Lead Story

Campaign 2000: Robert Salzberg of Sarasota, Florida, finished a strong second with 26 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat, despite revealing that he would soon plead not guilty by reason of insanity to a charge of beating up a police lieutenant inside a station house in March; Salzberg said he thought a robot was attacking him. In Maryland the estranged wife of U.S. representative Albert Wynn is contributing a political ad for his opponent, charging that Wynn “does not respect black women [because] he left me for a white woman.” And Barry Waites, a city councilman in Lanett, Alabama, lost his seat in August, largely through the effort of candidate Rod Spraggins, who finished fourth but whose only issue was to accuse Waites of murdering his own wife two years earlier (Waites was never charged).

Rights in Conflict

In Hauppauge, New York, newsstand clerk Mike Redina, 44, who is blind, was fired in July because an underage boy illegally bought cigarettes from him. Chevron lost an employment discrimination case in El Segundo, California, in May because a company doctor had recommended rejecting an application from a man with a liver disorder, noting that the work site was a highly toxic part of a refinery, and the company would almost certainly have been liable if the man had gotten sicker. Michael and Jill Carroll of Albany, New York, were forced by a court to give their seven-year-old son the Ritalin prescribed to regulate his school behavior despite the fact that the boy suffered insomnia and loss of appetite with the drug.

Grown-ups Setting Examples

Never laid a hand on him: Otto Benjamin II, 39, was arrested in May in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and charged with second-degree battery after police found that he had been disciplining his 15-year-old son by biting him, including several recent incidents that had left permanent scars on the boy’s ear, nose, lip, finger, thigh, shoulder, and forearm.

Teachers as role models: Author and Columbia University literature professor Edward Said, 65, visiting Lebanon in July, was photographed throwing stones at Israeli soldiers at the border. He later explained, “The spirit of the place infected everyone with the same impulse, to make a symbolic gesture of joy that the occupation had ended.” Two weeks later, New York City high school teacher Ryan Ward, 30, was charged with grand larceny after he allegedly rode his bike past a woman on East 26th Street in Manhattan and swiped her purse.

Anesthesiologist Eric Meek of Des Moines, Iowa, filed a lawsuit in July against surgeon Scott Neff over a February incident that Meek felt took their ongoing professional feud too far. Meek said that when he walked into the operating room to work with Neff on a routine hip replacement, Neff grabbed the hose attached to a fluid-draining machine and sprayed him with a “blood-laden” liquid.


Jeff Schmidt was fired in May after 19 years as a staff writer for the magazine Physics Today just after the publication of his book Disciplined Minds, which argues that a hierarchical organization’s structure almost guarantees that its workers cannot devote their full energy to the job. He was canned after a supervisor read a publicity interview by Schmidt in which he admitted that he had sometimes worked on the book during office hours at Physics Today.

In July, Genevieve Simenon, a great-niece of the late French mystery writer Georges Simenon, confessed to killing her husband and expressed dismay that, but for one detail, she would have gotten away with it, just like the characters in her great-uncle’s stories. Genevieve had injected her husband with Valium, then beat him to death, scrubbed the crime scene, and convinced the family physician that her husband had suffered a heart attack and bruised his face when he hit his head on a table. However, the funeral director looked under the husband’s long hair and noticed that his ear had been torn off.

Additional recent ironies: In June an arsonist burned down the Heart of Fire Church in Fern Creek, Kentucky. In August a very abled executive with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind was fined $100 for issuing himself a handicapped parking card.

The Unhygienic Lawyer

In July the Law Society of Alberta, Canada, announced it had begun an inquiry into whether John M. Grindley should lose his license to practice for damaging the reputation of the profession. Grindley had been convicted in June of drunk driving, but the society filed charges against him only later, after a residential eviction order against him was upheld. An inspector had declared Grindley’s home a hazard to public health because it was so grungy and putrid. Grindley admitted that his apartment is “messy” but said he would fight the charge.

Recurring Themes

Last year the Michigan conviction of canoeist Timothy Boomer under a seldom-used state law banning public cussing received a lot of publicity. In May high school senior Oakly Haines of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who had just won the gold medal in the 400-meter race at the state track tournament, was disqualified when two volunteer officials overheard him cuss at himself (“damn it” and “son of a bitch”) because he had failed to beat the record time of his older brother. Said one of the officials, “When you have children, you want them to be exposed [only] to wonderful, good things.”

Thinning the Herd

In June a 16-year-old boy fatally shot himself in the head while fleeing a sheriff’s deputy; according to the deputy, the boy had clumsily fired over his shoulder while on the run. And in August, during a workplace scuffle in Irvine, California, one man grabbed another in a headlock, pulled his gun, and shot him in the face, but the bullet passed through the target’s cheek and into the shooter’s own chest, killing him.

In the Last Month

Federal prison officials in Lake Placid, New York, angered at a recent bribery convict’s boast that he planned to play a lot of golf at a minimum-security facility, shipped him instead to the same medium-security New York lockup as John Gotti’s son. In Pittsburgh a veteran skydiver got his foot caught outside the airplane door two miles up; he was still hanging during the landing 30 minutes later, but was not seriously hurt. Eugene Hasenfus, an ex-Marine gunrunner involved in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair, was arrested in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for masturbating in a Kmart parking lot. In Eastford, Connecticut, a 36-year-old driver was shot in the abdomen during a collision when a handgun in the glove compartment fired as it was jarred by the impact.

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/Shawn Belschwender.