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PA 41 SHUTDOWN IN CHESTER COUNTY DUE TO HEAD ON CRASH

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COCHRANVILLE, PA ( WLRI )  Keystone Valley Fire Department along with Cochranville Fire Company and Christiana Fire Company are responding to a head on accident along HONEYCROFT BLVD  in the area of Gap-Newport Pike. Further information will be provided as it becomes available. Crews advise motorist that the road will be closed for hours this evening.

 

Education Advocates: Ending School Discipline Guidance Won’t Improve Safety

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By: Andrea Sears

PHILADELPHIA – Education advocates are condemning a Federal Commission on School Safety report that recommends ending Obama-era policies against discriminatory discipline practices in schools.

Studies have shown that black and brown students are punished more frequently and more harshly than are their white peers for similar or lesser infractions.

According to Raynelle Brown Staley, policy director at the Education Law Center, ending the policies won’t change the law – discrimination based on race, disability or identity will still be illegal – but if the change goes into effect, it will have an impact.

“We think it’s going to invite discrimination to occur,” she said, “because the Department of Education has shown their unwillingness to protect the civil rights of students across our country.”

The anti-discrimination policies only served as guidance, but their critics have claimed they have hampered teachers’ ability to discipline students and compromised school safety.

The recommendation to rescind the discipline policies is, in part, a reaction to mass school shootings such as the one in Parkland, Fla. However, Staley said, efforts to end racial disparities in educational discipline are a totally separate issue.

“There’s no correlation between the implementation of restorative justice and other strategies as alternatives to school discipline and the mass shootings that prompted the School Safety Commission report,” she said.

She noted that Pennsylvania school districts that have implemented policies to limit suspensions and expulsions have seen school climates improve.

Staley said Pennsylvania’s Department of Education has stated that it maintains a commitment to examining issues of discrimination, in suspension and other forms of school discipline.

“So, we feel confident that the Pennsylvania Department of Education will continue to uphold the civil rights of students across the state,” she said.

Staley added that the School Safety Commission report also recommends that school districts consider arming school personnel, a policy many believe would severely compromise school safety.

The School Safety Commission report is online at ed.gov.

Criminal Justice Reform a Major Issue for People with Disabilities

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, PA. – The criminal justice reform bill making its way through Congress will help thousands of people with disabilities re-enter their communities.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 32 percent of people in federal prisons and 40 percent of all people in jail in the United States have at least one disability.

The First Step Act passed by the Senate on Tuesday would expand job training and early release programs, and reduce minimum mandatory sentences for nonviolent offenders incarcerated in federal prisons.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of the group RespectAbility, says those reforms will help thousands of people with disabilities successfully leave incarceration.

“It means they’ll be able to go back into the community and hopefully get a job, have their talents used in the community and to have a better future,” she states.

Leadership in the House says it will pass the bill this week and President Donald Trump has said he will sign it into law.

Although the First Step Act only would apply to the 180,000 people in federal prisons, Mizrahi points out that the overwhelming support the bill has received from both sides of the aisle in Washington could help spur criminal justice reforms at all levels of government.

“While this one bill is certainly no panacea for all the different issues, it gives us a platform where people at the state, local or federal level can problem solve together in a bipartisan manner,” she states.

There are more than 2 million people in prisons and jails in the United States, including more than 750,000 with disabilities.

Mizrahi notes that further reforms are needed to reduce the number of people being incarcerated.

She says underfunded schools, predominantly attended by children of color, often lack the resources to diagnose and teach those with learning disorders or other disabilities.

“Then they get really behind in their work, and then they’re so far behind that they drop out or they’re expelled,”
she points out. “This is what leads people into the school-to-prison pipeline in the first place.”

Only 61 percent of youths with disabilities graduate from high school, compared with 81 percent of those without disabilities.

Proposed SNAP Rules: An “End Run around Congress?”

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – After failing to get deep cuts to nutrition assistance through Congress, President Donald Trump wants to get them by changing the rules.

Trump had backed a Republican plan that critics warned would have ended SNAP or food-stamp benefits for two million Americans and school meal access for 265,000 children.

Congress rejected those changes when it passed the Farm Bill last week. So on Thursday, Trump proposed new rules restricting states’ ability to provide SNAP benefits to childless adults living in high-unemployment areas who are struggling to find work.

Rebecca Vallas, vice-president of the poverty team at the Center for American Progress, says the rules would force hundreds of thousands of unemployed SNAP participants to lose the help they need to put food on the table.

“Ultimately, he failed to gut food stamps in the Farm Bill and so now, he’s sidestepping Congress and trying unilaterally to slash food assistance by fiat,” says Vallas. “And he’s doing that just days before Christmas.”

