National Roundup

 New York

Driver with untied bikini top cleared in crash 
NEW YORK (AP) — An appeals court has cleared a New York City driver in a fatal crash after agreeing she faced an “unforeseen emergency” when a back-seat passenger untied her bikini top.
The July 2008 crash occurred on the New York Thruway. The Daily News reports Brittany Lahm briefly took her hands off the wheel when her bikini top came off.
Lahm and a group of friends were returning to Rockland County after a day at the shore. Brandon Berman, who allegedly pulled the bikini strings, was killed.
The Brooklyn Appellate Division upheld the conclusion of a Rockland jury, which found Lahm’s bikini top problem constituted “a sudden and unforeseen emergency not of her own making.”
Lahm declined to comment. Her lawyer noted the ruling could be appealed to the state’s highest court.
Country singer dies after Tenn. bar shooting 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A downtown bar owner told police he fatally shot a country music singer in self-defense after the two got into an argument over the musician smoking a cigarette in a no-smoking area, authorities said.
Pit and Barrel owner Chris Ferrell shot Wayne Mills, 44, around 5 a.m. Saturday, after the bar had closed, The Tennessean ( reported. Mills died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Police spokeswoman Kris Mumford said investigators are looking into Ferrell’s claim of self-defense. She said no arrests have been made. Ferrell had a valid handgun permit.
Michael Scott, who was among a group of friends with Mills, told WSMV-TV they attended a George Jones tribute concert Friday night and then went drinking at a couple of bars before the Pit and Barrel.
Mills, a native of Arab, Ala., toured with the Wayne Mills Band, which played college towns for more than 15 years. Country music stars Jamey Johnson and Blake Shelton, as well as American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, all opened for the band in their early careers, according to the group’s website.
Mills graduated from the University of Alabama with an education degree, and also played football for the school, according to the band’s website.
Pit and Barrel was to have been featured Sunday on “Bar Rescue” on the Spike TV, but the cable network decided to pull the episode, running a rerun instead, according to spokeswoman Shana Tepper.
The series features struggling bars and clubs that are given makeovers by a nightclub expert.
NAACP wants felony charges in hate crime case 
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Civil rights activists are calling on prosecutors to file felony hate-crime charges against four white students accused of harassing a black student at San Jose State University.
NAACP leaders are urging Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen to bring felony charges against the white students, who currently face misdemeanor hate-crime and battery charges.
According to a police report, the white students taunted their freshman dorm-mate with racial slurs, outfitted their dormitory suite with a Confederate flag, barricaded the victim in his room and placed a U-shaped bicycle lock around his neck.
In a statement Saturday, Rosen says he believes his office has filed the “appropriate charges in this case, based upon the evidence,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
University officials have suspended the four white students, condemned their actions and promised a full investigation of the case, which prompted a campus protest last week.
The students charged are Logan Beaschler and Collin Warren, both 18; Joseph Bomgardner, 19; and an unidentified juvenile.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement that he and California State University Chancellor Timothy White will closely monitor the situation “so that every student knows that these unconscionable acts will not be tolerated anywhere, anytime.”
South Dakota
Group says state far too lax on key gun records 
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A national group that fights gun violence says South Dakota is one of the worst states in terms of sharing mental health records for use in background checks.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns issued a report this month that said South Dakota has shared only one mental health record in 20 years with the federal government’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to the Argus Leader newspaper. The background database was created to enable gun dealers to check buyers for firearms restrictions — a requirement since the passage of the Brady Bill in 1993.
States are expected to submit records on people with a mental illness that might disqualify them from owning a gun, but many states are failing to help keep the database up to date, according to the mayors’ group.
“The Brady Bill was a major step toward keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous individuals, but we still have much more work to do to fulfill its purpose,” said Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City and co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
The South Dakota Legislature earlier this year debated the issue of mental health and gun records but did not come to a resolution.
Some legislators unsuccessfully pushed a bill that would have given county boards of mental health the authority to determine whether people committed involuntarily for mental health treatment pose a potential threat to themselves or others and make a record of the designation for submission to the background checks database. The decision would have required a hearing, and the person affected could have appealed to a circuit court.
Yankton civil rights lawyer David Hosmer wrote the proposal and told members of the Health and Human Services Committee in January that the goal was to strike a balance between no reporting at all and reporting the names of everyone who ever had been committed for mental health or drug use.
The proposal had the support of the Unified Judicial System, the Department of Social Services and the South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association. The bill died in a close committee vote after advocates for the mentally ill said the database would further stigmatize those with medical conditions.
The issue of mental health and gun records is likely to come up again, Attorney General Marty Jackley said.