(NEW YORK) -- Dangerous thunderstorms are heading toward Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana on Thursday, bringing possible tornadoes, damaging winds and hail.
The tornado threat will ramp up around noon in southeast Texas. The supercell thunderstorms will peak in southeast Texas and the Houston area early Thursday afternoon.
The severe weather may spread into Oklahoma and Louisiana by the afternoon and into the evening hours.
There's also a chance for flash flooding due to the 2 to 4 inches of rain forecast for Texas to Louisiana.
On Friday and Saturday, this same storm system will move east and bring stormy weather to the rest of the Gulf Coast states. The biggest threats will be flash flooding and damaging winds from Mississippi to Georgia.
(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million civil lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.
Trump, his sons Eric Trump and and Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump Organization executives are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James of engaging in a decade-long scheme in which they used "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" to inflate Trump's net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. The trial comes after the judge in the case ruled in a partial summary judgment that Trump had submitted "fraudulent valuations" for his assets, leaving the trial to determine additional actions and what penalty, if any, the defendants should receive.
The former president has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have argued that Trump's alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.
Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Nov 30, 8:44 AM EST
Defense calling real estate expert to stand
Donald Trump's lawyers are calling real estate expert Robert Unell as a witness this morning.
Unell is one of several defense experts who submitted reports to the court disputing the New York attorney general's findings that Trump committed fraud in the statements of financial condition he provided to lenders.
"The financial information provided to the lenders was correct in all material respects and contrary to the Plaintiff's allegations, therefore the Defendants did not receive any financial benefits on commercial real estate loans based on the submission of any false, inflated, or misleading valuations," Unell wrote in his expert report.
Unell, in the deposition he gave to the defense, also defended Trump's use of a disclaimer -- which Trump has said is sometimes referred to as a "worthless clause" -- that warned lenders that Trump's statements might contain information that does not comply with standard accounting practices.
"I first read it in President Trump's deposition," Unell said regarding Trump's use of the "worthless clause" phrase. "And it kind of stuck. Because, quite honestly, I had never heard it called that, but it is truly what the meaning of it is."
Nov 29, 5:49 PM EST
Trump firm 'in compliance' but under 'enhanced monitoring'
Donald Trump agreed to "enhanced monitoring" of the Trump Organization's finances after the company's independent monitor flagged cash transfers of roughly $40 million over the last 10 months.
Former judge Barbara Jones, the independent monitor requested by the New York attorney general in the case, wrote in a letter to Judge Arthur Engoron that she had identified three separate cash transfers of more than $5 million, totaling approximately $40 million. Jones said the transfers included $29 million in tax payments and roughly $10 million for insurance premiums.
"We have discussed with Defendants why these transactions were not previously disclosed, and I have now clarified (and Defendants have agreed) that all transfers of assets out of the Trust exceeding $5 million must be reported," Jones wrote.
Jones also requested information related to an intercompany loan and flagged the delayed disclosure of tax returns for six of Trump's entities, which defendants acknowledged as their mistake.
"Defendants continue to cooperate with me and are generally in compliance with the Court's orders, and have committed to ensure that all required information, including tax information and cash transfers, are promptly disclosed to the Monitor," Jones wrote.
Addressing a report she issued in August about incomplete financial disclosures by the Trump Organization, Jones added that the Trump Organization took additional steps to remedy and disclose the issue.
"By taking these steps I believe Defendants have resolved the issues identified in the August Report, subject to ongoing monitoring," Jones wrote.
Nov 29, 5:28 PM EST
Trump VP walks back testimony suggesting conspiracy
Trump Organization VP Patrick Birney, testifying for the defense, walked back testimony from earlier in the trial about receiving instructions to inflate the value of Trump's assets from the company's former CFO.
"Did Allen Weisselberg ever tell you that Mr. Trump wanted his net worth on the statement of financial condition to go up?" state attorney Eric Haren asked Birney during the state's case.
"Yes," Birney responded, describing that he received the instruction in Weisselberg's office between 2017 and 2019.
During an argument for a directed verdict earlier this month, Donald Trump's attorney Chris Kise cited that as some of the only testimony to support the New York attorney general's allegation that members of the Trump Organization conspired to inflate the former president's net worth.
Returning to the witness stand for the defense's case, Birney suggested that any changes to Trump's financial statement were based on material changes to assets.
"Were you ever directed to increase a number without there being an underlying basis to increase that valuation?" defense attorney Jennifer Hernandez asked.
"No," Birney said.
Judge Arthur Engoron adjourned court for the day after Birney completed his testimony.
"OK, class dismissed," Engoron quipped.
Nov 29, 3:45 PM EST
Deutsche Bank expected Trump to value assets fairly, banker says
Former Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic testified on cross-examination by state attorneys that Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. secured private financing using recourse -- meaning they were personally liable for the loan.
"Sorry about the recourse issue -- a dirty word, I know -- but it is a requirement in private banking," Vrablic wrote in a 2011 introductory email to Donald Trump Jr.
Vrablic confirmed that each of the Trumps she worked with -- Donald, Ivanka, and Donald Trump Jr. -- used a personal guaranty to secure better financing terms.
"It gives the flexibility to be creative on some solutions because the person is standing behind it," Vrablic testified.
State attorney Kevin Wallace appeared to focus on the personal guaranty during the cross-examination, with the discussion bringing the focus back on the representation of the value of Trump's assets.
While Vrablic confirmed that she never personally reviewed Donald Trump's statement of financial condition, she said the bank still expected it was accurate.
"You would have had an expectation that a borrower like Mr. Trump would present their financial information fairly?" Wallace asked.
"Yes," Vrablic replied.
Nov 29, 2:31 PM EST
Deutsche Bank made money from Trump, defense emphasizes
Defense attorney Jesus Suarez, in his direct examination of Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic, emphasized that Deutsche Bank was eager for Trump's business and made money from the loans they offered him.
"Your family is in the top 10 revenue generating names of Asset and Wealth Management now and he is thrilled with how it's grown," Vrablic wrote in a 2014 email to Ivanka Trump, referring to Vrablic's boss at Deutsche Bank.
That same year, Vrablic estimated that the bank made more than $6.8 million in fees from the Trump Organization.
Vrablic described her role as an intermediary between lenders at the bank and Ivanka Trump, both hunting for deals within the bank and courting the Trumps for increased business.
"Existing customers are the best source of additional customers," Vrablic said about importance of Trump's business, given his connections in real estate and his wealthy family.
Nov 29, 1:50 PM EST
Bank was concerned DC hotel deal could publicize loan terms
Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic expressed concern about the public nature of Donald Trump's 2012 acquisition of the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C., fearing the deal might publicize the favorable loan terms offered by the bank, according to evidence presented at trial.
