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by 01.22.2010
Posted In: Republicans, Courts, Family at 05:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

We're on Team Levi

The personal travails of Sarah Palin’s family life normally wouldn’t be newsworthy if it weren’t for Palin’s sanctimonious public statements and campaigning on issues like teen sex, abortion and so-called “family values.” With that in mind, watching the protracted custody battle between Palin’s daughter, Bristol, and ex-boyfriend Levi Johnston over their daughter holds the same bizarre fascination as driving by a car accident on the highway.

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by 11.22.2010
Posted In: Public Policy, Social Justice, Courts, Spending at 06:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Freedom Tour Will Visit Cincy

Ineffective. Fiscally irresponsible. Overcrowded.

Those are some of the words used by reform advocates to describe Ohio's criminal justice system. As part of its effort to publicize disparities in the state's prisons, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio will bring its Freedom Tour here on Dec. 6.

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by 12.13.2010
Posted In: Government, Courts, History at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

10th Anniversary of Bush v. Gore

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that stopped the presidential election recount in Florida and handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

It's difficult to believe that was already 10 years ago. And it's amazing still that A) the Supreme Court acted in such a blatantly political manner to step in and resolve a state election issue, halting a legal recount, and B) that Americans didn't take to the streets to revolt against the power grab by Bush and his Republican cronies.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012

Morning News and Stuff

To help avoid a $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education voted Monday to cut 40 staff positions for next year. The positions affected are central office staff and administrative employees. The board said some teacher layoffs are possible later, but it wants to see how many people plan on retiring after the school year ends.

A retired local judge told WCPO-TV's I-Team that his dismissal from a United Nations tribunal was the result of a “purge” because some U.N. officials disliked the reforms that he and his colleagues were implementing. Mark Painter, who is a former municipal court judge and appellate court judge in the Cincinnati area, served three years as the only American on a new tribunal that makes final judgments on internal United Nations disputes. But the committee that selects judges chose not to renominate him for a full seven-year term. Painter said it's because the tribunal made its decisions binding, but U.N. officials denied the allegation.

About 40 people attended an event Monday night at downtown's Piatt Park to mark Occupy Cincinnati's return to the plaza. As part of a deal signed last week with the city's attorneys, Occupy members are now allowed to remain in the park overnight as long as they are quiet and don't erect tents. Less than 10 people chose to stay until this morning.

In other protest-related news, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati gave permission for a Catholic priest in a Dayton suburb to perform an exorcism outside of a medical clinic that performs abortions. The Rev. Tim Ralston of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Kettering performed the rite Sunday at the Women's Med Center. About 300 anti-abortion activists attended the event.

Gov. John Kasich is trying to force out the leader of the Ohio Republican Party before November's elections. Party Chairman Kevin DeWine announced Sunday he wouldn't seek reelection when his two-year term expires in January, but Kasich wants DeWine gone now. Kasich wants to name his own appointee, and hopes to oust DeWine when the GOP’s newly elected 66-member central committee meets April 13.

In news elsewhere, public outcry has prompted the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain who escaped arrest. More than 435,000 people signed an online petition calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was killed Feb. 17 while walking home after buying Skittles and iced tea at a nearby store.

More details are emerging about the past of the Norwood native who is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting spree. Before he enlisted in the Army, Robert Bales' career as a stockbroker came to an end when a court arbitrator ordered Bales and the owner of the firm that employed him to pay $1.4 million for taking part in “fraud” and “unauthorized trading.” The client, Gary Liebschner, a 74-year-old retired engineer, told The Washington Post that he “never got paid a penny” of the award.

Meanwhile, the shooting spree may lead to Afghan President Hamid Karzai winning a major concession from the United States. Officials are mulling whether to modify the use of controversial night raids by troops and giving Afghans more oversight. The Obama administration is discussing options with the Afghans including a warrant-based approach or possibly allowing Afghan judges to review raids before they took place, a U.S. official said Monday.

JP Morgan Chase is closing the Vatican bank's account with its Italian branch based on concerns about a lack of transparency at the Holy See's financial institution. Italian newspapers reported JP Morgan Chase informed the Vatican bank that its account was being closed because it had failed to provide sufficient information on money transfers. The institution has been accused of tax fraud and money laundering in the past.

The man who killed four people at a Jewish school in southwestern France on Monday had a camera around his neck and may have filmed the scene, France's interior minister says. Police have linked the attack to two shootings last week in which three soldiers of North African descent died. The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks, they report. French schools held a moment of silence today to remember the victims.
by Hannah McCartney 11.12.2013
Posted In: Media, Media Criticism, News, Ethics, Courts, Police at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gannett Weekly Loses Appeal in Defamation Suit

Court upholds decision that the paper's 2010 statement was made with actual malice

A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge has denied the Milford-Miami Advertiser's request to appeal a 2012 ruling that charged the Gannett-owned suburban weekly with defamation and ordered the paper to pay the defamed plaintiff $100,000 in damages.

