The Ring Text Messages: the First 50

This gallery contains 50 photos.

Every effort has been made to protect the identity of minors and to present the text messages in chronological order. The information may appear to be incomplete in parts, but that is not due to RCNN editing. It was received that way. Continue reading

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Is the Washington County Prosecutor Marietta’s own Harvey Weinstein?

On October 27, RCNN first reported that Prosecutor Kevin Rings is under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation following allegations from a victim/suspect that he “sexually molested” her.  Rings refused to respond to the allegations. Early in October the Ohio Supreme Court assigned the case to a retired judge for the purpose of appointing a special prosecutor and to “hear any matter arising” from the investigation.

Since the story broke, three more alleged victims have contacted RCNN to share their stories. They have been advised to contact BCI. The three young women describe a pattern of “creepy” behavior that made them uncomfortable in the extreme. They recognized the behavior as “crossing ethical boundaries” but were afraid to either resist or call him out.

One such victim, who claims the bad behavior has been going on for years, said Rings would try to rub up against her (while in the courthouse) and often whispered inappropriate comments in her ear. Some victims have tried reporting the unethical practices to traditional local news outlets hoping they would pursue an investigation – but without success.

The three victims all say that at the time of their troubling interactions with Rings they did not report him to the authorities because they believed local attorneys would cover for him. They also assume a general notion that the prosecutor is “in bed” with law enforcement. In other words, they believed Rings was the law and that there would be no recourse for them as his alleged victims. Two of these incidents involved young women who were in trouble with the law. The third worked in the courthouse, where Rings was considered her “superior”.

It is unclear what impact if any the #metoo campaign might be having on the Rings accusers. Over the past couple of weeks many women (and men) have come forward with similar claims following very public sexual harassment allegations brought against filmmaker Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey – who both consequently entered rehab for what they are calling a “sex addiction”. Those who have found themselves victims of sexual wrongdoing use the hashtag on social media to indicate solidarity with other victims and to bring awareness to the magnitude of the issue.

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Ohio Supreme Court Appoints Judge to Oversee Proceedings Against Washington County Prosecutor

Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings is under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for allegations involving an inappropriate relationship with the female victim of a crime.

After months of investigating, the River City News Network was able to confirm some of the basic facts of the case thanks to multiple sources. Rings refused to comment.

On October 3 the Supreme Court of Ohio assigned the case to retired Summit County Judge Patricia A Cosgrove. She is to preside “for the purpose of appointing a special prosecutor and to hear any matter arising from that appointment”.

RCNN readers may recall that Cosgrove presided over the 2015 corruption case involving Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly.

The woman involved with Rings was not only a victim of a crime, but was also facing charges at the time of the relationship. She claims that Rings “sexually molested” her.

RCNN has received several complaints from citizens indicating that the incident was keeping Rings from performing the job he was elected to do.

The 31 year old woman pled guilty to selling meth in August after she was caught selling to an undercover agent.

Text messages between the two show Rings repeatedly asking for risqué pictures and the woman complying, calling herself his “little outlaw” and telling him that she likes a powerful man to “take” what he wants.

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Ames Fire: Hazardous Contents 

It was a disaster waiting to happen – a regulatory nightmare and a hazardous scene even on good days.

A look at Intercontinental Export Import’s environmental record speaks volumes about the “recycling” business and its operations at the old Ames shovel plant in Parkersburg. Records from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection reveal that regulators were aware of sloppy practices that endangered the river, the workers, and had potential for great harm to human health. Years of violations had been recorded yet the enterprise owned by Dr. Saurabh Naik of Clarksville, Maryland continued to operate. Naik owns and operates several similar recycling warehouses where he purchases and stores plastics and other manufacturing products.

RCNN sources indicate that the contents were obtained from several area plants – with the largest volume of materials originating at DuPont Washington Works (aka Chemours).

A WVDEP consent order describes the warehouse contents as follows:
Polybutylene phthalate
Thermoplastic elastomer
Polyvinyl chloride
Chlorinated polyethylene

Additionally, it is noted in the 2015 filing that an underground storage tank closed by Ames True Temper still showed evidence of trichloroethylene, lead, ethylbenzene, toluene (in the soil and groundwater.)