"Will our terms and conditions with you be made public? Not a credit issue, but we want to be prepared if 'other clients' see it and ask for the same deal," Vrablic wrote in a 2013 email shown at trial.
The Trump Organization won the bidding process with the federal government in 2012 for the property, and Deutsche Bank loaned the firm the money for the renovation of the decrepit building.
"We won! We're very very excited!" Ivanka Trump wrote in a 2012 email to Vrablic.
Vrablic, concerned about the loan terms being publicized, said, "We would not talk about that," regarding the importance of keeping the terms private from other high-net-worth clients.
Vrablic could not recall how the loan term details were protected, but she confirmed that Deutsche Bank made $3.3 million from their loan to the Trump Organization related to the property.
Nov 29, 1:30 PM EST
Scrutiny over Trump's presidency prompted bank to halt relationship
Deutsche Bank decided to stop doing new business with Donald Trump due to the "increased exposure" and "scrutiny" related to his being elected president, according to testimony from Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic.
"It was an unprecedented situation to have a customer who was going to become president of the United States," Vrablic said.
By the time Trump was elected, the bank had made three profitable loans to Trump, making a projected $6.8 million in revenue from Trump in 2014. Vrablic confirmed that by July 2015, Trump had $31 million in cash deposits with the bank, and his associated entities stored $86 million in cash deposits.
However, the scrutiny of Trump's presidency prompted the bank to decide not to increase its exposure, including declining to offer Trump a loan for his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland.
"He was president of the United States -- going to become president of the United States -- and the bank's position was they did not want to increase its exposure at that time," Vrablic testified.
Nov 29, 12:14 PM EST
Deutsche Bank courted Trump for more business, referrals
Deutsche Bank executives courted Donald Trump to attract more business and referrals, viewing the former president as an opportunity to sell services to his family members and other high-net-worth individuals, according to the testimony of former Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic.
"Given the circles this family travels in, we expect to be introduced to the wealthiest people on the planet," Vrablic wrote to colleagues while courting Trump in the early 2010s, according to materials entered into evidence.
Recruiting Trump stemmed from a 2007 effort in the bank to develop a broader commercial real estate financing division for their high-net-worth individuals.
"He would have fit the category of the entrepreneur and investor with a successful track record," Vrablic testified on the stand regarding Trump's profile.
After being introduced to Donald Trump Jr. through Ivanka Trump's now-husband Jared Kushner, Vrablic began pursuing Donald Trump's business.
"We are whale hunting ... Haven't seen him yet. Also maybe Dad will convert like Ivanka did," Vrablic wrote in a 2011 email to a colleague.
"It is a term used when there is a very high-net-worth individual who is a prospect," Vrablic said in explaining why she referred to Trump as a "whale."
Once Trump was on board, leadership from the bank personally courted Trump to do more business with the bank and to connect them to other potential clients. The former CEO of the bank personally met with Trump with the express goal of gaining more deposits from Trump and leveraging Trump's relationships.
CEO Anshu Jain "thought that if Mr. Trump wanted to, there could be additional leverage provided among his world," Vrablic testified.
The effort appeared to work, as the bank made over $3 million in revenue from Trump in 2013, up from only $13,000 in 2011.
Nov 29, 10:32 AM EST
Defense cuts short Deutsche Bank VP testimony
Donald Trump's lawyers decided to cut short their direct examination of former Deutsche Bank vice president Emily Pereless.
Trump's team originally said they planned to shorten their direct examination after Pereless appeared reluctant to answer questions yesterday. Returning to court this morning, they decided to forgo the remaining testimony to avoid "prolonging" the proceedings.
Pereless then faced a short cross-examination about her work attempting to value Trump's Doral golf resort.
Nov 29, 9:12 AM EST
Deutsche Bank execs continue on witness stand
Former Deutsche Bank vice president Emily Pereless is scheduled to return to the witness stand for an abbreviated round of questions this morning, after being called as a witness yesterday.
Despite being a witness for the defense, Pereless reluctantly answered questions from defense attorney Jesus Suarez about her work reviewing Donald Trump’s finances between 2011 and 2014.
The defense then plans to call to the stand former Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic, who was considered to be Donald Trump’s lead banker during the period in question.
Trump’s adult children, in their testimony, have described Vrablic as the family’s primary contact at Deutsche Bank. A lender with the bank’s private wealth management division, Vrablic initially became acquainted with Ivanka Trump through her husband Jared Kushner.
Nov 28, 6:34 PM EST
Judge appears dubious of defense's latest argument
Court was adjourned for the day following an afternoon in which Judge Engoron appeared to shoot down one of the defense's main remaining arguments following defense attorneys' request for a directed verdict.
Defense lawyer Chris Kise argued that the state failed to prove that Trump's lenders would have acted differently had they known about the fraud alleged by the New York attorney general -- but Engoron said "the mere fact that the lenders were happy doesn't mean the statute wasn't violated."
Earlier this month, during testimony from the defense's first expert witness Steven Witkoff, Trump's lawyers attempted to argue that Trump had undervalued some of his properties, which balanced out the alleged inflated properties in his statement of financial condition. Engoron, however, declined to allow testimony related to that argument, saying, "The reader of the financial statement has the right to know whether each particular number was accurate."
That same day, Trump's lawyers also presented testimony from expert witness Jason Flemmons that Trump disclosed that the values of nearly 95% of the assets in his financial statements departed from generally accepted accounting practices.
But Engoron said Flemmons only addressed the methods used in the statements, rather than the numbers themselves, which could have been incorrect.
Defense attorneys are scheduled to call additional witnesses over the next week before Eric Trump and Donald Trump return to the stand as the defense wraps up its case in the next two weeks.
Nov 28, 5:37 PM EST
Ex-Deutsche Bank VP can't describe Trump's due diligence
Former Deutsche Bank vice president Emily Pereless, testifying for the defense, appeared reluctant to offer details about the process of reviewing Donald Trump's bank and brokerage statements between 2011 and 2014.
Pereless physically reviewed Trump's bank and brokerage statements with a colleague, according to documents shown at trial, and signed Deutsche Bank credit reports. Despite being called as a defense witness, she struggled to recall any details about the process and appeared uncooperative on the witness stand.
"I analyzed and compiled the information provided," Pereless testified about a 2014 credit report, saying could not recall the specific steps she took in detail.
Defense attorney Jesus Suarez attempted to refresh her recollection by showing her a document titled "DT Due Diligence Items" that listed steps that included reviewing Trump's personal tax reports, understanding ownership structures for assets, and learning of Trump's financial commitments.
Pereless still said she could not recall specific steps cited in the document, and even struggled to confirm who the aforementioned "DT" was.
