A Detroit man who began robbing banks to fix his mother’s plumbing has been sentenced to just two years in prison, a significant break. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman says Jimmie Lee Fortune was an “outstanding citizen” before he turned to robbery last year. The 29-year-old Fortune pleaded guilty in March to stealing nearly $14,000 from five banks in suburban Detroit. Prosecutors agreed not to charge him with three more. Fortune’s sentencing range was approximately five years to six years in prison. But the guidelines are not mandatory, and the judge settled on two years. ***MARLAR: While in prison he plans to learn job skills like plumbing.
Police say a driver blamed a car crash in Hartford, Conn., on two pet baby snakes that he said escaped from his pants pockets as he was driving. Hartford police Sgt. Christene Mertes says Angel Rolon, of New Britain, claimed he lost control of his SUV on Monday when the snakes slithered near the gas and brake pedals and he and a passenger tried to catch them. The SUV veered into some parked cars and overturned. Mertes says animal control officers never found the snakes and police have been unable to confirm his story. Rolon was treated at a hospital for unknown injuries. Police say they gave him a summons for reckless driving and other charges. ***MARLAR: Suspiciously missing from this news story – why did this guy have snakes in his pocket? (The NBC movie is coming next month starring Samuel L. Jackson.)
A Chicago apartment leasing and management company has sued a former resident for $50,000, claiming a Twitter update was libelous. Horizon Group Management LLC, filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming Amanda Bonnen defamed the company in an update on Twitter. Twitter, a microblogging service, allows account holders to give quick status updates of up to 140 characters. Bonnen tweeted to another Twitter accountholder: “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s OK.” The lawsuit claims, since Bonnen’s Twitter account was public, her comment was published “throughout the world.” A telephone call to Bonnen seeking comment was not immediately returned. ***MARLAR: You’re pretty good a spreading libel if you can do it in a 140-characters or less.
Stun gun maker Taser International has unveiled its first new stun gun since 2003, a device that can shock three people without reloading. Older Taser models now used by law enforcement agencies and civilians throughout the country have to be reloaded after one shot, which can be a problem for an officer who has missed a target or has more than one suspect to subdue. Taser, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., unveiled the new device at its annual conference Monday to hundreds of law enforcement officers and distributors. The conference also will include training on the new device. The new Taser costs $1,799, compared with $799 for the older device. ***MARLAR: Or you can just pull out your Taser and shock criminals by telling them how much it costs.
Aviation lovers can get their first look at an airplane designed to launch spaceships at an experimental aircraft show in Wisconsin. Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft arrived at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture gathering in Oshkosh last week. WhiteKnightTwo is designed to carry a spaceship into the upper atmosphere. The spacecraft would then launch from the plane at 50,000 feet and soar into space. Virgin Group’s billionaire chairman, Sir Richard Branson, hopes to use the system to offer private space rides. Each trip will cost a traveler $200,000. Company officials say 300 seats have already been sold. Each spaceflight – up and back down without circling the Earth – will include about five minutes of weightlessness. ***MARLAR: Or you can spend your $200,000 on liposuction and be practically weightless.
Italy claims to have a real-life Garfield. Orazio the cat looks amazing like the famous cartoon cat of the comics and weighs in at a whopping 37 pounds! Orazio grew to such a gargantuan size by guzzling all the food treats that his native Italy can provide. The three-year-old tabby is such a food fanatic that owner Laura Santarelli finds it impossible to get him to slim down. ***MARLAR: Maybe you should stop serving him lasagna.
Somewhere in Wilmington, North Carolina, there’s a gas station attendant probably looking for work this morning. Someone at a BP station accidentally set the pumps for 35 cents a gallon. They should have been set at $3.35 a gallon. As soon as word leaked, there was pandemonium. Traffic was backed up and police were called to control the crowd as hundreds of drivers flooded the station to fill up. The station employee said customers paid the cheaper price all day without saying a word. It wasn’t until all they saw all the extra traffic that station employees realized the mistake around 6 p.m. ***MARLAR: I’m torn between being outraged at the people who took advantage of the situation and the fact that I don’t live close enough to the station to have taken advantage of the price goof.