MISSOURI

AG refers 12 ex-priests for likely prosecution

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Friday referred 12 former priests for potential criminal prosecution but stopped short of recommending charges against any top church leaders, despite concluding the Roman Catholic Church was involved in a “long, sustained and far-reaching cover-up.”

Schmitt released details of a 13-month investigation of religious leaders within the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the dioceses of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Springfield-Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City.

Missouri is among many states that began investigations last year after a Pennsylvania report cited abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of priests since the 1940s and efforts by church leaders to hide it.

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The Missouri investigation began in August 2018 under then-Attorney General Josh Hawley. Hawley was elected to the U.S. Senate in November, and Schmitt, a fellow Republican, took over the investigation after he was appointed to replace him.

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Investigators found 163 priests or clergy members accused of sexual abuse or misconduct against minors. Eighty-three have died. Of the 80 still alive, the statute of limitations has run out on 46 of the crimes, Schmitt said.

— Associated Press

KANSAS

Ohio gamer sentenced in 'swatting' death

An Ohio gamer upset about a $1.50 bet while playing “Call of Duty: WWII” online was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison for recruiting a prankster to make a bogus emergency call that resulted in the fatal shooting of a Kansas man by police.

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Casey Viner, 19, of North College Hill, Ohio, also is restricted from gaming activity for two years, U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren said in announcing the sentence.

Viner pleaded guilty in April to felony charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in the hope that he would not be sentenced to prison.

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The death of Andrew Finch, 28, in Wichita drew national attention to “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address.

Authorities said Viner recruited Tyler R. Barriss to “swat” an opponent, Shane Gaskill, 20, in Wichita. But the address they used was old, leading police to Finch, who was not involved in the dispute or video game.

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Gaskill, who had previously given his old Wichita address to Viner, was charged as a co-conspirator after knowingly giving Barriss the same former address and taunting him to “try something.”

Barriss, 26, of Los Angeles was sentenced in March to 20 years in prison.

— Associated Press

POSTAL SERVICE

Appeals court strikes down stamp price rise

A record 10 percent price rise in the U.S. Postal Service’s 50-cent “Forever” stamp was struck down Friday by a federal appeals court, which sided with a San Francisco man who said the arbitrary boost set an improper benchmark for future increases in the cost of mailing a letter.

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The Postal Service, which reported a $2.3 billion third-quarter loss, chose a 5-cent increase to 55 cents partly because it made calculating the cost of buying multiple stamps easier than a 2-cent jump to 52 cents. But Douglas Carlson, who says he is a lifelong postal enthusiast, filed an objection in December.

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“Although the 5-cent stamp price hike may have gone unnoticed by many, the American Revolution was fomented in part by ordinary people who objected to taxation through stamps,” Judge Neomi Rao of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote in a unanimous 26-page rebuke to an increase adopted in January. The court ruled the increase was arbitrary and capricious.

— Bloomberg News

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