BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

■ New lawsuit filed over

Minnesota driver’s license data

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Another lawsuit has been filed alleging that Minnesota government employees misused driver’s license data.

At least nine federal lawsuits have been filed in the last year relating to misuse of the driver and vehicle services, or DVS, database. All but one target government entities and four are related to a recent breach.

The most recent lawsuit was filed by law firm Farrish Johnson, according to the Star Tribune. It was on behalf of a man whose record was allegedly among 1,100 queried by an unnamed employee at the Minnesota Department of Human Services over 11 months, largely without an authorized purpose.

The suit is seeking class-action status. The Mankato-based firm has two other DVS lawsuits also seeking class-action status.

The state’s legislative auditor is expected to release a report this coming week on the database that will likely to shape legislation to curb misuse. The database contains photographs, addresses and driving records on Minnesota residents with a license.

Law firms have been aggressively pursuing litigation, ever since a former St. Paul police officer won more than $1 million in settlements from local governments stemming from a DVS lawsuit. Former officer Anne Marie Rasmusson has demanded in a settlement with the state that it perform better audits and training relating to the database.

The database is protected by state and federal law against unauthorized use.

■ Search for missing

snowmobiler suspended

PINE CITY (AP) — Dangerous conditions led authorities to suspend the search Sunday for a snowmobiler they believe broke through the ice and was swept down a remote part of the St. Croix River.

Authorities got a 911 call just after 6:30 p.m. Saturday that a snowmobiler had broken through the ice on the river in the St. Croix River National Scenic Waterway on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, the Pine County sheriff’s office said in a news release. Two other snowmobilers told authorities they were riding on the frozen river in the dark when the victim hit a large patch of open water. He was thrown from his machine and disappeared.

Authorities believe he may have been swept downstream and under the ice pack, the news release said. Responders found a partially submerged snowmobile on the edge of a large open area of turbulent water, but no sign of the victim.

It was too dangerous for responders to enter the water, but they searched on foot, by snowmobile and helicopter Saturday night. The responders included deputies from the Pine and Burnett County, Wis., sheriff’s departments and personnel from the Pine City fire department and National Park Service.

The search resumed Sunday morning, but Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell told WCCO Radio the search had to be suspended about 12:30 p.m. due to dangerous conditions that included turbulent water and rough terrain.

The victim’s name was withheld pending notification of relatives.

It was one of two serious snowmobile accidents on the St. Croix River on Saturday and was also one of two in Pine County.

Downstream, in the Twin Cities area, a 22-year-old snowmobiler died after going through the ice about noon Saturday in Bayport near the Xcel Energy Allen S. King power plant, which feeds warm water into the river. Washington County Chief Deputy Dan Starry said the man went right past the thin ice warning signs. He was pulled from the water about 20 minutes later and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His name was not immediately released.

In the other accident in Pine County, a snowmobiler suffered life-threatening injuries when he apparently struck a partially submerged island and was thrown from his snowmobile on Pokegama Lake around 9:15 p.m. Saturday, the sheriff’s office said. Authorities did not know the condition of the victim on Sunday.

■ Authorities investigate Hibbing jail suicide

HIBBING (AP) — Authorities are investigating the suicide of an inmate at the St. Louis County jail in Hibbing.

A news release from the sheriff’s office says 30-year-old Shane Ervin Fischer, of Duluth, was booked around 2:15 a.m. Sunday on suspicion of drunken driving, fleeing in a motor vehicle and assault for attempting to disarm a state trooper. He was found about 7 a.m. It says the preliminary investigation indicates he attempted suicide minutes after staff did a required, routine check on his well-being.

Emergency personnel could not revive him. The sheriff’s office says Fischer died of apparent asphyxiation, and that no foul play is suspected.

The incident happened at the county’s lockup in the Hibbing Courthouse, which is a temporary facility that holds up to nine people for up to 72 hours.

■ Man charged with slapping

toddler may be out job

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A man charged with slapping a toddler on a Minneapolis-to-Atlanta flight appears to be out of a job.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that AGC Aerospace and Defense had suspended 60-year-old Joe Rickey Hundley, of Hayden, Idaho, as president of its Unitech Composites and Structures.

On Sunday, AGC issued a statement saying that, while not referring to Hundley by name, calls reports of an executive’s behavior on personal travel “offensive and disturbing” and says he “is no longer employed with the company.” The statement does not say whether the executive quit or was fired.

Hundley was charged with assault last week after he was accused of slapping a 2-year-old boy and called him a racial slur during the Feb. 8 flight. His attorney has said he will plead not guilty.