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Man convicted of incest accused of violating probation again, back in jail

HUNTINGTON — A new petition to revoke the probation for a man who previously was convicted of incest has been filed in Cabell Circuit Court.

Michael Joe Adkins, 38, of Ona, was sentenced by Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell in 2017 to serve five years’ probation and 50 years’ supervised release after he was convicted of incest in a case that led to an 11-year-old aborting a fetus.

However, Adkins was incarcerated in April 2018 after Farrell found Adkins violated his probation after he was accused of domestic offenses and was kicked out of sex offender counseling.

His case was taken to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, where justices ruled Farrell had erred by failing to afford Adkins a full, final evidentiary probation revocation hearing. He was placed back on probation by Cabell Circuit Judge Gregory Howard in November 2020 as a result.

The petition, signed off on by the Cabell County Prosecutor’s Office, names eight conditions Adkins is accused of violating. Many of the violations are fee- and fine-related, but others allege he lied to his probation officer about being in the presence of children at his home.

The petition said Adkins lied to his probation officer in December, January and February by failing to report he was around or had contact with children, despite being asked.

His probation officer said Adkins admitted on March 23 after questioning that there had been children at his residence multiple times and he did not report it. He told the officer when the children came to his home on multiple occasions, he would go to the garage.

Adkins has also failed to pay about $850 in drug screen tests, supervision fees and other court costs, the petition said.

Adkins had been scheduled Wednesday for an initial hearing regarding the petition, but it was postponed. He was jailed at Western Regional Jail the same day and remains housed at the facility.

Kentucky governor signs bipartisan early voting measure

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation Wednesday expanding early voting in Kentucky, a rare display of bipartisan cooperation in the heart of Trump country at a time of national conflict over restrictive election measures.

The Democratic governor called it “a good day for democracy.” The bill’s GOP sponsors and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams joined him at the signing ceremony.

“This new law represents an important first step to preserve and protect every individual’s right to make their voice heard by casting their ballots in a secure and convenient manner on the date and time that works best for them,” Beshear said.

Adams said it represents Kentucky’s most significant election law updates in more than a century.

The measure provides for three days of no-excuse, early in-person voting — including a Saturday — before Election Day. It also allows counties to establish voting centers where any registered voter in each county can cast their ballot, regardless of their precinct.

These key provisions relax the state’s strict pre-pandemic voting laws. Before the coronavirus hit, Kentucky prohibited early voting by mail or in person unless a person could not vote on Election Day because of advanced age, illness, severe disability or temporarily residing out of the county or state.

But the new law backs off from Kentucky’s temporary, pandemic-related accommodations, which allowed widespread mail-in absentee balloting and seemed to minimize the long lines and confusion seen in some states during last year’s elections.

While the measure delivers more opportunities for early voting, Beshear acknowledged he would have preferred other steps to relax voting-access rules.

“Today Kentuckians got more access to the ballot box,” the governor told reporters after the signing ceremony. “Now did I want more in this bill? Yes, I did. I believe that we need no-excuse absentee ballots. I think it’s true that we can substantially increase access without any fraud concerns.”

The measure includes several features aimed at strengthening election security protections.

“While other states are caught up in partisan division, here in Kentucky we’re leading the nation in making it both easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Adams said.

Republican state legislators across the country have pushed for new voting restrictions while seizing on former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. Many Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping the U.S. Senate will pass legislation standardizing voter protections nationwide.

The tension is most evident in Georgia, where a far-reaching new voting law pushed through by Republicans has drawn intense national scrutiny, prompting belated criticism from such corporate giants as Delta and Coca-Cola.

But in Kentucky, where Trump remains popular, the tone among lawmakers was mild as the bill moved through the GOP-dominated Legislature. It was a departure from the bare-knuckled partisan fights Kentucky has been accustomed to on other hot-button issues.

“While some states have stepped in a different direction, I’m really proud of Kentucky,” Beshear said.

The new Kentucky law maintains an online portal for residents to request a mail-in ballot, but restores pre-pandemic restrictions on who can vote by mail.

Regarding election security, the measure will lead to a statewide transition toward universal paper ballots to guarantee a paper audit trail. As older voting machines are decommissioned, they will be replaced with a voting system using paper ballots, the secretary of state’s office said. The measure includes no timeline for that transition.

The measure enhances the ability of state election officials to remove nonresidents from voter rolls. And it expressly prohibits and penalizes ballot harvesting, the practice of collecting ballots from likely supporters and returning them to election offices.

The new law echoes the tone set last year by Beshear and Adams, who hashed out emergency voting measures during the pandemic that helped Kentucky largely avoid the long lines and other problems encountered elsewhere.

One op-ed writer in Kentucky saw partisan calculations behind the bill, saying Republican lawmakers supported the measure because it helped their dominant political brand in the state. The writer, Berry Craig, a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College, said the state’s comparatively low percentage of Black voters also made Republicans comfortable in getting behind the relaxed voting rules.

