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News briefs from Tennessee

News briefs from Tennessee

Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2011 8:03 pm

Lawmaker arrested
on DUI, gun charges
NASHVILLE (AP) — The sponsor of the law that made it legal to carry a gun into bars in Tennessee is facing charges of possession of a handgun while under the influence and drunken driving.
Rep. Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican, was pulled over in Nashville late Tuesday, according to court documents. Police said he failed a roadside sobriety test and refused to take a Breathalyzer test. A loaded .38-caliber gun was found in a holster stuffed between the driver’s seat and center console.
A police affidavit said Todd was unsteady on his feet, “almost falling down at times.” Officers concluded that Todd was “obviously very impaired and not in any condition to be carrying a loaded handgun.”
Todd posted bail of $3,000 and was released from jail Wednesday morning. He later released a statement saying, “I am deeply sorry for the events of last evening.” He said he would make no further comments on the advice of his attorney.
Todd’s GMC Envoy was stopped while going 60 mph in a 40 mph zone in a neighborhood surrounding Vanderbilt University, said police spokesman Don Aaron. The vehicle was weaving and crossed the double yellow lines, he said.
Aaron said Todd told the officers that he was coming from downtown Nashville even though his SUV was headed in that direction. The cruiser was not equipped with cameras to record the stop, the police spokesman said.
 TVA attorney says
no proof negligence caused spill
KNOXVILLE (AP) — An attorney for property owners seeking damages from a huge coal ash spill asked a judge to hold the Tennessee Valley Authority liable, disagreeing Wednesday with an attorney for the nation’s largest public utility who said the 2008 disaster wasn’t caused by TVA negligence.
TVA attorney Edwin Small in a closing argument told U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan that a deep foundation failure unrelated to TVA’s employee training, maintenance and construction practices caused the Dec. 22, 2008 breach of an earthen containment dike at the coal-fired Kingston plant west of Knoxville.
Small said attorneys for some 230 plaintiffs failed to specifically link any “negligent conduct to the failure that occurred here.”
Plaintiff attorney Jeff Friedman told the judge at the bench trial that testimony and evidence show TVA neglected warnings about possible problems with the dike for years.
A report for TVA on what caused the spill of 5.4 million cubic yards of ash containing mercury, selenium, arsenic and other poisons into the Emory River and across 300 acres in the Swan Pond community — destroying or damaging about two dozen homes — included dikes built over a “slime” layer of loose ash and silt.
The lawsuits contend TVA concocted the slime explanation to avoid lawsuits.
Local clerks to help issue photo
driver’s licenses
NASHVILLE (AP) — State officials say 30 county clerks across Tennessee have agreed to issue photo driver’s licenses at no charge to registered voters who do not have them.
Under a new state law, starting in 2012 voters will have to show a state or federal photo ID to vote in Tennessee.
According to state officials, county clerks will provide this service beginning next Monday and continuing through March 12, a week after the presidential primary election.
Additionally, beginning in November, driver service centers will be open on the first Saturday of each month in 15 counties to make photo driver’s licenses or IDs for voting purposes only.
Suit claims VA
negligent in suicide
NASHVILLE (AP) — The widow of an Iraq war veteran from Tennessee claims in a lawsuit that the Veterans Affairs was negligent in failing to diagnose and treat his post-traumatic stress disorder before he committed suicide in 2008.
The suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Greeneville says staff at the VA hospital in Mountain Home did not adequately treat Scott Walter Eiswert, of Greeneville, before his suicide at the age of 31. Eiswert, who served with the Tennessee National Guard, deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2005.
Eiswert started seeking help for his symptoms after he was honorably discharged in 2005 at private mental health facility in Greeneville. His symptoms, according to his medical records detailed in the lawsuit, included insomnia, irritability, stress and depression. A counselor at Nolachuckey-Holston Center wrote a letter to the VA saying he had been diagnosed with PTSD.
He applied to the VA for service-connected PTSD benefits and noted that during his Iraq deployment he worked on various route clearance missions and saw civilian fatalities including body parts. He also told the VA that some of his fellow soldiers had been killed in a bombing while he had been talking to them on a radio.
His benefit claims were denied a total of three times by the VA prior to his death, according to the lawsuit. The hospital gave him medications for depression and insomnia, but he did not tolerate them well, according to the lawsuit.
In 2007, a VA doctor determined he was not at risk for suicide, although he had referred to past thoughts of suicide. Eiswert told the doctor that he would not do that to his children.
Sheriff: Moonshine still like find out of past
ATHENS (AP) — An investigation in McMinn County has sparked Sheriff Joe Guy’s interest both as an officer and as a historian.
For the first time in decades, the department has come across a moonshine operation.
“Here it is, a cool, rainy October day, and we locate this still in an old barn at the edge of Starr Mountain,” said Guy, who is also the county historian. “You see old pictures of sheriffs doing this 60 or 70 years ago, so it was quite an experience to investigate and locate a crime that is surrounded by so much regional heritage and legend. It’s just not something we see every day, and may never see again.”
Lt. Detective Eric Allman told WBIR-TV that someone was producing home-made brandy, sometimes called “wineshine,” in an old dairy barn near Etowah. Tipped off by the property owner, detectives found five 50-gallon barrels of muscadine and apple wine along with the still, a small amount of marijuana and a “mini-still” capable of producing smaller amounts of liquor.
No one has been charged. The “wineshine” was destroyed and the stills were dismantled and taken as evidence.  
City fires
water treatment
plant manager
BARTLETT (AP) — Bartlett officials have fired the water treatment plant manager, saying he took a city truck out of state and then denied it.
Scott Baker has appealed his Sept. 8 firing and the city Grievance Review Board will hear the matter on Oct. 25.
Bartlett personnel director Peter Voss told The Commercial Appeal an internal investigation revealed Baker took a city-owned pickup truck on trips to Destin, Fla., and Hot Springs, Ark.
Voss said when Baker was asked about it, he denied taking the vehicle out of state.
Baker on Wednesday acknowledged using the truck for the trips, but said he paid for the fuel and said there was a deduction to each of his paychecks for use of the truck as a fringe benefit.
Man convicted in 1995 slaying gets new trial
MEMPHIS (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme Court has granted a new trial to a man convicted in a brutal Memphis stabbing death, saying an error flawed the trial.
Alfred Turner was convicted in 2007 in the killing a dozen years earlier of Emily Klyce Fisher.
The 52-year-old victim was stabbed more than 50 times in February 1995 in her home. A co-defendant who was convicted as an accessory said Fisher’s son owed a $20 drug debt, but wasn’t home.
The high court said the trial judge erred in allowing jurors to hear that two men who Turner claimed were the assailants had been acquitted in an earlier trial, according to The Commercial Appeal ( ).
The court ruling announced Wednesday sustains an earlier appeals court ruling.
Southern Festival of Books is this weekend
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Southern Festival of Books is this weekend in Nashville, inspired by Tennessee’s yearlong Homecoming celebration in 1986.
More than 250 authors are scheduled to participate Friday through Sunday in a continued outgrowth of Homecoming ’86.
Tennessee localities celebrated their heritage that year, and one of the events was the first Tennessee Authors Celebration.
The authors festival was intended to showcase the diversified and respected work of local writers and bring more attention to the talent in Tennessee.
Authors came from throughout the state, planting the seeds for a yearly celebration of the written word, according to The Tennessean ( ).
This year, organizers say they have coordinated with state officials and expect no protests at the Legislative Plaza festival site from Occupy Nashville supporters.
Information from: The Tennessean,

Published in The Messenger 10.13.11

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