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December 2007

2 December 2007

In 2005, in family court proceedings in Niagara Falls, New York, Judge Robert Restaino heard a mobile telephone ring in the public seating area. When no-one seated there came forward to identify the owner of the telephone, Restaino ordered 46 people to be taken into police custody. Most were released on bond, while 14 were thrown into the county jail. The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has now described this as causing 'irreparable damage to public confidence in the fair and proper administration of justice in his court' and has removed Restaino from the bench.

South Carolina farmer Sampson Parker reached into his rusty corn harvester to remove a stalk when the mechanical rollers that shuck the corn pulled his glove and then his hand inside. Parker was able to reach an iron bar to jam into the chain-and-sprocket driving the rollers. After about an hour of crying for help, he felt his hand go numb and began cutting off his fingers with his pocketknife to free himself. When the sprocket grinding against the bar threw off sparks that set the machine and grass on fire, he said, '[m]y skin was [...] dripping off my arm like plastic melting. I realised I was in trouble.' As he cut the flesh from his arm, he said, the fire kept him from passing out from the shock. He then dropped to the ground, using his weight to break the bone. Then a tyre exploded, and the force threw him clear of the flames.
Parker drove his truck into the nearest road to wave down a car for help. Motorists drove on the hard shoulder to get round him, until passing firefighter Doug Spinks saw him, wrapped the arm, and summoned help. Parker spent three weeks at a burn centre, and about 25 neighbours finished harvesting his corn for him. He said he is at peace with the incident, as 'it really wasn't the corn picker's fault; it was my fault.'

Rory Heckman, the undersheriff of Michigan's Benzie County, says he is sceptical of a local man's story that he was out shooting coyotes and mistook his neighbour's 635-kilo pregnant cow for a coyote, shooting and killing it. The cow's owner, DeAnn Mosher, said that her husband believes the man should go through therapy that involves looking at pictures of cows and coyotes until he can tell the difference. The 42-year-old cow-killer told authorities that, after the shooting, he decided to try dragging the animal home. That's when he was found.
Shooting coyotes is illegal at this time of year anyway. The county prosecutor is expected to bring charges against the man.

Donna Campbell of Florida became suspicious when husband Arnim Ramdass kept turning off the television set and disconnecting the telephone. Then a postcard arrived that referred to the purchase of a new home. Campbell checked on her husband and his lottery numbers via Google and discovered that he and 16 co-workers had together won $10.2 million in the state lottery. Campbell eventually confronted Ramdass, asking: 'Do you have any news you want to share with me?' Campbell is suing her husband. Her lawyer said: 'Here's a guy who for years has spent marital money on the lottery and at casinos, and he's always lost. And now he finally wins, and he's trying to keep it from his wife. That's pretty low.'

Indiana's Amanda Boes said the she noticed that someone had moved a snowman from her garden out into the street overnight. When she was looking out the window, she saw a pickup truck accelerate toward the snowman. The snowman was destroyed in the impact, and its head was thrown into the rear window of Boes's mother's car, breaking it. Neighbour Thomas Ross admitted to driving into the snowman and has agreed to pay for replacement of the car window.

Employees of Atlanta, Georgia, charity the Empty Stocking Fund collected toys and computers for distribution to needy children at Christmas. About $50,000 worth of these items were stolen from their storage place - the front section of Atlanta police headquarters. 'There's no security, no cameras, anything like that on this end of the building,' said Ron Campbell of the Atlanta Police Department. The burglars are believed to have used a police barricade as a ladder to reach a window. The theft was discovered between one to three days later when the programme director stopped to collect some papers and noticed flapping curtains and open boxes.

Off-duty Illinois police officer Pete Diangi said he was doing undercover security work at a March 20, 2006, wedding reception when about 20 men, including bridegroom Andrew Terrell, attacked him. Diangi said he feared for his life. Four bartenders backed up his story. Terrell and his relatives, charged with battery of a police officer, maintain that Diangi threw the first punch and used pepper spray indiscriminately; accordingly, Pamela Schultz, the mother of the bride, is suing Diangi for more than $50,000. Perhaps she simply wants to recoup the money spent on the wedding, now that the marriage has been annulled.

Juan P. Jaimes, 19, and cousin Miguel C. Gamez, 22, were both inmates at the Manitowoc County Jail in Wisconsin, where Jaimes allegedly grabbed Gamez's cheese sandwich at lunchtime. Gamez objected, and the two began to fight. Gamez told investigators: 'I picked him up and slammed him. He hit his head hard on the floor. I hit him a couple of times [and] they pulled me off him.' Jaimes, who had been in jail for criminal trespass and fleeing from officers, died of blunt force head trauma. Gamez, who was being held for allegedly violating a domestic abuse order, has been charged with murder.

The Shanghai Daily reports that chef Chen Ruyan, who worked at a recycling station in Hubei province, found that his dough for his rice dumplings was watery, so he decided to add some rice flour. Chen and five others died after eating the dumpling soup for lunch. An investigation prompted by recent food safety embarrassments in China revealed that Chen had another business and had stored some of his products in the workplace kitchen while moving house. The other business was selling rat poison, some of which had been placed on a shelf alongside the condiments.

