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Special counsel plans to use infamous laptop as evidence in Hunter Biden's firearm trial

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Prosecutors plan to use Hunter Biden's infamous laptop as evidence in an upcoming trial to help them prove that the president's son unlawfully obtained a firearm in 2018.

Special counsel David Weiss wrote Wednesday that "the defendant's laptop is real (it will be introduced as a trial exhibit) and it contains significant evidence of the defendant's guilt."

Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty in October to federal gun charges after prosecutors say he obtained a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver and lied on a federal form about his drug use at the time. Biden owned the firearm for eleven days and never fired it, his attorneys said.

The laptop has become a symbol of the legal and political controversy surrounding the president's son in recent years. Weiss' office plans to use the laptop to demonstrate that Biden was on drugs around the time of his gun purchase in October 2018.

The younger Biden chronicled his extensive drug use in his memoir, "Beautiful Things," and has acknowledged the problematic behavior that came with it.

His gun-possession trial is scheduled to begin on June 3. Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to three felony counts.

Attorneys for Hunter Biden had previously attempted to preclude the laptop as evidence, arguing that they have "numerous reasons to believe the data had been altered and compromised before investigators obtained the electronic material."

But in his response on Wednesday, Weiss claimed that Biden "has not provided any evidence or information that shows that his laptop contains false information, and the government's evidence shows the opposite."

"Any argument that suggests his laptop is not authentic would be inappropriate because there is no foundation for such questioning, and it risks creating juror confusion about the evidence actually at issue in this case," Weiss wrote.

The development came on the same day a federal judge postponed Hunter Biden's Los Angeles trial on tax charges until Sept. 5 -- raising the likelihood that a jury could be deliberating whether to convict the president's son on several felony counts in the waning weeks of the 2024 election.

Judge Mark Scarsi on Wednesday granted a motion from Hunter Biden's legal team to move the trial from June 20 to September, giving them the chance to adequately prepare.

Attorneys for Hunter Biden had said a June 3 trial would hamper their ability to adequately represent their client.

"There was an assumption that he could do both, but it's becoming complicated," Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Hunter Biden, said at a hearing on Wednesday.

Prosecutors in Weiss' office had opposed the delay.

They argued in court papers and again at a hearing on Wednesday that a delay would inconvenience their office and several witnesses who they had already subpoenaed to testify at trial in June and July.

Weiss' office charged Hunter Biden in December in California with nine felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from his failure to pay $1.4 million in taxes for three years during a time when he was in the throes of addiction. Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The back taxes and penalties were previously paid in full by a third party, identified by ABC News as Hunter Biden's attorney and confidant, Kevin Morris.

The new trial schedule raises the likelihood that Hunter Biden will be on trial as many voters begin casting their ballots. The parties predict that the trial could last up to six weeks, meaning jurors could be deliberating a verdict in mid-October.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'Garbage argument': Classified docs hearing gets heated over charges against Trump co-defendant Walt Nauta

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

(MIAMI) -- A hearing in former President Donald Trump's federal classified documents case got heated at times on Wednesday as prosecutors with special counsel Jack's Smith's office became frustrated with what they called "nonsense" arguments presented by Trump's co-defendant Walt Nauta in his effort to have the indictment against Nauta dismissed.

"That was difficult to sit through for lots of reasons," prosecutor David Harbach said of arguments made by Nauta's attorney Stanley Woodward. "It's a garbage argument to begin with."

Nauta, Trump's longtime aide, and Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate pleaded not guilty last August to obstruction charges related to alleged attempts to delete Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage, after Trump pleaded not guilty in June to 37 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials after leaving the White House.

Prosecutors have accused Nauta of lying to the FBI in May of 2022 when he told agents that that he was unaware of boxes being brought to Trump's residence and said he didn't know where they had been stored before they were taken there.

Nauta's attorneys are seeking to have the charges against him dismissed on the basis that he is being "selectively" and "vindictively" prosecuted by investigators. At Wednesday's hearing, Woodward said Nauta was being "selectively prosecuted," as there were numerous others who also moved boxes at Mar-a-Lago but are not being prosecuted.

Harbach disputed that contention, saying there is "not a person who did everything Nauta did" -- including allegations of perjury and efforts to destroy evidence.

"The only people who are comparable to him are his co-defendants," Harbach said.

Woodward also claims that during an August 2022 meeting that he had with prosecutors, Woodward was pressured improperly by a member of Smith's team over a pending judicial appointment.

By Woodward's account, prosecutor Jay Bratt asked him about his pending appointment on the D.C. Superior Court and implied that Woodward's affiliation with Trump might negatively affect his confirmation.

The special counsel wholeheartedly disputes these claims, and pointed out in court that Woodward's account of what happened during the meeting has been inconsistent.

"Mr. Woodward's story about what happened at that meeting is a fantasy; it did not happen," Harbach exclaimed.

When U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon repeated certain quotes that Woodward claimed the prosecutors allegedly made during that August 2022 meeting, and pressed the prosecution on why those comments had to be made and whether those comments were professional, Harbach, after consulting his colleagues, did not dispute the comments but claimed they were "fragmented" and "out of context."

At one point, Judge Cannon asked for Harbach to "just calm down" when he became emotional while answering her questions about whether there had been any effort to preserve evidence related to the meeting in question.

"That is not true!" Harbach said after Cannon suggested the government hadn't made an any efforts to preserve evidence. "That is not what I said ... the government has not done anything to destroy or obstruct evidence."

Cannon, meanwhile, did not appear highly satisfied with Woodward's argument, asking him multiple times if he could point to any evidence that suggests the alleged comments made to him in that meeting relate in any way to his client being unfairly prosecuted.

Cannon said she was not clear on the "connection between the allegations on comments made to you and how that affected Mr. Nauta not cooperating."

The core of Woodward's claim at the hearing was that his client is being "vindictively prosecuted" because of his refusal to testify before the grand jury and turn against Trump.

"Presumably, if Nauta had decided to cooperate, we'd all be friends here," Woodward said.

There were also some disputes as to when Nauta was made aware of the possibility that he is a target of the investigation and not just a witness.

Woodward claimed the Nauta was unaware of possible obstruction charges until he received his target letter, while the prosecution claimed that a November 2022 search warrant on Nauta's device was an indication of possible obstruction charges.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What causes turbulence, and how can it pose a danger to air travel? An expert explains

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(NEW YORK) -- One person died and at least 85 people were admitted to hospitals after a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore experienced severe turbulence Tuesday.

Deaths from turbulence are extremely rare. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 163 passengers and crew on U.S. flights have been seriously injured by turbulence between 2009 and 2022, out of what the FAA says is more than 2.9 million people who fly in the U.S. every day.

Most anyone who has ever flown in an aircraft has experienced turbulence, when the ride becomes bumpy due to turbulent air – a common occurrence in air travel. Yet what exactly causes turbulence, especially the kind as severe as what Singapore Airlines flight SQ 321 experienced? And why was there apparently little to no warning?

ABC News contributor Col. Stephen Ganyard, who is a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot, says the kind of turbulence that the Singapore Airlines flight encountered was most likely what's known as clear-air turbulence. He also says if you're planning to fly for Memorial Day weekend, fear of turbulence shouldn't deter you from your plans.

Ganyard spoke with "Start Here," about turbulence in general, and what likely happened to Singapore Airlines flight SQ 321.

START HERE: Col. Ganyard, this was an international flight right? What happened here?

GANYARD: So let's talk about the facts as we know them now. It was a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore. They had just come off the Indian Ocean, the Andaman Sea, and they were flying over Myanmar, over the Irrawaddy River valley, which is the north-south river within Myanmar. So, why is that important? Because it was hot. Tropical area. You have a river providing lots of moisture into the air. So hot, wet, rising air causes thunderstorms. We've seen the pictures of the area, both the radar returns and the overhead satellite returns. There was lots of major thunderstorm buildup in the area.

At some point, they hit turbulence. The turbulent incident resulted in a 100-foot drop and, just right after that, a 300-foot climb. So very rapid, negative G – negative G being less than gravity, meaning that's what you feel on a roller coaster, when you go over the top you feel that negative G. But it wasn't just zero G, it was one or two negative Gs, which would have forced people, slammed them onto the ceiling. And then as the airplane rapidly climbed up at those 300 feet, would have slammed them back down into the seats that they were supposedly supposed to be buckled into, or onto the cabin floor.

