Saturday, May 28, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-29-'11
- Pikeville Police made a quick arrest following a break-in at Pikeville Discount Drug at 2:20 A.M. Saturday morning. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a broken window and what appeared to be blood on the floor inside. Police arrested Jonathan Adams from the Riverside Inn just after 9:30 A.M. Adams has been charged with burglary, theft of a drug requiring a prescription, tampering with physical evidence and criminal mischief.
- Kentucky State Police say Trenton Tackett of Staffordsville was driving westbound on U.S. 460 Thursday when his SUV crossed the center-line, striking 38 year old Anita Back's pickup truck. Back, from Seitz, Kentucky, was pronounced dead at the scene by the Magoffin County Coroner Mark Jenkins while Tackett was taken to Paul B. Hall Medical Center for his injuries.
- Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted Marvin Reed, Jason Reed, Thomas Little, Kristi Rae Davis and Donald W. Terry who are accused of taking part in a conspiracy to funnel thousands of pain pills into Owsley County from Florida. Georgia police stopped Little and Davis as they returned from Florida on May 15th and found 3,278 Oxycodone pills in Little's truck. Little told authorities he was taking the pills to the Reeds in Booneville, who together had provided $45,000 to buy the pills in Florida. Cooperating with police, Little arranged for Marvin and Jason Reed to pick up the pills. DEA agents arrested the two May 17th when they came to pick up the pills. Little said he had made three previous trips for pills in the month before he was arrested, bringing back more than 2,000 each time. If convicted, each face up to 20 years in prison or 30 years if they have a prior felony.
- Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday that lawmakers should not fear voter backlash for trying to squeeze savings from Medicare to reduce federal debt, because it will take a bipartisan deal to tackle the program. McConnell says he believes Washington will agree to "something significant" to curb the giant health care program for the elderly well before the 2012 election. He says trimming benefit programs like Medicare is the only way to find the savings needed to make a serious dent in the government's debt, a point on which budget experts on both sides concur, and the American people can decide whether they will want to punish both sides for having done that because it will take both sides to do it. The House-approved budget, written by Representative Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would turn the health care program into a system that provides vouchers to buy private insurance, leaving many exposed to higher out-of-pocket costs. People now 55 or older could stay with the traditional Medicare system. The Senate rejected that budget this past week, though most GOP senators voted for it, and top Republicans have conceded it has little chance of enactment.
- Lexington Police Officer Earl Rayford who was found guilty of misconduct has sued the police chief and county government after he was demoted from sergeant to officer over his actions during the August 2010 arrest of former Kentucky State University basketball player Delvagio Lax. Rayford seeks compensatory and punitive damages and asks that the government restore him to his former rank. Lax pleaded guilty to felony possession of a controlled substance and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. $450 in cash that was found on Lax was turned over to Lax's girlfriend, who was also Rayford's stepdaughter.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-29-'11
- Police say they found synthetic drugs and guns in the home of Charleston Fire Department Lieutenant Paul Edward Young who was arrested Tuesday and charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Young allegedly sold the drug Suboxone to a police informant and also allegedly offered to sell the informant heroin. According to a search warrant return on file in magistrate court, officers found a .50-caliber black-powder rifle, a .22-caliber Remington rifle, a Remington Model 870 shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle in Young's house. They also allegedly found ammunition and magazines for several weapons, empty and full containers for synthetic "bath salts," K2 and plastic bags containing unknown powders, digital scales, straws, a rolled-up dollar bill and a suspected cocaine spoon. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
- The historic March on Blair Mountain, which began in late August 1921, developed into the largest armed confrontation in American labor history. At that time, United Mine Workers activists marched toward Logan County, trying to organize non-union miners. Music Saves Mountains, a group led by country music stars and the Natural Resources Defense Council, will host a concert at the Culture Center at the state Capitol on June 5th, the evening before a 50-mile march on Blair Mountain begins in Marmet. The march, which will last from June 6th to June 10th, will honor labor struggles of the past and call for an end to mountaintop removal mining. Emmylou Harris and Kathy Mattea are scheduled to appear at the final rally at the end of the weeklong march, June 11th, on Blair Mountain on the border between Boone and Logan counties.
- The state Department of Environmental Protection said Friday that it added special conditions to two permits issued to driller Northeast Natural Energy, the company that plans to drill gas wells along Dunkard Creek, a Monongalia County stream devastated by fish kills after a golden algae bloom in 2009. DEP's Office of Oil and Gas is requiring monitoring stations upstream and downstream of the wells and barring the driller from disposing of any waste on the property, among other things. DEP worked with Northeast Natural Energy to craft the conditions.
Friday, May 27, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-28-'11
- National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson said Friday that Matthew Shuey, 27, of Nicholasville, the pilot of the twin-engine plane that crashed in the North Carolina mountains while on its way from Georgia to Hazard Wednesday, had communicated with air traffic controllers in Tennessee at about 4:12 P.M. EDT Wednesday, about a half-hour into the flight while cruising at an altitude of 9,000 feet. About 30 seconds later, the pilot contacted them again to declare an emergency, indicating there was a fire without specifying its location. That was his last radio transmission. Shuey was a flight instructor at Aero-Tech for about a year and a half before becoming a charter pilot in Hazard. The passengers from Knott County were Tiffany Maggard, 23; Kassie Robinson, 22; and Miranda Morgan, 20. Morgan's cousin, Amy Campbell, says the women had traveled to Alabama for a weeklong trip that included visiting a friend. Robinson was a biology major who recently graduated from Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky. Morgan had just finished her sophomore year at Alice Lloyd, where she was an elementary education major. She had planned to tutor children this summer at a learning center in the Appalachian county. Morgan was a high school homecoming queen, a standout student and a cheerleader in high school and college. Maggard had married last year and was living in Leslie County, where she was studying physical therapy. Officials at Alice Lloyd College said Maggard had also attended school there but transferred to pursue a degree in physical therapy.
- In an effort to take some suspected drug dealers off the streets before the holiday weekend, deputies with the Pike County Sheriff's Department and Kentucky State Police officers arrested at least a dozen people in Pike County Friday. The arrests are part of an Operation UNITE six month investigation. Officers say they have warrants for 30 people accused of selling prescription pills.
- Jimmy Levering, 28, of Louisa, was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder, assault and robbery. Police say, in March 2010, Levering fatally shot 48 year old Sherry Smith and also shot Smith's boyfriend, 44 year old Ronald Young, at Smith's home on Fuller's Ridge in Fallsburg, Kentucky. Levering and his wife, Wilma Levering, were staying with Smith and Young at the time of the shootings. After shooting Smith and Young, Levering and his wife took off in their vehicle and just a few miles away, Levering also shot his wife who was able to escape and call 911. Levering originally faced the death penalty.
- President Barack Obama has amended disaster declarations resulting from severe storms, tornadoes and flooding since April 22 in Kentucky, making 70 counties eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency emergency loans. Loan applications for physical and production losses will be taken into January. To apply, contact the local FSA county office. The newly added counties are Allen, Anderson, Ballard, Barren, Bell, Breathitt, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Carlisle, Carter, Christian, Clay, Crittenden, Cumberland, Edmonson, Elliott, Estill, Franklin, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hardin, Harlan, Hart, Henderson, Henry, Hickman, Hopkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Larue, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, Marshall, McCracken, McLean, Meade, Metcalfe, Monroe, Morgan, Muhlenberg, Nelson, Ohio, Oldham, Owen, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Rowan, Scott, Shelby, Simpson, Spencer, Todd, Trigg, Union, Warren, Webster, Wolfe and Woodford.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-28-'11
- Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has ordered all U.S. and West Virginia flags lowered to half-staff for Memorial Day. Tomblin says flags are to be lowered from dawn through noon Monday. Tomblin calls Memorial Day one of the country's most important holidays and said West Virginians should display flags at half-staff at their homes as well. The acting governor says residents should pray for permanent peace at 11:00 A.M. Monday and observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 P.M.
