Happy new year! It’s time for the first news roundup of 2023, but I’ll start with one item that dates back to 2022. The Associated Press reports here that “Adnan Syed, who was released from a Maryland prison this year after his case was the focus of the true-crime podcast ‘Serial,’ has been hired by Georgetown University as a program associate for the university’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.” Apparently he will support a class in which “students reinvestigate decades-old wrongful convictions, create short documentaries about the cases and work to help bring innocent people home from prison.” I guess he might know something about that. Keep reading for more news.

Sheriff resigns, again. WRAL reports that Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene has resigned. Again. Readers may recall that Sheriff Greene resigned last year after District Attorney Jon David filed a petition to remove him, based in part on a recording in which the sheriff complained about “Black bastards” and threatened to fire every Black person in his office. Nonetheless, Sheriff Greene remained on the ballot for the election last November, and was elected by the people of Columbus County. Immediately after he was sworn in, District Attorney David filed a new petition to remove him and to bar him permanently from holding office. At a scheduled hearing on the petition, Sheriff Greene resigned, mooting the removal petition though not the request to bar him from holding the office in the future – a request that will be decided later. Criminal investigations into the sheriff’s conduct are reportedly underway.

“Varsity Blues” mastermind sentenced. Remember the college admissions scandal in which wealthy parents paid large sums of money to have their children admitted to top colleges as athletes when in fact they couldn’t swim, sail, or play tennis worth a darn? CNN reports here that “William ‘Rick’ Singer, the mastermind of the sprawling college admissions scam aptly known as Operation Varsity Blues, was sentenced Wednesday to 3.5 years in federal prison, the longest sentence in a case that has rattled America’s higher education system.” Singer, who pled guilty to racketeering and money laundering, was also ordered to forfeit $10 million. Because the case was in federal court, the extent and value of Singer’s “cooperation” was a critical issue at sentencing. The record seems to have been mixed on that point, with the government describing his cooperation as “historical” and “hugely significant,” including “voluntarily record[ing] phone calls with clients and associates and [wearing] a wire in person with several individuals.” At the same time, he “not only obstructed the investigation by tipping off at least six of his clients . . . but also failed to follow the government’s instructions in other ways, including by deleting text messages and using an unauthorized cell phone.”

When does open carry cross the line? The New York Times ran this interesting article this week. It begins with the story of a man arrested in an Atlanta grocery store wearing body armor and carrying six loaded firearms, including four handguns, a rifle, and a shotgun. The man was initially charged with several felonies. Those were dismissed and he now faces misdemeanor charges of “reckless conduct.” The article notes that open carry is generally lawful in Georgia, as it is in North Carolina, and quotes the man’s lawyer as asking “what’s the reckless conduct? . . . Carrying weapons? In a state that requires no permit? . . . I mean, help me understand.” The article raises challenging questions about the dividing line between lawful open carry and criminal conduct – a topic I touched on briefly in this prior post.

FDA actions on contraception and medication abortion. My colleague Jill Moore recently wrote this blog post noting that in December, the FDA “released new labeling and patient information requirements for over-the-counter emergency contraceptive medications (also known as “morning-after pills”) to clarify that the medications cannot disrupt an established pregnancy and thus are distinct from medication abortion.” The status of the morning after pill has been a key issue since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade last year, and I wrote a bit about it in this prior post. The FDA’s recent actions, and Jill’s analysis thereof, provide updated and more detailed information for interested readers.

Books banned in prison. The Marshall Project sought to determine which books are banned in the various state prison systems. The result is this article and database. According to the article, about half the states ban certain books in prison, including North Carolina. What’s prohibited? Well, the first book on North Carolina’s list is $weet Jone$ Pimp C’s Trill Life Story, and most of the books appear to be either sexually-oriented or part of the “gangsta” genre. But there are 600 books in all, including a David Baldacci, a couple of James Pattersons, a Men’s Health book about bodyweight workouts, some books about tattoos, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, and the bestselling book about race relations Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

Faculty position at the School of Government. Want to work in beautiful Chapel Hill? We have a job opening for a faculty member to work in criminal and motor vehicle law, including working closely with magistrates. More information can be found in the job posting. The position is open until filled, but we are keen to fill it – so if you are interested, please apply!