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by Kevin Osborne 04.23.2012
 
 
winburn

Morning News and Stuff

The sole Republican and independent members of Cincinnati City Council have called a special meeting of the group tonight to address black on black crime. Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican, and Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an independent, want their colleagues to allocate an extra $300,000 for CrimeStoppers, which offers cash rewards for tips leading to the arrest of suspects in crimes. Winburn and Smitherman, both of whom are African-American, say more needs to be done to help quell shootings and violence in Avondale and elsewhere. The special session is at 6 p.m. at City Hall, located at 801 Plum St., downtown. Smitherman also is president of the NAACP's local chapter.

Winburn, however, was part of a council faction that voted two years ago to dramatically reduce funding for the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). The program involves using “violence interrupters,” usually ex-offenders, to intervene with gang members and offer advice for leaving their lives of crime. City Council cut CIRV's budget from $861,000 in 2010 to $184,000 for 2011, which reduced the number of street advocates from 16 to five. Councilman Cecil Thomas, an African-American and a retired police officer who heads council's Law and Public Safety Committee, opposed the cuts and said CIRV needs more support.

The unexpected death of attorney and real estate investor Lanny Holbrook in January has led to an awkward legal battle over a promised donation to a Catholic high school. In fall 2001 Holbrook pledged $500,000 to McAuley High School in College Hill, in return for renaming a section of its building The Nancy & Lanny Holbrook Art Wing. A few payments were made, but Holbrook fell behind before his death. Now the school is seeking the $430,000 that was never paid.

A well-known Cincinnati chef who once had his own television show on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) was arrested in March for drunken driving. Officers stopped Jean-Robert De Cavel on March 16 in Fairfax. De Cavel refused a Breathalyzer test, and eventually was convicted of a reduced charge of reckless operation. He served three days in a driving program and got his license suspended for six months with limited driving privileges. De Cavel owns Jean Robert's Table, and is a former executive chef at The Maisonette.

Sunday was Earth Day, and Kemba Credit Union marked the occasion a day early by offering free paper shredding services at its locations in Bridgetown, West Chester and Florence, Ky. More than 100,000 pounds of paper were shredded and recycled, using special equipment donated by Cintas Corp.

In news elsewhere, George Zimmerman was released early this morning from the Seminole County Jail in Florida. Zimmerman, the man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February, posted $150,000 bail and left the Sanford jail fitted with an electronic monitoring device that the Sheriff's Office and Seminole County probation officers will use to keep track of him while he awaits trial on a charge of second-degree murder.

The trial of one-time vice presidential candidate John Edwards begins today in Greensboro, N.C. Edwards is accused of accepting more than $900,000 in illegal contributions during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to pay the expenses of his mistress and hide the extramarital affair. Edwards rejected a plea deal in the case, which would've required him to admit wrongdoing and serve some time in jail.

What liberal bias? President Obama received more negative coverage from the mainstream media than GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, according to a new study. The Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington nonprofit that examined 52 key newspaper, television, radio, and Web outlets from Jan. 2-April 15, found Romney’s coverage was 39 percent positive, 32 percent negative and 29 percent neutral. That compares to Obama’s coverage, which was 18 percent positive, 34 percent negative and 34 percent neutral.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to lure Far Right voters after losing narrowly to his Socialist rival in the presidential election's first round. Francois Hollande came top with 28.6 percent of the vote, compared to Sarkozy's 27.1 percent. It's the first time an incumbent president in France has lost in the first round. The second round of voting will be held May 6.

Syrian government troops reportedly stormed the Damascus suburb of Douma early Sunday, with soldiers shooting at an armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. A United Nations team of observers has arrived in Syria to try to get both sides to abide by a cease-fire agreement.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.17.2012
 
 
hunter

Morning News and Stuff

More than 17 months after the election occurred, officials finally are ready to count some disputed ballots in a race for a judicial seat on the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. A federal appeals court Monday upheld an earlier ruling that 286 provisional ballots should be tallied in the 2010 race between Democrat Tracie Hunter and Republican John Williams. Hunter seemingly lost by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table.

Hamilton County commissioners met with state lawmakers Monday to discuss their legislative priorities for this year. They include trying to restore some of the cuts to Ohio's local government fund and reauthorizing a countywide 911 user fee, which is set to expire soon.

Monthly customers at the large Central Parking System lot along Cincinnati's riverfront are angry about a provision involving Reds games. Parkers must be out of the garage by 5 p.m. on game days or their key cards won't work, subjecting them to an additional event fee. A county official said monthly customers can get 24-hour access cards, but those cost $25 more than the regular $100 fee. (Just call it death by a thousand cuts.)

Northern Kentucky University will make what it calls an "historic" announcement today regarding the schools presidential search. Various reports indicate NKU's trustees have selected Cleveland State University Provost Geoffrey Mearns for the job. Current president Jim Votruba announced last month that he would retire at the end of this school year.

Cincinnati officials have selected an empty industrial site in Over-the-Rhine as the location for a streetcar maintenance facility. The property is located on Henry Street, between Elm and Race streets. Based on an independent appraisal, City Hall has offered to buy the site for $1.4 million but the owner is seeking an unspecified higher price, according to The Enquirer.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. Justice Department is under fire for remaining quiet about problems in the testing of forensic evidence at the FBI's crime laboratory. Officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled, The Washington Post reported.

President Obama is being accused of ignoring a 2008 campaign pledge to impose a “windfall profits tax” on oil companies. As a candidate, Obama said he would tax large oil company profits that would flow back to families in $1,000 rebate checks, but hasn't mentioned the idea since taking office. An Obama aide told Politico the White House decided that it had a better chance at persuading Congress to repeal tax subsidies than enact the tax on oil and gas company profits.

Groundbreaking on homes fell unexpectedly in March, but permits for future construction rose to their highest level in nearly four years, Commerce Department data showed today. March's decline in housing starts was the biggest percentage drop since April of last year, although most of the fall was in the volatile multi-unit category, which declined 16.9 percent. Starts for single-family homes dropped 0.2 percent.

Australia has announced that its troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan nearly a year ahead of a previously scheduled 2014 withdrawal date. Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minster, said today that most of 1,550 remaining Australian troops in the nation were expected to return home by the end of 2013. The timetable means the largest force provided by any nation outside of the NATO alliance would leave Afghanistan a year ahead of the proposed December 2014 withdrawal date for all international forces. The United States currently has 90,000 troops stationed there.

A right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a gun and bomb rampage in Norway last year has called his attack "spectacular,” claiming he would do it again if he could. As his trial continued for a second day, Anders Behring Breivik, 33, called himself a commander in an anti-Communist, anti-Islamic militant resistance movement called the Knights Templar.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.13.2012
 
 
gun

Morning News and Stuff

A major roundup of people suspected of committing violent crimes in Cincinnati continues today. On Thursday, police announced they had arrested 30 people and confiscated more than 200 guns in raids in neighborhoods including Avondale, Madisonville, Price Hill, Walnut Hills and elsewhere. Cincinnati police are being assisted in the effort by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Police Chief James Craig said the sweep would be ongoing for the next few days. About 100 additional suspects are being sought.

