North Carolina burglary fail: Would-be burglar beaten by resident

John Alexander Bracken is accused of breaking into a home and getting into a fight with a resident. (Fox 46)

CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. – A man accused of breaking into a home in Carolina beach reportedly ended up getting into a fight with the resident.

Scott Hettinger with the Carolina Beach Police Department tells WECT-TV they found the suspect, John Alexander Bracken, laying in the front yard of the home after being called out on a breaking and entering.

Officers determined that Bracken had kicked in the front door of the home, only to find the resident inside. That’s when the resident started beating the suspect to protect his property, according to WWAY-TV.

The resident was not injured.

Bracken was taken to the New Hanover County Jail under $7.500 bond. He faces charges of burglary, injury to real property and injury to personal property.

Click for more from Fox 46.

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North Carolina man receives shocking $100 million charge on water bill

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. – The water bill wasn’t so bad, but the service charge was eye-popping.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that Kieran Healy of Orange County in central North Carolina got a water bill for $189.92. The service charge was a dollar shy of $100 million.

Hey @owasa1, I just got a water bill for a hundred million dollars. Specifically, for $100,000,188 and 92 cents. Can I pay in installments? pic.twitter.com/t4Jd6wAneb

— Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) June 14, 2017

Healy said he asked Orange Water and Sewer Authority on Twitter on Wednesday if he could make installment payments.

Healy posted later Wednesday the utility assured him that his bill was wrong.

The utility’s Stephen Winters said an outside company sends payment reminder emails to customers before their account is drafted. Winters said a mistake made it appear Healy faced a huge bill.

Winters said he doesn’t know how many customers may get emails with incorrect service charges, but the company is sending out apology messages.

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Civil Liberty Groups Decry North Carolina’s Restrictive Laws Push

Over the past six years, North Carolina has pushed some of the most restrictive legislation in the country, civil liberties groups say — and they caution that the state’s push could represent the proverbial "canary in the coalmine."

In two separate cases within the past few weeks, the North Carolina legislature suffered significant defeats in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the first, the high court declined to revive the state’s restrictive voter ID law, a law that gained national attention last year when a federal appeals court ruled its provisions deliberately “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” in an effort to depress black turnout at the polls.

On May 22, the Supreme Court threw out two of the state’s congressional districts, ruling that lawmakers unconstitutionally used race as a predominant factor when drawing the maps.

Civil rights organizations celebrated these actions by the courts.

But North Carolina Republican legislators remain undeterred. Within hours after learning their appeal would not be heard on the voter ID case, state GOP leaders pledged to pass a new bill.

While other states have leveraged GOP majorities in state legislatures to push through conservative policies, North Carolina outpaces other states in passing laws that dial back civil liberties, said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

“There’s clearly been a broader breakdown in democratic culture in North Carolina that is extending beyond these discriminatory laws,” Weiser said. “I think of North Carolina as a canary in the coalmine.”

In North Carolina, civil liberty groups say, restrictive legislation follows a familiar pattern.

The Republican-dominated state legislature, armed with a veto-proof supermajority secured by carefully crafted gerrymandering, passes controversial legislation.

The law is challenged in court.

The state loses.

North Carolina is not the only state to take advantage of a 2010 Republican legislative sweep to put in place both legislative maps and voting laws that would entrench their current legislative majority.

In Texas, the courts have struck down strict voter ID laws and several congressional districts that were found to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. The Supreme Court advised a lower court examine Virginia’s redistricting efforts for signs of racial bias and gerrymandering. In a similar case in Alabama, the high court ruled 5 to 4 that the state legislature relied too heavily on race when it drew districts.

Rachel Jordan protests outside the House gallery during a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, Dec. 16, 2016.

But civil liberty experts say North Carolina has been unique in the breadth and scope of what they call its restrictive legislation.

"North Carolina Republicans, I think it’s fair to say, have gone further than their counterparts in any other state in using their total control over state government to manipulate election rules in such a way as to advantage their own party," says Zachary Roth, former national correspondent for MSNBC.com and author of "The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy." "We’ve seen that in a number of states, but North Carolina Republicans have been the most brazen and aggressive about it."

