State Briefing

State warns of timber theft

COLUMBUS — State officials in Ohio say timber theft has increased due to high prices for white oak and black walnut. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry is offering tips to help residents prevent thefts on public and private land. Division Chief Dan Balser says in a release that timber poachers often work in secluded areas not visible from homes. He says they often remove the most valuable lower log section trees, leaving upper sections and limbs behind. Small trailers and winches, or logging equipment like loaders and large trucks are sometimes used by thieves. State officials urge Ohioans to inspect their property often, conduct inventories and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement the theft of timber is suspected.

Renacci staff did improper work

COLUMBUS — A congressional agency says staffers to then-U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (reh-NAY’-see) of Ohio inappropriately used government resources to benefit his 2018 U.S. Senate bid. Cleveland.com reports the Office of Congressional Ethics released the findings Wednesday. Renacci won’t be sanctioned because he’s no longer in office. Investigative documents said Renacci’s congressional communications staff regularly took photos and videos of him performing official functions at the Capitol then shared them with the campaign for publicity. Staffers also performed campaign work in Renacci’s congressional office. Renacci, a Wadsworth Republican, said his congressional and campaign staffs controlled his social media accounts and that he didn’t review all posts. He said he was unaware campaign work is prohibited in congressional offices and that House buildings can’t be used in campaign commercials. Renacci lost to Democrat Sherrod Brown.

Teens added to lawsuit

COLUMBUS — Four teenagers who were with a black 13-year-old Ohio boy before he was fatally shot by a white police officer have been added as third-party defendants in a civil rights lawsuit over his death, even though his family doesn’t believe the teens should be held financially responsible. The teens were added to the federal case over the death of Tyre King at the request of the city of Columbus, meaning they could be on the hook if the city or the officer is found liable for damages in the lawsuit. The city contends his September 2016 death was a consequence of all the teens’ behavior. Police said the group rode in a stolen car, and Tyre had a “replica firearm” that one of the other teens had used to rob someone of $10. Police said Tyre was shot by a responding officer, Bryan Mason, when Tyre pulled at something in his waistband that appeared to be a firearm. It turned out to be a BB gun that police later determined was inoperable. The now 18-year-old who was convicted in the robbery is serving a three-year prison sentence. The other teens weren’t charged in that case and are now 15, 16 and 18.

Drag performance prompts action

COLUMBUS — The drag queen performance of a 9-year-old boy at a bar outside Ohio’s capital city has prompted a state legislator to propose a law aimed at closing what he says is a “loophole in child exploitation laws.” The Blade reports legislation proposed by Rep. Timothy Schaffer, a Lancaster Republican, would update child endangering laws to prevent performances by children that simulate sexual activity and appeal to “the prurient interest.” Schaffer says Ohio can “do better” to protect children. Jacob Measley’s mother, Jerri, disagrees. She says her son is not allowed to dance to songs with sexual language and that his moves were learned in dance and gymnastics classes. The furor began after Jacob, of Perrysburg, performed in drag as “Miss Mae Hem” at a Lancaster bar outside Columbus in December.

Court provides $3M in tech grants

COLUMBUS — Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has announced 47 local court projects are receiving nearly $3 million in technology grants. The grants pay for security improvements and upgrades to case management systems through the Ohio Courts Technology Initiative. This is the fifth year for the grants since O’Connor started the program, with more than $14 million provided to Ohio courts to date. O’Connor says courts must do more with less today and technology can help address that gap. Ohio municipal, common pleas, appeals, and county courts are encouraged to apply annually for grants to upgrade their systems, hardware or equipment, or purchase new ones. Courts receiving the grants were selected by a 16-member panel of judges, court administrators, clerks, information technology professionals and security experts, among others.

Couple to wed at bag claim

CLEVELAND — Proving life and love can be a carousel, a couple is marrying at the Ohio airport baggage claim where they met 12 years ago. Michelle Belleau’s boss sent her to pick up Ron Peterson at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in 2007. A long-distance relationship developed, with Belleau in Cleveland and Peterson in Los Angeles. Now they’re getting married Saturday at a spot Belleau says “couldn’t be more perfect,” The Plain Dealer reports. Belleau says airports became happy and sad places for the couple as they’d reunite and then too quickly have to depart. She has since moved to California. Southwest Airlines has agreed to move arriving bags to another carousel to make way for the ceremony. Belleau says it took time to convince Hopkins officials to let them marry there.

Families to have voice in trial

COLUMBUS — A judge in Columbus has agreed to allow a jury to hear from relatives of two slain police officers should the trial of a man accused of killing them reach the death penalty phase. Judge Richard Frye agreed with prosecutors Friday that relatives of Westerville officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli can be heard during the mitigation phase of 32-year-old Quentin Smith’s trial scheduled for October. Smith is charged with aggravated murder in the February 2018 slayings. If found guilty, the jury will decide whether to recommend that Frye sentence Smith to death.

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