By Associated Press - Thursday, March 13, 2014
Measure would prohibit teacher licensure rules

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A proposal that would prohibit standardized test scores from being tied to teacher licensing is advancing in the Senate.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville was approved in the Senate Education Committee 7-2 on Wednesday.

The Tennessee Department of Education recommended the new licensure policy, and the State Board of Education voted in August to support it. However, the board changed its stance in January.

Bell’s legislation would prevent the policy from taking effect if the board approves it.

Stephen Smith is assistant commissioner of policy and legislation for the state Department of Education. He says the department is OK with standardized test scores not being the sole factor in licensing, but it opposes removing them altogether.


2 well-known attorneys charged with extortion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Two well-known Middle Tennessee attorneys have been charged with extortion after being accused of having a client arrested when she didn’t give in to pressure to pay them more in legal fees.

Clarksville attorneys Fletcher Long and Carrie Gasaway are each charged with one count of extortion, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement. They were arrested and booked into the Montgomery County Jail on Wednesday after surrendering to authorities. Both were released on their own recognizance.

Gasaway, 43, is married to Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge John H. Gasaway. Long has represented clients in several high-profile criminal cases, including most recently, a former Vanderbilt football player accused in a gang rape in a dorm on campus.

A phone message left at Carrie Gasaway’s office was not returned.

Long, who is 45 and lives in Adams, told The Associated Press that he will be vindicated.

“We’re going to set it for as fast a trial as we can get,” Long said. “We cannot wait to present our defense.”


Ex-soldier facing new charge dating to 1994

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A former Fort Campbell soldier whose conviction in the slayings of four Taco Bell employees was overturned is now facing a robbery charge from 1994.

The state is currently deciding whether to retry David G. Housler of Radcliff, Ky., in the case in which employees were shot execution-style at the Clarksville Taco Bell, also that year.

Housler’s attorney questioned the timing of the indictment, which comes close to 20 years after the alleged crime took place. He maintains the state doesn’t have the evidence to convict Housler if it tried him again in the Taco Bell murders.

“I think this is an effort to put pressure on (Housler) and exert as much leverage as they can in any negotiations about trying to resolve this matter without another trial,” said Paul Hemmersbaugh, a Washington, D.C. attorney representing Housler. He said the state could have easily charged Housler with the robbery any time when he was in prison. He also says that the statute of limitations on the robbery case has expired.

The indictment accuses Housler of robbing a man outside Grandpa’s Hardware Store in Clarksville in January of 1994 and taking $110 in cash along with several credit cards from the victim.

The four Taco Bell employees were shot in the middle of a robbery a week after that holdup. Another former soldier, Courtney Matthews, was convicted of first-degree murder for the slayings at the restaurant. Matthews is serving life in prison for being the gunman in the robbery and killings. The employees were killed inside the restaurant in the early morning hours. Housler was implicated by authorities as the getaway driver and lookout.


Legal battle brews over name change to Rocky Top

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A former coal mining town’s effort to revive its fortunes by changing its name to Rocky Top has hit a snag.

A development group has promised to turn the tiny East Tennessee town of Lake City into a tourist mecca if it goes through with the name change. The plan is to cash in on the fame of the song “Rocky Top,” a bluegrass standard that has been recorded over the years by Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell and others.

But Gatlinburg-based House of Bryant, which owns the rights to the song and multiple Rocky Top trademarks, is suing.

House of Bryant was founded by country composers Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, who wrote “Rocky Top” in 1967. A complaint filed Monday in federal court in Knoxville claims the name change would injure the reputation, goodwill and business value of House of Bryant’s Rocky Top trademarks.

House of Bryant is seeking an injunction to prevent Lake City from changing its name, plus court costs and damages.

There is no actual town of Rocky Top, Tenn. The lawsuit says the Bryants “were instead referring to a fictional or idyllic place” in their song. Last year, a group of East Tennessee public officials and businessmen began promoting the idea of creating a real Rocky Top. The group promised to help build a massive tourist complex in Lake City, a town of about 1,800 people, if it legally changed its name.

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