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911 outages updates: Outages strike at least four states, but most service restored

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(NEW YORK) -- Emergency 911 phone service has been restored in most of the areas hit by outages on Wednesday night.

At least six cities in four different states across the United States reported experiencing 911 call outages earlier in the evening, according to officials. Many of those outages had been restored by Thursday morning, authorities said, although a few police departments in Texas had yet to announce whether cell and landline services were back online.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said service had been restored in the city just before 9:15 p.m. PT.

"9-1-1 phone service has been restored," the LVMPD wrote in a post on X. "All of the individuals who called during the outage have been called back and provided assistance. Non-emergency calls are also working. As always, please do not call 9-1-1 unless you have an emergency."

Nevada State Police also confirmed via X that service had been restored for Southern Nevada's Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and Henderson, areas that had reported the outages earlier.

The entire statewide emergency calling system in South Dakota experienced an outage, Pierre police confirmed to ABC News Wednesday night. Early Thursday morning local time, though, the Highway Patrol announced it had been restored.

"Service has been restored on the South Dakota 911 system," read a post from SDHP on X. "Our emergency system is fully operational and ready to respond promptly to any situation. Your safety is our top priority, and we are here to ensure help is just a call away whenever you need it. Do not call 911 as a test."

Dundy County, Nebraska, and surrounding areas were experiencing outages, the sheriff's office said on Facebook. The non-emergency line was working as well as 911 texting, police said. Both cellular and landline 911 service were later restored, the department said in a later post.

Multiple cities in Texas also had outages, including Del Rio and Kilgore.

Kilgore Police Department posted on Facebook it was experiencing interment outages, and urged residents to call 903-983-1559 ext 1 to report any emergencies.

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Kohberger's alibi disputes his location on night of Idaho student killings: Lawyers

In this Sept. 13, 2023, file photo, Bryan Kohberger, accused of murder, arrives for a hearing in the courtroom in Latah County District Court, in Moscow, Idaho. (Ted S. Warren/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Lawyers for Bryan Kohberger -- the man accused of stabbing to death four Idaho college students in November 2022 -- plan to use analysis of cellphone tower data to show he was not at the home where the killings occurred at the time police believe the crime happened, according to a new court filing.

Kohberger, a one-time Ph.D. student charged in the murders, plans to challenge the prosecutor's case with expert analysis of cellphone tower data, his lawyers said in a court filing made public Wednesday.

His lawyers argue their analysis shows Kohberger was not only not at the King Road home where four students were found stabbed to death in Nov. 2022 but that he was driving elsewhere.

"Mr. Kohberger was out driving in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022, as he often did to hike and run and/or see the moon and stars. He drove throughout the area south of Pullman, Washington, west of Moscow, Idaho," Kohberger's lead attorney, Anne Taylor, said in the filing.

Prosecutors have alleged that in the early hours of Nov. 13, 2022, Kohberger broke into an off-campus home and stabbed four University of Idaho students to death: Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21.

Kohberger, who at the time was a criminology Ph.D. student at nearby Washington State University, was indicted in May 2023 and charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. At his arraignment, he declined to offer a plea, so the judge entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

Kohberger could face the death penalty if convicted.

After Kohberger moved to the area in June 2022, his lawyer said, his "avid" habit as a runner and hiker prompted him to explore his new surroundings -- but as the school year got busy, those hikes increasingly became "nighttime drives." Taylor added that the alibi is "supported by data from Mr. Kohberger's phone showing him in the countryside late at night and/or in the early morning on several occasions," including "numerous" pictures from "several different late evenings and early mornings, including in November, depicting the night sky."

That drive included Wawawai Park, a remote area along Snake River -- about 20 miles away from Kohberger's apartment at the time and roughly 28 miles away from the off-campus home where the killings occurred.

To back up the defense's alibi claim, Kohberger's legal team told the court they intend to offer the testimony of their own expert "to show that Bryan Kohberger's mobile device was south of Pullman, Washington and west of Moscow, Idaho on November 13, 2022; that Bryan Kohberger's mobile device did not travel east on the Moscow-Pullman Highway in the early morning hours of November 13th," and thus his "could not" be the car captured on video traveling along the Moscow-Pullman highway near a local cannabis shop.

Further details "as to Mr. Kohberger's whereabouts as the early morning hours progressed," including analysis from their expert, "will be provided once the State provides discovery requested," Taylor wrote in the newly-released court document. "If not disclosed, [Sy Ray, their expert]'s testimony will also reveal that critical exculpatory evidence, further corroborating Mr. Kohberger's alibi, was either not preserved or has been withheld."

Wednesday's filing aligns with previous comments from the defense about Kohberger's whereabouts the night of the murder -- that he was driving around alone that night, which, they have claimed, had long been a habit of his.

After a six-week hunt, police zeroed in on Kohberger as the suspect in the murders of the students, arresting him in December 2022 at his family's home in Pennsylvania. Investigators have said they relied in part on records from cellphone towers and on surveillance video of a car seen in the area of the King Road house on the night of the killings -- part of which, they have said, includes a two-hour timespan in those after midnight hours where Kohberger's phone "stops reporting to the network, which is consistent with either the phone being in an area without cellular coverage, the connection to the network is disabled (such as putting the phone in airplane mode), or that the phone is turned off."

A trial date has yet to be set.

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Nearly 50 lbs. of meth found in ice chest full of dead fish as car tries to cross into US from Mexico

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

(NEW YORK) -- Almost 50 pounds of methamphetamine found in an ice chest full of fish has been discovered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers during a routine screening of a vehicle trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The discovery took place on Sunday evening at approximately 8:39 p.m. when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers encountered a 34-year-old man who was driving a 2021 sedan through the SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection) lane as he was trying to enter the United States at the Calexico West Port of Entry in southern California and authorities referred the driver and vehicle for further examination, according to a statement released by CBP officials on Wednesday.

“In the secondary inspection area, a non-intrusive inspection of the vehicle was conducted,” authorities said. “CBP officers utilized the port’s imaging system to screen the vehicle and observed irregularities within an ice chest found in the vehicle’s trunk. A CBP K-9 team responded and alerted to the presence of narcotics.”

Once CBP officers had access to the vehicle, they discovered and extracted a total of 25 packages from the ice chest, the contents of which were tested and identified as methamphetamine, with a total weight of 47.13 pounds.

The subject was immediately turned over to the custody of Homeland Security Investigations for further investigation and the narcotics from the vehicle were seized, CBP said.

“Drug traffickers will go to great lengths in attempt to deceive our officers,” said Roque Caza, Calexico Area Port Director. “I’m proud of our highly trained officers working diligently every day to combat these dangerous drugs that have claimed so many lives.”

These seizures are the result of Operation Apollo, which CBP says is a “holistic counter-fentanyl effort that began on October 26, 2023 in southern California, and expanded to Arizona on April 10, 2024.”

Operation Apollo focuses on intelligence collection and partnerships, and utilizes local CBP field assets augmented by federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners to boost resources, increase collaboration, and target the smuggling of fentanyl into the United States, CBP said.

The identity of the suspect involved in this case has not been released and the investigation is currently ongoing.

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Teens reported years of sex abuse by their probation officers. Now they want justice

ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) -- "Everywhere I look, everything that I see, I just see his face," said Reanell Hartley, looking through the barbed wire fencing of Camp Scott for the first time in more than two decades.

As a teenager in the early 2000s, she was locked up inside the fences of Camp Scott, a juvenile facility run by the Los Angeles Probation Department in Santa Clarita, California.

Hartley said she had a rough childhood, a victim of sexual abuse who was forced into prostitution when she was just 11. She had hoped Camp Scott would help to get her life back on track.

"I was excited because I was told that I was going to find discipline, I was going to find rehabilitation within the juvenile probation system," Hartley told ABC News.

"The things that I found here was a total opposite," she said.

Hartley alleges in a lawsuit that at Camp Scott she was repeatedly sexually abused by Probation Officer Thomas Jackson.

Attorneys for some of the victims say the abuse was common among juvenile detainees who did time throughout facilities in Los Angeles County for more than three decades. Now, thousands of victims are taking action with a lawsuit against LA County.

Camp Scott is now closed, but when it opened as a girls-only juvenile facility in 1987, it was touted as a model "boot camp" style facility, designed to "scare" young women "straight."

Detainees were told when they could eat, talk, and even when they could go to the bathroom. They showered in groups and were punished with solitary confinement.

But LA County's juvenile halls and camps came under scrutiny following reports of abuse and unsafe conditions, including by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007 which forced LA County Probation into federal oversight for six years.

Hartley was bunkmates at Camp Scott with another plaintiff in the lawsuit: Akeila Jefferson. Jefferson was raised by her grandmother who struggled financially to support her and other children.

At times, she and her younger siblings didn't have access to vital necessities like shoes or clothes that fit. She wound up in juvenile detention for shoplifting shoes and then missing school, which is a probation violation.

According to Jefferson’s lawsuit and as recounted to ABC News, she, too, was sexually abused by Jackson, who had been promoted to Camp Scott's acting director. Jackson would order Jefferson to his office and force her to perform oral sex, according to the lawsuit. She was 16 years old.

She also says in the lawsuit that he threatened "to make her life difficult" if "she did not follow his sexual demands and orders."