Despite being rebuffed by the courts on legislation ranging from stripping the powers of the state’s Democratic governor, to portions of the infamous "bathroom bill," reproductive rights for women, stringent voting restrictions and gerrymandering based on race, many experts believe there is no end in sight.

“Republicans still hold all the cards,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of the nonpartisan group Common Cause North Carolina. “These court decisions are not deterring them at all, they’re just pivoting.”

With a supermajority in the legislature, Republicans can pass laws without a single Democratic vote. Because of this, substantial and consequential laws are being decided not on the assembly floor, but in the courtroom.

And as the state wages these lengthy court battles, the taxpayers are left footing this ever-rising bill.

As of November 2016, North Carolina Republican lawmakers had spent more than $10.5 million litigating controversial laws since coming to power in 2011, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. That total has only grown higher as cases have wound their way through the appeals process.

Almost half that money — $4.9 million — went to defend the state’s sweeping voter law, which was overturned by a panel of federal of judges. On May 15, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s appeal. Lawmakers spent an additional $3.7 million defending the redistricting plans that were also overturned by the courts.

As the legislature proposes cuts to arts and physical education in North Carolina schools, residents wonder if this money tied up in courts, litigating highly unpopular legislation like the “bathroom bill,” could be better spent.

“For those of us that live in the state, this is sad because that’s money that might have gone to public education or other things that are important to the citizens of North Carolina,” says Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But the state legislature obviously doesn’t seem to care. They’re continuing to try and press their claims, or defend against their claims, and the cost just doesn’t seem to be a factor.”

Advocacy groups worry that North Carolina could set a dangerous precedent for rest of the country if this rule-until-the-courts-intervene style of governance continues.

“I fear that once we start going down that path of allowing temporary legislative majorities to change the rules to entrench their power and benefit themselves in a variety of ways, regardless of what the people want, that it will snowball,” Weiser said.

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Cam Johnson makes case for release from Pitt, transfer to North Carolina

(Photo: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports)

Cam Johnson, the sought-after graduate transfer from the University of Pittsburgh, has finally chosen his next school from an array of suitors: North Carolina.

Now the pertinent question becomes: Will he see the court for the Tar Heels this coming season?

Normally, this wouldn’t even be a question. Graduate transfers typically play immediately at any school of their choosing — but in this case, Pitt decided to place a restriction on Johnson that would force him to burn one of his two remaining years of eligibility (he graduated in three years, playing two of them, from Pitt) and sit out next season if he wishes to transfer to a fellow Atlantic Coast Conference school.

Johnson, a 6-8 wing who averaged nearly 12 points a game for the Panthers during his redshirt sophomore year last season, appears ready to fight his former school on this count.

MORE COLLEGE BASKETBALL:

In a statement released to the Raleigh News & Observer on Tuesday, Johnson added to his already compelling case for immediate eligibility:

"On June 2, I was informed that the NCAA had determined that Pitt’s attempt to make me ‘serve a year of residence prior to being eligible for competition’ does not apply to graduate transfers per bylaw 14.6.1.,” Johnson wrote. “According to the NCAA, this bylaw means graduate transfers must be immediately eligible or totally denied from attending a school. Having already won the right to “immediately receive athletically related financial aid” from an ACC institution at my appeal hearing, I believe, as does my family’s legal counsel, that I should be immediately eligible at North Carolina.”

In the lengthy statement, Johnson went on to point out that during his three years at Pitt he had a coach (Jamie Dixon) leave for TCU, a coach (Kevin Stallings) who left Vanderbilt to come to Pitt, an athletic director (Scott Barnes) leave for Oregon State, an athletic director (Heather Lyke) who left Eastern Michigan to come to Pitt and an associate athletic director leave for another school.

“All five of these individual left their jobs under contract and all had the freedom to move as they pleased,” Johnson wrote. “As a student-athlete, who is not a paid employee of the school, and a graduate, shouldn’t I be granted the same freedom of movement?”

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North Carolina high school principal apologizes for student’s ‘sexist’ yearbook quote

A North Carolina high school principal apologized on Wednesday after a student’s offensive statement was published in the school’s yearbook.

