Lead Stories

Four days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the home team at a Pop Warner football league game in Milford, Massachusetts, conducted a brief memorial observance with both teams’ players and cheerleaders. The memorial had been arranged ahead of time, yet the referee assessed the home team a 15-yard penalty for delaying the game and refused to change his call despite outraged protests.

An October issue of the Moscow Times profiled 40-year-old Galina Sinitsyna, an unemployed firing-range instructor who supports a teenage son and hopes to become a government sniper in Chechnya, a job that she has heard pays about $60 a day plus a per-kill commission. Sinitsyna says that she’s inspired by tales of the White Stockings, a unit of female snipers who fought for Chechnya from 1994 to 1996, and that she’s tried to take the moral high ground, having turned down a lucrative position as a contract killer for organized crime.

The London Daily Telegraph reported last month that Idi Amin, the former dictator of Uganda who reportedly ordered some 100,000 murders and occasionally cannibalized his enemies, is said to be encouraging his 48 children around the world to restore the family home in the village of Aura as a monument. (Amin was deposed in 1979 and is not expected to return from exile in Saudi Arabia.)…And a few weeks earlier, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the 62 children of the late Jean-Bedel Bokassa, whose rule of the Central African Empire was similarly characterized by murder and cannibalism, have asked the government for permission to turn their former family home into a tourist attraction.

Your One-Stop Litigation Superstore

In August, USA Today reported that Wal-Mart is sued more often than any other entity in America except the federal government, with nearly 5,000 lawsuits filed against it last year (about one every two hours, with juries rendering about six verdicts a day). Suing the 4,300-store chain is so lucrative for lawyers that the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) sponsors a seminar on Wal-Mart issues, and private attorneys sponsor the Wal-Mart Litigation Project to trade trial techniques and information about the

company. (Wal-Mart pharmacies continue to participate in ATLA’s health-

insurance prescription plan.)

Police Blotter

Jeffrey Jacobitti, 49, was arrested by police in Keansburg, New Jersey, in July after driving up to two women and a 12-year-old girl and allegedly waggling his tongue at them. The deputy police chief said that in his opinion the gesture conveyed a threat: “[The waggling] crossed the line, especially with the juvenile.”

Last month Canadian authorities, working with New York City police, arrested 54-year-old Patrick Critton and charged him with the 1971 skyjacking of an Air Canada plane to Cuba. Critton, who’d been working as a schoolteacher in Mount Vernon, New York, was located after a law enforcement official came up with the idea of entering the suspect’s name into an Internet search engine.

In August, 21-year-old Francisco Sanchez, an alleged drug dealer, failed to outsmart a sheriff’s lab crew in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, by biting his fingertips bloody; as one officer explained, a person’s fingerprints go “pretty deep.”…And in July, a 17-year-old boy who had been charged with assault at a convenience store in Lewiston, Maine, escaped briefly by chewing through the metal chain of his handcuffs.

Adventures in Bad Parenting

In September a school principal and a sheriff’s sergeant in Los Angeles were charged with having made their son sleep outside and having dumped dog feces in his knapsack because he had failed to run errands….That same month a mother and father in Pryor, Oklahoma, were charged with having tied their son down at night with a hog ring on his penis to curb his masturbation….And in London, a former sergeant in the British army was charged with punching and kneeing his son after the boy beat him at Monopoly.

Police in Casselberry, Florida, arrested a 29-year-old woman in August and charged her with having locked her two children, ages 8 and 12, inside her 12-by-20-foot storage locker while she worked; the locker had no plumbing or ventilation, and the temperature inside was more than 100 degrees….And less than three weeks later a 30-year-old woman in Stuart, Florida, was arrested for the same offense, though she had locked her children up so she could buy liquor and go bowling.

People Different From Us

In August a nighttime stakeout in Newark, Ohio, led to the arrest of 65-year-old Jerold West, who was charged with having dumped mounds of confetti, handmade from newspapers, magazines, and junk mail, in a downtown alley off and on for the last four years. One merchant estimated that the confetti had required thousands of hours to sweep up; West told the arresting officer he had surreptitiously littered the alley to combat the boredom he’d felt since his wife died.

Least Competent Criminals

In September, Terry Bennett failed to appear for trial on charges of home-repair fraud in Edwardsville, Illinois, but called the courthouse to report that he was assisting the rescue effort at the demolished World Trade Center. However, a court employee found problems with his story: (1) Caller ID identified Bennett’s call as local (he said it had been “forwarded” by his wife, despite the fact that the court employee heard her call, “Terry! Telephone!”); (2) Bennett first said he had flown to New York, though all planes had been grounded at the time; (3) no background noise was heard from the “rescue site” (because, Bennett said, all the workers were asleep); (4) he didn’t know where at the site he was working (except that it was “down off the main drag”); and (5) Bennett was sighted at home by the Belleville News-Democrat (he claimed the person identified as him was actually his cousin).

In the Last Month

In Belvidere, Illinois, 77-year-old Rita Ohlsen completed her twelve-thousandth workday for packaging manufacturer Pactiv Corporation, having never called in sick….A representative of the Wisconsin Ethics Board criticized state representative Tim Hoven for using his office to sell shirts embroidered with the logo of a proliquor lobby group….In Meadville, Pennsylvania, John Yount was arrested during his wedding ceremony after police realized that he was still subject to a domestic-abuse stay-away order the court had granted his bride.

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