4 High Point men charged in shooting death

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

HIGH POINT — Four High Point men have been charged in a deadly shooting Saturday night.

Around 8:30 p.m., police responded to the 500-block of Amos Street in reference to a shooting, according to a police news release. Officers found 38-year-old Charles A. Anderson in the road suffering from a gunshot wound to his chest and began implementing life-saving procedures. 

Anderson died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. 

Officers determined that the shots came from inside of 523 Amos St. and were able to detain all four suspects inside the residence and apply for a search warrant. Several items of evidence were located and seized during the search of the home. It was determined by investigators that Anderson was shot as he stood on the porch of the residence.

The four men charged with murder in Anderson’s death are:

• Tywuan D. Jackson, 26; and

• Johnny D. London, 35.

All four are being held in Guilford County jail without bail.

The investigation is ongoing.

Philadelphia’s new district attorney isn’t who you’d expect. Is his election a sign of more change to come?

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

For seven weeks in 2011, Occupy Philadelphia protesters camped out in a park next to City Hall to call attention to the economic inequality dividing their city and the influence of corporations in government. Police eventually swarmed the plaza, arresting 52 people on charges of failing to disperse and obstructing a highway.

The protesters struck back. Attorney Larry Krasner filed suit against the city and police, alleging that the protesters had been unlawfully arrested while exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly. The city ultimately agreed to settle the case for $200,000.

That was then. Krasner, who has defended countless other activists and accused criminals over a 30-year career, is now preparing for a new role as Philadelphia’s top prosecutor. He assumes the office on Tuesday.

The election of Krasner, a longtime champion of individuals fighting the status quo, is viewed by many in this city as a long overdue step toward fighting corruption and injustice in a metropolis that jails people at a rate more than twice the national average and whose last top prosecutor pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.

Even as Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has vowed to get tougher on crime, Krasner joins a growing list of district attorneys around the country — including Eric Gonzalez in Brooklyn, Kim Foxx in Chicago and Kim Ogg in Houston — who have declared that their role isn’t simply to prosecute, but to protect defendants from the excesses of the criminal justice system.

Some say Krasner’s win may signal a broader shift to come in 2018.

“What happened in Philly is starting to open the eyes of people in other places,” said Clarise McCants, campaign director for Color of Change, a racial justice group that works to elect officials who will be responsive to African Americans.

Krasner, 56, never thought about running for district attorney. He spent his career on the other side of the courtroom and sued police dozens of times for corruption and abuse.

But in late 2016, as he was evaluating possible candidates to replace incumbent Dist. Atty. Seth Williams, Krasner didn’t think any were fit for the job.

“I saw no potential for real transformational change,” he said in an interview.

He decided to run himself.

“The culture around criminal justice has not been justice,” Krasner said when he announced his candidacy. He described a record of mandatory and “excessive” sentencing and a system that disproportionately incarcerates minorities and poor people.

He campaigned on a platform of changing that culture, vowing to “decarcerate” Philadelphia, reform cash bail, treat drug addiction as a medical issue rather than a crime, protect immigrants and focus on serious criminals over low-level offenders. He also committed not to seek the death penalty.

Krasner’s ties to activists, community groups and national political organizations such as Color of Change and Bernie Sanders spinoff Our Revolution played a pivotal role in helping get him elected, said Richardson Dilworth, a professor of politics at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Working Families Party, which focuses on workers’ rights and the social safety net, endorsed Krasner and campaigned for him almost immediately after he announced his candidacy.

“This was the person who had a view point and saw the world through a similar framework as we saw it,” said director Brandon Evans, who secured labor support for Krasner and organized a canvassing strategy in voter-rich neighborhoods.

But Evans also said Krasner’s candidacy came at the right time. “We’re in a Black Lives Matter moment,” he said.

An influx of $1.45 million from billionaire George Soros, who has invested in a handful of reform candidates in district attorney races around the country, also helped. The money bought messages on local airwaves and to mailboxes about Krasner’s work defending Black Lives Matter activists and suing police.

Krasner won the Democratic primary in May with 38% of the vote, defeating six other candidates in most of the city’s 66 political wards.

But he lacked support from key corners. He lost wards in Philadelphia’s far northeast and deep south — neighborhoods that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election and which are home to white, working-class voters and police.

Just before the primary, a group of former assistant district attorneys published an open letter describing Krasner as “a radical candidate with no experience prosecuting crime,” and someone who had done little to help crime victims.