- West Virginia State Police are increasing patrols for the Memorial Day weekend to keep impaired drivers off the roads. The agency said Friday that it plans nearly 90 additional DUI patrols across the state during the weekend, along with DUI checkpoints in Kanawha and Monongalia counties. State Police Superintendent Col. Jay Smithers says troopers also will be looking for aggressive and reckless drivers.
- After months of investigation, Beckley Police arrested suspected drug dealer Tony Bennett Friday afternoon and charged him with five felony charges: two counts of possession with intent to deliver marijuana, one count of possession with intent to deliver Oxycodone, and one count for each drug for delivery of a controlled substance. Police found marijuana, cash, and several pills between the three homes they searched on Frontlawn Avenue, Antonio Avenue and South Oakwood. When police arrested Bennett, he had $900 cash along with 77 pills believed to be Oxycontin, with an estimated street value of $2,000.
- National Public Radio and the Charleston Gazette have filed papers with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to unseal records in a lawsuit seeking to stop next week's shareholder vote on Massey Energy's proposed $7.1 billion sale to rival coal producer Alpha Natural Resources. Attorneys for the two say that keeping the records sealed violates the public’s interest, and they claim there is no reason to seal the entire record in this case. Three institutional investors want the court to issue an injunction preventing shareholders of Virginia-based Massey from voting on the deal next Wednesday. They also want the court to seal case records. Members of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals are expected to hear the case and respond Tuesday.
- Friday, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones filed for a divorce from Sara DeBarr Jones, his wife of nearly six years. Mayor Jones married Sara in September 2005 during a private ceremony in Virginia.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-27-'11
- Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials were in the remote mountains of North Carolina Thursday to determine what caused a twin-engine plane to crash. The National Transportation Safety Board identified the plane as a twin-engine Beechcraft BE-58. Officials say the plane was flying from suburban Atlanta to the Wendell Ford Airport in Hazard, Kentucky when it crashed about 4:15 P.M. Wednesday, some 125 miles west of Asheville, near Unaka, a small community in the westernmost tip of North Carolina, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The North Carolina Forestry Service contained a 5-acre brush fire started by the crash. Federal records show the plane was made in 1976 and registered to Aero Resources Corp. of Hazard. According to Peter Kundson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, the pilot was cruising in level flight at an altitude of 9,000 feet, well above the highest peaks in the area, when he reported an emergency because of fire on board. Air-traffic controllers reportedly lost radio and radar contact with the plane soon after. Keith Lovin, Sheriff of Cherokee County, says several witnesses saw the plane descending and reported hearing an explosion on impact. Lovin says all those on the plane, the pilot and three passengers, died on impact. Authorities did not release the names of the victims on Thursday. Lovin said he had talked with family members of the victims on Thursday and will likely be able to release the names of the victims on Friday. Families in Knott County say there were supposed to be three young women on board ... Miranda Morgan, Tiffany Maggard, and Kassie Robinson.
- By a 250-153 evening vote in the House, Congress on Thursday passed a four-year extension of post-September 11th powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists. Congress bumped up against the deadline mainly because of the stubborn resistance from a single senator, Republican freshman Rand Paul of Kentucky, who saw the terrorist-hunting powers as an abuse of privacy rights. Paul held up the final vote for several days while he demanded a chance to change the bill to diminish the government's ability to monitor individual actions. The bill passed the Senate 72-23. The roving wiretaps and access to business records are small parts of the USA Patriot Act enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks. But unlike most of the act, which is permanent law, those provisions must be renewed periodically because of concerns that they could be used to violate privacy rights. The provisions were set to expire at midnight.
- Kentucky State Police say aggressive driving, failure to use seat belts and driving while impaired are the top three dangers faced by motorists on Kentucky highways during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. KSP plan to intensify traffic safety and patrol efforts, beginning at 6:00 P.M. Friday, May 27th through 11:59 P.M. Monday, May 30, 2011. KSP Spokesman Lt. David Jude says the Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the beginning of the summer, and traffic on the state roadways is expected to increase significantly during this time period. Last year, there were 1,238 crashes in Kentucky during the Memorial Day weekend. Eight people lost their lives and 432 were injured. Jude reminds motorists that Kentucky has a zero tolerance policy regarding driving while impaired by alcohol, and, although driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 is illegal, you can also be arrested for lower levels if you are under 21 years of age or operating a commercial vehicle.
- As part of the "Click It Or Ticket" campaign, which started May 23rd and continues through June 5th, state troopers will be working overtime during the Memorial Day holiday. Operations will include increased saturation patrols and traffic safety checkpoints in high crash, high traffic locations, radar and laser details and coordinated enforcement activities with local police and sheriff's departments for maximum coverage. KSP reminds motorists that Kentucky law requires them to slow down and use caution when they see a law enforcement or emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road with its lights flashing. They must move over to the lane farthest away from the vehicle if they are on a four-lane road with two lanes proceeding in the same direction and can do so safely.
- James "Chum" Tackett, 69, of Jenkins, the former operator of Golden Years Rest Home in Letcher County was indicted Thursday for allegedly stealing thousands of federal dollars that were intended to pay for the care of the rest home's residents. A federal grand jury in London returned the indictment which charges Tackett with 19 counts of theft of government funds after he allegedly stole more than $92,000 out of nearly 400 federal checks between 2007 and 2009. At the time of the alleged offenses, Golden Years cared for approximately 40 residents who obtained money from a variety of federally funded programs such as social security to help pay for the care they received. In addition, part of the federal money that Tackett allegedly stole included 34 federal stimulus checks worth $8,500 that were mailed to some of the residents. Tackett's appearance before the United States District Court has not yet been set by the court in Pikeville. If convicted, Tackett faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
- Kentucky is turning most of its $6.5 billion-a-year health plan for the poor and disabled over to outside managed care organizations in an effort to improve efficiency and cut costs. The program will be reshaped for more than half of the roughly 800,000 Kentuckians who depend on Medicaid for health care. A deadline for vendors to submit bids to manage most of Kentucky's Medicaid program ended Wednesday. The state plans to award a contract or contracts by July 1st, when the new fiscal year begins.
- Investigators from the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the University of Kentucky Police Department have arrested 21 year old Eric Gaines of Lexington on charges of distributing fake IDs, trafficking in the drug Ecstasy and with possessing heroin, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. An an investigation began when a UK student arrested by campus police had a fake ID in his possession. That ID, investigators allege, turned out to be one of more than 150 fake driver's licenses that had been distributed in Fayette County, many of which went to high school students.
- Officials in western Kentucky are investigating a possible drowning at the Windy Hollow Campground about 10 miles southwest of Owensboro. Capt. Bill Thompson of the Daviess County Sheriff's Department says it appears the 29 year old man from the Bloomington, Indiana area died of accidental drowning after checking in Wednesday. The body was pulled from the water after a resident called authorities around 10:45 A.M. CDT Thursday. Thompson says the man was supposed to start work in the Owensboro area on Thursday.
- National groups and local volunteers gathered at the K-9 shelter in Morehead, in Rowan County, Wednesday to begin renovating the facility. Plans include new roofing, new beds and other repairs. The facility currently has about 30 animals, but Vicki Fragasso, director of development for the Petfinder.com Foundation, says the shelter takes in about five dogs each week and sees hundreds every year. Shelters in Rowan County and other parts of the region often have problems with overpopulation and have to euthanize animals. Emily Valentine, a spokeswoman for sponsor Bissell Homecare Inc., says the goal is "to place more pets in loving homes.
- A hearing in Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Richie Farmer's divorce case has been canceled. Farmer and his wife, Rebecca, had been scheduled to appear in court Thursday. A one-sentence document in the case file said the cancellation was arranged by mutual agreement. Rebecca Farmer filed for divorce last month in the midst of a GOP gubernatorial primary battle. Richie Farmer, the running mate of state Senate President David Williams, won the Republican nomination last week. Rebecca Farmer had asked for primary custody of their three sons and that Richie Farmer be required to pay child support. Richie Farmer responded by asking that the divorce petition be dismissed, and, if not, that joint custody be awarded with reasonable time-sharing for both.