A WVDEP inspection of the facility in May 2011 revealed several blatant violations:
• Discharge monitoring reports had not been submitted since 2009.
• Good housekeeping was not being maintained and stored substances had potential to come into contact with storm water.
• Facility failed to record and report flow for each outlet. Failed to install a flow measurement device. Failed to install outlet markers at both outlets.
• From July 2009 to May 2011, failed to collect any required samples.
• Failed to develop and maintain a groundwater protection plan.
• A storm water protection plan had not been implemented.
• The facility was found to be lacking a plan for compliance with effluent phthalate esters and vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene. From 2009 to 2015 the facility was found to be exceeding the permitted limit of vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene discharged in amounts from 34 percent to 114 percent.
• An unpermitted outlet was discovered.

In June 2011, IEI was ordered to complete a permit for storm water associated with industrial activities and failed to comply.

In August 2012, an inspection resulted in a repeat of all the violations from the May 2011 inspection and also:
• Maintenance was needed on drop-inlets and the sedimentation tank.
• Plastic pellets were observed at Outfall 001.

The facility continued to operate out of compliance. The record shows that WVDEP levied fines against the company but the noncompliance continued.

In 2015, WVDEP ordered IEI to immediately take all measures to come into compliance with the terms of its permit and pertinent laws. At that time, IEI had racked up more than $80,000 in penalties for noncompliance. In a press conference today, officials indicated that the relevant portion of the facility – the part known as Plant 2 – continued to operate out of compliance until it was destroyed by fire.

Perhaps WVDEP photo #17 is the most haunting. The caption reads: “Dumpsters for fire cleanup.”

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Water Leak: Details of DuPont C8 Settlement

RCNN Exclusive Report by Callie Lyons

In February, DuPont settled thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley C8 (PFOA) contamination cases at a cost of $670.6 million. Until now the details and terms of the Master Settlement Agreement have remained a carefully-guarded secret. RCNN has obtained a copy of the offer made to 3,500 eligible claimants for qualifying conditions including: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.

The settlement is the latest development in what began as a class action lawsuit against DuPont brought by neighbors of Washington Works in 2002 over the contamination of several water supplies with C8, otherwise known as PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid. Impacted communities include: Lubeck and Mason County, West Virginia; Belpre, Tuppers Plains, Pomeroy and Little Hocking, Ohio.

DuPont has been using the manmade compound at Washington Works since the 1950s in the production of Teflon and hundreds of other consumer applications. During that time the corporation released C8 into the air and water – contaminating the environment around the plant and sickening thousands. The substance was subsequently detected in every mile of the Ohio River.

The personal injury claims are being settled by disease category with a base award set for each medical condition – and additional payments from the extraordinary injury fund depending on the severity of the disease. For example, the base range for testicular cancer is $1.35 million; however the extraordinary injury fund could increase that amount by $250,000 if the patient suffered chemotherapy, radiation, or death resulting from the cancer. Similarly, the base award for kidney cancer is $1.35 million with the possibility of extraordinary injury funds of $250,000 – for those who have endured chemotherapy, radiation, or death.

A statement in the settlement packet explains that the numbers are not absolute and disease information and residency must be verified by a Claim Administrator:

“At this time, there is no definitive information available regarding your exact settlement value. However, we are able to confirm that if your claim is approved by the Claim Administrator that you will not receive less than the base award(s) identified for your Qualifying Condition(s) category.”

If it is determined that there is no medical record support to back a personal injury claim, the minimum recovery will be $1,500.
Due to the large number of cases, the process is expected to take six to nine months to complete. Individual attorney fees will be taken out of the settlement amount according to the original retainer signed by the plaintiff and there is a seven percent mandatory court fee that will be applied to every case. Four percent is reserved to pay attorney fees for the Multi District Litigation. Three percent will be allocated for expenses incurred for the benefit of all claimants.

People with personal injury claims who do not choose to participate in the settlement will have their cases continued in the judicial system – meaning that they may not go to trial for many years and the outcome is not assured.

The settlement itself was intended to be a secret. Participants are warned not to discuss or disclose the terms to anyone – particularly the media. Claimants are further warned that failure to keep the terms secret could result in a penalty from DuPont.

