Charges: Alligator forced to drink beer

Two South Carolina men each face a harassment charge after pictures surfaced on social media showing them pouring beer down the throat of an alligator, authorities said.

Joseph Andrew Floyd Jr., 20, and Zachary Lloyd Brown, 21, both of Ridgeland, are accused of harassing wildlife, the state’s Department of Natural Resources said in a news release.

The incident took place on Wednesday in Jasper County, located in the coastal region in the southernmost part of the state.

The men admitted to investigators that they picked up the juvenile alligator after they saw it crossing a road, forced beer down its throat and watched it swim away in a nearby pond, according to the release.

Pictures posted on social media alerted officials the next day.

“We started receiving a lot of e-mails and phone calls about this. People had taken screen shots from Snapchat accounts,” the agency’s spokeswoman Kyndel McConchie told CNN.

In one of the six photos obtained by CNN from authorities, the alligator’s neck is being squeezed and a beer can is pressed against its snout. The text on the photo says “Gator Shotgun.”

Other photos show beer being dripped into its mouth while its neck is held tightly. Another picture shows smoke being blown onto the face of the gator.

Besides the state misdemeanor charge of harassing wildlife, Floyd and Brown also face a maximum fine of $300.

There is federal protection in place to ensure alligators are legally harvested for international trade. But for a case like this, no federal protection applies, the Department of Natural Resources said.

“Alligators are protected under state law and even federal law where they are still listed as threatened solely due to their similarity of appearance to other endangered crocodilians worldwide,” SCDNR Alligator Program Coordinator Jay Butfiloski added.

Follow this story

Woman stops carjacker by jumping on hood

Melissa Smith’s message to a would-be car thief was blunt: “I’m not dealing with this sort of crap today!”

The thief was attempting to steal her SUV, but she wasn’t going to let that happen. In fact, she jumped on the vehicle and mounted its hood, refusing to get off until the perpetrator gave up.

The incident, which occurred on Wednesday at a gas station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was captured on video and has since gone viral.

Commenting on the episode, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin asked Smith: “Are you crazy?”

“Apparently a little,” Smith replied, before explaining her actions.

“If I held onto the side, I knew he could just drag me and leave,” she said. But with her on the hood, she knew he couldn’t ignore her.

“I was screaming at him. I pounded on the windshield a couple times,” recalled Smith. “He, in turn, laughed at me…tried throwing me off, and continued to laugh at me.”

However, Smith got the last laugh.

After turning on the windshield wipers and slamming the brakes in an unsuccessful attempt to force her off the hood, the carjacker gave up and fled into another vehicle. Smith immediately jumped off the hood, into the cabin and stopped the rolling vehicle.

Smith admitted that her actions weren’t safe, but said she wouldn’t “tolerate that sort of behavior.”

After the frightening ordeal, Smith said she called her fiancé, who had a “holy smokes moment” when he saw the video.

“He wasn’t too thrilled with my decision, but is very glad that I am safe,” she said.

Follow this story

Basquiat tops Warhol after painting sells for $111 million

A Japanese billionaire has bought a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting for $110.5 million, the highest ever price paid at auction for a work by an American artist.

It’s a spectacular increase from the last time the painting, “Untitled,” was sold — it fetched a mere $19,000 in 1984. For more than 30 years since then, the picture depicting a skull-like head has remained stashed away in a private collection.

The Japanese buyer, e-commerce tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, said he plans to loan the painting out around the world before making it the centerpiece of his museum in his hometown of Chiba.

“I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations,” he said in a statement.

The sale of the picture at Sotheby’s in New York puts it in an elite club: only 10 other works have sold for more than $100 million.

Painted by Basquiat in 1982, “Untitled” has now fetched the sixth highest price ever for a work of fine art. The Sothey’s catalogue describes it as a “raw, uncensored, and fiercely magnificent.”

The amount it sold for blew away the auction house’s pre-sale estimate of $60 million.

It also tops the $105 million paid in 2013 for Andy Warhol’s “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster).” And it’s the first work made after 1980 to sell for more than $100 million.

Maezawa, whose wealth is estimated by Forbes at around $3.6 billion, already held the previous record for a Basquiat picture. He paid $57 million for another “Untitled” work a year ago.

The 41-year-old Japanese entrepreneur started off selling imported CDs and records. But he built his fortune on Zozotown, an online fashion shopping platform he founded in 2004.

Maezawa’s collection already includes works from Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti and Jeff Koons.

Raised in Brooklyn, Basquiat was a maverick of the New York art scene in the 1980s. Of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent, he initially gained attention for his graffiti before eventually becoming one of the most celebrated artists of the time.

A prolific creative force, he drew on his racial identity and personal torments to create vibrant expressionistic works.

He died in 1988 at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose.

Sotheby’s said the untitled painting sold Thursday “offers a ferocious portrait of an artist defined by explosive talent and calamitous brilliance.”

Follow this story

Hair appointment causes teen to be denied entrance to prom

Shatara Shorter had been looking forward to going to the senior prom for months.

But after getting all dolled up in her new dress and meeting up with her prom date, Quaedae Robinson, for the big event, Shorter,16, was turned away at the door.

“I was allowed to enter that night, but I was not going to leave my prom date,” Robinson, 19, said.

The teenagers attend Northeast High School in Oakland Park, where the principal enforced a rule written in the student code of conduct, which essentially says students must attend at least a half day of class on the day of a school-related activity, including prom — unless they’ve been excused in advance.

Shenika Dennis, Shorter’s mother, said she’d signed her daughter out of school that morning for a hair appointment.

“For the kids I’m hurt, but I recognize abuse of power,” Dennis said.

