As Charlottesville newspaper The Daily Progress reports, late last week a Virginia jury convicted James Alex Fields Jr. of first-degree murder and several other charges arising from his attack on people gathered to protest a white supremacist rally in August of last year. On Tuesday, the jury recommended that Fields be sentenced to life in prison for the offenses. In a violent bookend to an already disturbing series of events in Charlottesville, Fields drove a car into a crowd of protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others. Fields also faces federal hate crime charges, though a trial date for those charges has not yet been set. Keep reading for more news.
Allegations of ballot fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District are major national news this week. As the Associated Press reports, the state elections board has refused to certify the results of the race between Mark Harris and Dan McCready because of “claims of numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities” involving a woman who allegedly went to people’s homes to collect their absentee ballots, some of which were not signed or sealed. The AP story says that Wake County DA Lorrin Freeman has been investigating voting irregularities in Bladen County, a portion of which is in the 9th District, since last January. Keep reading for more news.
Bob Farb’s Arrest, Search, and Investigation in North Carolina for years has been an indispensable resource for people who work in the North Carolina criminal justice system. The book is a comprehensive treatment of the law governing the investigation of criminal offenses in our state and is widely relied upon by law enforcement officers, district attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, and judges.
The Washington Post reports that sixteen U.S. Postal Service employees have been sentenced for their participation in a drug trafficking scheme in the Atlanta area. The Post story says that mail carriers and clerks accepted bribes to facilitate the transportation of cocaine, intercepting and hand delivering packages of contraband during the course of their normal mail delivery duties. The story also notes that while the Atlanta situation involving employees knowingly participating in drug distribution is unusual, drug traffickers increasingly are distributing their products through the mail and prefer using the Postal Service to private commercial carriers. Keep reading for more news.
With Thanksgiving upon us, North Carolinians are preparing for a long holiday weekend and this will be the last post of the week for the blog. We hope our readers have a relaxing time with friends and family. Of course, a prerequisite to relaxation is safe travel during this historically busy time on the state’s highways. WLOS reports that beginning on Wednesday the State Highway Patrol will station troopers every 20 miles on I-40 to ensure that everyone is following the rules of the road. The NC DOT says that law enforcement officers across the state are conducting a Thanksgiving “Click it or Ticket” campaign – last year’s effort involved 428 checkpoints and the discovery of more than 40,000 traffic and criminal violations (#pulledover). Enjoy the holiday and keep reading for more news.
The first News Roundups published in each of the last two years have noted that increasing bipartisan support for federal criminal justice reform had caused many to believe that an overhaul of the system was imminent. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced his support for a legislative package known as the First Step Act that would bring significant changes to the federal system. News reports say that, among other things, the legislation would reduce the severity of the federal “three strikes” penalty, make the reduced sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine retroactive, and allow judges greater discretion to avoid imposing mandatory minimum sentences in some cases. The bill also would create programs to improve prison conditions, including prohibiting the shackling of pregnant inmates. Keep reading for more news.
With the midterm elections and the resignation of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, there was a lot of news this week. At the time of writing, however, those stories were being reported below the fold as the nation grappled again with the uniquely American recurring tragedy of a mass shooting. As the L.A. Times reports, Ian David Long killed 12 people and injured 18 others at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, on Wednesday night before killing himself. Many of the victims were college students at the bar for line-dancing lessons and birthday celebrations. Keep reading for more news.
On Saturday morning a man armed with an AR-15 style rifle and several handguns killed 11 people and wounded 6 others, including 4 police officers, in an attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Reports indicate that the perpetrator, Robert D. Bowers, shouted anti-Semitic slurs during the incident and the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement that the shooting was believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States. Bowers, who was taken into custody after exchanging fire with law enforcement officers, has been charged with numerous federal and state offenses including hate crimes and murder. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
This week several pipe bombs were mailed to political figures and political activists. A series of similar manila envelopes containing suspected explosives and bearing the return address of former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz were sent to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, John Brennan, George Soros, and Robert De Niro. Suspicious packages also were sent to Maxine Waters and Joe Biden. None of the devices exploded or otherwise injured anyone; the story was developing quickly at the time of writing. President Donald Trump called the attempted bombings “despicable acts” and said that “threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.” Trump later made statements suggesting that the news media was to blame for feelings of hostility in the nation. Keep reading for more news.
The disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi captured international headlines this week with news reports suggesting that Khashoggi was the victim of a state-sponsored hit that reads like something from a spy novel. Khashoggi is a prominent journalist who was living in the United States after fleeing Saudi Arabia late last year. He disappeared upon entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey earlier this month to obtain marriage documents, and it is widely suspected that he was murdered and dismembered there by highly trained Saudi security operatives and a forensic specialist. Saudi officials have denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. Keep reading for more news.