Google announces Oklahoma expansion, computer science grant

PRYOR, Okla. (AP) — Google has announced a $600 million expansion project at a data center in Pryor, Oklahoma, and a $6 million grant for computer science education for students in 4-H chapters in rural areas of 20 states.

The announcement was made Thursday outside the data center.

The expansion project is expected to add about 100 jobs to the more than 400 now employed at the center that opened in 2011.

National 4-H Council President Jennifer Sirangelo said the grant through will focus on computer science training for an estimated 1 million children in rural areas that have limited access to computer science education.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the grant will be used to teach coding and leadership skills to students.


New campaign seeks to put Medicaid expansion up for a vote

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A statewide coalition has launched a campaign to put the question of whether to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of uninsured Oklahoma residents before voters.

A group of medical professionals, patients, business leaders, nonprofits and health care advocates launched the Oklahomans Decide Healthcare campaign on Wednesday, The Oklahoman reported.

"We're normal, everyday Oklahomans that care about this issue and we're growing every day," said spokeswoman Amber England.

England said the group supports a plan for Oklahoma to obtain about $1 billion annually in federal dollars to expand the state's Medicaid program to as many as 200,000 residents.

Expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act would extend health insurance to those earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level, which is about $33,000 for a family of four. Oklahoma would join 36 other states that have expanded Medicaid.

Roughly 90% of the state's Medicaid expansion would be funded with federal money, but Republican leaders have expressed concern that Oklahoma's share would cost too much.

The coalition will need to collect nearly 178,000 voter signatures to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot.

England refused to disclose the coalition's donors, but said the group would do so when a ballot initiative clears all hurdles and the governor sets an election date.

A conservative think tank is already challenging an initiative petition to put Medicaid expansion up for a vote. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs argues that the ballot proposal unconstitutionally cedes state power to the federal government.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue next week.


Ex-OU president says severing ties was best for university

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Former University of Oklahoma President David Boren said Thursday that he initiated the termination of his contract with the school he led for 24 years because he felt a sexual misconduct probe was damaging the institution.

In his first public statement on the accusations, Boren said he is innocent and was tempted to continue fighting to protect his reputation.

"Last year, I came under a personal attack that was so vicious and relentless that it defied my comprehension," Boren said in a statement released by his lawyer. "As I wrote to the Regents, I felt that it was best to resolve this matter rather than continue a battle which was damaging lives and the University itself."

A former OU student alleges Boren touched and kissed him inappropriately on several occasions almost a decade ago when the man worked as a teaching aide to the former Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator.

The OU Regents announced Wednesday that Boren terminated his contract , which ended the university's probe.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation also is looking into the allegations, and a former U.S. attorney has been appointed as a special counsel to oversee a multicounty grand jury to assist state investigators

Boren's transition agreement with the university called for him to retain the title of president emeritus and gave him the option of continuing to teach a class in the political science department. It also provided him with 400 square feet of office space in the student union, $40,000 for office furnishings, football tickets, club membership, parking privileges and an assistant with a salary of up to $65,000, among other things.


Jury: Man held stepdaughter for 19 years, fathered 9 kids

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) — A 64-year-old man accused of abducting his stepdaughter and holding her captive for 19 years in Mexico and elsewhere while fathering her nine children has been found guilty of kidnapping and other charges.

A jury found Henri Michelle Piette guilty June 6 on federal charges of kidnapping and travel with intent to engage in sexual act with a juvenile, according to federal court records in Muskogee, Oklahoma, about 122 miles (196 kilometers) east of Oklahoma City. No sentencing date was set, but Piette faces up to life in prison on the kidnapping conviction.

Piette still faces state charges of first-degree rape of a victim under age 14, child abuse by injury and two counts of lewd molestation, according to Wagoner County court records. A hearing in that case is scheduled Aug. 7.

A federal grand jury indicted Piette in December 2017 for allegedly kidnapping Rosalynn Michelle McGinnis in 1997 when she was about 11 years old and traveling with the intent to have sex with her. Federal prosecutors said she gave birth to the first child in 2000 when she was 15.

The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who say they have been sexually abused, but McGinnis has discussed her case publicly.

Prosecutors say the victim was kidnapped from her home in eastern Oklahoma where she had been living with her mother, who had been in a relationship with Piette. She conceived two children with Piette while she was younger than 18 and another seven after she turned 18, officials said.

She managed to escape from Piette with her children in July 2016 and went to the U.S. Consular General's Office in Nogales, Mexico, where she secured passports for herself and the children so they could enter the U.S.