Medical reasons keep Lehigh County man from arraignment on charges he assaulted an Easton officer, police say

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Andrew Ohl, 25, of Upper Saucon Township, remains in critical condition at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township, a hospital spokesman says.

Watch video

Lehigh County man has yet to be arraigned on charges he assaulted an Easton police officer in late November in a Downtown grocery store.

Andrew Ohl, 25, of Upper Saucon Township, cannot face charges of aggravated assault and related offenses due to medical reasons, Easton police Capt. Scott Casterline said Thursday, adding he wasn’t able to provide further details as to when or if initial court steps could be taken.

Those arrested are normally arraigned within hours of arrest. Arraignment is the first step in the court process.

Ohl about 6 a.m. Nov. 25 left the work release section of Northampton County Prison and, intending to get a bus to work in Allentown, stopped at the Easton Corner Market, at North Fourth and Northampton streets, where he began to act out, authorities said.

Ohl attacked a responding officer in the store, police said, before Ohl was taken into custody and held by several officers against a patrol car hood while appearing to growl and continuing to struggle. A few minutes later he received an injection from rescue personnel, calmed down and was placed in an ambulance, police said at the time. Soon after, ambulance personnel were performing CPR on the man before he was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township.

A hospital spokesman said Ohl remains in critical condition, but the spokesman couldn’t offer further details.

Andrew S. OhlView full sizeAndrew Ohl 

After a search warrant was served at the cell that had been occupied by Ohl and three other prisoners, authorities said they found a “suspicious, leafy green substance” which initial tests said was synthetic marijuana.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli’s office said the case hasn’t proceeded far enough to come to his attention.

Morganelli is currently overseeing an officer-involved death in an Oct. 24 incident at 13th and Spring Garden streets in Easton where Richard Scheuermann III was shot to death. An Easton police officer and three Palmer Township officers are on leave awaiting Morganelli’s ruling as to if the shooting were justified.

If Ohl were to die, it is not immediately clear if it would be a second officer-involved death involving city police.

Teen testifies he was stabbed during group fight by former friend

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Axel Figueroa-Velez now faces trial as an adult on attempted homicide and related charges for allegedly stabbing Eric Rivera Jr.

GavelAn Allentown teen is facing trial as an adult for attempted homicide and related charges for allegedly stabbing another teen, causing a punctured lung. 

What led to a group fight in Allentown in October depends on whom you talk to, but the final result was definitive: a teenager was stabbed twice and suffered a punctured lung.

Following a preliminary hearing Wednesday where the victim testified, 16-year-old Axel Figueroa-Velez now faces trial as an adult on attempted homicide and related charges for allegedly stabbing Eric Rivera Jr. District Judge Donna Butler forwarded all the charges against Figueroa-Velez to Lehigh County Court.

Figueroa-Velez is being held in county jail in lieu of $250,000 bail. Defense attorney Irene Chiavaroli Johns said she plans to fight to have her client tried as a juvenile. Johns said her client will also claim self-defense in the attack.

Rivera testified the day of the stabbing, his younger brother came home and said he was “jumped” by Figueroa-Velez. Johns brought up that the attack could have been motivated by a nameplate stolen off of Figueroa-Velez’s mother’s urn.

“I said ‘All right. Let’s go over there,” Rivera said, later adding “At one point I didn’t even want to go. … I had to. It’s my little brother.”

Rivera said he used to be friends with Figueroa-Velez, whom he knew for about two months, but they were no longer friends. Johns asked if the two smoked K-2, or synthetic marijuana, together, and Rivera said they did.

Rivera, his father and his young brother went over to Figueroa-Velez’s house in the 500 block of Oak Street, and Rivera said his father planned to speak to the teen’s father.

When the trio got to the house, Figueroa-Velez and his brother were outside, Rivera testified. Figueroa-Velez ran inside the house — where police say he hid a large kitchen knife in the couch — then came back out with his shirt off, screaming “Who wants to fight? Who wants to fight?” Rivera said.

“So I started fighting him,” Rivera said.

Eventually things devolved into a group fight, where Rivera was fighting Figueroa-Velez’s brother, Figueroa-Velez was fighting Rivera’s younger brother Joseph, and both teen’s fathers were also involved, Rivera said.

“My dad was trying to break it up,” Rivera said.

