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Best and worst 2015 

Our annual attempt to stick a fork in 365 days with a roundup of all the news that was important, shocking, noteworthy or just plain dumb enough to bubble up out of the general miasma of information constantly streaming past our faces.

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Starting anything new is tough sleddin', and that's especially true of whole new years. The one we're coming to the tail end of, 2015, has been a real humdinger in general and a landmark around the somewhat messy halls of the Arkansas Times. We're still here, and we hope you survived it unscathed as well.

The end of the year means its time again for the Best and Worst issue, our annual attempt to stick a fork in 365 days with a roundup of all the news that was important, shocking, noteworthy or just plain dumb enough to bubble up out of the general miasma of information constantly streaming past our faces.

There's plenty to see here, Dear Reader, including Duggar dalliances, Tom Cotton's love of birthday cake, a $145,000 pooch gone to hound heaven, Sen. Jason Rapert's itchy trigger finger, the rare 11th Commandment, the worst four days in jail in the history of the world, a dog that is apparently trying to eat the world one random object at a time, a final boast about giant tonsils, Mike Huckabee's fear that Syrians are coming for your cable, and criminal idiots of all stripes, from the very dumb to the so dumb they probably shouldn't be allowed outside without a leash.

Yeah, it's a lot to take in. But look on the bright side. At least it's nearly over. There's more stupidity to come in 2016, but let's close the books on 2015 for now.

Best angel

Thanks to a snippet of a taped interview broadcast on NPR by the oral history project StoryCorps (a broadcast followed up by a Jan. 8 cover story in the Arkansas Times and later the BBC, among other news outlets), the world was reminded of the heroism of Ruth Coker Burks, a woman from Rogers who, in the 1980s, cared for hundreds of men dying of AIDS after their families abandoned them. As revealed in the story, Burks eventually buried the ashes of more than 40 men in her small family cemetery in Hot Springs after their loved ones refused to claim even their remains.

Worst defense mechanism

In January, police said, a 44-year-old Bryant woman who was allegedly shoplifting at a Little Rock Kohl's store peed on a store security guard who stopped her as she tried to leave the premises with nearly $350 in merchandise.

Second worst defense mechanism

A 33-year-old Hot Springs woman was arrested in January after police said she bit off one of her significant other's eyebrows during an argument that led to an altercation. She was charged with domestic battery and public intoxication.

Best if guns could talk

During a North Little Rock traffic stop on Jan. 3, a search of a man's car turned up, according to the police department, several baggies of pot, a digital scale and a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver that had been reported stolen in New York in 1967, with the gun disappearing for 48 years and traveling 1,230 miles before its rendezvous with Johnny Law.

Second best if guns could talk

During an August traffic stop, officers with the Little Rock Police Department recovered a Glock handgun belonging to LRPD Chief Kenton Buckner, which Buckner had reported missing after moving to a new home over the Memorial Day weekend. Buckner, who was disciplined by City Manager Bruce Moore over the loss of the handgun, had previously said he believed it was thrown out with the trash during the move. Apparently not, as it somehow wound up in the possession of two men who were eventually charged with theft by receiving, possession of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance and possession of an instrument of crime. Buckner later issued a statement saying he had no connection to the two men.

Worst bad apple

A Russellville woman who called police in January to report that she'd been assaulted by her boyfriend was arrested after a roommate showed police a video of the woman repeatedly hitting herself with an apple in a tube sock to cause injuries consistent with her story. After being shown the video by officers, the woman allegedly admitted she wanted to have the boyfriend arrested because he planned to file a theft charge against her mother.

Best money for nuthin'

Soon after taking office in January, Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin — an office holder whose only regularly required duty is to periodically preside over the state Senate and to take charge of things while the sitting governor is out of state — announced that he was working on a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the governor to remain in charge via electronic devices even when away on business. The legislature later referred the amendment to the November 2016 general election.

HANNAH ALEXANDER
  • Hannah Alexander

Worst addict

During an April interview with The New York Times, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton admitted that he and his wife eat birthday cake almost every day of their lives. "Early on, when my wife and I were dating," Cotton told the Times, "we went to the grocery store, and I told her that sometimes I just buy birthday cakes, and I eat them. And she said, 'Really? I do, too!' "

Best grand total if you're a thief

A January review of 2014 residential and commercial burglaries in Little Rock by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette found that the city's thriving community of five-finger discounters made off with a staggering $4,426,677.90 in cash and property in the previous year.

