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Businessman Admits Withholding about $18 Million from Feds

HOUSTON (AP) – A Houston businessman has admitted to failing to pay about $18 million in federal taxes withheld from employee wages. Richard Floyd Tatum Jr. owns Associated Marine & Industrial Staffing Inc., a company that provides temporary labor to marine and industrial businesses in Texas and other states. A Justice Department statement says he pleaded guilty Wednesday to failing to pay $12 million in payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Services and $6 million in withheld Social Security and Medicare taxes from March 2008 through December 2012. Tatum could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and ordered to pay restitution and penalties when he is sentenced June 1.

Texas A&M Tightens Policy on Who Can Sponsor Outside Speaker

COLLEGE STATION (AP) – Texas A&M University has tightened its policy on who can sponsor outside speakers on campus after a December visit by white nationalist Richard Spencer caused unrest on the campus. The new policy puts campus facilities off limits to outside speakers or groups with no affiliation to the university. The Eagle reports outside speakers wishing to speak on campus will now have to be sponsored by “a recognized Texas A&M student organization.” Any campus organization that sponsors an unaffiliated group or speaker will be required to attend the event and “assume responsibility for any unpaid costs or property damage associated with the event.” A&M spokeswoman Amy Smith says a “more comprehensive umbrella policy” is being developed for the university.

Perry Decries Election of 1st Gay Texas A&M Student Prez

HOUSTON (AP) – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is suggesting that the election that gave his alma mater, Texas A&M, its first openly gay student body president was “stolen.” Perry was Texas’ longest serving governor until leaving office in 2015. He was also an A&M yell leader, or cheerleader. In an op-ed published Wednesday by the Houston Chronicle, Perry decried the election of Bobby Brooks, who finished second in voting but was awarded the presidency after top vote-getter Robert McIntosh was disqualified. Perry writes that the process at best “made a mockery of due process and transparency” and at worst “allowed an election to be stolen outright.” He writes “it is difficult to escape the perception that this quest for `diversity’ is the real reason the election outcome was overturned.”

Missing Texas Girl Found after 300-mile Ride on Coal Train

LUBBOCK (AP) — Authorities say a Texas teenager who went missing while on vacation with her family in Colorado was discovered by a farmer when she hopped from a coal train after running out of Skittles. Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said in a statement Wednesday that 13-year-old Adalie Rivera was covered in coal dust when found a day earlier by the farmer near Dumas, which is in the Texas Panhandle. Police say the girl was reported missing on Friday when she boarded the train and rode it about 300 miles southeast to Dumas. Police say she was hungry after her candy supply ran out. The farmer notified sheriff’s officials who cared for the girl until her family could retrieve her. The teen lives with her family in Lubbock.

Ex-Baylor Football Player Accused of 2013 Sexual Assault

WACO (AP) — A former Baylor football player has been arrested after a grand jury indicted him on three second-degree felony sexual assault counts arising from a 2013 incident while he was with the Bears. The Waco Tribune-Herald reports former tight end Tre’Von Armstead was arrested Wednesday near his hometown of Port Arthur. The McLennan County grand jury handed down the indictment last week but it remained sealed until Wednesday. Armstead was jailed in Beaumont with bonds totaling $150,000. Jail records listed no attorney for the 22-year-old. The indictment alleges Armstead forced a woman to perform sex acts in mid-April 2013. Last week, Armstead was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with domestic battery, resisting arrest and damaging a police vehicle after a disturbance between Armstead and a woman. Ten women have sued Baylor, alleging the university was indifferent to their sexually assault complaints while students.

Police Chief Arrested after Chase, Standoff at Home

NORMANGEE (AP) – A Texas police chief has been arrested following a domestic disturbance and standoff at his home during which a shot was fired, a police chase and standoff. In a statement, Lt. Craig Cummings of the Texas Department of Public Safety says the incident began early Wednesday with a 911 call from the wife of Normangee police Chief Charles Herford. Morgan says Herford left the home and at one point eluded sheriff’s deputies who attempted to stop his patrol vehicle. Herford later returned to the home, where a standoff ensued. Herford surrendered after several hours of negotiations. No injuries were reported. Cummings says Herford was taken to the Leon County Jail charged with deadly conduct and evading arrest. Jail records listed no bond or attorney.

Texas Senate OKs Banning Some Insurance Coverage of Abortion

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate has preliminarily approved a bill prohibiting coverage of abortion by some health insurance plans in Texas – despite similar efforts stalling previously. Wednesday’s 19-10 vote leaves Sen. Larry Taylor’s bill a final, largely ceremonial vote away from heading to the House. It bars health insurance plans offered through the Obama administration’s health care law from covering the cost of abortions unless policyholders purchase supplemental coverage. Texas never established health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, but state policies are offered via federal exchanges. Twenty-five states already restrict abortion coverage in plans purchased through Affordable Care Act exchanges. Taylor, a Friendswood Republican, says Texas is behind other conservative locales on the issue – though a bill doing the same thing stalled in the GOP-controlled Legislature last session.

