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This Hour: Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment

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Charter school bill heads to governor's desk

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A bill changing some rules for how charter schools operate in North Carolina is headed to the governor.

The House approved a compromise version of the bill on a 62-36 vote Friday following a unanimous Senate vote Thursday.

Salary transparency and discrimination in admission have been contested parts of the legislation.

An earlier House version included a provision specifically prohibiting charter schools from discriminating against students on the basis of their sexual orientation. House Republicans say that was removed from the final bill because federal government already protects against such discrimination.

House Democrats say the bill has loopholes that shield chart school management companies from disclosing the salaries of employees who contract with a charter school.


Attorney: 'Fatal Vision' court case will continue

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A defense attorney says the case of Jeffrey MacDonald isn't over despite a federal judge's rejection of the former Army doctor's claim of innocence and request for a new trial.

Attorney Gordon Widenhouse said Friday he hasn't decided which path the appeal will take but that litigation will continue.

In a decision Thursday from a hearing held almost two years ago, a federal judge rejected MacDonald's claims.

The now 70-year-old MacDonald was a Green Beret and doctor when he said intruders broke into his apartment in February 1970, chanting "acid is groovy, kill the pigs." He's serving a life sentence for his 1979 conviction in the deaths of his pregnant wife and two daughters at Fort Bragg.

The murders spawned the book "Fatal Vision."


NC House approves bill making dozens of changes

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The employees of for-profit education companies could sit on the boards of public charter schools under a Republican-backed bill was approved by the North Carolina House.

Lawmakers voted Friday to approve a 58-page technical corrections bill making dozens of changes to North Carolina laws, some receiving little scrutiny since its unveiling the prior day. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

One measure prohibits the State Board of Education from restricting membership on boards of directors of publicly funded charter schools. The state currently bars employees of companies that provide services to charter schools from serving on the nonprofit boards that approve their contracts and payments.

The bill also makes several changes to state gun laws. A provision eliminating the Child Fatality Task Force was stripped after Democrats objected.


NC Zoo plans to keep 4 gorillas, secure 3 more

ASHEBORO, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina Zoo is keeping four gorillas that were about to be shipped out, and looking to bring in three more in the spring.

Two months ago, the zoo was ready to send its youngest gorillas, Bomassa and Apollo, and their mothers away to another zoo, along with an unrelated female. The transfer was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Gorilla Species Survival Plan, which ultimately recommended that the gorillas stay.

The possibility of losing five gorillas brought a flood of donations to the N.C. Zoological Society, the zoo's nonprofit support organization. Those donations will fund expansion of the zoo's gorilla facilities.

An adult male gorilla will be joining the troop along with another female and her grandson. They're coming from Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo next spring.


Groups express concern about coal ash bill

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Environmental groups are asking two key North Carolina lawmakers to change legislation they say weakens the state's protections against coal ash pollution.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and other groups sent a letter Friday to Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis outlining serious concerns with coal ash legislation in a conference committee.

They say Duke Energy would continue to contaminate public water by leaving coal ash in unlined pits.

The groups say the legislation runs counter to the promise lawmakers made to protect the environment after a Feb. 2 massive coal ash spill at a Duke plant coated more than 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic waste.

The conference committee is trying to work out a compromise between House and Senate versions of the bill.


Man pleads guilty in fatal NC crash

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A Charlotte man has pleaded guilty to charges in a wreck that killed two men last year.

The Charlotte Observer reported that 21-year-old Billy Neal pleaded guilty Thursday to felony death by motor vehicle and felony hit and run.

The wreck May 27, 2013, in Charlotte killed 45-year-old Jose Aguilar and his brother, 34-year-old Hugo Rene Duarte Aguilar.

Prosecutors dropped charges of second-degree murder and reckless driving as part of a plea agreement.

Prosecutors said Neal had used marijuana and taken up to 10 prescription tablets an hour before the fatal wreck.


Man pleads guilty in NC Ponzi scheme

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A man accused of running a Ponzi scheme that bilked about 25 Charlotte investors out of more than $2.5 million has pleaded guilty to securities fraud.

U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said 55-year-old Claude Darrell McDougal pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of orchestrating the scheme between 2006 and 2010. McDougal faces up to 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine when he is sentenced.

Prosecutors said McDougal's clients thought their money would be invested in securities offered by Charlotte-based US Financial Alliance Consultants LLC, which McDougal created in 2005.

Court records show the company was never registered as a securities broker.

Prosecutors said McDougal admitted using more than $1 million of investors' money for dinners, jewelry, electronics, hotel stays, furniture and business expenses.

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