Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today's News-Tuesday, November 25th, 2008


We are off to a wet start this Tuesday morning, and snow showers are possible as the day wears on across the region. Temps are in the high 30's at daybreak, and the National Weather Service is indicating that sporadic snow showers will dot the area through the day into this evening, but no accumulation is expected. Some spots in the Poconos and other areas of higher elevation did get some accumulation of snow overnight.

Teens to be tried together

Schuylkill County's President judge has ruled that the Shenandoah teens involved in the death of a Mexican illegal immigrant will be tried together. Judge William Baldwin released his findings yesterday according to the Republican and Herald. Attorneys for 17 year olds Brandon Piekarsky and Colin Walsh, and 18 year old Derrick Donchak had sought to have the charges against them, including third degree murder and related counts dropped, and to have separate trials. Baldwin requested that prosecutors provide more information about the circumstances of events that took place on July 12th, when 25 year old Luis Ramirez Zapala was beaten at a Shenandoah playground. The ruling states that prosecutors provided sufficient evidence to have the charges stand. One count against Derrick Donchak, hindering apprenhension of prosecution, was dropped. The trio remains free on bail. A juvenile has also been charged in the incident.

Pine Grove man nabbed after chase

A Pine Grove man is charged with fleeing police and other offenses after an incident Sunday night. Troopers from the Schuylkill Haven barracks say that 26 year old Steven Derfler and his wife were having an alleged argument at the Hess Express in Pine Grove Township around 7pm. He reportedly yelled an obscenity at police then took off at a high rate of speed through Pine Grove borough with state police in pursuit. That ended on Route 895, with Derfler turning himself in to police. He was charged with fleeing police, reckless endangerment and other counts and was taken to Schuylkill County Prison.

Party leaders: No plans for court challenge of Pa. legislative elections

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties say they're not aware of any plans to challeng Pennsylvania legislative elections in court. The final tallies show Democrats with a five-seat advantage in the state House of Representatives. The Nov. 4 election saw the Democrats win six Republican districts while losing four seats to the GOP.
Five of the Democratic gains were in Philadelphia and its suburbs; the other was in Williamsport. Republicans flipped Democratic districts in Beaver, Bucks, Elk and Westmoreland counties.
The freshman class in the House consists of 15 Democrats and 12 Republicans.

Pistol-packing Pa. soccer mom sues sheriff

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania woman is suing a county sheriff who revoked her concealed-weapons permit after she upset fellow parents by wearing her holstered pistol to her 5-year-old daughter's soccer game. Meleanie Hain alleges in the federal lawsuit filed Monday that Lebanon County Sheriff Michael DeLeo prosecuted her maliciously when he took away her permit in September. Hain successfully appealed the revocation last month. But Hain's lawyer, Matthew Weisberg, says her babysitting service has suffered and she's been ostracized by her neighbors because of DeLeo's actions. DeLeo has said he based his decision on a section of state law that prohibits concealed-weapons permits from being given to people whose character and reputation make them a danger to public safety.

Ex-TV anchor Mendte gets 3 years probation

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The lawyer for a former Philadelphia TV newscaster whose e-mail messages were secretly read by her co-anchor says six months of home confinement is a serious
sentence. Paul Rosen, who represents Alycia Lane, says the sentencing of Larry Mendte sends a serious message to the public that it's not OK to break into someone else's e-mail. The home confinement is part of three years of probation. Mendte also must perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine. Mendte apologized in court, but Rosen says he isn't convinced that the apology is sincere because Mendte is "an artist in the media." Lane cried in court and declined comment after the hearing.

Man gets life for killing company intern in Pa.

MEDIA, Pa. (AP) - A jury says a suburban Philadelphia businessman should get life without parole for murdering a company intern. Delaware County prosecutors had sought the death penalty for 43-year-old William Smithson, of Glen Mills. Smithson was convicted Friday of first-degree murder, attempted rape, kidnapping, drug and other charges. Jurors decided Monday to
spare him the death penalty for killing 23-year-old Jason Kyle Shephard, whose body was found in Smithson's home in September 2006. Smithson drugged Shephard, tried to rape him and then strangled him when Shephard fought back. Shephard was an avid runner from Cavalier, N.D., a small town near the Canadian border, who was studying sports marketing.

Pittsburgh police arrest 25 in gang sweep

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh police say they've arrested 25 people as part of an operation targeting gangs on the city's North Side. Police said Monday that the operation began Nov. 13 and lasted 8 days. Six people with known gang affiliations were among those arrested.
Police say they also seized heroin with an estimated street value of $14,000, 12 baggies of crack cocaine, thousands of dollars, two handguns and an assault rifle. The arrests were part of an operation known as T.A.G., or Target Area Gangs.

Philly police mourn sergeant killed on duty

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says the latest officer killed in the line of duty was known as a model sergeant. Speaking at a funeral Mass, Ramsey said Sgt. Timothy Simpson had a taste for practical jokes and loved fishing and boating. Ramsey also says Simpson was a "best friend to a lot of people," including Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, his former partner, who was slain in the spring. Simpson was killed in a car crash last week. Police say he was hit by a career criminal who they believe had just made a drug run
on a suspended driver's license and was trying to flee police. Simpson is the fifth Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty in just over a year.

