Fans seek John Glenn statue to mark milestones at Statehouse

By JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Fans of the late astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn are working to bring a statue of his likeness to the Ohio Statehouse to mark major future milestones, such as his birthday and the anniversary of his famous space flight.
Thursday marks 58 years since Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, making him an instant national hero in 1962. He returned to space in 1998, at age 77, as part of NASA research on aging.
State Rep. Adam Holmes, a Zanesville Republican, has proposed temporarily placing a statue of Glenn on Statehouse grounds beginning with what would have been his 100th birthday on July 18, 2021. Under his plan, it would return again on Feb. 20, 2022, for the 60th anniversary of Glenn’s orbital flight in Friendship 7.
The next meeting of the board governing Statehouse installations is in April.
Rules governing the Statehouse grounds do not allow for the permanent placement of a person’s statue until they have been dead at least 25 years. Glenn died in 2016 at age 95.
The $80,000, 7-foot bronze statue of him that is being eyed by Holmes was crafted by Alan Cottrill, who was born and raised in Zanesville, a short drive from New Concord, where Glennand his wife, Annie, met and grew up.
Adam Sackowitz, a student of Glenn’s life from New York, said he also has been in talks with the city of Cambridge, where Glennwas born,about putting the statue on permanent displayin the post office there.
Annie Glenn turned 100 on Monday.
A resolution urging Congress to award the Glenns a joint Congressional Gold Medal is pending in the Ohio Legislature.
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This story has been corrected to show that John Glenn was born in Cambridge and grew up in New Concord, not vice versa.

Ohio governments working to craft unusual opioid bargain

By JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s governor, attorney general and dozens of local governments are nearing agreement on divvying up proceeds of a potentially huge settlement with the opioid industry, hoping to avoid mistakes made with the national tobacco settlement.
The so-called “One Ohio” agreement, still not final, would give local governments much of the control of the purse strings — all but cutting out state lawmakers remembered fordiverting tobacco settlement money at one point that had been intended to cover smoking-related health care costs to pay for other things.
No other state has announced plans for dividing settlements over the toll of opioids. And so far no national opioid settlement has been finalized. One with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is being worked on in bankruptcy court, and a group of three drug distribution companies and two manufacturers are working on a settlement intending to resolve all litigation against them.
Communities in Ohio would receive 30% of the money up front — double the 15% reserved for the state, and hold some long-term sway over a network of regional boards reporting to a nonprofit foundation that would manage the remaining 55%. The number of opioid deaths suffered by a community would be among criteria for determining its share.
“People agreed the Legislature really shouldn’t have access to this,” said Kent Scarrett, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League.
Still, attorneys are working to address significant divisions that remain after a meeting of the parties last week. Large cities and counties, mostly controlled by Democrats, sat side-by-side at the gathering with largely GOP-led smaller cities and counties, and Gov. Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost, also Republicans.
Everyone recognizes the value of presenting a unified front to a federal judge in Cleveland handling thousands of opioid-related cases, said those privy to the discussions.
Opioids, including both powerful prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as heroin and illicit fentanyl, have been linked to more than 430,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. The drug industry is facing about 3,000 lawsuits over the toll of the drugs, including from 49 states and thousands of municipal, county and Native American tribal governments.
The sprawling litigation is among the most complex ever in the U.S., and if Ohio could hammer out a unified plan for spending any settlement dollars, if would save both time and money.
The 1998 master settlement agreement between Ohio and more than 40 other states and territories and Big Tobacco companies is a cautionary tale. Intended to cover states’ health care costs related to smoking, Ohio’s share, estimated at $10 billion a year for the first 26 years, was diverted over time to cover K-12 and higher education construction projects — and eventually cashed in to pay for a tax exemption and other programs.
But tensions between Ohio’s smaller and larger communities — as well as between all the municipalities and the state — prompted requests that the ultimate Ohio deal provide more legal assurances to cities and counties about the 55% share proposed to go to the foundation.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat planning a run for governor, said DeWine’s outline for the foundation’s structure is dubious.
“It was very unclear how it would be governed, very unclear how it would distribute funds and no guarantee it would get back to local governments,” Cranley said.
The draft plan, obtained from Yost’s office, calls for the foundation to be overseen by a 25-member board of state and regional appointees, including four lawmakers, 10 “non-metropolitan” representatives and five from metropolitan areas.
The document calls for the foundation to hire an executive director and an “expert panel” and to spend no less than 10% of its annual payout “to support evidence-based substance abuse/misuse prevention efforts.”
Cranley called that “insulting,” saying cities and counties are the experts.
“This isn’t about creating some huge bureaucracy in Columbus to study the issue when we have real people dying on the streets, real people needing recovery beds, needle exchanges, harm reduction, Suboxone, Narcan,” he said, referring to an addiction treatment drug and overdose antidote. “This isn’t make-believe stuff. This is real local needs that have not been paid for in the past and are going to be necessary for many years to come.”

