Ohio News Briefs

Legislation targets Ohio lawsuits deemed anti-free speech

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A proposed Ohio bill would speed up the process for resolving lawsuits involving disputes over expressions of opinion.

The bill sponsored by state Sen. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, is dubbed the “Ohio Citizen Participation Act.” It’s modeled after a law in Texas and other states.

The types of lawsuits targeted by the legislation introduced Tuesday include landlords suing tenants over critical internet comments or domestic violence victims sued by perpetrators over public comments about their experiences.

The bill would not expand existing libel or defamation laws. Ohio News Media Association Executive Director Dennis Hetzel says the focus is frivolous lawsuits meant to deny free speech rights.

Other supporters include the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, Common Cause Ohio, the Motion Picture Association of America and Yelp.

Ohio district cancels another high school football game

MANTUA, Ohio (AP) — A northeast Ohio school district has canceled a second high school football game while police determine whether a crime was committed during an unspecified incident.

The Ravenna Record-Courier reports Crestwood schools superintendent David Toth announced Tuesday that Crestwood High will not play its homecoming game Friday in Mantua (MAN’-tew-wuh). Toth last Friday suspended “football operations” indefinitely and announced an away game that night would be canceled.

Neither police nor the school district has discussed what’s being investigated. Toth has cited privacy laws in explaining why the district hasn’t discussed the incident.

Mantua Police Chief Harry Buchert said the investigation is in its preliminary stages and is being mostly handled by the school district.

Toth said a decision on the resumption of football would be made after the investigation is completed.

Ohio gets $35 million federal grant to boost child literacy

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Education officials say Ohio is getting a $35 million federal grant to help improve child literacy.

The Ohio Department of Education says the bulk of funding from the three-year grant will be distributed to schools and early childhood care providers such as preschools to improve language and literacy development for children up through 12th grade.

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria says the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant from the U.S. Department of Education boosts efforts to improve literacy outcomes for vulnerable children.

State education officials say the grant will focus on serving children in poverty, those with disabilities, English learners and students with reading disabilities. Officials say the money awarded through the grant will be aimed at serving as many of those students as possible.

Purported Ohio gang member gets life sentences in 2 slayings

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — A man who authorities say was a member of a gang called the Cincinnati White Boys has been sentenced to consecutive life sentences for two slayings last year.

Twenty-nine-year-old Doug Best cried and apologized as he was sentenced Tuesday in southwest Ohio’s Butler County.

Best told the judge he’s “truly remorseful” for killing “two innocent people for no reason.”

Best pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder in the slayings of Joseph Romano and Tiffany Hoskins in Middletown on consecutive days last November.

Twenty-two-year-old co-defendant Derrick Brown pleaded guilty in April to aggravated murder and aggravated robbery charges and was sentenced to 51 years to life. Twenty-seven-year-old Charles Graham faces trial next month on charges of attempted burglary and participating in a criminal gang.

Ohio court overturns death sentence in bartender’s death

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A divided Ohio Supreme Court has overturned the conviction and death sentence of a man accused of raping and fatally stabbing a bartender.

The court’s 4-3 decision Wednesday sent the case of defendant Joseph Thomas back to northeast Ohio’s Lake County for a new trial.

The 33-year-old Thomas was convicted and sentenced to death in 2012 for the slaying of Annie McSween two years earlier.

Prosecutors say Thomas attacked the 49-year-old McSween by her car after she asked him to leave the bar where she worked.

Justice Terrence O’Donnell said the trial judge improperly allowed into evidence a knife collection belonging to Thomas but not involved in the killing.

O’Donnell said the knives were misleading given the circumstantial case against Thomas.

A message was left with the Lake County prosecutor.

Police: Suspect wounded in storage facility shootout

NORTON, Ohio (AP) — Police in Ohio say a man has been taken into custody at a storage facility outside Akron after he was wounded in a shootout with officers.

A 911 caller reported seeing a man armed with a rifle at a storage facility in Norton on Tuesday night. Police advised people in the area to stay in their homes, and nearby Barberton High School, where athletics events were taking place, was put on lockdown.

Police say the man shot at officers, who then returned fire. The man suffered at least one gunshot wound, but it is unclear if he was hit by officers’ gunfire or shot himself. He was taken to an Akron hospital.

No officers were hit.

Officials say the suspect, a 41-year-old man from Akron, has an extensive criminal history.

Teen skateboarder dies after falling while holding onto car

CANTON, Ohio (AP) — A 16-year-old Ohio boy has died after he lost control of his skateboard and hit his head on the pavement while trying to hold onto a car.

The Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office says Dallas Swogger was pronounced dead Tuesday of injuries suffered in the accident in Canton on Friday.

Canton police say Swogger was not wearing a helmet when he hit his head.

Investigators tell WOIO-TV that three of Swogger’s friends were inside the car he was hanging onto, and video was being recorded at the time. That video has not been released. Police say they are consulting with prosecutors about the possibility of criminal charges for the teens.

State asked to help in probe of 6 women reported missing

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — Police investigating the cases of six women reported missing in southwest Ohio are seeking state help in determining if there’s a connection between the women.

Middletown Police Lt. Scott Reeve tells The Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News the only solid connection seems to be that they all live within a 35-mile radius along Interstates 71 and 75. The first woman was reported missing in May 2016, and the last was reported missing in August 2017. Four of the women are from Middletown.

Reeve say police are asking Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation for an analysis to help determine any connection between the women, who range in age from 25 to 47.

Reeve says all had a history of drug abuse, some were homeless and some had a history of prostitution.

Winners of 2017 Dayton Literary Peace Prize announced

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Two books examining how political conflict impacts individual lives are winners of awards from an Ohio group that celebrates the power of literature to foster peace, social justice and global understanding.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize fiction winner is “The Veins of the Ocean” by Patricia Engel. It’s the story of a Cuban-American woman fighting to support her brother while he remains on death row. The nonfiction winner is “What Have We Done” by David Wood. It examines the experiences of American soldiers in 21st century wars.

Engel and Wood will be honored at a gala in Dayton hosted by Pulitzer Prize winner Gilbert King on Nov. 5. Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners receive a $10,000 cash prize.