News in Brief

Rape kit grant of $1.9M awarded to KSP

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky State Police laboratory has received $1.9 million of $79 million announced nationally to help reduce a backlog of untested rape kits.

The grants were announced Thursday from the New York district attorney and the U.S. Justice Department. Kentucky’s grant is from the New York prosecutor’s office.

State police said in a news release the money will pay for up to 3,300 kits to be outsourced and for the formation of a task force to focus on policies for automatic submission of the kits.

The legislature this year directed the Kentucky auditor to determine how many kits were untested at Kentucky police agencies. State police said the inquiry resulted in submission of more than 500 kits in addition to 315 the lab had already located. The audit is continuing.


Mine safety agency seeks injunction against coal operator

PRESTONSBURG (AP) — The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is seeking an injunction to stop an eastern Kentucky coal mine operator from interfering with safety inspectors.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the move was spurred by an Aug. 17 incident at a Floyd County mine in which operator Jeremy Bryant allegedly screamed at inspectors and backed one against a wall while discussing a citation. A hearing in the matter is scheduled next week before U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar.

The inspectors said in a sworn statement that they feared Bryant might have attacked them if his father hadn’t intervened.

The newspaper reports its efforts to reach Bryant weren’t successful. Court records don’t list an attorney for him.

A court document filed by MSHA says Bryant is president of Connor Coal Co., which operates a small underground mine.

In the sworn affidavit, inspectors Clarence Ritchie and Robert Wise said Bryant acted aggressively during a routine quarterly inspection, which can take several days.

“He was nose-to-nose with me while screaming,” Wise said. “I could not retreat from the confrontation because Jeremy had me up against a wall.”

MSHA said in its motion that the safety of the inspectors would be in jeopardy without an injunction in place and if inspectors can’t return, the safety inspection would remain incomplete.


Elkhorn City certified as Kentucky ‘Trail Town’

ELKHORN CITY (AP) — The Appalachian town of Elkhorn City is the latest community to win designation as a Kentucky “Trail Town.”

The initiative is part of an effort to promote and develop adventure tourism in the state. Kentucky first lady Jane Beshear says getting certified as a trail town offers a big opportunity for Elkhorn City to boost local tourism and economic opportunities.

State officials say the Kentucky Trail Town Program is designed to help connect communities to trail systems and help develop them as tourist destinations. It will guide travelers to trails, food, lodging, campgrounds, museums, entertainment and other services.

Elkhorn City is the seventh Trail Town to be certified in Kentucky. It joins Dawson Springs, Livingston, Morehead, Olive Hill, London and Stearns as official Kentucky Trail Towns.


Student charged with wanton endangerment after drone crash

LEXINGTON (AP) — Kentucky campus police have charged law student Peyton Wilson with second degree wanton endangerment for operating a drone that crashed into a section of Commonwealth Stadium before the Wildcats’ season-opening football game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The school also says it has forwarded its findings to the Federal Aviation Administration for further review.

According to Friday’s release, Wilson, 24, of Louisville, Kentucky, was operating the unmanned aircraft outside the remodeled stadium Saturday night before it crashed into suite-level glass on the south side. The drone hovered close by skydivers parachuting into the stadium with American flags. One of the skydivers told police he had to take evasive measures to avoid the drone, which came within 20 feet of his parachute.


Tennessee farm owners charged with abusing chickens

DRESDEN, Tenn. (AP) — The owners of a Tennessee chicken farm have been charged with animal cruelty after an undercover video caught them abusing the birds.

According to an affidavit in the General Sessions Court of Weakley County, T&S Poultry owners Thomas and Suzanne Blassingame are accused of “stabbing them with a large spike attached to a pole and failing to promptly and properly euthanize the chickens.”

The incident occurred between July 28 and August 23 in Dukedom, Tennessee, an unincorporated community in both Graves County, Kentucky, and Weakley County, Tennessee, that straddles the state line in the western part of both states.

The video was shot by the advocacy group Mercy For Animals, which turned the footage over to the Weakley County Sheriff’s Department.

The farm supplied birds for McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

McDonald’s as well as Tyson Foods have since severed ties with the farm.


Judge appoints attorney for man charged in 6 deaths

CHATTANNOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A Kentucky truck driver has had his initial court appearance in Tennessee, where he faces six counts of vehicular homicide following a crash this summer near Chattanooga.

