News Roundup – North Carolina Criminal Law

The long-awaited North Carolina sports betting law went into effect on Monday. House Bill 347, which was passed last summer, authorizes and regulates wagering on horse racing and on professional, college, and amateur sports. It allows up to twelve legal online sportsbooks and eight in-person sportsbooks to operate at professional sports venues in the state.

The law provides the following penalties for violations of its provisions:

  • A Class 2 misdemeanor for knowingly engaging in wagering in violation of the new law;
  • A Class 2 misdemeanor for any person under the age of 21 to engage in wagering;
  • A Class G felony to influence or attempt to influence the outcome of any competition or aspect of any competition that is the subject of wagering; and
  • A Class I felony for any applicant for a license under the new laws to willfully furnish, supply, or otherwise give false information on the license application.

In other legislative news, a bill aimed at outlawing “revenge porn” in Massachusetts was approved unanimously by the Massachusetts House on Wednesday. Minors who possess, purchase, or share explicit photos of themselves or other minors can currently be charged with violating the state’s child pornography laws and are required to register as sex offenders. Instead of criminal punishment, the bill would allow minors to be diverted to an educational program, which would teach teenagers about the legal and nonlegal consequences of sexting. Massachusetts and South Carolina are the only states with no current protections against image-based sexual assault. AP News has more on other provisions of the bill.

Alabama permitted to conduct the nation’s first execution using nitrogen gas. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Alabama will be allowed to put an inmate to death with nitrogen gas later this month. The state’s plans call for placing a respirator-type face mask over the inmate’s nose and mouth to replace breathable air with nitrogen, causing him to die from lack of oxygen. Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma are the only states that have authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method, but no state has attempted to use it so far. The question of whether the execution by nitrogen gas can ultimately proceed could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Second-largest wrongful conviction settlement ever. A North Carolina man who was exonerated and freed after serving 44 years in prison for a crime he did not commit is set to receive a $25 million settlement. Ronnie Long was accused of raping a 54-year-old white woman and convicted of rape and burglary in 1976 by an all-white jury. His conviction was vacated in 2020 after “a trickle of post-trial disclosures … unearthed a troubling and striking pattern of deliberate police suppression of material evidence.” Long’s settlement includes $22 million from the city of Concord and $3 million from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

More money, more problems. A 71-year-old serial bank robber who was recently released from prison was arrested for committing yet another robbery. Bruce Bell entered a Chase bank in Sun Valley, California, where he grabbed an employee and pointed a gun at them, forcing them to grant him access to the teller’s office and ordering another employee to fill his bag with cash. According to this article, he made out with more than $60,000 before he was taken into custody by police.

Before this incident, Bell had robbed four other banks in the past and spent 40 years in federal prisons. He was released in July 2021 on supervised release. After spending more than half of his life incarcerated, Bell is back in jail in an LAPD facility. His bail is set at $1.6 million.

North Carolina woman chews through the seat of a police cruiser after arrest. A woman arrested on an assault charge in Boone became so upset that she chewed through the backseat of a police cruiser. Boone Police Sergeant said the woman’s actions resulted in roughly $650 worth of damages to the vehicle. The damage to the seat was discovered after the woman was processed into the jail, and the department is still weighing whether to file additional charges against the woman in connection with the damage.

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