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Kentucky Governor Issues 14-Day Quarantine Notices to Easter Sunday Churchgoers

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  • While many churches turned to virtual services for their Easter Sunday celebrations, others defied state orders and held in-person gatherings.
  • Louisiana Pastor Tony Spell estimated that 1,300 people showed up to his service. Spell was previously arrested and charged with six misdemeanors after continuing to hold sermons.
  • In Kentucky, state police issued quarantine notices to church attendees despite churchgoer efforts to hide their identities by covering their license plates.
  • Kentucky’s quarantine orders have been met with criticism by Senator Rand Paul, who said, “Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here.”

Some Churches Defy States’ Orders and Gather

For many churchgoers, Sunday marked a notably quiet Easter at home either watching live streams of services or spending time with family. Others at a handful of churches, however, defied their states’ orders by attending in-person services. 

In Kentucky, nearly 50 people at the Maryville Baptist Church gathered to celebrate Easter Sunday service together. In fact, the service drew visitors from as far as Ohio and even New Jersey — the hardest-hit state after New York. 

That gathering took place despite Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s warning that anyone attending a church service would be subject to a 14-day quarantine. 

“I hear people say, ‘It’s my choice’” Beshear said. “Well, it’s not the person next to you’s choice … This is the only way that we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill somebody else, that your decision doesn’t spread the coronavirus in your county and in your community.”

Before they left, some—including the church’s pastor—covered their license plates to hide their identities. One sign read, “It’s Easter, you tyrant.”

Though it’s still unknown who did it, when people first started to arrive, they found nails scattered at every entrance. A few people then reportedly cleared the entrances of those nails, and after that, cars began packing in.

Soon after, churchgoers were visited by another set of guests: Kentucky State Police. Even though several people had attempted to hide their identities by hiding their plate numbers, police were still able to take their VIN numbers. They then began putting notices on vehicles, including those for the press and media that had shown up.

“Employees of the local health department will be contacting those associated with this vehicle with self-quarantine documents, including an agreement requiring this vehicle’s occupants and anyone in the household to self-quarantine for 14 days,” the notice reads.

That notice also states that violating emergency orders could result in a misdemeanor. 

Notably, police did not issue notices to people who had stayed in their cars to listen to the service on an outdoor speaker.

Churchgoers Say They’ll Ignore Quarantine Notices

Even with those notices being issued, church Pastor Jack Roberts said he had no intention of ending in-person services. According to the Courier Journal, several of the churchgoers with notices said they don’t plan to self-quarantine either, even if they could face “further enforcement measures.” 

Beshear’s decision to record license plate numbers of churchgoers violating stay-at-home orders has also been criticized, especially by Republican lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul.

“Taking license plates at church?” Paul said on Twitter Friday. “Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here.”

The Republican Party of Kentucky then followed that up with a statement on Saturday, saying, “Governor Beshear’s order for state police to stalk churchgoers and turn their information over to government agents is a blatant overreach. We all want to keep working together to fight the coronavirus, but this is the wrong approach. 

“The Governor and his administration should retract this overbearing use of government power and come up with another way to work with churches to discourage in-person gatherings and help faith communities follow the proper CDC guidelines – without such draconian measures,” the party added. 

None of the people who received notices will be charged. In fact, Beshear has said that he doesn’t want to do that at all, also indicating that he won’t use GPS monitoring anklets like those used in Jefferson County, Kentucky to track people who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but have failed to isolate.

Louisiana Pastor Defies State Orders Again

Churchgoers in Kentucky were not the only ones defying orders to stay home. In Baton Rouge, Pastor Tony Spell estimated that over 1,300 people came to his service at the Life Tabernacle Church on Sunday. 

Like Kentucky, Spell violated Louisiana’s state guidelines limiting gatherings to less than 10 people. In fact, he even reportedly sent out 27 buses to bring people to his church for that service and had originally planned for 2,000 people to attend.

“This is what Washington D.C. said when they saw our service: they said, it looks like y’all have a track team in your church,” Spell said in a clip posted by TMZ. “You better believe that we got a track team, that we’re walking and running for Jesus Christ. Because the chains that used to be on my feet, they don’t mind me anymore.” 

All of that comes despite the fact that Spell had been arrested and faces six misdemeanor charges for violating public gathering orders.

Still, Spell has defended his move, calling governmental response to the coronavirus “politically motivated.”

“My government is not my creator, my president is not my God,” he told BuzzFeed News.

“Like any religious revolutionary or zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend,” he told TMZ. “True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear and cowardice of their convictions.” 

See what others are saying: (Courier Journal) (Fox News) (New York Post)

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Miami Man Gets 6 Years in Prison After Using COVID Relief Funds To Buy Lamborghini

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  • A Florida man was sentenced to more than six years in prison after fraudulently obtaining $3.9 million in COVID-19 relief funds and using that money for personal purchases.
  • Authorities said David Tyler Hines falsified federal applications to secure loans from the Paycheck Protection Program loans, which were meant to help small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
  • After receiving the funds, Hines began blowing it on jewelry, resort stays, dating websites, and even a $318,000 Lamborghini Huracan.

Hines Defrauds Government

A man in Miami, Florida, has been sentenced to more than six years in prison this week for fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds and using that money for personal expenses.

David Tyler Hines, 29, is accused of falsifying federal applications to secure $3.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans, which were meant to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.

The Justice Department claims he actually requested $13.5 million in paycheck protection loans for various companies using false and fraudulent IRS forms last year. At the time, he stated the money would ensure his employees would continue to get paid throughout the state-mandated lockdowns.

According to a federal complaint, however, those employees either never existed or earned only a fraction of what he claimed to pay them.

