Lead Story

Frank Martinez, a 40-year-old exterminator and apparently a big New York Mets fan, was thrown out of Shea Stadium and charged with reckless endangerment after he allegedly shone a high-powered flashlight into the eyes of two Atlanta Braves players and the second-base umpire during an April game. A former neighbor told the New York Post that Martinez had been evicted from his apartment for his habit of screaming “M! E! T! S!” both while watching games on TV and while standing in the hallway at about three in the morning.

Government in Action

At hearings in March U.S. Agriculture Department officials admitted that since the early 70s 250 of the nation’s 6,000 meat-processing plants have been inspected not on a daily basis, as required by federal law, but as infrequently as every two weeks, apparently because they were located too far from the local inspector’s office.

As the Department of Veterans Affairs struggles to deal with its immense backlog of disability claims–it’s at 600,000 cases now and sure to get worse–some critics estimate that nearly a third of the veterans on the rolls are receiving lifetime compensation for common, minor, and often treatable ailments that didn’t necessarily result from their military service and don’t affect their ability to work. According to a March report by Scripps Howard, 124,000 veterans currently get monthly benefits for hemorrhoids, which alone may cost the department more than $14 million a year.

Are We Safe Yet?

Denver’s KUSA TV reported in March that an undercover team conducting a recent test for the Transportation Security Administration had been able to sneak simulated explosives past security workers at Denver International Airport about 90 percent of the time (matching nationwide airport failure rates released last year). In most cases, according to unnamed sources, screening equipment successfully located the suspicious device but personnel failed to follow up with an appropriate search; one agent was able to talk her way past the checkpoint even after a metal detector had found a simulated IED taped to her leg.

Cops Getting No Respect

In February 21-year-old Taryn McCarthy of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was arraigned on DUI and assault charges. After being pulled over by two state police officers the month before, she allegedly punched one trooper in the face and grabbed the other’s genitals four separate times while he tried to administer a breath test. And 18-year-old Felicha Marin was charged with assault for a March incident in the London suburb of Richmond: while being detained by police following an accusation of shoplifting, she allegedly exposed her right breast and squirted an officer with her milk.

Fine Points of the Law

In April Arizona’s Court of Appeals heard arguments in a case where the trial judge had excluded a bag of crystal meth allegedly pulled from a defendant’s anus, ruling that police had no right to search her body cavities without a warrant. A Cochise County prosecutor contended that since officers saw the bag protruding from the anus during a conventional strip search, it could have been considered to be held between the “butt cheeks,” as he put it, and thus according to precedent was fair game; “Where does the butt end and the anus begin?” he asked. In response defense counsel invoked the defendant’s right to privacy and to protection from illegal search and seizure, arguing that since the anus is “not an intake manifold, it’s an exhaust manifold,” if officers wanted the bag without getting a warrant “all they had to do was wait.” At press time no ruling had yet been issued.

Least Competent Criminals

Eric Cunningham, 18, was charged with the armed robbery of an Orlando gas station in April. Though he had allegedly worn a mask during the holdup, authorities said he also left behind his gun case, which contained a receipt for a new assault rifle made out in his name. Also in April, 29-year-old Jazrahel King was arrested after he showed up at a car dealer in Norwalk, Connecticut, looking to trade in his Jeep for a larger vehicle. Sales staff immediately recognized the Jeep as one that had been stolen from the dealership in March (it still contained the dealer’s key ring, temporary license, and other documentation) and King as the man who, they said, had been wandering around the lot on the day of the theft after failing a pre-test-drive credit check.

The Screening Process: Sometimes It Works

While interviewing to become a Connecticut state trooper, 38-year-old Jon Van Allen opted to disclose something he’d never told anyone: seven years earlier, he said, he had on two different occasions molested a sleeping six-year-old girl without getting caught. Van Allen was soon charged with sexual assault and suspended from his job as a school janitor; according to the arrest report, he said a friend had advised him that his best chance of making the force was to be completely honest in his application.

The Continuing Crisis

The University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Daily reported in February on students and other Twin Cities residents who regularly donate blood before going out drinking, as the reduced blood volume makes getting drunk quicker and cheaper. A Red Cross spokesperson said his organization tried to accept blood only from donors motivated by helping others, but one satisfied practitioner of the system said, “They’re getting their blood and stuff, and I’m saving money. Nobody’s getting hurt.”

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