So it's that very rapid, unload negative G, throwing people up in the air, and then the positive G that came very quickly after that threw them back down to the ground. So there's two places where they get hurt: hitting the ceiling and coming back down to the ground.

START HERE: To look at the aftermath of this, I mean, there were images of, you had meals scattered all over the floor, debris everywhere. One passenger died of a suspected heart attack. Dozens more were injured. Some people are in critical condition. So how did this happen? One official described this is like a plane hitting an air pocket. I mean, what does that mean? How does turbulence work, I guess is what I'm asking you.

GANYARD: Yeah, don't ever say air pocket around me. I've trained you better.

START HERE: That's not a thing. Air pocket?

GANYARD: There's no such thing as an air pocket. Air is air, and air doesn't create pockets. But what people are talking about is that feeling of a drop. So we've had some of the passengers on board said, oh, we dropped thousands of feet. Well, this airplane did in fact descend – after this incident when people got hurt – several thousand feet. But it was a controlled descent.

But when you come back to turbulence, what is turbulence? The two primary kinds of turbulence are clear-air turbulence and convective turbulence, the turbulence that occurs in, say, thunderstorms or in big clouds, big lines of clouds. Clear-air turbulence is the kind of turbulence you get when, say, two jet streams come together. We know that the jet streams – you know, the pilots always talk about it, the meteorologists say the jet stream is pushing this weather across the country. So these are just big rivers of air between about 30,000 and 40,000 feet, that can be moving anywhere from 100 to 200 miles an hour.

When they run into each other, it's like two streams running together. So you see two rapids coming together. It creates additional turbulence. That can't be seen by radar on an airplane. So that is where the meteorologists before the flight come into play, where the meteorologists say, ooh, we see these two jet streams coming together, we see this area where there's potential for clear turbulence, and they'll brief the pilots before they even take off. So when the pilots get to a point in the journey where they say, we were told that there might be turbulence out here, they may preemptively flip on the fasten seatbelt.

So when we think about, well, what happened to the seatbelt sign? Apparently – and this is just a couple of reports from people on board the airplane – apparently that seatbelt sign went on only seconds before they hit the turbulence. Now, whether that was because the pilots didn't see anything on their radar or were just doing it as a precaution, or this was more clear air turbulence, which can't be detected by an airplane – that'll be a question for the investigators. But almost a certainty that anybody who was injured in this airplane was due to not having a seatbelt on at the time they hit that turbulence.

START HERE: I guess I'm trying to figure out how scared should we be going into, like, Memorial Day travel weekend? Because again, I mean, it sounds like so much force exerted on an aircraft so potentially quickly.

GANYARD: If you think about this, here's this airplane that went through this terrible turbulence, terrible injuries. But the airplane's fine. Airplanes that are carbon fiber, like the 787 or the A350: extraordinarily strong, the kind of material they're made out of is five times stronger than steel. So take comfort in the fact that this airplane went through this terrible, terrible set of turbulence and came out just fine because the airplane is designed to take it. If you have your seatbelt on, you're going to be fine. And Singapore Airlines is no fly-by-night airline. It is one of the best airlines in the world. They have great, airplanes, great, well-trained crews. And so if it can happen to Singapore, can happen to any airline in the world.

START HERE: All right. I guess I've got more confidence in seat belts, maybe even planes. But I'm going to need you there, sitting next to me, grabbing my hand if we go through turbulence like this. Colonel Stephen Ganyard, thank you so much.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Vials of blood found at RNC's DC headquarters: Police

Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Capitol Police said they temporarily locked down the Republican National Committee's Washington, D.C., headquarters on Wednesday morning after a suspicious package containing two vials of blood was found.

Officers arrived on the scene around 7:45 a.m. after the package was found, according to police.

"The package was cleared by our Hazardous Incident Response Division," Capitol Police said in a statement later in the morning.

Police lifted the lockdown shortly after the package was removed. An investigation into the incident and the package's source is ongoing, according to police.

The RNC thanked officers for their swift work.

"The lockdown has been cleared and staff has resumed their office duties because we remain unintimidated and undeterred in our efforts to elect President Trump to the White House," RNC chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the incident was "concerning" during her daily briefing and condemned political threats.

"That has no place in our politics," she said.

ABC News' Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Uvalde families reach settlement with city ahead of 2-year mark: Can 'begin rebuilding trust'

Family of Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10, who died in the mass shooting, mourns during a candlelight vigil in Uvalde, Texas on May 30, 2022. Via CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

(UVALDE, Texas) -- Nineteen families whose loved ones were killed or hurt in the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting announced they've reached a settlement with the city and county of Uvalde.

"For two long years, we have languished in pain and without any accountability from the law enforcement agencies and officers who allowed our families to be destroyed that day," Veronica Luevanos, whose daughter, Jailah, and nephew, Jayce, were killed, said in a statement Wednesday. "This settlement reflects a first good faith effort, particularly by the City of Uvalde, to begin rebuilding trust in the systems that failed to protect us."

The settlement comes as families approach the two-year mark of the May 24, 2022, massacre at Robb Elementary School, during which an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.

When the gunfire broke out that day, officers from Uvalde police, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Texas Department of Public Safety were among those who rushed to Robb Elementary. But law enforcement waited some 77 minutes before breaching a classroom and killing the gunman.

"For 77 minutes, 26 members of the Uvalde Police Department failed to confront an 18 year-old kid armed with an AR-15, and no disciplinary action has ever been taken -- no firings, no demotions, notransparency -- and the families remain eager for that to change," Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said in a statement. "But the healing process must begin, and the commitments made today by the City, in particular, are a step in that critical process."

As a part of the settlement with the city and county, the families said they were involved in the efforts to improve the Uvalde Police Department, with changes including enhanced officer training and a new "fitness for duty" standard for officers.

The families said the settlement also mandates ways the city should support the community as residents heal, including: establishing May 24 as an annual Day of Remembrance; creating a committee to design a permanent memorial funded by the city; and continuing to support mental health services.

"Justice and accountability has always been a main concern -- we've been let down so many times," Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter, Jackie, was killed, said at a news conference Wednesday. "The time has come to do the right thing."

The city will pay out a total of $2 million to the families from its insurance coverage, saying pursuing more money could have plunged the city into bankruptcy, "something that none of the families were interested in as they look for the community to heal."

The victims' families "love living here and they want to stay here," Koskoff said. "When you see them on the street ... you don't have to look away, even if you wear a badge."

The families on Wednesday also announced lawsuits against 92 Texas Department of Public Safety officers. The suit said the officers were trained to first prioritize stopping the killing, then stopping the dying, then evacuating those hurt.

"Nearly 100 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety have yet to face a shred of accountability for cowering in fear while my daughter and nephew bled to death in their classroom," Luevanos said.

The lawsuit names the Uvalde School District and several of its employees as defendants, including the then-principal and then-school district police chief.

The families said the school's lockdown protocols -- to turn off the lights, lock the door and stay quiet -- trapped teachers and children inside, "leaving them fully reliant on law enforcement to respond."

The families also plan to sue the federal government, Koskoff said, noting that over 150 federal officers were at the school and "stood around until one or more breached the room at 77 minutes."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


20 tornadoes in 3 states wreak havoc, kill multiple people in Iowa

Continued severe weather threat on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Via ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- For the fourth straight day, residents of the Midwest and the Great Plains were bracing for dangerous tornado weather, a day after at least 20 twisters tore through three states, killing multiple people in Iowa, officials said.

As severe weather is forecast to move into the south and east and stretch from New York state to Texas on Wednesday, the town of Greenfield, Iowa, was left ripped to shreds with about half the town destroyed, officials said.

A "devastating" tornado hit Greenfield, southwest of Des Moines, causing fatalities and injuries in the area, Sgt. Alex Dinkla of the Iowa State Patrol said at a news conference Tuesday night.

"It's just gut-wrenching. It's horrific. It's hard to describe until you can actually see it, the devastation," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a news conference in Greenfield Wednesday morning.

Reynolds said search-and-rescue crews are continuing to look for victims.