The administration points out that unemployment is at record low levels and says the new rules would save $15 billion over ten years.

Vallas insists a better approach would be to raise the federal minimum wage, set at $7.25 an hour for the past ten years. She says raising it to just $12 an hour would make a huge difference.

“That would save $53 billion in nutrition assistance over the coming decade, and it would do so by ensuring that workers earn enough to afford food,” says Vallas.

The administration’s own numbers show that under the proposed rule change, more than 750,000 unemployed people would lose SNAP benefits.

Vallas adds research has shown that taking food away from workers who can’t meet strict work-reporting requirements is counterproductive.

“When workers have access to basics like food and housing and health care, they’re better able to work and they have higher earnings,” says Vallas.

Once the rules are published in the Federal Register, there will be a 60 day period for public comment before they could be put into effect.

For Those with Criminal Records, New Year Can Bring Clean Slate

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Many Pennsylvanians with old criminal records are now eligible to have those records sealed.

The first phase of the state’s Clean Slate Act went into effect the day after Christmas. That means people convicted of second-degree simple assault and some first-degree misdemeanors, and who’ve had no other convictions for at least ten years, can apply to have their records sealed.

Elizabeth Randol, legislative director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, says that will bring welcome relief to thousands who may have been blocked from jobs, housing, even some loans, for a mistake made years ago.

“It does not come up on any criminal record background check or searches, and you are also not obligated to check the box that says, ‘Have you ever been convicted?’ So, you are under no obligation to check ‘yes’ if your record has been sealed,” says Randol.

Sealed records will still be seen in federal background checks.

The second phase of the law, automatically sealing some low-level criminal records, will begin on June 28. Randol notes that feature of the law makes it unique.

“No other state has this type of automatic procedure that, after a certain period of time, without any additional charges on your record, it will automatically seal those records,” says Randol.

Offenses now eligible for sealing include driving while intoxicated and some theft and drug crimes.

Randol adds there is more that can be done, such as adding additional eligible offenses, but she thinks the Clean Slate law is a step in the right direction.

“Hopefully the legislators, once they get any of the kinks worked out in it, will look at trying to reduce the period of time one needs to wait before those records are sealed,” says Randol.

More information about the Clean Slate Act is available through Community Legal Services of Philadelphia at ‘clsphila.org.’

SWAT Team Sings Christmas Carol To Get Gunman To Surrender

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Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced the arrest of defendant
Nathaniel Lewis for attempted homicide of multiple police officers. Following a
situation on Christmas day where the defendant barricaded himself at a residence in East
Vincent Township, Chester County, the SWAT team responded to the home. During the
course of the barricade, the defendant shot at police officers who were both inside and
outside of a SWAT vehicle. The defendant eventually surrendered to the SWAT team
after a negotiator sang him a Christmas carol.
East Vincent Police Chief Matt Williams, who also is the leader of the SWAT
team, stated, “Incidents like this are why our SWAT team trains constantly. Despite the
extreme danger to the police officers, the team responded calmly and professionally,
resulting in the eventual surrender of the defendant.”
District Attorney Hogan stated, “This defendant is lucky he did not kill a police
officer. The SWAT team members deserve the h
-2-
The facts alleged in the criminal complaint are as follows:1

At approximately 9:00 p.m. on December 25, 2018, East Vincent Police went to
the defendant’s residence in East Vincent. The police were responding to a well-being
call from a family member who was concerned about the defendant. The defendant was
in the process of separating from his wife and was behaving erratically.
East Vincent police officers responded to the residence and secured the area. The
police were advised that the defendant had a firearm. One of the Chester County SWAT
teams, the Chester County Regional Emergency Response Team, then was called out to
assist.
The SWAT team established a perimeter and began to negotiate with the
defendant, attempting to get him to surrender peacefully. The defendant, a member of
the National Guard, was in possession of a rifle. The SWAT team had an armored
vehicle near the residence to protect the police officers. Over the course of several hours,
the defendant started to fire at police officers from inside the residence. The defendant’s
shots hit the armored vehicle with police inside and outside of the vehicle, as well as
hitting another home and nearby civilian car. Police returned fire. Another Chester
County SWAT team, the West Chester Emergency Response Team, was deployed to
assist the first SWAT team.
The defendant later re-established contact with SWAT negotiators. A SWAT
negotiator succeeded in getting the defendant to surrender by agreeing to sing the
Christmas carol “White Christmas” to the defendant. After the song, the defendant
surrendered to the SWAT team and was taken into custody at approximately 7:00 a.m. on
December 26, 2018.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office was immediately called out to assist
with the investigation of the defendant and perform an independent investigation of the
officer-involved firearms discharge. The Chester County Detectives performed the
independent investigation. The SWAT team members were interviewed and the scene
was processed. The District Attorney determined that the SWAT team members were
legally justified in returning fire when the defendant was shooting at them.
The defendant has been charged with multiple counts of attempted homicide,
aggravated assault, and related offenses. He has been committed to Chester County
Prison.

