National Roundup

Alabama
Man sues town, says police faked his son’s suicide

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — The father of an Alabama man who died in police custody says in a new federal lawsuit that officers “staged” his suicide to cover up what they describe as a brutal beating by officers while he was handcuffed and on his knees.
In the lawsuit filed this week, Framon Weaver Sr. says Mount Vernon police officers used a stun gun during the beating of his son, Framon Weaver Jr., who had been arrested Dec. 17, 2010 on public intoxication charges with his girlfriend, Monica Griffin.
Both were taken to the police station, where Griffin walked out a room and saw Weaver lying on his back and covered in blood in the parking lot, according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court. His head was propped against the tire of a patrol car and he was surrounded by four or five Mount Vernon police officers, the suit said.
“Fearing he was dead, she screamed out Weaver’s name but he did not respond and remained motionless,” the lawsuit states. It says she was immediately grabbed by an officer and locked in a jail cell.
The lawsuit names several town officials and police officers as defendants. A message left by The Associated Press with the Mount Vernon mayor’s office was not immediately returned Wednesday.
The lawsuit maintains that Weaver’s body was later placed a jail cell, with a bedsheet tied around his neck to make his death appear to have been a suicide.
“He was allowed to hang for approximately 14 hours before being ‘discovered,’” the lawsuit states.
An autopsy by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences listed the cause of death as hanging and the manner of death as suicide, but the lawsuit maintains that details of the autopsy are inconsistent with an intentional hanging.
The autopsy found multiple red abrasions on Weaver’s forehead, nose, upper lip and both of his cheeks. It also found that Weaver had a blood-alcohol level of 0.295.

New Mexico
Bicyclist gets $2.1M verdict but half the blame

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Albuquerque bicyclist has won a $2.1 million judgment for injuries he received in a crash with a delivery truck but will likely collect only half that amount because a jury said he was partly to blame.
Bicyclist Simon Lees crashed into the three-ton truck in 2009 and spent weeks in a hospital recovering from broken ribs, a punctured lung, a fractured clavicle, a dislocated left shoulder and dislocated bones in his right hand and wrist.
The Albuquerque Journal reports a jury Wednesday awarded the money but found the 48-year-old auto dealership manager was half at fault.
Lees was in a bike lane when he entered an intersection where traffic had backed up and was hit by a westbound truck turning left in front of stopped eastbound traffic.

California
Man defends self after slashing lawyer in court

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A man who slashed his lawyer in the face during a San Diego court hearing last week has delivered his own closing argument to the jury.
U-T San Diego says 32-year-old Eduardo Macias was handcuffed as he addressed the jury Wednesday.
Macias acknowledged using a smuggled razor blade to slash a fellow prisoner at Donovan state prison more than two years ago. But Macias said he was guilty of assault, not attempted murder.
Macias also told jurors he knew it was, in his words, “a bit awkward” to see him representing himself.
Last week, a judge said Macias had forfeited his right to an attorney after he cut his lawyer, William Burgener, in front of the jury with a blade he’d hidden in his mouth.

Oklahoma
Judge approves separate trials in child porn case

SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) — A judge in Pottawatomie County has rejected a change-of-venue request in the case of a former elementary school teacher and retired college professor facing child pornography charges.
District Court Judge John Canavan Jr. denied the request this week from former McLoud teacher Kimberly Crain of Shawnee and ex-professor Gary Doby of Bloomsburg, Pa.
Prosecutors allege that Crain took photos of girls while they changed clothes in her third-grade classroom and home, including photos of some of the girls naked, and sent the images to Doby.
Both have pleaded not guilty.
The Shawnee News-Star reports the judge granted a defense request for the pair to stand trial separately. Prosecutors had asked for a single trial so young witnesses would only have to testify once.
The trials are set for January.

Vermont
Student accepts settlement in bullying lawsuit

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A former middle school student who sued the Burlington school district in a bullying case has agreed to settle for $25,000.
Henry Atkins said in the lawsuit that his arm was fractured by a fellow seventh-grader at Edmunds Middle School after two days of being bullied in 2010. Atkins, now 15, said the district did not provide adequate supervision on the bus.
District lawyer Pietro Lynn tells the Burlington Free Press the settlement allows the district to avoid a costly jury trial that would require school employees to spend time in court, away from their jobs. He says he doesn’t believe there is any acknowledgement of fault on the part of the district.
Atkins plans to work with the district to make presentations to students against bullying and harassment.

North Carolina
Belmont Abbey wins order in birth control suit

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — A Roman Catholic college in Gaston County says it’s happy with a ruling by a federal appeals court on its challenge of rules that could require the school to provide free contraceptives to employees.
Belmont Abbey College President William Thierfelder says Tuesday’s decision is an early Christmas present.
Belmont Abbey sued the federal government over the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers must provide free contraceptives in their employee insurance plans.
A three-judge U.S. District Court panel in Washington, D.C., has ordered the federal government to re-write the law so it does not force religious institutions to offer contraceptives.
The challenge said the law would require the school to act contrary to church teachings.
The court gave the government until March 31 to develop new rules for religious organizations.h

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