National News

Ethan Crumbley sentenced to life without parole in deadly Oxford school shooting

Emily Elconin/Getty Images

(PONTIAC, Mich.) -- Ethan Crumbley was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for killing four of his classmates and wounding others in the 2021 Michigan school shooting.

Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty last year to 24 charges, including first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death.

In handing out the sentence, Judge Kwamé Rowe emphasized the "extensive planning" of the school shooting and said Crumbley could have changed his mind at any point but didn't.

"He continued to walk through the school, picking and choosing who was going to die," Rowe said, calling the attack on the classmates an "execution" and "torture."

Rowe previously ruled that the sentence of life without parole was appropriate despite Crumbley's age at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors had said there were no plea deals, reductions or agreements regarding sentencing. The charges of first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death both carried a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years.

Crumbley addressed the court in brief remarks on Friday ahead of sentencing and told the judge he wants the victims to be happy and asked Rowe to impose whatever sentence they asked for.

"I am a really bad person, I have done terrible things that no one should ever do," he said.

Four students -- Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17 -- were killed when Crumbley opened fire at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. Six students and a teacher were wounded in the shooting rampage.

The families of victims and survivors of the shooting provided emotional impact statements ahead of the sentencing on Friday. Parents recalled the agony of waiting to hear what happened to their children that day, only to then learn that they were killed.

In tears, Buck Myre, father of victim Tate Myre, remembered how his wife put her head in her hands and cried, "Not my baby boy," and described the awful toll the shooting has taken on his family ever since.

"For the past two years, our family has been navigating our way through complete hell," he said.

Addressing Crumbley, Buck Myre said: "I understand from journal entries, this was the desired outcome -- for us to feel the pain that you had. I will tell you this: We are miserable. We miss Tate. Our family has a permanent hole in it that can never be fixed, ever."

"As we fight and claw our way through this journey, we realize that we are completely miserable, and there does not appear to be a way out. So to this day, you were winning," he continued. "But today is a day where the tides change. Today, we are going to take hours back. We're all cried out. We're all tired out. "

Buck Myre said that they are working to find a way to forgive Crumbley, his parents and the school.

"What other options do we have? Be miserable for the rest of our lives and rob our family of normalcy?" he said. "We want you to spend the rest of your life rotting in your cell. What you stole from us is not replaceable. But what we won't let you steal from us is a life of normalcy and we'll find a way to get there through forgiveness and through putting good into this world."

Madisyn's mother, Nicole Beausoleil, said she wanted her daughter to be remembered by her name -- and not as a shooting victim.

"Madisyn lives in all of us. Her legacy remains. Her kindness continues, now and forever," Beausoleil said. "She will always be the heartbeat of our family."

She refused to say the shooter's name, calling him "trash" and "waste," and asked the judge to give him the same life sentence that she has received -- one "that I cannot escape from."

"Day by day passes, I hope his life seems more meaningless, lost and forgotten," she said.

The father of Hana St. Juliana asked for life without parole for the shooter's "heinous crime."

"If it were your child who was killed in such a cowardly manner, would you be satisfied that justice was served with anything less than him spending the rest of his life in prison?" Steve St. Juliana asked the court.

In the wake of his daughter's murder, he said he is a "shell of the person I used to be."

"A few paragraphs of words describing Hana can in no way fully capture her truly beautiful, caring soul nor impart her unlimited potential," he said. "Hana was an absolutely beautiful and thoughtful person."

Craig Shilling spoke while wearing a sweatshirt adorned with a photo of his son, Justin Shilling.

"One could venture to say that there are no words that can accurately describe the pain that we feel on a daily basis," he said. "I have PTSD and struggle most days even to get out of bed."

He said he still finds himself waiting for his son to come home each day.

"Never in a million years did I think that something like this was going to happen to me," he said. "There's absolutely no way you can prepare yourself for this level of pain."

He said he believes the punishment should be the death penalty, which is banned in Michigan. In lieu of that, he asked the judge to "lock this son of a bitch up for the rest of his pathetic life."

"His blatant lack of human decency and disturbing thoughts on life in general do not in any way warrant a second chance," he said. "My son doesn't get a second chance and neither should he."

Justin Shilling's mother, Jill Soave, also asked the judge to sentence the shooter to life without the possibility of parole.

"Your Honor, it's almost impossible to find the human words to describe my grief, pain, trauma and rage," she said. "The manner in which my son Justin was so cold-heartedly, methodically executed shows clearly the pure evil and malice of the shooter."

She recounted how her son spent his last moments protecting shooting survivor Keegan Gregory and saved six more lives through organ donation.

"His future was so bright and full of possibilities," she said. "He will always be my little sweetheart."

Keegan Gregory told the court about the moments he and Justin Shilling were trapped in a bathroom with the shooter.

"We were stuck, helpless and cornered with no defense," he said. "It was and always will be the most terrifying moment of my life -- being cornered with no option but to run out of the bathroom as fast as I could, hoping to live."

He said he was in "absolute disbelief and shock" when Justin Shilling was shot, and continues to feel the guilt of surviving.

"I know that if it wasn't Justin's life that was taken, it could have been mine, and I'm forever grateful to him for that," he said. "I almost feel guilty about being alive, knowing that Justin's family is living in grief."

"That guilt is now compounded with sadness, fear, anxiety and trauma," he said, describing how he continues to deal with flashbacks, fear and paranoia and has trouble trusting people.

He asked for a sentence "that makes sure he won't ever hurt anyone again," though hoped that Crumbley receives counseling to understand the impact of his actions.

Nearly 30 victims addressed the court on Friday. Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said more considered speaking but decided they were unable to, "which is further evidence of the trauma."

McDonald urged the judge to "give them the justice they deserve" and sentence Crumbley to life without parole.

Deborah McKelvy, Crumbley's court-appointed guardian, wanted to remind the court that the defendant was 15 at the time of the shooting and said he is not the same person that he was then.

"His life is salvageable, his life is rehabilitable," McKelvy said while arguing that life without parole is not the appropriate sentence.

Amy Hopp, one of Crumbley's defense attorneys, asked the judge to consider a term of years -- which she said could potentially see him released by his late 70s -- as opposed to life without parole.

"Even a term of years is a very, very lengthy sentence, and may very well be a life sentence. But what it does do is give Ethan the opportunity to demonstrate to everyone that he can be rehabilitated, that he is redeemable, that he can make amends and contribute in a positive way to society upon his release," Hopp said.

Earlier this year, during a hearing to determine whether Crumbley could be eligible for life in prison without parole, Rowe highlighted evidence against the teen in which he displayed violence, including Crumbley saying he felt something "between good and pleasurable" when he tortured a baby bird.

"There is other disturbing evidence but it is clear to this court that the defendant had an obsession with violence before the shooting," Rowe said.

Rowe questioned the possibility that Crumbley could be rehabilitated in jail.

"The evidence does not demonstrate to this court that he wants to change," he said.

"The defendant continues to be obsessed with violence and could not stop his violence in jail," Rowe added.

The teen's parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, were also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after allegedly failing to recognize warning signs about their son in the months before the shooting.

Both parents have pleaded not guilty and their trial is set to begin on Jan. 23.

During his plea hearing in October 2022, Crumbley admitted in court that he asked his father to buy him a specific gun and confirmed he gave his father money for the gun and that the semi-automatic handgun wasn't kept in a locked safe.

Days before the shooting, a teacher allegedly saw Crumbley researching ammunition in class; school officials contacted his parents but they didn't respond, according to prosecutors. His mother texted her son, writing, "lol, I'm not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught," according to prosecutors.

Hours before the shooting, according to prosecutors, a teacher saw a note on his desk that was "a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, 'The thoughts won't stop, help me.' In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words above that bullet, 'Blood everywhere.'"

Crumbley's parents were called to the school over the incident, saying they'd get their son counseling but did not take him home.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Heroic high school students help rescue mom, 2 kids trapped under car

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A group of high school students are being hailed as heroic Good Samaritans for their efforts to save a mother and her two young children.

The mom and her children, ages 2 and 3, were walking to their car in a school parking lot Tuesday afternoon in Layton, Utah, when they were run over by a car and became trapped underneath, Lt. Travis Lyman of the Layton Police Department told "Good Morning America."

When police responded to the scene around three minutes after receiving a 911 call, a group of teenagers and school officials were already working to lift the car off the mom and her young kids, according to Lyman.

"Three minutes doesn't sound like a long time, but certainly in a critical incident like that, when stress is high, that seems like a really long time," Lyman said, adding of the students, "But they did rally and we're proud of them for getting involved and helping the way they did."

Surveillance video captured by the school, Layton Christian Academy, shows students rushing immediately to the scene to help.

Chris Crowder, the school's CEO, told "GMA" that as soon as he saw that the mom and kids were trapped under the car, he ran to get even more students to help.

"I ran back in the building to grab as many students as possible," Crowder said. "The car was just on top of them and squishing them. It was a small car, so there was very little clearance."

Crowder said that the students helped to lift the car up on one side until it was high enough that a student was able to reach under the car and pull out the mom and one of her children, while the other child was able to escape from underneath the car on their own.

"They knew what to do, that they had to do something," Crowder said of the students. "We’re very proud of them."

Senior Airman Dominique Childress said he relied on his military training when he jumped into action to help after seeing the accident while picking up his children from the school. Childress described the students who ran to the scene to help as the "real heroes."

"They’ve never had that [military] training, and so for each and every one of them to instinctively go out and do what they did in that traumatic experience is what makes them the real heroes of this story," he told "GMA." "Nobody ever told them that they were going to have to deal with something like this. They weren’t prepared for that, and they still did it."

Crowder confirmed to "GMA" that the mom in the accident, whom he identified by her first name only, Bridgette, is an employee of the school.

She was transported to a hospital, where she underwent surgery and is being treated for non-life threatening injuries, according to Lyman.

Both of her children survived with only minor injuries, according to Lyman.

Lyman said the driver of the car, who has not been publicly identified, told police that she did not see the mom and kids in front of her car.

"One of the factors in this that the driver of the car said was a part of the cause for her not being able to see these people walking through the parking lot was the time of day and the fact that the afternoon sun was in her eyes and she couldn't see," Lyman said. "She was traveling pretty slowly through the parking lot but just didn't see these people walking in front of her."

Lyman said the incident has not yet been screened by the city attorney "to determine if any charges are appropriate."

