Lead Stories

No way–an insincere lawyer! Attorney Michael Lazaroff, 50, pleaded guilty in Saint Louis in June to federal charges that he gave clients extravagant gifts over the past seven years, totaling $380,000, but inflated their bills with phony charges to pay for them. Lazaroff’s “generosity” included concert tickets and trips to Las Vegas.

Lost in the public debate over whether DNA testing should be done on death row convicts is the case of Texan Roy Criner, now 33, sentenced to 99 years in jail in 1990 for rape, despite a subsequent DNA test concluding that the sperm in question was not his. One appeals court overturned Criner’s conviction even before the test was performed, but the state’s highest court reimposed it, and in interviews with Frontline in January, Judge Sharon Keller of that court said that Criner was properly convicted even though the sperm did not match.

Recent Names in the News

99 Daniel McGill, on the occasion of his marriage in March in Knoxville, Tennessee. Will Wynn, who promised supporters he would win a city council seat in Austin, Texas; he did, in May. Chunky Click, defeated in his bid to be reelected sheriff of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in June. Priscilla Feral, president of the group Friends of Animals, protesting mistreatment of gophers during a June festival in Viola, Minnesota.

The Continuing Crisis

Britain’s national patent office disclosed in March that poet/waitress Donna Rawlinson MacLean had applied for a patent on herself. MacLean told the Guardian that she meets the legal standard of “novel” and “useful”: “It has taken 30 years of hard labor for me to discover and invent myself, and now I wish to protect my invention from unauthorized exploitation.”

Latest feng shui developments: The San Francisco Chronicle profiled astrologer/psychic Eloise Helm in March, just after she upgraded her specialty to “international feng shui consultant,” which she noted was a more lucrative calling (at the going Bay Area rate of $1,000 per client). She has rejected tarot cards for a “feng shui compass” to gauge the harmony in a room. And author Alison Daniels assured reporters earlier this year that her book Feng Shui for You and Your Cat was not a parody, that cats are natural practitioners of feng shui, and that cat owners should pay attention to common cat behaviors, such as climbing curtains, which are reactions to the presence or absence of energy streams.

Pedro Valls Feu Rosa, a state supreme court judge in Brazil, has developed an artificial-intelligence software program called Electronic Judge, enabling clerks operating laptop computers at the scenes of traffic accidents and other disputes to dispense instant justice by inputting facts into the program. According to an April report in London’s Independent, most parties seem satisfied to have their cases tried in this manner, but the inventor acknowledges that his program is not appropriate for cases requiring complex interpretations of the law.

Several press accounts from Cambodia recently reported on a popular form of retaliation by that country’s spurned boyfriends: splashing battery acid in the woman’s face. A Deutsche Presse-Agentur reporter found a dozen victims in Phnom Penh during the winter. Similarly, in 1997 dozens of jilted men tossed hand grenades at their would-be girlfriends.

Connecticut’s Manchester

Journal Inquirer reported in March that heroin was so cheap in nearby Hartford that one police lieutenant had seen the price as low as $2.50 per dose (a tenth of a gram), less than a pack

of cigarettes.

In March, Remy Bricka set out from Los Angeles to “walk” to Sydney, Australia, using a pair of boatlike skis and a long paddle and towing a catamaran behind him carrying supplies. And in April hospital worker Willie Nugent of Belfast raised money for charity by “swimming” across a river in downtown Dublin, despite the fact that he cannot swim; instead, Nugent crawled across a bridge while making movements resembling a breaststroke. Nugent made it, but Bricka’s catamaran was wiped out by a storm on the first day and he had to quit.

The Environmental Protection Agency told reporters in May that it could not begin cleanup of the toxic Kim-Stan landfill near Roanoke, Virginia, because its owner has been hiding out since a bankruptcy proceeding in 1990. The government cannot legally begin to stop the leaking of cadmium, manganese, zinc, and aluminum into the nearby Jackson River without the owner’s permission.

In Their Own Words

In Connecticut, Wesleyan University freshman Cara Herbitter explained in April the rationale for the 35-member campus club formed to celebrate women’s sexuality (and which was born out of the university’s production of the off-Broadway play The Vagina Monologues): “If you don’t make a point of talking specifically about vaginas, then they don’t get talked about.”

Recurring Themes

In 1998, News of the Weird reported on a married couple (he’s American, she’s Canadian) barred from each other’s country because of their criminal records; they could spend time together only on the U.S.-Canada bridge at Niagara Falls, which they regularly did. Another couple in the same situation apparently decided that meeting on the bridge was not good enough, and in February of this year Shawn Gibson was convicted in Saint Catharines, Ontario, of entering Canada illegally to see his wife for the sixth time and sentenced to five months in jail.

Undignified Deaths

A 39-year-old man committed suicide in downtown Tokyo in May by jumping from the eighth floor of a department store building; he landed on pedestrian Shinya Obata, 27, who was seriously injured but survived. Less lucky was Yang Shu-hui, 26, who happened to be walking where Hsu

Tzu-jung, 36, landed in a seven-story March leap in Taichung, Taiwan;

both died.

In the Last Month

Prince Ernst August of Hannover apologized to Turkey for urinating on its pavilion at an urgent moment at the Expo 2000 World’s Fair in Germany. Surgeons in Olney, Maryland, called firefighters to the hospital to help amputate the leg of a diabetic woman whose titanium rod implant was too tough for OR equipment. In Lincolnton, North Carolina, police found three toddlers home alone and feeding chocolate to their parents’ new pet, a year-old black bear. After watching her 47-year-old husband get sentenced for DUI in Sanford, Florida, a distraught wife was arrested driving away from the courtroom, drunk herself.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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