Morning News: jury returns murder verdict in Neri killing; Amazon application in; Spencer sues OSU

Earl Jones sent racially charged text messages before shooting Kevin Neri, who witnesses say was unarmed.

click to enlarge Family of slain Kevin Neri protests a potential plea deal for his shooter Earl Jones outside the Hamilton County courthouse. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Family of slain Kevin Neri protests a potential plea deal for his shooter Earl Jones outside the Hamilton County courthouse.

Hello Cincy. Here’s a little news for your rainy Monday morning.

Last week, we told you about the regional effort to apply for Amazon’s second headquarters. So, what does Cincinnati’s portion of that application look like? Mayor John Cranley says the city has offered Amazon the same deal it offered General Electric when it came to The Banks: a 15-year tax incentive package that includes an 85 percent job-creation tax credit and a 100 percent property tax abatement. That means 85 percent of the income tax paid by potential Amazon employees will flow back to the company and that the company wouldn’t pay property taxes for a decade and a half. Will it work? Cranley thinks so, though a number of big cities turned in their pitches to Amazon last Thursday. The incentives offered by the states of Ohio and Kentucky haven’t been revealed.

“We have the best story to tell,” Cranley says. “We believe we can win. I suggest to you that is a change in culture. We are here because of the work of both sides of the river.”

• Speaking of job-creation tax credits, what happens to companies that don't deliver the promised number of jobs after receiving those credits? As it turns out, basically nothing. Of the roughly 200 companies that have received the credits from the city, about half have entered the phase of the incentive in which they’re supposed to have created the agreed-upon number of jobs. Of those 100 companies, 19 have delivered less than 75 percent of the jobs they were supposed to create. On the other hand, city officials say the program also exists to revamp underutilized properties — not just create jobs — and that 70 companies over the year have created more than the expected number of jobs. Experts say the city needs to apply more scrutiny to those deals and to hold companies accountable for the promised job numbers, however.

• A Hamilton County jury this morning found 24-year-old Earl Jones guilty of murder in the May, 2016 shooting 19-year-old Kevin Neri in Colerain. Jones, who is white, sent Neri, who identified as black, and his girlfriend Cyerra Prather racially charged text messages prior to the shooting, and a feud between the two blew up after Jones posted semi-nude photos of Prather on social media. Prather is Jones’ ex-girlfriend, and the two have a child together. Jones says he was “ambushed” by Neri when he showed up to Prather’s house, ostensibly to pick up their child, and shot Neri in self-defense. But many witnesses say the two were meeting to fight, that Neri didn’t have a gun and that Jones shot Neri with his car running and the door open moments after arriving. The case got attention this spring when Hamilton County prosecutors offered Jones a plea deal, which he turned down.

• Bikes are out at a Mariemont park after damage to historic sites there. After months of debate between cyclists, village officials and local history experts, the Mariemont Village Council voted last week to ban bikes from Dogwood Park along the park’s Whiskey Run Creek and other trails. University of Cincinnati archeologist Kenneth Tankersly began advocating for the ban after damage to Native American and pioneer historical sites was discovered in the park. Mariemont officials say they’re working to repair and secure those sites, and may revisit the ban on mountain bikes after that work is finished.

• State Sen. Cecil Thomas of Cincinnati is the primary sponsor of a bill that would ban bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic weapon to fire similarly to an automatic gun. Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock used bump stocks when he killed 58 people and injured hundreds during a country music concert earlier this month. The bill sponsored by Thomas would make possession of that equipment a fourth-degree felony. Currently, only California has a specific ban on bump stocks, though Massachusetts is on track to pass a prohibition on them as well.

• A supporter of white nationalist Richard Spencer has sued Ohio State University in federal court, saying the school has violated Spencer's 1st Amendment rights by refusing him a venue at which to discuss his support for a whites-only America. Spencer threatened similar legal action against University of Cincinnati earlier this month, but the university relented, announcing it would allow Spencer to rent a venue on campus at an undetermined date.

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