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Update CASE UPDATE: Westmoreland County Child Predator Sentenced to 25 to 50 Years in Prison for Child Pornography Charges

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January 29, 2019 | Topic:

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that a Westmoreland County man who knowingly possessed and distributed child pornography was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison for felony charges related to child pornography after explicit images of minors were found on his personal computer.

Joshua Pottle, 37, of the 2500 block of Blacks Lane, New Kensington, was found guilty on all charges related to possession and distribution of child pornography by a jury on October 3, 2018.

An investigation revealed the above-mentioned residence was associated with the target Internet Provider (IP) Address connection, which Pottle stated had been his home for the past 23 years. On May 21, 2015, agents from the Office of Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit executed a search warrant and arrested the defendant, who was locked in his bedroom.

Pottle admitted to agents that the computers seized in the residence were his, and that he had downloaded the child pornography for the purposes of sharing the files on a peer-to-peer network which included images and videos of children, toddlers, and infants. The defendant was unable to confirm how much child pornography he had downloaded, but referred to himself as a “collector” of such illicit material and that ‘the only time he deletes child pornography files is when he needs to free up space in order to download more’.  During that search, agents also discovered a dresser drawer in Pottle’s bedroom containing 34 pairs of soiled young girls’ underwear.

“This is an egregious case – the defendant is a repeat child predator who has continued to engage in behavior that harms children. We are satisfied with the results from today’s sentencing — which will take a predator off the streets for a long time,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “My Office will investigate and prosecute anyone we uncover who sexually abuses children to the fullest extent of the law.”

Pottle was sentenced by Westmoreland County Judge Rita D. Hathaway.  The case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Chuck Washburn.

Individuals who suspect an online predator or abuse can send anonymous tips to the Office of Attorney General by texting PAKIDS + YOUR TIP to 847411.

Sinkholes and Hired Muscle on the Mariner East Pipelines

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Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced that there had been new
developments along Sunoco’s Mariner East pipelines in Chester County, Pennsylvania over the
weekend. On Sunday, January 20, a new sinkhole opened up in a neighborhood along the
pipelines. In addition, the District Attorney’s Office discovered that constables from outside of
Chester County apparently had been hired by Sunoco to act as a private security force around the
pipelines, holding themselves out as acting in an official capacity to people approaching the area
of the pipelines.

District Attorney Tom Hogan stated, “At this point, the criminal investigation is widening
and deepening, much like the damage being caused by these pipelines. We are investigating
what individuals bear legal responsibility for these sinkholes. In addition, we want to know who
hired these constables and authorized them to act like they have some type of legal authority in
Chester County. This has the appearance of hired muscle showing up to intimidate our citizens.”
On Sunday, January 20, another sinkhole opened along the Mariner East pipelines in the
Lisa Drive neighborhood in Chester County. See attached photographs. The sinkhole exposed
the Mariner East 1 pipeline, which had volatile natural gas liquids pumping through it when it
was exposed. Coincidentally, a natural gas pipeline in Ohio exploded over the weekend, on January 21. A pipeline run by Sunoco exploded in Beaver County, PA in September of 2018.
This same neighborhood previously has suffered through multiple sinkholes
caused by drilling related to Sunoco’s pipelines. The prior sinkholes damaged the homeowners’
properties, caused an evacuation of the area, and resulted in work on the pipelines being halted.
During interviews in the last few weeks, Chester County citizens reported that state
constables were patrolling the pipelines in Chester County during the prior sinkhole incidents.
The District Attorney’s Office discounted this report because no Chester County constables had
been authorized to do any such work.

However, when the January 20 sinkhole appeared, citizens reported the sinkhole to the
District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Hogan dispatched Chester County Detectives to the
scene at Lisa Drive. When a Chester County Detective in plain clothes approached the scene, an
armed man flashed a badge at the Detective and identified himself as a constable. The Detective,
who is familiar with all of the Chester County constables, asked the armed man who he worked
for. The man then finally identified himself as a constable from Northumberland County in
central Pennsylvania. When pressed further by the Detective, the man admitted that he had been
hired as security by Sunoco.

