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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

Florentino Floro lost a long-running fight to keep his job as a trial judge in the Philippines when the country's supreme court rejected his final appeal in August; according to Reuters, Floro told investigators he had various paranormal abilities and relied on the guidance of three "mystic dwarfs" named Armand, Luis, and Angel. Apparently bothered by media coverage of his story, he e-mailed the Wall Street Journal's Web site in July to clarify that though his "spirit guides" helped him use his divine gifts "to heal and to prophesy," he never consulted with the dwarfs while writing his decisions.

Judges With Their Priorities Straight

In July two standout student athletes at Kenton High School in Kenton, Ohio, pleaded no contest to vehicular vandalism for a prank they played last winter: they'd left a deer decoy in the middle of a dark road, then watched as a teenage driver swerved to avoid it and crashed. The driver was physically disabled, his passenger brain damaged. At an August hearing, Judge Gary McKinley sentenced the defendants to community service plus 60 days in juvenile detention, to be served once football season is over.

Paul Zellerbach, a judge in Riverside County, California, was publicly admonished by a state board in August for an incident from October 2004 in which, with a jury in its second day of deliberations in a murder trial, he left the courthouse to attend an afternoon playoff game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Boston Red Sox. When his clerk called at 2:30 to tell him the jury had reached a verdict, Zellerbach didn't immediately return the call; the clerk therefore arranged to have another judge handle it. On calling back and hearing of this, Zellerbach said he wanted to take the verdict himself and insisted (over both lawyers' objections) on rescheduling for the next day, meaning the jurors, the defendant, the victim's and defendant's families, and counsel all had to come back in the morning.

Can't Possibly Be True

When a Wal-Mart in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, received a bomb threat in July, managers asked customers to leave, then forced 40 employees to help police search the store. (No bomb was found.) Also in July army reserve captain John Parker filed suit against the school board of Wilson County, Tennessee, to get his high school teaching job back; the schools director had informed Parker that his class was being discontinued for low enrollment but told a WTVF TV reporter that Parker's willingness to serve a second tour of duty in Afghanistan suggested a lack of commitment to teaching. And in August parents in Coushatta, Louisiana, were outraged after elementary school bus driver Delores Davis (who is white) allegedly designated the seats at the front of her bus for white students and forced all nine black students to cram into two rows of seats at the back.

Unclear on the Concept

In Athens, Alabama, in September 43-year-old Tammie Lee Doss and her two roommates were charged with unlawful imprisonment; while arguing about religion with Doss's 46-year-old brother Randy, they allegedly became upset and held him at gunpoint while they prayed for his repentance.

People Different From Us

The Wall Street Journal reported in August on Mimi Monica Wong, a 61-year-old private banker in Hong Kong, and her pursuit of success on the international Latin ballroom dancing circuit. Having already spent at least $1.4 million on instruction from a former 14-time world champion and her husband, in 2004 Wong agreed to pay them $15.4 million for eight years of unlimited exclusive lessons. The working relationship soured almost immediately, however, after the male instructor called her a "lazy cow" in front of other dancers, and Wong soon took legal action; this September a judge ordered the couple to return her $8 million advance. According to statements made in court, her new dance teacher is charging her $21,000 a month.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in May on a driver in New Zealand who was pulled over for speeding and found to be both unlicensed and armless; authorities have since concluded he can drive safely. In August the St. Petersburg Times profiled 39-year-old Michael Wiley of Port Richey, Florida, who despite having lost nearly all of both arms and half a leg in a childhood accident has been an avid driver for years, using no prosthetics but instead a combination of mouth, knees, toes, and stump. A major difference between the two cases is that Wiley has an abysmal driving record: he's been charged with at least 46 traffic violations, had his license suspended or revoked no fewer than 19 times, and once kicked a state trooper who'd tracked him from an accident scene. The day after the Times article appeared he was arrested on drug charges and for habitually driving on a revoked license; in September, while awaiting trial, he was arrested again for domestic battery after allegedly head-butting his wife.

Thinning the Herd

In August Reuters reported on the death of a man on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro; police believe he had tried to open a rocket-propelled grenade with a sledgehammer. And a few days earlier near Clay City, Indiana, a 31-year-old man was killed when one of the homemade pipe bombs he'd brought along on a fishing trip (possibly intending to use them to stun the fish) went off and sent a piece of shrapnel through his heart.

No Longer Weird: A Look Back

Continuing a review of frequently recurring stories that have been retired from circulation: Highlights from spots 41-50 on the NLW list include the one in which an urn or other vessel sold at a yard sale turns out to contain human ashes; couple reunites after one of them tries to murder the other; driver flees accident scene without realizing pedestrian's body (or body part) is stuck in car grille; and judge sentences young disturber of peace to listen to polka, Barry Manilow, etc.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader,

11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weirdnewstips@yahoo.com. © 2006 Chuck Shepherd

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

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