“Collectively, Hines falsely claimed his companies paid millions of dollars in payroll the first quarter of 2020. State and bank records, however, show little to no payroll expense during this period,” the complaint adds.

Hines Makes Luxury Purchases With Funds

Authorities said that within days of securing the nearly $4 million from the federal government, Hines began blowing it on extravagant personal purchases, including jewelry, resort stays, and a $318,000 2020 Lamborghini Huracan. Two payments totaling $30,000 were also documented as going to “mom,” according to the criminal complaint, while some money also went to dating websites.

Investigators became aware of the scam after the Lamborgini was involved in a hit-and-run incident back in July. The vehicle was ultimately linked back to Hines, which kick-started the investigation.

In February, Hines pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with the scheme. As part of the sentencing, he was ordered to forfeit the $3.4 million, as well as the Lamborghini

See what others are saying: (Orlando Sentinel) (Complex) (HuffPost)

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Trial for 3 Ex-Officers Charged in George Floyd Murder Pushed To March

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  • A Minnesota judge ruled Thursday that the August trial for three officers charged with aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd will be postponed until March 2022 so a recently filed federal case can proceed first.
  • Ex-officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were indicted on federal civil rights charges shortly after Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter by a state jury last month.
  • In Thursday’s announcement, the judge also argued the postponement was necessary to create “some distance from all the press that has occurred and is going to occur this summer” regarding Chavuin’s case and upcoming sentencing.
  • No date has been scheduled for the federal trial yet, and experts have said it is unclear if it will happen before March 7, the new date set for the state case.

Judge Cahill Postpones Trial

The trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged for their involvement in the murder of George Floyd will be pushed from August to March 2022, a judge ruled Thursday.

Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were previously facing state charges of aiding and abetting manslaughter and murder, but last week, they were indicted on additional federal civil rights charges.

The federal indictment charges Kueng and Thao with willfully failing to intervene in unreasonable use of force deployed by their fellow former colleague Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter last month for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.

All four ex-officers face charges for failing to provide medical care to Floyd, “thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” according to the indictment.

In his decision, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said he moved the Minnesota trial so the federal case could proceed first. Notably, Cahill also cited his desire to create more distance between the state trial and the widely publicized legal proceedings against Chauvin.

“What this trial needs is some distance from all the press that has occurred and is going to occur this summer,” he said in court on Thursday.

A date for the federal trial has not yet been scheduled, it is uncertain if it would happen before March 7, the new date set by Cahill for the state trial.

The decision to file the civil rights charges against Lane, Kueng, and Thao came as surprise to many legal experts as federal indictments are not usually brought until after state cases are concluded.

The move is also unusual because Chauvin had already been convicted of murder in Minnesota. By contrast, the federal government normally only files charges in cases where they believe justice was not served at the state level.

For example, the four officers who were accused of beating Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991 were only indicted on federal charges after they were acquitted in California.

Uncertainty Around Sentencing

Defense attorneys for Kueng, Lane, and Thao agreed with the judge’s decision, but state prosecutors did not support the delay, a fact that experts said could mean the three former officers are seeking a plea deal.

“One can infer that the defense attorneys are hoping that the federal case will offer lower penalties for their clients and a dismissal of the state charges,” Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor told the Associated Press.

Under Minnesota law, aiding and abetting is treated the same as the underlying crime. If the ex-officers are convicted, the state’s sentencing guidelines for people without previous criminal histories would recommend prison sentences of 12 and a half years for the murder counts and four years for the manslaughter counts.

Cahill, however, has the flexibility to increase the sentences if he finds aggravating factors, as he did with Chauvin in a ruling Wednesday.

In the decision, Cahill agreed with prosecutors that Chauvin abused his power, acted “particularly cruel” to Floyd, and committed the crime in front of children with at least three other people.

Experts say the judge is likely to give Chauvin a 30-year sentence for the second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum of 40 years.

See what others are saying: (The Associated Press) (The New York Times) (NPR)

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Ohio Will Give 5 People $1 Million for Getting Vaccinated

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  • Ohio is launching a lottery program that will give five people ages 18 or older $1 million each if they receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will win full four-year scholarships to one of the state’s public universities under a similar giveaway program. 
  • Some have criticized the move as a waste and misuse of federal coronavirus relief funds, but others applauded it as a strong effort to boost slumping vaccination rates.
  • Gov. Mike DeWine (R) addressed critics on Twitter, writing, “The real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”

Ohio Announces Vaccine Lottery

Several states and cities across the country have been rolling out different incentives to help boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Some are offering $100 savings bonds, $50 prepaid cards, and even free alcohol, but Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took it a step further Wednesday, saying that five people in his state will each win $1 million for getting vaccinated.

DeWine said that the lottery program, named “Ohio Vax-a-Million,” will be open to residents 18 and older who receive at least one dose. Drawings start May 26 and winners will be pulled from the state’s voter registration database.

The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings, but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.

Younger people will also have a chance to win something. That’s because DeWine said five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will be eligible to win a full four-year scholarship to one of the state’s public universities under a similar lottery program. The portal to sign up for that opens May 18.

DeWine Defends Lottery

Reactions to the giveaway have been mixed. Some echoed statements from State Rep. Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, who said, “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis.”

DeWine, however, seems to have anticipated pushback like this.

“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” he tweeted. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”

Despite some backlash, a ton of other people have applauded the plan as a smart way to encourage vaccinations across all age groups. So far, about 36%of Ohio’s population has been fully vaccinated — compared with 35% nationally. 

Still, the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week, which is down from figures above 80,000 in April. 

See what others are saying: (AP News) (NPR)(The New York Times)

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