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North Carolina District Attorney Rules Murder of Andrew Brown Jr. Justified by Police

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Pasquotank County District Attorney R. Andrew Womble said the policemen who killed Andrew Brown Jr. last month were justified in using deadly force. He expressed that Brown “recklessly” tried to run over officers while fleeing his arrest.

What We Know:

  • During a news conference on Tuesday morning, Womble discussed elements of the State Bureau of Investigation’s (SBI) findings. He also showed 44 seconds of footage from four body-camera videos. The recordings showed Brown sitting in his “dark-colored BMW” when officers arrived to serve search and arrest warrants based on alleged drug activity. At 8:23 a.m., a detective parked his vehicle in front of Brown’s to block any forward movement. Two deputies then approached the driver’s side as two others went to the passenger side with their guns out. They also gave Brown commands.
  • While this happened, Brown dropped his phone and backed his car away. According to Womble, an officer who had his hand on Brown’s driver’s door handle was pulled over the car’s hood when Brown reversed. After getting extremely close to his house, Brown turned his steering wheel to the left at officers. The policemen yelled at him to stop, and then a shot rang out. More shots followed, and they hit Brown’s passenger window and rear passenger side door while his car kept accelerating across an empty lot toward an investigator’s white van. After this, law enforcement fired five more times, which went through the rear windshield and trunk.

“Mr. Brown’s death, while tragic, was justified… His actions caused the three deputies to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others,” said Womble.

  • The elapsed time from the first and last gunshot was five seconds. Womble noted this time period conflicts with eyewitness statements shared with the public. Brown’s family’s attorneys disputed Womble’s narrative in a statement. Attorney Brian Selkers told CNN the footage didn’t show Brown using his vehicle as a weapon, as he only backed away from officers. The lawyers also want to know how Brown received a gunshot wound to the back of the head if he supposedly drove toward the deputies.
  • Furthermore, Selkers reported the attorneys would file a petition to release the full video and the SBI report. They want to do this to provide more information on the case to the community and family. “To say this shooting was justified, despite the known facts, is both an insult and a slap in the face to Andrew’s family, the Elizabeth City community, and to rational people everywhere,” they said in the statement.
  • The Brown family lawyers also asked Womble to recuse himself from the case, citing “well-defined conflicts” between the prosecutor and sheriff’s office. These conflicts include the fact that Womble works with Sheriff Tommy Wooten and his deputies daily, as Womble’s office physically resides in the Sheriff’s department. Attorney Bakari Sellers signed the letter sent to Womble and highlighted that moving the case to another jurisdiction will aid “in the interest of fairness, transparency, and pursuit of the ends of justice.” Gov. Roy Cooper also suggested Wooten turn the case over to a special prosecutor, also citing Womble’s connection to the sheriff. Womble fired back to these appeals on Tuesday. He accentuated that a special prosecutor did not hold the same obligations to the people of North Carolina’s seven-county First Judicial District.
  • Alongside the Brown family’s demands, the Pasquotank County NAACP wants Wooten to resign and the three officers that shot Brown to be fired. After Brown’s death, Wooten only placed the seven deputies on administrative leave. Since then, Wooten reinstated the four officers who did not fire at Brown. The three who did shoot Brown remain on leave.

Brown’s death, which happened only a day after Derek Chauvin’s conviction, sparked protests in Elizabeth City and worldwide. Protestors want the officers held accountable for their actions in a court of law. They also ask for the full video of his murder to be released. This, as well as the initiatives of stripping Womble, Wooten, and the deputies of their power, will serve justice.

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Prosecutors Say R. Kelly Abused 17-Year-Old Boy

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Prosecutors say that former R&B singer R.Kelly abused a 17-year-old boy in 2006 after meeting him at a Chicago McDonald’s.

What We Know:

  • Lawyers claim that the singer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, initially offered to help the boy with his music career and invited him to his studio. After Kelly questioned the boy on what he would do to make it in the industry, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with the minor.
  • The young boy also introduced his 16 or 17-year-old male friend to Kelly; the singer eventually began a relationship with this other boy. Prosecutors allege that Kelly filmed the two minors engaging in sexual acts with others, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, including an under-aged female.
  • In addition, when Kelly faced child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the first boy told him he knew one of the jurors. Kelly proceeded to ask the boy to contact the juror and vouch that Kelly was a “good guy.” However, the prosecutors’ filings do not specify if the youth did so.
  • Attorneys want judges to consider hearing this evidence during Kelly’s upcoming August trial. They believe this information will show that Kelly’s actions “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern.”
  • The Grammy Award winner has faced scrutiny for his sexual behavior for a while. Currently, he faces charges for recruiting women and girls for sex and pornography and exercising control over them. These include child sexual exploitation, making indecent images of minors, racketeering, and obstruction of justice. According to lawyers, Kelly managed a “criminal enterprise” alongside managers, bodyguards, and other employees. These charges involve six different victims. In addition to the aforementioned sufferers, prosecutors want jurors to hear the stories of more than one dozen others who experienced sexual misconduct at the hands of Kelly.

