Archive for May, 2011

Florida: Behavior Outside Office May Stop Unemployment Checks

May 18, 2011
By ALAN FARNHAM / ABC News – May 17, 2011

In what some see as an assault on the unemployed, Congress is considering changes that would “dismantle” jobless benefits for millions of workers. In Florida, a law awaiting the governor’s signature would deny benefits to anyone found to have engaged in misconduct; not just on-the-job, but outside the office, outside business hours and on the employee’s own time.

While defenders of the Florida legislation insist only misbehavior relevant to a person’s job could result a denial of benefits, others aren’t so sure.

“This new legislation, if signed by our governor, is definitely going to make it easier for employers to disqualify somebody from getting unemployment,” says Jack Lord, a labor law attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP in Orlando. He calls it “all part of the Florida legislature’s extremely pro-business stance during this recession.”

Under HB 7005, the definition of “misconduct” would be broadened to include misbehavior whether or not it occurs at the workplace or during working hours. Such misconduct for the first time includes, under certain circumstances, “violation of an employer’s rule.”

So, if your boss has a rule that you can’t speak disrespectfully of him, and if on Saturday night, on your own time, you tell your friends that he’s a good-for-nothing so-and-so, can he fire you and deny you unemployment benefits? What if your boss is prim and proper and gets wind that you, after hours, like to swear a blue streak?

Arthur Rosenberg of Florida Legal Service in Miami says courts will have to decide. “I’m not a lawyer,” he says, “but to some degree this [new legislation] will determine what’s permissible. What kind of behavior constitutes misconduct? What kind of rules can an employer set? If not drinking during working hours is an acceptable requirement, can your boss fire you and deny you unemployment if you drink outside of work?”

George Wentworth, senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Center in New York, says Florida’s proposed change would be “a big deal in unemployment circles. Florida seems to be giving employers a pretty wide berth as to regulating off-duty conduct. An employer can, of course, fire you for any reason. The question here is: Can you be denied benefits? ”

Though the states, he says, differ in the wording of their unemployment laws and their definitions of terms, “The national standard is that the conduct needs to relate to what happens during the workday and needs to be on the premises. This opens it up more broadly.”

In one sense, he points out, the proposed change isn’t revolutionary: Most states’ employment laws imagine a “certain reasonable sphere within which some off duty conduct could be considered” grounds to disqualify a worker from getting unemployment insurance: “If you’re a school bus driver, and you get arrested off duty for DUI,” says Wentworth, that might be considered misconduct related to your workplace.

Jack Lord also thinks the proposed change “sounds bigger than it is,” and for the same reason: “If somebody is using drugs outside of work and not on the premises, and then they clock-in high, they can be disqualified” from getting unemployment.

Tamela Perdue, general counsel to the Associated Industries of Florida, a business group that lobbied heavily for the changes, thinks that critics of the bill have lost sight of an important fact: Even if the bill is signed into law, the onus will be on the employer to prove that the worker’s off-site or after-hours misconduct “had an impact on the workplace. If I went somewhere for the weekend and did something my employer didn’t like, he could not disallow my benefits unless what I did related to the workplace.”

In every unemployment claim subject to dispute, she points out, “a judge’s view will still be absolute. It’s a mistaken belief that an employer can deny benefits. He can’t just cut a person off. True, the employer can appeal; but it’s the referee who decides.” And the judge or referee, she emphasizes “will consider the totality of the circumstances.”

What Florida is proposing, says Perdue, is not unique. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington have laws saying misconduct can be grounds for disqualifying someone from receiving benefits. Georgia and Mississippi hold that a failure to obey a company rule can be legitimate grounds.

On the federal level, a bill affecting the future of some $31 billion previously allocated for helping the long-term unemployed was voted out of the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday. It would allow the states to re-direct those funds for other purposes, including tax relief for corporations. The National Employment Law Project contends the bill would “dismantle” unemployment insurance.

Its sponsors, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, say it would enhance the states’ flexibility, allowing them, for example, to use some or all the money to “prevent job-destroying unemployment tax hikes” on business.

Christine Owens, executive director of NELP, finds it reprehensible. In a press release she says that last December “Congress made a promise to the unemployed that federal unemployment insurance would be maintained throughout 2011.” The proposed change, she says, “breaks that promise” at a time when long-term unemployment remains at record levels and more than 4 million workers are receiving federal unemployment benefits.

New Trial Slated in 1987 Murder of Fayette Co., PA Waitress

May 18, 2011

From: www.whptv.com

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A western Pennsylvania judge has given prosecutors 120 days to retry a man convicted of killing a waitress almost a quarter-century ago.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer on Tuesday granted the petition of 49-year-old Mark Breakiron of Hopwood to overturn his first-degree murder and robbery convictions.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says Fayette County prosecutors have said in court documents that they are ready to retry Breakiron in the 1987 murder of Saundra Marie Martin.

After he was convicted in 1988, jurors cited the robbery as an aggravating factor in sentencing him to death.

