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Ex-Professor Who Embezzled $380,000 From University Gets Writing Assignment, Probation

A 62-year-old former professor and college director, who embezzled more than $380,000 from Missouri’s Webster University was sentenced to probation Monday (March 12), and ordered to write in a journal. Deborah Pierce, of St. Louis, originally faced up to 20 years in prison for mail fraud, but a judge opted against putting her behind bars after asking Pierce what she thought her punishment should be, the St. Louis Dispatch reports.

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey reprimanded Pierce for her “reprehensible” behavior, but concluded that she seemed to be “having fun and needed extra cash,” according to the Dispatch.

Pierce is the former director of Webster’s Confucius Institute, which aims to “provide the St. Louis community with opportunities to learn about Chinese language and culture.” In 2013, Pierce opened a "separate, unauthorized bank account over which she had sole control and directed the funds of the Confucius Institute through it," according to a federal indictment.

Pierce was alleged to have diverted the Institute's money into her bank account between 2013 and 2016 by "writing checks to cash, checks to herself." She used the money to pay "various personal bills and accounts and those of her family members."

Last September, Pierce pleaded guilty to transporting funds across state lines, but would only admit to stealing $180,000.

During her sentencing, Pierce reportedly cried and held onto her lawyer, when Autrey asked her if she wanted to serve the 12 months suggested by her attorney, the 18 months recommended by prosecutors, or a two-year sentence.

In the end, Autrey took mercy on Pierce. “I think it’s important for those people to know about people like you,” Autrey said, apparently noting that criminals are typically stereotyped as being “poor, from the hood, and black.”

Besides probation, Autrey gave Pierce a two-month deadline to complete a 65-page journal. She was also ordered to pay back the stolen money.

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California Approves Bill Banning Racial Discrimination Based On Hairstyles

California is set to become the latest state to ban racial discrimination based on hairstyles. Senate Bill 188, also known as The Crown Act, was introduced by state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) in January and unanimously approved in a 37-0 vote Monday (April 22).

The bill outlines the proximity between race and hair and how the history of the U.S. has been “riddled with laws and societal norms” that equate  “blackness’” which includes physical traits such as “dark skin, kinky and curly hair” with inferiority, and therefore subjecting black people to “separate and unequal treatment.”

“This idea also permeated societal understanding of professionalism,” Morgan states in the bill. “Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional.

“Despite the great strides American society and laws have made to reverse the racist ideology that Black traits are inferior, hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for Black individuals,” Morgan continues.

Furthermore, dress codes and grooming policies prohibiting “natural hair” have a “disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group.”

The 1964 Civil Rights Act banning racial discrimination extends to afros as well, but doesn’t include other hairstyles. As pointed out in SB 188, “courts do not understand that afros are not the only natural presentation of Black hair. Black hair can also be naturally presented in braids, twists, and locks.”

Although the bill has yet to be signed into law, the state isn't alone in making moves to end the racist bias against natural hair. In February, New York City passed a similar bill in February imposing a $250,000 penalty for hair discrimination.

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13-Year-Old Texas Girl Dies After Being Jumped By Three Teens

A 13-year-old Texas girl was placed on life support after being jumped by three teenage girls last week, and the New York Daily News confirms the teen died.

Kashala Francis was walking home from Attucks Middle School Thursday (April 18) when she was jumped by two girls and kicked in the head by another. Cellphone recording of the incident shows the attackers laughing.

The girl's mother Mamie Jackson told reporters that Kashala came home with a bruise on her face, told her what happened but insisted she was fine. However, things quickly got worse.

On the following Saturday, Jackson says Kashala went to a family member's house and was told she became delusional but was able to gather her bearings. On Sunday (April 21), Kashala called her mother and complained she felt weak and had a painful headache before lying down.

Jackson said soon after she called the ambulance because Kashala was unconscious. While at Texas Children's Hospital, it was discovered she had a tumor in the back of her head and had fluid buildup in her brain.

On Wednesday morning (April 24) Kashala died. Pending an autopsy, it's unclear if the young girl had the tumor prior to the fight, or if being kicked in the head caused the tumor, which resulted in her death.

Until the autopsy can make the distinction, the case is being investigated as a homicide.

In an emailed sent to The Daily News, the school district stated it's offering students access to grief counselors.

"[The district] is deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our students. We extend our sincere condolences to the student’s family, friends, teachers, and classmates."

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Second Man Convicted In The 1998 Death Of James Byrd Jr To Be Executed

In 1998, Jasper, Texas became the epicenter of the nation when James Byrd Jr's dismembered body was found outside of a predominately black church. The rest of his body was found about a mile and a half away.

Byrd was beaten by three white supremacists men and tied to the back of a pick-up truck and reportedly dragged three miles. All men were found guilty for his brutal murder. One was sentenced to life in prison, one was executed in 20111 and another will be put to death today (April 24).

According to CNN, Jon William King, 44 who's been on death row for 20 years, will die by lethal injection.

King has long maintained coconspirator Shawn Berry was solely responsible for Byrd's death. King has appealed his conviction, alleging ineffectiveness from his defense team. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case last October.

In 2011, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed and Shawn Berry was sentenced to life. While murders are devastating, Byrd's dragging death placed a blinding spotlight on the racial tension in America. The fallout from the case helped to pass the nation's hate crime bill, named after both Byrd and Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teen who was viciously beaten to death.

Byrd's family, however, have opposed the death penalty and made it clear they would prefer that King be sentenced to life in prison. Byrd's son Ross has been quoting saying, "You cannot fight murder with murder."

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