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October 2004


8 October 2004

In his trailer home in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Leroy Brown accused his wife of having an extramarital affair. He held up the trousers that he claimed she had worn during the affair, then set them alight. The police report that Brown dropped the trousers when he burned his fingers. The mobile home was engulfed in flames. Brown was being held on arson charges while prosecutors reviewed the case.

Illinois's David Wroten wanted to register for an online dating service without paying the $39.99 membership fee himself, so he gave the agency someone else's bank account number. The 20-year-old Wroten allegedly obtained the account number from a cheque he'd received for the amount left in his jail account when he finished serving a sentence for theft. The bank stopped the transfer from the jail's account. Sheriff Robert Hertz said Wroten's arrest was made easier by the fact that a photo is required in order to register to use the dating service.

When cafeteria workers at a private elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, ran out of milk for children aged nine to 11, they looked for a substitute drink in the kitchen. They found some: drinks left over from a Mexican-style dinner held at the school. Each of the children was given a little margarita in a cup. In a letter to parents, Principal Alexander Harvey IV later said 'We ask the students to be honest and admit their mistakes, and we should do the same', according to the Washington Post.

A 27-year-old Edmond, Oklahoma, man wanted to impress his wife. Police spokeswoman Glynda Chu said the man asked a juvenile and an 18-year-old to pose as burglars and tie up his wife while he was out of the house. He told the pair this was part of a practical joke, and they went through with it. When the man returned home, he chased away the two males in ski masks, hitting one of them with a two-by-four. One of the 'bad guys' later told his parents what had happened, and they in turn contacted the police. The homeowner explained to police that he'd wanted his 31-year-old wife to consider him a hero. No arrests were made.

A man in Decatur, Illinois, has been arrested for borrowing videotapes from the public library and then recording pornographic clips between the closing credits and the end of the tape. He had edited more than 250 tapes in this way before returning them. He is being charged with criminal damage to property and defacing library materials.

Sgt. A.D. Beasley said things got out of hand in an argument between Jackie Lee Shrader, 49, and son Harley Lee Shrader, 24, of Bluewell, West Virginia. They were arguing over how to cook chicken. Detective Sgt. A.D. Beasley said 'It started out as a physical confrontation, but it escalated until both of them were shooting at each other'. A bullet went through the top of the younger man's right ear and into the back of his head. He was treated and released from the hospital. His father was unharmed.

Police in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, say a shopper at the Giant supermarket was in a self-checkout lane when she ordered the clerk to fetch lemonade and iced tea for her. The clerk explained that she wasn't allowed to leave her post at the register. Police say a second woman, a friend of the first, then entered the shop and asked the first to hurry up. The first told her friend that the clerk wouldn't help her, so the friend hit the clerk and placed her in a headlock. Other customers separated the women. The customer and her friend escaped, but the police say they expect to make arrests.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Jewel of the Seas displayed a surprise for passengers when they arrived at Saint John, New Brunswick. When they left the ship, they saw a dead whale impaled on the bow. The Coast Guard towed the dead 60-foot-long finback whale out to sea later in the day. Finbacks, according to area whale researcher Laurie Murison, collide with ships fairly frequently.

California's Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished Judge Joseph O'Flaherty for urging jurors to lie under certain circumstances. In cases with black and Iranian defendants, he told jurors 'I recognize that most people in today's world don't want to raise their hand and say "I am a bigot" or "I'm a racist", so [...] I'm going to give you permission to lie' and 'do whatever you have to do to get off the jury' in order to ensure that the defendant receives a fair trial. The commission's 20-page decision said 'White lies, limited lying, carefully defined permissible lying are at the edge of a slippery slope that we decline to even approach.' O'Flaherty said in an interview that he made a legal error but 'I do not feel in any way that it brought down the image of the judiciary'.