"I am assuming it means Donald Trump, but I don't recall specifically," Pereless said.
Trump's attorneys said they planned to shorten their remaining direct examination when Pereless returns to the stand tomorrow.
Nov 28, 4:20 PM EST
For 3rd time, defense asks for directed verdict
Defense attorney Christopher Kise requested Judge Engoron issue a directed verdict at the conclusion of testimony from Deutsche Bank managing director Dave Williams -- marking the third time the defense has asked the judge to stop the proceedings and decide the case in their favor.
"Was an event of default ever declared by Deutsche Bank on the loans to the Trump Organization?" defense attorney Jesus Suarez asked Williams at the end of Williams' testimony.
"No," Williams replied, prompting Kise to jump up and make his request.
"This witness has again testified the bank conducted its own due diligence" and was not defrauded by Trump's statements of financial condition, Kise argued.
"This is a subjective exercise. There isn't a right answer. There isn't an 'Ah-ha, you picked the wrong number,'" Kise said. "The bank is in a relationship whose job it is to make these determinations. It's not the attorney general's job to insert herself into a private transaction ten years later."
Judge Engoron took the defense's motion under advisement but signaled he was unmoved.
"The mere fact that the lenders were happy doesn't mean the statute wasn't violated," Engoron said.
Kevin Wallace, an attorney for the state, took issue with the Kise's analysis of the testimony.
"The witness did not say none of this matters. The witness said he expects clients to tell the truth," Wallace said.
Nov 28, 2:19 PM EST
Trump easily met Deutsche Bank loan requirements, banker says
Deutsche Bank did its own due diligence to estimate Trump's net worth, landing on a figure that differed from Trump's reported net worth by over $2 billion -- but the difference didn't concern the bank, according to testimony from managing director Dave Williams.
Trump reported a net worth of nearly $5 billion in 2013, according to documents shown at trial. The bank's own Valuation Services Group produced an estimate of only $2.6 billion, a difference that Williams described as "not unusual or atypical."
"My reaction was probably pretty measured," Williams said about learning that the bank determined that Trump's net worth was nearly half the estimate provided by Trump. "We are expected to conduct due diligence and verify information to the extent that is possible."
Even with Deutsche Bank's lower estimate, the former president easily met the bank’s $100 million net-worth requirement for high-net-worth individuals, according to Williams.
“He reported both a net worth and investable assets well in excess of our minimum requirements,” Williams said, confirming that the bank set the interest rate for Trump’s commercial loans between 2%-2.5%.
The testimony also appeared to bolster Trump's arguments that his lenders did their own due diligence, diminishing the importance of his statements of financial condition that are at the center of the case.
Nov 28, 12:16 PM EST
Trump never risked defaulting on loan covenants, banker suggests
Deutsche Bank managing director Dave Williams downplayed the possibility that Donald Trump could have defaulted on the net-worth covenants included in his loans.
While both parties agree that Trump never defaulted on his loans, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges that had Trump accurately reported the value of his assets, he could have risked defaulting on a loan covenant that required he maintain a net worth of $2.5 billion.
Defense attorney Jesus Suarez pushed back on that allegation by asking Williams about the severity of a covenant default -- i.e., breaching the terms of the loan -- compared to a payment default triggered by a missed payment.
"Generally speaking, a payment default is a more material default than a covenant default," Williams said. "It speaks definitively to the repayment of the loan."
Williams described a loan covenant as a "guardrail," and suggested that breaching the covenant would have brought Trump back to the negotiating table to adjust the loan terms.
Williams also reiterated that he was not aware of any loan or covenant defaults by Trump.
James is expected to request a fine of nearly $400 million for Trump's allegedly ill-gotten gains, including over $140 million based on the potential interest she says was lost by Deutsche Bank. By proving that the loan agreements were lawful, Trump's lawyers could significantly lower the fine Trump faces.
Nov 28, 11:44 AM EST
Net worth is subjective, banker says
The managing director of Deutsche Bank, which was Trump's primary lender in the 2010s, testified that it would be impossible for the bank to calculate their client's net worth with mathematical certainty.
"I don't believe that is possible," said Dave Williams, testifying for the defense. "I think an individual's net worth as reported is largely subjective, or subject to the use of estimates."
The assertion bolsters a recurring theme of the defense's case -- that determining the value of Trump's assets was less of a science than an art form.
Williams said that, regardless of what Trump reported, Deutsche Bank made more conservative estimates about the value of his assets.
"I think it's a difference of opinion. We expect clients provide information to be accurate. At the same time, it's not an industry standard that these financial statements are audited," Williams said.
Nov 28, 9:24 AM EST
Deutsche Bank executives to testify for defense
A day after Trump lawyer Chris Kise asserted that the only person who believes the former president committed fraud in his business transactions is New York Attorney General Letitia James, that claim will face a key test over the next two days as Trump's lawyers call four executives from Deutsche Bank, Trump's primary lender at the time of the alleged conduct.
Trump's lawyers claim that the executives will prove that the bank would have still done business with Trump despite his inflated claims about his assets.
"They're skipping over the part where they have to establish that the gains are ill-gotten, meaning that the loans would not have been issued in the first place or that the terms would have been different," Kise said in November during an argument for a directed verdict.
James, however, says that the banks lost millions in potential interest based on Trump's inflated valuations.
Nov 27, 6:52 PM EST
Trump Organization VP returns to witness stand
Trump Organization Vice President Patrick Birney returned to the witness stand to describe his role preparing Trump's statement of financial condition between 2016 and 2021.
"Every new year, I would just copy and paste the spreadsheet from the year before," Birney said, testifying this time for the defense.
Birney largely testified about the spreadsheets of supporting data he prepared, as well as the supporting data he cited from year to year.
Court was adjourned for the day following Birney's testimony. He is set to return to the witness stand later this week after the court hears from witnesses from Deutsche Bank.
Nov 27, 5:59 PM EST
Trump exec disputes independent monitor's findings
Trump Hotels chief operating officer Mark Hawthorn disputed an August 2023 report from the Trump Organization's independent monitor that said the company continued to provide incomplete information to lenders.
Hawthorn had earlier testified that the monitor never communicated that they "uncovered fraud or any irregularities."
State attorney Andrew Amer confronted Hawthorn with the letter from the Trump Organization's independent monitor Barbara Jones flagging inconsistencies.
"Were you aware that Judge Jones had identified such inconsistencies?" Amer asked.
"Yes," Hawthorn answered -- but said that he stood by his initial statement that the monitor never uncovered fraud, claiming that the flagged issues were consistent with accounting practices.
"Did the monitor accuse the Trump Organization of disseminating false and misleading information?" defense attorney Clifford Robert asked on redirect examination.
