American gangsters traditionally use euphemisms and nicknames ("Chin," "The Nose") to disguise criminal activities, but among details revealed at a November murder trial in Sydney, Australia, was that members of the "Brothers 4 Life" gang might have used "pig latin." In a phone-tapped conversation played in court, one of the men on trial was overheard cunningly telling a henchman that a colleague had been "caught with the un-gay in the ar-kay." A helpful witness then took the stand to explain to the jury that the defendant thus knew there was "a gun in the car." At press time, the trial was still in progress.
Recurring Themes (recent incidents that are not "firsts")
An "academic" paper composed entirely of gibberish was accepted for a lecture at the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics in Atlanta last month. Prof. Christoph Bartneck of New Zealand's University of Canterbury said he began writing (using Apple iOS) by entering "atomic" and "nuclear" into his tablet and "randomly" following whatever "autocomplete" suggestions emerged. (Sample sentence: "The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place..." Conclusion: "Power is not a great place for a good time.")
• Divorcing couples who cannot decide who gets to keep a treasured family home leave the decision to a judge, and in October, a court in Moscow ordered a couple to build a brick wall dividing in two their expensive house in an elite neighborhood. Apparently contractors' measurements have been taken, and the couple has assumed dominion over their respective areas, even to the extent that a friend of the wife had become "trapped" on the husband's side and prevented from leaving until she called emergency services. Furthermore, the wife must have a second stairway built, as the existing one is on the husband's side.
• Jacques Rouschop, 44, went to trial in October in Ottawa, Ontario, denying that he had raped two sex workers—which he said was physically impossible because at the time he, at 5-foot-6, weighed 400 lbs., had a 66-inch waist, and a two-inch-long penis (erect), plus a painful hernia. He was not asked to "flash" the jury, but an examining nurse verified the details. (Despite the lack of DNA evidence, video or a rape kit, Rouschop was convicted.)
• A 23-year-old man in Tampa, Fla., was hanging out with his cousin in September, and nearby were a gun and a bulletproof vest—and the result was predictable. According to police, the first man donned the vest and said he wondered whether it "still worked"; the cousin picked up the gun and said, "Let's see." The cousin, Alexandro Garibaldi, 24, was charged with manslaughter.
• Judges can issue "material witness" warrants to lock up innocent people to ensure their trial testimony, but rarely do it to actual crime victims. In December 2015, the Houston, Texas, district attorney obtained such a warrant jailing a rape victim ("Jenny") to secure her testimony against a serial rapist she could identify, because Jenny, exceptionally fragile, was hesitant. She finally took the stand, and the rapist is now serving multiple life terms, but Jenny's added trauma (especially since police mistakenly placed her into the jail's general population instead of a separate wing) provoked her to file a lawsuit against the DA, which is still in progress. And in November, likely to Jenny's satisfaction, the DA, Devon Anderson, lost re-election.
• Another animal survives with mouth-to-mouth: In November, an 18-year-old man who allegedly tried to steal koi carp fish from a holding tank (pending their return to a pond at Castle Park in Colchester, England) botched the job, resulting in the deaths of most of them, including some of the oldest and most visitor-friendly of the species. Park rangers managed to rescue several, and one ranger even gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to three carp. (A biologist told BBC News that carp are noted for surviving on low oxygen and might not have needed the mouth-to-mouth.)
• More Sperm Wars: Most couples who create embryos to freeze for the future agree that the consent of both is required for actual use. Two former couples are on opposite sides of the issue: Actor Sofia Vergara's ex-boyfriend wants their embryo brought to term (but she does not), and Missouri woman Jalesia McQueen wants two she created with then-husband Justin Gadberry brought to term (but he does not). In the latter case, an appeals court ruled for Gadberry in November (though the couple already have two children from frozen embryos). In the Vergara case, the ex, Nick Loeb, is trying for an extraordinary court ruling based on his "inability to otherwise procreate" (since two subsequent girlfriends adamantly chose abortions).
• Victims in News of the Weird stories have been hit by "flying" animals that should not be airborne—even once by a cow (falling off a cliff) and once by a horse (that fell from a trailer on a highway overpass). On Nov. 17, in Clarksville, Tenn., an unassuming pedestrian along Dover Road was smacked by a deer that sailed into him after it collided with a minivan. The pedestrian was taken to the hospital with broken bones.
• The debate over whether animals have "rights" enforceable by judges took a sharp turn upward in November when a judge in Argentina ordered the reluctant Mendoza Zoo to release a chimpanzee (Cecilia) to a sanctuary in Brazil because the zoo had denied her the "right" to animal "essence"—to socialize with other chimps (since her last two playmates had died more than two years earlier). Mendoza Zoo was heavily criticized following the death last summer of Arturo, dubbed the "world's saddest polar bear," since he had suffered an even worse fate, with no playmates for 22 years.
• These days, body orifices seem hardly more unusual as storage areas for contraband than one's shirt pocket, but it was news in Fort Pierce, Fla., in October when police said that Rosalia Garcia, 28, badly failed at handling glass crack pipes. Officers were called to a domestic fight in which Garcia's boyfriend accused her of slashing him with her crack pipe, and later, while being booked on the charge, she told police she had another crack pipe in her genitals. Then, in front of an officer, she accidentally cut herself on the pipe as she removed it.
• In America, tens of thousands of pedestrians are hit by cars every year, but rare is the driver who runs over himself. Periodically, News of the Weird updates readers: In October in Orlando, William Edwards, 28, leaving the Dancer's Royale strip club at 2:30 a.m., started his truck, drove, fell out, had it run over his leg, and saw the truck drift down a street and into a home, injuring the occupant. Earlier in October, a 25-year-old man in Scugog, Ontario, backing his car down his driveway with the door open, fell out, had it run over his leg, and saw it hit two mailbox posts. (Both times, as in nearly every similar case, alcohol was involved.)
Four innocent Texas women caught up in the 1990s' "child sex abuse" panics, who served a cumulative 56 years in prison after their 1997 convictions, were completely exonerated in November by a Texas judge following the recanting of one "victim" and the retracting of the principal forensic "evidence." The four women, then in their 20s, had been accused of genitally abusing nieces, ages 7 and 9, of one of the women. In the 1990s, beginning with the San Diego-area "McMartin School" case, it became easy for prosecutors to convince ready-to-believe jurors that their little toddlers and adolescents were sexually abused in Satanic cults and by hordes of perverts, "proved" by self-assured counselors misapplying "science" and by fantastical "testimony" by children themselves, taken seriously by adults somehow unaware that children have imaginations and a need to please adults.
Thanks this week to Chuck Hamilton, Andrew Hastie and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.