Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

August 2014 Archives

Amish Beard-Cutting Hate Crime Convictions Overturned

Sixteen Amish men and women convicted of federal hate crimes for chopping off the hair and beards of fellow followers of the Amish faith had their convictions overturned by an Ohio appeals court.

The series of attacks, led by the aptly named Samuel Mullet Sr., were charged as hate crimes by federal prosecutors in 2012, resulting in a 15-year sentence for Mullet and lesser sentences for 15 of his followers, eight of whom still remain in prison, reports The New York Times.

What was behind these bizarre hair attacks and why did the court overturn the defendants' hate crime convictions?

Kid's 'Illegal' Lemonade Stand Sparks Neighborhood Battle

When it comes to choosing an arch-nemesis, a 12-year-old boy selling lemonade and cookies from a front-lawn card table seems like a peculiar choice.

But a Florida man seems determined to shut down a neighborhood boy's pop-up lemonade shop, claiming the lemonade stand is an "illegal business" that reduces the value of his home, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

How are the neighbor's complaints going over with local authorities?

Wanted Parolee Busted by Ice Bucket Challenge Video on Facebook

A wanted parolee's Ice Bucket Challenge video on Facebook didn't inspire donations -- it inspired a tipster to call the cops.

Jesean Morris, 20, was wanted for an outstanding warrant, and Omaha police received a tip on his specific location from someone who saw Morris' Facebook video. According to the Omaha World-Herald, Morris was hauled in by police on Friday and booked for criminal impersonation, resisting arrest, and assaulting an officer.

How did Morris' Ice Bucket Challenge video leave him out to dry?

Marijuana Use During Marriage Lowers Domestic Violence Rates: Study

The conventional wisdom is that increased use of drugs and alcohol in married couples leads to greater risk of domestic violence.

However, the results of a new study are casting some doubt on that wisdom, at least as far as marijuana is concerned, reports The Huffington Post.

Does hitting the bong as a married couple really make it less likely that you'll hit your spouse?

Ore. Woman Set Forest Fire to Help 'Bored Firefighter Friends'

An Oregon woman has confessed to setting a 51,000-acre wildfire to help out her "bored firefighter friends," and now she's due to be sentenced.

Sadie Renee Johnson, 23, was convicted in federal court in May after pleading guilty to setting the Sunnyside Turnoff Fire, which forced evacuations of dozens of homes and closed the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Village, reports Central Oregon's KTVZ. In Johnson's defense, she said she thought she was only setting "a two-day fire."

So what legal consequences are facing this strangely motivated arsonist?

For Burning Man, 5 Legal Facts You May Not Know

Burning Man is almost upon us, and eager Burners may not know a few very important legal facts about partying on the Playa.

For many, Burning Man is a symbol of freedom from authoritarian rule, social restrictions on dress, and inhibitions regarding drug use. But while it may feel like a pocket universe, it's actually still in Nevada... in the United States. And it's still subject to many laws.

So don't be a legal sparkle pony, know these five Burning Man legal facts before you hit the Playa:

Man Calls 911 After Stripper Won't Have Sex With Him

A Montana man who police say felt "ripped off" when a stripper accepted $350 for a private dance but refused to have sex with him may have gotten a little bit more than he bargained for in the end.

William McDaniel, 53, of Butte, called 911 to report the stripper's failure to provide him with the happy ending he had envisioned for his private dance, reports The Montana Standard.

Police responded, but not in the way McDaniel had hoped.

Groom Fakes Death to Get Out of Wedding, Then Gets Busted

British bride-to-be Alex Lancaster was shocked when she got the call from her future father-in-law telling her that her American fiance Tucker Blandford had committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a car.

But Lancaster was no less shocked when, upon calling Blandford's parents house only a few hours later, she discovered that Tucker was actually quite alive, reports the UK's Daily Mirror. Blandford had apparently gotten cold feet about the couple's engagement. But instead of calling off the wedding, he decided to call his fiance and pretend to be his own dad; not exactly the most well-conceived plan.

Beyond just being a bad idea, is faking your own death actually legal?

Not-So-Dead Man's Family Has to Pay Back Benefits, Gov't Insists

Relatives of a living man who was legally declared dead have been told they must pay back the benefits they received from his "death."

Donald Miller Jr. was declared legally dead in 1994 and again in 2013, but the 62-year-old Ohio resident is still very much alive. According to The Courier of Findlay, once the Social Security Administration learned of Miller's not-so-dead status, it demanded repayment of death benefits paid to his children, totaling more than $47,000.

How can Miller be legally dead but still alive enough for his children to owe the SSA money?

Is It Legal to Catch a Shark to Feed the Homeless?

It's either one heck of a way to celebrate "Shark Week" or some good old fashioned synchronicity: A church in Texas cooked up 75 pounds of shark meat taken from a whopping 809-pound tiger shark donated to the church earlier this month.

The meat fed about 90 homeless and needy parishioners at Timon's Ministry in Corpus Christi, reports The Associated Press. The 12-foot shark was the largest fish ever donated to the church, and took the fisherman who caught it more than seven hours to reel in.

But while the shark feed was certainly a noble gesture (except in the eyes of the shark, perhaps), was it legal?

'Pregnant Man' Granted Right to Divorce Wife

An Arizona transgender man, known by news outlets as "Pregnant Man," has been granted the right to divorce his wife by an Arizona appellate court.

Thomas Beatie, 40, legally changed his gender to "male" in Hawaii before he married his wife in 2003, reports The Arizona Republic. Although Beatie could still bear children, and Hawaii prohibited same-sex marriage, the state considered his marriage valid. However, after Beatie and his wife moved to Arizona, they found they could not get a divorce because of the state's refusal to consider their Hawaii marriage valid.