ABC News' Kandis Mascall and Laryssa Demkiw contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

US Department of Education investigates 6 more schools for discrimination amid tensions over Israel-Hamas war

Stella/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Six more schools are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for reports of discrimination on their campuses, according to the agency.

Tulane University in Louisiana, Union College in New York, Cobb County School District in Georgia, University of Cincinnati in Ohio, Santa Monica College in California, and Montana State University in Montana have been added to the newly released list.

The DOE's Office for Civil Rights released the list as part of the Biden administrations efforts to take action amid the "alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and other forms of discrimination" on both college and K-12 school campuses since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, a statement said.

The Department of Education would not release what type of alleged discrimination the schools are being investigated for. However, at least three schools have released statements detailing the incidents.

A district spokesperson from Cobb County told ABC News they are being investigated for a single complaint regarding a reported "anti-Muslim incident."

"All students in Cobb should feel safe and welcomed, we do not tolerate hate of any kind," the spokesperson said in a statement.

A Tulane University spokesperson said that the incident of discrimination in question "took place at a rally organized by a group that is not recognized by Tulane."

"The rally was deliberately staged on public property contiguous to our campus but over which we have no control," the university said. "As a result of assaults against Tulane students and a Tulane police officer at the rally, three individuals unaffiliated with the university were arrested on a variety of charges, including hate crimes."

The university did not make clear in its statement what kind of discrimination is specifically under investigation, however school officials say the university has increased campus security and has increased its training regarding antisemitism.

"Antisemitism and other forms of hate have no place at Tulane University," the university said. "We are proud to be home to a large Jewish population where students can feel safe to express their cultural and religious identities as Jews."

The statement continued, "We will fully comply with the OCR’s investigation and look forward to sharing with them the facts of this incident and our continued effort to support a learning environment that is free of harassment and discrimination based on shared ancestry or national origin."

Union College also released a public statement, saying that it is being investigated over a claim of discrimination toward Jewish students. The complainant, according to Union College, alleged that the school failed to respond to incidents of harassment in October and November.

"We remain confident that our response to the very small number of reported incidents has been consistent with published policies and procedures, and with how we have responded to reports of alleged bias on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion and other protected statuses," the statement said.

It continued, "The College has seen no violence, or threats of violence, on campus since the Oct. 7 terror attacks by Hamas on Israel."

The University of Cincinnati, Santa Monica College, and Montana State University did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment on their respective DOE investigations.

These schools joins at least 9 other schools under investigation concerning Title VI, a law that bans discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any institution or program that receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told ABC News in a past interview that there will likely be more investigations into schools and universities as incidents continue to pop up across the country.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

UNLV mass shooting victims: 3 professors ID'd

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(LAS VEGAS) -- Three faculty members were killed and one faculty member was injured in a mass shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Wednesday.

The suspect -- who had applied for a college professorship at UNLV, but was not hired, according to sources -- died at the scene following a firefight with police.

Here's what we know about the victims:

Cha Jan Chang

Cha Jan Chang, 64, who was known as "Jerry," was a UNLV business professor who lived in Henderson, Nevada, according to the Clark County coroner.

Chang was an assistant professor at UNLV from 2001 to 2007 and had been an associate professor since 2007.

He received both his masters and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.

"Dr. Chang was a longtime educator of management information systems, spending more than 20 years of his academic career teaching a generation of UNLV Lee Business School students," UNLV President Keith Whitfield said in a statement on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Patricia Navarro Velez

Patricia Navarro Velez, 39, was an assistant professor in accounting at UNLV and lived in Las Vegas, according to the coroner.

She had a Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida.

"Navarro’s current research focuses on cybersecurity disclosures and assurance, internal control weakness disclosure, and data analytics," her UNLV biography said.

"Dr. Navarro-Velez, an assistant professor of accounting, had devoted her career to educating the next generation of accountants," Whitfield said. "She joined UNLV nearly 5 years ago as a professor of accounting, where she focused on teaching accounting information systems."

Naoko Takemaru

Naoko Takemaru, 69, a Las Vegas resident, was an associate professor of Japanese studies at UNLV, according to the coroner and the university.

Takemaru oversaw the entire Japanese Studies Program and "received the William Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching from the College of Liberal Arts at UNLV," according to her biography.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

FDA approves two new gene therapies for sickle cell disease, a 'functional cure' for many patients

ATU Images/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday announced that it has approved Casgevy, the first CRISPR gene-editing therapy for sickle cell disease, paving the way for thousands of patients in the U.S. to receive a treatment that has been described as a "functional cure" for eligible patients.

The FDA also approved a gene therapy called Lyfgenia. Collectively, these two therapies represent two "milestone" treatments for sickle cell disease, according to the FDA announcement.

Sickle cell disease is a genetic condition that affects approximately 100,000 Americans – primarily Black Americans with African ancestry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers estimate that roughly 20-25% of those with the disease are sick enough that they would be good candidates for the newly approved treatments, which were approved for people aged and older.

Although historic, the new treatments come with significant hurdles and potential risks. The treatment is difficult to manufacture and requires months of preparation for patients and their families. Patients will need to stay in the hospital for several weeks, and will receive preemptive chemotherapy that can place fertility at risk. Because of this, patients will likely be offered preemptive fertility preservation.

Still, in a world with few options, doctors and patients say this is a historic step forward.

"We've had nothing in our field for decades," said Dr. Sharl Azar, Medical Director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) Treatment Center at Mass General Hospital. "So this is part of the reason why this is such a large, seismic shift for us."

According to the CDC, one out of every 365 Black or African American babies born in the U.S. is born with sickle cell disease, which is characterized by abnormal 'sickle'-shaped red blood cells that can clog blood flow, causing severe pain episodes, fatigue, infections, stroke and sometimes organ damage and other complications. The average life expectancy for those living with sickle cell disease is roughly 52 years old.

The only cure is a risky bone marrow transplant – an option that is out of reach for most patients because it requires a donor match, typically an unaffected sibling.

The new treatments are technically not a cure in the same way a bone marrow transplant would be.

"What we are calling it is a 'functional cure,'" said Dr. Haydar Frangoul, Medical Director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Sarah Cannon Research Institute and HCA Healthcare's The Children's Hospital At TriStar Centennial. "I think it is better described by the fact that patients do not have any symptoms."

Many of the clinical trial volunteers who have already undergone treatment say they have a new lease on life.

"I'm literally a different person," said Jimi Olaghere, an early clinical trial volunteer for the Casgevy CRISPR trial, who was treated at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville. "Before, my life was me most of the time in bed writhing in pain, not present because of all the pain medications."

Today, the Atlanta-based father of three says he takes joy in playing with his young children, picking them up and driving them to school.

"After this treatment, I have bounds and bounds of energy that I never imagined I'd ever have in my life," says Olaghere.

The treatment Olaghere received is made jointly by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics and is the first FDA-approved treatment that uses the genetic modification therapy CRISPR. Often referred to as "genetic scissors," CRISPR technology allows for easier and more precise gene editing than previous methods. The researchers behind the system won the Nobel Prize in 2020.

Rather than editing out the genetic mutation that causes sickle cell disease, the treatment instead makes another edit that prompts the body to start making healthy red blood cells.

The second FDA-approved gene therapy, Lyfgenia, made by BlueBird Bio, works differently, using a virus to deliver new genetic material. Both treatments significantly reduced pain episodes and the need for blood transfusions among patients who were treated as part of the clinical trials.

(NEW YORK) -- Fifteen-year-old Jonathan Lubin, who received the CRISPR treatment as part of a clinical trial at New York Presbyterian, says he wasn't intimidated by a treatment that would permanently edit his genes.

"I mean, it was pretty cool," said Lubin. "Maybe the upside would be that I got superpowers! You never know."

Lubin experienced his first pain crisis at 9 months old. Throughout his childhood, he was in and out of the hospital every few months. His parents were fearful he might die.

Since his treatment more than a year ago, he hasn't had a pain crisis. He's been able to enjoy his favorite activities, like basketball, playing the drums, and even swimming – an activity that was always out of reach because the water temperature could trigger a pain crisis.

Doctors say the new approved treatments are the first step toward a more hopeful future for patients with sickle cell disease.

"Well, I am very hopeful and very excited," said Dr. Frangoul. "CRISPR used to be science-fiction correct five years ago, and now it is reality."

Frangoul says the scientific advances wouldn't have happened without volunteers like Lubin and Olaghere.

"The heroes of the story are not the physicians or the basic scientists that discovered this. They are the patients that … showed the world that this could be done," Frangoul said. "I think they are the heroes."


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

UNLV shooting suspect Anthony Polito applied for professor job, wasn't hired: Sources

mbbirdy/Getty Images

(LAS VEGAS) -- The deceased suspect in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas shooting has been identified as Anthony Polito, 67, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News Wednesday night. Las Vegas police named Polito as the suspect at a media briefing on Thursday.

Polito had applied for a college professorship at UNLV, but was not hired, sources said.

Polito was armed with a Taurus 9 mm handgun during Wednesday's on-campus attack in which three people were killed, authorities said. The gun was purchased legally last year, authorities said Thursday afternoon.

Sources said investigators have now determined that the victims killed were faculty or staff, not students. Two of those killed were professors, authorities confirmed on Thursday.

During the investigation, authorities determined that Polito had a list of people "he was seeking" at UNLV and faculty from East Carolina University, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Kevin McMahill said Thursday. None of the individuals listed on the list were victims in the shooting, he said.

The suspect was killed in a shootout with police detectives who responded to the scene, authorities said. The gunman fired on police, which is what led them to shoot him, according to preliminary investigative information.

Polito earned a master of business administration at Duke University in 1991, and he received a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Georgia in 2002, according to the universities.

In 2001, Polito started working as an assistant professor at East Carolina University in the College of Business' Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, according to the university. He resigned from ECU in 2017 as a tenured associate professor.

Detectives have retrieved the suspect’s phone and are examining its contents for clues about what motivated the killer to mount his alleged attack.

Police are also combing his professional writings to determine whether something in those texts could shed light on the events that occurred on the UNLV campus.

Authorities said Thursday the suspect was armed with more than 150 rounds of ammunition

ABC News' Jenny Wagnon Courts and Kate Holland contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Man speaks out after arrest by Alabama police officer goes viral: 'I am really traumatized'

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A Black man whose arrest in Alabama earlier this month went viral on social media is speaking out amid an investigation into the local police department.