Federal investigators say 39-year-old Benjamin Scott Brewer of London, Kentucky, had been driving for 15 consecutive hours before his tractor-trailer crashed into multiple vehicles on June 25 along Interstate 75, killing six and injuring six others. He was arrested Aug. 7 in Lexington and faces 13 charges.

WRCB-TV reports Judge Don Poole ordered a court-appointed attorney for Brewer and set his next court date for Oct. 14.


Bed bug discovery closes W.Va. high school Friday

FORT GAY, W.Va. (AP) — A Wayne County high school is closed after a bed bug was found in a classroom.

Tolsia High Principal Reva Sanders-Wallace says students were dismissed early Thursday after a teacher and students discovered the insect in a classroom. The school was closed Friday so an exterminator could treat the building, according to media reports.

Sanders-Wallace says the discovery of the bed bug does not mean the school is infested with the pest, but she said she wanted to aggressively deal with the problem.

The school is located near the Kentucky border and serves Fort Gay and Crum.


Feds, Duke Energy settle on pollution at coal-burning plants

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Duke Energy and the Obama Administration are settling a 15-year-old lawsuit over claims that the largest U.S. electric company violated federal clean air laws by modifying coal-fired power generators without required air pollution control equipment, company and administration officials said Thursday.

The Charlotte-based energy company would pay a civil penalty of $975,000, shut down one coal-burning unit not previously included in the lawsuit and spend $4.4 million on environmental mitigation projects, under the proposed settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department.

Duke Energy has already shut down 11 of the 13 North Carolina units at five power plants, and the shutdowns become permanent as part of the deal. Duke Energy must continuously operate pollution controls and meet interim emission limits at two coal-burning units at its Allen power plant in Belmont before permanently closing them by the end of 2024.

The monetary penalty is dwarfed by company earnings and by a fine it paid in another recent North Carolina environmental case.

Duke Energy last month reported second-quarter profits of $543 million and earned $1.88 billion in 2014. In May, the power giant agreed to plead guilty to nine criminal violations of the federal Clean Water Act and pay more than $102 million in fines and restitution for failing to contain water contaminated by coal residues at five North Carolina coal-burning plants. Coal ash is the waste left after coal is burned to generate electricity and contains toxic heavy metals including arsenic and mercury.

However, Thursday’s smokestacks settlement was applauded by environmentalists, who focused on the reduced emissions rather than the size of Duke Energy’s penalty.


Judge sets status conference in former coach’s case

COVINGTON (AP) — The new presiding judge plans a status conference in the case of a former college women’s basketball coach accused of groping a player in northern Kentucky.

Judge Ann Ruttle in Kenton County took over the Bryce McKey case Tuesday after the initial judge removed himself because of a family connection to the Xavier University (Cincinnati) basketball team the coach’s accuser plays for. She scheduled a conference Friday.

McKey’s attorney earlier entered a not-guilty plea for him on a charge of third-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor.

A player McKey coached while he was a Xavier assistant says he invited her to his Covington, Kentucky, home and touched her inappropriately. He’s been ordered to stay away from her.

He had become a University of Maryland assistant, but resigned after the allegation surfaced.


Conway announces $12.4 million settlement with Daymar

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s legal fight with Daymar College concluded Thursday with a $12.4 million settlement aimed at providing debt forgiveness and cash payments to thousands of former students at the for-profit institution.

Daymar agreed to provide $1.2 million to be distributed to qualified students who attended the college over a five-year period ending in July 2011, Conway said. The college also agreed to forgo collecting $11 million in debt owed by former students over a six-year span ending in July 2012, he said.

More than 12,000 students will be eligible for debt relief, payments or both, Conway said.

The settlement requires the Owensboro-based career college to provide enhanced disclosures for students, Conway said. That includes a 21-day, risk-free refund period for most students — a provision that Conway hopes becomes a model among for-profit schools.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by Conway’s office in July 2011 accusing Daymar of multiple violations of Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act. Wrangling over the lawsuit spanned most of Conway’s second term as attorney general.

“This settlement is going to provide assistance to those that were harmed, and it’s going to ensure that future students are provided with accurate and financial information about Daymar’s degree programs,” Conway said at a press conference.

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