Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
Novelist Sparks defends decision on former head of NC school
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Author Nicholas Sparks says keeping the private Christian school he founded in his North Carolina hometown headed in the right direction was tough during a 2013 spell before cutting ties with the new headmaster he deemed unfit for the job.
The author of “Message in a Bottle” and “The Notebook” is expected back in a federal courtroom Thursday.
Sparks told jurors school headmaster Saul Hillel Benjamin lied about his previous work experience, disappeared without explanation during school hours, berated employees and accused parents and others of being bigots or racists.
Benjamin alleges in his lawsuit against Sparks, his foundation and Epiphany School of Global Studies in New Bern that the writer defamed him by telling parents, a job recruiter and others that the Benjamin suffered from mental health problems.
NC schools to get iPads that have been sitting in warehouse
(Information from: WRAL-TV, http://www.wral.com)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s schools superintendent says more than 3,200 iPads sitting in a state warehouse will be delivered during the upcoming school year.
WRAL reports some 2,400 of the devices have been sitting in the warehouse for more than a year. Johnson bought 24,000 iPads for North Carolina’s K-3 teachers last year, but schools returned about 2,400 of them because they preferred other devices.
Last month, Johnson bought 800 more iPads with his superintendent’s budget. He said on Wednesday he decided to buy more iPads and hold onto those that were returned as part of “extensive, strategic work” his office is doing to help K-3 students.
Johnson said the 2,400 iPads have been in the warehouse longer than expected because of Hurricane Florence and the impact of its aftermath on schools.
POLICE SHOOT ARMED MAN
North Carolina police officer cleared in fatal shooting
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina district attorney has cleared a white police officer who shot and killed an armed black man at a fast food restaurant in March.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather said in a 162-page report issued Wednesday that he couldn’t prove to a jury that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Wende Kerl was unreasonable in her belief that she faced an imminent threat of death.
Kerl shot and killed 27-year-old Danquirs Napoleon Franklin on March 25 after he refused to drop his weapon.
Police Chief Kerr Putney said at the time that restaurant workers called police after the man acted suspiciously. Putney said the man walked outside, where officers ordered him to drop the gun before he was shot. Police video showed Franklin didn’t point the weapon at officers.
Hundreds of N.Carolina transportation workers to be laid off
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s Transportation Department says it’ll lay off hundreds of workers to help cover the ballooning cost of storm damage repairs and legal expenses.
News outlets report that layoffs will include contractual and temporary laborers such as those who patch potholes, inspect construction sites and review highway plans.
Chief Operating Officer Bobby Lewis said NCDOT is reviewing more than 1,000 positions, although he said the exact number of layoffs or how much will be saved from them isn’t clear.
Lewis said NCDOT considers the move temporary with hopes to rehire some workers next year.
The cost saving measure comes as two massive expenses weigh on the department’s budget – about $300 million in weather-related costs and what’s projected to be $1 billion in legal fees for settling lawsuits.
MEAL DEBTS PAID
Meal debts paid for students in North Carolina school system
(Information from: News & Record, http://www.news-record.com)
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – An anonymous donor has ensured that some students in one North Carolina school system will be able to get a meal.
The News & Record of Greensboro reports an anonymous donor paid off the outstanding charges for students at Guilford County Schools in High Point.
School board chairwoman Deena Hayes-Greene says the donation totals $10,500, and adds that she hopes others will chip in to eliminate the rest of the debt across the school system, which totals approximately $35,000.
Families whose meal balances have been paid will receive a letter letting them know they don’t owe the district any money.
NC doctor found guilty of illegally prescribing opioids
(Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com)
NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) – A jury has convicted a North Carolina sports medicine doctor of illegally distributing opioids through a cash-only business.
The Justice Department says the jury handed down Sanjay Kumar’s verdict Monday on 13 counts, including illegal distribution of oxycodone, money laundering and tax evasion.
Prosecutors said Kumar wrote about 9,500 prescriptions for addictive opiate pain killers and other drugs between 2011 and 2016. The News & Observer reports witnesses said Kumar wrote prescriptions without examining patients in a cash-only business.
North Carolina Medical Board records show Kumar’s license expired in 2017 and wasn’t renewed.
The Medical Board also scheduled an October hearing to consider accusations that two of Kumar’s patients died from overdoses under his care.
Kumar faces sentencing in January.
FALSELY LABELED CRABMEAT
Seafood processor pleads guilty to falsely labeling crabmeat
WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal prosecutors say a North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to charges that he falsely labeled $4 million worth of foreign crabmeat as produced in the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Justice says Phillip R. Carawan, of Columbia, admitted Tuesday to falsely labeling more than 179,000 pounds of crabmeat and selling it to wholesale membership clubs and other retailers.
A department statement says Carawan also admitted that he and his company, Capt. Neill’s Seafood Inc., couldn’t meet customer demands for domestic blue crab. It says he made up the difference by using crabmeat purchased from South America and Asia. He also admitted that as early as 2012, he had company workers repack foreign crabmeat into containers labeled “Product of USA.”
Carawan is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
Conversation starters ready to go on ‘ReCONNECT NC Day
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Looking for substantial communication that doesn’t involve cellphones or social media? North Carolina State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues is offering ways to sit down and converse about weighty topics while building positive relationships.
The object of Wednesday’s “ReCONNECT NC Day” is to try and build new bridges as the divisive arguments of the 2020 presidential elections approach.
The “Civic Conversations” like those being held in Charlotte, Greenville, Wilson, Elkin and Wilkesboro will emphasize listening first to understand the views of others. A Cary barbershop is hosting a discussion with police officers. The group Teach for America is involved in a Rocky Mount community conversation.
These meetings are part of a three-year institute initiative designed to respond to what it calls the increasing disconnect among North Carolina residents.