- A former grand wizard of a Kentucky-based Ku Klux Klan organization has been sentenced to 48 months in prison on federal drug and gun charges. Ronald Wayne Edwards, who founded the Imperial Klans of America in Dawson Springs in 1996, was sentenced Thursday before U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley in federal court in Owensboro. Edwards pleaded guilty in March to charges he trafficked in methamphetamine and painkillers and carried a gun during at least one drug transaction. His longtime girlfriend, Christina A. Gillette, who admitted to drug charges, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison. Both also received three years of supervised release.
- The Louisville Arena Authority is disputing property assessments and penalties of $55,321 that have been placed on the KFC Yum Center. Louisville's Downtown Management District collects fees based on the assessed value of property within its boundaries. Records from the Jefferson County Clerk's Office show the arena owes the district $34,154 plus $21,167 in fines. Arena Authority Executive Director Harold Workman says in a May 18th letter to Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell that a Kentucky Department of Revenue ruling granted the authority a "property tax exemption." Workman requested that a lien placed on the Yum Center be removed. Deb DeLor, who is the district's executive director, says the organization considers the arena assessable property. O'Connell spokesman Bill Patteson says the county attorney's office is preparing its response to Workman.
- A Lexington child has been killed in a fall from a lawn mower. Authorities say 2-year-old Adelaide McReynolds fell when her father made a sharp turn. Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said the girl's 7-year-old brother was also on the machine. Neither he nor the children's father was injured in the accident Wednesday evening. Ginn says the events leading to the child's death occurred too quickly to have been prevented. Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn says McReynolds died from multiple blunt-force and sharp-force trauma.
- Frankfort native Jill Midkiff, one of Governor Steve Beshear's press liaisons has moved into a new position in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Midkiff, a 14 year state government employee who had been deputy press secretary for Beshear since 2008, began her new duties last week. For six years, Midkiff was communications director for the Finance and Administration Cabinet. Midkiff said it had been an honor to work for Beshear, and she said she's flattered that Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller asked her to join her agency. Midkiff, a 1990 graduate of the University of Kentucky, is a past president of the Kentucky Association of Government Communicators.
- Thirty-seven year old Lynda Chase, a former secretary at Madison Central High School in Richmond, entered a guilty plea Thursday to third-degree rape and four counts of third-degree sodomy. The charges stem from her relationship with a 15 year old boy at Madison Central. Under a plea deal, she will be required to undergo treatment and must register as a sex offender. The prosecutor is recommending a three-year sentence. Formal sentencing is set for July 7th.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-27-'11
- David B. Daugherty, an administrative law judge in Huntington, is the subject of a federal investigation for approving too many disability cases. Daugherty has been an administrative law judge for 21 years, but he has been placed on administrative leave indefinitely while the Social Security Administration investigates the high number of social security applications he has granted so far this fiscal year. Daugherty was escorted out of his office Thursday, and his security privileges were revoked for alleged misuse of power including approving disability cases without holding a hearing. In a system where only about 75 percent of the cases presented for disability claims are typically approved, Judge Daugherty has a nearly 100 percent approval. Government data shows Daugherty granted 729 disability cases in the last six fiscal months of 2011, and, in 2010, he denied just four of the 1,284 cases he decided.
- Elisha Riggleman, an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution located in Beaver, W.Va., is facing a two count indictment after he allegedly threatened an employee at the prison. Count one says Riggleman threatened to kidnap and assault a Federal Bureau of Prisons law enforcement officer at the prison, and, the second count states Riggleman threatened to murder and assault the wife and child of the employee.
- Two West Virginia men have been sentenced for their roles in a counterfeiting scheme in Roane County. Roger L. Atkinson II, 32, of Ripley, was sentenced to eight months in prison while Lawrence "BJ" Holbrook, 36, of Spencer, was sentenced to four months in prison. Atkinson was convicted in February of passing counterfeit money and conspiring to possess and manufacture counterfeit money. Holbrook pleaded guilty in January to his role in the conspiracy.
- Lawyers for Massey investors who are suing the company's directors say, in filings unsealed this week in state court in Delaware, Don Blankenship, Massey's former chief executive officer, and Chairman Bobby Ray Inman, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, made clear in sworn testimony that they "firmly believed the company was being targeted by the government and government officials, including President Barack Obama, conspired to destroy the coal producer. They allege the large numbers of safety violations Massey received were proof of the conspiracy. United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts says, "The notion advanced by Massey Energy Chairman Bobby Inman that there is some grand secret 'conspiracy' to put Massey out of business is as nutty as the prediction that the world would end last Saturday."
- Sentencing hearings for Luke W. Pugh of Jane Lew and Chad J. Ferrell of Nettie, two former West Virginia coal miners who pleaded guilty to lying about their credentials to perform mandatory safety checks have been set for June 21st in Elkins. They each face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Joseph Gibson and Shane Peck, two Kanawha county teens who have already pleaded guilty to numerous felonies, are now facing additional charges after being indicted by the May grand jury on burglary and petit larceny charges. Their trial date for the additional charges has been set for June 21st.
- Police say a white male wearing blue jeans and a blue shirt robbed the Pioneer Federal Credit Union in South Charleston about 3;00 P.M. Thursday. The man, who did not brandish a weapon, handed the teller a note demanding money and then left on foot with the money in a black folder.
- Craig Owens was charged with eight counts of possession, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage and driving on a suspended license after hitting a power pole on Enslow Boulevard and trying to flee the scene just after 11:00 A.M. Thursday morning. Police say Owens had several prescription pills.
- Antonio Jeffries, 22, of Charleston, has been indicted on a charge of aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base. According to the indictment, Jeffries is accused of possessing more than 280 grams of the drug near Sissonville on May 3rd. In 2008, Jeffries was convicted of being an accessory after the fact in the murder of 20 year old Andrew Smoot. He was sentenced to one year in prison, and, shortly after his release, he was shot in the leg on Clay Avenue.
- Huntington Police have charged Walter Wendell Norwood of Detroit and Melissa D. Mahan of Huntington, both 24, on charges of felony delivery of a controlled substance and possession with intent to deliver. Both are accused of delivering 550 Hydrocodone pills at a parking lot in Huntington Tuesday night. Mahan also faces a misdemeanor charge of battery on a police officer.
- Members of the state Public Service Commission could issue a decision on the latest rate increase proposals from Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power by the end of June. Testimony is scheduled to continue on Friday in front of the PSC after a full day of testimony on Thursday focused on the proposed 9.5% increase that is the next phase of a four year rate increase plan. American Electric Power officials say the company has phased in the rates over a period of time so the impact to the rate payers in 2008 wouldn't be an 80% or 90% swing at one time. As part of the phase in plan, rates went up 12% in 2009 and 8.2% in 2010. If approved, the latest proposed increases will take effect on July1st.
- Micheal Wears, 37, of Gallipolis Ferry, a Kanawha County paramedic has been fired after being charged with allegedly slapping a prisoner who was in the custody of Dunbar police. Dunbar Police Chief Earl Whittington said Wears was one of two county paramedics called to the Dunbar Police Station on May 19th to check on a prisoner who had been picked up for intoxication. He said the prisoner started talking about having suicidal thoughts on the ride from his home to the police station, so officers called for paramedics. Whittington said the prisoner was sitting in the cruiser in front of the police station when Wears put his head inside the car to talk to him. He said the prisoner apparently said or did something that prompted Wears to allegedly slap him and pull him out of the car.
- West Virginia University is getting $5 million from coal company owner Chris Cline. The money will be split between the medical school and basketball program. The medical school's $2 million gift from the Cline Family Foundation goes for an endowed chair in orthopedic surgery. Department of Orthopedic Surgery Dr. Joseph Prudhomme will be the first faculty member appointed to the position. The funds also will allow WVU to receive a $1 million match from a state research trust. $3 million will be spent on a new basketball practice facility being built on the Evansdale Campus. Cline says he wanted to give back to his home state.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-26-'11
- Brushy Road - KY 881 - is open for one-lane traffic through the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. This will help the local residents travel for the holiday weekend, said Joe Stanley of Highway District 12. Hopefully drilling will begin next Tuesday to install the other three rows of steel. Barring any unforeseen issues, work will be completed within two weeks. District 12 maintenance specialists have cleared a rock slide which closed KY 80 between Elkhorn City and Breaks Interstate Park. Debris began falling Tuesday evening just before dark. The roadway was completely cleared.
