National Roundup

Rhode Island
Lawyer: Client defended self in  athlete assault

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The lawyer for a Connecticut man charged with assaulting a Brown University basketball player and putting him in a hospital with severe head injuries has told a judge it was self-defense.
Tory Lussier of Vernon, Conn., made his initial appearance in Providence District Court on Friday on a felony assault charge. Bail was set at $10,000 with surety.
He’s accused of assaulting 21-year-old Joseph Sharkey of Norwood, Mass., early Sunday morning near Thayer and George streets following an altercation. Sharkey suffered severe head injuries and is being treated at Rhode Island Hospital.
Lawyer John Lombardi told a judge it was a clear case of self-defense. He says the 25-year-old Lussier has served in the military.

New Mexico
Girl accused of  blackmailing man over encounter

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State Police say a 17-year-old Glorieta girl is accused of trying to blackmail a 43-year-old man over consensual sex by threatening to falsely report that he raped her.
According to police, the man said the girl demanded that he pay her $1,500.
State Police says the girl made incriminating statements during an arranged phone call with the man and was arrested when she arrived at a store parking lot, supposedly so the man could pay her.
The girl has been charged with extortion but a determination has not been made whether she will be face juvenile or adult proceedings.
It could not be immediately determined from an online court docket whether the girl has entered a plea or has an attorney.

Iowa
Court sides with dentists in case on billing caps

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court says insurers cannot impose price caps on dentists who accept their plans for procedures that aren’t reimbursed.
The court’s 7-0 ruling Friday is a victory for dentists who can now set their own prices for some services, rather than being forced to accept the maximum fees that insurers want them to charge.
But it’s also a potential setback for patients who could see higher bills for some procedures, even some that their policies would normally cover. Under the ruling, dentists are free to set their own prices when an insurer does not pay for a normally-covered procedure because of limits in the policy, such as maximum annual benefits.
Iowa’s insurance commissioner warned in 2011 that some patients could face significantly higher costs if dentists prevailed.

Washington
Serial killer Yates appealing his death sentence

SEATTLE (AP) — Serial killer Robert Yates, whose death sentence has been upheld by the state Supreme Court, is seeking an appeal through the federal court system.
The Seattle Times reports he filed a petition Wednesday in Seattle that says his lawyers failed to present evidence of mental illness during his 2002 trial in Pierce County. He was convicted of killing two women in 1997 and 1998 and got the death penalty.
The 60-year-old former Air National Guard pilot from Spokane pleaded guilty in 2000 to 13 other murders in Spokane, Skagit and Walla Walla counties. He was given a sentence of more than 400 years in prison in a plea deal.

California
Federal oversight of the LA police department ends

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has officially ended more than a decade of federal oversight of the Los Angeles Police Department that was triggered by a corruption scandal involving abusive officers.
In two short sentences, U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess dismissed the final remnants of a consent decree on Wednesday, releasing the department from a transition agreement put in place in 2009 to ensure reforms that had been made were kept in place.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cheered the formal end to agreement at an afternoon news conference with Police Chief Charlie Beck. Villaraigosa said the department, which was once “an example of how not to police a city, is now a national model.”
Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the union was pleased the department was free of the federal monitoring.
“Now we can begin looking for efficiencies in LAPD processes while at the same time maintaining the transparency the public deserves,” he said. The union represents nearly 10,000 LAPD personnel.
The city was forced into the consent decree in 2001 under the threat of a federal lawsuit. The U.S. government alleged a pattern of civil rights violations committed by police officers that went back decades.
The abuses came to light after the so-called Rampart scandal in which officers in an elite anti-gang unit were found to have beaten and framed suspected gang members.
The decree mandated more than 100 reforms and the appointment of an outside monitor.
It ended in July 2009 and a transition agreement was approved to ensure the reforms continued.
“This isn’t a matter of what goes on a piece of paper; this was about changing a culture,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU of Southern California. “The purpose was to make sure they were cemented in.”
Reforms included improving training, a better system for monitoring officer performance, increased oversight of the anti-gang unit, and a ban on racial profiling.
During the transition agreement, the civilian Los Angeles Police Commission was responsible for oversight of the reforms.
If Justice Department lawyers were unhappy, the agreement allowed them to take the department back to federal court.
Rosenbaum, who represented community groups in the case, said there were still questions about the department’s treatment of homeless people and whether it was doing racial profiling. He said data on who is stopped, questioned or arrested isn’t made public.
But Rosenbaum acknowledged that much had changed for the better.
“Twenty years ago, 15 years ago, 10 years ago, no one could have imagined this police department would have been under control and treat the most vulnerable communities with respect,” Rosenbaum said. “And by and large, it has occurred.”?

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