The Statesman of Calcutta reports that all 11 staff members of the Rajendra Memorial High School in West Champaran have been fired. When Bihar School Examination Board Chairman Subhash Sharma conducted an unannounced inspection of the facility in eastern India, he found only three teachers there. These men explained that they had been working there as 'dummy teachers' since 1981. Most of the students listed as attending the school didn't exist. The full staff had been showing up only twice each year, to register their presence on occasions of national importance.

Colin Paul Roth of Close Hill, Redruth, in Cornwall, noticed that a water trough on his farm had been moved and filled with manure. Tissues were scattered around the area. He then saw human handprints and a bumprint in the manure. This was not the first occasion on which Roth had found manure and tissues in odd locations, so he contacted the police. At night, the cops caught Roth's neighbour, 35-year-old David Roy Truscott, sneaking onto the farm. The scantily clad Truscott had women's clothing and lighters in a bag with him. He explained to police that he enjoys climbing into a manure spreader to masturbate. He cleans himself with tissues afterward. As for the lighters, Truscott likes fire as well. He admitted to setting at least three fires in connection with his manure escapades. Several farm buildings were destroyed in the blazes, and a cow died of smoke inhalation.

At the recent opening of a library in Livermore, California, several people noticed a problem with the $40,000 ceramic mural in front: 11 of the 175 names of historical figures had been misspelled. The errors include 'Eistein', 'Gaugan', 'Van Gough', and 'Michaelangelo'. The artist, Maria Alquilar, said she would be willing to fix the work for $6,000 plus expenses, to which the city agreed, but she added that there had been lots of people around during the installation of the mural who should have noticed the errors. Of those who complained that Alquilar didn't notice these when creating the work or in the two years between its completion and installation, she said 'The importance of this work is that it is supposed to unite people. They are denigrating my work and the purpose of this work.' She added 'Anyway, the mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan.'

France's Hicham Dequiedt said the electronic cruise control on his Renault Vel Satis must have stuck as he was overtaking a truck in motorway traffic between Vierzon and Riom. The 29-year-old man rang the police on his mobile 'phone to report that he was barrelling down the road at 200 kph and couldn't cut the ignition because the car has a magnetic card rather than a key. Dequiedt said the brakes didn't respond. He said 'I avoided one car after another by flashing my lights at them', while marquees above the roadway bore warnings about his vehicle. When a toll booth began looming large in his windscreen, he stomped on the brakes - as hard as he could this time. They brought the car to a halt.
Renault have expressed doubt about Dequiedt's story of a 200-km involuntary journey. They say their engineers inspected the 40,000-euro vehicle and found nothing wrong with it.

Thomas Patrick Remo opened a free women's health clinic in Cedar Hill, Texas, and set up his office in a storage unit. At least three women who responded to his advertisement for free gynaecological services were displeased enough with what happened next that they reported him to the authorities. The 50-year-old Remo, who used the names Dr. Jim Patrick and Dr. Brian Jones in the adverts, was arrested for practising medicine without a licence after an undercover investigator visited Remo's well-appointed medical office.

A renovation contractor working at Hong Kong's DBS Bank hauled away 837 empty safe-deposit boxes to a junkyard for scrap. They were due to be replaced with larger ones. After employees at the bank realised that 83 non-empty safe-deposit boxes had also been removed, they visited the scrap heap to recover as much smashed jewellery, cash, and paperwork as they could from the now-compressed safe-deposit boxes. Bank executives said they will repay their angry customers for the loss of their most valued possessions, but spokeswoman Catherine Ong said it could be quite difficult to figure out what was in the boxes and determine whether the victims' claims are accurate.

Louisiana's Barbette Williams, 48, may have been trying to back up his insanity plea when he attacked his public defender in court just before closing statements were to start. Williams used a razor blade to slash the forehead and neck of lawyer Bert Garraway, who then visited the hospital.
It is unclear how the razor made it into the courthouse. Earlier in the trial, Williams had threatened to shoot the judge, the prosecutor, and Garraway.
Williams had pleaded not guilty, by reason of insanity, to kidnapping a six-year-old boy from a kindergarten classroom and trying to murder him. After a 12-hour standoff with police, during which he used the boy as a shield, Williams released the child.