Dominique Anderson was sent to Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles when she was 13 after she says she poked another student with a pencil.

"When the police came, they said 'You stabbed the girl with the pencil, and that's a deadly weapon. And it's a felony,'" she recalled.

In her lawsuit, Anderson alleges that Probation Officer Ernest Walker picked her up from her grandmother's house, drove her to a hotel for sex, and then paid her $200. She alleges that Walker, who she estimated was in his 40s at the time, would leave her money in a flowerpot at a gas station.

"I remember him telling me things like, 'Oh, I love that your breasts are just sprouting.' He was really interested in the fact that I was so young," Anderson told ABC News. "And that's the tough thing about being a victim. You never see it. That this person is abusing their authority. You don't see it as them preying on you as being a child."

Anderson alleges in her lawsuit that after she reported her ongoing abuse by another officer, she was approached by a female staff member asking for her silence. 

"She said, 'He has a daughter. He has a career. He has a lot to lose,'" Anderson claimed the staffer told her.

Hartley said she, too, was pressured to keep quiet about her abuse and said her past experiences of being molested and forced into prostitution were used against her.

She claims that a supervisor told her, "Looking at your file, you can understand why I can't just take your word for it."

"It shattered me," Hartley told ABC News.

But now the three alleged victims and thousands more are seeking justice in court after a long history of systemic abuse within LA County Probation.

In 2006, the Department of Justice began investigating LA's juvenile halls and camps. The investigation revealed systemic abuse and unsafe conditions and, as a result, they were put under federal oversight for six years.

And, a Los Angeles Times investigation in 2010 found at least 11 probation officers had been convicted of crimes or disciplined for inappropriate conduct with the youth in their care, including having sex with children in detention halls, beatings and molestation.

Richard Winton, the LA Times investigative reporter who broke the story, told ABC News that there has been an unwillingness to fire some of the accused probation staffers.

"There have been numerous occasions when outside bodies and oversight agencies have basically questioned how this place is run," he said. "And they've had numerous management changes, and yet they seem to be still stuck in the same pattern here. The youth aren't protected."

The Probation Oversight Commission was created in 2020 to reform and monitor the department.

Esché Jackson is now a commissioner on the Probation Oversight Commission, but she knows first-hand the struggles juvenile detainees face. She was locked up in these same facilities in her youth.

"They get no fair chances and they get no forgiveness because they've given up on themselves and the facilities have given up on them, too," she said.

After California opened a three-year lookback window for anyone reporting sexual abuse, several lawsuits against the city's probation department were filed.

Courtney Thom is an attorney with Manly, Stewart, and Finaldi, the liaison counsel on behalf of former juvenile detainees. She told ABC News that while several accused officers were recently placed on leave, some are still on the job.

"The county has known about this problem for over three decades," she said, and only recently were some removed. 

In February, California's Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), voted to close the remaining juvenile halls in LA within 60 days unless numerous changes were implemented.

Then, in the final days before the deadline, the BSCC allowed the facilities to continue operating -- at least, for now.

After agreeing to an interview with ABC News, the current Chief of Probation, Guillermo Viera Rosa, canceled it twice.

The second time, LA County Probation canceled the interview after ABC News was setting up for the interview, citing the chief had a COVID-19 infection.

The LA County Probation Department wrote in a statement to ABC News that "the vast majority" of the lawsuits against the county predate "the current probation and county leadership."

The agency noted they "want to ensure no alleged offenders have contact with youth in our care."

"Of the employees we were able to identify, some are deceased, others retired so long ago their records have been purged and those who are currently with the department have been put on leave pending both internal and external investigations. Three have left the department," LA County Probation said.

LA County Probation said they "take all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously, investigate each one, and have robust policies and procedures designed to prevent sexual abuse and ensure the safety of our youth.”

The agency acknowledged "such misconduct is absolutely deplorable and we want to do our best to ensure that nothing like this happens."

Soon after the lawsuits against Probation Officer Thomas Jackson were filed, he announced his retirement after 33 years in the department, according to The Los Angeles Times. A few days later, Ernest Walker also announced his retirement.

Attorneys for both of the accused declined to comment to ABC News, but in court filings they deny all allegations, as does LA County.

Thom said both men are expected to give depositions in the lawsuits.

Anderson said the fact that her alleged abuser was able to retire with a pension after she brought the allegations to light showed "how broken the system is."

"The fact that he was able to retire a decorated person within the juvenile probation system as he preyed on me. It's just ridiculous," she said.

In the meantime, Anderson said she is trying to move forward with her life and is studying for a master's degree.

Jefferson now works for the nonprofit Advocates for Peace and Urban Unity, which helps kids from her neighborhood get the support she wishes she had as a kid.

"If you need some shoes, you need some clothes, I want my organization to be able to provide that for you," said Jefferson in an interview with ABC News.

She said that she is hopeful that by sharing her story she can prevent others from suffering as she has.

Referring to her probation officer, Jefferson recalled, "I can remember him on top of me and I [was] literally crying. And he's upset because I'm crying. Because that's messing with him. Getting off…And I don't want nobody else to experience that."

Hartley has left Los Angeles and the pain she associates with it, but is still hoping that the department will apologize to her and the other survivors.

"I would like for them to admit that they failed us," she said.

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Family of Ricky Cobb II sues trooper charged with murder as case sparks firestorm in Minnesota

Courtesy of the Cobb Family

(NEW YORK) -- The family of Ricky Cobb II, a Minnesota man who was shot and killed during a traffic stop on July 31, 2023, is taking legal action against Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Ryan Londregan, who was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, in a case that sparked political controversy in the state.

The federal lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota – Minneapolis division, also names Minnesota State Trooper Brett Seide, who was also involved in the traffic stop but has not been charged in this case.

The lawsuit accuses the officers of "unreasonable seizure" and "excessive use of force," said family attorney Bakari Sellers during a press conference on Wednesday, where he was joined by members of Cobb’s family.

Olivia Stroh, the mother of Cobb’s 7-year-old son, called for justice and spoke about the trauma her son is going through.

"I just want to say that the pain that I felt from having to tell my son that the person he looks up to -- the person who's supposed to protect and serve – he shot his daddy," Stroh said of Londregan. "It's horrifying to tell him that -- he's seven. And he doesn't deserve this. Ricky doesn't deserve this. His four other children don't deserve this, and he absolutely needs justice."

The lawsuit comes after Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty announced on Jan. 24 that Trooper Ryan Londregan has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder, first-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter following an investigation into Cobb’s death by her office and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

"While deadly force by peace officers is justified in some circumstances, the criminal complaint alleges the circumstances in this case did not justify the use of deadly force," Moriarty said in a statement announcing the charges.

Londregan’s attorney, Christopher Madel, confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that he will be representing Londregan in the civil case as well as a criminal case. Asked about the lawsuit, Madel said, "We will fight the civil case with the same vigor as we have the criminal case."

Madel, who argued that Londregan acted to protect himself and other troopers, said that Londregan "has not entered a plea yet because we do not believe there is probable cause for him to stand trial. If the judge later determines probable cause exists, he will, of course, enter a plea of not guilty."

ABC News reached out directly to Seide and was directed to the Minnesota State Patrol PIO. Asked if Seide has hired an attorney, a spokesperson for the Minnesota State Patrol told ABC News on Wednesday that “those details are still being worked out,” but declined to provide further comment.

Case sparks firestorm in Minnesota

Cobb’s fatal shooting took place in Minneapolis, where the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked national and global protests for racial justice and led to the conviction of officers involved in his death, including officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck.

With tensions high in the state, Moriarty’s decision to charge Londregan with second-degree unintentional murder sparked a firestorm in Minnesota, pitting the state’s largest police union against the progressive county attorney and even prompting the Democratic governor of the state, Tim Walz, to wade into the controversy.

Londregan’s attorney and police groups, including the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA), accused Moriarty of playing politics in this case, while advocates for social justice lauded her decision to charge Londregan with unintentional murder.

"This county attorney is literally out of control. Open season on law enforcement must end, and it's going to end with this case," Madel said after charges were announced.

Meanwhile, MPPOA General Counsel Imran Ali accused Moriarty in a Jan. 24 statement of making "politics and ideology her source material, not the law."

The MPPOA, which has more than 10,000 members and is the largest organization representing officers in the state, sent a letter on April 3 to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to intervene and urged him to reassign the case from Moriarty’s office to the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

In the letter obtained by ABC News, MPPOA disputed Moriarty’s argument that Londregan "did not follow [his] training" and included sworn declarations from Londregan’s trainers who provided the defense with testimony that Londregan did not violate policy.

The Democratic governor, who has been asked about the firestorm surrounding the case in media appearances, told ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, KSPT, on March 22, that he was still considering whether to reassign the case to the State Attorney General.

Walz also acknowledged that he has "had differences with [Moriarty] on several occasions."

"Minnesotans are paying close attention to this," Walz told KSPT. "It’s a tragic case. You’ve got a man dead. You’ve got law enforcement officers doing their duty in a situation where split-second decisions need to be made. With that being said we want to make sure that cases are heard fairly."

ABC News has reached out to Walz’s office for further comment on the case and an update on whether his office plans to intervene.

Sellers said on Wednesday that the family supports Moriarty, appreciates her "transparency" and believes that her office "should keep this case."