The number of people killed and injured and the amount of damage were still being tallied Wednesday morning.

"This is a search-and-rescue mission and it will continue to be throughout the day," said Reynolds, adding that officials don't want to give out any misinformation.

She said, however, that much of the town of Greenfield was flattened.

Asked if dozens of homes were damaged in Greenfield and throughout the state, Reynolds said, "That would be way underestimating."

The Adair County Memorial Hospital, which serves Greenfield, sustained tornado damage, Dinkla said, but still managed to treat patients and transport some to nearby hospitals for further care.

State Rep. Ray Sorensen, who represents Greenfield, said he was painting at a church when the tornado struck around 3 p.m. Tuesday and rushed into town to find numerous homes damaged or completely demolished and nearly all the historic trees in Greenfield uprooted and stripped of limbs.

"It's a completely different town now," Sorensen said.

But he said that when he arrived at the scene of the devastation, people were already clearing the streets of debris to make way for emergency vehicles and helping those injured get medical attention at a makeshift triage center established at a lumber yard.

"Everybody became little makeshift ambulances," Sorensen said. "We pulled a guy from the rubble and put him on a little makeshift stretcher that we made, threw him in the back of a truck of a guy that isn’t even from Iowa and we just made our way to the lumber yard, which was the makeshift hospital."

At least 329 severe storms were reported Tuesday through the nation's midsection from Texas to Michigan, even up in New England. At least 20 tornadoes were confirmed in three states, including Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Most of the twisters swept across Iowa.

More severe weather is on the way. The highest threat for tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail will be in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, including major cities such as Dallas, Waco, Abilene, Little Rock and Shreveport.

Some damaging winds could also develop in Memphis and Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Rochester, New York.

Severe weather is also expected to stretch into Thursday as the Memorial Day weekend gets underway. Dangerous weather is expected on Thursday through large parts of the Heartland and parts of the South from South Dakota to Texas and east to Tennessee.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued tornado watches for parts of Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Nearly the entire state of Iowa was under a "Particularly Dangerous Situation," according to the National Weather Service, which issued several tornado warnings before the town of Greenfield was slammed by a funnel cloud.

Gov. Reynolds authorized a proclamation of disaster emergency for 15 counties across the state. On Wednesday, she said the state will ask President Joe Biden to approve federal disaster relief.

The counties include Adair, Adams, Cass, Clay, Hardin, Harrison, Jasper, Kossuth, Marshall, Montgomery, Page, Palo Alto, Pottawattamie, Tama and Warren.

Gov. Reynolds authorized a proclamation of disaster emergency for 15 counties across the state. On Wednesday, she said the state will ask President Joe Biden to approve federal disaster relief.

Several videos obtained by ABC affiliate station WOI-DT in Des Moines captured a large funnel cloud on the ground in Greenfield.

On Tuesday, WOI reporter Dana Searles, surveying the damage in Des Moines, said, "This small community has a big chunk destroyed, but about half of it is still intact. From what I've seen, I'd estimate that maybe 75% of it is near to the ground right now."

In Yuma, in northeast Colorado, hail ranging from golf ball to softball size pummeled the area, causing damage to cars and buildings. At one point, the hail was so deep it caused multiple vehicles to get stuck, JJ Unger, a volunteer Yuma firefighter, told ABC News Tuesday.

"It was like a blizzard hitting for a half hour because of the hail," Unger said. "That's the longest I've seen it hail like that."

Unger said he and his fire crew were out spotting for possible tornadoes Monday evening when lightning struck.

"It was very intense," said Unger, adding that he and his crew had to pull over and seek shelter as visibility went to almost zero.

Unger said that when the hail finally let up, a foot of hail was covering his fire engine and roads in the area.

He said the windshields of his pickup truck and his wife's vehicle were shattered.

"Almost every home in town has broken windows and I've heard that over a thousand cars were damaged," Unger said.

In Nebraska, hail measuring two inches in diameter fell in Dundy County in the southwest corner of the state, according to local emergency management officials. Winds of over 90 mph were also reported.

More than half a foot of rain was recorded in Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday, producing major flash flooding in the area.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Houston community, teachers not happy after first year of state supervision of schools

ABC News

(HOUSTON) -- Many states are adopting a drastic approach to address what they judge to be under-performing schools. They're assuming control of how the schools are run, including appointing new administrators.

Texas did that this school year with the Houston Independent School District's (HISD), when the Texas Education Agency, which oversees public education in the Lone Star State, disbanded the elected school board and appointed a new superintendent, Mike Miles. He's been tasked with improving standardized test scores, particularly in math and reading, and especially in the wake of the pandemic, when remote learning saw those scores decline. The state also instituted new systems for evaluating the performance of educators and campus leaders.

Now that HISD is near the end of its first full year under state control, many teachers and community members say despite good intentions, it's not working.

"It's never been like this. It's never felt so much like you're being strangled," HISD teacher Maria Benzon said. "I want everybody to love learning for the sake of learning. And it has become sadly a space of we are learning so we can pass the standardized tests."

In recent years, 25 states, including Texas, have taken over school districts due to poor academic performance or fiscal mismanagement. Miles made one of the most significant changes by choosing 28 Texas schools and placing them under what he calls the New Education System, or NES model.

Among the changes Miles made was deciding that those schools no longer needed librarians. Cheryl Hensley is a librarian whose position was eliminated as part of those changes.

"My mission in life, I'm a librarian," Hensley told ABC News. "I'm making sure that these kids love it too. I want to make sure that they go find something they want to read and find something that they love to read."

She called the reality that kids no longer have a librarian "extremely heartbreaking."

Miles also had officials and administrators monitor teachers' lessons to ensure they are following the district's course materials. What those monitors observe plays a key role in ensuring educators' job security.

Some HISD teachers and principals have told ABC News that they have already started to receive termination notices before the end of the school year.

Benzon said that when she pulled two students to the back of the class to help them individually, she was told she shouldn't be giving any students one-on-one instruction.

HISD addressed that incident in a statement to ABC News “As part of NES training, teachers are asked to ensure all kids are sitting in the front rows to maximize their engagement with their instructors and the content," the statement said. "Students who need more instruction time on a given lesson get extra classroom time with their teacher in a smaller group and have access to teacher apprentices and learning coaches as necessary to support their learning.”

The HISD had the highest teacher turnover rate, with 600 leaving the this year, according to ABC station KTRK. That's twice as many as the roughly 300 HISD teachers who left during the same timeframe last year.

HISD acknowledges that two-thirds of teachers who left this year were from NES schools, but according to KTRK, the model raises expectations and is not for everyone. Also, HISD said 55 of their school elected to opt in to NES, while others have adopted selected NES policies.

Among the latter is A-rated Barbara Bush Elementary, which has introduced a timed curriculum option used at NES schools. Teachers set a timer that allows students about four minutes to complete each session before moving on to the next one.

Henley Jackson, a fifth-grader with ADHD, finds the timed curriculum overwhelming.

"Once there's a little bit of time left, I start panicking because I feel like I'm not going to finish in time," Jackson said, adding that her grades are dropping.

Henley's mother said she and other parents have voiced their concerns to the district, but they feel as if those concerns "are falling on deaf ears."

Kristen Hall, the HISD chief academic officer, told ABC News that the primary focus of NES is enhancing classroom instruction, and also noted that HISD has raised salaries for NES teachers. Hall said their goal is simple: to improve student achievement in failing or near-failing schools.

Hall also said that while morale may be low for some teachers and parents, she doesn't think that's the case when she walks into classrooms, adding, "We're out in the classrooms all of the time."

"My message, if someone is experiencing something, is what we're trying to say and what we continue to say as the thing we are here to do is stay committed to ensuring your student is receiving the best instruction and the best education that we can provide them," Hall said.

Yet it's not certain that such school takeovers accomplish what they set out to do, Josh Bleiberg, a researcher and assistant professor of education at the University of Pittsburgh, told ABC News. In 2021, Bleiberg and Beth Schueler, from the University of Virginia, conducted a national study of schools that were taken over by states.

"Overall, we find no evidence that state takeover improves academic achievement," the study determined, in part.

"What we find is that test scores in math and English language arts were about the same before the takeover and after the takeover," Bleiberg told ABC News.

