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.

Judge Denies Motion to Suppress Evidence in Chandler Kania Case

As the trial date for a former UNC student accused of driving the wrong way in a fatal crash on I-85 last summer is approaching, a local judge has once again denied defense motions to suppress evidence in the case.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour ruled on Thursday that the state can use evidence from Chandler Kania’s cell phone and his blood-alcohol content from the night of the crash.

Kania is accused of driving the wrong way on I-85 in Orange County last July for at least six miles before crashing head-on into another vehicle, killing three of the four passengers in the vehicle – 49-year-old Felicia Harris, 46-year-old Darlene McGee and six-year-old Jahnice Baird.

Records show the crash occurred after Kania and a group of friends had spent several hours drinking. Kania’s blood-alcohol content was registered as a .17 following the crash, according to law enforcement, which is twice the legal limit to drive in North Carolina. Kania was also underage at the time of the crash.

After Baddour’s ruling, that blood-alcohol content and the evidence from Kania’s cell phone will now be allowed in the trial. Kania’s attorneys had also argued that the warrant for Kania’s cell phone was illegally served, but Baddour previously ruled against that motion as well.

Kania is facing three counts of second-degree murder, among other charges.

Kania trial is set to begin on Monday.

Orange County Leaders Discussing Education Issues Thursday Night

The Orange County Commissioners will be holding a joint meeting with both local school boards on Thursday night to discuss education issues in the county.

The agenda is slated to discuss the Family Success Alliance, provide an update on school impact fees and discuss other issues in local public education.

The FSA is in the midst of it second year working with community members in different zones around the county identifying gaps in the education pipeline and working to close those gaps.

The two programs developed in the early years of the FSA include a summer Kindergarten Readiness Program, which has been implemented in partnership with the local school districts. A Navigator Program has also been established to help FSA-enrolled families to support their children’s education.

The meeting will also provide an update on the recently updated school construction impact fees.

The agenda also includes the discussion of other school-related topics including free-and-reduced lunch, teacher hiring and demographic changes.

The joint meeting with the Orange County Commissioners and school boards is set for seven o’clock at the Whitted Meeting Facility in Hillsborough.

Dedication Ceremony for Jerry M. Passmore Senior Center Set for Thursday

The official renaming and dedication ceremony for the Jerry M. Passmore Center is set for Thursday.

Thursday’s dedication is being co-sponsored by Orange County and The Friends of the Jerry M. Passmore Center.

The Orange County Commissioners voted in March to rename the center in honor of Jerry Passmore after it was formerly known as the Central Orange Senior Center.

Passmore was the director of the Orange County Department on Aging from 1977 to 2010. During that time, he developed and implemented two five-year master aging plans, which were the first of their kind in North Carolina.

The dedication ceremony is set to get underway at 10:30 Thursday morning at 103 Meadowlands Drive in Hillsborough.

Detour Established While Orange County Bridge Replaced

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is replacing the bridge carrying Moorefields Road over a section of Rocky Run Creek just southwest of Hillsborough. The road will be closed for 90 days.

The work began on Monday and is expected to be finished by December 24.

Local traffic will have access to homes and businesses on either end of Mooresfields Road. But no traffic will be able to pass the closure points on either side of the bridge. A detour has been set up on Dimmocks Mill Road, Thoroughbred Lane and S.R. 1135.

This project is part of the department’s plan to improve the state’s bridges.

Real-time information can be found on the Traveler Services section of the NCDOT website or on the NCDOT Twitter.

Registered Sex Offender Arrested in Orange County Murder-For-Hire Plot

Local authorities have arrested a man in connection with a murder-for-hire plot.

Authorities say Brian Travis Padnos Allen of Mebane was arrested by members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office after law enforcement received information that Allen was attempting to contract a murder.

A release from the Sheriff’s Office says the intended target was the significant other of a former girlfriend.

Allen is a lifetime registered sex offender, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities say Allen was taken into custody without incident and is being held under a $500,000 secured bond.

Orange High School Defensive End Name to Shrine Bowl Roster

Orange High School defensive end Stone Edwards was named to the Shrine Bowl roster representing the Tar Heel state in the battle of the Carolinas.