The Philadelphia Inquirer endorsed Krasner’s opponents in the primary and general elections. So did the police union, whose president described Krasner as having “open hostility” to police and said he would be a “danger” to Philadelphia.

“He’s going to need those police — and they don’t trust him, ” said Lynne Abraham, who served as Philadelphia’s district attorney from 1991 to 2010.

Abraham, who earned the moniker “deadliest D.A.” for her aggressive pursuit of capital punishment, also criticized Krasner for his stance on the death penalty and what she saw as soft-on-crime policies.

“You’re supposed to be a tough prosecutor — that’s what you’re paid to do,” she said. “I think he’s going to have difficulty trying to convince people that his philosophy is the right philosophy.”

Krasner will face a high-profile test early in his administration, in the form of a trial involving the shooting of police Sgt. Robert Wilson in 2015.

At least one of the two accused gunmen in the case had prior convictions, and they are charged with shooting Wilson during an attempted robbery while he was on duty — elements that prosecutors described in court documents as “aggravating factors” that would potentially justify a death penalty.

Krasner has repeatedly said his office will not seek the death penalty, describing it as wasteful, ineffective and racially biased.

But Krasner could be stymied by political pressure. Orlando Dist. Atty. Aramis Ayala, who took office in January, fought and lost a public battle with Florida Gov. Rick Scott over her discretion not to seek the death penalty.

On top of that, much of the day-to-day work of the district attorney’s office — meeting with defense attorneys, arguing cases in court — is done by line prosecutors.

“Getting a policy decision made by the D.A. implemented at the local level takes getting buy-in from the rank and file,” said David Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford University who has studied the role of prosecutors.

Krasner said he wouldn’t presume to force the police to act a certain way. “But what I can do is reject cases,” he said. “I cannot put forward evidence that has been illegally seized.”

Reforming the cash bail system will also take the support of individuals outside the district attorney’s office.

Advocates concede these are complex issues that Krasner can’t fix on his own, but they worry he will back down amid political pressure.

Jondhi Harrell, executive director of the Center for Returning Citizens, which helps the formerly incarcerated, said Krasner may have already started backpedaling, by appointing former tough-on-crime district attorney and Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille as one of the leaders of his transition team.

“Is he really going to look out for the community or is he going to become a political animal and bow to the pressures of the D.A.’s office?” Harrell asked.

Around the country candidates in other races will be watching.

“Philly presented our first opportunity to shift the entire candidate field and to shift the entire political landscape left,” said McCants of Color of Change.

She said her group will be marshaling similar candidates in several district attorney races in 2018, including in Dallas; Durham, N.C.; and Oakland. “The small number of [reform-minded] prosecutors we have elected so far,” she said, “is nothing compared to the kind of impact we could have.”

And it’s not just in prosecutor’s races. Evans, of the Working Families Party, said the Philadelphia district attorney’s election put Pennsylvania’s nascent chapter of the party on the state’s political map.

“What people saw was that progressives could get out front and have a major candidate win a pretty significant race in a large city,” Evans said, noting that he has since received calls from candidates for local and statewide office who want to launch their campaigns with the Working Families Party.

“There’s a progressive pole to point to and say, ‘We did that, we can do more of that,’” he said.

nina.agrawal@latimes.com

Twitter: @AgrawalNina

Cindy Elmore: NC GOP is out of line on courts

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

Imagine this: You decide to challenge your speeding ticket in court — or worse, you are falsely accused of a crime — and your case comes up before a brand new judge. Unlike this judge’s predecessor, who was duly elected by a majority of voters, the judge you appear before was appointed by our General Assembly majority.

He owes his job to a conservative group of (mostly) white men. He owes nothing to you and your neighbors and your friends down the street, who, for their entire lives up until now had researched and voted upon their candidates for judgeships at local and state levels.

In his decisions on your case, maybe this judge is no different from previous judges. Then again — you wonder — maybe he pays attention to the campaign contributions and registered party affiliations of those who come before his bench.

Maybe he is hypersensitive to the prevailing legislative winds of this far-right-wing General Assembly majority. Maybe he was told prior to his appointment how “awful it is” that elected judges struck down this legislative majority’s racial gerrymandering and unconstitutional voting restrictions. This judge wants to keep his job by keeping those who appointed him happy.

This may not be an imaginary scenario. According to Fair Courts NC and Democracy North Carolina, a quiet proposal is being circulated among Republican legislators that would eliminate North Carolina’s judicial elections altogether.