Police in Detroit report that Jawad Bazzi, the owner of a BP petrol station, went to a Marathon station to ask the owner why he had dropped prices to three cents below the BP prices. This discussion turned into a fight, with the two stations' personnel engaging in fisticuffs with their rivals. One man was hit with a baseball bat, and then the 51-year-old owner of the Marathon station fatally shot the 45-year-old Bazzi. Witnesses report that while police were taking care of matters at the Marathon station, BP workers raised the per-gallon price of their own unleaded petrol from $2.96 to $3.09 (or 78 to 82 cents a litre).

A meat cutter in Fairmont, Minnesota, found an identity bracelet embedded in a chicken gizzard. Meat locker owner Mark Olson said: 'I've heard of livestock swallowing unusual objects, but this situation stands out.' He used the identifying information to locate the father of the bracelet's owner. Aaron Giles, 31, lost the bracelet when he was playing games in his grandfather's barn about 25 years ago. He said that the barn had been dismantled years ago and that the bracelet was probably embedded in materials used from it to build the barn, in another town, from which the recently deceased chicken hailed.

In Rome, a passenger boarded a Ryanair flight for Milan and refused to obey an air stewardess who asked her to move her metre-long plush crocodile from in front of an emergency exit. The woman was forced off the plane, along with the crocodile. A Ryanair statement said that the woman was asked to leave for refusing repeated requests to handle her hand luggage as flight safety rules demand and store it in the overhead locker.

22 December 2007

'It was an accident,' said Alwin Don on behalf of police in the Dutch province of Zeeland, referring to the treatment of a man being held on suspicion of growing cannabis. For his lunch, officers served him coffee and a piece of a hash cake that had been seized in another investigation and was being stored in the jail refrigerator. Don said: 'Clearly it looked a lot like the other lunch packets.' When officers returned to the cell half an hour later, the suspect, who had eaten only a small amount of the cake, told them: 'I think you've given me something you weren't supposed to.'

Police officers seized 39 marijuana plants from Colorado's Jim and Lisa Masters. About 10 months later, after investigating the couple's claims that they used the plants for medical purposes and for helping several patients who were licensed to receive medical marijuana, the authorities dropped the charges and returned the plants - dead. In response to the couple's threats of a lawsuit for the estimated $100,000 worth of the plants, police spokeswoman Rita Davis said that the department hadn't been obliged to care for the plants, as they didn't come with documentation that they were legal.

Pennsylvania's Tribune Democrat reports that police officer Nathan Claycomb stopped Robert Sadlon for having a broken tail light on his pickup truck. Sadlon got out of the vehicle to ask why he'd been stopped. When told to get back into the truck, the 50-year-old Sadlon complied but then decided to run off. He promptly reported the vehicle stolen. It was Claycomb who visited Sadlon's house to take a report on the theft. Though Sadlon had changed clothes and shaved off his moustache, Claycomb still recognised him. He was aided in this by the pale area of skin where Sadlon's facial hair used to be.
Sadlon faces charges of escape, drunken driving as a repeated offence, and related charges.

In Monroe, Louisiana, we have Brent Eric Finley, who had a plan. The 38-year-old man explained to friends and family that his wife, as a CIA agent, could arrange to have government satellites scan their bodies for hidden medical problems. If any such problems were found, secret agents would administer medicine in the person's sleep - all for a price. Before being caught, Finley and his wife collected nearly $900,000 in this scheme. He has been sentenced to 51 months in prison and a further three years of 'supervised release', while his wife is to spend 63 months in prison.

Indiana's Michael Santos, 38, had been drinking when he decided to impress his girlfriend. He began by driving her to La Porte Municipal Airport - despite a lifetime ban from driving. To show her that he could fly an aeroplane, he stole one that was at the airport for repairs. With her on board, he was taxiing down the runway when the left engine sprouted flames. Santos turned off the other engines and swerved into a soybean field, leaving the aircraft with about $160,000 in damage.
According to Detective Tom Thate, Santos was caught on account of an anonymous tip from someone who'd overheard him describing the incident.

Scotland's Stuart Kennedy, a 24-year-old stripper also known as Sergeant Eros, was arrested in March by two female police officers outside a bar where he was about to perform in his police officer's costume. He was charged with carrying an offensive weapon, in the form of two police batons that he uses as props. A court in Aberdeen has now cleared him of the charges.

Craig C. Wilson of Henrietta, New York, drove his sport utility vehicle to Jacksonville, Florida, where he abandoned it. He then reported it stolen. His $10,282 insurance claim might have met with more success if the SUV hadn't contained MapQuest directions for a trip from his home to Jacksonville. According to Rochester, New York, police officer Deidre Taccone, also inside was paperwork detailing the 36-year-old Wilson's airline trip back to Rochester. Wilson has been sentenced to five years of probation.