"This is not about politics for us … this is about a young man who lost his life," Sellers said, adding that he has "a great deal of faith that [Walz] will make the right decision."

Moriarty appeared to wade into the discussion on X, formerly Twitter, on March 26 by retweeting quotes from a Cobb family press conference, including one from a law professor who argued that reassigning the case would be undemocratic.

ABC News has reached out to Moriarty’s office but requests for comment were not returned.

What the video shows

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Cobb was initially pulled over at around 1:50 am on July 31, 2023 because his taillights were out, but after he was stopped, the troopers learned that the 33-year-old was wanted for violating a protective order in a neighboring county and were asked to arrest him.

Bodycam video of the incident shows two troopers speaking with Cobb while standing outside the driver and the passenger side windows, with a third trooper standing behind the car.

The video shows the troopers tried to detain Cobb, but he refused to get out of his vehicle. As he tried to drive away, a trooper attempts to stop him and appears to grab the steering wheel, but the car takes off and knocks two troopers to the ground behind him, while the third is dragged by the car for a couple of seconds.

As Cobb drove away, a trooper who was later identified by DPS as Londregan, appears to fire multiple times at Cobb, who drives a short distance and then strikes a median. The video shows the troopers approaching the car and rendering aid to Cobb but he died on the scene.

"Time is not going to heal it but God got us. It's just unfortunate that even still today, I still see cars that's missing a headlight, that's missing a taillight, and they're just fine," Cobb’s sister Octavia Ruffin said on Wednesday. "They're just cruising, just having a good time. My brother should be here. Ricky Cobb II should be here."

A spokesperson for the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) told ABC News on Jan. 25 that Londregan, along with the two other troopers involved in the incident, were placed on paid administrative leave amid an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Internal Affairs Division.

Asked about updates on this investigation, a spokesperson told ABC News on Tuesday, "the State Patrol doesn’t have additional comments at this time due to this being in the legal process."

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Boeing safety culture under scrutiny during Senate committee hearing

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Boeing's safety culture came under scrutiny during a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday, where a Boeing whistleblower was among those who testified about the company's production methods in the wake of the Alaska Airlines door plug blowout.

Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour, who first spoke out earlier this month on the company's production of the 787 and 777 jets, was among four witnesses who testified in front of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs' Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

"I have analyzed Boeing's own data to conclude that the company is taking manufacturing shortcuts on the 787 program that may significantly reduce the airplane safety and the lifecycle," Salehpour testified.

Salehpour claimed that since 2013, there have been serious issues in the 787 program, describing those issues as "gaps in its assembly of the fuselage" of the 787. Salehpour said Boeing pushed pieces of the fuselage together with "excessive force" to make it seem like the gaps in the fuselage didn't exist. Salehpour said that 98.7% of the time, the gaps that were supposed to have shims did not have shims.

"I literally saw people jumping on the pieces of the airplane to get them to align," said Salehpour about the 777 production line. "I call it the Tarzan effect."

Salehpour claimed he was sidelined and told to "shut up" and that his boss told him that he would have "killed someone" who said what Salehpour said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating Salehpour's claims regarding the 787 and 777 production.

Boeing has refuted Salehpour's claims regarding the structural flaws of the jets and said it is "fully confident" in the safety of both.

"In 13 years of service, the global 787 fleet has safely transported more than 850 million passengers on more than 4.2 million flights," Boeing said in a statement Wednesday prior to the hearing. "A 787 can safely operate for at least 30 years before needing expanded airframe maintenance routines. Extensive and rigorous testing of the fuselage and heavy maintenance checks of nearly 700 in-service airplanes to date have found zero evidence of airframe fatigue. Under FAA oversight, we have painstakingly inspected and reworked airplanes and improved production quality to meet exacting standards that are measured in the one hundredths of an inch."

The 777 fleet has "safely flown more than 3.9 billion passengers around the world" and "remains the most successful widebody airplane family in aviation history," Boeing added.

Following the hearing, the company said "retaliation is strictly prohibited at Boeing."

Boeing has come under intense scrutiny after a door plug blew out of an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board found that the plane, a 737 Max, was missing four bolts when the door was installed.

Boeing has not turned over records documenting the work on the door plug, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told the Senate Commerce Committee last month, saying that Boeing informed them that they are unable to find the records.

Ed Pierson, executive director of the Foundation for Aviation Safety and a former Boeing manager, testified during Wednesday's Senate hearing that a whistleblower provided him with the records, and that he then turned them over to the FBI.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat this. This is a criminal cover-up," Pierson said. "Records do, in fact, exist. I know this because I personally passed them to the FBI."

Pierson said the records have been available "for months." He has not publicly produced the documents.

An FBI Seattle spokesperson declined to comment to ABC News on Pierson's claim that he turned Boeing records over to the FBI.

Boeing referred ABC News to Homendy's comments at the Senate hearing on April 10, in which she characterized the lack of records as an "escape from normal process" and said that Boeing has provided the NTSB with "all the documents that we've asked for that exist, they are aware that this record does not exist. They are equally concerned about the process here and the escape. And we are all working together to figure out what happened to rectify the situation and anything else going forward.”

In response to Pierson's testimony, the NTSB said in a statement that during the hearing on April 10, Homendy "reiterated that Boeing indicated to the NTSB that it did not have documentation detailing the work on the opening, closing, and securing of the door plug that blew out during a January 5 passenger flight operated as Alaska Airlines flight 1282."

"The NTSB has not received any such documentation from Boeing or any other entity," the statement continued.

Pierson, who has not worked at Boeing in six years, also testified Wednesday on the safety culture at Boeing, telling senators, "The manufacturing conditions that led to the two 737 Max disasters also led to the Alaskan blowout accident, and these conditions continue."

The crashes of two Boeing 737 Max jets -- Lion Air Flight 610 in 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2019 -- killed 346 people. Investigators found that both crashes involved a flawed flight control system. The Max was grounded for 20 months before being cleared to fly again in December 2020.

"The world is shocked to learn about Boeing's current production quality issues. I'm not surprised because nothing changed after the two crashes," Pierson said. "Government authorities ignored Boeing's manufacturing problems until the Alaska accident. Passengers shouldn't have to rely on whistleblowers to provide the truth."

Joe Jacobsen, an aerospace engineer and technical adviser to the Foundation for Aviation Safety and former FAA engineer, testified that since the 737 Max went back into service in 2020, "we have a long list of unsafe conditions for manufacturing defects. We also have a long list, equally long list of design defects. So what that tells me is it's a company-wide problem."

Shawn Pruchnicki, professional practice assistant professor of integrated systems engineering at Ohio State University, said that Boeing's issues, including the two Max crashes, were "100% about money."

"It leads me to wonder, have we even gone backwards at Boeing? The Alaska Airlines event strongly supports that," he said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, called the testimony "shocking."

"There are mounting serious allegations that Boeing has a broken safety culture and a set of practices that are unacceptable," he said.

Blumenthal said at the conclusion of the hearing that the record will remain open for 15 days for any questions or documents to be submitted.

"We hope that there will be others who will come forward," he said.

The senator also said they hope to be in touch with the Department of Justice "to indicate our interest in cooperating with them," as the agency also investigates Boeing.

The hearing lasted just over 90 minutes, as senators said they had a hard out for impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Following the hearing, Boeing said that since 2020, it has "taken important steps to foster a safety culture that empowers and encourages all employees to raise their voice."

"We know we have more work to do and we are taking action across our company," Boeing said. "Since January 2024, there has been a more than 500% increase in employee reports through our 'Speak Up' portal compared to 2023, which signals progress toward a robust reporting culture that is not fearful of retaliation."

"We continue to put safety and quality above all else and share information transparently with our regulator, customers and other stakeholders," the statement said.

The hearing comes two days after Boeing held a press tour of its factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, during which it laid out its engineering process following allegations from Salehpour.

The company said it ran extensive fatigue testing on the 787 Dreamliner, running the test to 165,000 flight cycles and saying it was "the longest fatigue test of any commercial airplane that's ever been run." Boeing said the testing took five years to complete and at the end of the testing, there were no findings of fatigue in the 787's composite structure.

Lisa Fahl, the vice president of engineering for airplane programs at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, also told reporters they encourage employees to speak out.

"We're on a continuous improvement journey on ensuring that our teammates' opinions and questions get answered," Fahl said. "We hear from them, we create processes, we continue to evolve on this process as we go forward and just welcome the feedback and encourage it and want it from our team, that's how we make us better, that's the foundation of the Safety Management System and aerospace safety in general, is people speaking up."

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Hawaii AG report details timeline and factors that contributed to deadly Maui wildfires

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(HONOLULU) -- Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez on Wednesday released the first set of findings from an independent investigation into the deadly wildfires that erupted on the Hawaiian island of Maui last year, the deadliest natural disaster in state history.

At least 101 people died in connection with the wildfires. Much of the historic town of Lahaina was destroyed by the blaze that burned thousands of residential and commercial buildings to the ground. Thousands were left seeking temporary housing and faced unemployment.

According to Lopez's office, the report analyzes how the fire incidents unfolded and what happened in the aftermath -- spanning a 72-hour period.

The report does not address the cause of the wildfires.