A 52-year-old woman who hasn't been able to speak for her entire adult life has now found her voice. Jan Christian recently completed a series of seven operations on her larynx to restore her speech at University Hospital. When she was 17, Christian was in a severe automobile accident in which she was thrown forward and hit her throat on the dashboard. She also broke her neck in four places.

Kentucky has changed a law so Amish people can drive their horse-drawn buggies without committing a crime. Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows the Amish to use reflective silver or white tape on their buggies rather than the traditional fluorescent orange signs that makes the buggies more visible to approaching motorists. Some Amish farmers in western Kentucky had served jail time for refusing to use the emblems. They said the triangular shape represents the Trinity, which they are not allowed to display, and that the fluorescent orange calls undue attention to them against the norms of their religion.

In celebration of National Hug Day (yes, that's a real thing), several students from Xavier University will give free hugs on downtown's Fountain Square today. About 20 students will flock to the square between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., holding up signs that read, “free hugs.” Oddly, National Hug Day actually is celebrated on Jan. 21. Well, people always say Cincinnati is a little bit behind the times.

Two Kentucky men have been charged with a federal hate crime in an attack against a gay man last year, marking the first time the law has been applied in a case involving a victim's sexual orientation. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Lexington announced the charges against two Harlan County men on Thursday. A statement said David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins were indicted in an April 2011 attack on a gay man in an eastern Kentucky park.

In news elsewhere, U.S. and Asian leaders are worried that North Korea's failure to launch a rocket into orbit Thursday will prompt the nation to take some sort of aggressive action in an attempt to restore its honor. The most common fear is that the secretive, authoritarian regime will conduct a nuclear test, which could heighten tensions with South Korea and Japan. The botched launch was supposed to carry a satellite into orbit for weather observation, as the centerpiece of a national holiday weekend to honor the birth of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

As if that's not troubling enough, the Russian military anticipates an attack will occur on Iran by summer and has developed a plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic. Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to NATO, warned against an attack on Iran. "Iran is our neighbor," Rogozin said. "If Iran is involved in any military action, it's a direct threat to our security."

A United Nations team of military observers is ready to deploy to Syria to begin a monitoring mission as soon as the Security Council approves its mission, which could be later today. The team is standing by to begin overseeing a tenuous but apparently stable ceasefire, which is now in its second day. Protests in the wake of that ceasefire have broken out across the nation, and government forces have responded by firing into the air, reportedly killing one protester, activists alleged.

Apple Inc. is rejecting the U.S. Justice Department's allegations that it colluded with publishers over electronic book pricing, calling the charges "simply not true." The U.S. government this week sued Apple and five publishers, saying they conspired to fix the prices of electronic books. It has reached a settlement with three of the publishers that could lead to cheaper e-books for consumers.

The mayor of Newark, N.J., was taken to a hospital Thursday night for treatment of smoke inhalation he suffered trying to rescue his next-door neighbors from their burning house. Cory Booker arrived home when he saw flames and smoke from the second floor of the building next to his home, and no residents outside. Booker rushed in and his security detail followed. Guards rescued two people on the first floor, while Booker rescued a woman on the second floor. No serious injuries were reported. (Mark Mallory, you need to step up your game.)
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.12.2012
 
 
joe

Another State Ends the Death Penalty

Connecticut is 17th to abolish capital punishment

Connecticut will soon join the list of states that have ended the use of capital punishment.

 

In an 86-63 vote, legislators in Connecticut’s House of Representatives passed the bill Wednesday night. The state Senate approved the measure April 5, in a 20-16 vote.

 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk, probably sometime this week. A similar bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, in 2009.

 

Connecticut’s law is prospective in nature, and won’t affect the sentences of the 11 people currently on the state’s death row.

 

In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death penalty, according to CNN. California voters will decide the issue in November.

 

Other states that have abolished capital punishment are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

 

Meanwhile, a man who spent 21 years on Ohio’s death row until he was exonerated in 2010 will speak tonight at a forum in Clifton.

 

Joe D’Ambrosio will discuss his experience and why he believes the death penalty should be scrapped at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center, located at 328 W. McMillan St. D’Ambrosio will be joined by the Rev. Neil Kookoothe, a Roman Catholic priest who worked to get him released.

 

D’Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted of the 1988 murder of Anthony Klann in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County prosecutors withheld 10 pieces of evidence that would have exonerated D’Ambrosio at his trial and implicated another suspect in the crime, a judge ruled in March 2010.

 

D’Ambrosio is the 140th Death Row exoneration in the United States since 1973 and the sixth in Ohio.

 

This week’s Porkopolis column looks at a report from Amnesty International about the use of capital punishment throughout the world, and how the United States is one of the only industrialized nations that still condones the practice.

 

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.12.2012
 
 
cfd

Morning News and Stuff

It took awhile, but it's finally out. Firefighters battled a huge blaze at Rumpke's recycling plant in St. Bernard for 26 hours, finally clearing the scene around 8 p.m. Wednesday. In all, 150 firefighters from 10 departments responded to the fire at the massive Vine Street facility. Officials think a truckload of recyclables contained something hot that ignited the surrounding trash, although the exact cause remains under investigation.

Judge Robin Piper has recused himself from ruling on Ryan Widmer's murder conviction appeal that will be argued next week. Piper was assigned to hear the case in the 12th District Court of Appeals but decided to step aside because he is a former Butler County prosecutor. Widmer is serving 15 years to life in prison for drowning his wife in their bathtub after he was found guilty in his third trial. Defense attorneys have filed an appeal for a fourth trial, stating that errors were made that violated Widmer's constitutional rights.

Three students were caught vandalizing an anti-abortion display at Northern Kentucky University, and a fourth student later turned himself in. The students allegedly cut a display, erected by National Right to Life, that consisted of baby clothes on a line with a red "x" through every fourth one. Campus police have charged the students with criminal mischief, and college officials will hold a separate hearing to determine whether further discipline is needed.

Ohio's largest gay rights group isn't supporting a ballot initiative that would overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriages. A representative for Equality Ohio said he's concerned there might be problems with the language proposed by the amendment's backers and that more analysis is needed. The ballot issue would ask voters to repeal a 2004 amendment that says Ohio recognizes only a marriage between a man and a woman. Supporters must collect about 385,000 valid voter signatures for the issue to appear on the ballot. Some critics believe the amendment is designed to increase voter turnout among conservatives in a presidential election year.

A Butler County man who was convicted in the 2010 beating death of a baby alpaca is in trouble with the law again. Marcus T. Miller, 19, has been charged with receiving stolen property in Middletown Municipal Court. Miller was sentenced to 14 months in prison in January 2011 for his part in the theft and beating death of a baby alpaca from a Browns Run Road farm in January 2010.

In news elsewhere, media is abuzz about the second-degree murder charge against George Zimmerman that was announced Wednesday evening. Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. Although Zimmerman alleges he acted in self-defense, special prosecutor Angela Corey said facts in the case prove otherwise. Zimmerman is in a Seminole County jail cell, and will appear today at a 1:30 p.m. court hearing.

