Monday, May 27, 2019



            [RALEIGH] As part of the proposed state Senate budget, $2.5 million is being appropriated to construct a monument on state Capitol grounds in downtown Raleigh honoring the contributions of African Americans. It was 2016 when the NC Historical Commission held a month-long series of community meetings for feedback on what such a monument should represent. Gov. Roy Cooper late put funding in his proposed budget the following year for what became known as the Freedom Monument, but Republican lawmakers ignored his proposal, and appropriated funding for a civil war museum in Fayetteville instead.

            [RALEIGH] According to Ford Porter, spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper, the new budget proposal put for by the NC Senate is lacking. ““This budget leaves out Medicaid expansion that would close the health care coverage gap and it shortchanges public schools in exchange for more corporate tax cuts. The Governor hopes to continue working with the House and Senate on a budget that does more to help hard working North Carolinians.”

            [RALEIGH] Now that the Democrat-led State Board of Elections has fired SBOE Director Kim Strach, replacing her with Karen Brinson Bell, the board believes that Bell deserves a $30,000 raise coming in. Why? Because apparently, there were county elections directors across the state, like in Mecklenburg County, who were actually being paid more than the state elections director was. The raise recommendation still must be approved by the state human resources director.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Since April 22nd, a bill has been pending in the NC House Rules. Calendar and Operations  Committee seeking to establish a joint legislative study committee on the use of secured and unsecured appearance bonds.
            Are there alternatives to requiring suspects arrested and charged with nonviolent crimes to be required to pay a cash bail to ensure their not only their release from jail (all suspects are legally considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law), but also their appearance in court?
            And are African Americans, Hispanics and other poor people of color at a disadvantage, compared to their well-to-do white counterparts who can afford to post cash bail, or in some cases, because they can afford good private criminal attorneys, no bail at all?
            Those are the questions being asked across North Carolina and the nation, as critics are taking a serious look at what they claim is “unequal justice” when it comes to the cash bail system, and how, depending on your economic circumstances, especially if your black, you’re treated much differently by the criminal justice system.
            The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina has already started a “Smart Justice” campaign to “end the unjust for-profit cash bail system that strips people of their rights, targets poor people and people of color, and hurts families and communities,” according to their campaign website.
            “People who cannot afford their bail are locked up while their cases go through the courts, which can take weeks, months or even years,” the ACLU of NC Smart Justice website continued. “Those who can afford bail go free, allowing them to return to their homes, families and jobs before their trial.”
            The ACLU of NC site concludes that while “…we are all supposed to be treated as innocent until proven guilty… [the cash bail system has ] created two criminal justice systems: one for the rich and one for the rest of us.”
            The Smart Justice site adds that the cash bail system is, “…doing nothing to make our communities safer.”
            On another ACLU of North Carolina site, not only does the nonprofit legal advocacy group claim that cash bail “doesn’t work,” but that in North Carolina “…86% of the people in our jails haven’t been convicted of a crime,” adding that the system is “broken and corrupt.”
            While it was no surprise when a local NC district attorney a few weeks ago, Ben David of New Hanover and Pender, held an emergency press conference to defend his office’s use of the cash nail system, saying that it “…protects this community,”  the strongest pushback against  any reform is coming from the bail industry, which enjoyed making $2 billion in revenue in 2018, and whose NC Bail Agents Association Political Action Committee last year gave a reported $26,000 to Republican candidates in the NC General Assembly.
            In fact, according to published reports, between 2009 and 2017, North Carolina ranked second-highest in the nation when it came to political contributions from bail agents, with $148, 300 (some of that went to Democratic candidates too, the National Institute on Money in Politics reports).
            Are there alternatives to locking nonviolent suspects up prior to trial?
            Yes, but politically, observers say, they may not fly.
            Part 2 next week – a look at those alternatives

