On Tuesday the Justice Department charged 50 people, including celebrities and business leaders, with participating in nationwide bribery and fraud schemes that allowed their children to be admitted into top universities despite lacking the necessary qualifications. As the New York Times reports, parents, college preparatory businesses, university officials, and coaches paid and accepted bribes in order to secure spots at various competitive universities. The schemes were fractured and complex – sometimes a test proctor was bribed to adjust a student’s standardized test score, other times a coach was bribed to falsely label a student as an athletic recruit. The common denominator in the sprawling schemes was the exchange of significant amounts of money. The Times story describes situations where parents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in at least one case more than $1 million, in order to fraudulently secure a spot for their child at a desirable school. Keep reading for more news.
As WRAL reports, the General Assembly passed and Governor Roy Cooper signed legislation that repeals the 2017 law designed to reduce the number of seats on the Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 over time. When it was passed, the plan to reduce the number of seats on the court caused Judge Doug McCullough to unexpectedly retire from the bench so that his seat would not be eliminated. The enactment of the new law keeping the number of seats on the court at 15 is intended to end litigation over the controversial measure.
As WRAL reports, McCrae Dowless was charged with several felonies this week related to his alleged involvement in the Bladen County absentee ballot saga that has made North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District race a subject of national interest. Dowless was arrested on Wednesday and charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and illegal possession of an absentee ballot. Four other people also were charged for their alleged involvement in the scheme. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said that the investigation is ongoing and that additional charges may be forthcoming. Last week, the State Board of Elections decided that a new election would be held for the congressional seat, and a date for that contest is expected to be announced on Monday. Keep reading for more news.
There were hearings this week before the State Board of Elections regarding the 9th Congressional District race involving alleged absentee ballot fraud. At least one person, Lisa Britt, admitted that she collected dozens of absentee ballots and forged or backdated signatures on the ballots. Candidate Mark Harris’s son John Harris, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, testified that he warned his father that he believed that McCrae Dowless may have been engaging in illegal activity in connection with absentee ballots. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, whose office is involved in the Bladen County investigation in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest from the local DA’s office, said that none of the people testifying before the State Board of Elections has an immunity deal in the parallel criminal investigation. Keep reading for more news.
Governor Roy Cooper announced this week that he will appoint North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Cheri Beasley to replace Mark Martin as Chief Justice when he steps down from the bench later this month. She will be the first black woman to serve as Chief Justice in North Carolina. Beasley has been on the Supreme Court since 2012, and prior to joining the court she served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and as a District Court Judge in Cumberland County. Cooper will appoint another person to Beasley’s current seat at some point in the future. Keep reading for more news.
As the News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer report, dozens of people across North Carolina have been arrested this week by federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers. In Sanford, 27 people were arrested in a raid of Bear Creek Arsenal, a firearms manufacturer. Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said that the investigation at Bear Creek was focused on identity theft and fraud. A few hours after the Sanford raid, undercover ICE agents arrested several people in a series of traffic stops in Charlotte. ICE spokespersons said that the incidents were not part of a coordinated effort. At the end of last year, ICE said that it planned to increase its presence in the Raleigh area in response to Wake Sheriff Gerald Baker’s decision to end the county’s cooperation with ICE detainer requests.
The Greensboro News & Record reports that four jurors in a Guilford County murder trial were followed from a parking area to the courthouse by a man wearing all red clothing, a color associated with a gang. In response to the incidents, Judge David Hall restricted the number of people who could be in the courtroom and ordered officers to be on the lookout for the man. Richard Allen Williamson eventually was detained by courthouse security in the lobby of the building, identified by the jurors, and charged with obstruction of justice. Keep reading for more news.
The ongoing federal government shutdown, now the longest in United States history, is undermining the FBI’s ability to protect the country from criminals and terrorists according to a report released this week by the FBI Agents Association. Entitled “Voices from the Field,” the report contains stories from agents across the country that detail the effect of the shutdown on the FBI’s work. Like other federal workers, agents currently are working without pay. The president of the Agents Association, Thomas O’Connor, appeared on the NewsHour on Tuesday to discuss the report. Keep reading for more news.
As the Asheville Citizen-Times reports, Wanda Greene pleaded guilty this week to several federal criminal offenses arising from her corrupt activity while serving as Buncombe County Manager. With the plea, Greene joins her conspirators and former assistant county managers Jon Creighton and Mandy Stone, as well as her son Michael Greene, in awaiting sentencing for their crimes. As the News Roundup has noted previously, Creighton, Stone, and the Greene’s participated to varying degrees in a range of corrupt schemes including accepting bribes in exchange for awarding county contracts and misusing county funds for their personal benefit. Keep reading for more news.
On Monday, North Carolina leaders attended a ceremonial session of the North Carolina Supreme Court convened to honor the court’s 200th anniversary. The celebratory session featured a documentary video and remarks by current and former justices of the Court. WRAL has a story about the event here and the AOC has a post about it here. Keep reading for more news.