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Treading the thin white line



In March, Milwaukee lawyer Robin Shellow agreed to settle a slander lawsuit filed by former client James Hermann. Speaking on Hermann's behalf at his 1996 sentencing for armed robbery, Shellow sought to explain his behavior to the judge by saying Hermann was a heroin user. But Hermann says he is merely a cocaine addict, and that hearing himself described as a heroin user gave him post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting in lessened "self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image."

Hurting business

The I Am Hurt Corp., a lawyer-referral company, filed a lawsuit in Edmonton, Alberta, in March against a competing lawyer who advertises his phone number as 428-HURT. In November, a New York grand jury indicted three principals of a Maryland distributing company for fraudulently substituting common fish eggs for caviar. And in March, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against four Georgetown University law students, accusing them of recommending an obscure stock on an Internet bulletin board and then exploiting people who bought that stock, even though the buyers apparently put their money down knowing absolutely nothing about the stock save that these anonymous strangers had recommended it.

Ve haff vays of making you eat

A Nazi-themed restaurant called The Third Reich, whose waiters wear Gestapo uniforms, has been open for about a year in downtown Seoul, but has met with little criticism (due, perhaps, to the tininess of South Korea's Jewish population). But Jail, a prison-motif eatery in Taipei, Taiwan, was forced to apologize in January for displaying Holocaust prison scenes on its walls. Yet another theme restaurant opened in Taipei in January, this one built on a smokestack at the city's biggest garbage incinerator and offering picturesque views of trucks bringing in the trash.

Here comes the sucker

New York City psychotherapist Marilyn Graman recently offered a $9,600-per-person set of classes that she describes as "a step-by-step, intensive program designed to lead [a woman] down the aisle." According to a December Philadelphia Inquirer report, the six-month course encompasses 276 hours of lessons that teach women to visualize themselves as wives and make their closets "man ready," among other initiatives. Graman, however, offers no nuptial guarantee.

Sharing the burden of evidence

Wilhelm Krumwiede asked the Nebraska Supreme Court in December to rule that his estranged (and possibly dead) wife is also liable for the $120,000 in legal fees he has amassed defending the charge that he murdered her. (She has been missing since 1995, but after two trials, Krumwiede has not been convicted.) And in December, after Cora Caro was arrested in Ventura County, Calif., and charged with murdering three of her four children, she attempted to fund an elaborate defense by demanding a "loan" of $550,000 from her estranged husband against the future division of their community property.

Situational ethnics

Testifying before the state gaming commission in Indianapolis last November, principals of Caesars Indiana apologized for falling far short of a commission rule that requires 10 percent of casino contracts to go to minority businesses. Caesars said it had greatly improved on its dismal 1998 showing of one-half of 1 percent, but revealed that the upswing stemmed from counting its major engineering firm as minority-owned because its owner claims to be one-sixteenth American Indian.

No acquittal without a receipt

Ronald Bell Jr., 18, was convicted of murder in Shalimar, Fla., in March; the evidence against him included a surveillance video from a Target store that showed Bell and two accomplices returning the murder weapon (a $9.99 meat cleaver) for a refund.

Where there's smoke ...

A brand-new, $1 million fire station in Charleston, W.Va., as well as the Southampton Street headquarters of the Boston Fire Department, were closed (in January and November, respectively) because of fire-code violations. And blazes demolished a fire station in Allentown, Fla. (in January), the Mercury Candle Co. factory in Newark, N.J. (also in January) and the Argo Co.'s fire-extinguisher plant in Detroit, Mich. (in November).

Dying to perform

In 1992, News of the Weird reported the on-stage death of a nightclub comedian in Tempe, Ariz., who keeled over from a heart aneurysm while emceeing a show. In March 2000, a performer who worked under the name Uncle Ron the Magician collapsed and died during a performance in Hamilton, New Zealand; as in the 1992 incident, some in the audience applauded, thinking the collapse was a pratfall that was part of the show.

Identifying characteristics

Four men escaped in March after robbing a Mellon-PSFS Bank in Philadelphia, but police got a clear photo of one of the men, who had stood on the sidewalk directly facing the bank's surveillance camera while getting up the nerve to put on his mask. And Cedrick Washington, 33, was arrested in November and charged with robbing a Kenner, La., sandwich shop; he had stood in front of the shop (again, facing the surveillance camera), repeatedly practicing pulling his shirt over his head as a disguise.

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