According to police in Orland Park, Illinois, a woman apparently broke into an office at a department store where she used to work as a doctor for the optical department, with the aid of a hidden key that she had found. Security tapes show Silva Schleiter-Doede carrying items from the building to her car for the next two hours - then apparently locking herself out of the office, where she had left her handbag and other belongings. Eventually she tried to re-enter the office via the ceiling. She succeeded, crushing ceiling tiles and a metal pipe along her way when she fell. Schleiter-Doede has been charged with criminal trespass and criminal damage.

When the staff of several stores at a Boston-area shopping centre noticed thefts, they reviewed security tapes and realised that they had all been hit by the same man. A suspect, Parris Phillips, was soon arrested at the shopping plaza but didn't have the stolen goods. As the tapes showed that Phillips was working with at least one woman, her description was relayed to officers in the area. Meanwhile, three woman approached a police officer to report that they couldn't find their car in the shopping centre's car park. This officer noticed a similarity between one of the women and the one described in the radio message. Officers found the car and, within, the stolen goods. The three women were arrested.

Police officers in Coquille, Oregon, received a report of a hole dug into a tyre shop by would-be burglars. Those creating the hole apparently hadn't done their homework well: the hole led into a storage room only and did not allow access to the rest of the shop. The only items in the storage room were lorry tyres, too big to be accommodated by the hole's 0.6-metre diameter. Police sergeant Patrick Smith said: 'It was pretty comical.'

When Vladislav Lisetskiy, 40, showed up for jury duty at Brooklyn Supreme Court, he was stopped at the door. Security officers discovered that his walking stick contained a 0.75-metre sword and a dagger. As New York state law forbids concealed blades, Lisetskiy was has been charged with misdemeanour criminal possession of a weapon.

A SWAT team arrived at the wrong house in Minneapolis, apparently because of inaccurate information from the police executing a search warrant. Homeowner Vang Khang believed the intruders were gang members, and he fired a warning gunshot to protect himself, his wife, and his six children. He then entered his bedroom, firing two more shots, through his closed bedroom door. Two officers were hit, but their bullet-proof gear protected them. The officers' return fire, which a neighbour estimated as roughly 20 or 30 shots, didn't harm anyone in the home. Vang, a Hmong who does not speak English, was taken into custody but later released.

According to AP reports, Yanadi Kondaiah, a self-proclaimed holy man in Hyderabad, India, claimed that those who touched his leg would be cured of illness or have their wishes come true. Two men, explaining that they wished to thank him for healing them, provided the 80-year-old Kondaiah with a large amount of alcohol. After he passed out, they cut his leg off below the knee. Passing villagers found him, and he was hospitalised. Senior police officer R. Ravindranath Reddy said: 'We are looking for the miscreants as well as the leg.'

When Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, judge John Driscoll denied his request for a paternity test to determine whether he should pay child support, Samuel Shoemaker became upset. He threatened to punch and strangle the judge. Thus, he was charged with terroristic threats and retaliation against a judicial official. His defence attorney, Richard Galloway, argues that the charges should be dismissed because Shoemaker has no legs and has limited use of his arms, and that the threat thus was not a real one.

A new trial has been granted for Moses M. Streetes as a result of additional evidence that emerged during his jury trial for armed robbery. The defence case rested in part on the lack of fingerprints and money in the case. However, the jury discovered a pair of gloves and a wad of cash in the accused's coat, evidence that had been missed by the police and prosecutors. They found Streetes guilty.
One of the jurors, Christine Bowersox, said: 'You would think with all the law enforcement people that had been involved with the case that everything would have been gone over with a fine-toothed comb and then that fine-toothed comb would have had another fine-toothed comb going over it.'

Russell Banks is the fire chief in Burlington, Maine. When a resident complained that the 34-year-old Banks was racing a fire truck through his area with its lights on and its siren blaring, a sheriff's deputy arrived to find Banks at twice the legal limit for being considered intoxicated. There was no fire in the area. The resident told police that Banks had been blasting his siren in retaliation for a dispute in the neighbourhood.

According to news agency DPA, Cambodia's Kann Veasna decided to urinate through a hole in a chain link fence. A puppy spotted the penis, apparently a new chewtoy, and grabbed hold with its teeth. Veasna went to a Phnom Penh hospital for treatment, where he explained his injuries to medical personnel. A doctor was quoted as saying: 'It's undoubtedly sore now, but luckily it should still be useful to him in the future.'

Idaho's Lewiston Tribune ran a photo on the front page, showing a surveillance camera photo of the man who had walked off with a woman's wallet in a convenience store. Police wanted help in identifying the man. Also on the front page was a holiday photo showing Michael Millhouse painting Christmas greetings on storefront windows. The main figure in both photos was wearing a blue and black coat, and the similarities didn't end there. Copy editors had noticed this before the paper went to press, and a newspaper employee contacted the police the next morning to report it. Millhouse has been charged with felony second-degree theft.


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