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Following the lead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), North Carolina’s two African American Democratic U.S. House members Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12) and Rep. G. K. Butterfield, have not officially or publicly called for the impeachment of Pres. Donald J. Trump yet.
            But both have made it clear, especially after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference into the 2016 presidential campaign, and the Trump campaign’s role in it, that impeachment of the Republican president is, in Rep. Adams’ words, ‘…not off the table.”
            “I’m not there yet, but we’re getting pretty darn close,” Congressman Butterfield told McClatchy News service last week when asked where he was on the issue.
            It’s little surprise that Adams and Butterfield are holding the line Speaker Pelosi has drawn, despite increasing public pressure to at least formally begin the congressional process of holding impeachment hearings.
            Pelosi says Trump wants House Democrats to proceed with impeachment, in order to ultimately portray himself as a victim of a political “witch hunt,” something they deny.
            While refusing to call for impeachment yet, saying that House committees are still “following the evidence,” the speaker has openly accused the president of  “a coverup,” something that ignited an angry Trump last week to walk out of a planned meeting with Democrats on proposed infrastructure spending, demanding that congressional probes must stop before he negotiates anything with them.
            “I don’t do coverups,” Trump defiantly told reporters shortly after.
            While she might not be for impeachment yet, Rep. Adams apparently doesn’t buy Trump’s assertion that he isn’t hiding any.
            Adams made national headlines last week with her brisk questioning of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnnuchin during a hearing by the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), who was one of the first black members of Congress to call for Trump’s impeachment. 
The Internal Revenue Service falls under Mnnuchin’s agency, and he has blocked the IRS’ required legal compliance to turn over Trump’s past tax returns to Congress.
Adams demanded Mnnuchin tell the committee why, especially when the decades-old law is clear that he must.
I have been advised that had I turned them over, I would be violating the law,” Trump’s Treasury Secretary told Adams in open hearing, adding that the U.S. Justice Dept. told him not to.
When asked by Rep. Adams whether the American people have the right to see their president’s tax returns, Secretary Mnuchin replied, ““No, I don’t. Presidents are not required to turn them over. The American people knew he didn’t release them before they voted for him.”
The episode, along with the Trump Administration’s blanket refusal to honor congressional subpoenas and order former administration officials not to cooperate with congressional committee investigations, crystallizes Adams and Butterfield’s concern about the authority of Congress being blatantly ignored by the Republican president.
“Congress has a sacred responsibility to obtain the information necessary to determine the next steps,” Rep. Adams said in a statement.
Rep. Butterfield agreed.
“The thing that bothers me the most,…,” he told McClatchy, “… is the disrespect for the rule of law…”



Tuesday, May 21, 2019


By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

            Cash bail - a long held criminal justice tool that prosecutors use to ensure that suspects show up for trial. 
            Ben David, district attorney for both New Hanover and Pender counties, maintains that the use of cash bails by his office is “fair,” and that requiring certain defendants to post a cash bail for certain alleged offenses is how the system “…protects this community.”
            D.A. David strongly denies that the use of cash bail by his office is “excessive.”
But advocates for the poor disagree.
Members of the groups Campaign to End Cash Bail – Wilmington, Women Organizing for Wilmington, and the NHC Chapter of the NAACP, spoke to reporters in front of the New Hanover County Jail May 10thagainst D.A. David’s use of cash bail, alleging that it unfairly burdens poor people of color charged with non-violent offenses with an expense they cannot afford without penalty.
They noted that black women, in particular, fall victim to the cash bail system, particularly for non-violent offenses, forcing many to pay money they don’t oft times have, lose their jobs, and ultimately lose their children, said Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the NHC NAACP.
            Noting D.A. David’s assurance that the practice is his way of “protecting the community,” the groups countered that the district attorney was using “fear tactics” to convince the community that without it, citizens would be at risk.
            Roberta Penn of the Campaign to end Cash Bail – Wilmington, in remarks to reporters, maintained that “almost no one “ being held under cash bail in the NHC jail presents a danger to the community.
            But D.A. David countered later that day with his own press conference that suspects in jail are there for because they’ve displayed a tendency towards violence in either their crime or behavior.
            Those crimes include sexual, violent, narcotics crimes from trafficking, kidnapping…and even murder.
            “My job is not to write the laws, it’s to enforce the laws,” D.A. David said, adding that he is open to reforms to the cash bail system.
            If David does, he would be joining a current wave across the nation there local prosecutors are reexamining the purpose of imposing cash bails on citizens who can barely afford making ends meet, let alone having to pay for any legal requirements.
            The inequity lies in the law, observers say, and how it treats defendants of means, versus those without.
            In North Carolina, what is more commonly known as “preventative pretrial detention” exists through N.C. General Statutes for those charged with capital murder to be held without bond. In the second instance, according to the April 19, 2019 blog North Carolina Criminal Law from Prof. Jessica Smith of the UNC School of Government, “…due to concerns about public safety, flight, and obstruction of justice, other defendants are intentionally detained pretrial through the imposition of unattainably high bonds. The use of a secured bond for preventative detention is an imperfect solution for this simple reason: if a high risk defendant has sufficient resources, he or she can pay the bond or bail bondsman’s fee and walk out of jail with no supervision. But for many defendants, when a judicial official sets what is meant to be an unattainably high bond for the purpose of holding a defendant pretrial, that goal is achieved: the defendant remains in detention. Preventative detention—whether implemented through a statute or through the use of unattainably high detention bonds—must comply with the constitution.”
According to an April 3rdentry from Dr. Smith, in a recent study by researchers of the impact of cash bail reform throughout the country showed that eliminating the system for certain low-level, nonviolent offenses did not result in suspects not showing up for their court dates, or repeating their crimes.
            “In spite of the reduced financial accountability that came with the policy change, researchers found “no detectable evidence that the decreased use of monetary bail, unsecured bond, and release on conditions had adverse effects on appearance rates or recidivism,” wrote Smith.

