Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

September 2014 Archives

'Dead' Man Sentenced to Death for Kidnapping, Killing

A Mississippi man who was previously declared legally dead was sentenced to death on Friday. No, he's not a zombie (that would be "undead"), he was just missing for so long that a court declared him dead.

Thomas Sanders, 57, was declared dead in 1994 after he'd abandoned his family in 1987. However, that wasn't to say that he was exactly lying low. The Associated Press reports that a federal jury convicted Sanders for the kidnapping and death of a 12-year-old Las Vegas girl in 2010.

How did lawyers resurrect Sanders, only for jurors to return the death penalty?

'Viral' Lamborghini Poop Prank Ends in Taser Attack

A staged stunt by a pair of YouTube pranksters involving a pile of fake feces and a stranger's Lamborghini went wrong (or perhaps right) when the stranger turned out to be armed with a Taser.

The so-called "Viral Brothers" Erik Meldik and Cenek Styblo are YouTube stars from the Czech Republic visiting the United States. They've been filming short prank videos that typically involve an unsuspecting victim tricked into reacting on camera.

In this case, however, the Brothers' prank got a somewhat shocking reaction.

Postal Carrier Hoarded 40K Pieces of Mail: Federal Complaint

A New York postal carrier is accused of hoarding 40,000 pieces of mail in his apartment, car, and post office locker.

Joseph Brucato, 67, admitted that he had been hoarding the undelivered mail since 2005, reports the New York Post. It took postal agents five hours to remove more than 2,500 pounds of mail that Brucato had squirreled away, including letters, magazines, and coupon books.

How did authorities discover Brucato's stash, and what kind of charges might he now face?

Teen Calls Cops on His Own Rowdy House Party; 28 Arrested

For a teenager hosting a party while his parents are out of town, having the cops show up is typically the worst possible scenario.

But one teenager in Puyallup, Washington, not only welcomed the arrival of the police to his out-of-control house party last weekend, he had actually summoned them himself, after 70 kids from 11 local high schools began destroying his house and running amok in his neighborhood, reports Seattle's KOMO-TV.

What did police find when they got there?

Rich Instagram Showoff Convicted, Jailed for Selling Stolen iPhone

A teen who made his fame on Instagram by bragging about his wealth has been slapped with criminal charges for selling a stolen iPhone.

Param Sharma, 18, more commonly known to his IG followers as "@itslavishbitch," was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of failing to make a reasonable effort to find the original owner of an iPhone that he sold on Craigslist. According to BuzzFeed News, Sharma's attorney claims his client is the first in the state to be convicted of this crime in California.

Did this Instagram rich boy finally get a taste of reality?

Fla. Puppy Rapist Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

A Florida man who raped his puppy was sentenced to five years in state prison on Friday.

James Guy Bull, 62, a real credit to the Sunshine State, was sentenced on two counts of felony cruelty to animals and various misdemeanor charges related to sex with and cruelty to animals, reports USA Today. Bull pleaded guilty to the charges based various incidents where neighbors had seen him "fondling" or "in the act of having sex" with his 8-month-old female pit bull, Coco.

How did prosecutors deal with this puppy rapist case?

Deputy Arrested After Making Sex Offender Pose for Nude Pics

A Texas sheriff's deputy is facing some charges of his own after allegedly tricking sex offenders into posing for nude photographs.

One man recently released from prison reported that when he went to register as a sex offender with the Wise County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Chad Hightower informed him of a new state law that required all sex offenders to be photographed in the nude. The deputy took the man into a bathroom, where he stripped naked and had photographs taken from all sides, reports the Wise County Messenger.

As you might have guessed, there is no such law. Don't worry, though: The story gets way worse.

NYPD Sends Top Brass to 'Twitter School'

The NYPD is getting schooled on Twitter... literally. As part of a "Twitter School" program that began in May, the New York Police Department's top brass have been attending classes on how to be smarter on social media.

