News Roundup

A 21-year-old Massachusetts man has been arrested in connection with the recent leak of classified documents concerning the war in Ukraine. His name is Jack Teixeira, and he is an IT specialist and a member of the Air National Guard. WRAL reports here that “Attorney General Merrick Garland said he is to be charged with removing or transmitting classified national defense information, a crime under the Espionage Act.” Keep reading for more news.

Texas man sentenced to 70 years in prison for spitting on police. Fox News reports here that after Larry Pearson was arrested in on domestic violence charges, he kicked the door of the police cruiser. After officers opened the door, he spit on them. He was ultimately convicted of two counts of “harassment of a public servant” and faced a mandatory minimum of 25 years in light of his prior record under what sounds like a three strikes law. Texas has jury sentencing, and the jury apparently saw 25 years as far too lenient, sentencing him instead to 70 years in prison. The prosecutor had asked the jury to “send a message,” while the defense attorney argued that the matter was basically a misdemeanor that had spiraled out of control.

Mother of 6-year-old who shot teacher is charged criminally. CNN has the story here. Recall that several months ago, a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher in Newport News, Virginia. Prosecutors decided not to charge the child with an act of delinquency, but now have charged his mother with child neglect and with “recklessly leaving a firearm so as to endanger a child.” Her attorney contends that the gun was stored on the top shelf of a bedroom closet and was secured by a trigger lock.

Law enforcement vacancies in Durham County drive overtime spending. WRAL has this story, reporting that the Durham County Sheriff’s Office spent $2.7 million on overtime pay in 2022, far more than anticipated. The reason appears to be the large number of vacant positions within the office, requiring those who are employed there to work extra shifts. The problem is particularly acute in the jail, where 103 of 228 positions are unfilled. Durham is far from the only place where law enforcement and corrections agencies are struggling to recruit and retain personnel, but this story indicates the fiscal impact that may flow from this personnel challenge.

Judge disqualified from capital murder case for hugging victims’ family members and prosecutors in previous proceeding. This AP story from Florida reports that the Florida Supreme Court “removed Judge Elizabeth Scherer from overseeing any post-conviction proceedings for [an inmate recently sentenced to death].” The court cited “Scherer’s chummy interactions with prosecutors who were seeking the death penalty against Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz during sentencing.” The court wrote that “[i]mmediately after sentencing Cruz, Judge Scherer left the bench and, while still in her judicial robe, exchanged hugs with the victims’ families and members of the prosecution team.” I haven’t read the full opinion and didn’t see the interaction in question, but it strikes me as notable that a judge is being disqualified from a case based on actions taken after the conclusion of a separate matter.

“Protect Children from Leaking Garbage Trucks.” That’s the short title for Senate Bill 682, filed last week in the General Assembly. I just liked the name. The bill itself provides that “[t]he Commission for Public Health shall readopt a rule substantively identical to 15A NCAC 13B .0105 as it existed on August 22, 2013.” Anything having to do with rulemaking sounds dull, but three minutes of research leads me to believe that the controversy here has to with a 2013 amendment that changed the law from requiring that solid waste collection vehicles (i.e., garbage trucks) be “leakproof” to requiring only that they be “leak resistant.” Based on the stinking effluent flowing from the garbage truck that passed me on my morning dog walk the other day, “leak resistant” may indeed be a more permissive standard.