            [ELIZABETHTOWN] With just a handful of votes separating them in the May 14thspecial election, a recount has been called in the District #3 County Commissioners race between incumbent Democratic Commissioner Russell Priest and Republican challenger Wayne Edge. Edge called for the recount after it was determined that just four votes separated the two, ordered by the State Board of Elections after absentee ballot fraud was discovered in Bladen County. A meeting of the Bladen County Board of Elections has been called for Friday morning to canvass the results, followed at 1 p.m. by the recount to determine the winner.

            [WILMINGTON] The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners has unanimously voted to establish the NHC Commission on African-American History, Heritage and Culture, according to NHC Government. This group will highlight historic sites throughout the county and beaches, educate the community on heritage and culture, and celebrate contributions of local residents. 
            [HILLSBOROUGH] An elementary school teacher at Pathways Elementary School has been arrested by authorities and charged with “communicating a threat of mass violence” towards the school. The teacher, Kristen Thompson, immediately resigned last Friday. Other teachers at the school alleged that Thompson “made threats to shoot up the school,” according to a press release from the Orange County Sheriff’s dept.
Thompson, who is in custody now, is expected to face charges in court on June 14th.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            HBCU’s (historically black colleges and universities) in North Carolina are not being funded equitably, advocates told state lawmakers last week during the annual NC Divine Nine Legislative Lobbying Day May 15th.
            State senators were urged to get behind Senate Bill 667 – UNC HBCU Funding Parity/NC A&T Doc. Programs, to address the matter. Sponsored by state senators Erica Smith (Bertie), Paul Lowe (Forsyth) and Joyce Waddell (Mecklenburg), the bill, if passed, would, “…allocate additional funds to constituent institutions designated as historically black colleges and universities to address underfunding at those institutions and to allocate additional funds to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to support its doctoral programs.”
            The measure calls for $50 million in additional recurring funds for the 2019-2020 fiscal year from the General Fund to go to the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina…”to address funding disparities between the HBCUs and the other constituent institutions of [the UNC System]. 
            An additional $7.5 million is being asked for N.C. A&T University to “support new faculty and graduate student services for the doctoral programs.
            The bill concludes, “this act becomes effective July 1, 2019.”
            That was just one of the many issues approximately 600 participants who attended NC Divine Nine Day at the NC General Assembly were pushing for.
            “It is to bring all of the members of the Divine Nine [black Greek fraternities and sororities] together around all of the important legislative issues, particularly around education, voter involvement, and eliminating any barriers like voter suppression is critical,” Dr. Everett Ward, national president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. said.
            Dr. Ward, formerly the president of St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, served as the convener of the NC Divine Nine Legislative Lobbying Day.
            On the policy agenda presented to state lawmakers, in addition to more funding support for the state’s HBCUs, was indeed voting reform, economic empowerment, accessible and affordable health care, housing justice, criminal justice reform, and making sure that there is a full count of underserved poor communities of color on the 2020 Census.
            State legislators were also pushed to close the Medicaid health insurance coverage gap in North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper and the Democrats want to do that, but Republican legislative leaders in charge have been dragging their feet.