What why did the Arizona Court of Appeals decide to grant "Pregnant Man" his divorce?

Cal. Man Sues After Being Tased In 'Shocking' Leash-Law Incident

A California man shot with a stun gun by a park ranger after being detained for having his dog off-leash has taken his lawsuit against the United States Government to trial.

Gary Hesterberg brought suit against the government for battery and false imprisonment following a 2012 incident on a San Mateo County running trail managed by the National Park Service, reports Courthouse News Service.

How did Hesterberg's leash-law violation take such a "stunning" turn of events?

Accused Murderer Asked Siri How to Hide Roommate's Body: Police

A Florida man accused of killing his roommate used his iPhone to ask Siri how to hide the dead body, according to evidence presented at trial.

Strangely, the Palm Beach Post reports that Siri actually responded to Pedro Bravo's request, giving suggestions like: "Swamps. Reservoirs. Metal foundries. Dumps."

Aside from wondering what Apple's programmers might have been thinking, can this sort of Siri "testimony" be evidence against Bravo?

For False Hair-in-Food Claim, Inmate Faces 24 Years Behind Bars

A Colorado inmate accused of falsely complaining about finding a hair in his food is facing felony charges after police say he planted the hair himself.

Earlier this year, Summit County jail inmate Ray Wolfe told jail staff that he found a long, dark hair mixed in with the beef stroganoff he was served for dinner, reports Denver's KCNC-TV. Jail officials launched an investigation to discover the source of the hair -- and found surveillance footage that they claim shows Wolfe placing a hair in his own tray.

Wolfe may have bit off a little more than he can chew, however. He is now facing up to 24 additional years behind bars for his allegedly false claim. What is he being charged with?

'Pot Pavilion' Visitor Eats Pot, Gets Sick, Sues Denver County Fair

A Colorado man is suing after he allegedly got high, and sick, from chocolate he ate at the Denver County Fair's "Pot Pavilion" -- which, despite its name, was supposed to be pot-free.

Jordan Coombs filed a lawsuit in state court on Thursday claiming that he was essentially drugged by free chocolates offered at the Fair by a company called LivWell. The Associated Press reports that after ingesting the chocolate, Coombs started vomiting and emergency room doctors informed him he had "overdosed on the drug."

Can Coombs sue the fair for getting him high?

Nude Body-Painting Model Sues NYPD Over 2011 Arrest

A model who was arrested for taking part in a nude body-painting exhibition in New York City's Time Square has filed a lawsuit against the city and the New York Police Department.

30-year-old Karla Storie's lawsuit claims she dropped her underwear just seconds before the area was covered with paint by artist Andy Golub during the artist's 2011 Time Square public exhibition, reports the New York Post. Nevertheless, she was arrested on charges of public lewdness and exposure. The charges were dismissed in 2012

Was Storie's stripped-down stunt really against the law or does she have a legitimate case?

Legal Battle Over 'Monkey Selfie': Wikipedia Drives Photog Bananas

A selfie taken by an Indonesian monkey with a wildlife photographer's camera is raising some interesting copyright law questions.

British wildlife photographer David Slater was in Indonesia in 2011 when he set up his camera equipment to photograph a crested black macaque monkey, reports The Huffington Post. The monkey then grabbed Slater's camera and began taking photographs, including a surprisingly decent selfie.

When this monkey selfie was posted online and began going viral, Slater assumed that he owned the copyright to the image. But one of the Internet's largest websites is now claiming that the monkey selfie actually belongs to everyone. What gives?

Teens' Bagpipes Seized at U.S. Border; Was It In Tune With the Law?

Two teens returning from a bagpipe competition in Canada hit a sour note with U.S. border authorities, who swiped their pipes because they contained ivory.

Campbell Webster and Eryk Bean of New Hampshire, both 17, were crossing the U.S.-Canada border in Vermont, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized the boys' prized bagpipes. According to The Associated Press, the bagpipes did contain ivory, but Webster claims it was completely legal to possess.

So which is it: teen bagpipers or young ivory smugglers?

Break and Bake: Teen Burglars Break In to Make Pot Brownies

A pair of Pennsylvania teens has been arrested for allegedly burglarizing a suburban Philadelphia home to bake pot brownies.

Police in Perkiomen Township say that the two 17-year-old boys were found with drug paraphernalia and more than two pounds of marijuana. The two are currently facing charges in Montgomery County Juvenile Court, reports The Huffington Post.

How could the teens be accused of burglary if they didn't take anything?

Bizarre Bottled Water Arrest Gets UVA Student $212K Settlement

A bizarre arrest involving bottled water somehow mistaken for beer has landed one student a $212,500 settlement with the state of Virginia.

Elizabeth Daly, a student at University of Virginia, had gone into purchase a carton of sparkling water in April 2013. What she hadn't counted on was state agents swarming her SUV under the assumption that she had illegally purchased beer, reports The Associated Press.

What was going on in Daly's case, and what led to her significant settlement?

Grandma Gets 6 Months in Jail for Public Sex in Retirement Village

A Florida grandmother will be serving six months in jail after being caught doing the nasty in a retirement village's public pavilion.

Peggy Klemm, 68, soon to be the hottest cougar in Sumter County jail, accepted a plea deal in the face of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct charges filed after she was caught boinking at Lake Sumter Landing's Market Square (in a retirement town known as "The Villages.") Orlando's WKMG-TV reports that Klemm, a grandmother of 14, was tearful in court as she said "so long" to her husband of 50 years -- who was not the man she was caught having sex with.

So while the thought of sexagenarian sex may not be the most titillating, did Klemm really deserve jail time for public sex?