1 A criminal defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
-3-
District Attorney Hogan added, “We are grateful that nobody was hurt or killed in
this incident. All of Chester County appreciates the sacrifices of our law enforcement
officers, both in times of crisis and every day.”
The assigned prosecutor in this case is Chris Miller. The primary detective is Jim
Ciliberto. Anybody with information about the defendant can contact Detective Ciliberto
at 610-344-6866.

Chester County District Attorney Opens Criminal Investigation Into Mariner East Pipeline

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Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced that the District Attorney’s
Office (the “DAO”) has opened a criminal investigation into the construction of the Mariner East
1, 2, and 2X pipelines being constructed through Chester County. This investigation includes the
owners of the pipelines – – Energy Transfer LP, Sunoco Logistics Partners, and related corporate
entities (collectively, “Sunoco”).
District Attorney Hogan stated, “In the last two years, we have seen these pipelines rip
through the heart of Chester County. We have seen sinkholes created by the pipeline drilling,
contaminated well water, and some subtle and not-so-subtle bullying of Chester County citizens
by big corporate interests. We expected the state regulators and the governor to step in and
assure the safety of Pennsylvanians. They have not. So now the Chester County District
Attorney’s Office will demand that every aspect of these pipelines be conducted safely, or we
will bring into play all of the tools of the criminal justice system.”
The Mariner East 1, 2, and 2X pipelines are intended to ship volatile natural gas from
western Pennsylvania all the way to Marcus Hook in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. These
pipelines cut directly through the middle of Chester County, bisecting heavily populated
residential areas, running near schools and businesses, and in close proximity to railroads and
streets.
The Mariner East 1 pipeline previously existed to ship refined petroleum under Chester
County running from the eastern portion of Pennsylvania to the west. Refined petroleum is a
very different substance than natural gas and Mariner East 1 is smaller than the planned Mariner
East 2 and 2X pipelines. Sunoco intended to build the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines along the
same route as Mariner East 1. In order to accomplish this, they intended to use horizontal
directional drilling, a process that can be problematic depending on the area where drilling is
occurring. Sunoco also introduced plans to reverse the flow of Mariner East 1 and use it to ship
natural gas under Chester County in the older and smaller pipeline.
The Mariner East pipeline construction has experienced significant problems. On the
property of homes in West Whiteland Township, the drilling resulted in significant sinkholes in
the residents’ back-yards. In another area of Chester County, the drilling caused the apparent
contamination of well water for multiple residences. In Beaver County, Pennsylvania, there was
an explosion along a pipeline, destroying a home. The Department of Environmental Protection
has fined the owners of the pipelines. But the construction of these pipelines keeps continuing.
“Two things recently happened that drew the attention of the District Attorney’s Office,”
District Attorney Hogan added. “First, the explosion in Beaver County changed speculation into
tangible danger and destruction. Second, over Thanksgiving, some of the residents of Lisa Drive
in West Whiteland were kind enough to take me onto their property and show me the damage
caused by the pipelines. The concerns and fears of those citizens were both disturbing and heartwrenching.
I then detailed District Attorney staff members to do the legal research to make sure
that the DAO had jurisdiction to investigate the pipelines and received an affirmative response.”
The District Attorney’s investigation will cover both past and future conduct related to
the pipelines. Potential charges include causing or risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief,
environmental crimes, and corrupt organizations. Such offenses could include criminal charges
directly against the individual employees involved, from workers on the pipelines through
corporate officers. Sunoco has been advised of this investigation via a letter. See attached,
Exhibit A.
District Attorney Hogan stated, “This investigation will not be easy. It will take time to
dig into the historical information and we will need to constantly monitor any future activity.
But we are committed to protecting Chester County. And we will need our citizens to help.”
Chester County Detective Ben Martin is the lead investigator. The assigned prosecutors
are Alexander Gosfield and Myles Matteson. Anybody with information should contact
Detective Martin at 610-344-6866.
District Attorney Hogan concluded with, “We understand that only the Pennsylvania
Utility Commission or the governor can shut down construction of these pipelines, and neither
has shown any inclination to do so. But we can at least make sure that anything that happens in
Chester County complies with the criminal laws of Pennsylvania. We owe that to our citizens.
Money should not be allowed to trump safety.”


