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News of the Weird

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Four Irish Republican Army inmates in Britain and the family of an inmate murderer in New Jersey have filed lawsuits against prisons for injuries recently incurred during separate escape attempts. In the New Jersey case, Giovanni A. Almovodar, 18, awaiting trial on a murder charge, died when he fell on his head after climbing through a wall in Camden County Jail. His family accused jailers of not maintaining a "reasonably safe facility."

Well-Put

John Christo, a friend of John Salvi, who's accused of murdering employees of an abortion clinic in Massachusetts, admonishing the media in January for portraying his friend as a serial killer: "There's nothing wrong with John whatsoever other than he killed a couple of people."

From a recent scientific paper noting that not everyone regards Beano, a food additive that inhibits gas, favorably: For some people, "the production of high volumes of resonant, pungent intestinal gas is a source of personal pride and fulfillment."

Defense lawyer Paul Fernandez, explaining in a Paterson, New Jersey, court in March why his client, a 14-year-old boy, might have sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl: They were "two kids who had nothing better to do. They don't have cable TV--what do you do?"

Dave Meers, a city councilman in Kingston, Ontario, arguing at an April meeting against inviting candidates for the provincial legislature to appear before the council to give their platforms: "We all know that all politicians are liars, including ourselves."

Texas senator David Sibley, describing tough negotiations in February on pending state tort reform legislation: "It was like playing pickup sticks with your butt cheeks."

University of Arkansas football coach Danny Ford on the September decision by freshman Chad Roe to give back his football scholarship and return home: "He signed with us just to get an education, and that's the wrong reason. I wish he had told us that [sooner]."

In September, after USAir had suffered two fatal crashes in two months (bringing their total to five in five years), Steven Fink, a Los Angeles public relations specialist, told the Wall Street Journal: "To the casual observer there seems to be a disturbing pattern."

Marie D'Amico, 53, pleading guilty and showing tearful remorse in October as a prosecutor read the charges against her for defrauding three Chicago government agencies by accepting high wages for "ghost" jobs: "It makes me sick to hear what I did."

Not What They Had in Mind

In May the Republican Party of Virginia set up a 6,000-seat convention hall and held an open house in Richmond to attract black voters. Nine people showed up.

In March a federal judge awarded $871,000 in damages to six Belize nationals on the U.S. payroll as drug agents. The six had been hired to fly cocaine to Miami in order to sting the drug runners who would meet the plane, but at a scheduled stopover in Honduras, Honduran officials detected the cocaine, arrested the drug agents, and subjected them to 12 days of torture before U.S. officials interceded.

In February federal prison inmate Rodney Curtis Hamrick, 29, was charged with threatening President Clinton's life. Hamrick was convicted in the mid-1980s for writing bad checks and was given a modest sentence. Since then he's had about 50 years added for threatening President Reagan, the judge who sentenced him, and his prosecutors, and for building five small firebombs while in prison and mailing two of them to the prosecutors.

In January the city of San Francisco halted its plans to change the name of Army Street to Cesar Chavez Street in honor of the late labor organizer. The city had budgeted $20,000 for replacing the street signs, but state officials said the cost would be almost $1 million because the longer name would require bigger signs on the intersecting interstate highway, which would require larger beams to support them and more lights to illuminate them.

In April two janitors at a school in Ceres, California, were hospitalized and 16 pupils were injured when a janitor caused an explosion by lighting a cigarette while other janitors were trying to kill a gopher with a gum-and-wax-removing compound. And in the French Quarter of New Orleans in March an explosion injured two people in an apartment when a woman used six cans of aerosol insecticide, which was ignited by the flame on the water heater.

I Don't Think So

In April Stephen Gordon, 37, was sentenced to almost six years in prison in Denver for stalking a woman. According to his lawyer, Gordon's contacts with the 27-year-old victim were just coincidences. First Gordon was found hiding underneath her car (looking for a bird's nest, he said) in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1993 the woman moved to Denver and Gordon followed, eventually moving into her apartment complex, where he was discovered in the crawl space under her apartment after allegedly boring holes into the woman's bathroom (trying to trace a mysterious noise, he said).

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

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