Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Tyranny of the minority," June 7, 2003

Belly busted

Michael Sullivan of Fanning Springs, Fla., executed a championship belly flop-but then landed in hot water. Mr. Sullivan wasn't able to defend his belly-flop title at last month's Red Belly Day festival in Fanning Springs because he's serving a three-year state prison term. The problem: After winning last year's title, Mr. Sullivan's picture appeared in the local newspaper. Authorities saw the picture and arrested him for violating the terms of his house arrest for a previous parole violation. (He could only legally leave his home to go to work.) Authorities said local probation officers patrolled this year's Red Belly Day festivities, looking for other parole violators among the crowd of 7,500.

No joke

An Italian woman, identified only as Cristina M. in court records, may have considered her 1988 Las Vegas wedding "a joke," but Italy's highest court isn't laughing. The court last week rejected Ms. M's appeal of her 1996 bigamy conviction, ruling that her marriage at a Las Vegas registry office was as valid as any other. Italian authorities had arrested her after learning that her Vegas wedding took place before an earlier marriage in Italy had been annulled.

One flesh, separate prisons

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Steven Mora and Diane Zamora have never met in person, and they can't have their honeymoon-or even physical contact-until 2036. But the Texas attorney general's office ruled last month that the two prison inmates can become husband and wife, marrying stand-ins in separate services at their respective prisons. Ms. Zamora, serving a life term for helping plan a 1995 murder, isn't eligible for parole until 2036, while Mr. Mora is scheduled to complete a four-year sentence next year. With the warden's permission, Mr. Mora may be able to visit his bride, but he won't be able to kiss her. Texas law forbids physical contact between prisoners and visitors at maximum-security prisons. The two began exchanging letters after Mr. Mora saw Ms. Zamora on television.

A better Bruce

Prank callers in Sanford, N.C., may have called for Bruce Almighty, but instead they got a different Bruce talking about the real Almighty. Several callers last week dialed the number that repeatedly appears on a pager belonging to a character named Bruce in the hit comedy Bruce Almighty. It turns out that the number actually belongs to Turner's Chapel Church in Sanford, pastored by Rev. Bruce MacInnes. He says the church has received several phone calls, most of them hang-ups. But one caller asked to talk to God. "I told him if he was serious I would be happy to talk with him about God," said Rev. MacInnes. "I said if he wasn't serious he could just hang up. He hung up." Phone users with the same number in other parts of the country also report a rash of prank calls, with callers asking for God and hanging up. Bruce Almighty debuted last week at No. 1 at the box office.

A law with teeth

"Open wide" is not a request in Wernigerode, Germany. Authorities there fined the parents of 8-year-old Ann-Sophie Krebs 100 euros after the girl refused to open her mouth for a dental checkup at school. A court last month upheld the fine. The Krebs family had sent a note from the family dentist to the school about Ann-Sophie's fear of dentists, but the school still reprimanded the girl and notified the local government.

You deserve arrest today

Police in Florida have been going deep undercover-as fast-food workers and homeless vagrants. Officers in separate jurisdictions sought to catch people breaking the law in their cars. They netted dozens of arrests. In Fort Myers, Fla., police officer Glen Eppler posed as a drive-through employee at a local McDonald's. He spotted enough in-car criminal activity during March and April to yield six arrests and 29 citations, some for drug and weapons violations. After serving the alleged criminals their burgers and fries, Mr. Eppler alerted colleagues in patrol cars who pulled over the offenders. (Apparently franchise owner Samir Homsi was as surprised as those arrested; he says he didn't know about the sting operation.) At the same time, officers in Kissimmee, Fla., posed as homeless to catch drivers in traffic violations. "Operation Vagrant" led to 171 tickets, mainly for running red lights.


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