Guy Wins Lottery, Goes to Jail

Some of the most popular stories on the Web: Big tree fines in California; missing 18-year-old may have been a porn star; a guy who wins the lottery goes to jail; rate island being exterminated; illegal immigrant do-gooder gets deported.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

And welcome back to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

Luke Burbank's back in the house. I'm Alison Stewart.

We're going to be joined by the BPP players for the most clicked on, most viewed, most commented and most blog stories on the Web. We call it The Most.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: Okay, Dan, you love this story.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

Hi, Dan.

DAN PASHMAN: I do. It is (unintelligible)…

STEWART: Dan Pashman, producer Dan Pashman.

PASHMAN: That's me, thank you. This is most e-mailed off of the Los Angeles Times. A couple named Mike and Ann Collard, Glendale, California, near Luke's hometown…

BURBANK: Sure. Absolutely.

PASHMAN: …former hometown. So they have a bunch of trees around their house. A lot of those trees have low branches hanging near their house that are in one of the areas of California where wildfires are a big issue, and the fire department coming by for an inspection and says you've got to trim some of those trees because it's a fire hazard for your house.

So they hire a guy. They pay him about three grand. He trims - he starts trimming back the trees. And while this guy's trimming back the trees, who comes walking down the street, but one of the - but an urban forester, one of the city's urban foresters, who basically says, stop. Please cease and desist immediately.

Well, it turns out that Glendale has an indigenous tree protection ordinance that dates back to the '80s, and the penalties were recently beefed up. And this guy was trimming indigenous oaks and sycamores, which he's not supposed to be trimming. It sounds - this all sounds like a pretty petty local dispute, right? Until the arborists came, studied the, quote, unquote, "damage," and gave the Collards a fine, a bill, a fine for $347,000, you know.

BURBANK: You know, every time I tried to stick up for Southern Cal…

STEWART: It's really hard.

BURBANK: …for not being all like fruits and nuts…

PASHMAN: But the Collards did not take this lying down. They fought the law, they fought city hall, they started a Web site called Glendaletreefine.com, and got enough angry residents around town to take their side. It looks like they're going to get the fine reduced. They may end up paying about 10 grand, but…

BURBANK: Well…

PATRICK: …I think this city hall came to its senses.

BURBANK: Weren't they ordered to trim the trees?

PASHMAN: They were ordered by the fire department to trim the trees. But then, the tree protection people said no, you can't trim those trees…

STEWART: Right.

PASHMAN: …so it's that a kind of bureaucratic SNAFU.

STEWART: And what's the great statistic that can give you sense of how blown out of proportion this is?

PASHMAN: Yes, the wife, Ann Collard, points out that the White House aide, Scooter Libby, was fined $250,000 for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying investigators.

STEWART: And they were charged…

PASHMAN: They were fined 100 grand more for trimming a sycamore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I just like that point. All right, Dan. This is the strangest…

BURBANK: We get it, Trish. We got to keep it quick. Thank you.

McKINNEY: …most searched term. Are we getting the wrap?

PATRICK: Yeah. I think we're supposed to be done with this segment now.

STEWART: Oh, all right.

BURBANK: Just kidding. But let's keep it going.

STEWART: The most searched term on Technorati this morning is Zoe Zane. Do not search this at your office, everybody. It's a strange story. Zoe Zane appears to be the porn name of an 18-year-old girl who has gone missing. There's been a search on across the country, probably seen it on cable news, for this very pretty 18-year-old girl. That happens on cable news. They put up these searches.

But it's found out that this woman who was a student at Kansas who disappeared after leaving a bar with a guy, whom this guy has not shown up for work since, apparently had his entire secret life as this porn star, Zoe Zane. Her brother, did, indeed, confirm that to authorities who have one of the best lines I've ever heard in police speak. Investigators are aware that Ms. Sander was apparently involved in a Web site situation.

BURBANK: Yeah, to put it mildly.

STEWART: That's a Web site situation.

BURBANK: All right, M.J., take us to Rat Island, please.

M.J. DAVIS: Rat Island is an island about 1,700 miles off the coast of Alaska, and scientists are going to exterminate all of the rats - that's cover with rats. They - it's been there for 200 years, these rats have. And I love the writing. This is from CNN.com, by the way. It says, the muscular Norway Rat climbed ashore on the rugged, uninhabited island in Southwestern Alaska in 1780 after a rodent-infested Japanese ship ran aground. It was the first time rats made it to Alaska. Apparently, this is in a bird sanctuary area, and they're going to drop…

STEWART: Who wrote that? Sebastian Junger writing about that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIS: They're going to drop rat poison from helicopters onto the island, and the worst part is that the poison they're using is a blood thinner that will cause the rodents to bleed to death.

STEWART: Ew. Yeah, they use that a lot…

BURBANK: Wow.

STEWART: …in this city, right here. Matt Martinez.

MATT MARTINEZ: Hello. I am going to end this with the really, really kind of depressing story. It's from msnbc.com…

STEWART: (unintelligible) Trish's story.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. And an illegal immigrant who was, you know, crossing the border, he was about 50 miles from Tucson came across a little boy just, you know, in the wilderness. It turns out he and his mother were camping. She lost control of their van, fell off the cliff. She died. He stayed with her, and folks came and found him, and then they deported him, you know.

STEWART: Oh, Tricia, you got to finish up a little bit happy, funny punch line.

TRICIA McKINNEY: Okay. All right, all right. So - funny for us, not so much for this guy that does happen to. But according to Boston Globe, one of the most popular stories on that site, a winning lottery ticket was unlucky for a convicted bank robber. So this guy won a million dollars when he bought a lottery ticket.

STEWART: Woo-hoo.

McKINNEY: But he's on probation - not allowed to buy lottery tickets.

STEWART: No woo-hoo.

McKINNEY: Oh, yeah. He might have a ticket back to jail.

STEWART: All right.

BURBANK: You got to see the photo of this guy. Seriously. We got to put it on the blog or something.

STEWART: What did you say? The fifth member of ZZ Top?

BURBANK: Yeah. exactly. I don't think there is a fifth member. This guy's audition for it. Thank you, guys, very much.

BLOCK: That's The Most. You can find these stories and other BPP specials on our Web site: npr.org/bryantpark.

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