"No," Hawthorne said.
Trump defense attorney Chris Kise used the disagreement about the monitor's findings to renew his request to question Jones, which Judge Engoron denied earlier in the afternoon.
"What the monitor thinks is clearly and squarely at issue," Kise said, describing the Trump Organization's issues as "minor accounting discrepancies which happen in a large corporation all the time."
"Every time you talk, there's a campaign speech," Engoron quipped following Kise's lengthy argument.
Engoron ultimately stood by his initial ruling, but said he would allow Kise to present cases, if they exist, supporting the defense's right to call the monitor.
"I will decide what reports mean and what implications there are," Engoron said about the monitor's findings.
Nov 27, 3:44 PM EST
Donald Trump to return to witness stand in December
Defense lawyers plan to call Donald Trump as their final witnesses in the former president's civil fraud trial.
Asked to confirm the final witnesses for the defense's case, defense attorney Chris Kise said that Trump is likely to testify on Dec. 11.
"I think we can make that work," Kise said, adding that Trump's exact schedule might change.
Eric Trump will also return to the witness stand on Dec. 6, according to Kise.
Those dates might change if Judge Engoron limits testimony from any of the remaining witnesses.
State attorney Kevin Wallace said that the New York attorney general may present a "minimal" rebuttal case.
Nov 27, 2:43 PM EST
Judge blocks testimony from independent monitor
Judge Arthur Engoron blocked the defense team's plan to call the Trump Organization's independent monitor, describing the last-minute change to the defense's witness list as "untimely" and "inappropriate."
The judge's ruling came after defense lawyer Clifford Robert announced the plan to call former federal Judge Barbara Jones and her associate to testify for the defense.
Before Engoron issuing his ruling from the bench, attorneys from both sides appeared to privately meet with the judge in his chambers.
"I hereby preclude their testimony," Engoron said from the bench, regarding Jones and her associate.
Engoron said that he determined that Jones and her staff are effectively "arms of the court" and thus cannot be called to testify.
He also expressed concern that Jones' testimony could create conflicts of interest that force her to step away from her role overseeing the Trump Organization's finances.
Nov 27, 2:27 PM EST
Defense plans to call Trump Organization's independent monitor
Donald Trump's lawyers plan to call former federal Judge Barbara Jones -- who has served as the Trump Organization's independent monitor since 2022 -- as a witness for the defense case, according to defense attorney Clifford Robert.
Jones was installed as the firm's independent monitor last November at the request of New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Though Jones was not originally included in the defense's witness list, Robert flagged the change to the court near the end of the direct examination of Trump Hotels chief operating officer Mark Hawthorn.
Hawthorn testified that he has regularly met with Jones since her appointment, and that the two have a transparent and cooperative relationship.
"We believe everything they deemed as an objection we have responded to diligently and very accurately," Hawthorn said. "No one from that team has ever communicated to us that they have uncovered fraud or any irregularities."
Jones, however, wrote in an August 2023 report that the Trump Organization provided "incomplete" information and did not consistently provide necessary certifications to lenders, prompting Judge Engoron to chastise the defendants in his summary judgment order.
"Even with a preliminary injunction in place, and with an independent monitor overseeing their compliance, defendants have continued to disseminate false and misleading information while conducting business," Engoron wrote.
Robert did not provide a timeline for when Jones might testify, and state attorney Andrew Amer reserved a right to object to the defense team calling Jones as a witness.
Nov 27, 1:53 PM EST
Threats against clerk are 'just part of the game,' said Trump lawyer
In their filing this morning arguing against the trial's limited gag order, Trump attorneys Clifford Robert, Chris Kise, and Alina Habba downplayed Trump's connection to the threats against Judge Engoron and his clerk, and argued that they do not justify the gag order's limit on Trump's constitutional right to free speech.
The arguments appeared to be foreshadowed by remarks made to reporters earlier this month by Habba, who has been a forceful voice for the former president both in and out of court.
"The president has never threatened her safety," Habba said of Engoron's clerk. "This is a high profile case, and unfortunately, this is what comes with it. There is not a day that I don't get a threat. It's just part of the game."
"If she had a real threat, she should get off the bench and stop having her photograph taken, but she hasn't done that," Habba added.
Nov 27, 12:54 PM EST
Trump's lawyers disavow threats against judge, clerk
Donald Trump's lawyers, in a court filing this morning, doubled down on their criticism of the trial's limited gag order while distancing Trump and his co-defendants from what they called the "vile and reprehensible" threats against Judge Arthur Engoron and his principal law clerk.
In a filing arguing against the limited gag order, defense lawyer Clifford Robert said that the attacks -- which he said Trump neither condoned nor directed -- do not justify the gag order's unconstitutional restraint on Trump's free speech.
"Respondents' sole cognizable justification for the Gag Orders is that an unknown third party may react in a hostile or offensive manner to Petitioners' speech," Robert wrote.
While Robert characterized the threats as "disturbing, derogatory, and indefensible," he argued that it could not be proven that Trump's Truth Social post on Oct. 3 -- which prompted the limited gag order prohibiting statements about the judge's staff -- led to an increase in threats. Trump and his lawyers have never called for violence, condoned the attacks, or encouraged threatening behavior, Robert said.
The threatening behavior "merits appropriate security measures," Robert wrote. "However, it does not justify the wholesale abrogation of Petitioners' First Amendment rights in a proceeding of immense stakes to Petitioners," which Robert argued has been "compromised by the introduction of partisan bias on the bench."
Nov 27, 11:58 AM EST
Eric Trump asked hotel exec to revamp firm's outdated bookkeeping
Eric Trump needed help with the Trump Organization's finances after the company's chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was removed from his role following his indictment in 2021, according to Trump Hotels executive Mark Hawthorn.
According to Hawthorn's testimony, the company relied on an outdated and inefficient approach to bookkeeping, including authorizing only three individuals -- Weisselberg, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump -- to write checks for the Trump Organization until as late as 2021.
Weisselberg signed most of the company's disbursements, leaving Eric and Don Jr. in uncharted waters once Weisselberg was removed, Hawthorn said.
"He had a stack of checks [on his desk] to sign that was very high," Hawthorn recalled regarding a summer 2021 meeting during which he said Eric Trump requested Hawthorn's help applying his experience running Trump's hotel division.
"Mark, how do you do this in the hotel division?" Eric asked, according to Hawthorn.
"We don't do it like this," Hawthorn said he replied.
The meeting, according to Hawthorn, prompted him to begin an effort to revise the Trump's Organization's bookkeeping policies to replicate his work in Trump's hotel division, which he ran as its chief operating officer. Following Eric Trump's request, he imposed a standardized paperless approach to bookkeeping, so entities could be compared on an "apples to apples basis," Hawthorn testified.
