The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 20, 2013

Midday briefing: 2nd sex assault report made at Pittsburgh psych clinic

News from around the state

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh police are investigating the second report of a child sexual assault this month at the Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic.

The newest incident involves a 7-year-old autistic boy admitted to the clinic on Friday. The woman says she learned Monday that her son was inappropriately touched by another boy.

Pittsburgh police are already investigating another incident on March 8 in which a 14-year-old male patient allegedly sexually assaulted an 8-year-old girl in a clinic playroom. Police say that incident was captured on surveillance video and they're still investigating.

A spokeswoman for the UPMC says officials take patient safety seriously and say they notified the latest alleged victim's mother within 2½ hours of learning about the incident.

UPMC also says some children at the clinic may "misunderstand the boundaries of appropriate physical conduct."

Pittsburgh officer suffers heart attack in cruiser

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pittsburgh police officer is recovering after suffering an apparent heart attack while on-duty in his police cruiser.

Police are not identifying the officer, who was working with a partner when he was stricken about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The officer's partner and city detectives administered cardio-pulmonary resuscitation until city paramedics arrived.

The officer was taken to UPMC Mercy hospital, where he remained Wednesday in the cardiac intensive care unit.

Armed man demands ride in Erie _ but nothing else

ERIE — Erie police say a gunman forced his way into a car and demanded the driver give him a ride across town — but nothing else.

Police say the incident began about 9 p.m. Tuesday just after the motorist paid for gasoline at a station.

That's when the unknown suspect got into the car, pulled out a silver handgun, and told the car's owner to drive.

Police say the victim drove the suspect to another location where the suspect got out, hopped into a sport-utility vehicle, and drove away.

Police say the victim wasn't robbed or otherwise harmed during the incident.

Councilman facing drug charges

STROUDSBURG — Authorities say a northeastern Pennsylvania borough councilman faces charges after he was caught buying heroin.

The Monroe County district attorney's office says Stroudsburg Borough Council Vice President Neil Lawson Allen was arrested Sunday. Authorities say an officer went to Kay's Tavern and observed a suspected drug dealer entering Allen's vehicle and saw Allen put drugs in his pocket.

Detective Eric Kerchner says ten bags of heroin were recovered and Allen was taken into custody. Authorities say the councilman confessed and said he started using heroin six weeks ago because of back pain.

There was no answer Wednesday at a telephone listing for Allen. Council President Kim Diddio says she wants to speak with the solicitor before deciding whether to take action to suspend him.

Allegheny exec criticized for resignation letters

PITTSBURGH — Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is being criticized for demanding undated resignation letters from people who are appointed to various county boards.

Republican County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh raised the issued at a meeting Tuesday night while discussing Joe Brimmeier's resignation from the county's Port Authority transit board. Brimmeier resigned last week hours before he was charged in a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission scandal dating to Brimmeier's former tenure as CEO of that agency.

Fitzgerald, a Democrat, says the undated letters are a way of ensuring county appointees follow the policies of the elected officials who appoint them.

But Heidelbaugh says the letters, in effect, give Fitzgerald the power to fire the appointees which she says is illegal and also damages the supposed independence of such appointees.

University accidentally emails students' GPAs

PHILADELPHIA — Officials at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia are apologizing for accidentally disclosing the grade-point averages of hundreds of students.

The school's provost notified the campus of the error through an email on Tuesday.

Saint Joseph's spokeswoman Carolyn Steigleman says the mistake affected about 500 students in the Haub School of Business.

She says the upperclassmen had been sent an email March 6 to gauge their interest in an internship in Italy. A file containing students' names, email addresses and GPAs was inadvertently attached.

Steigleman says officials immediately apologized to the affected students. The provost sent a follow-up email to the larger school community this week.

Saint Joseph's is a private Catholic university serving nearly 9,000 students.

State House set to take up liquor privatization bill

HARRISBURG — Consideration of a bill to privatize Pennsylvania's system of state-owned liquor stores is about to start in the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Harrisburg.

The House this afternoon is expected to take up a list of more than 100 amendments to the bill. A final vote cannot take place before Thursday.

The bill would give beer distributors first shot at 1,200 wine and spirit licenses and open grocery stores to wine sales. Also, the state wine and spirits stores would be phased out as the number of private operators grows.

On Monday, the House Liquor Committee backed the bill in a 14-10 vote, with no Democrats supporting it. Democratic caucus spokesman Bill Patton says the bill in its current form has no support among his party members.

Judge says drilling lawsuit is public record

WASHINGTON, Pa. — A western Pennsylvania judge says the public has the right to see a sealed settlement between gas drilling companies and a family that claimed the drilling operations damaged their health.

Judge Debbie O'Dell-Seneca ruled Wednesday that openness in the court system is more important than the interests of the companies.

Stephanie and Chris Hallowich initiated a case against Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners in 2010. The dispute was settled in July, 2011 but the companies asked that the records be sealed, and another judge agreed.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Observer-Reporter challenged that decision, and O'Dell-Seneca ruled in their favor.