While not all parents oppose the changes that came with NES, frustrated parents and teachers have been very vocal about their concerns.

"There are barriers to just up and leave and not to mention people's socioeconomic levels in life and where they live alone, family obligations, and just life in general," Marcus Edwards, a concerned parent, told ABC News.

Protests against the state takeover began this year, which led the Houston Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers' union in Houston, to recently ratify a resolution calling for Superintendent Miles's removal following a 98 percent vote of no confidence.

Officials state that their goal is to eventually return HISD to local control. However, the state plans to add as many as 40 more new schools to NES by next school year and expand it to just over half of HISD schools by 2025.

Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, wants to restore a democratically elected board.

"There's a very diverse culture here," Anderson said. "You cannot use a blanket, a cookie-cutter model for every child in this district."

Yet state takeovers of school districts are happening more frequently, indicating that many other schools may be on the verge of significant changes, according to Bleiberg. He also suggests state officials would do well to listen to concerns.

"The pushback from community members, from teachers, from parents, those are valued stakeholders in any successful school turnaround effort," Bleiberg said. "And if there isn't that trust, it's less likely will be a positive effect."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Iowa State Police confirm fatalities, injuries as tornadoes rip through counties

This weather map shows a sever weather threat for May 21, 2024. (ABC News)

(NEW YORK) -- Millions of people in states from the Great Plains to the Midwest were under the threat of tornadoes Tuesday, including Iowa, where several twisters touched down near Des Moines, causing major damage.

A "devastating" tornado hit the town of Greenfield, Iowa, located southwest of Des Moines, causing fatalities and injuries in the area, Sgt. Alex Dinkla of the Iowa State Patrol said at a news conference Tuesday night.

The Adair County Memorial Hospital team, which serves Greenfield, sustained tornado damage, Dinkla said, but still managed to treat patients and transport some to nearby hospitals for further care.

Search efforts were underway Tuesday night, with officials working to provide a clear and accurate count of those affected, the officer said.

"We believe we have everyone accounted for, but we are conducting extensive searches to be thorough," he said.

The National Weather Service had issued tornado watches for parts of Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas and Oklahoma through Tuesday night.

Nearly the entire state of Iowa was under a "Particularly Dangerous Situation," according to the National Weather Service, which issued several tornado warnings.

On Tuesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds authorized a proclamation of disaster emergency for 15 counties across the state.

The counties include Adair, Adams, Cass, Clay, Hardin, Harrison, Jasper, Kossuth, Marshall, Montgomery, Page, Palo Alto, Pottawattamie, Tama and Warren.

Several videos obtained by ABC affiliate station WOI-TV in Des Moines, captured a large funnel cloud on the ground in Greenfield.

On Tuesday, WOI reporter Dana Searles, surveying the damage in Des Moines, said, "This small community has a big chunk destroyed, but about half of it is still intact. From what I've seen, I'd estimate that maybe 75% of it is near to the ground right now."

Damaging winds of 70 to 90 mph were forecast for Des Moines, Chicago and Milwaukee from Tuesday afternoon and into the evening.

Severe weather is in full swing across the Great Plains and the Midwest, with more than 100 severe storms reported Monday from Colorado to Michigan.

At least three tornadoes were reported Monday in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Colorado, but there was no significant damage.

In Yuma, in northeast Colorado, hail ranging from golf ball to softball size pummeled the area, causing damage to cars and buildings. At one point, the hail was so deep it caused multiple vehicles to get stuck, JJ Unger, a volunteer Yuma firefighter, told ABC News Tuesday.

"It was like a blizzard hitting for a half hour because of the hail," Unger said. "That's the longest I've seen it hail like that."

Unger said he and his fire crew were out spotting for possible tornadoes Monday evening when lightning struck, and hail began to pour.

"It was very intense," said Unger, adding that he and his crew had to pull over and seek shelter as visibility went to almost zero.

Unger said that when the hail finally let up, a foot of hail was covering his fire engine and roads in the area.

He said the windshields of his pickup truck and his wife's vehicle were shattered.

"Almost every home in town has broken windows and I've heard that over a thousand cars were damaged," Unger said.

In Nebraska, hail measuring two inches in diameter fell in Dundy County in the southwest corner of the state, according to local emergency management officials. Winds of over 90 mph were also reported in Dundy County.

As severe weather is expected through Thursday across the Great Plains and Midwest, potential record heat is moving into Texas and the Northeast.

Temperatures could flirt with 90 degrees in Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., by the middle of this week.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump trial live updates: In arguments over jury instructions, judge rejects defense request related to 'intent'

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here's how the news is developing:

May 21, 4:58 PM
In final clash, lawyers spar over retainer instructions

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, at the end of the afternoon's pre-charge conference, argued that the jury's instructions should include that retainer agreements are legally required for lawyers to begin conducting work for a client.

Prosecutors have argued that Trump falsified records because he characterized Michael Cohen's hush money reimbursement as legal expenses pursuant to a retainer agreement. Defense lawyers have argued that Cohen was paid by the company for years and never had a retainer agreement with Trump -- or needed to.

"It is in fact the law," Steinglass said about the requirement to have a retainer.

"We don't think that's right, judge," defense attorney Emil Bove responded.

Merchan said he would review the rules before making a decision.

The judge subsequently ended the conference, telling the attorneys he would aim provide them with the final jury instruction by the end of the day Thursday so they can prepare over the weekend, ahead of the jury getting the case next week.

The proceedings will resume on Tuesday morning with summations.

May 21, 4:40 PM
Judge denies defense language related to 'advice of counsel'

Judge Merchan flatly told the defense that former President Trump could not make an advice-of-counsel argument.

The judge said the defense was being "disingenuous" by raising it now when Trump was given a deadline months ago to say whether he would invoke the defense that, in his conduct, he was relying on the advice of lawyers.

"It was concerning when notice was not given initially. It was concerning when the term was changed to 'presence of counsel.' I couldn't believe when I saw in your submission, 'involvement of counsel,'" Merchan told the defense regarding their efforts to advance that argument.

"My ruling is the jury will not hear that instruction from the bench, nor are you permitted to make that argument, period," Merchan said.

"I am not being disingenuous with Your Honor," defense attorney Emil Bove said before he attempted to argue in favor of the defense.

"You said that already, Mr. Bove," Merchan said. "This is an argument you have been advancing for many many months. ... It is denied. It is not going to happen."

Trump, at the defense table, scribbled a note and passed it to defense attorney Todd Blanche.

May 21, 4:25 PM
Judge will keep original instructions on Cohen's guilty plea

The defense returned to the question of Michael Cohen's 2018 guilty plea and AMI's non-prosecution agreement with the federal government.

Defense attorney Emil Bove called it a "critical issue" the jury could infer Trump's guilt based on his association with Cohen and AMI executive David Pecker.

Prosecutor Josh Steinglass called the curative language the defense suggested "outrageous," and Judge Merchan said he would stick to what he told the jury during the evidentiary phase of the trial: That the guilty plea of Cohen and the non-prosecution agreement of AMI could be used to judge witness credibility -- but could not be used as an inference of the defendant's guilt.
 

May 21, 4:18 PM
Defense seeks clarification on effect of 'Access Hollywood' tape

Defense lawyers asked Judge Merchan to include an instruction for jurors that clarifies how prominent Republicans and members of the public reacted to the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape.

Witnesses like Trump aides Hope Hicks and Madeleine Westerhout testified about the effect of the video, which led prominent Republicans like John McCain withdrawing their endorsement of Trump and the Republican National Committee considering finding a new candidate.

Prosecutors pushed back on the defense request, describing it as "confusing" and "unnecessary."

"The nature of the reaction by the Republican Party by other prominent Republican senators by other members of the public -- the fact that was the reaction -- had an impact on the listener being the defendant," prosecutor Josh Steinglass argued.

Prosecutors have argued that the immense public backlash to the Access Hollywood motivated Trump to kill the Stormy Daniels story in the days before the election.

Judge Merchan said he would review the relevant portions of the transcript before making a decision, but said he was inclined to agree with the state, suggesting the proposed instruction would be denied.
 

May 21, 4:09 PM
Attorneys hash out additional jury instructions

Following a break, Judge Merchan told the parties that he had worked through his own notes and asked the lawyers for each side to weigh in on what he might have missed.