She said she’d spent more than $1,000 for an event that her daughter never got to experience.

“There’s a lot of things that you can get back,” Robinson said. “But you can’t get back time.”

Broward County Public Schools released a statement about the incident.

“The school’s students, teachers and staff worked extremely hard to make the prom a positive and memorable experience for all attending,” the statement said. “During prom week, via multiple announcements, school administrators reminded students of the attendance requirement for participation in prom. The student and parent in this incident were reminded of this requirement prior to the student being signed out for the day. In addition, school administrators offered options to the family that would allow the student to meet this requirement by attending the latter half of the school day, which the family declined.  

“The district’s Code of Student Conduct provides specific information regarding the rules that all students are expected to adhere to, as well as consequences for violations of the rules. The Student Activity and Assembly Rule states, ‘Students must attend half of the classes on the day of an activity in which they want to take part unless they have been excused or exempted from class by the school administration in advance.’ Students are accountable for following rules and procedures and expected to engage in responsible and appropriate conduct.” 

Follow this story

Jury seated in Margate man’s penis defense murder trial

A jury has been seated in the murder trial of a South Florida man accused of killing his girlfriend, but it remains to be seen whether jurors will get to look at his penis.

Richard Patterson, 65, of Margate, is charged with second-degree murder in the choking death of his girlfriend, Francisca Marquinez, 60, in 2015.

Patterson’s attorney claims that his client accidentally choked Marquinez during oral sex. To prove it, attorney Ken Padowitz wants a Broward County judge to allow Patterson to show his penis to the jury.

Jury selection began Monday, and opening statements began Tuesday afternoon.

Assistant state attorney Peter Sapak said during his opening remarks that Patterson didn’t call 911 right away and instead decided to communicate with an ex-girlfriend.

Patterson’s ex-girlfriend was the first witness for the prosecution. Her testimony focused on a text message conversation that she had with Patterson shortly after Marquinez’s death.

At one point during her testimony, she read a text message that she received from Patterson in which he told her that something terrible had happened and that he didn’t know what to do.

Judge Lisa Porter heard from Padowitz and Sapak before Monday’s jury selection as they debated whether Patterson’s penis would be flaccid or erect if and when it is presented to the jury.

“Do we do it in the back? Do we do it in open court?” Sapak asked. “How is the defendant going to be erect when the jury views it? Because a flaccid penis, whether it be a picture or the jury actually seeing it, is completely irrelevant. It needs to be erect.”

Padowitz chastised Sapak for jumping to a conclusion that the penis is relevant only if it is erect.

“He’s telling the court, as if he’s a medical expert in his argument, that it matters whether the penis is erect or not,” Padowitz told Porter. “But he’s merely speculating here since he’s never asked that question to Dr. (Ronald) Wright in definition, and he doesn’t, obviously, know, actually, what the expert opinion is what is needed or not needed in order for a human being to choke.”

Padowitz said in a motion filed earlier this month that he intends to call Wright, a former Broward County medical examiner, as an expert witness to testify that Marquinez’s death “is consistent with being accidentally sexually asphyxiated during oral sex.”

Padowitz said his client’s penis was not measured by Wright, but he said he provided two photographs to prosecutors — one of Patterson’s penis next to a tape measure, and the other a frontal view of Patterson’s naked body with his penis exposed.

Porter hasn’t made a decision about Patterson’s penis.

Follow this story

Instagram rips off Snapchat, again — this time with face filters

Facebook, which in recent months has copied many of Snapchat’s features, is back at it again.

Facebook-owned Instagram on Tuesday announced several new features, including face filters similar to the ones Snapchat debuted about 19 months ago that turned users into puppies and puking rainbow faces.

Instagram is starting out with eight filters, including furry koala ears and tiaras. Some of the filters — like Snapchat’s — also work with a second person in the frame.

To use the new face filters on Instagram, swipe into the camera and look for a new face icon in the bottom right-hand corner. Tap to view and try on different filters for your face. Then take a photo, video or Boomerang (Instagram’s app that makes short videos that loop back and forth).

Last August, Instagram launched Stories — a clone of Snapchat’s photo and video posts that are shared by users and disappear after 24 hours. The move is potentially hurting Snapchat.

Snapchat added only five million daily active users in the final three months of last year, down from at least 10 million added in each of the previous four quarters. That slowdown coincided with Instagram launching the copycat feature.

In its most recent quarter, Snapchat parent company Snap reported 166 million daily active users, an addition of just eight million from the prior quarter. Last month, Instagram said Stories had more than 200 million daily active users — or more than the number of daily users for Snapchat in total.

Facebook also introduced a nearly identical Stories feature on its namesake platform in late March, but it hasn’t been widely adopted. It now also offers similar features on Messenger and WhatsApp.

On an earnings call with analysts last week, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel finally fired back at Facebook. “If you want to be a creative company, you have got to be comfortable with and basically enjoy the fact that people copy your stuff,” Spiegel said.

Instagram on Tuesday also revealed a new “rewind” mode that plays a video in reverse — another feature Snapchat already offers.

“Drop a microphone and watch it fly up into your hand. Capture a fountain in motion and share a rewind of the water floating back up. Experiment with some magic tricks of your own and defy the laws of physics wherever you are,” Instagram wrote in a blog post.

The company also added a new hashtag sticker and the ability to make a custom hashtag with simple text. By tapping the hashtag, users can explore related content.

And finally, Instagram unveiled an eraser tool. After taking a photo or video, users can select a drawing tool and tap and hold to fill the entire screen with color. Then, using the eraser brush, they can show parts of the photo or video underneath.

Snapchat revealed its own “magic eraser” feature — just last week.

Follow this story