Straus Blasts Senate Budget’s Accounting Trick

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate’s proposed $106.3 billion state budget is now set for a floor vote next week – but it’s already being blasted by the Republican head of the House. Adopted Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee, the budget features no extra funding for public schools but continues spending $800 million on border security. The oil slump has lawmakers looking to lower costs. The House supports tapping Texas’ rainy day fund to spare spending cuts. But the Senate avoided that using accounting tricks involving $2.5 billion earmarked for transportation. House Speaker Joe Straus immediately likened the move to “cooking the books,” underscoring how hard it may be for both chambers to reconcile their separate budget proposals. Meanwhile, even Gov. Greg Abbott is having difficulty finding funding for his pre-kindergarten initiative.

Man Says Money Woes, Failing Health Led to Standoff

SAN ANGELO (AP) – A West Texas man says financial problems and the failing health of both he and his wife prompted the couple to set fire to their home and then engage in a standoff with responding officers. Gary Ray Wright told the San Angelo Standard-Times that the two hoped they would die in the January incident when police fired on them. The 63-year-old Wright said Tuesday he never fired his rifle but was armed when he was shot twice by San Angelo officers. A criminal complaint alleges Wright and his wife, 60-year-old Brenda Joyce Wright, intended to kill officers due in part to a grievance the couple had with the police department. The couple is being held at the Tom Green County jail on charges that include attempted capital murder.

Two Houston Teens Die when Handgun Accidentally Discharges

HOUSTON (AP) – Police in Houston say two teenagers were fatally shot when a handgun accidentally discharged as they loaded and unloaded the weapon. The shooting occurred early Wednesday morning at the apartment where 19-year-old Alfred Harris lived with 17-year-old Jordan Coleman on the southeast side of Houston. Police say five people were inside the apartment when the shooting occurred. According to witnesses, the teens were handling the weapon when the pistol first discharged, striking Coleman. The gun then fired a second time, hitting Harris. One teenager was shot in the torso and the other in the neck. Both were taken to a hospital, where they died. Police don’t believe drugs or alcohol were a factor in the shooting. Investigators are interviewing witnesses.

Dallas Hopes to Offer Municipal IDs to All Residents

DALLAS (AP) – The mayor of Dallas says he hopes the city will be able to offer identification cards to all residents, including people living in the country illegally. The Dallas Morning News reports Mayor Mike Rawlings announced the city’s plan to research identification cards on Tuesday. The IDs would include a resident’s photo, name, and address. Rawlings’ announcement coincided with the “Cities’ Day of Immigration Action,” an event organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.… Read More

In Focus: Upcoming Schedule

3/26 – Lindsay Loy, Gregg County Historical Museum
4/2 – Kathy Holdway and friends, April in Edom

Kilgore Man Jailed for Aggravated Assault

KILGORE — A Kilgore man was arrested Monday after police said he assaulted two men and pulled a knife on them. Dustin Ray Riley, 27, was held Tuesday in the Gregg County Jail on $10,000 bond. He’s charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Officers were called a little after 5:30 p.m. Monday to the corner of Kings Highway and Bell Street in Kilgore in reference to an assault in progress. Riley is also suspect in a hit-and-run. Additional details were not available.

East Texas Man Indicted for Aggravated Child Sexual Assault

SMITH COUNTY — A Tyler man has been indicted for allegedly committing a sex crime against a child. According to KETK, the Smith County District Attorney’s Office handed down the indictment March 16th for Matthew Clinton Branin, 18, for aggravated child sexual assault. He was arrested January 19th by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. Branin was booked into the Smith County Jail and is currently being held on $400,000 bond.

Pedestrian Struck by Vehicle in Downtown Area

TYLER — One person was taken to a local hospital after an auto-pedestrian accident in the downtown Tyler area. According to KETK, the accident at the intersection of Line Street and North Broadway Avenue was reported around 12:15 Tuesday afternoon. Tyler Police said two women were crossing Broadway at Line Street when one person hesitated in crossing. Authorities said a driver began to turn and the woman began walking across, resulting in her injury when she was struck. The driver made sure she was okay and then left the scene. He later came back while police were investigating. The incident is under investigation as to whom is at fault. Police said the crossing signals were working properly at the intersection.

Commissioner Accused of Offering to Pay Opponent to Drop Out

WACO (AP) – A Central Texas county commissioner has been charged with a misdemeanor after a Texas Rangers investigation concluded he had offered to pay a 2015 primary opponent to drop out of the race. The Texas Attorney General’s Office charged McLennan County Commissioner Will Jones with offering a gift to a public servant. Under state law, a political candidate is considered a public servant. Jones is free on a $1,000 bond. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to a year in county jail and fined up to $4,000. The Waco Tribune-Herald reports Jones said in January that he considered the offer to opponent Ben Matus a “simple business transaction” and not a bribe. On Tuesday his attorney, Jim Dunham, said Jones “continues to be fully open.”