- The Sierra Club filed a suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in London accusing ICG Hazard of violating the federal Clean Water Act and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 at the Thunder Ridge surface mine in Leslie County. The Sierra Club is seeking an order requiring ICG Hazard to install selenium treatment facilities at the mine and pay $37,500 in fines for each day the law was violated. ICG Hazard's permit for the Thunder Ridge mine allows it to discharge some pollutants to Lower Bad Creek and several tributaries, including Greasy Creek and Roundhole Branch of Greasy Creek, but the lawsuit says ICG Hazard has discharged selenium into the water at levels that could harm aquatic life and exceeded Kentucky's standard for what is allowed.
- A Franklin County Circuit Court judge has ruled that Attorney General Jack Conway failed to meet the burden of proof needed to warrant an injunction against Marathon Petroleum Co., the Ohio-based firm that Conway suspects of price gouging in the wake of recent storms. Judge Thomas Wingate denied Conway's request for an injunction on Wednesday. The ruling came after last week's hearing in which petroleum experts offered contradictory testimony about whether Marathon illegally raised gas prices in April after heavy rains caused widespread flooding. Conway had sought a court order requiring Marathon to reduce prices to levels charged shortly before the storms. Since Conway took the company to court, gasoline prices have fallen sharply.
- Friday will be a furlough day for most Kentucky state workers, the sixth one and last of the fiscal year. The General Assembly authorized the furloughs, which are expected to save taxpayers about $24 million and prevent laying off more than 400 state employees. Most executive branch employees are included in the furlough, but to keep necessary services available, some state offices will remain open or partially open Friday, and some exemptions have been approved for workers who provide critical services, such as police and medical personnel. State workers are also off on Monday for Memorial Day. The fiscal year ends June 30th. No furlough days are currently scheduled for next fiscal year.
- Governor Steve Beshear has signed an executive order extending the state's price-gouging protections an additional 30 days. Beshear announced the move on Wednesday, a day before the initial executive order implemented April 25th is set to expire. The executive order allows the attorney general's office to investigate complaints of price gouging on fuel, building supplies, hotel stays and other goods and services. The governor said many Kentuckians still are waiting for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA has declared that residents in 11 counties are eligible for individual assistance to repair private property, and additional counties are under consideration. More than 70 counties have declared states of emergency. Beshear said his executive order will protect potential victims from errant contractors and suppliers.
- Wednesday, a Lexington jury recommended Adrian Benton serve 27 years in prison after he was found guilty of complicity to commit manslaughter and robbery, among other charges for the 2006 shooting death of UK student John Mattingly III. Benton was also cited as a persistent felony offender. Raymond Wright pleaded guilty earlier this month to avoid a possible death penalty. Mattingly was the son of Marion County Judge-Executive John Mattingly Jr. and Janet Mattingly. Formal sentencing will be July 8th.
- Obama administration officials announced Wednesday in Washington that Kentucky and eight other states may compete for $200 million in federal educational funds in a third round of the Race to the Top program. In addition to Kentucky, the eligible states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and South Carolina. They could receive grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million. Kentucky lost out in the first two rounds of Race to the Top mainly because the state has no provision for charter schools. Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said Wednesday state officials have not decided whether to apply, but, If charters remain a key requirement in the third round, it might not be beneficial for Kentucky to apply. Kentucky still needs money to implement Senate Bill 1, the education-reform program that kicks in for the 2011-12 school year.
- Kentucky is reporting a decline in April's jobless rates in 97 counties compared with a year ago. The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training released new county-level unemployment rates on Wednesday. Despite the improvement, numerous counties still had double-digit joblessness. Jackson County had the highest unemployment in the state at 18.1 percent, followed by Menifee and Magoffin counties, both of which had rates above 17 percent. Clay County's rate exceeded 15 percent. Webster County had the lowest April jobless rate at 7 percent. That was followed by Fayette and Oldham counties at 7.6 percent each, and Ohio and Woodford counties at 7.7 percent each.
- Kentucky Utilities says it will ask for a $1.1 billion environmental surcharge increase beginning next year, which would raise customers' bills by 1.5 percent in 2012 up to a maximum of 12.2 percent in 2016. The surcharges are to pay for federally mandated improvements at the Ghent Generating Station in Carroll County and E.W. Brown Generating Station in Mercer County. KU said Wednesday it plans to ask the state Public Service Commission to approve the increases. The initial monthly hike would amount to $1.13 during 2012 for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month, with the maximum monthly increase $9.46 in 2016 for the same customer.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-26-'11
- It took the jury only about two hours Wednesday afternoon to convict Brandon Sherrod of first degree murder in the November 2009 shooting death of James Williams. The jury recommended mercy for Sherrod. Co-defendant Michael Serrano testified Wednesday that he went with Sherrod to shoot up Williams' house, but said there was no plan to kill anybody. He said Sherrod acted on his own. Serrano plead guilty to wanton endangerment.
- Michael Robinson, 20, of Huntington was arrested and charged with malicious wounding Wednesday afternoon following a shooting at 17th Street and 12th Avenue which sent Justin Anderson, 25, of Huntington, to Cabell Huntington Hospital after being shot in the arm. Police say it appears the shooting took place after a brief altercation.
- The state Supreme Court has sided with Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King in a divorce dispute with his ex-wife, Judy King, who claimed she was entitled to more of Charles King's pension than she had begun receiving following the divorce. Charles and Judy King divorced in 2003 after 32 years of marriage. Judy King, the longtime director of human resources for the city of Charleston, began receiving a monthly check for $961 from the Consolidated Public Retirement Board when the judge retired in 2008. She believed she should be receiving $2,547 a month. Charles King, who could choose to draw a straight life annuity or a reduced amount with the full benefit continuing for a surviving spouse, chose the reduced amount and named his current wife, Phyllis Slack King, as his beneficiary. As a result, his ex-wife was set to receive less.
- A group of Massey Energy shareholders filed a petition with the state Supreme Court Wednesday seeking to stop the $8.5 billion transaction that would make Massey part of Alpha Natural Resources. Documents in a similar case, made public Tuesday by a Delaware judge, show that Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield was prepared to provide Massey's now-retired and controversial chief executive, Don Blankenship, with a job as an Alpha consultant. At the same time, the records show that experts who examined Massey as part of Alpha's "due diligence" for the transaction found major problems with Massey's safety practices and the company's management. In the West Virginia and Delaware lawsuits, certain Massey shareholder groups are seeking to block the Alpha buyout as part of an effort to hold Massey executives and board members responsible for the Upper Big Branch disaster. Documents in the Delaware case allege the deadly explosion has reduced Massey's economic value by more than $1 billion, along with more than $165 million in out-of-pocket costs and $320 million in lost coal revenues. Massey and Alpha shareholders are scheduled to vote on the merger on Wednesday, June 1st.
- On May 2nd, ICG announced it had reached an agreement to be acquired by St. Louis-based Arch Coal for $3.4 billion. Between May 9th and 16th, ICG shareholders filed four lawsuits against ICG and Arch in West Virginia, arguing the pending sale undervalued ICG stock. Monday, individuals who filed those lawsuits asked Putnam County Circuit Judge Phillip Stowers to consolidate them into one legal action, including one lawsuit originally filed in Kanawha County that was quickly transferred to Putnam County. The shareholders are also asking that their legal action be expanded into a class action suit to represent the financial interests of all ICG shareholders. In two different legal petitions filed in Delaware, ICG lawyers asked that the lawsuits be transferred to that state, since ICG is formally incorporated there. The individuals who filed the four lawsuits in West Virginia want Stowers to keep the cases in West Virginia. Hearings originally scheduled to be held in Putnam County Circuit Court this week were postponed.
