National Roundup

Kentucky
Priest reaches plea agreement on sex abuse

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Catholic priest has reached a plea agreement on sexual abuse charges that occurred at a summer camp in Kentucky that he ran for decades.

R. Joseph Hemmerle was facing allegations of abuse from a second person who said Hemmerle abused him at Camp Tall Trees in Meade County. Hemmerle was also convicted in November of abusing a boy who attended the camp in the 1970s.

Prosecutors say Hemmerle’s plea deal for sexual abuse and wanton endangerment includes a 10-year sentence, but it won’t add any extra prison time to the sentence he is already serving in the first case. Hemmerle entered an Alford plea Wednesday, which means he didn’t admit guilt, but acknowledged that prosecutors could win a conviction in court.

Hemmerle has been on leave since 2014.

North Dakota
Tribes fighting oil pipeline drop appeal but battle continues

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — American Indian tribes who are still fighting the Dakota Access oil pipeline in court have dropped an appeal of a federal judge’s decision that allowed final construction to proceed on the project that is just two weeks from operating commercially.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in early March refused to stop completion of the pipeline based on the claims of Sioux tribes that it threatens water they consider sacred. The Cheyenne River Sioux appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which refused to grant an emergency order stopping oil from flowing while the appeal was decided.

Developer Energy Transfer Partners finished construction on the pipeline and began filling it with oil in late March. Spokeswoman Vicki Granado confirmed this week that the line fill process has been completed.

“Our commercial operations begin June 1, whereby we will begin transporting crude per our contracts with shippers,” she said.

With oil already in the line, Cheyenne River attorneys in late April submitted a motion to voluntarily dismiss their claim in the appeals court, and the motion was granted Monday.

The pipeline will move North Dakota oil 1,200 miles through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois. ETP maintains the pipeline is safe, but the Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Yankton and Oglala Sioux tribes in the Dakotas fear environmental harm. They’re continuing to fight the project in federal court in Washington, D.C., hoping to convince Boasberg to shut down the pipeline.

Pennsylvania
Cops: Dad locked toddler in cage, left infant alone

A Pennsylvania man locked his 22-month-old son in a makeshift wooden cage and left the boy home alone with his two younger siblings, including a sister born hours earlier, police said Thursday.

Troopers acting on a tip arrived Wednesday afternoon at the North Manheim Township home, knocked on the door and, when no one answered, forced their way in. Just inside the front door they found a 1-year-old boy in a playpen, a newborn girl in a baby seat and the toddler inside a cage made of plywood and wooden lattice, locked from the outside.

Police arrested their father, Cecil Kutz, 38, on child endangerment charges when he returned home. He remained jailed Thursday and didn’t yet have an attorney.

“From the time we arrived to the residence to the time the father returned, it was 40 minutes. God knows how long they were alone before that. He was nowhere to be found,” state police Trooper Thomas Robin said Thursday.

Police said the children’s mother gave birth at the home about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Philadelphia at around 9 p.m. Tuesday. She suffered heavy bleeding and Kutz called an ambulance for her around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. She was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery, according to Robin.

Robin said medical staff asked her, “‘Where’s the baby?’ She said, ‘The baby’s at home.’ That put up a red flag.”

Kutz refused to tell police how long he’d left the children or where he went on Wednesday, Robin said.

The father said he used the cage as a makeshift crib to keep the toddler safe at night, the trooper said. There was a foam mattress and toys inside the cage.

“He says he would keep him there at night because he claimed he was crawling all over the place. He told me he’s done it in the past, that it’s not the first time he put him in that contraption,” Robin said.

Kutz “really didn’t seem very concerned” about leaving his children home alone, but the mother expressed alarm and “said this was never done on her watch,” the trooper said.

The newborn was taken to a hospital for evaluation. The boys were placed in the custody of child welfare authorities.

Florida
Coast Guard unloads $500M in cocaine from 20 seizures

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard unloaded cocaine in South Florida worth nearly $500 million from 20 separate seizures in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Coast Guard officials said in a news release Thursday the seizures totaled about 18.5 tons (about 18.8 metric tons) of cocaine. The recently seized drugs were brought to Port Everglades by the cutter Hamilton.

Authorities say the cocaine was intercepted along the Central and South American coasts by Coast Guard cutters and a Royal Canadian Navy ship sailing with a Coast Guard team aboard. The eastern Pacific is a prime smuggling route for cocaine headed to Mexico, where it is typically brought into the U.S.

Numerous suspected smugglers are being prosecuted by U.S. attorneys in California, along the East Coast and elsewhere as a result of the operations.

New York
Cops: Man drives drunk in police academy’s lot

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been charged with driving drunk in the parking lot of the New York State Police Academy.

State police say an off-duty trooper reported a suspicious person Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot at the academy located at state police headquarters in Albany. Troopers say they watched a man exit his vehicle and lay down in a grassy area behind the academy.

Troopers conducted a field sobriety test on the man and then took him to the trooper station at the Empire State Plaza in downtown Albany, where a breath test revealed he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.28 percent. The legal limit for driving in New York is 0.08 percent.

The 49-year-old man was ticketed for aggravated driving while intoxicated.
 

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