Dallas Woman on Trial in Silicone Injection Death of Client

DALLAS (AP) – Prosecutors say a Dallas salon worker charged with murder injected clients’ buttocks with industrial-grade silicone as part of illegal cosmetic procedures. Prosecutors argued in opening statements Tuesday at the trial for Denise “Wee Wee” Ross that the 45-year-old injected the silicone into the buttocks of Wykesha Reid to give her what the salon called the “Wee Wee Booty.” Reid was found dead at the salon in 2015. The Dallas Morning News reports that silicone from the injection traveled through Reid’s heart and into her lungs. Authorities contend that after Ross injected her clients, she used glue and cotton balls to seal puncture marks. A second person also is charged with murder in Reid’s death. Ross’ attorney says that second defendant actually applied the deadly injection to the 34-year-old Reid.

Cities, Sheriffs Find Flaws in US Immigration Detainer List

AUSTIN (AP) – Local officials from Philadelphia to Texas say a Trump administration report aimed at shaming jails with so-called sanctuary policies includes bad or misleading information. The mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, said Tuesday that he didn’t understand why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included his city on a list of places that don’t cooperate with federal agents. Mayor Jorge Elorza says a resolution passed in 2011 has nothing to do with jail detainers. In Texas, the sheriff of conservative Williamson County says his jail didn’t refuse four recent immigration detainer requests as federal officials claimed. The list was prompted by an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January that called on the government to document which local jurisdictions aren’t cooperating with federal immigration efforts.

Man Charged with Hate Crime for Seizure-Inducing Tweet

DALLAS (AP) – A Maryland man has been indicted in Texas on a hate-crime charge after a Twitter message induced a seizure in a Newsweek reporter. A Dallas County grand jury on Tuesday indicted John Rayne Rivello of Salisbury, Maryland, on an aggravated assault charge enhanced as a hate crime. The 29-year-old already faces a federal interstate domestic violence charge. Rivello is accused of sending a strobing image to reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s Twitter account with the intention of causing a seizure. Eichenwald, who lives in the Dallas area, has epilepsy. Included with the image was the message: “You deserve a seizure for your posts.” The image was apparently sent in response to Eichenwald’s outspoken criticism of then-President-elect Donald Trump. In a statement Tuesday, Rivello’s attorneys said he is a military veteran with post-traumatic stress who apologized to Eichenwald and is seeking counseling.

Rappers Paul Wall, Baby Bash Avoid Indictment on Drug Charge

HOUSTON (AP) – A grand jury has declined to indict Houston rappers Paul Wall and Baby Bash on felony drug-related charges. The Harris County jury on Tuesday opted not to hand up indictments against Paul Michael Slayton, more broadly known as Paul Wall, and Ronald Bryant, known as Baby Bash. The rappers were arrested in December along with eight other people on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity for possessing a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The Harris County district attorney’s office says grand jurors did indict five of the people initially charged in the matter. Authorities alleged in December that Slayton and Bryant were caught with some form of THC, the compound that gives marijuana its high.

Texas Senate OKs Plan that May Phase Out Key Business Tax

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate has approved a bill seeking to gradually phase out taxes levied on businesses during future legislative sessions – when the state potentially has shaken off the oil price slump and seen its economy begin booming again. Approved quickly and without debate Tuesday, the measure now heads to the state House. Its sponsor, Flower Mound Republican Sen. Jane Nelson, said conservatives have long clamored for ending the so-called “franchise tax” on business, and that her proposal puts it on “a glide path” toward elimination. The bill mandates cuts to the franchise tax during future budget cycles when Texas’ economy is projected to grow by at least 5 percent. Low oil prices means the state wouldn’t qualify this year, but the proposal could have sweeping impacts on future budgets.

Bill to Curb “Wrongful Birth” Lawsuits Heads to Texas House

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate has given final approval to a so-called “wrongful birth” bill seeking to prevent parents from suing doctors for malpractice after their child is born with severe disabilities. Tuesday’s vote sends Conroe Republican Sen. Brandon Creighton’s proposal to the House. At issue is a 1975 case where the Texas Supreme Court ruled that parents were entitled to damages covering the extra cost of raising a child with disabilities after doctors failed to fully inform them about problems with the pregnancy. Creighton says doctors still would have to disclose medical information about pregnancies to families, who also can still sue for negligence. But he says doctors wouldn’t be liable for delivering disabled children, thus discouraging abortions. Opponents warn of physicians who oppose abortion imposing “their own morality” on patients.

Millions in Cash and Heroin Seized; 3 Suspects Arrested

NEW YORK (AP) – Prosecutors say three people have been arrested after they seized $4.1 million cash and over six pounds (3 kilograms) of heroin. New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor and other officials say the cash and drugs were found in a storage unit in the Bronx and a rental truck. The special prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, says the suspects allegedly oversaw an interstate drug trafficking operation that originated in Texas. The drugs were then sent to New York City and Lawrence, Massachusetts. The drugs and cash were allegedly concealed inside wooden furniture. Brennan says the furniture came north with the heroin inside and then the cash to pay for the drugs was hidden in the same furniture and shipped back to Texas. Authorities executed search warrants last Saturday and made the arrests.

