Saturday News: Justice, finally


HENRY MCCOLLUM AND LEON BROWN AWARDED $84 MILLION FOR WRONGFUL IMPRISONMENT: An eight-person jury awarded McCollum and Brown $31 million each in compensatory damages — $1 million for every year they spent in prison after they were wrongfully convicted, twice, of the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in Red Springs. McCollum and Brown, both intellectually-disabled with IQs in the 50s, were teenagers when they were charged after they signed confessions they insisted they didn’t understand. The jury also awarded them $13 million in punitive damages after the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, one of the defendants named in the civil suit, settled its part of the case earlier on Friday for $9 million. The judgment on Friday came against former SBI agents Leroy Allen and Kenneth Snead, both of whom were part of the original investigation in 1983 that led to McCollum and Brown’s convictions.

REPUBLICAN APPEALS COURT JUDGE TRIED TO RUN OVER BLM PROTESTERS IN FAYETTEVILLE: Myah Warren filed charges of assault with a deadly weapon against Judge John Tyson in Cumberland County on Friday. Warren said she was holding a Black Lives Matter sign at a downtown Fayetteville demonstration last week. She said she saw a car circle twice, nearly striking her on the second pass. “It caused me to literally have to jump out of the way to avoid being hit,” she said. “He was going so fast he jumped up on the curb.” Protesters who had gathered for a weekly memorial for residents killed in police shootings approached the car and shot video, later recognizing the driver, they said, as Tyson. After jumping out of the way, Warren said Tyson’s car jumped the curb and remained on a nearby sidewalk for two to five minutes. Some approached it, demanding an explanation and asking if its driver was OK. “We have about 10 people witnessing the fact that this vehicle just tried to run people on the side of the circle off the road, then he just jumped the curb here,” protester Mario Benevente said on his Facebook Live feed. Warren said the car drove away and then Tyson appeared on foot, going inside a nearby deli and reporting that protesters were harassing him.

GOVERNOR COOPER LIFTS MASK MANDATE AND INDOOR CAPACITY LIMITS: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday immediately ended the state's capacity limits on businesses and nearly all the remaining statewide mask-wearing mandates, returning the state to almost normal operations after 15 months marked by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. The Democratic governor of the nation's ninth-largest state announced the lifting of gathering limit requirements 2 1/2 weeks before June 1 — the date by which he had previously said he wanted to rid the state of social distancing requirements. Restrictions had been scaled back slowly in recent months as statistical trends for the coronavirus in the state stabilized or improved. Cooper said he was prompted to act now by Thursday's guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks indoors and out in most cases. The number of daily confirmed cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations also continue to trend downward in North Carolina.

NEERA TANDEN WILL BE WORKING IN THE WHITE HOUSE, DESPITE SENATE GOP OPPOSITION: President Biden has tapped Neera Tanden to serve as a senior adviser in the White House, bringing her into the administration after her Cabinet nomination was withdrawn two months ago due to opposition in the Senate. Tanden had initially been selected to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget, but her path to confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who expressed concern over her past social media posts taking shots at various political figures. Tanden’s new job at the White House does not require Senate confirmation. Her portfolio will include health-care policy and overseeing a review of the U.S. Digital Service, according to a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters. The official said Tanden will be responsible, among other things, for preparing contingency plans for potential Supreme Court rulings that may result from Republican legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. Tanden worked as a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration and helped draft parts of the former president’s signature health care law. Tanden, who was a close ally of Hillary Clinton, joins the administration from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. She previously worked in the White House during the Clinton administration.

ISRAELI MILITARY LIES TO REPORTERS ABOUT A GROUND INVASION OF GAZA: The Israeli military abruptly announced after midnight on Friday that its ground forces had begun “attacking in the Gaza Strip,” saying it on Twitter, in text messages to journalists, and in on-the-record confirmations by an English-speaking army spokesman. Several international news organizations, including The New York Times, immediately alerted readers worldwide that a Gaza incursion or invasion was underway, a major escalation of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities. Within hours, those reports were all corrected: No invasion had taken place. Rather, ground troops had opened fire at targets in Gaza from inside Israeli territory, while fighters and drones were continuing to attack from the air. A top military spokesman took responsibility, blaming the fog of war. But by Friday evening, several leading Israeli news outlets were reporting that the incorrect announcement was no accident, but had actually been part of an elaborate deception. The intent, the media reports said, was to dupe Hamas fighters into thinking that an invasion had begun and to respond in ways that would expose far greater numbers of them to what was being called a devastatingly lethal Israeli attack. Representatives of The Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and Agence France-Presse, all of which had mistakenly reported a ground invasion early Friday, peppered him with questions about whether they had been turned into accessories to the military, why it had taken hours for the invasion report to be reversed, and how they would be able to trust the military’s statements going forward.