 

FULL PRESS STATEMENT HERE

Employee Embezzles Over $300,000 From Chester County Business

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Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced the arrest of defendant
Cynthia Taylor for stealing over $330,000 from her employer, Ballymore Company, in
Sadsbury Township, Chester County Pennsylvania. Ballymore manufactures rolling
safety ladders used in many big box stores. The defendant used the company credit card
for personal expenditures and then doctored the internal records to cover up her crime.
The defendant has been charged with felony theft and related offenses.
The defendant is 37 years old. She resides in Gap, Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania. The defendant was employed by Ballymore as an account manager.
District Attorney Hogan stated, “Ballymore Company discovered this theft through
internal auditing and an internal investigation. It is an unfortunate reminder that all
businesses are vulnerable to insiders who abuse their position of trust. That is why
businesses, big and small, need to have internal safeguards and always keep an eye on
people managing the finances.”
The facts alleged in the criminal complaint are as follows:1

The defendant worked at Ballymore for seven years, rising to the position of Major
Account Manager. In this role, she reported directly to Ballymore’s president and was
responsible for managing the employee expenses account with American Express.
Ballymore had a business account through American Express and numerous employees,
including the defendant, were issued business credit cards.

1 A criminal defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
When the monthly statements came in, the defendant was responsible for checking
the employee expenditures and then coding the expenditures into the company’s internal
records.
In October of 2017, the company performed an internal audit, which revealed
significant discrepancies between the American Express statements and their
corresponding internal records. Ballymore acted swiftly and professionally by
performing an internal investigation, discovering the full extent of the problem, and
reporting the crime to law enforcement.
Ballymore discovered that the defendant had, since 2013, been using the company
American Express card for personal expenses. The defendant then covered up her fraud
by changing the records to appear as though she had incurred legitimate business
expenses. For example, in December of 2015, she used the company card to spend
$163.21 at Gamestop, an electronics and video game store. The defendant changed the
records to reflect that it was a business purchase from Amazon Market and coded it as a
business expense. The defendant employed this strategy at least 2,443 times from
January of 2013 until she was terminated from the company in November of 2017 after
the fraud was discovered.
Ballymore reported this crime to the Sadsbury Township Police Department, who,
along with the Chester County Detectives, investigated the theft. Based on a thorough
review of the records as well as Ballymore’s own internal investigation, detectives
confirmed that the defendant stole $331,563.00 from Ballymore, abusing her position for
personal gain. The defendant used the company card for gifts, purses, groceries, and
other personal items. She used the card to shop at stores such as Coach, Ralph Lauren,
Vera Bradley, Kay Jewelers, and Michael Kors.
The defendant has been charged with felony theft and access device fraud.
This case was investigated by the Chester County Detectives and the Sadsbury
Township Police Department. Anybody with further information should contact
Detective John O’Donnell at 610-344-6866. The assigned prosecutor is Brian D. Burack.

Low Temps Put Pets at Risk Too

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Animal rights advocates are reminding pet owners that cold weather can be fatal to dogs and cats that remain outside.

Many people keep their pets in backyard enclosures or tied to dog houses, even during the winter.

But like humans, pets can suffer from deadly frostbite and exposure and can experience dehydration if their drinking water freezes.

Last winter, at least 50 cold weather animal deaths were reported nationwide, but most deaths are not reported at all.

According to Kaleigh Rhoads, a campaign coordinator with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), pets already are at risk in Pennsylvania this year.

“Just this week in Fayette County, a dog was found left outside in 26-degree weather and police are currently filing charges for animal cruelty on that case,” she relates.

Rhoads urges pet owners to bring their animals inside if possible when the weather is cold.

If animals cannot be brought into the house, then Rhoads says owners are responsible for making sure they have adequate shelter outside of the house.

“A legal shelter in cold weather must be raised off the ground and completely waterproof, properly sized so the animal can stand and turn around while still retaining their body heat, have a protected entrance, dry bedding, and should be placed in an area where it will have the best protection from the wind and cold,” she states.

Rhoads adds that animals may need extra food in the winter if they’re burning more calories to keep warm.

Rhoads wants everyone to be aware that pet ownership comes with legal obligations, and protecting pets from severe weather is one of them.

“These dogs and cats are required by law to have adequate shelter,” she stresses. “So if you see an animal who has inadequate shelter or none at all, please report it to the authorities.”

More information and tips for cold-weather care of animals is available online at PETA.org.

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