Man Accused of Sexually Assaulting Houston Schoolchildren

HOUSTON (AP) – Police investigators say a 35-year-old man sexually assaulted at least 10 children over the course of nearly three years as they walked to or from Houston schools. Authorities said in a statement Tuesday that Carlos Jose Ayala is being held on charges that include indecency with a child. Police say Ayala targeted young girls by walking up behind them and inappropriately touching them. In one instance it’s believed he tried to pull a 7-year-old into his car, only to be stopped when the girl’s brother screamed. Ayala was taken into custody Feb. 17 after officers spotted a car that matched a description given by victims. It wasn’t immediately clear why several weeks passed before police announced the arrest. Harris County jail records don’t indicate whether Ayala has an attorney.

Officials: Woman Forced 14-Year-Old into Prostitution

HOUSTON (AP) – Prosecutors in Houston say a woman held a 14-year-old girl against her will and forced the child to work as a prostitute, at one point having sex with 26 men over the course of a week. Bond for 19-year-old Denise Marie Coronado was increased to $100,000 during a court appearance Monday. She was arrested last week on a charge of compelling prostitution of a minor. Authorities contend photos of the victim were posted online to promote her as a prostitute and that she was threatened and burned with a cigarette to force her to comply. Coronado’s lawyer, Joe David Wells, told the Houston Chronicle the 14-year-old gave inconsistent statements to police and had access to a cellphone to call for help if she wanted. Coronado is being held at the Harris County jail.

Report: Ex-UTSA Head Engaged in Sexual Harassment

SAN ANTONIO (AP) – An investigation by the University of Texas System has determined Ricardo Romo violated sexual harassment policies when he served as president of the University of Texas at San Antonio. University records obtained by the San Antonio Express-News show three women who worked under Romo described his hugging as “disgusting” and even physically hurtful. A report submitted by an investigator says Romo expressed surprise when told that one of his employees found the hugs inappropriate. Romo was placed on leave in February and then resigned weeks later, ahead of his pending retirement. The UT System had not previously released details of the allegations against Romo. Romo’s attorney, Ricardo Cedillo, says the investigation was deeply flawed and amounted to a “character assassination.”

Voucher Plan Begins Rocky Journey through Texas Legislature

AUSTIN (AP) – Texas lawmakers have begun grappling with a hot-button voucher plan offering families public money to send their children to private and religious schools. Friendswood Republican Sen. Larry Taylor’s bill would create state-subsidized education saving accounts for parents and offer tax credits to businesses that sponsor children’s private schooling via donations. The issue has roiled the Legislature for years, with the Republican-led Senate backing “school choice” but such plans stalling in the GOP-controlled House. There, lawmakers worry about harming public schools that are the lifeblood of small communities they represent. Taylor heads the Senate Education Committee, which is hearing from education and business groups applauding, and public school advocates decrying, his bill Tuesday. It’ll quickly clear committee and the Senate, but likely won’t survive the House – like similar, past proposals.

Parents of Murder Victim Want Killer Spared from Execution

FORT WORTH (AP) – The parents of a North Texas man shot to death during a robbery in 2006 believe the execution of their son’s killer set for next month should be called off and the death row prisoner be locked up for life with no possibility of parole. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Glenn and Judy Cherry, whose son, Jonas, was killed in the robbery of an amusement center outside Fort Worth, have written state and Tarrant County officials advocating condemned inmate Paul Storey be spared from lethal injection April 12. Cherry’s parents say in an affidavit that Storey’s execution won’t bring back their son or atone for his loss. They also say keeping him in prison without parole “will assure he cannot murder another innocent person in the community.”

Texas “Affluenza” Teen’s Lawyers Seek His Release from Jail

FORT WORTH (AP) — Lawyers for a Texas teenager who used an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck have turned to the Texas Supreme Court in an effort to secure his release from jail. The motion filed on behalf of 19-year-old Ethan Couch argues that a judge had no authority to sentence Couch to nearly two years in jail after his case was moved from juvenile to adult court. Couch’s attorneys argue that the judge only had jurisdiction over criminal cases and that juvenile matters are civil. Couch was given 10 years’ probation after killing four people in a 2013 wreck. He later violated his probation. A defense expert invoked the term “affluenza” in arguing during the sentencing phase of the teenager’s trial that he was coddled into a sense of irresponsibility.

Judge Says “Sanctuary” Jail Led to Immigration Sweep

AUSTIN (AP) – A federal magistrate judge in Texas says immigration agents told him that a major operation in Austin was ordered as a result of the local sheriff adopting “sanctuary” policies in the local jail. The Austin American-Statesman reports U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin made the comments in open court Monday. He says he was told by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials ahead of large-scale arrests in February that a “big operation” could be expected. In audio of the court hearing, the judge says he was told the operation was the result of the Travis County sheriff saying her jail would no longer comply with all immigration detainer requests. Federal officials have previously defended the arrests as business as usual. ICE didn’t address the judge’s claims in a statement Monday.

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Businessman Admits Withholding about $18 Million from Feds

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:44 am

HOUSTON (AP) – A Houston businessman has admitted to failing to pay about $18 million in federal taxes withheld from employee wages. Richard Floyd Tatum Jr. owns Associated Marine & Industrial Staffing Inc., a company that provides temporary labor to marine and industrial businesses in Texas and other states. A Justice Department statement says he pleaded guilty Wednesday to failing to pay $12 million in payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Services and $6 million in withheld Social Security and Medicare taxes from March 2008 through December 2012. Tatum could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and ordered to pay restitution and penalties when he is sentenced June 1.