The Chester County Detectives subsequently informed the man that he was not permitted
to claim any official authority in Chester County or use his badge for such a purpose. District
Attorney Hogan will be contacting the District Attorney of Northumberland County to discuss
this situation. “Sinkholes. Fouled well water. Obscene messages from out-of-state pipeline workers to
Chester County residents. Hired guns flashing badges. Volatile natural gas liquids flowing in
pipelines just a few feet from schools and homes. We are not sure what it will take to get the
attention of Governor Wolf and the Public Utility Commission. All of this is happening on their
watch. The Chester County District Attorney’s Office is committed to this criminal
investigation, even if we must fight alone. The citizens of Chester County deserve our
protection.” Anybody with further information about pipeline-related incidents should contact Chester
County Detective Ben Martin at (610) 344-6866. Reports may be made confidentially. The
Chester County prosecutors assigned to this matter are Alexander Gosfield, Myles Matteson, and
special prosecutor Seth Weber.


Approved for release:
Thomas P. Hogan, Chester County D.A.

 

​Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Applications Now Available; Rebates are for property tax or rent paid in 2018

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Harrisburg, Pa. — Application forms for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program are now available for eligible Pennsylvanians to begin claiming rebates on property taxes or rent paid in 2018, Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell announced today. The deadline to apply for a rebate is June 30, 2019.

“This program helps more than half a million seniors and people with disabilities obtain rebates on the rent or property taxes they paid the previous year,” Hassell said. “We encourage everyone who is eligible to apply.”

Applicants may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information on the Department of Revenue’s website or by calling 1-888-222-9190.

It is free to apply for a rebate, and free filing help is available at hundreds of locations across the commonwealth, including at Department of Revenue district officeslocal Area Agencies on Aging, senior community centers and state legislators’ offices.

Claimants must reapply for rebates every year because rebates are based on annual income and property taxes or rent paid in each year. Spouses, personal representatives or estates may file rebate claims on behalf of claimants who lived at least one day in 2018 and meet all other eligibility criteria.

Rebates will be distributed beginning July 1, as required by law. More than $252.6 million in property tax and rent rebates have been sent to more than 527,000 homeowners and renters across the state for property taxes and rent paid in 2017.

About the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.

The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for certain qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. The Department of Revenue automatically calculates supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners.

Since its inception in 1971, more than $6.9 billion has been paid to qualified applicants through the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

How do you check the status of your Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program claim?

The easiest way to check the status of your rebate claim is to visit the dedicated website that the Department of Revenue maintains — Where’s My PA Property Tax/Rent Rebate? You will need your social security number, claim year and date of birth to check the status of your claim.

Please keep in mind that Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program claim forms (PA-1000s) are loaded into the Department of Revenue’s processing system in late April. There will be no information available on your claim until that time.

Planet Fitness Is Coming To Parkesburg

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Parkesburg Borough officials report that Monday morning Planet Fitness had filed for a construction permit to renovate the interior of the former Acme location along First Avenue. The borough posted this status to facebook, “We are pleased to announce that this morning permit applications were filed by Planet Fitness to begin construction inside the old Acme building.”

Report: Construction Contractors Cheating Workers, Taxpayers

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Unscrupulous contractors in southeast Pennsylvania routinely are violating labor laws and victimizing customers, including state and local government, according to a new report.

The report from the Keystone Research Center found many contractors in the regional Philadelphia construction industry are in a race to the bottom.

Stephen Herzenberg, author of the report, calls that “destructive competition” – cutting costs by misclassifying workers as independent contractors, cheating them out of overtime pay, investing little in worker skills and in some cases operating unsafely.

“When construction contractors and subcontractors compete by violating the law, wage theft, threatening workers’ health and safety, in the end nobody else wins,” he states.

The report says imposing stiffer penalties for labor law violations and directing more resources to enforcement agencies would help safeguard workers, law abiding contractors and taxpayers.

Herzenburg points out that effective enforcement can pay for itself by directing revenue from fines and penalties to enforcement agencies, and it can change the current landscape of the construction industry.

“It creates a situation where, instead of people violating the law becoming the rule, you get back to what you’re supposed to have, which is most companies complying with the law,” he explains.

The report cites a study that found the Philadelphia residential construction industry operates “informally” with no pretense of adhering to state or federal labor laws.

Herzenberg notes that the skilled construction trades are among the last pathways available for blue collar workers to move into the middle class, and reining in construction companies that break the law benefits everyone.

“In the end, that’s not only good for our middle class, it’s actually a better way to run your economy,” he stresses. “You end up with a more productive economy as a whole as well as a more productive construction industry.”

Career and Technical Education Needs More State Funding

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s career and technical education centers, or CTCs, need additional funding in the next state budget, according to a new report.

There are 74 CTCs in the state, preparing some 55,000 high school students to enter a variety of fields as soon as they graduate. Last year, the state boosted funding for the centers by $10 million, the first increase in nearly a decade.