If this happens, politicians will cherry pick judges who will rule based on political ideology and will rubber stamp a radical political agenda. Fair Courts NC says this will probably happen on the same day the proposal is introduced — possibly in January — giving no opportunity for hearings or informed input, which is entirely why the plan is being kept so secret.

Opponents say the plan includes setting a referendum in a May primary election — when hardly anyone votes — with the confusing language so often word-smithed onto referendum ballots to mislead voters into giving away something they should keep — in this case their long-held right to elect judges

If you, or someone else who responds to this essay, express doubts that this could happen, consider what the Republican General Assembly majority has already done to crush the independence of our judiciary.

House Bill 656 has already cancelled primary elections for judges, which will undoubtedly result in long lists of names on general election ballots that will be utterly confusing for voters who cannot possibly research each one, and thus could help get someone elected with just a tiny number of votes cast.

House Bill 717, which has been passed by the House, gerrymanders judicial boundaries, just as was done in the unconstitutional legislative maps. According to Fair Courts NC, under this plan nearly half of all African-American judges would be packed into a district with another incumbent, forcing them to run against each other or step down.

Senate Bill 698 has been introduced to cut judges’ terms to two years, a drastic slash to the eight-year terms of many judges, and a 50 percent cut to the terms of district court judges, who are currently elected every four years, not two. Even North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin, a Republican whose term is set to end in 2022, told the North Carolina State Bar Association this fall that “Nowhere in America do voters elect their general jurisdiction judges for two-year terms of office.”

This radical change would force judges to continually raise money and campaign instead of dispensing justice. It would also force them to ponder whether a decision this way or a decision that way might influence their ability to raise the funds needed for re-election.

These measures are on top of the partisan decision last spring to force Superior Court and District Court judicial candidates to run as partisan candidates, making it much harder for an unaffiliated candidate to run.

A Democratic majority in the legislature had done the same with Superior Court and District Court elections in 1996 and 2001. Both groups’ actions have politicized what should be an independent state judiciary.

Fair Courts NC says this is the first state in 100 years to go from nonpartisan to partisan elections. With ever-declining trust in the judicial branch, states should be moving in the opposite direction.

Last year came the attempt to take away North Carolinians’ ability to vote in state Supreme Court elections, and an attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court with two extra judges appointed by former Gov. Pat McCrory when the 2016 election produced a Democratic majority on the court.

And in 2013, the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory repealed public financing for state Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals candidates, which was a system that had leveled the playing field for female and minority candidates who are disadvantaged when they don’t get the same “good old boy” campaign donations that typically go to white men.

Since 2013, Republican legislators’ attacks on the North Carolina judiciary have been relentless, and they assume that North Carolinians will eventually be worn down by fight after fight after fight for our rights.

I was one of about 60 people who attended Greenville’s Fair Courts Town Hall last week, one of several such events coming throughout the state this month to warn North Carolinians about the threat to our courts and our rights.

They’re going to call it “merit selection.” But they really just want to control who our judges are.

The only “merit” lies in continuing to fight.

Cindy Elmore is a professor in the School of Communication at East Carolina University.

NC man killed over stolen boat he didn’t steal; shop owner charged, sheriff says

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

BLADEN COUNTY, N.C.– The owner of a North Carolina boat shop shot and killed a man he incorrectly thought stole a boat from him earlier this month, the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office confirms.

Bladen County Sheriff James McVicker said 57-year-old Gore Marine owner David Gore confronted two men at an abandoned lumber mill in Kelly around 10:30 a.m. Saturday after getting information a $200,000 boat stolen on Dec. 17 from his Wilmington business might be there.

McVicker says Gore shot 34-year-old Allen Blanchard in the head and he died Monday. A second man was not hurt.

McVicker said in a statement that the men had no connection to the stolen boat.

Gore is charged with murder.

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© 2017 Associated Press

Gunman kidnaps man, forcing him to get cash from ATM in Chapel Hill

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Authorities are looking for a gunman who kidnapped a man and made him withdraw cash from an ATM in Chapel Hill Friday evening.

MORE NEWS: Gunman sets up Craigslist cellphone sale, then robs Chapel Hill victim, police say

The incident started around 7 p.m. Friday in the 400 Block of West Rosemary Street, according to a news release from Chapel Hill police.

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The suspect asked the victim for a ride. Once inside the car, the suspect pulled out a silver pistol and forced the victim to drive to an ATM and withdraw cash.

