TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR OCTOBER 20TH, 2021

A New Castle man has pleaded guilty in federal court to violating federal narcotics laws. Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman announced 52 year old Darnell Latham pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine from March of 2019 through September of 2020. Latham was one of thirteen people charged in the indictment. Sentencing is set for February 15th of next year. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of not more than 30 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $2,000,000, or both.

Pennsylvania State Police are investigating a Butler County vehicle accident that left at least one person injured.  The incident involving six vehicles, one of them an ambulance, happened late yesterday morning on I-79.  One woman was flown to a nearby hospital for treatment.  Others also sought medical attention as a precautionary measure.

The Pennsylvania State Police says they collected more than 25-million dollars worth of illegal drugs this past summer.  The department on Tuesday provided a breakdown of the value of drugs confiscated in Western Pennsylvania and across the state between July 1st and September 30th.  The figures included nearly seven-million dollars worth of cocaine, about five-and-a-half million dollars worth of marijuana THC and nearly three-million dollars worth of fentanyl.

Staff workers at the University of Pittsburgh’s five campuses are voting to unionize.  Officials said yesterday that 71 percent of staff members voted to partner with the United Steelworkers union.  The move will unite 33-hundred academic advisors, lab managers, research coordinators, and other staff to create one of the largest unions in the country.  The new union plans to begin negotiating its first contract with the University soon.

Former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine is the first openly transgender American to become a four-star officer in the nation’s eight uniformed services.  On Tuesday, Dr. Levine was sworn in as an admiral in the United States Public Health Service and will help lead more than six-thousand public health professionals.  Levine served as Pennsylvania Health Secretary from 2017 to January this year, crafting policies for dealing with the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The state department of health yesterday announced nearly 39-hundred new Covid-19 cases, pushing the total over one-million-517-thousand.  About 64 new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is at 30-thousand-587.

Democratic State Representative Summer Lee is already earning endorsements in her newly-announced bid for Congress.  Lee, on Tuesday, threw her hat into the ring to replace retiring Pittsburgh-area Congressman Mike Doyle.  Mayoral candidate Ed Gainey has since thrown his support to Lee as has the national group Justice Democrats.  Justice Democrats is known for their efforts in helping Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get elected to the House.

A group of Republicans is behind the “Trump Lost” billboard seen in Harrisburg and across the country. The billboard by Republicans for Voting Rights features the former president along with a call for no more election audits.  These billboards have been seen in other states where election audits are being considered. Officials with the group say the 2020 election was fair and secure and these sham audits are a waste of time and money. This comes as a state Senate panel voted to subpoena information from voters for an election audit, including social security numbers.

Somerset County District Attorney Jeffrey Thomas is facing additional charges this morning.  The D.A., accused of attacking a woman last month, was in court Tuesday to waive his right to a preliminary hearing.  Prosecutors dropped a felony charge of rape but added counts of sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault.  He has also been charged with strangulation, simple assault and criminal trespassing.  If convicted on all counts, Thomas could be sentenced to fifty years in prison.