Legally Speaking: Assault With a Deadly What?!

By John G. Browning | May 19, 2010

During a summer in which most of us will not doubt be subjected to a seemingly endless stream of blockbuster movies characterized by explosions and gunfire, it might be refreshing to consider that not every true crime story features a Glock, an Uzi or a Smith & Wesson.

Believe it or not, there are accused criminals out there who have gotten fairly creative with their choice of weapons.

For some, the animal kingdom doubles as their local arsenal. Dogs may be "man's best friend," but some oddball defendants are packing hedgehogs, not heat.

That's right – hedgehogs.

In April 2007, William Singalargh of Whakatane, New Zealand, was charged with "assault with a weapon – namely, a hedgehog." It seems the 27-year-old Singalargh hurled the hedgehog about 16 feet at a 15-year-old boy, "causing a large, red welt and several puncture marks," according to Senior Sgt. Bruce Jenkins.

A number of the details about the alleged assault were unclear: what provoked the assault, was the hedgehog alive when thrown (it was dead when collected as evidence), and most importantly, why a hedgehog, for crying out loud?

Meanwhile, others employ animals with more "street cred" as deadly weapons. For example, in China two brothers were charged with "endangering public security" in April when they chose to use snakes to get revenge.

Guo Gongwei and Guo Gongtian, from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, released 500 poisonous snakes (most of them short-tail pit vipers) near the home of a local village leader with whom they'd been feuding.

Although there's no word on what happened to the snakes after the brothers' arrest, chances are they didn't go to waste – in China, these snakes are commonly sold as a source of food and medicine.

Not to be outdone, in April, 29year-old Tony Smith of Arkansas was arrested for an assault with a 4-foot python.

According to the local police report, Smith hit victim Jeffrey Culp in the face with the snake following a dispute at a hotel in Rock Hill, Ark. Supposedly, Culp took issue with the loud music playing in Smith's room.

There's no word on whether the band Smith was listening to was "Whitesnake."

Instead of a petting zoo, some criminals find inspiration in their grocery store aisle. Just before Easter this year, Agim Demiri of Naperville, Ill., was put in jail for hurling a raw egg at Judge Timothy McJoynt.

Apparently, the 40-year-old Demiri had been before the DuPage County Judge on numerous previous occasions in connection with child support payments for his two children from a prior marriage, although what immediately preceded the egg throw is unclear.

However, the egg missed the judge, and he ordered Demiri thrown in jail for seven days for contempt. Let's hope that when Demiri gets released, he remembers to keep his sunny side up and not let the jail time make him a hardboiled criminal.

For some, the choice of weapon may not be unusual, depending on what century it is. This April, a man in Trenton, N.J., allegedly attacked one of his neighbors with a bow and arrow.

Forty-one-year-old Robert Wood was arrested, and two bows were confiscated from his home, after his 35-year-old neighbor Anthony Giovanni was struck by an arrow in the back while walking into his house.

According to police, the two neighbors had a history of escalating problems, and several previous criminal mischief incidents had been reported to police.

Woods faces weapons charges and an aggravated assault charge. As far as defenses go, it's too late for Wood to claim being caught up in all things Cupid (Feb. 14) and too early to blame it on the movie "Robin Hood" (opening May 14).

At least a bow and arrow is an actual weapon, albeit not a common one anymore.

What about a comb?

In 2005 in Greene County, Mo., defendant Jay Wise was sued by a co-worker at Friendly Ford (Chris Ames) for assaulting him – in the genitals, no less, using a comb that Wise called "Mr. Snappy."

Although Wise claimed that it was all good-humored office horseplay, the jury disagreed and awarded Mr. Ames $65,000. Take that, Mr. Snappy.

And in Erie, Penn., a judge dismissed an assault case filed by 12-year-old Dominica Juliano and her mother recently.

The plaintiffs claimed Dominica was physically injured (burned) and suffered severe psychological problems – including the far-fetched claim that she developed Tourette's Syndrome – as a result of a convenience store clerk waving a bar code scanner in front of her face.

The clerk allegedly said the girl seemed "grumpy" and he tried to get her to laugh by shining the scanner's light at her.

I think the judge was right to throw this lawsuit out of court. I can't see anyone getting burned by a bar code scanner, or developing Tourette's syndrome for that matter.

A nervous tic every time someone says "Price check, aisle 5?" – now that's a different story.

Finally, when you're empty-handed you just have to get even more creative with your choice of weapon. In Sweden, an inmate at Malmo's Kirseberg prison faces charges of launching "a series of concerted attacks" on prison staff – by breaking wind.

The warden has vowed to crack down on that inmate's flatulence "assaults," while the 21-year-old prisoner denies the allegations. I guess this may finally be the case that invokes the ancient "he who smelt it, dealt it" defense.

And in a case that shows you why Philadelphia sports fans are in a class all by themselves, 21-year-old Phillies fan Matthew Clemmens was charged with harassment and assault when he allegedly deliberately vomited on an off-duty police captain and his family in April at a Phillies-Nationals baseball game at Citizens Bank Park.

According to police, Clemmens stuck his fingers down his throat and made himself throw up after a friend was ejected from the ballpark for unruly behavior.

Clemmens puked on police Capt. Michael Vangelo and his 11-year-old daughter; Vangelo characterized the episode as "Disgusting . . . I cannot describe to you how offended and disgusted I was."

Ah, Philadelphia sports fans. In the "City of Brotherly Love," they've booed Santa Claus, stolen the head of their own mascot, hurled batteries at opposing players, cheered when Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin suffered temporary neck paralysis, and now intentionally vomited on a police officer and a little girl.

Stay classy, Philadelphia.

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