Friday, February 20, 2009

Today's News-Friday, February 20, 2009


A woman who operated a purported animal sanctuary near Pine Grove is accused of letting animals go hungry faces more than 100 counts of animal cruelty. Pine Grove police say 49-year-old Virginia Justiniano stockpiled donated cat food and resold some of it to buy heroin and other drugs. Since 1996, she ran the Cats With No Name sanctuary. Also charged is her boyfriend, 37-year-old Andrew Oxenrider. Both face hundreds of charges of animal cruelty along with numerous drug charges. The couple were arraigned yesterday. As she appeared for arraignment in Tremont, Justiniano told a reporter, "I believe the media has been misleading and I have no other comment."


A Bethlehem truck driver escaped injury when his rig went down an embankment in Rush Township Thursday morning. Rush Township police indicate that 46 year old Ovidio Crespo lost control on an icy patch of Route 54 near the Hometown Farmers Market around 3am. Crespo's rig when across the road and plunged down a 150 foot embankment. Crespo was taken to the hospital for treatment and released. The crash closed portions of Route 54 for hours for cleanup.


A man about town...that best describes Mike McGeever, Pottsville's Elm Street manager who died of a heart attack at his home Thursday. McGeever spearheaded improvements in the city while working for Schuylkill Community Action. McGeever was passionate about everything he did, whether working in the community or on the radio as a music afficianado. McGeever worked with us at the Pottsville Broadcasting Company, both as an announcer and in the news department for several years. McGeever is survived by his wife, Diana, mother Helen and a brother and sisters. Services will be held on Tuesday.


Property and per capita tax collections for Schuylkill County in 2008 were about the same as the prior year. That's according to County Treasurer Jacqueline McGovern who issued the report this week. Real estate taxes collected in 2008 total $25.4 million dollars, or about 88 percent of total billings. That compares with an 89 percent tax collection rate in 2007. Per capita taxes collected ran a bit behind 2007, at 68 percent of total billed, compared to 71 percent for the prior year.


County officials are looking at another site to house Children and Youth Services, this time in the western end of Pottsville. An appraisal is being done at 1935 West Market Street, the home of European Motors. County officials toured the site Thursday. The agency needs more room for its growing operation. Last fall, the county had looked at a site at 500 North Centre Street as a possible home for Children and Youth, but declined to purchase it. A half million dollar grant from the state is earmarked to purchase a site, when one is found.

2nd suspect arrested in southeastern Pa. arsons

COATESVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Federal, state and local officials continue to look into arson in Chester County despite the arrests of two men within 24 hours. The latest suspect is 20-year-old Mark Gilliam of West Chester. Also charged is 19-year-old Roger Leon Barlow Jr. of Downingtown.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says Gilliam is facing a federal charge for the Jan. 25 attempted arson of a restaurant in Thorndale. Barlow is accused of setting
nine fires in Coatesville from Jan. 2 to Feb. 3. ATF spokesman John Hageman isn't saying if Gilliam and Barlow worked together or even knew each other.

Stimulus cash will begin flowing to Pa. in spring

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Most benefits of the federal stimulus package, such as tax breaks, cash payments and major transportation and water projects, won't be felt in Pennsylvania before spring. While many details about the massive spending bill are still unclear, some are taking shape. The Social Security Administration says it will issue one-time payments of $250 by late May by check or direct deposit to about 3 million elderly and disabled residents in Pennsylvania. Also, Pennsylvanians who have lost jobs may already qualify for special help paying for health coverage under the federal COBRA law. Plus, many projects already through the engineering and design phases but awaiting the money to start construction could see new
life this spring. That means contractors involved in water, sewer and transportation work could get very busy.

Prosecutor on Pa. Legislature probe: 'You'll probably be stunned again'

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett isn't saying when his investigation into the Pennsylvania Legislature will result in more charges. But he told reporters that when he has something to announce, "you'll probably be stunned again."
So far, the Legislature has burned through $5.8 million in taxpayer money on legal fees and other expenses stemming from the investigation. The probe involves staff bonuses and potential
misuse of public resources. Corbett declined to comment on the amount spent by the Legislature. He said the investigation has resulted in a small amount of additional cost for his office - including overtime for investigators. He wouldn't say exactly how much, but said his
office's costs are "not outlandish" and are contained within the budget.

