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'American Idol' auditions: Contestant arrested for nasty acts in front of church

If you watched the premiere of "American Idol" this week, you may have noticed one auditioner, a guy named Sam Atherton, who seemed a bit odd. And if you think the judges reacted to Sam and his antics as if they were picking up a strange vibe, there could be some truth to that pervasive sense that something was not quite right about the young man. During the run-up to his audition, where "Idol" fans got to know him a little better, Sam Atherton's strange mannerisms and talking style was reminiscent of something robotic, a mechanism that occasional slipped a gear. And during it all, he never once mentioned his arrest. For allegedly masturbating in front of some church-going kids.

Now that weird feeling you had is making much more sense, no?

TMZ reported on Jan. 17 that Sam Atherton, aspiring "American Idol" contestant, was arrested and convicted in 2010 of lewd behavior (specifically, "open and gross lewdness") after he was caught red-handed by a church-goer who saw Atherton "bobbing his head up and down ... with an intense look on his face," his arm and shoulder appearing to move energetically. According to police, the witness went to confront Atherton and found him with his pants around his ankles.

Sam Atherton had just served a group of children attending church from the back of a frozen lemonade truck.

Atherton told the judge that he was scratching a severe fungus on his foot.

The judge didn't buy into the excuse, convicting Atherton of two counts of lewdness and sentencing him to two years of probation.

Good thing his audition was so bad he would have never gotten a ticket to Hollywood anyway. It is difficult to imagine how "American Idol" producers, notorious for somehow missing prior arrest records when screening contestants, would have explained Sam Atherton's continued presence on the show.

The audition was recorded back in August in Boston, Mass., and it is unknown if the producers and editors at "American Idol" ever knew about Atherton's criminal record. They most likely simply thought him quirky, his audition just weird enough to be entertaining, and it was memorable enough to include as an audition highlight.

When "Idol" judge Keith Urban asked if he was a drummer (Atherton was carrying a guitar), the self-proclaimed singer/songwriter who was good enough to skip practicing called one-third of the panel adjudicating his "American Idol" fate "Einstein."

At one point, he was told by "Idol" judge Keith Urban, most likely in retaliation for the Einstein jab, to sing his worst song first. Atherton, for some reason, misheard Urban, thinking he had asked for his original song first. And the first song may not have been his worst, but it was the worst the judges were willing to hear.

In the confessional booth, after walking away laughing, he told the camera that he had "perfect pitch." And he said he was probably a better musician than J. Lo, Keith Urban, and Tony Connick Jr. (whoever Tony Connick Jr. is).

Show host Ryan Seacrest was strangely missing from the run-up clip. And that might be a good thing. Imagine the Internet running with a meme of a still photo of Seacrest shaking hands with Sam Atherton, convicted masturbator...

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