Because of the accusations, Kelly has been in jail for two years while awaiting his day in court.

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Gender Reveal Party Couple Face Jail Time over Deadly California Wildfire

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A California couple whose gender reveal party allegedly started a deadly wildfire faces involuntary manslaughter charges and a lengthy stint in jail.

What We Know:

  • Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr and Angela Renee Jimenez set off a smoke bomb during their gender reveal party back in September 2020 in Yucaipa, California. The “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” supposedly sparked the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County. Survallience footage showed the family light the smoke bomb at the edge of the El Dorado Ranch Park and was seen trying to put flames out. The wildfire burned over 22,000 acres, destroyed multiple homes and properties, and lasted more than two months.
  • While trying to put out the fire, firefighter Charles Morton was killed, and many others were injured. Morton, 39, had worked as a firefighter for 18 years, 14 of them with the US Forest Service. US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen stated that Morton was a “well-respected leader” and was always there for his crew.
  • Refugio and Angela have been charged with 30 crimes: three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, 22 misdemeanor counts, and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. On Tuesday, the couple pleaded not guilty.
  • During a news conference, Jason Anderson, San Bernardino County District Attorney, said that a grand jury heard 34 witnesses and saw 434 exhibits. He mentioned that the fire affected the community tremendously and that at least six different agencies “were involved in containing, extinguishing, and investigating” the wildfire.

“You’re obviously dealing with lost lives, you’re dealing with injured lives, and you’re dealing with people’s residences that were burned and their land that was burned. That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically,” said Anderson

  • Gender reveal parties are where couples find out the gender of their baby. They could cut into a cake and see if the inside is blue for a boy or pink for a girl, pop a big balloon to see the color of the confetti, or even do a song that reveals the gender at the end. Over the years, gender reveals have gotten more elaborate and dangerous.
  • In February, a father-to-be died after the gender reveal device he was building exploded on him, and in 2017 a gender reveal party sparked a wildfire in Arizona, burning close to 47,000 acres. The expected father in that incident pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, was sentenced to five years of probation, and had to pay nearly $8.2 million in fines.

Refugio and Angela were released on their own recognizance and are set to return to court on September 15th. If found guilty, they could face up to 20 years in jail.

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First Felony Sentence for January Insurrection Handed to Florida Man

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A Florida man was the first to be convicted of a felony in relation to the riots at the US Capitol on January 6th.

What We Know:

  • Paul Hodgkins, 38, pleaded guilty to a single count of obstructing an official proceeding last month. The crane operator, along with others, breached the US Capitol at the alledged request of former President Donald Trump. The former Commander in Chief held a rally where he said dangerous rhetoric about the election being rigged. He told his supporters to go to the Capitol, where they were counting electoral votes, and urge senators to overturn the presidential election results.
  • Hodgkins was seen walking onto the Senate floor holding a red “Trump 2020” flag and wearing a Trump shirt. He went to Washington initially for the rally that was held near the White House. He stated that he had no idea that day would end with him storming the capitol and that he was caught up in “the passion of the day.”
  • The US Justice Department considered the events of Jan. 6th as “acts of domestic terrorism.” They encouraged the judge to treat Hodgkins on the same level as those who are deemed domestic terrorists. Since Hodgkins took a plea deal, the government agency asked District Judge Randolph Moss to sentence him to 1.5 years in prison. Prosecutor Mona Sedky claimed that giving Hodgkins harsh sentencing would stop future people who planned on recreating the events of that day.
  • In court on Monday, Hodgkins spoke for about 10 minutes on how “remorseful” he was and that he “regretted” his actions on that day. He believes that the riots caused great harm to the “country that he loves,” and he takes full responsibility for his part in it.
  • Although Moss considered Hodgkins’ actions “utterly unacceptable,” he didn’t believe him a threat and stated how he didn’t have any previous criminal history. Moss sentenced Hodgkins to eight months in prison, two years on probation, and ordered him to pay $2,000 in damage fees.

“Hodgkins did some very bad things that day and caused some real damage to this country, but I don’t consider him to be a threat or see him as an evil person. This is a very bad episode in his life and a very bad episode in this country … some sentences will be far higher, and some will be far lower. This is what I believe is a fair sentence,” said Moss.

  • Over 530 people have been charged since Jan. 6th, with the help of social media and surveillance cameras. Of that number, “165 accused of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers,” and over 50 charged with “using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.” According to CNN,  20 people have already pled guilty and are awaiting their sentencing, while two charged with misdemeanors have already been sentenced: one to six months and one to three years probation.

Many charged rioters are pushing the idea of going to trial as they believe they did nothing wrong. Hodgkins walked out of court happy with the results and will be allowed to self-surrender once he is informed of where he will carry out his 8-month sentence.

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