Lead Stories

Florida justice: In Lakeland in February, 6-year-old Justin Rezendes was arrested, booked, and fingerprinted after a scuffle with teachers, the principal, and the school police officer in which he bit and scratched them. Two weeks earlier in Pensacola, Chaquita Doman, 5, was also arrested after she scratched and bit two officials at her school. Rezendes seemed undeterred by his brush with the law, declaring to a reporter after his release from custody, “I kicked their [school officials’] butts.”

In February police in Abha, Saudi Arabia, threatened new parents Abdullah Mohammed Ali, 55, and Hasna Mohammed Humair, 40, with arrest if they did not soon retrieve their newborn septuplets from the hospital. The babies, who were born January 14, no longer require hospitalization. Humair said she took a fertility drug only to regulate her menstrual cycle and had no idea this would happen. Ali, who works as a cabdriver, has two other legal wives and nine other kids and does not believe he can support the new ones.

In January DigiPen Institute of Technology opened in Redmond, Washington, offering the nation’s first four-year college degree in video-game development at a cost of about $11,000 a year. Forty students enrolled in the first class, but 1,000 applications for the 100 seats in the fall class have already been received. The curriculum emphasizes computer languages and graphics but also includes math, physics, business marketing, and mythology.

Courtroom Antics

In July in Hong Kong Michael Ng, 26, was sentenced to ten months in jail for contempt of court. Before the magistrate would accept Ng’s testimony on charges that he sold obscene CDs, he asked Ng a series of questions to determine his fitness to swear before God, such as “How old was Jesus when he died?” and “Where was he born?” Ng didn’t know.

Outside a courtroom in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in September, defendant Mark Gusow, 36, told his court-appointed attorney, Laura Morrison, 52, that he was going to request a new lawyer. Morrison tried to persuade Gusow to stay outside and talk about it some more, but when he started to walk away Morrison clamped him in a headlock and allegedly raked his face with her fingernails.

In July James P. Morrow, a recent resident of an Ohio penitentiary, filed a lawsuit in Dayton against Governor George Voinovich and 300 other officials because they allegedly tried to “beam” down security people to confront Morrow every time he entered a courthouse. Morrow petitioned the court to grant him “Wallydraggle, mummery feg winple soupcon-type relief.”

In Hillsboro, Ohio, on New Year’s Eve, Judge James Hapner ordered chronic drunk driver Dennis Cayse (18 convictions) to move to within a half-mile of a liquor store so that he will not be tempted to drive to and from bars. Hapner also ruled that when Cayse travels by car, he must either have another person between him and the driver or must be handcuffed to the passenger-side door, so as to reduce the likelihood that he could be driving and simply change seats if stopped.

In Swindon, England, magistrate Josie Lewis, 45, got into a dispute with a reporter last April, which got worse when he began to take photographs of her. As she was walking away, she mooned him, which the man of course captured on film. In September Lewis’s boss fired her.

In July George Gaillard confessed to murder at the trial of his pal Lawrence Fuller in New Haven, Connecticut. Fuller, who had been charged with the killing, was left to answer the lesser crimes of kidnapping and assault. However, at his own trial in December, Gaillard testified that he did not kill anyone and said he confessed only to help Fuller. The jurors accepted Gaillard’s story and acquitted him. An Associated Press dispatch said Gaillard’s own lawyer was “stunned” by the decision, and prosecutor Michael Dearington said he was “humiliated.”

Least Competent People

In Polson, Montana, sheriff’s deputy Grant Holle was suspended in October for 14 days for violating department policy. Holle got in trouble after coming to the aid of fellow officer Tina Schlaile, who was trying to stop suspected drunk driver Rich Logan from driving away in his car. Though Logan’s car was barely creeping along, Holle pulled his gun and fired eight shots toward Logan’s tires from close range, missing each time (though he did hit the fender twice). Schlaile also fired six shots at the tires and missed each time. Logan was captured when he got out of his car voluntarily a few minutes later.

In November George Moscatello, 46, a freelance Bigfoot investigator and novice camper from Woodside, New York, traveled alone to a remote area in Canada’s Northwest Territories to research the legendary beast. On his first night in the field, after hearing what he described as “pitter-patter sounds” outside his tent, he set off an emergency beacon, summoning a rescue plane from Toronto to pick him up at a cost to taxpayers of about $8,500 (U.S.).

In November in Annapolis, Maryland, during a birthday celebration for Gregory Johnson, 32, his cousin Darwin Derwood Coates, 21, tucked a .22-caliber handgun into the waistband of his trousers and accidentally shot himself in the groin. As guests tried to assist Coates, Johnson grabbed the gun and stuck it in the most convenient place he could find, which was the waistband of his own trousers. The gun fired again, striking Johnson in the buttocks. Both men were hospitalized.

An unidentified man tried to rob a bank in Saint Catharines, Ontario, in November, but apparently had not cased the joint beforehand. The branch was of the type that consists only of an employee or two and a row of ATMs. After entering the bank and demanding money, the man looked around in disbelief and walked out.

In September in Blaine, Minnesota, a 19-year-old man fatally shot himself with a .38-caliber revolver while playing Russian roulette. According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report, the man loaded one bullet, spun the cylinder, and put the gun to his head. When his friends tried to stop him, the man assured them that the bullet was not behind the barrel but next to it. Said a police officer, “Not everyone realizes how a revolver works. As you pull the trigger, the cylinder rotates, bringing the next chamber under the hammer. If that [next] chamber is loaded, then it’s going to fire.”

In February the Connecticut court of appeals upheld the kidnapping and robbery convictions of Michael Carter, rejecting his claim that witnesses’ identification of him should have been suppressed at his trial. According to New Haven police officer Dario Aponte, at the time of his arrest Carter had proclaimed his innocence but resisted being taken to the scene of the crime to see if witnesses recognized him, asking Aponte, “How can they identify me? I had a mask on.”

Send your weird news to Chuck Shephard, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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