Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

October 2014 Archives

Ohio Veteran With PTSD Fined for Keeping 'Therapy Ducks'

An Ohio veteran has been cited for violating a county ordinance, all because he was keeping 14 "therapy ducks" in his backyard.

The Coschocton Tribune reports that Darin Welker, 36, was fined $50 for keeping his feathered friends, which he claims "help him cope with post traumatic stress disorder and depression" after his tour in Iraq. The local judge was unsympathetic, telling Welker that if the law says no ducks, "then there are no ducks."

Is there anything Welker can do to keep his therapy ducks?

Woman's Marriage to Half-Uncle Is All Legal: N.Y. High Court

New York's highest court has ruled that a marriage between a half-uncle and his half-niece does not violate New York law.

The case involved a 19-year-old woman from Vietnam who married a 24-year-old naturalized American citizen. An investigation by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services uncovered that the man's half-sister was his wife's mother and an immigration judge subsequently ruled that the marriage was void and ordered that the woman be deported.

However, the New York Court of Appeals ruled this week that the marriage did not violate New York's laws against incestuous marriage. Why not?

Notice of Pregnancy via Facebook Is Not Sufficient: Okla. Court

Pregnant mothers can't use Facebook to notify their baby daddies before putting their child up for adoption, Oklahoma's highest civil court ruled earlier this month.

For one adoptive couple, that meant that their child's biological father still had a right to contest the adoption of his previously unknown son. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma ruled that the biological mother couldn't terminate the biological father's parental rights without giving him notice she was pregnant -- and a Facebook message doesn't count.

Why can't new moms break the news using Facebook?

Texas Ebola Contacts Should Vote by Email: Court Petition

Dallas healthcare workers and others whose movement has been restricted following exposure to Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan will be able to vote in the upcoming election by email.

Lawyers for the Dallas County Elections filed a petition asking the court to extend email voting privileges to workers who treated Duncan and those who may have subsequently had contact with those workers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Duncan, a Liberian national, died earlier this month in Dallas after contracting Ebola in Liberia. Those who may have been potentially exposed to the virus are typically subject to restrictions on their movement and regular health checks for 21 days, the incubation period of the disease.

What led to this unusual, but not unprecedented step to allow voting by email?

To 'Pray' for Strippers, Wash. Man Wants Names, Addresses, Pics

A Washington man insists he only wants to pray for strippers, not prey on them.

Still, a legal battle is unfolding over David Van Vleet's public records request for the names and addresses of as many as 125 exotic dancers. In Washington state, showgirls are required to get a $75-a-year license, which lists the applicant's name, date of birth, address, a full-color photo, and other identifying information, reports The Huffington Post. And Van Vleet says that he needs those full names and addresses in order to pray for them by name.

As public records, with no provision in the law to protect the strippers' privacy, the applications would seem to be open to any inquisitive individual with a taste for salvation. But the dancers, and a strip club manager, have taken action to block the request.

'Artist' Posts Pics of Herself Vandalizing Nat'l Parks With Graffiti

We try not to be too judgmental about potential criminal defendants, but you have to wonder about an "artist" who decides it's a good idea to paint graffiti on National Park landmarks all across the western United States.

Need more proof before you pass judgment? Not only did the accused vandal tag majestic rock formations (allegedly using acrylic paint), but she also posted pictures of her "artwork" on Instagram and Tumblr -- including a picture of herself in the act. Now, thanks to a little crowd-sourced sleuthing by two hiking blogs (Calipidder and Modern Hiker) and Reddit, the National Park Service has launched an investigation that will likely lead to charges.

What punishment could "creepytings" (the artist) potentially face? And how bad is the public's reaction to her so-called artwork?

Woman Wasn't Engaged, Can Keep $10K Ring From Ex-Boyfriend: Judge

A Long Island woman who broke up with her boyfriend can keep the $10,000 ring he gave her, even though he called it an "engagement" ring, a New York judge has ruled.

New York, like many other states, typically requires women to return engagement rings in the event a proposed marriage is broken off, reports The New York Post. However, 48-year-old Debbie Lopez successfully argued to keep the ring given to her by her ex-boyfriend in 2010, despite having broken off the relationship in 2012.

How did Lopez succeed in keeping this pricey piece of jewelry?

