National Round Up

New Jersey: Probe closed in state trooper rape allegation
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Pennsylvania prosecutors will not pursue charges against a New Jersey State Police lieutenant accused of sexually assaulting a female trooper.

Allegheny County District Attorney Office spokesman Mike Manko would not comment why the investigation was closed.

Trooper Alexis Hayes accused Lt. Thomas King of assaulting her and getting her pregnant while on a funeral assignment near Pittsburgh in April 2009. Hayes, who is married, later had an abortion.

King’s lawyer, Brian Jacobs, says there was no evidence to support criminal charges.

Hayes’ lawyer, William Buckman, says the decision doesn’t affect a federal lawsuit filed in December that outlined the accusation.

King has been suspended without pay since December.

Hayes agreed to be identified by The Associated Press.

Montana: Judge holds hearings on utility settlement
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge in Butte held hearings on proposed settlements worth $115 million in the case of the now-defunct Montana Power Co.

Thursday’s fairness hearings were the last step before formally ending several class-action lawsuits brought by shareholders and former employees of the utility.

Montana Power sold its assets and in 2002 became a telecommunications company called Touch America. The new company filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

Shareholders claim the utility sold its assets without letting them vote on it. They also claim that the new telecommunications company covered up its problems and made false statements of its success.

An estimated 100,000 shareholders originally sought $3 billion in damages.

Ohio: Ex-officer drops lawsuit over wife posing in Playboy
GAHANNA, Ohio (AP) — A former Ohio police officer has dropped a $3.5 million lawsuit he filed claiming harassment after his wife appeared nude in Playboy two years ago.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Thursday that Ron Fifthen dropped the lawsuit as part of an out-of-court settlement with the Columbus suburb of Gahanna (guh-HA’-nuh).

A copy of the settlement obtained by the newspaper said Fifthen resigned from the police department effective April 30 and received $35,000 as compensation for work through April.

Fifthen’s attorney had claimed Fithen was harassed on the job, asked repeatedly for copies of the magazine and for the autograph of his wife, Beth.

The lawsuit also claimed police launched an investigation of the couple that caused emotional distress.

City officials had called the lawsuit absurd.

California: Attorney supports claim for art seized in WWII
LOS ANGELES (AP) — California’s attorney general filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday in support of a Connecticut woman who wants a Pasadena museum to return two 500-year-old paintings seized by Nazis during World War II.

Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the court to consider an appeal by Marei von Saher of Greenwich, Conn., who sued the Norton Simon Museum for the paintings in 2007.

The pair of 16th century wood panels by German artist Lucas Cranach the Elder was seized from von Saher’s relative, owned for a time by Nazi leader Hermann Goering and purchased 40 years ago by the museum. In 2007, the paintings were valued at $24 million in an insurance appraisal.

They feature Adam and Eve, and might have been the inspiration for the title sequence of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.”

Brown’s brief argued that California law extending the statute of limitations for heirs of Holocaust victims beyond the usual three-year limit that would apply to von Saher.

A trial court in Los Angeles tossed out the case, ruling that the law was unconstitutional because it interferes with the federal government’s authority over foreign policy.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed last year, but ruled the lawsuit could proceed if von Saher can prove she inherited the art before the statute of limitations expired, under another state law not related to Holocaust survivors.

Brown argued that the California law is constitutional because there is no conflict between the federal government conducting foreign policy and the state regulating museums and galleries, which he said is a traditional state responsibility.

Von Saher’s claim doesn’t try to “redress the wartime wrongs of foreign governments,” wrote Brown, who is running for governor.

The lawsuit is against a museum with no ties to the Holocaust or the Nazi regime.

Arkansas: Little Rock school district files suit over charters
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Little Rock School District has asked a federal judge to enforce an agreement by the state that it would not hinder desegregation efforts in Pulaski County’s three school districts.

The motion filed Wednesday in federal court claims the state violated that agreement — which also provides those three districts with millions of dollars of extra school money each year — by allowing charter schools to operate in the county.

The district argues that the state has permitted the charter schools without considering the effect they have on desegregation efforts in traditional public schools.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and lawyers for the three districts — Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County — had several weeks of talks this spring in an effort to resolve the problem. But McDaniel ultimately rejected a proposal that restrictions be placed on charter schools.

Under terms of the 1989 settlement of the Pulaski County desegregation lawsuit, the state is paying nearly $40 million a year to the Little Rock district to help with desegregation. The state has paid more than $1 billion to the three districts in special school funding.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling declaring the Little Rock district had attained “unitary” status, in effect declaring the district officially desegregated. The North Little Rock and Pulaski County districts haven’t succeeded in gaining unitary status.

Arkansas lawmakers have been trying to end the roughly $60 million a year in state desegregation funding for the three districts. The state was a defendant in a 1982 lawsuit that accused it of not doing enough to help the three districts desegregate. The state agreed to a settlement in 1989 that required it provide additional annual funding.