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Soldier's Grieving Mother in Insurance Battle With Army
Jan-13-2011 1193 1

The mother of a North Texas soldier killed in Afghanistan says the U.S. government is giving her grief over his life insurance.

Pvt. Devon Harris from Mesquite was killed in action Nov. 27 at the age of 24.

His mother, Sorainya Harris, said the Army is denying coverage that she said her son arranged.

"I'd rather have him," she said. "I really would rather have him. If he was still with me, it would make me happy. But I know he will never come back."

Sorainya Harris said her life insurance form completed two weeks before her son deployed to Afghanistan indicates that he was increasing his coverage.

Documents that she said came from her son's Army file show that he submitted a form requesting $100,000 coverage on Dec. 29, 2009. Another form that appears to request $400,000 in coverage is dated Sept. 27, 2010.

"My conclusion is that, when he filled out the second one, he wanted his policy to be increased," Sorainya Harris said. "He's being deployed. He filled this out two weeks before he left."

She said Army officials were rude and disrespectful to her when she inquired about the issue.

"Devon did everything that was asked of him -- everything," she said. "He went, and he fought, and he died in the war. He made one request, and they denied it."

A spokesman at the U.S. Army Public Affairs Office at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. said the Army does not comment on matters concerning a soldier's confidential personnel file.

Sorainya Harris wrote to U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the family’s congressman in Washington.

Hensarling spokesman George Rasley said the congressman's office is looking into the matter.

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Emily Lane, Apr-28-2016 62 0
Cardell Hayes, the accused shooter of former Saints star Will Smith, was indicted by a New Orleans grand jury Thursday (April 28) on a second-degree murder charge, and also for attempted second-degree murder in the shooting of Smith's wife Racquel, among other charges.

Hayes pleaded not guilty at his arraignment shortly after. A judge set his bond at $1.75 million -- $750,000 higher than Hayes' previous bond.

The indictment highlighted a dramatic day in court, with prosecutors racing toward a grand jury vote and getting the formal charges just as Hayes attorneys had started questioning witnesses in a separate hearing aiming to free Hayes.

The indictment, which halted that questioning, was followed by a scuffle outside the courtroom that left two women in handcuffs, and by the unusual relocation of the hearing -- and the corresponding media entourage -- to a different judge's courtroom.

Cardell Hayes pleaded not guilty Thursday (April 28) to murdering former Saints player Will Smith and shooting Smith's wife Racquel.

The indictment also started the clock on what is likely to be months, and possibly years, of legal wrangling over what evidence and witnesses would be admitted in an eventual trial.

Hayes, who attended the hearing Thursday and blew kisses to his relatives in the courtroom, has been in jail since first arrested after police said he fatally shot Will Smith and wounded Racquel Smith following a traffic collision late April 9 in the Lower Garden District.

Indictment handed down for Cardell Hayes in Will Smith case, defense attorney speaks

Cardell Hayes' attorney John Fuller talks about his client's indictment from the Grand Jury at criminal court over the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith.

There was no indication Thursday that Hayes plans to post bond, but his attorneys immediately requested a bond-reduction hearing.

Peter Thomson, an attorney representing the Smith family, said they were "please, though not surprised" by the grand jury indictment.

"Although nothing can ease the pain this family is feeling, today was a step towards ensuring this cold-blooded murderer is held responsible for the actions that took the life of their husband, father and friend," Thomson said of Racquel Smith.

Defense: witness saw gun being removed; ex-cop denies it

A big development in the case was expected one way or another Thursday. Hayes' attorneys John Fuller and Jay Daniels, who have criticized the investigation, had subpoenaed 24 witnesses for a hearing to determine whether there was probably cause to continue to hold Hayes in jail.

But the dramatic sequence in which the charges were delivered was notable.

A prosecutor rushed into the courtroom to bring the indictment in the middle of the probable cause hearing, which was convened at Hayes' request. The charges were delivered as David Olasky, a private investigator for Hayes' attorneys, was testifying about a witness who claimed to have seen a retired NOPD captain remove a gun from Smith's SUV the night of the shooting. Hayes' attorneys have previously suggested someone may have tampered with the crime scene after the shooting.

But Tanya Picou Faia, an attorney for former officer Billy Ceravolo, flat out denied the allegation that her client removed a gun from Smith's vehicle.

"It's Mr. Fuller's script," said Faia, referring to Fuller's previous allusions to crime scene tampering. "I expected that allegation would be made."

