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News/Opinion
‹‹ V.16 No.12 | March 22 - 28, 2007

Odds & Ends

By Devin D. O’Leary
Eric Garcia

Dateline: Finland--A Finnish Member of Parliament is aiming for re-election by campaigning in Klingon. Jyrki Kasvi, a self-proclaimed Trekkie, is hoping to lure hip young voters by translating his website into Klingon. “Some have thought it is blasphemy to mix politics and Klingon,” said Kasvi. “Others say it is good for politicians to laugh at themselves.” Kasvi said his politics posed certain translation problems, since Klingon does not have words for matters such as tolerance, or for many colors, such as green--the party under whose banner Kasvi is running. Kasvi’s site (in English, Swedish, Finnish and Klingon) can be accessed at www.kasvi.org.

Dateline: Arizona--An apartment-dwelling drug-dealer who started a small fire while cooking methamphetamine in his toaster was forced to drive to a nearby Wal-Mart to buy a fire extinguisher after his efforts to quell the blaze proved fruitless. Jonathan Zaletel, 19, was greeted by Maricopa County deputies when he returned to his condominium, extinguisher in hand. The condo’s sprinkler system put out the fire while he was gone, and firefighters located a small meth lab in a bedroom closet. Authorities told The Arizona Republic that Zaletel had tried, unsuccessfully, to put out the fire with water and window cleaner before making his trip to Wal-Mart. Zalatel was booked on suspicion of manufacturing dangerous drugs, possession of chemicals and equipment to manufacture dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana, and criminal damage.

Dateline: California--A $25,000 diamond was found stuck in a shower drain--perhaps not so coincidentally--at the prison housing the man accused of stealing it two years ago. In April of 2005, Bret Allan Langford, 39, allegedly asked the owner of a Jewelry Express store to show him a 2-carat colorless diamond. Langford then grabbed the diamond and sped away, said sheriff’s spokesperson Jim Amormino. Langford was arrested shortly afterward but the police did not retrieve the diamond. Langford was eventually charged with commercial burglary and, after several transfers, ended up at Theo Lacy Branch Jail in Orange, Calif., where he awaited trial. Last week, an investigator representing Langford told jail officials to search jailhouse drains if they wanted the diamond. Officials discovered the gemstone wedged in a screen beneath one of the facility’s shower stalls. Langford finally admitted to stealing the diamond and told authorities that he had been swallowing and regurgitating the rock each time he was transferred. But 14 months ago, just as Langford was about to be searched, he threw the diamond into a shower stall where it fell down a drain. It is believed that Langford came forward as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. Langford’s trial is set to begin May 7 and the diamond is expected to be a key piece of evidence. After the trial, the evidence will be cleaned and returned to the store.

Dateline: Georgia--Two Atlanta men survived an attempt to kill themselves by cutting off their arms with a circular saw. Atlanta Police Major Lane Hagin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the men actually managed to sever three of their arms about six inches above the wrist. The fourth arm, apparently, proved somewhat problematic. The two unnamed men--aged 40 and 41--left a suicide note with the manager of their Atlanta apartment building saying they were committing suicide because their business had failed and they were recently diagnosed with HIV. After reading the note, the manager called police who found the two men in their apartment with “a lot of blood.” A police spokesperson said both men were in stable condition at Grady Memorial Hospital and would undergo psychiatric evaluation.

Dateline: Montana--A mistaken bit of “black humor” had a drunk driving defendant telling law enforcement officials that a unicorn was behind the wheel of his truck when it crashed into a light pole. A recent news report in The Billings Gazette--soon repeated around the world--claimed that Phillip Carston Holliday Jr., 42, told police a “unicorn” was driving after a one-vehicle accident in Billings on the night of March 7. “It’s a great story,” Yellowstone County Attorney Dennis Paxinos said. “It’s just isn’t correct.” The deputy prosecutor who wrote the charging document against Holliday used the fantastical word in an e-mail to the prosecutor who appeared in court to argue Holliday’s bond. The word was mistakenly interpreted as an actual statement from Holliday. “Unicorn” has since been described as “a kind of code” between prosecutors to describe a suspect who does not want to take responsibility. Often blame for a crime is placed on some other imaginary person, a “unicorn.” In some cases, a defendant is also described as using what Paxinos called the SEDI defense, an acronym for the claim that “somebody else did it.” Immediately after his arrest, Holliday told officers his left leg was broken. Then, he said he had panicked behind the wheel. Later, he told officers he fell asleep. A fourth version Holliday offered on the night of his arrest was that his girlfriend was behind the wheel when the accident took place. Holliday has five previous DUI convictions.

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to devin@alibi.com.