Authorities in western Pennsylvania say fire crews rescued a dog that had been trapped for a couple of days in the wreckage of a four-alarm fire in Pittsburgh.
The blaze reported at 12:15 a.m. Saturday in the Homewood section of the city damaged four buildings, including a church, causing damage estimated at about $280,000.
The Animal Rescue League said the dog, Sophie, was found Monday morning covered in soot and ashes in the basement of one of the homes that caught fire. The white boxer, about 5 years old, is being treated with oxygen for smoke inhalation.
Lawmakers hope to propel government reform
HARRISBURG – State legislators are joining a newly formed government reform caucus and hoping that recent scandals and its bipartisan membership will help propel their bills into law, state senators said Monday.
About two dozen proposals are among those being touted by caucus members. They include some that seek to strengthen public confidence in government and expose more campaign contributions or gifts that might influence public officials.
Public displeasure over recent scandals and bipartisan support in the Legislature for the measures could give them momentum, said Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Hollidaysburg, whose 30th district includes Bedford and Blair counties. He called the effort “common-sense reform.”
One bill being written by Eichelberger would seek more transparency in state contracting by requiring the state to quickly post the final scoring of the bidders. Another would be designed to prevent lobbyists from managing or consulting on campaigns, a status Eichelberger said gives them an unusual amount of influence.
Prison guard was focus of armed standoff
CONNELLSVILLE – Police said a state prison guard was taken into custody after a seven-hour standoff that began after he assaulted his wife and stepdaughter at a Fayette County residence.
Online court records don’t list an attorney for Thomas Baker Jr., 39, of Dunbar Township, who surrendered shortly before
6 a.m. Monday.
Police said the incident began about 11 p.m. Sunday when Baker allegedly physically assaulted the females, prompting them to flee. Police said Baker retreated to his basement with a loaded shotgun and told police, “I’m not leaving here without a fight.”
The state police Special Emergency Response Team surrounded the home.
Department of Corrections officials confirmed Baker is a guard at the state prison in Pittsburgh.
Congresswoman begins gubernatorial campaign
HARRISBURG – U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz on Monday became the fourth Democrat, and the first woman, to declare her candidacy for Pennsylvania governor in 2014.
“I’m running to replace (Republican Gov.) Tom Corbett. That’s what this race is about,” the fifth-term congresswoman said in a telephone interview.
Schwartz, 64, is an advocate of abortion rights and gun control but has a more moderate record on other issues. For example, a bill she sponsored in her first term to provide tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed veterans was passed and signed into law.
Winning Cash 5 ticket sold in Westmoreland
MIDDLETOWN – One jackpot-winning Cash 5 ticket worth more than $528,000 from Friday’s drawing was sold at Schaeffer’s Corner Market in Ruffsdale, Westmoreland County.
The ticket correctly matched all five balls, 20-22-27-29-30, to win a jackpot of $528,607, less 25 percent federal withholding.
Lottery officials cannot confirm the identity of the winner until the prize is claimed and the ticket is validated.
PSU costs for Sandusky scandal near $43M
STATE COLLEGE – Penn State’s bill to pay for legal fees, consulting and other costs connected to the response to the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has neared $43 million.
Updated information Monday on a university website showed the bill at $42.9 million as of the end of January. It’s an increase of nearly $2 million from the previous update last month.
The bill includes the first of the five annual installments of
$12 million to pay off the fine imposed by the NCAA as part of strict sanctions. About $8.4 million covered university legal services or defense. Another $5 million paid for the legal defense fees of individuals, including those for three former school administrators facing criminal charges related to the scandal.
Former Sen. Fumo owes nearly $3M, IRS says
PHILADELPHIA – The federal government said imprisoned former Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Fumo needs to pay nearly $3 million in back taxes and fines.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Internal Revenue Service filed liens against five properties last month. That includes Fumo’s 33-room mansion in Philadelphia, three adjoining properties in south Philadelphia and a 99-acre farm near Harrisburg.
The once powerful Democratic lawmaker is serving a five-year sentence after being convicted in 2009 of defrauding the Senate, a neighborhood nonprofit and a seaport museum.
Jury consultant nixed in Indiana murder trial
INDIANA – An Indiana County judge has denied a defense request for $10,000 to appoint a jury consultant in an upcoming murder case.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that public defenders for Shaun Fairman wanted to hire a Philadelphia firm to help with jury selection.
Fairman, 33, is scheduled for trial later this month on charges of homicide, burglary, receiving stolen property and aggravated assault. Authorities allege that he shot 55-year-old Richard Shotts to death in June after Shotts tried to intervene in a dispute between his daughter and Fairman. Officials said she had a protection-from-abuse order and their divorce was pending when Fairman came armed to the North Mahoning Township home.
$2M sought in 2009 music festival raid suit
PITTSBURGH – An attorney said he will seek $2 million in damages in a lawsuit against Fayette County and its drug task force over the arrest of nearly two dozen people on drug charges at an outdoor music festival 31/2 years ago.
The (Uniontown) Herald-Standard reported the amount is cited in a pretrial filing in the federal suit by attorney Gregory Koerner, who represents the Church of Universal Love and Music and several of its members. They allege that the August 2009 raid was unconstitutional and that the county was retaliating over a prior religious freedom lawsuit filed by the church that had been settled a few months earlier.
The church said it hosted jam band-type concerts on its Bullskin Township property as part of its worship.