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5 Things to Know: Pretrial Integrity Act Signed Into Law

...and four more stories from July 2-8, 2023

The Pretrial Integrity Act will allow judges to make decisions regarding bail rather than magistrates
The Pretrial Integrity Act will allow judges to make decisions regarding bail rather than magistrates. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Pretrial Integrity Act Signed Into Law

Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Pretrial Integrity Act into law on Friday. The bill was designed to lessen the power of local magistrates in making decisions regarding bail, passing that power along to judges for 48 hours following an arrest.

Proponents say the new law will keep violent offenders from being released hours after an arrest. Opponents say it will keep some low-level offenders in jail well beyond what is necessary if a judge does not get to their case and they are forced to remain in custody for 48 hours, at which time a magistrate can assign bail.

While the Pretrial Integrity Act has seen opposition from some Democrats around the state — all 32 votes against the bill in the state House (30) and Senate (2) were from Democrats — it has seen bipartisan support within Mecklenburg County, including from law enforcement, District Attorney Spencer Merriweather’s office, and elected leaders at the local and state level.

During debate on the floor of the North Carolina General Assembly in June, which took place largely among Democrats who could not agree on the bill’s impacts, supporters such as Abe Jones, a Democrat from Wake County who sponsored the bill, said it would help to “disincentivize” young men from committing crimes.

Opponents pointed out that laws aimed at disincentivizing crime throughout U.S. history have already led to mass incarceration, according to reporting from NC Newsline.

“You are not punished before you are found guilty. One of the basic premises of our country is ‘innocent until proven guilty,’” said NC Rep. Amos Quick III, a Democrat from Guilford County who voted against the bill. “The disincentive for people to not do wrong cannot be that we tear up the Constitution in their face.”

Four-Month Manhunt Ends for Couple Suspected of Child Abuse

Two Charlotte parents wanted for a traumatic child abuse incident were arrested on Thursday night following a four-month manhunt that crossed state lines.

According to CMPD, law enforcement arrested 24-year-old Brandon Augustine and 23-year-old Mildred Chestnut on Thursday night and charged them for their alleged involvement in a child abuse incident against their 4-month-old baby in March. The two have been charged with felony child abuse inflicting serious injury.

The baby was originally brought to the hospital to be treated for an apparent minor car accident, though detectives and health care professionals ascertained that the injuries were not consistent with such an incident and were more likely caused by violently shaking the baby. The baby reportedly suffered from life-altering injury due to severe head trauma.

Mugshots of the suspects
Brandon Augustine (left) and Mildred Chestnut. (Courtesy of Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office)

The couple went missing shortly after bringing the baby to the hospital for treatment. The couple’s car was found in Austell, Georgia just a day after they were last seen in Charlotte. It’s unclear from CMPD’s report just where the couple was arrested, though the department did state that it collaborated with the United States Secret Service, FBI in Charlotte and Atlantic City, the NC State Bureau of Investigation, the Austell PD in Georgia, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the St. Lucie Sheriff’s Office in Florida, and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

CMPD stated during its search that detectives believed the couple was getting help with money, rides and shelter from friends and family, though no further arrests for aiding and abetting have been announced at the time of this writing.

Carowinds Shuts Down Roller Coaster After Viral Video

Carowinds found itself in the national spotlight over the weekend after a video unveiled a large crack in a pillar that was supposed to be supporting the amusement park’s most heralded roller coaster, Fury 325.

Management at Carowinds closed down the ride on Friday after the video, shot by parkgoer Jeremy Wagner, was made public. It shows a car with riders on it pass the crack, forcing the track to separate from the pillar for a moment. The New York Times reported that the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau would visit the park on Monday.

By Friday, NC DOL commissioner Josh Dobson told WSOC’s Joe Bruno that he didn’t anticipate the amusement park would face any fines due to the cracked support beam. Carowinds will, however, need to file for a new certificate of operation for the ride, which will come from the NC DOL following a thorough inspection of the roller coaster after it’s fixed.

Governor Speaks on Recent Private School Reporting

Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday highlighted several recent news stories that have raised questions about practices at some private schools around North Carolina that could soon be included in the state’s school voucher program making them eligible for millions of taxpayer dollars that would otherwise go to public schools, as is the aim of recent Republican legislation.

In a press release, Cooper pointed out that multiple news stories have raised questions about possible misconduct and criminal activity at private schools that participate in the voucher program, including in Mecklenburg County, where WFAE education reporter Ann Doss Helms set out to visit Teaching Achieving Students Academy, a private school that received more vouchers than enrolled students, but could not locate the school itself and discovered numerous different addresses listed in the state’s private school directory and online.

“It’s bad when taxpayer dollars are spent on private schools that have no accountability but it’s even worse when public schools are being dramatically shortchanged at the same time,” Cooper said in the release. “Instead of thousands of dollars sent to millionaires to keep their kids in private schools, let’s pay our teachers what they deserve and invest in our public schools.”

In May, Cooper declared that public education in North Carolina is facing a state of emergency thanks to Republican efforts to gut it from the inside, citing sweeping legislation introduced by Republicans that would cause public schools to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, exacerbate the state’s teacher shortage and bring political culture wars into classrooms.

Two More Lives Claimed by Gun Violence

Two people were killed in separate shooting incidents this week, bringing the total number of homicide victims in Charlotte this year to 45.

At around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, police responded to a shooting call on Southwest Boulevard in the University Park neighborhood of northwest Charlotte, where they found two men, each suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. One of the men was transported to the hospital in critical condition while the other, 61-year-old Linnie Talford, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Just before 11 a.m. on Friday, police responded to an assault call on Foxford Place in the Shannon Park area of east Charlotte, where they found a woman dead. While the report does not make it clear how the as-yet-unidentified woman died, detectives have opened a homicide investigation.

Charlotte’s 45 killings at this point is below last year’s total on July 8, which was 57.

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