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CITY/REGION

Posted: July 29, 2012

PHILADELPHIA

Three women attacked

Three women - one of whom is 78 - were sexually assaulted within three hours between Thursday night and early Friday, police in the Special Victims Unit said.

About 10 p.m., a 43-year-old woman was groped as she walked eastbound on Green Street near 19th in Spring Garden, police said. She said the man ran off after he touched her.

An hour later, police said, a man entered the 78-year-old victim's Germantown apartment on Wayne Avenue near Queen Lane through an unlocked door and raped her, then made off with $200 in cash and a money order.

Early Friday morning, a 31-year-old woman told police, a taxi driver groped her about 1 a.m. while she sat in the passenger seat of the cab on Washington Avenue near 8th Street.

Tipsters are asked to call the Special Victims Unit at 215-686-3251, the police tip line at 215-686-TIPS (8477) or 9-1-1. Tipsters may also text information to the department at PPDTIP (773847).

NEW JERSEY

He's sought in shooting

A Gloucester County man is being sought in the shooting late Thursday of a 38-year-old man outside his Franklinville home during a dispute over a woman, authorities said. Police said that they later stopped a car carrying the suspect, Robert Bell, 38, of Williamstown, but he got away after running into nearby woods.

The Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office said attempted murder and related charges have been filed against Bell. He also is sought by Philadelphia police as a fugitive from a halfway house, officials said.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call the county communications center at 856-307-7180 and ask for Detective John Petroski, or call the Franklin Township Police Department at 856-694-1415.

Philadelphia court records show that Bell was sentenced to 2 1/2 to six years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated assault.

PENNSYLVANIA

Pa. appeals gas ruling

Two state agencies are appealing a court ruling that threw out new limitations on the ability of municipalities to use zoning rules to control natural-gas drilling.

The Public Utility Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection filed the appeal late Friday, a day after Commonwealth Court issued its decision that the law's changes unfairly affect people who live near drilling activity.

The appeal asks the state Supreme Court to review whether the plaintiffs were entitled to sue, whether the ruling was based on sound law and whether the lower court should have stopped the law's provisions from being enforced.

Voter-ID challenge

Lawyers challenging Pennsylvania's new voter-ID law on Friday targeted the viability of a special photo-ID card that figures to be central to the state's claim that everyone who needs a valid photo ID to vote in November will be able to get one.

The subject dominated the third day of a hearing in front of Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson, who must decide whether to block the law from taking effect in the Nov. 6 presidential election as part of a wider challenge to its constitutionality.

The 4-month-old law, championed by Republicans, requires every voter to show a valid photo ID, which is a significant departure from current law. It also is the subject of a furious debate over voting rights as Pennsylvania is poised to play a key role in deciding the Nov. 6 presidential election, and Democrats accuse Republicans of raising barriers to voting by requiring unnecessary and time-consuming steps.

Plaintiffs lawyers estimate that at least one million voters - 12 percent of the nearly 8.3 million who are registered - lack valid photo ID under the law. The lawyers question why the photo-ID requirement is even necessary, whether every registered voter will be able to get a valid ID before the election, and whether the state is advertising the law and a new Department of State photo ID appropriately and clearly.

- Phillip Lucas and wire reports

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