Law

Lawsuit Over Cuts for People with Disabilities

Jun 1, 2011

Starting today, people with disabilities who have been getting supported to live at home will start losing their services. That's why Disability Rights North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit to stop the state service cuts from going into effect. 

Disability Rights head Vicki Smith says the cuts affect about 4,000 people around the state who need help with only 2 activities of daily living - such toileting or bathing - to stay at home.  Smith says if the cuts happen, these people will be likely to end up in institutions if they don't have family members available to help

Copper Theft Increasing

May 31, 2011

The Public Works Commission of Fayetteville is reporting problems with thieves breaking into electric substations to steal copper wire. Spokeswoman Carol Justice-Hinson says they’ve had 12 break-ins since April.

Carol Justice-Hinson: "They’re cutting the fence and finding all kinds of creative ways to get in. This isn’t uncommon—I think what’s different right now is that we’ve had so many. For the last two months, its been one right after the other."

Attorney General Roy Cooper objects to the part of the North Carolina Senate's budget proposal that includes an overhaul of the State Bureau of Investigation. The spending plan released this week directs the SBI to move out from under the Attorney General's supervision. A cabinet-level secretary would oversee the bureau and the state crime lab. Some lawmakers have called for the move in light of more than 200 mishandled cases at the SBI's blood unit. Cooper says moving the SBI to another law enforcement agency would not satisfy critics.

A top aide to former Governor Mike Easley has been sentenced to a year in prison for failing to report a thirty thousand dollar profit on his taxes.

 U.S. District Court Judge Terence Boyle sentenced 39-year-old Ruffin Poole to 12 months in prison. He must also pay a thirty thousand dollar fine. Investigators found that Poole used his position as the former governor's aide to speed up the environmental permitting process at a new development in Carteret County.

Dozens of lawyers in North Carolina are taking their names off the list of court-appointed defense attorneys for low-income clients. The state Office of Indigent Services says it is cutting its compensation rate of 75 dollars an hour for defense attorneys. The Office's executive director says the current budget proposal leaves the department with a 12-million dollar shortfall. The department has not yet decided on a new rate of compensation. Attorney John Cox is one of about 15 lawyers from Alamance County who have submitted letters of resignation.

Two North Carolina men convicted of murder say there is new evidence that shows they are innocent. Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in connection with a shooting in Buncombe County more than 10 years ago. They appear before the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission today. That panel is responsible for last year's exoneration of Greg Taylor, who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

The Fayetteville Police Department is changing its search policies in response to accusations of racial profiling. The department stopped and searched three times more black drivers than white ones last year. That concerned local activist groups, who want a review of the traffic stops. Lieutenant Chris Davis says Fayetteville Police are now requiring officers to give a detailed written reason for each search they conduct based on probable cause.

A bill in the North Carolina house would prohibit state employees from receiving retirement benefits if they are convicted of a felony. The measure would apply only to those who are convicted of a crime that took place while working for the state. The crime would also have to be directly related to the individual's office or employment. Republican Representative Julia Howard of Mocksville is one of the bill's sponsors. She says she and others hope a penalty would prevent some crimes from being committed:

Advocates: Raise The Age For Juvenile Offenders

Mar 16, 2011

Advocates for young people were at the legislature yesterday, pressing lawmakers on children's issues.  One issue for advocates is North Carolina's policy of charging 16 and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. 

Brandy Bynum from Action for Children North Carolina says she hears from young people who get caught in the adult system for relatively minor offenses:

Methamphetamine labs are on the rise in North Carolina. That's according to state officials who say drug makers are finding new ways to produce it. The number of meth labs had dropped dramatically in 2007, when state lawmakers passed a bill limiting sales of decongestant medicines containing pseudoephedrine. That's a key ingredient in methamphetamine.

Attorney General Roy Cooper says meth producers are now making the drug in smaller batches to get around the law and avoid detection:

Fayetteville Police officers will receive training from the U.S. Justice Department about how to avoid racial profiling. That's according to city manager Dale Iman. He says he asked for help in response to concerns raised by local activist groups. Statistics from last year show police searched three times more black drivers than white ones in Fayetteville. The Justice Department says that trend holds across the country. Iman says he welcomes the training,  in addition to training from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. 

A group meeting in Durham today will focus on how to protect elderly people from abuse. The coalition is called Partners Eliminating Adult Victimization in Durham. It's one of a growing number of groups across the state. John Margolis is the Adult Protective Services Supervisor for Durham County and a co-chair of the group.

"The statute in North Carolina is more geared towards a disabled adult rather than an elder adult. And for Adult Protective Services to be involved with an elderly individual, there has to be some type of incapacity there."

Raymond Cook has been sentenced to 36 to 53 months for the death of Elena Shapiro. The former plastic surgeon was convicted today of felony death by vehicle.

