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Staff photos — Rod Aydelotte  

Marlin’s Mystique Womack (left) drives and scores past West players Libby Gerik (center) and All Holloman in the first half Friday night.


Courts_and_trials
topical
Court to set priority trial setting for Oakman's sexual assault trial

Prosecutors and an attorney for former Baylor University football player Shawn Oakman asked a judge for a priority trial setting Friday in Oakman’s sexual assault case.

Oakman’s trial was already postponed at least once when his original attorneys withdrew from the case after Oakman couldn’t pay their fee.

Since then, Alan Bennett has been appointed by 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother to represent Oakman, who was indicted on one count of sexually assaulting a Baylor graduate student at the James Avenue duplex where Oakman lived in April 2016.

Oakman, a third-team All-American defensive end at Baylor who once hoped to be drafted by an NFL team, is now working a construction-related job and living in Waco, Bennett said.

Bennett said he and prosecutors have discussed a trial date for May or June. He said both sides want to speak to their witnesses, some of whom are coming from out of state, to ensure their availability.

Oakman’s court appearance Friday was for a status conference in his case.

The attorneys said they will get back to the court with a more specific trial date once they have talked to their respective witnesses.

“Mr. Oakman and I look forward to our day in court when we can present his side of the story and let the jury hear the full story,” Bennett said.

Oakman, Baylor’s all-time sack leader, told police the sexual relationship was consensual. His previous attorney, Michelle Tuegel, said Oakman and the woman had “numerous consensual sexual encounters.”

Waco police searched Oakman’s residence looking for evidence to support the woman’s claims that Oakman sexually assaulted her between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Police also executed search warrants for his DNA and cellphone.

A police affidavit for the search warrant said police were looking for clothing the woman left behind at Oakman’s duplex, as well as earrings, blood, semen, bodily fluids, hair, skin cells, DNA and other items.

Court documents indicate officers seized two comforters, a fitted sheet and a flat sheet from Oakman’s bedroom.

The woman was examined at a hospital after the alleged assault.

The affidavit, drafted by Waco police Detective Sam Key, said the woman met Oakman at a Baylor-area bar on Speight Avenue and Oakman asked her if she wanted to go to his residence. They walked to Oakman’s duplex, and Oakman “forced” her into a bedroom, according to the affidavit.

Oakman forcibly removed the woman’s clothes, forced her onto the bed and sexually assaulted her, the affidavit alleges.

The woman left, but told police she left her underwear at the duplex and lost an earring in the bedroom.


Business
spotlight
Nighttime lifeline
Waco Transit hopes to preserve low-cost alternative to taxis

The recent loss of Waco’s last licensed cab service was barely noticed in an era of ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft.

But a more affordable lifeline remains for residents who need a lift to work or night school, as long as Waco Transit can keep it funded.

Through the Evening LINK service, riders can arrange to be picked up in a car or van anywhere in Greater Waco and dropped off at any destination between 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. The cost per trip is only $3, a small fraction of what passengers once paid through the now-defunct Yellow Cab, or through the ride-hailing apps.

The four-year-old service drew 4,280 riders last year, and local workforce leaders say it has been instrumental in helping some workers get and keep jobs.

Waco Transit general manager Allen Hunter said the Evening LINK service has not completely filled the community’s transportation gap for the nighttime hours when regular buses do not run, but it has helped.

“A lot of people don’t realize the service exists,” Hunter said. “Right now we’re meeting demand based on the calls we’re getting. But as far as demand in the community, I don’t think we’re meeting the demand at all.”

Hunter said he would like to expand the program and even study an Uber-like app that would allow riders to hail a ride quickly, as Capital Metro in Austin is doing in a pilot project. But first, he said the challenge is to get new state funding to replace state workforce grants that are set to expire this year.

“If we can’t secure state funding, it’s possible the program could go away,” he said. “We’re working on getting letters of support for new funding.”

The service isn’t cheap: The $3 fare covers only a tenth of the $30 cost to Waco Transit.

But for many workers Evening LINK is essential, said Julie Talbert, contract manager for Workforce Solutions for the Heart of Texas, which contracts with Waco Transit for the service.

“For a lot of people who come into the workforce center, night shift jobs are where they start,” Talbert said. “Sometimes we have the worker and we have the job, but it’s really the barrier is really the transportation piece.”