Edwards is one of the star defensive players on an Orange High team that currently sits at 6-0 on the season. Edwards has amassed 28 tackles, 11 of which have been for a loss, and six sacks on the season, according to MaxPreps.

Edwards is the only player at a high school in Orange County to make the roster released on Monday.

But Edwards will not be the lone representative from Orange High School. Panthers head coach Pat Moser is slated to serve as an assistant coach on the Shrine Bowl team.

The 80th Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas is scheduled for December 17 on the campus of Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Work Continuing on Durham-Orange County Light Rail Amid Budgetary Concerns

GoTriangle is continuing working with local universities, health care institutions, government and the private sector to continue its plans for a Light Rail that would potentially travel between Durham and Orange Counties – even while budgetary concerns remain due to a cap on light rail spending put in place by the General Assembly.

After receiving feedback from these partners on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the organization is researching the possibility of connecting the line to North Carolina Central University. According to preliminary research by GoTriangle, officials say it could be the busiest light rail stop in Durham.

Acting NCCU Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye said in a release, “North Carolina Central University is an enthusiastic partner of GoTriangle. The possibility of connecting the light rail line to NCCU is an exciting and viable refinement to the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project.”

The project is expected to cost about $1.6 billion – 50 percent would come from the federal government, 25 percent from a local sales tax and the remaining 25 percent would come from the state.

But that state funding has been brought into question in recent years. The legislature put a $500,000 cap on light rail funding coming from the state in 2015. That $500,000 cap was repealed in this year’s budget amendment, but it was replaced by a new cap of 10 percent of the project’s overall cost.

But GoTriangle says with the support of anyone and everyone in Orange and Durham Counties, they’re hoping to develop a new plan to fully fund the project.

Fifth Rabies Case Confirmed in Orange County for 2016

The North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health has confirmed the fifth case of rabies in Orange County this year.

The latest incident involved a bat, according to Orange County Animal Services, and originated when a bat was spotted inside the fireplace of a Mebane residence.

Officials say residents immediately left the house and call Animal Control. There were two dogs and a cat in the home at the time but all were up to date on vaccinations, according to a release. That vaccination history allows for the pets to receive a booster shot. Pets who are not up to date must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period of up to four months, according to state law.

Orange County had 10 positive cases of rabies recorded in 2015, which was down dramatically from 23 the year before.

Orange County Animal Services is hosting another low-cost rabies vaccination clinic from five o’clock until seven o’clock Thursday evening at the Eno River Farmers Market in Hillsborough.

For a full calendar of low-cost rabies clinics click here.

Fundraising Effort for Orange County Veterans Memorial Increasing

The site has been chosen, plans are underway and the Veterans Memorial Fundraising Committee has begun efforts to raise money for the new memorial.

The memorial will be built off of Homestead Road, in the field adjacent to the Southern Human Services Center.

Renee Price is an Orange County Commissioner and committee member. She says she has backed the memorial from the beginning, and now that everything else has been decided, it’s time to start raising money.

“I think once people know that something is happening; the momentum is there; it’s real, then they’ll start giving.”

The committee presented renderings at the walk-through to show board and community members what the finished memorial could look like. The memorial plan will have four different sections, or rooms. Each will have a different theme such as: family, freedom or sacrifice. There will also be a spot with an American flag toward the middle.

“That will have somewhat of a formal design around it. The rest of this is very informal and natural. But around the flagpole it will have kind of ordered and regimented, if you will, design elements,” said David Swanson – the landscape architect for the memorial.

He says, while the design for the project was important, it was also important to incorporate preservation into the project.

“The scale of this is, as we say, it’s four outdoor rooms, but they’re all set into a natural grove of trees which is these beautiful, I would say 100 year old trees.”

But before these outdoor rooms can be built around the trees, Fundraising Chairman Lee Heavlin says it’s going to take a lot of community effort.

“Anyone who wants to participate in raising money, it’s going to take a lot of people and their energy to build what we need – which is about $250,000 to $300,000.”

But Price says she thinks Orange County residents will realize the importance of the memorial, and will want to help.

“A lot of people may think of veteran’s memorial; they think military; they think war. But this is about—yes indeed, wars occur – but nonetheless, we do have to celebrate our freedoms and this is one way of doing that.”

The fundraising committee says they are hoping to work with church groups, schools and veterans groups to make the Orange County Veterans Memorial a reality.