Conservative group seeks end to death penalty in Ohio

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A newly formed conservative group is seeking an end to the death penalty in Ohio at a time when executions have ground to a halt in the state and the House speaker has questioned whether capital punishment should be reconsidered.
Ohio Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, which launched Tuesday in Columbus, is part of a network of similar groups nationwide. Members question the expense of capital punishment and have raised concerns about executing the innocent.
The Ohio chapter on Tuesday released a list of Republicans opposed to the death penalty. That tally includes former Gov. Bob Taft, former Attorney General Jim Petro and former U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi.
The list also includes three current GOP House legislators, including Rep. Laura Lanese, of suburban Columbus.
“To give big government power over life and death is rather concerning to a lot of us,” she said. The other House lawmakers are Rep. Craig Riedel, of Defiance, and Rep. Niraj Antani, of suburban Dayton, both of whom have previously co-sponsored legislation to end the death penalty in Ohio.
Republican House Speaker Larry Householder is not a member of the group but has recently questioned whether the state should reconsider capital punishment because of the cost and Ohio’s inability to find lethal drugs.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has acknowledged executions are at a standstill in Ohio because of the drug issue. Ohio’s last execution was carried out in July 2018.
Also Tuesday, the head of the Ohio Parole Board said it wants more information from prosecutors about a death row inmate’s claim he shouldn’t be executed because of his intellectual disability.
Condemned killer Gregory Lott is scheduled for execution in May 2021 for killing John McGrath in East Cleveland.
Lott’s lawyers asked the parole board last week to spare him, based in part on what they call his “limited mental abilities.” They also say that “when the events in question transpired he was dangerously abusing both alcohol and drugs” and has no recollection of the killing.
The parole board is seeking “additional information regarding Lott’s claim of intellectual disability for the Parole Board to consider in making its recommendation,” Trayce Thalheimer, the board chair, said in a letter Tuesday to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office. Thalheimer set a March 31 deadline for the information.
Prosecutors said this month that experts hired by Lott previously determined he was not intellectually disabled. They also say multiple tests show Lott has an IQ above the level at which courts say people shouldn’t be executed.
They also question the report of a psychologist hired by Lott’s attorneys to review Lott’s earlier tests who maintains Lott is intellectually disabled.
The Cuyahoga prosecutor’s office said it will exhaust all options to ensure justice for Lott’s victim, including another expert evaluation if needed.
“This murderer has been evaluated numerous times by multiple experts, all of whom agree with The State’s position that he is not intellectually-disabled,” Prosecutor Michael O’Malley wrote in a statement.

Court affirms alleged Islamic State recruiter’s conviction

CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal appeals court in Ohio has affirmed the convictions of a North Carolina man who was accused of trying to recruit people to conduct terrorist attacks in the name of the Islamic State group.
Authorities alleged that Erick Jamal Hendricks, arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2016, contacted people over social media trying to recruit them. A jury in Akron convicted him in 2018 on charges of conspiracy and attempt to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization., and he was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison.
Hendricks’ argued there was insufficient evidence and that the court abused its discretion by denying him a new trial and by partially closing the courtroom during testimony from an undercover FBI agent.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those arguments in a ruling Wednesday. A message was left with Hendricks’ attorney seeking comment.