“While Republicans in Kentucky made it easier to vote because they thought it benefited them, you can bet that if the Democrats, with a big boost from minorities, start significantly rebounding in Kentucky, GOP voter ‘reform’ will swiftly become impermanent, and Republican lawmakers will lose no time restricting minority voting,” Craig wrote recently.

Anti-abortion bill heads to Senate floor in West Virginia

CHARLESTON — After hearing from advocates on both sides of the debate, the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee passed out this session’s anti-abortion bill.

House Bill 2982, or the “Second Chance at Life Act,” requires physicians prescribing the two-step medicated, or “chemical,” abortion process to inform the patient that “some suggest it may be possible to counteract” the abortion, a theory that is not medically proven.

A medication-induced abortion involves two pills: first, mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone and prevents further growth of the embryo, and then misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and expel the embryo. A theory touted by anti-abortion advocates says the abortion may be “reversed” by taking a high dose of progesterone after mifepristone if a person changes her mind.

While the bill does not specifically refer to the so-called reversal process, it refers to procedures not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and not backed by science.

As amended by the Senate, physicians would have to explain all possible outcomes from not taking misoprostol, including a completed abortion, a missed abortion (in which the fetus is not expelled from the body) or even a continued pregnancy. Physicians will also be required to tell patients to contact them if they change their mind before taking the second drug in the procedure.

The only study attempted to be performed on the reversal theory was halted in 2019 after three women (one who received progesterone and two who did not) had severe hemorrhaging requiring hospitalization. The review board for the study found it to be unethical to continue.

“Why would we want to subject West Virginia women to unproven science?” said Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison.

Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said the bill provides women with information they need to make a decision. She said the other option is no choice, but nothing prohibits a woman from stopping in the middle of the medicated abortion procedure today and working with her doctor to support the pregnancy, including the use of progesterone.

Similar bills have been passed in other states and been challenged, most recently in Tennessee. In February, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on the state’s “reversal” law, stopping it from taking place. The lawsuit contends the law violates the free speech rights of physicians.

The bill is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It now heads to the floor for a vote.

W.Va. officials urge young people to get vaccinated as UK variant of COVID-19 spreads

CHARLESTON — West Virginia health officials on Wednesday warned the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 will make a significant impact in the state if young people do not get vaccinated at a higher rate.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar and vice president of health sciences at West Virginia University, said the medical community is seeing the COVID-19 pandemic go through a transition in the United States, where virus variants are making their presence known. Michigan, Minnesota and Florida are already being hit hard by the U.K. variant, he said.

“The concern about this particular virus is it is more infectious. It’s about 50% more likely to spread than the virus that started in China … and it’s also about 50% more lethal,” Marsh said.

In West Virginia, the U.K. variant has been found in 19 counties, totaling 142 cases, state health officer Dr. Ayne Amjad said. The number has nearly tripled from just seven days ago, when 53 cases of the U.K. variant had been identified.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department detected the first case of the U.K. variant in Kanawha County on Wednesday, breaking the mold of where most prior cases had been found. Infections have mostly been in border counties, Amjad said, with Berkeley, Monongalia and Ohio counties reporting the most variant cases.

A virus that spreads faster and kills more people poses significant challenges for West Virginia, Marsh said. With the most vulnerable population in the country, Marsh said the climbing spread should signal the state is “not out of the woods yet.”

State officials urged younger West Virginians to get vaccinated as soon as possible to prevent the chance this variant becomes widespread. The age group driving these infections are 19 to 40 years old, Amjad said.

The California variant of COVID-19 has been found in about 160 West Virginians, Amjad said. This variant is not as lethal as the U.K. version, Marsh has said previously, but it spreads much faster.

Marsh noted that 24 West Virginians died of the virus in just the past two days, furthering the urgency for everyone to get vaccinated. State officials again urged older West Virginians to get vaccinated as well, as the virus has now killed 2,722 West Virginians.

Pregnancy changes dynamic of women's friendship

DEAR ABBY: I’m in my late 20s, married and happily child-free. My best friend recently became pregnant, and I am having a hard time with it. I don’t enjoy children, and it feels like I am losing my best friend. All she wants to talk about is the baby. I’ve tried hinting that I’ll be here when she and her husband need a break from being “Mom and Dad,” but she continues to talk on and on about the all-consuming baby.

I know this is a big change and a huge part of her life, but I also know she has plenty of other support for this child. I would hope she realizes that I do not care for children or want to be around them.

How can I let her know — without offending her — that the last thing I want to hear about are diapers and prams? — CHILD-FREE IN WISCONSIN

DEAR CHILD-FREE: I am sorry you feel so negative about the topics of babies and children, because your intolerance will eventually isolate you from friends and peers.

If you voice what you are thinking, you will alienate your best friend, who is rightly thrilled to be embarking on the adventure of parenthood.

Because her talk about babies, diapers and the process she’s going through affects you like nails on a chalkboard, limit the conversations and visits you have with her.

Do not write her off, however, because it is possible that in time she will be reaching out to you, craving conversation that goes beyond the playpen.