Paul Ling (1960 - )

One of the most-heard phrases on the bohemian streets of any major U.S. city in the '90s was ''Free Paul Ling.'' A vice president of product development for a small grommet-manufacturing concern, Ling was arrested in 1997 for breaking into a health club and was caught smelling the benches. He claims he was just looking for his house keys, which he says he had dropped underneath. The keys disappeared during the trial. Did the police destroy evidence? Was this arrest racially motivated (Ling's second cousin by marriage has kinky hair)? The public outcry during his trial was phenomenal. Ling studied law in jail, then gave it up to study sociology, which he likes to call a ''bullshit major.'' It was during his classes that he took up writing. And the world is a better place for it.