Tuesday, March 08, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-9-'11
- Senator Joe Manchin says President Barack Obama needs to lead efforts to cut federal spending. Manchin, D-W.Va., took the floor of Congress Tuesday morning saying he plans to vote against both a Democratic budget with $6.5 billion in cuts and a Republican proposal that makes cuts to programs funding "America's values." Manchin stated that both budget options were "partisan and unrealistic." He publicly called on President Barack Obama to spend the rest of the year leading compromise between the two political parties to resolve the budget proposals in front of Congress. In a prepared statement, Manchin told Congress that the bottom line is the president is the leader of this great nation, and when it comes to an issue of significant national importance, the president must lead.
- Tuesday afternoon, Sam Littleton II, an Ohio man charged with murder, appeared in a Mercer County courtroom before Judge William Sadler, who denied the state's request of discovery evidence including enhanced fingerprints and DNA to help confirm Littleton is who he says he is. Sarah Harman, with the Mercer County public defenders office, who represents Littleton in his extradition fight, was against the motion. Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson in Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's office said the extradition order has been signed and returned to Ohio. Ohio's governor has already signed extradition papers for Littleton in connection to the murder of 26 year old Tiffany Brown. Littleton was arrested in Princeton on February 23rd. Investigators also believe Littleton kidnapped Richard and Gladis Russell. Eighty-four year old Richard Russell was found dead in Tennessee on February 26th. Police say he suffered skull fractures and a stab wound to the chest. Gladis Russell's body has not been recovered.
- A former Kanawha County couple, Sharon Ann Johnson, 59, and Thomas Johnson, 60, were found dead in their home on Hall Road in Knoxville, Tennessee, Friday morning. Capt. Clyde Cowan of the Knox County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee says Sharon and Tom Johnson were shot either late Thursday or early Friday. Sharon Johnson was shot multiple times and Tom Johnson was shot at least once. Their son, Adam Thomas Johnson, 32, was arrested Saturday and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and was being held on $2 million bond. Sharon Johnson was a receptionist at the Jackson Kelly law firm's Charleston office from 1990 to 2002.
- The state Senate on Tuesday endorsed a House-adopted resolution calling for the body of late World War I veteran Frank Buckles to lie in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The 110-year-old Buckles was the last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I. Buckles' daughter and other supporters say the Capitol honor is appropriate because it also pays tribute to the 4.7 million other Americans who served during World War I.
- Tuesday, Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King sentenced 23 year old Gregory Bryant of Chesapeake to two prison sentences of 1 to 15 years and 1 to 5 years for drug charges, but suspend the sentence if Bryant can successfully serve six months of home confinement with drug rehabilitation followed by probation. Last fall, Bryant arrived at the courthouse for his arraignment and deputies confiscated a bag of marijuana when he came through security. In the courtroom, Bryant appeared under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a prosecutor asked that he be immediately arrested.
- U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers granted a request from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy concerning a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Massey subsidiary Highland Mining Co. in Logan County. Tuesday afternoon, Chambers temporarily blocked the permit, granting the citizen groups' request that he stop Massey from burying a stream at the site with a valley fill until the court could hold a more detailed hearing on the matter. The judge set that hearing for March 22nd in Huntington. Massey Energy Co. had announced Tuesday that the Reylas Surface Mine near Ethel would employ 103 residents for about six years while generating about $5 million in taxes for Logan County. Massey says, after the mining is finished and the land is reclaimed, the company plans to create a 235-acre housing site. Highland applied for the permit in August 2007 and received a surface mining permit from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in 2008.
- Last month, Joshawa Clark was found guilty on two counts of conspiracy and two counts of armed robbery in connection with two 2009 robberies at the Marquee Cinemas in Huntington. Tuesday morning, Clark and his attorney were in Cabell County Circuit Court asking for a new trial, claiming there were issues with evidence and discovery items. Judge Alfred Ferguson denied the motion. Clark remains scheduled to be sentenced on March 21st.
- A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond has affirmed a chiropractor's money laundering conviction in a West Virginia health care fraud case. The Court ruled against Ronald L. Halstead on Tuesday. Halstead, a consultant to two fellow chiropractors, all of which were convicted in Clarksburg of scamming more than $2.8 million from Medicare and private insurers, was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison for money laundering and health care fraud. On appeal, Halstead claimed he could not be convicted of both offenses because the transactions supporting them were the same. The appeals court disagreed.
- All five members of West Virginia's congressional delegation have signed a letter asking the U.S. Postmaster General for an explanation about mail processing studies under way in Beckley, Bluefield, Huntington, Martinsburg, and Wheeling. According to the letter, there are 22 states with no studies under way. Of those being studied, only seven states have the same number or more studies than West Virginia, and those states have significantly larger populations. Three of the studies have proposed moving mail processing operations out of the state...from Bluefield to Johnson City, Tennessee, from Wheeling to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and from Martinsburg to Suburban, Maryland. The delegation is reminding the Postmaster General that the postal service is required by law to provide effective and regular mail delivery in rural areas even if it costs the postal service money and it has to run at a deficit to do so.
- State officials gathered at the Capitol Tuesday to dedicate a new tool for mine rescue. The Command Unit Rapid Response Task Force 1 and Mine Rescue Truck, developed by Southern Community and Technical College in response to last year's Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, will serve as a command post for mine rescues. The truck, which will be available for West Virginia and surrounding states, will allow responders to measure gases at the site of mining accidents, determine the best place to drill bore holes to provide oxygen to trapped miners and provide a top flight communication set-up. MSHA Coal Administrator Kevin Stricklin says the truck equipment will let officials know if a fire is burning, smoldering or if there is no fire. It will give them a better feeling on whether to send rescue teams in and how quickly to send them in.
- A new, $11 billion spending plan for West Virginia state government is taking shape. Tuesday, the House Finance Committee advanced a version of acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's budget proposal including $4 billion supported by general tax revenues. Another $497 million would come from lottery proceeds, about $8 million above Tomblin's proposal. The committee also tapped nearly $48 million from previous surpluses, providing one-time funds mostly for renovation projects. The amended bill would increase general revenue spending over the budget passed last year by about 8 percent, while reducing the overall budget by 2 percent.
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