Nov 27, 9:26 AM EST
Trump Organization execs to return to witness stand
Two current Trump Organization executives are scheduled to return to the witness stand today as part of the defense's case as the trial resumes following the Thanksgiving holiday.
Mark Hawthorn, Trump Hotels' chief financial officer, initially testified for the state's case in October. State attorney Andrew Amer used his testimony as an opportunity to highlight that the Trump Organization had a qualified accountant who could have worked on Trump's statement of financial condition, instead of the top executives who had less accounting experience.
"If any of them had asked you to work with them on preparing Mr. Trump's statement of financial condition, would you have had the knowledge and experience to do so?" Amer asked.
"Yes," Hawthorn responded, adding he was never asked to assist with preparing the statements that are at the center of the attorney general's case.
Patrick Birney, an assistant vice president at the Trump Organization who also testified in October, offered some of the only testimony that supports the attorney general's allegation of a conspiracy to inflate Trump's net worth.
"Did Allen Weisselberg ever tell you that Mr. Trump wanted his net worth on the statement of financial condition to go up?" state attorney Eric Haren asked Birney.
"Yes, I think that happened in Allen Weisselberg's office," Birney said, prompting an objection from Trump's lawyers.
Nov 22, 5:28 PM EST
Judge, clerk subjected to daily threats, official says in gag order filing
An attorney for Judge Arthur Engoron also filed in support of the gag order in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial, arguing that violent threats have increased since the gag order was lifted.
The limited gag order, which prohibited Donald Trump and his attorneys from publicly commenting about Engoron's staff, was issued by the judge last month after Trump posted about the judge's law clerk on social media. Judge David Friedman of the appellate division's First Department stayed the order on Thursday, citing constitutional concerns over Trump's free speech rights.
Engoron's filing includes a report from Charles Hollon of the Judicial Threats Assessment Unit of the New York State Court System's Department of Public Safety. According to the report, Engoron and his principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield, have been inundated with credible, violent and antisemitic threats since Trump began criticizing Greenfield.
"The threats against Justice Engoron and Ms. Greenfield are considered to be serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative," Hollon wrote in the report.
Greenfield has been the victim of daily doxing of her personal email address and phone number, receiving dozens of calls, emails and social media messages daily, according to Hollon. Approximately half the harassing messages have been antisemitic, according to Greenfield.
In the report, Hollon wrote that Engoron was the subject of credible threats before the trial had started, but Trump's Oct. 3 Truth Social post directed at Greenfield exponentially increased the number of threats directed at her.
The report included multiple examples of voicemails that were left on the telephone in Engoron's chambers.
Hollon said the messages have created an "ongoing security risk" for Engoron, his staff and family, but that the gag order had been effective in lowering the number of threats.
"The implementation of the limited gag orders resulted in a decrease in the number of threats, harassment and disparaging messages that the judge and his staff received," Hollon said in the report. "However, when Mr. Trump violated the gag orders, the number of threatening, harassing and disparaging messages increased."
Engoron's lawyer, Lisa Evans, said the threats detailed in Hollon's affirmation justify the gag order, which functions as a reasonable limit on free speech.
"The First Amendment does not prohibit courts from limiting speech that threatens the safety of the court's staff," Evans wrote.
Trump's reply to the filing is due on Nov. 27, after which the First Department will decide whether to fully lift the gag order.
Nov 22, 4:53 PM EST
NY AG argues for limited gag order in court filing
A lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James, in a court filing Wednesday, argued in favor of maintaining the judge's limited gag after an appeals court temporarily lifted the order last week.
The limited gag order, which prohibited Donald Trump and his attorneys from publicly commenting about Judge Arthur Engoron's staff, was issued by the judge last month after Trump posted about the judge's law clerk on social media. Judge David Friedman of the appellate division's First Department stayed the order on Thursday, citing constitutional concerns over Trump's free speech rights.
James' court filing Wednesday alleges that Trump and his lawyers continue to harass Engoron’s law clerk "as part of an improper tactic to disrupt trial and undermine the proceedings."
James said the gag order is a necessary and "exceedingly limited restraint" to protect Engoron’s staff, and Trump’s lawyers failed to prove that attacks on judicial staff during a trial are protected by the First Amendment.
"A speedy denial is necessary to ensure the safety of [the] Supreme Court's staff and the integrity and the orderly administration of the proceedings through the end of the trial," James wrote, describing Trump's attacks as "extraordinary and dangerous."
Arguing that Trump has engaged in a "pattern" of attacking civil servants involved in proceedings against him, James cited his attacks on the former lieutenant governor of Georgia, as well as officials in his federal election interference case. She also mentioned Trump’s renewed attacks against the clerk over the last week since the gag order was lifted, including calling for her prosecution, sharing an article suggesting she engaged in drug use, and describing her as "crooked and highly partisan."
Trump's lawyers have defended such attacks as constitutionally protected speech and argued that Engoron failed to articulate how the attacks present a "clear and present danger" to the clerk.
Trump personally sued Engoron last week using a provision of state law called Article 78, which is generally used to challenge New York government agencies. Trump unsuccessfully attempted to use an Article 78 proceeding on the eve of the trial to delay the proceeding; however, his most recent attempt successfully resulted in a temporary stay of the gag order.
Trump's reply to the filing is due on Nov. 27, after which the First Department will decide whether to fully lift the gag order.
Nov 21, 3:27 PM EST
Court adjourns for extended Thanksgiving break
After two days of testimony for the defense, former Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney stepped off the witness stand.
Judge Arthur Engoron then adjourned court until Monday.
When court resumes after the Thanksgiving break, the defense plans to call two Trump Organization executives, followed by several Deutsche Bank employees.
(NEW YORK) -- A trucking company involved in the Ohio chain-reaction collision that killed six people was previously cited for issues like defective brakes, according to documents obtained by ABC News.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol says that the Nov. 14 crash on I-70 in Licking County was caused when a Mid State Systems truck operated by Jacob McDonald rear-ended a car that, along with vehicles in front, had been "slowing for traffic." This caused the truck and the car to each collide with a coach bus, which then crashed into a different car and a truck operated by G.A. Wintzer & Son Co.
The bus was transporting Tuscarawas Valley High School students, three of whom died.
The documents ABC News obtained under the Ohio Public Records Act show that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has previously raised a number of red flags involving Mid State Systems’ trucks, including ones operated by McDonald. The commission regulates commercial transportation companies in the state.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families [affected] by this tragic accident," Lee Zazworsky of Mid State Systems told ABC News by email. "Since this matter is still under investigation, we will reserve further comment at this time."