- The Utility Workers Union of America, which represents employees in Huntington, Weston and Braxton County, has filed a complaint with the state Public Service Commission asking state regulators to block West Virginia American Water's plans to lay off 31 employees, saying the job cuts will have a "severe and adverse" affect on water quality and service. West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan says the company remains fully committed to maintaining its regulatory obligations, even with a reduced workforce. A recent PSC decision denied $10 million of a $15.4 million rate hike request. West Virginia American Water wanted a 13 percent rate increase, but the PSC granted a 4.4 percent hike.
- Charleston firefighter 35 year old Paul Edward Young, Jr. is facing a felony charge after being accused of selling Suboxone to a confidential informant working with the Metro Drug Unit. Young, a 12 year veteran of the fire department, has been placed on administrative leave, with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine if convicted.
- Antwaun M. Winbush, 30, of Columbus, has pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute cocaine base. Winbush admitted that, in October, he was riding to Fayette County to deliver cocaine base to someone when police stopped him in the parking lot of Drifter’s Bar in Glen Jean, where agents seized 113 grams of cocaine base from a hidden compartment in the center of the car’s dashboard. Winbush said at the time that he put the drugs in the compartment. The person he was delivering it to turned out to be an informant for the Oak Hill Police Department and Fayette County Sheriff’s Department. Winbush faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine when sentenced August 25th.
- Troy McKnight, 31, of Columbus, faces up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine after pleading guilty to distribution of crack cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. McKnight admitted that in September 2010, he arranged a drug transaction over the phone with an undercover agent who was working at Smokin' Aces in Huntington where he delivered and sold 11 cellophane bags containing an eighth of an ounce of crack to the agent for $2,035 in cash. In December 2010, McKnight sold two undercover agents a 9-mm pistol and a .22 caliber pistol for $375 and received an additional $100 for arranging the transaction. At the time of these transactions, McKnight had been convicted in the Court of Common Pleas, Franklin County, Ohio, of felony attempted robbery and possession of cocaine. McKnight is set to be sentenced on October 17th.
- Harold Arthur Thompson, 21, of Culloden, in Cabell County, pleaded guilty Tuesday to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, admitting that in October 2010, he carried a Winchester 20 gauge shotgun into a Huntington store and sold it to an undercover agent. Thompson had been convicted of felony aiding and abetting the stealing and unlawfully taking and carrying away of firearms from the premises of a person who was licensed to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing and dealing firearms. Thompson was convicted of the felony two days before selling the gun to the agent. Thompson faces up to 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine when sentenced on October 11, 2011. Thompson also pleaded guilty to using a printer to make fake $20 and $100 bills and passing them at local businesses.
- Forty-two year old David Allen Carter of Lesage has pleaded guilty to participating in a contraband cigarette conspiracy, admitting he and co-conspirators bought about 273,800 contraband cigarettes, resulting in a $7,529.50 state tax loss. Carter faces up to five years in prison when sentenced September 6th.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-25-'11
- Some eastern Kentucky security guards have won more than $118,000 in back wages after Pikeville-based Appalachian Security Inc. had classified some guards as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act provisions. But, the U.S. Department of Labor found they were paid hourly and didn't meet exemption requirements from federal overtime pay. The agency found that 44 employees were mistakenly classified. The company agreed to pay the back wages and committed to properly classifying future employees.
- A jury recommended a sentence of 14 and a half years for Donna Wheeler after convicting her of manslaughter in the shooting death of her former boyfriend, James T. Sparks, which occurred last April at her home on Barber Branch in Johnson County.
- Lonnie Callahan turned himself in and his son, Lonnie Ray Callahan, was arrested early Tuesday morning after both were indicted earlier this month in the October 2010 murder of Norman Adams in Leslie County. Police say the Callahan's, along with three other men, beat Adams to death then sent his body on a four-wheeler down a hill to make it look like he died in an ATV accident. Troopers arrested Millard Miniard, 48, and Harold Pennington, 46, earlier this month. They are all charged with murder, tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse.
- Kentucky State Police announced Tuesday that Joe Ward, a trooper who died in the line of duty 38 years ago is the recepient of the Governor’s Medal of Valor, the highest honor that an officer can receive for heroism. While investigating an incident on the Pennyrile Parkway in Christian County in 1973, Ward pushed someone out of the path of an oncoming vehicle and was struck and killed. State Police also announced other annual awards, such as Trooper of the Year for Thomas J. Williams. Williams is being recognized for giving out 2,026 citations and for his work as leader of his post’s highway drug interdiction team. Bryan W. Whittaker was named Detective of the Year for, among other investigations, locating several embezzlement and robbery suspects who had fled to other states.
- A Fayette County jury deliberated 10 hours before convicting 31 year old Adrian Lamont Benton of complicity to commit second-degree manslaughter in the death of University of Kentucky student John Graves Mattingly III. Mattingly III was shot in the head after robbers invaded his home on Wilson Street on May 25, 2006. Benton and 29 year old Raymond Larry Wright were charged with murder after Mattingly's death and were to be tried together. Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty for both, but Wright admitted he shot Mattingly and pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of complicity to commit robbery as the jury was being selected earlier this month. Prosecutors have recommended a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years for Wright. The surprise guilty plea from Wright meant the death penalty no longer was a sentencing option for Benton. Benton's family asked the jury to have mercy on him.
- Tuesday, Fayette Circuit Court Judge James Ishmael denied a motion to move the trial of Glenn Doneghy, the man accused of murder in the death of Lexington police officer Bryan Durman. Doneghy, 34, is accused of deliberately striking Durman with his vehicle as Durman was investigating a noise complaint on North Limestone on April 29, 2010. Durman, 27, was pronounced dead at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital a short time later. Defense attorneys Kate Dunn, Gayle Slaughter and Sally Wasielewski wanted the trial, which is set to start June 13th in Lexington, moved to Jefferson County. They maintain Doneghy can't get a fair trial in Fayette or surrounding counties because of extensive pre-trial publicity in the case. Judge James Ishmael said the court's first duty is to see whether it can seat a fair jury in Fayette County.
- Hardin County Coroner William Lee is trying to confirm that the decomposed body of a man found in a home is the resident who lived there. Lee says all signs point to the man who died in November of a heart attack being 53 year old Stephen Moore, but identifying him through dental records hasn't worked and Moore had disassociated himself with family and neighbors. Lee says officials are "99 percent sure of who it is, circumstantially, but we want to be 100 percent sure scientifically."
- Council members in Lynch, in Harlan County, appointed 49 year old Taylor Hall as the city's new mayor Tuesday to replace Darlene Monhollenan who resigned, citing stress as the city struggled to recover from thefts that left it in the red. Monhollen had been city clerk before being appointed mayor last September. Former Mayor Ronnie Hampton had hired Monhollen to replace Kellie Maggard, a city clerk accused of stealing about $137,000 from the town. Maggard was convicted of theft and sentenced to 10 years in prison last May. Hall, a former police officer who was on the council, will serve until someone is elected in November. Hall said he plans to run for the full term.
- Campbell Circuit Judge Fred Stine has granted DNA testing to 59 year old William Virgil, an Ohio man who claims the results will exonerate him in the killing of a Veterans Affairs Medical Center nurse 23 years ago. Virgil is serving 70 years in prison after being convicted of killing 54 year old Retha Welch in 1987. Virgil's attorney, Linda A. Smith, the director of the Kentucky Innocence Project, said the ruling is the "first step" in proving Virgil's innocence. Stine issued the order Friday after evidence thought lost in the case turned up in the county's 127-year-old courthouse. Commonwealth's Attorney Michelle Snodgrass, who opposes any testing, says she hasn't decided how she will proceed, but she has until May 31st to object to Stine's order. Snodgrass maintains that, in absence of any new evidence, only people sentenced to death have a right to DNA testing after their conviction. Stine wrote in his ruling that "One of the fundamental responsibilities of any tribunal is to insure its judgment is accurate and reflects the true facts of the case." Items found for testing include a rape kit, Virgil's bloody shoes, and hairs found on Welch's housecoat and bathroom rug.
