Thursday, February 28, 2013

UPDATE: Ex-Nampa Day Care Worker Sentenced to 32 Years in Prison For Child Sex Abuse Admissions

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 3:06 PM

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

Joshua Ritchie, 23, a former Nampa day care worker and employee of the Nampa School District, was sentenced to 32 years behind bars today for his guilty pleas to sexually molesting children for nearly three years.

After Ritchie's arrest in August 2012, prosecutors alleged that the former employee of Cornerstone Childcare and Learning Center, former employee of the Idaho Arts Charter School and former lunchroom worker with the Nampa School District, molested 24 children, beginning in 2009.

Admitting that he did "inexcusable things and have to live the rest of my life with that knowledge," Ritchie listened as Third District Judge Bradley Ford sentenced him to 32 years to life in prison. The sentencing came after nearly three hours of tear-filled statements from parents and victims in a Canyon Country courtroom.


Joshua Ritchie, 23, is charged with lewd conduct with a minor.
  • Courtesy Canyon County Sheriff's Department
  • Joshua Ritchie, 23, is charged with lewd conduct with a minor.

An ex-Nampa day care worker faces the possibility of life behind bars for what prosecutors said was the sexual abuse of at least a dozen children.

Joshua Ritchie, 23, was employed by the Cornerstone Childcare and Learning Center in Nampa. He was also an employee of the Idaho Arts Charter School in Nampa and a lunchroom worker with the Nampa School District when he was arrested in August 2012.

At the time of his arrest, the Canyon County Sheriff's Office also said they confiscated media devices that contained child pornography.

Ritchie pleaded guilty in December 2012 to multiple felonies.

When he is sentenced later today in a Canyon County courtroom, he faces a minimum of 25 years in jail for each incident of sexual abuse and 10 years in prison for each count of child pornography possession.

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Charter School Funding Bill Pulled Back to House Committee, But Passes Again

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 11:54 AM

A measure that would restructure funding for Idaho charter schools, which passed through the House Education Committee Feb. 26 with a "do pass" recommendation, was pulled back to the same committee this morning in an unusual move that committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, an Eagle Republican, said wouldn't be happening again anytime soon.

"I do not make it a practice to pull things off the [House] floor," said DeMordaunt. "In the future, if you want to amend a bill after it's passed here, you can amend it on the floor by sending it to General Orders."

DeMordaunt agreed to pull the bill back this morning, when he acknowledged he had erred Feb. 26 when he told Boise Democratic Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking that she could not offer an amendment to House Bill 206, which would earmark designated funds for public charter school building construction and maintenance.

"This is a real dilemma for me," said Ward-Engelking on Tuesday. "I want charter school students funded adequately but I want the same thing for every public education student in Idaho."

But public charter school operators argued that they had to pull funds from their revenue streams to pay for building rent and maintenance.

"We needed to double our enrollment simply to keep up with our bond payments," said Kelly Trudeau, administrator at Meridian's Compass Charter School. "We use 56 percent of our funding just to pay for our facility. That leaves us only 43 percent to pay for utilities, technology, textbooks, desks and equipment."

Ultimately, the majority of the House Education Committee agreed to earmark a percentage of the average amount of facility funds to help out the charters.

But the same bill was back before the same committee today as Ward-Engelking offered an amendment that would limit the funds to charter schools that had been in existence for two years or more.

"Two years gives them a chance to get up and running," said Ward-Engelking. "They usually, by that time, if they’re successful, they’re growing and they need that additional facilities money.

But the majority stuck to their original decision, killing Ward-Engelking's proposal.

After the vote, Gooding Democratic Rep. Donna Pence said lawmakers were entering unchartered territory.

"We're changing, fundamentally, how we fund school districts," said Pence. "I'm not sure if that's going to be a good thing or bad thing, but it's a fundamental change that we instituted right here."

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Rules on Capitol Access Clear House Committee

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 11:53 AM

A slate of rules governing the buildings and grounds of the Idaho State Capitol Mall received a nod from the House State Affairs Committee this morning, more than a month after their debut.

In January, Idaho Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna first asked lawmakers to consider new restrictions on use of the Statehouse and its exterior, barring round-the-clock demonstrations and putting a four-hour limit on "events" on the Capitol exterior.