A Republican congressman from Florida told a town hall meeting audience that "he's heard" up to 80 U.S. House Democrats are Communist Party members, but wouldn't name names. U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Plantation), who made the remarks, is a Tea Party candidate first elected in 2010 and is being pushed by Sarah Palin as a potential vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney.

In a significant setback for so-called “ex-gay” programs, Dr. Robert Spitzer is repudiating his much-criticized 2001 study that claimed some “highly motivated” homosexuals could convert from gay to straight. His retraction occurred in an American Prospect magazine article published this week. Spitzer’s rejection of his own research, which originally was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, is a devastating blow to “pray the gay away” organizations because it eliminates their claim that homosexuality can be reversed through therapy and prayer.

Meanwhile, a new study has found a link between conservative ideology and "low-effort" thinking. The study's lead author, University of Arkansas psychologist Dr. Scott Eidelman, cautioned that the findings don't necessarily mean conservatives are lazy thinkers. "Our research shows that low-effort thought promotes political conservatism, not that political conservatives use low-effort thinking,” he said.

A baby that was born prematurely in Argentina was declared dead and spent nearly 12 hours in a coffin at a morgue before the parents, opening the coffin to say their last goodbyes, discovered the girl was alive. A health ministry official said five medical professionals involved have been suspended pending an investigation.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.10.2012
 
 
tiday cat

Morning News and Stuff

Workplace safety inspectors have cited six companies for violations in connection with the Jan. 27 accident at the construction site of the Horseshoe Casino. More than a dozen workers were injured in the mishap. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposed more than $108,000 in fines on the companies, which include such local stalwarts as Messer Construction and Jostin Construction. In a statement, Messer's CEO says the firm “respectfully disagrees” with the findings and will request a meeting with OSHA.

A man who was the police chief of Elmwood Place for 11 days is trying to get his record expunged of the five criminal charges that cost him his job. Jeremy Alley briefly served as chief in 2003, until he was caught using his police department computer to seduce someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl but actually was a police officer. Hamilton County prosecutors, however, are opposing the expungement request.

A billboard advertising a cat litter brand was recently removed in Over-the-Rhine after some residents complained that it insulted their neighborhood. Tidy Cat's billboard stated, “You're so Over-the-Rhine,” followed by “#lifestinks.” It was part of its “NoMorePU.com” ad campaign, which used the billboards to mention things in life that stink. Tidy Cat's maker, Purina, issued an apology on Twitter that said "We're sorry. Our billboard was meant to be humorous, but to many of you it wasn't. We'll take fast action to correct this."

Construction began Monday on a long-delayed retail, office and hotel project in Norwood. Developers broke ground on Rookwood Exchange, which will include a 15,000 square foot retail building along Edwards Road and a 230,000 square foot retail/entertainment/office building, along with a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, two restaurants and a parking garage. A legal dispute with homeowners involving eminent domain held up the plans for several years.

Local ticket scalpers, who are licensed by the city, are upset with the Cincinnati Reds. After a counterfeit ticketing scheme on Opening Day, the team is urging fans to only buy their tickets from its website, or online at StubHub or TicketMaster. But legitimate scalpers, who pay $400 per year for a license, says the counterfeiters came from Atlanta and are giving them a bad name.

In news elsewhere, FBI statistics indicate that although violent crime continues to decrease across the United States, the killings of police officers are increasing dramatically. Seventy-two officers were killed by perpetrators in 2011, a 25 percent increase from the previous year and a 75 percent increase from 2008. The 2011 deaths were the first time that more officers were killed by suspects than car accidents and was the highest in nearly two decades, excluding those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds President Obama holds clear advantages over Mitt Romney on personal attributes and various major issues, but remains vulnerable to discontent with the pace of the economic recovery. Obama has double-digit leads over the likely Republican presidential nominee on who would do a better job of protecting the middle class, addressing women’s issues, handling international affairs and dealing with health care.

A decision about whether George Zimmerman will face criminal charges for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida could be announced today. Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said Monday that she won't present the case to a grand jury, which legal experts say means that Corey won't charge Zimmerman with first-degree murder, because that charge requires an indictment by a grand jury. In a statement, Corey's office stressed that the decision not to call a grand jury "should not be considered a factor" in whether Zimmerman will ultimately be prosecuted in Martin's death. If Zimmerman is charged, it likely will be for the lesser charge of manslaughter, experts added.

In related news, activists in Sanford, Fla., said the investigation into Martin's death isn't the first case involving the death of an African-American person that the local Police Department has botched. Leaders in Sanford's black community say police have repeatedly failed to properly investigate crimes involving minority victims. In the past three years, officers have been caught demanding bribes from motorists, fabricating evidence and drawing weapons unlawfully.

A psychiatric examination has found that confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is not criminally insane, despite a claim based upon an earlier assessment. Today's finding comes six days before the 33-year-old man is set to stand trial on terror charges stemming from a bomb and shooting rampage that killed 77 people last summer in Norway.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.09.2012
Posted In: Taxes, Public Policy, Sports, Police, Business, Courts at 08:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tickets

Morning News and Stuff

Buyer beware! Cincinnati police are investigating reports of several hundred counterfeit tickets to Thursday's Opening Day game. The Cincinnati Reds say the tickets were sold on the streets in the lead up to the game versus the Marlins. At least 47 of the bogus tickets were collected when people tried to use them at the gate.

Government, business and civic leaders are mulling a proposal to ask Hamilton County voters to raise the sales tax to help fund the operation and maintenance of the region's arts institutions. If a sales tax is proposed, voters could be asked to increase the current 6.5 percent sales tax by either one-quarter or one-half of a cent. Beneficiaries of the revenue might include the Museum Center at Union Terminal, Music Hall, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig congratulated 10 at-risk youth Saturday who are the city's first boot camp graduates. The students from Rothenberg School were formally recognized for graduating from the first official Children in Trauma Intervention Boot Camp.

A Pennsylvania man and two Illinois homeowners are suing Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank and six mortgage insurers, alleging the bank got "kickbacks" from the insurers in violation of federal law. Fifth Third had arrangements with the insurers under which they bought "reinsurance" from the bank, according to the complaint. From 2004 to 2011, Fifth Third received $54 million in reinsurance premium payments from insurers and paid out $4.9 million in claims.

A fraternity at Miami University is suspended from operations at the Oxford campus. Sigma Chi has been told to move out of their chapter house by their national headquarters. Officials didn't release details of the suspension, only stating it's the result of some kind of inappropriate behavior. Fraternity members have until Wednesday to move out. Let the speculation begin.

In news elsewhere, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq are criticizing U.S. policy toward their nation. They say the Obama administration is ignoring Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s increasingly authoritarian behavior. Since U.S. troops withdrew in December, Maliki has extended his reach to take on his political rivals, drawing accusations from Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities that he is intent on establishing a dictatorship.