"I try to act OK but I am really traumatized. I don't know how to feel about police now," Micah Washington told ABC affiliate WBMA in Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday.

Washington, 24, said he was on his way to pick up his brother on Dec. 2 when his tire "had a real bad blowout." He said he was on the ground changing the tire when an officer approached him and demanded that he show her his ID.

"I was like, this is not a traffic stop, so why do you need my ID?" Washington said, adding that he gave it to her but continued to question why she needed it.

Cellphone video of the incident, which was obtained by ABC News, appears to show a female officer detaining Washington and using a stun gun on him as she holds Washington against a car.

After she shocks him, Washington begins to cry. She asks him, "You want it again?"

"No ma'am," he said, according to the video.

Using expletives, the officer then tells him to shut up.

Washington’s attorney, Leroy Maxwell Jr., told ABC News on Thursday that Washington feared for his life during the arrest.

"The only thing that was going on in his mind was George Floyd, George Floyd, George Floyd," Maxwell said. "Because at one point, [the officer] had her foot on his back while [he was lying] on the ground. And then he was having a hard time breathing. And he was yelling that, and that prompted his brother to start recording."

The 45-second clip of the incident, which was filmed by Washington’s brother, doesn’t show what led to the arrest.

The Reform Police Department officer involved in Washington’s arrest was placed on administrative leave this week, according to a joint statement released by Reform Police Chief Richard Black and Reform Mayor Melody Davis.

The officer was not named but an arrest affidavit obtained by ABC News identifies her as Dana Elmore. ABC News' requests for comment to the Reform Police Department were not immediately returned. ABC News' attempts to reach Elmore directly were not successful.

According to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office booking records, Washington was arrested on five charges: obstructing governmental operations, resisting arrest, marijuana possession, drug trafficking and ex-felon in possession of a firearm. According to court documents, "ex-felon in possession of a firearm" is not listed.

"It looks like the DA’s office did not pursue that charge," Maxwell said, claiming that his client is "not a felon."

Related court records did not show any prior convictions for a felony. Court records also show that the drug trafficking charge against Washington was dismissed.

In a Dec. 4 motion obtained by ABC News, Andrew Hamlin, district attorney for the 24th Judicial Circuit, asked a judge to dismiss the drug trafficking charge, saying that Washington was charged with "trafficking in illegal drugs -- fentanyl" but said that further testing "failed to yield a positive result for fentanyl."

In a Dec. 5 response to the motion, District Judge Lance Bailey dismissed the drug trafficking charge and significantly reduced Washington’s bond from $500,000 to $5,000.

In an arrest affidavit, Elmore claims she found Washington in possession of seven grams of cocaine and fentanyl.

"The claim was that she pulled seven grams of cocaine laced in fentanyl out of his pocket and a gun, so that’s what they charged him with," Maxwell said. "Once the video came out, all of a sudden, those charges get dismissed because the video clearly doesn’t show her pulling any drugs out of his pants."

Maxwell said he plans to take legal action on behalf of his client.

“I just want justice,” Washington said, adding, "I would love an apology."

Police Chief Black and Mayor Davis said in a joint statement that police are aware of the video of the incident, which occurred on Dec. 2, and have asked the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation to investigate.

"The department is in the process of turning over all materials related to this arrest to the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation and has requested a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest," the statement said.

A spokesperson for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency at the Alabama Bureau of Investigation confirmed to ABC News that the ALEA is investigating the incident.

"On Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the request of the Reform Police Department, Special Agents with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) launched an investigation into a situation involving an officer with the Reform Police Department. Nothing further is available as the investigation is ongoing," the spokesperson said.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump fraud trial live updates: Defense's accounting expert to return to witness stand

ftwitty/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million civil lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.

Trump, his sons Eric Trump and and Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump Organization executives are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James of engaging in a decade-long scheme in which they used "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" to inflate Trump's net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. The trial comes after the judge in the case ruled in a partial summary judgment that Trump had submitted "fraudulent valuations" for his assets, leaving the trial to determine additional actions and what penalty, if any, the defendants should receive.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have argued that Trump's alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 08, 8:48 AM EST
Defense's accounting expert to return to witness stand

The defense's accounting expert, Eli Bartov, is scheduled to return to the witness stand for a second day of testimony in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial.

During a full day of testimony yesterday, the New York University professor offered a full-throated endorsement of Trump's statements of financial condition that are at the heart of the attorney general's case, saying, "I've never seen a statement that provides so much detail and is so transparent as these statements."

Of discrepancies like Trump overvaluing his Trump Tower penthouse by $100 million in 2012, Bartov characterized it as a mistake and not fraud.

Trump, in attendance at the trial yesterday, told reporters, "He found absolutely no fraud, accounting fraud of any kind. This is a highly respected man. I don't know him, but he's an expert witness."

Trump is not expected to attend court today for Bartov's cross examination, when defense attorneys are expected to scrutinize his conclusions and his motives for testifying, including over $500,000 in compensation for his testimony.

Dec 07, 6:36 PM EST
Trump credits trial for boosting his poll numbers

Donald Trump, exiting court at the conclusion of Thursday's testimony, told reporters that New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud case against him is a "disgrace."

"There was no problem with the loans. The bank was really happy, they testified. Everything was perfect, and it's a disgrace that this case goes forward," Trump said.

His legal spokesperson, Alina Habba, accused the attorney general's team of hypocrisy for criticizing defense expert Eli Bartov, who testified as a state witness after then-New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood sued Exxon Mobil in 2018 for allegedly defrauding investors. The suit, which James took over when she became New York attorney general in 2019, was unsuccessful.

"We just listened to testimony from a man who has such distinct recognition as an accounting expert that even Letitia James and the OAG team used him themselves as an accounting expert," Habba said. "Today when he was on the other side, they spent the entire day objecting, because he was giving testimony that didn't suit their claims."

Trump, meanwhile, boasted to reporters about "leading by about 40 points" in the Republican presidential primary, which he said was partially driven by the civil trial against him.

"It's driving up my polls because the people of our country get it," Trump said. "My poll numbers are the highest I've ever had."

Bartov is set to continue his testimony on Friday, with Trump scheduled to take the stand as the defense's final witness on Monday.

Dec 07, 5:06 PM EST
'There is no fraud here,' accounting expert testifies

If Donald Trump was a student in Eli Bartov's class, his statements of financial condition would earn him an "A," the New York University professor said on the stand.

"I've never seen a statement that provides so much detail and is so transparent as these statements," Bartov said, praising the "awesome amount of information" in the financial documents that are at the center of the New York attorney general's case against Trump.

"There is no fraud here," Bartov said flatly.

Despite his effusive praise for the statements, the professor attempted to underplay the significance of the documents, emphasizing that lenders would be expected to do their own valuations to decide about lending to Trump. Deutsche Bank's credit memos -- which regularly marked down Trump's asset values by as much as 50% -- proved that the banks used additional information to independently scrutinize Trump's financial statements, according to Bartov.

"It is impossible to argue -- it is really absurd to argue -- that Deutsche Bank or any bank or any lender would make lending decisions based on the SOFC," Bartov said of Trump's statement of financial condition. "This should close the book on this case."

"Everywhere you look, you see this is simply an absurd argument," Bartov said.

Dec 07, 3:07 PM EST
'Gotta lose some weight,' Trump says, examining sketch

During testimony, Donald Trump has been sitting at the defense counsel table with few items other than an unopened, Trump-branded water bottle and a stack of sticky notes.

But during breaks in testimony, he's taken a page from his son Donald Trump Jr., who chatted with court sketch artist Jane Rosenberg when he testified last month.

The former president has done the same, chatted up the court's sketch artists during two breaks in testimony.

Rosenberg said that when Trump surveyed her rendering of him, he offered a simple, "Nice."

Trump also examined a rendering by sketch artist Isabelle Brourman.

"Wow, amazing," Trump said, according to Brourman. "Gotta lose some weight."

Dec 07, 1:52 PM EST
Defense expert tells AG lawyer, 'You ought to be ashamed of yourself'

Donald Trump's accounting expert snapped at a lawyer for the New York attorney general after the lawyer suggested his opinion was bought by the defense team.

As accounting expert Eli Bartov was testifying about Trump's use of disclaimers in his financial statements, state attorney Kevin Wallace interjected, saying, "This is pure speculation from someone they hired to say whatever it is they want."

Still in the witness box, Bartov began yelling at Wallace about the comment as Trump sat watching a few feet away.

"You make up allegations that never existed," Bartov shouted. "I am here to tell the truth. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for talking like that."

Bartov, in his testimony, said that Trump's use of disclaimers functioned "just like the warning from the surgeon general on a box of cigarettes."

The accounting expert said that Trump's disclaimers clearly flagged to his lenders that they should conduct their own due diligence regarding the figures, rather than rely on them at face value. Witnesses from Deutsche Bank -- Trump's primary lender during the 2010s -- previously testified that they conducted due diligence and significantly undercut the valuations Trump provided in his financial statement when deciding to offer him loans.

"I never saw anything that is clearer than that," Bartov said about the language in Trump's disclaimer clause. "Even my nine-year-old granddaughter Emma would understand this language."

In his pretrial summary judgment ruling, Judge Engoron dismissed Trump's argument that disclaimer clauses protect him from allegations of fraud. While multiple defense witnesses have attempted to rebut Engoron's opinion about Trump's use of disclaimer clauses, the judge has signaled he stands by his opinion.

"My summary judgment is the law of the case on the legal effect of this paragraph or these sentences," Engoron said in response to Bartov's testimony, adding that the clauses "would not insulate the client."

Nevertheless, Trump attorney Chris Kise requested that Engoron reconsider his finding.

"I am fairly liberal in reconsidering my opinions," Engoron said before Bartov resumed his testimony.

Dec 07, 12:14 PM EST
Expert 'found absolutely no fraud,' Trump says

During a short break in testimony, Donald Trump applauded the findings of accounting expert Eli Bartov, who testified that he found no evidence of accounting fraud in Trump's statements of financial condition.

"He reviewed fully the documents that this horrendous attorney general has put forward, and he found absolutely no fraud, accounting fraud of any kind," Trump told reporters.

Trump, however, acknowledged that Judge Engoron might not be swayed by Bartov's testimony.

"We will probably go forward and I'm sure nothing will have any bearing on what this judge does," Trump said.

