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News of the Weird

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Bruce Damon, attempting to enter a plea bargain in February to charges that he knocked off a bank in Whitman, Massachusetts, argued that the 8- to 15-year term suggested by the prosecutor was way too long. Damon reasoned that when he robbed a bank in 1987, he only got a 3- to 5-year term. Then he cited an article from the Brockton Enterprise, which reported that the bank had enjoyed record earnings despite the robbery and expected to do well in 1992. "I didn't hurt this bank at all," Damon argued. When the judge asked Damon if he would rob banks again, Damon replied, "I'd like to plead the Fifth Amendment on that." The judge refused to accept the plea and scheduled Damon for trial.

People With Too Much Time on Their Hands

John Dawson, 26, was arrested in February in South Saint Paul, Minnesota, after a young woman found him naked in her apartment. Police say he broke in just before she arrived, left her a note on the kitchen table, undressed, put duct tape over his eyes, and handcuffed himself to her bed. In the note were instructions that she was to go into her bedroom immediately and have sex with him because a man with a gun had kidnapped him and was waiting to kill someone else if she refused. Instead, she ran to the police, and Dawson, who had left the key to his chains on the kitchen table, could not free himself before they arrived.

In January, Consumer Action, a San Francisco watchdog organization, warned that adult 900-number telephone services often defraud consumers by promising more explicit sexual conversation than they deliver. "Despite highly suggestive titles and pictures of half-naked women in many ads," Consumer Action reported, "the services provided tame, nonsexual conversation."

The sponsoring legislator for Pennsylvania's Sky Awareness Week (April 26 to May 2) said the week is intended to acknowledge everything that happens in the sky, including rain, wind, light, temperature, and, finally, "the interrelationship between phenomena in the sky and the earth's landscape."

Performance artist Linda M. Montano sat on a sawhorse next to horse statues at the University of Texas at Austin from midnight to 7 AM for three nights last November. She said the performance fulfilled a childhood wish to run away to Texas and ride a horse while listening to Richard Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier."

Actress Melanie Griffith told an interviewer that her role as a Jewish secretary during World War II in the movie Shining Through had opened her eyes. "I didn't know that six million Jews were killed," she said. "That's a lot of people."

Last year, a production executive at Buena Vista Pictures bowed to pressure from the Humane Association of Los Angeles to cut a scene from the movie White Fang in which a wolf attacked a man. A relieved Humane Association executive said, "I was very concerned about that [attack scene] being an antiwolf statement."

Magician Doug Henning, on announcing plans that he and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi were planning a 1,500-acre theme park near Niagara Falls that would emphasize "awakening human consciousness," told the New York Times that this park would be different from others. "Most theme parks are superficial," he explained.

Compelling Explanations

In March, Dr. Samson Dubrin, 28, responding to evidence against him in the murder of a 20-year-old woman in Vista, California, told a judge that he had not used chloroform to make the woman unconscious, but that she had passed out when her car passed a chemical truck on the highway.

Marshall Moore, assistant to the superintendent of schools in Richmond, Indiana, was demoted in February after admitting that he altered his son's high school transcript to make him eligible for college sports. Moore said he was motivated to help his son because "I've spent 30 years to a certain extent ignoring my family and now I helped them in the wrong way."

Robert H. Wilds, 39, a TV reporter in Knoxville, Tennessee, pleaded no contest to soliciting a prostitute in November, but said, "What was in my mind was [not to have sex but] to interview her for a story."

In December, Park Jae-hyun, a factory worker in Seoul, was arrested for robbing a taxi driver of $40 and his taxicab. Park explained to police, "I wanted to use my driver's license which I have never used since I got it in 1988."

Least Competent Person

Robert Austin, 33, was suspected by Minneapolis police of being the "gorilla gunman" who robbed local retail stores in January while wearing a gorilla mask. Police got their biggest lead when a maskless Austin robbed the MGM Liquor Warehouse; Austin forced the clerk into the store's office and then, just halfway into the robbery, decided to put the mask on.

Creme de la Weird

In Elmwood Park, New Jersey, principal Samuel R. Bracigliano, 49, recently on trial for molesting teenage boys, repeatedly denied the charges despite mounting evidence. He denied that the extensive collection of pornography the police seized from his home was for his sexual pleasure even though a jar of Vaseline was found with the materials, along with notes, found in videotape boxes, that indicated the VCR-counter numbers at which sex scenes began on a number of videotapes. Bracigliano said he is a serious photographer of nudes and planned to use Polaroids police found of nude boys for a collage that he wanted to bring to school as an example of his work. "I was doing my best work yet when I was arrested," he said.

The Diminishing Value of Life

Georgina Thompson, 37, was charged in March in Wellington, Kansas, with soliciting two men to murder her common-law husband; the promised payment was her husband's collection of baseball cards. The two men reported her to police and turned over the down payment she had made of ten of the cards. "That's about as mean as a wife can get," said the deputy sheriff. "The only thing lower would have been if she offered his hunting and fishing gear."

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

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