Texas A&M Tightens Policy on Who Can Sponsor Outside Speaker

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:58 am

COLLEGE STATION (AP) – Texas A&M University has tightened its policy on who can sponsor outside speakers on campus after a December visit by white nationalist Richard Spencer caused unrest on the campus. The new policy puts campus facilities off limits to outside speakers or groups with no affiliation to the university. The Eagle reports outside speakers wishing to speak on campus will now have to be sponsored by “a recognized Texas A&M student organization.” Any campus organization that sponsors an unaffiliated group or speaker will be required to attend the event and “assume responsibility for any unpaid costs or property damage associated with the event.” A&M spokeswoman Amy Smith says a “more comprehensive umbrella policy” is being developed for the university.

Perry Decries Election of 1st Gay Texas A&M Student Prez

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:58 am

HOUSTON (AP) – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is suggesting that the election that gave his alma mater, Texas A&M, its first openly gay student body president was “stolen.” Perry was Texas’ longest serving governor until leaving office in 2015. He was also an A&M yell leader, or cheerleader. In an op-ed published Wednesday by the Houston Chronicle, Perry decried the election of Bobby Brooks, who finished second in voting but was awarded the presidency after top vote-getter Robert McIntosh was disqualified. Perry writes that the process at best “made a mockery of due process and transparency” and at worst “allowed an election to be stolen outright.” He writes “it is difficult to escape the perception that this quest for `diversity’ is the real reason the election outcome was overturned.”

Missing Texas Girl Found after 300-mile Ride on Coal Train

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:59 am

LUBBOCK (AP) — Authorities say a Texas teenager who went missing while on vacation with her family in Colorado was discovered by a farmer when she hopped from a coal train after running out of Skittles. Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said in a statement Wednesday that 13-year-old Adalie Rivera was covered in coal dust when found a day earlier by the farmer near Dumas, which is in the Texas Panhandle. Police say the girl was reported missing on Friday when she boarded the train and rode it about 300 miles southeast to Dumas. Police say she was hungry after her candy supply ran out. The farmer notified sheriff’s officials who cared for the girl until her family could retrieve her. The teen lives with her family in Lubbock.

Ex-Baylor Football Player Accused of 2013 Sexual Assault

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:59 am

WACO (AP) — A former Baylor football player has been arrested after a grand jury indicted him on three second-degree felony sexual assault counts arising from a 2013 incident while he was with the Bears. The Waco Tribune-Herald reports former tight end Tre’Von Armstead was arrested Wednesday near his hometown of Port Arthur. The McLennan County grand jury handed down the indictment last week but it remained sealed until Wednesday. Armstead was jailed in Beaumont with bonds totaling $150,000. Jail records listed no attorney for the 22-year-old. The indictment alleges Armstead forced a woman to perform sex acts in mid-April 2013. Last week, Armstead was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with domestic battery, resisting arrest and damaging a police vehicle after a disturbance between Armstead and a woman. Ten women have sued Baylor, alleging the university was indifferent to their sexually assault complaints while students.

Police Chief Arrested after Chase, Standoff at Home

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:37 am

NORMANGEE (AP) – A Texas police chief has been arrested following a domestic disturbance and standoff at his home during which a shot was fired, a police chase and standoff. In a statement, Lt. Craig Cummings of the Texas Department of Public Safety says the incident began early Wednesday with a 911 call from the wife of Normangee police Chief Charles Herford. Morgan says Herford left the home and at one point eluded sheriff’s deputies who attempted to stop his patrol vehicle. Herford later returned to the home, where a standoff ensued. Herford surrendered after several hours of negotiations. No injuries were reported. Cummings says Herford was taken to the Leon County Jail charged with deadly conduct and evading arrest. Jail records listed no bond or attorney.

Texas Senate OKs Banning Some Insurance Coverage of Abortion

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:36 am

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate has preliminarily approved a bill prohibiting coverage of abortion by some health insurance plans in Texas – despite similar efforts stalling previously. Wednesday’s 19-10 vote leaves Sen. Larry Taylor’s bill a final, largely ceremonial vote away from heading to the House. It bars health insurance plans offered through the Obama administration’s health care law from covering the cost of abortions unless policyholders purchase supplemental coverage. Texas never established health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, but state policies are offered via federal exchanges. Twenty-five states already restrict abortion coverage in plans purchased through Affordable Care Act exchanges. Taylor, a Friendswood Republican, says Texas is behind other conservative locales on the issue – though a bill doing the same thing stalled in the GOP-controlled Legislature last session.

