Lead Story

World’s Shortest Attention Span: In January a New York City jury awarded $450,000 to Douglas Hall, whose career as a professional dancer ended in 2001 after surgery by Dr. Andrew Feldman at St. Vincent’s Hospital. In a meeting before the procedure Hall indicated the spot on his right knee where the pain was worst and Feldman drew a large X there; 20 minutes later, Feldman cut into Hall’s previously healthy left knee.

Unclear on the Concept

According to a February dispatch in the Wall Street Journal, the tsunami relief effort in Sri Lanka has been significantly inconvenienced by a deluge of presumably well-intentioned but bizarrely inappropriate donations from the West. Aid workers said they didn’t have the resources to sort through the huge quantities of unwanted and often unusable goods, which have included women’s dress shoes, down ski jackets (local temperatures average around 80 degrees), Viagra, Valium, other medicines labeled in languages most local doctors can’t read, cologne, moisturizing gel, and thong underwear.

Public Officials Looking Bad

Jean Eaton, mayor of Albert Lea, Minnesota (population 18,356), was arrested for theft in December: allegedly she had repeatedly bought clothing from Marshall Field’s department stores, then used the price tags to “return” other garments–used and in some cases stained–for a total of more than $800 in store credit. And Canada’s immigration minister, Judy Sgro, resigned in January: she was already battling allegations of improperly using her influence when Harjit Singh, a Toronto-area pizzeria owner facing deportation, accused her of reneging on an offer to help him obtain legal residence in exchange for free pizza for her and her campaign workers.

Finer Points of the Law

In January Sergio Segundo Ruiz, 60, suffered multiple injuries after being hit by a car in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; he was charged with crossing the street with disregard for safety, held responsible for damages to the 1986 Ford Taurus that hit him, and had a police officer posted outside his hospital room. Also in January a court in Breda, the Netherlands, sentenced a 46-year-old man to four years’ imprisonment for robbing a bank of roughly $9,000 U.S., but ordered him to pay restitution of only about $6,300, ruling he was allowed to claim the $2,700 he spent on his gun as a business expense.

Counterproductively Competent Criminals

After robbers linked by authorities to the Irish Republican Army stole the equivalent of $50 million from the Northern Bank in Belfast, police announced in February that the bank would take the drastic step of withdrawing roughly $575 million in paper money from circulation and replacing it with new bills printed in different colors. (Each of Northern Ireland’s major banks issues its own notes.) London’s Telegraph reported that though the robbers would likely still be able to launder millions in stolen money, police hoped that the currency reissue would force them to speed up the process, possibly causing them to make mistakes. The reissue, which was projected to take eight weeks and cost up to $9.6 million, wouldn’t have been feasible had a lesser amount been stolen.

Readers’ Choice

Tammy Jean Warner of Lake Jackson, Texas, was charged in February with negligent homicide in the death last year of her husband, Michael: police say she gave him at least three quarts of sherry via enema, resulting in acute alcohol poisoning. (He reportedly had a history of alcoholism but suffered from throat trouble that made drinking painful.) Warner claimed her husband had administered the lethal enema himself, saying he had been addicted to enemas since childhood and regularly gave himself enemas with “coffee . . . castile soap, Ivory soap. He had enema recipes.” She said she was “sure that’s the way he wanted to go out because he loved his enemas.”

Recurring Themes

Judith Clark, serving 75 years for her part in a deadly 1981 Brink’s truck robbery attempt, filed a writ of habeas corpus in New York City in January: she became the latest convicted criminal to claim that by permitting her to serve as her own lawyer at trial, the court had violated her constitutional right to proper representation.

In September News of the Weird reported on a medical-journal article by Israeli doctors warning of the risk of herpes transmission via a rare circumcision method in which the practitioner sucks the blood directly from the wound. In December New York City health officials, investigating three cases of herpes (one fatal) in baby boys who had recently been circumcised by Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, ordered Fischer to stop practicing this method and submit to a herpes test.

Arrest Roundup

Attorney Wayne G. Johnson Sr. was arrested for driving drunk shortly after leaving a court hearing at which he’d represented a client accused of driving drunk (McKean, Pennsylvania, January). Tammy Lynn Price, 28, a defendant in a drug case, was charged with stealing the judge’s gavel after he left the courtroom (Farmington, Missouri, January). And Leonardo Leyva, 44, was arrested for public intoxication after calling 911 at four in the morning to complain that his wife wouldn’t have sex with him (Turlock, California, January).

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