Rivera said neither he nor his family members brought any weapons, but “the next thing you know, a knife appeared.” Rivera said he felt two hard punches to his back; when he stepped back and touched his back, he saw blood. Rivera testified he saw Figueroa-Velez holding a knife with blood on it.

“I could barely breathe,” Rivera said, and described a wheezing sound coming from his back and blood spurting when he would take a breath.

Rivera walked away from the fight and his father rushed him to to Sacred Heart Hospital, where police were called. Rivera suffered a punctured lung and was transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township. Rivera was in the hospital for six days and said he was in immense pain until they took out a breathing tube.

Figueroa-Velez was found near his home and arrested; during a search of his home, police found the knife used in the stabbing, records say.

Initially Figueroa-Velez and his family members claimed Rivera’s younger brother also had a knife, but police determined that was not true, Det. Damian Murray testified Wednesday.

In an interview with police Figueroa-Velez admitted stabbing Rivera, telling police he was mad Rivera punched him during the fight. Figueroa-Velez told police after the stabbing he cleaned the knife and put it back in the kitchen, records say.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at scassi@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahCassi. Find Allentown news on our Facebook page.

Bethlehem Area School District proposing universal all-day kindergarten

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The administration will present its plan to the board at the Jan. 12 curriculum committee meeting.

The Bethlehem Area School District plans to make full-day kindergarten universal in all 16 of its elementary schools for all students next school year.

The district currently offers a mix of half-day and full-day classes in some of its schools. The change is subject to school board approval in January, but district officials are hopeful directors will support it.

Letters have been sent home to families explaining that kindergarten registration will begin much earlier this year — Jan. 27 through Feb. 28  — in the student’s home school. There will be no half-day kindergarten sections offered.

Board President Michael Faccinetto said he’s thrilled it will happen all at once, as opposed to just adding a few more sections this year.

“It’s no secret the majority of the board has been pushing for it for awhile now,” Faccinetto said.

The district has made a push in recent years to give its highest-need students access to all-day kindergarten. Officials have said they also are losing students to charter schools or private schools that offer all-day kindergarten.

“We are doing it because it is the right thing to do educationally with common core and all the expectations on kids at younger ages,” Superintendent Joseph Roy said. “That is 90 more days of learning time for kindergartners.”

It will make students better prepared for first and second grades with the goal of having them reading on grade level by third grade, which is considered one of the greatest indicators of future student success, Roy said.

The district currently has 48 sections of kindergarten and 11 are full-time, Roy said. Currently, all-day kindergarten is offered at Clearview, Donegan, Fountain Hill, Freemansburg, Lincoln, Marvine and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools.

“(The full-day sections) were always focused on the kids who are coming in that need the most development to be ready for first grade,” Roy said.

The Northampton Area School District has universal all-day kindergarten, Roy said. The Allentown School District offers 24 full-day and 36-and-a-half half-day sections of kindergarten, spokeswoman Kim Golden Benner said. Allentown added 10 new full-day sections this school year, she said.

Roy’s administration will present its plan to expand kindergarten to the school board at the Jan. 12 curriculum committee meeting. Staff are still sorting out exactly how to overhaul the kindergarten system, Roy said.

The district’s child care program will stop offering the wraparound care half-day students use, freeing up classroom space for the kindergarten sections, Roy said.

He is hopeful he will only need to hire 10 or fewer new teachers once current teachers are shuffled around based on enrollment. Roy anticipates reassigning some existing teachers to kindergarten classes.

Eliminating the mid-day bus runs for half-day kindergarten will save at least $130,000, which Roy said can go toward hiring teachers.

The district’s kindergarten enrollment has dropped by about 100 students to 770 children in the past two years while first-grade enrollment tends to reach about 1,000, Roy said.

In an online survey of Bethlehem elementary school parents, 83 percent of respondents said they wanted their child in full-day kindergarten, Roy said. While some parents expressed interest in a half-day option, there wasn’t a large enough number to warrant it, he said.

It would’ve been unlikely that the district would have had enough interested students to offer half-day sessions in all 16 schools, Roy said. Few of the 688 parents who answered the survey were interested in driving their child to another school for half-day kindergarten, he said.

Parents know the district has been exploring expanding full-day kindergarten and many are eager for its rollout, officials said.