The documents also show that the commission sent a letter to G.A. Wintzer & Son Co. alleging that on Nov. 14, the day of the crash, their truck had several violations, including "brake connections with leaks or constrictions," "failing to secure load" and "inadequate brakes for safe stopping - brake lining condition."
G.A. Wintzer & Son Co. president Sean Wintzer told ABC News via email that "we have received the letter from the PUCO [Public Utilities Commission of Ohio] and we disagree with their findings as we believe the accident caused the conditions noted in the letter."
More than three years before the collision, the commission accused Mid State Systems in a 2020 letter of multiple violations while McDonald was driving a truck, including brake connections with leaks or restrictions and brake system pressure loss, leading to a $150 fine.
In 2021, following another inspection while McDonald was driving a truck, the commission wrote in a letter to Mid State Systems that several similar violations were being alleged, including inoperative/defective brakes, excessive weight and "an automatic airbrake adjustment system that fails to compensate for wear," prompting a $100 fine.
"The number of defective brakes is equal to or greater than 20 percent of the service brakes on the vehicle or combination," the letters from 2020 and 2021 noted.
In 2022, the commission alleged that McDonald drove beyond the 14-hour duty period, but did not assess a fine.
Less than three weeks before the collision on I-70, the commission reached a settlement agreement with Mid State Systems for $805 after "brake hose or tubing chafing and/or kinking" and placard/marking issues were alleged involving a Mid State Systems vehicle operated by a different driver.
The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating this month’s crash. State law enforcement officials say that as of now, they have not filed any charges in connection with the incident.
(NEW YORK) -- A DNA sample taken from the estranged wife of the alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer matches her genetic material that was found on the remains of victims, law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Investigators obtained a cheek swab from Asa Ellerup the night her husband, Rex Heuermann, was arrested for the murders of three women whose remains were found wrapped in burlap in a marshy area near Gilgo Beach on Long Island.
Prosecutors have said Ellerup’s hairs were found on the burlap and now the sources said the DNA extracted from the hairs matches the cheek swab samples.
Prosecutors have cleared Ellerup of any wrongdoing and have said she was out of town at the time of the murders.
Meanwhile, Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to first and second degree murders charges in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Amber Costello and Megan Waterman. He is also the prime suspect in the killing of a fourth Gilgo Beach victim, Maureen Brainard Barnes.
The Suffolk County district Attorney’s office has said DNA from Heuermann’s cheek swab matched his genetic material found on a pizza box investigators recovered from the trash near his Manhattan office.
(NEW YORK) -- The New York City Police Department made a handful of arrests Wednesday evening several blocks from the annual tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center.
After rallying for at least an hour outside the News Corp building at 47th and 6th, a crowd of several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators unfurled a large flag and briefly tried to push its way north in the direction of the tree. A line of police and barricades prevented the movement.
When the group reversed course there was a crush of people, scuffles and some arrests. The group then moved southbound on 6th Avenue, away from the scene.
The NYPD previously said there would be a "heavy security presence" at the ceremony "to ensure all visitors enjoy the celebration safely."
Ahead of the tree lighting, New York City police counterterrorism officials warned in a threat assessment advisory that protests prompted by the Israel-Hamas war could disrupt the annual event.
The confidential document, obtained by ABC News, came in the wake of a disruption by demonstrators at last week's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Demonstrators dressed in white jumpsuits jumped barricades and ran into the street, temporarily halting the parade. They splashed fake blood and attempted to glue their hands to the pavement in order to disrupt the parade, the bulletin stated.
In videos posted online, they could be seen holding Palestinian flags and signs that said "genocide then, genocide now." They were also heard yelling, "Viva, viva Palestina."
The NYPD arrested 34 individuals in connection with the Thanksgiving Day incident on charges including harassment, obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest, trespass and disorderly conduct, according to the document.
The assessment also noted that on Nov. 24, individuals protesting Israeli operations in Gaza disrupted a tree-lighting ceremony in Seattle.
(NEW YORK) -- Two Arizona election officials were charged with interfering with the midterm vote count, according to charges filed by the Arizona Attorney General.
Cochise County, AZ Supervisors Suzanne Judd, age 61, of Willcox, and Terry Thomas "Tom" Crosby, were charged with allegedly holding up the certification of the midterm election.
Between Oct. 11, 2022, and Dec. 1, 2022, Judd and Crosby conspired to delay the canvass of votes cast in Cochise County in the November 2022 General Election, according to a press release from the Attorney General's office.
The Attorney General is a Democrat.
The indictment further alleges that Judd and Crosby knowingly interfered with the Arizona Secretary of State's ability to complete the statewide canvass for the 2022 General Election, by preventing the canvass of votes from Cochise County from occurring during the time period required by Arizona law.
Crosby's lawyer, Dennis I. Wilenchik, told ABC News, "The Indictment is the product of nothing but political partisanship, but again not unexpected. She charged him with Interference with an Election Officer and Conspiracy. Both charges are without any basis and should be defeated if there is any justice. We intend to vigorously defend the charges and move for a remand possibly after obtaining the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings."
Judd reportedly told a local outlet that she was in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, but denies any wrongdoing.
Judd did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.
(AURORA, Colo.) -- Paramedics "did nothing" to help Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old Black man who died following a police encounter, according to the Colorado prosecutor who delivered opening remarks in the trial of the two EMTs charged in McClain’s 2019 death.
Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were the Aurora Fire and Rescue paramedics who injected McClain with 500 milligrams of ketamine on Aug. 24, 2019, in Aurora, Colorado, after an encounter with police for "rapid tranquilization in order to minimize time struggling," according to department policy.
"They intentionally injected Elijah McClain, who was laying on the ground, barely moving, struggling to breathe, with an overdose of ketamine without following a single step of their training and protocols," the state attorney, Shannon Stevenson, said in opening arguments. "They conducted no assessment. They didn’t speak a word to Elijah. They didn't put a finger on him. And then they overdosed him with 150% of the dose someone his size should have gotten. And then they failed to even check on him until this pulse was gone. They knew better."
Cooper and Cichuniec are charged with criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault and crimes of violence. Cichuniec is facing an additional charge of manslaughter, according to the indictment. Cichuniec ordered the ketamine, and Cooper injected it into McClain. They have both pleaded not guilty.
Shanna Beggan, Cooper's attorney, argued that he checked McClain’s vitals and confirmed that he had a pulse and could breathe right before administering the ketamine. Michael Lowe, Cichuniec’s attorney, explained to the jury that the reason the paramedics didn’t check his vitals again until he was on the gurney was because of protocol.
"The evidence will show that the reason restraints were needed was because the drugs that are used to sedate these individuals are not 100% effective," Lowe said during opening arguments, explaining that since police told his client that McClain was struggling with them as they arrested him, he could pose a threat if he came back into consciousness.
