National Roundup

Nebraska

Omaha teacher in student fight flap is fired

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The Omaha school board has fired a 39-year-old teacher accused of taking two eighth-grade students outside a school building and encouraging them to resolve their dispute by fighting.

The board voted 11-1 on Wednesday night to dismiss Patrick Kocsis. He's been on paid leave since the incident on Aug. 22.

Kocsis declined to comment after the board meeting.

Kocsis also has been cited by police on two counts of misdemeanor child neglect for the incident at McMillan Magnet Center middle school in northeast Omaha.

A district spokeswoman has said she didn't know what started the disagreement that began in Kocsis' science classroom and included slaps, pushing and shoving.

Felisa Evans, mother of 14-year-old Micah, said her son told her he couldn't remember what the dispute was about.

Kocsis led the boys out of the class and down hallways and past the office, Evans said, telling the boys they were going to settle their dispute his way.

According to Evans, when the three of them got outside, Kocsis said the boys would have to "slap it out."

After Kocsis assured them he was serious, the boys flailed away and grappled for about 20 minutes, Evans said.

The fight was broken up when the principal and a security officer arrived.

A police report said the incident was recorded by a school security camera outside.

Kocsis worked at McMillan for nine years.

He did not returned calls seeking comment. Online court records didn't list the name of his attorney.

The boys initially were suspended for the fight, but the district later removed the punishment from their records.

Iowa

Court upholds conviction in football coach's death

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- An appeals court has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a mentally ill man who shot his former football coach in the school's weight room.

Mark Becker had argued that he was legally insane when he shot Aplington-Parkersburg High School Coach Ed Thomas in June 2009. A jury found Becker guilty and rejected his insanity defense.

Doctors testified at the trial that Becker is a paranoid schizophrenic but they disagreed over whether he knew right from wrong when he shot Thomas.

Becker's lawyers argued that jurors were given incorrect instructions about the legal definition of insanity.

The Iowa Court of Appeals on Thursday agreed one instruction was incorrect but said jurors were given another instruction that correctly defined insanity. Taken together, the court says jurors were properly instructed.

Ohio

U.S. court upholds state's 'no touch' strip clubs law

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A federal appeals court has upheld an Ohio law that bars dancers at adult clubs from touching patrons and each other.

In Wednesday's ruling, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said the 2007 law does not go against the businesses' rights of free speech and expression.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the court agreed with a federal judge in Cleveland who also found no First Amendment violations. The amendment guarantees freedom of speech in the U.S.

Besides the "no touch" rule, the law also halts nude dancing in strip clubs after midnight. It also prohibits adult bookstores and theaters from being open between midnight and 6 a.m.

There was no immediate response from a lawyer who represented adult businesses that filed suit against the law.

Massachusetts

Group seeks school Pledge of Allegiance ban

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) -- A group in one Massachusetts town wants to ban students from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the public schools, saying it has no educational value and is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.

Brookline Political Action for Peace will ask town meeting voters in November to pass a nonbinding resolution on the idea. The pledge is already optional in the Boston suburb's schools.

Marty Rosenthal, a lawyer and co-chairman of the group, tells the Boston Herald the pledge is "at odds with America's most important traditions." He says he is not being unpatriotic.

Supporters say a pledge ban would prevent bullying by protecting students who do not wish to pledge.

Veterans, family members of 9/11 victims and the father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan are critical of the idea.

New York

Socialite receives probation for scarf theft

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A New York socialite has been granted a special form of probation for stealing two scarves from a Connecticut boutique.

The Greenwich Time reports that 38-year-old Beata Bowman was placed into the state's Accelerated Rehabilitation Program on Tuesday.

Under the terms of her sentence, Bowman will have no criminal record if she completes 100 hours of community service, receives counseling and stays out of trouble for 18 months.

Boman was charged in June with stealing an $11,000 scarf from Richards of Greenwich. Another larceny charge was added after police say a review of surveillance video revealed the earlier theft of a less expensive scarf.

Boman, who was born in Poland, made news in 2008 when she was photographed with Prince Andrew in the French resort town of St. Tropez.

California

Jury orders Contra Costa to pay $11.7M in crash

BRENTWOOD, Calif. (AP) -- A jury has ordered Contra Costa County to pay $11.7 million in damages to the family of man who died in a crash on a county road.

The award this month in the wrongful death lawsuit by the family of 56-year-old William Tindall came after jurors found the county had failed to keep the road safe during road resurfacing work.

Tindall died on Marsh Creek Road in unincorporated Brentwood in 2008 after pulling over to help another driver. He was struck by a vehicle that ran off the road.

Luke Ellis, an attorney for Tindall's family, said the county failed to cover higher speed limit signs and sweep off gravel during the resurfacing work.

Dennis Moriarty, an attorney for the county, told the Contra Costa Times that the court erred in allowing prior accidents on the road into evidence.

Published: Fri, Sep 9, 2011

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