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News of the Weird


Spanking-good trial prep: In July, a federal judge ruled against lawyer Milo J. Altschuler (Seymour, Conn.), who claimed that his across-the-knee, bare-buttocks spanking of client Leslie Cerrato in his office was a legitimate trial-preparation tactic (and thus that when she recovered a $250,000 settlement against him for the assault, Altschuler's insurance company should pay it, as "malpractice"). Altschuler claimed that he thought the spanking would improve Cerrato's credibility as a witness.

Other courthouse follies: Edmonton, Alberta, lawyer Maurice Prefontaine was arrested in March for skipping his contempt-of-court trial, which came about when he referred to Justice Gerald Verville as a "slithering mass [of] vipers." And a judge in Columbus, Ohio, declared a mistrial in July when lawyer Christopher T. Cicero rushed the phalanx of deputies surrounding his murder-defendant-client Michael Gordon and smacked Gordon in the head (in response to Gordon's threat, according to a bailiff, to "kick [Cicero's] fat ass."

Fear factor: According to a BBC News dispatch from Harar, Ethiopia, in June, Mulugeta Wolde Mariam ("the hyena man of Harar") has trained about 80 local wild hyenas to congregate around him at night and be fed by grabbing pieces of meat out of Mulugeta's mouth with their teeth. Said he, "There is no danger unless you are scared, as the hyenas sense fear."

Boredom, illustrated: Ian Jewell, an employee of the West Somerset (England) District Council, was rewarded by his bosses after his counting revealed that the toilet paper in the restrooms contained fewer than the 320 sheets per roll stated in the supplier's contract (September). And a popular pastime in Bismarck, N.D. (according to an October Associated Press report), is a game called "Slip," in which teenagers walk the city during summer nights trying to avoid cars' headlights. (If they get flashed, they're out.) Said one teenage girl, "It's better than sitting around on the couch on a Friday night watching a movie." And in many cities, the opening of a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop has been marked by fans queueing up several hours in advance, but Peter Bolland and his son, P.J. (both grown men), lined up 30 hours early for the store's debut in Kitchener, Ontario, in November. ("[This] sounds so ridiculous," said P.J.)

That on the road feeling: "[M]any top businessmen spend more of their time in hotels than in their own home. ... So when they get home, they like to re-create the hotel experience. ... Many of my clients [for example] have their own mini-bars in their bedrooms. ... They come to me [to make them] a hotel-style [closet]." (spoken by Arnold Chrysler, owner of Chrysler's World of Hotel Decor, on trial in London in October for stealing 40,000 hotel coat hangers -- the bottom part, useful only if affixed to the closet's hanging bar)