Dec 07, 11:59 AM EST
Trump penthouse misstatement was not fraud, expert says

Donald Trump's overstatement of the value of his Trump Tower penthouse apartment was a mistake, according to accounting expert Eli Bartov -- but not fraud.

"The price was inflated. There is no question about it," Bartov said about Trump more than doubling the value of his triplex apartment on his statement of financial condition, from $80 million to $180 million, between 2011 and 2012.

Bartov chalked up the mistake to the inevitable errors that occur in the process of compiling a statement of financial condition. He said that if Trump meant to commit fraud by inflating the value of his apartment, he would have made some effort to conceal it.

"There is no evidence here of concealment," Bartov said. "It's true this is an error. But it is no fraud."

Bartov instead blamed Trump's external accounting firm for failing to catch the obvious error.

"They submitted to him the supporting documents. Any person that had one year experience in auditing ... will immediately see there is a jump from 80 million to 180 million," he said.

Dec 07, 11:45 AM EST
No merit to NY AG's complaint, defense expert says

The New York attorney general's civil fraud complaint against former President Trump lacks merit, a defense expert in accounting testified.

"My main finding is that there is no evidence whatsoever for any accounting fraud," New York University professor Eli Bartov said. "My analysis shows the statements of financial condition for all the years were not materially misstated."

Bartov's testimony bolstered the defense's contention that non-audited financial statements, like Trump's, are unreliable and represent only a first step in analysis.

"You cannot use the raw numbers in the statements as the basis for making decisions," Bartov said. "If you do that, you are likely to reach the wrong decision."

Judge Engoron asked Bartov whether the attorney general's complaint had no merit.

"This is absolutely my opinion," Bartov replied.

"And why is that?" defense attorney Jesus Suarez jumped in to ask.

"There is not a single reference to a specific provision of GAAP that was violated," Bartov said, referring to the generally accepted accounting principles." "If you allege there was an accounting violation, they have to tell us what provision was violated."

State attorneys objected to the relevance of Bartov's opinion, but Judge Engoron denied the objection.

Dec 07, 10:39 AM EST
Court affirms pausing dissolution of Trump Organization

A panel of five appellate judges has affirmed a judge's Oct. 6 decision that paused the dissolution of the Trump Organization.

Judge Peter Moulton issued a ruling during the first week of the trial pausing the immediate cancellation of Donald Trump's business certificates, as ordered by Judge Arthur Engoron in his partial summary judgment ruling on the eve of the trial.

Trump's attorneys argued in favor of the stay of enforcement action until the end of the trial, and the New York attorney general supported their argument.

Today's ruling formally pushes a decision on the fate of the Trump Organization into the new year, when Engoron issues his final ruling in the case.

Dec 07, 10:17 AM EST
Trump in attendance for accounting expert's testimony

Donald Trump is back in court as a spectator, marking the first time the former president has attended the proceeding in over a month.

Trump entered the courtroom alongside his legal spokesperson Alina Habba and his son Eric Trump, who canceled his testimony that was initially scheduled for yesterday. Notably absent from the courtroom is New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Previewing today's testimony from New York University accounting professor Eli Bartov, Trump said on his way into the courtroom that he has "one of the greatest experts in the country" taking the stand today.

"We did nothing wrong. There were no victims. The bank loves us," Trump said.

Dec 07, 8:34 AM EST
Donald Trump set to attend trial today

Donald Trump is set to return to his civil fraud trial as a spectator today, marking the first time the former president has attended the proceeding in over a month.

Trump has attended eight of the trial's 41 days, including when he testified as the last witness in the state's case on Nov. 6. He is scheduled to return to the stand as the final witness in the defense's case on Monday.

This morning, Trump's lawyers will call New York University professor Eli Bartov as their second-to-last witness.

Trump attorney Chris Kise cited Bartov's testimony in his opening statement as vital to proving that Trump fully complied with all accounting rules and regulations when he submitted his statements of financial condition, which underpin the attorney general's allegations in the case.

"The statements are ... the beginning, not the end, of a highly complex valuation process," Kise said.

Dec 06, 4:42 PM EST
Potential for violence justifies gag order, judge's lawyer argues

Judge Arthur Engoron's attorney argues in a new court filing that the willingness of Donald Trump's followers "to engage in violence to show their support" for Trump justifies the limited gag order in the former president's civil fraud trial.

Trump filed an Article 78 proceeding against Engoron earlier this month to remove the gag orders the judge imposed prohibiting him from commenting on the judge's staff, but a panel of judges vacated a temporary stay of the gag orders last week.

"It is undisputed that Mr. Trump has an inordinate ability to draw attention, fervor, and animosity to those he singles out for attention. Whether he seeks it or not, some of Mr. Trump's followers are willing to engage in violence to show their support," said Engoron's attorney Michael Suidzinski, an assistant deputy counsel with the New York State Office of Court Administration.

Engoron's attorney questioned Trump's need to speak about the judge's staff during the trial or his campaign, adding that the gag order still permits him to criticize Engoron, the attorney general, the case itself, witnesses, and the entire judicial process.

"It is unclear, however, how his ability to talk about Justice Engoron's court staff is necessary for his campaign when this country faces a number of issues more worthy of debate," Suidzinski wrote.

"Given the real and demonstrated likelihood of harm that could come to Justice Engoron's court staff if the gag orders were annulled, Justice Engoron's legitimate and justifiable interest in preventing such harm greatly outweighs the de minimis interference to Mr. Trump's rights," Suidzinski wrote.

Dec 06, 12:07 PM EST
Court is off today after Eric Trump's testimony is called off

Court is not in session today after the defense yesterday called off the testimony of Eric Trump, who was scheduled to be today's lone witness.

Donald Trump's legal spokesperson, Alina Habba, said that testimony from Eric Trump was no longer needed because the court has heard sufficient testimony from defense experts and Deutsche Bank executives.

Eric Trump, who took the stand in the state's case last month, was scheduled to testify for the defense today -- but defense lawyers abruptly called off his testimony yesterday in order to streamline their case, defense attorney Clifford Robert said in court yesterday.

"Although Eric Trump was certainly prepared to testify again, his testimony is no longer necessary. He has already testified fully and well in the case," Habba said.

In a social media post Tuesday night, Donald Trump said he directed Eric not to testify.

"I told my wonderful son, Eric, not to testify tomorrow at the RIGGED TRIAL," Trump wrote.

Dec 06, 11:02 AM EST
Trump confirms he'll testify Monday

Former President Trump has confirmed he plans to testify as a defense witness on Monday.

"I will be testifying on Monday," Trump wrote on his social media platform.

Court is not in session today, but Trump is expected to be in attendance tomorrow.

Trump's plan to testify was thrown into question on Tuesday after Judge Arthur Engoron denied a request from the defense to delay the testimony to accommodate Trump's effort to appeal the limited gag order in the case that prohibits him from commenting on the judge's staff.

"He is not capable of fully testifying because he is subject to the gag order," Kise said, arguing for a delay.

"Absolutely not. No way, no how. It's a nonstarter," Engoron said in response to the defense's request for a delay. "If he is going to testify, it'll be Monday, and that's that."

While Trump's lawyers have attempted to appeal the limited gag order to a higher court, their application to expedite the appeal was denied on Monday, ensuring that the limited gag order will be in place when Trump testifies.

During a campaign stop in Iowa, Trump repeated his claims that his opponents are trying to silence him, describing the gag order as an "honor."

"In many ways, it's an honor because if they wanted to hear me speak, they wouldn't do the gag order," Trump said.

When asked if he's concerned about his scheduled court testimony, Trump said, "No, not at all."

Trump is set to be the final witness for the defense case when he testifies on Monday.

Dec 05, 5:04 PM EST
Defense expert quotes John Lennon, compares Trump to MLK

Prior to his brief cross-examination, real estate valuation expert Lawrence Moens quoted John Lennon's "Imagine" and compared Donald Trump to Martin Luther King Jr. at the conclusion of his direct testimony.

"You may say I am a dreamer, but I'm not the only one," Moens said, quoting the "Imagine" lyrics before comparing Trump to Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr.

"He's a dreamer for sure. If you have a dream and are a great American, I don't think that's a bad thing," Moens said of Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago estate he praised as "something breathtaking" and "amazing to see."

Moens' cellphone went off during his testimony, and he briefly interrupted his direct examination to answer a call.

"I'll call you right back … love you," Moens said in a quiet tone as Judge Engoron watched in disbelief.

Moen apologized to the judge, explaining that the call was from his elderly father.

Court was adjourned for the day after Moens stepped off the witness stand.

Dec 05, 4:45 PM EST
Mar-a-Lago valuation expert is also Mar-a-Lago member

During a short cross-examination of the defense's real estate valuation expert, Lawrence Moens, state attorney Kevin Wallace attempted to highlight flaws in Moens' analysis that valued Mar-a-Lago at $1.2 billion in 2021.

Wallace noted that Moens' analysis added over $100 million in membership dues to the value of the property, while Trump's own statements of financial conduction didn't include the membership fees since they're refundable.

"Some get paid back, and some are nonrefundable," Moens said in response. "I don't know what their methodology is in those numbers."

Wallace also asked if Moens had a membership in the club he had been paid to value.

"Are you a member at the club?" Wallace asked.

"I am," Moens said, adding that he joined in 1995 or 1996.

"I don't go too often. I don't like clubs," he said.

Moens described his process for valuing properties as comparable to a baker making a cake by taste, rather than a recipe. By his own admission, the process was not replicable or scientific.

"You're not running a process that is recreatable ... is that fair?" Wallace asked.

"That's fair," Moens said.

Like during his direct examination, Moens appeared confident and playful on the stand, even taking a job at the profession of a colleague mentioned in an email.

"I think he is still a liar -- I mean a lawyer," Moens said. "Sorry, I apologize, it was really low."

Dec 05, 3:51 PM EST
Eric Trump will not be called as defense witness

Defense attorney Clifford Robert said the defense team was able to "streamline" their case and cut Eric Trump from their witness list.

After being called to the stand by the state last month, Eric Trump had been scheduled to testify for the defense on Wednesday, but now he will not appear.

Trump lawyer Chris Kise also requested that Judge Engoron postpone Donald Trump's testimony until the New York Court of Appeals rules on Trump's appeal of the case's gag order.

"He is not capable of fully testifying because he is subject to the gag order," Kise said.