The report details the timeline of events that took place on August 8, 2023, from the initial Olinda Fire breaking out at approximately 12:22 a.m. to the first Lahaina fire around 6:34 a.m. and the second Lahaina fire that broke out later that day around 2:55 p.m. and was uncontained and active for more than a week.

Four fires began on August 8, according to the report, including the Kula fire and the Pulehu fire.

High winds and low relative humidity set the stage for the immense scale and scope of the wildfires, according to the report.

Amid the Maui Fire Department's efforts to combat the wildfires trucks and teams became trapped and entangled by the fire and downed power lines, the report notes.

The Lahaina Bypass, the town's primary evacuation route, was impacted by the fire, according to the report, with smoke, low visibility and downed lines trapping civilians evacuating.

Local agencies, like the county fire department, and local companies, like Hawaiian Electric, have been under scrutiny for their involvement in fire preparation, wildfire mitigation and the response to the wildfires. However, the many agencies and companies involved have continued to point fingers at one another in the aftermath.

"We must come to a complete understanding of how this disaster started to ensure Hawaii and other states are prepared to prevent and stop other deadly wildfires," the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce stated in a recent letter about the hearing. "To that end, we seek a fuller understanding of the role, if any, of the electric infrastructure in this tragic event."

President & CEO of Hawaiian Electric Shelee Kimura defended the company after the wildfires, saying that allegations of fault were "factually and legally irresponsible" and claimed the company's investigation showed it responded to both fires promptly. The company is facing several lawsuits connected to the wildfires.

In response to the lawsuits, a spokesperson for the company told ABC News, "Our primary focus in the wake of this unimaginable tragedy has been to do everything we can to support not just the people of Maui, but also Maui County."

Separately, the father of a woman who died in Maui's wildfires filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Maui County and the state of Hawaii accusing them of negligence and wrongful conduct in allowing the fires to ignite or spread without being contained or suppressed.

County and state representatives have not responded to ABC News' requests for comment.

Maui officials have said the blazes spread rapidly due to very dry conditions, such as dry brush stemming from a drought combined with the powerful winds. In the days before the Aug. 8 wildfire, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency issued a red flag warning of "gusty winds and dry fuels" creating a risk of "extreme fire."

State officials estimated there were more than $5.5 billion in damages.

The Maui Fire Department released its after-action report on Tuesday. The report did not mention the cause and origin of the wildfires, as it is still under investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Maui County Fire Chief Brad Ventura. So far, the report contained "recommendations and considerations" for future fire response efforts, including the need for more firefighting equipment such as trucks and water tankers.

"While I'm incredibly proud of our department's response, I believe we can always improve our efforts," Ventura said in the press conference.

A statewide mutual aid program and evacuation plan for residents, including those who speak different languages, was also recommended.

When the bureau's investigation is complete, the after-action report will be rereleased, according to officials.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

DOJ in final stages of settlement negotiations with victims of Larry Nassar over FBI misconduct: Sources

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(NEW YORK) -- ABC News has learned the Justice Department and attorneys for 100 victims of Larry Nassar are in the final stages of negotiating a deal that would pay tens of millions of dollars to resolve claims the FBI failed to investigate allegations of abuse by the former women's U.S. gymnastics team doctor, according to sources familiar with the matter.

No deal has been finalized and negotiations remain at a sensitive stage, according to the sources.

Once finalized, the settlement would resolve a series of tort claims filed against the Justice Department and the FBI in 2022 by the long list of athletes and patients who reported abuse by Nassar, including Maggie Nichols, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

The claims, which in total sought roughly $1 billion in damages, were filed after the department said it was declining to pursue criminal charges against agents whom the DOJ's inspector general found failed to properly investigate allegations of abuse by Nassar.

The IG's report found the FBI was notified of Nassar's behavior but failed to act for more than 14 months, a period where Nassar is alleged to have abused at least 40 more girls and women.

Nassar pleaded guilty in 2017 in connection with crimes against several victims and was sentenced to 60 years behind bars for child pornography and other charges. He again pleaded guilty in 2018 and was sentenced to an additional 40 to 175 years for multiple counts of sexual assault of minors.

Attorneys representing the victims declined to comment on the reported settlement, as did the FBI and Justice Department.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Emergency services a likely target for cyberattacks, warns DHS

Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Calling 911 is meant to save lives. But the emergency service, and others like it, are also viewed as ripe targets for criminally minded cyber-attackers, according to a new federal assessment – and any vulnerability in those critical networks can expose victims to a multitude of dangerous ripple effects.

The analysis, compiled by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and obtained by ABC News, outlines concerns that the Emergency Service Sector can be exploited and mined for sensitive data, in turn hampering medical and law enforcement services and posing an ongoing threat to personal information and public safety.

"Cybercriminal exploitation of data stolen during ransomware attacks against the Emergency Service Sector (ESS) likely poses a persistent criminal threat due to the exposure and availability of victims’ personal information," according to the April 10 bulletin.

Ransomware attacks have “disrupted the networks of police department and 911 call center operations,” the bulletin continued, putting computer-aided dispatching services out of commission and forcing emergency services “to revert to manual dispatching to sustain their operations.”

Once stolen, potentially sensitive personal information and police records can be leaked, sold or otherwise used by the attackers “to facilitate additional crimes — including extortion, identity theft, and swatting,” the DHS bulletin said.

“Whereas cyberattacks were once considered to be a technology issue, today they’re considered a threat to the very operations of law enforcement and other public safety agencies,” said John Cohen, the former intelligence chief at the Department of Homeland Security, now an ABC News contributor.

“Imagine the impact on local public safety if jail management systems were inoperable because of a cyberattack, that police communication capabilities were disrupted, that the public was unable to contact local police in an emergency, that detectives and investigators were unable to access sensitive case data,” Cohen added. “If a foreign terrorist group, or a nation state, can tie up law enforcement responses by targeting their 911 call center, or police departments can't gain access to investigative or other important information – that will hamper their emergency response, and aid a threat actor in achieving their operational objectives.”

And because of how fundamental and highly sensitive emergency systems are, and the availability of personally identifiable information they include, they may strike cyber criminals as particularly attractive targets to extort, the DHS bulletin said, due to "the possible perception that ESS entities are motivated to pay ransoms to ensure continuity of services."

“For a police department, or fire department, or any emergency service to be hijacked in any way, it’s a big problem for public safety and, additionally, you have to have a lot of resources devoted to addressing it. And it can also prevent us from doing investigations,” said Robert Boyce, an ABC News contributor and retired chief of detectives in the New York Police Department.

The new federal analysis punctuates an already volatile moment in America, as partisan tensions seethe ahead of a high-stakes presidential election, multiple wars are being waged abroad, and political violence has already broken out overseas.

Meanwhile, domestic extremists that remain emboldened to attack are also adopting more blended ideological grievances, intelligence analysts have found, making it increasingly difficult for authorities to identify the motivations behind attacks.

“As we’re going into election season, there is increasing concern that local communities will experience a combination of cyber information operations and physical attacks simultaneously. The physical activities, to disrupt the election process, and the cyber activities to disrupt the ability of local officials to respond,” Cohen said.

In the 21st century, such threat actors are aided by a mushrooming array of technological advances that offer new, creative tools – like cyberattacks.

In January, a cyberattack hit the department of emergency communications in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, affecting its computer-aided 911 system – forcing dispatchers to use pen and paper to take information from callers, according to ABC station WPVI.

The same month, the computer system in Fulton County, Georgia, was hacked, paralyzing many government services and causing aftereffects that persisted for weeks.

State, local, tribal and territorial governments “manage the majority of ESS networks and are among the groups ransomware actors most often victimize, yet most do not have the resources to independently improve their cybersecurity posture," according to the DHS bulletin.

Further, emergency services “often rely” on state, local, tribal and territorial government networks that “use legacy information and operational technology systems – the replacement of which can be prohibitively expensive or disruptive to operations—and lack sufficiently trained and resourced information technology and cybersecurity personnel,” the bulletin said. It urged a “collaborative, cross-jurisdictional approach to cybersecurity and prioritizing cyber hygiene best practices” to shore up the vital networks against “unsophisticated network intrusions.”

“Good preparation is good prevention,” Cohen told ABC News. “The threat environment is volatile and complex, and the level of preparation that’s taking place at the state and local levels far exceeds anything that I've seen in my 40-plus years.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump hush money trial: Prosecutors want to question Trump about civil cases

SimpleImages/Getty Images

(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.

Jury selection could take up to two weeks, with the entire trial expected to last between six and eight weeks.

Here's how the news is developing:

Apr 17, 3:39 PM
Prosecutors want to question Trump about civil cases

If former President Trump opts to testify in the trial, prosecutors want to question him about all the times he has been held liable in civil court, according to a new court filing in the case.

Prosecutors have asked Judge Juan Merchan to hold a hearing, known as a Sandoval hearing, to determine the scope of what they can ask Trump on cross-examination.

"We are prepared to do a Sandoval hearing now, later or whenever the court desires," Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said on Monday.

The judge has not set a date for the hearing but suggested it could be Friday.

In their filing, prosecutors outlined the civil cases they'd like to bring up during the criminal trial, including the $464 million judgment in Trump's civil fraud case, the defamation and battery cases brought by E. Jean Carroll and a lawsuit Trump filed against Hillary Clinton claiming she conspired to rig the 2016 election, for which Trump and his lawyers faced legal sanctions after the case was thrown out as frivolous.

