AP-NC Newswatch

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October 3, 2019
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October 3, 2019
AP-NC Newswatch





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


Woman pleads guilty in killing fellow university student
SYLVA, N.C. (AP) – A former Western Carolina University student has pleaded guilty in the killing a fellow student in a botched drug deal.
News outlets report 21-year-old Aja Makalo and co-defendant 19-year-old Zavion Southerland were accused of fatally shooting Jacob Ray in 2017 after arranging to buy marijuana from him. Ray was found near a university welcome sign.
Makalo previously argued she’d acted in self-defense, but abandoned the claim Wednesday. Superior Court Judge Brad Letts accepted a plea agreement and sentenced her to up to 25 years for second-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery.
Makalo has said Ray pulled a gun and tried to rob her and Southerland, causing Southerland to shoot Ray. But prosecutors say the two held Ray against his will and shot him during a struggle.
Southerland’s case is ongoing.


NC State suspends professor accused of calling women useless
(Information from: WRAL-TV, http://www.wral.com)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina State University officials say they’ve suspended a professor and launched an investigation into reports he called women useless during a lecture.
WRAL reports university spokeswoman Lauren Leslie Barker didn’t confirm the identity of the professor at the center of the Tuesday incident but said the school is taking immediate action.
Junior Maira Haque told WRAL the professor called on two female students and when they didn’t have answers to questions about an assignment, he was “condescending” toward them and said “women are useless.”
In a tweeted video , the professor can be heard saying “It’s a joke!” Haque says the professor added “women are obviously useful because we need them for a species to reproduce.”


Former NC GOP head pleads guilty to lying in bribery case
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The former chairman of North Carolina’s Republican Party has admitted he broke the law by lying to federal agents about his role in an alleged effort to bribe the state’s top insurance regulator to help a major GOP donor.
Robin Hayes pleaded guilty Wednesday to making a false statement to the FBI. Prosecutors said in his indictment that he agreed to use the party to funnel $250,000 to state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s reelection campaign at the request of insurance magnate Greg Lindberg and an associate.
Court documents filed last week say Hayes lied to FBI agents in August 2018 by denying he had talked to Causey about replacing the state official examining Lindberg’s company.


Former county commissioner arrested on tax charges
WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal attorneys say a former North Carolina county commissioner has been arrested on charges of filing false tax returns and failing to file a federal tax return.
The U.S. Department of Justice says former Forsyth County Commissioner Everette Witherspoon Jr. filed false personal tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service from 2013 through 2015. He’s also accused of not reporting his county commissioner wages and falsely underreporting gross receipts for a mental health services provider business he managed.
On Sept. 30, a federal grand jury in Greensboro returned an indictment, which was unsealed following Witherspoon’s arrest.
If convicted, Witherspoon faces maximums of three years for each count of filing a false tax return and one year in prison for the other charge. He also faces supervised release and monetary penalties.


Drought conditions worsen across 14 Southern US states
ATLANTA (AP) – Scientists say more than 45 million people across 14 Southern states are now in the midst of a drought that’s cracking farm soil, drying up ponds and raising the risk of wildfires.
The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows extreme drought conditions in parts of Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and the Florida panhandle. Lesser drought conditions also have expanded in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Overall, nearly 20 percent of the lower 48 U.S. states is experiencing drought conditions.
The Drought Monitor is produced by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Ex-Marine pleads guilty to drug charges linked to death
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Federal prosecutors say a former Camp Lejeune Marine has pleaded guilty to distributing drugs which were linked to the death of a fellow Marine.
The U.S. Department of Justice says in a news release that 24-year-old Marcos Jamie Villegas of St. Charles, Illinois pleaded guilty on Wednesday to distributing oxycodone and fentanyl.
Prosecutors say Villegas and 20-year-old Cpl. Mark M. Mambulao went to a party in the town of Richlands in April 2017. According to an investigation, Villegas provided Mambulao with pills that he and a third Marine purchased. The next morning, Villegas discovered Mambulao unresponsive. Mambulao was taken to a hospital, where he died.
An autopsy showed Mambulao died from a fentanyl overdose and low alcohol content.
Villegas faces up to 20 years in prison.


Disqualified juror records focus of voter bill OK’d in House
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The state House has approved legislation which would require North Carolina courts to send information to the State Board of Elections on people disqualified from jury duty because they say they aren’t U.S. citizens.
A Republican shepherding the bill said Wednesday the measure, which passed on a party-line vote, would help stop non-citizens from trying to vote. Rep. George Cleveland of Jacksonville says the measure provides a process for someone to object to getting removed from the rolls.
Several Democrats challenged the bill, saying it could easily delete lawfully registered voters due to paperwork errors. They also complained a requirement that the registration status of disqualified jurors get posted online would amount to public shaming.
The bill was approved 55-49 and now returns to the Senate.


Bill named in memory of North Carolina trooper is finalized
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina legislature has agreed to raise current criminal penalties against people who assault law enforcement officers with a gun and emergency service workers who are seriously attacked while performing their duties.
The House gave final legislative approval on Wednesday to the measure named in memory of state Trooper Kevin Conner. He was fatally shot in October 2018 while stopping a pickup truck on a Columbus County road for a speeding violation. Two people are awaiting trial in his death.
The bill now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.
The measure also would provide an additional $100,000 death benefit to the survivors of a public safety employee who is “murdered in the line of duty.” That benefit would be retroactive to such deaths since July 2016.


AP-WF-10-03-19 1520GMT