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News of the Weird

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In March police in New York City charged salesman Joel Levy, 32, with assault. According to police, Levy's live-in girlfriend arrived home unexpectedly just after Levy had ordered a call girl. Levy improvised a plan to intercept the call girl in his building's lobby, have a liaison, and then to dash back upstairs before his girlfriend got suspicious. When he saw a good-looking woman in the lobby, Levy assumed it was the call girl, nudged her into an elevator, and, according to police, pawed and fondled her while waving a $50 bill and saying, "You know you want it. You know you'll do anything for it." The woman, however, was an assistant district attorney from Brooklyn.

Government in Action

Until July hospitals in Alabama were allowed by law to charge rape victims for forensic exams in which evidence, such as sperm and blood samples, is gathered. In crimes such as burglary, the costs of gathering forensic evidence are paid by the state.

In July a supervisor of road construction crews in Minneapolis issued a directive that workers on duty stop "eyeing," "staring at," or "ogl[ing]" women. In a subsequent clarification, the official said sneaking a look would be OK, and added that men, as well, should not be ogled.

Texas inmate Elifonso Lopez, 39, was recently granted a new trial after five years of protesting that he's innocent of the rape for which he was convicted in 1990. An investigation by the Brownsville Herald revealed that Lopez had an ironclad alibi that was ignored at his trial: He was in prison for drunken driving when the rape occurred.

In July the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed changes to its procedure for drug testing employees who have "shy bladders." Currently such employees are given 24 ounces of fluid within two hours to encourage urination. The department now wants to give 40 ounces over four hours and has issued a 4,800-word notice explaining its proposal.

According to an Associated Press inquiry in July, Florida governor Lawton Chiles, who makes just over $100,000 a year, earns less than 796 other state employees, including his own chief of staff.

In March in Washington, D.C., officials had to call off a massive drug raid 12 hours before it was scheduled to take place because the city department of public and assisted housing had issued a press release praising its role in the raid. The press release thwarted eight months of planning that included coordinating four law-enforcement agencies and obtaining a large number of arrest and search warrants, which were the result of thousands of hours of investigation, surveillance, and undercover drug buys.

In April the National Endowment for the Humanities announced that it would award a $559,500 grant to the American Association of Community Colleges to answer the question "What is an American?"

In March the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a 1988 decision that Paul E. Spragens, a quadriplegic who earns money typing with his toes, be kicked off the Social Security rolls and ordered to return almost $20,000 he had received over a three-year period. During that time Spragens averaged $350 a month working as a freelance book indexer. As soon as his earnings hit $300 a month he was no longer eligible for benefits.

In May the Washington Times reported that a federal judge had transferred parole supervision of Rhozler "Roach" Brown from the D.C. parole board to a federal board. The transfer occurred because Brown--an assistant to mayor Marion Barry and a convicted murderer, drug dealer, and thief--had inexplicably been released from prison early by the D.C. board and, due to a "clerical error," freed of his obligation to repay $45,000 to an orphanage he was convicted of swindling.

According to records obtained by the New York Post in May, the New York City Transit Authority's worst bus driver, Leroy Goodwin, 56, is still driving despite 103 at-fault collisions over his 22-year career. Between collisions number 68 and 69 he'd even received a safe-driving award.

Family Values

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in July that Jim Harnsberger, 40, a Republican Party operative who founded the local Center for Family Values, has been married five times and owes almost $20,000 in child support. According to the newspaper, a former girlfriend said of Harnsberger, "He said he would cut me up into little pieces and throw me into the ocean and no one would ever know."

In January in Little Rock, Arkansas, a 41-year-old man clubbed his 32-year-old brother with a handgun, then fired two shots at him, in a dispute over who would take their mother to her doctor's appointment.

In August in San Bernardino, California, Lisa Nester, 24, and her husband, 23, pleaded guilty to abandoning their three-year-old son at a shopping center in June while they went to a Grateful Dead concert in San Francisco. They were spotted in Maryland 24 days later. Because of Lisa's previous uninspired parenting, her parents have custody of her four children from other relationships.

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

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