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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

>Gift came early

On the Wednesday before Christmas, Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza entered her office to find a birthday card and gift from Sheriff's Deputy Richard Zachary, a member of her courtroom security detail.

"My birthday's in March," Sperrazza told a courtroom audience during a break in proceedings that morning.

The judge explained how the mix-up occurred. Somebody told Zachary on Tuesday that it was the judge's birthday the next day. But that person meant Judge Amy J. Fricano, not Sperrazza.

"So Deputy Zachary is unprepared for Judge Fricano's birthday," Sperrazza said, "and I have extra presents."

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>Thankless holiday job

They say that age has its privileges, but causing a ruckus at the local McDonald's apparently isn't among them. Especially on Christmas Eve morn.

Niagara Falls police said they arrested an 82-year-old woman at the City Market restaurant last Saturday morning -- not because they wanted to, but because the woman almost insisted.

Officer William Gee said that Clara M. Palka was loudly arguing with McDonald's staff at about 9 a.m., disturbing other diners and refusing to finish her meal and leave. When Gee and others tried to intervene, she still would not cooperate, according to reports, demanding that she be allowed to have another cup of coffee first.

Arresting her was "the last thing [I] wanted to do," Gee said, "but she left no other choice."

Palka was charged with disorderly conduct, and the other customers were left to enjoy a holiday repast in peace.

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>Thankless job, part II

The holidays seem to bring out the bizarre in some people, especially if they've been drinking. Several county sheriff's deputies can certainly attest to that.

Consider these recent examples:

* An East Aurora man learned the weekend before Christmas that asking the age-old question about a bear and its bathroom habits is probably not a good thing to do when pulled over by law enforcement.

Deputies said that they pulled over Paul R. Markovich, 39, in the 2300 block of Niagara Falls Boulevard and that Markovich told them he couldn't stay and talk because he had to go.

When he returned from his restroom break, he asked a deputy that question about where a bear chooses to relieve itself and continued to make bathroom references when asked if he'd been drinking alcohol, according to a sheriff's report. The comedy didn't help Markovich, who was charged with DWI.

* Last weekend, a 20-year-old Ransomville man just kept on driving while deputies tried to pull him over, reaching 70 mph before stopping in a driveway in Newfane.

"Do you live here?" the investigating officer asked. "No," came the reported response from Jonathan Evans, "I was just trying to get away from the police." Evans was charged with DWI.

* Also last weekend, deputies said, they pulled over a driver who had repeatedly swerved into oncoming traffic while being pursued by three siren-wailing, lights-flashing patrol cars.

"Cut the frills!" 37-year-old Howard Jordan reportedly shouted when deputies asked him to perform some field sobriety tests. "I know the drill. Let's get going!" And off to jail he went, refusing to participate in sobriety tests, deputies said.

Here's hoping New Year's weekend has gone better for those on the road.

With contributions from Thomas J. Prohaska of the News Niagara Bureau and Niagara Correspondent Mike Kurilovitch.

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