Kari King, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children – the group that released the report – says raising the state subsidy was a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

“That is really about 8 percent of overall funding, and 2 percent of funding is from the federal government,” says King. “So, 90 percent of the cost to send students to CTCs falls directly on school districts.”

The report calls on state policymakers to include an additional $10 million investment in CTCs as part of the 2019-to-2020 state budget.

King points out that the demand for graduates with backgrounds in career and technical education is growing.

“It prepares students for a range of in-demand jobs that can offer pathways to careers, like new media or health care or construction, in the manufacturing sector or even in law,” says King.

Despite the demand, there are currently 13 school districts in the state that don’t offer career and technical education options.

King adds that basic education funding needs to increase by some $400 million in the coming state budget. So, increasing funding for CTCs also gives school districts more flexibility.

“It’s really relieving the burden on the back end for the school districts,” says King. “So, it frees up some money on the basic education side that they can put elsewhere in their budgets.”

Gov. Tom Wolf is scheduled to deliver his annual budget address on February 5.

Chesapeake Bay More Polluted for First Time in Decade

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By: Laura Rosbrow-Telem

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Chesapeake Bay became more polluted last year for the first time in a decade according to a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation – and a majority of the pollution came from Pennsylvania.

The foundation’s “State of the Bay Report” said extreme weather from climate change – including record rainfall in the summer – caused large amounts of dirty water to flow into the bay. In particular, increased pollution from farms and city streets drained into rivers and streams, especially the Susquehanna River.

According to Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania executive director for the foundation, more than half the state of Pennsylvania is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“It’s all about Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams and the lands that drain into them,” Campbell said. “And if we were to sustainably and successfully address this issue, we have to start at that source.”

Campbell recommends cost-effective, green solutions such as planting more trees along city streets, rivers and streams. This would help absorb nitrogen and other pollutants from the air and runoff from the land. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania has 19,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams.

Campbell also advocated helping farmers so that less debris and pollutants from agricultural areas enter bodies of water. He said helping farmers adapt will likely cost the state resources beyond what is available in the farm bill.

“There is a need for additional logistical, technical and financial assistance to help get the plans that are necessary to keep soils and nutrients on the land instead of in the water,” he said.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker applauded the Keystone State’s efforts to improve the watershed.

“The Commonwealth is actually developing a good science-based plan as to how to move forward,” Baker said. “But there is simply no evidence that they have the political will to fund it.”

Baker had some pointed words for the president.

“The Trump administration’s anti-environmental policies must be stopped,” he said.

He urged the public to oppose the administration’s denial of climate change and efforts to roll back environmental protections.

The foundation’s State of the Bay Report is available at cbf.org.

Educators Urge Wolf to Up Funding for Special Education

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Education advocates want Gov. Tom Wolf to include increased funding in the next state budget for some of the state’s most marginalized students.

A letter to the governor from the Education Law Center asks him to propose an increase of at least $400 million for basic education funding and $100 million for special education.

Federal law requires states to provide a free, appropriate public education for all students with disabilities, in the least restrictive environment.

According to Reynelle Brown Staley, the center’s policy director, from 2008 to 2016, special education costs in Pennsylvania increased by more than $1.5 billion, while state support for those costs increased by only $72 million, forcing local districts to make up the difference.

“Local districts have varying ability to come up with the money, so we’re asking the state to meet their legal obligation to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the educational services that they need,” she states.

Staley points out that inadequate state funding has led to Pennsylvania having the largest funding gap between rich and poor school districts of any state in the nation.

Staley notes that the additional funds need to be distributed through the state’s fair funding formula, which takes varying levels of need into account.

“Students who have significant disabilities require additional levels of state support,” she stresses. “So, putting money through the formula will direct funds to the districts that have students with the greatest educational needs.”

Staley adds that charter schools also should get tiered funding based on the severity of the disabilities of the students they serve.

She says an indicator of how well a school funding system works is how well it serves students who are the most marginalized.

“When we have that, we’ll know that we’re making efforts to ensure that all students across Pennsylvania have access to a quality public education,” she states.

Wolf is scheduled to deliver his annual budget address on Feb. 5.

Miss Pennsylvania Kicks Off Farm Show Storytime, Sharing Stories with Visitors Young and Old

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Harrisburg, PA – Miss Pennsylvania 2018, Kayla Repasky of Gettysburg, Adams County, kicked off Children’s Story Time during opening day at the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show. Storytime offers an opportunity to share agriculture-themed childrens’ stories in recognition of this year’s Farm Show theme, “Inspiring Pennsylvania’s Story.”

