Legally Weird: March 2010 Archives
Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

March 2010 Archives

FL Deputy Uses Google Earth Tools to Spot Illegal Dumping

Tracking down people responsible for illegal dumping can be a challenging task. But the job of a Florida panhandle deputy became a little bit easier when he decided to get some help from Google Earth tools.

Deputy Gregory Barnes realized he could use Google Earth tools to help him find the owner of an illegally dumped boat, according to the Associated Press.

That Bites: Dog Sentenced for Attacking Police Cars

The long arm of the law is now yanking on the leash of an aggressive pooch in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. As if the Chattanooga Police didn't have enough to deal with on March 14, they had to fend off an attack by pit bull mix Winston, who took a powerful dislike to several local cop cruisers, resulting in a few flat tires and a missing bumper or two. No actual police persons were harmed in the onslaught.

Citizen O'Keefe Update: A Plea Bargain in Phone Tampering Case?

On March 26, the Associated Press reported that conservative activist James O'Keefe looks to have struck a plea deal with prosecutors in his case for allegedly planning to tamper with the phones in the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu last January. The new charges have been lowered to entering a federal building under false pretenses, a misdemeanor. O'Keefe and his cohorts initially were arrested on felony charges.

Texas Supreme Court Debates State's Strip Club "Pole Tax"

The spirit of Texas political observer and legendary humorist Molly Ivins must be itching to pound a keyboard over this legal news from the Lone Star State. This week the Supreme Court of Texas reportedly took up a most pressing legal issue: the constitutionality of the $5 dollar admission fee required at all state strip clubs. While the Texas State Board of Education considers easing Thomas Jefferson from his place in the history books, the question the state Supreme Court will address with all their legal wisdom is: does this pole tax impermissibly chill the right of the strippers (and club owners) to engage in expression protected under the First Amendment? God Bless Texas.

Police Find Man Convicted of Murder Running a Wedding Chapel

Convicted of murder, Frank Dryman was a fugitive for 38 years, apparently running a wedding chapel in Arizona instead of serving out his life sentence in a Montana Prison.

Dryman, who was living under an assumed name as Victor Houston in Arizona skipped out on parole and was operating a notary and chapel business in Arizona City, CNN reports. A hitchhiker, Dryman was originally sentenced to be executed for the 1951 killing of Clarence Pellett, who picked him up during a blizzard.

Cops Nab Criminal Suspects Accused of Calling Ahead to Rob a Bank

Calling ahead to rob a bank may save you time, but inevitably could tip off authorities too. Cops nabbed two criminal suspects accused of calling up front to collect cash and rob a bank.

That's what happened to Albert Bailey, 27, and a 16-year-old. When they showed up to rob a bank they were greeted by the cops instead, NBC reports.

FL Man Charged with Probation Violation for Breaking back into Jail

A former inmate scaled a fence topped with razor-sharp wire and was injured while trying to break into jail. He was later charged with a probation violation.

Jiles, 25, was reportedly sentenced to 15 years in prison for trespassing, resisting an officer and violating his probation. Officials said the Florida man returned to jail three days after his release last summer and begged deputies to take him back into custody. Slyvester Jiles said he feared retaliation outside the prison.

Baby Formula Ringleaders Enter Guilty Plea

The ringleaders of a group accused of stealing over $20,000 worth of baby formula entered guilty pleas for their criminal enterprise.

The Denver couple, dubbed the "Enfamil Bandits" by investigators, organized and recruited people to steal shopping carts full of baby formula, the Denver Post reports.

The Rich Aren't That Different - They Have Repo Men Too

Perhaps you are a bit behind on your bills. Perhaps you have not made the last payment on your Gulfstream IV. What could possibly happen? A repo man like Ken Cage could come along and take off in your jet, leaving you gaping in the hanger.

Although, wearing a gold grill in a mug shot may be stylish, it might not always be the best idea. A Tennessee jailer reportedly ripped an inmate's custom gold grill from his mouth, leaving him in excruciating pain, but also leaving him with a $100,000 settlement.

Inmate Anthony McCoy lost his his dental work and would endure days of agony when a jailer yanked his custom gold grill from his mouth. This ripped away the enamel from his four front teeth, the Tennessean, reports.

At first, mechanical problems seemed to blame, but soon it was discovered that a disgruntled employee had remotely disabled cars, allegedly committing a computer security breach to do so.

Customers who bought their vehicles from a Texas auto dealership complained about mechanical problems.

But later, police found that the real culprit was Omar Ramos-Lopez, a man who was fired from the dealership and allegedly used the Internet to remotely disable ignitions, AOL News reports.

Prosecutors didn't have to search far to find Jennifer Mercado, who was accused of stealing a credit card and taking lunchtime shopping sprees while serving on jury duty.

Mercado, 20, is accused of stealing credit cards from a fellow juror and making purchases from stores near the courthouse while on the jurors' lunch hour, AOL News reports.