Pastor Curtis Lucas was pulled over for not having a front licence plate on his motor vehicle. The officer asked him to sign the ticket, and the Texas minister refused. He now says that if he could go back in time, he would not have followed up by biting the officer's finger. Lucas was sentenced to two years in prison, but this has been reduced to community service, fines, probation, and attendance of an anger management programme.

Firefighters in Magnolia, Arkansas, give children hands-on training in how to escape a burning building. Their teaching aid is a portable house, into which they pump non-toxic smoke. They began towing the building to an elementary school without realising that new, lower electrical lines had been installed along the route since their previous visit. The house caught one of these, pulling it away from Cassie Farrar's home, which promptly caught fire. Because a live line came down on the pumper truck that was following the house down the road, other firefighters had to be summoned to put out the blaze. Officials said a mixup in directions resulted in further delays. Farrar's dog died of smoke inhalation, and her house was extensively damaged, Fire Chief Herschel Hampton said.

Joel Manley, a spokesman for the Clackamas County, Oregon, Sheriff's Office, reported that a 17-year-old student at Wilsonville High School handed a note and some money to teacher Matthew Courtney. The note said the student had accepted drug orders and had to go to Arizona and California to pick up shipments. It explained that Courtney would be rich if he simply altered attendance records for the duration of the drug run. Courtney alerted the principal, and the student was arrested. Police are investigating whether or not this was a prank.

In Sweden, Left Party deputy Gudrun Schyman went on the radio to explain a new tax proposed by a group of parliamentarians. Schyman said 'We must have a discussion where men understand they as a group have a responsibility' regarding the problem of male violence against women. The new tax, which will soon be debated, would be imposed on men to cover the social cost of this violence.

Gloria Ent of York, Pennsylvania, was rolling along a sidewalk in her wheelchair when a man in a passing vehicle grabbed her handbag. She told the police that her bag had contained $2,500 for a new bedroom suite for her son. Three days later, she was asked to come to the station, as police had caught one of the men involved in the crime. When she and her husband, Clarence, arrived, he was taken in for questioning. He told police he had asked a friend to steal her handbag because he didn't want her to find out that he had already stolen some of the money in it, to support his return to the crack cocaine habit he had abandoned 14 years earlier. Following his arrest, she said 'He can rot in jail until the day he dies as far as I'm concerned'.

On Tuesday, three people were injured when a commuter ferry ran into the pier at its destination, Suomenlinna, just outside downtown Helsinki. The captain, who had run this route for over 10 years, had forgotten to turn off the autopilot. Jorma Salopelto said 'we discussed carefully that he would be more sharp in the future - he did not manage it'. On Thursday, he made the same mistake again. No-one was injured, but the pier was demolished when the boat ran ashore. The ferry company said the captain had not been drinking. He has been suspended.

An 11-year-old California girl got into an argument with the 34-year-old child-minder over the specifics of feeding a dog. The argument escalated, and the girl began beating and choking the animal. When the child-minder intervened, the girl tried to attack the woman with a shovel and then a baseball bat. The child-minder wrested a BB gun from the child's grip but retreated to the loo, along with the girl's 12-year-old sister, when the angry child grabbed a machete. She later dropped the machete and fled on a bicycle. Sgt. Doug Hubbard of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said she was arrested about an hour later and booked for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon.

Iowa's Ronald Preston McPike received a parking ticket, which he decided to pay in $1 notes. The envelope in which he sent the money and the ticket was helpfully labelled 'foreign brown substance on bills'. It was quickly determined that the substance was faecal matter. McPike, a 52-year-old psychiatrist, has been charged with harassment of a public official. He pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanour charge, explaining that the money had simply fallen into a toilet prior to the payment.