- The Republican campaign of David Williams and Richie Farmer for governor and lieutenant governor has a new manager with ties to the Tea Party movement. The GOP campaign has hired Luke B. Marchant, who was political director for U.S. Senator Marc Rubio’s campaign last year in Florida and now is a special assistant to Rubio, to replace Scott Jennings. Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, will remain in the campaign as general consultant and senior policy adviser. Former state Adjutant General Donald Storm will continue as campaign chairman.
- The master commissioner sale of The Crowne Plaza Lexington, The Campbell House that had been scheduled for Monday, was postponed until June 27th. The hotel is in default on its $21 million mortgage held by JPMorgan Chase of Atlanta. James Frazier III, master commissioner for Fayette Circuit Court, said the sale was postponed because several documents had not been completed, including a property inspection and a hotel audit. Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine awarded a judgment against the owners, Thoroughbred Campbell House LLC, on April 28th and ordered the property sold. The scheduled master commissioner sale of the home of John T. Kemper III, the Republican nominee for state auditor, was also canceled. Kemper and his wife, Susan, bought their home at Raven Ridge Estate in 2002 and were in default on their $1.4 million mortgage to Citimortgage.
- Charles Massarone, of Lexington, a graduate of the criminal justice training program at Eastern Kentucky University who has been on the state Parole Board since 2008, has been nominated to serve as a commissioner of the U.S. Parole Commission. Massarone is also a member of the Kentucky Corrections Commission, the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council and the Fraternal Order of Police. U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, who announced Massarone's nomination by the president, said Massarone's 29 years in law enforcement make him "an excellent fit" for the post.
- Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Robert King spoke at a symposium Tuesday in Washington where panelists talked about key education reform strategies shared by top-performing nations. Members of Congress, senior administration officials and others were in the audience. King is the former chancellor of the State University of New York and president and CEO of Arizona Community Foundation and has served on the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Education Committee of UNESCO.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-25-'11
- In the murder trial of 21 year old Brandon Sherrod, Rosemary Lacy, the girlfriend of murder victim James Williams testified Tuesday that Williams died, "All because of a joke." Lacy told the jury that a month before Williams was gunned down, he filled his nephew's baby bottle with beer as a joke, but Williams never allowed the toddler to take a sip. Lacy says Williams' cousin, Ebony, the child's mother, didn't think it was funny and pressed charges. Lacy said, on November 3rd, 2009, the couple, their children and a few friends had just finished dinner when Williams stood up to take his plate into the kitchen, and she heard gunshots. She grabbed her young son and ran upstairs to safety. But when Williams didn't follow, she went down to the kitchen and found him on the floor. Michelle Bailey who was dating a friend of Sherrod's at the time of the murder, testified Sherrod asked her to drive him and Michael "White Mike" Serrano to a church on the West Side. Bailey told the jury that, while she sat in the car, the two men walked down the street and then returned about 10 minutes later. Bailey testified that, when Brandon got into the car, he said, 'I think I hit him. I think I hit him.'" At first, Bailey says she thought Sherrod physically hit Williams, but as she was watching the 11:00 P.M. news with Sherrod, “White Mike,” her boyfriend, “50,” and another man she saw Williams had been shot and killed. Bailey testified Sherrod threatened to kill her twice if she said anything about the shooting, but two weeks later, Bailey called Charleston Police and sat down with prosecutors to tell them her story. She's been given immunity for her testimony. Sherrod's lawyer questioned Bailey's credibility, asking if she was certain it was his client that shot Williams and not "White Mike," but Bailey responded it was Sherrod who said "I think I hit him. I think I hit him."
- An administrative law judge has ordered Massey Energy and Peabody Energy to turn over information about coal mine accidents, injuries and work-related illnesses to federal regulators. The Mine Safety and Health Administration said Tuesday that Virginia-based Massey and St. Louis-based Peabody refused to turn over information it needed to determine if eight mines in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia should be subject to greater enforcement because of persistent violations. MSHA says the judge rejected Peabody's argument that it could withhold sensitive and private information. The judge ruled that complying with regulations is vital to improving safety and health. Massey says it was trying to protect employee privacy. Peabody had no immediate comment.
- During an arraignment hearing Tuesday, Hughie E. Stover, the former head of security with Performance Coal Co., pleaded not guilty to charges that he provided false statements to federal investigators following the Upper Big Branch mine explosion. In a superseding indictment filed May 17th, charges were listed as providing false statements to the MSHA Accident Team, providing false statements to the federal investigation of advance notice and concealment, cover-up and destination of documents in federal investigations. Pretrial motions will be heard June 28th in Beckley. The trial is set for July.
- A Cabell County grand jury has indicted 20 year old Cieasha Brown on first-degree murder. Police say Brown was arrested March 22nd after fatally stabbing 31 year old Lamar Jackson, of Detroit, in the neck. The incident happened on Rural Avenue in Huntington. After being stabbed, Jackson ran from the home and collapsed on the porch of a near-by house where he died.
- Candace James, 27, has been charged with felony child neglect after Charleston Police found her 2-year-old son near a west side convenience store, walking in the rain by himself, wearing only a soiled diaper hungry and dirty while James was sleeping in her nearby apartment.
- Monday night, Charleston police responded to a call of suspected drug activity at 601 Park Avenue on the city's West Side. At about 10:00 P.M., police arrested 26 year old Andre Lee after police found a 9 mm Ruger handgun illegally concealed in his pants pocket. Lee was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Police later discovered the pistol had been reported stolen. About 1:00 A.M. Tuesday, officers patrolling the area noticed several people hanging around on the porch. While investigating, officers found several rocks of crack cocaine on 20 year old Derrick Lamb and a stolen 9 mm handgun lying in a charcoal grill. Lamb was arrested and charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to deliver. Justin Cousins, 19, of Charleston, attempted to interfere with the investigation. Cousins was arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer. In March, Lamb was arrested and charged with fleeing from police and wanton endangerment for his alleged part in a drive-by shooting on the East End.
- A machine developed by Clark International Logistics in Poca will be shipped overseas. Clark International has been awarded a U.S. Government contract to refurbish the tracks of 300 armored personnel vehicles in Beirut, Lebanon. The price tag of the contract is more than $5 million. Part of the work will be done in Putnam County, but the majority will take place in Lebanon. After the 300 vehicles are done there are 900 more up for grabs. The company has a year to complete the contract.
- The town of Marmet has agreed to pay a $56,010 fine for dumping sewage on a hillside for 29 days. Mayor Bill Pauley signed the proposed settlement with the state Department of Environmental Protection on April 15, 2011. The violations stem from a pump outage at a sewage lift station last year. Marmet reported the lift station outage on March 12, 2010, but it wasn't fixed when DEP personnel visited the site on March 15th. The DEP says Marmet has corrected the problem. A final settlement is subject to public comments received by June 25th.
Monday, May 23, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-24-'11
- A murder trial started Monday for Donna Wheeler, a Johnson County woman charged with murder in the April 2010 shooting death of her former boyfriend, James T. Sparks. Johnson County Sheriff Deputies testified Wheeler admitted she shot Sparks, several rounds were fired from the gun and there was a smell of alcohol and beer cans at the house. Deputies responded to a 9-1-1 call of shots fired at Wheeler's home on Barber Branch. The first deputy on scene says he found Sparks dead outside the home, next to the front porch. He had been shot in the back. Defense attorneys pointed out that there had several police reports for problems at the house between Wheeler and Sparks. The trial resumes Tuesday.
- Former State Representative J.M. Salyers, who was a veteran and worked in the Perry County School System for many years, died at his home in Bulan Friday at the age of 83. The funeral is Tuesday at noon at Maggard's Mountain View Chapel in Hazard.
- Seventy-nine men and two women have reported to the Kentucky State Police Academy in Frankfort to begin a rigorous, 23-week training program that tests mind, body and spirit. It will be a challenge for each one and some will drop out along the way. Those who complete the course will earn the right to wear the distinctive gray uniform and hat of a Kentucky State Trooper. Physical testing started almost immediately with bench press requirements, sit ups, pushups, a 300 meter run and a one-and-a-half mile run. Historically, 20 percent of the cadets do not complete the program. Among the recruits, 18 have prior law enforcement experience and 13 have military experience. Twenty-seven have bachelor's degrees and 10 have associate degrees. The cadets are tentatively scheduled to graduate on October 30, 2011.