Ceravolo had been subpoenaed to testify Thursday, but he was among the witnesses who never were put on the stand once the indictment came in.

By opting to charge Hayes in an indictment, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office was able to stop the hearing and prevent almost all of those witnesses from testifying -- keeping most evidence in their case under wraps. Many of the witnesses Hayes' attorneys planned to call were also subpoenaed for the grand jury proceedings.

The indictment answers why New Orleans police had not yet charged Hayes in the shooting of Racquel Smith. Days after the shooting, NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said charges were pending against Hayes in connection to Racquel Smith's shooting. She was shot once in each leg and attended her husband's funeral in a wheelchair. But nearly three weeks after the high profile incident, prosecutors had yet to charge Hayes in her shooting, choosing instead to allow the grand jury to determine whether to charge him.

Will Smith was fatally shot shortly before 11:30 p.m. April 9 following a traffic crash in the Lower Garden District, police say. According to the department, Hayes' Hummer H2 rear-ended Smith's Mercedes SUV. An argument followed, then gunfire. The former defensive lineman was shot seven times in the back and once in the chest, according to Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse.

Questions remains about whether Smith was in possession of a gun when Hayes opened fire. An attorney for the Smith family, Peter Thomson, has said a gun police said was found in Smith's SUV remained in a compartment of the vehicle the night of the shooting. Fuller has suggested, however, that he can produce a witness who will dispute that. Police have not said where in the vehicle Smith's gun was located.

Fuller and Daniels have not disputed that Hayes pulled the trigger. They have continued to assert, however, they can prove Hayes is "legally not guilty" of murder, suggesting -- but not expressly saying -- the shots might have been fired in self-defense.

Thomson told reporters Hayes killed Will Smith, a father of three, in "cold blood," yelling has he stood over Smith's body after shooting him.

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Jeff Truesdell Apr-28-2016 528 0
The godmother of a 16-year-old Louisiana girl found dead in a ditch with her hair in pink rollers Sunday spoke with PEOPLE about her grief.

"Our lives will be forever changed with this," says Katrice Reid, 36, the godmother of Jorion White, of Kenner, Louisiana. "I am truly heartbroken. We don't know how to comprehend how to go on without her."

Authorities in St. Charles Parish suspect foul play and tell PEOPLE they still are investigating what happened to White. She was last seen by her family at home on Thursday night as she prepared for bed; her family reported her missing on Friday evening. Sunday evening, a body later identified as White's was found in a drainage ditch.

Results from an autopsy have not been released, and police have not revealed a manner of death.

Those left behind recall White as an ambitious, grounded, smiling high school junior at Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School whose life ended too soon.

White Wanted to Be a Nurse, 'Loved to Help and Take Care of People'

"She just lit up the room when she came in," says Reid. "We were very blessed to have her for the 16 years we had."

"She had a goal of being a nurse. She loved to help people and take care of people," adds Reid. "She just impacted more people that I think she even thought she did. It was just her personality – just such a sweet person."

That was made clear by an impromptu memorial gathering on Monday night.

"We had at least 200 people out there," says Reid. "They had buses – they were busing kids in. It was so beautiful, so beautiful. And it wasn't anything that was organized. Somebody put it out there, and everybody just showed up."

"It just tells me that she was a wonderful soul. So many people loved her."

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'No Matter How Good We Are, There's Just so Much Evil'

White was the youngest in a family of six kids – three boys, three girls. In her bedroom, there were self-help and inspirational books such as Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on her shelf.

"Her mother was big with her in setting goals and how to improve yourself," says Reid, who was a classmate and friend of White's mother, Michelle Price, since the age of 13. "Her mom always encouraged her to look ahead and how to prepare herself for life as a grownup."

Although White's parents were divorced, White stayed close to both her mother and father, and looked ahead to spending time this summer with her dad and stepmom at their home in Dallas.

"She had a lot of people around her that she could look to as far as guidance for her," says Reid. "That's why it's hard. There was so much positive. This just kind of blind-sided us."

"It just touches you to your soul, because it shows that no matter how good we are, there's just so much evil at any given time, and we don't know when the evil will take the good out."

Reid did not speculate on what may have happened to her goddaughter, only that White would not have left home on her own with her hair in curlers. "She was a person who made sure she was pretty when she walked out the door," she says.

"We don't know – that's the hardest part, we really don't know. We're just confused."

As authorities continue to search for answers, Reid has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money toward White's burial, "because you're just never prepared to bury a 16-year-old," she says.