17 October 2004

Ghita Axinte from Pascani, Romania, said he was so angry at the national football team for losing their World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic that he threw his television set out the window. Neighbour Radu Demergiu said he was shaken up when the television crashed onto his balcony just below, narrowly missing him and his brother. However, Demergiu decided not to press charges against the 43-year-old Axinte, saying 'When he told me he had been watching the football, I completely understood'.

William Tracy, a 62-year-old man from Andover, Massachusetts, says he was sitting at a picnic table, taking a break from picking apples, when a family sitting at the table sprayed him with apple cider, staining his shirt. The family claim the offender was a two-year-old girl who didn't know any better and that Tracy overreacted by throwing his cup of coffee at the group and walking away. Tracy says he was upset that the family were laughing at him. His lawyer says he retaliated with a cola drink, not with coffee. Tracy is facing charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

The New York Daily News reports that 15-year-old Aaron Clark was upset at his mother, Gail, because she scolded him after his 19-year-old girlfriend, mother of two Sinia James, stayed in the family home overnight. His solution was to stab his mother to death with a kitchen knife. After he bought latex gloves, bags, mops, and bleach to aid in disposal of the body, James rang the police. Aaron was caught after he drove to an area park in his mother's car and dug a grave there. After his arrest, Aaron said 'Yeah, I'm sorry'.
Friends and neighbours described Gail as a hard-working corrections officer who brought her son $300 worth of gifts almost daily. Police said Aaron, who has a drug problem and has been expelled from school, was violent to his mother on many prior occasions and that she had decided not to report them. After he'd tried to sell his mother's service revolver, she kept it in a locked safe. While she lay dying, he forced her to reveal the lock's combination.

A 53-year-old man was pulled over in Stockholm for 'swerving all over the road', according to Bjorn Ohlin of the Flemingsberg police. The car was impounded, and the man was given a blood alcohol test at the station and fined. After he was set free, he took a taxi to where his car had been left. Ohlin said 'when a patrol car was on the way to the site to help tow the car, it blew past them in the other direction'. In the ensuing chase, Ohlin swerved into a ditch, rolling the car. He was treated in hospital for minor injuries.

Hong Kong's Lau Yat-fai took two health centres to court after they left him no closer to achieving his goal of basketball stardom. The 23-year-old delivery worker, who is about 175 cm tall, underwent treatments that were supposed to make him taller. He said he spent the equivalent of 10 months' pay on the treatments, which involve electrical currents, massage, and wrapping of the knees in hot blankets. Lau settled with the centres for a partial refund and 20 more treatments.

A 13-year-old Belmont, New Hampshire, boy rang the police to report that his mother was stabbing his 10-year-old brother in the arm with a kitchen knife. The boys' mother, Jacqueline Weiner, was drunk and upset that the two boys had destroyed her favourite cuddly toy. The boys' stepfather, Steven, allegedly held the child down during the stabbing.
When the police arrived, Steven was backing out of the driveway in a pickup truck, in which the 10-year-old boy was the passenger. In addition to the knife wounds, officers found welts on the boy's right temple and human bites all over his body. The boy initially told officers that he had fallen off his bike. Jacqueline, 36, told the police that the blood on her shirt, jeans, and hand was from a nosebleed. Police Corporal William Wright said she then changed her story and explained that she paints for a living and that the red substance was paint. Both children are reportedly in state custody.

The Des Moines Register adds to our collection of stories about crimes involving lawnmowers with its report that Scott Limbrecht of Caroll, Iowa, decided to drive his riding lawnmower a block and a half to the petrol station to refuel it. The 44-year-old Limbrecht was riding back to his mother's yard, going 5 mph on the sidewalk, when a police officer saw him. The officer knew that Limbrecht's driving licence had been revoked, so he waited for Limbrecht to cross the street on the mower, then arrested him. Limbrecht accuses the police of going for an easy arrest rather than more worthwhile targets.