And on what type of trial was Mercado serving as a juror? A stolen credit card case.

Blame it on Rio: Columbia Pics in Copyright Fight with Rio Church

The archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Rio de Janeiro is rather upset. It seems that Columbia Pictures did not receive their permission to use the image of the huge statue of "Christ the Redeemer," the iconic image of the city of Rio, in its blockbuster disaster movie 2012, out last November. The Church claims it turned down the request by the studio to license the copyright of the statue for use in the film and is not quite ready to forgive Columbia's trespass against it.

In a bizarre lawsuit against the city of Detroit, the city found itself in hot water for allowing their employees to wear perfume.

Susan McBride, a city planner, received $100,000 to settle a lawsuit, due to breathing sensitivity to chemical products. The lawsuit was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act and complained about a co-worker's perfume. 

Under the ADA, a person who is considered "disabled" is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits "major life activity." The law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability.

Pot Bust: Marijuana Smoke Odor Wafting From Chimney

His strong sense of smell led New Jersey Officer Thomas Lucasiewicz to detect the largest pot growing ring in the state. The odor of marijuana smoke was wafting from a chimney, yielding to a $10 million pot bust.

According to the New Jersey Star Ledger, the cops sniffed out $10 million worth of marijuana plants. The smell of marijuana came from a chimney where the unusable parts of the pot plants were being burned.

At Walmart, Find Everything You Need... to Rob It

Walmart prides itself on having everything a customer needs, and at a low price. That is why the company tag line is "Save money. Live Better. Walmart." A man in West Valley City, Utah, recently took that line a bit too literally. On Friday March 5, he reportedly found everything he needed to live well at Walmart, including the tools necessary to rob the place.

Prisoner Makes Identity Change, Escapes From Court

Robbery suspect Freddie Thompson managed to pull of the old switcheroo. He made an identity change and escaped from court.

According to the New York Times, Freddie Thompson, 35, switched places with another prisoner during an arraignment. The other prisoner was facing a less serious charge of marijuana possession and consequently, Thompson was mistakenly released.

Snowball Fight Game Update: Off Duty Police Officer Suspended

First, it was a desk job for off duty police officer Michael Baylor who pulled his weapon during a snowball fight game. He was assigned to desk duty until the investigation was complete.

Now, the D.C. police officer will serve a 10-day suspension for violating the department's policy but will remain on the force, the Washington Examiner reports.

Judge Rejects Marijuana as Holy Sacrament

Trevor Douglas says he believes in the "botanical messiah" and that smoking marijuana is a holy sacrament.

But a Colorado judge disagreed.

He was found guilty of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving an unregistered vehicle, the Associated Press reports.

Use a Library, Go to Jail: Teen Arrested for Overdue DVD

Have any overdue library books lying around? Better get them back pronto, especially if you live in Littleton, Colorado. A Littleton teen, 19 year-old Aaron Henson, was driving home a few weeks ago when he was pulled over by a state trooper and arrested. Not for DUI, or even speeding, but for the overdue DVD of House of the Flying Daggers he forgot to return to the Littleton Library.

A Pox on Their House: B of A Seizes Customer's Home, Parrot

Among the many wrongs the large banks have inflicted on the American public in the last two years, please add to the list: financial crises and parrot-napping. That is not a typo, a Hampton, Pennsylvania woman has sued Bank of America for wrongfully foreclosing on her home, damaging the contents and holding her pet parrot captive.

High Wines and Misdemeanors Update: Drinker Files Class Action

This is a growing scandal, sending out small tendrils of lawsuits where ever it can. As discussed in a prior post, the American wine maker Gallo was shocked, shocked to find that its wine producers in France were selling what Gallo believed to be French Pinot Noir, only to discover it was a less expensive wine instead. Gallo of course, sold the wine they received from the French fraudsters as Pinot, which lead to the current law suit, for wine fraud, filed last week in a California court.

Who Dat Filing all Those Trademark Suits?

"Who Dat?" is a loaded question way down in New Orleans these days. For the uninitiated and/or Yankees among us (author included), "Who Dat" is the chant that Saints fans use to cheer on their beloved 2010 Super Bowl champs. As of late, the cheer is the subject of at least one cease and desist letter and one trademark suit.

Second Suit: The SEC Sues America's Prophet for Fraud

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He didn't see it coming, which should have been hint number one that "America's Prophet," Sean David Morton, is not really psychic. At least, that is what the Securities and Exchange Commission claims in their suit against him for fraud, filed March 4, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Jail Bans Local Newspapers from Colorado Inmates

The world just got a little bit smaller for Colorado inmates at Garfield County Jail.

The jail has banned Colorado inmates from reading local newspapers, limiting what few meaningful connections they may have to the outside world.

According to the Associated Press, the jail banned all newspapers for fear that local news will trigger conflicts among prisoners or engender vigilante justice. The only newspaper allowed inside the jail is USA Today because it carries a roundup of national news.