Pa. teacher accused of sex contact with boy, 14

HAWLEY, Pa. (AP) - A seventh-grade teacher at a middle school in the Lehigh Valley is accused of having sexual contact with a 14-year-old boy. Gregory Gene Ritter is suspended from his job at East Hills Middle School in the Bethlehem Area School District. The 44-year-old man was arrested Thursday at his home in Greentown in Pike County and held in lieu of $100,000 bail. Police say Ritter was working as a first aid supervisor at a Boy Scout camp in Kunkletown when he met the boy. He faces a preliminary hearing Tuesday before District Judge Jay Rose.

Paper: $3.5M defamation award fixed by Pa. judge

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - The fallout from a Luzerne County judge's guilty plea to corruption charges is widening. A Wilkes-Barre newspaper, The Citizens' Voice, is trying to get the state Supreme Court to overturn a defamation award against it. The newspaper says in court papers that the $3.5 million judgment "very likely was a product of a corrupt judicial system."
The award was granted by Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella in 2006. Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, pleaded guilty last week to fraud charges after prosecutors accused them of taking kickbacks. The paper says it has identified a potential witness who can
testify about direct connections between a reputed mobster and at least one of those judges.
The original lawsuit was over newspaper stories alleging a link between a businessman and the reputed mobster.

W.Pa. county councilman arrested on theft charges

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A western Pennsylvania county councilman is accused of taking money from a dementia patient's trust fund and giving it to election campaigns and a charity run by his wife. A grand jury says Allegheny County Councilman Charles McCullough gave $40,000 from 92-year-old Shirley Jordan's $14.5 million trust fund to four Republican campaigns. Jordan has been declared incapacitated by the court. She told investigators she didn't give permission for McCullough to make the donations. McCullough's lawyer, Clifford Levine, says a court required
McCullough and a bank to provide a thorough accounting, and they did so in 2007. Levine says the court approved it in August 2008. Levine says his client had no chance to give his side of the story to the grand jury.

Home break-in suspect shot dead near Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Police say an officer who responded to a break-in at a house near Pittsburgh shot the man believed to be the intruder, killing him. Allegheny County police say the man was not immediately killed by the shot fired into his chest by a Duquense officer Thursday morning. Police say the man continued to struggle with the officer, and the officer fired another shot into his forearm. County police Assistant Superintendent James Morton says the intruder was "mad about something," and did not pick the house at random. The dead man's name was not immediately released because his family had not been notified.

Forest Service mum on new mining, drilling regulations

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service isn't saying whether it plans to regulate drilling and mining on national forest land. There is a legal dispute about whether the Forest Service can
regulate the use of privately owned mineral rights on its publicly owned land. In Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest, 93 percent of mineral rights are privately owned. In December, the Forest Service announced in the Federal Register that it was proposing rules dealing with such mining and drilling -- which historically it hasn't regulated. Forest Service spokeswoman Allison Stewart says the notice only means the agency is asking for public comment. She isn't saying
what the agency's plans are because the right to regulate the use of those mineral rights is tied up in court.

STOCKHOLM (AP) - GM-owned automaker Saab has filed for bankruptcy protection with the idea of turning itself into an independent company. The move comes after the Swedish government rejected a request from GM to inject money into Saab. GM has been looking for buyers for Saab.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider changing the way transportation money is raised. Lahood wants to look at taxes based on how many miles driven. He says gasoline taxes can't be counted on to raise enough money.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says belligerance from North Korea isn't helpful in terms of better relations with the U.S. Amid reports of a pending missile test in the North, Clinton says Pyongyang should rejoin stalled disarmament talks.

ISLAMABAD (AP) - A funeral procession turned violent today in northwestern Pakistan where a bomb killed at least 25 people. The funeral was for a slain Shiite Muslim. Sectarian attacks are rising in Pakistan.

JERUSALEM (AP) - Hard-line candidate for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be named today to the task of forming Israel's next government. He and Likud leader Tzipi Livni meet with President Shimon Peres today. He'll likely designate Netanyahu after a narrow


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