The defense sought an instruction about former President Trump regarding bias.

"We don't think that this is necessary, this charge," prosecutor Josh Steinglass said in response. "I don't think instructing the jury that they shouldn't hold bias against the defendant is necessary -- voir dire has satisfied this problem, I think."

The defense also sought an instruction that hush money payments are not inherently illegal. Prosecutors opposed it, arguing the request amounts to the judge making the defense argument for them.

Defense attorney Emil Bove also asked for an instruction that "hush money is not illegal."

"What the defense is asking," Colangelo responded, "is for you to make their argument for them."

The judge agreed with Colangelo, saying that including that language would be "taking it too far."

"I don't think it's necessary," Merchan said.

May 21, 3:56 PM
Defense argues Cohen's tax crime isn't relevant

Defense attorney Emil Bove argued that the jury should not consider Michael Cohen's tax crimes as one of the crimes Trump advanced by allegedly falsifying business records when he repaid Cohen for the Stormy Daniels hush payment.

Bove argued that Cohen was unaware of the alleged tax crimes when then-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg "grossed up" his reimbursement to accommodate for taxes on the payment.

Cohen testified he did not think of the tax law at the time, telling jurors, "I just wanted to get my money back."

May 21, 3:51 PM
I won't 'change the law,' judge tells defense regarding jury charge

Defense attorney Emil Bove tried to make the argument that this particular case is unusual because Trump is not a typical defendant.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo responded that's precisely why the standard language should be used.

"No one is above the law," he said.

Judge Merchan settled the matter and ruled against the defense.

"I understand what you mean when you say it's an important case," he said. "But what you're asking me to do is to change the law, and I'm not going to do that."
 

May 21, 3:44 PM
Parties argue about Trump's presence at 2015 meeting

Discussing the August 2015 meeting in Trump Tower where prosecutors say Trump, Michael Cohen and then-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker agreed to the criminal conspiracy, defense attorney Emil Bove argued Trump's "mere presence" at a 2015 meeting at Trump Tower with David Pecker and Michael Cohen where the alleged conspiracy was hatched "could very much be part of the defense here."

Bove said "there's nothing criminal about that at all," despite prosecutors arguing it's where the catch-and-kill scheme originated.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo argued there is no way the jury could interpret the meeting as a "high minded conversation about democracy."

May 21, 3:28 PM
Merchan rules state doesn't have to prove 2 separate intents

The defense failed to convince Judge Merchan to add a layer of intent that prosecutors have to prove.

Merchan told the parties he was "concerned about" a proposed addition by defense attorneys related to Trump's intent to defraud.

The defense proposed including an instruction that the state "must establish beyond a reasonable doubt two separate intents" for Trump to commit crimes -- for both falsifying records and the other crime Trump furthered with the falsification.

"This proposed language is just inconsistent with the text of the statute," defense attorney Matthew Colangelo argued.

Merchan said he was inclined to use the standard instruction, excluding the proposed defense addition.

"That second level of intent ... is incorporated by reference to the first," Merchan said.

May 21, 3:15 PM
Judge reserves decision on 'accomplice liability'

The debate over jury instructions turned to the definition of "accomplice liability."

Prosecutors argued that jury should be told that Trump can be convicted because he caused false leger entries to be created by Trump Organization employees Jeff McConney and Deb Tarasoff.

Prosecutors said it's a necessary instruction because the defense argued in opening statements that Trump himself did not enter accounting records.

Merchan reserved his decision about "accessorial liability" but said he was inclined to strike the proposed language related to the issue from the final charge.

As the lawyers continue their debate, Trump is flipping through a three-inch stack of papers, some of which appear to be press clippings.

May 21, 3:05 PM
Judge rejects defense request related to 'intent'

Judge Merchan turned to what he called "the most challenging issue facing us all": how to pronounce "eleemosynary," which he said means "relating to charity." The quip got a laugh from both sides.

Merchan moved to delete the word from the jury instructions, and neither side objected.

The judge moved on to discussing the definition of "intent" as it relates to Trump's conduct.

Defense attorney Emil Bove requested that the jury instruction place "more emphasis" on the elements needed to prove Trump had an intent to defraud when he allegedly falsified documents.

"I am going to stick with the standard language," Merchan replied, shooting down the request.

May 21, 3:00 PM
Judge mulls how Cohen's guilty plea should be described

Judge Merchan heard arguments over how former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's 2018 guilty plea on charges related to the Stormy Daniels payment should be described to the jury -- whether Cohen "participated" in crimes or was "convicted" of crimes.

The judge said echoed a defense concern that Cohen's convictions could be used to infer that Trump, by proxy, should also be found guilty.

"It seems like to me right now we are really playing with fire and getting close to that," Merchan said.

In general, Merchan reminded the parties, "Where there are standard pattern jury instructions, I don't deviate"

May 21, 2:50 PM
Judge considers whether Daniels payment was campaign expense

The defense is arguing a candidate's expenses arising from controversies are not necessarily campaign expenses.

Merchan suggests the language should be as follows: "If the payment would have been made, even in the absence of the candidacy, the payment should not be treated as a contribution."

Prosecutors have argued the payment to Stormy Daniels should have been labeled a campaign expenditure because it was meant to protect Trump's electoral prospects in 2016

Merchan reserves his decision on the issue but suggests he would include both proposed sentences from the parties.

May 21, 2:43 PM
Judge says he wants jury instructions 'as easy as possible'

Defense attorney Emil Bove argued that Judge Merchan should tell the jury it must find Trump acted willfully in order to convict.

The district attorney's office argued the jury must find Trump acted unlawfully, not necessarily criminally.

Trump was alert and attentive at the start of this afternoon's session, whispering to his attorney Todd Blanche. Now his eyes are closed.

Judge Merchan, ticking through each of the proposed edits to the jury instructions, appears to be focused on making sure the instructions are clear and understandable for the jury.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the jury,” he said.

May 21, 2:37 PM
Judge declines to tell jury about lack of contribution limits

Judge Merchan declined to add a sentence to the jury charge that there was no limit on Trump's personal contributions to his political campaign in 2015 and 2016.

Defense attorney Emil Bove argued that the line would have told the jury that Trump “could have paid this out of his personal expenses without issue.”

But prosecutors argued that the line was “extraneous” because Trump made the Stormy Daniels payment reimbursement from the Trump Organization, not out of his personal funds.

“It has nothing to do with the case,” Colangelo said.

May 21, 2:30 PM
Defense argues prosecutors have failed to show criminality

Defense attorney Emil Bove began the conference by arguing for a jury instruction describing the alleged conspiracy as civil, not criminal.

According to Bove, prosecutors have failed to show that the alleged conspiracy had a criminal object.

“It’s only a crime if it has a criminal object,” Bove said. "To be a criminal conspiracy, there must be a criminal object.”

May 21, 2:24 PM
Parties are back in court for pre-charge conference

Judge Merchan is back on the bench, and the parties -- including Trump -- are seated at the counsel tables for the pre-charge conference that will help determine the jury instructions.

Trump, seated next to attorney Susan Necheles, has a pile of papers in front of him.

May 21, 2:17 PM
'This next couple hours is very important,' Trump says

Donald Trump, addressing the media ahead of this afternoon's pre-charge conference, told reporters, "This next couple of hours is very important."

Judge Juan Merchan is preparing to hear arguments from attorneys regarding the instructions the judge will provide jurors about the law and evidence in the case when the jury begins deliberating next week.

Trump declined to answer questions from the reporters about why he decided not to testify in the case, and whether he is nervous about a possible conviction.

May 21, 10:35 AM
Judge will hold pre-charge conference this afternoon

Judge Merchan asked the parties to return to the courtroom at 2:15 p.m. ET. for the previously scheduled pre-charge conference.

It will provide an opportunity for the parties to weigh in on the instructions Merchan will provide the jury about the law and evidence in the case.

Trump and his entourage then filed out of the courtroom.

May 21, 10:23 AM
Judge adjourns proceedings until next Tuesday

Following the defense resting its case, Judge Juan Merchan told the parties that "summations will not be quick" and that they "will take at least a day." Jury instructions will then take at least an hour, he said.