            When it comes to ensuring the voting rights of all North Carolinians, supporters wanted the state to provide automatic voter registration when they reach their 18thbirthday.
            According to the Brennan Center for Justice, fifteen states and the District of Columbia already have automatic voter registration. More states re expected to follow as we get closer to 2020.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            [GREENVILLE] A Wake County judge will now decide whether to free Dontae Sharpe, a 44-year-old black man supporters say was falsely convicted 25 years ago of a 1994 murder he did not commit, or based on testimony from an evidentiary hearing held last Friday, order a new trial.
            There has never been any physical or forensic evidence linking Sharpe to the shooting death of a 33-year-old white man, George Radcliffe.
            Wake Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins said after hearing from both sides in the controversial case that he would render his decision after considering all of the new evidence presented. 
Judge Collins is most recently notable for ruling for the NCNAACP’s lawsuit against the Republican legislative leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly in declaring that the constitutional amendment authorizing voter ID was unconstitutional, because the GOP majority was elected by illegally gerrymandered maps.
            Republican legislative leaders have appealed Judge Collins’ ruling.
            After the Dontae Sharpe evidentiary hearing Friday, Sharpe’s mother, Sarah Blakely, flanked by NCNAACP President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Repairers of the Breach President Rev. Dr. William Barber, and Pitt County NAACP Pres. Calvin Henderson, told reporters she was hopeful that Judge Collins would deliver a positive ruling on her son’s behalf.
            “I'm gonna stand behind him until it's over. I'm not giving up,” Ms. Blakely said. I know he's innocent. I don't care what they say, how they say it, or whatever, but I'm not giving up. This is just another step to victory, and it's coming. I know it's coming.”
            Rev. Barber reminded reporters that for the over 24 year that Sharpe has served his time in prison, he has rejected numerous plea deals that would have set him free. Barber said he was also disappointed that the new Pitt County District Attorney decided not to join Sharpe’s family in calling for his conviction to be overturned, and he be immediately released.
            “…[T]hat the state here would not agree to a release, as the judge considers this new evidence,” Rev. Barber told reporters at the courthouse. “There's been a grave miscarriage of justice, and this is not about statistics. This is about life ... Dontae has been a courageous man ... a strong man, a man that even inside of the prison walls is respected. It's time for this system to let this young man go now.”
            The Sharpe case centers on the fatal shooting of George Radcliffe, a 33-year-old white man killed during a drug deal in Greenville in February 1994. Radcliffe’s body ws found in a pickup truck in a known drug neighborhood. Pitt County prosecutors presented two witnesses who testified that they saw Sharpe shoot Radcliffe after a struggle. However, at least one of the witnesses later admitted that she lied, holding to that contention over two decades later, claiming that police coerced her to lie.
            Last Friday, Sharpe’s defense attorney presented that the medical examiner who autopsied Radcliffe’s body was never told Greenville police investigators’ theory of the case when she testified at the original trial. Her examination revealed that it was medically and scientifically “impossible” for Radcliffe to have been fatally shot in the manner in which the state maintained Sharpe pulled the trigger, based on the false witness testimony at the original trial..
            At press time Monday, Judge Collins had not yet rendered a decision.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019