"I believe that she's looking down on us right now," says Reid, who created the hashtag #JusticeforJorion. "She just has to be smiling even more than I know she can, just to know she was loved so much."
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AP Apr-27-2016 120 0
Former LAPD Chief Willie Williams has died. He was 72.

Williams was appointed as the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of Chief Daryl Gates' resignation following the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

He became the first African-American to lead the LAPD.

During his tenure in L.A., Williams worked to bolster the image of the LAPD, and heal the rift that opened between police and Los Angeles communities following the violent arrest in 1991 of motorist Rodney King.

He served as police chief in L.A. until 1997.

Williams also served as the police commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department from 1988 to 1992.

He was appointed federal security director for Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta in 2002. Williams was living in Atlanta, Georgia at the time of his death.
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RYAN NAKASHIMA Apr-26-2016 95 0
Prince's sister says the superstar musician had no known will and filed paperwork Tuesday asking a Minneapolis court appoint a special administrator to oversee his estate.

Tyka Nelson, Prince's only surviving full sibling, said in the court filing that immediate action was necessary to manage Prince's business interests following his death last week. The size of Prince's fortune is unclear, though he made hundreds of millions of dollars for record companies, concert venues and others during his career and his estate included about $27 million in property.

Nelson asked that Bremer Trust, a corporate trust company, be named administrator of the estate. The court documents say Breber Bank provided financial services to Price for many years.

The filing comes less than a week after the pop star died Thursday at his home in suburban Minneapolis. The outpouring of grief and nostalgia prompted fans to buy 2.3 million of his songs in three days.

Prince owned a dozen properties in and around his famous Paisley Park complex in suburban Minneapolis: mostly rural pieces of land and some houses for family members. Public records show those properties were worth about $27 million in 2016.

Estimates of how much licensing his personal brand will bring in after death reach to the purple clouds.

"He was as big as they get," said Mark Roesler, chief executive of CMG Worldwide, which handles licensing for the estates of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and other late stars.

Roesler estimates Prince's post-mortem earnings will match top-earning dead celebrities like Elvis Presley, whose estate made $55 million in 2015, according to Forbes magazine.

"Will there be a business built up around Prince 60 years from now like James Dean? The answer is unequivocally yes," said Roesler.

If Prince filed a will or created a trust, heirs to his future fortune would be known. But no such documents have yet turned up.

Under Minnesota law, a person can file a will with probate court in secret. If Prince did so, the fact one exists would become public once a death certificate is filed, but the medical examiner has not yet issued one for Prince. An autopsy was conducted Friday and his remains were cremated Saturday.

L. Londell McMillan, a longtime lawyer and former manager of the superstar, declined to comment Monday to The Associated Press about whether the entertainer had a will or any other particulars regarding his estate, but added: "I want to make sure his legacy is respected and protected no matter what role I play." McMillan was Michael Jackson's lawyer and played a role in his estate, as well as those of rapper Notorious B.I.G. and Sammy Davis Jr.

Several other attorneys who have done work for Prince in the past - including Alan Eidsness, who handled his 2006 divorce from Manuela Testolini Nelson - said they were not handling his estate.

Wealthy people usually create trusts to avoid the public spectacle of probate court, and it's probable Prince did so, according to Irwin Feinberg, a Los Angeles trust and probate lawyer.

Prince wasn't married and had no known living children. Nelson is his only full-sibling, though he has five half-siblings (two other half-siblings have died) who could share in his estate if he has no will.

The AP did not find liens or mortgages on any of his properties, which range from a sprawling 160-acre piece of grassland between Lake Lucy and Lake Ann, to a three-bedroom bungalow in Minneapolis that is home to his half brother, Omarr Baker.

Prince sold over 100 million albums on his lifetime, according to Warner Music Group. And Pollstar, a concert industry magazine, said that in the years that his tours topped the charts - 10 years over four decades performing - the tours raked in $225 million in ticket sales.

His best-earning touring year, when he took in $87.4 million, was 2004, the year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and two decades after the soundtrack to "Purple Rain" went multi-platinum.

But what remained in Prince's hands is, by any estimate, less than the sum of ticket and album sales. In every record deal, a cut goes to the label, background performers and music publishers, though Prince published and wrote his own songs. Concert ticket revenue is split among the venue, the promoter, staff and the cost of travelling around. And prince was known to throw expensive parties.

