Lead Story

In October Mary Mead, the Republican candidate for governor in Wyoming, wrote a letter of apology to a group of county officials in Casper for having given them what she called a “boring” speech. “Even before I left,” she wrote, “I knew that my remarks had not served me well. Some days are great, and some aren’t.”

The Litigious Society

Utah prison inmate Robert LeRoy Ele, serving 10 to 15 years for sexually abusing a child, filed a $6 million lawsuit against Ed McMahon and Publishers Clearing House in February for their failure to send him sweepstakes entry blanks. (A Publishers Clearing House lawyer said the fault lies with the prison for not permitting bulk mail to be delivered to inmates.)

Daniel Johnson, serving a life sentence in Texas’s Huntsville prison for a 1977 rape, filed a $50,000 lawsuit against the prison in August to force officials to curb excessive noise from late-night TV in prison lounges. Johnson claimed “deprivations of needed rest and sleep, nervous tension, severe anxiety, feelings of depression, dejection, fatigue, emotional pain and torment, [and] headaches.”

In July a New York appeals court upheld a 1983 verdict against the New York Transit Authority. Celestino Lucas had leapt onto the subway tracks and lay spread-eagled across them briefly but then tried to get up as a train entered the station. He sued the transit authority because the engineer was not able to stop the train in time, resulting in Lucas’s losing both legs below the knee. Lucas could be awarded as much as $600,000.

In September the prosecutor in Virginia Beach, Virginia, dropped charges against Aimee Ashton, 17, for holding a dripping ice cream cone outside her car window. The prosecutor said it was a “close” decision to drop the case because a “large amount” of ice cream was involved.

In August the Idaho Supreme Court ruled against Thomas Sweltzer, who had sued his employer for wrongful discharge. He had claimed he was unfairly fired from his job as a grave digger in a small town when he became depressed at the growing number of friends he had to bury.

Evelyn Sharpe filed a $750,000 lawsuit in Knoxville, Tennessee, in July against hairdresser Ruth Coatney, who had accused Sharpe of having a case of “dog mumps” when she came in for her appointment. Further, Coatney allegedly “barked” at Sharpe, causing her to flee, trip and fall, and break her hip.

Among the name-change proceedings taking place in Santa Clara, California, in July was the petition by a young boy, originally named Pitbull Shotgun Collier, to change his name to Peter Collier.

Well Put

Floyd Price, the assistant district attorney general in Nashville, said of an August case against Barbara Trapp, convicted of the murder of her newborn son: “You can’t just go around throwing babies down trash chutes, putting them in garbage cans, and flushing them down commodes. That is not appropriate behavior in this society.”

Honolulu mayor Frank Fasi, in a July letter replying to a Philadelphia police officer who had complained of seeing drunks, drugs, and prostitutes on his recent vacation in Honolulu: “You are entitled to your opinions, but as far as I am concerned, you can go to hell! Take your complaints, and shove them up your big, fat nose.”

High school baseball coach David Moskovitz, charged with soliciting a prostitute in Daytona Beach, Florida, in August, denied the charge. After the police decoy testified that she asked Moskovitz and his friend if they wanted sex and that both men then nodded their heads, Moskovitz countered, “She’s saying we implied an answer by the nod of our heads.”

From the corrections column in a July Fresno (California) Bee: “An item in Thursday’s [issue] about the Massachusetts budget crisis made reference to new taxes that will help put Massachusetts ‘back in the African-American.’ The item should have said, ‘back in the black.'”

Bobby Pringle, in his “last words” before sentencing by a judge in Prince George’s County, Maryland (having been convicted of killing his disabled mother by stabbing her more than 70 times), said in July whatever sentence he got wouldn’t matter to him “because I lost my mother.”

Guardian Angels national director Lisa Sliwa, asked in June whether she married Angels founder Curtis Sliwa “for love,” said: “Absolutely not. You’ve seen him. Look at him. I mean, he needs to be thrown in front of a couple of open fire hydrants and deloused. There’s no way it would be love. It was for the organization.”

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