Straus Blasts Senate Budget’s Accounting Trick

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:36 am

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate’s proposed $106.3 billion state budget is now set for a floor vote next week – but it’s already being blasted by the Republican head of the House. Adopted Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee, the budget features no extra funding for public schools but continues spending $800 million on border security. The oil slump has lawmakers looking to lower costs. The House supports tapping Texas’ rainy day fund to spare spending cuts. But the Senate avoided that using accounting tricks involving $2.5 billion earmarked for transportation. House Speaker Joe Straus immediately likened the move to “cooking the books,” underscoring how hard it may be for both chambers to reconcile their separate budget proposals. Meanwhile, even Gov. Greg Abbott is having difficulty finding funding for his pre-kindergarten initiative.

Man Says Money Woes, Failing Health Led to Standoff

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 9:45 am

SAN ANGELO (AP) – A West Texas man says financial problems and the failing health of both he and his wife prompted the couple to set fire to their home and then engage in a standoff with responding officers. Gary Ray Wright told the San Angelo Standard-Times that the two hoped they would die in the January incident when police fired on them. The 63-year-old Wright said Tuesday he never fired his rifle but was armed when he was shot twice by San Angelo officers. A criminal complaint alleges Wright and his wife, 60-year-old Brenda Joyce Wright, intended to kill officers due in part to a grievance the couple had with the police department. The couple is being held at the Tom Green County jail on charges that include attempted capital murder.

Two Houston Teens Die when Handgun Accidentally Discharges

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 9:46 am

HOUSTON (AP) – Police in Houston say two teenagers were fatally shot when a handgun accidentally discharged as they loaded and unloaded the weapon. The shooting occurred early Wednesday morning at the apartment where 19-year-old Alfred Harris lived with 17-year-old Jordan Coleman on the southeast side of Houston. Police say five people were inside the apartment when the shooting occurred. According to witnesses, the teens were handling the weapon when the pistol first discharged, striking Coleman. The gun then fired a second time, hitting Harris. One teenager was shot in the torso and the other in the neck. Both were taken to a hospital, where they died. Police don’t believe drugs or alcohol were a factor in the shooting. Investigators are interviewing witnesses.

Dallas Hopes to Offer Municipal IDs to All Residents

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 9:45 am

DALLAS (AP) – The mayor of Dallas says he hopes the city will be able to offer identification cards to all residents, including people living in the country illegally. The Dallas Morning News reports Mayor Mike Rawlings announced the city’s plan to research identification cards on Tuesday. The IDs would include a resident’s photo, name, and address. Rawlings’ announcement coincided with the “Cities’ Day of Immigration Action,” an event organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.… Read More

In Focus: Upcoming Schedule

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 10:07 am

3/26 – Lindsay Loy, Gregg County Historical Museum
4/2 – Kathy Holdway and friends, April in Edom

Kilgore Man Jailed for Aggravated Assault

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 10:27 am

KILGORE — A Kilgore man was arrested Monday after police said he assaulted two men and pulled a knife on them. Dustin Ray Riley, 27, was held Tuesday in the Gregg County Jail on $10,000 bond. He’s charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Officers were called a little after 5:30 p.m. Monday to the corner of Kings Highway and Bell Street in Kilgore in reference to an assault in progress. Riley is also suspect in a hit-and-run. Additional details were not available.

East Texas Man Indicted for Aggravated Child Sexual Assault

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 7:37 am

SMITH COUNTY — A Tyler man has been indicted for allegedly committing a sex crime against a child. According to KETK, the Smith County District Attorney’s Office handed down the indictment March 16th for Matthew Clinton Branin, 18, for aggravated child sexual assault. He was arrested January 19th by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. Branin was booked into the Smith County Jail and is currently being held on $400,000 bond.

Pedestrian Struck by Vehicle in Downtown Area

Posted/updated on: March 23, 2017 at 7:37 am

TYLER — One person was taken to a local hospital after an auto-pedestrian accident in the downtown Tyler area. According to KETK, the accident at the intersection of Line Street and North Broadway Avenue was reported around 12:15 Tuesday afternoon. Tyler Police said two women were crossing Broadway at Line Street when one person hesitated in crossing. Authorities said a driver began to turn and the woman began walking across, resulting in her injury when she was struck. The driver made sure she was okay and then left the scene. He later came back while police were investigating. The incident is under investigation as to whom is at fault. Police said the crossing signals were working properly at the intersection.

Commissioner Accused of Offering to Pay Opponent to Drop Out

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 2:10 pm

WACO (AP) – A Central Texas county commissioner has been charged with a misdemeanor after a Texas Rangers investigation concluded he had offered to pay a 2015 primary opponent to drop out of the race. The Texas Attorney General’s Office charged McLennan County Commissioner Will Jones with offering a gift to a public servant. Under state law, a political candidate is considered a public servant. Jones is free on a $1,000 bond. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to a year in county jail and fined up to $4,000. The Waco Tribune-Herald reports Jones said in January that he considered the offer to opponent Ben Matus a “simple business transaction” and not a bribe. On Tuesday his attorney, Jim Dunham, said Jones “continues to be fully open.”

