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U.S. Army War College
Maranian reinstated as War College commandant after Army probe finds no evidence of criminal wrongdoing

Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian has been reinstated and is back on duty as commandant of the Carlisle Barracks and U.S. Army War College, post spokeswoman Carol Kerr confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

In a news release issued Wednesday morning from U.S. Army Public Affairs, the Army announced that an investigation has determined no probable cause exists to support an allegation that the career officer committed an offense of abusive sexual conduct prior to assuming command of the local installation.

The probe by the Army Criminal Investigation Division was led by a civilian who has conducted more than 700 sexual assault investigations in the past 18 years, according to the news release.

“Sixteen witnesses were interviewed, several multiple times, in an effort to develop evidence to determine if there was probable cause to substantiate the allegation,” the release reads. “After CID completed the investigation, they referred the case to an independent special victim prosecutor, as well as a former civilian prosecutor with 30 years’ experience who works as a highly qualified expert for the Army.”

Both experts determined that evidence was insufficient to establish probable cause that the offense had occurred.

“The decision regarding probable cause was completely independent of any command influence and was not presented to any commander for a disposition decision,” the release reads.

Maranian was suspended in February — seven months after taking over as commandant in July 2020 during a change-of-command ceremony for outgoing commandant Maj. Gen. John Kem.

There were media reports in February that the allegation being investigated by the Army was not local to the Carlisle post or related to Maranian’s position as commandant of Carlisle Barracks and/or U.S. Army War College.

During the investigation, Maj. Gen. David C. Hill served as acting commandant of Carlisle Barracks and war college. Before that appointment, Hill was deputy commander of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Maranian was commissioned into the Army as a field artillery officer in 1988 and is a veteran of recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his service biography.

Prior to taking command at the War College, Maranian served as the deputy commanding general for education at the Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Stars and Stripes reported. Maranian graduated from the war college in 2013.

The war college trains Army lieutenant colonels and colonels to lead at the highest levels of national security. Students graduate with a master’s degree in strategic studies. The curriculum takes the form of either a 10-month residence course on the Carlisle Barracks campus or a two-year distance education program.

Photos: 2020 U.S. Army War College Change Of Command Ceremony


Military
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Mount Holly Springs
Veterans' charity in Mount Holly Springs launches campaign to purchase building

Since November 2017, Operation Veterans’ Hope has operated a thrift shop out of the front portion of the first floor of the building at 7 N. Baltimore Ave.

The rear portion of the first floor houses up to four veterans who put in hours in the shop as part of what’s called the Work2Stay program.

In early June, the charity was informed by the landlord of plans to put the building up for sale sometime in the near future, said Jon Locke, chief executive officer and founder of Operation Veterans’ Hope.

Though the landlord has yet to specify a timeframe, Locke has set the end of this summer as the goal to raise much of the $155,000 still needed to purchase the building.

As of Monday, the charity had about $33,000 on-hand to put toward the anticipated $188,000 purchase price, according to Locke. That money was raised through a combination of donations and retail sales.

To publicize the campaign, organizers have sent out mailers and posted notices in newsletters and on social media. They have also reached out to local American Legion and VFW posts for help.

“We’ve had some interest,” Locke said. “The word is slowly getting out there.”

If the purchase is successful, Operation Veterans’ Hope could remodel the second-floor apartment into space to house up to 10 homeless veterans by the onset of winter.

That project would enable the charity to expand the retail space of the thrift shop to much of the first floor while using a garage included in the purchase as space to store inventory.

A Carlisle native, Locke graduated from Carlisle High School in 1997. He enlisted in the Army serving one deployment in Afghanistan and two deployments to Iraq in less than six years.

Locke retired in 2007 as a staff sergeant in the military police. In 2016, he started Operation Veterans’ Hope as a charity to help veterans coping with substance abuse issues.

That mission changed in August 2017 when Locke learned of the plight of homeless veterans while trying to help a man find a stable residence. The man was a veteran who wanted more than a daily shelter but could not pursue affordable housing options.

Currently, the thrift shop is both the workplace and residence of two homeless veterans who put in as much as 40 hours a week and receive a regular stipend based on what is sold, minus utilities.

