AP PA Headlines: PA sues Pres. Trump over religious exemption

AP PA Headlines

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The ex-boyfriend of a University of Pittsburgh student found slain in her off-campus apartment on Sunday has been arrested in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Pittsburgh police have confirmed the arrest of 21-year-old Matthew Darby, but not provided details about the arrest at about 12:45 a.m. Wednesday.  Darby was charged Tuesday evening with criminal homicide in the death of Alina Sheykhet.

Police say they found a claw hammer and two knives in a sewer drain near Sheykhet’s apartment.  Darby’s attorney read a statement from the suspect’s parents earlier Tuesday begging him to surrender, but not addressing the merits of the charges.  Darby has pleaded not guilty to charges he raped another ex-girlfriend earlier this year in Indiana County, which is about 45 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania is suing President Donald Trump over his decision to let more employers claiming religious or moral objections opt-out of providing no-cost birth control to women.  Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the lawsuit Wednesday, saying the new rules are breaking the law and undermining women’s health.

Trump’s policy is designed to roll back parts of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, which required that most companies cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost.  Other Democratic-leaning states, including Washington, Massachusetts and California, have already sued, as has the American Civil Liberties Union.  Shapiro says the rules violate the Fifth Amendment because they pertain to women and not men and the First Amendment, by putting employers’ religious beliefs over the constitutional rights of women.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man who’d been living in a Philadelphia church for nearly a year to avoid deportation to Mexico has walked free.  Javier Flores Garcia left the Arch Street Methodist Church on Wednesday, surrounded by his family.  Garcia crossed into the U.S. without proper paperwork in 1997 and had been caught and returned to Mexico multiple times.

In 2004, Garcia was stabbed and worked with the government to capture the men responsible. His actions made him eligible for a special type of visa for people who help police.  Garcia’s attorney says his client has been granted deferred action, which allows him to live and work in the country.  Garcia took sanctuary in the church last November, when he was to report for deportation. He says he plans to stay in Philadelphia.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — A former Pennsylvania police officer accused of molesting two young boys has been sentenced to nine to 23 months in jail.  45-year-old David Turkos was sentenced Friday after previously pleading guilty to charges of corruption of minors in June as part of a plea agreement.  Luzerne County prosecutors say the former Dupont officer sexually abused the boys starting at ages 4 and 6 from the years 2001 to 2008.

Turkos was still a part-time officer when the abuse occurred. The boys testified last year that Turkos threatened to harm their pets and loved ones if they told about the abuse, and threatened them with his gun.  Turkos has been ordered to serve five years’ probation following his release. He will also be required to undergo a sex offender assessment.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The governor’s office reports Pennsylvania’s chief election official has stepped down.  The Wolf administration said in a statement Wednesday that Secretary of State Pedro Cortes has submitted his resignation, but gave no other information.  Cortes joined the administration in 2015. He had also served as secretary of state for over seven years under former Gov. Ed Rendell, also a Democrat.  He’s being replaced by the agency’s top deputy, Robert Torres.  A message left at Cortes’ home seeking his comment was not immediately returned.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Judicial Conduct Board wants a local district judge suspended again, saying he retaliated against his employees during a previous suspension he received for allegedly pursuing a romantic interest in one of his clerks and being intemperate in court.  Ambridge District Judge Andrew Hladio (huh-LAW’-dee-oh) denied the original allegations — brought by the conduct board in December — which resulted in his paid suspension from Feb. 17 through June 20.

The new allegations were filed Tuesday with the Court of Judicial Discipline.  Among other things, the new petition says Hladio retaliated against witnesses who made some of the original allegations against him, and yelled at constables who worked in his office.  Hladio’s court staff says they were told only he would not be at work this week. He didn’t immediately respond to a message left with them Wednesday.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is making Pennsylvania the 38th state to enact a “right to try” law that gives the terminally ill an avenue to try experimental treatments that aren’t fully approved by the federal government.  The law, signed Wednesday, allows a manufacturer of an investigational drug, biological product or medical device to provide it to a patient who has a recommendation from a treating physician and has been unable to participate in a clinical trial.

The law doesn’t require a manufacturer to provide the treatment to a patient, or grant legal immunity to the manufacturer. It also doesn’t require an insurer to cover the treatment or require a manufacturer to provide it for free.  It takes effect in 60 days.  The libertarian Arizona-based Goldwater Institute advocates for “right to try” laws.

COATESVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A superintendent says a black baby doll hanging from a suburban Philadelphia high school locker room with a tie around its neck was a prank between white and black athletes, not a hate crime.  Cathy Taschner, Superintendent of the Coatesville Area School District, tells WCAU-TV students still face discipline over it.

She says members of the Coatesville Area High School boys cross country team first put the doll into an open ceiling tile in the locker room. It sat there for several weeks until one student put a tie around its neck and hung it from the ceiling.  The superintendent says school officials were first concerned the doll was intended to cause racial intimidation. After interviewing team members, she says it was determined to be a “foolish prank.”

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CLEVELAND (AP) —  An attorney representing a Cleveland suburb sued by a man arrested for creating a Facebook page parodying the city’s police department says he’ll file motions to dismiss the lawsuit.  Anthony Novak filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Parma and three officers. Authorities said he created the Facebook page in March 2016 and posted items suggesting police were performing abortions for teenagers.

The lawsuit seeks financial compensation, legal fees and an injunction against Parma police.  The city’s attorney, John Travis, says the lawsuit lacks merit and notes that Novak had filed a previous suit. The first lawsuit was filed by a separate law firm and differed from the current suit by asking a judge to declare the law under which Novak was charged unconstitutional.

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump is threatening to challenge NBC’s broadcast licenses because he’s not happy with how its news division has covered him. But experts say it’s not likely his threats would lead to any action.  Comcast’s NBCUniversal owns several TV stations, and its news shows and other programs are carried on stations owned by other companies around the country. Stations operate under licenses from the Federal Communications Commission, an independent government agency.

NBC spokeswoman Hilary Smith had no comment.  A station could be deemed unfit and have its license stripped if it were telling lies and spreading fake news, as Trump claims in a tweet threatening NBC. But Harold Feld of the consumer group Public Knowledge says that’s tough to prove. These days, license renewals are fairly routine.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma authorities are hoping to solve unsolved killings and other cold cases by selling decks of playing cards that feature the cases to prisoners.  The state Bureau of Investigation and state Department of Correction showcased the cards Wednesday. The decks are reminiscent of those distributed in 2003 to help U.S. troops identify members of Saddam Hussein’s government during the Iraq War.

Bureau of Investigation Director Stan Florence says similar programs in Florida, Colorado, Connecticut and South Carolina have garnered information that helped solve about 40 homicides.  The cards are being sold at six of the state’s approximately two dozen prisons at $1.42 per pack and will eventually be the only playing cards available at the other facilities.  Oklahoma has approximately 27,000 inmates.

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) — Massachusetts police say a man broke into several vehicles before falling asleep inside one of them.  Prosecutors say police found 30-year-old Paul Johnson asleep Friday morning in a minivan outside of an Attleboro home. Authorities say he told police he had been drinking the night before. Police say Johnson had stolen items from vehicles in the neighborhood along with several credit cards.

The Sun Chronicle reports Johnson was arraigned Tuesday in Attleboro on charges of breaking and entering in the nighttime, larceny and trespassing. Johnson is being held in lieu of $5,000 cash bail.  His attorney asked that Johnson get alcohol treatment.  He is due back in court on Nov. 6..

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