In April 2013, Prince lost a suit filed in New York State's Supreme Court brought by perfume maker Revelations Perfume and Cosmetics Inc. for failing to promote the "3121" perfume line named after his album from 2006 and which he touted, but only once, in a massive concert that started July 7, 2007 near Macy's in downtown Minneapolis and ended at 5 a.m. at the First Avenue club, a famous venue from "Purple Rain."

He was ordered to pay $4.4 million; he never did. Instead, plaintiff lawyers went searching for assets, found about $3 million in various Minnesota bank accounts, and used court orders to freeze them, according to Brian Slipakoff, a New York lawyer who represented the perfume maker. Prince settled for a lower amount shortly after.

"It doesn't suggest there was oodles of cash lying around," Slipakoff said.

Prince encountered tax difficulties several times over the years, including owing back taxes to France in 2012, which he paid up, and overdue property taxes around $450,000 in 2010. In 2013, the IRS filed a federal tax lien against him in Carver County, Minnesota, Court for $1.6 million. What happened with that case is unclear.

Records on file with Carver County, where Paisley Park is located, show that he was up to date on his property taxes when he died.
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Inside Edition Apr-26-2016 132 0
As he put 25 years of prison time served for a crime he didn't commit, Monday marked the first day in the rest of Darryl Pinkins' life.

The 63-year-old Indiana father walked out of Lake County jail after spending just a month shy of a quarter-century behind bars after he was convicted in 1991 for what prosecutors said was his participation in a horrific 1989 gang rape.

After years of unflinchingly maintaining his innocence, Pinkins was set free thanks to one of the newest innovations in DNA analysis.

The technology is so new, in fact, that Pinkins is the first inmate ever set free with its help.

"It feels like this day was - was meant to be. And I know it was," Pinkins told reporters outside the jail after friends and family greeted him in a tearful reunion. "This is a new beginning."

One of the emotional family members waiting for Pinkins was his son, who hadn't even been born.

Pinkins maintained during his 1991 trial that he'd been in bed with his wife when prosecutors said five men raped a woman for hours after the victim identified him as one of her attackers.

"I stood back as an innocent man watching it fold out before me, and it wasn't right," Pinkins said.

For decades, Pinkins continued to campaign to have his name cleared.

"Until recently, there was no technology that could really do what I call, dissects DNA mixture," Fran Watson, Pinkins' attorney with the Indiana Innocence Project told reporters.

The new technology is a DNA analysis program called TrueAllele. The process can be used to tease out the DNA of individuals from DNA mixtures.

"Once they explained to us what DNA was, we told them to bring the test on because we know where we were," Pinkins said.

After the test, Pinkins found himself cleared of the rape conviction and Lake County prosecutors have declined to put him back on trial.

"We were 100 percent certain that we did in fact have the right person," Bernard Carter, Lake County prosecutor said. However, "when you look at the evidence that stands now, it would be an injustice for us to even attempt to try Mr. Pinkins. We would not convict him."
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MARYCLAIRE DALE Apr-26-2016 81 0
A Pennsylvania appeals court has rejected Bill Cosby's attempt to throw out his criminal case because of what he called a decade-old deal not to prosecute him.

The mid-level state Superior Court ruled Monday that the criminal sex-assault case against Cosby can proceed, prompting the district attorney to press for a preliminary hearing date.

Cosby, 78, is facing trial over a 2004 encounter at his home with a then-Temple University employee who says she was drugged and molested by the comedian. Cosby says they engaged in consensual sex acts.

Former prosecutor Bruce Castor has said he promised he would never prosecute Cosby and urged him to testify in the woman's 2005 civil lawsuit. The release of that testimony last year led a new prosecutor to arrest him.

In the lengthy deposition, the long-married Cosby acknowledged a series of affairs and said he had gotten quaaludes to give to women he hoped to seduce.

Cosby has not yet entered a plea in the criminal case, and remains free on $1 million bail posted after his Dec. 30 arrest.

"We ... look forward to the court setting a date so we can present our case," Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said in a statement.

Cosby's lawyers were considering whether to respond to Monday's ruling, a spokesman said. He could potentially appeal again to the state Supreme Court, but it's unclear if that would delay the case.

"He may do that, but the critical question will be whether the Supreme Court will give him a stay during the review," said David Rudovsky, a University of Pennsylvania law professor.

Cosby is meanwhile locked in a number of legal battles around the country with women who accuse him of sexual assault or defamation.

He has countersued some of them, including the Pennsylvania accuser. His lawsuit accuses her of breach of contract for talking to police who reopened the case last year, given the confidential settlement of the lawsuit she filed against him after Castor turned down the case.