Prosecutors also want to question Trump about a criminal case his company lost in 2022, when the Trump Organization was convicted of tax evasion by providing non-cash compensation to top executives.

They also want to bring up a civil case the New York attorney general won against the Trump Foundation for misusing charitable donations to further Trump's political interests.

Apr 17, 12:06 PM
Trump criticizes jury selection process

On his day off from his New York criminal trial, Donald Trump is complaining about the jury selection process on his social media platform.

The former president is claiming that in the process of picking the jury, he doesn't have enough strikes -- i.e., allowances to remove prospective jurors that his legal team objects to.

"I thought STRIKES were supposed to be 'unlimited' when we were picking our jury?" Trump wrote on his social media platform. "I was then told we only had 10, not nearly enough when we were purposely given the 2nd Worst Venue in the Country."

Trump does get unlimited strikes to remove a juror for cause, which means for a specified reason -- but both the defense and prosecutors have a limited number of preemptory challenges, which allow for the removal of a juror for any reason.

-Soo Rin Kim, Lalee Ibssa and Peter Charalambous

Apr 17, 8:27 AM
Court is in recess today

Court is not in session today in former President Trump's criminal hush money trial, as the trial schedule has a full-day recess every Wednesday.

Yesterday saw the first seven jurors in the case seated. Eleven more jurors -- six of them alternates -- remain to be chosen.

The selection of the first jurors was one of the four big takeaways from Day 2 of the trial Tuesday.

Apr 16, 5:58 PM
Trump vows to continue fight against judge

Former President Donald Trump vowed to continue his effort to have the judge overseeing his case removed, as he exited the courtroom after a lengthy trial day.

"We are going to continue our fight against this judge," Trump told reporters, acknowledging he is having a "hard time with the New York state system."

Judge Juan Merchan denied Trump's second recusal motion on Monday, and an appellate court denied his effort to have the case delayed over the recusal effort last week.

"We have a very conflicted, highly conflicted judge. He shouldn't be on the case. He's rushing this trail, and he's doing as much as he can for the Democrats," Trump said, without evidence, before his motorcade departed the courthouse.

Apr 16, 5:50 PM
Day ends with seven jurors selected, 11 more to go

After seating the seventh juror in the case, Judge Juan Merchan reiterated his hope that opening statements could commence Monday if the remaining jurors are selected by then.

Until then, "put the case out of your mind," Merchan told the seventh juror. "Don't think about it, don't talk about it."

The judge then concluded the proceedings for the day. Court will be in recess on Wednesday, and jury selection will resume Thursday with the fresh batch of 96 prospective jurors.

With seven jurors now seated, 11 more jurors -- six of them alternates -- remain to be chosen.

Apr 16, 5:40 PM
Judge swears in seventh juror

Judge Juan Merchan has sworn in and seated a seventh juror, selecting the North Carolina-born civil litigator who now resides on the Upper East Side, after neither party challenged his selection.

Prosecutors used two preemptory strikes on the real estate developer and former police photographer, who had both made it to the final round of questioning.

Merchan excused them both before swearing in the seventh juror.

The trial's first six jurors were sworn in and seated earlier Tuesday.

Apr 16, 5:30 PM
First six jurors represent cross-section of New York

The first six jurors selected to serve in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial represent a diverse cross-section of New York City, according to their biographical information. Here's a brief sketch of each juror, whose identities are being kept private for security reasons:

Juror No. 1 is a middle-aged salesman who immigrated to the United States from Ireland. He lives in West Harlem and said he normally gets his news from the New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. In his spare time, he said he enjoys doing "anything outdoorsy."

Juror No. 2 works as an oncology nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering. She lives with her fiancé and enjoys taking her dog for walks in the park. She said she gets her news from The New York Times, CNN, Google, and Facebook.

Juror 3 is a corporate attorney who moved to New York from Oregon five years ago. He has worked at two major white-shoe law firms in New York. He said he normally gets his news from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Google. In his spare time, he said he enjoys hiking and running.

Juror No. 4 said he finds the former president to be "fascinating and mysterious." Originally from Puerto Rico, he has lived in the Lower East Side for the last 40 years. He is a self-employed IT consultant who attended one year of college and has been "married for a long time." He normally gets his news from the Daily News, The New York Times, and Google.

Juror No. 5 was the only potential juror who raised her hand when lawyers asked if they had ever heard of Trump's other criminal cases. A life-long New Yorker, she currently works as an ELA teacher in a charter school and lives in Harlem. She normally gets her news from Google and TikTok but said that she "doesn't really care for the news."

Juror No. 6 is a software engineer who works for the Walt Disney Company, which is the parent company of ABC News. She grew up in New York City and lives in Chelsea with three roommates. She said she gets her news from The New York Times and TikTok. In her spare time, she said she enjoys plays, restaurants, dancing, and watching TV.

Apr 16, 5:21 PM
Three prospective jurors remain from original 96

Three prospective jurors now remain from the first group of 96, and they're facing questions from Trump attorney Todd Blanche after fielding questions from prosecutor Susan Hoffinger regarding their jury questionnaire.

The three are a civil litigator, a real estate developer, and a retired New York Police Department photographer.

Asked what he thought about Trump's book The Art of the Deal, which he previously stated that he had read, the real estate developer said, "I felt it was entertaining." He added that, as a developer, he was "an admirer from afar of some of the work" Trump has done, but he has no opinion on "how he conducts himself."

The civil litigator claimed to know "virtually nothing" about criminal law.

Trump, watching from the defense table, leaned back in his chair slightly and alternated looking ahead and in the direction of the prospective jurors as they read aloud their answers from the questionnaire.

Apr 16, 5:10 PM
Handful of jury prospects remain from initial group of 96

Four of the six remaining prospective jurors from the initial batch of 96 have ticked through their jury questionnaire, after which two were excused, leaving two still in the running to be selected.

A fifth prospect, a retired New York Police Department photographer, was going through his questionnaire.

A prospective juror who is a real estate developer advanced to the next round. He said he read The Art of the Deal a "long time ago" and alerted the court to tangential relationships with the former president.

"There are people that I know that know the president," he said. "It wouldn't in any way influence my thinking ... but I just wanted to state for the record that that's out there."

Among prospective jurors who were excused in the latest round was a North Carolina-born civil litigator and a doctor who asked to be excused to care for her patients. A history teacher at an all-girls' school was excused after she said her opinions about Trump might interfere with her ability to serve impartially.

Apr 16, 4:20 PM
Judge swears in second group of 96 prospective jurors

With six seats filled on the jury that will determine the outcome of Donald Trump's first criminal trial, a new group of 96 New Yorkers was ushered into the courtroom and sworn in as prospective jurors.

Many of them craned their necks to get a look at the defendant.

"Ma'am, ma'am, put your cellphone away," a court security officer told one woman who tried to pull out her phone after spotting Trump.

One man and woman were seen whispering feverishly to one another.

After members of the group were sworn in, Judge Merchan told them he was sending them home for the day.

"I know that you've been sitting around all day, waiting for something to happen, and I want you to know that that wasn't lost on us," Merchan said, telling them the proceedings would start right away when they return Thursday morning following Wednesday's day off.

Before the new panel was brought in, the judge asked Trump's defense team to confirm that the social media posts it's been digging up are all are public. Trump attorney Todd Blanche confirmed they were.

Apr 16, 4:01 PM
Judge suggests arguments could begin early next week

After selecting and swearing in the first six jurors, Judge Juan Merchan asked them to return on Monday unless they hear otherwise from the court -- suggesting that opening statements could happen as soon as early next week.

The judge, however, cautioned that seating the remaining jurors may not happen by then.

"We don't know exactly how long that will last," Merchan said.

Apr 16, 3:48 PM
Six jurors now seated

Judge Juan Merchan has now seated and sworn in six jurors to sit in judgment of former President Trump, after each side used several preemptory strikes and other prospective jurors were stricken over politically-charged social media posts.

"You are the first six jurors selected for this trial," Merchan said.

Juror No. 1, the foreperson, is a man born in Ireland who works in sales and lives in West Harlem.

Juror No. 2 is an oncology nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering who lives on the Upper East Side.

Juror No. 3 is an attorney who lives in Chelsea.

Juror No. 4 is an IT consultant who lives on the Lower East Side and is originally from Puerto Rico.

Juror No. 5 is a charter school teacher from Harlem.

Juror No. 6 is a software employee who works for Disney and lives in Chelsea.

Apr 16, 3:42 PM
First 3 jurors seated

Three jurors from the first batch of 96 prospects have been selected for the jury.

After the defense raised a series of motions to remove jurors for cause, citing their social media posts, Judge Juan Merchan formally approved three jurors:

- an Irish-born salesman;

- an oncology nurse; and

- an attorney who lives in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

The selections came after Judge Merchan blocked one other motion from the defense to strike a juror for cause and granted another.

The juror Merchan agreed to remove was an Upper West Side bookseller who recently re-posted an AI video to social media mocking Trump, which included a fake Trump saying, "I'm dumb as f---."

"I thought it would be funny," the juror said.

The government then used three of its ten preemptory strikes and the defense used four.

