Morning News: Charges dropped against Tensing; mountain bikers damage Mariemont burial sites; Mandel throws support to Pizzagate conspiracy theorist

Late last week, Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel tweeted out his support for 'Pizzagate' conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, who has been accused of misogynistic and xenophobic activity by the Anti-Defamation League.

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click to enlarge Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel

Good morning all. Let’s talk news.

Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz dismissed charges against former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing this morning, meaning he cannot be tried again at the state level. Two juries could not reach an agreement on murder and manslaughter charges in connection with Tensing’s shooting of unarmed motorist Sam DuBose in Mount Auburn two years ago. After two hung juries, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced last week that he won’t pursue a third trial for Tensing. Tensing attorney Stew Mathews this morning requested that charges not only be dropped against his client, but that Tensing be outright acquitted in the case. Mathews says Tensing would like closure and that a simple dismissal of charges doesn’t provide that. Ghiz denied the request. Mathews also said outside the courtroom that he believes Tensing should be allowed to become a police officer again. U.S. attorneys are investigating DuBose’s shooting for potential civil rights violations, but the bar for evidence in such federal cases is very high.

About 100 people Saturday gathered for a rally at Fountain Square organized by the Countdown to Conviction Coalition to protest DuBose’s shooting. Protesters decrying the lack of a conviction for Tensing marched to The Banks, where they gathered in the streets and sidewalks. A pro-Tensing rally is planned tonight at Sawyer Point at 6 p.m., after which Tensing supporters will march across the Purple People Bridge. Pro-DuBose activists will also be there — they plan to start lining the bridge at 5:30 pm.

• An internal investigation into Cincinnati Police Department investigator Sgt. Shannon Heine, who testified in the Tensing case, has cleared her of any wrongdoing during that testimony. Heine, a prosecution witness, stated on the witness stand that she felt DuBose’s shooting “may have been justified,” dealing a serious and surprising blow to the prosecution’s case. Prosecutors say they were unaware Heine would make such a statement, but CPD’s investigation states that they should have been aware of her opinions on the case and found her statements weren’t in violation of any codes of conduct. During the trial, prosecutors criticized Heine’s gentle handling of the initial interviews Tensing underwent following his shooting of DuBose, asking whether Heine is part of a “good old boys” network that protects police. A complaint with the Citizens Complaint Authority filed by the DuBose family and police accountability activists is still active.

• Mountain bikers riding just off a newly expanded trail in Mariemont have damaged Native American burial sites and other historic landmarks, the village's mayor and an archeologist say. Last year, the Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance received permission from Mariemont officials to extend a nature path starting in Dogwood Park to connect it with another park called South 80 Gardens and Walking Trail Park. The extended path has drawn a lot more bikers — some of whom have decided to venture off the trail and ride over burial sites nearby. That’s left ruts and other damage at the sacred and historic sites. University of Cincinnati professor Kenneth Tankersley, who has done archeological work in the area since the 1970s, placed the blame squarely on CORA for the damage, saying trails made by the bike group run straight through the historic sites. Mariemont Mayor Dan Policastro has also decried the damage, saying he’ll move next month to ban mountain biking in the area around the burial sites.

• Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel continues to court support from far-right constituents in his campaign to take on U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown next year. Late last week, Mandel tweeted out his support for “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich and right-wing personality Jack Posobiec after the Anti-Defamation League called the two out for xenophobic and misogynistic comments. Cernovich helped propagate an internet rumor that the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant was a secret site for a child sex smuggling ring run by the Democratic Party. That rumor was debunked; the building doesn’t have a basement and there is no evidence it’s anything but a pizza place. That didn’t stop a man from taking a gun there and firing it in inside the establishment, saying he was doing an “investigation” of Pizzagate. Posobiec is known for stunts promoting far-right causes, including planting signs at an anti-Trump rally advocating for the rape of Trump’s daughter. The ADL included the two in a list of personalities who belong to fringe far right-causes, a move Cernovich called “inciting terrorism.” Mandel retweeted a tweet by Cernovich to that effect and criticized the ADL for calling out the two.

• U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson, who represent Urbana and Troy respectively, are pushing a bill that would impose federal work requirements on recipients of government assistance like food stamps. The proposal would consolidate or eliminate many of the federal government’s 92 aid programs. It would also take welfare reforms first made in 1996 further. Those reforms introduced work requirements for programs like Temporary Aid for Needy Families, which supplies food and other assistance. Currently, states have the option of imposing work requirements on welfare recipients, but don’t have to for most programs. Jordan and Davidson, both Republicans, say that low-income people need to be forced to find work if they’re receiving assistance. That’s something many advocates for low-income people dispute, instead saying such requirements simply punish those who are unemployed and can’t find a job.

• The state of Kentucky has halted millions in tax credits to religiously themed tourist attraction Ark Encounter. Last week, we told you about how the park, which features a full-sized ship patterned after the Biblical Noah’s Ark, transferred the park’s land to a non-profit arm to avoid paying a tax meant to raise money for safety services. In doing so, however, Kentucky says it has violated the terms of a state sales tax rebate agreement worth $18 million. Oops.

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