National Roundup

Missouri
High court rules for suits against gun dealers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled a mother can sue a pawn shop for selling her schizophrenic daughter a gun despite a warning not to, which the daughter then used to fatally shoot her father.

An attorney for Janet Delana, the mother from Wellington, said the ruling could have "tremendous" implications for victims of gun violence in the state.

"If you sell a gun irresponsibly to someone who you have reason to know shouldn't have it, you will be held responsible in court," said Alla Lefkowitz of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C.

At the center of the lawsuit is Colby Sue Weathers, who is schizophrenic. Her mother says Weathers bought a gun from Odessa Gun & Pawn in May 2012 and tried to kill herself.

According to court records, Delana called Odessa Gun & Pawn the next month and warned the store against selling Weathers another firearm. Two days later, the store sold her daughter a gun, which she within an hour used to fatally shoot her father and attempt suicide again.

The state has since committed Weathers to a mental institution.

Attorneys for the pawn shop had argued the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gun manufacturers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products, blocked Delana from suing.

While the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of that law and said it does block some legal action, judges also ruled that certain negligence lawsuits can be brought under state law against gun sellers.

The judges cited an exemption in the federal law, which allows for lawsuits if the seller knows, or reasonably should know, that the buyer likely will "use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others," and then does that.

Kevin Jamison, an attorney for the pawn shop, said the ruling is concerning for firearms dealers, who he said have relied on federal background checks to decide whether to sell guns.

"The average gun shop employee is not a psychiatrist and cannot tell who's crazy and who isn't," Jamison said.

Alabama
Prosecutor: Teacher-student marriage a 'sham'

ONEONTA, Ala. (AP) - A prosecutor has blasted the marriage of a former teacher and his former student, calling it a "sham" designed to keep the woman from having to testify against him.

Citing court records filed Monday, Al.com reports that Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey is asking that the 18-year-old wife of Matthew Shane Wester be required to testify against her 38-year-old husband.

Casey says no marital privilege exists in cases where one spouse is the victim of the other.

Wester, a former Cleveland High School math teacher, was indicted in January 2015 on one count of a school employee having sexual contact with a student under the age of 19. Five months later, Wester married that student.

Florida
Gawker seeks new <t$>trial in Hogan privacy case

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - A New York news website has filed motions in a Florida court seeking a new trial in the Hulk Hogan invasion of privacy case.

In motions filed this week, lawyers for Gawker Media asked for a new trial or for the amount in damages awarded to the former pro wrestler be vacated or drastically reduced.

Hogan sued Gawker after it posted a video of him having sex with his then-best friend's wife. Hogan said he didn't know he was being taped.

In March, a St. Petersburg jury sided with Hogan, who sued after the website posted a portion of the video. Hogan was awarded $115 million in compensatory damages plus an added $25.1 million in punitive damages, for a total of $140.1 million.

New York
Prosecutors: Caustic liquid thrown at woman to conceal theft

NEW YORK (AP) - Three people have been charged with embezzling more than $750,000 from a New York nonprofit organization and attacking its executive director with a caustic chemical to conceal the alleged theft.

Prosecutors say Kim Williams, Pia Louallen and Jerry Mohammed were charged Tuesday in a 65-count indictment.

Investigators say Williams was an accountant at Hospital Audiences Inc. and stole more than $600,000 from the Queens nonprofit between 2012 and 2015. The indictment says she also provided Louallen with an additional $150,000.

Prosecutors say Williams enlisted Mohammed to throw a caustic substance at the nonprofit's executive director, Rev. D. Alexandra Dyer, to conceal the alleged theft. Dyer sustained severe burns and has undergone multiple surgeries.

It's unclear if Williams or Mohammed have attorneys who could comment on the charges.

Massachusetts
Patriots' fans sue NFL over team's punishment

BOSTON (AP) - A group of New England Patriots fans has sued the NFL in an effort to recover the first-round draft pick that was taken from the team as punishment for the Deflategate scandal.

The suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Boston says the NFL made an "arbitrary and capricious" decision to revoke the draft pick even though there is no proof that the team deliberately deflated footballs.

The complaint says the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell relied on "false premises and biased 'investigations' and untrue 'facts,'" to reach their decision to take away the team's first-round draft pick in this month's draft.

The complaint alleges common law fraud, negligence, intentional inflection of emotional distress, and racketeering.

New Mexico
AG wants felon to resign from school board

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Attorney General's Office has told a northern New Mexico school board member convicted of cocaine possession he must resign or face the law.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reports the New Mexico Attorney General's Office have given West Las Vegas School Board member Anthony Leroy Benavidez two weeks to step down.

A letter sent to Benavidez says if Benavidez is found to be holding his office illegally by April 20, state prosecutors may file "criminal or civil sanctions."

State court records show Benavidez was convicted in 2002 for felony drug possession.

New Mexico law prevents convicted felons from holding office without a pardon. Benavidez didn't disclose his conviction when he ran for office.

Benavidez told KRQE-TV he won't resign until the attorney general takes him to court.

Published: Thu, Apr 07, 2016