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Former state lawmaker Stephen LaRoque will get another chance to convince an Eastern North Carolina jury he did not steal $300,000 from a federally-funded economic development group he ran.

Federal agents believe he used the money for personal extravagances like replica Faberge decorative eggs and an ice skating rink.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was convicted in June on a dozen theft and money laundering charges fraud  related to the accusations, but Greenville television station WNCT reported that Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard ruled in court today that LaRoque could have a new trial.

Howard allowed for a new trial after a juror admitted conducting Internet research on IRS tax rules during the course of last year’s criminal trial, a violation of court rules that require jurors to only consider evidence heard in a courtroom.

No trial date has been set.

WNCT
LaRoque has maintained he committed no crimes, and told jurors when he testified in last spring’s trial that he did not keep detailed business records and that all the money he was accused of stealing was owed to him.

Howard will also hold another hearing in LaRoque’s case next Tuesday, and will decide whether to approve the former lawmaker’s request to hire  Greenville attorney Keith Williams after a “fundamental disagreement” emerged between LaRoque and Raleigh criminal defense attorney Joe Cheshire about how to proceed in the case.

LaRoque is also looking to lift a hold by federal authorities on property he inherited in order to pay legal bills.

From the late 1990s until his 2012 indictment, LaRoque ran both East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company, two groups funded as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that gives business loans to struggling small businesses in impoverished rural areas.

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A for-profit online education company will be at the legislature tomorrow to give a pitch to lawmakers about the virtual public charter schools it runs, and profits from, in more than 30 other states.

An executive from K12, Inc., a Wall Street-traded company that gets the bulk of its revenue from running online public schools, is slated to make a presentation Tueaday at the Joint Legislative Education Oversight committee. The hearing begins at 10 am. Tuesday in room 643 of the Legislative Office Buildling.

(Steaming audio of the meeting will be available here, and a copy of the commitee’s agenda is here.)

Mary Gifford, the company’s senior vice-president for education policy scheduled to speak to lawmakers, also spoke last week in front of a virtual charter school study group assembled to craft recommendations for the State Board of Education of how the online-only schools should operate in North Carolina.

At that meeting, Gifford acknowledged low graduation and performance rates K12,Inc.-run schools have had in other states, saying that the company’s schools tend to attract low performing students and the home-based system of education can do little to help those high-school students.

“High school is a nightmare,” Gifford told the virtual charter study group last Tuesday. Forty percent of the students in high school will be very successful.”

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WRAL aired this documentary last night on the state’s new unemployment insurance, focusing on the estimated 170,000 longterm unemployed who were rendered ineligible for federal unemployment help when the N.C. General Assembly adopted changes for the state’s unemployment system.

North Carolina, which has the third highest unemployment in the state, was the only state to reject the federal funds as it sought an expedited way to repay $2.5 billion borrowed by the unemployment system in the height of the recession. Businesses saw a modest increase in what they pay into the system, while the length of time and amount of benefits were significantly reduced for those who find themselves suddenly without jobs.

Veteran WRAL anchor Bill Leslie talked with people whose benefits had been cut off, to see how they’ve fared.

You can watch the video here, or below.

Pat McCrory 5A new talking point has emerged in recent days as right-wing pundits and commentators have struggled to describe and respond to the decision of a conservative Republican General Assembly to utterly disregard two vetoes issued by a conservative Republican governor. According to the spin, the dispute is a “family disagreement.”

In this narrative, legislators and the Governor are just pals quibbling over details and Gov. McCrory has “gotten almost everything he asked for” since taking office in January.

Hmmm. Read More

Ellie KinnairdThe resignation of Senator Eleanor Kinnaird from the North Carolina Senate was totally understandable, but still quite a disappointment for all who care about truth and justice. Ellie’s list of accomplishments and principled stands in the Senate is a long one and she will be missed enormously in that already depleted institution.

This morning’s editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it right when it says:

“Kinnaird was part of the Senate’s conscience. Losing her voice may make lawmaking easier, but it won’t make it better or the results more humane. The General Assembly should be a place of debate where both sides listen and learn. It has become a Republican rally that drowns the dissent within and ignores the protests without.

The good news is that Kinnaird is resigning but not quitting. She will take her voice to where she can be heard so all can be heard. Her first step is to join a grassroots effort to fight Republican efforts to suppress the vote.

We thank Sen. Kinnaird for her service. And wish her luck as she continues the good fight.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/08/20/3122573/a-loss-of-conscience.html#storylink=cpy