Apr 16, 3:18 PM
Judge removes juror whose post said 'lock him up'

After declining to strike a potential juror for her Facebook content, Judge Merchan granted a defense motion to strike another juror for a social media post.

"Good news!!" the post read. "Trump lost his court battle on his unlawful travel ban!!!"

If the post ended there, Judge Merchan said, he would allow him to remain in contention. But the post didn't stop there.

"Get him out and lock him up," the post continued.

Those post shows the prospective juror expressing "the desire that Trump be locked up," Merchan said. "Everyone knows that if Mr. Trump" is found guilty, he could face prison time.

"I don't think I can allow this juror to remain," the judge said, before agreeing to strike the juror.

Apr 16, 3:06 PM
Judge declines defense's motion to remove juror

Judge Merchan declined to strike for cause the prospective juror who posted what the defense called "hostile" Facebook videos, explaining that he believed the juror when she told the court that she would follow the facts of the case.

"I don't want a juror on this panel who lies to us. I don't want a juror on this panel who misleads us," he said. "And for this reason, I did want to hear from the juror."

Ultimately, Merchan found her assurances to be honest.

"I was able to see her demeanor, I was able to hear her voice," he said. "That juror looked me right in the eye, and when she said she could be fair and impartial, she meant it."

"I find her to be credible," Merchan concluded, before denying the defense motion to remove her from the jury.

Apr 16, 2:54 PM
Judge scolds Trump for 'muttering' at prospective juror

As jury selection resumed for the afternoon session, Judge Juan Merchan scolded former President Trump over his audible "muttering" while a prospective juror was speaking.

"Your client was audibly muttering something," the judge told Trump's attorneys. "He was speaking in the direction of the juror. I will not tolerate that. I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear. Take a minute and speak to your client."

The interaction occurred after Trump's defense attorney sought to immediately strike potential jurors for cause based on social media posts that he said contradicted their assertions of fairness.

"There's a number of the jurors that we have social media posts for very much contrary to the answers that they gave," defense attorney Todd Blanche said.

Blanche pointed to a woman who he said has a "series of extraordinarily hostile Facebook posts."

One of the posts read, "So I've been in the middle of the ocean for the last few weeks. What's going on?"

Another post included a video of people celebrating near Manhattan's 96th Street and the words, "Full-on dance party at 96 Street."

Judge Merchan seemed baffled. "Show me the bias," the judge said. "I'm trying to understand. How does this call into question what the juror said when that juror was answering questions?"

Blanche insisted the post, a day after the 2020 election, was a celebration of Trump's loss.

"This is ridiculous," prosecutor Josh Steinglass said.

The judge determined "there are enough questions here" to allow the defense to question the woman about her posts.

"I think I went to the car to alternate-side parking or something like that and there were people dancing in the street," the woman said, adding that it reminded her of the pandemic-era cheer for health workers.

"I understand that bias exists," the woman said. "The job of the juror is to understand the facts of the trial."

When the woman left the room, that's when the judge scolded Trump.

Apr 16, 2:41 PM
Jury selection resumes after break

Former President Trump is back at the defense table as court resumes after the lunch break.

While on break, Trump shared on his social media platform a newspaper opinion piece calling his former attorney Michael Cohen a "serial perjurer" and a "legal thug."

The former president, who is under a limited gag order prohibiting him from targeting witnesses in the case, did not add any comment of his own.

Apr 16, 1:24 PM
'Feelings are not facts,' prospective juror says

Defense attorney Todd Blanche finished questioning the first group of potential jurors, including asking them to think about their social media usage and whether it affects their opinion of Trump.

Blanche asked a man born in Mexico who became a U.S. citizen when Trump was president if that would color his jury experience.

"I think the media and the opinions of my Facebook friends are inconsequential to this trial," the man said. "Feelings are not facts."

A woman who had said she had been living in a WiFi-free lake house for much of February and March said she didn't know much about the case, but she knew about Trump's policies. She said she had "very little agreement policy-wise" with Trump, but told Blanche she "didn't sleep last night" because she was thinking so hard about fairness and impartiality.

"You want your client to have a fair shake. I will do my level-headed best to make sure that happens," she said.

This part of the day clearly interested Trump. He turned his body in the direction of the jury box, shifting his gaze from his lawyer to the people who may sit in judgment of him.

Judge Juan Merchan subsequently recessed the court for a lunch break.

Apr 16, 1:14 PM
Prospective jurors asked how they see Trump

What do you make of Trump?

In answering that question from attorneys, prospective jurors are painting a portrait of the man seated at the defendant's table -- complete with his complexities and his merits.

"President Trump speaks his mind," said one juror, a young black woman who teaches at a charter school. "And I'd rather that than someone who's in office who you don't know what they're thinking."

"He walks into a room, and he sets people off -- one way or another," the juror said. "I find that really interesting. Really -- this one guy can do all of this. 'Wow' -- that's what I think."

Trump smirked when another prospective juror said, "He stirs the pot."

"He speaks his mind," she said. "You can't judge him because he speaks his mind."

Apr 16, 12:56 PM
'I find him fascinating,' prospective juror says of Trump

Trump attorney Todd Blanche sought to "test" jury candidates on their assurances that his client would "get a fair shake" as he began his questioning of the first group of prospective jurors.

"This isn't a baseball game," Blanche said, referring to a sports reference Assistant District Attorney Josh Steinglass had made during his questioning of jurors. "This is extraordinarily serious."

Blanche pressed jurors on their opinion of Trump, asking each of them whether they harbored any views about him in any capacity -- political or otherwise.

"If we were sitting in a bar, I'd be able to tell you," said the bookseller from the Upper West Side. But in the courtroom, he continued, that opinion has "absolutely no bearing on the case."

"I walk in here, and he's a defendant," he said. "That's all he is."

When another juror indicated that her awareness of Trump comes in part through the lens of her gender -- "I'm a female," she said -- Blanche asked her to elaborate.

"I know that there have been opinions on how he doesn't treat females correctly, stuff like that," she said. "I honestly don't know the story. So I don't have a view on it."

Another juror, an older male, drew laughter from courtroom when he said Trump "makes things interesting."

"I find him fascinating. He walks into a room, and he sets people off," the juror said. "I find that really interesting."

"Um, all right," Blanche said. "Thank you."

Apr 16, 12:35 PM
Defense begins its questioning of prospective jurors

Assistant District Attorney Josh Steinglass has finished questioning the current group of prospective jurors, with defense attorney Todd Blanche now beginning his questions.

Steinglass wrapped up his questioning by asking the prospective jurors to "look inside yourselves" to make certain they could return a guilty verdict against the former president.

"Bottom line is, there are people who for a variety of reasons feel uncomfortable about returning a verdict of guilty in a criminal case," Steinglass said. He sought to make sure these prospective jurors could do it.

"If we do prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, you have to be able to come back in here after deliberations, look the defendant in the eye," Steinglass said. "Look at the defendant and take a look inside yourselves. Will you be able to render a verdict of guilty?"

Trump appeared to be looking at the prospective jurors in the jury box as they each answered "Yes" to Steinglass's question. Trump tilted his head once or twice as they were answering.

Apr 16, 12:25 PM
'I'm going to listen to all the facts,' juror tells court

Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, prospective jurors agreed to weigh the evidence before them and nothing else -- vowing to set aside any personal feelings toward the former president or outside influences, in order to deliver a fair verdict.

"The particulars of this case -- it doesn't really have anything to do with my political inclinations," said the IT professional who earlier elicited a smile from Trump. "I can judge this case on the merits."

"I'm going to listen to all the facts," one woman said.

A retired MTA official who lives in the Lower East Side pledged to "give this man a fair shake." She described the judicial system as "great," but added that it could "use some tweaking in some places."

Trump, meanwhile, has been craning his neck, trying to look past his attorney Todd Blanche to get a view of the jurors as they field questions from Steinglass.

Apr 16, 12:15 PM
'I'm not 100% sure I could be fair,' says juror who is excused

A woman who works for New York City told the court, "I'm a public servant and I've built my entire career trying to serve the city I live in and I see this as an extension of that," as individual questioning of prospective jurors continued.

She had signaled she had strong views about campaign finance, but said "I don't believe so" when Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass asked whether that would affect her ability to judge the case fairly.

Earlier, a self-employed woman who has lived on the Upper East Side for 25 years let out an audible sigh.

She had reached the part of the questionnaire that asked whether she can decide the case solely on the evidence and whether she had strong beliefs about Trump that would inhibit her from being fair.

"I'm not 100% sure I could be fair," the woman said, and was excused.

When a school teacher from Harlem who is in her late 20s answered the same question, she spoke about the 2020 election.

"There was a divide in the country and I can't ignore that," she said. "However, I never equated that to one individual." She remained in the jury pool.

Apr 16, 12:07 PM
Lawyer asks for 'honest answers' as individual questioning begins

Jury selection is moving into a new phase with lawyers beginning the individual questioning of prospective jurors who made it through Judge Merchan's initial cuts.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, up first, reminded prospective jurors that the case is not a referendum on their politics.

"Really give us the most honest answers you can," Steinglass said. "No one is suggesting you can't be a fair juror because you've heard of Donald Trump." He added, "We don't expect you to have been living under a rock for the last eight years or the last 30 years."

