2 men sentenced in Great Smoky Mountains National Park rapes
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two men have been sentenced to federal prison in the rapes of young male victims in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Department of Justice said Monday that 41-year-old Dusty William Oliver and 49-year-old Richard Graham pleaded guilty to two counts each of aggravated sexual abuse. Oliver was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Graham was sentenced to just over 19 years in prison. Both received 15 years of supervised release. Prosecutors alleged that in June 2012 and in November 2015 the defendants raped two different male victims in the park. The statement said they sought out men who were homeless and addicted to drugs.
THINK TANKS MERGE
North Carolina right-leaning think tanks are merging
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Two conservative-leaning think tanks in North Carolina are merging. The John Locke Foundation and Civitas Institute announced on Thursday that they’ll unite under the Locke Foundation name starting Jan. 1. The John Locke Foundation began in 1990, while Civitas started in 2005. Both groups have received operating funds annually from the John William Pope Foundation. That foundation is led by former state legislator and state budget director Art Pope. He and his family have given to conservative causes for decades. The political education arm of Civitas Institute called Civitas Action will remain in place as a separate sister organization.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-WORKER SAFETY
Worker groups pan NC labor chief on refusing new COVID rules
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina worker and civil rights advocates are unhappy with the outgoing state labor commissioner’s refusal to put more COVID-19 regulations upon employers. Representatives of groups that petitioned Commissioner Cherie Berry unsuccessfully planned a news conference for Thursday. They say more rules are needed to improve unsafe conditions for employees in manufacturing and food processing plants. Berry wrote last month that continuing to educate employers and workers about controlling the virus’ spread is a better solution than issuing punitive regulations. She also said case statistics indicate the virus threat is everywhere and not necessarily a “occupational hazard.”
Renters to get nearly $550K in apartment conditions lawsuit
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The former owners and manager of an apartment complex in North Carolina have agreed to pay nearly $550,000 to former tenants who claimed they were paying rent despite ongoing health and safety violations. The Charlotte Observer reports the settlement money will be divided among 97 former tenants of Charlotte’s Lake Arbor apartments in their class action lawsuit. Charlotte code inspectors had found violations at the complex after tenants complained of pests, unsafe wiring and water damage. An attorney for the former owners and property manger says they are not liable. He says they only settled to avoid time and the cost of a trial. The property owners also sparked outrage last year when they removed renters for renovations.
REPARATIONS-NORTH CAROLINA COUNTY
North Carolina county becomes latest to back reparations
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (AP) — A board of commissioners in a North Carolina county has voted to support reparations and apologized for the county’s role in slavery, segregation and systemic discrimination against Black residents. The News & Observer of Raleigh says the Orange County commissioners on Monday approved the resolution on reparations by a 6-1 vote. Similar to measures that have been passed this year in other North Carolina municipalities, Orange County’s resolution does not call for direct payments. It focuses instead on county efforts to prioritize racial equity. Board members also called on the county to work with public and private partners to invest in communities of color and Black-owned businesses.
BIKER BEACH-RACISM LAWSUIT
Black bikers see racism in Myrtle Beach, SC, traffic plan
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina beach city is in the second week of a federal trial over whether it discriminates against thousands of Black tourists who visit each May to celebrate motorcycle culture. Myrtle Beach says it implemented a 23-mile-long traffic loop for public safety during Atlantic Beach Bikefest, commonly known as Black Bike Week. Civil rights groups accuse the city of trying to make the experience so unpleasant that Black visitors will eventually stop coming. The annual gathering takes place right after Harley Week, where most bikers are white. Lawyers say the city doesn’t impose the same restrictions on the white motorcyclists.
Police: Man assaulted family with Black Lives Matter sign
LEWISVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A white North Carolina man has been accused of assaulting two family members whose car displayed a homemade Black Lives Matter sign and a sign honoring Breonna Taylor. The Winston-Salem Journal reports the incident occurred Dec. 3 in Forsyth County. Arrest warrants say 55-year-old Rod Steven Sturdy of Lewisville faces two misdemeanor charges of simple assault and assault on a female after punching a woman and her juvenile brother in the face. The family’s attorney says Sturdy blocked the family’s car in a parking lot and used racist language. Sturdy told the newspaper over the phone that he didn’t think the media cared about the facts and then hung up.
AP-NC-FATAL SHOOTING-WOMAN CHARGED
Sheriff: N. Carolina woman charged in man’s shooting death
DOBSON, N.C. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a North Carolina woman in connection with a man’s shooting death. The Surry County Sheriff’s Office says 47-year-old Carrie Leigh Whitaker was arrested Tuesday and charged with murder in the shooting death of 61-year-old Ronald Alan Clark. Sheriff Steve Hiatt says deputies received a call Monday afternoon regarding a shooting at Clark’s home. When deputies arrived, they found him dead from an apparent gunshot wound. Hiatt says it was Whitaker who called the sheriff’s office about the shooting. A motive for the shooting wasn’t immediately released. It’s unclear whether Whitaker has an attorney.
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