Jose Charles case in Greensboro latest NC police/community flash point

If you haven’t been following the case of Jose Charles in Greensboro, it’s time to start paying attention.

The story of the altercation between a 16-year-old Charles and police goes back to last year’s July 4th celebrations in downtown Greensboro.

From a story in Greensboro’s News & Record:

Charles was 15 when he was arrested and charged with malicious assault on an officer, disorderly conduct, simple affray and resisting arrest, according to Figueroa. The teen also is accused of spitting blood on an officer’s face.

Figueroa and several community organizations said Charles was attacked by a group of kids, then grabbed by an officer near Friendly Avenue. He spit blood because he was coughing and couldn’t breathe, witnesses said.

This week, after months of tensions over access to the police video of the incident, protesters disrupted a Greensboro City Council meeting and staged a protest in the street outside where 8 were arrested for impeding the flow of traffic.

From Triad City Beat’s coverage of the protest:

The tone was set early in the meeting when, in the midst of a discussion about a downtown parking deck, protesters scattered throughout the capacity crowd raised pink signs reading “Justice for Jose,” “City council take action” and “We believe the PCRB.”

The protest came on the heels of city council watching restricted police body camera video showing the July 4, 2016 incident involving the police and the then-15-year-old on Monday night, with discussion in closed session bleeding into the next day. Council members have made no comment about the video, citing a superior court judge’s order prohibiting them from discussing it.

Also precipitating the protest was the resignation of three members of the police complaint review board. Lindy Garnette, the first to resign, was pressured by the city attorney and chair of the human relations chair after she spoke publicly about the board’s disagreement with the police department’s decision to clear itself of wrongdoing in a complaint filed on his behalf by Jose Charles’ mother, Tamara Figueroa.

The Charles case is just the latest in a series of incidents that have heightened tension between police and the communities they serve. Last year’s fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte led to large scale protests and rioting.

The case is also the latest in which access to police video – and whether public officials can comment on it – has been central to the controversy.

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Shouldn’t we all have learned French by now or something?

Now that the CDC has cleared vaccinated folks to, literally and figuratively, feel free to move about the cabin, maybe it won’t be long before our pandemic confinement ends, and we can resume weightier thoughts than pondering why Leanne Ford always seems stoned on her HGTV show.

The realization that we are, as Southerners say, “in the short rows” makes me feel I should’ve done so much more this past year. All those months would’ve been the perfect time to re-read—er, read—the classics, learn more complex –er, any—yoga poses or bake beautiful braided breads, er, box muffins.

Although the year had potential for much personal growth and soul-searching, I wasted it pondering useless questions like how many crop dusters could land on Matt Gaetz’s forehead at one time.

To feel a little better about things, I decided to volunteer at a vaccine clinic. There were lots of jobs available and I chose the “observation room” where the freshly vaccinated must wait for 15 minutes to make sure, in medical speak, “they don’t fall out.”

I was told to select, and douse with disinfectant, a supremely unflattering blue vest that would identify me as a fully background-checked volunteer. There was an informative training session which was useful for the others but not for me because, as I explained to the doctor in charge, “I have watched all 17 seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” so, yeah, I got this. Quick follow-up: Are those pizza-flavored Combos in the break room free?”

I was given a walkie-talkie so I could summon a paramedic immediately to the observation room in case anyone was having an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Pfffft. Did they not hear the “Grey’s” training part? I could separate conjoined twins at a plane crash site using  a ball point pen and Twizzlers, for heaven’s sake. I hitched the “walkie” as we say in the bidness, to my belt loop and promptly forgot it was there.

The first clinic was for the very elderly, a mix of singles and couples. Because there were several vaccine stations and observation rooms, many of the couples were temporarily separated and that’s when I witnessed a curious phenomenon: Men would arrive and anxiously ask “Where’s my wife?” before setting off to find her. Women had a different reaction: “Huh. He’s not here,” they’d say before sinking into the soft chairs, smiling and closing their eyes. Every. Single. Time.

