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News of the Weird 7-23-2011

On May 21, Jesse Robinson either established or tied the unofficial world record for unluckiest underage drinker of all time when he was booked into the Hamilton County, Ohio, jail for underage consumption. According to booking records, Robinson's date of birth is May 22, 1990. [HamiltonCountyJails.info, 5-23-2011]

Government in Action!

"Common sense lost its voice on this one," concluded a Wethersfield, Conn., city councilman, lamenting the local school board's having spent at least $630,000 to "resolve" an ethics complaint against the board's chairwoman –– all because her son had improperly taken a $400 high school course for free. The town's ethics board conducted more than 60 hours of hearings over 11 months, incurring $407,000 in legal expenses, and finally voted, 3-2, to uphold the complaint. (However, the ethics board ordered only that the chairwoman reimburse the $400; the school board then voted to pay all her legal expenses.) [Hartford Courant, 6-10-2011]

"Science does not trump the testimony of individuals," said Detroit prosecutor Marilyn Eisenbraun, explaining her office's decision in April to disregard DNA evidence that the University of Michigan's Innocence Clinic said exonerates Karl Vinson, 56, who has spent 25 years in prison for rape. Despite the science, Eisenbraun said she had to stick with eyewitness identification the victim. Although Vinson has been eligible for release for 15 years, the Parole Board keeps turning him down –– because he refuses to acknowledge guilt. (Update: In July, the Michigan Court of Appeals declined to order either Vinson's release or a new trial, but did grant him an extraordinary right to appeal, based on the new evidence.) [Detroit Free Press, 4-18-2011, 7-2-2011]

In June, as five young men gathered around the Mount Tabor Reservoir near Portland, Ore., one urinated in it, thus "contaminating" the 7.2 million gallons that serve the city, and, said Water Bureau administrator David Shaff, necessitating that the entire supply be dumped. Under questioning the weekly Portland Mercury whether the water is also dumped when an animal urinates in it (or worse, dies in it), Shaff replied, certainly not. "If we did that, we'd be (dumping the water) all the time." Well, asked the reporter, what's the difference? Because, said Shaff (sounding confident of his logic), "Do you want to be drinking someone's pee?" [Portland Mercury, 6-15-2011]

A 53-year-old man committed suicide in May wading into San Francisco Bay, 150 yards offshore, and standing neck-deep until he died in the 60-degree water, with police and firefighters from the city of Alameda watching from shore the entire time. Said a police lieutenant, "We're not trained to go into the water (and) don't have the type of equipment that you would use ...." KGO-TV attributed the reluctance to budget cuts that prevented the city's firefighters from being recertified in water rescues. [KGO-TV, 5-30-2011]

Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act requires universities to offer "equal" intercollegiate athletic access to females, even though finding that many serious female athletes is difficult on some campuses. The easiest subterfuge, according to an April New York Times report, is to pad women's teams with whimsically enlisted females –– and in some cases, with males. Said former university president (and Health and Human Services Secretary) Donna Shalala, "Those of us in the business know that universities have been end-running Title IX for a long time, and they do it until they get caught." Sample dysfunctional result: When University of South Florida added football (100 male players) a few years ago, it was forced to populate more female teams, and thus "recruited" 71 women for its cross-country team, even though fewer than half ran races and several were surprised to know they were even on the team when a Times reporter inquired. [New York Times, 4-26-2011]

Great Art!

Britain's Ben Wilson is one artist with the entire field to himself –– the only painter who creates finely detailed masterpieces on flattened pieces of chewing gum found on London sidewalks. Frequently spotted lying nearly inert on the ground, working, Wilson estimates he has painted "many thousands" of such "canvases," ranging from portraits and landscapes to specialized messages (such as listing the names of all employees at a soon-to- be-closed Woolworth's store). According to a June New York Times dispatch, Wilson initially heats each piece with a blowtorch, applies lacquer and acrylic enamel before painting –– and sealing with more lacquer. And, of course, he works only with tiny, tiny brushes. [New York Times, 6-14-2011]

Police Report

Gregory Snelling, 41, was indicted in June for the robbery of a KeyBank branch in Springfield, Ohio, which was notable more for the foot chase with police afterward. They caught him, but Snelling might deserve "style" points for the run, covered as he was in red dye from the money bag and the fact that he was holding a beer in his hand during the entire chase. [Springfield News-Sun, 6-15-2011]

Brent Kendall, 31, was arrested in June in Coralville, Iowa, and charged with criminal mischief after he allegedly reacted to a domestic quarrel with his live-in girlfriend cutting up items of her clothing and urinating on her bed and computer. [Iowa City Press-Citizen, 6-8-2011]

Criminals With Chutzpah

It was a 2004 gang-related murder that had frustrated Los Angeles police for four years until a homicide investigator, paging through gangbangers' photographs for another case, spotted an elaborate tattoo on the chest of Anthony Garcia. Evidently, that 2004 killing was such a milestone in Garcia's life that he had commemorated the liquor store crime scene on his chest. The investigation was reopened, eventually leading to a surreptitious confession Garcia and, in April 2011, to his conviction for first-degree murder. (Photos from Garcia's several bookings between 2004 and 2008 show his mural actually evolving as he added details –– until the crime scene was complete enough that the investigator recognized it.) [Los Angeles Times, 4-22-2011]

Least Competent Non-Criminals

In May, in Rensselaer, N.Y., and in June, in Bluefield, W.Va., two men, noticing that police were investigating nearby, became alarmed and fled out of fear of being arrested since both were certain that there were active warrants out on them. Nicholas Volmer, 21, eventually "escaped" into the Hudson River and needed to be rescued, but the police were after someone else, and no warrant was on file against him. Arlis Dempsey, Jr., 32, left his three kids on the street in Bluefield to make a run for it before police caught him, but he was not wanted for anything, either. (Both men, however, face new charges –– trespassing for Volmer, and child endangerment for Dempsey.) [Times Union (Albany), 5-5-2011] [Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 6-17-2011]

A News of the Weird Classic (November 1992)

A 38-year-old man, unidentified in news reports, was hospitalized in Princeton, W.Va., in October (1992) with gunshot wounds. He had been drinking beer and reported accidentally shooting himself three times –– as he attempted to clean each of his three guns. He said the first shot didn't hurt, the second "stung a little," and the third "really hurt," prompting him to call an ambulance. [Newsday-AP, 10-11-92]