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New Bill in North Carolina Allows Drug Dealers to be Charged for Overdoses

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  • North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper signed House Bill 474 on Monday, also known as the “death by distribution” act. 
  • Under the new law, anyone illegally selling controlled substances that cause a person’s death could be hit with the same type of felony charge and punishment as second-degree murder.
  • Supporters of the law say harsher punishment and charges will make drug dealers think twice about selling controlled substances.
  • Meanwhile, those against the bill say that not only is the act targeting the wrong people, but it could deter people from calling 911 if someone is overdosing.

The Bill

Prosecutors in North Carolina will be able to charge anyone illegally selling a controlled substance with the same type of felony charge and punishment as second-degree murder if the substance they sold resulted in an overdose and “was the proximate cause of the victim’s death,” according to a new bill. 

Under the new law, which was signed by Governor Roy Cooper on Monday, an illegal seller or drug dealer could face one of two charges if found guilty: aggravated death by distribution or death by distribution. The main difference between the two is that the charge becomes aggravated when the suspect has a similar previous conviction. 

Suspects charged with aggravated death by distribution face a Class B2 felony, which according to North Carolina’s court system, is the same class as a second-degree murder charge and carries a maximum sentence of 484 months in prison. 

The other charge, death by distribution, is deemed a Class C felony, which is the same class as first-degree kidnapping or assault and has a maximum sentence of 19 years in prison. 

The bill specifically states that the charges only apply to illegal sellers.

Lawmakers behind the bill say they hope the act will, “encourage effective intervention by the criminal justice system to hold illegal drug dealers accountable for criminal conduct that results in death.”

Responses

One of the sponsors of the bill, Representative Dean Arp, says that the act is necessary and compares the law to a drunk driver being punished if they killed someone. 

“You didn’t do it with malice, but you did kill somebody so you still have to be held accountable,”  he told local reporters

District attorneys around North Carolina have spoken out in support of the bill as well. Cumberland County’s Billy West stated: “it’s a violent crime, and this bill treats it like a violent crime.”

Union County’s Trey Robinson told members of the House Judiciary Committee, “we have a hole in our law that is preventing us from going after people who are actually selling this stuff as a commercial enterprise.”

However, others have argued the act will harm the already existing Good Samaritan Law, which prevents people from being criminally prosecuted if they call 911 or other law enforcement for help during a drug overdose. 

Representative Sydney Batch was one of the lawmakers who spoke out against the bill. She previously told WRAL, “I’m concerned people are not going to call when their friend, a family member or someone else [overdoses].”

A line was later added to the bill, specifically stating that death by distribution will not “restrict or interfere with the rights and immunities provided” under the Good Samaritan law. This prompted Batch to vote for the bill to pass when the North Carolina House of Representatives met in June.

Other Reactions

Some who have also voiced their concerns are parents whose children have died from an overdose, worrying the law targets the wrong group as criminals. 

“We don’t care about the subsistence dealer. We don’t care about 16-year-olds sharing needles,” one mother told local papers. “We care about the people that have established a chain of commerce and are bringing this stuff into our counties. That’s who we’re trying to get.” 

Others on social media agreed with the parents and echoed their concerns on Twitter. Some posted about how the bill will not incarcerate the right people and called it “a huge step backward.” 

Even though the law has been signed, it will not go into effect until December. Some people in North Carolina are still protesting the act, with one planned for Wednesday night.

See what others are saying: (WRAL) (WFMY News) (CNN)

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Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains

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Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.


Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston

Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.

Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.

When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.

Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.

Signs That Went Unnoticed

The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.

On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.

Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.

I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.

She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.

Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.

Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.

“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”

Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges

According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.

After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.

At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.

Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.

ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.

On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.

Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.

See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)

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Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say

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The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.


COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card

Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.

Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.

On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.

The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.

Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.

The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.

Misuse of COVID Relief Funds

Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.

In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.

According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”

On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.

In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.

See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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