News in Brief

Justice Department weighs in on suit over handcuffed child

COVINGTON (AP) — The Department of Justice has issued a statement of interest in a federal lawsuit over children being handcuffed by a school resource officer in northern Kentucky.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the parents of two students sued Kenton County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Sumner and the sheriff’s department in August over the handcuffing.

Covington Independent Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Garrison has said Sumner complied with the district’s policies, “which are designed to ensure that students do not injure themselves or others.”

The Kentucky Enquirer ( reports the Justice Department statement says the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to resource officers and that school policies should dissuade the “school-to-prison pipeline” created by criminalizing misbehavior. The Justice Department said the statement isn’t meant to take sides on the merits of the case, but to help assess claims made by the families.


Residents of Ky. city petition to move Halloween

LEXINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of Lexington, Kentucky, residents have urged county officials to move Halloween trick-or-treating to Oct. 30 this year.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that residents are concerned a University of Kentucky home football game and the Breeders’ Cup will strain the city’s resources, since both are being held Oct. 31 in Lexington. As of Monday night, more than 400 people had signed the petition in favor of celebrating Halloween a day early.

City spokeswoman Susan Straub says Halloween will continue to be celebrated on Oct. 31, but several events are being organized by businesses that will allow families to celebrate Halloween on another date if they wish.

Luther Andal posted the petition Sept. 29. He plans to forward the petition to the Fayette County council if he gets 1,000 signatures.


Officers rescue store owner crushed by 125-pound python

NEWPORT (AP) — The owner of a northern Kentucky reptile store is recovering after police officers pried off a 20-foot python that was crushing the man.

Newport police tell local news outlets that owner Terry Wilkens was feeding the snake Monday morning when the 125-pound python attacked.

Police Chief Tom Collins says Wilkens wasn’t breathing when officers were trying to free him, but he did resume breathing before he was taken to a hospital. Collins says Wilkens’ health appears to improving and he’s even talking.

Collins says one of the two responding officers, Lt. Gregory Ripberger, knew to uncurl the snake by grabbing it from its head, eventually freeing Wilkens.

Police were working with animal control to determine if the python would need to be removed from the shop.


Committee created to help recruit more minority officers

BOWLING GREEN (AP) — Bowling Green officials have tweaked how they hire police officers and have formed a committee to help recruit more minorities after the U.S. Department of Justice announced an investigation into the police agency’s hiring practices.

The Daily News reports officer candidates no longer have to take a written test after passing a background check.

Meanwhile, the Workforce Recruitment and Outreach Committee is trying to recruit more local minorities, but finding the process is complicated by several factors including a decline in interest.

Committee member Chuck Glass said many high school students don’t express an interest in law enforcement careers.

“It’s not a career a lot of kids are pursuing,” Glass said. “They are looking at athletics, then business or medical careers.”

The committee is reaching out to the minority community to determine how they can attract more qualified candidates.


Plea hearing set for $8.7M Ohio embezzlement suspect

CINCINNATI (AP) — A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled Oct. 23 for an accountant who became a regular on the Appalachian Trail in the six years after he fled accusations that he embezzled $8.7 million.

James Hammes, 53, of Lexington, Kentucky, will appear before U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott. The trial had been scheduled to begin Tuesday in Cincinnati, but court documents first obtained by The Associated Press show a plea deal was reached.

No details have been released about the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval. Hammes had earlier pleaded not guilty on wire fraud and money laundering charges from 2009. Hammes’ attorney hasn’t responded to messages for comment.

The FBI arrested Hammes May 16 in Damascus, Virginia, during the annual “Trail Days” festival. People there say he was known as an outgoing, bushy-bearded hiker called “Bismarck” who had become a regular on the popular Georgia-to-Maine hiking trail.

The FBI said Hammes disappeared soon after being confronted in February 2009 about money missing from the beverage bottler he worked for. Authorities haven’t said what they think happened to the money or commented on his whereabouts the last six years.

Trail guidebook writer David Miller said Bismarck had a surprisingly high visibility, showing up in photos in hikers’ journals and on social media.

Hammes, a licensed pilot, had claimed a successful investment in a software company provided extra money for scuba diving trips to the Caribbean in the years before his indictment, according to former in-laws who were interviewed for an episode of the CNBC series “American Greed.” A fellow hiker has been credited with recognizing Bismarck from the show, leading to Hammes’ eventual arrest.

Hammes, a Milwaukee native, was the Lexington-based controller for the southern division of Cincinnati-based G&J Pepsi-Cola bottlers.


Judge says deal over environmental damage can’t be sealed

FRANKFORT (AP) — A Franklin County judge says he’s inclined to approve the terms of a settlement between the state Energy and Environment Cabinet and an eastern Kentucky oil company over a diesel fuel leak but can’t allow it to be sealed.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate said at a hearing Monday that the final resolution of a case brought by the state over environmental damage is not one of the circumstances in which a court can seal a record.

The Courier-Journal reports the lawyer representing the cabinet, Kathleen Saunier, told the judge she took responsibility for the way the settlement was handled.

Saunier said the cabinet stands by the agreement for Childers Oil Co. of Whitesburg to pay $47,057 to pay for the emergency response team and a fine.

Wingate asked for a new settlement to be submitted.


YouthBuild Louisville to receive $1M grant

LOUISVILLE (AP) — The Department of Labor has awarded YouthBuild Louisville $1.1 million in federal funding for workforce training and development.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said on Monday that the funding will help 70 youths participate in the community-based alternative education initiative. The program serves at-risk youth who have dropped out of high school, served time in detention or are aging out of foster care.

The program helps youth improve their education and job skills over a 30-month time span.

Yarmuth says the grant is competitive and the award shows the success YouthBuild has had in helping youth improve their education and develop job skills.


Man pleads not guilty to killing infant

GLASGOW (AP) — A Barren County man has pleaded not guilty to killing an 8-week-old infant.

The Glasgow Daily Times reports Chad Flora Lewis also entered a not guilty plea in Barren Circuit Court on Monday to charges of cultivating marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

A grand jury indicted Lewis last month on the charges stemming from the death of Jalayah Grace Clark, who was found unresponsive at a residence on Sept. 6. Court documents say she died at Kosair Children’s Hospital two days later.

An autopsy found that the child died of a closed-head injury. According to Barren County Sherriff’s Detective Rusty Anderson, Lewis said he was the only one with the child when she was injured.

The drug charges stem from marijuana plants found during the death investigation.

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