UNC Set for Oct 28 Hearing on Amended Notice of Allegations

Officials from UNC are scheduled to go before the NCAA Committee on Infractions regarding the university’s response to the amended Notice of Allegations on October 28.

The hearing will solely focus on “procedural issues raised in the institution’s response” to the amended NOA.

UNC alleged in its response that certain allegations from the NCAA were outside of the committee’s purview and that the statute of limitations had expired on some allegations.

The panel will review “a limited record to resolve the procedural claims,” according to a letter from the NCAA placed on a UNC webpage.

Representatives from UNC, Dr. Jan Boxill, Deborah Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro are allowed at the hearing.

The hearing is slated for eight o’clock the morning of October 28 in Indianapolis.


Defense Attorney: Initial Photograph of Alleged UNC Rape Victim Appears to Have Been Altered

The attorney for a UNC football player accused of raping another student is saying the initial photos released by the victim’s attorney may have been altered to make injuries look worse.

Kerry Sutton is representing Allen Artis, who was accused of rape by a UNC sophomore Delaney Robinson. Robinson held a press conference in mid-September alleging that Artis had raped her on Valentine’s Day.

At that press conference, Robinson’s attorney – Denise Branch – released pictures of Robinson she said were taken as part of the investigation into the assault. But Sutton is now saying that the photo that was released appears to have alterations made to the color in the photograph.

Sutton said she obtained the photograph that initially caused her concern from the file shared from the District Attorney’s Office. Sutton said the lighting in that picture was different than what was released at Robinson’s press conference.

Branch released a statement in response to the difference in the photos.

“The photograph I presented at the press conference was given to me by Investigator Barbee with the UNC Department of Public Safety. Ms. Sutton has not requested nor has she received any photographs from me or my office. We have no idea from whom or from where Ms. Sutton obtained the photograph she submitted to the forensic analyst, and there is no way we can attest to the authenticity or alteration of Ms. Sutton’s photograph.”

Sutton said she filed a motion on Friday asking to the state to produce photographs.

Robinson took out self-sworn warrants on misdemeanor charges against Artis after the press conference making the allegations public. Officials in the District Attorney’s Office say the investigation, which has the potential to result in felony charges, is ongoing.

Artis has maintained his innocence and that the sexual activity that night was consensual.

The trial date for the misdemeanor charges is set for December 5.


Work Halted at Chapel Hill Alexan Parking Deck After Concrete Slab Gave Way Thursday

A stop-work order has been issued for the parking deck under construction at the Alexan Village Plaza on Elliot Road.

Town officials say the order was issued after an incident occurred on Thursday in which Chapel Hill Fire crews were called to the scene. Officials say the issue was caused when “a previously installed and engineered repair on a pre-cast concrete slab gave way at the cold joint.”

Chapel Hill’s Building Inspections Manager Chelsea Laws reported the incident was in a “small and isolated area on the third floor and is now fenced off from access,” according to an e-mail to WCHL.

The town is now requiring the structural engineer to evaluate the issue and propose corrections to repair and resolve the problem before any work can continue.

Fire crews spent approximately 30 minutes at the scene around 11 o’clock Thursday morning, according to tweets from the department.

No one was injured in the incident.

There is no timeline for how long it will take to complete the steps to all work to be able to continue.


UNC Hosts Forum on Islamaphobia

The UNC Parr Center for Ethics held a forum Tuesday to discuss the recent anger and fear expressed towards Muslims in America. The room was full with students, professors and community members. Some had to stand in the back because there weren’t enough seats.

The panelists included UNC professors Charlie Kurzman, Tim Marr and Juliane Hammer. Author and attorney Melody Moezzi also acted as a panelist.

The discussion began with a breakdown of different statistics. Last year, there were a little over 16,000 homicides in America. Kurzman says Islamic Extremism accounts for a very tiny part of any of the violence committed in the United States.

“The fear that exists out there, Islamophobia and negative attitudes, are not based on a real threat.”

Moezzi says a bigger number to consider is the number of suicides in the United States last year – over 40,000. She says this should be taken into consideration with the different stigmas associated with Islam.

“The kind of hostility that you face as a Muslim in America every single day is something that will affect your mental health and does it in a way that we don’t acknowledge.”

She says she’s often made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.

“It affects me every single time I see an alert on my phone about—it’s almost as if it says you do not belong here. It may as well say—whatever it says, one new thing that Donald Trump has said or one new crime that was committed against a Muslim.”