"At the end of the day, I think the best thing we can do is to adjourn now until next Tuesday. At that time you will hear summations from the attorneys," Merchan said.

Merchan says that deliberations could begin as early as next Wednesday.

Merchan told the jury he opted to delay the summations because of this week's abbreviated schedule and his belief that "it's always ideal or best not to break up summations."

Trump's eyes were closed, his head titled back, as Merchan instructed the jury to return on Tuesday.

The jury then left the courtroom.

May 21, 10:15 AM
Defense rests its case following Costello testimony

"You still have a lot of animosity against Michael Cohen," prosecutor Susan Cohen Hoffinger asked Michael Cohen's then-legal adviser Robert Costello after displaying emails from 2018.

"I don't have animosity but --," Costello replied before being cut off.

"Yes or no," Hoffinger said.

Hoffinger then asked Costello bluntly if he was trying to "intimidate" Cohen regarding his 2018 congressional testimony.

"Intimidate Michael Cohen?" Costello asked incredulously.

"Yes, that's my question," Hoffinger repeated firmly.

"Ridiculous, no," Costello responded.

Hoffinger then concluded her cross-examination, which was followed by a brief redirect.

"Your honor, the defense rests," the defense team told Judge Merchan.

Former President Trump did not end up taking the stand in his own defense.

May 21, 10:06 AM
Jurors see Costello emails critical of Cohen

Seeking to painting a picture of the machinations behind what Michael Cohen called a "pressure campaign" to keep him in the Trump fold as investigators closed in on him, prosecutor Susan Hoffinger displayed an email from Michael Cohen's then-legal adviser Robert Costello to Costello's law partner in which Costello wrote that Cohen "continues to slow play us and the president -- is he totally nuts???"

"I am in a golf tournament tomorrow early and again on Sunday. What should I say to this a------ ? He is playing with the most powerful man on the planet," Costello wrote.

"That email certainly speaks for itself, does it not, Mr. Costello?" Hoffiner asked.

"Yes it does," Costello said.

Costello insisted that he was not working to advance Trump's interests and denied the suggestion that he "lost control" of Cohen.

May 21, 9:55 AM
Costello email discussed getting 'Cohen on the right page'

Prosecutors displayed an email from Michael Cohen's then-legal adviser Robert Costello to Costello's law partner Jeffrey Citron from Aug. 8, 2018, in which Costello shared a link to a Fox News story about Rudy Giuliani joining Trump's legal team.

"All the more reason for Cohen to hire me because of my connection to Giuliani, which I mentioned to him in our meeting," he wrote.

In another email, Costello said, "Our issue is to get Cohen on the right page without giving him the appearance that we are following instructions from Giuliani or the President. In my opinion this is the clear correct strategy."

Questioned on the witness stand about that email, Costello told prosecutor Susan Hoffinger that he wanted "to get everybody on the same page because Michael Cohen had been complaining incessantly that Rudy Giuliani, was making statements in the press that Michael Cohen didn't approve of."

Costello told Hoffinger he has other emails clarifying that, "which I'd be delighted to tell you."

"That's all right," Hoffinger replied snarkily.

The gallery laughed, prompting a court officer to yell "Quiet!"

May 21, 9:43 AM
Costello's cross-examination already appearing tense

Only a few minutes into prosecutor Susan Hoffinger's cross-examination of Michael Cohen's former legal adviser Robert Costello, their exchanges are already sounding tense.

Hoffinger attempted to confirm that Costello boasted about his relationship with Rudy Giuliani, but Costello denied he did so during his first meeting with Cohen.

"You are quoting from an email that is much later," Costello said.

"I am not quoting from an email," Hoffinger replied.

Hoffinger then asked Costello about his relationship with Giuliani.

"He's been to your wedding?" Hoffinger asked.

"Yes he was," Costello said.

May 21, 9:35 AM
Costello retakes the stand

“Let’s get the witness please,” Judge Juan Merchan said after taking the bench.

Michael Cohen's one-time legal adviser Robert Costello entered the courtroom and took the witness stand to continue his cross-examination.

“Good Morning, Mr. Costello. Welcome back,” Judge Merchan said.

May 21, 9:28 AM
Trump, Don Jr. are in the courtroom

Former President Trump has arrived in the courtroom.

His son Don Jr., accompanying him to this trial for the first time, is seated in the front row of the gallery.

May 21, 9:21 AM
Trump, prosecutors arrive for proceedings

The prosecution team has entered the courtroom for today's proceedings.

Former President Trump has arrived at the courthouse.

May 21, 8:28 AM
Trump not expected to testify, sources say

Former President Trump is not expected to take the stand in his criminal hush money trial, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

It's possible that Trump could make a last-minute decision to testify, so sources caution that nothing is final until the defense rests its case.

Trump's lawyers have indicated publicly that Robert Costello, Michael Cohen's one-time legal adviser, is expected to be their last witness before they rest their case today.

May 21, 8:14 AM
Trump's son Don Jr. expected to attend trial

Former President Donald Trump is expected to be joined by his son Don Jr. in court today.

It would mark the first time Don Jr. has attended the trial.

As has been the case over the last several days in court, a number of Republican lawmakers are expected to attend today's proceedings in support of Trump.

May 21, 7:29 AM
Costello to resume testimony, defense expected to rest its case

A day after Judge Judge Juan Merchan threatened to remove him from the witness stand, former federal prosecutor Robert Costello will resume his testimony this morning as the second witness in Donald Trump's defense case.

Costello is expected to be the final defense witness before Trump's lawyers rest their case today.

Yesterday, Costello told jurors about his meetings and phone calls with Michael Cohen in 2018 after FBI agents raided his office and hotel room. Costello advised Cohen and helped pass messages to the Trump, according to Cohen, but never formally represented him as his lawyer.

"Michael Cohen said, numerous times, that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own, and he repeated that numerous times," Costello testified about the hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels that sits at the center of the case.

Cohen told the jury that he lied to Costello about Trump's involvement in the scheme to use hush-money payments to hide information from voters.

Costello's reactions to Judge Merchan after taking the stand yesterday afternoon -- responding "jeez" to a sustained objection, rolling his eyes at the judge, and appearing to staring him down -- prompted Merchan to clear the courtroom before threatening to remove Costello from the witness stand.

While defense lawyers suggested yesterday that they would not call Trump to the witness stand, they will likely have to confirm a final decision about the defendant's testimony -- or lack thereof -- before they rest their case.

Judge Merchan has scheduled a charge conference at 2:15 p.m. ET to hear arguments over how to instruct the jury about the law in the case.

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Kansas physicians challenge law requiring public release of patients' reasons for abortions

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(TOPEKA, Kan.) -- Kansas physicians are legally challenging a new state law that would require them to ask and publicly report patients' reasons for seeking abortion care as well as other personal information.

A lawsuit claims the law "directly interferes with Kansans' bodily autonomy and their fundamental right to make their own decisions about health care," according the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the physicians.

The new law is lawmakers' latest attempt to regulate the procedure after Kansas voters, defying expectations, voted to protect abortion rights by upholding a state constitutional right to abortion -- with an overwhelming majority -- in a 2022 ballot initiative.

Abortion care is allowed in Kansas up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The new legal challenge has been added to an ongoing lawsuit against the state attorney general and district attorneys over other abortion restrictions in the state, including state-mandated abortion counseling they claim is medically inaccurate; a law requiring physicians tell patients the "false and dangerous" claim that it is possible to reverse medication abortions; and a state-required 24-hour waiting period before patients can access care, according to the CRR.

Anti-abortion lawmakers in the state House and Senate bypassed a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, advancing House Bill 2749 into law without her signature.

"There is no valid medical reason to force a woman to disclose to the legislature if they have been a victim of abuse, rape, or incest prior to obtaining an abortion. There is no valid medical reason to force a woman to disclose to the legislature why she is seeking an abortion," Kelly said in a letter to the legislature.

"I refuse to sign legislation that goes against the will of the majority of Kansans who spoke loudly on Aug. 2, 2022: Kansans don't want politicians involved in their private medical decisions," Kelly wrote.

Kansas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that requested the legislation be introduced, and the state attorney general did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

What's in the new law?

The law requires physicians to collect personal information about patients receiving abortion care and provide them to the state in a public report twice a year.

