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In September in Springfield, Illinois, 20-year-old Zachary G. Holloway and an accomplice were arrested for breaking into one car and attempting to break into another. The pair had stolen a motorcycle helmet (among other items) from the first car, and in the attempt to get into the second one, Holloway put on the helmet, took a running start, and head butted the rear passenger window--twice. (He then gave up and used a crowbar, but still didn't manage to break the glass.) When the two were arrested shortly afterward, police noted a "strong odor of alcohol."

Chutzpah!

Between June and August, 34-year-old Jonathan Harris, an ex-con and high school dropout, acted as his own lawyer in three Philadelphia felony trials and won them all--even beating a murder charge that could have sent him to death row. (At press time he was also scheduled to defend himself in an unrelated 2001 firearms case.) The prosecutor from the murder trial blamed the verdict on unreliable witnesses and vowed to retry Harris on several lesser charges related to the crime; in response Harris taunted him, saying, "Are you sure you don't want to quit while you're ahead?"

Wimpy Americans

In July in Juneau, Alaska, Jamila Glauber filed a lawsuit against the public transit system because a driver twice asked her to leave his bus for breaking the no-food rule (she'd eaten a mini Snickers bar); she's claiming damages in excess of $50,000 for emotional distress. And in June near San Diego, inmate Kenneth Williams, awaiting trial for raping an underage girl, filed a claim against the county for the "mental stress and anguish" he's suffered since finding a fly in his mashed potatoes--he says he's losing weight, and he wants $20,000.

More Things to Worry About

In August in Burke, Virginia, a 46-year-old woman was hospitalized in critical condition after she dropped some change at a McDonald's drive-through window and opened her minivan door to retrieve it; as she leaned out her foot came off the brake, and when the van inched forward the open door struck a post and closed on her head. Also in August, the CEO of Diebold Inc., a leading manufacturer of electronic voting machines (and one of three companies that provides Ohio with such equipment), told Republicans in a fund-raising letter that he's "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to [President Bush] next year."

Compelling Explanations

In August in Skowhegan, Maine, conflicting stories arose concerning the aggravated assault of 67-year-old Paul Vicnaire. Police charged Vicnaire's "drinking companion" Jean Lampron, 46, with repeatedly stabbing him, but she claimed the man's ex-wife had done it. Vicnaire, on the other hand, said his ex-wife had ordered the stabbing, but that Lampron had carried it out. Compromising the credibility of both these explanations was the fact that Vicnaire's ex-wife had recently died.

People Different From Us

According to a June police report in the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia, a 19-year-old man drove to Huntington from Greenwich, New York, hoping to find a 17-year-old girl he'd met on the Internet and persuade her to return to New York with him. Her mother refused to let her leave the house, and as the man walked away, he "intentionally banged his head on the door frame of his car and fell to the ground unconscious."

Making History Pay Off

In August, Egyptian law scholar Nabil Hilmi announced that he was helping to prepare a lawsuit against "the Jews of the world" to recover the value of the roughly 330 tons of gold (among other things) that the Jews allegedly stole during their biblical exodus from Egypt; after figuring in interest accrued over more than 3,000 years, Hilmi estimated the Jews' debt to his country to be in the trillions of dollars. Also in August, a 14th-generation descendant of Moctezuma II, the last Aztec emperor of Mexico, asked that country's government to reinstate the pensions (suspended in 1934) that in 1550 the king of Spain agreed to pay the emperor's descendants for their loss of position and the appropriation of Aztec land.

The Legislature in Action

Arizona law treats selling, downloading, trading, or buying child pornography as harshly as actually molesting a child: the mandatory sentence is 10 to 24 years per count, to run consecutively if there are multiple counts. (Two high school teachers, convicted only of possessing photos, are now serving 200 and 408 years in prison, the latter for 17 images.) A May report in the Arizona Republic points out that the sentence for second-degree murder is 10 to 22 years, and that a citizen with no criminal history at all could visit a Web site offering child pornography and earn a life sentence without possibility of parole in as few as 12 mouse clicks.

In the Last Month

In Freeport, Texas, a fisherman had to be rushed to a hospital by helicopter after the four-foot bull shark he'd just caught bit his arm as he posed with it for a photo. And in Avon, Ohio, police decided not to charge Lula Brown for 911 abuse, even though she'd called to report that McDonald's had tried to make her pay for extra barbecue sauce.

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

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