News of the Weird: Name change not enough to win election

  • Updated: July 4, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Scott Fistler, twice a loser for electoral office in Phoenix as a Republican, decided in November 2013 that his luck might improve as a Democrat with a name change, and legally became “Cesar Chavez,” expecting to poll better in a heavily Hispanic, Democratic congressional district. (“Cesar Chavez” is, of course, the name of the legendary labor organizer.) Furthermore, according to a June report in the Arizona Capitol Times, “Chavez’s” campaign website features photographs of frenzied supporters holding “Chavez” signs, but which are obviously scenes from the streets of Venezuela at rallies for its late president Hugo Chavez. (At press time for News of the Weird, a judge had removed “Chavez” from the ballot, but only because some qualifying signatures were invalid. “Chavez” promised to appeal but missed the deadline.)

Compelling explanations

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Omaha, trying to be helpful, he said, advised female lawyers appearing in his courtroom to lower their hemlines and cover their cleavage because males, including Judge Kopf himself, are “pigs.” Writing in his personal blog in March, he said, “I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man” and that the women in his office are similarly contemptuous of daringly dressed female lawyers. The lifetime-tenured judge later said he regretted any harm to the judiciary that his remarks might have caused.

Almond Upton, 60, charged with murder for “intentionally” striking a New York state trooper in May with his pickup truck, denied everything. He told reporters following his first court appearance that he is bewildered by the accusation: “I was [close to] the Connecticut border, and all of a sudden, I’m in Binghamton, N.Y. [about 140 miles from Connecticut], and this cop got killed, I don’t know how it happened. It had to be a time warp.”

Michael Adrian, 26, was arrested in Lakeville, Minn., in June for frightening officials at Lake­ville North High School by skateboarding in front of the school, in military dress, face covered by a bandana, with an arrow strapped to his arm, and concealing knives, a box-cutter, a slingshot and pepper spray. Adrian told police he was merely “testing” the school’s security system. (A judge ordered a mental evaluation.)


At an April press conference on a train station platform in Milford, Conn., to critique the allegedly shoddy safety record of the Metro-North rail line, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., set up a chart on an easel to illustrate the problem. Suddenly, a train roared through the station and, according to news reports, “nearly” clipped Blumenthal, who was standing on the yellow platform line that passengers are admonished to stand behind.

In June, a jury in Fresno, Calif., decided that Bobby Lee Pearson, 37, was guilty of burglary — but they accidentally signed the “not-guilty” form, instead, and by the time Judge W. Kent Hamlin caught the error, he could not change it (because of “double jeopardy”). Pearson walked out a free man, went to his sister’s home, got into a fight hours later, and was stabbed to death by the sister’s boyfriend.

News that sounds like a joke

The animosity between Brevard County (Florida) Judge John Murphy and public defender Andrew Weinstock festered over the lawyer’s refusal to waive his client’s right to a speedy trial, but came to a head on June 2, when the judge told Weinstock, “If you want to fight, let’s go out back.” And to a back hallway they went, with the lawyer allegedly just intending to talk out their differences. However, according to Weinstock’s supervisor, Judge Murphy immediately grabbed Weinstock and began punching him. Weinstock was not seriously hurt, but vowed to report the incident to the Florida Bar.

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