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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The General Assembly’s gonna make you ladies wait a bit to get your abortions, that’ll learn ya

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2015 at 3:49 PM

Patience grew thin on Jones Street Thursday as amendments were denied and debate was limited in the Senate's second reading of House Bill 465, the not-at-all-Orwellian-titled “Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015,” which would extend the waiting period for women seeking abortions from 24 to 72 hours.  The bill, which has already cleared the House and today passed its second reading in the Senate by a 31-15 margin, would give North Carolina one of the longest waiting periods in the country, alongside Missouri, South Dakota and Utah. Twenty-six states, including North Carolina, have these sorts of waiting periods,...

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UNC will rename Saunders Hall

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2015 at 11:17 AM

UNC-Chapel HIllAs expected, UNC-Chapel Hill announced Thursday morning that the university would rename controversial Saunders Hall, a 1922 building named after a former KKK leader in North Carolina. Members of the school's board of trustees voted to change the building's name to Carolina Hall, the university said, also enacting a 16-year freeze on the renaming of historic buildings. The university's Twitter account said that the freeze would allow time for "education" and "curation" efforts. The school's former history building was named for William Lawrence Saunders, a UNC graduate who fought in the Civil War and went on to serve as...

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

N.C. Legislature: Blood sports must wait until after noon on the Sabbath

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 6:14 PM

OK, compared to the two most horrific bills of the week—one allowing God-fearing magistrates to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and the other to force womenfolk to wait three days before getting a legal abortion—the killing-Bambi-on-the-Lord's Day legislation seems minor. But this ridiculous bill provides yet another glimpse into the minds of the gun-lovin', gay-hatin', mansplain' lawmakers. (Hat tip to WRAL, who managed to report this story without irony.) Under the measure, hunters with guns must wait until noon on Sundays to shoot animals, but they can still do their killing on the Sabbath. This levels the playing field...

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Bertie County prisoner abuse lawsuit moves forward

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 7:00 AM

An inmate at Bertie County Correctional Institute will have his day in court after accusing three correctional officers of beating him to the point of vision loss during a cell extraction videotaped by one of the guards. Sgt. David Mansfield, one of the three defendants in the inmate's lawsuit, attempted to block the video camera's line of sight during the alleged beating, rendering an SBI investigation inconclusive. But the video still captured certain elements of the incident, including punching, blood, shackles and facial injuries. Inmate Sammy Ussery filed an excessive force lawsuit 2011. The guards, represented by Attorney General Roy Cooper's...

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Durham man suggests police entrapped him into drug deal

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2015 at 7:00 AM

A Durham man caught selling cocaine to a police informant has filed an appeal brief suggesting that the police entrapped him.  Milton Morgan, a 63-year-old Navy veteran with no criminal record, was approached by the confidential police informant twice in one day, even though he was not a bona fide drug dealer. In his appeal brief, flied last month, Morgan argued that his trial judge should have instructed the jury to consider an entrapment defense during his trial. We covered the case last year. At the direction of DPD, informant Jennifer Burrage traveled to Duke Manor Apartments with a hidden...

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Friday, May 22, 2015

N.C. House approves $5 million for police body cams

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2015 at 11:45 AM

Creative Commons LicenseIn North Carolina and nationwide, the debate over police body cameras rages on. State lawmakers made a modest splash on the subject during Thursday's marathon budget talks in the state House, allotting $5 million in grant funding over the next two years for body cameras and the requisite training. It's a matching grant, so local and county law enforcement agencies will have to offer up $2 of local funds for every $1 of state dollars. The amendment—proposed by Rep. Edward Hanes Jr., D-Forsyth, and Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg—passed 109-2. Just two Republicans from western North Carolina voted against...

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dirty Durham: Dry cleaning solvents leaked into part of Trinity Park

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2015 at 11:05 AM

Five years ago, several people who lived along Dollar Avenue in Durham’s Trinity Park neighborhood learned they may have been exposed to a toxic chemical used in dry cleaning. At best, long-term exposure to the chemical, tetracholoroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or perc, can cause liver and kidney damage. At worst, cancer. Tonight, residents can learn more about the status of the contamination clean up—also known as remediation—at a meeting sponsored by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In 2010, N.C. DENR began cleaning up the contamination at the former One Hour Martinizing, 1103 W. Club Blvd.,...

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Court of Appeals rules against N&O in libel lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 11:30 AM

A libel lawsuit against The News & Observer, brought by a former State Bureau of Investigation ballistics expert who claimed she was wrongfully defamed, will move toward a trial. The N.C. Court of Appeals had considered dismissing the suit after an oral argument last November. But in an opinion issued yesterday, the three-member panel of judges determined there was enough evidence for a jury to consider whether the plaintiff, Beth Desmond, was libeled in two articles published in 2010. One of those articles, "SBI relies on bullet analysis that critics deride as unreliable," was part of an investigative series that revealed...

