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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

The festivities for April's annual fertility ceremony in Nagoya, Japan, intended to improve the rice harvest, featured the usual procession of a 12-foot-long bright pink plastic penis carried through the street and followed by displays of smaller organs and a giant banner of a penis, complete with blood vessels, testicles, and pubic hair. Souvenir candy in the same shape was sold during the event.

In April Courtney Mann, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, was rebuffed by the Ku Klux Klan when she attempted to join a Klan-sponsored march in Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Though she has been a member of the NAAWP for at least four years, her request was turned down by the Pennsylvania Grand Dragon because Mann is black. "She wanted me to send transportation [for the rally]," he said. "She wanted to stay at my house [during rally weekend]. She's all confused, man. I don't think she knows she's a black."

Five weeks before the national elections, the governing party in Indonesia announced in mid-April that according to "scientific calculation" President Suharto had won reelection with 70.02 percent of the vote.

Court Docket

In January Edmond James Ramos saw his first-degree burglary charge (burglary of an occupied dwelling, a more serious crime than burglary of a vacant dwelling) thrown out by an appeals court in Los Angeles. Ramos's lawyer had demonstrated that the only occupant in the dwelling that night had passed away of natural causes minutes prior to Ramos's entry; thus, it was legally empty.

In February of this year, Maryland circuit court judge Thomas Bollinger Sr. agreed to expunge Charles Weiner's spousal battery charge from his record after he completed probation, for the sole purpose of helping Weiner join the Chestnut Ridge Country Club, which had rejected him because of his criminal record. In 1993, Bollinger had given a rapist probation for an attack on a drunken woman, remarking that finding an unconscious woman on a bed was "the dream of a lot of males, quite honestly." Four days after the Weiner ruling, Bollinger reversed his decision and removed himself from all domestic violence and sexual offense cases.

In April the science journal Nature reported that nonhuman DNA, used for the first time in a criminal trial, was the crucial link that convicted Douglas Beamish of murdering his estranged girlfriend on Prince Edward Island, Canada. A single strand of hair from Beamish's cat Snowball was found on a jacket stained with the victim's blood.

In March a judge in Houston, Texas, declared a mistrial in the murder case of John Bradford Crow, 25, based on the misconduct of prosecutor Craig Goodhart. During his closing argument to the jury, while sarcastically referring to Crow's claim that he was a good guy, Goodhart walked over to the defense table and slapped Crow hard on the back, eliciting gasps from spectators and rendering Crow's attorney momentarily speechless.

In Santa Cruz, California, Danis Rivera, 25, rejected a plea bargain in February that would have sent him to prison for one year for having sex with underage girls. At the ensuing trial he constantly spit at court personnel and finally had to be outfitted with a Hannibal Lecter-type bonnet over his face. He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison. And in a Providence, Rhode Island, courtroom in April, Latin King gangster George "Animal" Perry, on trial for murder and racketeering, grew frustrated at the length of the prosecutor's closing argument, which was denying him a much-needed rest room break. Perry rose from his chair, unzipped his fly, and took one anyway.

Schemes

In March Donna Skinner, 30, was arrested at a pay phone in Irwindale, California, and accused of having made 1,500 obscene calls to a local Home Savings of America bank since August. Police confiscated a script she had been reading from but gave no motive.

In March guards on the border between Latvia and Estonia discovered a plastic tube, running from the home of a bootlegger in Latvia to a field 400 meters away in Estonia, through which vodka was being smuggled. The Latvian man was taking advantage of a 60 percent price premium in Estonia.

In October the Unitarian Universalist Church and heirs of Jonathan Holdeen settled their 20-year-old dispute over the disposition of Holdeen's estate, which was created in 1945 as a series of trusts that allegedly would have amassed enough money to fund the entire federal government and render taxation unnecessary. The church, which was a nominal beneficiary of the trusts, actually argued for their abolition in 1977 on the grounds that they would soak up so much of the world's money that the administrators of the trusts would become too powerful.

Saint Charles Catholic Church in Picayune, Mississippi, and nearby Saint Margaret Mary Church in Slidell, Louisiana, posted security ushers at their doors in February to make sure that parishioners were not pocketing communion wafers. Devil-worshiping ceremonies often involve the symbolic desecration of wafers, and the churches' leaders began to fear a local satanic conspiracy after six people were seen leaving Saint Charles in December with their wafers.

In Houston Robert Perry Russell Jr., 44, was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison for the sexual assault and diapering of a 14-year-old boy, but police say he may have had as many as ten victims. According to police, Russell liked to take boys out in a boat, where he would tell them a tale about a headless killer who wants to rescue a toddler from the dangerous lake and kills all others. He would then suggest that putting on the diapers he happened to have with him would be a good way of convincing the killer, should he appear, of the boys' toddler status.

Feuds

In October, after more than three years of litigation and eighteen days of trial, a judge in Chicago awarded condominium unit owner Eleanor Mellick $217,000 in her lawsuit against the condo board. According to the lawsuit, the board president had moved a Dumpster away from his own parking space, narrowing Mellick's space from 111 inches to 93. Mellick claimed that maneuvering in the cramped space had aggravated her arthritis.

Dangerous Activities

In March a busboy at a Marriott resort in Key West, Florida, allegedly shot and killed a supervisor who had apparently criticized his method of loading the dishwasher. And in May, police in Helena, Arkansas, detained a 15-year-old boy they suspected shot his older sister to death after a dispute over which one of them would wash the dishes.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration by Shawn Belshwender.

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