“It is by far the most commonly-asked question I am getting right now,” Roy said.

Faccinetto also has been hearing from parents clamoring for the option.

“It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s one of the best things we’ve been able to do in my six years on the board.”

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at ssatullo@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.

Allentown man facing trial for allegedly biting, sexually assaulting 9-year-old boy

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Carlos Fontanez remains in Lehigh County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.

A 35-year-old Allentown accused of biting and sexually assaulting a 9-year-old boy is now facing trial in Lehigh County Court.

Carlos Fontanez, of the 900 block of Benton Street, waived his preliminary hearing Thursday morning on charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and indecent assault. District Judge Donna Butler forwarded all the charges to county court.

Fontanez remains in Lehigh County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.

The boy told Allentown police he was playing in a parking lot Oct. 13 when Fontanez asked the boy to play in his apartment, according to court records.

Inside the apartment Fontanez sexually assaulted the boy, kissed him and bit his genitals and buttocks, records say.

A medical exam was performed on the boy the following day, police said.

In an interview with police, Fontanez confessed to the sexual assault of the boy and the biting, police said.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at scassi@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahCassi. Find Allentown news on our Facebook page.

Phillipsburg man indicted on charges he sexually abused two boys in 1990′s

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

If convicted of the most serious count, an aggravated assault charge, he could face up to 20 years in state prison.

barry-miller-fdbb97d49c7bd2e8.jpgView full sizeBarry F. Miller 

A 43-year-old Phillipsburg man has been indicted on charges he sexually abused two boys over the course of several years, beginning in the mid-1990′s.

Barry F. Miller, of the 100 block of Hill Street, faces five counts of sexual assault stemming from the alleged abuse, according to an indictment returned Wednesday by a grand jury in Warren County.

If convicted of the most serious count, an aggravated assault charge, he could face up to 20 years in state prison. Each of the remaining four counts carries a possibility of 10 years in prison.

Miller was arrested in April after prosecutors said he performed sexual acts with a boy between 1996 and 1998, when the victim was 13 and 14 years old. The victim in that case told authorities Miller provided him alcohol and gifts in exchange for sexual favors, according to a previous statement from the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.

A month later prosecutors filed a second set of charges, alleging he performed sexual acts with a different boy on numerous occasions between 1994 and 2002, when the victim was between the ages of 8 and 15.

Each of the assaults is said to have occurred in Phillipsburg.

Court records indicate the charges stem from an investigation by town police and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. Officials in both Warren and Morris counties have declined to elaborate as to why the Morris County office was involved in the case.

According to the indictment, however, the case is being handled by an assistant prosecutor with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

Miller remained Thursday in the Warren County jail where he is being held in lieu of $150,000 bail. 

Lehigh Valley police officers soon to be armed with heroin overdose antidote

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law in October allowing police to legally administer the antidote.

Municipal police officers in the Lehigh Valley will soon be able to treat drug overdoses first-hand.

Capital BlueCross and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association will announce Monday an initiative to enable police departments in Capital BlueCross’ 21-county service area in the state to purchase and carry naloxone.The service area include Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Naloxone, commonly referred to by the brand name Narcan, reverses the effects of heroin and opioids like oxycodone. Pennsylvania previously only permitted paramedics and doctors to use it, but then Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law in October allowing police to legally administer the antidote.

The move follows New Jersey, where last year Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a measure that shields overdose victims from prosecution along with those who may be in violation of the law and seeking medical assistance for overdose victims.

Earlier this year Christie signed a waiver allowing EMTs to carry the drug and expanded a pilot program that allowed police officers to use Narcan to all 21 counties.

Washington Township, N.J., police in August became the first Warren County police department to utilize Narcan to save an overdose victim.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at scassi@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter@SarahCassi. Find Lehigh County news on Facebook.

Bethlehem killer admits to smuggling cellphone into Northampton County Prison

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Rene Figueroa will be sentenced for smuggling the phone when he's sentenced for manslaughter in January.

Convicted killer Rene Figueroa plead guilty Thursday to smuggling a cell phone into Northampton County Prison .

Jurors found Figueroa, 34, guilty of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and related charges after a South Side Bethlehem gunbattle in December 2012.