Comedian and author Bill Cosby said in an interview that George Zimmerman never would've confronted Trayvon Martin if Zimmerman hadn't been carrying a gun, and that no neighborhood watch volunteers should be carrying weapons. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin — an unarmed African-American teenager — Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., allegedly in self-defense. “The power-of-the-gun mentality had him unafraid to confront someone. Even police call for backup in similar situations,” Cosby said. “When you carry a gun, you mean to harm somebody, kill somebody.”

Independent voters like President Obama better but feel ideologically closer to Mitt Romney, according to a new poll of a dozen battleground states released Monday. The survey, conducted by Global Strategy Group for the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way, examined attitudes of “swing independents” who express views of Romney or Obama that are neither strongly favorable nor unfavorable. In the poll, he led Romney 44 percent to 38 percent.

Syrian forces have fired across the border into Turkey, hitting a refugee camp, just hours before a United Nations deadline to end the violent uprising in the nation is slated to take effect. Five people – three Syrians, one Turkish translator and one Turkish policeman – were wounded inside the camp near the town of Kilis, according to the governor Yusuf Odabas.

Veteran TV journalist Mike Wallace, best known as one of the original co-anchors of 60 Minutes on CBS, died Saturday at age 93. The network plans an hour-long tribute to Wallace and his career on 60 Minutes next Sunday. In announcing his death, CBS lauded the brazen tactics that it said had made Wallace a household name "synonymous with the tough interview — a style he practically invented for television more than half a century ago." For the past three years, Wallace lived in a nursing care center and reportedly suffered from dementia.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 04.06.2012
Posted In: Courts, News at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
death-chamber-lucasville-123009jpg-86e918e4a3560490_large

Ohio Executions Back On

Judge rules state again capable of carrying out death penalty

Ohio can now resume carrying out executions for the first time since November 2011, after a ruling Wednesday from U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost of Newark.

In January, Frost halted the Ohio execution of condemned murderer Charles Lorraine in light of several slip-ups by the state in following its own execution protocol. On Feb. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Frost’s decision, ruling that the number of documented failures to follow procedure were enough to place an official moratorium on executions.

The failures to follow protocol were reportedly mostly minor paperwork technicalities, including not properly documenting that an inmate’s medical files were reviewed and switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection.

The state argued that the errors were minor, and didn’t legitimately affect the state’s ability to carry out humane executions. Frost, however, expressed frustration at the state’s failure to follow codes it had set itself. "Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms," Frost wrote in his January ruling.

Frost's ruling means that the state will move forward with the April 18 execution of Mark Wiles, who was found guilty for stabbing a 15-year-old boy to death in1985. Frost recently denied Wiles' request for a stay of execution. Although his ruling sided with the state, Frost seemed somewhat wary of the state's promises to reform.

Since the moratorium, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has allegedly scrutinized its procedural policies and implemented a new "Incident Command System," which sounds like an initiative for ORDC Director Gary Mohr to more closely micromanage the processes during state executions.

"This court is therefore willing to trust Ohio just enough to permit the scheduled execution," Frost wrote regarding his rejection of Wiles' stay of execution. "The court reaches this conclusion with some trepidation given Ohio's history of telling this court what (they) think they need to say in order to conduct executions and then not following through on promised reforms."

To date, Ohio has executed 386 convicted murderers. Click here for a schedule of upcoming executions in Ohio.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.06.2012
 
 
duke

Morning News and Stuff

Duke Energy lost its appeal Thursday that sought to get more money from its customers to reimburse the firm for damages it sustained to equipment in the September 2008 windstorm. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) involving the restoration of electrical service after the storm that was caused by Hurricane Ike. In January 2011, PUCO ruled to allow Duke to recover about $14.1 million of the $30 million it had requested. With revenues of $14.53 billion for 2011, we're confident Duke can absorb the loss. Besides, isn't that the sort of thing that qualifies as “the cost of doing business?” Buck up, James Rogers.

The Reds emerged victorious Thursday in its season opener against the Marlins, winning 4-0. Reds Manager Dusty Baker credited pitcher Aroldis Chapman's performance for helping put the team over the top. It was the team's first Opening Day shut-out since 1980. Players might have been buoyed on by the 42,956 people watching them play – the second-largest attendance at Great American Ball Park, surpassed only by a playoff loss to Philadelphia in 2010.

As might be surmised from the above figures, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade before the game also had one of its largest crowds ever. Organizers credited the turnout to sunny weather, a later start time and optimism about the Reds' prospects this season.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig is asking Avondale residents to help patrol the neighborhood as part of efforts to stop an uptick in shootings there. At least five people were shot Sunday night a few blocks from the Avondale Pride Center, police said. Officers have increased their presence in the neighborhood, but residents said they know the solution must involve a network of community members working with police.

A series of meetings will be held this month to give the public a chance to offer input on various plans for updating or replacing the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River. The first meeting will be held at 6 p.m. April 11 at Covington City Hall, with later sessions planned for April 24 at Longworth Hall and April 25 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. economy added a relatively weak 120,000 jobs in March, compared with 240,000 in February, but the unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent, the Labor Department reported today. Analysts had forecast a 205,000 gain in non-farm payrolls, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Some critics are alleging the Republican National Committee was actively helping Mitt Romney win the GOP's presidential nomination, instead of serving as an impartial arbiter of the process. The list of grievances ranges from “issues the party acknowledges are legitimate, to those that they dismiss as desperate fixations from Romney’s flailing rivals,” Politico reports. The committee agrees that some states that went for Romney jumped the line in the primary schedule, a violation of party rules. But it shrugs off other complaints, like that it undermined rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich by formatting a delegate tracking list to pad Romney’s tally.

An Iraqi defector whose lies helped spark the United States' decision to invade Iraq, starting a nine-year war that cost more than 100,000 lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, confessed to making up his tale to get U.S. leaders to act. In his first British TV interview this week, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi – known as “Curveball' in intelligence circles – admitted that he knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, as he had alleged.

A Florida woman was arrested after allegedly offering to have sex in exchange for two hamburgers off of McDonald's dollar menu. Christine Baker, 47, was walking on a Southwest Florida street last Friday when she was approached by a detective working in the Manatee County Sheriff Office’s special investigations division, according to a sheriff’s office report. After the undercover detective invited Baker into his car and the talk turned to sex, she said her fee would be two double cheeseburgers.

A British infant that essentially was born without any blood is being hailed by doctors as a miracle baby by her doctors for surviving her ordeal. Olivia Norton, who is now six months old, was born completely white because she had such a low count of hemoglobin – the chemical which carries oxygen in red blood cells – that it could not officially be classified as “blood.” She was nicknamed "ghost baby" and given less than two hours to live, but survived thanks to emergency transfusions.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.05.2012
 
 
reds

Morning News and Stuff

At the risk of alienating some readers, we have to say it: If you don't know that today is Opening Day, you're not a real Cincinnatian. The 93rd annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade begins at 1 p.m., and the Reds will kick off the 2012 season with a game against the Miami Marlins at 4:05 p.m.

