To a Certain Degree

Oct. 8, 2008
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Bernard LeCorn, running against two others for the school board in Ocala, Fla., declared himself the best qualified of the three candidates because of his “doctorate,” but the Ocala Star-Banner discovered that his degree came from a well-known diploma mill and only cost $249. (In a diploma-mill fraud indictment in August, one alleged purchaser of a doctorate was Bart Anderson, superintendent of a school district in Columbus, Ohio.)

The Weirdo-American Community

Police in Knoxville, Tenn., arrested Richard Smith, 25, in September after he called 911 from an air duct inside the Knoxville Museum of Art. Smith told police that he was “a special agent with the United States Illuminati, badge number 0931” and that he had come to retrieve a nuclear warhead from the Soviet Union that was concealed in a blue plastic cow in the basement, according to a report on WBIR-TV. Smith said he got trapped in the air duct after he received a phone call aborting the mission because the cow was actually supposed to be in a museum in Memphis. He said he had entered the Museum of Art by being lowered from a “CH2 Huey” helicopter, but police rejected most everything Smith said except for his name.

Least Competent Criminals

In August, Angel Cruz, 49, was indicted in Florida for various financial schemes, including attempting to convince employees and contractors to accept “currency” from his “United Cities Group” (UCG). He claimed that this “money” carried the same value as U.S. currency. Cruz came to federal prosecutors’ attention when he tried to sneak $214 million of UCG money into a Bank of America branch in Miami and allegedly threatened to take over the bank when it balked at allowing withdrawals in U.S. dollars.

Recurring Themes

Critters 4, Humans 0: A 17-year-old boy in Reno, Nev., accidentally set his family’s house on fire while trying to kill spiders (August). A woman in Santa Fe, N.M., accidentally caused severe fire damage to her home while trying to torch a rattlesnake (July). A 26-year-old man in Mobile, Ala., accidentally caused $80,000 damage to his home and a shed while trying to kill a swarm of bees (June). A Buddhist monk accidentally burned down his temple in Ojiya City, Japan, while trying to destroy a hornets’ nest (September).

Now, Which One Is the Brake?

Elderly drivers continue to have lapses of concentration, confusing the brake pedal with the gas pedal (or however they try to explain it):

  • A Norfolk, Va., woman, 86, crashed against a Rite Aid pharmacy, damaging a vending machine (May).
  • A Lake Oswego, Ore., man, 81, crashed through the front of a U.S. Bank building, sending employees scurrying (February).
  • A Cincinnati woman, 80, crashed halfway into a Dollar General store, damaging displays (May).
  • A 75-year-old Shriner, driving a go-cart in one of the organization’s tiny-car exhibitions in Illinois, lost control and hit, in succession, two kids and two adults, before coming to a halt in some bushes (July).

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

An ashram-museum in Ahmedabad, India, devoted to highly revered icon of freedom Mahatma Gandhi, recently reinstalled a replica of the spiritual leader’s personal toilet, saying that Gandhi’s hygiene-consciousness was a large part of his legacy. It is said that he cleaned the toilet daily and referred to it as his “temple.” But ashram officials removed it in the 1980s as inappropriate, according to a September dispatch from New Delhi in London’s Daily Telegraph.

Can’t Possibly Be True

When Eric Aderholt’s house in Rockwell County, Texas, burned down in June, it wasn’t because the fire department was too slow. Firefighters arrived within minutes, but nobody seemed to be aware that local hydrants were locked. Apparently, departments should know that hydrants in rural areas have been shut off as part of post-9/11 security, and must be turned on with a special tool, which no one brought that night. By the time they retrieved it, Aderholt’s house was gone.


The incredibly patient Joseph Shepard Sr., 53, sat quietly in St. Louis-area jails for more than two years, apparently expecting his lawyer, Michael Kelly, to be working for his release on bond. As it turned out, nobody—not Kelly, the prosecutors or a judge—was doing anything at all. But Shepard seemed unperturbed by the wait. When a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter told him in August that he had looked into the case and that Shepard would be released soon, Shepard said, “If I just sit here long enough, something’s going to happen.”

Three days later, federal judge Carol Jackson released Shepard and chastised Kelly. (Shepard’s drug charges remain.)

2008 Chuck Shepherd


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