Worst discrete

Officers arrested two men in January after, police said, patrolmen driving by a Little Rock gas station in a marked police car allegedly saw one of the men dancing next to a gas pump while waving a handgun in the air in time with the music from his car's stereo system. Both men were arrested on several charges, including drug possession and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Worst missing the point of the MLK parade

In January, middleweight boxing champion Jermain Taylor was arrested after a woman told police that during Little Rock's annual parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Taylor pulled a gun on her family after he dropped one of his championship belts and tried to blame it on the woman's 5-year-old. According to the woman, after Taylor dropped the belt, he pulled out a pistol and fired two shots into the air before putting the gun to her husband's head and threatening to kill him and the woman's three children, ages 5, 3 and 1. Taylor, who was already facing charges that he'd shot his cousin in August 2014, had his bond revoked over the parade incident and faces charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a minor and drug possession.

Worst disappointed

In a video posted to Jermain Taylor's Facebook page the day after the incident, Taylor, sitting in a bathtub, apologized for disappointing his fans before ranting that marchers in the MLK parade didn't throw candy to the kids along the route, telling parade organizers, "Y'all need to get it together. I had my little girl out there, and nobody had no candy. ... If you're disappointed in me, I'm disappointed in you, too."

Taylor was already facing charges that he'd shot his cousin in August 2014. He was later charged with battery after being accused in May of hitting a fellow patient at a rehab center. In December, he pleaded guilty in all three cases and agreed to a condition that could allow him to return to boxing. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April.

Best disappointed

In January, the Knights Party of the Ku Klux Klan said in a press release they were disappointed in state Rep. Nate Bell (R-Mena) for filing a bill that would abolish the state holiday in honor of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday, with a KKK spokesman saying, in part, that Bell was part of "a growing trend toward the vilification of white heroes." We'd call that a mark in Bell's favor, but the bill eventually failed in committee on a voice vote.

Worst grasp of history

The KKK press release tut-tutting Bell's bill also said that one reason Arkansans revere Robert E. Lee — who, as you might have heard, helped lead a bloody, four-year rebellion that nearly split the United States in two forever — is for his "defense of the founding principles of the United States, from which our nation has strayed." No, we are not making that up.

Worst paperweight

A person cleaning out a desk at the Fayetteville home of the late Dr. Cecil Cogburn, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Arkansas who died in June 2013, called in the Arkansas Department of Health in January after finding a glass jar containing a small quantity of uranium-235, the same stuff used in nuclear bomb cores. A search of the home also discovered a vial filled with radioactive uranium dioxide. A report on the samples said that the amount of radiation being emitted was not a danger to human health, and both were secured by the university.

Worst finger to have on the button

Perennial Best and Worst favorite Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) was out to an early lead to retain the title in 2015 with his mid-February Facebook suggestion that what the U.S. really needed to do was drop a nuclear bomb on the Islamic militant group ISIS. Wrote Rapert: "A strategically placed nuclear weapon would save the lives of our soldiers and quickly turn things around. It is time for the insanity to be stopped." Sure! Why not? Dropping the third nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat on a Middle Eastern country could only make things better, right?

HANNAH ALEXANDER
  • Hannah Alexander

Best close but no cigar

Lauren and David Adamski of Cabot welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world a few days after Valentine's Day after Lauren went into labor in the middle of a February storm that covered much of Central Arkansas in a solid sheet of ice. With the couple unable to get to the hospital in time because of the weather, the baby — who they named Brennan — was born in the cab of David's truck, which was sitting at the time in the parking lot of North Little Rock's Springhill Baptist Hospital.

Best epitaph

Bruce Sinofsky, the filmmaker who, with creative partner Joe Berlinger, created the "Paradise Lost" documentary trilogy on the West Memphis Three that led, in turn, to the worldwide groundswell of outrage that freed Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin after 18 years in prison, died on Feb. 21 at the age of 58 from complications related to diabetes. "Humanity," wrote Berlinger of his friend, "is on every frame of the films that he leaves behind."

Worst Jake and Elwood

The day before Valentine's Day, two men were arrested in Benton County after police pulled over their car. The issue: The car, a Ford Crown Victoria, had been made over into a passable facsimile of a police cruiser, complete with a black and white paint scheme; "Police" and "Dial 911" stickers on the fenders, trunk lid and doors; a red-and-blue light bar on top; and a push bumper on the front. The men, one a convicted felon, soon found themselves getting a ride in the real thing and faced several charges, including criminal impersonation of an officer and unauthorized use of emergency lights.