- Democratic Governor Steve Beshear released the first television ad of the general election campaign Monday, less than a week after Republican voters chose state Senate President David Williams to oppose him in November. The ad features Beshear and his wife, Jane, speaking from a park bench in his hometown of Dawson Springs. "We see families struggling in towns just like this all across Kentucky," Jane Beshear said in the 30-second spot. "That's why I'm working to create jobs and to make Frankfort live within its means," the governor added. Senate President David Williams, who has run TV spots for the past three months in a three-way race for the GOP nomination, will have to replenish his bank account before he can begin running TV spots again. All of the spots Williams ran during the primary campaign were similar to Beshear's first ad, identifying him as a candidate who cares deeply for Kentucky. Both are from small Kentucky towns, and both went on to become lawyers and leading political figures in the state. In the ad, Beshear touts his small-town upbringing and reminds voters his father and grandfather were preachers, a theme he used throughout the 2007 campaign. The ad shows townsfolk walking in the background while Jane Beshear offers a warm endorsement of her husband of more than 40 years. "Steve tries to bring people together," she said. The governor then said, "But I'll take on anyone to do what's best for Kentucky."
- Attorney Jack Conway has named Patrick Hughes, a former attorney in the Department of Financial Institutions, to become chief deputy attorney general on June 1st. Hughes will leave a private practice where his primary areas of concentration include banking, real estate and corporate law to take the position. Hughes, who has a law degree from the University of Kentucky, served as a senior staff member in the Finance and Administration Cabinet from 1995 to 1997.
- Waiting for her arraignment at Louisville Metro Corrections Monday morning, 28 year old Mollie Shouse said little as she stood before Jefferson District Judge Angela McCormick Bisig on charges of murder, possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. Her 2 year old son, Kenton Brown, died Saturday after being left in a car for several hours. A not guilty plea was entered for Shouse, and Bisig set a bond of $250,000. Another hearing is scheduled for June 2nd. The temperature reached 85 degrees by midafternoon Saturday in the Louisville area. The preliminary cause of Kenton's death is consistent with environmental hyperthermia. Hyperthermia, often referred to as “heat stroke,” occurs when a body's temperature is overloaded by heat. Children are at increased risk for hyperthermia because their small bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult's.
- State offices will be closed on Friday, May 27th, as part of the state’s budget balancing plan to furlough state government workers a total of six days in Fiscal Year 2011, as authorized by the 2010-12 biennial budget passed by the General Assembly. The furloughs are estimated to save taxpayers approximately $24 million, as well as prevent laying off more than 400 state employees. The savings generated help close a $131 million gap in the state budget in the fiscal year that ends June 30th. State offices will also be closed on Monday, May 30th, in observance of Memorial Day.
- Kentucky officials launched a campaign Monday to help keep children from being killed or injured from being left in a hot vehicle. Safe Kids USA says last year was the worst on record in terms of children dying in the U.S. after being left unattended in vehicles. A total of 49 children between the ages of 2 months and 6 years died from vehicular hyperthermia in 2010. The organization recommends leaving a purse or briefcase in the back seat of the vehicle or setting a cell phone alarm as a reminder when a child is in the car and says to leave car doors locked when you're not around so kids won't climb inside to play.
- State records show the number of juveniles being incarcerated in Kentucky has decreased for three consecutive years. Statistics from the state Department of Juvenile Justice and Kentucky Youth Advocates show a total of 7,100 juveniles were incarcerated in 2010, down from 8,883 incarcerations in 2009, 9,834 in 2008 and 11,299 in 2007. The number of status offenders being put in detention also has declined. Status offenses are those that adults could not be charged with, such as truancy or being unruly. There were 1,541 bookings last year, compared with 1,765 in 2009, 2,020 bookings in 2008 and 2,340 bookings in 2007.
- Bendrea Wilson, 33, the former office manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass pleaded guilty Monday to bank fraud for cashing $435,837 in checks on the organization's account. Wilson admitted she issued 142 fraudulent checks to other people from 2008 through October 2009, and she would keep much of the cash, once in a while paying smaller amounts to those who cashed the checks at Central Bank. According to the plea agreement, Wilson would telephone the Big Brothers' bookkeeper at Stivers and Co., an accounting firm hired by the agency, and authorize checks payable to third parties. Wilson would pick up the checks from Stivers and forge the signatures of Big Brothers board members who could sign checks. Wilson would give the checks to the third parties, who would cash them. Some of the third parties did legitimate work for Big Brothers Big Sisters, but the work didn't warrant the amounts noted on the checks. Wilson faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $1 million and up to five years of supervised release when sentenced August 25th. However, the plea agreement indicates the fact that restitution is due to Big Brothers may be taken into account, along with "the defendant's acceptance of responsibility," among other factors.
- Preliminary statistics indicate that eight people died in eight separate crashes on Kentucky roadways from Monday, May 16th, through Sunday, May 22, 2011. Five of the fatalities involved motor vehicles and three of the victims were not wearing seat belts. Through May 22nd, preliminary statistics indicate that 228 people have lost their lives on Kentucky roadways during 2011. This is sixteen less fatalities than reported for the same time period in 2010. There have been 186 motor vehicle fatalities and 111 of those victims were not wearing seat belts. A total of thirty-three fatalities have resulted from crashes involving the suspected use of alcohol.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-24-'11
- A first-degree murder trial got underway Monday for 20 year old Brandon Sherrod of Charleston who police say murdered 19 year old James Williams on November 3, 2009 when he shot through a kitchen window of a home on Grant Street. Police say Brandon Sherrod, known on the street as "Young Gunna," had an ongoing dispute with James "Baby Goon" Williams. During opening statements, defense lawyer Edward Bullman said Sherrod had no motive to kill Williams. Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said Williams, who was standing in the kitchen window of the home preparing dinner, never saw it coming as Sherrod pointed and aimed his weapon at him and fired four or five shots, one of the bullets stricking Williams in the chest, killing him almost instantly. Bullman didn't dispute that Sherrod and another man, Michael "White Mike" Serrano, were at the home that evening. But he said Sherrod and Williams were good friends. "Sherrod doesn't have a dog in this fight," Bullman said. Bullman said Serrano and several other men had traveled to West Virginia from New York City to celebrate the birthday of an incarcerated friend's baby, and they were upset with Williams for allegedly pouring beer into the baby's bottle, and were looking to retaliate. Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said, on the day of the shooting, Sherrod and Serrano crept to the back of Williams' house. Serrano was carrying a 9 mm handgun and is prepared to testify that the men were looking to shoot up the house to "send a message." Akers said Sherrod had recently bought a new .40-caliber gun and was looking for an opportunity to test the weapon. The original criminal complaint against Sherrod says that when he and Serrano got into their car and drove away, Sherrod said, "I dropped him with my first shot."
- Robert Butterworth, 19, of Charleston, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine when sentenced August 24th. Butterworth pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to aiding and abetting the distribution of Oxycodone, admitting he arranged the sale of 50 Oxycodone tablets to a confidential informant. He was arrested during the transaction.
- Fred Hammon was sentenced to five years in prison Monday morning after pleading guilty in April to wanton endangerment and having a gun on school property. Hammon and another man, Anthony Randolph were arrested in September following a fight in the parking lot at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes. Investigators say it ended with Hammon firing several shots. Randolph pleaded guilty to battery for hitting two people with brass knuckles. He will be sentenced June 1st.
- Police say Edward Dwayne Booker, 54, of St. Albans got into an argument with family members Saturday night and started waving a knife around. Capt. James Agee of the St. Albans Police Department says Booker chased his niece, Ashley Booker, 20, with the knife and had her by the hair when the girl's brother intervened and tried to take the knife. Edward Booker was wounded in the hand during the struggle. Edward Booker was charged with domestic battery and brandishing a weapon.
