It appears that a handful of pedophiles rang in the New Year by rendezvousing in Ohio.
Over a nine-day period this month, the feds snatched up six men who either traveled to Ohio to engage in sex with minors or simply snuggled up at home with some child porn.
Indiana's William Griffin took a road trip to Ohio after talking online with an undercover cop who claimed to have a 14-year-old daughter available for sex. Colorado's Joseph Zmugg was in for the same trap when he skipped out on a family reunion in Pittsburgh to hang with a fictional 12-year-old.
But Ohio wasn't just a hot spot for out-of-towner weirdos. Frank Brzygot decided to take a little day trip from his home in Strongsville to visit a supposed 13-year-old girl in Willoughby.
And a few more area pervs decided that there was no place like home. Brooklyn's Leopold Gonzalez was caught with more than 600 images and videos of minors engaging in sex acts, while Middleburg Heights' James Horchschild spent his Christmas money on a videotape of two Pennsylvania girls. Unfortunately, he bought it from an undercover agent.
But our tourist of the month is Robert Shirley, who came all the way from Illinois just to have sex with what he thought was a 14-year-old deaf girl. You gotta know this guy is all class.
NCAA President Myles Brand arrived in Cleveland recently to urge colleges to be more prudent with their athletic spending and keep sports in perspective. It was a bit surprising, then, to hear Brand cite Carol Cartwright, president of Kent State, as a leader of this new vision.
Last January, Cartwright drew criticism in Kent when she agreed to grant a football scholarship to Abram Elam, who had been kicked off the Notre Dame team before being convicted of sexual battery. At least three other colleges rescinded scholarship offers when they learned of Elam's conviction. Kent State was the only school to offer him a free ride.
It was also interesting to hear Cartwright talk at a December forum about the "responsibility to build relationships with our media partners . . . From those personal relationships, one can get clarity around some of the issues."
Yet when Scene called Cartwright for two weeks straight, seeking comment on Elam ["Fourth Down," April 7, 2004], she was the only university official who didn't return our calls.
Hate mail of the week
"As you often take other news sources to task for failing to adequately research their stories, I find it humorous that you refer to 'Summit County Judge Burnham Unruh' as a he [First Punch, January 12], when in fact Judge Brenda Burnham Unruh is quite clearly a she. Dumbasses!" -- Anonymous e-mail
Uncle Tom's enemy
Whenever a politician accuses someone of being partisan, bullshit detectors tune to high alert. That's especially true whenever the mouth of Uncle Tom Blackwell opens.
The secretary of state recently asked the Ohio Supreme Court to punish lawyer Cliff Arnebeck, who led challenges to the presidential election results in Ohio. Arnebeck organized rallies across the state and filed a number of lawsuits to force Blackwell to recount the votes. Some of his claims seem ridiculous, including his accusation that President Bush ordered people to hack into computers and switch hundreds of votes. (This is George Bush we're talking about; he thinks a hacker is a weak-hitting shortstop.)
But other claims have been well documented. Arnebeck took depositions from hundreds of Ohioans who say that they received punch-card ballots already punched for Bush, or that an electronic voting machine switched their votes from Kerry to Bush right before their eyes.
Blackwell, who happened to co-chair Bush's campaign in Ohio, naturally refused to do a recount. The Supreme Court threw out Arnebeck's case.
Now Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro are suing Arnebeck, saying the lawyer should repay the state's legal fees. "When he starts forcing the attorney general to divert his legal staff from other issues to file briefs in response to his outrageous claims, which were filed with no facts or evidence, then he's abusing the legal system and wasting tax dollars," says Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Blackwell.
In their suit, Blackwell and Petro call Arnebeck's lawsuit a "meritless claim" made for "partisan political purposes." So what exactly do you call two Republicans who sue a political foe?"That's hypocrisy," Arnebeck says.
A trip to . . . Cleveland?
Funny Times, the Cleveland magazine of humor and politics, turns 20 this year, and editor Raymond Lesser is offering his 72,000 subscribers the ultimate prize: a trip to Northeast Ohio. "We're planning on bringing a reader and their chosen partner to Cleveland as part of that celebration," says Lesser, from his office on Lee Road. "They may stay on the couch; I'm not sure."
Mary Ann, the Cleveland ghostbuster who claims to converse with the dead, is going Hollywood. CBS bought the rights to 22 scripts of The Ghost Whisperer, a new drama based on Mary Ann's life. The series earned the green light when network chief Leslie Moonves raved about it.
"I just would have never thought anybody would be this interested in it," says Mary Ann, who, like Cher and Madonna, is way too cool to have a last name.
Taping begins in March, with an inaugural season slated for next fall. But creative license already abounds: Mary Ann, in reality a sturdy suburban wife of 56, will be known onscreen as "Melissa Gordon," a thirtyish bombshell. She's hired by living people to rid the world of the ghosts that haunt them. Among the actresses sought for the lead: Calista Flockhart, Minnie Driver, Mira Sorvino, and Neve Campbell.
"I don't even know who these people are," laughs Mary Ann. "I would probably throw up if I knew."