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Syndicated Columns

Newsquirks

By Roland Sweet
Posted // June 11,2007 -

A police officer investigating a shoplifting at a supermarket in Stuart, Fla., recognized fugitive Ari Rayvon Stanberry, 22, who bolted and hid in the store’s freezer. By the time he was located, according to police Sgt. Marty Jacobson, “The officer said his dreadlocks looked like little Popsicles. He was certainly ready and willing to come out.?



Fool for a Client



Accused of murdering his parents, Neelesh Phadnis, 24, acted as his own attorney at his trial in Seattle. He insisted that a gang of 400-pound Samoans kidnapped and tortured him for three days before killing his parents in front of him. The number of people changed frequently. At first, the Seattle Times reported, Phadnis said that the gang comprised a handful of Samoans and their girlfriends. Later that day, he added two whites, a couple of black, one American Indian and, perhaps, a transgendered individual. By the end of the trial, Phadnis, who repeatedly perched the reading glasses that he borrowed from the judge on his forehead, insisted that more than 30 armed Samoans were involved. At one point, Phadnis put his finger in his mouth, like a gag, to show jurors how the gang silenced him, but then he proceeded to talk while his voice was still muffled, making it difficult for jurors to understand him. At one point, he objected to prosecutors showing the jury a picture of one of his father’s handguns, declaring, “Your honor, that’s not even the murder weapon,” implying that he knew which gun had been used in the killings. David Robinson, one of the public defenders assigned as standby counsel, said that Phadnis’s handling of his case was “like watching a train wreck.” Nevertheless, the jury deliberated for eight hours before convicting him.



Clear-Cut Initiatives



U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., proposed waiving the fee the government charges to cut firewood in national forests so more people will burn wood. “Every bit helps,” he said, citing jacked-up heating oil and natural gas prices.



• Georgia lawmakers authorized underwater logging on the Flint and Altamaha rivers in the southern part of the state. Three percent to 5 percent of the millions of logs sent down those rivers in the 19th and 20th centuries sank to the bottom before reaching their destinations. The wood is tight-grained and 10 times more valuable than conventional wood, according to Ryan Lee, who battles alligators, snakes and snapping turtles salvaging 20-foot cypress and pine logs, each weighing 3,000 to 5,000 pounds, to produce high-end flooring, paneling and furniture. “It’s really a treasure,” state Sen. Tommie Williams said. “The quality of the wood and the uniqueness of the wood is something we can’t duplicate. There really aren’t any virgin forests left.?



Turnabout Is Fair Play



After successfully reducing the number of juvenile runaways, Japanese authorities reported that the number of adults who run away has risen 31 percent since 1981. Almost 20 percent of the missing adult reports cited family woes as the most likely reason for the disappearance, followed by problems at work and relationships. “Unless they’ve gotten involved in an accident or crime, there’s very little we can or should do,” said Masako Shinozaki of National Police Agency. “If they’re adults and left home of their own will, we have to respect that.?



First-Hand Experience



The head of a commission investigating Trinidad and Tobago’s public health care fell ill from food poisoning after eating at a government-run hospital in San Fernando. “I almost died,” former magistrate Gladys Gaffoor said. “I spent one night on drips and oxygen.?



Play Time



When police in Troy, N.Y., tried to stop Tyrone McMillian, 33, on a parole warrant, he sped off, leading officers on a high-speed chase through several towns before finally hitting a police cruiser and another car. “I was crazy,” McMillian told police Sgt. Joseph Centanni. “I’ve been playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto and NASCAR on PlayStation. I thought I could get away.?



Close but No Cigar



When the mother of a child protested after a court-ordered paternity test showed that James Durney, 40, of Chittenango, N.Y., was not the father, county employees showed her a photo of the man who took the test. She said the man in the photo wasn’t Durney. Authorities accused Durney of sending an impersonator, Neil Simon, 34, to take the test. “He didn’t feel like paying child support is what the problem was,” state police Investigator Mark Nell told the Syracuse Post-Standard.



The Not-So-Great Imposter



Authorities accused Bryan Perley of impersonating a Merchant Marine captain and trying to serve a bogus arrest warrant on a state worker in Orlando, Fla. When co-workers told him that the employee he was looking for had the day off, he called the police for help in serving the warrant. “They don’t understand the chain of command in government,” Perley complained to the 911 dispatcher. “I’ve warned them today. They’ve been totally unresponsive.” Police Officer Ronald Satallante said that besides the phony warrant, Perley’s identification and passport “appeared to be fictitious as well.?

 
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