Worst wine bar

State Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville) pushed a bill in the legislature in March that would have outlawed wine imports from any state that imposes a "substantial burden" on Arkansas agriculture, a poultry-industry-fueled shot over the bow of the state of California, which requires all eggs sold there to come from hens who have enough room to extend their wings and turn around. The bill passed the House, but Douglas eventually pulled it, saying it had served its purpose as a message to West Coast lawmakers.

Worst when animals attack people

A White County judge was so severely attacked by a pet zebra in mid-March that he required weeks of hospitalization.

Worst when people attack animals (with justice smackdown goodness)

Also in March, a jury in Lincoln County awarded $145,000 to the owner of Buck, a coon dog that was killed in 2012 after straying onto private property to tree a raccoon. According to eyewitnesses, once the dog crossed out of the White River National Refuge onto privately owned land, the irate property owner arrived and demanded that he be allowed to shoot the dog for trespassing. After Buck's owner refused and began to lead the leashed dog away, witnesses said, the property owner leveled his rifle and calmly shot the dog dead. That was a doggone bad idea on his part, as the jury awarded Buck's grieving owner plenty of hunnerts to dab his tears, including $5,000 for personal injury, $25,000 for tort of outrage, $5,000 for destruction of personal property, and a whopping $100,000 in punitive damages.

Second worst parent

In March, Arkansas Times broke the story that Bible-beating state Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) and his wife, Marsha, had insisted on adopting two emotionally troubled girls, only to later "rehome" the children with another family, in part because Justin and Marsha Harris believed the girls to be possessed by demons and capable of communicating telepathically. A former babysitter for the Harris family later told reporter Benjamin Hardy of the Times that one of the girls, age 5, was often locked alone in a bare bedroom for hours on end with no toys or other diversions and where she was monitored at all times by a video camera.

Worst parent

Eric Cameron Francis, the father in the Bella Vista home in which the Harrises rehomed their adopted daughters, later raped the older of the two girls.

Best WTF?

Justin Harris is still, as of this writing, an Arkansas state representative. He has, however, said he will not run for re-election. We've got that going for us, at least.

Worst 'courageous'

In August, with the controversy over the rehoming of Rep. Justin Harris' adopted daughters still swirling, the Family Council Action Committee — a far-right group that works for conservative goals in the state — announced that Harris would receive the group's "Power of Courage" award. The presentation of the award at the Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner in Van Buren was canceled, however, likely at the urging of the campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, who appeared at the event. Family Council president Jerry Cox said that Harris would get the award at a later date.

Worst freshman

Fewer than 100 days into his first term as one of Arkansas's two U.S. senators, Tom Cotton touched off a firestorm of criticism (and the long-trending Twitter hashtag #47Traitors) after he penned a letter to the government of Iran and had 46 fellow Republican senators sign it. The letter, which included Cotton condescendingly explaining the American system of government and telling the Iranians that any deal cut by U.S. diplomats could be undone by the next president "at the stroke of a pen," was apparently designed to scuttle the Obama administration's efforts to keep Iran from obtaining the materials for a nuclear bomb. The talks went ahead anyway, and Iran eventually signed a historic deal.

Worst grasp of geography

In an appearance on "Face the Nation" soon after sending the letter, Cotton defended his decision to make an end run around Obama by saying of Iran: "They already control Tehran." Lest you think Iran has overwhelmed and conquered that city recently, recall your third-grade geography and the fact that Tehran has been the capital of Iran for over 200 years.

Worst legislation

In March and April, a firestorm erupted over House Bill 1228, a bill that purported to protect religious freedom, but which critics said would legitimize discrimination against LGBT Arkansans in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Best grassroots

By the end of March, with daily protests at the state Capitol, civic leaders and major corporations — including Apple and Walmart — coming out against the bill, and the state of Indiana getting raked over the coals because of a similar measure, Gov. Asa Hutchinson held an April Fool's Day press conference in which he asked the legislature to recall and modify HB 1228. The legislature eventually did so, crafting a somewhat narrower "religious freedom" bill that was eventually signed into law.

