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Let freedom ring



The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded in May that Costco Wholesale Corp.'s firing of Kimberly M. Cloutier for refusing to stop wearing an eyebrow ring at work constituted religious discrimination in that Cloutier is a member of the Oregon-based Church of Body Modification. The church says piercings and tattoos "are essential to our spiritual salvation."

Based on the EEOC ruling, Cloutier, 27, of West Springfield, Mass., filed a federal lawsuit against Costco for not "accommodating" her religious practice, as required by law.

Personal injury projection

Otis Stansbury, 34, of Long Eaton, England, filed a lawsuit in August against door-to-door salesman Jay Sims and his company, Accident Group, whose business is helping customers in personal-injury lawsuits. Sims had just left the Stansbury home (after failing to sign them up) when, according to the lawsuit, he attempted to catch a ball among kids playing in front of the Stansbury home, slipped, and fell on top of 6-year-old Yohan Stansbury, sending the boy to the hospital with head injuries.

Bite the dust

Police in Modesto, Calif., arrested Kelli Pratt, 45, in October and charged her with domestic abuse. She had been enraged by her 65-year-old diabetic husband's refusal to have sex with her, so she allegedly held him down and bit him so viciously and so many times that his severely ripped-open skin was ripe for the bacterial infection that killed him six days later.

An arresting officer said, "[Kelli] refused to wash up [before we videotaped her], so she basically looks [on the tape] like a vampire with blood all over her face and teeth."

Pub crawl

Josephine Bailey filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in August, two years after her 22-year-old son staggered out of Rick's Pub in Hurricane, W.Va., after a night of drinking and, according to police, collapsed under an idling 18-wheeler across the street, shortly after which he was run over and killed when the driver pulled away without noticing him. Ms. Bailey, who is suing the pub's owner and the trucking company, had said earlier that she couldn't believe her son would do such a foolish thing: "He'd never put himself in that kind of predicament."

Minor threat

Cherise Mosley, 19, filed a lawsuit against the Aaron Family Planning Clinic in Houston in August, seeking damages for the abortion it performed on her two years earlier when she was a minor.

Mosley admits that she produced a false ID card at that time, showing that she was over 18, for the express purpose of receiving the abortion without having her parents notified.

Now, Mosley apparently regrets the abortion and claims the clinic should have detected that her ID was false and thus notified her parents, who, Mosley believes, would have talked her out of the abortion.

Cult of (split) personality

Linda Henning, 48, went on trial for murder in Albuquerque this September, charged as being the dupe and accomplice of Diazien Hossencofft (a self-proclaimed 2,000-year-old cancer-curing guru) in the murder of his wife, the late Girly Chew Hossencofft.

Henning was described by longtime friends as being exceptionally level-headed, right up until the day she met the charismatic Hossencofft, after which she became "crazy as a loon." According to one friend, she believed that reptilian aliens were ready to take over the world, using cryogenic pods. (Henning had written that George W. Bush is a reptilian alien who maintains his human visage through "the use of magnetic fields to create holograms.")

The naked truth

In September, Toronto prosecutors dropped the public-nudity charges against seven men who marched naked in a Gay Pride parade, concluding that it would be impossible to convict them since they had been wearing shoes.

Just one day later, the Washington state Supreme Court dismissed voyeurism charges against two men who had been convicted of shooting "upskirt" photos of women in public, concluding that the state's peeping-tom statute applies only to victims who have an "expectation of privacy" because they are in secluded places.

Born to be mild

Sixty-year-old Jim Zimmerman of Saginaw, Mich., bought a Harley-Davidson in September while confronting a "mid-age crisis." He hadn't been on a bike in 30 years, and 10 seconds into the ride, he slammed into a utility pole and broke several ribs. He sold the bike shortly thereafter.

Dog years

In a decision hailed by animal-rights activists, District of Columbia judge Frederick Weisberg in July sentenced John Hardy, 49, to prison for assaults he committed during a domestic altercation, which broke out when Hardy and his wife were scuffling and ended when Hardy's pit bull became excited, provoking Hardy to fatally stab him. Weisberg sentenced Hardy to three months for assaulting his wife and 24 months for the attack on the dog.

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