National Roundup


Girl, 5, dies from being forced to drink grape soda 
SURGIONSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee couple faces a murder charge, accused of forcing the man’s 5-year-old daughter to drink more than 2 liters of grape soda and water, causing her brain to swell and rupture, authorities said.
According to the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and the autopsy report, Alexa Linboom was brought in to the emergency room on Jan. 1, 2012, by her father, Randall Vaughn, and his wife, Mary Vaughn.
The girl was blue and unresponsive with “an abnormal body posture that indicates severe brain damage,” according to the autopsy, which was completed in July 2013.
The Vaughns were arrested on Wednesday and were being held at the Hawkins County Jail on a $500,000 bond each. Officials did not know whether the Vaughns had hired an attorney. Their arraignment was scheduled for Friday morning.
An investigation revealed the girl had been forced to drink approximately 2.4 liters of water and soda over one to two hours as punishment. The massive intake of fluid caused her brain to swell and herniate.
According to the autopsy, when she was forced to drink all that liquid, she began vomiting, urinated on herself and asked to take a bath.
“Outside of the bathtub, she tried to eat oatmeal with assistance then started clenching her hands.” She arrived at the hospital about 2 to 3 hours later.
“Caretakers told hospital staff that during the ride to the hospital, she sat up in the vehicle and played patty cake,” according to the autopsy.
She was transported by air to a regional hospital where she was pronounced brain dead two days later.
The autopsy states that the girl had moved to Tennessee to live with her father about three months before her death. The move was prompted by allegations of neglect at her previous home.
A pediatric check-up about three months before her death had shown no significant problems. She was taken to an outpatient clinic about a month before her death for excessive thirst, urination and eating, but nothing was found to be wrong with her.
According to the autopsy, “Other adults who had regular contact with the child before and after her move to Tennessee describe her as a normal, healthy child and did not notice any unusual eating, drinking habits and that she did not wet her pants at school.”
An obituary for the child said, “Some of the things that brought enjoyment to her life was coloring, playing with her Barbie dolls, her love of animals, but her most joy came when playing with her brothers and sisters.”
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services spokesman Rob Johnson confirmed that Alexa had lived in the home with five other children, some of whom were siblings and some of whom were half-siblings. The other children were removed from the house in Feb. 2013 and remain in DCS custody.
50,000 texts handed over in divorce case 
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A cellphone company turned over more than 50,000 text messages in a divorce case in which a protection order was in place, violating federal privacy law, a state supreme court justice concluded.
Justice Donald Alexander criticized U.S. Cellular’s actions, saying the company violated the federal Stored Communications Act. The lawyer for the husband, who used subpoenas to get the texts from the wife and another man, was suspended for six months for bar violations including failure to notify other parties of the subpoenas.
The judge wrote that the Stored Communications Act makes no exceptions to cellphone companies for releasing data in response to civil subpoenas. He said the texts that were released included privileged information from the wife to her lawyers and doctors.
“That U.S. Cellular would voluntarily provide ... copies of text messages containing sensitive and privileged material appears extraordinary in light of the ongoing debate about the propriety of government agencies, supported by court orders, reviewing cell phone call logs that do not include the actual text of messages such as were freely provided in response to subpoenas here,” he wrote.
Chicago-based U.S. Cellular Corp. was looking into the matter, spokeswoman Kelly Harfoot said. The sanctioned attorney, Charles Ferris, didn’t immediately return a message left at his Waterville office.
The judge’s order, signed Jan. 31, was first reported by the Bangor Daily News. In the order, the judge took the unusual step of ordering the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar to alert state and federal prosecutors about U.S. Cellular’s practices.
The judge said federal law provides little recourse against U.S. Cellular but state and federal authorities should be aware of what happened to a customer who was protected by a protection order.
“Consideration may need to be given to means for protection of the privacy and security of such persons,” he wrote.

New Mexico
Court upholds designation of land as cultural
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a tribal cultural designation that protects hundreds of thousands of acres on Mount Taylor, which is known for its rich uranium reserves.
The justices said the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee acted lawfully in 2009 when it granted the special designation for some 400,000 acres of public land on the western New Mexico mountain. The court did, however, reverse the panel’s inclusion of 19,000 acres of land grant property, saying it was not state land as defined in the Cultural Properties Act.
Five tribes — the pueblos of Acoma, Zuni and Laguna; the Navajo Nation; and the Hopi Tribe in Arizona — nominated the protected area and worked to show why it should be preserved. The land near Grants is home to cultural resources like pilgrimage trails, shrines, archaeological sites, burial sites and petroglyphs.
But the designation was overturned in 2011 on a court challenge by uranium companies and private landowners after a state district judge ruled that all landowners were not properly notified.
Acoma Gov. Fred Vallo applauded the Supreme Court ruling, saying the land “is essential to maintaining our cultural heritage and vital to providing the resources needed to sustain our Pueblo people.”
Opponents were concerned the designation would restrict recreational access and limit what private landowners could do on their property.
“While we are energized by this decision, we realize Mount Taylor’s future is not yet secure,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We will continue to work with federal, state, local and tribal partners to ensure ongoing vigilance regarding outstanding uranium mining claims that would impact Mount Taylor.”