One tip for criminals who want to siphon gasoline -- bring a gas mask.  Cops found a criminal passed out in his van while trying to siphon gasoline.

Three men in Phoenix, Arizona were arrested for the gas heist. Robert Jeter, Jarad Desanti and George Brabakos were all in their mid-30s and had allegedly siphoned gas from another Arizona gas station this month. 

Their plot went something like this: The three men would arrive near the gas station's underground fuel reservoir with a white van and another car. The hood of the other car would be open, to give the impression that the van was "helping" the car. 

Court of Appeal Orders Couple to Remove Backyard Picnic Spot

For 35 years, retired couple George and Sharlee McNamee have lived on their beachfront property enjoying the amenities of a picnic table, a built-in grill and a thatched palapa.

But recently, a court of appeal has ordered the couple to remove their backyard picnic spot set on a private portion of beach at the base of a cliff above Corona del Mar State Beach.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal sided with the California Coastal Commission and ordered the couple to remove picnic table and other amenities from the beachfront property.

Too Mean for Words: Editor Sued for Bad Review in Academic Journal

Talk about fast times in higher education. Joseph Weiler, editor-in-chief of the European Journal of International Law, has been sued in a French court for libel, over a bad book review. Professor Weiler published what must have been a fairly sharp opinion regarding the merits, or lack thereof, on the book because the reaction of the author is a bit out of proportion.

Landlord Tenant Litigation - It's Ugly

They say that Angelinos are the ones obsessed with appearances. Look out L.A., New York is right on your high heels. In a tale soon to be the pride of all style obsessed New Yorkers, a couple was sued for their ugliness.

Should there be policies at the FAA for "bring your kids to work" days? The Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an investigation. The reason for the probe -- a child was overheard in an air traffic control tower directing air traffic at John F. Kennedy Airport.

Gasp! A supervised child in an air traffic control tower? What could be worse? 

Well, a plane crash for one. But there were no safety incidents nor any plane crash under this child's watch. In fact, as reported by CNN, the child was supervised by the father, in addition to other air traffic controllers, and did not do anything to endanger the safety of the planes. 

The Federal Aviation Administration is all tied up in knots over this incident, where a father allegedly brought his son to work with him and let him make five transmissions. The child was under the supervision of the father, an air traffic controller. The FAA cites the unprofessionalism of the incident despite the fact that none of the pilots appeared visibly disturbed by the incident.

OC Couple Faces Misdemeanor Charges for Removing Front Lawn

Removing your front lawn to save water kind of sounds like a good idea, right?

Wrong. It's especially not recommended if you live in Orange California.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Orange officials are locked in a legal battle with a couple accused of violating city ordinances for removing their front lawn in an attempt to save water. City codes require that live landscaping cover 40% of the yard.

Now the couple faces misdemeanor charges for removing their front lawn.

Short Video, Small Victory in Dancing Baby YouTube Case

The music industry is very, very busy of late what with the litigation over illegal downloads, and now, dancing babies run amok. In its eagerness to protect its copyrights in 2007, Universal Music Group ordered YouTube to pull down the video posted by Stephanie Lenz, a mom who put up a 30 second video of her toddler getting down to the song by the artist currently known as Prince, "Let's Go Crazy."

'World's Worst Tennis Pro' Sues British Paper For Libel

English tennis player , 23, lost 54 consecutive matches and 108 successive sets at the international level, before he finally beat an unranked 17-year-old in Spain in April 2008. The British media just lapped up the story. The Daily Mail, Guardian, Sun, and Telegraph newspapers all published articles about Mr. Dee's success (or lack thereof). Even the BBC joined in.

Mr. Dee was not amused, however. He demanded an apology and, in some cases, damages from over 30 media organisations for disparaging his tennis ability. All, bar the Telegraph, agreed to apologize. Indeed a few paid Mr. Dee  to avoid an expensive libel lawsuit.

The Telegraph has remained steadfast in its refusal to settle, however.  It has lined up a host of tennis celebrities, including six-time grand slam winner , to testify on its behalf.

First Amendment Rights, the Middle Finger and Police Officers

Robert Ekas said he wanted to make a political statement and a protest of police violence.

So, he opened his sunroof and extended the middle finger to a deputy who was in pursuit.

The deputy eventually stopped Ekas, who was cited for an illegal lane change and improper display of license plates, the Oregon Clackamas County News reports. (He was subsequently acquitted of these charges.)

Giving cops the finger may not be the best way to exercise his right to free speech, but it sure got the point across.

You Kiss Your Mom With That Mouth? CA Considers No Cussing Week

What the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on? The Golden State, reportedly known for an abiding commitment to clean air and clean water, now wants to be known for clean language. Can the state legislature really pass a law that would clean up Ari Gold's potty mouth? Spurred on by a kid on a mission, they are going to try.