Ohio News Briefs


New Ohio law: Drivers leave 3-foot gap to pass bicyclists

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new Ohio law requires drivers to allow at least 3 feet of space when passing bicyclists on the road, though some cyclists say it’s tough to enforce and not a strong enough deterrent to cars zipping past too closely.

Some Ohio cities, including Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, already had similar requirements.

The measure that took effect Tuesday is among 17 bills that Republican Gov. John Kasich signed late last year. It adds the specific 3-foot passing provision to Ohio law, which previously required allowing a generic “safe distance.”

The Plain Dealer reports Ohio joins more than half the states in the country in setting that specification as part of law to help protect bicyclists.

Ohio farmers sending help to Kansas ranches hit by wildfires

BUCYRUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio farmers are sending hay, fencing materials and other supplies to Kansas to help ranches that were devastated by wildfires this month.

Rose Hartschuh, who runs a dairy farm with her husband near Bucyrus, Ohio, helped coordinate the assistance from farmers and agricultural businesses. Though the fires were 1,000 miles away, the devastation hit home for the agricultural community and people have stepped up to help, she said.

“Thousands of cattle have died in this. A lot of momma cows, there are a lot of orphaned calves out there, people are taking them to their farms and feeding helping get them going also,” Hartschuh told the Telegraph-Forum in Bucyrus.

Ohio has a large supply of hay that can help the ranchers recover and feed their animals for several months as the grass starts regenerates, she said.

“Most of the cows they are running in Kansas are on range land and the wildfires have pretty much burned up any source of feed they have,” Hartschuh said.

They plan to travel to Kansas on Friday with roughly 30 truckloads of supplies and dozens of volunteers. Some will stay in Kansas for a few days to help clear debris, rebuild fences and help with other cleanup work.

There’s also a growing interest on social media about donations. The farmers hope to also collect cash and gift cards for the struggling ranchers.

People from about half of Ohio’s 88 counties have offered some sort of assistance in the effort, Hartschuh told WCMH-TV.

Ohio bill removing spousal rape protection gets 1st hearing

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A proposal to eliminate legal protections for Ohioans who commit sex offenses, including rape and sexual battery, against their spouse is getting its first hearing in the state Legislature.

The bill introduced by Democratic Reps. Greta Johnson, of Akron, and Kristin Boggs, of Columbus, aims to change a law that treats marital rape differently from other forms of rape. The sponsors say Ohio is one of 13 states that provide spousal exceptions for rape and other sex-related offenses.

Current state law requires there to be “force or threat of force” in order for sexual assault by a spouse to be considered rape. That language excludes from prosecution cases where a spouse may have been drugged, for example.

The legislation was before the House Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.

Child porn suspect dies in cell shortly after arrest in Ohio

ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) — Police say a 47-year-old man died in a holding cell after he was arrested in a child pornography investigation in northern Ohio.

Police in Elyria, west of Cleveland, say officials were checking on the man every half-hour after his arrest Monday. Detectives who went to the cell found the man unresponsive later that day.

Authorities haven’t said exactly how long the man was in the cell or whether there were indications of why he died. His name wasn’t immediately released.

Police say the man had been arrested Monday morning at a home where investigators found hundreds of photos and videos of children engaged in sexual activity.

His death is under investigation by the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office.

Report: Halfway house officials paid for alcohol, strip club

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A state audit says officials at a southern Ohio halfway house illegally spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on alcohol, hotels, travel costs for family members and a strip club.

The audit released Tuesday also says employees of STAR Community Justice Center in Scioto County forged receipts for personal and unauthorized purchases.

The report from Auditor David Yost found $20,000 in illegal spending, with about half involving conferences in Las Vegas, Reno, Orlando and Pittsburgh.

The report said two center officials spent $170 at a Columbus strip club in December 2014.

The report cited former deputy director Josh Saunders for improperly spending $12,042, and executive director Charles Philabaun for improperly spending $5,965.

Messages seeking comment on the allegations were left for attorneys representing Saunders and Philabaun.

Ohio ex-lawmaker convicted of felony theft seeks new trial

PORT CLINTON, Ohio (AP) — An ex-lawmaker from northern Ohio who was removed from office after being convicted of felony theft in 2015 is making another attempt at getting a new trial.

Sandusky real estate agent and auctioneer Steve Kraus was found guilty of taking antiques from a home without the owner’s permission and was sentenced to two years of probation. Kraus maintains his innocence.

The Sandusky Register reports that Kraus has petitioned the Ottawa County court to review his case for a possible new trial or to reverse his conviction. A state appeals court previously denied his appeal.

Kraus alleges a variety of issues, including ineffective legal representation and collusion by a political opponent and a prosecutor.

Kraus was indicted after winning an Ohio House race against a former Ohio Democratic Party leader.