NYPD commanders are being educated on the tough questions like "What is Twitter?" and whether or not to help out that Nigerian prince who keeps bugging everyone. The Wall Street Journal reports that the NYPD's Twitter School classes are aimed at increasing the positive power of social media for the Department and avoiding its obvious pitfalls.

But does the NYPD really need to send its officers to Twitter School?

Man Washes Hair With Mayo in Public Fountain, Gets Arrested

An Oklahoma City man was arrested for washing his hair in a public fountain with something unexpected... mayonnaise.

Jorge Perez, 23, explained to the arresting officer Tuesday that he was soaking wet because he had "been washing his hair with mayonnaise in the Bricktown fountain," reports Perez only spent one day in jail and is now free to enjoy what other condiments he might use for bathing (perhaps olive juice?).

But what about his mayo-shampoo stunt was illegal?

'Road Rage Lady' in Viral Video Arrested, but for What?

A Hawaii woman dubbed the "road rage lady" has turned herself in to police after video footage of her confrontation with another driver racked up nearly 1 million views on YouTube.

Kimberly Ong reportedly became furious when Ryan Arakaki -- the man who filmed and posted the video online -- cut her off in traffic, reports Hawaii News Now. After being tailgated and honked at by Ong, Arakaki decided to begin recording video on his cell phone, capturing his confrontation with Ong after he eventually pulled to the side of the road.

What charge is Ong now facing for her 15 minutes of viral video fame?

'Ballsy' Pizza Prank Gets Texas Teen Arrested

A Texas teen has been arrested and charged with rubbing his scrotum on a customer's pizza after a customer caught him in the act.

Papa Murphy's employee Michael Symonds, 18, was allegedly caught dabbing his testicles all over a customer's family-size stuffed crust pizza, topped with pineapple and Canadian bacon. According to Austin's KEYE-TV, Symonds apologized after he was caught with his genitals out.

What criminal charges are appropriate for such a ballsy pizza stunt?

Man Accused of Cooking Ex-Girlfriend's Dog, Then Feeding It to Her

A California man has been arrested after being accused of cooking and serving his ex-girlfriend's dog.

Ryan Watenpaugh of Shasta County was arrested last week after his ex-girlfriend called police. She said Watenpaugh had left the severed paws of her missing Pomeranian on her porch after sending her harassing messages, reports the Redding Record Searchlight. Among the messages was one in which Watenpaugh allegedly asked the women "how her dog tasted," according to police.

Though certainly the most bizarre, animal cruelty is just one of the multiple criminal charges Watenpaugh is now facing.

Pic of Fake Sex Act With Jesus Statue Lands Teen in Legal Trouble

How does simulating oral sex with a statue of Jesus turn into a potential two years in juvie?

Start by examining the case of a 14-year-old Pennsylvania teen who has been charged with the "desecration of a venerated object." In July, the young man posted pictures to Facebook of him straddling a statute of a kneeling Jesus in front of an Everett, Pennsylvania, Christian organization, reports The Huffington Post.

What's going on in this Jesus statue oral sex case?

Ohio to Pay for Crime Victim's Dentures After Court Battle

A man who claims he lost his dentures after being attacked and beaten unconscious in 2011 is getting a new set on the State of Ohio's dime.

The decision, reached yesterday by the Court of Claims of Ohio, came after Ohio's attorney general rejected Jeffrey Childers' original claim for reparations, citing lack of documentation reports The Plain Dealer.

How did Childers manage to finally get his "teeth" back?

Md. Man Stabbed Over Meatball Dispute at Work

A heated fight over a (possibly spicy) meatball led to one Maryland man allegedly stabbing the other -- mamma mia!

On Thursday, the assault suspect, 31, reportedly stabbed his coworker, 36, because he believed his colleague had eaten a meatball from the assailant's lunch. It is unclear if this meatball was from a Subway sandwich or even something homemade, but The Baltimore Sun reports that the alleged meatball menace "fled the scene" shortly thereafter.

What happens when the meatball of friendship turns into the sour marinara stain of stabbing?