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Judge temporarily halts fracking permitting in North Carolina

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Creative Commons LicenseWake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens has ordered North Carolina to cease accepting or processing fracking permits, pending an ongoing legal battle over the constitutionality of the state's appointed Mining and Energy Commission (MEC). The Southern Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit that specializes in legal work on environmental issues, announced the injunction Wednesday morning. The legal move effectively reinstated North Carolina's drilling moratorium, which lawmakers voted to lift last year. The decision stemmed from a suit brought by the Haw River Assembly in Chatham County and one Lee County landowner. Lawyers for the two parties used Gov....

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How much will this dumb jail guard cost Wake taxpayers?

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 10:27 AM

Above is video from the Wake County Detention Center in 2012, which went viral after prosecutors charged the guard who is doing the body-slamming, Markeith Council, with killing Shon D. McClain, a 5-foot-6, 145-pound inmate in jail awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of drinking in public and failing to appear in court. (The estate is being represented by attorney and N.C. Senate Minority Leader Daniel Blue Jr.) In 2013, Council was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and slapped on the wrist: three months behind bars followed by probation.  On Monday, McClain’s sister filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf against...

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

N.C. “Ag-gag” bill heads to Gov. McCrory’s desk

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2015 at 6:29 PM

The Property Protection Act—the bill with sweeping implications for ordinary workers, as well as farm animals—passed the full Senate Monday. Under the bill, employers could sue their employees if they report animal abuse or labor or safety violations in their workplaces. Senators rejected an amendment from Wake County Sen. Josh Stein that would have allowed workers and whistleblowers to use the fact that their employer broke the law as a defense in court. The bill now goes to Gov. McCrory’s desk for his signature. Meanwhile, animal rights groups and labor activists have roundly called on the Governor to veto...

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Smart phone app for taping police now available

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2015 at 1:06 PM

Creative Commons LicensePolice accountability, and how best to ensure fairness and transparency from our most scrutinized civil servants, is a hot topic these days. Entering the fray, the ACLU of N.C. has released a free smart phone application which will allow users to record videos of police interactions and submit those videos to the ACLU if they believe police are acting inappropriately or violating someone's civil rights. The app, Mobile Justice NC, will transmit videos to the organization and preserve those tapes even if the user's phone is seized or destroyed, the ACLU said. It can be downloaded through Apple's...

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Hatgate returns to court

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2015 at 7:00 AM

Hold onto your hats! The N.C. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this morning for Wetherington v. North Carolina Department of Public Safety, AKA "Hat Gate," which we featured two years ago. It's a bizarre case involving a N.C. state trooper who lost his Highway Patrol-issued campaign hat during a traffic stop. He lied to his superiors about why it went missing, and then came clean during a tearful confession. Trooper Thomas Wetherington's dishonesty got him fired. But he  fought back, arguing that it's ridiculous for a trooper to lose a his job over a $25 hat. In 2013 the...

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Duke Energy pleads guilty for its coal ash spills

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 10:30 AM

"Guilty." Julia Janson, chief legal officer for Duke Energy, had to say that word over and over in a federal courthouse in Greenville Thursday as the giant utility pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor violations of the federal Clean Water Act. As expected, the company will be required to pay $102 million in fines and restitution for its crimes, part of a plea agreement Duke attorneys reached with federal prosecutors following last year's 39,000-ton coal ash spill in Eden's Dan River. Duke was also facing criminal charges brought by federal prosecutors for illegal ash discharges at their Mount Holly, Asheville,...

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Turning the Durham Downtown Loop two-way: What do you think?

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 10:16 AM

The idea for transforming Durham's Downtown Loop began to crystallize last night as as group of developers and urban designers unveiled sketches of what such a metamorphosis would look like.  This version of the Loop plan has been updated, as of May 18. In March, developers, including Church & Cleveland Partners, urban planners, the city, county and several downtown residents met to discuss the implications of turning the Loop two-way. (This includes Roxboro and Mangum streets.) The project is estimated at $12 million on the low end to $35 million for the gussied-up version, paid for by bonds and...

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Initial sketches of new Durham Police Department show way to save Carpenter Building

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 4:13 PM

I wish I could say I have confidence in the appearance of the new Durham Police Department headquarters. But at last night's public input meeting—at which the public was supposed to comment—there were no labels on the streets, the buildings, the green space, the parking deck or the big blue slab that appeared on some of the renderings. What are we supposed to make sense of this? O'Brien/Atkins Architecture presented the six drawings, sans labels, for the proposed $62 million complex. It will be built on four and a half acres on a lot bordered by East Main, Elizabeth, Hood...

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Rowan man Donald Ray Morgan sentenced for supporting ISIS

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 3:10 PM

Donald Ray Morgan, 44, of Rowan County, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.  Beginning last year, Morgan knowingly attempted to provide support, resources and services to ISIS, according to Ripley Rand, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina.. On at least one occasion Morgan unsuccessfully attempted to travel from Lebanon to Syria to join the terrorist organization, said Rand. Morgan also frequently used social media and an interview with an international journalist to express his support for ISIS and violent terrorist activities. A guilty...

