The saga of Pine Lawn and its mayor, Sylvester Caldwell, reads like cautionary tale of corruption and petty tyranny in St. Louis' north county. Though the municipality is tiny -- just six-tenths of a square mile -- Pine Lawn's track record of official misconduct has given it a toxic reputation among many residents and neighboring towns. It's a reputation Caldwell has nurtured during his nearly ten-year run as mayor.
On Monday, Caldwell interrupted his own trial in federal court to plead guilty on separate counts of extortion and attempted extortion. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Caldwell's guilty plea came days after a jury saw a recording of him shaking down Eduard Shapshovich, owner of Eddie's Towing in Wellston, by demanding a series of payouts via coded messages about "green Mountain Dew in a cup."