Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
Sheriff’s office denies discrimination claims in lawsuit
WASHINGTON, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina sheriff’s office is asking a federal court to throw out a lawsuit claiming in part that a supervisor used a slur against a biracial deputy and pointed a gun at his head.
Beaufort Sheriff Ernie Coleman and four others were sued by Dominic Franks, who claimed in his lawsuit that supervisor William Ragland pointed his loaded service weapon at his head, called him a slur and “monkey boy,” and made fun of his hair. Franks said the behavior continued despite his complaints up the chain of command, and he was unfairly disciplined, leading to his resignation.
An attorney for the sheriff’s office, Christopher Geis, said Franks was fired for “bizarre and unstable behavior, and fabricated allegations” and engaged in “possibly criminal behavior in retaliation against former colleagues.”
VOTING MACHINES-NORTH CAROLINA
NC Elections chairman quits over joke relating cows to women
CARY, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s Board of Elections Chairman has resigned after opening a statewide meeting of elections officials with a joke about cows and women who don’t want sex.
Gov. Roy Cooper accepted Democrat Robert Cordle’s resignation on Tuesday. WRAL reports Wake County Board of Elections member Gerry Cohen called the joke Cordle told Monday “misogynistic and wildly inappropriate.” Cordle apologized in his resignation letter.
His departure casts further uncertainty over a vote Thursday on new elections equipment. The board voted Monday to delay certification until August to consider requiring “human-readable marks on a paper ballot” as a security measure.
But they soon backtracked and set up the upcoming meeting. Cordle had favored moving forward with certification, and it’s not clear if there are enough votes to do so without him.
HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL-NORTH CAROLINA
Largest N Carolina health insurer wants Obamacare rate cuts
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s largest health insurer says it’s figured out how to make money after six years of selling subsidized policies under the Affordable Care Act and wants to cut average premiums by more than 5% for individuals and 3% for small businesses.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said Wednesday it’s asking regulatory permission to set the lower rates for 2020.
The company also cut prices this year on individual plans offered under the federal “Obamacare” law.
Blue Cross said it’s achieving savings by switching from the years-old model of paying for each medical procedure to one which pays doctors and hospitals set amounts for treatment. The insurer says it’s also emphasizing primary care to lower costs, for example by covering three visits per year at no cost.
MURDER CASE-GUILTY PLEA
1 of 6 accused in 2016 North Carolina murder pleads guilty
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – One of six men accused in a 2016 shooting death in North Carolina has pleaded guilty in the case.
The Herald-Sun of Durham reports Jermauciyae Rysuan Abram of Durham pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court on Wednesday to being an accessory after the fact to second-degree murder. Judge Carl Fox sentenced Abram to between 58 months to 82 months in prison.
Abram was charged in the murder of Tevin Kendrick, who was found shot 23 times in a community center parking lot on Jan. 18, 2016.
The other five men are all serving time for their roles in the shooting. One of them, Andre Lamar Dixon, was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in November 2018 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Bank’s parent company opens East Coast hub in North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The parent company of Union Bank has opened an East Coast hub in North Carolina’s largest city and plans to hire 300 people.
The Charlotte Observer reports that the Americas Holding company of Japan-based Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Services Group said in a news release that the office in downtown Charlotte would house its operations and technology and risk management groups for the Americas, among other functions.
The company cites Charlotte’s proximity to colleges and universities as a way to recruit for those jobs.
According to the release, the U.S. operations of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group has $339.7 billion in assets, as of March 31. MUFG Union Bank, North America operates 351 branches, including retail bank branches on the West Coast and commercial branches in Texas, Illinois, New York and Georgia.
HOUSE EXPLOSION-NORTH CAROLINA
Investigators: Accumulating natural gas led to house blast
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Investigators say natural gas accumulated in a house in North Carolina for several days before a fatal explosion.
News outlets report the Charlotte Fire Department says the gas ignited within a few minutes of the residents entering the house on July 2, killing 58-year-old Rania Karam. Her husband, Jebran Karam, called 911 about the explosion and helped firefighters once they arrived. Investigators said the couple had been on vacation.
While the explosion has been deemed accidental, a task force says investigators haven’t found the source of the leak or what may have ignited it.
The fire department says an outside investigation is expected to take months. Insurance carriers and specialized engineers will do forensic testing and examinations of the house’s natural gas equipment as part of that investigation.
Appeals court allows lawsuit in 1983 killing to move forward
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A federal appeals court has denied a request by North Carolina police officers to throw out a lawsuit filed by two brothers who spent decades behind bars after being wrongfully convicted in the 1983 killing of an 11-year-old girl.
Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were convicted of rape and murder in the death of Sabrina Buie in Red Springs, North Carolina. The intellectually disabled brothers spent years on death row before being cleared by DNA evidence linking another man to the crime. They were released in 2014 and later pardoned.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that their lawsuit alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution and other claims can move forward and be decided by a jury.
The court upheld a ruling by a U.S. District Court judge.
OHIO SOLDIER KILLED-AFGHANISTAN
Governor orders flags lowered to honor Ohio soldier
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered flags in parts of the state lowered to half-staff to honor an Ohio soldier killed in Afghanistan.
The Republican governor on Wednesday ordered U.S. and Ohio flags flown at half-staff at all public buildings and grounds throughout Williams County and at the Ohio Statehouse, the Vern Riffe (ryf) Center and the Rhodes State Office Tower in Columbus. The order honoring Pfc. Brandon Kreischer, of Stryker, is effective until sunset the day of his funeral. Details about when the funeral will be haven’t been announced.
The Defense Department says the 20-year-old died Monday from “wounds sustained in a combat related incident” in southern Afghanistan. Kreischer was assigned to the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Stryker is in northwestern Ohio’s Williams County.