Best 2022 candidate for Arkansas governor

During the press conference in which he asked for changes to HB 1228, Gov. Hutchinson revealed that a petition asking him to veto the bill had been signed by his son, Seth Hutchinson, who is a union organizer and diehard progressive currently living in Austin, Texas.

Worst example for the kids

In April, the blog Blue Hog Report broke the news that the 2009 doctoral dissertation of former Little Rock School District Superintendent Dexter Suggs contained verbatim repetitions of passages found in the dissertations of other academics. In other words, plagiarism, an academic no-no that any seventh-grader should steer clear of, much less a superintendent. Suggs lost his LRSD job soon thereafter, and Indiana Wesleyan University later revoked his doctorate of education.

Worst bar

During the protests in Indiana and Arkansas over "religious freedom" legislation that LGBT rights advocates said could be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Eally Likes Birthday Cake) told CNN that the protestors needed to "get perspective," saying, "In Iran, they'll hang you for the crime of being gay," revealing that his personal bar for how America should treat LGBT folks is apparently set at: "Somewhat Better Than Iran."

Best Thou Shalt Not Make Typos

In April, a Kentucky blogger noted that the language of a law authorizing the construction of a "historic monument" to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Arkansas state Capitol actually includes 11 Commandments, with the commandment against "coveting" split into two distinct prohibitions: a 10th commandment prohibiting a person from coveting his or her neighbors' house, and an 11th forbidding a person from coveting "thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

HANNAH ALEXANDER
  • Hannah Alexander

Second worst addict

According to a paper published in April in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences traced the kidney failure of a 56-year-old Arkansas man to his habit of drinking over a gallon of iced tea every day. According to the paper, after the man complained of symptoms including fatigue and body aches, doctors found that his kidneys were gummed up and inflamed to the point of failure by a chemical called oxalate, which occurs naturally in black tea. Eventually, the man told doctors that he drank around 16 eight-ounce cups of tea every day, and had done so for many years.

Worst trade

An Arkansas truck driver was sentenced by a Memphis judge in April to one year of inpatient drug treatment and six years of probation after he was convicted of trading the tractor-trailer rig he was driving — including a refrigerated trailer containing over $50,000 worth of chilled lunch meat — to two men he met at a Tennessee gas station in exchange for crack cocaine.

Worst four days imaginable

In April, a former inmate of the Saline County Jail filed a federal lawsuit against Saline County and jail officials, alleging that while he was incarcerated there in 2012, deputies refused to take him to the hospital for medical treatment even though a foot-long section of his colon was hanging outside of his body. According to the lawsuit, the man was only able to seek medical help upon his release, after four full days with his innards outwards.

Worst glass-house-residing stone thrower

In May, InTouch magazine published a story revealing that Josh Duggar — who spun his family's reality show fame into a career as a professional morality scold and well-paid Washington lobbyist for the far-right Family Research Council — had been investigated by police in Northwest Arkansas after he molested several young girls as a teenager, including his own sisters.

Worst role model

Then, in August, hacked data from the extramarital affair-promoting website ashleymadison.com revealed that Josh Duggar had a secret account there, seeking sexual encounters. That revelation prompted Duggar to issue a statement in which he said he had a pornography addiction, had cheated on his wife and would be entering treatment for an undisclosed condition.

Best true statement in the history of the written word

Duggar's statement in response to the discovery of his Ashley Madison account began with the sentence: "I have been the biggest hypocrite ever."

Second worst glass house-residing stone thrower

In April, the Arkansas Times broke the news that Acra Lee Turner — a Eureka Springs preacher seen in a video calling for the repeal of the city's broad LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance — is the same man who confessed to a series of violent sexual assaults in Oklahoma in 1977, including the rape of an 80-year-old woman who was reportedly beaten so badly that she was unrecognizable. Turner, who was released from prison in August 2000 over the objections of his victims' families, eventually made his way to Eureka Springs, where he soon rose to the pulpit of one of the city's biggest Baptist congregations.

Best win

In spite of the objections of Pastor Turner and the efforts of outside groups, Eureka Springs city voted May 12 to keep its LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance by a margin of more than 2 to 1.

Worst reason to vote against critically needed legislation

In May, after Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R-Rogers) proposed a bill to improve campaign finance reporting by requiring statewide and legislative office candidates to file online reports of their campaign contributions to the secretary of state, Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) publicly opposed the legislation, in part because he said he has "an old accountant" who doesn't understand computers all that well. The bill went on to fail on the House floor, 48-33.