Reinaldo Silvestre asked one of his patients to film him operating on a male bodybuilder because he'd never dealt with pectoral implants before. Police Captain Charles Press said the patient 'ended up with female breast implants'. The tape of the Florida surgery shows Silvestre jamming C-cup implants into the patient's chest, according to police, who then managed to lose track of Silvestre after charging him in 1999 with permanently disfiguring at least three patients, practising medicine without a license, and using the animal tranquiliser Ketamine for anaesthesia. Silvestre, now 63, was recently found working at a hospital in Belize City and teaching at a nearby medical university, where he was coaching medical students on how to pass licensing exams.

David R. Dickinson of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, gave a middle-finger salute to the fire chief of the Borough of Sewickley, who was holding up traffic when Dickinson was in a hurry. Dickinson was cited for disorderly conduct after he later refused to apologise. His lawyer, Harlan Stone, describes the gesture as protected free speech because it was meant as an insult rather than as a threat or incitement of violence. The borough's insurance company has paid Dickinson and Stone $9000 to settle the lawsuit they brought against the borough and the officer who issued the citation.

The Denver Post reports that Colorado State University student Samantha Spady, 19, was found dead of alcohol poisoning in a frat house lounge by a member of the fraternity who was giving a tour. Her blood alcohol level was .43 per cent. Her family were quoted as saying that 'one mistake' that was a 'terrible accident' killed the 19-year-old Spady. Reporters disputing this claim noted that Spady had posted photos on her Web site that showed her drinking and had captions such as 'Drunkass me'. A family spokesman said Spady's relatives had seen her Web site but not the photos. According to the administrator of an online forum where Spady posted, she wrote the day before she died 'fact: I'm also going to get extremely wasted this weekend'. Spady had worked as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education volunteer.

Milwaukee police spokesman Sgt. Ken Henning said that a 32-year-old woman came to her neighbour's door, asking her if she wanted to buy some property for $10. The neighbour asked for more details, and the visitor replied that the property was her baby. The heavily intoxicated mother left but returned a few minutes later with her six-day-old baby. The neighbour slammed the door, then rang the police, Henning said.
Officers said they found the woman's apartment littered with spoiled food. There was no refrigerator or stove. The baby and another child, a one-year-old girl, were placed in foster homes. Denise Revels Robinson, director of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, said she understands that the woman has three other children, who are living outside Wisconsin with relatives.

Police in Aachen stopped a 42-year-old man in a routine traffic check. They noticed that the man was drunk and had one of his feet in a cast. He was taken to the police station straight away. According to police spokesman Michael Houba, 'a court will decide how long the driver loses his licence for. Whoever drives a car has to make sure he is fit to do so.'

US Customs officers found 27 kilos of marijuana in the petrol tank of a Nissan Pathfinder in San Ysidro, California, and they seized the vehicle. Francisco Rivera of Tijuana, Mexico, won the sport utility vehicle at the seized property auction. Mexican officers at a checkpoint later stopped Rivera and discovered the marijuana, which hadn't been removed from the tank. Rivera was sentenced to five years in prison. After a year, he was released on an appeal. He sued the US government. US District Judge Rudi Brewster has ruled that the Customs inspectors were negligent for not noticing the drugs but also noted that the US government is generally considered exempt from paying out when the harm to the plaintiff occurs outside the US.

Authorities in the Philippines said on Monday that they have seized more than 900 weapons, including knives, improvised guns and machetes, and swords, from the country's most dangerous criminals, who are confined to the national penitentiary compound in Muntinlupa. Bureau of Corrections Director Vicente Vinarao said he had ordered a thorough investigation of the facility after its electricity bill increased substantially, out of line with President Arroyo's order for all government offices to save on energy. He did find out why so much electricity was being used: 'along with the ... assorted weapons, we also confiscated almost 100 televisions, mostly 29 inches' and other electronic goods. He said most of the flat-screen TVs, DVD players, and hi-fis were found among convicted drug smugglers, who were also discovered using mobile 'phones to carry out business from jail.