While the report of abortions will not include the names of patients who sought or received the care, it requires other personal information including their age, marital status, state or country of residence, race and highest level of education.

Under the new law, physicians are required to ask patients seeking abortion care what the most important factor was in determining why they sought care, except in cases of medical emergencies.

A list of factors for physicians to read patients include: "Having a baby would interfere with the patient's education, employment or career; the patient cannot provide for the child; the patient already has enough, or too many, children; the patient's husband or partner is abusive to such patient or such patient's children," according to the law.

Other reasons include rape, incest, risk to the health of the mother and that the child would have a disability.

The law requires "the reporting of the reasons for each abortion performed at a medical care facility or by a healthcare provider in the state," according to the law.

Medical facilities will have to keep written records of all "lawfully terminated" pregnancies and submit a written report twice a year to the secretary of health and environment, the law said. The reports must also include sworn statements by physicians who perform abortions.

The reports will have to include the medical diagnosis and condition that would result in a "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function or the medical diagnosis and condition that necessitated performance of an abortion to preserve the life of the patient," according to the law.

Other information physicians will need to fill out in the report include method of abortion care, whether the patient has received financial assistance from a nonprofit that supports pregnant women in the last 30 days, whether the patient has experienced domestic violence in the last 12 months and if the patient is living in a safe, stable and affordable place, according to the law.

The identities of physicians and medical facilities who fill out the report are to remain confidential unless the secretary of health and environment finds reasonable cause that the law was violated, is requesting disciplinary action and reveals the information to the state board of healing arts or a state attorney general.

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Special counsel suspected additional obstruction effort by Trump in classified docs case

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(NEW YORK) -- Special counsel Jack Smith appears to have suspected additional efforts by former President Donald Trump to obstruct the government's investigation of his handling of classified documents, a newly unsealed court filing revealed Tuesday.

The opinion was released as an exhibit in filings responding to Trump's efforts to have the case dismissed, ahead of two hearings Wednesday related to Trump aide Walt Nauta's efforts to dismiss the related charges against him.

Trump pleaded not guilty last June to 37 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials after leaving the White House, after prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to the nation's defense capabilities, and took steps to thwart the government's efforts to get the documents back. Nauta also pleaded not guilty to related charges.

In March of 2023, prosecutors pushed for a federal judge to compel testimony from one of Trump's attorneys, Evan Corcoran, by presenting a previously undisclosed theory of steps they believed Trump and his associates had taken to obstruct their investigation, alleging that after Trump was informed by his attorney of a government subpoena for video footage from his Mar-a-Lago club, he then instructed aides to return several boxes they had previously removed from a storage room in the club's basement -- without being caught on camera.

According to the newly unsealed opinion, D.C. District Judge Beryl Howell wrote that after Corcoran informed Trump of the subpoena for video footage on June 24, 2022, it set into motion a scramble by Nauta to change his travel plans and fly from Bedminster, New Jersey, to Palm Beach, Florida.

"The government urged that this scramble to Mar-a-Lago in the wake of the June 24, 2022 phone call reflects the former president's realization that the removal of the boxes from the storage room before [redacted] search was captured on camera -- and his attempts to ensure that any subsequent movement of the boxes back to the storage room could occur off camera," Howell wrote.

"This theory draws support from the curious absence of any video footage showing the return of the remaining boxes to the storage room, which necessarily occurred at some point between June 3, 2022 -- when the room had approximately [redacted] boxes, according to FBI agents and [redacted] -- and the execution of the search warrant on August 8, 2022 -- when agents counted 73 boxes," wrote the judge.

The government previously alleged that Nauta took the trip to inquire about how long camera footage was stored. It was on that same trip, according to the indictment, that Nauta and Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos De Oliveira allegedly conspired in an attempt to delete surveillance footage.

Howell ultimately agreed the government had made a "likely" showing that Trump ordered his associates to "avoid the surveillance cameras he then understood to have been deputized by the government," ordering Corcoran to testify about a June 24, 2022, phone call with the former president that occurred the same day the Trump Organization was subpoenaed for the footage.

The district judge also confirmed that, "remarkably," after the FBI's August search, Trump's attorneys on two separate instances found additional classified records at Mar-a-Lago, including four documents with classification markings in Trump's own bedroom in December 2022.

The new filings, consisting of hundreds of pages, also include new photos of Nauta allegedly moving boxes that the government contends contained the classified materials Trump was seeking to hang onto despite a subpoena from the FBI.

The filing was just one among multiple exhibits ordered unsealed Tuesday by the district judge overseeing Trump's case, Aileen Cannon, who has set up a controversial process opposed by Smith that has enabled Trump's attorneys to make public evidence in the case that would typically remain under seal.

Some legal experts have criticized Cannon over a series of recent rulings that have benefited Trump's strategy to have the case delayed until after the 2024 election, including her order two weeks ago that put an indefinite hold on her scheduling a date for the trial.

The hearings Wednesday will be the first public ones since Cannon indefinitely delayed the trial, all but ensuring the case doesn't go to trial before the November election. Trump will not be in attendance, but his co-defendants, Nauta and De Oliveira, will be.

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Investigation continues into Matthew Perry's death, source of ketamine: Sources

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(LOS ANGELES) -- The death investigation into "Friends" star Matthew Perry remains ongoing, especially in respect to where he acquired the ketamine that led to his death in October, according to local and federal law enforcement sources.

Perry died at his home from the acute effects of ketamine, according to the autopsy report released in December by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner.

Detectives have been interviewing people who could have information on the source of the drugs, the sources told ABC News, but that they do not have information to narrow in on a source. No arrests have been made.

The Los Angeles Police Department said the case is open and ongoing, and confirmed it has been in contact with the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Postal Service.

"Based on the Medical Examiner’s findings, the Los Angeles Police Department, with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Postal Inspection Service, has continued its investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Perry’s death," LAPD said in a statement.

The DEA said it had no comment.

The actor, most well-known for his role as Chandler Bing on "Friends," died at 54 on Oct. 28, 2023. He also starred in several other TV series, including "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," and films like "17 Again" and "Fools Rush In."

In a statement the day after responding to his home, the Los Angeles Police Department said Perry "was discovered by a witness unresponsive in his jacuzzi." There were no signs of foul play at the scene, according to law enforcement sources.

Perry was reported to have been receiving ketamine infusions for depression and anxiety, according to the autopsy report, but the medical examiner wrote the ketamine in his system at death could not have been from that infusion therapy because ketamine’s half life is three to four hours or less. His method of intake was listed as unknown.

In his memoir, "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing," released in 2022, Perry opened up about his addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers, which was triggered after a doctor prescribed him Vicodin following a jet ski accident.

In a "20/20" interview with Diane Sawyer, Perry opened up about wanting to help people struggling with addiction, saying, "Obviously, because I was on 'Friends,' more people will listen to me. So I've got to take advantage of that, and I've got to help as many people as I can."

 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Judge threatens to mute Giuliani during arraignment in Arizona fake electors case

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(PHOENIX) -- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, several allies of former President Donald Trump and alleged fake electors pleaded not guilty in Maricopa County court Tuesday for their alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Arizona.

Former Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, Arizona state Sen. Anthony Kern, former Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward, and her husband Michael Ward were also among those arraigned today.

Giuliani appeared virtually after being served with notice of his indictment after his 80th birthday party on Friday night – and after boasting on social media that he had avoided being served.

The judge granted the prosecution's motion for Giuliani's release conditions to require the former mayor to show up in person in Arizona to be booked within 30 days, as well as a $10,000 secured appearance bond, after the state detailed to the court how Giuliani has "shown no intent to comply with legal process" after avoiding accepting service of the indictment.

Prosecutors notably asked for a cash bond, but the judge allowed Giuliani to provide a secured one.

Giuliani responded over Zoom to prosecutors, who described him as "uncooperative" and saying he was aware of the indictment, by saying, "I haven't been hiding from anyone." He blamed the difficultly for accepting service because of the threats he's faced. Giuliani called the indictment a "complete embarrassment."

At one point the judge cut Giuliani off as started going into a meandering story about the history of alleged threats that have been made against him. "I don't want to have to mute you," the judge said.

Outside of court, Nicholas Klingerman, a prosecutor for the Arizona Attorney General's office, described the multiple attempts they made to serve Giuliani, saying the former mayor was "mocking the justice system in Arizona."

