Trial and errors

Charged with home-repair fraud, Terry Bennett failed to appear for his trial in Edwards-ville, Ill., on Sept. 17. But he called the courthouse with a good reason for not showing up. He said he was helping out at the World Trade Center rescue site and could not return in time. However, the court found a few problems with his story. Caller-ID fixed Bennett's call as having been made locally in Illinois. (Bennett responded that it had been "forwarded" by his wife.) Bennett also said he had flown to New York, but all planes were grounded at the time. Then, he changed his story to say he rode to New York in a van with some local people, but he didn't know their names. Finally, Bennett was sighted at home by the Belleville News-Democrat during that time (to which Bennett countered that the sighting was of his identical-looking cousin).

Wait a minute

On Sept. 15, the home team at a kids' football-league game in Milford, Mass., conducted a brief, pre-arranged memorial observance for the victims of Sept. 11. After the ceremony, which included players and cheerleaders from both teams, the referee assessed the home team a 15-yard penalty for delaying the start of the game.

Discount suits

Wal-Mart reported that nearly 5,000 lawsuits were filed against it last year -- a rate of about one every two hours, with jury verdicts coming in at a rate of six a day. That makes it the second most-sued entity in the country after the federal government. Suing the 4,300-store company is so lucrative for lawyers that the American Trial Lawyers Association sponsors a seminar exclusively on Wal-Mart issues, and private attorneys sponsor the Wal-Mart Litigation Project to trade trial techniques and information about the company.

Clip job

Jerold West, 65, was arrested in August in Newark, Ohio, after a nighttime stakeout by local police. He was charged with littering a downtown alley repeatedly during the last four years. His craft consisted of clipping pieces of magazines, newspapers and junk mail, and dumping mounds of the resulting confetti into the backstreet. By a merchant's count, it required "thousands" of hours over the years to sweep up the messes. West, trying to explain himself to the arresting officer, said, "I guess it's just a thrill. In the evenings (since my wife died), I get bored."

Wiggle your way out

Jeffrey Jacobitti, 49, was arrested by police in Keansburg, N.J., on July 5 after he drove up to two women and a 12-year-old girl and allegedly illegally wiggled his tongue at them. The deputy police chief said the wiggling, in his opinion, was harassment that conveyed a threat: "`It` crossed the line, especially with the juvenile."

Suspended sentence

Canadian authorities, working with New York City police, arrested Patrick Critton, 54, in September, saying he is the man who skyjacked an Air Canada plane to Cuba in 1971. Critton's whereabouts (in Mount Vernon, N.Y., where he worked as a schoolteacher) was discovered when a law-enforcement official had the bright idea to enter the name "Patrick Critton" into an Internet search engine.

Chewsing freedom

In August, a sheriff's lab crew in West Bridgewater, Mass., managed to get a record of the fingerprints of suspected drug-dealer Francisco Sanchez, 21, despite the man's having strategically bitten his fingertips bloody while waiting for the crew to arrive; a person's prints go "pretty deep," said an officer. And, a month earlier in Lewiston, Maine, a 17-year-old boy, who had been arrested for assault at a convenience store, escaped briefly by chewing through the metal chain of his handcuffs.

Do not pass go

In Los Angeles, a mom (who is a school principal) and dad (who is a sheriff's sergeant) were charged last month with making their son sleep outside and dumping dog feces in his knapsack for his failure to do errands. Meanwhile, in Pryor, Okla., a mom and dad were charged with tying down their son with a hog ring on his penis, to curb his nighttime masturbation habit. And, in London, a former British army sergeant was charged with repeatedly punching and kneeing his son after the kid, as is his regular pattern, once again beat dad at Monopoly.

An appetite for tourism

According to the London Daily Telegraph, former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (who occasionally ate his enemies before he was deposed in 1979, after a career of reportedly ordering about 100,000 murders) is said to be encouraging his 48 children to go restore the family home in the village of Aura as a monument; Idi himself is not expected to leave his exile in Saudi Arabia. ... Also, the 62 now-impoverished children of the late Central African Republic emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa (who had similar proclivities for murder and cannibalism) are seeking permission of the government to turn the former family home into a tourist attraction.

Take this man

In Meadville, Pa., John Yount was hauled off to jail in the middle of his wedding ceremony when police realized that a recent stay-away order -- petitioned for by his bride for domestic abuse -- was still in force. ... Rita Ohlsen, 77, completed her 12,000th consecutive workday for packaging manufacturer Pactiv Corp. In over 45 years, she never took a sick day, giving her a streak more than four times as long as that of baseball's Cal Ripken.

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