                                                   DISTRICT COURT JUDGE APRIL SMITH

By Cash Michaels

In a unanimous decision authored by the state Supreme Court’s newest African-American female associate justice, Anita Earls, a Cumberland County District Court judge, also a black female, has been reprimanded for “…conduct in violation of [the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct, and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute …”
The ruling from the state’s High Court was handed down May 10th against District Court Judge April M. Smith, and is based on a recommendation from the state Judicial Standards Commission (JSC).
Smith was elected to the Judicial District 12 Division, one of ten judges there, in November 2014 when she was 35. She has served there ever since.
Ironically, Cumberland County District Court is also where now-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, an African-American female, served for ten years prior to being elected to the NC Court of Appeals, and then selected to serve on the NC Supreme court in 2012 by then Gov. Beverly Perdue.
According to the 16-page decision, [Judge Smith] “…has not challenged the findings of fact made by the [JSC] or opposed the Commission’s recommendation that she be publicly reprimanded by this Court,” the state Supreme Court decision further states.
It was February of 2018 a Statement of Charges was filed with the JSC against Judge Smith, alleging that she demonstrated “…a lack of respect for the judicial office and for the Chief Judge and court staff…, ” among other allegations.
In a Stipulation between Judge Smith and the JSC Counsel, based on Smith’s April 2018 answers to the February charges, it was established that Smith admitted to  becoming “…frustrated with the [Chief District Court Judge] based on scheduling and communication differences” by the end of 2015.
The Chief District Court Judge of the 12th District is responsible for setting the case schedules for all ten of the judges assigned there.
Judge Smith began experiencing “serious health issues by the beginning of 2016, according to the JSC Stipulation, requiring her to attend “frequent medical appointments.” It was later determined that Judge Smith was suffering from two “chronic autoimmune diseases, requiring her to take “multiple leaves of absence” per doctor’s orders, and they were granted.
But Judge Smith soon came to believe that the Chief Judge “…was subjecting her to unfair treatment in court assignments.” She believed that she was eventually being given more work, and more cases to cover, resulting in longer hours.
She complained about her assignments, and tat she felt she was being treated unfairly, to other judges, court staff and attorneys. Smith even alleged that racial prejudice had a role in her treatment. However, records eventually showed that Judge Smith did not have a greater workload than other District judges in her division.
Further investigation determined that Smith rushed through cases in her courtroom “…to avoid working the full afternoon or the next day.” Smith maintained that  her cases got full and fair hearings, but attorneys before her felt rushed.
What may have really hurt Judge Smith, as stated in the JSC Stipulation, was “…when she would announce she was adjourning court early for personal appointments, such as for hair and nail salon visits or to spend time with her child.”
“[Judge Smith]…recognizes that her conduct and statements in the courtroom between 2015 and 2017 were perceived by some attorneys and court staff as indicating a desire to avoid her judicial duties to accommodate her own scheduling preferences and personal circumstances,” the JSC Stipulation concluded.
According to the state Supreme Court ruling, Judge Smith has “expressed regret”  over her conduct, which is considered a mitigating factor in the decision to publicly reprimand her. She has agreed to seek assistance to “to improve her professional reputation and repair her relationship with the Chief Judge.”
At least one black female attorney, aware of the charges against Judge April Smith, aid on Facebook that she knows her and has appeared before her. The black attorney suggests that there is more to the story, and that other judges in the Cumberland County District Court have done far worse than she has.