The other revelation was the male 85 plus demo can be quite flirtatious. At least five asked me if I would “date an older man.” I shared this with another volunteer who said “Don’t flatter yourself. They’re looking for a nurse with a purse.” Oh.

A week later, I worked the teacher clinic. No flirting and no lost spouses but an admirable ability to follow the rules. When told they could leave at 5:13 for example, not a soul tried to bolt at 5:12 or waited until 5:14. “I’m a rules-follower” said every single one of them, while pulling out papers to grade during the “nice 15-minute vacation.”

Using my semi-impressive medical background, I quickly deduced (A) absolutely no one was going to fall out, much less deliver conjoined twins and (B) the hardest part of the job was sanitizing the chairs once vacated.

“Please place this post-it note on the headrest when you leave,” I said 857 times one day. “That way I will know which chairs to sanitize.”

The teachers, you guessed it, placed the sticky notes on the headrests. Everybody else? Floor, chair seat, chair back, armrest of the seat next to theirs…

During the clinics, I’m often thanked for being a “health care hero” among other wholly undeserved comments. It’s sweet but something tells me they’d be less impressed if they knew how much I love free Combos.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected]

Chauvin declines to testify in his own defense in George Floyd trial; closing arguments Monday

Derek Chauvin, listening to his lawyer Thursday, before saying he would decline to testify in his own defense.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin opted not to take the stand Thursday in the last day of testimony during his murder trial.

Out of the jury’s presence, Chauvin spoke on the record for the first time during the trial, after being handed a microphone and answering his attorney’s questions while seated next to him. He confirmed he decided to exercise his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson asked him a series of questions designed to make sure he understood his right to testify or remain silent.

Nelson said they’ve discussed the topic multiple times. He asked Chauvin, “You understand that if you choose to exercise that right to remain silent, neither the state nor the court can comment on your silence as a sign or an indication of your guilt. Meaning they can’t say ‘He didn’t get up and defend himself’ — so equate your silence with guilt. You understand that?”

“Yes,” Chauvin said.

“You understand that if you did in fact testify, you would be subject to cross-examination by the state of Minnesota?” Nelson asked.

“Yes,” Chauvin said.

“You understand that if you were cross-examined by the state, we could not attempt to limit the scope of your testimony — the state would be given broad latitude to ask you questions?” Nelson said.

“Yes,” Chauvin said.

“We’ve had this conversation repeatedly, correct?”

“Correct.”

“Have you made a decision today whether you intend to testify or whether you intend to invoke your Fifth Amendment privilege?” Nelson asked.

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” Chauvin said.

And with that, the trial resumed.

Prosecutors called back to the stand an Illinois doctor to rebut defense testimony on Thursday before resting its case.

New tests results not allowed

The prosecution wanted to present new evidence regarding the level of carbon monoxide in Floyd’s blood, but the judge would not allow it. Read more

Why stop with the Senate? Robinson should go ahead and declare for President in 2024

The word is out that North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is contemplating a run for the soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat of Republican Richard Burr. This is from a story by Travis Fain of WRAL:

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, one of the more popular Republican politicians in North Carolina, is “seriously considering” a jump into the state’s 2022 U.S. Senate race, a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.

A second source, a Republican operative in the state, also said Robinson is “seriously considering” the move, that he reached out to other senior elected Republicans about it and that he “has been encouraged to enter.” Both sources asked that their names not be used, but one is a spokesperson for Robinson himself and the other a well-known operative.

Other signs point to his interest as well. A survey of likely GOP primary voters, taken earlier this month, indicates Robinson could be a front-runner in the race, if former President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, stays out.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson

While perhaps a bit surprising given that the sum total of Robinson’s lifetime service in public office now stands at 98 days in a job with no real responsibilities (that’s how long he’s been Lite Guv after a rather bizarre, out-of-nowhere political rise that stemmed from having delivered a pro-gun rant at Greensboro City Council meeting), Robinson is clearly possessed of at least three attributes that are vitally important for politicians in 21st Century America — especially in the Trumpified Republican Party.

