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Man in court for belly button fixation sparks autism debate

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 3:24 PM
Updated: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 3:23 PM

            Graig Burrier sits in the courtroom during a hearing Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 in the Summit County Common Please Court in Akron, Ohio. An Ohio judge must decide how to deal with Burrier, a man who has been diagnosed with autism and has repeatedly violated his probation for sexual battery by asking women to touch their bellybuttons. Burrier, 29, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a probation violation after approaching a female jogger and asking to see her bellybutton on two days in July. (Karen Schiely, Akron Beacon Journal via AP)
Graig Burrier sits in the courtroom during a hearing Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 in the Summit County Common Please Court in Akron, Ohio. An Ohio judge must decide how to deal with Burrier, a man who has been diagnosed with autism and has repeatedly violated his probation for sexual battery by asking women to touch their bellybuttons. Burrier, 29, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a probation violation after approaching a female jogger and asking to see her bellybutton on two days in July. (Karen Schiely, Akron Beacon Journal via AP)

A judge must decide how to deal with a man diagnosed with autism who has repeatedly violated his probation for sexual battery by asking women to touch their bellybuttons.

Graig Burrier, 29, of Stow, pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating probation after approaching a female jogger and asking to see her bellybutton twice in July.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Rowlands must decide whether to send Burrier back to state prison or to an inpatient treatment program for sex offenders in Minnesota.

Burrier's attorney, Joe Gorman, says his client is autistic and should be given treatment, not prison. Prosecutors argued that Burrier is not autistic and want him to finish the remaining two years of a suspended prison sentence.

"This was not an impulsive behavior; it was deliberate," Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said in a statement on Thursday. "This is not the type of behavior someone with autism typically exhibits."

Autism spectrum disorder is an umbrella term for a group of developmental disorders that can affect a person's ability to communicate. Repetitive and inappropriate touching could be a sign of the disorder, but it is difficult to say, said Angela Scarpa, a psychology professor at Virginia Tech, who was not addressing Burrier's case specifically.

Burrier was charged with rape in 2011 after he told a pregnant 19-year-old that he needed to touch her bellybutton for a fraternity ritual. Authorities said he pushed her against a wall and digitally penetrated her.

As part of a plea deal, he was sentenced to five years' probation and a four-year suspended sentence, and was released from prison in 2016.

Burrier previously had been diagnosed with autism. But when Rowlands ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, psychologists said he did not "display symptoms" of the disorder, according to the evaluation obtained by The Akron Beacon Journal.

The evaluation listed five incidents between 2007 and 2010 when asked to see women's bellybuttons. In one instance, he paid an 18-year-old woman $3 to kiss her navel.

Court records show that Burrier had been charged with three previous probation violations. Less than four months after being convicted in 2012, his probation officer said Burrier was suicidal and had made no progress in treatment. He was sent to prison in August 2015 for another probation violation and was released in July 2016.

Prosecutors say Burrier already had a chance at treatment and sending him to prison would protect women from harassment. Gorman argued the treatment wasn't enough and that inpatient care is a better long-term solution.

"I can't imagine housing him in our state prison facility for two years is going to stop the problem," Gorman said. "They've already tried that."

Matthew Lerner, a professor of psychology at Stony Brook University in New York, said autistic people often run into challenges because of their difficulties with different social contexts.

"It's a really pressing matter," Lerner said. "The criminal justice system is not often equipped to handle people with autism."

VIDEOS: Meteor spotted in Ohio, Michigan, Canada

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 10:06 PM

Meteorite spotted over midwestern states

The fireball lit up the sky Tuesday just after 8 p.m.

>>Bitter cold temperatures to continue

The dashboard cam video was shared by Mike Austin as he was driving north on I-75 near Bloomfield Hills, north of Detroit, Michigan. 

>>2017 fireball caught on WHIO-TV weather camera

The fireball was also seen from northwest Ohio and southwest Ontario, Canada. 

It is not known whether the meteorite dissipated in the atmosphere or made it to the ground or into Lake Michigan.

Dashcam video shot by WWMT/Kalamazoo photo journalist Zack Lawler in Battle Creek, Michigan.

MONTAGE: Beams of light caused by meteor in Michigan

Changes promised at local school district in wake of racially insensitive basketball jerseys incident

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 10:31 PM

Change coming to Kings School board

Changes are being promised for Kings Schools in the wake of last week’s racist incident that drew national attention, but Tuesday evening district officials said details about those changes will come later.

That was the message from Kings’ leader and school board members, who took the resignation of their board vice president in the wake of some white, local teens wearing basketball jerseys that displayed racist slurs.

 MORE: Kings and Mason schools facing outcry in wake of racial incidents

The Kings Board of Education voted 4-0 to formally accept the resignation of member Kerry McKiernan, who previously cited his own failure in stopping some of the boys on the recreational league basketball team – not affiliated with Kings -- from wearing jerseys with names that appeared to slur African-Americans.

The names on the backs of the jerseys included "Knee Grow" and "Coon." The team played in the Cincinnati Premier Youth Basketball League.

McKiernan, whose son played on the now banned team that used Kings’ facilities, did not attend Tuesday’s board meeting and has not responded to requests for comment.