In an article published in the Advertiser on May 27, 2010 titled "Cop's suspension called best move for city," the paper implicated Miami Township police officer James Young, who years before had been mired in legal trouble for accusations of sexual assault that were eventually disproven, in its article discussing another sex scandal in the area.

According to court documents, in 1997, Young was initially fired from his job after a woman named Marcie Phillips accused Young of forcing her to perform oral sex on him while Young was on duty. An internal investigation revealed that the two had actually been engaged in a relationship prior and that Young had spent time at Phillips' house while on duty. The allegations, however, were entangled in questions about Phillips' character and concern that she could have been lying about the rape because the relationship between the two had recently ended on rocky terms.

When DNA testing on semen found on a rug in the woman's home proved that the DNA didn't match Young's, he was exonerated and reinstated to his position

The Advertiser article explained that Young had been terminated for sexual harassment, immoral behavior, gross misconduct and neglect in the line of duty and also stated that "Young had sex with a woman while on the job," which formed the basis for Young's defamation suit.

The 2010 article dealt with similar accusations lodged against Milford Police Officer Russell Kenney, who pleaded guilty to charges that he'd been having sex with Milford Mayor Amy Brewer while he was on duty on multiple occasions.

Kenney was suspended from his position for 15 days, but was later reinstated even though Milford's police chief planned to recommend his termination to avoid having to use an arbitrator to dissect the case.

Although the article is attributed to writer Kellie Giest, the lawsuit revealed that the paper's editor at the time, Theresa Herron, inserted the section of the article that went to trial. According to court documents, Herron added the paragraphs about Young to Giest's story because she felt the article needed more context about why the city wanted to avoid arbitration.

According to court documents from the suit Young filed against the Gannett Satellite Information Network, Gannett responded the to initial complaint by acknowledging that the statement was a defamation of character, but that the statement was made without actual malice on the part of Herron. There is a high legal threshold for plaintiffs to establish a defamation claim, which require the plaintiff to prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt; for public officials, the threshold is even higher because they most prove that the offender acted with actual malice — in this case, knowing the claim about Young was false and printing it anyway — to win a lawsuit.

In its appeal, Gannett argued that Young, as a police officer, did not meet the threshold of a public official required to successfully establish a defamation claim and that Herron's inclusions were based on rational interpretations of documents on the case — even though Young denied having sex with plaintiff Marcie Phillips, he admitted the two had kissed and the arbitrator's report documented one instance in which Young was at Phillips' house while on duty.

In the court's opinion denying Gannett's appeal, Judge John Rogers writes that Herron admitted she had read the arbitrator's report from Young's case, which provided no evidence that Young and Phillips ever actually had sex at all.

"There was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that Herron was well aware that the statement she added to the article was probably false," it reads. "Herron was also reckless in failing to conduct any investigation beyond the records of the original case. She did not seek out Young for comment, nor did she talk to anyone involved in his case."

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

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 German Lopez 04.10.2013
Posted In: Health, News, Budget, Courts at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling

Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies. The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47 percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided false information about the connection between breast cancer, infertility and abortion, among other findings.

The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum, effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic development.

With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime, poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth.

Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here. While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here.

Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton, campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting, McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as “unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile, recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election.

As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats.

Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.

by Danny Cross 05.18.2012

Morning News and Stuff

After 18 months in the courts, Democrat Tracie Hunter has won a Hamilton County Juvenile Court judgeship, but a GOP challenge to the court's acceptance of Hunter's challenge is likely to follow. Republican John Williams led hunter by 23 votes on election night 2010, but Hunter filed a lawsuit over provisional ballots cast at incorrect polling stations that weren't counted. After a recount of 286 provisional ballots, Hunter moved ahead by 74 votes. Republican board of election members reportedly plan to argue that the 286 should not have been recounted.

The Enquirer's Mark Curnutte today offered an analysis of recently released census data that shows a steady growth of the regional Hispanic population and a growth of minority population in areas outside the city that were once largely white. Cincinnati's data suggests that the city and region are slightly different than the nation's overall trend, which in 2011 for the first time found a majority of the country's under 1-year-old population minority (50.4 percent), up from 49.5 percent in 2010.

Included in The Enquirer's story, which included a profile of a Mexican-American Florence family that moved to Northern Kentucky eight years ago from Los Angeles:

A decrease of 1.3 percentage points in Hamilton County’s black population under 5 was countered by increases in the black population under 5 in each of the region’s six other core counties: Butler, Clermont and Warren in Ohio and Boone, Campbell and Kenton in Kentucky.

Overall, the regional population of Hispanic children under 5 years rose from 7,583 in 2010 to 8,032 in 2011, a proportional increase of 0.4 percentage points to 6.1 percent.

The family of a teenager fatally shot by a Cincinnati police officer on Fountain Square last summer has filed a federal lawsuit alleging police used excessive force and violated 16-year-old Davon Mullins' constitutional rights. Police say Mullins pulled a handgun, but the lawsuit says he had been disarmed before officer Oscar Cyranek shot him multiple times.