Murderer Sues Over Prison Porn Ban; Wants 'Art Book' Back

Dwight Pink Jr., a convicted murderer serving a 56-year sentence in Connecticut, is a man with taste. While others have sought to look at pornography in prison, and sued over their Playboys, he wants something more classy: "The Atlas of Foreshortening," a book that uses nude models to show how to draw human bodies.

It's not porn -- it's an instructional book on art. And yet, it was ensnared in the prison's porn ban (in place since 2012) and confiscated.

Pink is now suing for the right to his book, $25,000 in damages, and attorneys' fees, reports The Associated Press.

Guy Pulls Over Deputy for Illegal Unmarked Cop Car. Was He Right?

This is backwards. This is really backwards.

Last week, "Liberty Speaker" Gav Seim posted a video of himself pulling over an unmarked patrol car. In the video (embedded below), the activist lectures the visibly annoyed sheriff's deputy on the illegality of unmarked police cars, asks to see his identification, tells him that he could be arrested for going on patrol in an unmarked car, and eventually lets him off with a warning.

It'd be hilarious if the activist wasn't so smug (anyone who says, "We the people are sentinels of our liberty" can't be taken too seriously). But more importantly, does he have a point?

This Lady Got Jail Time for Not Mowing Her Lawn. Seriously.

Keeping a well-manicured lawn is important for property values, appearances, and good old-fashioned neighborly manners. It might even be required by your neighborhood home owners' association. But is not doing so a crime?

Apparently, in Tennessee, it can be. Karen Holloway, of Lenoir City, was given a five-day jail sentence because she failed to maintain her lawn to the level required by a city ordinance. After an appeal, which included arguments about her right to counsel, the sentence was reduced to six hours, reports Knoxville's WLTV.

But still: Six hours in jail for not cutting the grass? Apparently so.

Colonoscopy Patient's Lawsuit: I Woke Up in Pink Panties

A Delaware man who underwent a colonoscopy procedure claims that he woke up from the anesthesia to find himself wearing a pair of pink women's underwear.

The man, 32-year-old Andrew Walls, was an employee of the Delaware Surgery Center in Dover at the time he underwent the colonoscopy exam in 2012, reports The News Journal. According to the lawsuit, when Walls "recovered from the effects of the anesthesia administered by defendants, he awoke to realize that while he was unconscious pink women's underwear had been placed on his body."

While the apparent prank may have been in unquestionably poor taste, is it grounds for a winnable lawsuit?

Atheist Parolee Gets $2M Settlement for Religious Rehab

A California atheist who sued after being jailed for complaining about being forced to participate in a faith-based drug rehab program has settled his case for nearly $2 million.

Barry A. Hazle Jr. was convicted of possession of narcotics and served a year in a California prison, reports The Sacramento Bee. He was released on parole but his parole was revoked after he complained to parole officials about having to participate in a recovery program that required him to acknowledge a 'higher power.'

After serving an additional three months in prison, Hazle sued the California Department of Corrections as well as the substance abuse firm contracted by the government to provide drug treatment for parolees.

'Aggressive Mopper' Arrested; Made Hotel Worker Cry: Police

An "aggressive mopper" at a Connecticut hotel was arrested on Monday after allegedly terrifying hotel staff and taking the cleaning into his own hands.

John Thornton, 30, apparently wasn't satisfied with the job that a hotel employee was doing with her mop, because he grabbed the cleaning tool from her and started his "aggressive mopping," as a police report described it. The hotel worker was left "shaken and crying," Hartford's WFSB-TV reports.

Yes, "aggressive mopping" is weird, but is it illegal?

La. Gets Ebola Ashes Restraining Order to Block In-State Disposal

Growing concerns about the spread of Ebola aren't just limited to talk of restricting flights or quarantining people who have possibly exposed to the virus.

The state of Louisiana was granted a court order Monday preventing the incinerated belongings of a Texas man who died from Ebola from being shipped into their state, reports The Times-Picayune. The restraining order comes after the Louisiana landfill in which the waste was to be disposed had already refused to accept the ashes.

Nevertheless, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell apparently wanted to make sure the ashes stayed out of his state.

Brown Recluse House: A Web of Legal Issues

A Missouri couple got more than they bargained for, twice, when they purchased an upscale home next to a golf course in 2007.

First, the couple discovered that their new home was filled with up to 6,000 venomous brown recluse spiders, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Adding insult to injury, the couple prevailed in a lawsuit against the home's previous owners, but was never able to collect the judgment nor were they successful in filing a claim with their insurance carrier.

How did this couple end up tangled in such an unfortunate legal web?

