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North Carolina teacher arrested on child pornography charge
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (AP) – Authorities say a North Carolina fifth-grade teacher has been arrested on child pornography charges.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office says in a release that Stefan Winfried Anders was arrested Wednesday after a month-long investigation and charged with 15 felony counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He was given a written promise to appear in court on Thursday.
Last month, investigators said they searched Anders’ residence and seized electronic devices and six computers, three of which belonged to the Orange County Schools.
Anders resigned after allegations arose about child pornography photos, which initially led to his suspension. The school system said no students were involved.
Last week, an operation targeting child pornography suspects led to 82 arrests across eight Southeastern states. In North Carolina, six people were arrested.
Court: Were N Carolina lawmakers sneaky or rights violators?
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina appeals court will decide if state legislators were just sneaky when they took surprise action to cut incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s powers, or if they violated the state constitution.
The state Court of Appeals hears oral arguments Thursday. On different sides are attorneys defending top Republican lawmakers and voters who claim that giving just two hours’ notice before taking dramatic action violates the state constitution’s right “to instruct” representatives.
A lower court last year rejected arguments of any violation, saying it was hard to measure what violates the public’s right to instruct.
The government reform group Common Cause and voters sued, claiming the General Assembly’s December 2016 session was illegal because legislators called it so quickly that the public had no time to weigh in.
Grants announced for expanding NC rural broadband access
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – About 10,000 North Carolina households and several hundred businesses and government buildings are expected to gain high-speed internet access through the first grants issued by a new state broadband initiative.
State leaders announced this week that nearly $10 million will be distributed to winning applicants in 19 counties through the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology program. These competitive matching grants are designed to lower financial obstacles to expand high-speed services in economically disadvantaged counties. Grant recipients include several North Carolina-based small businesses and utility cooperatives.
The program was included in the 2018 state budget written by Republican lawmakers. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed that budget, but his veto was overridden. Cooper’s administration now manages the program through the Department of Information Technology.
ELECTION 2020-US SENATE
Tucker formally announces primary bid against Sen. Tillis
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A retired North Carolina financier challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in next year’s GOP primary says he’d stand with President Donald Trump on issues like cutting foreign aid and immigration.
Garland Tucker of Raleigh formally announced his candidacy Wednesday, two days after filing paperwork to create a campaign committee . Tucker’s campaign says he made the announcement on Sean Hannity’s national radio show.
A video on Tucker’s website highlights when Tillis initially said he’d oppose Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, only to ultimately vote for it. The ad says Tillis “flip-flopped.”
Tills’ campaign earlier this week labeled Tucker an “anti-Trump activist” with a long record of criticizing the president. In a September 2016 op-ed, Tucker acknowledged resisting Trump’s presidential nomination and criticized his personal history.
Member of secretive church set to enter plea in fraud case
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A member of a secretive North Carolina church is preparing to enter a plea as part of an investigation into an unemployment fraud scheme.
Diane McKinny is scheduled for a plea hearing Friday on a federal charge of making a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits.
Her employer Kent Covington was a minister at the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale. He was sentenced last month to 34 months in prison on a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Prosecutors have said Covington’s business Diverse Corporate Technologies laid off employees in 2008 so they could collect unemployment benefits. But prosecutors say the employees continued to work at the company, with government money replacing their salaries.
Prosecutors say Covington used his position as a church leader to coerce employees to comply.
Group files ethics complaint against N Carolina legislator
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A clean-energy advocacy group wants an investigation into whether a North Carolina legislator is violating ethics laws by doing legal work for a Duke Energy Corp. gas pipeline project while also pushing legislation the company wants.
The group NC WARN filed a complaint Wednesday with the State Ethics Commission asking for an official look at the connections between country’s largest electricity company Energy and state Sen. Dan Blue, a Democrat from Raleigh.
Blue called the complaint baseless.
NC WARN says Blue’s law firm is collecting fees for suing dozens of landowners to make way for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a project partly owned by Duke Energy. Blue also is sponsoring legislation that would allow the company to get multi-year rate increases with billions of dollars in construction costs projected.
North Carolina legislature wraps up pre-deadline work
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina General Assembly has completed its biennial process of separating policy legislation between those with a chance of becoming law and those probably going back to the drawing board.
The Senate finished debate for the week on Wednesday, the day before Thursday’s “crossover” deadline in which most ideas in filed legislation unrelated to spending or taxes must pass one chamber or likely stay dead until 2021. The House wrapped up pre-deadline work on Tuesday.
Before going home the Senate voted to raise income limits for families who can apply for taxpayer-funded scholarships to attend private schools. Another bill removed enrollment growth caps for the state’s two virtual charter schools. A bipartisan measure approved also would let more people qualify to have their criminal records expunged.
CONFEDERATE MONUMENT-NORTH CAROLINA
Judge tosses complaint to force return of Confederate statue
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina judge has dismissed a complaint which sought to have a city return a Confederate statue to the site from which it was removed almost two months ago.
A Forsyth County judge on Wednesday dismissed the complaint from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, adding that the group can’t return to court with the same complaint.
In its lawsuit, the UDC claimed the city of Winston-Salem couldn’t legally move the statue because of a state law regarding publicly owned monuments. The city countered that the statue is owned by the UDC, which had earlier claimed ownership.
Workers removed the statue and pedestal from the old courthouse grounds on March 12. Plans call for the monument to be relocated to a cemetery.