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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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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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