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.
Khashoggi. Last month, the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the direction of the Saudi government, was major international news. This week, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced that he was seeking the death penalty for five people suspected to have been involved in the incident, saying that the 15-person team sent to confront Khashoggi in Turkey disregarded orders to return him to Saudi Arabia alive. The move is widely seen as an effort to distance top Saudi officials from the killing which has garnered international condemnation.
NC PRO. Shea recently blogged about a new SOG application called NC Prosecutors’ Resource Online (NC PRO), a digital knowledge base that is a revolutionary update for the NC Prosecutors’ Trial Manual. If you haven’t already, check out Shea’s post and NC PRO itself: https://ncpro.sog.unc.edu/. Before you do that though, take a look at this new video that provides a quick overview of the exciting new tool:
Greensboro Officer Remembered. The Greensboro News & Record reports that the city’s police department has set up a memorial to honor Officer Jared William Franks, who died in the line of duty last weekend. Franks was involved in a vehicle pursuit of a robbery suspect when he lost control of his patrol vehicle and crashed into a house. The News & Record story says that Franks was one of several members of his family who work at the department. His funeral will be held on Saturday in Burlington.
Online and Offline Tension. The Daily Tar Heel reported this week that UNC students who engage in public activism have been subjected to extensive online harassment by a person whose social media accounts were frequently interacted with by Robert Bowers, the perpetrator of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last month. Inside Higher Ed also ran a story about the harassment this week.
Separately, ABC 11 reports that a man is facing criminal charges after assaulting a person who was protesting a Jewish vigil in Chapel Hill on Sunday. The vigil was held to honor the people killed during the synagogue shooting and was disrupted by Cody Gall, who then allegedly was assaulted by a vigil participant.
Time Stands Still. While first dates, wedding dates, and birth dates sometimes slip the mind, there’s one anniversary that North Carolinians never forget – the 150th Anniversary of North Carolina’s 1868 Constitution. On November 19 at the State Capitol, the North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society is presenting an event with appellate court justices and judges, as well as other guest speakers, that shares the legacy of the 1868 Constitution. Part of the event involves a live performance recreating debates and other events surrounding the 1868 Constitutional Convention. The event is free and open to the public; more information is available here.
Viral Story Scam. NBC News reports that a viral story of a homeless good Samaritan and a grateful couple paying it forward actually was a scam. Late last year the story of Johnny Bobbitt Jr. giving his last $20 to a couple who had run out of gas went viral when the couple set up a Go Fund Me campaign for Bobbitt, who was homeless. The story recaptured the nation’s attention when it was alleged that the couple, Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico, scammed Bobbitt out of the money raised by the campaign. This week the story is back in the news and everyone involved is facing criminal charges because it is alleged that the initial story about gas money actually was itself a scam designed to raise money through the Go Fund Me campaign.
Avenatti Arrested. Politico reports that Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, was arrested in Los Angeles this week on domestic violence charges. Details of the alleged incident haven’t yet been made public.
Light Moves. When the lights go out, Winston-Salem Police Officer Aaron Lazusky breaks out the moves – traffic lights and dance moves that is. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Lazusky delighted motorists and kept traffic flowing smoothly at an intersection with malfunctioning traffic lights this week by integrating creative dance moves into his duties. There’s a video at the link.