Hammer says her kids experience that same feeling in school with the ways their peers treat them.

“I have two children in the public school system here, around here somewhere in an unnamed school, and their experiences are terrifying.”

Moezzi says a way to work against this mindset is to become educated on what different Islamic and Arabic terms really mean.

“My biggest problem, and I’m a member of the media so with the media in particular the mainstream media, is how they accept the terrorist definition of everything.”

Hammer says one of the ways to combat this is to stop thinking about and referring to Islam as if it’s a single entity.

“There’s no such thing as ‘Islam says women should be silent.’ Islam doesn’t say anything. I was telling my students earlier today, ‘you can’t take Islam to lunch. It’s not a person.’”

UNC assembled the forum because of recent events, such as the terrorist shooting in a Florida night club in June and because of language used to describe Muslims in the presidential campaign.


Trial Set for UNC Football Player Accused of Sexual Assault

“I did not rape her.”

Allen Artis repeated that claim five times as his eyes panned across a group of reporters outside the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough on Thursday.

Earlier this month, a UNC sophomore Delaney Robinson accused Artis of raping her on Valentine’s Day.

Robinson said she filed a complaint after the incident but that she was discouraged during the process that justice in her eyes would be served.

Robinson’s attorney, Denise Branch, said when the allegations were made public that she had been told no charges would be brought in the case. But local District Attorney Jim Woodall said that same day that he had confirmed with UNC Police that the investigation was open and ongoing.

Rather than waiting for the resolution of that investigation, which could result in felony charges, Robinson took out self-sworn warrants for assault and sexual battery.

Durham-based attorney Kerry Sutton is representing Artis and said he was “perfectly happy” to let the full investigative process play out.

“He has every right to have a fair trial, both here and in the Title IX process,” Sutton said. “And although we didn’t start this – and I’m not blaming this on Ms. Robinson at all – the way this has turned out, Mr. Artis can not possibly get a fair hearing in the Title IX process.”

Sutton’s law partner Steve Lindsay said that they were preparing for a trial to restore Artis’ reputation and would not accept any plea agreement before trial.

“I’ll make that clear right now, we are not going to plead guilty to anything,” Lindsay said. “This man has done nothing wrong.”

Stephanie Artis, Allen’s mother, asked for the public to reserve judgment.

“As his mom and as his parents, our heart breaks for him because we know him,” she said. “And our community at home and everybody who knows him knows his heart and knows that this wouldn’t happen. So we’re dealing with the personal part.

“Also, as a mother, it saddens me that this could be any of our sons.”

Sutton said the case defending Artis was going to rely on what they see as the facts from the night of the incident.

“We’re using the facts,” Sutton said. “The facts will support Allen. We’re not afraid of the facts.”

Sutton said that she had reviewed the witness statements given in the case and that Robinson’s friends told authorities that she had “seemed fine.” Robinson has admitted to drinking the night of the alleged assault and the warrants state that Artis should have known Robinson was incapacitated that February night.

“I just want the truth to come out and then justice to come out,” Artis said after Thursday’s hearing.

“Delaney Robinson is a rape victim, and she has chosen to exercise her rights as a victim to be involved in these legal proceedings,” Branch said in a statement released after Thursday’s hearing. “We are pleased with the actions Mr. Woodall and his office have taken since Ms. Robinson had the courage to come forward. Ms. Robinson remains resolute in her pursuit of justice.”

The trial date on the two misdemeanor charges has been set for December 5.

Artis has been suspended indefinitely from the UNC football team, which is team policy for any player charged with misdemeanor offenses.


Five Arrested After $3 Million Worth of Cocaine Seized from Chapel Hill Home

“Well over” $3 million worth of cocaine was seized from a Chapel Hill residence as part of a multi-agency drug investigation.

Authorities say they suspected a high-level cocaine trafficking operation was located at 131 Morton Road in Chapel Hill and launch an investigation. That led to a search of the residence where Chatham County deputies located and seized 38 kilograms of suspected cocaine hydrochloride, which authorities estimated had a street value of more than $3 million.

Officials say law enforcement also seized approximately $530,000, which was described as being “packaged, sealed and prepped for transport out of the country.”

Authorities say five firearms were also seized along with multiple rounds of various caliber ammunition, a commercial-grade currency counter, digital scales and several “luxury vehicles.”

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office along with federal, state and other local agencies were all part of the investigation, according to a release.