“Agriculture is so important because it is our number one industry in Pennsylvania,” Repasky said. “It is so cool that we are able to start off the year by celebrating agriculture and what is so important to Pennsylvania.”

Repasky read her own children’s book, “Buddy and the Bully”. Throughout the week, special guests, including the Pennsylvania Dairy Princesses will read agriculture-themed stories on the Main Hall Stage, near the carousel.

Schedule

Sunday Jan. 6, 2019 – 11 AM (PA Dairy Princess’)

Sunday Jan. 6, 2019 – 4 PM

Monday Jan. 7, 2019 – 4 PM (Dauphin County Library System)

Tuesday Jan. 8, 2019 – 4 PM (Dauphin County Library System)

Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019 – 4 PM (Dauphin County Library System)

Thursday Jan. 10, 2019 – 6 PM (Dauphin County Library System)

Friday Jan. 11, 2019 – 4 PM (Dauphin County Library System)

Saturday Jan. 12, 2019 – 11 AM

Saturday Jan. 12, 2019 – 4 PM

The Pennsylvania Farm Show draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to our capital city every year for a mid-winter celebration of Pennsylvania agriculture. It is the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the nation, featuring nearly 12,000 competitive exhibits, including more than 5,200 animal competitions, plus 300 commercial exhibits and hundreds of educational, entertaining events. Visitors get a peek into the industry that employs nearly half a million people and contributes $135.7 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy every year.

The 2019 show runs January 5-12 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except Sunday, January 6, when it runs 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, January 12, when it opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. Admission is free, and parking is $15.

For more information about the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Show, visit farmshow.pa.gov

Your Guide to the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Show

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Governor Wolf to Help Unveil 2019 Farm Show Butter Sculpture
Tomorrow, Governor Wolf will join Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and dairy industry leaders to unveil the 2019 Farm Show Butter Sculpture at the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show at 11 a.m.

Agriculture Department to Showcase Pennsylvania Technology Innovation Start-ups During 2019 Farm Show
During the 2019 Farm Show, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced the department will showcase six Pennsylvania-based companies that offer technology innovations to advance the agriculture industry. Featured technologies will include crop-monitoring drones; implantable health trackers for livestock; sensory robotics for greenhouse production; potting soil made from recyclable materials; facility and animal monitoring systems; and systems to treat pollution, manage nutrients, and produce sustainable fertilizer. More…

Other info
The official Farm Show website is your best source of info. The annual visitor’s guide includes a schedule of the PA Preferred® Culinary Connection on the back page, with chefs from around the state, as well as others doing demos (also attached). Your friends and colleagues can subscribe to this newsletter here.

You might also check our Farm Show social media accounts:

A number of associations include info about their members’ involvement in Farm Show on their websites and social media. The PA Winery Association’s Farm Show pages are just one example – they have featured wineries daily.

Visit PA also has a Farm Show page, as does PA Trips By Train, and the Hershey-Harrisburg Visitor’s Bureau has a dedicated page. There are lots of resources out there.

And in case you missed them, a few previously-issued releases:

PA Department of Agriculture Reveals 2019 Farm Show Theme: Inspiring Pennsylvania’s Story
The 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show will honor agriculture’s rich heritage and promising future with this year’s theme, Inspiring Pennsylvania’s Story. The theme, which will be represented throughout of the weeklong event, will include related events like a daily story time for children, interviews with real Pennsylvanians working in agriculture, and opportunities for attendees to engage and tell their own stories. More…

Farm Show Announces Winners of ‘Oh, Say, Can You Sing?’
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced the winners of “Oh, Say, Can You Sing?”, a star-spangled sing-off on Facebook that puts talented Pennsylvanians center stage during the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show. Each morning of the Farm Show will feature a talented Pennsylvanian singing the national anthem live, chosen by the Farm Show’s Facebook fans. More…

Department of Agriculture, GIANT Announce Multi-Year Farm Show Sponsorship Agreement
Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding joined Nicholas Bertram, president of GIANT Food Stores to announce that the Department of Agriculture and GIANT have entered into a multi-year sponsorship agreement at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center. More…

See you at the PA Farm Show!

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the nation’s largest indoor agricultural event, featuring 12,000 competitive exhibits, more than 5,200 of which are animal competitions, plus 300 commercial exhibitors. The show runs January 5 – 12, 2019. Admission is free and parking is $15 in Farm Show lots. The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center is easily accessible from Interstates 81 and 83.

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