Dayton gunman’s friend to be sentenced on unrelated charges

By DAN SEWELL Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — A friendof a gunman who killed nine people in a shooting rampage in Dayton, Ohio, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday on unrelated federal firearms charges.
Ethan Kollie, 24, pleaded guilty in November to lying on a federal firearms form and to possessing a gun while using illegal drugs.
Kollie was released from jail under electronic monitoring in December after being held since early August. His attorney, Nick Gounaris, is asking the judge to let him remain on supervised release, but federal prosecutors say a sentence of 33 to 41 months is called for.
While Gounaris said ahead of Thursday’s hearing that investigators found no indication Kollie knew of gunman Connor Betts’ plans for a mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon entertainment district, prosecutors said Kollie used poor judgment about his friend “when society needed a responsible, clear-thinking person in the room.”
Gounaris wrote in his sentence request that Kollie admitted to the charges and has cooperated fully and honestly with investigators since they were first led to him. Authorities found a receipt referencing Kollie in Betts’ car in the first hours after the early morning Aug. 4 shooting. Police fatally shot Betts about 30 seconds into his attack.
Investigators said Kollie told them he bought body armor, a 100-round magazine and a part for Betts’ gun. However, they concluded there was no indication he knew of Betts’ plans.
“The United States has a desire to promote the tragic events of August 4, 2019, and to link those events to Mr. Kollie suggesting that he holds some type of responsibility to the Oregon District tragedy,” Gounaris wrote, adding: “it was determined that Mr. Kollie was not responsible or involved in the tragic mass shooting.”
The government response, filed by prosecutor Vipal Patel, said that to say Kollie had actual knowledge of the plans “says too much. … To say, however, that Kollie bears no connection, says too little.”
The prosecutors wrote that Kollie, an acknowledged regular user of marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms, carried a loaded handgun “while high as a kite or off in psychedelic land.” They said he ordered items Betts used in his rampage “rather than pause, reflect, question, reach out for help, contact Betts’ parents, sister, or friend, simply say ‘no,’ do something, anything.”
The government memo said Kollie needs drug treatment, which he can get in federal custody.
Chris Hoffman, the FBI special agent in charge of the Cincinnati office, said last week the agency should soon wrap up its probe into Betts’ possible motivations for the shooting.
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Follow Dan Sewell at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

Cincinnati mayor exploring 2022 Democratic bid for governor

CINCINNATI (AP) — Mayor John Cranley of Cincinnati said Friday he is exploring a run for Ohio governor in 2022.
The Democrat said he thinks Ohio is “falling behind and must do better.” He pointed to Cincinnati’s growth and progress in recent years that have seen more riverfront development and old neighborhoods revitalized.
Cranley, 45, is in his second four-year term as mayor and is term-limited against running again in 2021. The former city councilman, a Harvard Law School alumnus, twice lost bids to unseat veteran Republican congressman Steve Chabot of Cincinnati.
Several other Democrats are considered potential challengers to first-term Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in Ohio, a state that has been trending Republican in statewide elections.

Bank fires workers for stealing customer info in fraud ring

CINCINNATI (AP) — Fifth Third Bank has fired a small number of employees who stole customer information and gave it to people outside the company in what was an orchestrated fraud ring, the bank said Friday.
The Cincinnati-based bank said it has identified about 100 customers who were victims of fraud and last week reached out to all customers whose data may have been accessed.
The employees who were involved in the fraud ring worked in the company’s Cincinnati offices, the bank said. It was not known yet if any employees will face charges, said spokeswoman Laura Trujillo.
“Because this is an active investigation, we are limited in the information that we can share,” the company said in a statement. “We are cooperating fully with authorities in the investigation of this matter and we look forward to seeing justice served.”