Best denial

During the Jade Helm 15 military exercises in Texas, training maneuvers the tinfoil hat brigades spun up into a plot by President Obama to somehow take over Texas, Arkansas-based Walmart issued a statement to the website Talking Points Memo refuting conspiracy theorists' claims that the U.S. military was digging secret tunnels under five Walmart stores, which were to be used to "house the headquarters of invading troops from China," as they worked to disarm all Americans. "There's no truth to the rumors," Walmart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez told TPM via email. Whew. Thanks for clearing that up, dude. We were worried there for a second.

Worst wisenheimers

Parental and administrative outrage was cranked to "turbo" in May after the Russellville High School yearbooks came out, with senior photos of several students accompanied by wiseass quotes, including a white student saying, "I was born a poor black child," and another photo accompanied by "When the red river flows, take the dirt road home," clearly a reference to ... well, never mind.

Best heroes

In May, a group of bystanders who saw a man trying to force a woman into a car at a Benton convenience store stepped in and rescued the woman, who later told police she'd been abducted by the man she was riding with. After fleeing the scene, the man was taken into custody by officers and later charged with criminal attempt to commit kidnapping, among other charges.

Worst duster

In June, a 41-year-old woman was arrested in Jonesboro on charges of DWI and driving with a suspended license after, police say, she responded to police officers trying to wake her in a recently crashed Cadillac by briefly sitting up, spraying a can of air duster in her face, inhaling deeply and then falling back over.

Best finger lickin' conspiracy

A man shot and killed in June after brandishing a rifle while trying to enter the gates of the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville had earlier told deputies with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office that his house was being bugged by an Air Force officer named Col. Sanders, apparently referring to "Colonel" Harlan Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

Best headline

A June story in the Democrat-Gazette sports section about retired football coach Larry Lacewell included a photo of the rather prominent-bellied coach and the headline: "Football lingers inside Lacewell."

Worst not my problem

Somehow, the May 31 rupture of the Texas Eastern natural gas pipeline under the Arkansas River near the Clinton Presidential Center went unreported for a full day, even though the force of the pressure from the break sent giant gouts of water shooting high into the air, eruptions that could be clearly seen (and, in one case, photographed) from the Interstate 30 bridge and the upper floors of downtown buildings. One witness later said he thought a large passenger jet had crashed into the river. Nevertheless, the break was only noticed by pipeline operator Spectra Entergy after a barge company called on June 1 to complain that concrete and debris thrown loose by the rupture had damaged one of its tow boats.

HANNAH ALEXANDER
  • Hannah Alexander

Worst snack

A veterinarian in Mountain Home had to operate in May to save the life of Benno, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois who had been rushed to the vet after eating a whole box of live, high-caliber rifle ammunition. The vet eventually removed 23 heavily chewed rounds from Benno's stomach. Rather than open him up again after X-rays found an additional two rounds lodged in Benno's esophagus, the vet decided to allow them to be ejected from the breech, which they were within the following week.

Best list

According to a report in the Baxter Bulletin, Benno's owner supplied a partial list of items the dog had eaten before the live ammo that included stuffed animals, rubber chew toys, coins, Styrofoam peanuts, cheese wrappers, rocks, wax paper, aluminum foil, shirts, socks, underwear, a complete brassiere, tennis shoes, a length of rope, nylon straps, a hank of plastic weed trimmer string, a gasoline-soaked lawnmower air filter, blankets, marbles, plastic bags, quilt batting, straight pins, plastic soda bottles, magnets, bottle lids, a television remote, broken glass, a loaf of bread with the wrapper still on, a nylon hairbrush, Lego blocks, a travel-size bottle of hand lotion, wooden baseboards and a section of drywall.

Best holy shit moment

Mike Metzler, general manager for the company that directs barge traffic out of the Little Rock Port Authority, said that soon after the pipeline break, he received a frenzied call from a boat captain who was on the river downstream from the rupture. Metzler told the Arkansas Times blog: "At first he thought the dam had broke. From where he was, about two miles [downstream], he no longer could see the bridges. He was terrified — just trying to make sense of what his eyes were seeing. He called us and said that this big wave of water was coming and we were all going to get washed away."

Best day

June 26, when a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court brought the long-sought dream of full marriage equality for LGBT couples to Arkansas and the rest of America.

