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State News

May 15, 2014

Local and state briefs 5/16/2014

Teens will say thanks by cleaning windows

Teenagers from the Coal Country Hangout Youth Center in Northern Cambria will take part in Operation Clean Up Downtown on Saturday.

The teens will clean windows of businesses within a four-block radius in downtown Northern Cambria as a way of saying thank you for their support of the teen center.

The youngsters also are promoting the center’s annual fundraiser, an appearance by musical comedian Spoonman, at 7 p.m. May 30 in the Northern Cambria Middle School auditorium.  

Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward the center’s operating expenses.

Detour to begin on Carpenter Park Road

PennDOT said work is scheduled to begin Monday on replacement of a bridge crossing the Stonycreek River in Conemaugh Township, Somerset County.

The bridge on Route 4022 (Carpenter Park Road) will be completed by Clearwater Construction of Mercer at a cost of $3.1 million.

Traffic will be detoured on a route following Carpenter Park Road to Route 601 to Route 403 and back to Route 4022, said Tara Callahan-Henry, Penn­DOT spokeswoman.

The project completion date is set for the mid-May 2015.

Windber church offers election day dinner

An election day Swiss steak dinner will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at Windber Calvary United Methodist Church, 1800 Stockholm Ave.

Tickets are $9 for adults and $5 for children, and will be available at the church office from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Take-outs will be available.

Information: 467-9811.

Plans display scheduled for bridge project

PennDOT will hold an open house and plans display to inform the public on plans replace a bridge on Route 4001 (West Bakersfield-Edie Road) in Jefferson Township, Somerset County.

The open house will be Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bakersville Volunteer Fire Department, 2341 West Bakersville-Edie Road.

Plans are to replace the bridge which carries traffic over Kooser Run.

During construction, plans are to detour traffic using state and local roads.

Registrations due for Beginnings project

The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance will hold training for its Front Porch Project from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 28 at Beginnings Inc., 111 Market St., Johnstown. Registration is required by Tuesday.

The program teaches people how to protect children from abuse and neglect and how to respond should they encounter a problem. Training is free and open to the public.

For more information or to register, call (800) 448-4906 or email info@pa-fsa.org.

School stabbing victim leaves ICU

The only victim still hospitalized after last month’s mass stabbings at a Westmoreland County high school has been moved out of intensive care and remained in fair condition.

Greg Keener, 15, was among 20 students and one security guard wounded April 9 at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville.

The sophomore was returned to intensive care at Forbes Regional Hospital on May 4, though officials haven’t said why that was necessary.

Hospital officials on Thursday announced Keener has been moved to a step-down unit. It’s not clear when he might be released.

Fellow student Alex Hribal, 16, has been charged with attempted homicide and aggravated assault for allegedly attacking the victims with two 8-inch kitchen knives.

Blair judges reject minimum sentence laws

Common Pleas judges in Blair County voted 4-2 to reject the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year.

In Alleyne v. United States, the high court ruled that a jury should decide whether certain factors that trigger mandatory sentences have been proven. Under Pennsylvania law, judges are supposed to decide the issue of mandatory sentences – and then only after a jury has rendered its verdict of guilt.

The Alleyne case involved a man whose mandatory minimum sentence increased from five to seven years in prison after a judge determined the man’s accomplice brandished a weapon during a robbery.

When similar issues were raised by a defense attorney representing two clients facing mandatory sentences in Blair County, President Judge Jolene Kopriva decided all six county judges would hear the issue and accept whatever the majority decided.

Last month, county prosecutors and defense attorney Thomas Dickey argued before the judges, who issued their ruling on Wednesday, the Altoona Mirror first reported.

“It’s a sad day for victims. It is a sad day for law enforcement. It is a sad day for society,” said District Attorney Richard Consiglio, who disagreed with the decision.

Consiglio said he’ll appeal in hopes the state Superior Court will settle the issue.

Dickey believes the Legislature needs to rewrite the laws to accommodate the Supreme Court decision.

19 report abuse at Pittsburgh Catholic school

Nineteen former students have leveled sex abuse allegations against eight Marianist brothers who once worked at a high school in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh as long ago as 1940.

Publicity about previous allegations against five brothers who taught or worked in the school’s cafeteria decades ago have prompted the number of accusers to grow, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, diocesan spokesman.

The revelations began when the diocese learned in March that Brother Bernard Hartman, 74, faces trial later this year in Australia on charges he molested four students at a Catholic school there in the 1970s and 80s.

The diocese sent a letter to North Catholic High School alumni who attended in the years Hartman taught there. That letter prompted more alumni to come forward, one with a “credible” allegation against Hartman that has been turned over to Allegheny County prosecutors, and a handful of others with allegations against four other Marianist brothers, three of whom are known to be dead. Those brothers worked at the school at various times between 1951 and 1967.

The fourth brother would be 88 if he’s still alive, but church officials can’t be sure because he left the St. Louis-based Marianists decades ago.

Now, publicity about that batch of allegations has prompted other alumni to accuse three more Marianist brothers, all of whom have died, Lengwin said.

In all, 19 former students have made 23 abuse allegations against all eight brothers.

Police: 3 men helped 5 girls leave foster home

 Three men have been jailed on charges they helped five girls – four sisters and the young child of the oldest girl – run away from a foster home in Westmoreland County, though police haven’t completely explained how or why.

Joseph Sickler, 41, of Pittsburgh, and Jacques Johns Jr. of Uniontown and Erik Spaziani of Charleroi, both 18, were arrested and charged late Wednesday with five counts each of interfering with custody, conspiracy and concealing the whereabouts of the child.

State police said the sisters, ages 17, 14, 11 and 7, and the 2-year-old toddler left their foster home in Unity Township earlier that day.

The men are charged with helping the girls travel to neighboring Fayette County.

Complicating matters is that the girls are from a third county, Washington, where caseworkers assigned them to the foster home.

Privacy laws prevent police or the county child welfare agency from saying why the girls were in foster care, said Trooper Steven Limani, spokesman for the Greensburg barracks, which first investigated the case.

The girls were placed in foster care Tuesday and left the home at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Man says ’desecrated’ flag was political statement

A Duncansville area man who had his American flag seized after township police charged him with desecrating the banner says he didn’t commit a crime by painting the letters “AIM” on the flag and flying it upside-down.

Instead, 37-year-old Joshua Brubaker told the Altoona Mirror that the banner represents the American Indian Movement, a group that works to protect American Indians.

Brubaker says he and his wife both have Indian ancestry.

Police in Allegheny Township didn’t immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.

Casey pushes bill to mandate abuse reports

Teachers, coaches, clergy and other adults who have a responsibility to children should be required to report cases of suspected abuse to police or local child protective agencies, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday as he introduced legislation aimed at setting minimum national reporting standards.

Under the Pennsylvania Democrat’s bill, states must require that adults with a professional responsibility to children – teachers, coaches, clergy and day care providers, among others – make the reports to authorities.

States would otherwise lose federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act funding.

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