Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008

Anything Goes

Google+ Pinterest Print

At Dog Brothers’ “Gathering of the Pack” in Southern California in August, the martial arts event was “anything goes,” according to one fighter. A Reuters reporter witnessed two men without padding beat each other with heavy sticks and two others fight with electric knives. The latter duel ended when, during a wrestling hold, one slipped a hand free and planted a 1,000-volt surge. “I have never felt better than when I’m doing this,” said one fighter. Another participant added, “Honestly, I wish I could find a church with the same spirit of support and love.” The Dog Brothers Web site says the fights offer “higher consciousness through harder contact.”

Government in Action

In August, Angela Tuttle was elected constable in Hancock County, Tenn., simply because she showed up and voted. There were no candidates on the ballot, and thus her write-in vote carried the election, 1-0.

Not only does Florida lead the nation in mortgage fraud, but state regulators facilitated the epidemic by permit ting 2,200 people with finance-crime records to become professional “loan originators,” according to a July investigation by The Miami Herald. The newspaper reported that at least 5,300 people with rap sheets were allowed to work in the industry over an eight-year period.

And the crisis continues, according to a Virginia research firm, which found in August that almost one-fourth of new mortgage fraud in the United States emanates from Florida (mostly on scams exploiting people who face foreclosure).

Republican Mayor Becky Miller, of Carrollton, Texas, built a nine-point lead in early balloting before voters ousted her on Election Day, largely because of a Dallas Morning News report that Miller lied about her past. In her campaign, Miller emotionally referred to a brother killed in the Vietnam War, but her father said her only brother is still alive and was never in the military (which Miller “explained” by alleging that her father has Alzheimer’s). She later gave a name for her brother, but the Morning News found that the soldier cited by Miller is black, while she and her parents are white. Miller also claimed to be a backup singer for Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne, but spokesmen for each said they had never heard of her (which she “explained” by saying that she used to be known as “Pinky”).

Police Blotter

A judge ordered Paul Baldwin, 48, to be held on $10,000 bail in Portsmouth, N.H., in May. Baldwin’s crime? Stealing a can of beer. Why the high price on bail? It was Baldwin’s 152nd arrest. When a judge asked Baldwin if he wanted a lawyer to be appointed, Baldwin said, “I don’t need a lawyer. I’ve been in this court more than you have.”

A gentle armed robber was being sought in July in Poplar Bluff, Mo., after he took $25 from a man at gunpoint, and then hugged him before he left.

Creme de la Weird

Charlie Van Wilkes Jr., 31, was arrested in Danielsville, Ga., in August and charged with possession of drugs and burglary tools. The arrest report noted that Wilkes had a “large lump in the front of his blue jeans, with wires running from inside his pants and hanging down dragging the ground” as he walked. Wilkes explained that he was wearing a “home made vibrator,” which was hooked to a battery. The arresting officer wrote that “a small motor had been removed from an item and placed inside a pill bottle, and then wrapped in a piece of pipe insulation before being placed inside (Wilkes’) pants for a pleasurable sensation.”

Least Competent Criminals

Oblivious:

1) In August in Billings, Mont., federal officers recognized Wyoming fugitive Sterling Wolfname, 26, on the street. He tried to give a different name to the police, seemingly oblivious to the fact that “Wolfname” was tattooed on the side of his head.

(2) Fugitive Willie Vickers, 46, was arrested in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in July on old burglary warrants after he volunteered to help a woman and a police officer get into her locked car. Vickers said he had lots of experience with locked cars, which caused the officer to run his name through the computer.

Recurring Themes

The economic slowdown and rising prices for scrap metals have provoked desperation and creativity among down market criminals. In July, a 42-year-old man was arrested while heading for a metals-recycling center in Miami with a 40-foot-long municipal street lamp strapped to the roof of his car. Also in July, a badly burned man found by police on a utility pole in northwest Dallas died days later, making him the latest of several people so far this year who have tried, unsuccessfully, to remove copper wire from power poles.

2008 Chuck Shepherd