News Roundup

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.

Winter Webinar.  With a chill in the air, it’s that time of year when attorneys across the state gather together in the warm glow of computer screens to enjoy the SOG’s Winter Criminal Law Webinar.  This year’s webinar is next Friday, December 7 from 1:30pm to 3:00pm which means that 1.5 hours of CLE credit is available.  The deadline for registration is next Wednesday, December 5, and you can register and get more information about the webinar here.

Presumption of Fear.  This week WRAL has been running a five-part investigative series entitled “Presumption of Fear” that explores North Carolina’s Castle Doctrine in connection with a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Christian Griggs against Pat Chisenhall.  Chisenhall shot and killed Griggs in 2013, claiming that he was acting in self-defense as Griggs, who was married to but separated from Chisenhall’s daughter, attempted to break into his home.  The series is available online here.

Innocence Inquiry Commission.  The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission recently announced that it had unanimously concluded that there was sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review of James Blackmon’s conviction for the 1979 murder of Helena Payton at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh.  The case was referred for a hearing before a three-judge panel of superior court judges.  As this story from the News & Observer explains, Blackmon was arrested in 1983 after making statements connecting himself to the murder while a patient at Dorothea Dix Hospital.  He later pleaded guilty to the crime.

Aguilar Found Dead.  The was a sad development this week in the case of kidnapped teenager Hania Aguilar as authorities announced that a body found in Robeson County had been preliminarily identified as that of the missing teen.  Earlier this month the News Roundup noted that authorities were seeking the public’s help in finding Aguilar after she was kidnapped from her home.  The FBI is assisting state and local agencies in the investigation.

Special Counsel.  There were two notable developments this week in the special counsel investigation into interference in the 2016 presidential election.  On Monday, a joint status report was filed in federal court that alleges that Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement with respect to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering by lying to federal investigators after signing the agreement.  Manafort pleaded guilty to those charges after being convicted by a jury of other charges related to tax and bank fraud.  The Associated Press has the story here.

On Thursday, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 about work he did related to a plan to build a Trump Tower in Russia.  Cohen told the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that discussions of the project ended by January 2016 when, according to his plea, discussions actually continued until June 2016.  The Associated Press has the story here.

Trooper Delivers.  Highway Patrol Trooper Sgt. Brian Maynard made national news this week when he helped a couple deliver a baby in their car after pulling them over for speeding in Wake County as they raced towards a hospital.  As ABC 11 reports, Maynard stopped Jimmy and Laura Baker after clocking them at 85mph, only to discover that Laura was in labor and that the baby’s arrival was imminent.  The Bakers and Maynard delivered a healthy baby girl on Highway 64.

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