Castor re-emerged in the case last fall as a key defense witness who said he had made a deal that Cosby would never be charged. Castor last year was running to return to the district attorney's office. He was defeated by Steele.

Cosby acknowledged in the deposition that he gave the Temple ex-employee, Andrea Constand, the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl before engaging in sex acts with her at his home near Philadelphia. He calls the encounter consensual.

Constand, who had sought career advice from Cosby, left her job with the Temple women's basketball team that spring. She returned home to Toronto and began training to become a massage therapist.

A year later, she contacted police to report the alleged sexual assault.

Thirteen other women came forward by the time she settled her lawsuit in 2006 to say that Cosby had also molested them. Cosby in the deposition described a long history of womanizing, including extramarital affairs with several of the accusers. However, he said he never assaulted anyone or gave them drugs unknowingly.

Dozens of women have since added their names to the list of accusers. But the statute of limitations had run on virtually all of them, and Constand's is the only case to result in criminal charges.

As the case proceeds, the key issues are likely to include whether other accusers can testify; whether Cosby is unfairly biased by the 12-year delay; and whether his testimony in the civil case can be used against him.
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GRAHAM RAYMAN Apr-25-2016 141 0
The city of Cleveland has agreed to pay $6 million to the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy gunned down by police in November 2014, the Daily News has learned.

Under the terms of the settlement, the city does not admit wrongdoing in the shooting.

Tamir was shot and killed by cops who responded to an inaccurate 911 report of a man waving a gun near a park playground.

Tamir Rice was carrying a fake firearm on Nov. 22, 2014 when he was gunned down in a park by Officer Timothy Loehmann.

The huge settlement is likely the largest that Cleveland has had to pay to settle a civil rights claim — and one the largest settlements in recent years.

The boy’s mother, Samira, sued the city alleging that Cleveland police violated her son's civil rights.

Tamir was carrying a fake firearm on Nov. 22, 2014 when he was gunned down in a park by Officer Timothy Loehmann, who opened fire less than a second after hopping out of his patrol car.

The shooting of Tamir was set in motion when a 911 caller reported seeing a youth in a park with a gun that was "probably fake." The dispatcher failed to tell the two responding officers those two key pieces of information.

A grainy surveillance video captured the officers arriving at the scene and Loehmann opening fire from mere feet away, striking Rice once in the chest.

“Although it’s historic in financial terms, no amount of money can adequately compensate for the loss of a life,” said two of Tamir’s lawyers, Earl Ward and Jonathan Abady of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP in a statement. “Tamir was 12 years old when he was shot and killed by police — a young boy with his entire life ahead of him, full of potential and promise.”
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JASON SILVERSTEIN Apr-24-2016 333 0
This school has another N-word for one teacher’s unconventional curriculum: No.

A middle school teacher in Texas was put on administrative leave last week for leading a lesson about the uses of the N-word — a bit of cultural education the district said it never approved.

Rebekah Cook, a social studies teacher at Utley Middle School in Rockwall, had been teaching her students about the Civil Rights movement, according to KTVT.

As part of her lesson on Wednesday, she led a discussion about the social uses of the N-word, and passed out a Chicago Reader article from 1997 called “The N-Word and How To Use It." The article, by Bennie M. Currie, begins with the N-word spelled out letter by letter.

The school district began investigating Cook right after her lesson, and announced the next day she was placed on administrative leave.

The district said in a statement it had no idea Cook, who is white, had planned the lesson, and it gave her no approval for the article she used.

“While the teacher has expressed that the intent of the lesson was to provoke discussion, the teacher did not seek prior approval from the campus or district,” the statement said.

“This lesson activity and article are not part of Rockwall ISD’s curriculum and racially derogatory terms have no place in our classrooms or district.”

The district did not say how long Cook is on leave or if she will continue getting paid. Cook earns $50,066 a year, district records show.

Cook did not return calls for comment from the Daily News.

She teaches seventh and eighth grade at Utley and also helps run the yearbook, according to her school district profile.

The profile shows her daily class schedule from last week, showing “N word article” planned for her seventh grade class. According to the schedule, the plan for her eighth grade class that day was “Holocaust Butterfly project introduction.”
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SHERYL GAY STOLBERG Apr-24-2016 141 0
Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia used his executive power on Friday to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons, circumventing the Republican-run legislature. The action effectively overturns a Civil War-era provision in the state’s Constitution aimed, he said, at disenfranchising African-Americans.

