-- Two former faculty members at the University of South Florida medical school settled religious discrimination lawsuits with the school in August, lawsuits based on acts by their department's former chairman, Dr. James Rowsey, an eye surgeon of some note. Rowsey had practiced such faith-based governance as denying researchers equipment based on religious admonitions from his wife, whom he considered a prophet, and then pressuring complaining faculty members to actually pray that the university administration will increase the department's budget.
-- In September, King Mswati III of Swaziland, faced with a dramatic AIDS epidemic, ordered all teen-age girls to abstain from sex for five years and to wear tassels of green and yellow to make it easier for men to avoid them (under threat of a fine, for man and woman both, of either one cow or about $250). Married teens are exempt but must wear tassels of red and black.
The recently retired Quacky the Clown (Jacob L. Tarner, 53) was arrested in August and charged with molesting a 10-year-old girl last year in his vehicle, which was just over the Michigan side of the Indiana state line; in Indiana, the maximum sentence is 45 years, but in Michigan, he faces life. However, a judge in Moline, Ill., acquitted Chuckles the Clown (Kimble McLain, 42) in September; he had performed at a Wal-Mart with his genitals clearly visible but convinced the judge that he had no idea that his zipper was down until someone told him. And Smiley the Clown (Christopher Bayer, 29) dutifully reported back to jail in Riverhead, N.Y., in August when his bail was revoked on child-molesting charges because a judge had misread state law by releasing him.
-- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in July that a woman had commenced lawsuits against the Atlanta Braves and outfielder Andruw Jones for an injury to her head from a ball Jones had flipped into the stands. Jones said he was doing what many players do as a reward to spectators by tossing a ball, caught for the third out in an inning, to the usual crowd of begging fans. Said teammate Brian Jordan, "We're trying to give people souvenirs and now some lady wants to sue."
-- In July, the parents of the late University of Florida student Matthew Kaminer filed a lawsuit against the Eckerd drugstore chain and the manufacturer of the powerful painkiller OxyContin, after Kaminer died of an overdose of the drug that a friend of his had stolen from an Eckerd store. The parents claim that Eckerd should have protected its supply of OxyContin better so their son never would have been tempted to ingest it.
-- In April, police in Carmel, Calif., arrested Pinellas County (Fla.) Circuit Judge Charles Cope (who was in town for a judicial conference) after he allegedly opened a locked hotel room door at 1 a.m., occupied by two women he had met earlier in the day, and tried to enter. Cope, who headed his court's family-law section at the time, said the whole thing was a "huge misunderstanding," but the adult woman and her mother said they believe Cope found or took their key during their earlier conversation. In September, after deliberating on a plea bargain for several months, Cope refused to take it, and prosecutors added battery and other charges.
-- In July the Mississippi Court of Appeals overturned a divorce court decision, ruling that Alice Susan King and Jack Bodne should stay married because all King did was prove Bodne was rude and unkind, which is short of the legal standard of "cruel and inhuman." King said she could no longer tolerate Bodne's crude jokes, cussing, and other behavior that humiliated her.
-- In August, a Florida court of appeals heard arguments on a third contempt-of-court order by Palm Beach judges against a lawn care company owned by a cast of characters resembling that in a Carl Hiaasen novel but including superstar New York lawyer David Boies, who has been supplying legal firepower, unsuccessfully, against a rival lawn care firm (whose owner represents himself in court). Boies' company, Nical, alleged that rival Scott Lewis broke a 1996 contract, and things have gone back and forth since then, with a second Nical owner apparently violating multiple court orders. Besides Boies, Nical's owners are a convicted top-drawer Miami marijuana smuggler and the frisky ex-wife of a Guatemalan textile manufacturer (a woman who was described by one California clothing buyer as a "sex nazi" because she used him as her "sexual tool" in exchange for overlooking various invoices).
-- With female undercover police officers roaming downtown Cincinnati in July looking for him, Anthony Searles, 42, was arrested after allegedly tossing his saliva by hand on the clothed backside of one of the officers. Someone, allegedly Searles, had been tossing spit at well-dressed women on the street for several days before that. A detective guessed that it was a "sexual fetish," noting Searles' long sex-offense arrest sheet. And in Dallas, police admitted in June they still had no leads in capturing the serial arm-biter/licker who has been preying on women off and on (13 reported attacks) for nearly a year.
In July, airport security guards in Tampa busted illegal Peruvian immigrant Maria Riano after she had approached a Continental Airlines counter to buy a ticket to Newark, with eight bulging duffel bags behind her. Apparently new at the smuggling game, Riano froze on the standard airline-traveler question, "Did you pack your own bags?" When she snapped, "Why do you need to know that?" airport security was summoned and found about $25,000 worth of shoplifted upscale clothing in the duffel bags.
-- In July, a jury in Boulder, Colo., quickly acquitted Patrick Murphy, 50, of harassing an unhygienic dog owner whom he had videotaped at a school park failing to pick up behind his dog. Murphy is a dog-droppings activist and, in addition to video cameras, has recently used global positioning satellite equipment to show that, at one time four months ago, there were 663 piles in the park. Murphy had been on the issue for more than five years before moving into electronic strategies.
The sheriff's office apologized to Adelberto Ruiz Hasselmyer for mistakenly arresting him, a 5-foot 8-inch, 360-pound black man, who was somehow confused with fugitive Jorge Adaberto Ruiz, 5 feet 4 inches, 150 pounds, white (Orlando, Fla.). The Thorupgaarden nursing home said it regularly shows pornography on its in-house TV channel because it relaxes patients (even some women) as effectively as drugs, but is cheaper (Copenhagen, Denmark). A jury recommended that Keith LaJuan Jones, 44, convicted in a serious road-rage dragging incident, serve 750 years, and the judge added 300 (Oklahoma City). Michael McMillian, accused of DUI, sat patiently on the stand while his lawyer reached over and removed McMillian's glass eye in order to undermine the arresting officer's claim that McMillian had appeared "glassy eyed," but the judge convicted him anyway, saying the other one was glassy, too (Philadelphia).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)