Hamilton County commissioners want to help you enjoy the day if you're heading downtown to catch either or both of the events. They've lowered the parking rates today at the garages in The Banks district near Great American Ball Park. There are now 6,000 parking spaces near the stadium that will cost $10 for the day, down from $12 last year.

Just in time for the season opener, first baseman Joey Votto has agreed to a $251.5 million, 12-year deal with the Reds, the longest guaranteed contract in Major League history. The deal adds $225 million over 10 years to his previous contract and includes a club option for 2024, when the 2010 National League MVP turns 41.

Shortly after an independent assessment criticized her performance in the job, Hamilton County Public Defender Shelia Kyle-Reno has reached a deal to leave the position nearly a year before her contract ends. Until a permanent successor is found, Kyle-Reno will be replaced by W. Kelly Johnson, a former federal public defender who will work for free.

A recount is under way this morning to see which Democrat will challenge Brad Wenstrup for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt's seat in Congress. For now, the winner of the 2nd District Democratic primary is William Smith, a Pike County man that party leaders had never even met before he beat David Krikorian by 60 votes. Because the margin of victory was so small, Ohio's Secretary of State ordered a recount in 13 of Hamilton County's 222 precincts.

In news elsewhere, a new poll finds Google beats out Apple Computer in favorable ratings by 82 to 74 percent. The Washington Post-ABC News poll also found Facebook has a 58 percent favorable rating.

An important historical document has recently been uncovered and released. In 2006 an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice authored a memo opposing the Bush administration’s torture practices. The White House tried to collect and destroy all copies of the memo, but one survived deep in the State Department’s files and was declassified this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive. The memo argues that the Convention Against Torture, and the Constitution’s prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, do indeed apply to the CIA’s use of “waterboard(ing), walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement.”

Syrian troops have launched new assaults on rebels as an envoy of United Nations mediator Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus today to discuss implementing a ceasefire plan. Anti-government activists said several towns, including Homs, Deraa and the Douma suburb of Damascus, have been shelled. U.N. officials report the conflict has cost more than 9,000 lives since it began a year ago. The Syrian government blames violence on "terrorist gangs" and allege about 3,000 members of the security forces have been killed. The U.N. wants a truce deal by April 12.

A major Chinese insurance company said it will stop indemnity coverage for tankers carrying Iranian oil beginning in July, narrowing insurance options for Iran's main export that already are constricted by economic sanctions pushed by the United States. This is the first sign that refiners in China, Iran's top crude oil buyer, may struggle to obtain the shipping and insurance to keep importing from the Middle Eastern nation. Iran's other top customers -- India, Japan and South Korea -- are facing similar problems.

In lighter fare, an animal rights group is urging a pastor who preaches about the importance of marital sex to teach about how becoming vegan can add extra spark to the faithful's sex lives. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told The Rev. Mike Scruggs that vegans are less prone to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity than meat-eaters, and they often have more stamina, lower body weight, and a reduced risk of sexual dysfunction. People who choose vegan meals are also following God's call to mercy, PETA added, as plant-based meals save animals from immense suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses.
 
 

 

 

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by Nick Swartsell 12.09.2014 10 days ago
Posted In: News, Courts at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
hunter

Democrats to Judge: Defer Hunter's Sentence

Former juvenile court judge faces six months in prison

The court case is over, but issues of race and politics that made it so contentious continue swirling.

 

Hamilton County Judge Norbert Nadel sentenced former Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter to six months in jail and a year of probation Dec. 5 after she was convicted on one of nine felony counts last month. Hunter asked Nadel to defer her prison sentence until an appeal of her conviction had gone through. Nadel denied that request today and Hunter will most likely be behind bars soon.


Some say justice has been served, but others say the penalty is too harsh and premature. A letter signed by 56 people including many area Democrat leaders to Nadel Dec. 8 asked the judge to defer Hunter’s sentence until after her appeal is heard. The letter says Hunter’s appeal is made on “substantial grounds” and points out that if she goes to jail now and is latter vindicated, it will be a “pyrrhic victory” because she will have already served her sentence by that time. The letter cites the fact Hunter has no previous record and did not stand to gain financially from the crime.

 

It also points out the racial tension over the case and connects it to larger issues of race relations in the region and around the country, as anger continues over recent police killings of unarmed black men and a refusal by grand juries to indict officers in those cases.

 

“All across the country, serious questions of trust are being raised about the fairness of our justice system in dealing with matters involving race,” said the letter sent by the Hamilton County Democratic Party and signed by Chairman Tim Burke, State Senator elect Cecil Thomas, State Rep. Alicia Reece and other notable party members. “To sentence to jail the only African American to ever be elected to our juvenile court, and one of the very few African Americans to ever be elected in a contested county-wide election in Hamilton County … will only deepen that mistrust. That is particularly true in light of the fact that other first-time offenders under similar circumstances would receive no jail time at all.”

 

Hunter was the juvenile court’s first black judge. After the election for the seat in 2010 went to her opponent by a very narrow margin, she fought a year-and-a-half-long court battle in order to get uncounted votes counted to prove she had won. She came into the position intent on changing a system where black juveniles are 10 times more likely to be arrested than whites.


Almost 80 percent of children arrested in Hamilton County are black, according to a November federal lawsuit by Covington-based Children’s Law Center against the county.

 

That resolve ruffled feathers. Among others, The Cincinnati Enquirer sued her for refusing to let reporters into her courtroom. Hunter’s methods as a judge were unorthodox and her opponents say often illegal.

 

After a long, dramatic trial, Hunter was convicted last month for interceding on behalf of her brother, a juvenile court employee who was fired for allegedly punching an underage inmate. Hunter obtained medical records on that inmate for her brother, prosecutors charged. A jury deadlocked on eight other felony charges involving fraud, misuse of a court credit card, interfering with investigations and forgery. She motioned for a retrial three times, citing three black jurors who recanted their guilty verdicts and procedural irregularities in the courtroom. Judge Nadel denied all three motions.

 

Critics like Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou say Hunter was quite simply a bad judge and that her indictment and conviction have nothing to do with race. Her stature as a judge only makes her transgressions worse, and she should be disciplined accordingly, her critics say. That means jail time for a low-level felony that usually only gets probation.

 

Judge Hunter is a judge and a public official," Nadel said after Hunter was sentenced. "Unfortunately, it may be a felony 4, but that is a double whammy."

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 11.26.2014 23 days ago
Posted In: News, Courts at 09:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
highway

Update: Protest Marchers Released on Bail

Some of the 15 protesters arrested during Tuesday's Ferguson solidarity rally were held after posting bail

UPDATED Nov. 28, 12:45 PM: Judge Ted Berry waived the tracking device requirement for the protesters today, and those who posted bail (all but one) should be released in the next few hours.

Original Post: Some of the 15 protesters arrested during Tuesday’s march through downtown Cincinnati in solidarity with Ferguson, Mo. paid bail the next day. But while most folks were at home enjoying Thanksgiving Thursday, they were still in the Hamilton County Justice Center because some county offices are closed.

The march drew as many as 300 people during its nearly three-hour duration. During that time, at least 100 protesters streamed onto I-75, bringing traffic to a halt for a few minutes. Police, who had blocked traffic in the northbound lane of the highway, ordered protesters off under threat of arrest.

