National Roundup

State eases process of deleting racist terms from deeds

CHICAGO (AP) — A new state law lets homeowners in Illinois request the removal of racist language from property deeds, decades after the language was deemed unenforceable and outlawed. 

WBEZ reports that restrictive covenants barring Black people from owning a property or labeling properties “white only” can be edited more easily due to the change. 

State Sen. Adriane Johnson, a Buffalo Grove Democrat, was among the law’s sponsors. Johnson said the covenants aren’t enforceable but making it simpler to edit them is “another way of righting the wrongs from the past.”

Such deeds and covenants were considered legally binding in the U.S. from 1916 until 1948, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled they were unenforceable.

The 1968 Fair Housing Act made them illegal. 

But homeowners still reported finding the racist language in deeds for property and some also found it was difficult to have the documents altered. 

Mundelein resident Nicole Sullivan learned 10 years ago that records for her home and others in the subdivision prohibited the selling, transferring or leasing “persons of the African or Negro, Japanese, Chinese, Jewish or Hebrew races, or their descendants.”

Sullivan said her effort to change the documents through Lake County authorities was slow and cumbersome. So she and others in the community petitioned for a change in state law. 

“Our neighborhood is still predominantly white,” Sullivan said. “There isn’t a ton of diversity in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood has generations of the same families that live here. People who are in their 80s now have lived here their entire lives, and their parents lived here before that. This legacy from segregation is still here.”

The Lake County’s state’s attorney’s office says it is reviewing cases like Sullivan’s and supports the updated state law making it easier to delete similar references. 


Parole Board whistleblower files lawsuit over dismissal

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former state employee who was fired after finding misconduct during an investigation of the Virginia Parole Board has filed a federal lawsuit against her former employer and two top officials of outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Jennifer Moschetti, a former investigator with the Office of the State Inspector General, alleges wrongful termination and defamation  in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court. 

Moschetti said in her complaint that the lawsuit is about protecting whistleblowers. The suit names OSIG, Inspector General Michael Westfall, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran and Northam Chief of Staff Clark Mercer as defendants.

Moschetti “could never have imagined that ... she would become the scapegoat for having shined a light on Board misconduct,” the lawsuit states. “But that’s exactly what happened.”

OSIG and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Moschetti was the lead investigator on at least nine reports in 2020 that found violations of law and policy, including the board freeing felons convicted of murder without first reaching out to victims’ families as required by law. She was fired in March.

In her lawsuit, Moschetti said Westfall supervised and collaborated with her during the investigation. She said Westfall also certified as “substantiated” her findings of violations of policy and law by parole board members related to the panel’s decision to grant parole to eight inmates serving time for convictions of murder.

Moschetti said she shared some information from her parole board reports with the FBI, “out of concern that wrongdoing by the Board was likely to be covered up.”

On March 3, Moschetti said she released a partial copy of her file to the leadership of the General Assembly, which is defined as an “Appropriate Authority under the Virginia Whistleblower Act.” Moschetti said she released information to the General Assembly because “she feared she was going to be used as a scapegoat for the controversy surrounding the Board’s conduct.”

Moschetti is seeking $250,000 for loss of wages and benefits.. She is seeking an additional $750,000 for future loss of pay. In addition, Moschetti is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages for “humiliation, mental and emotional distress.” She’s also seeking punitive damages against the individual defendants in an amount not to exceed $350,000.

South Carolina
Ex-sheriff faces 4- to 5-year prison sentence for corruption

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A former sheriff in South Carolina convicted of abusing his power and stealing money from government programs will likely spend about four to five years in federal prison, a judge has determined.

Prosecutors and attorneys for ex-Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood argued earlier this month how long the proposed range of Underwood’s sentence should be when a judge considers it later.

Judge Michelle Childs settled on potential prison time of 46 to 57 months, The Post and Courier reported.

Federal agents began investigating Underwood after he jailed a man for three days for no reason after the man recorded the aftermath of a police chase and wreck that happened near his home.

Underwood created a false police report when the FBI started to investigate that said the man stepped out of his yard into the public roadway and cursed at police, according to indictments.

FBI agents would later find Underwood skimmed overtime meant for his deputies, used taxpayer money to fly first-class to a Las Vegas conference with his wife and then tried to cover up that she went and had on-duty deputies work to build a party barn at his home, even pulling officers away from drug stakeouts, prosecutors said.

Underwood and two of his former deputies were convicted nine months ago, but the newspaper said their sentencing has been delayed by appeals, a ransomware attack on the law office of Underwood’s attorneys and COVID-19 issues.

Ex-deputy Johnny Neal Jr. faces about four years in prison, while former deputy Robert Sprouse faces three years behind bars, according to The Post and Courier.

The date for the sentencing has not been set.

Underwood is one of 13 sheriffs in South Carolina’s 46 counties convicted of crimes since 2010. Five of the 12 sentenced before Underwood have received prison time.

A 14th sheriff, Charles Lemon in Marlboro County, was indicted last month on charges he ordered the stun gun shocking of an inmate at his county’s jail.