News of the Weird June 11 2008

LEAD STORY: Freddie Johnson, 49, was arrested in New York City in April for the 53rd time after he allegedly once again rubbed up against women on crowded trains. He is such a menace (a 57-page rap sheet) that a special NYPD detail follows him around, certain that he will re-offend. Shortly after the arrest, the New York Daily News reported that his twin brother, Teddy, is now serving an eight-year sentence in upstate New York for a series of subway gropings of his own. A retired police officer told the Daily News that he saw the brothers almost every day and could tell them apart only by their clothes. Freddie, he said, was “blue collar” while Teddy conducted his fondlings “always dressed in a blazer and slacks.”

Government in Action! In April, Army medic Monica Brown was awarded the Silver Star for bravery for selflessly subjecting herself to enemy fire in order to treat fallen comrades in battle in Afghanistan. Two days after her heroics, however, she had been ordered home against her will because generals were nervous that a female appeared to be “in combat,” which violates Army rules. By contrast, in April (according to the Buffalo News), the Army, citing personnel shortages, ordered honorably discharged soldier James Raymond back to duty, even though he is on medical disability for a knee injury and loss of hearing suffered in Afghanistan. (Soldiers on “Readiness Reserve” are still eligible for duty if necessary.)

Kinder, Gentler Government: 1) The county government in Tampa revealed in April that because of its unusual interpretation of state law, all of its inmates on work-release programs during the last 15 years have been accruing pension and post-retirement health care credits. 2) London’s Daily Telegraph reported in April that the Dutch government has begun assigning some of its hardcore unemployed (who are repeatedly rejected for jobs) to “regression therapy,” in the hope that coming to terms with negative aspects of their past will help them present themselves better.

Fine Points of the Law: 1) Gary Weaver, 41, arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in Cincinnati, was discovered to have an outstanding theft warrant from 1990 involving $21.64. The temporary bond on Weaver in 1990, based on his prior record, had been $1 million, and the 2008 judge refused to change that. (Extra fact: The $21.64 theft was based on Weaver’s paying a store in part with a roll of dimes that were really pennies but with a dime at each end.) 2) Representatives of about 300 Islamic madrassas, or schools, meeting in New Delhi in April, decided that Muslims could not buy health insurance because the Quran forbids gambling (although they said they would continue to explore ways of reconciling Sharia law with health care financing).

Questionable Judgments: London’s Daily Mail reported in April that the Mab Lane Primary school in Liverpool was boldly dealing with the problem of unruly students by scheduling 20-minute massage sessions twice a week in a room with aromatic oils and soothing music. Children of all ages at the school are taught “simple shoulder and back massages on each other,” the newspaper reported.

School authorities in Mount Vernon, Ohio, began an investigation in April after complaints that eighth-grade science teacher John Freshwater was injecting his religious beliefs a little too much into the class. In one “experiment,” Freshwater allegedly tossed Lego pieces into a pile and asked students if the pieces could assemble themselves (or would a “creator” have to do it), but the accusation that most aroused parental anger was a demonstration of electrostatic electricity, in which he asked for volunteers to take a shock on the arm, which resulted in a distinct “cross” being burned onto the skin. In April, two of the nine Baltimore-area middle-school kids implicated in a potentially fatal beating of a young couple on a transit bus last year said they would soon file lawsuits asking for $10 million each from their school (for suspending them) and the transit company (for barring them from future rides, which it did out of concern for the safety of its passengers).

Family Values: Joseph Manzanares, 19, pleaded guilty in April to disorderly conduct in Commerce City, Colo., after police were called to a domestic disturbance, as he and his ex-girlfriend, who are the parents of a toddler, fought over which local street gang’s colors (hers or his) the kid would wear.

People Different From Us: In April, police in East Hampton, Conn., investigating the accidental shooting of ex-Marine Joseph Simonelli, 60, by his 9-year-old son, seized “dozens of unsecured guns and mounds of loose ammunition” from the home, according to the Hartford Courant, which contained a “wide-open, chock-full gun cabinet in the boy’s bedroom with numerous rifles and knives strewn about the room.” According to police, bullet casings and live rounds lay “throughout the house,” and the walls of the boy’s bedroom bore “numerous small holes made by a bb/pellet gun or even small-caliber .22 rounds being shot inside the home.” The boy told police that he “usually” only shoots his rifles when he’s outside.

Least Competent Criminals: Should’ve chosen another career: 1) Joshua Crowley, 22, was charged with robbing a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Camas, Wash., in March after being chased down, wrestled with, and subdued by passer-by Mary Chamberlain, 66.