                      KYRON HINTON

                                                           CAMERON BROADWELL

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Wake County’s African-American sheriff, Gerald Butler, wasted no time Monday firing K-9 officer Cameron Broadwell after the deputy pleaded guilty at his trial in April 2018 law enforcement assault against Kyron Hinton, an unarmed black man who was both beaten by Broadwell and two state troopers, and then mauled by Broadwell’s K-9 dog.
            Unlike the two troopers, who were fired almost immediately after the April 2018 Raleigh incident, Broadwell, a ten-year veteran of the Wake Sheriff’s Dept., was placed on administrative leave until his termination Monday.
            In a plea agreement, Broadwell pled guilty to one count of willful failure to discharge his duties. He had been facing felony assault charges, which were dismissed in the deal.
            Six hours after Broadwell tearfully admitted his guilt, Wake Sheriff Gerald Baker terminated the former K-9 officer, promising changes to how his K-9 unit will operate.
            Police dogs will only be used to apprehend violent offenders, Wake Sheriff’s officials say.
            Broadwell was sentenced to 45-days incarceration suspended, and ordered to permanently give up his law enforcement certification, meaning that he can never be an officer in North Carolina again.
            The trial, prosecuted by Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, was not headed in Broadwell’s favor, especially after police dashcam video, in addition to bodycam video, showed various angles of his assault on Hinton.
            The young black man had just left a sweepstakes parlor and was walking in the middle of the street on Raleigh Blvd. on the night of April 3rd, 2018, when police responded to a report of a man waving a gun in the street. Hinton had no weapon, but was acting strangely. Raleigh police surrounded him.It wasn’t long before two state troopers also came on the scene and confronted Hinton. Deputy Broadwell also appeared with his dog, and under the impression that Hinton had a gun, and confronted Hinton, ordering him to get on the ground.
            According to police court testimony, Raleigh officers had already determined that Hinton did not have a gun, and were trying to decide how to secure him safely to get him to a psychiatric hospital, when Broadwell arrived, and without consultation, immediately began ordering Hinton to the ground, and when he didn’t comply, had his dog attack him.
            While Hinton was on the ground, defending himself from the dog, he was attacked by Broadwell and the two state troopers.
            Broadwell’s defense was that he was responding to a report of a man with a gun, and got involved to protect his fellow officers, and the public.
            The defense had several people there, including former Wake Sheriff Donny Harrison, to testify that Broadwell was an officer of the finest character, and he was acting out of concern. The jury never got to hear that testimony.
            Meanwhile, as in this trial, Kyron Hinton will not be present to testify when the two former troopers go on trial. The troubled young man died one day after receiving an $83,000 settlement after filing suit for the severe beating that he received. Authorities say his death was drug-related.
            Hinton’s mother and family were not satisfied with the plea deal, wanting Broadwell to serve time in prison.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            [GREENVILLE] The NCNAACP, supporters and family are hopeful that an evidentiary hearing scheduled for Friday at the Pitt County Courthouse will ultimately lead to freeing Dontae Sharpe from prison after over 24 years, where he has been serving a life sentence for a murder he’s always maintained he did not commit.
            Friday will be the first evidentiary hearing in the Sharpe case in at least ten years, and based on new evidence, supporters say, they feel it can finally be proven that Sharpe had nothing to do with the February 1994 slaying of George Radcliffe, a white man who was fatally shot in Greenville.
            After two months, Sharpe, then 18, was arrested by police because a so-called “witness,” a 13-year-old drug addict named Charlene Johnson, said Radcliffe owed money for a drug deal.
            Johnson initially refused to even appear at Sharpe’s trial, forcing police to get her. She later admitted that she was given $500 not only to appear, but allegedly gave false testimony against Sharpe.
            In a sworn affidavit recently, Ms. Johnson said, “My lies have kept Dontae in prison, but they have also been a very heavy burden for me. I feel stuck in Greenville until I fix what I did and Dontae is free.
Another drug addicted “witness” claimed she saw the shooting during a scuffle between Radcliffe and another man, but could not identify who the shooter was.
            Add to this reports of other suspects who were never pursued, supporters say, and alibi witnesses placing Sharpe elsewhere never interviewed by Greenville police.
            In June 2018, attorneys for Sharpe filed a motion for appropriate relief with Pitt County Superior Court, containing new testimony from an East Carolina University forensic pathologist who stated that after reviewing crime scene photographs, “…it would be medically and scientifically impossible “ for Radcliffe to have been murdered in the manner that the witness against Sharpe originally testified to.
            There was no forensic evidence ever linking Sharpe to the murder.
            The NCNAACP, along with Dontae Sharpe’s mother, Sarah Blakely, has been lobbying statewide for Sharpe’s conviction to be overturned for over three years. There are national petitions to Governor Roy Cooper and state Attorney General Josh Stein by the advocacy group Color of Change, urging both Democratic officials to free Sharpe in the face of mounting evidence that he did not kill George Radcliffe.
            And Pitt County now has a new District Attorney Faris Dixon, who seems more willing to consider the new evidence than his predecessor.
            Sharpe’s mother, Sarah Blakely, is hopeful that Friday will be the step needed to bring her son home finally after 24 years.
            "My family and I are thankful that this is happening,” she told a press conference last week in Greenville. “I'm trusting that the DA, the judge and all others will do the right thing," 


            [BLADENSBORO] In the election do-over being watched by the entire nation, State Sen. Dan Bishop came out on top of a 10 candidate field to easily win the GOP 9thCongressional District primary Tuesday with 48% of the vote. Bishop will now face Democrat Dan McCready on Sept. 10thfor the 9thDistrict seat in Congress. The state Board of Elections determined earlier this year that the Nov. 2018 9thDistrict election, won then by Republican Mark Harris, was tainted because of the illegal mishandling of absentee ballots. As a result, Harris was never certified as the winner, and a new race was ordered by the SBOE.

