Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

January 2017 Archives

It sounds like a case for Indiana Jones: a powerful man obsessed with history amasses a treasure trove of artifacts, some of which were obtained under dubious circumstances. Only instead of Indy saying, "It belongs in a museum," it was the city of Harrisburg saying, "Auction these off to the highest bidder," and the Dauphin County prosecutors saying, "You broke the law."

Former Harrisburg, Pennsylvania mayor Stephen Reed had collected tens of thousands of American West artifacts, ostensibly for a "Museum of the American West" that he hoped would be a tourist draw for his cash-strapped city. That museum never materialized, around 10,000 items were auctioned off in 2013, and last week Reed pleaded guilty to criminal charges relating to the theft of artifacts purchased with public funds.

We've all seen the creative ways that expectant parents reveal the sex of their baby. Countless parents have cut into pink and blue cakes, popped colorful confetti filled balloons, and even made ridiculous videos that only their families can really enjoy. However, one soon to be dad went a bit too far and is now facing criminal charges as a result of the booming reveal.

Jon Sterkel, of Nebraska, made a binary explosive, also known as an explosive target, mixed with blue chalk. Then, to reveal the sex of his and his wife's soon to be born baby boy, he fired a bullet at the explosive, setting off a large explosive with a cloud of blue smoke. When the explosion rocked the area much harder than expected, authorities started getting calls from concerned townsfolk three miles away who thought a home or car exploded.

A driver in New Hampshire is making headlines for her less than stellar decision that ended up getting her arrested. While the snow was coming down, the roadways were covered in snow and slush, and after police had issued a speed warning, Ms. Speed Racer, reportedly, was late to a car stereo installation appointment and decided to floor it.

The 21 year old was clocked at 91 mph in her 2008 Saturn Astra (which is a car brand that General Motors no longer makes, in case you were wondering). The driver is being charged with reckless driving and could face a $1,000 fine and a 60 day license suspension if found guilty.

With the inauguration of Donald Trump upon us, a Florida man who posted a video making a clear threat to kill Trump on inauguration day was arrested yesterday outside a Subway submarine sandwich store. While the individual is currently being evaluated by the court in regards to his mental health, from the basis of one report, it looks he has been suffering from known mental health issues. Surprisingly, the man apparently has ties to the Clintons.

The video threat he made against Trump was clear, and was posted publicly on one of Trump's favorite forums, Twitter. Clearly, he missed this helpful, and rather poignant FindLaw Blotter blog from a couple months ago. However, the video gives any watcher pause, as the man at one point inexplicably states: "My other name is lord Jesus Christ," then says: "I'm just following orders." Notably, the man uses the social media handle JesusChrist1701. In his video threat, he also keeps challenging the Secret Service by asking them: "What are you going to do about it?"

Believe it or not, many states have laws that prohibit warming up a car the way most cold weather state residents do it. One Michigan man learned a hard lesson this past week. Nick Taylor of Roseville, Michigan was hoping to avoid freezing his butt off while driving when he decided to warm up his car before leaving his house. Like countless other Americans living in cold weather states, Nick started his car, then went back inside his home to finish getting ready. After a few minutes, he discovered that an officer had come by and ticketed his car.

Nick learned that it is illegal in the state of Michigan to leave a car running and unattended, even if you are just trying to warm it up in your own driveway. Many drivers are shocked to learn that the Michigan law against unattended idling is actually not that unusual. While generally these laws are geared towards preventing car thefts, the anti-idling laws also are seen as emissions friendly laws designed to reduce pollution.

A Louisiana man is facing criminal charges, likely due to technical difficulties related to text messaging. Namely, accidentally texting incriminating evidence directly to the police.

Last week, a sheriff's deputy received a text message from a wrong number offering to sell crystal meth. The deputy arranged a meet up with Dwayne Herbert, who arrived at the predetermined location carrying not just the drugs, but also two firearms. Herbert was promptly arrested, and now faces serious criminal charges for selling drugs and possession of firearms.

Parents beware! Your fingerprints may no longer be secure against hackers. No, hackers haven't discovered some new fangled technology to lift your fingerprints over the telephone. The danger is right under the noses of parents, and when parents nap, the newest generation of hackers are getting a head start on disrupting household economics.

Well, maybe this was an isolated incident, but one six year old, in Little Rock, Arkansas, this past holiday season, disrupted the whole one-touch fingerprint security industry during mommy's naptime. While her mother napped on the couch, the young hacker opened the Amazon app on her mother's device, gently used her napping mother's hand to get the fingerprint to bypass the password authorization, and then went on a Pokemon shopping spree. The child made 13 purchases, racking up a modest grand total of about $250. Fortunately for the girl's parents, she had modest desires, as only a few of the items were returnable after being ordered.

Few things in life are more depressing than watching someone repeatedly lose at a lottery or casino game, particularly if the person is really hoping to win. It's reminiscent of watching someone eat soup with a fork.

Tawanda Shields of Pennsylvania, a lottery devotee, had lost a few too many times while playing the state's scratch off lottery tickets to keep losing quietly. Starting in mid-2016, Shields began making threatening calls to the state's lottery headquarters as a result of her repeated losses. And as a result of the many threatening calls, she has been arrested and charged with over 50 counts (individual criminal acts), including charges for stalking, harassment, and terroristic threats.

Ohio had good reasons to increase the efficiency of home foreclosures in the state: reducing the time it takes to complete a foreclosure can also cut down on the problems long-vacant properties can create, such as blight, squatters, and vandalism, along with the lowering of neighboring property values. So the state passed House Bill 390, which not only shortened foreclosure timelines, but also removed the requirement that bidding on foreclosed homes at auction begin at two-thirds of the appraised value of the home.

Another piece of the law meant to expedite resale of a vacant home, this meant that a 92-year-old bungalow in Akron recently sold for just $1.

Teach a man to use a vending machine, and he'll panhandle until he can afford some potato chips. Teach a man how to use a coat hanger to rob a vending machine, and he might end up with 28 criminal convictions and behind bars on 23 separate occasions.

For Harley Busse, of Chicago, his modus operandi of stealing change out of vending machines got him a 12 year prison sentence for stealing $44 from a university vending machine. While it may not have been his first conviction, recently, the appellate court in Illinois ruled in Busse's favor, explaining that a 12 year sentence for a petty theft crime was grossly disproportionate.