Those who didn’t leave fast enough ended up in jail.

The protesters were held without bond overnight and arraigned at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Bond for the eight charged with shutting down I-75 was set at $3,000. According to Hamilton County Criminal Court documents, two of those arrested, Liz Cambron and Aalap Bommaraju, paid bail early that afternoon. But they’ll be in jail over Thanksgiving, and maybe until Monday, their attorney Joe Russell says.

Judge Melissa Powers, the presiding judge, deemed the arrested protesters flight risks and ordered they be fitted with electronic monitoring devices. But the office that provides the devices closed at noon today and won’t reopen until next week.

“I don’t undersand how my clients are flight risks,” Russell said of Cambron and Bommaraju. “They aren’t the kind of people who want to get anyone run over.” Cambron is a graduate student at University of Illinois Chicago, and Bommaraju is a health worker pursuing his PhD at UC.

He says the two weren’t acting recklessly and were merely exercising their first amendment rights.

The rest of the group arrested on I-75 look to be in a similar situation. Brandon Geary, Robert Fairbanks, Hilliard Herring, Zachary Lucas, Cerissa Newbill and Rhonda Shaw were also arrested on the highway and have been ordered to wear the tracking devices after release on bond.

Representatives with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts said they could not provide any information on the cases during phone calls earlier today.

Russell says it’s not necessarily the judge’s fault the situation has happened. Others, however, feel like the delay was meant to send a message to future protesters.

“The reason they’re still in jail is because the county doesn’t have the electronic monitoring devices available,” Russel said. He was in court Friday morning working to get the two released.

A vigil held Nov. 27 for protesters arrested during a Ferguson solidarity march still in jail after posting bond
Nick Swartsell

A vigil asking the court to release the protesters on bond drew a crowd of about 35 people Thanksgiving day, including family members of some of the protesters. "He didn't even know he wasn't going home," said Evan Geary, brother of Brandon Geary, who also posted bond. "My parents had to tell him he wasn't going home. I'm surprised my parents didn't come. They were very happy this was happening," he said of the vigil. 

Nick Swartsell

 Both Bommaraju and Cambron, along with others who were arrested after entering I-75, are charged with disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor, and inducing panic. That charge is usually a first-degree misdemeanor, but could be a fifth or fourth degree felony if a prosecutor finds that significant “economic damage” was done in the commission of the offense.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 11.25.2014 24 days ago
Posted In: Courts, News at 02:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rickyjackson

Man Wrongfully Imprisoned for 39 Years Thanks UC Program

Ricky Jackson says the Ohio Innocence Project was "instrumental" in his exoneration

Ricky Jackson was just 20 and fresh out of the Marines when he went to jail for murder in 1975. Authorities pinned the killing of Harold Franks, a fifty nine-year-old money order clerk in Cleveland, on Jackson and two of his friends, brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman. The conviction came on the testimony of a single twelve-year-old boy with bad eyesight and a confused story.

He spent the next 39 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Jackson was released last Friday, the last of the trio to be freed after that witness, Eddie Vernon, admitted he made up his testimony under police pressure. Today, Jackson was in Cincinnati to thank those who worked tirelessly to help free him.

“I would have walked if it would have come to that,” Jackson said to a packed house on University of Cincinnati's campus. “I wanted to come meet the people instrumental in saving my life.”

The Ohio Innocence Project, which runs out of University of Cincinnati’s College of Law, has been working on Jackson's case since 2010, digging for years to get public records about the case.  A Cleveland Scene article in 2011 focused more attention on the story as well. Since those beginnings, OIP has played a huge role in getting Jackson exonerated.

OIP was founded in 2003 to investigate and litigate cases where prisoners have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned. The group is made up of UC Law professors and students who use DNA evidence, new witnesses, evidence of police misconduct, and other information to exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates. In just over a decade, they’ve helped free 18 inmates who were wrongfully convicted of murder and other charges. Jackson is the longest-serving inmate in Ohio to be exonerated.

Jackson’s codefendant Ronnie Bridgeman was paroled in 2010, but Jackson’s parole board continued to keep him in prison. Jackson says parole boards wanted him to admit guilt and express regret for the crime before they released him. The only problem was, he was innocent.

“I was on the cusp a lot of times,” he said of confessing. “It seemed like, to me, the only way I was going to get out was to admit guilt. But there was a lot more at stake than just me saying I committed the crime when I know I didn’t. That man’s family gets no justice, I get no justice… at the end of the day I just couldn’t lay down with that in my heart.”

He passed the time by staying fit and helping run the prison’s horticultural project. He ran a greenhouse, something he enjoyed immensely. Still, the time was wearing on him.

“After my last parole board hearing, I was really at an all time low,” he said. “I’m running out of time. I’m 57. How much time to do I really have left? I hate to use this cliché, but they came through like a knight in shining armor. When I was at my eleventh hour, didn’t know what direction I was going to take… these guys came.”

Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project, says Jackson was steadfast in his innocence. He recalls first meeting Jackson at a recent hearing on his request for a new trial in light of witness Vernon recanting his testimony. Prosecutors were offering Jackson a deal — once again, if he would say he was guilty, he could walk free.

“He just looked at us and said, ‘I don’t need anymore time to think about it. I will not take that deal,' ” Godsey recalls. Prosecutors soon conceded that without their only witness, they had no case. Jackson was free.

There are challenges ahead, to be sure. He spent many of his formative years — when most people go to college, start careers, and build families — behind bars.

The OIP is stepping in again with assistance. The group has raised nearly $43,000 to help Jackson get a new start. They’re also fighting the state of Ohio to get a settlement for him based on his wrongful conviction. That could be huge — $40,000 for every year he was imprisoned, plus lost wages and other damages. But it’s not guaranteed. Sometimes, prosecutors fight against these settlements. So far, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office has not officially acknowledged that Jackson and the Bridgemans are innocent or that they were wrongly imprisoned.

In the meantime, Jackson says he’s not sure just yet what he’ll do. But he says he’s up for the challenge of building a life.

“It’s not difficult at all," he said. "Compared to what I just came from, this is beautiful.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 11.07.2014 43 days ago
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Courts at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Federal Court Building

Federal Court Upholds Region's Same-Sex Marriage Bans

Ruling preserves bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee; will likely to go Supreme Court

The Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday upheld laws banning same-sex marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.  

The 2-1 decision covers six cases in those four states brought by a total of 16 couples. Among them are Cincinnati residents Brittani Henry-Rogers and Brittni Rogers, who are fighting so both can be listed as parents on their son’s birth certificate. James Obergefell of Cincinnati is also involved, asking courts for the right to be listed on his husband Jim Arthur’s death certificate. Earlier, a lower district court found in their favor.

“We just want to be treated as a family, because we are a family,” Henry-Rogers said in an August interview after the 6th Circuit hearings.

Justices Deborah Cook and Jeffery Sutton ruled that the debate over same-sex marriage is best decided by voters, not by the court. Justice Martha Daughtrey dissented.