Last week McKiernan emotionally announced his intentions to resign, citing his failure to stop the team from wearing the jerseys during its first four games.

 MORE: Kings board member and father said he shares responsibility for failing to report racist jerseys

Superintendent Tim Ackermann told this news outlet he will soon be proposing systemic changes design to raise student, school staffers and community members’ awareness of the importance of racial and other diversity for the predominately white Warren County district.

“It’s really important to move forward and sustainable change is extremely important to us so that we can work to create a more loving, acceptable tolerant society,” said Ackermann. “We believe this is a community and societal issue around racism … intolerance, hate and bigotry and we all need to work together to make Kings the best place for all of our kids.”

He declined, however, to give details as to what district efforts are coming, saying the changes are still being studied.

“I don’t want to create something just to create something. Sustainable change doesn’t happen overnight,” said Ackermann.

Tom Squires, an African-American parent at Kings, was among the more than a dozen residents who attended the board meeting.

Afterward, Squires said the jersey incident, which has drawn national media attention, was “unfortunate.”

“We didn’t pay that close of attention as parents and we should have. We have to react swiftly and we have to make sure that people understand that this is not a district that condones that kind of thing,” said Squires, who has lived in the Deerfield Twp. school community for more than a decade.

“When you make a mistake you have to make sure you correct that mistake. Sometimes it’s not always fast but we have to make sure we make the right correction,” he said. 

“This thing (reaction to the incident) is still evolving so it’s kind of hard for me to be critical of the district. They are still trying to make the correction and I think we should give them the opportunity to do so,” said Squires.

Under Ohio school law, the board now has until Feb. 9 to appoint a new board member and agreed during its meeting to accept applications until 4 p.m. on Jan. 24. 

Applications will soon be available on the Kings Schools website.

The board will then vote at its Jan. 31 meeting – after interviewing all applicants – on who will fill McKiernan’s seat through his term, which ends December 2019.

Local flights to and from Atlanta impacted as storm drops snow on South

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 5:41 AM

Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories stretch across the eastern US. Snow causing airport delays on Wednesday.

Some local flights are delayed to and from Atlanta this morning as snow falls in the South.

One to 1.5 inches of snow is expected to fall in metropolitan Atlanta through this morning. A state of emergency has been issued for 83 counties in Georgia.

RELATED: Frigid temperatures trail storm dropping more snow on South

Before heading to the airport, check our interactive flight delay map to see if your flight is on time.

Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini said Winter Weather Advisories and Winter Storm Warnings have spread up the eastern half of the United States.

Snow falling Wednesday morning in Georgia, through the Carolinas all the way to New England is creating travel delays across the country. More than 10 states are under winter weather alerts for Wednesday.  

The governor of Georgia issued a state of emergency for 83 counties ahead of the snow and bitter cold. Early morning snow totals ranged from 1.6 inches in midtown to almost two inches near Douglasville. 

A Winter Storm Warning was issued by the National Weather Service for parts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The National Weather Service in Raleigh say 3-6 inches of snow will be possible through Wednesday evening in some spots.

Dayton apartment residents able to stay after judge issues order

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 1:15 PM

Judge tours building to make sure residents have heat

UPDATE @ 3:02 p.m.:

Judge Richard Skelton has issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the city of Dayton’s emergency vacate order for the Newcom building.  

Skelton said the building owner must purchase infrared heaters today for the remaining 18 tenants in the building.  He ordered that the building be available for inspection to the court.

Skelton said he will review the matter every two days and planned to inspect the building tonight.  “I will be watching this very closely,” Skelton said.

UPDATE @ 2:07 p.m.:

Judge Richard Skelton said he is willing to work with the building owner to avoid kicking residents out of their homes.

But he said he wants to know how quickly owner Howard Heck can acquire infrared heaters for the 18 residents who remain in the building. 

WATCH: Residents live in apartment building with no heat

RELATED: Dayton issues vacate order for downtown apartment building

About seven residents have moved out owing to the vacate order. 

Heck’s attorney at first said his client would order the heaters on Amazon, but Skelton said he wanted a quick and definite plan for obtaining the heaters. 

Skelton took a short recess in court to allow Heck time to try to figure out how he could get the heaters quickly. 


The roughly 50 residents of a downtown Dayton apartment building who were ordered to vacate by Tuesday if the heating system was not repaired were awaiting the results of an emergency hearing this afternoon

Last week, city of Dayton housing inspection officials issued an emergency vacate order to residents at the Newcom Building, located at 255 N. Main St.

The building’s boiler was shut off because it was releasing dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, which can cause deadly poisoning.

Dayton crews discovered high levels of carbon monoxide in the boiler room after responding to a medic call at the Newcom building.

RELATED: Dayton issues vacate order for downtown apartment building

The city told the building’s ownership it had to repair or replace the boiler by Tuesday or the building would be boarded up and all residents would be required to leave.

The building is not safe to live in because it does not have a functioning heating system, officials said, and the especially cold weather poses a threat to residents.

A small number of residents had moved out by Tuesday late morning, but most do not have any place to go and moving itself would be very difficult since some residents are elderly or disabled, said Bradley Brumit, who lives in the building.