A senior at Panther Creek High School in Wake County submitted a quote to the yearbook committee that read: "I don’t know what’s worse, candy corn or women’s rights," according to The News & Observer.

Many students were outraged that the "sexist" statement was published in the high school memorabilia when they received the yearbooks on Wednesdsay. Principal Camille Hedrick issued an apology on Twitter later that day, assuring that administratives will look into its editorial review process in the future.

"I would like to apologize to our school community for the offensive senior quote that was not caught by the yearbook review process," Hedrick wrote in the statement.

"This sexist quote is a poor representation of our school and particularly our senior class. I am disappointed that it was published, and doubly disappointed that one of our students would harbor – let alone express – such a hateful viewpoint. This isn’t who we are," the statement read.

In the same week, principal Dana King of Millbrook High School, also in Wake County, issued an apology for another offensive yearbook quote that read, "I like my women how I like my milk: white, rich and 2% fat," the newspaper reported.

Principals in the Wake County public school system have the right to prohibit any "vulgar, indecent, or obsene" material from being published in the yearbook. However, the county website states: "Student reporters and editors are responsible for the content of student publications."

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$500 Million Opium Poppy Field Accidentally Found In North Carolina

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Supreme Court’s North Carolina congressional districts ruling could mean trouble for similar Texas cases

AP

WASHINGTON — In striking down North Carolina’s congressional district map, the Supreme Court sent Texas a firm warning Monday about how the state’s case may fare if it reaches that stage.

The 5-3 North Carolina ruling affirmed a previous district court decision, which found that Republican state legislators there had “packed” black voters into two Democratic-held districts to dilute the impact of minority votes in other congressional seats.

Written by Justice Elena Kagan, the ruling is the latest in a series of rejections from the Supreme Court in recent years towards redistricting efforts that include racial considerations. The court demanded the review of Virginia state legislature districts in March and also ruled against Alabama’s state legislature districts in 2015.

Even Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative skeptic of discrimination complaints in the past, sided with the majority in the North Carolina case.

Kagan wrote that the court offers “significant deference” to the district court’s ruling, leaving Texas with the tall order of proving that the lower courts made a “clear error” in the earlier judgments.

Perhaps most significantly, Kagan detailed the court’s opinion in a footnote that using a political defense does not necessarily solve the racial issues. Some Republican-controlled states have argued that, rather than discriminating against minorities, they were merely intending to discriminate against Democrats.

That reliance on partisan gerrymandering as a legal excuse will not hold, Kagan wrote.

As Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California Irvine, summed up his reaction to the distinction: “Holy cow this is a big deal.

“This will lead to many more successful racial gerrymandering cases in the American South and elsewhere, and allow these cases to substitute for (so far unsuccessful) partisan gerrymandering claims involving some of these districts,” Hasen wrote on his blog.

Justice Samuel Alito penned a dissent in the case, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy — but it is the majority’s opinion that will hold legal precedence moving forward.

"Partisan gerrymandering is always unsavory, but that is not the issue here," Alito wrote. "The issue is whether District 12 was drawn predominantly because of race. The record shows that it was not."

The Texas cases

A three-judge panel in federal district court in San Antonio ruled in March that Texas’ 2011 congressional maps were racially gerrymandered to dilute minority voters. The judges did not detail next steps, likely reserving any potential remedies for when they hear a follow-up case on the 2013 maps in July.

The court specifically took issue with the districts held by Republican Reps. Will Hurd of San Antonio, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi and Michael Burgess of Lewisville, as well as Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin.

But the forthcoming July hearing on the 2013 map, which was drawn as a temporary fix as the 2011 map faced challenges, is where major changes could be either ordered or avoided.

The San Antonio judges said in their order announcing the trial on the 2013 map that it was taking into consideration the time crunch at hand given the upcoming 2018 elections, meaning they may seek to rule quickly if they hope to fix the maps by that time.

Some of the boundaries that the court took issue with in the 2011 maps are identical to those in the 2013 version.

A spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the North Carolina ruling. But Paxton has previously expressed confidence in the state’s 2013 maps after the district court struck down the 2011 effort.