"When someone comes out of sedation, they come out the same way they went under," Lowe said.
McClain was stopped by police on his way home from a convenience store after a passerby called 911 to report McClain as acting "sketchy" with a ski mask on, according to prosecutors. However, the caller said there was no weapon and that no one was in danger at the time.
Officer Nathan Woodyard, who was first on the scene, placed McClain in a carotid hold, and he and the other two officers on the scene moved McClain by force to the grass and restrained him, according to the indictment. McClain can be heard pleading with officers in police body camera footage, saying he couldn't breathe.
Cichuniec and Cooper arrived on the scene after McClain was restrained and in handcuffs, according to the indictment.
The state attorney played the body camera footage of McClain’s last words before his death during opening arguments. "Stop please. … I’m trying. … Please help me," words the prosecutor said Cooper and Cichuniec heard McClain say.
Lowe argued that as soon as they noticed McClain didn’t have a pulse in the ambulance, they began life-saving measures.
"They don't stop when they get to the hospital. They watched the entry into the hospital. There was an AFR (Aurora Fire Rescue) employee on that person's chest," Lowe said. "Giving Elijah McClain CPR all the way into the hospital, all the way into the emergency room."
McClain was declared brain-dead days later and died on Aug. 30, 2019.
Cooper and Cichuniec diagnosed McClain with excited delirium, after approximately two minutes on the scene, according to the indictment. Stevenson explained to the jury that the only time paramedics are allowed to administer ketamine is if the patient is suffering from excited delirium and is a danger to themselves and others.
McClain was handcuffed, held on the ground by multiple officers and did not pose a threat to anyone, according Stevenson. McClain weighed 143 pounds (65 kg) and as such his weight-based ketamine dose should have been closer to 325 mg of ketamine, rather than the 500 mg injected into the 23-year-old, Stevenson said.
McClain's cause of death, which was previously listed as "undetermined," was listed in an amended autopsy report as "complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint." The manner of death remained listed as "undetermined" as it was in the initial report.
"They're being told by law enforcement that this person has been fighting all of them," Beggan said when explaining why the paramedics chose to give him ketamine. "They're being told he has done a push-up with three of them on him, over 700 pounds of men on him. They're being told he's been completely resistant to pain control. They're being told he went for a gun. They're being told that he's completely nonsensical. He speaks English, but he's not making any sense. [They were told] he's clearly on something."
During Woodyard's trial, his defense attorneys argued the ketamine administered by the paramedics that night was responsible for McClain's death. Woodyard was acquitted by a jury on all charges earlier this month and has since been reinstated to the Aurora Police Department under uniform-assignment restricted duty, according to police officials.
In the first trial in connection with McClain's death, officer Randy Roedema was found guilty on Oct. 12 of criminally negligent homicide and assault in the third degree. He will be sentenced in January 2024, and could face up to five years in prison and be fined more than $100,000. His employment with the police force was terminated following his conviction.
Another officer, Jason Rosenblatt, was found not guilty on charges of reckless manslaughter, assault in the second degree, and criminally negligent homicide in October. His employment with the police force was terminated in 2020.
The trial for Cichuniec and Cooper will be the last set of criminal charges to be tried by Colorado’s attorney general, according to an indictment.
"It wasn’t just careless and sloppy. It was cruel," Stevenson said about Cichuniec's and Cooper's actions while on the scene of McClain’s arrest. "It showed a total disregard for Elijah McClain, their patient, a person. Elijah McClain would have been better off if they had never come. He would have been alive if they never come."
"They walked into a situation that they literally had minutes to make a decision, follow a protocol and do what they needed to do for Elijah McClain," Lowe said.
(WASHINGTON) -- An FBI special agent was carjacked at gunpoint in Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon, according to multiple law enforcement sources.
The incident occurred near the 1200 block of Constitution Ave., NE.
The agent was driving a blue Chevy Malibu, which contained the agent’s body armor and radio when it was stolen, sources said. The agent was not harmed, sources told ABC News.
The car was recovered a short time later, sources said.
The DC Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the matter.
The FBI Washington Field Office and the Metropolitan Police Department Carjacking Task Force are also investigating, according to an FBI spokesperson.
On Wednesday evening, the FBI confirmed the incident, saying in a statement: "At this time, we can confirm that an FBI employee was carjacked on the afternoon of November 29. The vehicle was recovered, and the FBI Washington Field Office and the Metropolitan Police Department's Carjacking Task Force are investigating."
Washington, D.C., has been experiencing an unprecedented surge in carjackings, surpassing 900 offenses recorded year-to-date in recent days. Carjackings are up more than 100% over last year.
Seventy-seven percent of carjackings in the district this year involve guns, according to MPD. Juveniles account for 65% of carjacking arrests.
(WOBURN, Mass.) -- The classroom is coming to life for elementary students in Massachusetts, who are experiencing new ways to learn about the environment.
Some students in the Bay State are now learning from an environmental education nonprofit called Change is Simple, which offers "touchable lessons" aboard a mobile science lab that allows kids to learn about climate change and sustainability in ecosystems, landscapes and waters that they may never get to experience in real life.
One lesson could involve interactive tents set up in classrooms that contain photos and objects for environmental settings around the world, including the ocean, the Arctic and the rainforest. Other lessons could educate children on sustainable energy and the harmful effects of the greenhouse gases that are emitted with the extraction of oil, natural gas and coal.
Students can also enter the lab, equipped with monitors and any necessary equipment for out-of-the-box learning scenarios.
These unique lessons offer perspectives of what is happening in environments around the world that the students otherwise may not experience, said Ann Crawford, a teacher at Shamrock Elementary in Woburn, Massachusetts.
"Most of our kids are not going to the rainforest," Crawford told ABC News. "They're not going to the Arctic ... When they're getting hands-on and they're seeing it and they're reading about it. It sticks with them."
Change is Simple was conceptualized by Lauren Belmonte and her husband, Patrick Belmonte, who drew inspiration from Patrick's brother, an elementary school teacher whose experience made him realize how little time there was in the curriculum for science, especially environmental science, they told ABC News.
The nonprofit now supplements science education for more than 8,000 students across Massachusetts, Lauren Belmonte said.
Climate change is already having a direct effect on the state as the waters off Massachusetts' coasts warm at alarming rates, especially the Gulf of Maine, which research shows is warming faster than any other body of water on the planet. Rising sea levels are leading to coastal erosion and causing the fisheries industry to become more unpredictable.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers proposed legislation that would establish a science education trust fund and require state standards for science curriculums to include climate change.
However, those bills did not pass during 2023 legislative season. Other states, such as Connecticut and New Jersey, have passed similar education requirements.