“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote in the majority opinion. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way."

The case is a somewhat surprising setback for same-sex marriage advocates, who had been on a winning streak in federal courts. The 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuit Courts have previously struck down laws in a number of states banning same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is now legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

"This decision is an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families, as well as with the Supreme Court’s decision to let marriage equality rulings stand in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio in a statement yesterday. “It is shameful and wrong that John Arthur’s death certificate may have to be revised to list him as single and erase his husband’s name as his surviving spouse.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine represented the state in the case. His office said in a statement it was "pleased the court agreed with our arguments that important issues such as these should be determined through the democratic process."

The decision leaves intact Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, at least for now. That’s created a split in federal court rulings among various circuit courts, something the Supreme Court will most likely have to sort out. Some legal experts think the Supreme Court will ultimately find same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The court has refused to hear appeals to lower court decisions striking down bans, leading many to think a majority of the court supports legalization.

Strangio said the ACLU will be filing for Supreme Court consideration. Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who represents the Ohio couples, has said he will be working to bring the case to the nation's highest court as well. Other advocacy organizations have also vowed to continue the fight.

“Now, more than ever before, the Supreme Court of the United States must take up the issue and decide once and for all whether the Constitution allows for such blatant discrimination,” said Human Rights Coalition President Chad Griffin. “We believe that justice and equality will prevail.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.01.2014
Posted In: Courts at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Federal Court Building

Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky Gay Marriage Ban

Next showdown will happen at federal appeals court in Cincinnati

A federal judge today ruled Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. But same-sex couples in the state can’t get marriage licenses just yet. 

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that a 2004 amendment to Kentucky's state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage violates the guarantee of equal protection under the law found in the U.S. constitution.

It's another sign that the tide may be turning in the region. The decision comes as a similar ban looks to be in serious legal trouble in Indiana, and just before an August federal court date that will decide questions surrounding the issue in Ohio and other states. Since February last year, federal courts have upheld the right to marry for same-sex couples 19 times.

The decision came in response to a challenge to Kentucky’s ban by two same-sex couples. Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James were denied a marriage license on Jan. 2013. They were charged with trespassing after refusing to leave the Jefferson County Clerk’s office after being turned down for their license. A jury eventually found them guilty, though the two were fined only $1. The two other plaintiffs in the case, Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, applied for a license in February 2013. The two have lived together for 34 years.

The plaintiffs and other same-sex couples looking to marry will have to wait a little longer, though. Heyburn has delayed implementation of his decision until after Aug. 6, when a higher court, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, will hear several gay marriage cases from Kentucky, Ohio and two other states. Those cases will be heard in Cincinnati.

Heyburn, who in February also ruled that the state must recognize same-sex marriages from other states, rejected Kentucky’s reasons for its ban. Lawyers hired by the Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear argued that traditional marriage helps ensure economic stability and a favorable birth rate in the state. The state’s Attorney General Jack Conway refused to defend the law on behalf of the state.

“These arguments are not those of serious people,” Heyburn said in his decision. He said there is “no conceivable, legitimate purpose” for the ban, which keeps same-sex couples in the state from enjoying the economic, social and emotional benefits of marriage. These include tax benefits, the ability to share insurance, the ability to adopt children as a couple and other rights.

The ruling continues a wave of recent decisions by federal courts upholding marriage rights for same-sex couples. But there’s still uncertainty even as the tide shifts. Most recently, on June 25, a judge struck down Indiana’s ban, allowing same-sex couples to immediately apply for marriage licenses. That decision was overturned a few days later on appeal, and couples who married in the three-day window are now waiting for a final decision to see if their marriages are valid in the state’s eyes. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.20.2014
Posted In: Courts at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
workers comp

Courts: Ohio Agency Owes Area Businesses Big

Recent decision says Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation charged unfair rates

What do the Cincinnati Ballet, Jungle Jim’s and the YWCA have in common? Last month, an Ohio court upheld a ruling that the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation has been overcharging these and thousands of other businesses and organizations in the state. Meanwhile, the BWC cut rates for other employers who were part of preferred groups, Ohio’s 8th District Appellate Court said.

Now an advocacy organization is pushing for the BWC to pay back the difference.

While the ins and outs of the rates are complicated, the underlying concept is fairly straightforward: Worker’s compensation functions as a kind of insurance for employers. If an employee gets hurt on the job, worker’s comp will pay for lost wages and medical costs so long as the business is current on its monthly workers comp payment. A lawsuit brought by some employers receiving higher rates charged that those rates were unfair, even forcing some employers into bankruptcy.

The courts have agreed. The appellate court’s decision upholds an earlier ruling against the BWC by the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

The courts ruled the BWC, along with lobbyists of some favored businesses, rigged workers compensation rates so that some companies picked to be designated “group rate employers” received what the court called “excessive, undeserved premium discounts” on their workers compensation insurance plans. Where did the money for those discounts come from? According to the court, from businesses who were not part of the special group rate. Those businesses paid almost $860 million extra on their workers compensation plans.  

BWC hasn’t started paying back the money, and head Steven Buehner told a Cleveland news outlet last week that the agency will appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. It has until June 30 to do so.

Buehner says the agency’s rates simply reflect the nature of providing insurance — that low-risk customers receive lower rates than higher-risk clients. Buehner said there isn’t some big pot of money somewhere that the BWC is sitting on and that it hasn’t cheated anyone out of any funds.

If the court’s ruling holds, the BWC will owe more than 100 Cincinnati-area employers $100,000 or more, including a number of nonprofits and arts organizations. All told, the BWC could owe area businesses more than $100 million. Progress Ohio, an advocacy group, has asked Gov. John Kasich to act and make sure the BWC pays the money back.

According to Progress Ohio, which is advocating for the employers in question, the BWC could owe the Cincinnati Ballet more than $300,000, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park nearly $150,000 and the Cincinnati YMCA $140,000. BAE, a British-owned security and armaments business with a plant in Fairfield, is the area employer owed the largest amount of money; according to the advocacy organization, the BWC charged BAE more than $1.4 million extra in premiums.

The Cincinnati YWCA is also owed payback — about $14,000. The organization told WCPO earlier this week it will be "thrilled" to get that money back so it can use it to help women and children in need.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.09.2014
Posted In: Courts at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mu rape flier

Ohio Supreme Court Orders Rape Flier Records Unsealed

Butler County judge acted improperly sealing files, court says

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled June 5 that a Butler County judge acted improperly when he sealed records relating to a 2012 rape flier posted at Miami University.

Judge Robert Lyons ordered the records sealed after a student at Miami University was charged with and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for posting a flier listing the "Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape" in a coed residence hall bathroom at the school.

When sealing the record, however, Lyons cited a law pertaining to sealing cases that don't reach a conviction, an error that he acknowledged later. 

The case drew national attention, in part due to the graphic nature of the list, which included pointers like "If your [sic] afraid the girl will identify you slit her throat." It also drew scrutiny for Lyons' unusual move making the records in the case, and thus the student's name, unavailable to the public.

