Court orders revisions to legislative districts

A North Carolina court ruled Tuesday that the state’s legislative districts are unconstitutional, in a unanimous decision that won praise from voting rights advocates and opens a new front in the national battle over partisan gerrymanders.

The three superior court judges in Wake County set a deadline of Sept. 17 by which North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly must submit redrawn state House and Senate district maps to be reviewed by a court-appointed referee.

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger (R) blasted the decision, which he argued “contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent,” but said that the General Assembly does not plan to appeal it.

Common Cause, the nonprofit government watchdog group that filed the lawsuit, called Tuesday’s ruling “a historic victory for the people of North Carolina.”

Republicans control both chambers of North Carolina’s General Assembly.

The Supreme Court, considering partisan gerrymanders of congressional districts in North Carolina and Maryland this summer, ruled 5 to 4 that policing such gerrymanders is not the province of federal courts. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., however, noted that those opposed to partisan gerrymandering had other options, such as trying to create independent commissions to draw electoral lines or challenging maps in state courts under provisions in state constitutions.

— Felicia Sonmez

and Robert Barnes


Police: Boy, 14, admits to killing five of family

A 14-year-old boy admitted to killing five members of his family including his three younger siblings, Alabama authorities said Tuesday.

Limestone County sheriff’s spokesman Stephen Young said the teen called 911 about 11 p.m. Monday. He told arriving deputies that he heard gunshots upstairs while he was in the basement of the home in Elkmont and ran out the door, but the teen later confessed to being the one who pulled the trigger, Young said.

The suspect’s 6-month-old brother, 5-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother were among the victims. The adult victims were identified as the 38-year-old father of the suspect and the teen’s 35-year-old stepmother.

The teen faces murder charges and is being held in a juvenile detention facility. Young said he could face adult charges, including capital murder.

— Associated Press


Student charged after noose is found in dorm

A student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been arrested and charged with hate crime after a noose was found hanging in an elevator at a residence hall, the university said Tuesday.

Andrew Smith, 19, was arrested Monday and appeared in court Tuesday. In addition to the felony hate crime, he was also arraigned on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges.

Champaign County Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Alferink said the student from Normal found some rope in an elevator over the weekend and tied it into a noose. University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said students reported finding the noose in an elevator in Allen Hall early Sunday.

— Associated Press


Man sentenced in plot against Muslim center

The last of four young men who authorities say planned to use homemade explosives against an Upstate New York Muslim community has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

Vincent Vetromile, 20, appeared Tuesday in Monroe County Court. He had pleaded guilty in June to a weapons charge.

Vetromile, Brian Colaneri, Andrew Crysel, and a 16-year-old were accused of planning an attack on Islamberg, a community of about 200 people in Delaware County.

Colaneri, 20, and Crysel, 19, were sentenced last month to four to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to terrorism conspiracy. The youngest defendant, now 17, was sentenced to seven years.

Investigators say the Rochester-area residents had access to 23 rifles and shotguns and three homemade explosives when they were arrested in January.

— Associated Press