The settlement amount for ulcerative colitis is based on four tiers representing the severity of the condition. Tier One is the most serious and relates to those who have undergone surgery because of the ailment, while Tier Four relates to those who have medical records indicating chronic inflammatory bowel disease like Chron’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Gastritis, or Diverticulitis. The base award for Tier One is $290,000 – $300,000. The base award for Tier Four is $20,000 – $22,000. Those who have suffered extraordinary injuries including the placement of a colostomy bag or death resulting from ulcerative colitis may be eligible for an additional payment of $200,000 – $325,000.

Individuals who have claims related to thyroid disease have been assigned a base award of $38,000 – $40,000. Those whose thyroid had to be removed due to disease may be eligible for an additional $20,000.

There are no extraordinary injury funds for pregnancy-induced hypertension or high cholesterol.

Claimants who have suffered pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension are subject to a base award of $20,000 – $22,000 for those with medical records verifying their disease and $10,000 – $11,000 for those without records.

Plaintiffs with medically diagnosed high cholesterol may be eligible for a base award of $10,000. Individuals who filed a C8 personal injury case in the Southern District of Ohio prior to February 11, but who have no proof of a related condition are eligible for a base award of $1,500.

Participants must release DuPont/Chemours from future liability and provide evidence that they were exposed to C8 in their drinking water for at least a year.

If the Claims Administrator finds the claim lacking, the participant’s C8-related disease will not be eligible for future compensation. The rejected plaintiff will receive a payment of $1,500.

Participation in the settlement does not impact class members’ right to receive medical monitoring. The C8 Medical Monitoring program (www.c-8MedicalMonitoringProgram) is available to all members of the class and was established to screen for diseases linked to C8 exposure.

While this settlement agreement pertains to old cases, newly diagnosed individuals may still file claims. DuPont and Chemours have agreed to set aside funds in future years to settle future cases.

“Persons diagnosed with linked diseases within two years may file claims before that time limit expires. They will not be included in the settlement because it only encompasses the claims which have been listed prior,” explained class counsel Harry Deitzler. “New cases will not be in the MDL (multi district litigation) and will be tried in the court where they are filed or federal court if removed by DuPont.”

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of diagnosis. It is expected that people who live in the Mid-Ohio Valley will continue to be diagnosed with related conditions for some time. C8 is resistant to deterioration and will be present in the environment around Washington Works for a thousand years unless a massive cleanup operation is ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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DuPont Settles MOV Cases for $670 Million

A settlement agreement is in the works to resolve more than 3,500 C8 personal injury claims. DuPont will pay roughly $670 million to settle all of the cases.

Residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley who live in one of six PFOA contaminated water districts may be eligible to file claims against the corporation if they suffer from one or more of the related diseases. The C8 Science Panel determined that exposure in Mid-Ohio Valley residents can be linked to testicular and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.

Today’s announcement will resolve all of the MOV cases filed against DuPont to date. Individuals who worked or lived in one of the six contaminated areas for at least a year prior to 2004 and who have developed related disease can file a personal injury claim against the corporation without having to provide their own potentially expensive scientific evidence.

If split evenly amongst the claimants, the settlement would pay out about $189,000 per case. However, class counsel Harry Deitzler said different medical conditions will be assigned different settlement amounts.

“Cancer cases will be different from other diseases,” Deitzler explained. “In typical mass tort cases, there is a “grid” proposal which provides an offer to each person based on the disease or condition from which he or she suffers.”

The plaintiff’s lead attorney Rob Bilott released the following statement:

“Today, DuPont publicly disclosed that it has reached a settlement in principle to resolve the C8 Personal Injury Multi-District Litigation now pending in federal court in Columbus, Ohio for $670.7 Million in cash.  The litigation arises from a 2001 class action lawsuit involving DuPont’s contamination of the drinking water supplies of approximately 70,000 people in West Virginia and Ohio with the toxic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as PFOA or C8).

Under a 2004 settlement of the class claims, DuPont has paid or has committed to pay over $350 Million for impacted community water filtration systems, class member blood and health data collection, class member health studies, and class member medical monitoring.  Today’s settlement in principle involving payment by DuPont of an additional $670.7 Million to address the individual personal injury claims of approximately 3500 class members who claim that the C8 in their drinking water led to one or more of six diseases linked to the contamination of their drinking water with C8.

This is a tremendous positive step toward resolving the litigation in a way that provides compensation for our injured clients without the need for additional, lengthy, and expensive trials.  We look forward to working with DuPont to finalize this settlement and get these injured class members paid as quickly as possible.”

