Lead Story

At a hearing last month in children’s court in Perth, Australia, a 12-year-old girl was sentenced to two months’ detention for an incident in which she stole a Toyota Land Cruiser and led police on a 50-minute chase through rush hour traffic at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour. The judge also ordered that she serve three more months of an earlier sentence, as she’d violated a supervision order covering her 33 previous convictions.

The Litigious Society

Amy Mueller announced in July that she’d filed a $50,000 lawsuit against Samy’s Bar and Grill in Joliet. Claiming she fell and badly broke her right ankle there in May 2006, she alleged that Samy’s shouldn’t have allowed her to try to climb up on the bar and dance without providing “a step-stool, ladder, or other device used for safety.” And in August Jeromy Jackson of Clarksburg, West Virginia, filed a $10 million suit against McDonald’s for putting cheese on a Quarter Pounder against his instructions, thus allegedly causing him to suffer a serious allergic reaction that required immediate treatment. (His mother and a friend joined in the suit, claiming they were forced to endanger themselves while rushing him to the hospital.) Jackson’s lawyer told reporters his client had taken numerous steps to make sure McDonald’s employees understood he couldn’t eat cheese; apparently, however, Jackson’s diligence didn’t include looking under the bun before taking a bite.

Compelling Explanations

Cheveon Ford, 21, was arrested in Pensacola, Florida, in July for allegedly making 292 fake emergency calls to 911 over a three-and-a-half-week period; he reportedly said he did it because he was out of minutes on his cell phone and knew that 911 calls were free. And in June 38-year-old Eric Kennedy was sentenced to 12 years in prison for repeatedly molesting his girlfriend’s daughter, who was about seven when the abuse began; according to investigators Kennedy told them that because of his poor eyesight he might have occasionally mistaken the girl for her mother.

Playing Chicken Against Yourself

Early this year Florida state representative Bob Allen cosponsored legislation that would have made it a felony to commit “unnatural and lascivious” acts within 1,000 feet of parks and other public spaces. The bill didn’t pass, however, meaning that when Allen was arrested in July–for a now-famous incident in which he allegedly entered an occupied men’s room stall at a city park in Titusville and offered its occupant (an undercover officer) $20 to let Allen perform oral sex on him–he was charged only with soliciting prostitution, a second-degree misdemeanor.

The Laws of Irony Will Be Strictly Enforced

A 25-year-old woman was arrested in Sydney in July after she allegedly attacked her family with a knife, killing her father and sister and wounding her mother. According to a medical report filed in court, doctors diagnosed her as mentally ill late last year but apparently her parents declined the treatment recommended for her because it conflicted with their belief in Scientology.

Anger Goes Unmanaged

In July a pretrial hearing was scheduled in San Diego for 20-year-old murder suspect Raul Ponce, who according to police stabbed a 17-year-old girl at least 98 times because she wouldn’t let him drive her father’s car; he was arrested the next day at his anger-management class. And in July the Reverend Robert Nichols, 49, was arrested for domestic battery in Gary, Indiana; a local judge told reporters that while charges were pending Nichols wouldn’t continue to teach anger-management classes for city court defendants.

Recent Alarming Headlines

“NHS Dentists Turn Away Patients With Bad Teeth” (Telegraph, May; dentists said Britain’s National Health Service doesn’t compensate them enough to perform extensive treatment); “Indian Lawyers Tie Man to Tree, Beat Him” (Reuters, May; the Agra Bar Association said it would look into the incident, which apparently followed the man’s refusal to marry a relative of his alleged attackers); “Principal Admits Throwing Excrement” (Toronto Star, April; the child she flung it at had provoked her, she claimed, but reportedly wasn’t a student at her school).

Well Put

One July afternoon an 18-wheeler overturned on Walker Road in Norridgewock, Maine, spilling 24 tons of concentrated chicken excrement into Richard White’s front yard. Assorted vehicles parked there were completely engulfed in the tide of sludge; one car was spun around by the impact and washed up on the doorstep of the house. “There’s stuff still 20 feet up the tree,” the local Morning Sentinel quoted White as saying. “It was like a tsunami wave of chicken (manure).” A state agriculture official said the cleanup was the responsibility of the company that owned the truck, and a company spokesperson assured the reporter that things would be put right, but days after the spill White’s property was still generously plastered with reeking clumps of dried excrement. “They think I’m a hick and don’t matter. But my life didn’t smell like this before,” he said. “Why should it now?”

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