Figueroa pleaded guilty to two counts of smuggling contraband into the prison. He’ll be sentenced in January when he’s sentenced for his role in the gunbattle. The sentences for the smuggling counts will run concurrently, but not necessarily concurrently with the gunbattle-related charges.

Figueroa tried to sneak the phone past correction officers after his wife Sonia Panell passed it off to him during a visit Dec. 11, 2013. Suspicious corrections officers found it soon after.

Figueroa and Javier Rivera-Alvarado sparked the deadly firefight outside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society that killed Yolanda Morales and paralyzed her boyfriend Angel Figueroa.

Figueroa’s attorney Jack McMahon and Ed Andres, Rivera-Alvarado’s attorney, argued prosecutors had it backwards. Orialis Figueroa, Angel Figueroa’s brother, and his nephews sparked the fight by attacking Rivera-Alvarado, they said. Rene Figueroa fired his gun at them in an attempt to protect his friend, they argued.

Figueroa is also charged with ordering the assassinations of Orialis Figueroa and his wife Shajuan Hungerford.

Panell is charged in federal court with plotting another murder for hire after Figueroa’s efforts failed. Federal prosecutors said her hitman was actually an FBI informant who recorded their conversations.

Two more arrested in Hackettstown as county-wide drug investigations continue

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

They are at least the seventh and eight people to be arrested in the past three weeks as part of ongoing drug investigations by local police and county prosecutor's office.

15451955-mmmainjpg-fed22e470a74944f.jpgView full sizeTwo people were expected to make their first appearance Thursday in New Jersey Superior Court in Belvidere on drug-related charges.  

Authorities in Warren County arrested two more people on drug charges Wednesday, at least the seventh and eighth people to be arrested in the past three weeks as part of ongoing drug investigations by local police and the county prosecutor’s office.

Daniel Wolf, 20, of Randolph, New Jersey, and Tessa Barton, 19, of Boonton, New Jersey, are expected to make their first appearances Thursday afternoon in New Jersey Superior Court in Belvidere.

Wolf faces a list of charges, including possession and distribution of heroin. Barton has been charged with possession of heroin and possession of crack cocaine.

The criminal complaint, filed Wednesday by a detective in the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, indicates authorities’ investigation into Wolf dates back at least three months.

Authorities say he was observed selling an undisclosed amount of heroin in Hackettstown, or possessing the drug with the intent to sell it, on at least three occasions; Sept. 10, Oct. 21 and on Wednesday.

He and Barton are the latest in a growing list of individuals to get caught up in recent county drug investigations. Those arrested range from 19 to 45 years old and have been nabbed with drugs in places like Phillipsburg, Washington and Hackettstown, according to court records.

Most recently, on Dec. 7, authorities charged Jamal Parker, 24, and Kasiem Stapleton, 32, with conspiring to sell heroin near the Taylor Street Elementary School in Washington Borough.

The most recent string of arrests come after Warren County authorities and Phillipsburg police charged at least 20 people with drug-related crimes during an August crackdown.

Wolf remained in the Warren County jail on Thursday in lieu of $75,000 bail with a 10 percent option. Barton, records indicate, was released pending a court appearance. 

Tractor trailer crash ties up traffic on Route 22 East near Airport Road exit

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Traffic was crawling by the crash in the right lane at mile marker 323.6.

Route 22 crash Dec. 16, 2014View full sizeTraffic was slowed on Route 22 East because of a crash near the Airport Road exit. 

Traffic is creeping past a Route 22 East crash involving a tractor trailer and at least two other vehicles in the area of the Airport Road exit.

Lehigh County 911 dispatch said there are no major injuries in the crash reported at 11:26 a.m. at mile marker 323.6 in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.

Traffic was being pushed to the right lane to bypass the crash. 

North Warren schools to reopen Friday after closing due to power problems

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

A transformer failure knocked out key systems, including the fire alarms.

A transformer failure on Wednesday knocked out key systems at the North Warren Regional schools, but it appears classes will resume Friday, according to the superintendent.

Classes were canceled Thursday for the Blairstown Township campus as the phones, computers, fire alarms and public address systems were being restored, Superintendent Brian Fogelson said. The local elementary schools were not affected.

“We should be able to have school tomorrow,” Fogelson said.

The building never lost power, he said, and a band concert was still held Wednesday night with township police present in case of an emergency.