by Chuck Shepherd

• In all likelihood,convicted murderer PaulPowell would have beensentenced to life in prisonfor his 1999 crime, but hecould not resist gratuitouslyridiculing the prosecutor.Powell’s original sentenceof death was overturnedbecause of a technicality inVirginia law: The “aggravated”circumstance in amurder that warrants the death penaltymust be committed against the actualmurder victim (whereas the prosecutorhad proved only that Powell hadalso raped the victim’s sister). Powellassumed that the prohibition against“double jeopardy” thus ruled outthe death penalty and so decided togloat, calling the prosecutor “stupid”and taunting him with details of hiscrimes. For the first time, Powelladmitted that he had also raped themurder victim. That was evidence of anew aggravated circumstance (i.e., no“double jeopardy”), and the prosecutorobtained a death sentence. In January2010, the US Supreme Court rejectedPowell’s appeal.
Can’t possibly be true• A Toronto restaurant, Mildred’sTemple Kitchen, announced that its Valentine’sDay promotion this year wouldnot just be a romantic dinner but wouldalso include an invitation for couplesto have sex in the restrooms. TorontoPublic Health officials appeared unconcerned,as long as there was no sexin food-preparation areas and as longas the restrooms were clean. “Bodilyfluids” were not a concern, said oneunruffled health official, because afterall, that’s what restrooms are for.• Women’s rights activists in Ugandafinally got the attention of the Westernpress in December, when London’sThe Independent verified the plight ofJennipher Alupot, who periodically forseven years had been forced to breastfeedher husband’s hunting dogs as shewas nursing the couple’s own children.Farmer Nathan Awoloi of Pallisaexplained that his dogs needed to eat,and since he was forced to send Jennipher’sfamily two milk cows in orderto win her hand, he felt his demandswere reasonable.• In January, the JusticeDepartment’s InspectorGeneral released a longanticipatedreport detailingthe FBI’s post-9-11corner-cutting in obtainingindividual Americans’phone records. Federal lawpermits such acquisitiononly with a “terrorism”subpoena (“National SecurityLetter”) unless the FBI documentsemergency (“exigent”) circumstancesto a telecom company. The inspectorgeneral found that, from 2002-2006,the FBI had representatives of threetelecom companies set up in the FBIunit so that agents could request phonerecords orally, without documentation,and in some cases merely by writingthe requested phone numbers on Post-itNotes and sticking them on the telecomemployees’ workstations. Some of theacquired records were uploaded to theFBI’s database.Inexplicable• Police are still baffled by howGregory Denny, 37, was able to“deport” Cherrie Belle Hibbard fromher home in Hemet, Calif. in Januaryback to her native Philippines. Accordingto Hemet police, Denny, witha gun and fake US Marshal’s badgeand shirt, knocked on Hibbard’s doorand convinced her that he was there toescort her to the airport and out of thecountry and that Hibbard’s husbandhad to buy her the ticket. Denny thenaccompanied Hibbard through airportsecurity and put her onto a flight. Uponquestioning by police later, Dennyapparently remained in character, continuingto insist that he is a marshal.Denny was arrested on suspicion ofkidnapping, impersonating a peace officerand several other charges.• Buffalo, NY television meteorologistMike Cejka was arrested inDecember after a brief police chaseand charged with trespassing after hewas spotted at 4 a.m. tinkering with thecovering of a motorcycle in a stranger’syard. Cejka told police he was on hisway to work at the station and hadmerely stopped to admire the motorcyclehe had remembered seeing in thatyard over the summer. He was wearinga dress shirt and shoes and leather chapstopped by a pair of sweat shorts.Unclear on the concept• A 27-year-old man was arrested fortrespassing in January in Seattle’s LustyLady peep-show arcade, whose layoutis a strippers’ dance stage surroundedby private viewing stalls for customers.According to police, the man climbedfrom his stall, through a ceiling panel,and navigated the overhead crawlspace, which only allowed him to peepat the strippers from a different angle.• In December, British Columbia’sDistrict of Sechelt Council approveda bylaw making it illegal for licenseddogs to chase squirrels, seagulls andother wild animals. The councillorsadded a defense of “provocation”but left it undefined, which might beespecially problematic in instances inwhich the dog is the only witness to thealleged provocation.
The continuing crisis• In February, the Board of Trusteesof Saugatuck Township, Mich.scheduled a May referendum askingvoters for an increase in the propertytax in order to cover unanticipated newexpenses. The budget overrun was dueto the mounting costs of defendinglawsuits by people and companies complainingthat the township’s propertytaxes are too high.• University of Montreal School ofSocial Work professor Simon LouisLajeunesse, intending to research theeffects of pornography on men’srelationships with women and needinga control group for comparison,advertised in the local community forup to 20 nonusers of pornography, buthe was forced to radically alter hisresearch model when no one signed up.Concluded Lajeunesse, in December:“Guys who do not watch pornographydo not exist.”Least competent criminals• Poorly conceived: (1) Travis Copeland,19, bolting from a courtroom inWaukegan, Ill. in January, ran down ahallway and then lowered his shoulderand thrust himself at a window, intendingto crash through it to freedom.Courthouse windows are bulletproof,and Copeland merely bounced off,staggered away and fell to the floor inpain. (2) Chamil Guadarrama, 30, wasarrested in Springfield, Mass. in Februaryafter a store security guard spottedhim with 75 bottles of lotion stuffeddown his pant legs (which were tied offat the ankles), making him look like anearly immobile Michelin Man. Saida cop: “[We] could not fit Mr. Guadarramainto the cruiser because… he couldnot bend over.”The Jesus and Mary WorldTour (recent appearances)• Rathkeale, Ireland, July (Mary ona tree stump). Apia, Samoa, September(Mary on the outside wall of a church).Velyky Berezny, Ukraine, September(Jesus on the outside wall of a factory).Ravena, NY, September (Jesus in a coffeestain on a mason jar). Bishopville,SC, October (Jesus on a kitchen curtain).Southampton, England, November(Jesus in a flatbread at an Indianrestaurant). Methuen, Mass., November(Jesus in a stain on the bottom of aniron). Florissant, Mo., December (Jesuson a splotch in a sink). Jonesborough,Tenn., November (Jesus, morning aftermorning, in window condensation ona pickup truck). (Apparently, only thethree foreign sightings have drawnsignificant pilgrimage to the sites.)A News of the Weirdclassic (May 2003)• Least competent circus knifethrower:News of the Weird reportedtwice on staffing problems of Britishcircus knife-thrower Jayde Hanson.One assistant walked off the job in 2001after being nearly hit in the foot, whichwould have been her third wound thatseason (equaling the number of injuriesa previous girlfriend had suffered asHanson’s assistant before she quit theyear before). In April 2003, Hansonwas performing with his new girlfriend,Yana Rodianova, 22, live on Britain’s“This Morning” television show,displaying his world-record form as aspeed knife-thrower, when one knife hitRodianova in the head, drawing blood.’© 2010 Chuck ShepherdDistributed by Universal PressSyndicate !