Lead Story

In May police in Prince William County, Virginia, and Clearwater, Florida, perused law books for crimes with which to charge men believed to be Peeping Toms. Police in Virginia said James Harrison Burdick, 23, climbed a ladder and looked into a high school girls’ locker room, but state law makes it illegal only to peep into a private dwelling, not a public building. And police in Florida said that Fred J. Dohring, 50, held a video camera under a stall in a coed beach changing room, but according to the law, only surreptitious audio taping is illegal.

Least Competent People

One of China’s most discussed stories of 1994, according to a November New York Times report, was an account originally published in the official paper Legal Daily about a couple who’d tried for months to conceive a child but failed. While examining the woman, a doctor discovered that she was a virgin. The couple apparently believed that sleeping in the same bed constituted a reproductive act.

According to a May Associated Press story, several fraudulent fund-raising schemes have been used to take advantage of rabid antigovernment and militia types. Scott Hildebrand and three others were convicted in Michigan after convincing several people to pay a $300 filing fee to share in the pot of “$600 trillion” Hildebrand claimed he’d just won in a lawsuit against the federal government for abandoning the gold standard in 1933.

Time magazine reported in March that four months after former Illinois congressman Dan Rostenkowski lost the election and two months after he left office he was still getting phone calls from constituents demanding favors. A former aide speculated that voters only wanted to scare Rostenkowski in November: “I don’t think anyone thought he’d really lose.”

Jormel F. Williams, 20, who was arrested in Saint Louis in April on charges including using a stolen credit card, was detected after attempting to use a card belonging to John Einspanier. Williams was asked his last name, and according to police, couldn’t pronounce or spell “Einspanier.”

In separate incidents in February in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Springfield, Missouri, bank robbers were caught because they had visited the bank only minutes before robbing it and had filled out paperwork using their own names and addresses.

In Toronto in December two men were arrested for burglary after a foiled getaway attempt. As they leaped off a porch one landed on the other. The guy on top badly sprained his ankle; the guy on bottom wound up with a fractured skull, broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and a collapsed lung.

Jorge Rodriguez, 22, appeared before a judge in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in November on a charge that he’d hit a parked car while driving drunk. Rodriguez earnestly handed the judge a Monopoly-like “Get out of jail free” card that a candidate for sheriff had distributed as a gimmick during a campaign. Said the prosecutor, “Clearly, the defendant had the impression it was legitimate.” Rodriguez received a fine and probation.

William Edward Woods, 49, was arrested in Tampa, Florida, in May on fraud charges after he asked a Paine Webber office for $50 billion in credit. As collateral Woods offered the brokerage firm a $1 billion bond allegedly issued by the city of Moscow, a $625 million certificate of deposit allegedly issued by a bank in Croatia, and a receipt for $66 million in gold that was supposedly waiting for him in the warehouse of treasure hunter Mel Fisher. A state official called Woods’s alleged scheme “preposterous, raised to the 10th power. . . . I’m amazed [the Paine Webber people] didn’t break out laughing.”

Inmate Frederick McGowan, 26, who’d walked away from the Blue Ridge Community work-release center in Taylors, South Carolina, in March, was recaptured a week later when he returned to pick up his paycheck.

Police in Howland, Ohio, arrested a 17-year-old man in January and charged him with breaking into Gilmore’s Greenhouse Florist and taking several hanging plants. Police arrived at the man’s home by following a trail of leaves.

In January police in Edmonton, Alberta, charged Kevin Krishna Niranjan, 30, with mischief after a failed bank robbery. Police said Niranjan entered the Bank of Nova Scotia unarmed and yelled, “Freeze! This is a holdup!” He remained in the doorway, giving no other instruction, while people in the bank stared at him bewildered. According to the bank manager, Niranjan finally yelled something to the effect that he didn’t think the staring was funny and ran out of the bank.

In February Mayor Burhanettin Ozfatura of Izmir, Turkey, was upset at an attempt by Senator Bob Dole to block U.S. aid to Turkey, so he banned the sale of Dole bananas in his city.

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