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News Roundup

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As the Associated Press reports, movie producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted by a jury in New York this week of rape and sexual assault offenses against two women.  The verdicts, accompanied by several acquittals on other offenses including on the most serious charges Weinstein faced – two counts of predatory sexual assault, came after five days of deliberation by a jury that indicated at times through notes to the presiding judge that it may deadlock on some counts.  Weinstein was detained in custody following the verdict and is scheduled to be sentenced early next month, where he faces up to 25 years of imprisonment on the sexual assault offense and up to four years on the rape offense.  Other sexual assault charges are pending against Weinstein in California.  Allegations that Weinstein had engaged in a years-long pattern of sexual abuse in his position as a powerful Hollywood producer were widely seen as a touchstone moment in #MeToo movement when they became public in 2017.  Keep reading for more news.

Lynching Hate Crime Legislation.  Time reports that this week the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, legislation that designates lynching as a federal hate crime.  More than 400 members of the House voted for the bill, which was passed by the Senate late last year where it was cosponsored on a bipartisan basis by the three African American members of the Senate, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott.  President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

Consent Searches.  The Greensboro News & Record recently reported that members of the Greensboro City Council have asked the city’s police department to evaluate a sampling of traffic stop cases involving consent searches to determine whether officers are informing motorists that they have the right to refuse a search.  One councilmember expressed concern that the majority of people stopped for traffic violations in the city are African American.  Under the department’s consent search policy, which has been in use since 2015, officers are required to record their exchanges with motorists concerning consent searches, either on video or on a paper form.  Officers also are required to file a report after conducting a consent search. 

Tack Attack.  The Hickory Record reports that a recent act of vandalism at the Hickory Police Department caused so much damage that Governor Roy Cooper has declared that the state is offering a reward up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.  On February 14, more than 50 half-inch metal tacks were discovered strewn about the private and public parking entrances of the police department.  The tacks damaged twenty police vehicles and ten others belonging to civilians.  The police vehicles had to be removed from service while their tires were repaired.

Frost.  The Asheville Citizen-Times reported this week that a federal judge has denied former Buncombe County Commissioner Ellen Frost’s request that her fraud trial be continued from its scheduled starting date late next month.  As the News Roundup has noted previously, Frost is accused of fraudulently using taxpayer money to support personal equestrian endeavors.  The Citizen-Times says that in a filing requesting the continuance, Frost’s attorney indicated that the case is likely to go to trial.

Dingle Investigation Closed.  Last year the News Roundup noted that Asheville High School Principal Jesse Dingle had been placed on leave after being accused of a sex crime alleged to have involved an adult victim and taken place not on school grounds.  Dingle resigned from his position shortly after being accused.  This week the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that after investigating the alleged incident the Asheville Police Department and the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office have decided not to charge Dingle with a crime and have closed the investigation.

Smollett Charged Again.  The Associated Press reports that Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett appeared in court this week in Chicago after being recharged with false reporting offenses based on his alleged staging of a hate crime against himself.  In January of last year, Smollett reported to police that he had been attacked by two masked men who used racist and homophobic insults and looped a loose around his neck.  After evidence emerged casting doubt on his claims, Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct based on the alleged false reporting, but those charges were dismissed weeks later.  Smollett pleaded not guilty during his court appearance this week.

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