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Recent uses of video cameras for surreptitious taping by alleged perverts: According to a lawsuit filed by a 20-year-old woman, an optometrist in Reno, Nevada, set up one in the ladies' room (for security purposes, he said in October); landlord Mark Pearlman was accused in Mineola, New York, in February of having a video camera behind a two-way mirror in a female tenant's bedroom (to enforce his no-smoking policy, he said); and IRS employee Howard Baltazar was arrested in March after carrying a running video camera in a gym bag through a men's shower room in Oakland, California. (Police determined that Baltazar committed no crime except eavesdropping via the audio portion of the tape.)

Just Can't Stop Myself

In February Philippe Delandtscheer, 60, was jailed in Lille, France, for stealing a bottle of an anise-flavored aperitif. Authorities believe it's the 51st time that he's been arrested for stealing that product. (As with Otis Campbell in Andy Griffith's Mayberry jail, a special cell in Lille's jail is reserved for him.)

Christopher Norling, 28, was jailed in Milwaukee in February for fraud after running up a big bill at the Pfister Hotel while pretending to be a National Football League official. He has a long record of similar charges. In a 1990 jailhouse interview Norling said: "The only thing I know how to do is con people. To be honest with you it's probably going to happen again."

James Hogue, 36, was arrested in February as he tried to pass himself off as a Princeton University student less than five months after his release from prison on a charge of passing himself off as a different Princeton student.

In February Diane Currey, 45, was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to more than 200 counts of grand theft in Largo, Florida. She'd embezzled $350,000 from her employer's office over a seven-year period, before retiring in Missouri. When her replacement in Florida died her employer asked her to return. She agreed, began embezzling again, and was soon caught.

Inexplicable

In November the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a Florida appeals court ruling that a local police department could purchase an allegedly obscene film and use it as evidence in filing criminal charges, but it could not use as evidence a film it had rented and copied. The Florida court had ruled that the police had violated federal copyright law as described in the FBI warning that appears on rented tapes.

In Toronto in January Robert Franklin Devoe, 33, was arrested and charged with bank robbery after arousing the suspicion of shopkeeper Zak Khan. According to police, Devoe had stopped by the shop during his getaway, asking to see an electronic scale. Khan showed him one, and Devoe proceeded to weigh two bundles of $100 bills. That, plus the gun Devoe had in his waistband, led Khan to notify police. Devoe was captured after a brief chase.

For the second straight year a Canadian Football League team wasted a valuable draft pick on a defensive end who'd died in the off-season. The Montreal Alouettes' James Eggink had passed away from cancer; last year, the Ottawa Rough Riders' Derrell Robertson had been killed in a car crash.

In January the Los Angeles Times reported that an unidentified man began yelling racial epithets and throwing products from the shelves of a 7-Eleven at Alberto Ramirez in Chatsworth, California. The man followed Ramirez outside and threw a knife at him, missing. Then, apparently out of items to toss, he began throwing the money that was in his pocket. After the man drove off in his truck, Ramirez and other bystanders turned over $2,333 to the police.

A court in Rochester, New Hampshire, overturned the conviction of Antonio Marti, 54, who'd been charged with three counts of rape against a teenage girl. There was evidence that Marti had assaulted the girl "hundreds" of times since she was 10, but the court thought that prosecutors, by mentioning the other episodes, might have prejudiced the jury.

Kids

Ten-year-old Timothy Becton was charged as an adult with armed kidnapping and assaulting a sheriff's deputy in Lakeland, Florida, in February. A sheriff's deputy had gone to the boy's home to inquire about his truancies when he pulled a gun and said, "I'd sooner shoot you than go to school." He then aimed a shotgun at the deputy from a distance of ten feet while using his three-year-old niece as a shield. He remained in a standoff for about seven minutes.

In February near San Diego an 11-year-old boy was sent home from school sick, but when he got home he shaved his head, put on a ski mask and a long brown robe, assembled his father's .22-caliber rifle, left home, and began randomly trying to rob people. He was captured by a security guard, who was shot in the hand wresting the rifle from the boy.

Police in Coventry, England, said that four-year-old Russell Brown woke up one night in February while burglars were in his home and mistook them for family friends. He showed them where his mother hid her purse and where his father's power tools were stored. He then held open the front door while the thieves carried out video equipment and other items.

Texas state senator Jerry Patterson, a proponent of guns for protection, said in January he might test the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority's gun ban by carrying a concealed weapon on a bus: "Then I'll go to Metro and say, 'Nah, nah, nah, nah! Rode your bus, rode your bus!'"

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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

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