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News Roundup – North Carolina Criminal LawNorth Carolina Criminal Law

“An Iowa teenage sex trafficking victim who stabbed her rapist to death was sentenced by a judge on Tuesday to five years of closely supervised probation and must pay $150,000 restitution to her abuser’s family.” So reports Fox News here. The teen was a 15-year-old runaway when she began being trafficked for sex. She was allegedly forced at knifepoint to have sex with the man she killed. He fell asleep after the rape, then she stabbed him 37 times. She was charged with first-degree murder but pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter. The judge noted that the restitution payment was mandatory under state law. CNN has this follow-up story, which says that the teen “is just one of several teenagers – often of color – who have been legally penalized or convicted of killing their sex trafficker or assaulter in recent years in the US.” It also notes that a GoFundMe campaign has raised over $388,000 for the young woman in question.

Restitution in Charlotte armored car robbery slow to come in. Anyone who works in the criminal courts knows that restitution is ordered much more often than it is paid. That has certainly been the case in connection with a famous 1997 armored car warehouse robbery in Charlotte, where a group of thieves made off with more than $17 million. They were caught after going on a spending spree, were prosecuted in federal court, and were ordered to pay over $18 million in restitution. But according to this WRAL story, less than $1 million has been paid. For context, the story notes that over 90% of all restitution ordered in federal criminal cases has been deemed “uncollectable.” Apparently federal law limits collection efforts to 20 years after release from prison, and many of the participants in the robbery are near, or past, that point. A recent tax refund garnishment of $81.24 may be one of the last payments made.

Provocative essay on long prison sentences. Time magazine has this new article, which begins by observing that “[f]rom 2000 to 2019, the number of people serving sentences of 10 years or longer exploded from 587,000 to 773,000 … . Those 773,000 people account for more than half of the U.S. prison population.” The piece then argues that most offenders age out of crime, in part due to prefrontal cortex development, such that many long sentences end up incarcerating people who are far less dangerous than they were at the time of sentencing.

Petition filed to remove Wake County sheriff. According to WRAL, six Wake County residents, including the Republican candidate for district attorney, filed a petition seeking the removal of Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker. The petition apparently covers “hiring and firing decisions, financial issues and, most recently, concerns from the family of murdered Deputy Ned Byrd.” It was filed under G.S. 128-16, which allows the removal of “[a]ny sheriff or police officer” for causes including “willful or habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of his office” or “willful misconduct or maladministration in office.” Baker’s current term is going to end in a few months and he lost the Democratic primary, so one way or the other his tenure will not last much longer.

AP story about the failure of law enforcement to monitor and protect informants. Being an informant is dangerous. This new AP story highlights that in a powerful way, and raises questions about law enforcement’s obligation to protect informants from harm. It begins with the shocking story of a female informant in Louisiana who was wired up and sent to buy drugs. Instead of selling her drugs, the target sexually assaulted her. The harrowing incident was captured on the recording equipment, but the equipment was not capable of transmitting to the officers stationed nearby, who were therefore unaware of the assault until it was over. A former DEA agent describes the situation as involving “massive ineptitude” by the officers, while the sheriff whose deputies ran the operation said only, “There are always things you learn that you can do better.”

Impending bar complaint arising out of Cabarrus County traffic court. WRAL reports here that “[a] group of Cabarrus County defense attorneys are filing a complaint about injustices in the county’s traffic court.” The concern centers on what the attorneys view as unusually favorable dispositions on speeding tickets that were granted primarily to the clients of attorney Todd Williford. More details are available from WCNC, which obtained a draft of the “complaint” – which appears to be a letter to the State Bar asking for an investigation. The draft calls for a review of “inappropriate dispositions” and describes a “ticket-fixing arrangement.” Whether such descriptions are apt, of course, remains to be determined.

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