The number of hours each veteran can put in depends on their employment status. If the veteran is unemployed, he can put in the full amount of hours over a five-day work week. If he obtains a part-time job, his store hours are adjusted down with further changes being made if they obtain a full-time job.

The Work2Stay program includes not only the shop, but also a bunk room for the veterans to sleep, a day room for them to relax, prepared meals and a fully equipped bathroom and shower.

Right now, the program has enough space for four homeless veterans. If remodeled, the second-floor apartment could bunk three veterans in its master bedroom, three veterans in its day room and two veterans in each of the two smaller bedrooms.

Remodeling the apartment would open up the program to female veterans but require a second bathroom. Volunteers are ready to provide labor, and donated materials are on-hand to proceed with the work if and when the charity can finalize the building purchase.

“The landlord has been very helpful from the beginning,” Locke said, adding how the first floor was rent free during the first year the shop had been in operation.

The goal of Work2Stay is to not only provide job skills to veterans, but also opportunities for them to screen through the donated goods for necessities. To qualify for help, each veteran must provide a copy of their discharge papers to verify their military service.

The 40 hours per week applies not only to time spent in the thrift shop but also to any activity that helps the veteran grow, such as updating his resume, looking for a job, applying for benefits and counseling.

Photos: Operation Veterans Hope


Govt-and-politics
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Election
Pennsylvania decertifies Fulton County's voting system after allowing audit

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s top election official has decertified the voting machines of a sparsely populated county that disclosed that it had agreed to requests by local Republican lawmakers and allowed a software firm to inspect the machines as part of an “audit” after the 2020 election.

The action by Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid almost certainly means that Fulton County — where officials maintained they did nothing wrong — will have to buy or lease new voting machines.

The lawmakers’ request for the “audit” came amid former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged against him in Pennsylvania and other battleground states.

Degraffenreid, an appointee of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, notified Fulton County officials in a letter Tuesday that the inspection violated state law. It was done in a manner that “was not transparent or bipartisan” and the firm had “no knowledge or expertise in election technology,” Degraffenreid wrote.

“I have no other choice but to decertify the use of Fulton County’s leased Dominion Democracy Suite 5.5A voting system last used in the November 2020 election,” Degraffenreid wrote.

Pennsylvania’s election law gives counties the duty to “maintain proper chain of custody” of ballots and voting systems, requirements that ensure that any election is conducted transparently and that voting systems are not compromised, Degraffenreid wrote.

Voting systems that pass anti-tampering tests are certified by states. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission accredits labs to test voting machines and provides guidance to states on how to maintain a chain of custody over voting systems.

Degraffenreid made the decision as several counties in Pennsylvania are pushing back against pressure from some Republican state lawmakers and their allies to provide access to their voting systems for a “forensic investigation.”

Edward Perez, global director of technology development at the California-based OSET Institute, which is devoted to research on election infrastructure and administration, said it is not normal to hand election equipment to inexperienced, third-party auditors who are not experienced with election administration practices or with voting system technology.”

In May, Fulton County’s elections director wrote to Degraffenreid to say that lawmakers had asked the county in December to allow an “audit to prove to the voters that the 2020 General Election was run appropriately.”

Under the supervision of Fulton County’s information technology director, employees of the West Chester-based software company Wake TSI took backups of data on computers used in ballot-counting, “complete hard drive images” of the computers and “complete images” of two thumb drives that had been used on election night to transfer results files, the county elections director wrote.

Wake TSI agreed not to “disturb or manipulate” any election equipment, and they were watched at all times by county staff, the county elections director wrote.

But, Degraffenreid wrote on Tuesday, neither Fulton County nor the vendor, Dominion Voting Systems, nor the Department of State “can verify that the impacted components of Fulton County’s leased voting system are safe to use in future elections.”

About 8,000 votes were counted in Fulton County’s 2020 election, with voters backing Trump by almost seven-to-one over Democrat Joe Biden. Biden went on to win Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes.

Fulton County officials did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

In an interview last month, Stuart Ulsh, chairman of the Fulton County commissioners, said no one touched their voting machines, except the county’s computer staff, and that the county paid nothing for the inspection.