Best impotent rage

That has to be a Facebook message left by a man angry with the decision legalizing same-sex marriage, in which he attempted to shame Little Rock NBC affiliate KARK-TV, Ch. 4, for changing their logo to "the colors of the gays," not realizing, of course, that the NBC logo has been a rainbow-feathered peacock since 1956.

Worst grasp of civics

Team Baptistaliban MVP Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) was in full effect following the SCOTUS ruling granting LGBT people marriage equality, at one point replying to a Facebook user who correctly said that the civil rights of minority groups cannot be overruled by the whims of the majority with: "We, the majority, grant you rights by choice." The comment, which likely caused immediate, blinding migraines in civics teachers statewide, brought down a blizzard of scorn and mockery on Rapert's head, with posters from across the political spectrum piling on to set him straight.

Worst motive

In July, a Jonesboro woman allegedly stabbed her boyfriend with a pair of scissors during an argument over whether he could make a grilled cheese sandwich.

Worst protect and serve

In July, an officer with the Lowell Police Department resigned his position and was charged with DWI over a June 17 incident in which, the department said, he crashed a marked Lowell PD police cruiser into another car while driving intoxicated.

Best slow

A Harrison woman received a letter in July containing a postal money order mailed to her from Des Moines, Iowa on May 26, 1998. Still unknown: whether it was snow, rain, heat of day or gloom of night that caused a piece of mail to take 17 years to cover 360-odd miles, but we're sure the U.S. Postal Service will figure it out. Eventually.

Best throwback

Traffic on Interstate 30 at Little Rock was stalled for more than an hour on the last day of August after a covered wagon flipped on the bridge over the Arkansas River, blocking all eastbound traffic. At the time, the wagon was being towed to the annual Labor Day chuck wagon races at Clinton.


click to enlarge 635786865714406396-mug.jpg
Best mugshot

This one, taken in September, of an inmate at the Saline County Jail. The man had reportedly been booked into the Chateau Ironbar Saline on three counts of failure to appear, but doesn't really seem all that distressed about it.

Worst predictable

The police investigation into the murder of a 21-year-old North Little Rock woman in September found that in the hours before her boyfriend allegedly shot her to death, the woman had taken and posted to social media cell phone photos of her boyfriend jokingly pointing a handgun at her, including one in which he was holding the gun to her head.

Best play for sympathy

In August, former state Treasurer Martha Shoffner was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for accepting bribes from a Little Rock bond broker in exchange for state business. One of the things her attorney Chuck Banks did during his final plea for a more lenient sentence was to show the judge a photo of Shoffner's late dog, Fred, which was inscribed: "Thanks, Chuck. Your friend, Fred."

HANNAH ALEXANDER
  • Hannah Alexander

Worst Huckabee

In September, officials in Ashland, Ky., closed five schools and allowed over 1,000 kids to lose a day of public education because Republican presidential also-ran and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee wanted to hold a rally for homophobic Kentucky clerk Kim Davis outside the jail there, and officials feared traffic congestion would interfere with getting kids to school.

No wait ... THIS is the Worst Huckabee

In February, the website Buzzfeed unearthed columns written by a young Mike Huckabee for a weekly newspaper called "The Baptist Trumpet," in which Huckabee counseled teens against dancing ("mainly because some people would just not be able to respect a person who attended dances," a.k.a. the "Footloose" conundrum), soap operas ("I literally hate them!"), smoking ("For the Christian it can damage — even ruin — your witness") and dating "lost people."

No, on second thought ... DEFINITELY the Worst Huckabee

Huckabee said in July that the reason for our drawn-out wars in the Middle East since 9/11 is clear: Our $500 billion-plus per year military just isn't "fierce" enough. The communique from Commander Huckabee: "When we have a threat ... we [need to] make it very clear that we plan to push back and destroy that threat to us. And we won't take 10 years doing it, we hopefully won't even take 10 months. It will be like a 10-day exercise, because the fierceness of our forces would mean that we can absolutely guarantee the outcome." NOW he tells us! If only we'd sent our troops into Iraq and Afghanistan with rifles and tanks instead of ticklesticks and goose down pillows!

OK, OK ... but could this be the Worst Huckabee?

In September, speaking in St. Louis before the far-right Eagle Forum conference, Huckabee questioned the motives of the tide of desperate refugees fleeing war-torn Syria — many with nothing more than the clothes on their back — rhetorically asking: "Are they really escaping tyranny, are they escaping poverty, or are they really just coming because we've got cable TV?"

