News Roundup

The first criminal trial of a former U.S. President continues to dominate the news. Trump’s trial on state charges of falsifying business records in furtherance of a felony in New York is now several weeks along. However the trial shakes out, the former president has already been adjudicated guilty of ten counts of criminal contempt for violating a gag order prohibiting him from talking about jurors and witnesses in the case. The trial judge has expressly warned Trump that further violations may result in jail (while also noting the practical difficulties that a jail term would entail). Politico has the latest on the contempt cases here.

Meanwhile, one of Trump’s other criminal cases involving the alleged mishandling of classified records in federal court in Florida is currently in limbo. While a trial date of May 20 had previously been set, the judge recently ruled that more time was needed to resolve pending pretrial motions and removed the case from the trial calendar without setting a new date for trial. It now seems likely that the Florida trial will not occur before the presidential election in November, as this story reports. Read on for more criminal law news.

Allegations of Systemic Abuse in Illinois Juvenile Facilities. A lawsuit was recently filed against the State of Illinois over allegations of systemic sexual abuse of minors in state juvenile detention facilities, according to this story from the Associated Press. At least 95 plaintiffs who spent time in the facilities have joined the suit, and the lawsuit claims that hundreds more children suffered abuse at the hands of facility employees. The story notes that similar allegations and lawsuits have arisen in Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. State juvenile facilities have been under scrutiny since a 2013 Department of Justice study indicated that Illinois juvenile facilities had some of the highest rates of sexual abuse in the nation. Criminal charges are a possibility under Illinois state law for instances of abuse that occurred from 2004 to the present.

Brynn Marr Allegations. A little closer to home, similar allegations were recently made against the Brynn Marr Hospital in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The story from WRAL details reports from multiple former employees that describe a lack of training for staff and a failure to protect minors from violence by other patients at the psychiatric hospital. The former employees point to chronic understaffing as a major contributing factor to the situation. According to the report, the facility was cited by federal and state regulators in 2023 for failing to maintain safe and adequate standards of care. This follow up report alleges that staff were instructed by management to falsify patient records, among other allegations. Both stories note that the hospital’s parent company, Universal Health Services, settled allegations of filing false claims and submitting falsified records for other hospitals it administers for $117 million in 2020 without admitting wrongdoing. Universal Health Services and Brynn Marr Hospital deny the allegations.

Johnston County Bus Crashes. According to this story, a school bus carrying elementary school children was involved in a crash this week, resulting in injuries to nine children. The report indicates that speeding and impairment were not factors in the incident, but the driver was cited for a left-of-center infraction. This comes on the heels of another school bus accident in the same county last week, where eight children were injured. This earlier accident was allegedly the result of another driver failing to yield and striking the bus. The bus veered off the road and into a resident’s yard, while the other driver’s car was flipped over. The driver of that car fled the scene before being apprehended and is charged with multiple offenses, including felony hit and run.

Criminal Laws Under Consideration at the General Assembly. The News & Observer reports that several bills affecting criminal law are under consideration at the state legislature. One bill renews an earlier effort to require North Carolina sheriffs to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while another would repeal the health exception to the state ban on mask wearing, increase penalties for crimes committed while wearing a mask, and create a felony offense of blocking traffic. If the bills become law, you can be sure we will cover them here.

Cicada Scares. If you spend any time outside these days, you have almost certainly heard the near-constant buzzing from the recently hatched cicadas. The noise has resulted in numerous police reports from residents confusing the sound for sirens or alarms. As these outlets reports, both law enforcement and the media have been fielding calls from concerned citizens about the noise. According to the WRAL story, experts expect the phenomenon to continue for around another month.

SOG is hiring! The School of Government is seeking a Legal Research Associate attorney. The candidate will work to support short-and long-term research needs of SOG faculty members in multiple fields, including local government, government finance, civil, and criminal law and procedure. If you are interested in the position or know someone who might be, the posting is available here.  

I hope everyone has a safe and happy weekend! I can be reached with questions or comments at, as always.