Drugmakers seek sanctions over ‘60 Minutes’ comments
Sunday, January 6
CLEVELAND (AP) — Several drug manufacturers targeted in lawsuits over the opioid epidemic have asked a federal judge in Cleveland to sanction the man who is Ohio’s attorney general and governor-elect, along with two other lawyers, for statements they made in recent television interviews.
Friday’s motion said statements by Republican Attorney General and Gov.-elect Mike DeWine and the others on an episode of CBS’ “60 Minutes” were calculated to taint potential jury pools, Cleveland.com reported.
DeWine and attorneys Mike Moore and Burton LeBlanc were part of a Dec. 16 segment on the news magazine show about litigation over the role of big pharmaceutical companies in the deadly opioid epidemic.
Correspondent Bill Whitaker explored topics including the value of potential damages and data on pill distribution in states and cities collected by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The motion was filed by attorneys for several drug manufacturers and distributors, including Cardinal Health, Endo, AmerisourceBergen and Purdue Pharma. It alleges DeWine, Moore and LeBlanc were part of a “concerted campaign” by lawyers representing state and local governments “to taint potential jury pools through misleading, inflammatory, and improper public statements.”
The motion asks the judge to impose a gag order and other sanctions. The defendants claim the men’s statements represented “a flagrant violation of their ethical obligations as attorneys practicing before this Court and threatens defendants’ rights to a fair adjudication of the claims asserted against them.”
Attorney General’s Office spokesman Dan Tierney told The Associated Press in an email Saturday night that Dewine “respectfully declines comment.”
Cleveland.com reports that Moore declined to comment Friday because he hadn’t seen the motion and that LeBlanc didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail. Phone and email messages seeking comment were left for both attorneys Sunday by The Associated Press.
The motion comes amid preparations for a September trial over claims against drug companies by the cities of Cleveland and Akron and their respective counties, Cuyahoga and Summit. The cases are among scores from around the country being heard by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster.
A group represented by DeWine filed its own lawsuits over fallout from the opioid epidemic. A second, larger group has joined a multistate investigation of the industry.
The suits accuse pharmaceutical companies of downplaying the addictive nature of opioids and prescription painkillers largely blamed for one of the deadliest drug crises in U.S. history.
Ohio’s opioid lawsuit, in which Moore is involved, isn’t included among those Polster is overseeing, because it’s being heard in a Ross County court. DeWine has participated in settlement talks in the federal litigation.
The motion questions Moore saying that “if we try the Ohio case, if we win a verdict against these manufacturers and distributors there, it could bankrupt them” and that a jury may award $100 billion in a trial.
It notes DeWine told “60 Minutes” he had seen a set of data from the federal Automated Reports and Consolidated Ordering System, or ARCOS, database that he wasn’t allowed to talk about but that was “shocking.” He said distributors should have seen something was wrong.
LeBlanc discussed how defendants had access to the ARCOS database, which defendants say was misleading.
Information from: cleveland.com, http://www.cleveland.com
Whistleblower alleging sex abuse at Ohio State is wanted man
By KANTELE FRANKO
Friday, January 4
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The man whose complaints helped spur an investigation into alleged, decades-old sexual abuse by an Ohio State team doctor is a wanted man in Columbus after missing a court date that he said he thought was postponed.
A warrant was issued for Mike DiSabato, of suburban Dublin, after he didn’t show up Friday in Franklin County Municipal Court.
He is charged with telecommunications harassment of a university-affiliated administrator who criticized him. DiSabato contends he’s the one being harassed.
Prosecutors were set to argue that DiSabato sent emails to university officials that violated a no-contact provision of his bond and that it should be revoked.
Defense attorney Rocky Ratliff said DiSabato sent information to a police officer, and university officials were copied on the message.
As for the court date, Ratliff said someone at the court had told his office the bond matter was to be dealt with at a hearing scheduled for next week. He and DiSabato said they didn’t intend to skip court and will try to resolve the warrant issue next week.
The man DiSabato is accused of harassing, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center director of development Matthew Finkes, declined to comment on the case, saying only that he wants DiSabato to leave him alone.
DiSabato and Ratliff contend Finkes, a former football player, has essentially retaliated against a sexual-abuse whistleblower by making disparaging public comments about DiSabato, including on a radio show. They said they’re eager to discuss the details of the case in court.
“I’m the whistleblower, and he’s the aggressor — let’s be clear,” DiSabato said Friday after The Associated Press informed him about the warrant.
DiSabato, a former Buckeyes wrestler, has been perhaps the loudest voice among the ex-athletes and other men alleging they were unnecessarily groped and ogled by now-deceased Dr. Richard Strauss. He also is among those who have sued the school with allegations that officials there ignored alleged sexual misconduct by Strauss in the two decades the doctor worked there.
DiSabato raised allegations about Strauss last spring with Ohio State, which hired a law firm to conduct a pending investigation .
In recent months, at least 150 people have provided firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by Strauss between 1979 and 1997. Those allegations involve male athletes from at least 16 sports, plus Strauss’ work at the student health center and his off-campus medical office .