Steinglass first asked whether anyone felt like the district attorney's office had to prove more than the law requires "because of who he is."

Not a single hand went up.

"I think the job of the jury is to understand what's facts," one woman said. "I don't think it matters what my political views are. We listen to the facts of the case."

Trump is engaged with some of the responses at times, and at other times he leans back in his chair with his eyelids heavy.

Apr 16, 11:56 AM
Excused juror says jury pool's attitudes seem 'pretty even'

A prospective juror who went through questioning but was ultimately excused from the case told ABC News outside the courthouse that she didn't like the former president, but that it was important he get a fair trial.

"I don't like him, I don't approve of what he did as president," said Kara McGee, when asked by ABC News about her feelings on Trump. "But the right to a fair trial is extremely important. And if this would serve to uphold that, then that would be my priority."

McGee was excused from the case because of scheduling conflicts with her job.

"No matter what you think about someone as a person, or what other things they may have done, what he is on trial for is a very specific thing that even he deserves the right to a fair trial," she said.

Asked about the sentiment of the other prospective jurors on their opinions of Trump, McGee said it "seemed pretty even, surprisingly."

"I thought because this is Manhattan it might be a little bit more liberal, but there were a number of people who said 'Yes, I listen to Fox, I watch Fox, I have been on Trump mailing lists in the past,'" she said. "So not really leaning towards one side or the other, that I can tell."

"You got a sense that people were really trying to put anything that they had brought to this aside, and step in and do their civic duty," she said. "And that people really were being honest."

Apr 16, 11:41 AM
Prospective juror who read 'Art of the Deal' gets a smile from Trump

Several more prospective jurors have moved on to the next round of the screening process after some were excused after saying they could not serve impartially.

Among those who remain following the initial questionnaire are a senior living professional from the Upper West Side, a native Mexican who became a U.S. citizen in 2017, a corporate lawyer who lives in Chelsea, and a Disney employee.

A twice-married man who lives in Battery Park earned a tight smile from former President Trump when he said he had read some of his books, including "The Art of the Deal." He said he read that book, as well as "How to be Rich" and a third title that he couldn't quite remember, prompting a chuckle from Trump.

The man said his daughter was the victim of a violent sexual assault that he described as "traumatic," but he said it left him with a "generally favorable view of the legal system."

He said that relatives on his wife's side lobby and fundraise for the Republican Party, and that he followed Trump on Twitter during his presidency.

"I don't think there's anything that would prevent me from being a fair and impartial juror," the man said. "I feel that no one is above the law."

He said, however, that he "would be lying" if he said he would promise not to discuss the case "to some degree" with his wife. When the judge said he could say nothing of substance, the man replied, "That would be tough."

Apr 16, 10:27 AM
Questioning of prospective jurors resumes

A prospective juror who was feeling under the weather was excused before jury selection resumed this morning.

The proceedings resumed when Judge Merchan returned to the bench after a 15-minute absence, which he said was prompted by a few tardy prospective jurors.

The judge said that one prospective juror was experiencing flu-like symptoms and asked to be removed from consideration. The parties did not object.

As the prospective jurors filed in, Trump appeared to be motionless in his seat, staring straight ahead.

Questioning of the jurors has resumed, with one prospective juror -- a finance professional -- being excused after he said his "unconscious bias" might prevent him from being an impartial juror.

Apr 16, 10:12 AM
DA files formal request to hold Trump in contempt

The Manhattan district attorney's office has filed its formal request to hold former President Trump in contempt over a series of recent social media posts that, among other things, call witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels "sleaze bags."

Prosecutors said yesterday that three of Trump's social media posts this month "plainly violate" Judge Merchan's limited gag order because they target known witnesses who will testify at the trial.

"And defendant's violations were knowing and willful -- indeed, they are the latest in what this Court has already recognized as a deliberate strategy to impede this criminal trial," prosecutors wrote in Tuesday's filing. "To be sure, defendant has loudly and repeatedly complained that the order is unlawful, in both court filings and other public statements. But no court has agreed with his objections, and a defendant's mere disagreement with a court's order is no defense to criminal contempt."

Defense attorneys have insisted Trump was responding to "repeated, salacious, demon attacks" by Daniels and Cohen.

The judge has scheduled a hearing on the matter next Tuesday.

Apr 16, 10:00 AM
Trump seated at defense table as court gets underway

Former President Trump has reclaimed his seat at the defendant's table, Judge Juan Merchan is back on the bench -- and the second day of the criminal trial of the former president is underway.

Trump greeted court officers upon arrival, mouthing to one, "How are you?" as he made his way down the aisle accompanied by lawyers Todd Blanche, Susan Necheles and Emil Bove.

Trump is once again seated between Blanche and Bove.

The three men appeared to be in and out of conversation as they awaited the judge, with Trump periodically looking down at the desk or at the monitor in front of him.

Apr 16, 9:52 AM
Trump says Cohen payments were 'legal expense'

Former President Trump, addressing reporters on his way into court, defended the way payments were made to his former attorney Michael Cohen, pushing back on the crux of the DA's case that they were improperly labeled as legal expenses.

"I was paying a lawyer and I marked it down as a legal expense, some accountant," Trump said. "I didn't know. That's exactly what it was."

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has accused Trump of improperly labeling the money as legal expenses to Cohen in order to hide that the funds were to repay hush money paid to Stormy Daniels to boost Trump's electoral prospects.

"Legal expense -- that's what you're supposed to call it," Trump said.

"This is a trial that should never happen, it should have been thrown out," he said.

Apr 16, 9:00 AM
Trump arrives at courthouse

Former President Trump has arrived at the courthouse for the second day of jury selection.

Unlike Monday when a small group of supporters and protesters greeted the former president, there were essentially none at the courthouse this morning.

Apr 16, 8:24 AM
Jury selection to continue on Day 2 of proceedings

Jury selection will continue today on Day 2 of former President Trump's hush money trial.

Attorneys on Monday began the process of narrowing down the first group of 96 juror prospects, but none were seated by the end of the day.

Attorneys today will continue their questioning of the remaining juror prospects from that group, with a new group of prospective jurors scheduled to arrive in court this morning.

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Michigan, Ohio brace for storms after tornadoes rip through Iowa, Kansas, Missouri

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska clean up from the more than 20 reported tornadoes that ripped through the region, the tornado threat moves east on Wednesday to Michigan and Ohio.

The strongest tornado so far was an EF-2 with 118 mph winds in Greenwood County, Kansas.

In Smithville, Missouri, an EF-1 tornado with 95 mph winds forced a family to flee for their lives.


Kristel Kemp and her young son ran from their home -- which is now destroyed -- and sheltered in a brick bathroom.

"Survivor mode kicked in, I guess," she told ABC News. "It felt like the longest run of my life."

On Wednesday, the tornado threat moves into the Ohio Valley and southern Great Lakes, including Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

A severe thunderstorm watch is in effect in Michigan while a tornado watch has been issued for eastern Indiana and much of Ohio through Wednesday evening.

A new storm could also bring another round of severe weather to Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

On Thursday, that new storm will move east and south, impacting states from Texas to Indiana.

The biggest threat for tornadoes will be from Louisville, Kentucky, to St. Louis. Damaging winds and hail are the biggest threat for Dallas.

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One man's escape from Haiti required help from his schoolteacher son

Alex Saintelus

(NEW YORK) -- All Frantzy Saintelus wanted was to visit the country where he was born, and that he has kept in his heart for more than 40 years.

But once he got there, he ended up risking his life trying to escape.

Saintelus, 56, was born in Haiti but moved when he was 14 to the United States, where he rejoined his mother, who had already settled there. Despite raising his family in New Hampshire, where he works as a truck driver, he always considered the Caribbean country he left as a child his true home.

“I’ve been wanting to go back home because I was missing it,” he said.

So, in February, Saintelus returned to Haiti, where many of his extended family still live and where he owns rental property and some vehicles. But right away, he knew something was very wrong.

Starting in late February, criminal gangs had taken over the capital of Port-au-Prince. Through large-scale attacks, they burned police stations, took control of the city’s international airport and seaport, disrupted the country’s supply chain of food and humanitarian aid, and freed about 4,000 inmates from the country’s two biggest prisons.

The United Nations reports that more than 1,550 people were killed across Haiti and more than 820 injured between early January and March 22.

“You couldn’t buy anything because nothing was moving. The country was shut down,” Saintelus said. “And then they start shooting everywhere.”

He and some cousins tried to travel, but it was immediately clear that the situation had become dangerous. “You walk around see people with guns everywhere. It’s like a cowboy place,” he said.

Back in Virginia, Alex Saintelus, Frantzy’s eldest son, watched the chaos unfolding on the island and realized his father “might die.” He started communicating with his father via WhatsApp, the encrypted text-message application, but because internet service was sporadic, hours and sometimes days would go by without hearing from him.

“I was very afraid,” Alex, 31, said.

So Alex took two days off from his job as a middle-school history and civics teacher and started working the phones to get someone to listen. “I basically took the knowledge that I had as a teacher about how our government has constituents that they are supposed to represent and take care of and thought, ‘let’s see if it really works’,” he said.

Through hours of calling, Alex ended up getting local media coverage – but more importantly, he connected with the offices of U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, as well as the Bureau of Consular Affairs within the U.S. State Department, which started to update Alex about efforts underway to evacuate his father, and other American citizens, by helicopter from the U.S. Embassy just outside Port-au-Prince.