- MSHA announced Monday that a judge had upheld the agency's order against Patriot Coal Company’s Pine Ridge Coal Co. LLC. In addition, a fine against the company was tripled to $6,000. Officials say Pine Ridge Coal, which has had a history of roof falls, waited four days to notify MSHA of the Big Mountain Number 16 mine roof collapse and notified the agency only after the fall was discovered by an MSHA inspector. The company was found in violation of a law which requires operators to notify MSHA of any reportable roof falls within no more than 15 minutes once the operator knows, or should know, that an accident has occurred. The judge found that the roof fall impaired ventilation and blocked passage at the mine.
- West Virginia has a new mine rescue tool. The state Office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training teamed up with Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College to purchase a large chassis truck called Sat-Com 1, a mine disaster command center on wheels. The truck is going to have four gas analysis labs where the command center is set up. It will allow officials to do a gas analysis within 15 minutes. The radio communications will be for any of the mine rescue teams, the fire departments and the ambulance services. David Hurley, with with Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, will be the man behind the wheel if and when the vehicle gets called out to a mine rescue. Sat-Com 1 can determine if it's safe for rescue teams to enter a mine. Hurley says no matter where in the state Sat-Com 1 is parked, as long as you can see the sky, the truck will have crystal clear contact with anyone in the world. Sat-Com 1 is just a shell at the moment. It heads to Georgia in a couple weeks to be fully transformed into a rescue-ready command center and lab. Hurley says outfitting the vehicle will only take a couple weeks and then it will be on-call 24/7 out of the SWVCTC's Logan campus. The truck will be made available to other states if a mine disaster strikes.
- Swipe fees are what banks and card companies charge retailers when they use a credit card or debit card to buy something. Charleston business owners say swipe reforms are needed now, and they want the Federal Reserve to be able to limit how much is charged for each transaction. Business owners say, when 13% of swipe fee revenues go toward the operating costs of processing the transaction, that equates to nearly an 800% markup. Jay Cipoletti, co-owner of Blossom Dairy in Charleston, has been to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the swipe fee reforms. To address complaints, the Federal Reserve has proposed setting the limit at 12 cents per transaction, compared with the current average of 44 cents. That cap had been scheduled to take effect in July. Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito says she is not sure all bank costs, including those for anti-fraud measures, have been factored into the 12 cent swipe fee amount. Capito has proposed delaying the implementation of the limit for a year until a full review of the impact is completed.
- Kanawha County Schools Director of Child Nutrition Programs Gary Cochran says thousands of Kanawha County students owe nearly $2.3 million in lunch accounts, but there's little the school board can do to collect the money. Cochran expects that number to fall significantly before schools let out for the summer, but he says some students won't pay, leaving the school board with the bill. Cochran says you have to serve the children, and state law prohibits schools from denying students passage to the next grade if they fail to pay. The school board currently gives delinquent accounts to a collection agency, but Cochran says he thinks that policy could change. Cochran says students who would qualify for free or reduced lunch aren't aware of it, and he says taking the accounts out of collections and having school officials deal with the bills could solve the problem. The school board is also experiencing problems with school employees. Cochran says 46 employees' accounts are delinquent in the amount of $11,187.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-23-'11
- West Virginia photographer Michele Coleman contrasted a rugged hillside with the refined skills of a cello-playing teenager in a contest-winning photo meant to offer a fresh perspective of Appalachia. Her photo took top prize in a contest sponsored by the University of Kentucky's Appalachian Center. It shows a high school senior from Marietta, Ohio, with her arms draped around the classical music instrument while perched on the hillside. Coleman, from Parkersburg, W.Va., tires of seeing old photos reinforcing stereotypes of Appalachia as a backwoods filled with hillbillies. Zak Pence, a West Virginia native who is a spokesman for the UK Appalachian Center, said he wanted to chip away at those stereotypes with the photo contest dubbed "Re-Imaging Appalachia." Contestants were urged to offer non-stereotypical representations.
- A tea party group in northern Kentucky wants to dissolve a regional planning commission that taxes property owners in Kenton County. The Northern Kentucky Tea Party is sponsoring a petition drive to put the issue on the general election ballot this fall. They say they don't think the commission has the legal authority to exist and are critical of its costs. Kenton County property owners pay $32 per $100,000 assessed property value a year to the area planning commission. Former Fort Mitchell Mayor Bill Goetz, who is chairman of the commission, told The Kentucky Enquirer the tea party's petition drive is "an ill-advised, short-sighted political move." The planning commission serves Kenton County and provides planning staff to a city in Campbell County.
- Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams is reaching out to a splintered GOP, hoping to pull together a divided constituency heading in the fall general election. With tea party activists still smarting from their candidate's loss, and some other Republicans defecting to support the Democratic incumbent, Williams faces no small chore. Williams and his two former opponents, Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw, shared a stage at state Republican Party headquarters at the rally Saturday. Moffett said he declined an invitation to speak to the crowd of about 200. Holsclaw offered no public endorsement at the rally, but she said afterward that she would "support the ticket." Despite clamor by tea party supporters, Moffett said Saturday he won't run as a write-in candidate in the general election.
- Two U.S. Postal Service sorting centers in eastern Kentucky are slated to close this year. That means mail from far eastern Kentucky will be routed through Charleston, W.Va., and will take an extra day to get to Lexington and cities further west. The closure of sorting centers in Pikeville and Ashland are the latest announcement by the U.S. Postal Service as it tries to save on operating expenses. The agency plans to shutter more than 20 small post offices in the state. The Postal Service says it is changing how it does business as populations in many rural regions shrink, Internet access grows and transportation costs increase. Sorting facilities in Bowling Green and London closed earlier this year.
- Louisville police say a 21-year-old man wanted in the death of a boy who was hit by stray gunfire has surrendered. Police say Roderick Moss of Louisville was wanted in the shooting death of 3-year-old Davion Powell on May 13. The boy was inside an apartment when shots fired outside hit him in the head, police said. The boy died Monday. Moss turned himself in at Louisville Metro Police headquarters around 5:20 p.m. EDT.
- The U.S. Justice Department is refusing to pay $750,000 to a Michigan insurance company for a Ferrari that was wrecked in Kentucky during a drive by an FBI agent. In a recent court filing in Detroit, the Justice Department says it's immune to tort claims when certain goods are in the hands of law enforcement. The 1995 Ferrari F50 was being stored in Lexington, Ky., as part of an investigation into stolen vehicles. A prosecutor says he was invited by an FBI agent to ride in the vehicle in May 2009. He says the agent lost control, and the car landed against bushes and a small tree. Southfield-based Motors Insurance Co. says the Ferrari is a total loss. The next court hearing is June 13 in Detroit.
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-23-'11
- South Central Regional Jail officials found 41 year old Matthew Jarrell of Terrell, Texas in his cell late Saturday night where they say he tried to hang himself. He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead early Sunday morning. The Mesquite, Texas pastor was accused of raping a Sissonville woman he picked up from a Charleston bar. Kanawha County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Jarrell Thursday and charged him with second-degree sexual assault.
- Bluefield Police are continuing to investigate a murder which involves their biggest lead, a Facebook page posted just hours before the body was found. Marcus "Swiss" McKinley, 26, of Bluefield, was arrested Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina and charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 18 year old Ayana Patton, the mother of his child. Police are trying to pin down exactly when Patton was shot and whether it was before McKinley made a post on the social networking website Facebook. Less than four hours before Patton's body was found -- McKinley wrote, "to the ones that dont know me go ahead and call names say what u like.. and to the ones tha kno me knows it was a reason behind it . . . one can only tolerate so much and the lord was my witness.. only god can judge me now.." Police say, in the days leading up to Patton's killing, several of McKinley's Facebook messages appear to be about domestic problems.
- The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $1.7 million in grants to two West Virginia agencies for job training programs for young people. The grants include nearly $1 million for the Southern Appalachian Labor School in Kincaid, Fayette County, and $704,000 for the West Virginia Housing Authority in Huntington.
- Senator Jay Rockefeller announced Sunday West Virginia is getting more than $1.1 million from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support the work of AmeriCorps in the state. The AmeriCorps funds will be used to help local nonprofit, faith-based and community organizations in West Virginia to recruit, train and place AmeriCorps members. Their work will support education, veterans and military families, public safety, health and the environment.