Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Sciavo: Saved by the bill," Nov. 1, 2003

Pulling a fast one?

Police nabbed Mike Ferguson for racing through a British highway at 104 mph on Jan. 16, but he had a pretty good excuse. He was driving an ambulance that carried a liver for transplant in the wee hours of the morning. Authorities charged him with speeding anyway-even though his emergency light was flashing. The driver pled not guilty and fought the charge for several months until prosecutors last month finally dropped the charge. Mr. Ferguson, who would have lost his license if convicted, at one point even carried a petition-with 20,000 signatures-to the prime minister's residence to have the law changed to protect ambulance drivers. While "overjoyed" at the decision, Mr. Ferguson said he would still fight to have the law clarified.

Pooper scooper

A London mugger made a mess of his attempted robbery of British actress Linda Robson outside her home last month. The thug struck Ms. Robson in the face, causing bruises, and then grabbed a plastic bag from her and sped off on his mountain bike. His loot? Well, let's just say he got what he deserved. The BBC reported that Ms. Robson's new Staffordshire puppy had made a mess on her kitchen floor, the remains of which were in the bag that Ms. Robson was taking out to the trash. "I can see the funny side," she told the network, "especially when the mugger looked at his trophy-a little present from my dog."

Shooting chic

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If fuzzy dice and mud flaps aren't enough to dress down a car, how about a fake bullet hole for the window? Doug Rock, a Michigan nursing student, says he's sold millions of them on the Internet. The fashion trend alarms Gregory Wims of the Victims' Rights Foundation. "It's like a badge of honor," he said. "It sends a bad message." Mr. Rock says the fake bullet hole sales are putting him through school.

Dumpti's great fall

Ernest Dumpti of Reno, Nev., apparently didn't think $50,000 in cash would look unusual to his landlord, Jim Stegmaier. But Mr. Stegmaier is also a Reno police officer, and he became suspicious when Mr. Dumpti said he had come into some cash and wanted to pay off a year's worth of rent. Now Mr. Dumpti and another man stand charged with grand larceny for allegedly stealing $90,000 from the attic of a home they were renovating. Mr. Stegmaier was wearing his uniform when Mr. Dumpti showed him the money.

Unreal estate

$704 may seem like a reasonable monthly rent for an apartment, but in Manhattan it's the average apartment's selling price-per square foot. The Douglas Elliman real estate firm reported last month that the average price for a Manhattan apartment has reached an all-time high of $916,959. CNN calculated the average American family would have to spend its entire household income for 22 years just to cover the cost.

Little forethought

Former inmate Maurice Lamont Little obviously didn't spend his nine-month prison term thinking of a disguise for his next crime. Just hours after his release from the Columbus County (N.C.) Correctional Institute on Oct. 15, Mr. Little, still wearing his prison clothes, held up a Monroe store. He had been released at 10:30 a.m. and was back in custody at 7:35 p.m.

Water break

A traditional Hindu funeral in India turned into a celebration last month when the "deceased" woke up. A douse of cold water during preparations roused him. Relatives had tried and failed to awaken the 80-year-old man, known only as "Velusamy," Agence France-Presse reported. So they mistakenly thought he had died of old age and began preparing for the ritual burning of his body at their home in the small village of Molapalayam. The elderly grandfather muttered "It's very cold" as he got up just a few minutes before he would have been placed on a funeral pyre.

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