The suspect then fled on foot. The victim was not hurt.

The suspect is a 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall male in his 20s described as having a close-cropped beard and a thin to medium build, police said. He was wearing a brown coat and blue jeans.

If anyone has information about this incident, you may call either the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.

Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous, and the caller may be eligible for a cash reward up to $2,000 for information that leads to an arrest.

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What to do if you win the lottery in 2018

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

North Carolina Mega Millions lottery tickets rest on a counter at a Pilot travel center along Interstate 40 near Burlington, N.C., on July 1, 2016.

Gerry Broome, AP

There is no secret to winning the lottery. The only surefire way to get yourself a winning ticket is to be incredibly lucky.

Earlier this year, Kimberly Morris of Wake Forest, N.C., won the lottery twice in one day and she can attest that there is nothing to victory but chance. “I wasn’t really expecting much,” she says. “I just enjoy playing the lottery.”

If you do win big, however, there are clear rules experts suggest you follow and traps to avoid. So here’s hoping that you win big in the new year, and here are three ways to really beat the odds — by making sure your winnings don’t go to waste.

Keep quiet

The first thing that experts recommend winners do is to keep quiet. “I would recommend not telling people,” says Nick Holeman, certified financial planner at Betterment. “I wouldn’t necessarily go broadcasting it to the world.”

Holeman says that coming forward too early can lead to hasty decisions and can make lottery winners targets of crime and greed.

Lottery winners typically have three months to present their ticket, but they often come forward much more quickly.

For instance, when Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee, Mass., won the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot earlier this year, she spoke with the press in less than 24 hours.

Move slowly

Experts also suggest not making any rash life changes. The CFP Board of Standards says nearly one-third of lottery winners eventually declare bankruptcy and lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcywithin three to five years than the average American.

That’s often because winners can become reckless with their newfound wealth. In order to avoid a harsh fate, lottery winners should not make any hasty decisions.

That is why former social worker Sandra Hayes maintains a frugal lifestyle even after winning a $224 million Powerball jackpot with a dozen of her coworkers.

“I know a lot of people who won the lottery and are broke today,” she said. “If you’re not disciplined, you will go broke. I don’t care how much money you have.”

More: Powerball, Mega Millions jackpots soar past $300 million for 2018

More: Missouri woman wins lottery twice in one day

More: The first things to do if you win the lottery

Be strategic

Powerball winners are able to collect their winnings as a lump sum prize or in a series of payments over 30 years, known as an annuity. Holeman says the annuity is the smart choice.

“If you get a huge lump sum, it’s easier to make a mistake, whereas if you choose the annuity, then at least if you mess up and blow the first year’s worth, you have another chance.”

Jim Cramer, on the other hand, thinks the lump sum option is the right choice, arguing that you want to put as much money as possible to work for you as soon as possible.

“Take the money all at once,” the CNBC “Mad Money” host said. “Don’t let them string it out like that. You want the time value of all that cash working for you. That’s vital.”

No matter which you choose, thinking strategically can help you avoid making the same mistakes of winners past.

© CNBC is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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A sign in Chicago advertises a $636 million Mega Millions jackpot on Dec. 17, 2013. Later that day the pot rose to $648 million, and two winning tickets were sold, making it the fourth largest lottery prize in U.S. history.

Copyright 2017 USATODAY.com

Mt. Airy Officer Recovering After Crash With Suspected Drunk Driver

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

Mt. Airy, N.C. — A Mount Airy police officer is home recovering after being injured in a crash with a suspected drunk driver. 

The crash happened on Saturday, December 23 around 8:30 p.m. Police say Sergeant L.T. Whitaker was driving on North Franklin Road just north of Piper’s Gap Road when his patrol vehicle was hit nearly head on by a Ford Taurus being driven by Cindy Lee Ross. 

Police say Sgt. Whitaker suffered a fractured C7 vertebrae spinal cord injury, but is now at home recovering and doing well. 

“We are all very thankful he was not hurt any worse,” said Mt. Airy Police Captain Barry Vanhoy. 

Ross had two passengers in her car that refused medical treatment at the scene. 

Police say alcohol is suspected in the crash, and Ross was charged with Driving While Impaired. 

 

 

Copyright 2017 WFMY

Treasurer wants stronger pension forfeiture law for officials convicted of felonies

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

— Public officials take an oath to serve and protect the public’s trust, but they don’t always uphold that standard:

North Carolina has a law that’s been in effect for about a decade that restricts pensions for public officials convicted of a felony related to the job, but State Treasurer Dale Folwell said it needs more teeth.