First, he has no record of public service or accomplishment in government. Indeed, it’s a little unclear exactly what he did before he ran for office either. His Wikipedia page — for what it’s worth — reports the following about his life prior to running for office:

Robinson was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, as the ninth of ten children.[1] His father was abusive, and he and his siblings lived in foster care for part of their childhood.[2] From 1985 to 1989, he served in the United States Army Reserve.[3] Robinson worked at a furniture factory[3][4] and had begun to study history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.[5]

His own campaign page provides a few more details and presents a somewhat rosier picture.

Either way, this is perfect for a modern politician as, just as the case with Donald Trump in 2016, it give his opponents nothing in the world of government or policy for which to blame him.

Second, Robinson has apparently had his share of financial issues. This is the extent of what Wikipedia says about his personal life:

Robinson and his wife, Yolanda, have two children.[3] They live in High Point, North Carolina.[5] Robinson has filed for bankruptcy on three separate occasions, has been sued for payments, and had liens placed on him by the Internal Revenue Service as recently as 2012. He says that he has straightened out his financial problems.[7]

This too, is perfect. What could be more in keeping with the numerous examples set by Trump than having an extended history of trouble with creditors and repeatedly finding yourself in court over financial disputes? Today’s Republican voters clearly appreciate a candidate who knows how to take care of Number One.

And third and finally, like Trump, Robinson clearly thinks big. After all, who would have thought that philandering, casino-owning TV barker with no record of public service or accomplishment could leap from the tabloids to the White House in a campaign rooted in a blatant lie about the birthplace of his predecessor?

If Trump could pull that off, who’s to say Robinson can’t follow a similar path to the Senate?

Indeed, given this backdrop, Robinson might as well go ahead and declare for the presidency in 2024 now and run two races at once. After all, has anyone really double-checked where Joe Biden was born?

$1.3 billion coming to NC to support the child care industry

North Carolina is getting $1.3 billion from the latest federal COVID relief package to rebuild the child care industry and support student enrollment.

The Biden White House announced Thursday it is releasing $39 billion to states and territories from the American Rescue Plan to help the ailing child care industry, money intended to help support a broader economic recovery.

Vice President Kamala Harris called the money “the single largest investment in child care in our nation’s history,” in remarks Thursday. “When it comes to child care in our country, families need help.”

North Carolina is getting $503 million for the child development block grant, which can be used to help cover tuition for families with low incomes, and $805 million for a “child care stabilization fund,” money that can go to child care centers and child care homes to help them make rent or mortgage payments, improve their buildings, or pay other pandemic-related costs.

The child care industry suffered in the pandemic. Some centers shut down temporarily the early months. Ninety-six percent had reopened as of February, according to NC Child, but enrollment is down 40% from pre-pandemic figures.

Last year’s federal COVID-19 relief packages also included money for the child care block grant. The March 2020 relief bill had $3.5 billion, and the December bill had $10 billion, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“Without consistent, affordable child care, parents – mostly mothers – are not able to go back to work. About 2 million women were forced to leave the workforce,” many due to child-care issues, Harris said.

“The strength of our county, the resilience of our economy, depends on the affordability and availability of child care,” Harris said.

Fawn Pattison, campaigns director at NC Child, couldn’t find enough superlatives to describe an additional $1.3 billion coming to the state for child care.

“It really is amazing,” she said. “Not just the opportunity to rebuild the ailing child care sector. We can make sure more kids can be prepared for kindergarten. Early education is where you get the most bang for the buck.”

Getting children ready for kindergarten increases the likelihood they will graduate on time and enjoy long-lasting health benefits, Pattison said.

“I think we need a yardstick to measure success by,” Pattison said. “It would be just tragic if it did not result in a big impact.”

Amy Cubbage, president of the NC Partnership for Children, said the money offers the opportunity to improve child care salaries, which will help recruit and retain quality teachers. The average wage for a child care teacher in the state is $12 an hour, she said, which leads to high turnover and instability for children and families. Cubbage said she hopes some of the money can be used to bring to more communities a program called WAGE$, which supplements salaries of low-paid teachers, directors and family child care providers.

The money coming to the state can set the stage “for a long-term, well-funded system of early education across the state,” she said.