Cincinnati's Bike Month revelers and Over-the-Rhine residents received some good news this week when Reser Bicycle Outfitters announced the opening of an OTR location. The store could open by June 1 in the 1400 block of Vine Street.

Legislation regulating ownership and breeding of exotic animals has been approved by the Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, 17-4. Senate Bill 310 could get through the full House and Senate next week and be signed by Gov. John Kasich soon afterward. The ban on the acquisition, sale and breeding of certain species would take affect 90 days later.

Europe is preparing for Greece to completely duck out of the Eurozone. The world markets are feeling the pressure.

Mitt Romney has released his first general election TV ad. And he's giving cookies to the media.

Former Senator John Edwards will learn his fate today, as a jury was set to deliberate this morning on charges that Edwards used campaign funds to conceal an affair during his run for president.

More than 200 pages of documents, photos and audio recordings were released yesterday offering further details about what happened the night George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

The documents include an FBI audio analysis of the 911 call placed by a resident that captured yells and screams. Two FBI examiners said they could not determine whether it was Martin or Zimmerman yelling because of the poor quality of the recording and the "extreme emotional state" of screamer.

The AP is live-blogging Facebook's stock market debut. Why does Bono have so much Facebook?

Cell phone maker Nokia has accused Apple of programming bias into its interactive Siri voice search by making it answer the question “What is the best smartphone ever?” by stating “"Wait... there are other phones?" The answer had apparently previously been “Nokia's Lumia 900.” Apple won't say whether or not it changed Siri's answer after finding the glitch.

A new study suggests that nighttime fasting can go a long way toward keeping you slim even if you eat bad stuff during the day.

Scientists have found a car-sized turtle shell.

The private space launch is scheduled for 4:55 a.m. Saturday, and there will be alcohol involved.

by Kevin Osborne 02.09.2012

Morning News and Stuff

With 273 days remaining until the presidential election, some of our readers might already be getting sick of listening to the latest blather from the candidates. Still, a rather blistering analysis of President Obama’s recent actions at Politico is worth checking out. Maybe this line will pique your interest: “So much for the high road: Victory is more important than purity … He’s made a series of calculated, overtly political gestures that are far more transactional than transformational.”

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by German Lopez 12.26.2012
Posted In: News, Courts, Education, Budget, Spending at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

CPS helps rework school funding, cuts mean less teachers, judges against double-dipping

Cincinnati Public Schools seems to be playing a big role in reforming Ohio’s school funding formula. Superintendent Mary Ronan got a call from Gov. John Kasich’s office about the per-pupil funding formula CPS uses to distribute funds to its schools. It seems the state might adopt a similar method, but Ronan is cautious: “I do think it's one of the ways you could do it, a per-pupil funding, but I have to say, we were always tweaking every year ... because sometimes those formulas can be a bit off and any time we saw one school getting a lot more than another ... we tried to refine it every year over probably the 15 years we have used it.” She also notes schools are getting “bare minimum” funding right now. CityBeat covered budget problems at CPS here.

In general, state budget cuts have led to fewer teachers in Ohio schools. Gov. Kasich previously urged schools to focus on classroom instruction, but it seems the words aren't being followed up with proper funding.

Southwestern Ohio judges are clashing over double-dipping. The practice involves government workers retiring and getting rehired so they can collect pensions and a paycheck at the same time. At a meeting, Hamilton County Judge Melba Marsh said she wants to allow Magistrate Michael Bachman to retire and then be rehired so he doesn't lose a 3-percent increase to his retirement, which is otherwise being eliminated by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System after 2012. But the move has been met with resistance from other judges.

For Cincinnati hospitals, Medicare changes mean some loss and some gain.

The online campaign urging Macy’s to dump Donald Trump circled a “Dump Trump” billboard around Macy’s headquarters. The anti-Trump movement has gained about 680,000 signatures since it started.

On Christmas Eve, some spent time with family, while Butler County Deputy David Runnells helped deliver a baby in the back of a car during an emergency call.

Ohio will use $20 million out of $200 million in casino funds to train incumbent workers. Gov. Kasich says the program could help avoid layoffs.

It seems Mitt Romney's presidential campaign really thought they were going to win. In campaign memos leading up to the election, campaign staff said the race was “unmistakably moving in Mitt Romney’s direction,” and the campaign ridiculed the possibility of losing Ohio due to the Romney campaign’s “better ground game.” But President Barack Obama had a much larger ground game for one-on-one interaction, which is one of the factors former Romney staff now say led to their demise. But whatever. Romney didn't want to be president, anyway, says son Tagg Romney: He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to ... run.

Fiscal cliff talks aren’t going well. President Obama cut his vacation early to work out negotiations. If Republicans and Democrats can’t work out their problems, a series of spending cuts and tax hikes dubbed the “fiscal cliff” will kick in throughout 2013. But it’s looking more and more likely the nation will head off the cliff, considering U.S. Speaker John Boehner can’t even pass tax hikes on people making more than $1 million a year.

Ever wonder what dinosaur meat would taste like? Well, Popular Science has that covered.