Officials from the activist organization Keep Your Promises DuPont say they are cautiously optimistic about the settlement.

“DuPont’s settlement offer of $670.7 million for the 3,550 local residents harmed by C8 represents an enormous step in the right direction, and we are cautiously optimistic that the company will prevent any further delay, that this offer will be approved by the plaintiffs, and that this long-awaited promise will finally be fulfilled,” said Harold Bock. “As of this announcement, no checks have been written and no compensation has been paid. Folks who have already had their days in court, including Carla Bartlett, David Freeman, and Kenneth Vigneron, have had their awards bogged down in appeals. For DuPont and Chemours, who have shamelessly dragged this crisis out for decades, it is time to make good on this settlement offer without any further delay.”

Bock said no settlement can restore the health of the thousands of victims, but he is “heartened to know that this long-awaited justice for these 3,550 members of our community is now within arm’s reach.”

As soon as additional information becomes available about the details of the suit, RCNN will provide updates.

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Former Marietta College Prof Killed in Prison Assault

The inmate killed in a West Virginia prison assault Sunday evening was Eugene Robert Anderson – a former Marietta College professor. Anderson was serving more than 100 years for sex crimes against children at the state’s maximum security prison in Fayette County.

The 66 year old was killed around 6 pm Sunday night. The prison was placed on lockdown following the assault. State police are investigating. No charges have been filed so far.

(Editor’s Note: At the time of Anderson’s trial in 2003, I was working for the Marietta Times and my fellow reporter Andrea Hannon was providing award-winning coverage of the case from the courtroom and beyond. This puts a period at the end of that sentence forever. )

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Women’s March Protesters Held Up by Bus Driver

Some local ladies who were participating in today’s Women’s March in Washington DC were afraid to board their chartered bus after the driver posted disparaging comments about her passengers on Facebook and was then unprepared to depart on time.

S&S Coach Bus Driver Donna Hinderer’s comments have subsequently been removed from Facebook. However, several RCNN readers caught screenshots and sent them in for publication.

(Yes, we triple checked, her name really is Hinderer – as in one who obstructs or delays progress.)

The bus was scheduled for departure at 1:30 am. However, passengers arrived to find the battery dead. This happened after the bus driver was caught on Facebook discussing how to sabotage her passengers for political purposes.

“A friend of mine bought a bus ticket from Marietta to DC to participate in the Women’s March from S&S Coach. At about 1:30 this morning she boarded her bus to leave, only to find out the battery was dead,” explained one concerned reader. “By 4:30 am the bus had still not left. At this point the bus driver’s Facebook profile was found, on which there was a post from Tuesday asking what to do if she had a busload of protesters. She” lol’ed” her way through people advising her to drop them off in the middle of bikers, take them to the people handing out free joints, drive over rumble strips the whole way there, etc. But she also said that sabotaging the serpentine belt would ruin the trip as it would be at least 24 hours of roadside service. Obviously she was not mechanically skilled enough for this, so instead she allegedly drained the battery on purpose to delay the trip, causing those on the bus to find alternative transportation or simply not go (the bus tickets were $100 each). She has since deleted her OP on her Facebook and other posts involving transvestite Obamas and slavery not being a bad thing.”

The controversy began at 7:14 pm on Monday evening when Hinderer posted the following statement: “OK Family & Friends, I’m on my way to DC starting tomorrow. Question??? . . . if I have a bus load of protesters, What should I do?”

While some of Hinderer’s friends admonish her to “pray and do your best”, others suggest incapacitating the bus so that the protesters could not participate. One commenter said: “tell your company it conflicts with your religion and you can’t do it.” Others suggest she leave her passengers in DC. There were dozens of such comments in response to the driver’s post. It was enough to make the peaceful protesters hesitant to board the bus.

“We didn’t feel safe getting on a bus with someone who joked about harming us,” explained Kylie Schlemmer. “We were supposed to leave Marietta on the bus at 130 am and arrive in DC at 830 am. By the time she got the bus running, it was 4 00am. We stood outside for three hours waiting for the bus to get repaired, we were not allowed on the bus. At 4 00am we decided to drive ourselves. We didn’t arrive to the march until noon, well after the speeches and morning activities. I have no idea what time the women on the bus arrived, but it was at some point in the afternoon. These were $105 tickets and we are hoping to get refunded. There were a few women who did not feel safe to get on the bus, and were too tired by 400 am to drive, so they just went home and missed the March completely.”