Breakiron challenged that, saying he hadn’t stolen money from Shenanigan’s Bar in German Township until he returned later to dispose of Martin’s body — which would make that crime a theft, not a robbery.

Charlotte, NC Robbery Suspect Arrested After Brief Standoff

May 9, 2011

By GLENN COUNTS / NewsChannel 36

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Plaza Terrance Apartments are normally quiet, but that was not the case on Friday afternoon as a police helicopter hovered overhead and officers surrounded the building.

“I saw the road was blocked off and that’s about all I saw,” said neighbor Joanne Cannon. “And the police officer told me I need to get inside of a building.”

Investigators say a man with a shotgun robbed Wireless Kingdom and Rap City Fashion on The Plaza around 11:30 a.m. Friday. The suspect was seen crossing the street with that shotgun shortly after the robberies.

“We were in the area,” said Capt. Demetria Faulkner-Welch. “We have officers assigned to the area, so officers were in the area when the call came out.”

Police got to the area so quickly that the suspect did not have time to get away, so instead he hid in one of the apartments. As the standoff progressed, elderly residents, like 71-year-old Margie Leach, were evacuated.

“They knocked on my door and told me to come out and stuff cause there was a guy he was armed and dangerous,” she said. Leach says when she found out what was going on, she decided officers were right.

The SWAT team joined the action and negotiators talked the suspect out of putting up a fight.

“There was some communication with him and then he ended up coming out,” said Faulkner-Welch.

Police have not yet released the name of the suspect. A school near the area, nearby school, Highland Mill Montessori, was placed on lockdown during the incident.

Electronic Monitoring Device Links Suspect to Charlotte, NC Crime Scene

May 9, 2011

By NewsChannel 36 Staff / http://www.wcnc.com
http://www.wcnc.com/news/local/Electronic-monitoring-device-links-suspect-to-crime-scene-121410169.html

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Detectives arrested a Charlotte man in connection with an armed robbery that occurred in the middle of the afternoon Thursday.

A man and his son told police they were in the parking lot of a W. Sugar Creek Road gas station around 2 p.m. when a man approached them, showed them a gun and demanded money. The victims gave him money and took note of the tag number of the car the suspect used to leave the gas station.

Police ran the tag number and it connected 24-year-old Cumar Howard to the car.

Howard heard police were looking for him and went to police headquarters to deny that he had been in the area. However, Howard was wearing an electronic monitoring device and officers used their tracking system to check on Howard’s whereabouts. The tracking system showed that Howard was at the scene at the time of the robbery.

He was taken into custody and charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon. This is Howard’s ninth arrest in Mecklenburg County since 2008.

Charlotte, NC Families, Officials Pay Tribute to 36 Officers Killed in Line of Duty

May 9, 2011

by JEFF CAMPBELL / NewsChannel 36 – http://www.wcnc.com; To watch the video of this news story click the link below: http://www.wcnc.com/video/featured-videos/Officer-Memorial-121417394.html

CHARLOTTE – Police officers and their families gathered on Friday night for a yearly tribute to fallen officers that took on special significance this year.
Exactly 10 weeks to the day after Officer Fred Thornton lost his life, the Fraternal Order of Police held their yearly May tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

Officer Thornton was killed when a flash-bang device detonated as he was trying to render his SWAT gear safe. The detonation caused massive injuries that ultimately took Thornton’s life. He was a 28-year veteran with CMPD.
Friday night in Sharon Memorial Park, Thornton’s wife, Linda, was on hand to recognize her husband’s service, and to grieve with the families of other fallen officers.

“We owe you – the families and the officers – a great debt of gratitude for what it is that you give to us,” Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said, expressing his sympathies to the families.

Mayor Foxx also read aloud the names of all 36 Mecklenburg County officers who have lost their lives dating back to the late 1800s – including CMPD officers, as well as Huntersville and Davidson Police, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI.
As each name was read aloud, one balloon was sent into the air for each of the officers.

“The candlelight vigil is a really special time,” said Trisha Norket, the mother of Officer John Burnette.

Burnette was killed on October 5th, 1993. He and fellow officer Andy Nobles spotted a stolen car in the Boulevard Homes neighborhood, and chased the driver into the woods. During a confrontation, the driver grabbed one of the officers’ weapons and killed them both. Burnette was just 25 years old.

And now, 17 years later, Norket told NewsChannel 36, “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my son.”
“I don’t think about the bad things. I think about the good things. That is just the way we live our lives,” she said.

Chester Co., SC Deputies Arrest Men Tending Marijuana Field

May 9, 2011

By NewsChannel 36 Staff / http://www.wcnc.com

CHESTER, S.C. — Two men are charged with manufacturing marijuana after detectives found them tending a field of the plants in Chester.

Narcotics officers with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office discovered the marijuana field off Brown Road on April 28.

Detectives arrested 31-year-old Carlos Padron Perez and 45-year-old Siriaco Botello Villa.

Investigators say the men had been staying in a camp for two weeks. The camp was equipped for sleeping and had food supplies.

