ACLU says writing samples unduly forced from students

An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer says using statements written and signed by Northampton High School students following a threat at the school as possible evidence in the criminal investigation raises constitutional concerns.

Northampton officials asked students to write a statement on Dec. 21, two days after a note was found inside a bathroom, a week after a gunman killed 20 students and six employees at a Connecticut school. The school was evacuated.

Authorities have said they will use the handwritten statements to see if writing samples match the threatening note.

Bill Newman of the ACLU’s Western Massachusetts Legal Office tells The (Springfield) Republican that the statements were not voluntary and made without any parental input.

Police and prosecutors say their methods are legal.


Sales of bottled water banned from university

The University of Vermont is resuming classes with its new ban on the sale of bottled water on the Burlington campus.

UVM has converted campus water fountains to bottle-filling stations

UVM officials said the school is the first public university to ban the sale of bottled water while 22 private campuses have made the move.

A major complaint about bottled water is the fossil fuel resources needed to produce and fill the bottles. Statistics compiled by the group Food and Water Watch say that in 2007 bottled water production used between 32 million to 54 million barrels of oil a year to produce and transport bottled water. And about 75 percent of those bottles are never recycled, the school claims.


Federal charges dismissed against late Aaron Swartz

Federal prosecutors in Boston have dismissed charges against Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz, who was found dead in his New York apartment last week.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and the lead prosecutor on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, filed a three-line notice of dismissal in court Monday.

The notice says the case is being dismissed because of Swartz’s death. Such filings are routine when a defendant dies before trial.

Swartz was indicted in 2011 on 13 counts, including wire fraud and computer fraud. Prosecutors alleged he illegally gained access to millions of academic articles through the academic database JSTOR. His trial was scheduled to begin in April.

Swartz’s family says his suicide was “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”


Suspects in baby-shower brawl plead not guilty

Three men arrested in a brawl at a baby shower in which bottles and punches were thrown and furniture was smashed have pleaded not guilty.

Patrick Cardoso Lopes and Paulo Pires Depina, both 24, as well as 22-year-old Aderito Lopes Deandrade, were released on $1,000 bail at their arraignment Monday.

The Brockton men face charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on a police officer.

A 14-year-old boy was also arrested, but his name was not released.

Police responded to a function hall in Stoughton late Saturday and found as many as 200 people involved in the fight they say was sparked by uninvited guests.


Immunity urged for reporters of substance emergencies

New Hampshire’s House of Representatives is considering legislation that would grant immunity – both civil and criminal – to people calling 911 to report a suspected drug or alcohol-related emergency.

The bill also would provide immunity to the person who is the subject of the call.

The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the bill Tuesday.