Engoron flatly denied the request to delay Trump's testimony, which is scheduled for Monday.

"Absolutely not. No way, no how. It's a nonstarter," Engoron said. "If he is going to testify, it'll be Monday, and that's that."

Dec 05, 3:03 PM EST
Defense expert says Mar-a-Lago was worth $1.2 billion

Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club was worth more than $1.2 billion in 2021 -- roughly double the value listed in Trump's statement of financial condition -- according to defense expert Lawrence Moens.

Describing Mar-a-Lago as a castle nestled on 17.6 acres of waterfront property, Moens said he determined the value by considering nearby properties and adding the total value of the club's 500 memberships, which in 2021 cost $350,000 each.

Between 2011 and 2021, Moens' analysis found that Trump undervalued Mar-a-Lago in his statements of financial condition -- but his analysis appeared to be based on Trump being able to sell the property to an individual to use it as a private residence, which the New York attorney general says Trump is prohibited from doing based on a 2002 deed he signed that would "forever extinguish their right to develop or use the Property for any purpose other than club use."

Judge Engoron only qualified Moens as an expert on the value of residential real estate.

Moens spoke with confidence about his ability to value real estate in Palm Beach, saying that he has sold billions of dollars of real estate since his first sale as a broker in 1982. Asked if any broker has sold more Palm Beach real estate than he has, Moens replied, "They don't exist."

"I am on the front lines everyday of selling properties, and I have a pretty good handle of what is going on currently in the market," Moens said.

He later added, "My numbers are usually right."

Moens also put together a seven-minute promotional video about Mar-a-Lago, which was played during his testimony. Set to relaxing music, the video included high-resolution drone shots and dramatic panning shots of the property's amenities. After the video played, Moens highlighted details such as hand-carved stones, gold decorations that cost millions to construct, and other details that required years of work from tradesmen.

"I invited the attorney general's office to come see it anytime. The offer still stands," Moens said. "I will make sure he is not there when you come," he said of Trump.

Engoron appeared attentive to Moen's testimony -- but once Moens left the courtroom, he indicated that he wasn't as concerned about Mar-a-Lago's specific value as he was about whether it was misrepresented.

"I see this case about the documents -- whether the defendants used false documents when transacting business," Engoron said. "I am not trying to figure out what the value is ... I don't necessarily consider it relevant."

Dec 05, 12:31 PM EST
Mar-a-Lago would be residence if club was abandoned, expert says

Defense expert John Shubin attempted to explain that a 1993 agreement preserved Donald Trump's right to sell his Mar-a-Lago social club as a private residence.

The testimony came after Judge Engoron prevented Shubin from sharing his own conclusion about whether Mar-a-Lago was a residence, leading Shubin to read into the record several documents involving the issue.

Shubin suggested that a 1993 agreement between Trump and the town of Palm Beach included a provision that Trump's property would revert from a social club to Trump's private residence if the club was ever abandoned, despite Trump's 2002 deed restricting the property's use to a social club.

Shubin also read into the record documents related to a 2021 Town of Palm Beach town meeting concerning whether Trump could continue to live at Mar-a-Lago as his residence.

"In sum, it is argued that Mar-a-Lago is either a private residence or a club, but cannot be both," Palm Beach Town Attorney John C. Randolph wrote in a report read by Shubin.

"If he is a bona fide employee of the Club, absent a specific restriction prohibiting former President Trump from residing at the club, it appears the Zoning Code permits him to reside at the Club," Randolph's report concluded.

According to Shubin, no action was taken by the town after the meeting, suggesting Town officials concluded that Trump had the right to use the club as a residence.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has accused Trump of valuing the property as a residence worth upwards of half a billion dollars in Trump's financial statements, while treating it as social club worth between $18 million and $28 million for tax purposes.

Dec 05, 11:03 AM EST
'No prohibition' on using Mar-a-Lago as residence, expert says

Introduced as an expert on land use, planning, entitlements and zoning, a witness for the defense immediately pushed back on New York Attorney General Letitia James' chief argument that Trump's Mar-a-Lago property was restricted to use as a social club -- a claim that Judge Engoron called the "ultimate issue on Mar-a-Lago."

"There is absolutely no prohibition on the use of Mar-a-Lago as a single-family residence," said defense witness John Shubin.

Engoron barred Shubin from testifying about legal conclusions and immediately sustained an objection from the state regarding the testimony.

"It absolutely is a legal conclusion," Engoron said, prompting defense lawyer Clifford Robert to unsuccessfully try to rephrase his question.

"Why don't we just look through the documents and run backwards?" defense lawyer Chris Kise suggested.

Shubin's testimony runs contrary to evidence presented by state lawyers that Trump signed a 2002 deed that surrendered his right to develop the property "for any purpose other than club use."

Dec 05, 9:36 AM EST
Defense focusing on value of Mar-a-Lago

Donald Trump's lawyers plan to call two experts, Lawrence Moens and John Shubin, to testify on Trump's valuation of his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida.

Moens is a well-known real estate broker in Palm Beach, and Shubin is an expert on deeds and land restrictions.

The value of the property has been bitterly contested by Trump's lawyers since the start of the trial, after Judge Arthur Engoron, in his pretrial partial summary judgment determined that Trump overvalued the property by at least 2,300%. When Trump testified in the trial in November, he repeatedly lashed out at Engoron for what he called a "crazy" assessment of the property.

"He said in his statement that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million and it's worth 50 times to 100 times more than that, and everybody knows it. And everybody is watching this case. He called me a fraud and he didn't know anything about me," Trump said on the stand.

According to evidence shown at trial, Trump agreed in a 2002 deed to "forever extinguish [his] right to develop or use the Property for any purpose other than club use." While Trump Organization executives were aware of the limited use of the property, they allegedly valued the property as a residence in Trump's financial statements while treating it as a social club for tax purposes, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James.

In Trump's statements of financial condition, he valued the property between $426 million and $612 million, despite a local tax assessor appraising the market value of the property between $18 and $27 million. Engoron, in his summary judgment ruling, wrote that James had proven that Trump was liable for a false valuation of the property.

Trump has repeatedly argued that Engoron misunderstood the purpose of a tax assessment, going as far as to call Engoron's finding "fraud."

"Are you paying taxes on an $18 million valuation of Mar-a-Lago or $1.5 billion?" state attorney Kevin Wallace asked Trump during his direct examination.

"You know that assessments are totally different from the valuation of property," Trump responded.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Native Hawaiians fighting to take control of Maui's water rights amid wildfire cleanup

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(LAHAINA, Hawaii) -- A battle is brewing in Maui over one of the most essential resources for human survival: water.

Four months after West Maui suffered the deadliest natural disaster in the state's history, residents are seeking existing water rights, which many characterize as "stolen" from the native population who have lived on the island for generations in favor of Westerners looking to deepen their pockets.

Water, land and the environment play a special role in Native Hawaiian culture and way of life. They are sacred elements of existence, requiring protection and careful stewardship, local Maui farmers told ABC News.

"As Hawaiians, we believe that everything matters: The air, the wind, the trees, the animals, the species, the humans, the ocean, the fish. Everything matters," Jerome Kekiwi Jr., a taro farmer in east Maui and president of a Maui-based nonprofit called Na Moku Aupuni o Ko'olau Hui that promotes the interests of Native Hawaiians in Maui, told ABC News. "With water, all of that is possible to have in abundance."

Hawaii allocates its water under a "rights" system, similar to other states in the western United States. Residents and companies can own the right to draw water from a source, which is usually located on their own land. But they can't own the water source itself, state law dictates.

Hawaiian law protects traditional and cultural use. But as the wildfire cleanup continues, rebuilding plans come to fruition and climate change threatens the island's future water supply, Native Hawaiians want less water to be diverted to corporations and developments and more to be allocated to residents and local farmers.

"This is like a reset button," Hokuao Pellegrino, a taro farmer in central Maui and a prominent advocate for indigenous water rights on the island, told ABC News.

The history of water rights in Maui

Native Hawaiians would say the trajectory in overconsumption of the island's water resources began when sugarcane plantations began to replace local farmers as the main crop producers in the 19th century, according to Pellegrino.

While native farmers who cultivated taro, an indigenous root vegetable known as "kalo" in the Hawaiian language, had traditionally used neighboring streams to irrigate their crops, the emergence of mono-crop farming on the island established a centuries-long legacy of stolen land and water that persisted for decades, Pellegrino said.

Native Hawaiians stress the importance of restoring balance to the island -- a notion far removed from the tendencies to "take take take" displayed by the foreigners who came to do business in Maui, Pellegrino said.

Indigenous populations diverted water themselves, said Pellegrino, who farms on his family's ancestral lands. They had to in order to cultivate wetland taro, a staple in the Hawaiian diet that can't thrive without an adequate water source.

But when the sugar plantations were established, the developers dug deeper into the water sources. Instead of taking the water supply needed to cultivate the crops, they "ended up taking the whole stream along with it," Pellegrino said.

"We went from a time that our people lived in balance, and had a high level of respect for our water resources, to an era that looks at water as a commodity," he said.

Indigenous and local communities are often the most vulnerable to water shortages, especially because government water management and distribution processes don't formally recognize customary water rights -- traditional rights held by indigenous communities, Sandra Thiam, vice president of research and policy at the Environmental Law Institute, told ABC News.

In 2003, Pellegrino and other Hawaiian farmers embarked on a decade-long battle against plantations and local water companies to reclaim the water rights. A lawsuit against a water company and a sugar company aiming to amend the stream-flow standards to better reflect traditional flows was heard by the Hawaii Supreme Court in 2012, which resulted in a mediated agreement between the parties two years later.

By 2021, the state water commission established a water plan that recognizes traditional water rights and protecting stream flows. While the move is a step in the right direction, millions of gallons of public freshwater are still being sold for private profit, and the current water system is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, local activists say.

Currently, three regions in Maui are involved in "huge battles" with corporations on the island, Pellegrino said. East Maui, where most of the streams and rivers are located, is attempting to fight off an offshore company that bought the last sugar plantation with plans to grow citrus on 30,000 acres, he said. In addition, central Maui and West Maui are among the regions in which water, the public trust, is being sold by corporations back to residents as their drinking water, according to Pellegrino.

How water rights play into the aftermath of the wildfires

The water situation during the fire and in the immediate aftermath proved chaotic.