            [RALEIGH] It wasn’t until after the recent fatal shooting of a knife-wielding perpetrator, where the officer involved failed to activate his bodycam, did citizens find out that there was no requirement for officers to do so.But as of this week, in a two-page memo, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown indicated bodycams will be turned on at the beginning of each police shift, but placed in standby mode until activated by a button pressed by an officer. A week ago, angry activists disrupted a Raleigh City Council meeting demanding changes to the policy.

            [RALEIGH] The Democratic majority on the State Board of Elections made a personnel change at the top Monday, firing Elections Board Director Kim Strach, and replacing her with Karen Brinson Bell. Strach, whose husband is Republican attorney Phil Strach, known best for representing the GOP legislative leadership, was appointed in 2013 by then Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. By most accounts, she had done a good job leading the state Elections Board administration, especially during the recent investigations into the 9thCongressional District absentee ballot controversy. Starch’s last day is May 31st.



Tuesday, May 7, 2019



            [RALEIGH] The trial of a Wake County deputy, accused of using his K-9 dog to viciously attack an unarmed black man in April 2018 while he was being beaten by state troopers, began this week. Deputy Cameron Broadwell has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious bodily injury and willfully failing to discharge duties. The victim, Kyron Hinton, who suffered serious lacerations and other injuries, has since died of a drug overdose one day after collecting an $83,000 settlement in the case. Broadwell has defended is actions, saying that he was trying to protect the public, and his fellow officers, from Hinton.

            [DURHAM] After some controversy and lots of discussion, the Durham City Council, Monday evening, passed a resolution paying tribute to Black Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X. The resolution was controversial because white members of the council did not want to support a measure that also seemed to promote the NOI – which many whites consider a hate group. After much discussion, the Malcolm X resolution was passed at midnight.

            [RALEIGH] Observers say it could be at least two months before the U.S. Supreme Court makes its decision on North Carolina’s political gerrymandering case. The case, along with a similar one in Maryland, is critical because a ruling would define the right of states to draw voting districts that overwhelmingly favor political parties, which is currently legal. Opponents that doing so, however, denies voters of the other party their constitutional rights because they’re drawn into voting districts that will not allow them to choose different leadership. Legislation in the NC General Assembly is pending the U.S. High Court’s decision.


