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July 16, 2019
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July 16, 2019
AP-NC Newswatch





Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EDT



The Latest: Voter: Lawsuit tries ‘to unrig a rigged process’
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A Democratic voter has testified that a gerrymandering lawsuit against North Carolina lawmakers is “trying to unrig a rigged process.”
The first day of the partisan gerrymandering trial concluded Monday with Derrick Miller of Wilmington taking the stand. Miller is one of the plaintiffs.
Also, four former North Carolina governors released a statement supporting the lawsuit.
Miller said the redistricting process has made it impossible for anybody other than Republicans to control the state House and Senate. Miller acknowledged he’s been able to vote to elect a Democrat to the House by a comfortable margin but says gerrymandering makes surrounding districts extremely Republican.
Former Democratic Govs. Jim Hunt, Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue and Republican ex-Gov. Jim Martin blamed partisan gerrymandering for breaking the system of checks and balances no matter which party controls the majority.



Chief justice tours courthouse dealing with hurricane damage
BURGAW, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s top judicial official says several courthouses are still recovering from damage suffered in Hurricane Florence last year.
North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley toured Pender County courthouse Monday. It has been unusable for 10 months because of Florence. She met with court personnel to talk about how they’ve been managing.
The clerk’s office has relocated, and makeshift courtrooms are in other buildings around the town of Burgaw.
Beasley said she’s grateful to court officials for working through a trying year.
Similarly, Jones County courts are operating from alternative locations because of storm damage being repaired.
And a news release from the North Carolina Judicial Branch said courthouses in Carteret, Craven, New Hanover and Onslow counties are operational but also continuing to deal with hurricane damage and repairs.



North Carolina cousins plead guilty to killing store clerk
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – The cousin of a convicted murderer has also pleaded guilty in the killing of a store clerk in a botched beer robbery.
The News & Observer reports Charles Willis pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday in the death of 58-year-old Mohamed Shoufar.
Willis took a plea agreement for between 12 and more than 15 years in prison, for having given authorities information about his cousin, Robert Jackson, who was convicted of murdering Shoufar then killing a robbery accomplice to keep him quiet.
Prosecutors say Jackson shot Shoufar as he, Willis and Nicholas Bell set out to steal beer and rob the Durham gas station in 2015. Then, Jackson killed Bell because he’d reportedly been discussing the attack.
In June, Jackson was sentenced to up to 29 years in prison.



Authorities ID skydiver killed while landing in S. Carolina
CHESTER, S.C. (AP) – Authorities have released the identity of a skydiver who died during a hard landing near the South Carolina-North Carolina border.
Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker tells reporters that 33-year-old Amie Jessica Begg, of Charlotte, died of blunt force trauma injuries Sunday. The deputy director for county emergency management, Ed Darby, says the landing was harsh.
Begg was skydiving with Skydive Carolina. It said in a statement that Begg’s parachute deployed fine, but an advanced landing maneuver caused her to be injured. It said Begg had gone on more than 800 skydives.
Reports say this is the fourth Skydive Carolina diver death since 2014. A diver was killed last year when her parachute malfunctioned. In 2016, a diver fatally crashed into another diver. A parachute malfunction killed another diver in 2014.



Police: 3 kids found locked in back of U-Haul carrying drugs
NEWPORT, Tenn. (AP) – Authorities say three children have been rescued from the back of a U-Haul truck that was carrying drugs in Tennessee, and three North Carolinians have been charged in the case.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol told reporters Monday that a bystander in Cocke County called authorities last week to report seeing children being locked in the truck. Trooper Owen Caudill pulled over the U-Haul and found a 1-year-old, 5-year-old and 8-year-old locked in the back. Temperatures hovered in the low 90s.
Authorities say troopers then noticed the smell of drugs coming from the vehicle. Authorities say a passenger surrendered some marijuana and an ensuing vehicle search uncovered crystal meth, cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Eric Larue, Lakiza Williams, and Willie Green Jr. were all arrested on charges including child endangerment.



North Carolina school superintendent suspended with pay
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s second largest school system has suspended its superintendent with pay but without saying why.
A statement from Charlotte-Mecklenburg School on Monday confirmed that Superintendent Clayton Wilcox was suspended, but the statement didn’t say when it happened and it provided no additional details.
The Charlotte Observer reports that in January, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board gave Wilcox a unanimous vote of confidence. The board granted pay and benefits increases totaling $37,000 annually and approved a two-year contract extension, to 2023, at a salary of $307,000.
Six months later, the board held a special, closed “superintendent evaluation” meeting on June 5. That was followed a closed session on Friday.
Wilcox has been on the job for two years.
CMS chief engagement officer and ombudsman Earnest Winston will serve as acting superintendent.



Sports, horse betting bill for Cherokee gets final OK
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s only federally recognized American Indian tribe could soon offer sports and horse wagering to patrons at its two casinos.
The General Assembly gave final approval Monday night to a measure that would give the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians the authority to offer the additional betting. The House voted for the measure that had already cleared the Senate three months ago.
The bill now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. A Cooper spokesman says the bill will be reviewed before he makes a decision on whether to sign it.
The sports-book option took shape after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law last year that made most sports gambling illegal. State law already lets the Eastern Band offer live poker, slot machines and video-style games.



Report: Superintendent bypassed committee to award contract
(Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Documents released after a public records request show that North Carolina’s school superintendent bypassed a committee recommendation and awarded a contract to a different company.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports North Carolina is switching from the Amplify program to test K-3 students under the Read To Achieve program to the computer-based Istation program in a three-year, $8.3 million deal.
The documents released Friday showed the Amplify mClass program was the committee’s choice. Superintendent Mark Johnson says rankings which favored Amplify were based on “misstatements of fact.” The state Department of Public Instruction denies reports that the committee had recommended Amplify.
Johnson spokesman Graham Wilson says the committee’s recommendation was bypassed because a whistleblower told DPI that an unidentified committee member didn’t disclose a prior business relationship with Amplify.



AP-WF-07-16-19 1520GMT