Excess baggage charge 

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?" She snapped back, "Why do you need to know that?" Airport security was summoned and discovered about $25,000 worth of shoplifted upscale clothing in the luggage.

Send up the clowns

The recently retired Quacky the Clown (Jacob L. Tarner, 53) was arrested in August and charged with having molested 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 for the offense would have been 45 years, but in Michigan, Quacky faces life. ... A judge in Moline, Ill., has acquitted Chuckles the Clown (Kimble McLain, 42) of indecent exposure. Chuckles had performed at a Wal-Mart with his genitals clearly visible but he persuaded the judge that he had no idea his zipper was down until someone reported it. ... 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Smiley the Clown (Christopher Bayer, 29) dutifully reported back to jail in Riverhead, N.Y., in August when his bail was revoked on child-molesting charges because a judge had released him in violation of state law.

Massive pile up

A jury in Boulder, Colo., quickly acquitted Patrick Murphy, 50, of harassing an unhygienic dog owner whom he had videotaped failing to pick up after his dog at a school park. Murphy is a long-time dog-droppings activist. In addition to video cameras, he has recently begun using global-positioning satellite equipment to demonstrate how widespread the problem is. On one recent day, his satellite imagery showed 663 piles of poop in the park.

The naked truth?

Bob Hunter, the Liberal Party's candidate for a Toronto City Council seat in last month's election, lost his bid but managed a respectable 36 percent of the vote. That's not bad considering the disclosure late in the campaign of a book he wrote 13 years ago. His tome reported an around-the-world excursion that placed him in Thailand having group sex with underage girls. The book's cover described the stories as "all true," but Hunter now claims that the sex part was just a middle-aged man's fantasy to make a satirical point about the "collapse of Eastern culture and the decadence of Western culture."

Tassel hassle

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. Violators are subject to a fine of either one cow or about $250. Married teens are exempt but must wear tassels of red and black.

Head game

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a woman has commenced lawsuits against the Atlanta Braves and outfielder Andrew 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 a crowd of begging fans. Said teammate Brian Jordan, "We're trying to give people souvenirs and now some lady wants to sue."

Over the (counter) top

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 Oxy-Contin, 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 would not have been tempted to ingest it.

Keynote address

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. and attempted to enter the room. The room was not his, but was occupied by two women he had met earlier in the day. 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 months, Cope refused to take the deal; prosecutors added a battery count and other charges.

He's only human

The Mississippi Court of Appeals has 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 humiliating behavior.

Showering his affection

With female undercover police officers roaming downtown Cincinnati 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.

Speaking of News Of The Weird

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