Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m.
NC Congress map challenged again on partisan bias
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s congressional map is being challenged again on accusations that Republican lawmakers fashioned districts to maximize GOP seats.
Democratic and independent voters sued Friday in Wake County court, alleging extreme partisanship in how the 13 districts were drawn. They say the map violates the state constitution and want new districts for 2020. Republicans hold 10 seats.
The lawsuit mimics successful arguments in partisan gerrymandering litigation in state court involving General Assembly districts. Judges ruled Sept. 3 that dozens of House and Senate districts had to be redrawn because their lines were designed to sustain GOP majority control of the chambers.
A separate federal case challenging North Carolina’s congressional districts ended in June with the U.S. Supreme Court staying out of such partisan controversies, but suggesting states could intervene.
Member of secretive church gets probation in benefits scheme
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A member of a secretive North Carolina church has been sentenced to 10 months of home confinement for taking part in an unemployment fraud scheme benefiting businesses with ties to the congregation.
Diane McKinny also received three years of probation at the federal court hearing Thursday. She pleaded guilty in May to making a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits for workers at a company run by a minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale.
Prosecutors have said the company, 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.
McKinny was the fourth person to plead guilty in a probe of the scheme involving multiple businesses linked to the church.
FATAL TRAIN CRASH
Police investigate fatal train crash in Durham
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Police in North Carolina say a man is dead after being hit by a passenger train.
Durham police said they are investigating the death of a male pedestrian who was struck by an Amtrak train downtown Friday morning.
Police said the man was pronounced dead at the scene.
There were no other injuries reported.
Jury awards man $8.3 million in excessive force case
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina jury has ordered three law enforcement officials to pay $8.3 million for violating a man’s civil rights when they beat and shot him while he was driving on his own property six years ago.
WRAL-TV reports the award is believed to be the largest excessive force verdict in a civil rights case in the state’s history.
Michael Morgan said three Wake County sheriff’s deputies improperly beat him and shot him during a traffic stop while he was unloading brush on an empty field he owned. Police said Morgan dragged a sheriff’s deputy along the side of his pickup truck before he was shot.
Morgan spent four months in jail on charges of assaulting a police officer. He was acquitted over questions about the veracity of the deputies’ accounts.
POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN-TOUR
Poor People’s Campaign returns to its North Carolina roots
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) – The Poor People’s Campaign is returning to North Carolina, where leaders will hear stories from people who have experienced police violence.
The campaign is bringing its 25-state “We Must Do MORE” tour to Greenville Friday. MORE is an acronym for mobilizing, organizing, registering and education.
A discussion of poverty and police issues will be held Friday at the Lucille Gorham Intergenerational Community Center. On Saturday, campaign organizers will canvass neighborhoods to hear from low-wealth people and register people to vote.
On Saturday evening, the film “Amazing Grace” will be shown at Philippi Church of Christ. The documentary presents the live recording of Aretha Franklin’s album, “Amazing Grace.”
One of the leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign is the Rev. William Barber, who began the “Moral Monday” movement In North Carolina.
DEPUTIES FIRED-JAIL ASSAULT
N Carolina sheriff fires 2 deputies accused of inmate attack
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina sheriff has fired two deputies accused of assaulting a jail inmate.
Wake County Sheriff’s spokesman Eric Curry said in a news release Wednesday that Sheriff Gerald Baker dismissed 39-year-old Terek Askew and 43-year-old Donnie Davis. The News & Observer reports they are the second and third county corrections officers removed this month.
Court records say 29-year-old inmate Leonardo Antonio Romero was assaulted Aug. 3. Romero had been charged that day with malicious conduct by a prisoner and assault on a government official.
Askew and Davis are accused of attacking Romero and face assault charges. The release didn’t detail Romero’s injuries.
The sheriff’s office previously said that another corrections officer, Marcus Hinnant, was charged with an unrelated assault and fired from his detention center job on Sept. 15.
POWER PLANT IMPLOSION
TVA implodes 500-foot stacks at idled Alabama coal plant
STEVENSON, Ala. (AP) – Workers have used explosives to implode a pair of 500-foot-tall (152-meter-tall) stacks at an idled Tennessee Valley Authority coal plant in Alabama.
The federal utility released video Friday of blasts that took down the massive structures at the old Widows Creek Fossil Plant near Stevenson.
Explosives also demolished two boilers at the old generating station, which is now home to a data center.
The plant was closed in 2015 as part of the TVA’s move to reduce its dependence on coal to make electricity. It has closed five fossil-fuel plants over the last seven years and plans to shut down two more within the next 12 years.
The TVA provides power for nearly 10 million people in seven southeastern states.
VAPING DEATH-NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina hospital reports state’s 1st vaping death
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina hospital is reporting the state’s first death linked to vaping.
Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro says the death occurred on Wednesday, but spokesman Doug Allred couldn’t provide any additional details on Thursday. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says it’s investigating.
Allred says the hospital has had eight cases of vaping-related illness since August, including the unidentified person who died.
Last week, Cone Health confirmed it had treated at least six patients with a severe lung illness associated with electronic-cigarette use.
Dr. Murali Ramaswamy, director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Program for LeBauer Health Care at Cone Health, said that in most cases, patients told doctors they had used THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s mind-altering effects, in the vaping devices.