At the height of the fires in August, the water ran dry, with nothing flowing from hydrants when the firefighters needed it most. In Lahaina, the historic district and former Kingdom of Hawaii at the center of the destruction, electricity was shut off to prevent the continued spread of the fire in high winds. But the decision left the pumps powerless to move water through the pipes.

Limited access to water by landowners, in combination with drought, likely contributed to the dry fields that made the wildfires so explosive, Clay Trauernicht, a specialist in fire ecology at the University of Hawaii, told ABC News in September. Invasive grasses also play a role in the rapid spread, Abby Frazier, a climatologist at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, told ABC News in August.

"The Lahaina fire is a grim reminder of the way that the changing climate can complicate ongoing environmental pressures and result in compound disasters," Thiam said.

Just weeks after the fires broke out, West Maui residents identified developers on the island as public enemy No. 1 during discussions for revision or adjustments to the water rights -- namely Peter Martin, the most prominent developer who began buying land in the region nearly 50 years ago, according to hundreds of testimonies given at community meetings since the wildfires.

During testimonies given during a nearly 12-hour state water commission hearing on Sept. 19 in Honolulu, Native Hawaiian farmers, environmental activists and Maui residents lambasted Martin for his role in water divisions in West Maui, labeling him as "the face of evil in Lahaina."

Neither Martin nor the State of Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management immediately responded to ABC News' request for comment.

While most residents in the region are serviced by the county public water system, developments built by Martin draw water from private utility systems controlled by Martin that siphon water from underground aquifers and mountain streams -- just one of the examples of inequality on the island, Pellegrino said. One of his luxury developments, Launiupoko, uses about 1.5 million gallons a day toward landscaping -- more than half of all the water used in the neighborhood, according to a 2022 report by the state water commission.

The companies owned by Martin, a millionaire who made the bulk of his fortune from the island's real estate market by turning what was previously farmland into luxury homes, own more than 5,500 acres of land around Lahaina, according to an analysis of county records by nonprofit environmental news magazine Grist. Martin's companies are known to push back against water regulations intended to protect the rights of Native Hawaiians, Grist reported in November.

Hawaii's state constitution and state water statutes have some notable protections for traditional and customary water use. The state constitution establishes water as a "public trust" that state officials have "an obligation to protect, control and regulate the use of."

In 2018, the state water commission set strict limits on water diversion in West Maui, issuing fines -- up to $5,000 daily -- to developers when the rules were violated, to prevent already oversubscribed aquifers from further depletion.

In his interview with Grist last month, Martin likened the public who criticized him to a "mob" that state commissioners couldn't help but listen to.

"When you're around a gang of people, a mob, the commissioners just listen to the mob," the 76-year-old told the magazine. "They don't listen to reasoned voices."

What needs to be done, experts say

One of the most important facets of maintaining a healthy ecosystem and watershed is making sure the water system retains mountain-to-sea, meaning the water is not diverted to the point where those flows can't make that necessary journey, farmers say.

"Water is life," Kekiwi said. "If you break that connectivity, you're pretty much breaking that life source."

Protecting the island's water supply from over-extraction and continued drought will also need to be a priority, Pellegrino said.

"Strong, effective governance is increasingly vital to successful, equitable water allocation," Thiam said.

"Proactive strategic planning and enabling policies and programs to changing circumstances are increasingly critical to effective and equitable water allocation," she said.

In addition, establishing healthy communication with the corporations and utility companies would help the island make strides in ensuring its water supply going forward, Kekiwi said.

The communication has improved, he said. East Maui Irrigation actually calls his organization to let them know what diversions they are working on, Kekiwi said.

"That's what we need more of," he said. "More of the positive communication and collaboration."

Residents say they'll continue to fight

The power and will of Native Hawaiians have been put on display in the fallout of the wildfire destruction.

On Aug. 10, just two days after the fires broke out, an executive for one of Martin's companies wrote a letter to the water commission stating that the request to fill its reservoirs on the day of the fire had been delayed and asked the state to loosen water regulations during fire recovery, the document, obtained by Grist, shows.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green then suspended the water code in an emergency proclamation and temporarily reassigned the water commission's deputy director, Kaleo Manuel, whom the company executive had implied in the letter had impeded firefighting efforts by withholding the release of water.

Manuel was later reinstated following an investigation by the state attorney general and public backlash over his removal, including public testimonies submitted by hundreds of people, and the water code was put back in place.

That passion was also displayed last year, when a six-hour debate over West Maui water rights led the state water commission to vote unanimously to take control of the region's ground and surface water in June 2022.

The impassioned people of Lahaina can change the face of the island, Pellegrino said, describing the community as "resilient."

"Whatever they say is going to happen, they're going to make it happen," he said.

The fight is worth it, Pellegrino added.

Today, residents in east Maui have more than 50% of their major streams flowing again, and flowing from the mountains to the sea -- an effort more than 20 years in the making, Pellegrino said.

Activists are aware they need to remain vigilant, because well-moneyed corporations have the resources to swoop in and reverse their hard work, while the state does not have the resources to constantly monitor them, Pellegrino said.

"We have the knowledge to be able to keep these corporations in check," he added.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Man arrested after shots fired outside New York temple

Kali9/Getty Images

(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- A man was arrested Thursday afternoon after he allegedly fired off a shotgun in the parking area of an Albany, New York synagogue, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

The FBI has identified the suspect in Thursday's incident as Mufid Fawaz Alkhader, who is being charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

An initial court appearance has been scheduled for today at U.S. District Court in Albany.

No one was injured during the incident at the Temple Israel around 2:27 p.m. and the suspect, only described as a 28-year-old local man, was quickly arrested the governor said.

"As we've talked about before, after the Oct. 7 attacks I've ordered our state police as well National Guard to be on high alert," Hochul told reporters at a news conference.

The suspect allegedly made "threatening statements," during the incident, Hochul said. The suspect, who has a criminal history, is pending an arraignment, according to the governor.

"Thanks to the swift coordination between the ATF, FBI, and our partners at Albany Police Department and New York State Police, Mufid Fawaz Alkhader has been arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. More information will be provided by the United States Attorney's Office following an initial appearance scheduled for tomorrow at U.S. District Court in Albany," said the FBI in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

An early childhood center located on the premises was forced to lockdown but parents were later able to pick up their kids, according to the governor.

Hochul said she spoke with Rabbi Wendy Love Anderson and reassured her that her congregation would be kept safe. The governor said there is no other ongoing threat.

"And I remind everyone, as New Yorkers this is not who we are. This must stop. We reject hate, anti- Semitism [and] Islamophobia. All hate crimes must stop, and all violence in every form must cease," she said.

The governor noted that the temple previously was the target of a bomb threat in September. Hochul noted that the incident also came at a sensitive time for the Jewish community as it was the first night of Hanukkah.

During the news conference, Eva Wyner, the deputy director of Jewish Affairs for the New York State Executive Chamber, lit the first candle of the menorah.

"We can not be intimidated. We can not be threatened in holding these traditions," she said.

Meanwhile, Hochul has put authorities on high alert for potential attacks and disruptions during Hanukkah.

“I am immediately directing the New York State Police and New York National Guard to be on high alert and increase the existing patrols of at-risk sites we had planned for the Hanukkah holiday, including at synagogues, yeshivas and community centers, and working closely with local law enforcement," Hochul said in a press release announcing her actions.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Woman arrested after allegedly pouring gasoline on MLK Jr. birth home

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

(ATLANTA) -- A woman was arrested Thursday night in Atlanta, Georgia, on an arson-related charge after police say she poured gasoline on the birth home of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Atlanta Police Department said the 26-year-old, who has not been named, was arrested on criminal attempt arson in the second degree and interference with government property. The National Park Service owns the birth home of the late civil rights leader.

Atlanta police responded to a report of vandalism in progress at the MLK home around 5:45 p.m. ET on Thursday night. Police say a woman had already been detained by multiple citizens. According to police, the preliminary investigation indicated "that the suspect had poured gasoline" onto the home.

The woman was arrested on the two charges, and the investigation is ongoing, authorities said.

Following the incident, the King Center thanked local authorities for intervening.

“Tonight, an unfortunate incident occurred at the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an individual attempted to set fire to this historic property,” read a statement on the center’s X page. “Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement.”

The King Center statement continued: “We thank the Atlanta Police Department, Atlanta Fire Department, the National Parks Service and Mayor Andre Dickens for leading the efforts to ensure the safety of our cherished national landmark and its adjacent neighbors. Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”

King’s birth home was built in 1895. It is located at 501 Auburn Ave. NE, not far from the MLK Jr. National Historical Park and the King Center.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Giuliani's financial woes could compound as he faces mounting legal exposure

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- In 2007, when Rudy Giuliani launched his presidential bid, he seemed both politically and financially at the height of his powers.

His image as "America's mayor" in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks made him an immediate contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And in the half-decade since he left New York's City Hall, lucrative consulting work and speaking fees had boosted his net worth to between $18 and $70 million, according to financial disclosures he filed at the time.

But Giuliani's presidential ambitions fizzled almost immediately, and the former New York City mayor failed to make it though Super Tuesday. It was a humbling political tumble -- and now, some 15 years later, his wallet appears to have taken an equally humbling hit.

A deluge of civil and criminal lawsuits has left Giuliani experiencing what his attorney called "financial difficulties."

The twin threats of potential legal exposure and an apparent depletion of resources could continue to compound in the months and perhaps years ahead, as the onetime attorney to former President Donald Trump battles the fallout from his activities in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

Next week, a Washington, D.C.-based jury will determine what penalties Giuliani will owe a pair of Georgia election workers he was found to have defamed. He is already on the hook for some $230,000, and the election workers are seeking between $15 million and $43 million at trial.

Giuliani stands to owe millions more if he loses cases brought by two voting machine companies and his own longtime personal attorney, and he faces an unrelated sexual harassment suit for $10 million from a former business associate. In October, President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden also sued Giuliani for unspecified damages, accusing him of mishandling personal data belonging to him.

Giuliani has denied all claims, and "unequivocally denies the allegations" in the sexual harassment suit.

But perhaps more concerning for Giuliani is the criminal racketeering indictment Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis returned in August against him and 18 other co-defendants, including Trump, accusing them of unlawfully seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. Giuliani -- who, like many of the other defendants, faces potential jail time in the case -- has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Even if Giuliani emerges victorious from his legal tribulations, fighting them will undoubtedly rack up an immense cost.

