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Guilty plea slated in rural Pa. BLM shooting

Plus, Shapiro's plan to lower Pa.'s high cell phone taxes.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
BLM shooting, tax cuts, federal limits, outside testing, surprise suspensions, mistaken identity, Mastriano's movement, and stolen artifacts returned.

A Wisconsin Black Lives Matter activist who was shot by a man while marching through Bedford County in 2020 will plead guilty to criminal charges for firing a weapon of his own that night, WTAJ reports.

The station says Orsino Thurman, 39, of Milwaukee, plans to enter guilty pleas to felony counts of aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm later this month, avoiding a planned March 20 jury trial.

Thurman, who is Black, has said that he and a group of cross-country civil rights marchers were shot at first by Terry Myers of Schellsburg, who is white, near a towing garage and home owned by Myers' father. 

Myers was charged with dozens of counts, but most were withdrawn or dismissed following a 2021 preliminary hearing. The rest were dropped in exchange for Myers agreeing to testify against Thurman.

THE CONTEXT: The charges against Myers came after Spotlight PA and the Tribune-Democrat learned that DA Lesley Childers-Potts had been given the results of a State Police probe into the shooting months earlier — and one day after the outlets asked why she hadn't acted on it sooner.

On the deal ultimately offered to Myers for his cooperation against Thurman, Childers-Potts said: "I realize there will be people who disagree with my decision ... but I firmly believe it is the correct decision."

Childers-Potts added, per the Tribune-Democrat: "I am very concerned about the danger to society Mr. Thurman seems to create in most of the jurisdictions where he has been arrested, including Bedford County."

Thurman, who fellow marchers said fired in self-defense, was a witness in the initial case against Myers but never appeared in court. He was later extradited back to Pennsylvania after a police chase and standoff in Illinois.

Read more from the Spotlight PA archives: A changing story by police on a rural Pa. shooting helped fuel white vigilantes and misinformation.


"While LVHN is publicly patting itself on the back for standing up to these hackers and refusing to meet their ransom demands, they are consciously and intentionally ignoring the real victims: Plaintiff and her Class."

—A lawsuit against Lehigh Valley Health Network after a cybercriminal group stole nude images of cancer patients and posted them online
Support Spotlight PA's independent, nonpartisan journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
If we raise $25,000 by March 25, every single gift in support of Spotlight PA will be DOUBLED by the Benter Foundation in Pittsburgh. Help Spotlight PA continue its vital accountability and investigative reporting by making a tax-deductible gift and securing your dollar-for-dollar match now.

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VITAL DATA: Join us during Sunshine Week on Thursday, March 16 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on health care reporting in Pennsylvania, how we fight for open records, and your rights under the Right-to-Know Law. Register here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

UNEQUAL ELECTIONS: Join us and a panel of election experts on Thursday, March 30 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free discussion on unequal voting policies in the state, how they impact voters, and possible solutions. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Sunrise in Shenango Valley, via Luanne S. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A bright orange sunrise through trees, giving the woods the appearance of being on fire.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PHONE TAXES: Pennsylvania has some of the highest taxes on cell phones in the U.S. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro wants to eliminate two — a 7% sales and use tax on phone services and a 4% gross receipts tax on wireless service providers, saying it would save Pennsylvanians and businesses $124 million a year. Spotlight PA explains the budget proposal and what it would take to actually implement it.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.'FOREVER' LIMITS: The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the first nationwide limits on toxic "forever chemicals" in drinking water. The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators said removing the chemicals will require "significant rate increases" for most systems, but officials in Michigan, home to the nation's strictest state-level PFAS rule, said remediation costs are reasonable.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.DIOXIN TESTS: The EPA has ordered Norfolk Southern to test for dioxins around the site of last month's toxic train crash near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, but WESA reports environmental advocates want the EPA to conduct the testing instead, saying, "Norfolk Southern should not be in charge." Ohio on Tuesday announced a federal lawsuit against Norfolk Southern over the crash.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.HARD STOP: Steven Hadley of Mountville said he deserved the one-year driver's license suspension he got following a criminal conviction in 2019, but not the subsequent three-year suspension he received for the same offense. He's among a small group of Lancaster County residents fighting unexpected license stops that are being chalked up to a bureaucratic communication failure, LNP (paywall) reports. 

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.RACIST RANT: Rita Bellew, of Hatboro in Montgomery County, is facing ethnic intimidation and harassment charges for a racist rant at a local pizza shop seen in a viral video. Ethnic intimidation is considered a "hate crime" in Pennsylvania. The Inquirer (paywall) has the story of three innocent accountants who were mistaken for Bellew and caught in a deluge of harassment and doxing from internet sleuths.

MAGA MAN: Politico reports a recent rally for state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) — a possible 2024 U.S. Senate hopeful — shows he could remain a wrench in the gears of the GOP establishment's primary plans.

RELICS RETURNED: A World War II pistol belonging to General Omar Bradley and 19th-century rifles were among the stolen items returned to Pennsylvania museums by the FBI decades later.

STRIKE OVER: Temple grad student workers have approved a new union contract that includes thousands of dollars in raises, ending a walkout that began on Jan. 31 and which saw their health benefits suspended.

DIGITAL ERA: Times-Shamrock Communications-owned newspapers in Pottsville, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Hazleton will no longer print hardcopy newspapers on Mondays, the ownership company says.

SHELL GEL: A gel developed by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is the secret sauce powering this robotic snail.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Triangular

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan D., Barbara F., John H., Jane R., Becky C., Wendy A., Ginny M., Irene R., Fran B., Tracy S., Marty M., Eric F., Barbara Jean M., Jon W., Lisa H., Kimberly D., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Kim C., Don H., Vicki U., Steve D., John F., Dennis M., Kevin M., Daniel S., Joel S., Ada M., Gina L., Starr B., James B., John P., Dianne K., Bruce B., Suzanne S., Liza Jane B., William Z., Bill S., Ronnee G., Sandra H., Keith W., Stanley J., and Carol S.
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