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Judge: N.C. Needs Anti-Gang Laws Now

Posted March 14, 2008
Updated March 19, 2008

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— While setting bond for a teen suspected of gunning down a Duke University student, a District Court judge on Friday called on state lawmakers to swiftly pass legislation to crack down on street gangs.

"We absolutely, positively need to have anti-gang legislation passed by the General Assembly," Judge Craig Brown said, standing at his bench for emphasis. "I'm sending an SOS to Raleigh. I expect them to hear it."

Brown set a $3 million bond for Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, of 1213 Shepherd St. in Durham, who is charged with murder in the Jan. 18 slaying of Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato.

Mahato, 29, was shot between the eyes at point-blank range during a robbery at his off-campus apartment, authorities said.

Lovette also has been charged with murder in the March 5 shooting death of Eve Carson, the student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Police have called both slayings random acts of violence and said they have no evidence linking the crimes to gang activity. A second suspect in Carson's death, Demario James Atwater, 21, of 414-B Macon St. in Durham, once told a school resource officer that he was part of a gang.

Because neither slaying is being treated as gang-related, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Easley called Brown's comments "speculative."

Lawmakers said they are on the verge of strengthening anti-gang legislation. A bill calling for stiffer penalties for gang-related violence already passed the House, and many lawmakers said they expect it to pass the Senate when the General Assembly reconvenes in May.

"The main focus is getting money, that's no doubt," said Otis Lyons, a former Durham gang member who now runs a community activist group known as Campaign for Change.

Lyons said there are dozens of organized gangs in the Triangle committing violent crimes.

"You see a lot of gang members get in trouble at 16 or 17, but they're joining gangs at 10 or 11 years old," he said.

A 2004 study from the Governor's Crime Commission documented more than 8,500 gang members and 387 gangs in North Carolina. Observers said both figures have grown with the state's population in the last four years.

In his four-minute courtroom speech, Brown called for a special session of the General Assembly to approve anti-gang bills as soon as possible while urging careful action and fair trials for the defendants.

"Let's not rush to judgment. Let's be thoughtful and considerate in terms of anything that we do," said the judge, a graduate of both UNC and Duke.

"Any anti-gang legislation that might pass in the vengeance of the moment needs to be balanced, thoughtful and deal with not only punishment but the underlying problems that cause our young people to become members of a gang in the first place."

Brown also recommended a name for the legislation. "I think it would be wonderful if we called it Eve's Law," he said.

Carson's family declined to comment on Brown's remarks.

10 Comments

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  • dohicky Mar 17, 2008

    How about the good old laws like, thy shall not kill, thy shall not steal. The courts would make headway if they enforced these two laws and sent the offenders away to do hard labor.

  • ratherbnnc Mar 17, 2008

    Judges are never held accountable.
    johnmcdonough

    Judges are held accountable on election day.

  • dogs_rule Mar 17, 2008

    Such a law is already on the books at the Federal level. It's called the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act. This is just another attempt by politicians (elected judges are politicians as far as I’m concerned) to appear to be “tough on crime.”

  • durham citizen Mar 14, 2008

    Random acts of violence. That is certainly in contrast to what the Mayor of Durham has said in the past, "If you aren't involved with illegal activity you have nothing to worry about".Yea right. Just living in Durham is dangerous. Durham however is not different from other large cities in NC. We just happen to have a Mayor who doesn't have a clue. High 5's for The Judge asking for legislation to target Gangs ! For those of you who may be inclined to say he is just picking on African-Americans, just remember the judge is BLIND.

  • piperchuck Mar 14, 2008

    Judge Brown should focus on the failings of the people in his own judicial system rather than telling others, the legislature, how to do their jobs. The judicial system had the opportunity to put the two people charged with the Carson murder in jail. Instead, they chose to put both on probation.

  • race81 Mar 14, 2008

    Anti gang legislation would probably help, But unfortunately the wrong administration is in power in the massion,house and senate.

  • islandgirl Mar 14, 2008

    What needs to happen, is our justice systems needs to put down harder sentences, instead of letting these people run the streets to easily... Most of them are repeat criminals, who think they could just come out here and hurt and take lives... This is a bunch of you know what... If you do the crime, they need to do a whole lot of time... Get them off the streets, punish them to the fullest... For all the good and innocent people out here.........

  • johnmcdonough Mar 14, 2008

    This is the same judge who constantly reduces bonds and always gives probabtion to defendents when residing over cases instead of jail time. Also makes ridiculous rulings. It is just amazing. Citizens just need to sit in court and just watch the day to day rulings by judges. Why do u think criminals like these guys are out in the street. Judges are never held accountable.

  • colliedave Mar 14, 2008

    Towns have tried to establish such laws but the laws have been struck down on the basis of freedom of association. Existing laws need to be enforced to the fullest. Committ a violent crime, expect to do all the time.

  • Harrison Bergeron Mar 14, 2008

    Anti-Gang Legislation ?!?!?

    Gangs are a symptom. Perhaps we could eliminate termite damages by creating Anti-Colony Legislation?