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News of the Weird 7/21/11

By Chuck Sheppard

The New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter achieved his milestone 3,000th major league hit in July, and Steiner Sports Marketing of New Rochelle, N.Y., was ready (in partnership with the Yankees and Major League Baseball). Dozens of items from the game were offered to collectors, including the bases ($7,500 each), 30 balls used during the game ($2,000 each, unsigned), and even Jeter’s sweaty socks ($1,000). Steiner had also collected five gallons of dirt (under supervision, to assure authenticity), and uberfans can buy half-ounce containers of clay walked upon by Jeter during the game (from the shortstop area and the right-hand batter’s box) — for a not-dirt-cheap $250 each.

Compelling Explanations Military veteran Joshua Price, 26, was arrested in March after police in a Chicago suburb found child pornography and 1,700 photos of dismembered women on his computer, but at a court hearing in May, Price explained that his photographs were a necessary escape from war-related trauma. In fact, Price told prosecutors that were it not for the distracting photos, his stress disorder would surely have caused him to kill his wife and two daughters. (Prosecutors accepted that Price’s crime was a “cry for help,” but the judge, less impressed, quadrupled Price’s bail, to $1 million.)

Unclear on the Concept: (1) The initial explanation by Melvin Jackson, 48, upon his arrest in June for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in Kansas City, Mo., was to deny that he would ever do such a thing. Rather, he said, “I thought the lady was dead.”  (2) The initial explanation by Thomas O’Neil, 47, upon his arrest in Wausau, Wis., in June for criminal damage to property (breaking into a neighbor’s garage and defecating on the floor) was to claim that he thought he was in his own garage.

Democracy in Action! Emerging democracies typically exhibit growing pains as they develop stability. For example, in July in Afghanistan’s parliament, one female legislator attacked another with her shoe (and then dodged the second lady’s flying water bottle before colleagues separated them). Older democracies, however, act more maturely — except perhaps in California, where in June, an Italian-American legislator got into a shoving match with a colleague whom he thought had made a “Sopranos”-type slur about recent legislation. And in the mature democracy of Wisconsin in June, one state Supreme Court justice was accused of roughing up another (though who started it is in dispute) as the justices privately discussed a case.

Ironies Budget cuts forced the closure of two of the three firehouses in Chillicothe, Ohio (pop. 22,000), and even that station failed a state fire marshal’s inspection in March. Because the station’s own alarm system was broken, the chief was required, until the new system is installed, to assign one firefighter per shift to be on full-time patrol at the station, walking around the grounds constantly, upstairs, downstairs, looking for fires.

Run That by Me Again: (1) In New Orleans in July, Thomas Sanders, 53, pleaded guilty to murdering a 12-year-old girl. According to the neighboring state of Mississippi, Sanders has been dead for 17 years (having been ruled deceased in 1994 on petition of his parents, brother and ex-wife). (2) In July, the city of Daytona Beach Shores, Fla., agreed to pay $195,000 to settle a lawsuit in which six people claim they were strip-searched unlawfully by police. Four of the six were strip-searched during a raid at the Biggins Gentleman’s Club, where they work as strippers.

Easily Offended John Luckett filed lawsuits on 11 different complaints earlier this year against the Las Vegas arcade Pinball Hall of Fame, claiming that he was wrongfully barred from the premises for obnoxiously complaining about out-of-service machines, especially “Xenon,” which he says he has mastered so well that he can play almost indefinitely on an initial 50 cents. Among the damages requested, Luckett is demanding $300 for each “therapy” session he might have to undergo to overcome the trauma of being ejected. Luckett has filed more than 40 lawsuits in his role of, as he put it, avenging people’s attempts to “screw” him.

Should’ve Kept Their Mouths Shut According to a bailiff, convicted car thief Thomas Done, 33, spent almost a half-hour at his June sentencing “shucking and jiving” Ogden, Utah, Judge Michael Lyon before finally finagling probation (instead of 15 years in prison) — by expressing parental love for his young daughter and blaming his recidivist criminality on his girlfriend’s infidelity. However, literally seconds after Judge Lyon announced probation, Done, noticing his girlfriend in the courtroom, made a gun-triggering motion with his thumb and fingers and said, “Boom, bitch.” A bailiff reported the gesture to the judge, who declared Done in violation of his brand-new probation and ordered him re-sentenced.

• Initially, all Jay Rodgers wanted was for the fellow Atlanta gas station customer to say “thank you” when Rodgers held the door for him, but the man remained silent, and Rodgers pressed the issue, confronting him and even following the man out to his car — where the man pulled a gun and shot Rodgers in the abdomen, sending him to the hospital for nine days. (Interviewed on WSB-TV in May, Rodgers resumed nagging the man, urging him to “do the right thing” by turning himself in.)