News Roundup

As the New York Times reports, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument this week in Packingham v. North Carolina, a case that presents the question of whether prohibiting sex offenders from accessing social networking websites, as North Carolina does with G.S. 14-202.5, violates the First Amendment.  If you’re not up to speed on Packingham, check out Jamie’s 2013 post discussing the North Carolina Court of Appeals decision holding G.S. 14-202.5 facially unconstitutional, and then check out Jeff’s 2015 News Roundup entry explaining the North Carolina Supreme Court’s subsequent reversal of the lower appellate court.  A transcript of the oral argument is available here and a SCOTUSblog argument analysis, suggesting that the Justices were skeptical of the constitutionality of the law, is available here.  Keep reading for more news.

New Trial for Arnold O. Jones.  WRAL reports that former superior court judge Arnold O. Jones has been granted a new trial after being convicted last year on federal bribery charges.  Jones allegedly agreed to pay a Wayne County deputy $100 to provide him with copies of his wife’s text messages.  The WRAL story says that the judge who granted the new trial did not state a basis for the decision.

Hartsell Pleads Guilty.  The News & Observer reports that former state senator Fletcher Hartsell pleaded guilty late last week to federal charges arising from his use of campaign funds for personal expenses over an eight-year period.  Hartsell will be sentenced in May. He also faces state charges which were on hold during the federal case but that will now proceed, according to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Opioid Conversation.  Though we don’t yet know whether sex offenders lawfully may participate, the News & Observer reports that Attorney General Josh Stein is hoping to start a social media conversation about opioid misuse and addiction.  Stein reportedly has asked people to use the hashtag “#opioidsurvivor” on Twitter and Facebook to share their experiences with opioids.

Wapner Passes.  Joseph A. Wapner, a self-described “ordinary judge from California” who became a television icon and, at one time, the most recognizable judge in America, died on Sunday at the age of 97.  The L.A. Times has an obituary here that recounts some of Wapner’s memorable cases and his influence on American pop culture.

Struggles After Exoneration.  WRAL has an article this week that looks at the challenges of living free after exoneration.  The article describes the experiences of three North Carolina men who were imprisoned for lengthy periods of time before being exonerated and released.  Each of the men, Howard Dudley, Dwayne Dail, and LaMonte Armstrong, have encountered unexpected difficulties assimilating back into society after their release from prison.

Drone Problems.  The Verge says that a Seattle man was sentenced to 30 days in jail for knocking a woman unconscious with a drone he was operating that crashed into a parade.  Paul Skinner, the owner of an aerial photography business, was found guilty of reckless endangerment, and his drone-related jail sentence may be the first in the United States.

Back here in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reports that a bill has been introduced in the General Assembly that criminalizes flying a drone near correctional facilities.  As the Observer reports, “[t]hose who use drones to deliver weapons or other contraband could be charged with felonies, while others who simply fly drones near prisons could be charged with misdemeanors.”

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