- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014
Jury convicts ex-priest in sodomy case

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A jury convicted a former Catholic priest Wednesday on three counts of sodomy for sex abuse that happened at a church parish in the 1970s.

James Schook, 66, was also convicted on one count of indecent or immoral practice with another. Schook, who did not testify at the trial, is suffering from terminal skin cancer and requested several delays of the trial after his indictment in 2011.

The jury threw out two sodomy charges, including one for an alleged encounter between Schook and witness Michael Stansbury, who testified that Schook abused him on one occasion.

The other witness, Richard Whitfield, testified that he and Schook carried on a yearslong sexual relationship that began when he was 13.

David Lambertus, Schook’s attorney, challenged the witness accounts, and told the jury during his closing argument that the witnesses may not be able to accurately recall their ages at the time or the dates of the alleged abuses. He also suggested they may be coming forward now in order to seek money through a civil lawsuit.

The prosecutor, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney John Balliet, commended the witnesses and said they had nothing to gain by coming forward after four decades.


Bill Nye says he underestimated debate’s impact

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - TV’s “Science Guy” Bill Nye said he underestimated the impact of a February debate in Kentucky on evolution and creationism that drew a massive online audience.

When Nye agreed to the debate at The Creation Museum with its founder Ken Ham, he said he believed it would draw about as much attention as presentations he makes on college campuses.

But the Feb. 4 event was widely promoted by the museum, “and soon it seemed like everyone I met was talking about it,” Nye wrote in a 3,000-word letter published in the May/June issue of Skeptical Inquirer.

“I slowly realized that this was a high-pressure situation,” he said.

The event was streamed live on the Web and it was widely discussed on Facebook and Twitter, alongside the witty hashtag (hash)HamonNye. The Creation Museum said its metrics showed that 750,000 computers logged into the debate, and thousands of groups gathered to watch, putting the viewer estimate into the millions. About 70 media representatives attended, and Nye and Ham were interviewed on network and cable news shows.

Nye wrote that despite no score being kept during the debate with Ham, by “a strong majority of accounts, I bested him.”


Senate leaders ask for special session

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The support of the governor, attorney general and leaders of both parties in the state legislature was not enough to pass a bill strengthening sentences for serious heroin dealers and expanding the state’s substance abuse treatment programs.

Now, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers says he will ask Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to call state lawmakers back to Frankfort for a special session so they can try again.

“If we come up here in five days and spent $300,000 to do something to stop or curb this problem, that would be money well spent,” Stivers said.

State officials estimate a special session would cost taxpayers about $60,000 per day.

Beshear said in a statement that he doesn’t know yet whether a special session is necessary.

“After the end of a long general session, there are always some worthy bills that don’t make it through the legislative process,” he said. “My first priority is to review the 19 bills that we received this week, including the road plan and transportation budget, and take appropriate action on those. It’s too early to determine if a special session on any topic is prudent or needed.”


Ky. lawmakers finish work highlighted by budget

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky lawmakers boosted state funding for schools, revamped the juvenile justice system to lock up fewer kids and legalized a medicinal oil derived from marijuana to ease the suffering of children stricken with seizures.

In an election-year session, bourbon makers won long-sought tax relief, teachers and state employees got pay raises and an adult protection registry will be formed to screen caregivers for some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable residents.

The 2014 General Assembly session ended at the stroke of midnight after a final day of maneuvering Tuesday. The politically divided legislature accomplished its primary tasks - passing a $20.3 billion, two-year state budget, followed by a $4.1 billion transportation spending plan.

From the session’s outset in early January, Gov. Steve Beshear made education spending a priority.

Three months later, the outcome was a success, he said. The new state budget raises per-pupil spending to its highest level ever, increases the number of 4-year-olds in preschool, restores cuts to child care programs and provides more money for school technology, textbooks and school safety, he said.

The budget imposed a new round of spending cuts across many state agencies to free up the extra money for education.

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