The Odd Truth, May 26, 2004

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum.

Clown Nabbed For Kiddie Porn

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - A clown who goes by the name of "Spanky" has been arrested on child pornography charges while traveling with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, federal agents said.

Thomas Riccio, 23, of Jacksonville, Fla., was arrested Friday by Fayetteville police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to face 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, the federal agency said Tuesday.

Leads from a federal investigation in New Jersey linked Riccio to a company in Belarus that provided credit card billing services for more than 50 child pornography Web sites internationally, said Immigrations and Customs Enforcement spokesman Dean Boyd.

Police and federal agents searched Riccio's computer and found thousands of images, many involving young children participating in sexual acts, authorities said.

About 100 people have been arrested in the United States based on the Belarus investigation and 100 others were arrested in Denmark earlier this year, he said.

Riccio remained in custody Wednesday in lieu of $150,000 bail.

Man's Best Friend

YORK, England - A man who broke into an animal shelter armed with a samurai sword and an air rifle to retrieve his dog was jailed for 15 months on Wednesday.

Paul Lovie, 47, broke into the shelter run by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in York, northern England, in March to find his Jack Russell terrier.

Lovie was devastated when vets told him his pet was ill and needed to be euthanized, and he could not afford the bill.

Shelter officials confiscated the dog after Lovie was overheard saying he would "do it himself with a pickax," prosecutors said.

"He decided to take matters into his own hands and go and get the dog," prosecutor Dianne Campbell told the court. Once inside the shelter, Lovie, who also had lighter fluid and a hammer, called police and threatened staff.

Armed police arrived and Lovie surrendered after 90 minutes of negotiations.

He pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear or violence, having an offensive weapon and criminal damage.

Judge Paul Hoffmann said Lovie was lucky to be alive.

"There are too many incidents of people taking firearms out with them, then they complain when the police shoot them," the judge said.

Catherine Silverton, Lovie's lawyer, said her client had no previous convictions and his actions were completely out of character. "He was extremely emotionally dependent on this dog and he is devastated," she said. The dog has died.

Judge So Drunk He Was Carried From Court

NEW ORLEANS - An alcoholic judge was kicked off the bench Tuesday for repeatedly being drunk in the courtroom.

District Judge Monty L. Doggett issued arrest warrants when he was too drunk to read them, was sometimes so intoxicated that court had to be canceled and once had to be carried out of his courtroom by deputies, the Louisiana Supreme Court said in its unanimous ruling Tuesday.

"Although we feel compassion for Judge Doggett's struggle to maintain sobriety, we must, first and foremost, consider the grave implications which this misconduct casts upon the judiciary," the court said.

Doggett was suspended with pay by the high court in 2002 stemming from a complaint. The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana later recommended his removal, and the high court removed him Tuesday.

Doggett claimed that since he was re-elected after his alcoholism was made public, his constituents were aware of his problem and did not care.

But the high court said a judge can be disciplined for violating the code of office, "even if his constituency condones such behavior."

Under the ruling, Doggett cannot run for judge for at least five years, and the Supreme Court must certify him as eligible if he does.

'Warning, Bomb!' Label Ignored By Postal Service

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A package marked "Warning, bomb!" "Now you'll have it!" and "Look out!" was delivered without a problem by the Swedish postal service despite the clear warning labels.

Postal service spokesman Mattias Geijerstam said Wednesday the agency was embarrassed, but said the package was delivered because postal workers were convinced it was a hoax.

"This was a clear departure from our routine. It's a rule always to call the police even if you believe it's a hoax," he said. "The police should have been called in the first place."

The package was forwarded Tuesday by a mail processing center in western Stockholm to a local shop to be picked up by the addressee, Geijerstam told The Associated Press.

He said workers at the local store read the labels and called police.

The addressee was contacted by police and picked up the package with them. It was examined and declared bomb-free after it was found to hold a pair of shoes.

"It's from a friend of mine. I'm not surprised, he has this kind of humor," he was quoted as saying by Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Postal officials said they won't change their security procedures. Neither the sender nor the postal workers who handled the package face any penalty.

Man Aims To Swim The Hudson

NEW YORK - Every 20 minutes Christopher Swain spends swimming in the Hudson River, he gargles with hydrogen peroxide to protect himself from swallowing any toxic chemicals.

"Today it tasted like salt, gasoline and metals, and you can smell a little sewage smell," Swain said Tuesday, after taking a short dip in the river to promote his plan to swim the entire 315-mile stretch.

He puts the swim's cost at about $19,000, which includes the price of goggles, wet suits and a 12-foot boat to follow him.

Swain, who has competed in the Ironman triathlon, said he's swimming the Hudson - from the highest peak in New York state to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the city - to encourage corporations, governments and residents to make the river cleaner.

"That's the dream, an absolutely clean Hudson River," said Swain, 36, a New York City native who lives in Colchester, Vt.

The acupuncturist swam 210 miles of the Connecticut River in 1996 and finished the 1,243-mile length of the Columbia River last year to call attention to polluted waters.

For the Hudson swim, set to begin June 3 at New York's Mount Marcy and end July 27 in New York City, he has vaccinated himself to protect against hepatitis, tetanus and typhoid. He plans to swim about six hours a day for 35 days, taking breaks along the way to plead his case to local communities.

Environmental officials have said the Hudson is far less polluted than it was 30 years ago, although 197 miles of the river is still a Superfund site. A $500 million cleanup is planned for a 40-mile stretch of the river contaminated with PCBs dumped by General Electric plants over 30 years.