Meanwhile, Frantzy Saintelus was trapped inside his family’s home, 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, afraid to go outside. Every five or six blocks were men with large guns. He had learned that anywhere he traveled, he was at risk of being caught in crossfire.

“We can hear the shootings. You just didn’t know where the shootings were coming from. The further I got, the worse it got,” he said.

Finally, on March 25, the Bureau of Consular Affairs told Alex that his father was on a list of people to board a helicopter at the U.S. Embassy the next morning at 7 a.m. Normally, the early-morning ride would take 45 minutes, but Frantzy said it took much longer because, every 20 minutes, gangs stopped the public bus on which he was traveling on to demand bribes from the driver. Finally, when the bus could go no further, Frantzy convinced a motorcyclist to accept money to take him on the final leg of his journey.

When he got to the embassy, Frantzy still wasn’t safe. He arrived early and so had to wait outside, which once again made him a potential target.

“There could be any shooting anytime. I was worried more at that time. You got no time to be scared anymore. Whatever happens, is gonna happen,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Alex had gone to bed the previous night feeling helpless.

“There was absolutely nothing I could do," he said. "So, I just made a prayer. And I said, ‘I'm going to pray that my dad’s going to get into the embassy, and when I wake up in the morning, I'm going to see the text message that says he’s there.’”

Alex awoke two minutes before 8 a.m. the next morning to his father’s text saying just that: That he was safe within the embassy compound.

While being airlifted from Haiti, Frantzy said he felt relief that he was safe, but at the same time watched with profound sadness as the island grew smaller in the distance.

“This is the country I grew up in. This is a place I love,” he said. While he said he hopes to one day return, he isn’t optimistic because conditions there are getting “worse and worse.”

As for Alex, he said he will likely draw from the experience in his classroom next fall.

“Civics can get very messy because there are so many emotions attached to it, especially when you watch the news nowadays. The perception is the government does horrible things and hurts people. But that isn’t the case,” he said.

“I could never get my dad out of that situation. I can't fight the gangs. I can't fly a helicopter. But there are people in our government who can. And if you know the system enough to know who to call and who to talk to, and you can use the system correctly, it has the power to create miracles," he noted.

“At the end of the day,” Alex said, “the government is just made up of people, and if you find good people, then a lot can be achieved.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

16-year-old shot multiple times while answering door, young kids inside escape unharmed


(PHILADELPHIA) -- A 16-year-old boy was shot multiple times when answering the door in Philadelphia, police said, while two younger children who were sleeping inside avoided any injuries.

The gunman came to the door around 11:53 p.m. Monday, and when the 16-year-old opened it, "At least one male entered the property and fired six shots, striking the 16-year-old in the abdomen and the arm," Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small told reporters.

The teen was listed in stable condition, police said.

Two children ages 5 and 7 were inside the home at the time and escaped the hail of bullets, Small said. The 16-year-old was babysitting his two younger cousins, according to Philadelphia ABC station WPVI.

"We're very, very lucky that those two children, ages 5 and 7, were not struck by gunfire, because that's where the shots were fired," Small said. "There's multiple bullet holes in the living room wall right near where those children were sleeping on the couch."

No arrests have been made and no weapons have been recovered, police said.

ABC News' Victoria Arancio contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Who are the first seven jurors of Trump's historic criminal trial

Mint Images/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- With the close of the second day of Donald Trump’s criminal trial, seven jurors have been selected to sit in judgment of the former president.

Below is everything you need to know about the jurors:

Juror 1

Juror 1 -- a middle-aged salesman from Ireland -- will serve as the case's foreman.

He lives in West Harlem and said he normally gets his news from the New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. In his spare time, he said he enjoys doing "anything outdoorsy."

He once worked as a waiter but has worked in sales for the last three decades.

When asked if he was aware of Trump's other criminal cases, he responded, "I've heard of some of them."

Juror 2

Juror 2 did not realize that she could be a juror in Trump's criminal trial when she reported for jury duty on Monday.

"I didn't know I was walking into this," she said on Tuesday.

She currently works as an oncology nurse at a major hospital in New York. A native New Yorker, she currently lives on the Upper East Side with her fiancé and enjoys taking her dog for walks in the park.

She said she gets her news from the New York Times, CNN, Google and Facebook.

"I don't really have one," she said about her opinion of Trump.

"No one is above the law," she added.

Juror 3

Juror 3 is a corporate attorney who moved to New York from Oregon five years ago. He has worked at two major white-shoe law firms in New York.

He said he normally gets his news from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Google. In his spare time, he said he enjoys hiking and running.

When asked about the case, he suggested that he could infer the former president's intent without "reading his mind;" however, he was embarrassed to admit he was not very familiar with all the allegations against the former president.

"I am actually not super familiar with the other charges. I don't really follow the news that closely – a little embarrassing to say," he said.

Juror 4

Juror 4 said he finds the former president to be "fascinating and mysterious."

"He walks into a room, and he sets people off one way or another," the juror said. "I find that really interesting. Really, this one guy can do all of this. 'Wow,' that's what I think."

Originally from Puerto Rico, he has lived in the Lower East Side for the last 40 years. He is a self-employed IT consultant who attended one year of college and has been "married for a long time." He has two grandchildren.

"I have no spare time," he said when answering the questionnaire. "My hobby is my family."

He previously served on a jury trial in a civil case but could not recall if he reached a verdict.

"It was so long ago," he said.

He normally gets his news from the Daily News, The New York Times, Google.

Juror 5

Juror 5 was the only potential juror who raised her hand when lawyers asked if they had ever heard of Trump's other criminal cases.

"President Trump speaks his mind," she said. "And I'd rather that than someone who's in office who you don't know what they're thinking."

A life-long New Yorker, she currently works as an ELA teacher in a charter school and lives in Harlem. She has a master's in education and lives with her brother, who works as a basketball coach. In her spare time, she enjoys writing and theater.

She normally gets her news from Google and TikTok, listens to inspirational podcasts, and sometimes listens to the Breakfast Club radio show. She said that she "doesn't really care for the news."

She has two family members who worked in law enforcement, including a godfather who worked as a homicide sergeant with the NYPD.

Juror 6

Juror 6 is a young software engineer who works for the Walt Disney Company.

She grew up in New York City and lives in Chelsea with three roommates. She said she gets her news from the New York Times and TikTok. In her spare time, she enjoys plays, restaurants, dancing, and watching TV.

"I will be fair and impartial," she said in response to a question about whether Trump's candidacy for presidency would impact her ability to serve as a fair juror.

Juror 7

Juror 7 is the second white-shoe lawyer to serve on Trump's jury.

He currently lives on the Upper East Side and enjoys spending time outdoors and with his children. He gets his news from the New York Times, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

He has never served on a jury. He said he supported some of Trump's policies as president but disagreed with others.

"I don't know the man and I don't have opinions about him personally," he said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kansas women identified as two dead bodies discovered in Texas County, Oklahoma: Medical Examiner

Texas County Sheriff’s Department

(NEW YORK) -- The Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner’s Office announced Tuesday it had positively identified the two deceased persons found in Texas County, Oklahoma as missing Kansas women Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones, along with everyone throughout their community," the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

Butler and Kelley have been missing since March 30, when they were driving in Oklahoma to pick up Butler's children for a birthday party in Kansas and never arrived.

Authorities later found their vehicle abandoned in rural Oklahoma, near the Kansas border.

On April 13, Oklahoma police announced four people were arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree in connection with Butler and Kelley's disappearance.

The four individuals are Tad Bert Cullum, 43; Tifany Machel Adams, 54; Cole Earl Twombly, 50, and Cora Twombly, 44. All four remain in custody.

On April 14, police recovered two dead bodies in Texas County amid the investigation into the disappearance of Butler and Kelley. Identification was the responsibility of the medical examiner’s office, which made the announcement Tuesday.

On Monday, the affidavit of probable cause for the arrest warrants of the four suspects was released, detailing the alleged motive in the murder-kidnapping.

In the court documents, investigators state they discovered Butler was in a "problematic custody battle" with suspect Tifany Adams' son for the custody of Butler’s two children.

Adams is the grandmother of Butler's children and mother of the kids' father, Wrangler Rickman, who has legal custody, according to the documents.

Amid the investigation into Butler and Kelley's disappearance, authorities say they found their vehicle abandoned in rural Oklahoma, near the Kansas border.

An examination of the vehicle and the area surrounding found evidence of severe injury, according to the affidavit, which notes, that blood was found on the roadway and edge of the roadway.

Butler’s glasses were also found in the roadway south of the vehicle near a broken hammer, and a pistol magazine was found inside Kelley’s purse at the scene, but no pistol was found, according to documents.

Adams, her boyfriend and fellow suspect Tad Callum, and the two other suspects, married couple Cole and Cora Twombly, are allegedly members of the anti-government group "God's Misfits," according to the affidavit.

Adams was elected last year as the chair for the Cimarron County Republican Party. The chairman of the Oklahoma GOP said Adams was unknown to the state party. Adams was "previously elected by a handful of people to the role of Chair in her county," the chairman said.

All four suspects are scheduled to make their initial court appearance on Wednesday, according to officials.

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