Asked about Giuliani's comments during the hearing that the case is "politically motivated," Klingerman said, "the indictment speaks for itself."

"I think it's fairly clear from the indictment what the allegations are," Klingerman said.

In a statement Tuesday, Giuliani's spokesperson Ted Goodman said: "These charges are essentially a cut and paste version of what they're attempting to use to interfere with the 2024 Election and to take down President Trump and anyone willing to take on the permanent Washington political class. Joe Biden and his allies continue to weaponize the criminal justice system in their quest to take down President Trump and hold on to power. Mayor Rudy Giuliani—the most effective federal prosecutor in U.S. history—looks forward to full vindication soon."

Former Trump attorney John Eastman was the first ally of the former president to be arraigned in the case last week.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes last month announced charges against 11 named alleged fake electors and seven people whose names are redacted in the filing for their alleged role in efforts to subvert Joe Biden's 2020 victory in the state.

The charges include fraud, forgery and conspiracy.

Arizona is the third state to pursue election interference charges related to the 2020 election. In December, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford announced felony charges against six alleged "fake electors" in that state.

In Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel similarly charged 16 "alternate electors" in July for conspiracy to commit forgery, among other charges.

Three such "fake electors" in Georgia were among the 18 co-defendants charged, along with Trump, in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in that state.

All defendants charged in all three probes have pleaded not guilty, with Georgia defendants Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell and Scott Hall subsequently taking plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify in that case. In Michigan, the attorney general dropped all charges against defendant Jim Renner in exchange for his cooperation.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Former student shares memories of school integration fight 70 years ago

ABCNews.com

(NEW YORK) -- A Virginia woman who was at the forefront of school desegregation is sharing her experiences, and the hatred she endured, 65 years later.

In February 1959, then-14-year-old Betty Kilby stepped into the history books as one of the 21 Black students who first attended her formerly segregated local high school, responding to the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision fewer than five years earlier declaring "separate but equal" to be unconstitutional, paving the way for the racial integration of public schools in America.

On their radios and televisions at home, Kilby and her friends heard parents and governors say that what they were doing was wrong. James Lindsay Almond Jr., the governor of Virginia at the time, said that the integration and mixing of the races in Virginia would "absolutely destroy public education."

Kilby, now a civil rights activist and author, remembers everything about that day in February nearly 70 years ago outside Warren County High School in northern Virginia. She recalls how tightly she held on to her clipboard, how cold it was, and how cold they were.

"They told us not to look at the people, not to look at the crowd, to remain focused on going up the hill," Kilby recalled. "The memory of going up that hill will never cease from my brain. I could hear the racial slurs. We just thought that that would be the day that we died."

During her senior year, Kilby said she was walking alone when a group of white students pulled her into a room.

"And as I cross the auditorium one day, I was grabbed," Kilby said, becoming emotional at the memory. "And I was raped. And at that point I begged God to take me home."

Yet Kilby told no one then about what had happened, saying that if she'd told her father, "he would have probably tried to kill somebody."

Many people believe that the Supreme Court's May 17, 1954 decision to integrate American schools involved just one case from Topeka, Kansas. But it was actually a combination of fights from across the country – including one from Virginia.

Today, surviving students of what was then Moton High School, a segregated Black school in northern Virginia, celebrate their walkout that led to one of the lawsuits.

"We had no library. We had no cafeteria, we had no science lab," said former student Joan Cobbs. "Also we had hand-me-down books from the white school. And they were tattered and torn. So, what happened is we went out on a strike for two weeks."

Over 60 years later, their story caught the attention of a group of talented Virginia high school students, who produced an award-winning documentary about it.

The students learned how the Black students stayed safe by organizing their schedules so they could walk together between classes. They also heard about the principals and teachers who refused to even say hello.

"It's one thing to read about history in a textbook, but when that person who made that history is standing in front of you, that really just gives you a deeper passion to share that history," said student filmmaker Elizabeth Kidd.

"We can't forget the lessons of the past if we want to make change for the future," added fellow student filmmaker Pria Dua.

The former segregated Moton High School, where the students walked out in the 1950s, is now a museum.

"Children paid the price. I paid the price," said Kilby, remembering that time, more than two generations ago. "I gave up my innocence to integrate these schools. Not because we wanted better. We wanted the same."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Five big takeaways from Day 19 of Trump's hush money trial

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Todd Blanche, attorney for Trump, right, speak to members of the media before departing Manhattan criminal court in New York, U.S., on Monday, May 20, 2024. (Sarah Yenesel/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Prosecutors in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president rested their historic case after presenting more than 200 pieces of evidence and hearing from 20 witnesses, including Michael Cohen, who concluded nearly four full days on the stand on Monday.

The defense called its first two witnesses -- neither of whom were Donald Trump -- and set out to undermine Cohen's credibility. That responsibility fell in large part to Robert Costello, a onetime legal adviser to Cohen, who instead earned a sharp rebuke from Judge Merchan for allegedly violating his "courtroom decorum."

Costello will return to the stand Tuesday morning.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment that Cohen, his then-attorney, made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to boost Trump's electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

Here are five big takeaways from Day 19 of Trump's criminal hush money trial:

The state rests its case

Across four weeks of testimony, prosecutors told a story of of alleged sex, schemes, and lies related to the 2016 election -- presenting more than 200 pieces of evidence and calling 20 witnesses to the stand.

It was a historic case -- the first to target a former president of the United States -- and on Monday afternoon, the prosecution rested.

Jurors in recent weeks heard from Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress whose long-denied alleged affair with Trump underpinned the alleged illegal conduct; David Pecker, the tabloid executive who promised to "catch-and-kill" negative stories about Trump; and Michael Cohen, Trump's onetime attorney who arranged and executed the payments.

Michael Cohen concludes his testimony

Michael Cohen spent nearly four full days on the witness stand, where he described in chapter and verse how Donald Trump allegedly falsified business records to conceal payments to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Cohen executed the payments to Daniels, and his testimony provided jurors with crucial narrative tissue. But his credibility -- or potential lack thereof -- could impact how jurors interpret the merits of the state's case.

On Monday, Cohen said he had "more than 20" conversations, in person or by phone, with Donald Trump in October 2016 about the Stormy Daniels payoff.

The state rested its case when he stepped off the witness stand.

'Are you staring me down?'

Robert Costello, a former attorney for Cohen, had spent less than 15 minutes on the witness stand when Judge Juan Merchan sustained a string of the state's objections. After one such interjection, Costello was heard muttering under his breath, "Jeez."

That extracurricular musing prompted Merchan to dismiss jurors and issue Costello a stern rebuke, ordering him to uphold "proper decorum in my courtroom."

"If you don't like my ruling, you don't say 'Jeez,' you don't say 'Strike it,' because I'm the only one who can strike testimony in the court," a visibly annoyed Merchan said. "If you don't like my ruling, you don't give me side-eye and you don't roll your eyes."

The matter appeared settled. But seconds later, Merchan barked: "Are you staring me down?"

With that, Merchan took the extraordinary step of clearing reporters from the courtroom. After a few minutes, reporters and jurors returned and Merchan resumed proceedings without addressing the matter.

Defense moves for long shot dismissal

Before proceedings concluded for the day, defense attorney Todd Blanche launched a long shot bid to have the case dismissed before it goes to jurors -- saying in a lengthy argument that "there is no evidence from any of the witnesses who testified of any criminal intent."

"How on earth is keeping a false story from the voters criminal?" Blanche asked, his voice slightly rising.

After Blanche accused Cohen of lying on the stand, Merchan quipped, "You think he's going to fool 12 New Yorkers into believing his lies?"

The judge said he would reserve his decision on the motion.

Trump probably won't take the stand

While Donald Trump's attorneys have yet to definitively rule out his appearance on the witness stand, the prospect seems increasingly unlikely.

Blanche indicated early Monday that he would call two witnesses to the stand, without identifying them by name. By the end of the day, he had called two witnesses -- a paralegal and Robert Costello.

Before court concluded, Judge Merchan asked attorneys for Trump whether they planned to call any additional witnesses.

"Not at this point, judge," said defense attorney Emil Bove.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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