“The adoption of those maps in 2013 mooted any issue with the 2011 maps. There are no lines to redraw,” Paxton said in a written statement at the time. “Accordingly, we are confident we will prevail in this case.”

Michael Li, a redistricting expert and senior counsel at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, said the North Carolina ruling will be an “important decision” for the other districting efforts winding through the legal system, including those in Texas.

“It makes clear that this isn’t about any sort of talismanic test or anything like that but that you actually have to delve into the facts and circumstances about how maps are drawn,” Li said. “So even a district that looks pretty and has nice lines and everything like that can still be problematic, and it’s really up to the trial court to delve into that.”

Brewing Supreme Court battle

Democrats in Texas celebrated the ruling as a promising indication of how their arguments will fare moving forward.

“I am happy that North Carolina voters secured another victory against the national Republican crusade to undermine the voting power of African Americans and Hispanics in local, state, and federal elections,” said Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who has been on the front lines of another legal case against Texas’ voter ID law.

Though the North Carolina decision may be a setback for Texas’ chances, it will not necessarily be determinative of the outcome. As Kagan reiterated, the specific details of the districts matter greatly. And newly confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch will be able to hear the Texas case, whereas the North Carolina arguments occurred before he took his seat on the court.

While Li said he was reticent to predict Paxton’s decision-making, he expects the North Carolina case will factor into how he handles Texas’ efforts moving forward.

“It should be a warning to states about how the court is going to look at these cases, but that doesn’t mean that Texas won’t appeal,” Li said. “It is fact-specific and there’s a lot politically riding on these decisions, and sometimes taking your chance at the Supreme Court can be important.”

But if Texas does not have more success in district court defending the 2013 map than it did in defending the 2011 map, the North Carolina decision suggests that the state is not likely to find a receptive audience in appealing to the nation’s highest court.

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North Carolina’s U.S. Senator Tillis collapses at charitable race: AP

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) questions Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., in this file photo dated March 21, 2017.

United States Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina collapsed while competing in a three-mile charitable race in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday morning, the Associated Press reported.

Tillis, a Republican, was participating in the ACLI Capital Challenge 3 Mile Team Race when he suddenly fell unconscious, the AP reported. Bystanders performed CPR on the 57-year-old, who appeared to be breathing when he was led away in an ambulance, the AP said.

A spokesman for Tillis declined to comment.

Fellow politicians, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, sent their well wishes to Tillis and his family on social media.

"Please pray for my Senate colleague," Rubio wrote on Twitter.

Tillis, who previously served as speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, unseated Democrat Kay Hagan in the 2014 U.S. Senate elections.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Bernard Orr)

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Cooper optimistic about many more corporate expansions into NC

Sealed Air has officially moved to Charlotte, marking the city’s largest corporate relocation in history. The manufacturer, perhaps best known as the maker of Bubble Wrap and other packaging materials, on Wednesday held a ribbon-cutting of its new corporate headquarters off Tyvola Road.

For North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, the event marked the first of many major corporate relocations to North Carolina that he hopes to see during his time in office.

“When you get these kinds of quality jobs and open up an amazing facility for employees, it’s a good day,” Cooper said Wednesday. “I’ve said many times that I want to work to get more money into people’s pockets. The better-paying jobs that we can bring to our state help to do that. I’m excited about having many more of these announcements.”

At its 32-acre campus off Tyvola Road near the airport, the Fortune 500 company now employs over 1,110 people. Sealed Air CEO Jerome Peribere said that workforce figure will grow once Sealed Air closes the deal to sell its Diversey Care unit, which represents about a third of the company, for $3.2 billion.

Cooper said the repeal of House Bill 2, the state’s controversial bill limiting legal protections for LGBT citizens, helped lift a shadow that had been cast over the state’s economy. Many companies, such as PayPal, decided against major expansions to North Carolina over opposition to HB2.

“I think that’s helped open the door for businesses in North Carolina. I’ve talked to a number of CEOs, and they feel comfortable to come to our state. Clearly sporting events are coming back. It’s important to our reputation, but it’s also important for our LGBT citizens in North Carolina,” Cooper said.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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For-Profit Charlotte Law School Is Subject of North Carolina Inquiry

As it battles to stay open, Charlotte School of Law is blaming its problems on the federal government, the law school accreditation body and disgruntled former students who have sued the school.