By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

            If incumbent Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, a Democrat, is going to retain his seat after the State Board of Elections (SBOE) voted 4-1 on Monday to uphold last November’s election victory by Republican challenger Jody Greene, he’ll have to appeal it in court.
            And unless Sheriff Hatcher is, indeed, able to convince a court that the SBOE is  in error, the way will be clear for the SBOE to officially certify the race in Jody Greene’s favor.
            Despite evidence of questionable residency and complaints of alleged ballot irregularities were both considered, and ultimately dismissed by the SBOE, Greene’s unofficial 37- vote victory over Hatcher was upheld by the Democrat-majority elections board.
            The SBOE is Democrat majority, 3-2.
            Greene had been sworn-in in December, but then had to step aside after the case had been appealed.
            Several weeks ago, the Democrat-led Columbus County Elections Board came to the exact opposite decision of the SBOE, based on doubts that Greene had permanently lived in an RV on his farm property near the town of Cerro Gordo a year before the November 2018 election, as required by law.
            Opponents alleged that Greene had homes outside of Columbus County that actually served as permanent residences. Members of the Columbus BOE visited Greene’s RV and inspected it. The majority of the board determined that given the length of time Jody Greene claimed to have lived at the site with his wife, the couple did not there permanently.
            The Columbus Elections Board turned its findings over to the SBOE for final review, which it did on Monday. The state board disagreed, saying that the Columbus BOE “put too much weight” on the RV issue.
            And neither did the fact that Greene used the services of controversial election “consultant” McCrae Dowless, who stands indicted for allegedly mishandling Bladen County absentee ballots in the Ninth Congressional District race, where Republican Mark Harris won, but whose victory was thrown out after evidence of the ballot tampering had been discovered.
            But investigators for the SBOE testified Monday that despite Dowless’ dubious activity in Bladen County, they found no evidence that he did anything questionable in Columbus County.
            There were also allegations of illegal mishandling of absentee ballots at a local nursing home. That case is still under investigation.
            And even though there were charges of serious problems at the Columbus County elections office with claims of ballot shortages and people unable to vote as a result (the elections director confirmed those claims, also alleging that there were ballots “brought in through the back door”) the SBOE still voted 3-2 (with the SBOE Democrat chairman voting with the board’s two Republicans) to dismiss the claims.
            Attorneys for the complainants argued for a new election be granted, but lost. 
            At press time, there was no word as to if, or when Sheriff Hatcher would file an appeal in court to the SBOE decisions.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            In the midst of a national push to end long-term solitary confinement in prisons and jail – especially given the large African-American population in each  - a new measure in the NC House seeks to have the state Dept. of Public Safety ”… study confinement of persons with mental illness.”
            HB 781 – the Study Confinement/Persons with Mental Illness Act, as it is titled, would become law as soon as it is enacted. All findings and recommendations would be reported to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety “…no later than March 1, 2020,” the proposed bill states.
            According to a 2014 report by the Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic at the University of North Carolina School of Law, solitary confinement has been identified as a “…cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment that is – or at the very least approximates – torture and a severe form of human rights violation …”
Prison and jail inmates are held in confined isolation from the rest of the population for 22-hours a day for sometimes weeks, with virtually no human contact. The UNC Law report continues, “…Under North Carolina’s state constitution…the nation and state of North Carolina must not be complicit in any act that falls within this category of atrocity.”
"Solitary confinement is hell,” wrote a Central Prison inmate to the Weekly Independent newspaper in Durham in 2012. “I agree with the public it is a form of torture. It is a tiny cell about 6 feet by 8 feet. It has a steel toilet, with a sink built in the top. There is a steel bed, with an extremely thin mattress.” 
“"We are in this cell 23 hours a day,” the Central inmate continued. “We are allowed to come out for recreation five times a week for one hour. The rec is a cage. They just stick us in a little cage and we can walk around. That's it. We are only allowed to take three showers a week. Only three! And we can only take 5 minutes. If we are lucky, we get 10 minutes.”
It was two years after that UNC Law report that state prison officials announced the end of isolating inmates 17 years-old and younger in what is known as “restrictive housing” by Sept. 1,,2016. That January, Pres. Barack Obama ordered the practice ended for young offenders in federal prisons because of the proven likelihood of “lasting, psychological consequences.”
            And almost a year before that in 2015, at the urging of the ACLU, North Carolina was investigated by the U.S. Justice Dept. for putting mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement.
In January of this year, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden – who won office last November -  formally ended the practice of housing 16 and 17-year-old suspects in solitary confinement, saying that it “…stripped teens of their dignity.”
According to a 2016 report by the nonprofit Sentencing Project, “ Among 40 jurisdictions providing data, black women constituted 24% of the total incarcerated population, but comprised 41% of the female restricted housing population (across the nation).”
Under HB 781, the study group will be tasked to examine:
-                   under what conditions inmates with mental illness shall be housed in restrictive housing
-                   the number of incarcerated individuals with a diagnosed mental illness
-                   information on the types of confinement used for inmates diagnosed with mental illness
-                   the average length of stay in restrictive housing for inmates with mental illness
-                   types of mental health treatment provided to inmates with mental illness
-                   use of Therapeutic Diversion Units
-                   the Safe Alternatives to Segregation initiative conducted by VERA Institute of Justice
-                   ways to attract and retain qualified staff for all prison positions, including correctional officers and behavioral health specialists