During a Jan. 16 hearing, Senate State Affairs Committee members asked Luna to rework provisions of the temporary rules, citing concern about limiting First Amendment rights. In her presentation this morning, Luna said the rewritten rules would allow "24/7 access to Capitol Mall properties."

"This then conforms with the actions of the Senate, is that correct?" asked Iona Republican Rep. and Chairman Thomas Loertscher.

Luna informed him the changes were in line with the Senate's concurrent resolutions, and the committee ultimately voted in favor of the rules.

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Report: 15.4 Percent of Idaho Households Struggling to Put Food on Table

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Possible signs of economic recovery were tampered this morning by a new report that indicates one in seven Idaho households were unable to afford enough food in 2012.

The analysis from the Food Research and Action Center—providing data on the nation's inability to afford enough to eat—also revealed that the City of Boise's food hardship rate for 2011-2012 was 16.9 percent.

“It is unacceptable that so many people across Idaho are struggling and cannot afford enough food to provide for their families,” said Kathy Gardner, director of the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force. “These numbers show us that we must make our nation’s safety net stronger, not weaker. We can’t afford to leave these vulnerable people behind.”

Gardner and members of the Idaho task force will be attending the upcoming National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, sponsored by FRAC in early March, when Gem State representatives are expected to share the latest data with Idaho's congressional delegation.

“The conversation needs to change in Washington, and Congress needs to focus on building—not weakening—our nation’s safety net," said Gardner. "The first step is passing a Farm Bill this year that protects and strengthens SNAP [food stamps].”

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Daily Bee: Idaho Teen Locked Up For Toy Gun Incident

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 9:34 AM

A north Idaho teen was charged with a felony late Tuesday, arrested in an incident involving a toy gun.

This morning's Bonner County Daily Bee reports Sandpoint Police arrested a 17-year-old male, following an incident in which a Sandpoint Public Works employee was hit in a drive-by shooting with a pellet from an Airsoft gun.

The 17-year-old was locked up in the city's juvenile detention facility, charged with aggravated assault. The suspect said he mistook the victim for a sports coach and "decided to play a prank on him," according to the Daily Bee.

"Our officers receive training to distinguish between [Airsoft guns] and real guns," Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon told the Daily Bee. "But oftentimes, the average citizen can't, and they might choose to respond with deadly force."

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Daily News: Idaho Lawmaker Asked to Step Down From GOP Leadership Over Gun Control Letter

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 9:25 AM

The president of the Moscow City Council is being targeted by his own party, who wants him to resign because of his call for tighter controls on firearms.

This morning's Moscow Daily News reports that Walter Steed, who is also the Republican Party's Latah County chairman, forwarded a letter to Idaho Falls Republican Sen. Bart Davis, the Idaho Legislature's Senate majority leader.

In the letter, based on a memorandum from Moscow Police Chief David Duke, Steed advocated for background checks and limiting access to high-capacity gun magazines.

But the Daily News reports that Latah County GOP precinct committeemen have voted 12-10 to ask Steed to resign from his chairmanship because he "acted against the party's position on guns and the Second Amendment."

Steed told the Daily News that he was still undecided on whether to resign.

"They had copies of the letter, I believe. I presume they can read English," said Steed. "It was a gun violence letter, not a gun control letter. As I stated in city council, it would have no weight or bearing when it got to the state Legislature or Boise."

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No Bull: Idaho Hereford Put Out to Stud For $600,000

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 9:22 AM


An Idaho bull has fetched more than half a million dollars at auction Monday, almost doubling the previous world record price for a cattle sale.

Capital Press reports that the 13-month-old Hereford, weighing 1,410 pounds, was sold for $600,000 to the Iowa-based Miles McKee Syndicate. The previous world record of $301,000 for a bull had stood since 1980.

The bull will now "work" as a stud, the idea being that his offspring could be worth tens of thousands of dollars each.

Guy Colyer, manager of the Colyer Hereford and Angus ranch, which sold the latest bull, said the value of the bull lies in its genes.

"His mother sold close to a million dollars of progeny. He’s a known commodity," said Colyer. "People know he comes from good stock."