The jury came back this morning with a unanimous decision on the lesser charge of felony death by vehicle. The prosecutor had been seeking a second-degree murder conviction in the 2009 accident in Raleigh. Cook was driving 75 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone and was also drunk at the time of the crash.

A Durham man has been taken off death row after a Superior Court judge commuted his sentence. Isaac Stroud had been sentenced to die for the 1993 murder of his girlfriend. But his attorneys argued mental illness should have disqualified him from a death sentence. The ruling means Stroud will instead spend life behind bars. Marilyn Ozer is an attorney who’s worked on the case since 2001. 

Wally Harrelson Dies

Feb 9, 2011

Former Guilford County Commissioner Wallace-or Wally-Harrelson has died. He was 74. Harrelson was the County's longtime Public Defender. Colleagues remember him as a mentor and a strong criminal defense lawyer. Howard Neumann, the Chief Assistant District Attorney, worked with Harrelson for 25 years:

"I don't know of anyone who has worked as hard for his clients as Mr. Harrelson did. He was a real, what we call, old-school lawyer. Did it the old fashion way."

Roy Cooper
governor.state.nc.us

People arrested for violent felonies and some misdemeanors dealing with sexual predators will have their DNA entered into the state’s database as part of a new law taking effect February 1st. Attorney General Roy Cooper has been outspoken supporter of the measure.

Medicaid Scammers Yield $53M

Jan 4, 2011

  State investigators recouped more than $53 million last year from Medicaid scammers.

Attorney General Roy Cooper says about half the money came from a settlement with drugmaker Pfizer after investigators found the company was paying kickbacks to doctors to prescribe certain drugs.  The rest came from a long list of smaller cases. Cooper says the Medicaid Investigative Unit netted 22 criminal convictions and 18 civil settlements over the past year.

HSUS: NC Breeders Need Oversight

Dec 29, 2010
Puppy Paradise Facebook page

Animal welfare advocates say Wednesday's fire that killed eight dogs at a commercial breeding facility near Selma could have been avoided by better regulation.   Kim Alboum is North Carolina Director for the Humane Society of the US.  She says state regulation of commercial breeders is so lax, no one even knows how many are in business here. Alboum says the lack of oversight makes North Carolina an attractive place for puppy mills:

Campus Cops In Limbo

Dec 20, 2010

Every year, hundreds of arrests are made by police officers on private college campuses. The offenses range from public intoxication to drunk driving to sexual assault.  The officers making the arrests are fully licensed by the state; they carry firearms; and they are specially trained to work in a community made up mostly of 18 to 22 year olds.  But a case making its way through the North Carolina court system challenges their authority - and offers a different twist on the old arguments about the separation of church and state. 

New Sheriff In Town

Dec 6, 2010
Calvin Woodard
Calvin Woodard For Sheriff

There’s a new sheriff in Wilson County. For the first time in its history, an African-American will be sworn in to lead the law enforcement effort in the county east of Raleigh.

Gambling Goes On As Police Weigh Ban

Dec 1, 2010
Still open
Laura Leslie

A new state law that took effect today makes video sweepstakes gambling illegal. But many parlors are still open and operating around the state. One sweepstakes parlor a block away from the Garner Police Station had six gambling customers at 10:30 this morning.

Drivers will be subject to new laws taking effect today. Most involve licensing and license plates. One law adds a potential $100 penalty for having a license plate frame that covers important information on the plate. And commercial driver licenses will now expire after five years because of hazardous materials regulations. And more laws go into effect January 1st.

Marge Howell with the DMV says licensing laws are being relaxed for older drivers:

No More High-Proof Liquor

Nov 30, 2010

North Carolina's ABC Commission has decided that liquor stores in the state will no longer sell 95% grain alcohol.  The state warehouse currently stocks two 190-proof brands, Everclear and Diesel. A recent study by the Mecklenburg ABC board found that most of its grain liquor is sold at stores near college campuses, where the potent spirits are especially popular.  

State ABC spokeswoman Agnes Stevens says the Commission decided the high-alcohol drinks had no redeeming social value:

Last Day For Video Sweepstakes

Nov 30, 2010
sign on window
Laura Leslie

Today is the last day that video sweepstakes parlors will be legally allowed to operate in North Carolina.  But a judge’s ruling could open the door to other games.

Instant Runoff Count Underway

Nov 29, 2010

Elections officials around the state have started the second phase of vote counting in a Court of Appeals race.

One of this year’s Court of Appeals races is the first statewide contest in the US to use instant runoff voting.  In the general election, voters chose a first, second, and third choice from a field of 13 candidates.   Cressie Thigpen and Doug McCullough were the top two winners as first choice. 

Starting today, elections officials are sorting through ballots on which the first choice was someone else.  Deputy state Elections Director Johnnie McLean:

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