Graffiti man faces Singapore caning". BBC News. June 25, 2010. Archived from the original on June 28, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  33. ^ Venkat, Naveen (August 2, 2018). "Michael Fay Today". Must Share News. MS News. Archived from the original on February 24, 2019. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  34. ^ "SNL Transcripts – Michael Fay Caning". snltranscripts.jt.org. April 16, 1994. Archived from the original on September 2, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  35. ^ "Caning in Singapore Cold Open". NBC.com. NBCUniversal. May 25, 2015. Archived from the original on March 31, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2018. Mr. Fay. I have some good news, and bad news.
  36. ^ Yankovic, Alfred M. (November 14, 1994). "WONC 89.1 FM" (Interview). Interviewed by Chad Mitchell. Archived from the original on September 5, 2011. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  37. ^ Flackett, Chris (October 21, 2019). "Blinding in Hostile City: Tommy Dreamer, kayfabe, and The Sandman". SportsObsessive.com. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  38. ^ "The Larry Sanders Show (1992) s03e09 Episode Script | SS". Springfield! Springfield!.
  39. ^ https://genius.com/Dr-dre-and-ice-cube-natural-born-killaz-lyrics Archived June 5, 2019, at the Wayback Machine Natural Born Killaz lyrics
  40. ^ Mirkin, David (2005). The Simpsons season 6 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart vs. Australia" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]