Dallas Woman on Trial in Silicone Injection Death of Client

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 2:10 pm

DALLAS (AP) – Prosecutors say a Dallas salon worker charged with murder injected clients’ buttocks with industrial-grade silicone as part of illegal cosmetic procedures. Prosecutors argued in opening statements Tuesday at the trial for Denise “Wee Wee” Ross that the 45-year-old injected the silicone into the buttocks of Wykesha Reid to give her what the salon called the “Wee Wee Booty.” Reid was found dead at the salon in 2015. The Dallas Morning News reports that silicone from the injection traveled through Reid’s heart and into her lungs. Authorities contend that after Ross injected her clients, she used glue and cotton balls to seal puncture marks. A second person also is charged with murder in Reid’s death. Ross’ attorney says that second defendant actually applied the deadly injection to the 34-year-old Reid.

Cities, Sheriffs Find Flaws in US Immigration Detainer List

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 2:11 pm

AUSTIN (AP) – Local officials from Philadelphia to Texas say a Trump administration report aimed at shaming jails with so-called sanctuary policies includes bad or misleading information. The mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, said Tuesday that he didn’t understand why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included his city on a list of places that don’t cooperate with federal agents. Mayor Jorge Elorza says a resolution passed in 2011 has nothing to do with jail detainers. In Texas, the sheriff of conservative Williamson County says his jail didn’t refuse four recent immigration detainer requests as federal officials claimed. The list was prompted by an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January that called on the government to document which local jurisdictions aren’t cooperating with federal immigration efforts.

Man Charged with Hate Crime for Seizure-Inducing Tweet

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 2:11 pm

DALLAS (AP) – A Maryland man has been indicted in Texas on a hate-crime charge after a Twitter message induced a seizure in a Newsweek reporter. A Dallas County grand jury on Tuesday indicted John Rayne Rivello of Salisbury, Maryland, on an aggravated assault charge enhanced as a hate crime. The 29-year-old already faces a federal interstate domestic violence charge. Rivello is accused of sending a strobing image to reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s Twitter account with the intention of causing a seizure. Eichenwald, who lives in the Dallas area, has epilepsy. Included with the image was the message: “You deserve a seizure for your posts.” The image was apparently sent in response to Eichenwald’s outspoken criticism of then-President-elect Donald Trump. In a statement Tuesday, Rivello’s attorneys said he is a military veteran with post-traumatic stress who apologized to Eichenwald and is seeking counseling.

Rappers Paul Wall, Baby Bash Avoid Indictment on Drug Charge

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 11:13 am

HOUSTON (AP) – A grand jury has declined to indict Houston rappers Paul Wall and Baby Bash on felony drug-related charges. The Harris County jury on Tuesday opted not to hand up indictments against Paul Michael Slayton, more broadly known as Paul Wall, and Ronald Bryant, known as Baby Bash. The rappers were arrested in December along with eight other people on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity for possessing a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The Harris County district attorney’s office says grand jurors did indict five of the people initially charged in the matter. Authorities alleged in December that Slayton and Bryant were caught with some form of THC, the compound that gives marijuana its high.

Texas Senate OKs Plan that May Phase Out Key Business Tax

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 11:14 am

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate has approved a bill seeking to gradually phase out taxes levied on businesses during future legislative sessions – when the state potentially has shaken off the oil price slump and seen its economy begin booming again. Approved quickly and without debate Tuesday, the measure now heads to the state House. Its sponsor, Flower Mound Republican Sen. Jane Nelson, said conservatives have long clamored for ending the so-called “franchise tax” on business, and that her proposal puts it on “a glide path” toward elimination. The bill mandates cuts to the franchise tax during future budget cycles when Texas’ economy is projected to grow by at least 5 percent. Low oil prices means the state wouldn’t qualify this year, but the proposal could have sweeping impacts on future budgets.

Bill to Curb “Wrongful Birth” Lawsuits Heads to Texas House

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 9:54 am

AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate has given final approval to a so-called “wrongful birth” bill seeking to prevent parents from suing doctors for malpractice after their child is born with severe disabilities. Tuesday’s vote sends Conroe Republican Sen. Brandon Creighton’s proposal to the House. At issue is a 1975 case where the Texas Supreme Court ruled that parents were entitled to damages covering the extra cost of raising a child with disabilities after doctors failed to fully inform them about problems with the pregnancy. Creighton says doctors still would have to disclose medical information about pregnancies to families, who also can still sue for negligence. But he says doctors wouldn’t be liable for delivering disabled children, thus discouraging abortions. Opponents warn of physicians who oppose abortion imposing “their own morality” on patients.

Millions in Cash and Heroin Seized; 3 Suspects Arrested

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 9:54 am

NEW YORK (AP) – Prosecutors say three people have been arrested after they seized $4.1 million cash and over six pounds (3 kilograms) of heroin. New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor and other officials say the cash and drugs were found in a storage unit in the Bronx and a rental truck. The special prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, says the suspects allegedly oversaw an interstate drug trafficking operation that originated in Texas. The drugs were then sent to New York City and Lawrence, Massachusetts. The drugs and cash were allegedly concealed inside wooden furniture. Brennan says the furniture came north with the heroin inside and then the cash to pay for the drugs was hidden in the same furniture and shipped back to Texas. Authorities executed search warrants last Saturday and made the arrests.

