Lead Story

Clinton supporter George W. Smith told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in February that he had a plan to relieve one of the president’s Whitewater problems, the potential taxpayer liability for the failure of the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan. Smith said he wanted to encourage private contributions toward the bailout by giving each contributor baseball trading cards from his four-room collection–$2 in card value for each $1 contributed. Smith thinks he could raise $2 million toward the projected bailout cost of $47 million.

Couldn’t Possibly Be True

The first prize in an August $1-a-ticket raffle to raise money to send Australian surfer Trudy Todd, 18, on the world pro surfing tour was a fling with a Sydney prostitute of the winner’s choice; second prize was a sex-shop voucher worth about $27.

In November Brazil’s heaviest woman, Joselina da Silva, who weighs 900 pounds, was admitted to a posh health spa in Sao Paulo. A specially adapted ambulance was required to transport her to the facility, and when she arrived fire fighters had to remove a window and part of a wall so she could be taken to her room.

In court papers submitted in July federal prosecutors moved to revoke the parole of convicted Irvine, California, bank swindler Charles J. Bazarian, who was then on the lam. The prosecutors also accused Bazarian of a second swindle: in 1992 he’d convinced the man who prosecuted him three years earlier in the Irvine swindle to invest $6,000 of his own money in an Oklahoma company that turned out to be worthless.

In December a three-year-old boy survived a 19-story fall from a Hong Kong apartment house because numerous clotheslines impeded his fall. And in October a construction worker in Mountain View, California, survived having a ten-ton concrete slab fall on him because the slab was slightly concave.

As the result of simultaneous in vitro fertilization, one set of triplets was born to two mothers in two cities one month apart. Linda Schaper, 33, of Chesterfield, Missouri, and her sister Barbara Payne, 32, of Columbia, Missouri, gave birth in January and February. Schaper, who had two of the babies, and her husband had produced six fertilized eggs, of which three were implanted in each woman.

In a January contest sponsored by the Washington Mutual Bank to select the most unusual places or events in the Washington-Oregon area, first prize went to a Douglas fir tree in Vashon Island, Washington, that has a bicycle trapped inside its bark. Local residents say the bicycle was parked beside the tree years ago and the bark eventually grew around it and completely enveloped it. The tree’s growth has lifted the bicycle seven feet off the ground.

In November a jury in Montrose, Pennsylvania, acquitted Samuel J. Cosmello Jr., who’d confessed to killing his brother and burning his house down. The jury accepted the testimony of a psychiatrist who said Cosmello suffered from an obsessive-compulsive disorder that made him need to confess falsely.

Courtroom Antics

In November a defense lawyer in San Francisco attempted to call a parrot to the witness stand on the chance it might speak the name of the man who killed its owner, but the judge said no. Last spring a chicken took the stand in a Tyler, Texas, courtroom to facilitate a demonstration of vaccination procedures at a local prison, and a police dog took the stand in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, courtroom so a defense attorney could try to show that the dog, and not his client, was the aggressor in a fight.

A January Associated Press report from the Gaza strip described sentences recently handed down by one of the best-known of the local religious arbiters. (Most Gazans boycott the Israeli-run court system and opt for private arbitration.) A man who “winked” at a woman and said, “Hey, beautiful!” was ordered to pay the woman’s family about $2,500 and have one eye gouged out. A rapist was to ride an oiled camel from his house to his victim’s, then submit to having any part of his body that has oil on it cut off. A murderer’s family was to pay either a large amount of money to the victim’s family or a smaller amount plus the use of a woman to bear a son to replace the victim.

In New Orleans in July Kevin Dominique was acquitted of possession of stolen property, a crime for which he would have received only a short jail sentence. On hearing the verdict–despite the judge’s warnings on courtroom decorum–Dominique leaped to his feet, yelled “Thank God!” and gave his lawyer a bear hug. Judge Leon Cannizzaro then sentenced Dominique to six months in jail for contempt of court. (An appeals court freed him after nine days.)

In September the Judicial Council of Manitoba reprimanded Judge Frank Allen for comments he made when hearing a domestic violence case. According to the council, Allen told the male defendant, who’d threatened to kill his girlfriend and himself, “There isn’t any woman worth the trouble you got yourself into.”

Least Competent Person

In December David Posman escaped from prison. On January 6, according to police, he entered a Providence, Rhode Island, bank armed with a gun, walked up to a clerk, and demanded money. The woman informed Posman that he was in the loan department and that the tellers were on the other side of the lobby. He pulled off the robbery and jumped into his getaway car, but then he got lost trying to elude police and was caught.

Undignified Deaths

In April the Utah Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction of Frank Powell, who in 1987 ran over Glen Candland, ending their fight over who had the best pickup truck.

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