“This wasn’t done looking for a problem,” Ulsh said. “It was done for transparency.”

One of the Republican lawmakers who represents Fulton County, state Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, declined comment Wednesday.

Wake TSI went on to work briefly on a widely discredited partisan “audit” in Arizona after the state’s Senate Republicans used their subpoena power to take control of Maricopa County’s voting machines, a review fueled by Trump’s baseless claims.

Maricopa County last week approved nearly $3 million for new vote-counting machines, saying the machines were compromised because they were in the control of firms not accredited to handle election equipment.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, had said she would seek to decertify the machines if the county planned to use them again.


State-and-regional
editor's pick alert top story
Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Supreme Court deals blow to outdated claims of child sexual abuse

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s high court on Wednesday dealt a blow to victims of child sexual abuse who had hoped to revive their otherwise outdated claims, throwing out a lawsuit by a woman whose lower court legal victory had given hope to similarly situated victims who sued in the wake of a landmark report that documented decades of child molestation within the Catholic church in Pennsylvania.

The 5-2 decision ended plaintiff Renee Rice’s legal effort to recover damages from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown for allegedly covering up and facilitating sexual abuse she said had been inflicted on her by a priest in the late 1970s.

Rice sued in 2016, but the court majority said that was too late under the Pennsylvania statute of limitations.

A Superior Court panel in 2019 had ruled there were enough facts to let a jury decide if Rice had been prevented from learning about the alleged cover-up of her abuse.

As a child, Rice had been brought in to clean the living space of her alleged attacker, Rev. Charles F. Bodziak, and was a church organist. Bodziak has denied the allegations.

The Supreme Court majority said the two-year statute of limitations began to run when Rice was last assaulted by Bodziak, purportedly in 1981, although it may have expired in 1987, when she turned 20. Rice did not pursue her claims until a 2016 grand jury report into abuse in the diocese.

“We need not resolve the issue as it is clear the statute of limitations expired decades ago,” wrote Justice Christine Donohue for the majority.

Donohue said that whether “courthouse doors should be opened for suits based on underlying conduct that occurred long ago is an exercise in line drawing that includes difficult policy determinations” and that courts are “ill-equipped to make that call.”

Rice’s lawyer, Alan Perer, said the high court’s decision ends his client’s lawsuit.

“Once a child knows they’ve been assaulted by a priest, it puts them on notice that they should have suspected and investigated whether or not the diocese was aware of this priest conduct, concealed it, hid it from the parishioners, including the plaintiff,” Perer said.

The diocese’s lawyer, Eric Anderson, hailed the decision.

“They’re going to apply the statute of limitations the way it should be applied in Pennsylvania,” Anderson said. “It’s been the law, established law, for a long period of time. There’s nothing unique or different about this case.”

The lower court ruling on Rice’s side had generated a slew of new cases filed within two years of a landmark August 2018 grand jury report that detailed the sordid history of hundreds of abusive priests across the state over seven decades.

Anderson and Perer both said those cases are probably not going to succeed, given the new decision.

“This is going to have a significant impact on the viability of those cases,” Anderson said.

Harrisburg Catholic diocese seeks bankruptcy after abuse deals

The filing in Harrisburg federal bankruptcy court said the diocese "faces potentially significant exposure from remaining claimants" and wants Chapter 11 reorganization to provide money for unresolved claims and perform its ministry and other operations.

Victims’ hopes to overcome the time limits on civil litigation now rest in the Pennsylvania Senate, where Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, has signaled no interest in moving legislation similar to a bill that passed the House in April. The proposal would allow now-adult victims of child sexual abuse to sue the perpetrators or institutions that did not prevent it when it happened years or decades ago.

A constitutional amendment to provide a two-year litigation window was badly fumbled by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration earlier this year, putting it years behind schedule.

Many childhood victims of sexual assault lost the right to sue in Pennsylvania when they turned 18 or were young adults, depending on state law at the time.

The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they want to be identified, as Rice has indicated she does.

Rice alleges Bodziak abused her at St. Leo’s Church in Altoona, including attacks in the choir loft, a car and a cemetery.

Grand jury investigation of clergy child sex abuse: Read the report

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