The Cincinnati Enquirer sued to have the records released. After the suit was filed, Lyons allowed the student to withdraw his guilty plea. The state of Ohio then dropped its case against the student, and Lyons sealed the case again under the same law he had cited previously.

Misdemeanors require a one-year waiting period before cases can be sealed. Judge Lyons argued that this isn't the case for minor misdemeanors like disorderly conduct and that no waiting period applied. In a 5-2 ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court disagreed, holding that there is no such distinction.

The student left Miami shortly after the incident.

You can find the full text of the court's decision here.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.10.2014
Posted In: News, Courts, LGBT at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_gaymarriage_juliehill

Lawsuit: End Same-Sex Discrimination on Birth Certificates

Couples married outside Ohio sue over recognition on children's birth certificates

A federal court in Cincinnati could get another chance to advance LGBT rights if it takes up a lawsuit filed Monday that calls on Ohio to recognize the names of married same-sex parents on their adopted children’s birth certificates.

Civil rights attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein filed the lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples who married outside the state and an adoption agency that helped one of the couples adopt a child in Ohio.

“Birth certificates are the primary identity document in our society,” Gerhardstein’s firm explained in a statement. “Birth certificates tell the child, ‘these adults are your parents,’ and tell the community that these adults and children are a family. Medical care, access to schools, travel and release of information are all easily accomplished with birth certificates and are constantly burdened without accurate birth certificates. Forcing families to accept incorrect birth certificates imposes life-long harms and is a direct attack on family dignity.”

Although opponents of LGBT rights contend that allowing same-sex couples to adopt could hurt children, the research suggests otherwise.

A Boston University meta-analysis released in March found “children's well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.” Possibly harmful factors found in the study instead include widespread discrimination and the parents’ limited rights, neither of which can be blamed on same-sex couples. 

The complaint filed Monday comes on the heels of recent rulings that advanced same-sex rights in Ohio and across the country.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Dec. 23 cited constitutional grounds to force state officials to recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. That case came about after a same-sex couple in Cincinnati filed for recognition. The Republican-controlled state government, defended by Attorney General Mike DeWine, is appealing the ruling.

That ruling followed a June 26 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and requires the federal government to recognize some same-sex marriages.

In enforcing the ruling, President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday plans to grant sweeping equal protections to married same-sex couples around the country, even those who reside in states where same-sex marriage remains illegal. The Justice Department’s decision applies to courthouse proceedings, prison visits and the compensation of public safety officers’ surviving spouses, among other areas. 

At the state level, FreedomOhio is working to get same-sex marriage on the ballot this year. The campaign is facing some resistance from other LGBT groups, but FreedomOhio says it already has the petition signatures required to put the issue to a vote in November.

The full complaint:


 
 
by German Lopez 01.20.2014
Posted In: News, 2014 election, Governor, Courts, Mayor at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

Morning News and Stuff

FitzGerald picks running mate, Cranley opposes double dipping, Hunter pleads not guilty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Friday announced his new running mate: Sharen Neuhardt, a Dayton-area business attorney and twice-failed candidate for Congress. The choice boosts the ticket’s credentials with women and abortion-rights advocates, but it also reinforces support for pro-choice policies that upset many Republicans and conservatives. FitzGerald originally picked State Sen. Eric Kearney as his running mate, but Kearney dropped out of the race after multiple media reports uncovered he owed more than $800,000 in tax debt. CityBeat covered the gubernatorial race and how the economy could play into it in further detail here.

Mayor John Cranley on Friday reiterated his opposition to double dipping, even though he supports hiring an assistant city manager who will take advantage of the practice. Because Bill Moller is a city retiree, he will be eligible to double dip — simultaneously take a salary ($147,000 a year) and pension — when the city hires him in February. Cranley called the practice “abusive” on the campaign trail, but he says it’s up to City Council to pass legislation that prevents it.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on Friday pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges, including accusations of backdating court documents, theft in office and misusing her county credit card. The Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 10 replaced Hunter until her case is decided. The felony charges are just the latest for the judge, who has been mired in controversy after controversy since before she won her election.

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing an initiative for the November ballot that would embed “voter rights” into the Ohio Constitution. The Democrat-backed constitutional amendment is in direct response to Republican-led attempts to shrink early voting periods and restrict access to the ballot.

A propane gas shortage in some parts of the state led Gov. John Kasich to suspend state and federal laws that keep propane suppliers off the roads on weekends.

State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s failed Senate campaign sold an SUV totaled in March — effectively averting an insurance review that might have clarified the vehicle’s use and insurance status — shortly after questions arose over the continued use of the vehicle months after Mandel’s Senate campaign ended.

Secondhand smoke increases the odds of hospital readmission for children with asthma, according to a study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Google’s smart contact lens could help diabetics.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 01.15.2014
 
 
scott stiles

Morning News and Stuff

City personnel changes spur backlash, county seeks MSD compromise, judge indicted again

The latest administrative shakeups at City Hall spurred controversy after the city administration confirmed City Solicitor John Curp will leave his current position and one of the new hires — Bill Moller, a city retiree who will become assistant city manager — will be able to “double dip” on his pension and salary ($147,000 a year). Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that City Council will discuss the personnel changes at todays council meeting. The hiring decisions are up to Interim City Manager Scott Stiles, but some council members say they should be more closely informed and involved. (This paragraph was updated after council members called off the special session.)

Hamilton County commissioners plan to vote on a resolution today that attempts to compromise with City Council on controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. Both the Democrat-controlled city and Republican-controlled county agree the issue needs to be resolved soon so MSD can get on with a $3.2 billion sewer revamp mandated by the federal government. But it remains unclear whether the county’s compromise, which adds some inclusion goals and funding for training programs, will be enough for City Council. In December, Democratic council members refused to do away with the city’s contracting rules, which require MSD contractors to meet stricter job training standards and programs.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter was indicted on a ninth felony charge yesterday. The charge — for misusing her county credit card — comes on top of eight other felony counts for allegedly backdating court documents and stealing from office. In response to the first eight charges, the Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hunter as she fights the accusations and replaced her with a formerly retired judge, who will be aided by the juvenile court’s permanent and visiting judges in addressing Hunter’s expansive backlog of cases.

A bipartisan proposal would allow Ohioans to recall any elected official in the state.

Duke Energy cut a $400,000 check to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority for redevelopment projects at Bond Hill, Roselawn and Queensgate.

Sixty-two people will be dropped from Hamilton County voter rolls because they didn’t respond to a letter from the board of elections challenging their voting addresses.

It’s official: Democrat Charlie Luken and Republican Ralph Winkler will face off for the Hamilton County Probate Court judgeship.

Facing state cuts to local funding, a Clermont County village annexed its way to higher revenues. But the village has drawn controversy for its tactics because it explicitly absorbed only public property, which isn’t protected from annexation under state law like private property is.

More Ohio inmates earned high school diplomas over the past three years, putting the state ahead of the national average in this area, according to a report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee.

Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear says he supports legislative efforts to increase Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years.

One Malaysian language describes odors as precisely as English describes colors.

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