Frozen Chicken Thief Sentenced to 27 Years in Prison

A Tennessee man who stole a semi-truck and a box of frozen chicken was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

51-year-old Felix Hall was pulled over by police in 2012 in a Freightliner big rig that had been reported stolen, according to a Shelby County District Attorney's office press release. In the truck, police found bolt cutters, a cut lock, and a box of partially frozen chicken breasts that had been stolen from a local Wendy's restaurant.

While theft is a serious crime, how did stealing a truck and some chicken earn Hall almost three decades in lockup?

Noah's Ark Theme Park Wants to Hire Only Creationists

The developer of a Noah's Ark-based theme park wants to require his future employees to swear to their belief in creationism and the Biblical flood.

The proposed park, called Ark Encounter, is slated to open in Williamston, Kentucky, in 2016, but President Mike Zovath may not get to have his park be the Eden of his dreams. Reuters reports there's been a slight snag in allowing Ark Encounter LLC to receive a tourism tax credit from the state of Kentucky, based on Zovath's plans to only hire creationists.

How do state tax credits and Zovath's creationists-only plan for Ark Encounter intersect?

Mass. Woman Hid Drugs Under Prosthetic Butt: Cops

Massachusetts law enforcement don't want none unless you got drug-loaded buns hun! Or at least that was the case with Jill Roy, 33, who was allegedly caught smuggling heroin and painkillers underneath a prosthetic butt.

A police report obtained by The Smoking Gun reveals that Roy was arrested after drugs fell out of her pants during a traffic stop. During the booking process, officers observed that Roy's underwear had "a hard exterior," which turned out to be a fake booty that was hiding a cache of drugs underneath.

Trooper Sued Over Religious Questions, Pamphlet During Traffic Stop

An Indiana state trooper is facing a lawsuit for allegedly asking a driver if she had "accepted Jesus Christ as her savior" and handing her a religious pamphlet during a traffic stop.

Motorist Ellen Bogan claims she was stopped on U.S. Route 27 by Trooper Brian Hamilton for making an illegal pass. Hamilton issued Bogan a warning ticket for a traffic violation, but then allegedly began inquiring about her religious beliefs, reports Cincinnati's WLWT-TV.

Bogan and the American Civil Liberties Union are now claiming that Hamilton's actions violated Bogan's constitutional rights.

Prison Love Letters' Stamps Used to Smuggle Drugs: Detectives

A Florida woman has been charged with sending drugs to her boyfriend behind bars by hiding them under postage stamps on the envelopes she mailed to him.

Sarah Laurito, 18, admitted to sending her locked-up lover Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid drug dependence, in at least three drug-laced letters. First Coast News reports that Laurito actually "turned herself into the Marion County Jail" last Monday, and she is currently out on bond.

Since the alleged letter scheme was stamped out, what will happen to the criminal duo now?

Ex-N.J. Toll Taker Files Lawsuit Over 'God Bless You'

A former toll-taker for New Jersey's Garden State Parkway has filed a lawsuit against her ex-employer, claiming that her supervisor instructed her to stop saying "God bless you" to motorists.

Cynthia Fernandez claims that her civil rights were violated when her boss at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority allegedly told her to stop giving customers her customary blessing because somebody might get offended.

But turnpike officials tell a different story.

White Mom Sues Sperm Bank Over Biracial Daughter

A white Ohio woman is suing a sperm bank claiming that the facility accidentally inseminated her with sperm from a black donor.

Jennifer Cramblett, 36, of Uniontown, claims that she and her same-sex partner, who is also white, told the Chicago-based Midwest Sperm Bank that they wanted a donor with similar genetic traits to both of them. The couple picked a white donor after reviewing his history, Reuters reports.

However, according to Cramblett's lawsuit, after she became pregnant with the couple's now-2-year-old daughter, she discovered that the clinic had mistakenly given her the wrong donor's sperm.

Cops Mistake SpaghettiOs for Meth; Woman Spends Month in Jail

In a weird story out of Georgia, a woman spent a month in jail because police refused to believe that the residue on her spoon wasn't meth. Turns out, it was actually the remnants of the SpaghettiOs the woman had eaten earlier.

Of course, when the crime lab analysis on the spoon came back negative for methamphetamine, the district attorney's office was forced to drop charges against the woman, reports the Gainesville Times.

How are police justifying their arrest and prolonged detention of a woman whose only crime appears to be bad taste in food?