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Schuylkill County’s Top Stories in 2021

It was a busy news year and these were our top stories in 2021.

It’s New Year’s Day 2022 and we’re like everyone else, ready to formally put 2021 in the rear view.

But before we do, we have to look back at the top stories for the year. And it was one heck of a year for big stories.

Top 5 Stories of 2021 in Schuylkill County

We had a difficult time picking the top story of the year. There were a couple storylines that were just impossible to ignore.

So, here it goes, from 1-10 …

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1. 4 Women Sue George Halcovage, Schuylkill Courthouse Officials for Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

After being dogged by allegations through much of 2020, in March, 4 anonymous Schuylkill County Courthouse employees filed a federal civil lawsuit claiming sexual harassment and discrimination against Commissioner George Halcovage and other County officials.

The lawsuit detailed some shocking allegations against the current Commissioner Halcovage and how other officials ignored complaints and even retaliated against the whistleblowers.

Halcovage has continued to deny all allegations against him.

And even though a trial from this lawsuit isn’t expected to begin until at least later in 2022, the story hasn’t gone away.

Because of his refusal to resign amid the allegations, Halcovage now faces impeachment and/or removal from office thanks to two separate investigations into his alleged behavior in office from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the state Senate.

In the meantime, the Courthouse is accused of retaliating against the women who filed the lawsuit. Two of them have been suspended indefinitely from their jobs and at one point, the Commissioners tried to fire them.

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This story isn’t going away in 2022 by any stretch.

Here’s a look back at some of the top stories from this 2021 story arc:

 

2. Mahanoy Area Cheerleader Wins Free Speech Case Before US Supreme Court

Brandi Levy, a former Mahanoy Area High School cheerleader, had a bad day a few years ago. She’d just been relegated to the JV cheer team and decided to voice her frustrations on social media.

The Snapchat message she sent that day has now gone viral and her right to send it without getting punished as she did – suspended from the cheer team for a whole year – went before the US Supreme Court in 2021.

Mahanoy Area appealed lower court rulings that said Levy had the right to post what she did that day. But the Supreme Court justices denied the school’s appeal and agreed with lower courts.

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Here’s our coverage of this huge story in 2021:

3. Tamaqua Defies State Mask Mandate

In late-August, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health imposed what would eventually be determined to be an illegal mask mandate in schools across the state. This was after the state allowed schools to make up their own mind on the issue prior to the start of the 2021-22 school term.

Every school except Gillingham Charter chose to make masks optional in school but all but one – in the entire state – followed right along with the state mandate. That lone rebel was Tamaqua Area, where board president Larry Wittig took a vocal stance against imposing the mask mandate.

That decisions inflamed the liberals in Harrisburg, who then threatened to pull funding from Tamaqua if it continued to defy the mandate handed down. Eventually, Tamaqua did choose to impose the mandate but made opting out of it very simple for parents and students.

Tamaqua’s bold stance initially mirrored how many parents who attended school board meetings at that time felt. Elected officials in numerous districts face strong verbal backlash for submitting to the state’s heavy hand yet again and were urged to follow Tamaqua’s lead.

We were all over the place covering mask debates in 2021. Here’s our coverage of Tamaqua’s situation:

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4. Pat Murphy’s Alleged Killer Appears on Netflix Series

This story couldn’t be more 2021 if it tried.

Schuylkill County, collectively, is still waiting to see how the murder case involving the woman alleged to have killed Pottsville businessman Patrick Murphy back in early-2019. By the time his alleged killer, Magen Hall, eventually does go to trial, she’ll have been in prison for more than 3 years.

And in the last year, locals were shocked to see Hall being featured in a Netflix mini-series, Jailbirds: New Orleans.

That all just sounds so surreal.

While Hall didn’t say much about the night Murphy died, viewers did get a look at her and got to see her communicate through a toilet with incarcerated men in the Orleans Parish Justice Center.

Confused? You won’t be after you read our report on the series:

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5. Schuylkill County Man Killed in Alleged Brutal Route 61 Road Rage Incident

This has to be one of the most brutal scenes in Schuylkill County in recent memory.

Back in April, two drivers were reportedly traveling south on Route 61 in West Brunswick Twp. After a series of back-and-forth hand gestures, two men emerged from the vehicles and physical fight ensued.

In the end, George Marcincin, of Orwigsburg, was stabbed multiple times to death. Police quickly nabbed the suspect after the road rage incident.

The Best of the Rest

That’s some big news for 2021. And consider we didn’t even get a chance to talk about some other big stories last year.

There was that horrifying report on alleged child abuse in Minersville.

And Tamaqua wasn’t only in the news this year because of it defying the Dept. of Health. Toward the end of the year, 3 students were suspended and then expelled for their alleged role in a hazing incident just off the school’s campus.

Of course, Schuylkill County government shenanigans couldn’t be ignored over the last year.

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Over the summer, Alvernia University announced plans to build a new campus right in downtown Pottsville at the former GIANT supermarket.

How about Yuengling’s westward expansion? That’s a huge step for the Pottsville company and America’s oldest brewer.

 

What a busy news year in Schuylkill County! And 2022 promises to be huge.

 

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MORE 2021 YEAR IN REVIEW:

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