The sweeping order, in a swing state that could play a role in deciding the November presidential election, will enable all felons who have served their prison time and finished parole or probation to register to vote. Most are African-Americans, a core constituency of Democrats, Mr. McAuliffe’s political party.

Amid intensifying national attention over harsh sentencing policies that have disproportionately affected African-Americans, governors and legislatures around the nation have been debating — and often fighting over — moves to restore voting rights for convicted felons. Virginia imposes especially harsh restrictions, barring felons from voting for life.

In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin, a newly elected Republican, recently overturned an order enacted by his Democratic predecessor that was similar to the one Mr. McAuliffe signed Friday. In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, vetoed a measure to restore voting rights to convicted felons, but Democrats in the state legislature overrode him in February and an estimated 44,000 former prisoners who are on probation can now register to vote.

“There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans — we should remedy it,” Mr. McAuliffe said in an interview Thursday, previewing the announcement he made on the steps of Virginia’s Capitol, just yards from where President Abraham Lincoln once addressed freed slaves. “We should do it as soon as we possibly can.”

Republicans in the Virginia Legislature have resisted measures to expand voting rights for convicted felons, and Mr. McAuliffe’s action, which he said was justified under an expansive legal interpretation of his executive clemency authority, provoked an immediate backlash. Virginia Republicans issued a statement Friday accusing the governor of “political opportunism” and “a transparent effort to win votes.”

“Those who have paid their debts to society should be allowed full participation in society,” said the statement from the party chairman, John Whitbeck. “But there are limits.” He said Mr. McAuliffe was wrong to issue a blanket restoration of rights, even to those who “committed heinous acts of violence.”
The order includes those convicted of violent crimes, including murder and rape. There is no way to know how many of the newly eligible voters in Virginia will register. “My message is going to be that I have now done my part,” Mr. McAuliffe said.

Nationally, an estimated 5.85 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of felony convictions, according to The Sentencing Project, a Washington research organizations, which says one in five African-Americans in Virginia cannot vote.

Only two states, Maine and Vermont, have no voting restrictions on felons; Virginia is among four – the others are Kentucky, Florida and Iowa – that have the harshest restrictions.

Friday’s shift in Virginia is part of a national trend toward restoring voter rights to felons, based in part on the hope that it will aid former prisoners’ re-entry into society. Over the last two decades about 20 states have acted to ease their restrictions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

In Kentucky, Mr. Bevin, who took office in November, promptly overturned an executive order issued by his predecessor, Steven L. Beshear, just before he left office. Then, last week, Mr. Bevin signed into law a less expansive measure, allowing felons to petition judges to vacate their convictions, which would enable them to vote.

Previous governors in Florida and Iowa took executive action to ease their lifetime bans, but in each case, a subsequent governor restored the tough rules.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, said Mr. McAuliffe’s decision would have lasting consequences because it will remain in effect at least until January 2018, when the governor leaves office.

“This will be the single most significant action on disenfranchisement that we’ve ever seen from a governor,” Mr. Mauer said, “and it’s noteworthy that it’s coming in the middle of this term, not the day before he leaves office. So there may be some political heat but clearly he’s willing to take that on, which is quite admirable.”

Myrna Pérez, director of a voting rights project at the Brennan Center, said Mr. McAuliffe’s move was particularly important because Virginia has had such restrictive laws on voting by felons. Still, she said,“Compared to the rest of the country, this is a very middle of the road policy.’’

Ms. Pérez said a number of states already had less restrictive policies than the one announced by Mr. McAuliffe. Fourteen states allow felons to vote after their prison terms are completed even while they remain on parole or probation.

Advocates who have been working with the Virginia governor say they are planning to fan out into Richmond communities Friday to start registering people.

Experts say with the stroke of his pen, Mr. McAuliffe has allowed convicted felons to begin registering to vote, and that their voting rights cannot be revoked — even if a new governor rescinds the order for future released prisoners.

But the move led to accusations that the governor was playing politics; he is a longtime friend of — and fund-raiser for — Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for president, and former President Bill Clinton.

In the interview, Mr. McAuliffe said that he was not acting for political reasons, and that few people outside his immediate staff knew of his plan. He said he did not consult with Mrs. Clinton or her campaign before making the decision.

The executive order builds on steps the governor had already taken to restore voting rights to 18,000 Virginians since the beginning of his term, and he said he believed his authority to issue the decision was “ironclad.”
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