Man Accused of Sexually Assaulting Houston Schoolchildren

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 11:14 am

HOUSTON (AP) – Police investigators say a 35-year-old man sexually assaulted at least 10 children over the course of nearly three years as they walked to or from Houston schools. Authorities said in a statement Tuesday that Carlos Jose Ayala is being held on charges that include indecency with a child. Police say Ayala targeted young girls by walking up behind them and inappropriately touching them. In one instance it’s believed he tried to pull a 7-year-old into his car, only to be stopped when the girl’s brother screamed. Ayala was taken into custody Feb. 17 after officers spotted a car that matched a description given by victims. It wasn’t immediately clear why several weeks passed before police announced the arrest. Harris County jail records don’t indicate whether Ayala has an attorney.

Officials: Woman Forced 14-Year-Old into Prostitution

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 9:54 am

HOUSTON (AP) – Prosecutors in Houston say a woman held a 14-year-old girl against her will and forced the child to work as a prostitute, at one point having sex with 26 men over the course of a week. Bond for 19-year-old Denise Marie Coronado was increased to $100,000 during a court appearance Monday. She was arrested last week on a charge of compelling prostitution of a minor. Authorities contend photos of the victim were posted online to promote her as a prostitute and that she was threatened and burned with a cigarette to force her to comply. Coronado’s lawyer, Joe David Wells, told the Houston Chronicle the 14-year-old gave inconsistent statements to police and had access to a cellphone to call for help if she wanted. Coronado is being held at the Harris County jail.

Report: Ex-UTSA Head Engaged in Sexual Harassment

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 9:54 am

SAN ANTONIO (AP) – An investigation by the University of Texas System has determined Ricardo Romo violated sexual harassment policies when he served as president of the University of Texas at San Antonio. University records obtained by the San Antonio Express-News show three women who worked under Romo described his hugging as “disgusting” and even physically hurtful. A report submitted by an investigator says Romo expressed surprise when told that one of his employees found the hugs inappropriate. Romo was placed on leave in February and then resigned weeks later, ahead of his pending retirement. The UT System had not previously released details of the allegations against Romo. Romo’s attorney, Ricardo Cedillo, says the investigation was deeply flawed and amounted to a “character assassination.”

Voucher Plan Begins Rocky Journey through Texas Legislature

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 9:54 am

AUSTIN (AP) – Texas lawmakers have begun grappling with a hot-button voucher plan offering families public money to send their children to private and religious schools. Friendswood Republican Sen. Larry Taylor’s bill would create state-subsidized education saving accounts for parents and offer tax credits to businesses that sponsor children’s private schooling via donations. The issue has roiled the Legislature for years, with the Republican-led Senate backing “school choice” but such plans stalling in the GOP-controlled House. There, lawmakers worry about harming public schools that are the lifeblood of small communities they represent. Taylor heads the Senate Education Committee, which is hearing from education and business groups applauding, and public school advocates decrying, his bill Tuesday. It’ll quickly clear committee and the Senate, but likely won’t survive the House – like similar, past proposals.

Parents of Murder Victim Want Killer Spared from Execution

Posted/updated on: March 22, 2017 at 3:21 am

FORT WORTH (AP) – The parents of a North Texas man shot to death during a robbery in 2006 believe the execution of their son’s killer set for next month should be called off and the death row prisoner be locked up for life with no possibility of parole. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Glenn and Judy Cherry, whose son, Jonas, was killed in the robbery of an amusement center outside Fort Worth, have written state and Tarrant County officials advocating condemned inmate Paul Storey be spared from lethal injection April 12. Cherry’s parents say in an affidavit that Storey’s execution won’t bring back their son or atone for his loss. They also say keeping him in prison without parole “will assure he cannot murder another innocent person in the community.”

Texas “Affluenza” Teen’s Lawyers Seek His Release from Jail

Posted/updated on: March 21, 2017 at 5:49 pm

FORT WORTH (AP) — Lawyers for a Texas teenager who used an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck have turned to the Texas Supreme Court in an effort to secure his release from jail. The motion filed on behalf of 19-year-old Ethan Couch argues that a judge had no authority to sentence Couch to nearly two years in jail after his case was moved from juvenile to adult court. Couch’s attorneys argue that the judge only had jurisdiction over criminal cases and that juvenile matters are civil. Couch was given 10 years’ probation after killing four people in a 2013 wreck. He later violated his probation. A defense expert invoked the term “affluenza” in arguing during the sentencing phase of the teenager’s trial that he was coddled into a sense of irresponsibility.

Judge Says “Sanctuary” Jail Led to Immigration Sweep

Posted/updated on: March 21, 2017 at 3:16 pm

AUSTIN (AP) – A federal magistrate judge in Texas says immigration agents told him that a major operation in Austin was ordered as a result of the local sheriff adopting “sanctuary” policies in the local jail. The Austin American-Statesman reports U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin made the comments in open court Monday. He says he was told by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials ahead of large-scale arrests in February that a “big operation” could be expected. In audio of the court hearing, the judge says he was told the operation was the result of the Travis County sheriff saying her jail would no longer comply with all immigration detainer requests. Federal officials have previously defended the arrests as business as usual. ICE didn’t address the judge’s claims in a statement Monday.

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