"He has made it pretty clear that he doesn't have the resources to handle litigation," said one source familiar with Giuliani's legal situation.

To help raise money, Giuliani has turned to a deep-pocketed former client -- Trump himself. The former president reportedly recently hosted a $100,000-a-plate dinner at his Bedminster, New Jersey, estate, with proceeds going to Giuliani.

It was not immediately clear how much money the event raised -- though Giuliani's son has suggested it eclipsed $1 million -- or how much of those funds have made it to Giuliani. But one thing is clear, according to Giuliani himself: He needs the help.

Election lies -- and costs

In court filings over the summer, Giuliani's lawyer wrote a federal judge asking to defer payments Giuliani was ordered to pay to Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, two former election workers, citing "financial difficulties" as a result of fighting a slew of litigation elsewhere.

"Giuliani needs more time to pay the attorneys' fees," an attorney for Giuliani wrote.

Since then, the judge in that case has issued a summary judgment finding Giuliani liable for defamatory remarks he made about the two women during the Georgia presidential election recount. In a December 2020 appearance before a committee of the Georgia state legislature, Giuliani told lawmakers that a video circulating online showed "Ruby Freeman and Shaye Freeman Moss ... quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports, as if they're vials of heroin or cocaine."

The judge initially ordered Giuliani to pay roughly $132,000 to cover Freeman and Moss' attorneys' fees -- but after Giuliani missed a deadline to submit payment earlier this month, the judge tacked on an additional $104,000. The judge ordered Giuliani to appear in person at a trial beginning next week to determine additional damages.

Beyond what Giuliani already owes in that lawsuit, he could lose even more substantial sums in his other suits.

In early 2021, voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems filed a string of lawsuits after Giuliani and others targeted the firm with false accusations that it orchestrated a plot to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Dominion's $1.3 billion lawsuit against Giuliani accuses him of carrying out "defamatory falsehoods" about Dominion, in part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.

Dominion has since won an historic $787 million settlement against Fox News after filing a similar lawsuit against the conservative media giant seeking $1.6 billion dollars. The suit was settled just minutes before opening statements were set to begin in the trial.

Days after the Dominion suit was filed, Smartmatic, a voting technology company, followed suit, claiming that Giuliani, Fox News, and others "engaged in a widespread disinformation campaign" about the company's voting software rigging the election around the country.

Smartmatic is seeking a total of $2.7 billion in damages from Giuliani and the other defendants. Giuliani and other defendants have denied wrongdoing.

Paying his own attorneys

In September, Giuliani faced another potential legal blow from an unlikely source: his own longtime attorney and personal friend, Bob Costello.

Costello and his partners at Davidoff Butcher & Citron LLP accused Giuliani of owing them nearly $1.4 million for work defending him during numerous criminal, civil and congressional investigations. Giuliani has paid $214,000 to the firm since November 2019, when he retained Costello, the lawsuit said.

Costello represented Giuliani during criminal investigations in New York, Georgia and Washington and in 10 civil lawsuits in various state and federal courts, as well as during the House select committee's Jan. 6 investigation, and in disciplinary proceedings involving Giuliani's law license.

Giuliani has denied Costello's claim, but the allegation leveled by Costello is not the first of its kind.

In May, Bruce Castor, a former Trump impeachment attorney who agreed to defend Giuliani in a 2020 election-related civil suit, accused the former New York mayor of bilking him out of his attorneys' fees.

In court papers seeking to withdraw from the case, Castor, who said he had known Giuliani for decades, unloaded on Giuliani for his failure to cooperate with court-ordered documents on time -- telling the court that Giuliani "failed to provide the retainer sum" or "work even in the slightest with [Castor] to advance this case."

"That he promised to send the money and then didn't was a shock to me, and not in keeping with the character of the man I thought I knew when we were both prosecutors and later watching him from afar as mayor," Castor told ABC News. "Something had change in him."

A spokesperson for Giuliani rejected the claims at the time, insisting that Giuliani had indeed paid Castor for his work.

In the Fulton County racketeering case, two attorneys who initially represented Giuliani have since withdrawn, without public explanation.

One of those attorneys, David Wolfe, had previously defended Giuliani's payment record.

"Of course I'm getting paid for my work," Wolfe said in an interview on CNN over the summer. "I'm doing my work, I've been paid to do my work, and it's going to cause some problems for the state to respond to it."

But a source familiar with the matter told ABC News at the time that it remained unclear how long Wolfe would remain on the case. Wolfe resigned weeks later.

In the bank

Despite his entreaties for help and his self-described "financial difficulties," Giuliani's actual financial picture remains opaque, and at times has seemed to contradict his declarations of poverty in court.

Giuliani earns some $400,000 annually from advertisers on his daily WABC radio program, according to the New York Times, and in August, he traveled by private jet from New Jersey's Teterboro Airport to his initial court appearance in Georgia to face the racketeering charges. The longtime New York resident also recently listed his Upper East Side apartment for more than $6.5 million, according to Insider.

The U.S. district judge overseeing Freeman and Moss' defamation case, Beryl Howell, recently cited Giuliani's luxury apartment and private flight in court documents, framing them as evidence that Giuliani's request to defer payments to the election workers was "dubious."

"In short, based on the current record, Giuliani has failed to show that he cannot pay the reimbursement fees he owes," Howell wrote.

Judge Howell had ordered Giuliani to share detailed financial information with attorneys for Freeman and Moss ahead of their upcoming trial to determine damages owed. Giuliani was supposed to submit details about his "assets and net worth," including "savings accounts, money market funds, mutual fund accounts, hedge fund accounts and certificates of deposit ... and financial statements."

Giuliani missed the Sept. 20 deadline to share all the information the judge requested; attorneys for Freeman and Moss said Giuliani only turned over a 2018 tax return and his divorce settlement from the same year. Judge Howell will instruct the jury to consider their request for additional sanctions against Giuliani at trial.

"It would be difficult to find a clearer example of an informed, sophisticated, and well represented party openly flouting orders of a federal court," attorneys for Freeman and Moss wrote in a recent filing in the case.

"Accordingly," they wrote, "severe sanctions are both warranted and necessary."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Navajo Nation faces possible new threats after decades of uranium mining

ABC News

(GALLUP, N.M.) -- Just miles from the site of the 1979 Church Rock Mill spill, the largest nuclear disaster in American history, uranium extraction operations could resume near the Navajo Nation. Now, Navajo leaders say the health and prosperity of their community could be in even further jeopardy.

A Canadian company is working to move forward with uranium extraction, an industry that has a lengthy history around the Navajo Nation.

“The pursuit of happiness for us is to be able to live in our communities without fear from the impact of radiation and uranium,” said Tericita Keyanna, who grew up near an abandoned uranium mine in New Mexico. "It's been really scary, just being a mom in this area.”

‘You'd probably be angry too, right?’

More than 500 mines across the Navajo Nation once supplied uranium that helped power the U.S. Department of Defense’s nuclear arms development, including the Manhattan Project during World War II, but not a single one has been completely cleaned up in the decades since, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Uranium mining continued in and around the Navajo Nation after the war. In 1979, the Church Rock Mill spill occurred when a United Nuclear Corporation dam failed to hold back 94 million gallons of radioactive waste from entering the nearby Puerco River.

Larry King, a Navajo tribal member and former uranium miner, said that the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, which occurred only three months earlier in Pennsylvania, drew a national attention that they never got.

“Even the president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, made a visit to that community,” King said. “We haven't seen anybody out here.”

King said the contamination from the spill decimated the ancestral grazing lands that provided food for his people, noting that he remembers witnessing the immediate cleanup efforts after the disaster.

“[The] method of cleanup was to hire some laborers, give them a shovel, 5-gallon buckets and start scooping all that slime that was left behind into those buckets,” King added. “It wasn’t enough.”

King said he’s still fighting for compensation.

The effects of the 1979 toxic spill into the Puerco River were detected as recently as 2015, nearly 50 miles downstream, when residents in a town called Sanders, Ariz., learned about the contamination that persisted more than three decades later.

Tommy Rock was a doctoral student when he discovered records going back 10 years that showed levels of uranium almost double the amount deemed safe by the EPA.

Still, residents say they were not notified before Rock shared his research, even though the Safe Drinking Water Act requires states to notify its citizens within 30 days of contamination being discovered.

Although tests by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality showed that the uranium levels were almost double the amount deemed safe by the EPA, the statement ADEQ released shortly after Rock's revelation read that “healthy adults do not need to use an alternate source water supply.”

Remediation efforts began after the state issued a compliance order as a result of Rock's testing.

Administrators at the local elementary school said they were forced to temporarily shut down as a result of Rock’s discovery that water levels were unsafe.

Rock said community members protested, demanding answers for why they were left in the dark for over a decade.

“They're kids. They're not informed, and they're being exposed to that. If it was your kid, you'd probably be angry too, right?” Rock said.

Protecting the next generation

Multiple studies have found that environmental radiation, which emits from uranium, can present an increased risk of respiratory illnesses with elevated risk of cancer and kidney diseases.

While it's not possible to definitively connect one person's illness to radiation exposure, many Navajo community members are deeply concerned about the risk.

Keyanna was a volunteer for the University of New Mexico’s Birth Cohort Study, which found that some pregnant mothers living in the area gave birth to newborns with elevated levels of uranium in their urine.

She says her two children struggle with their health, something she suspects is a result of early radiation exposure.

“As a mom, it is something that causes a lot of fear for me,” Keyanna told ABC News. “There's that constant worry of whether the impacts that you've had to deal with all your life are impacting your children now.”

That fear is also one of the main reasons that Davona Blackhorse, who studies cancer in Native American communities, moved off the reservation with her three children.

Blackhorse says leaving her homeland was difficult because it keeps her family further away from their cultural traditions.

“It has completely stripped a lot of us from that connection that people had to the land. We're already dealing with complex trauma,” Blackhorse said.

More extraction on the horizon?

Part of the Navajo Reservation has small plots of land on a grid that are a mix of tribal, government and private property, making up what is known as the checkerboard system.

Near one of those private properties, some residents have shifted their focus from abandoned uranium mines to the potential for future uranium extraction.

They have focused on a New Mexico property that is owned by a subsidiary of Toronto-based Laramide Resources, but surrounded by the Navajo Nation.

The company, which started exploratory drilling in February, is currently under review for state and federal permits they need to move forward with uranium production.