DiSabato also has spoken with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, which is conducting a related investigation about whether the university responded properly to concerns raised about Strauss during his tenure.
The doctor killed himself in 2005. His family expressed shock at the allegations but hasn’t responded to further requests for comment. No one else has publicly defended Strauss.
Employment records shared by the university note no major concerns about Strauss, but alumni say they complained about the physician as far back as the late 1970s.
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Man with missing wife, Florida in-laws dead arrested in Ohio
Friday, January 4
TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — Police have arrested a man caught with a car stolen from a Florida home where a couple and their son were found dead. Their daughter — the man’s wife — remains missing.
Police in Tarpon Springs, Florida, identified the suspect Friday as 25-year-old Shelby John Nealy. He was taken into custody in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, Ohio. Authorities said he was initially charged with receiving stolen property because he was driving one victim’s car. It wasn’t immediately clear if he has a lawyer.
Investigators identified the victims as 71-year-old Richard Louis Ivancic; his wife, 59-year-old Laura Ann Ivancic; and their son, 25-year-old Nicholas James Ivancic. Nealy’s wife, their 21-year-old daughter, Jamie Nicole Ivancic, is missing under what police called “suspicious circumstances,” without elaborating.
“We do fear she, too, may be a victim of foul play,” said police Maj. Jeff Young said at a news conference Friday in Tarpon Springs. “This is an ongoing investigation.”
Authorities making a welfare check on New Year’s Day said they found the bodies in a state of “advanced decomposition.” Police have not said how they died but that the killings likely happened Dec. 19 or Dec. 20. The bodies of three small dogs also were inside the home.
Tarpon Springs police investigators have interviewed Nealy — who also goes by the name Shelby Svenson — in Ohio and they say he admitted involvement in the killings.
Nealy was arrested after authorities were able to track a red 2013 Kia Sorento owned by Laura Ivancic to Ohio. He was taken into custody after walking outside toward the vehicle from an apartment, where the younger couple’s two children aged 2 and 3 were inside unharmed. They were taken to a family services agency.
Updated housing law gives renters more protections
Saturday, January 5
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Officials in Columbus strengthened a city law protecting tenants to prevent landlords from evicting renters for complaining about housing issues.
The updated law, which was approved earlier this month, takes effect in January The Columbus Dispatch reported . Landlords are compelled to explain why they’re evicting renters who raised concerns about rent increases or housing conditions.
Franklin County leads the state with over 18,000 eviction cases filed annually. The city’s high rental demand and gaps in affordable housing benefit landlords, according to Legal Aid Society of Columbus attorney Melissa Benson.
Tinnisha Wilkerson is one of city’s residents involved in legal dispute with a landlord. Wilkerson claims her lease was terminated after she filed a complaint about poor conditions in her rental home.
“Why is it so hard for a landlord to give us a decent place to live?” Wilkerson questioned.
Columbus’ anti-retaliation ordinance was difficult to enforce, according to Benson. In many cases landlords worked around making repairs by evicting month-to-month tenants who contact city code enforcement, Benson said. The landlords don’t have to make repairs because there aren’t any violations when homes don’t have a tenant. “Essentially the case gets closed,” added Benson.
No one testified against the proposal before council approved the update, according to advocates. Attorney Dimitri Hatzifotinos submitted testimony on behalf of the Columbus Apartment Association.
“Responsible landlords who are members of CAA work hard to keep residents stably housed,” Hatzifotinos said. “From our perspective, evictions are actions of last resort,” he added.
It will be easier to file charges against retaliating landlords, according to housing advocates.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com
Airports seeing rise in security screeners calling off work
By ALEXANDRA OLSON and JULIE CARR SMYTH
Sunday, January 6
NEW YORK (AP) — The federal agency tasked with guaranteeing U.S. airport security acknowledged an increase in the number of its employees calling off work during the partial government shutdown .
Employees of the Transportation Security Administration are expected to work without pay during the shutdown because their jobs are considered essential.
The TSA said in a statement Friday that call outs that began over the holiday period have increased. The agency did not say how many of its employees have called out, but it said the call outs have had “minimal impact given that there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process.” The statement said wait times “may be affected” but so far “remain well within TSA standards.”
“TSA is closely monitoring the situation,” the agency statement said. “Security effectiveness will not be compromised.”
The Department of Homeland Security and President Donald Trump pushed back Saturday on suggestions that the call outs represented a “sickout” that was having significant consequences on U.S. air travel. White House officials and congressional aides were in talks Saturday to end the shutdown, which entered its 15th day. Negotiations are at an impasse over Trump’s demands for $5.6 billion to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
TSA spokesman Michael Bilello tweeted that 5.5 percent of the TSA workforce at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport called out Friday, compared with 3.5 percent on a normal day. He said wait times “may be affected” but that all passengers would be screened as normal.
Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN that up to 170 TSA employees at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport have called out each day this week. Union officials did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.
Airport officials said no unusual screening delays were being experienced at JFK, Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports, or Miami International Airport.