Fla. Man Alleges Police Poop Bust Violated His Civil Rights

A Florida man cited for allegedly defecating in the woods near a bar has filed a lawsuit claiming the city's enforcement of a "careless and reckless policy" violated his civil rights and got him fired from his job at Merrill Lynch.

Elvan Moore filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Mount Dora and the police officer who cited him for disorderly conduct in 2010, reports the Daily Commercial. The officer reported that he followed Moore from a bar into the woods, where he observed him squatting and next to broken-down car and noted the strong odor of feces.

According to Moore, however, the only thing that publicly stinks in this case is the police officer's actions.

Teacher Gives Student a Lap Dance, Gets 3 Years Probation

A Texas teacher was sentenced on Wednesday to three years of probation after pleading guilty to giving a teen a lap dance during class.

Felicia A. Smith, a 42-year-old former Aldine ISD middle school teacher, admitted to giving her 15-year-old student an inappropriate birthday "performance," which included her dancing on and around him while he was seated in a chair. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Spring, Texas, woman was accused of getting on her knees near the end of the lap dance and putting her head between the student's legs.

What was going on in this "hot for student" case?

Worker's Comp Covers Prescription Pot: N.M. Court

A New Mexico man has won the right to toke medical marijuana on his employer's dime, as a New Mexico court ruled that his prescription pot must be covered by worker's comp.

Gregory Vialpando, 55, was a mechanic with Ben's Automotive Services, and his employer and its insurer, Redwood Fire & Casualty, refused to reimburse him for using medical marijuana as treatment for a back injury. Reuters reports that Tamar Todd, a staff attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance, believes this case may be "fairly unique" in allowing a worker to be paid for his medical cannabis.

How did prescription pot get covered, and is Vialpando's case likely to be emulated in other states?

Bikini Coffee Stand Owner Pleads Guilty to Prostitution Charges

The owner of five drive-thru coffee stands featuring bikini-clad female baristas has pleaded guilty to prostitution and money-laundering charges.

As part of her deal with prosecutors, Carmela Panico, the 52-year-old owner of espresso huts in Everett, Washington, agreed to cease operations and hand ownership of her coffee stands over to the city, reports The Daily Herald. Panico also agreed to testify against a former police officer who allegedly helped Panico avoid detection in exchange for sexual favors from Panico herself.

What do authorities say was going down at these coffee cathouses?

DMV Sued Over Boy's Right to Wear Makeup in Driver's License Photo

A South Carolina boy and his mother are suing the state's DMV over his right to wear his "everyday" makeup in his driver's license photo.

Teresa Culpepper has sued the state and local directors of South Carolina's Department of Motor Vehicles after her 16-year-old son was refused a driver's license photo in June while wearing foundation, mascara, eye shadow, and lip gloss, reports Courthouse News Service.

Can South Carolina's DMV legally tell a boy to take off his mascara for a license photo?

Minn. Boy's Chicken Meets With Fowl Play

When Ashley Turnbull gave her five-year-old son, Phoenix, baby chickens and ducks for his birthday earlier this year, she wasn't aware they were against the law. But that was no reason for Police Chief Trevor Berger to come onto her property and decapitate a small red hen with a shovel, she said.

The chief of police for Atwater, Minnesota said he was merely enforcing the city's ordinance prohibiting keeping fowl. He told the West Central Tribune he was responding to neighbors' complaints, including one that the chickens were on the loose, which led him to Turnbull's house on that fateful August 16 day. No one disputes that Berger told Turnbull she had until August 7 to get rid of her three chickens and two ducks.

Was this avian atrocity allowable by law?

'Transformers' Paintjob Leads to Arrest for Impersonating Cop

A Maserati Gran Turismo is the kind of car that's guaranteed to get attention.

A Maserati Gran Turismo painted to look like one of the robots from the 'Transformers' movie series is guaranteed to get even more attention. Unfortunately, for one Massachusetts residents, this attention included being cited for impersonating a police officer, reports The Patriot Ledger.

Why is the man's lawyer calling the charges against his client "silly?"