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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

The sanctity of heterosexual marriage: In September in Painesville, Ohio, judge Fred V. Skok issued a marriage license to Paul Smith and Debi Easterly, even though Smith describes himself as a lesbian, usually dresses in women's clothes, and is planning on getting a sex change. Because Ohio doesn't allow same-sex marriages, Skok required Smith to present a doctor's certificate stating that he currently has male sex organs.

In November city officials in Millsboro, Pennsylvania, proposed an ordinance to ban offensive smells. Offensiveness would be determined by a panel of people who possess "ordinary and reasonable sensibility." The issue arose after an official complained about the odor from a Chinese restaurant.

In December, for the 17th consecutive year, hundreds of Thai men underwent free vasectomies to honor King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 69, on his birthday. The daylong festivities included free food and drink and a condom-inflating championship. The king has been praised by family-planning organizations for cutting Thailand's population growth rate by two-thirds over the last 25 years.

Courtroom Antics

In the Tasmanian supreme court in November, Martin Bryant couldn't stop laughing while pleading guilty to the April murders of 35 people at a tourist attraction in Port Augusta, Australia. According to the Associated Press, "Bryant laughed so much he had trouble saying the word 'guilty' and had to be hushed by his own lawyer."

At an October retrial in Leeds, England, jurors took about an hour to acquit police officer Andrew Whitfield, 30, of stealing a four-dollar calculator. The cost of the trial, the original mistrial, and keeping Whitfield on paid suspension for 14 months as required by law was about $158,000.

In September in Danbury, Connecticut, Barbara Monsky filed a civil rights lawsuit against local superior court judge Howard J. Moraghan for permitting his dog to roam the courthouse, alleging that the dog stuck his snout under her skirt and sniffed her. Monsky's attorney, Nancy Burton, proposed an analogy to the traditional "one free bite" rule for determining whether a dog is legally vicious, arguing that Moraghan knew long ago that the dog had had his one free sniff.

In Kansas City, Kansas, Rodney L. Turner, 55, called his office one day in October and said he couldn't make it to work because he had been arrested for DUI earlier that morning and detained for hours. Turner, a lawyer, is a part-time municipal judge and had been scheduled to hear a full day's docket of DUI cases.

Compelling Explanations

At the trial in his racial harassment lawsuit against Pitney Bowes in Los Angeles in September, salesman Akintunde I. Ogunleye, who's black, testified that he had been addressed by one coworker as "Akintunde, ooga-booga, jungle-jungle." The coworker, who's of French-Canadian ancestry, later testified that he had been misunderstood and that what he'd said was "Bonjour, bonjour." The jury awarded Ogunleye $11.1 million.

In September Roy T. Moore was convicted of exposing himself while seated in his car at a gas station in Goderich, Ontario, despite his explanation that what a witness saw was actually a half-eaten cookie from a bag he was holding in his lap. The judge refused to admit the cookie as evidence but did allow Moore's lawyer to wield a tape measure to illustrate to the jury the size of the alleged cookie.

In September Philippines army logistics officer Brigadier General Rolando Espejo told a senate hearing in Manila that the 4,500 weapons captured in coups against then-president Corazon Aquino had been stolen from two armories but could never be recovered because the documents referring to them are missing. The general said the documents were all eaten by termites.

In October Orlando juvenile court judge Walter Komanski was caught by office workers making printouts of pornography in the courthouse and keeping porn videos and magazines in an office cabinet. He said he kept them at work only because he had teenage boys at home and didn't want them to find his stash. Komanski also said he had surfed Internet sex sites only to research how to restrict them from his kids. He was reassigned to finance cases.

According to a November report in the Wilmington Morning Star in North Carolina, a dog was allowed to accompany its owner to the opera The Barber of Seville at the local Kenan Auditorium. (The owner took the dog away after it started to bark.) Manager Don Hawley said one of his staff members had let the woman bring the dog in after she said she was hearing-impaired and that the dog was a "hearing-ear dog." Said Hawley, "That was silly."

Singer Stevie Nicks's lawyer told the Internal Revenue Service in November that the reason she spent--and deducted--so much for clothing in 1991 was that she had to throw away each outfit after one use because of "the energy levels of her performances and the heat generated on stage from lights and physical exertion."

Update

Imprisoned Kentucky child molester Lou Torok announced in July 1995 that he had convinced the governors of six states to proclaim October 7 of that year as "Love Day." Despite the attention that Torok's petition drew from News of the Weird and other news outlets at that time, Kentucky governor Paul Patton approved Love Day again last year (though he later said he shouldn't have). Torok complained that America is "not a forgiving country" and said that he's "in a cesspool of negativism" in prison and is just "trying to make the world a little better."

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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