Talbert has ridden along in Evening LINK vehicles to interview users.

“Several I talked to go to night classes at MCC,” she said.

Talbert said most of the riders take a regular fixed-route bus to or from work, but their start or finish time does not fit with the bus schedules. That includes people in the hospitality, food service, manufacturing and health care fields, she said.

“These are areas where businesses are open 24 hours a day, or at least until 9 p.m.,” Talbert said.

Waco Transit runs fixed-route buses from 5 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. weekdays, with Saturday service extending to 8:15 p.m.

For night-shift workers without personal vehicles, using a ride-hailing service can be cost-prohibitive.

For example, an 11.5-mile ride from McLennan Community College to Central Texas Marketplace could cost between $13 and $18 with the lower-cost UberX service, according to the Uber website.

A 5.7-mile ride from Ninth Street and Franklin Avenue in downtown to McLennan Community College would cost $11.36 in an UberX. Under Yellow Cab, the fare would have been more than $15.

Hunter said Waco Transit’s Evening LINK service has not been in direct competition with the ride-hailing services or the taxis.

“Most people couldn’t afford to take a cab to and from work,” he said.

He said ride-hailing companies tend to appeal to people who want the convenience of a quick ride. Evening LINK passengers have to arrange their rides in advance and may have to allow other passengers on a route to be dropped off first.

Waco Yellow Cab owner Bill Kemp told the Tribune-Herald this month that he quit the business after 40 years because of decreasing call volume and the licensing and inspection costs required by the city of Waco. Under state legislation passed last year, ride-hailing companies are not subject to those city requirements.

Kemp said his business over the years declined from a peak of about 500 calls a day to about 100 calls. He ran only four taxis at the end.

Uber representatives declined to discuss their ridership numbers for Waco, and Lyft representatives could not be reached for comment Friday.

Another cab company, Waco Taxi Service, advertises its services online but is not licensed as required by city ordinance, Assistant City Attorney Kristi DeCluitt said. The licenses for the company and its drivers expired in September after about a year of operation, DeCluitt said.

Co-owner Adrian Green insisted Friday that he is licensed to operate in Waco.

“We’re doing our paperwork,” Green said. “We’ve been legal. We talked to them today.”

He said the company has seven vehicles, ranging from taxi cars to limousines.

“We service everyone and anyone,” he said. “We go outside of Waco, even to Dallas and Houston.”

The firm’s website advertises a flat rate of $35 for anywhere in Waco.


Oakman


Politics
Cecile Richards stepping down as Planned Parenthood leader

NEW YORK — Cecile Richards, who led Planned Parenthood through 12 tumultuous years, is stepping down as its president.

Under her leadership, the organization gained in membership, donor support and political clout but found itself in constant conflict with social conservatives for its role as the leading abortion provider in the United States.

The organization provides a range of health services at clinics nationwide, including birth control, cancer screenings and tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Republicans in Congress tried repeatedly to cut off federal funding that helps subsidize Planned Parenthood’s services to some patients, and several congressional committees investigated the organization’s role in providing post-abortion fetal tissue to researchers.

In a statement Friday, Richards said she would remain engaged in political activism ahead of the November elections.

“There has never been a better moment to be an activist,” said Richards, who was a featured speaker in Las Vegas at one of last weekend’s largest women’s marches.

Richards, 60, is the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards and was born in Waco. Before joining Planned Parenthood, she was a union organizer and deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, among other roles.

Reaction to Richards’ announcement reflected the divisive nature of the debate over Planned Parenthood’s role.

Pelosi, the House minority leader, hailed her as “a portrait of energy, intellect, and determination” whose impact transcended reproductive rights.

“As an organizer, activist, and leader, Cecile has helped launch a nationwide movement to defend and advance women’s rights, and in doing so, she has inspired countless women to march, vote, run, and win.” Pelosi said.

Anti-abortion activists seized the occasion to demonize Richards.

Her legacy “is one of death and destruction,” said Kristin Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “She leaves broken lives in her wake.”

Many of the key battles for Richards and Planned Parenthood were waged in Congress, where Republicans sought ways to cut off its federal funding. GOP lawmakers also organized multiple investigative committees after anti-abortion activists released secretly recorded videos in 2015 that they said showed Planned Parenthood employees illegally selling fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood denied that claim.