Man gets prison for selling fatal drugs to billionaire’s son

CLEVELAND (AP) — An Ohio man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for selling cocaine laced with heroin and fentanyl to a Greek billionaire’s son who was found dead in a Cleveland hotel room.
Terry Lee Christian, 36, pleaded guilty in October to charges related to selling the drugs that killed 34-year-old Sokratis S. Kokkalis in July 2018 and for using a cellphone in a drug transaction. He was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Cleveland.
Christian sold the drugs to Kokkalis outside Jack Cleveland Casino, authorities said. Christian said at his plea hearing that he thought the drugs contained only cocaine. Kokkalis was in Cleveland for a gambling conference.
Kokkalis’ father, Socrates P. Kokkalis, is the founder of a Greek telecommunications company and chairman of the Greek soccer team Olympiacos F.C. His son was the team’s vice president.
A message seeking comment was left Thursday with Christian’s federal public defender.

Sheriff convicted of posting confidential reports to resign

BRYAN, Ohio (AP) — A sheriff in Ohio who was convicted of posting confidential child abuse reports to the department’s website and Facebook page agreed to step down in exchange for avoiding an indictment on new felony charges.
Williams County Sheriff Steve Towns will resign March 17, according to Mark Weaver, a Columbus attorney acting as special prosecutor in the case, The Crescent-News reported.
Towns engaged in three potential felony counts of theft in office that were connected to his trial regarding the child abuse reports, Weaver said in a news release Wednesday.
A Bryan Municipal Court jury convicted Towns on Nov. 4 of improperly disclosing confidential information, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Weaver said a recent investigation determined that Towns had directed one of his deputies to attend and assist that hearing, as well as a county board of elections hearing Jan. 13. The deputy was paid for the hours, though there was no official government reason for him to be present, Weaver said.
Towns also submitted an invoice for the creation of a transcript concerning his appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, to be paid by taxpayers. The appeal was submitted Jan. 21.
Weaver said that he was prepared to charge Towns with the more serious charges, but that this agreement would save taxpayer money and resources.
Towns said last year that he had been frustrated with the handling of child abuse investigations in the county, so he posted the documents to let the public know what was happening.
Towns did not return requests for comment from the newspaper Wednesday.

Ohio teen accused of planning explosion at school indicted

By MARK GILLISPIE Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) — A teenager who planned to set off an explosive device at an Ohio high school and called police about a hoax hostage situation at a Kansas elementary school has been indicted on federal charges, prosecutors said Friday.
Allen Martin Kenna, 18, has been charged with attempted use of an explosive device and interstate communication of threats, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland. Court records don’t indicate whether he has an attorney.
Kenna drew the attention of police in his hometown of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, in early January after he was identified as the person seen walking the hallways of Cuyahoga Falls High School after hours recording a video, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. The person fled when approached by school personnel.
He was identified the next day by someone who said Kenna had been talking for months about plans to shoot people at the school during lunch hour, the FBI agent’s affidavit said. The person said Kenna also had made frequent sexist and racist remarks and that he “centers his life around researching and talking about terrorism, white supremacy, and his knife collection,” the FBI agent wrote.
Cuyahoga Falls police arrested Kenna and searched his family’s home on Jan. 8, seizing items that could be used to make an explosive device along with gun magazines, ammunition and knives. Investigators also took computers and other electronic devices that were turned over to the FBI.
The FBI learned from a diary found on his laptop that it was Kenna who called the Riley County Police Department in Manhattan, Kansas, in November saying someone was being held hostage inside a local elementary school, according to the affidavit. Members of a SWAT team learned it was a hoax after several hours of talking on the telephone with the purported gunman.
Kenna in his diary described the hoax as “fun.”
“I mean I guess it could possible (sic) get me notoriety in the long run, but I was just bored, that’s all,” Kenna wrote.
Other diary entries, which he began writing in the summer of 2018, detailed conflicts with his father, his parents finding knives and pipe bomb materials, and his thoughts about mass shootings, killing his family, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and President Donald Trump, the FBI affidavit said.
FBI agents also reviewed videos that showed Kenna inside the high school and describing his plans to detonate a bomb there.