Arizona law treats selling, downloading, trading or buying child pornography as the equivalent of actually molesting a child, with a penalty of 10 to 24 years per count; multiple counts run consecutively, and two high-school teachers (convicted of photos-only, no child interaction) are now serving 200 and 408 years (the latter for having 17 photos) in prison, respectively. Critics point out, according to a May report in The Arizona Republic, that there are cold-blooded murderers serving less time in the state, and that a life sentence without possibility of parole could be obtained by as few as 12 computer-mouse clicks at a pornography website.
Between June and August, high-school dropout Jonathan Harris, 34, acted as his own lawyer in three Philadelphia felony cases and won them all, including a murder trial that could have sent him to death row. At press time, he had scheduled two more for himself, on a 2001 gun charge and at a new trial on several lesser charges related to the murder (although he had taunted a prosecutor in court about taking him on again). The prosecutor blamed the murder verdict on unreliable and no-show witnesses.
Zachary G. Holloway, 20, and a pal were arrested in Springfield, Ill., in September and charged with breaking into one car (and stealing, among other things, a motorcycle helmet) and attempting to break into another. To try to get into the second car, Holloway put on the helmet, stood back from the car and charged into it, head-butting a window, unsuccessfully, twice. The two were arrested shortly afterward.
Pulling a fast one
The police department in Madera, Calif., and its officer Marcy Noriega filed a lawsuit in July against the manufacturer of Taser guns (nonlethal guns that fire incapacitating electrical charges), claiming it was the company's fault that Noriega, reaching for her Taser, inadvertently drew her real gun and fatally shot a man resisting arrest. According to Noriega, the Taser looks so much like a real gun that she couldn't help it, and Taser International Inc. should have provided better warnings and training.
Fund manager Scott R. Sacane of Norwalk, Conn., defending himself in July against charges that he ignored Securities and Exchange Commission rules requiring investors to give notice when they buy large percentages of a publicly traded stock, said the mistakes were not his fault. In a filing with the commission, he said he had no idea that he had acquired 33 percent of one company (far exceeding the reporting threshold) and 78.5 percent of another, blaming the problem on a software failure over a three-week period.
In August, Tom Jennings filed an appeal to his earlier dismissal as public affairs manager for Mobile (Ala.) Area Water and Sewer System, which was caused by his having had pornography on his office computer. In the appeal, Jennings blamed most of the downloading on other people, but took responsibility for a file labeled "buttshot" (an image of his own buttocks), claiming that it was photographed accidentally when he was changing clothes and that the only reason he loaded it onto his computer was "because I wanted to talk to some of my friends about deleting it."
Getting to the bottom of it
There was a conflict reported in August in an aggravated assault in Skowhegan, Maine, as to who had stabbed Paul Vienaire, according to police. Jean Lampron, 46, was charged with the stabbing, but she said Vienaire's ex-wife did it. Vienaire, however, said that the ex-wife "ordered" the stabbing but that Lampron actually carried it out. Police attributed both explanations to alcohol, since Vienaire's ex-wife died long before the incident occurred.
A real knockout
According to a June police report in the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, W.Va., a 19-year-old man drove from Greenwich, N.Y., to Huntington to meet for the first time a 17-year-old girl he had been "chatting" with over the Internet, to persuade her to return to New York with him. Her mother refused to let her go. The man walked away, "intentionally banged his head on the door frame of his car and fell to the ground, unconscious." He was taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital.
A 46-year-old woman was hospitalized in critical condition when she dropped a coin while at a drive-through window at a McDonald's, then opened her minivan door to retrieve it, taking her foot off the brake, allowing the van to inch forward, trapping her head in the open door, which lodged against a post (Burke, Va., August).
Police decided not to charge Lula Brown for 911 abuse even though she had called the emergency number just to report that a McDonald's tried to charge her for extra barbecue sauce (Avon, Ohio).
In the driver's seat
Police in Avon Park, Fla., charged April Marie Brown, 28, with criminal mischief after she allegedly, at the direction of her son, 12, drove him and a pal around town on a Saturday night as the kids vandalized 11 stop signs, doing more than $1,000 damage.