Perry school district pays $3.5 million in sexual abuse case

PERRY, Okla. (AP) — A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit accusing an Oklahoma school district of shielding a sexual predator and calling children liars.

Perry Public Schools admitted liability for the "unwanted and unlawful touching" of 14 girls by a former teacher's aide and agreed to pay the families $3.5 million to settle the case, according to court documents.

Neil Smith, attorney for the plaintiffs, told The Associated Press that the offer was accepted Wednesday.

Arrest affidavits note the Perry Upper Elementary School students detailed how Arnold Cowen, 87, fondled them in 2016 and 2017, sometimes during "lengthy hugs and inappropriate touches."

Cowen was charged with 20 counts of lewd or indecent acts to children under 16 and one count of aggravated possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to all charges last February and is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

"The girls had been silenced by faculty and teachers," said Cameron Spradling, an attorney for the victims and their families. "There was no doubt that these children were molested and (the school district) admitted it. There's no doubt that they were responsible for allowing that to happen. They did everything wrong."

One of those officials, the school's ex-principal, was put on five years' probation in March for failing to report the misconduct. Kenda Miller, 51, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of failure to promptly report child abuse or neglect after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors. She resigned in June 2017.

•••

Bloomberg: $1M gift to shine light on Tulsa Race Massacre

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he hopes a $1 million donation for public art in Tulsa will bring needed attention to an ugly part of America's past.

Money for the Greenwood Art Project will fund temporary artworks commemorating Black Wall Street, an area largely destroyed during deadly racial violence in 1921. Estimates of those slain vary widely, from three dozen to more than 300.

Bloomgberg, a potential candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, joined Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and artist Rick Lowe on Thursday to celebrate the gift from the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Public Art Challenge , announced earlier this week .

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission is a partner in the project.

Bloomberg also met with Moms Demand Action volunteers and survivors of gun violence in Tulsa.

•••

Bodies discovered in Oklahoma identified as Texas residents

OKEMAH, Okla. (AP) — Authorities say two bodies found this week in shallow graves in rural Oklahoma have been positively identified as a missing woman and man from central Texas.

Police in Temple, Texas, said Thursday that Oklahoma's medical examiner has positively identified the bodies as 28-year-old Jenna Scott and 32-year-old Michael Swearingin, confirming a preliminary police investigation.

No arrest has been made.

The friends had been missing since Jan. 4. Their bodies were recovered Tuesday in Okfuskee County, about 75 miles (121 kilometers) east of Oklahoma City. Their families had been searching for them in Bell County, Texas, before investigators were led to the remote area where the bodies were discovered.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office didn't immediately respond to an email request for additional details about its investigation, including how the pair died.

•••

Company working to retrieve $500K hemp seized by police

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (AP) — The president of a medical-grade hemp company in Colorado is working with authorities in Oklahoma to get back a shipment of about 18,000 pounds (more than 8,000 kilograms) of hemp that was seized by police.

The Daily Camera reports that Panacea Life Sciences President Jamie Baumgartner says the shipment is worth $500,000 and is not insured.

Pawhuska Police Chief Rex Wikel says the department doesn't know if it's hemp or marijuana.

Baumgartner is trying to find out what documents he needs to get back his hemp.

Baumgartner called the seizure a test case to provide clarity about the interstate transfer of hemp.

Baumgartner's company had ordered hemp from Kentucky that was being shipped to Colorado via Oklahoma. Baumgartner says the transportation company was avoiding traveling through Kansas and Nebraska under instructions from state transportation officials.

•••

Firm: Oklahoma securities agency's computer files breached

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An investigation has been launched after a cybersecurity research team discovered a computer server operated by the Oklahoma agency that protects investors had left millions of files unsecured and open to the public, the agency's administrator said Thursday.

Oklahoma Department of Securities Administrator Irving Faught said a forensic team is conducting "a thorough and intensive investigation" to determine the type and number of files that may have been exposed by the breach and who may have accessed them. Faught said he hopes to have the results by the end of next week.

Faught says the breach happened during the installation of a computer firewall designed to keep data secure.

"The whole point of this was to prevent any breach and not make it vulnerable," he said.

The UpGuard Data Breach Research team found that millions of files could have been accessed by virtually anyone. The data included details about FBI investigations and information about those involved in the exchange of financial securities. One database contained about 10,000 Social Security numbers of brokers, UpGuard said.

Data involving FBI investigations "appears to be limited and has minimal association to any ongoing law enforcement activity," FBI spokeswoman Andrea Anderson said in a statement.

The server had been active and open since at least November, according to UpGuard's report. Researchers found the server on Dec. 7 and notified the department the next day. Public access to the server was removed immediately but UpGuard said it's not clear whether anyone else accessed the server.

The oldest data was generated in 1986 and it was most recently modified in 2016, the report said.