News of the Weird | News of the Weird | Chicago Reader

News of the Weird 

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A lawsuit against Raytheon, the company that employed Santo Alba, was filed in Boston by Alba's family after he died. Alba's workload recently had increased, which his family says caused him to commit suicide by sticking his head into the sheet-metal cutting machine at work. And in Newport, Rhode Island, Navy computer systems manager Raoul Payette blamed his supervisor for his stress and shot her in the neck with a derringer. According to police, Payette had fixed upon the Navy's workplace admonition to "identify and eliminate barriers to quality." "She was the barrier," he said.

Courtroom Antics

In May Hawaii's Intermediate Court of Appeals set aside James G. Kahoonei's firearms conviction because his bedroom was illegally searched. The search was conducted by Kahoonei's mother, but the court ruled that she was searching for weapons as an agent of the government.

In March Robert Licciardi, 36, freshly convicted in California of killing his disabled father to get the family fortune, claimed in a letter to the Stockton Record that he'd had incompetent counsel, that the judge was "unfair," "prejudiced," and "unreasonable" for having allowed Licciardi to represent himself.

A Bobbittization case against a woman in Albany hung on the parties' credibility. One of the issues currently being considered by the New York Court of Appeals is who told the truth about where the slashed victim removed his undershorts. He said in the bedroom, but she said in the kitchen, where he was about to rape her. She also testified that the undershorts therefore reeked of spices. Her lawyer now says the trial judge made a crucial error by not sniffing the unlaundered shorts during the trial or passing them over to the jury for sniffing.

In April a federal court in Novato, California, refused to review a small-claims court decision in favor of Phillip Schlenker for $65 from the local cable TV company. Schlenker won the judgment for a breach of contract in that he was unable to enjoy Monday Night Football during 1993 and 1994 because the cable company was feuding with the ABC affiliate in San Francisco.

In July in Chicago, county circuit judge James G. Smith was transferred to a lower-profile job because of remarks he made during a medical malpractice trial involving a Hispanic victim. According to the Sun-Times, when defense attorneys pointed out that there had once been a shooting in the victim's family (which could have led to the victim's subsequent learning disabilities), Judge Smith said, "Of course, [shooting guns] is a common practice among Hispanics. Every New Year's I had to dismiss cases because it was common for them to step out and shoot at anything that was out there."

Fetishes on Parade

Stewart R. Flaharty, 64, who worked in the morgue at York Hospital in York, Pennsylvania, for 22 years, was fired in August and charged with abuse of a corpse. He'd been caught by a coworker photographing a nude woman in her early 20s who'd just died in an automobile crash.

Stephen N. Porco, 28, was sentenced to six years in prison for a series of auto burglaries attributed in part to his lust for women's purses. An authority close to the case estimated Porco had stolen more than 500 purses over ten years and often used them for sexual gratification.

In Somerset, Pennsylvania, in July, Ali Burke, 25, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at a McDonald's after he squirted ketchup on the nose of the Hamburgler and licked it off.

Geographic Centers of Weird

Japan: Among the thriving new businesses in Tokyo is a "convenience agency" that, among other things, supplies guests at funerals and weddings so the families won't be embarrassed by low attendance. And an account in Japan Times in July reported that thousands of Japanese have paid for a three-day excursion to Rio de Janeiro to visit the grave, childhood home, and museum of the late Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna. And Tokyo's first nap hotel opened earlier this year, featuring tents in a large room where weary salesmen can crash for a half hour at a time for rates of $3 to $6.

Finland: Harri Pellonpaa, 17, won a weekend at a Lapland resort for finishing first in the so-called World Championship of Mosquito Killing in July. Also that month Ilpo Ronkko won Finland's annual Wife-Carrying Championship, in which men tote women over a 780-foot course that includes two fences and a waist-high pool of water.

If It Doesn't Fit, You Must Acquit

In October In Brantford, Ontario, Robert Douglas, 35, was convicted of sexual assault despite his testifying that his two-inch penis is too small to have committed the crime and that, besides, he is impotent. And in June George Johnson, 36, was found not guilty on one rape count and earned a mistrial on a second in Princeton, Kentucky, after he unzipped his pants and demonstrated to the jury that his penis didn't have freckles and a mole as the victim had testified.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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