In a follow-up on a story I ran in 2002, 15-year veteran public defender Theresa Olson has now appeared at a Washington State Bar Association disciplinary hearing to explain what she and client Sebastian Burns were caught doing in a jailhouse meeting room in 2002. Olson, 45, said she had developed romantic feelings for Burns, convicted of murdering a friend's family, and she called the incident 'a hug gone bad'. Her lawyer said Olson had 'absolutely no idea' that Burns had pulled down his trousers when hugging her from behind as she leaned over a table. Four witnesses, including two guards, say it looked more like sex to them. While Olson has admitted that sexual contact occurred, the hearing has yet to determine if either sexual relations or sexual intercourse, both of which are prohibited in attorney/client relationships, took place.

26 October 2004

Our first story takes us to Poland, where mortuaries in Lodz allegedly paid emergency workers to provide inside information on fresh deaths. Two doctors and two ambulance workers have been charged with increasing the kickbacks by increasing the number of deaths. The doctors face charges for allegedly letting a total of 19 patients die, then accepting bribes from undertakers. A 35-year-old ambulance worker apparently went a little further, killing four patients by injecting them with a muscle relaxant. Judicial spokeswoman Malgorzata Glapska-Dudkiewicz said the investigation is being expanded to include thousands of deaths in Lodz in recent years, and other cities have begun investigations into kickbacks from undertakers.

Our second item, submitted by a reader, is set in Tralee, south-west Ireland, where police said a homeowner discovered a corpse hanging from the outside frame of a bathroom window. Officers said they believe the man fell when he was standing on a lawnmower in order to reach the window for burglary purposes. The body of the man, from Limerick, was suspended by a hook that had caught on his jumper.

During a child-minding gone wrong, a three-year-old Pittsburgh boy, Tre'tavion Currie, found his uncle and godmother's cocaine and methamphetamine stash under the bathroom sink. The uncle, 26-year-old Elijah Curry, said the boy ingested the contents of one or more plastic bags of drugs while he and wife Sheila Mollique were taking drugs in another room. After finding the boy unconscious the next morning, Mollique, Tre'tavion's 33-year-old godmother, carried him around for several hours, attending a birthday party, shopping, and repeatedly denying a friend's requests to ring emergency services on behalf of the boy, who was suffering muscle spasms. Curry later told police that the delay was because he and Mollique 'didn't want to get in trouble'.
Witnesses report that strangers gathered around Mollique at a cheque-cashing business to enquire after the boy's health. When she fed him corn, he ground his teeth so hard that pieces of them broke off.
After Mollique finally returned the child to his mother, Dana Currie, he was taken to hospital. Doctors determined that brain damage has left him unable to speak or eat, and that he had been beaten recently. Mollique, who along with her husband has been charged with one count of felony child abuse, wrote that she was 'not guilty at all' and did not keep drugs in her house.

A man in Cordele, Georgia, had a clever idea after watching the global warming disaster film Day After Tomorrow: setting fire to pillows on his bed. Charles Alton Adams was perhaps aided in formulating this idea by nine or ten cans of beer. The next morning, he walked into the county law enforcement office and explained that he had burned down his double-wide trailer home. Crisp County Sheriff Donnie Haralson said he still wasn't sure quite why Adams did what he did, adding 'The whole thing just doesn't really make sense'. Adams has been charged with arson.

Joseph Stenson, a tenured chemistry professor at Pennsylvania's Delaware Valley College, had intended to email just one person. Instead he sent all members of staff a message that made reference to child porn and 'boy bottoms'. A security officer who was on the distribution list contacted the police, and the 61-year-old Stenson was arrested. Stenson sent out an apology for the message, but that didn't prevent an investigation. He was charged with 490 counts of possession of child pornography. Police chief Stephen White said that Stenson, after being arrested, 'was more embarrassed about sending the email than he was about possessing the child pornography'.

