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News Roundup

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Larry Nassar was back in Michigan court this week for another sentencing hearing arising from a November guilty plea to three counts of criminal sexual conduct.  The New York Times says that 65 women are scheduled to speak at this hearing.  USA Today reports that the Nassar case has caused Texas Governor Greg Abbott to direct the Texas Rangers to investigate the Karolyi Ranch, a former National Training Center for USA Gymnastics run by Bela and Marta Karolyi.  Several victims have alleged that Nassar abused them at the ranch.  Keep reading for more news.

Sentencing Hearings.  The New York Times article referenced above notes that in a contrast to the sensational hearing that received widespread attention over the past two weeks, Judge Janice K. Cunningham’s commentary during Nassar’s current hearing has been “concise and subdued, primarily expressing appreciation for the victim’s bravery.”

Reaction to the conduct of Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina during Nassar’s previous hearing has been a mix of praise and criticism, as Aquilina made no secret of her disdain for Nassar throughout that hearing.  The Lansing State Journal has an article with both perspectives on Aquilina’s conduct here; Vox has a critical op-ed here.  The Vox piece notes that Aquilina seemed to state at one point during the proceeding that she would’ve allowed Nassar to be sexually abused as punishment for his crimes, if not for the Eighth Amendment.

Pasquotank Report.  According to WRAL, a report from the National Institute of Corrections suggests that understaffing at Pasquotank Correctional Institution caused prison employees to “cut corners in ways that created opportunities for mayhem” during the time period leading up to the deadly escape attempt at the prison last year.  The NIC report is available here.  The report says that when asked whether they felt safe working at Pasquotank, “most interviewees stated emphatically that they did not.”  It also says that a “common response” to the question of why the violent escape attempt happened was that there was “an overwhelming shortage of security staff” at the prison.

Blitzer.  An article in the Greensboro News & Record describes continuing fallout regarding former Rockingham County District Attorney Craig Blitzer, who pleaded guilty last year to failing to discharge the duties of his office.  The News & Record says that interim District Attorney Tom Keith has discovered a variety of problems with some convictions obtained by Blitzer, including that some defendants were charged with crimes that weren’t supported by evidence.  The report also suggests that Blitzer may have improperly ordered the destruction of certain case files.

Three Winners.  The Durham Herald-Sun reports that the Chapel Hill Town Council passed a resolution on Wednesday night declaring February 10 “Our Three Winners Day” in honor of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha, the three young people who were murdered in Chapel Hill three years ago as part of a parking dispute that some say was animated by ethnic or religious hate.  Our Three Winners Day is intended to motivate people to follow the example set by the victims during their lives by engaging in acts of community service.

K-9 Equipment.  WRAL reports that the K-9 officers serving with the Durham County Sheriff’s Department have been issued new protective equipment.  Spike’s K9 Fund provided the department with four custom fitted canine ballistic vests worth about $2,500 each.

K-9 Recruits. WLOS says that the Yancey County Sheriff’s Department will soon have a new K-9 officer on duty.  Corporal Austin Wilson and his new partner “Jackie” have started work on the final certification required before Jackie officially hits the streets in a law enforcement capacity.  Tragically, Wilson’s previous K-9 partner “Chris” was shot and killed in his kennel in July of last year.  The Sheriff’s Department and the SBI continue to investigate Chris’s death.

While Jackie is nearly ready to roll, the newest member of the Nash County Sheriff’s Department is still wet behind the ears.  “Pebbles” the bloodhound joined the department Wednesday, but as the pictures indicate, Pebbles has yet to develop into a mature crime fighting machine.

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