Capital Press wrote that the Colyer family will retain one-quarter interest in the bull, to enable them to use the bull's semen in their own herd and collecting a portion of semen sales.

Colyer added that this particular bull is exceptional:

"He has a moderate frame with a lot of muscle in him, said Colyer. "It’s exactly the phenotype that buyers are looking for."

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AP: New Distracted Driving Bill Surfaces

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 9:17 AM

UPDATE: 11 a.m.

The Idaho House, before considering HB 155, which would have restricted cell-phone/texting usage for new drivers, pushed the measure back to the House Transportation Committee Thursday morning.

House Transportation Committee Chairman, Meridian Republican Rep. Joe Palmer requested to take another gander at the bill, saying there was a possible problem with its wording.

The original measure, as written, would withhold a new driver's permit an additional six months if the individual was caught using a cell phone or other wireless device within the first six months of obtaining a permit following a driver's education class.


The Idaho Legislature is sharpening its focus on distracted drivers again.

After considering several bills in the past, the Legislature passed a texting-while-driving ban in 2012.

Some who testified against the measure, which became law in Idaho on July 1, 2012, felt the bill was too specific, stating that the current rules against distracted driving already covered texting.

"As a high-school student, I don’t need another law to tell me not to be texting while driving, I already don’t text while driving," said motorcycle-riding teen Natasha Zymantz.

But the Associated Press reports this morning that the 2013 Legislature "hopes to make further inroads in combating distracted drivers by prohibiting young drivers from using cellphones and other wireless devices during a six-month period following the successful completion of driver training."

The penalty would be witholding teens' licenses for another six months.

The bill has narrowly cleared the House Transportation Committee by a 9-7 vote and is awaiting consideration from the full House before it can proceed to the Senate.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Boiseans Weigh In On Sequester Debate

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 1:52 PM

While President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders continue their war of words leading up to the Friday, March 1, sequester deadline, when across-the-board federal budget cuts totaling $85 billion take effect, Boise Weekly found an array of opinions Wednesday surrounding the economic standoff.

"Budget cuts just mean more money in the politicians' pockets," said Tom Snow, Vietnam War Vet, whose cardboard sign begged for work while he stood on the corner of Eighth and Main streets.

When BW asked citizens to rank the severity of the sequester deadline on a scale of 1 to 10, the average answer was unsurprisingly "5."

"There is a lot being cut," said Ryan Suydam, sales associate for Boise-based Balihoo.

Even though he first confused the sequester with Boise's current sesquicentennial celebration, Bronx native and Boise cheesecake distributor Tim Wahls told BW that the cuts are "going to impact everyone, locally and federally."

"I try to keep my nose out of it," said Boise State student Kyle Beserra, while lounging outside of the Flying M coffee shop.

Beserra conceded that he tried "not to get involved in the government unless it impacts education."

"But If it's a military cut, then I support it. If it is an education cut, then that is a problem," said Beserra.

While behind the register of the American Clothing Gallery, owner Lil Kurek told BW that the sequester cuts could “decide whether or not I stay in business.”

“I would fire everybody in Washington,” said Kurek.

A Boise Police officer told BW that government cuts “would be horrible, especially for people like the mentally ill.”

Meanwhile, Snow continued his curbside solicitation for a job with a tin can nearby to collect any change that passersby could spare.

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CDC: 'Superbug' Cases On Rise

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 12:58 PM

A new superbug—carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae also known as CRE—is on the increase in the United States, and health officials said today that patients can take a year or more to recover from the disease.

According to a study published this morning in the current issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, CRE is still rare in the United States, but unusual forms of the superbug have been on the rise, requiring the nation's health care providers "to act aggressively to prevent the emergence and spread of these unusual organisms," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said the CRE superbug is named for its ability to resist powerful carbapenem antibiotics. Some hospitals are taking extra precautions and testing people for the CRE superbug. Many people infected with it might feel healthy and not realize they are carriers.

“The major concern is that an undiagnosed carrier may be admitted to hospital for totally unrelated reasons, and subsequently and unwittingly pass his CRE to other patients,” a researcher told NBC News.

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