Passengers say they cannot prove that she ran the battery dead, however Hinderer’s comments showed a decided lack of professionalism with regards to their safety.

“Whether or not she purposefully sabotaged our bus, the fact that a bus driver would post online and discuss potential ways to threaten us and our trip is absolutely a terrible thing to do,” Schlemmer said. “She tried her darndest to keep us from DC, but we overcame.”

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Obama’s EPA Takes Action on C8

Obama’s EPA today took action on PFOA contamination by requiring DuPont and Chemours to take additional actions to reduce C8 exposure in drinking water for residents in Ohio and West Virginia living near Washington Works.

Today’s action amends a 2009 consent order and establishes a new action level of 0.07 parts per billion which triggers the temporary provision of an alternate source of drinking water by DuPont and Chemours until a permanent alternative drinking water supply is provided. Last May the EPA established a temporary action level of 0.07 parts per billion – down from the 2009 level of 0.40 parts per billion causing a need for Vienna’s water to be temporarily replaced until a filtration facility could be constructed at DuPont’s cost.

The latest order makes that temporary action level permanent and expands the geographic areas to be investigated for C8 contamination. EPA says the new Lifetime Health Advisory was set to be protective of human health.

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Jury Awards Testicular Cancer Victim $10.5 million in C8 Punitive Damages

A Columbus jury has awarded $10.5 million in punitive damages to a Washington County, Ohio man who claimed he developed testicular cancer as the result of exposure to a Teflon manufacturing solvent used for more than 50 years at DuPont Washington Works near Parkersburg, WV.

Kenneth Vigneron, 56, of Little Hocking, Ohio, is one of thousands of individuals living in the Mid-Ohio Valley who have filed personal injury claims against DuPont over the pollution. His case is the third to go to trial on the matter.

DuPont’s lawyers tried to convince the jury the corporation did not understand that the manufacturing substance they called C8 could create dangers for the community.  They brazenly asserted that the company had done everything that it could to prevent harm to people in communities near the plant. However, Vigneron’s attorney’s produced evidence that the company had known C8 was poisoning neighboring water supplies since at least the 1980’s.

During arguments at trial, Vigneron attorney Gary J. Douglas pointed out that DuPont has publicly disavowed all responsibility and has done everything that it can to make life miserable for innocent victims who seek compensation.

Douglas implored the jury to “Teach them a lesson of decency, please.”  Douglas explained that DuPont must do more than just clean up the mess that it created.

The jury responded today with a decision to make DuPont responsible for $10.5 million in punitive damages.

C8, PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid is a toxic compound that has been detected in the environment all over the globe and in the blood of most people no matter where they live. Folks who live along the Ohio River near DuPont Washington Works became aware that their water was contaminated in the early 2000s. Since that time, C8 exposure in the Mid-Ohio Valley has been linked to six human health conditions:  kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, preeclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.

Thousands of individuals in the impacted areas have fallen ill with one or more of these diseases. People who have lived or worked in six communities along the Ohio River for at least one year prior to 2004 are entitled to medical monitoring and those who have developed related diseases are eligible to file a personal injury claim against DuPont – the polluting company. The communities covered in the class action lawsuit include: Belpre, Little Hocking, Tuppers Plains, and Pomeroy in Ohio and Lubeck and Mason County in West Virginia.

In the fall of 2015 a Columbus jury awarded Athens County resident Carla Bartlett, a kidney cancer survivor, $1.6 million. In a second jury trial July 2016, Marietta College professor David Freeman, who suffered from testicular cancer, was awarded $5.1 million and the jury added $500,000 in punitive damages because they determined that the polluting company acted with malice when it dumped C8 into the Ohio River.

The latest and third jury trial, Vigneron’s case, was awarded $2 million in December. Today, the jury tacked on $10.5 million in punitive damages and ordered DuPont to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees.

A fourth case, that of Larry Moody, is scheduled to go to trial this month. Beginning in May 2017 these federal cases will go to trial at a rate of 40 a year. According to the scheduling order, the cases will be tried at the rate of 40 per year until they are all resolved or until DuPont reaches a settlement with litigants.

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