National Roundup

Former death row inmate appeals, wants to sue state

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A former inmate who spent years on death row for a double murder he didn’t commit is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to rule for a second time that he can continue to sue the state for wrongful imprisonment.

The high court kept alive Dale Johnston’s decades-long fight for innocence when it ruled last year that a law updating Ohio’s definition of a wrongfully imprisoned individual could be applied retroactively. But a Franklin County appeals court later concluded Johnston can’t sue, based on a ruling in a different case.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the 82-year-old filed his latest appeal last week.

He was imprisoned for the grisly slayings of his stepdaughter and her fiance in 1982. The real killer confessed in 2008 and was sentenced to life in prison.

Officials: Mayor charged with DUI after fleeing crash

CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Officials say a Pennsylvania mayor has been charged with driving under the influence after he allegedly hit a vehicle and fled the scene of the crash.

Charges were filed against Upland Mayor Michael Ciach after police say he rear-ended a car that then struck two other vehicles on Friday in the city of Chester, just outside of Philadelphia.

Upland is a neighboring borough.

Officials say Ciach was arrested by responding officers while wandering the streets of Chester. He has been released on his own recognizance.

Ciach hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

Judge allows ex-TV anchor’s lawsuit over firing after online remarks

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A federal judge has declined to throw out a lawsuit filed by a former Pittsburgh newscaster fired after her comments in a Facebook post about a shooting were deemed racially insensitive.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the judge Friday denied an attempt by Hearst Stations Inc. to dismiss the lawsuit by former WTAE news anchor Wendy Bell. She is seeking back pay, punitive damages and her old job back.
Bell, who is white, had commented on the March 9 shooting of five black people and an unborn child during a cookout in the poor Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg.

“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts,” Bell wrote March 21. “They are young black men, likely in their teens or in their early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs. These boys have been in the system before. They’ve grown up there. They know the police. They’ve been arrested.”

Bell’s comments sparked a backlash from some who saw her words as racist but also drew defenders who found her post honest. She was fired nine days later after WTAE determined her remarks violated the company’s journalism and ethics standards.

Bell alleges in the suit filed in June that the station violated her rights in firing her March 30 because if she had written the same comments about white criminal suspects “or had her race not have been white” she would not have been fired or even disciplined. Her suit says her “posting of concern for the African-American community stung by mass shooting was clearly and obviously not intended to be racially offensive.”

Hearst filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed in September, arguing that she had no evidence supporting her claim.

In her ruling, the judge wrote Friday, “Bell is entitled to proceed to discovery, and this motion to dismiss is denied.”

Cheron Shelton, 29, and Robert Thomas, 27, both of whom are black, have since been charged in the ambush slayings at the cookout. The Allegheny County district attorneys’ office says it will seek capital punishment if they are convicted of first-degree murder. Their lawyers say their clients are innocent.

Man gets prison for kidnapping 2 North Pole girls

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A Wasilla man who kidnapped two girls last year has been sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Michael Bowen Jr. was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty to coercion and enticement of a minor. The terms of a plea deal had called for a 10-year prison sentence for Bowen, but a judge rejected the deal as too lenient, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

“I’ve been very impressed with everyone’s work, but I just cannot accept the doggone plea,” said U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline.

Bowen had admitted to kidnapping the girls, ages 6 and 9, in August 2015 as they were riding their bicycles in North Pole. He drove with the girls in his car for several hours before turning around and dropping them off near their home when the older child told him their father worked with the police.

The investigation into the incident was delayed as North Pole police tried to determine whether the children were telling the truth, according to courtroom testimony. The girls were interviewed by an FBI agent and able to provide a description of Bowen and his truck, which was spotted by police days later.

Bowen was brought in for questioning and later arrested.

In handing down the 13-year sentence, Beistline said he didn’t want to send a message that a minimum sentence was acceptable in this type of case.

“It’s not that he’s bad — he ardently desires to do right, but he clearly can’t,” Beistline said. “The idea that he brought the girls back unharmed is not true. They were harmed.”

Bowen apologized to the victims at his sentencing for “harming them mentally and robbing them of something they can’t get back.”

“I’m a father. There’s no way I could sit through what they did,” Bowen said.

He has also been sentenced to a lifetime of supervised probation.

Hearing moved to March for man charged in detective’s death

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The preliminary hearing for a man charged with capital murder in the death of a Kansas City, Kansas, police detective has been moved.

Curtis Ayers, of Tonganoxie, is charged with capital murder in the May 9 death of Det. Brad Lancaster. Ayers is accused of shooting Lancaster in Kansas City, Kansas, and then fleeing in a car to Missouri, where police shot and wounded him.

The Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office said in a release that the hearing had been scheduled to begin Monday but was moved to March 13. The defense requested the continuance.