“Teamwork is the key to solving these complicated and extensive cases,” Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson said in a release. “It takes a collective partnership with other local, state, and federal agencies and the community to identify and effectively respond to criminal activity. Don’t let cases like these stay hidden in the shadows; call 911 to share information if you suspect criminal activity in your neighborhood.”

Five suspects – 39-year-old Jose Manuel Elzaldo-Serrano, 41-year-old Carlos Ocegyeda-Serrano, 40-year-old Venusian Serrano-Mejia, 45-year-old Fernado Rivera-Hernandez and 30-year-old Christian Manor Gomez-Santos – have all been charged with trafficking a schedule II controlled substance, conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine and maintaining a dwelling to sell or distribute cocaine.

Jose Manuel Elzaldo-Serrano. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Jose Manuel Elzaldo-Serrano. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Carlos Ocegyeda-Serrano. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Carlos Ocegyeda-Serrano. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Venusian Serrano-Mejia. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Venusian Serrano-Mejia. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Fernado Rivera-Hernandez. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Fernado Rivera-Hernandez. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Christian Manor Gomez-Santos. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Christian Manor Gomez-Santos. Photo via Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

All five suspects were given a $1 million bond and made a first court appearance on Monday.


Chapel Hill ‘Taking A Serious Look’ At Purchasing Legion Property

The future of the 36-acre American Legion property has been a hot-button issue throughout 2016 in Chapel Hill.

A developer, Woodfield Investments, has proposed building 400 apartments on the property along with commercial and multi-purpose space. Some residents have voiced opposition to that plan – instead, they would like to see the town buy the property and use it as park space.

The American Legion entered into an agreement to sell the property for a price of no less than $9 million last year. But the town had a right of first refusal for the property, which a previous version of the Town Council passed over last fall. That decision and the way it was made has drawn criticism from some residents.

So the American Legion has offered the property to the town once again for $9 million. Legion Post 6 Commander Bill Munsee put the offer before the council, once again, at a public hearing last Monday.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck last Thursday and said the town would seriously look at options to purchase the land.

“I think it’s still very much a bigger conversation,” Hemminger said. “I know there’s a lot of community support behind that, but we need to see what that really looks like – in terms of financing, in terms of land planning and so we will be taking a serious look at it.”

The council submitted feedback to the concept plan, but Woodfield has not yet submitted an official application. The council would have to rezone the property if Woodfield will be allowed to build the site as it has been proposed.


Chapel Hill Planning for Inclusive Playground

Chapel Hill is holding a public workshop Wednesday night to plan an inclusive playground for the town. An inclusive playground is one that children of varying ages, sizes and developmental and physical disabilities can all play on together.

Early plans say the playground will have features of different sizes and difficulty so no child will be left out.

The town currently has nine playgrounds. All of the newer ones meet the minimum requirements for the Americans with Disabilities Act. But according to the town plans, officials hope to exceed the standards.

The new playground will be built in Cedar Falls Park. It’s currently in the planning process. The town will begin building it in phases as funding becomes available.

The workshop will be Wednesday from 4:00 to 7:00 at the Chapel Hill Public Library.


UNC Linebacker Refutes Rape Claim

A North Carolina football player facing charges of sexual battery and assault on a female student says the two had consensual sex and that he did not rape nor drug her.

In his first public comments, Allen Artis said Tuesday he isn’t a rapist and is eager to get the case behind him. One of his attorneys, Kerry Sutton, also said Artis has passed a polygraph test about the February incident.

Allen Artis mugshot

Allen Artis (Photo via Orange County Sheriff’s Office)

The junior reserve linebacker, indefinitely suspended from the team, turned himself in earlier this month on the misdemeanor charges. His next court date is set for Thursday.

The arrest warrant stated Artis had sex with a female UNC student against her will when he “should have reasonably known that the other person was mentally incapacitated and physically helpless.”


OWASA Warns of Water Discoloration Downtown Chapel Hill

Residents and businesses in downtown Chapel Hill may notice discolored water Monday and Tuesday due to maintenance work being carried out by Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

OWASA officials say customers can clear the discoloration by running cold water for five to 10 minutes. If the water does not clear up, you are asked to contact OWASA at (919) 968-4421.

OWASA is also asking customers to make sure that the water is clear before doing laundry or other activities using the discolored water. Officials say the discoloration may also appear in ice from ice makers.

OWASA says the discolored water is safe to use when watering plants.

The maintenance causing the discoloration involves releasing water from fire hydrants to remove sediment which can accumulate in the water pipes, according to OWASA. The water release helps keep water clear in normal condition.