Fire in York, Pa., displaces families

YORK, Pa. (AP) - The American Red Cross is aiding several families displaced from a fire that consumed multiple rowhouses in south-central Pennsylvania. No injuries were immediately reported from Monday's fire in York. York City Fire/Rescue Services Assistant Chief John Kottmyer says the fire consumed seven three-story rowhouses.

DA seeks death penalty for Pa. murder

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) - A prosecutor in north-central Pennsylvania is seeking the death penalty for a man accused of setting up a shotgun slaying from his jail cell. Lycoming County District Attorney Eric Linhardt filed notice Monday that he is seeking capital punishment for 25-year-old county prison inmate Maurice Patterson. The man who confessed to shooting Eric Sawyer of Philadelphia in a Williamsport alley last year has testified that Patterson ordered him to do so. At Patterson's preliminary hearing in June, his lawyer said authorities hadn't presented enough evidence to require his client to stand trial.

Pa. gets $40M in settlement with Reliance auditor

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The state Insurance Department says it will get $40 million in a settlement with an auditor connected with the failed Reliance Insurance Co. Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario said Monday that the money from the settlement with auditor Deloitte & Touche will benefit Reliance's policyholders. Ario said the state's total recovery from Reliance parent companies and former officers and directors is nearly $145 million. The Insurance Department sued in 2002. It accused Deloitte of hiding Reliance's poor financial condition from regulators while owner Saul Steinberg drained cash from the company to support a lavish lifestyle and his own business debt. The state began liquidating Philadelphia-based Reliance in late 2001.

Invasive mussel found at dam in Susquehanna River

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania state officials say an invasive mussel that could be very costly to control was found in the lower Susquehanna River. The half-inch zebra mussel was found in recent weeks inside a water intake at the Conowingo Dam hydroelectric plant in Maryland. Above the dam is a nine-mile lake that stretches into Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman says authorities are trying to find out if more zebra mussels are in the water there. The zebra mussel is native to Eastern Europe, but traveled to American lakes on ocean-going ships. The mussels compete with native mussels and fish for plankton, and their sharp shells can create problems on beaches. They also ruin water quality and clog water intakes.

Reputed Pa. mobster gets 9 years in prison

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - The reputed boss of the Buffalino crime family in northeastern Pennsylvania could get time off his prison sentence if he keeps cooperating with authorities in their prosecution of a casino owner. Sixty-two-year-old William D'Elia became the latest alleged
American Mafia leader to turn government informant as he was sentenced in Scranton Monday to nine years in prison for witness tampering and conspiracy to launder drug money. With time already served, he could be freed in seven years - or less. D'Elia is helping the Dauphin County district attorney's office, which has charged Mount Airy Resort Casino owner Louis DeNaples
with perjury. DeNaples allegedly lied to state gambling regulators about his friendship with D'Elia, whom authorities once called a "major player" in organized crime. DeNaples says he is innocent.

Defense wraps up NC murder trial of NY soldier

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) - The New York soldier accused of killing two superior officers in Iraq won't testify in his defense during his court-martial at Fort Bragg. The defense team for Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez wrapped up its case Monday, and Martinez told the judge he wouldn't testify. Prosecutors planned to call rebuttal witnesses later Monday. Martinez is charged with premeditated murder in the deaths of Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern, N.Y., and 1st Lt. Louis Allen of Milford, Pa. Both men died when a Claymore mine detonated near their room in 2005.
A defense witness testified Monday that all explosives were accounted for in his supply room. The testimony counters a prosecution witness who said she wasn't given receipts when she
delivered Claymore mines from her unit's supply room to a supply room Martinez oversaw.

Knoll's body arrives in Pittsburgh accompanied by honor guard

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The casket of Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll is at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh. An honor guard brought the casket in to lie in repose. A funeral Mass is scheduled for noon on Tuesday. Knoll was honored with a memorial service in the state Capitol
Rotunda on Friday. She was diagnosed in July with neuroendocrine cancer and died Nov. 12. She was 78.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Congressional Democrats and President-elect Barack Obama are working for the quick passage of a giant, two-year economic rescue package. It's an expensive measure meant to create jobs and cut taxes -- at a price that could near a half-trillion dollars.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's latest list of pardons lacks any of the high-profile names being talked about. California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher notes that two border guards convicted of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler weren't on it either. He says it's insulting that some drug dealers have gotten their freedom, but the guards haven't.

HOUSTON (AP) - On the fifth day of trying, a new water recycling system for the space station has finally completed its first test run. Space shuttle Endeavour's mission was even extended an extra day as astronauts worked to figure out what was wrong with the system that turns urine and sweat into water.

NEW YORK (AP) - U.S. marshals say a California man suspected of shooting his estranged wife inside a New Jersey church Sunday has been apprehended near Atlanta. Police say he shot and killed his wife and another man, and wounded another woman.

NEW YORK (AP) - They're celebrating the 225th anniversary of Evacuation Day in New York City today. On this day in 1783, the last British redcoat sailed away, ending the American Revolution. During the 19th century it was an annual celebration in New York, but has been largely forgotten.


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