National Roundup

Pennsylvania
Police: Black cat crosses suspect’s path, rats him out

EPHRATA, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania police department says a black cat was lucky for one of its officers tracking down a fugitive.

The Ephrata Police Department posted on its Facebook page that officers were searching for Jonathan Michael Steffy last month over an outstanding bench warrant.

They found the 23-year-old in a backyard but he fled. As they searched the area, one officer noticed a black cat in a nearby yard staring intently at a shed. The officer checked that shed, but it was empty. The officer again saw the cat, and it became apparent it was staring at a different shed behind the officer.

The officer opened that shed and found Steffy.

Police say their thankful for any crime-fighting help, “whether human or feline!”

South Carolina
Foreman: 5 jurors were undecided on Slager verdict

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The foreman of the jury that couldn’t reach a verdict in the murder trial of a former South Carolina police officer initially wanted to convict Michael Slager of murder.

That’s what Dorsey Montgomery said Thursday on NBC’s “Today.” But after reviewing evidence, including cellphone video of the shooting, Montgomery said that he thought the 35-year-old Slager was guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Walter Scott.

Jurors deliberated more than 22 hours over four days before a mistrial was declared Monday. The white former officer was charged with shooting Scott, who was black, five times in the back as he fled a traffic stop in April 2015, an incident captured by a bystander on cellphone video that was shared online and horrified many.

At one point late last week, a juror wrote a note telling the judge that he couldn’t “in good conscience” convict Slager. That same day, Montgomery, as the jury foreman, told the judge the jury wasn’t able to agree but thought a weekend off of deliberations would help, a request the judge granted.

But that note, Montgomery said Thursday, didn’t mean the other 11 jurors all thought the officer was guilty. In fact, he told “Today,” five of them weren’t decided on how they’d vote.

“We had one individual who was just deadlocked ... but yet we had five other individuals who were undecided,” said Montgomery, the sole black member of the jury.

“He just had his own convictions, and I’ll leave that right there,” Montgomery said, when asked what exactly the juror said about why he felt that way.

State prosecutors have said they plan to try Slager again. He has also been charged with civil rights violations in federal court.

Pennsylvania
Teen was on Facebook Live during crash that killed her, pal

TOBYHANNA, Pa. (AP) — An 18-year-old girl was live-streaming herself as she drove along a Pennsylvania highway in the moments before the crash that killed her and a passenger.

State police say Brooke Miranda Hughes was broadcasting live video on Facebook while driving very slowly in the right lane of Interstate 380 near Tobyhanna.

The Times-Tribune reports the passenger, 19-year-old Chaniya Morrison-Toomey, can be heard asking, “Are you going live?”

Before Hughes can answer, lights flash inside the car, followed by the sound of screeching tires.

Both teens died after a tractor-trailer plowed into the back of their car just after midnight Tuesday.

The driver of the truck was unhurt.

The video has been taken off Hughes’ Facebook page. State police say they’ll use it in their investigation.

Connecticut
Fugitive from prison found this year dies at 71

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A man who spent 48 years as a fugitive from a Georgia prison before being found this year in a small Connecticut town has died at the age of 71.

An attorney for Robert Stackowitz tells the Hartford Courant his client was taken to a hospital over the weekend and died Monday as the result of numerous health complications.

Stackowitz escaped from a prison work camp in Carrolton, Georgia, in 1968 while serving a 17-year sentence for robbery. He was arrested at his Connecticut home in Sherman in May.

A Connecticut judge in October dropped a fugitive-from-justice charge against Stackowitz.

Georgia officials had withdrawn their extradition request and accepted a parole supervision plan after learning that Stackowitz has serious health problems, including heart failure and bladder cancer.

Arkansas
Court throws out ruling on birth certificate law

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ highest court has thrown out a judge’s ruling that could have allowed married same-sex couples to get the names of both spouses on their children’s birth certificates without a court order.

A split Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox went too far when he found the birth certificate law unconstitutional last year.

Justices sided with the state, which said Arkansas has a vested interest in listing biological parents on birth certificates. The court said it doesn’t violate equal protection “to acknowledge basic biological truths.”

In a dissent, Justice Paul Danielson wrote that listing a parent’s name on a birth certificate is a benefit associated with marriage that should be extended to same-sex couples under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.

Illinois
Judge denies Aaron Schock’s request to move case to Peoria

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A federal judge in Illinois has refused to move Aaron Schock’s corruption case from Springfield to Peoria at the former congressman’s request.

The 35-year-old Schock is accused of using government and campaign money to subsidize a lavish lifestyle, as well as pocketing thousands of constituents’ dollars. The (Peoria) Journal Star reported Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough said in her opinion that keeping the case in Springfield doesn’t hurt Schock, but that it could delay other cases she is hearing.

Schock requested the move last month, arguing that the Peoria court was more convenient and appropriate. Prosecutors didn’t want the case moved.

Prosecutors say the disgraced Republican hosted Washington tours and meet-and-greets, charged a fee and kept some of the cash.

Schock is to be arraigned Monday.

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