National Roundup

Man sentenced to 20 years for death of woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the killing more than five years ago of a woman whose body was found stuffed in a trash bag.

Kevin Hurley, 62, was sentenced Monday for the 2015 beating death of 42-year-old Brandy Helbock-Castaneda, the Kansas City Star reported. A judge found Hurley guilty in December of second-degree murder in the case.

Helbock-Castaneda’s sister reported her missing on Dec. 5, 2015. Her body was found in the trash bag on Jan. 8, 2016.

Hurley was arrested in March 2018 after DNA taken from the victim’s ankle matched his, according to court documents.

After Hurley denied knowing Castaneda, further testing showed DNA from a rope around the victim’s hips matched Hurley’s or someone in his paternal lineage.

Hurley had been paroled in 2013 after serving nearly 30 years for first-degree robbery and murder convictions in Jackson County.

UT president calls emails defending school song ‘extremist’

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Racist emails sent to the University of Texas amid a debate over the school song “The Eyes of Texas” were “abhorrent and hateful” but don’t truly represent the Longhorns’ alumni and fans, university President Jay Hartzell said Tuesday.

Hartzell was responding to a report published Monday by the Texas Tribune that featured emails sent by school supporters angry that a group of football players had refused to sing the traditional song after games because of its historical links to racist minstrel shows.

The Texas Tribune reported that the vast majority of more than 300 emails it received in a public records request demanded the school keep the song, and dozens warned that donors would withhold money if players didn’t get in line. Several said Black players should leave the school if they don’t want to sing.

Since Monday, at least two former players have tweeted they received threats from Texas fans for protesting the song.

“People who target our students with hateful views do not represent the values of the Longhorn community,” Hartzell said in his statement. “A few extremist views in the sample of emails the Texas Tribune reported on do not speak for the 540,000 proud Longhorn alumni who actively support our students and university. Out of the many emails I received this fall, a very small number included comments that were truly abhorrent and hateful.
I categorically reject them, and they bear no influence on any aspect of our decision-making.”

Hartzell reiterated the school’s earlier decision that the song stays.

“’The Eyes of Texas,’ in its current form, will continue to be our alma mater,” Hartzell said. “Aspects of its origin, whether previously widely known or unknown, have created a rift in how the song is understood and celebrated, and that must be fixed.”

Hartzell’s statement did not address whether financial threats were a major factor in the decision to keep the song.

“My wife and I have given an endowment in excess of $1 million to athletics. This could very easily be rescinded if things don’t drastically change around here,” wrote one donor in October. His name was redacted by the school.

Written in 1903 and sung to the tune the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” the song is a standard in Longhorns country. For decades, it has been sung after games and graduation ceremonies and is a popular sing-along at weddings and even funerals.

The title of the song is taken from a favored saying of a former school president who had mimicked remarks by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. “The Eyes of Texas” was routinely performed by musicians in blackface at minstrel shows.

New football coach Steve Sarkisian has said the players will “sing it proudly” next season.

Hartzell said the school will release a report next week on the history of the song that he hopes will spark continued conversations in the university community.

Biden order on private prisons causing concerns  with 800 inmates

CLEVELAND (AP) — A January order by President Joe Biden to stop renewing contracts between the U.S. Justice Department and private prisons is causing concerns over what to do with nearly 800 federal inmates at an Ohio facility.

The privately owned Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown is used in part to house those awaiting trial or sentencing for federal crimes in northeast Ohio, reported.

Prison owner CoreCivic’s contract with the U.S. Marshals Service ended Sunday. The company has received a three-month extension to give authorities time to consider alternatives. CoreCivic officials don’t expect the contract will be renewed.

Ending the Youngstown prison contract will leave authorities scrambling to find enough beds to house federal detainees and could make it difficult for family members and defense attorneys to visit if inmates are moved out of the region or state, officials said.

“Access to our clients is very important,” said Stephen Newman, the federal public defender for northern Ohio.

Biden issued his order Jan. 26 saying, “This is a first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration.”

Just under 10% of the nation’s 152,000 federal inmates are incarcerated in private prisons.

Around 850 inmates are housed at the Youngstown prison for state crimes under a contract with the Ohio Bureau of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Man convicted of counterfeiting postage

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — An eastern Iowa man has been convicted of forging and counterfeiting postage stamps, according to federal prosecutors for Iowa.

A federal judge found Bradley Jon Matheny, 42, of Marion, guilty Tuesday of seven counts of postage meter stamp forgery and counterfeiting and three counts of export violations after a one-day trial in Cedar Rapids, prosecutors said in a news release.

Matheny used forged and counterfeited postage meter stamps to ship most of the more than 28,000 packages he mailed to his eBay business customers between November 2015 and May 2017, investigators said.

Matheny used a system of altering postage numbers to get a lower postage price for shipments, prosecutors said. For example, he would buy postage at the 3-ounce rate, but then alter the “3” into an “8.” One expert testified that Matheny had shorted the U.S. Postal Service more than $250,000.

Matheny faces up to 65 years in federal prison and a $2.5 million fine when he’s sentenced at a later date.