A reader sent in an item about Beverly Mitchell of Douglasville, Georgia, who returned from a 2 1/2-week holiday in Greece to find an unfamiliar car in the driveway of her ranch home. She contacted the police, who found 54-year-old Beverly Valentine living in the home. Valentine initially told the police she was renting the home. In Valentine's car was $23,000 worth of Mitchell's jewellery. She was wearing Mitchell's clothes but apparently was less thrilled with the homeowner's interior decorating: she was repainting a room and replacing the pictures on the walls. The electricity had been transferred to Valentine's name. The police let Mitchell dispose of Valentine's washer and dryer, whose fate Valentine said she didn't care about.

At Arizona's Greenfield Junior High School, two girls were decorating for a school dance when they decided to inhale the balloon-inflation helium to hear themselves 'talk funny'. The girls were suspended for five days for breaking the school district's rules on non-medical use of drugs, including inhaled drugs. The father of one of the girls said 'If it's such a dangerous substance, why weren't they supervised? I think they went a little bit overboard and took the zero-tolerance policy to the extreme.' In the end, Principal Jill Bowers compromised and reduced the suspension to one day in duration.

In Kakogawa, Japan, 57-year-old librarian Katsuhiro Ono admonished 60-year-old Katsuhiko Maekawa for being loud in the library. Maekawa, who had been drinking, left the library with a threat that he would 'remember' Ono. He walked the three kilometres to his home, grabbed a knife, and returned to the library. Ono suffered a severe stab wound in the attack that followed. Maekawa then left the library and sat on a bench outside, where police found him. After his arrest, Maekawa explained that 'I was frustrated that he told me off'.

On the first week of school, Delaware school-bus driver Samantha Hall showed off some pictures of her boyfriend to two teenagers on her bus. The photos, taken with a mobile 'phone cum camera, were of Hall's boyfriend naked. The teenagers reported the incident a few weeks later. Hall has been charged with misdemeanour endangering the welfare of a child.

Donald Rugg explained to the Pennsylvania state police that he shot his girlfriend in the arm by accident when he was trying to hit a mouse in his apartment. After Rugg fired his .22-calibre pistol at the rodent, his victim was taken to hospital, where she was reported to be in fair condition. Authorities say that Rugg will not be charged in connection with the shooting, but they also pointed out that firing guns indoors is generally not a good idea.

Indiana's Jared J. Bailey, 20, was sent to jail for forgery, but he didn't want to stay there. So, according to investigators, he forged the signature of Judge Douglas R. Bridges on a fake court order changing his bail from $100,000 to $500 cash. Bailey's former roommate told the police that Bailey asked him to fax the bogus but genuine-looking paperwork to Bailey's attorney. He accidentally used the wrong 'phone number and sent the fax to the jail instead. Perhaps in part because the fax was sent from a Kinko's photocopy shop, jailers opted not to release Bailey, who now faces additional felony counts of forgery. His bond has been raised to $250,000.

Argentina's Julian Perez Dorrego was caught urinating on the steps of the MALBA museum (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires). A lawyer, he appealed his community service sentence on the rationale that it was impossible for him to have committed the offence of dirtying the steps - because they were already dirty as a result of so many people walking on them. Three appeals court judges agreed with his reasoning. After the case was concluded, Dorrego explained to the Clarin newspaper 'One cannot dirty the dirt'.

The New Zealand Herald reports that nurse Michelle Trainor was walking her dogs when one nudged the other over a 50-metre-high bank. When the edge gave way, Trainor fell to the bottom, where a branch pierced her chest. As she slipped in and out of consciousness over the next four hours, one of her two dogs kept her warm. When she heard her mobile 'phone ringing, she sent her other dog, Murdoch, to fetch it from where it had fallen halfway down the bank. The mongrel from the SPCA did so, spitting out the 'phone at her feet, and she rang her panicking husband. He couldn't find her in the dark, so Murdoch fetched him. Paramedics then winched her up the cliff on a stretcher. At the hospital, she said 'It could have been a hell of a lot worse'.