Folwell was a state lawmaker who helped pass the pension forfeiture law after former House Speaker Jim Black and ex-Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps went to prison for taking illegal campaign cash. Neither Black nor Phipps lost their state pensions because there were no rules on the books at the time of their crimes.

“It outrages the citizens of this state,” Folwell said Friday of public corruption.

The law doesn’t cover crimes unrelated to someone’s public position. It also doesn’t affect years of service unrelated to a crime, individual pension contributions or earned interest.

Folwell wants current lawmakers to clarify the law to put prosecutors and judges on the same page with his office.

“We’re just making sure that, A, we’re applying the law because we are keepers of the public purse in the Treasurer’s Office, and B, that the prosecutors, the district attorneys and the judges across the state understand that this is very important,” he said.

Folwell said the clarification would require anybody who doesn’t want to apply the pension forfeiture law in a specific case to “overtly do something to keep the person’s pension intact.”

He also wants plea deals to be subject to pension forfeitures.

Folwell didn’t provide specific examples of cases that may be bypassing the pension forfeiture law, but he said elected officials who misuse their public office and still collect a pension unfairly cost all the other members of the state pension plan.

“It’s not emotional, it’s not political, it’s mathematical,” he said.

Thieves Targeting Fire Stations While Crews Respond to Emergencies: Police

December 31, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

Over the past two years, several thefts have been reported from fire stations across the Charlotte area. Criminals were smashing windows, stealing thousands and even several guns.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Yet another Charlotte fire station has been targeted by thieves. 

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police say sometime in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 23, someone broke into the back of a gated parking lot of Fire Station 11 on West 28th Street. 

Incident reports say four cars were broken into. Among the items stolen include a Smith and Wesson M&P nine-millimeter pistol, ammunition, a MacBook Air computer and Swiss Army knife with “A Brake” engraved on it. 

Over the past two years, several thefts have been reported from fire stations across the Charlotte area. Criminals were smashing windows, stealing thousands and even several guns.

Several months back, Charlotte Fire tweeted, “While your firefighters respond to emergencies, someone is breaking into their cars and stealing from them.”

To protect the ones who help to protect us, Charlotte’s newly-elected City Council recently voted to purchase and install security systems at every fire department in Charlotte. 

Locations will be monitored by CMPD’s Real Time Crime Center and CFD. Cameras were first installed two years ago when the city got wind of vehicle break-ins.

The council approved a request to install an estimated 64 cameras at all remaining fire departments. Each station generally requires two to three cameras.  

The council says the one-time cost to place cameras at all remaining locations is estimated at $185,000.  

No word on when the cameras will be installed. 

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© 2017 WCNC.COM

Children Targeted by Thieves at Charlotte Area Mall

December 30, 2017 in Bail Bonding, Crime

Thieves are stealing purses and wallets from shops and malls, and some of the targets are children.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The holiday Christmas shopping rush is still in full swing and police are warning shoppers to keep their personal items close.

Several thefts have been reported from SouthPark Mall in late December. Some of the victims have been children. 

“When little children leave their stuff on accident people will probably take it,” said 8-year-old Kira Nerell, who learned that lesson the hard way Thursday.

As Kira was leaving the SouthPark Belk with her mom Christy, she realized she forgot her purple drawstring bag inside the store.

“We went back inside where I took it off and it wasn’t there,” she said. 

Only minutes had passed, but the bag was gone.

“I thought for sure someone would find it and turn it in because, I mean, it’s Christmas,” mom Christy said.

But as of Friday, no one had turned it in. 

“I wish the lesson had been ‘you’re lucky somebody turned it in,’ instead of ‘the Grinch stole your Christmas money,’” Christy said. 

Turns out, they’re not alone. After Christy and Kira shared their story, other parents came forward saying their kids’ wallets and bags were recently stolen at SouthPark, too. Some worried that their children had been watched or targeted by thieves waiting for a crime of opportunity. 

“It’s terrible for anybody’s bag but to be targeting kids just that breaks my heart,” Christy said.

Kids like Kira, who lost all her Christmas money, but not her Christmas spirit.

“The person who took it probably needed it more than me,” Kira said. “But if you didn’t, please return it to the store and let them call my mom.”

Police say this is a popular time for thefts at stores and malls, so shoppers should be extra vigilant.

© 2017 WCNC.COM