Thus far there’s been no formal finding by Congress of wrongdoing by the organization, but the dispute over the allegations is not settled. Justice Department officials confirmed in December that the department was considering investigations related to the transfer of fetal tissue.

There was no immediate word of a possible successor to Richards. Planned Parenthood said it would be announcing future plans after a meeting of its board of directors next week.

Planned Parenthood said Richards helped grow its base of supporters from 3 million to 11 million and build its donor base to its largest ever. She oversaw a notable expansion of services to LGBT people, including sharp increases in HIV testing and the provision of hormone therapy for transgender patients.

Richards’ resignation precedes the scheduled publication of her memoir, “Make Trouble,” in April.


Business
Company to offer IV hydration services in Waco

An IV hydration company will start serving Greater Waco with products aimed at helping people overcome illnesses, address athletic fatigue, increase weight loss or to eliminate a hangover from home.

Hydropros, based in Dallas, has started visiting local clients at their home or business and will also have a storefront in Waco in the next 45 days or so, vice president Paige Harkins said.

Waco real estate agent Christie Gilliam has already used the service and has a series of appointments scheduled for before and after an upcoming surgery to ensure sufficient hydration. Gilliam said she saw an ad on Facebook for the company and had tried IV hydration services once before while in Austin to help recover from a stomach bug. She said she recently suffered from a sinus infection, was on antibiotics and was feeling miserable.

She said the day after the treatment, “I woke up and I realized I did not sound like I needed to drink 40 hot teas and I didn’t have to take an hourlong steam shower before I could function.”

Hydropros came to her work, and the service took 30 minutes, she said.

“I wouldn’t be on a $325 a month membership if I didn’t think it was great stuff,” Gilliam said. “Hydration is a struggle for everybody that I know.”

IV services yield immediate results, Hydropros chief nursing officer Jake Sanchez said. People of any age can use the service, and all employees are medically licensed, Sanchez said. An IV infusion is the equivalent of about two gallons of water, and users can select combinations of anti-oxidants, energy boosting B-12, immune boosters, electrolytes and more.

The company offers walk-in service or appointments, as well as office or party services, Harkins said.

“We do a lot of marathons, like a prerace one and a post-race IV,” Sanchez said. “A lot of runners will start developing that IT band stiffness, inflamed knees, hips, so to prevent that they’ll come in and get anti-inflammatory or athletic overexertion or athletic exhaustion.”

The company also will offer weight loss injections, Botox, cryotherapy and float therapy, which provides the feeling of 12 hours of sleep in just 45 minutes, said Misty Jernigan, of Crawford, franchisee for the new Hydropros Waco location and one in Austin.

Since it is a fairly new model in an unregulated market, it is important to approach with caution, said Dr. Bob Wolf, McLennan County Medical Society president, and an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist.

“Time will tell if they’re truly beneficial in the long run or not or if this is just a quick fad that’s coming through and will disappear,” Wolf said.

In general, people should not have a problem staying hydrated by drinking fluids and getting nutrients through their diet, he said.

“Most people who have normal diets and take in normal fluids, don’t need the benefits of IV therapy,” Wolf said.

Athletes, on rare occasions and mainly on the professional level, can suffer extreme fluid loss that requires repletion through an IV, Wolf said.

IV use at a hospital is regulated, and strict sterilization guidelines to ensure sterilization, Wolf said. As a patient recovers form an illness, many doctors will take them off IV fluids as soon as possible, believing it is best to let the patient’s body regulate nutrients.

Still, the effects of the treatments speak for themselves, Jernigan said.

“It makes you feel amazing,” she said.

Jernigan said she wanted to open a second Hydropros location in Central Texas, where she has lived most of her life, because the service has not been available in the Waco area.

The hangover service can be administered before a night of drinking, or the morning after, Sanchez said. Bachelorette parties are popular for IV infusions prior to the night out, Sanchez said. Next-day treatment is the most popular though. The IV infusion reduces headache, weakness and fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, he said.

Services range from $100 to $185, Sanchez said. IV treatments can include a cocktail for athletic fatigue, migraine relief, flu and cold systems, an immune system boost, body detox, hair and skin or a libido boost, among others.

The treatments can be customized to meet a variety of needs, Sanchez said.

Hydropros has been open five years and has six storefronts, plus 26 smaller locations in doctor’s offices, gyms, nail salons and other locations, Sanchez said.