News Roundup

The week began with news that one of the men accused of murder in the death of Wake County Sheriff Deputy Ned Byrd had escaped from a Virginia jail early Sunday morning. Alder Alfonso Marin-Sotelo was being held at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Virginia on federal gun charges when he escaped around 1 a.m. Another inmate, Bruce Callahan, who also has North Carolina connections, escaped late Sunday night.

Unfortunately, jail staff did not notice that either inmate was missing until after 3 a.m. Monday, giving Marin-Sotelo more than a day’s head start. The FBI joined the search Monday and promptly arrested Marin-Sotelo’s sister in High Point alleging that she paid someone to leave in the jail parking lot the getaway car that Marin-Sotelo used to flee the area.

Yesterday Marin-Sotelo was captured by Mexican authorities in Guerrero, more than 2,400 miles from Farmville, Va. He now faces federal charges for escape in addition to the pending state charge for murder. Callahan, who was convicted of federal drug charges, is still at large.

More troubling news related to jails. The News and Observer reports that 2022 marked the sixth consecutive year of record-high deaths in North Carolina’s county detention centers. Seventy-seven inmates died in county jails last year. More than a quarter of the deaths were from suicide, and eighteen were related to overdoses or complications from opioid withdrawal. Advocates identify lapses of supervision and the lack of sanctions for violations as a major cause, while sheriffs point to staffing shortages and drug abuse and mental illness among inmates.

Proud Boys members convicted for role in January 6 attack. CNN reported Thursday that four members of the Proud Boys organization – one of them its chairman — were convicted by a Washington, D.C. jury of seditious conspiracy for their roles in storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. No sentencing date has been set, but sentencing is likely to happen this summer. The Department of Justice has secured more than 600 convictions for conduct related to the Capitol riot.

New offenses created by abortion bill. The biggest North Carolina news story of the week is the General Assembly’s ratification of Senate Bill 20 (SB 20), which repeals G.S. 14-45.1, the statute that has made abortion generally legal before 20 weeks. SB 20 enacts provisions making abortion generally unlawful after the twelfth week of a woman’s pregnancy. The bill makes exceptions for medical emergencies, pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and pregnancies involving “life-limiting anomalies.” The legislature approved the measure on party-line votes, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against. Governor Cooper has said he will veto the bill, but the General Assembly is expected to override that veto.

The bill contains several provisions of interest to criminal law practitioners, including the creation of (1) a new infraction carrying a fine of $5,000 per violation for providing abortion-inducing drugs in violation of statutory rules or for advertising to promote the sale of such drugs for unauthorized use, (2) a Class D felony for a health care practitioner to fail to attempt to preserve the life of a child born alive following an attempted abortion or for another practitioner or employee not to report such a failure, (3) a Class A1 misdemeanor offense for assaulting a pregnant woman, and (4) a newly defined “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” This is a news roundup rather than a legislative summary so we will return to these matters in greater detail in future posts.