Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EST
EX-CON SHERIFF CANDIDATE
NC county was unware ex-con could not run for sheriff
(Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina sheriff candidate had been allowed to run until election staff learned about a state law prohibiting ex-convicts from holding the office.
The Citizen Times reports the Buncombe County Board of Election Services ejected 64-year-old Michael Morgan at an emergency meeting Tuesday. The Libertarian was convicted of manslaughter in 1984, and has run for state and U.S. House seats several times.
Election Services Director Trena Parker Velez says staff were aware of Morgan’s conviction but did not know about a 2010 constitutional amendment barring ex-convicts from sheriff’s offices. Velez says state-produced candidate filing forms still say a felon can run for office once their rights are restored, and a candidate guide footnote is the only place in the literature acknowledging the amendment.
Morgan says he plans to appeal his candidacy to state officials.
FBI opens criminal probe of police beating in North Carolina
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Federal agents have opened a criminal investigation into a white North Carolina police officer shown on body camera footage beating a black man accused of jaywalking.
State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said in an email Wednesday that an FBI criminal investigation was launched into the actions of Asheville police officer Christopher Hickman on Aug. 25, 2017. She said the state agency is assisting.
Hickman was shown on body camera footage subduing and punching 33-year-old Johnnie Jermaine Rush after officers accused Rush of crossing outside of a crosswalk. Hickman resigned in January.
The case became public after The Citizen-Times newspaper published footage last week. On Wednesday night, angry residents questioned the police chief at a community meeting about why the case was kept from public view for so long.
ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE
Key legislator wants hearing on Cooper pipeline pact
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A key Republican legislator wants the General Assembly to dig deeper into a $58 million agreement between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office and utilities building a natural gas pipeline in eastern North Carolina.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon announced Wednesday he wants the Atlantic Coast Pipeline pact discussed at the next meeting of the legislature’s chief oversight committee. There’s no date yet.
GOP leaders are unhappy how Cooper’s office responded to written questions on the memorandum of understanding, which earmarked money for environmental mitigation and economic development. Legislators last month intercepted the funds for public schools. Cooper has rejected GOP accusations he tried to create a “slush fund.”
Chief of Staff Kristin Jones said Cooper’s office looks forward to talking about the interception, calling it a “partisan power grab.”
SECURITIES FRAUD-COUPLE CHARGED
North Carolina couple accused of swindling victims of money
(Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Officials accuse a North Carolina couple of posing as securities dealers over nearly five years and swindling people out of thousands of dollars.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the N.C. Secretary of State’s office says 60-year-old John Jerome Palczuk and 61-year-old Karen Elizabeth Palczuk of Raleigh face multiple charges, including securities fraud. Arrest warrants filed Wednesday said the offenses occurred between June 2004 and April 2009.
Investigators said the Palczuks sold shares of their company to investors, then agreed to repurchase them at 115 percent above the original price. The investigators said the Palczuks didn’t tell investors that two contractors had liens on the company’s property, or that three more contractors had filed lawsuits.
Both are jailed on $100,000 bond apiece. It’s not known if they have attorneys.
BUSINESS INTERSTATE 40 PROJECT
Business Interstate 40 scheduled for weekend closure
(Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – A portion of Business Interstate 40 in North Carolina will be closed over the weekend to allow workers to remove a bridge.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports the N.C. Department of Transportation says the closure starts at 9 p.m. Friday, with all lanes scheduled to reopen by 11 a.m. Sunday. Contractors will be removing the Fourth Street bridge, one of many to be replaced during the project.
Pat Ivey, division engineer for the NCDOT in Forsyth County, said the temporary closure gives motorists a chance to try alternate routes ahead of the planned long-term closure.
This fall, both lanes of Business I-40 will be closed in both directions for 20 months along a one-mile stretch downtown. When completed, a new and improved freeway will move traffic through downtown more quickly.
Testing of old rape kits leads to arrest of N Carolina man
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Police in North Carolina’s largest city have charged a registered sex offender with raping two teenagers more than 20 years ago based on evidence obtained through DNA testing of old sexual assault kits.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police told a news conference Wednesday that 56-year-old Warren Lee Caldwell was arrested March 1 and jailed in connection with the rape of an 18-year-old in 1990 and of a 17-year-old in 1994.
Sgt. Darrell Price says the department received two grants to pay for the testing of sexual assault kits.
Caldwell is behind bars, charged with two counts of second-degree rape and one count of first-degree kidnapping. It wasn’t clear Wednesday if he has an attorney.
The arrest was announced the week after state officials said North Carolina has more than 15,000 untested rape kits.
MISSING NC TEEN
3rd murder trial opens for man accused in teen’s death
(Information from: The Baltimore Sun, http://www.baltimoresun.com)
BALTIMORE (AP) – The third trial has begun for a man charged with murder in the death of a 16-year-old girl in Baltimore in 2010.
The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday that prosecutors gave opening statements for why they claim Michael Maurice Johnson killed Phylicia Barnes.
Barnes was the younger sister of Johnson’s girlfriend. Prosecutors say Johnson became obsessed with her. He was the last person to see her alive. He was seen struggling to move a container that prosecutors say concealed her body.
Defense attorneys countered that reasonable explanations disprove prosecutors’ theories and that they lack evidence.
Barnes lived in Monroe, North Carolina, and disappeared while visiting family in Baltimore. Her body was found months later.
A jury initially convicted Johnson of second-degree murder. A judge later acquitted him. Both verdicts were overturned.
GANG LEADER-PRISON SENTENCE
Man identified as North Carolina gang leader sentenced
(Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, http://www.fayobserver.com)
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A man identified by police in North Carolina as the head of a violent gang has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.
The Fayetteville Observer reports authorities identified 28-year-old Genesis Lee Whitted Jr. as the head of the Bloods gang, which trafficked cocaine and robbed other drug dealers at gunpoint.
Robin Pendergraft, criminal chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, told a news conference on Wednesday that Whitted and his associates engaged in drug trafficking, home-invasion robberies, car hijackings, shootings and financial fraud.
According to Pendergraft, Whitted and his accomplices poured boiling water on people until they disclosed the locations of drugs or money.
Whitted was found guilty in October. Six of his associates also have been sentenced for their roles in the gang.