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News Roundup

This week the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Purdue Pharma will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges related to the company’s distribution of its opioid painkiller OxyContin.  The company will plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws, offenses generally arising from Purdue Pharma’s efforts in coordination with others in the medical field to dispense OxyContin without a legitimate medical purpose.  As the Associated Press reports, the plea deal is part of an $8 billion settlement that includes a $2 billion criminal forfeiture, a $3.54 billion criminal fine, and $2.8 billion in civil damages.  The deal does not absolve the Sackler family, who owned the company while it engaged in the illicit activity, from criminal liability and some are calling for members of the family to face charges.  Keep reading for more news.

Defender Manual.  There’s exciting news this week from the Public Defender Education group here at the School of Government with the announcement of the release of the 2020 edition of the North Carolina Defender Manual, Volume Two, Trial.  The manual focuses on criminal procedure at the trial stage and includes chapters researched and written from 2018 to 2020. Intended as a resource for trial-level criminal defense attorneys, the manual is immensely useful for anyone working in North Carolina’s criminal courts.  Hard copies are available here and, as with the rest of the Indigent Defense Manual Series, a free digital copy is available here.

Deputy Passes.  The Greensboro News & Record reports that Guilford County Sheriff’s Deputy LaKiya Rouse, who worked as a bailiff at the courthouse, died on Wednesday after falling ill the day before and seeking treatment at the hospital.  Rouse worked at the courthouse on Monday before becoming ill on Tuesday.  Upon being admitted to the hospital, she tested positive for COVID-19, but it is not clear at this time whether her death was caused by the virus.  She spent time this week in Courtrooms 1C, 1D, 2B, and 2C and the sheriff’s office is advising anyone who may have been in close proximity to Rouse to get a covid test.

Barrett Vote.  On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to approve President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.  Republicans on the committee voted unanimously to approve Barrett’s nomination while Democrats boycotted the vote.  The full Senate is expected to take a final vote on Barrett’s nomination on Monday.

Floyd.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune had some news this week related to the killing of George Floyd in May.  On Thursday, a judge dismissed a third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, who is shown on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, after determining that Chauvin’s acts were not inherently dangerous to others, an element of that offense which the Minnesota Supreme Court has held does not occur when a defendant’s actions are focused on a specific person.  Chauvin remains charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The other piece of news is that a trucker who drove through a protest on an interstate that had blocked traffic has been charged with criminal counts of threats of violence and criminal vehicular operation.  Bogdan Vechirko was returning from a fuel delivery in a tanker truck when he encountered a massive protest on the Interstate 35W bridge that video shows had essentially blocked all traffic.  Though his motivations for doing so are disputed, Vechirko drove his truck at relatively low speed through the protest.  This caused the crowd to attack Vechirko and his truck in retaliation.

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