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State Bar files complaint against director of innocence organization

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 7:09 AM

The North Carolina State Bar on Monday filed a complaint against Chris Mumma, the executive director of the Durham-based North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, alleging that she violated professional conduct rules in a case that set an innocent man free. The alleged violation did not factor into the end result in the case of Joseph Sledge, who spent nearly four decades behind bars for a double-murder he did not commit. He was exonerated in January by a panel of judges after a jailhouse informant recanted his testimony and new evidence proved Sledge’s innocence. Mumma served as Sledge's lawyer. The...

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

State higher ed funding down 23 percent. Sure, let’s have another tax cut!

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2015 at 11:28 AM

So there’s this new report out today from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities bemoaning all the cuts made to higher-education funding throughout the country since the Great Recession took hold in 2008. Adjusted for inflation, the report finds:  Forty-seven states — all except Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming — are spending less per student in the 2014-15 school year than they did before the recession. States cut funding deeply after the recession hit. The average state is spending $1,805, or 20 percent, less per student than before the recession. Per-student funding in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and...

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Tonight: Give your input about new Durham Police headquarters

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2015 at 8:08 AM

Tonight we get to see what's behind Door No. 1 in the designs for the new Durham Police headquarters on East Main Street. A second public input meeting about the new $62 million DPD headquarters is scheduled for Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 7 at the Durham Armory, 212 Foster St. This is a drop-in meeting, meaning the community can attend at any time during those hours. At an April 16 community input sessions, many residents said they are very concerned about how the Durham Police headquarters will affect the vibe of the eastern edge of downtown. On one hand,...

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Raleigh City Council votes unanimously to deny "Publix" rezoning

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2015 at 8:40 PM

Finally—after a year and a half, much drama, changed up plans and Lord knows how many traffic impact studies—Raleigh's City Council voted against a developer's proposed rezoning of the parcel of land at the intersection of Dunn and Falls of Neuse Roads. More than 300 North Raleigh residents showed up to a public hearing at City Hall Tuesday evening to witness the final nail being hammered into the rezoning coffin. A petition with 3, 733 signatures from residents opposed to the proposal was delivered to Council members at the hearing. Residents say they would like to see development under the...

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Michael Tyrone Gallagher dies after being struck by police Taser in Halifax County

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2015 at 1:16 PM

A man died this weekend after being struck by a Taser fired by an officer with the Enfield Police Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has reported. The town of Enfield is located in Halifax County, 70 miles northeast of Raleigh. The decedent was Michael Tyrone Gallagher, 55, of Midlothian, Virginia. At approximately 11:04 p.m. on Saturday, EPD Lt. Jerry Powell, 52, responded to the 100 block of Whitfield Street in Enfield regarding a breaking-and-entering in progress at a local business, where he encountered Gallagher. After a confrontation, Powell and a witness became engaged in a physical altercation with...

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Controversial North Raleigh "Publix" rezoning case is dead

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2015 at 12:30 PM

The whispers and rumors floating around this morning about the rezoning request for the Dunn Road parcel at Falls of Neuse being withdrawn are true. Morgan Property Group, which has been pushing to rezone the land for a year and half—first for a Publix grocery store, then for a smaller, organic food store with possible residential development—has cancelled its plans, after facing widespread opposition from North Raleigh residents. A public hearing on the case is scheduled for Tuesday.  Mack Paul, the attorney for Morgan Property Group, confirmed to the News and Observer that he intended to withdraw the rezoning proposal...

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Friday, May 8, 2015

N.C. “Ag-Gag” bill has sweeping implications for all workers

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 1:54 PM

The newest iteration of North Carolina’s Ag-Gag bill could extend beyond factory farms and slaughterhouses in policing employees’ behavior at work. Senate Bill 433— introduced by three Republicans including Duplin County Sen. Brent Jackson, who has tried unsuccessfully twice before to target undercover investigators exposing abuse in the state’s factory farms—holds employees accountable to a “duty of loyalty” to their employer. Under the bill, known as the Property Protection Act, employees would be held liable for filming or making a digital recording on their employer’s premises. This of course covers factory farms and slaughterhouses, where workers would be banned...

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Voting rights groups accuse N.C. of breaking federal voter registration law

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 12:21 PM

Creative Commons LicenseBetween 2007 and 2012, public agencies in North Carolina helped to register an average of 38,400 residents annually. Since Gov. Pat McCrory took office in 2013, that number has plunged to about 16,000. That's one of several troubling allegations made Friday by voting rights groups accusing the state of failing to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Perhaps better known as the "motor voter" law, it requires that public assistance agencies, disability services agencies and motor vehicle offices offer to assist with voter registration. In a letter to N.C. State Board of Elections Executive Director...

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