American Scene: Court says HIV-infected saliva not legally a weapon

ALBANY — New York’s top court said Thursday that the saliva of an HIV-infected man who bit a police officer doesn’t constitute a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument under state law.

In dismissing the aggravated-assault conviction of David Plunkett, the Court of Appeals is sending the case back to a lower court for resentencing.

The 48-year-old Plunkett is serving a 10-year sentence at Sing Sing after pleading guilty to assault and aggravated assault on an officer. He had punched the officer and bit his finger in 2006 at a medical clinic in the Mohawk Valley village of Ilion.

The court says saliva should be treated the same as teeth, which it concluded previously don’t qualify as dangerous instruments.

Federal health officials say HIV transmissions from bites are “very rare.”

Judge lets Occupy sue cops, but not city’s leaders

NEW YORK — A judge gave the green light Thursday to a lawsuit against police officers in the arrests of 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters last year on the Brooklyn Bridge, but he dismissed the city and its top officials from liability.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said in a written ruling that the marchers had adequately backed up their claims at this stage of the litigation that they were not properly warned by officers that they would be arrested on the bridge Oct. 1.

Judge Rakoff, a 1995 appointee of President Clinton, began his decision by citing the contributions of people such as Thomas Paine and Martin Luther King, saying, “what a huge debt this nation owes to its ‘troublemakers.’ “

But he tossed out as defendants the city, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, rejecting the argument that the city and its top officials had a policy of making false arrests designed to discourage protesting.

FLORIDA

Florida A&M president defiant after no-confidence vote

TALLAHASSEE — The president of Florida A&M University vowed to remain on the job Thursday despite a no-confidence vote from school trustees over his handling of the hazing death of a member of the school’s famed marching band.

The board of trustees voted 8-4 against James Ammons as it questioned his management of a broad range of issues, particularly calling into question what it saw as his lax attitude toward hazing and management of the Marching 100 band before the November death of drum major Robert Champion.

After the vote, Mr. Ammons, a Florida A&M alumnus, said he intended to stay in his post. “This is my university,” he said. “Until the final bell rings, I am going to serve as president.”

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