One requirement they face is the ability to prove that they can restore the quality of the groundwater they plan to utilize during the course of their extraction. Navajo leaders are concerned given that many in the scientific community say that water used for extraction has never been successfully restored to pre-mining conditions.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that the “primary restoration goal” for any company is to return groundwater to “pre…injection levels,” but they will accept the standard set by the Safe Drinking Water Act, which allows for up to 30 micrograms of uranium per liter of water.

Laramide’s proposed operations involve a technique called in situ recovery, which, unlike traditional underground or open-pit mining, drills into an underground water source and injects solvents to strip surrounding rock of radionuclides.

The NRC defines this technique as a "primary extraction method… currently used to obtain uranium from underground."

In an email, Laramide CEO Marc Henderson told ABC News that the technique they hope to use is "more akin to [a] water treatment plant than what most people would think of as 'mining.'”

They currently plan to tap into the Westwater Canyon Aquifer, which serves as a fresh water source for at least 15,000 people.

Residents fear any potential contamination would exacerbate an already existing water shortage — 30% of Navajo Nation homes already do not have access to clean running water.

"You run the risk of committing a portion of your groundwater to long-term contamination," says Chris Shuey of the Southwest Research and Information Center. “It’s too risky.”

“Laramide is a mining company,” Shuey said. “Its goal is to get uranium out of the ground, sell it to utilities to make profit.”

‘We’re ready to have a safe place to live’

To many in the Navajo Nation, the topic of uranium extraction brings up concerns about needing to relocate from their land.

James Benally, an elected Navajo community leader, says the deep mistrust in relocation comes from a long history of the U.S. government policies of forced assimilation.

“We will lose our cultural traditional teaching. We will lose our Navajo language. And we will lose our old history here,” Benally told ABC News regarding what he believes would happen if future relocations due to uranium issues are needed. “To me, we would let down our ancestors. That's what I think.”

Benally was instrumental in organizing remediation efforts of mines for his constituents, with 88 abandoned mines near his community under a collective consideration for Superfund designation from the EPA. This designation, if granted, would bring additional funding for cleanup efforts.

“We hear a lot of times in these communities that the process is just taking too long,” Jacob Phipps of the EPA told ABC News, explaining that they have to determine the location and extent of contamination. “Our process does take a long time.”

The EPA has been the primary authority responsible for cleaning up abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation since efforts began in 2008 and has since committed to cleaning up 240 mines of the over 500 that remain as part of a 10-year plan.

Keyanna’s aunt, Berth Nez, said her family has been relocated from their home near the Church Rock Mill spill site by the EPA three times since 2007.

"Relocation is losing part of yourself," Keyanna said. "I feel very tied to this land."

“We lost a lot of people that worked at the uranium mines,” Nez told ABC News. “They had problems, respiratory problems, cancer and all kinds of stuff. We're ready to have a safe place to live.”

With the potential of more uranium extraction so close to the Navajo Nation, Keyanna and Nez say they want to make sure their community is protected.

“We want our future kids and grandkids all to be safe. That's what we want,” Nez said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

UNLV senior recounts barricading in classroom, saying goodbye to his dad during mass shooting

avid_creative/Getty Images

(LAS VEGAS) -- University of Nevada, Las Vegas senior Mike Henderson had just left his classroom in Beam Hall and was in a hallway when he heard about eight gunshots on Wednesday.

"An alert came to my phone from UNLV [saying], 'Shots fired -- run, hide, fight,'" Henderson said, and that's when he knew "it was real."

"I immediately went into a neighboring classroom on the second floor and we began the shelter in place. Lights went off, everybody got quiet. Everyone was nervous," he said.

The students and professor barricaded the door with desks and tried to stay quiet, he said.

"We wanted to make sure if the shooter was coming down the hall, he didn't think anybody was in the class," he said.

Henderson said he called his dad. He said other students, panicked and crying, also called their parents.

"If you're not gonna make it out of a situation, you want to talk to your loved ones," he said.

"I said, 'Dad, I have to go, if this is the last time we talk, I love you,'" Henderson recalled. "I lost my mom a few years ago, so my dad is like my lifeline. Just saying goodbye to him was tough."

Three faculty members were killed and one faculty member was injured in the Wednesday mass shooting at UNLV. Two of the victims' have been identified as 64-year-old Cha Jan Chang, a professor, and 39-year-old Patricia Navarro Velez, an assistant professor, the Clark County coroner said.

The victims were killed on different floors of the business school building, law enforcement in Las Vegas told ABC News. The suspect's movements through the building would suggest he may have been targeting his victims as he carried out his rampage, law enforcement said.

The first officer was on scene 1 minute and 18 seconds after receiving the call, according to UNLV police.

After the shootings, it appears the suspect encountered two UNLV police detectives outside the business building, near the student union. The suspect died at the scene following a gunfight with police.

Henderson said, after about 25 minutes barricaded in the classroom, police arrived at their door and escorted them out of the building.

As they were led out, Henderson said he heard more shots coming from the student union next door. Once outside, Henderson said he saw a bloody body, face-down on the ground.

First-year UNLV student Brayden McDermott, who was also on the second floor of Beam Hall, said he first heard an alarm go off.

"We were confused what was going on because a lot of us were first-years, we didn't know that this is what it sounded like, this is what this was," said McDermott. "Then all of us just heard somebody scream ... there's a gun."

"And everybody starts running in the opposite direction," said McDermott. "I nearly got trampled, like some girl fell over herself going down the stairs. And I, we don't know everything that happens. It's awful."

McDermott clarified he did not hear any gunshots but sprinted out of the building once he heard someone say there was a gun.

"I'm panicking. My lungs are burning," said McDermott. "I was terrified."

McDermott said he and hundreds of other students waited for nearly eight hours at the Thomas and Mack Center during the aftermath of the shooting, until the dorms opened up again.

He also said he wasn't surprised by the shooting given the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.

"I don't mean this to sound callous or harsh but like, this has happened so much. People don't care anymore and that is a shame," said McDermott.

"No one is untouchable," said McDermott. "And if anywhere was untouchable, we'd all be living there."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Court grants Texas woman's request for emergency abortion in historic ruling

Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

(AUSTIN) -- A judge granted a Texas woman's request for an abortion for a pregnancy with a severe anomaly on Thursday.

The woman, Kate Cox, had filed a lawsuit against the state over its restrictive abortion bans, asking a judge to grant her a temporary restraining order that would allow her to get an abortion.

"The idea that Miss Cox wants desperately to be a parent, and this law might actually cause her to lose that ability is shocking, and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice," Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, a Democrat elected to the bench, said Thursday.

Cox could be seen wiping away tears as Gamble issued her decision. Guerra Gamble's order has been processed. A temporary restraining order prohibiting the implementation of any of Texas' abortion bans, including SB8 which allows private citizens to sue anyone who aids in providing an abortion, will remain in effect until Dec. 20.

The ruling came in the first publicized case of a woman suing for an emergency abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Cox is currently carrying a pregnancy with virtually no chance the baby -- who has trisomy 18 -- will survive to birth or long afterward. She's said she has been denied the safest form of abortion care for her -- a dilation and evacuation procedure. The CRR would not disclose when or where Cox plans to obtain her abortion care due to safety concerns.

In an interview the night before the ruling, Cox told ABC News' Rachel Scott that she was shocked to hear from her doctor that she could not get the care she wanted in Texas.

"We're grieving the loss of a child. There's no outcome here that results in us taking home a healthy baby girl. So it's hard. It's overwhelming," Cox said.

"I asked my doctor, you know, best case, how much time she thinks we would have with her. And she said, 'Could be an hour. Could be a week,' but that we needed to prepare ourselves to be placing this baby onto hospice. There's no treatment. So that was very, very hard," Cox said.

Cox said she "desperately" wants a chance to have another baby and grow her family.

"I'm a Texan. I love Texas. I'm raising my children here. I was raised here. I've built my academic career, my professional career here. You know, I plan to stay. And so I want to be able to get access to the medical care that I need, and my daughter to have it as well," Cox said.

Johnathan Stone, with the Texas Attorney General's Office, argued in court that Cox hadn't proved she would suffer "immediate and irreparable injury" and suggested that a subsequent hearing be allowed with more evidence.

He said under state law doctors can use "reasonable medical judgement" in providing an emergency abortion to protect a woman's life at risk, but that it didn't appear Cox met that definition.

Molly Duane, Cox's attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that standard is impossible to meet without harming a woman.

"The state attempts to second guess Miss Cox's positions and say that she is still not sick enough," Duane said. "They have moved the goalposts once again. Now a patient must be about to die before a doctor can rely on the exception. This position is not only cruel and dangerous, but it flies in the face of the Texas Constitution, medical ethics and the laws themselves."

In a conference call after the ruling, Duane said they were "relieved" that the judge ruled in Cox's favor.

"Every day of this ordeal has been agonizing for her and today she finally got recognition that she has a right to the health care she needs," Duane said.

Cox did not consider traveling to another state because she was in the middle of a health crisis and was worried about her condition, according to Duane. When she got a diagnosis for her baby, the CRR had just been in court defending its lawsuit over the Texas bans, so she reached out to them, according to Duane.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded to Cox's win in court by warning that the doctors who perform her abortion could still get sued by private citizens.

Under Texas' bans, it is a second-degree felony to perform or attempt an abortion, punishable by up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The law also allows private citizens to sue anyone who "aids or abets" an abortion.

Paxton also threatened to come after the hospitals' licenses.

In a letter to the hospitals, he said the restraining order "won't insulate you or anyone else."

The hearing was held in Travis County's 459th District Court in Austin, and lasted about a half hour before the ruling was delivered.

Cox's lawsuit stands separate from a suit filed by 20 women who say their lives were put in danger due to Texas' abortion bans.

That suit is before the Texas state Supreme Court for a ruling on whether the challenge can continue and if a temporary hold on implementation of the bans in cases of fatal fetal anomalies and medical emergencies can go into effect.

The CRR declined to comment on whether Cox has plans to further pursue a case legally or if she is considering joining the other lawsuit as a plaintiff.

Texas has multiple overlapping abortion bans in effect with severe punishments for violations of the bans.

Texas' bans include exceptions that allow abortions in cases of medical emergencies and fatal fetal diagnoses, but doctors and patients claim, in another lawsuit filed in March, that they are unable to provide care or have been denied care, respectively, under the laws.

ABC News' Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.