Worst hobby

In Mountain Home, a man was arrested on charges of indecent exposure and criminal mischief in October after police said he was twice spotted tied to a tree while naked in a park on the shores of Amon's Lake.

Worst girlfriend

During the second sighting of the bound and naked man in Mountain Home (an encounter during which, a witness told police, the man was wearing only a small dishcloth over his junk), police said the man told passersby that he was naked because his girlfriend had stolen his clothes.

Best tonsils

In October, the nearly 3,000-word obituary for Austin Z. Hanner, 91, of Pearcy (Garland County), made the following memorable boast: "While attending Duke University, he got sick and had his tonsils removed. This is nothing abnormal, except these tonsils were on display for many years, and may still be, due to their large size."

Best squirrel-related mishap

In October, officials with the Polk County Emergency Management Office said that a one-acre grass fire was started by a squirrel that jumped on top of an electric transformer and shorted it out, with the resulting electrical explosion dropping sparks that ignited dry grass below.

Worst Straight Outta Conway

Sen. Jason Rapert's kookiness went viral again in September, when he posted a cryptic message to Twitter that said: "Not smart to come up and harass somebody in a parking lot who's carrying a handgun. Better be glad you decided to walk away. #armedandready." Lo and behold, the person he was apparently talking about, Lance White, knows how to use social media, too. White saw the tweet from Rapert and responded with his own post, saying that the "harassment" amounted to him asking "a complicated question regarding government," which Rapert allegedly answered by saying: "I don't answer questions to smarty pants like you," before jumping in his truck and leaving. "Didn't know asking government/law questions [of] a legislator qualified me for getting shot," White wrote.

HANNAH ALEXANDER
  • Hannah Alexander

Worst abuser of casual Friday

At the Springdale Municipal Airport in July, the airport's on-duty air traffic controller was arrested on charges of public intoxication after police say he was found passed out drunk with his shirt off in the airport control tower.

Best denial

As the story spread, Rapert again took to social media to deny that White was, in fact, the person he was talking about in his "#armedandready" tweet, leading to the obvious question: How many times a day does Rapert get harassed in parking lots to the point of thinking he might need to whip out his shootin' iron?

Worst 'The End'

On the last day of September, the founders of the consistently excellent Little Rock Film Festival announced the event was ending its run after nine years.

Best backward Hail Mary

In November, the Razorback football team needed to convert a 4th-and-25 against Ole Miss to stay alive in overtime. Quarterback Brandon Allen found tight end Hunter Henry well short of the first-down marker, but Henry managed to hurl the ball behind him as he was tackled. Offensive lineman and giant Dan Skipper leaped to tip the ball and running back Alex Collins picked it up and ran for the first down. The Hogs went on to win the game. It was easily the most exciting and unlikely play in college football all year.

Worst advice

In Union County in November, a woman was arrested after police said she followed her mother's advice that she should give alcohol to her 10-month-old toddler, who was crying because of teething pain. The child was later taken to a hospital with a blood alcohol content of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit considered drunk for drivers in Arkansas, but recovered with no ill effects.

Best T-shirt

In the mugshot of the woman arrested in the incident above, she is wearing a green T-shirt with the words "YOU'RE AN IDIOT" written across the chest.

Best authentic

In December, the Arkansas Times blog published an essay by Tulsa resident Sarah Vestal about returning to Little Rock to attend the 40th reunion of the 1975 class of Little Rock's Catholic High School for Boys, her first reunion since transitioning to female after attending the school as Charles Vestal. Though Vestal was nervous about what her classmates' reactions would be, she was moved to tears by their continued love and respect for her, writing: "[my] acceptance was summed up by a classmate's subsequent Facebook posting: 'You were brave, but as it turned out, we're a pretty accepting group of guys. As I told someone, having adult children makes a difference in what is a big deal and what isn't. Proud of you, and proud of my class.' Recognized authenticity is a wonderful experience."

Best appropriate

Employees of a Little Rock supermarket told police in December that a man with a tattoo of a horseshoe on his face entered the store and attempted to steal a horseshoe used as decoration in the store. After clerks tried to stop him from leaving the premises with his oddly appropriate prize, the man told them he was God before fleeing on foot. God, who was described by witnesses as a 5-foot-5, 120-pound Latino man, is still at large at this writing.


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