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News of the Weird 6/26/14

by Chuck Shepherd

Man of the People? Scott Fistler, twice a loser for electoral office in Phoenix, Arizona, as a Republican, decided in November 2013 that his luck might improve as a Democrat with a name change, and legally became “Cesar Chavez,” expecting to poll better in a heavily Hispanic, Democratic congressional district. (“Cesar Chavez” is of course the name of the legendary labor organizer.) Furthermore, according to a June report in the Arizona Capitol Times, “Chavez’s” campaign website features photographs of frenzied supporters holding “Chavez” signs, but which are obviously scenes from the streets of Venezuela at rallies for its late president Hugo Chavez. (At press time for News of the Weird, a judge had removed “Chavez” from the ballot, but only because some qualifying signatures were invalid. “Chavez” promised to appeal.)

Compelling Explanations U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Omaha, Nebraska, trying to be helpful, he said, advised female lawyers appearing in his courtroom to lower their hemlines and cover their cleavage because males, including Judge Kopf himself, are “pigs.” Writing in his personal blog in March, he said, “I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man” and that the women in his office are similarly contemptuous of daringly dressed female lawyers. The lifetime-tenured judge later said he regretted any harm to the judiciary that his remarks might have caused.

• Almond Upton, 60, charged with murder for “intentionally” striking a New York state trooper in May with his pickup truck, denied everything. He told reporters following his first court appearance that he is bewildered by the accusation: “I was (close to) the Connecticut border, and all of a sudden, I’m in Binghamton, New York (about 140 miles from Connecticut), and this cop got killed, I don’t know how it happened. It had to be a time warp.”

• The National Security Agency admitted in a June court filing that it had disobeyed two judicial orders to stop deleting accusatory evidence in its databases (which judges had ordered preserved to help determine if the NSA was illegally violating privacy laws). The NSA’s reasoning for its chutzpah: Its data-gathering systems, it claims, are “too complex” to prevent the automatic deletions routinely programmed into its data, and it cannot reprogram to preserve the data without shutting down its entire intelligence-gathering mission. The challenging party (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) called the NSA’s explanation disingenuous and, in fact, further proof that the NSA is incapable of properly managing such massive data-gathering.

• Michael Adrian, 26, was arrested in Lakeville, Minnesota, in June for frightening officials at Lakeville North High School by skateboarding in front of the school, in military dress, face covered by a bandana, with an arrow strapped to his arm, and concealing knives, a box-cutter, a slingshot and pepper spray. Adrian told police he was merely “testing” the school’s security system by “looking like an a**hole.” (A judge ordered a mental evaluation.)

Karma At an April press conference on a train station platform in Milford, Connecticut, to critique the allegedly shoddy safety record of the Metro-North rail line, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut set up a chart on an easel to illustrate the problem. Suddenly, a train roared through the station and, according to news reports, “nearly” clipped Sen. Blumenthal, who was standing on the yellow platform line that passengers are admonished to stand behind.

• In June, a jury in Fresno, California, decided that Bobby Lee Pearson, 37, was guilty of burglary — but they accidentally signed the “not-guilty” form, instead, and by the time Judge W. Kent Hamlin caught the error, he could not change it (because of “double jeopardy”). Pearson walked out a free man, went to his sister’s home, got into a fight hours later, and was stabbed to death by the sister’s boyfriend.