Now, the for-profit school in North Carolina faces a fresh challenge in the form of a civil investigation opened by the state attorney general’s office.

“We are looking into whether students were able to make decisions about attending the school with the full information they needed,” Josh Stein, the attorney general, said in a phone interview. “This affects a lot of students and involves a lot of money. Students had an average of $50,000 in loans a year.”

About 700 students were enrolled at the law school as of last fall, and from the fall of 2010 to the spring of 2016, the school received $337.1 million in federal student loans for tuition and student living expenses, according to Law School Transparency, a nonprofit that tracks data about the nation’s law schools.

Enrollment plunged, however, after the American Bar Association’s accreditors placed the school on probation in November. A short time later, the federal Education Department cut off loans to current students because, it said, the school had made “substantial misrepresentations” to students about its compliance with accreditation standards.

“Students made decisions worth tens of thousands of dollars,” Mr. Stein, a Democrat, said, “and they deserved full information. We are looking into whether the school may have misrepresented any information.”

Depending on what the investigation yields, Mr. Stein said, the attorney general’s office could initiate legal action seeking financial relief for students and could also impose civil penalties.

The law school did not respond to a request for comment.

Charlotte School of Law officials have said previously that they were required to keep confidential the accreditation shortfalls identified by the bar association early last year. The failings did not become public until the 11-year-old school’s formal probation was disclosed in November.

Mr. Stein’s office wrote to Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, in April to ask that her department extend the deadline for Charlotte students to discharge student loans. Currently, students enrolled within 120 days of a school’s closing are eligible to have their loan balances wiped off the books.

If the law school closes, but does not announce it soon, students would lose the ability to have their debts canceled.

Several months ago, school officials asked the bar association to approve an alternative teaching plan for the 220 students still enrolled there, but the school has not taken visible action to close its doors.

Charlotte School of Law is one of three struggling for-profit schools owned by the Infilaw Corporation, part of Sterling Partners, a private equity firm with offices in Baltimore and Chicago. Infilaw also owns Florida Coastal School of Law and Arizona Summit Law School.

The Charlotte school’s problems in recent months have included nearly $150,000 in overdue city and county taxes, a revenue shortfall that prompted the subletting of classroom space and an interim dean stepping down within a month of being hired.

Many law schools in the United States are enduring rocky times — the number of students pursuing law degrees nationwide has fallen sharply in the past several years — but few have teetered as publicly as Charlotte.

Last month, though, trustees at Whittier College, in California, announced unexpectedly that they would close its law school. The move made Whittier Law School the first fully accredited law school to meet that fate. Faculty members have said they will challenge the decision in court.

Charlotte School of Law students, citing the school’s failure to make the accreditation problems public, have filed individual lawsuits and suits seeking class-action status in which they accuse the school of breach of contract, among other accusations.

The school argues in court papers that the delayed disclosure of the accreditation information did not harm the students because “they were already enrolled or had graduated” when the bar association made its decision.

“These students had access to a wealth of information about graduate employment rates and admissions data through the disclosures the A.B.A. requires every school to make annually,” the school says in the papers, filed in federal court for the Western District of North Carolina.

The school blames the federal Education Department’s “ill-advised” loan freeze after the probation determination for precipitating the trouble.

In an April 14 letter to Ms. DeVos, Chidi Ogene, the law school’s president, asked that the federal loans be reinstated. Mr. Ogene said in the letter that the school had adopted measures to rectify deficiencies, including imposing some caps on enrollment, higher admissions criteria, and “enhanced student disclosures and communications beyond those mandated by law, all subject to verification by an independent monitor.”

The Education Department, which has not yet resumed the loans, did not respond to requests for comment.

About 100 students are set to graduate on Saturday. The school has notified them that absent the federal funds, they may pay their outstanding tuition with private loans the school is providing at zero interest and payable over 10 years.

It was unclear whether graduates must sign up for the loans in order to receive degrees. Without a degree, they cannot take a state bar exam in North Carolina or elsewhere to qualify to practice law.

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