News Roundup

Tragedy struck at Mount Tabor High School this week where a student, William Chavis Raynard Miller, Jr., was shot and killed, apparently by another student.  As the Winston-Salem Journal reports, hundreds of people attended a vigil for Miller yesterday at Mount Tabor United Methodist Church.  Keep reading for more on this story and other news.

School Shootings.  The fatal shooting at Mount Tabor High sadly was the second school shooting of the week in North Carolina, following an incident at New Hanover High School where a student was injured in a shooting on Monday.  Governor Roy Cooper acknowledged both incidents while speaking in Winston-Salem on Thursday, expressing sympathy for the community and commending law enforcement and educators for their response.

Bills.  There were developments this week on two pieces of legislation noted in last week’s News Roundup.  Governor Cooper signed SB 300 into law, legislation that makes numerous changes to North Carolina criminal law, including mandating first appearances for misdemeanor defendants and limiting the enactment of ordinance crimes.  Cooper vetoed a bill that would have eliminated the requirement to obtain a permit from the local sheriff to purchase a pistol.

Dowless.  WRAL reports that McRae Dowless was sentenced to six months in federal prison this week after pleading guilty back in June to fraud charges not directly related to his involvement in the 9th Congressional District absentee ballot fraud scandal in the 2018 election.  The charges came about after a federal investigation into the NC-9 race revealed that Dowless had concealed income from his political consulting work while collecting Social Security benefits.  State charges against Dowless directly related to the NC-9 scandal still are pending.

Fake Vaccine Cards.  Earlier this month, UNC cautioned students and staff against using fake vaccine cards when attesting to their vaccine status as part of the campus COVID-19 mitigation and testing effort.   The New York Times reported this week that a New Jersey woman now is facing criminal charges for allegedly selling hundreds of fake vaccine cards on Instagram.  Jasmine Clifford, also known as @AntiVaxMomma, allegedly charged $200 for a falsified vaccine card and another $250 to enter a person’s name into the New York immunization database.

Arbery.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week that a grand jury has indicted a former elected Georgia district attorney for obstruction and violating her oath of office in connection with the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020.  Jackie Johnson is accused of violating her oath of office by showing favor to one of the men charged with killing Arbery, Greg McMichael, and failing to treat Arbery’s family fairly and with dignity.  The obstruction charge is based on Johnson allegedly directing law enforcement officers not to arrest Travis McMichael, Greg’s son, who shot Arbery with a shotgun after he, his father, and another man chased Arbery down in a residential neighborhood in self-described vigilantism.  Federal hate crime and state murder charges are pending against Travis and Greg McMichael, along with William Bryan.

Statue.  Controversy over Confederate statues has produced a number of criminal law news stories in North Carolina and many other states in recent years.  As the Associated Press reports, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled yesterday that the state can remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, which now has been painted with graffiti, from Richmond’s Monument Avenue.  Two lawsuits sought to prevent the removal of the statue, arguing that restrictive covenants dating back to the grant of the statue to the state obliging it to “guard” and “protect” the statue prohibited its removal.  Virginia’s highest court determined that those covenants are unreasonable and unenforceable as contrary to public policy in that the continued display of the statue communicates principles inconsistent with the current values of the state.