Mark Hogarth says that as a juvenile he posed for hundreds of sexually explicit photos in his house, many involving consensual activity with other, unrelated children. He said the 269 photos, currently in a country where their possession is not a crime, 'are of deep personal importance' to him, adding 'I also assert that a good number of them have artistic merit'. Claiming that his constitutional rights are being violated by child pornography laws, he is suing the federal and state government with the goal of obtaining clearance to bring the pictures to his home in Albany. He added 'I don't have a lawyer, so I really have to keep my mouth shut and not say anything'.
The government said Hogarth 'cannot simultaneously bring a lawsuit that puts photos at issue and then expect that the [state and federal governments] and the court will have no access to the very subject matter of the case'. Also, his 'reluctance to have naked pictures of himself seen by others' shows the privacy-based interest that subjects of child porn have in 'preventing any further dissemination of these photos'.

David Byers, in a regional jail in Charlottesville, Virginia, requested an extension to his sentence, explaining that he wanted to finish a cooking course he was taking there. He explained that he was looking forward to using his new culinary skills outside jail. He was allowed to stay past his release date. His fellow inmates indicated that they thought the request was a bit strange.

Pete Klammer of Lakewood, Colorado, rang the police to report that he was tussling with someone who he caught using a box-cutter to remove a 'Dave Thomas' campaign sign bolted to Klammer's fence. The trespasser hopped into a waiting pickup truck when Klammer began reading out the licence number of the vehicle, registered to Randal and Jan Wagner.
Later in the day, when the Wagners were stealing various Democratic candidates' signs, Randal ran across a driveway in the dark. He didn't see a low-hanging chain, and he fell face-first onto one of the signs he had stolen, rendering himself unconscious. The 50-year-old Randal was taken to the hospital by ambulance, treated, and issued a summons to appear in court. He later apologised and said 'I did a very stupid thing. I got caught up in the political passions of this highly contested election.' His wife said she didn't want to discuss what happened.

Firemen in Welmbuettel, Germany, heard the gas pipes explode in a house about 20 metres from the fire station. The explosion threw bricks and other rubble against the door of the garage where the firefighters kept their hoses and fire engines. Firefighters watched as the home burnt to the ground. Two hours later, a fire crew from a neighbouring town extinguished the flames. According to police spokesman Guenter Santjer, the owner of the home 'was extremely crestfallen when he came back to find his house had been razed to the ground, but realised he had had a lucky escape'.

The media in Taiwan aren't sure who started the altercation at a lunchtime meeting of the legislature. During a televised debate over whether Taiwan should appropriate funds to buy weapons from the United States, legislators began yelling at each other. Opposition party member Chu Fong-chi stood up and began shouting at ruling-party lawmakers. She then appeared to duck to avoid a flying object, and flung a cardboard takeout boxed lunch at Chen Chong-yi, who retaliated with another lunch. Apparently sporting food stains, Chu shouted 'My whole body smells like a lunch box!' at the television cameras. The food fight left tables, chairs, and the floor with generous helpings of rice and hard-boiled eggs.

When Langley Air Force Base personnel noticed that a satellite had picked up the international distress signal, they figured it was probably a false alarm from an aeroplane or boat whose locator transponder had been jostled. The investigation led instead to Chris van Rossman's apartment. Benton County Search and Rescue Deputy Mike Bamberger said he and Air Force members 'narrowed it down to a spot on the wall in the hallway. Whatever was behind that spot is what it was.' When the team knocked on the door, the signal stopped and van Rossman appeared. He had turned off his television, a 20-inch Toshiba model with a built-in video, DVD, and CD player. After the set was confirmed as the source of the signal, van Rossman was instructed to keep it turned off lest he face fines of $10,000 per day for sending out false distress signals. He has unplugged the set in case he absentmindedly turns it on. 'We have never experienced anything like this before at Toshiba', said PR director Maria Repole.


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© 2004 Anna Shefl