Deputies seized 2,045 marijuana plants and equipment used to manufacture marijuana.

Perez and Villa are being held in the Chester County Detention Center under a $50,000 bond.

South Carolina Trooper Killed in Crash Inducted into State’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Hall of Fame

May 5, 2011
From Staff Reports – The Rock Hill, SC Herald Newspaper

SOUTH CAROLINA —

Cpl. Kevin Cusack of Clover, who was killed in the line of duty in 2010, was inducted Wednesday into the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame.

Cusack died last year in Lancaster County when his vehicle traveled off the roadway and overturned during the early morning hours of March 27, 2010, while Cusack was on duty.

“Kevin was a dedicated, veteran trooper who was well-loved and respected,” said Highway Patrol Col. Kenny Lancaster Jr. “He was remembered by family, fellow troopers and friends as a man faithful to God, his family and his job as a trooper. The placement of his name in the rotunda is a lasting tribute to a man known in the community for his character and principles.”

– Cpl. D. Kevin Cusack
Cusack, a 21-year veteran of the Patrol and a father of three, had spent most of his career in York County but had been assigned to Lancaster County in the year before he died.

The induction ceremony was Wednesday at the SC Hall of Fame, housed at the SC Criminal Justice Academy

To read the article about the crash click the link below:

http://www.heraldonline.com/2010/03/28/2049477/clover-trooper-dies-crash.html

Charlotte, NC Mother Stops Attempted Sexual Assault of 4 Year-Old Daughter

May 4, 2011

By GLENN COUNTS / NewsChannel 36 / http://www.wcnc.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Charlotte man was arrested early Wednesday morning, accused of trying to sexually assault a young girl.

The mother of that 4-year-old agreed to speak with NewsChannel 36 about the ordeal. We are not identifying her and spoke with her through an interpreter.

She is still trying to come to terms with the close call that happened at the Granville Apartments off of North Sharon Amity Road. That mother says she went to the restroom around 2:30 a.m. and when she came out, she saw a strange man standing over her daughter.

“She said he had taken her skirt off, her underwear,” the interpreter said.

That mother says she defended her daughter by attacking the suspect, and when he tried to escape her brothers held him down until police arrived.

Dario Orozco, 25, was arrested and charged with indecent liberties and sex offense. Investigators say Orozco is a neighbor and had been invited to the home by an uncle. However, the mother says she doesn’t know him.

“She said she had nothing to do with him,” the interpreter explained. “She never saw him before so she doesn’t know him.”

The mother says her 4-year-old never woke up and is doing okay. However, she is worried about Orozco getting out of jail because he allegedly threatened her and her daughter before police arrived.

Orozco’s bond has been set at $50,000.

Gang Initiative Credited for Cuts in Statesville, NC Crime Rates

May 4, 2011

By TONY BURBECK / NewsChannel 36 / http://www.wcnc.com

STATESVILLE, N.C. — A community-wide gang initiative is credited for reducing violent crime rates in Statesville.

Officials say aggravated assaults are down 49 percent, robberies are down 43 percent and aggravated sexual assaults are down 39 percent from July 2009 through December 2010.

The area also went 26 months without a murder.

Police Chief Tom Anderson says the beating death of 45-year-old Terry Turner by a group of teens in 2007 forced the police department to reassess how it operated.

Anderson said police couldn’t arrest their way out of problems. So, they changed things to focus on groups of people, including over 100 gang members, who were committing the majority of the crimes.

At the intersection of Front and Center Streets, witnesses say Turner’s head hit the ground so hard they heard his skull crack.  But the gang of teens who attacked the lawn care worker without provocation wasn’t done.

“They spit on him, they just kept spitting on him,” said a woman who didn’t want to be identified, recounting what her daughter saw and heard. 

Police arrested three juveniles.

Police say there were part of a group committing crimes around town. Those groups became their target with the Statesville/Iredell Gang Initiative, or SIGI.

“It was our tipping point,” said Anderson.

There would be no more Terry Turner incidents.

Brian Long lived the thug life in Statesville. He was not part of the attack but he did spend four years in prison for five armed robberies.

“It was very bad,” Long said, in reference to gang activity in Statesville before Turner’s death.

He now helps kids stay out of gangs. He says gang members in and around Statesville sense the police and community crackdown.

“The message has been brought out. A lot of people fear what can happen to them if they violate the Statesville/Iredell Gang Initiative,” Long said.

That crackdown includes more than 40 state and federal criminal cases.

“We told you this day was going to come,” Anderson said.

Police also call in criminals for sit-downs.

“We know where you live, we know what you are doing, the crimes you are committing and the gang members you are associating with,” Anderson said.

Police provide options, such as food, shelter and drug rehabilitation. Assaults, robberies, murders and even graffiti tagging are down.

The intersection where witnesses heard Terry Turner’s head crack a few years ago has seen change as well.

“Yes, a whole lot safer compared to a couple of years ago,” said Long.