Twenty-nine states in the U.S., including Massachusetts, have science standards of a B+ or better for how they address climate change, according to a report by the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund that took a close look at how state standards handle the consensus on climate science, the impacts of climate change and possible solutions.
Seven states are at ranked at a D or F, including Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia and Texas, mainly for poor or lack of framework on addressing climate change and environmental issues.
Change is Simple was implemented at a time when curriculums in public education systems is facing increasing political pressure, but the subject matter the nonprofit teachers has nothing to do with politics, Lauren Belmonte said.
"It's very discovery-based for the kids," she said. "We stick to the facts, and we stick to the science."
Rather than telling the students what choices to make in their daily lives -- whether it has to do with using less plastic or conserving water -- the educational nonprofit focuses on lessons that allows the kids to solve problems.
"We want kids to know that even in third grade, even in first grade, you can do something right now," Lauren Belmonte said. "Because I think that's so important for kids to feel empowered -- to do something and to help them understand the bigger picture as they grow."
(LOS ANGELES) -- The suspected victim of a convicted serial killer has been identified using investigative genetic genealogy nearly 50 years after his body was found near a California trail, authorities said.
Michael Ray Schlicht is believed to be an early victim of infamous serial killer Randy Kraft -- who was sentenced to death in 1989 for the brutal murders of 16 young men in Orange County between 1972 and 1983 -- according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
The so-called Scorecard Killer, Kraft is believed to have tortured and killed dozens more victims in California, Oregon and Michigan. He is also known as "The Freeway Killer" for targeting young male hitchhikers.
Schlicht, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was last seen by his sister in April 1974, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The teenager "loved warm weather," according to his family, and was known to hitchhike, sheriff's department investigator Lauren Felix told ABC News.
In September 1974, two people off-roading on a fire road came upon the body of a person who was believed to have died three to five days earlier from accidental alcohol and diazepam intoxication, authorities said.
Despite attempts to establish the victim's identity, John Doe was interred at El Toro Memorial Park in an unmarked grave.
In 1980, homicide investigators linked other deaths from alcohol and diazepam intoxication that occurred two years prior in Southern California, including Orange County, and the deaths were ruled homicides.
"Over the years, multiple young men were found deceased throughout Orange County and Southern California, including several within a few miles of where John Doe's remains were discovered," the Orange County Sheriff's Department said in a press release Tuesday.
Kraft was arrested in 1983 during a traffic stop, after a California Highway Patrol officer found one of his victims dead in the front passenger seat, the sheriff's department said. A coded list believed to name upwards of 67 of his victims was also discovered in the trunk of his car.
Kraft was convicted of murder and sodomy in May 1989 and sentenced to death. Prosecutors at the time said he may be the worst serial killer in the nation's history. Kraft, 78, remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
The identity of John Doe remained a mystery for decades -- until October. Nearly a year after the Orange County Sheriff's Department enlisted Othram Laboratories, a Texas-based private forensic biotechnology company, to develop a DNA profile based on the victim's tissue samples, they identified his possible grandparents. That couple's granddaughter told investigators she had not seen her 17-year-old brother since April 1974.
Investigators received a DNA sample from a woman believed to be John Doe's mother, which positively identified the victim as Schlicht, the sheriff's department said.
His family members requested privacy and plan to install a headstone to mark his final resting place, the sheriff's department said.
The case remains under investigation. Any charging decisions against Kraft in connection with Schlicht's death will be made by the district attorney's office, the sheriff's department said.
(WAILUKU, Hawaii) -- Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen hopes to incentivize short-term rental owners to use their units as temporary housing as victims of the wildfires continue to face housing insecurity issues.
His proposed bill, if enacted, would amend the County Code to exempt short-term vacation rentals, timeshares, and non-owner-occupied housing from paying real property taxes while they rent to residents who have been displaced by the Aug. 8 tragedy.
"I believe that a shared sacrifice is necessary at this time," Bissen said in a statement Tuesday. "Owners who help our disaster-impacted families by making their units available will receive a tax waiver. While those who choose not to can help by contributing more in taxes to make up for the loss of tax revenue."
Those who join this program can be exempted from property taxes between Feb. 20, 2024, through June 30, 2025, under this proposal. Officials have said the rebuilding process for structures lost in the blazes could take years.
Owners of properties assessed at over $1 million dollars who choose not to rent their property to displaced victims would see an increase in their property taxes, according to Bissen.
If the bill is approved by the County Council, it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
According to Maui County, there are between 2,500 to 3,000 timeshare units, 12,000 to 14,000 non-owner-occupied homes, and 12,000 to 14,000 short-term rentals in Maui County alone.
In Lahaina, a town that was largely destroyed by the wildfires in August, 25% of housing units are listed as short-term rentals, according to research from the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization. To the south of Lahaina, that percentage jumps to 41.8%. To the north, it jumps to 87%.
The bill seeks to address the exacerbated housing crisis that was worsened by the wildfires that tore across Maui late this summer. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes.
Displaced families have told ABC News that the lack of long-term rentals, as well as allegations of skyrocketing costs of rental units despite restrictions on price gouging, have made the relocation a daunting task.
Hawaii residents have some of the highest housing costs in the nation -- 2.5 times higher than the national average -- according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.
According to state representatives, much of what was destroyed in the wildfires were affordable housing units.
As emergency housing comes to an end for some displaced families, officials have encouraged residents to find housing as hotels and short-term rentals sought to bring tourists back to the tourism-reliant community -- much to the ire of residents, locals told ABC News in past interviews.
Residents have continued to place pressure on local officials to address the issue by making vacation rentals available for displaced residents.
Some residents have been camping out at a popular beach for tourists in a "Fishing for Housing" protest concerning the lack of housing policies.
"We plan to stay there for as many days as necessary to send a message that we don't want to be ignored anymore," Alfonso Basurto, a displaced Lahaina resident, and organizer of the protest, told ABC News in an interview days before the protest began on Nov. 10.
The proposed bill will be heard at the Dec. 5 County Council meeting.
(MIAMI) -- One of former president Donald Trump's current attorneys told special counsel Jack Smith's team that, within days of the Justice Department issuing a subpoena last year for all classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, she "very clearly" warned Trump that if he failed to fully comply -- but then swore he did -- "it's going to be a crime," according to sources familiar with the matter.
Sources said the lawyer, Jennifer Little, told investigators Trump "absolutely" understood the warning, which came during a pivotal meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Trump and another attorney, Evan Corcoran, who had recently joined Trump's legal team.
What Little allegedly told Smith's team earlier this year may shed further light on how Smith came to accuse Trump of knowingly violating the law, saying in his June 9 indictment against Trump that the former president defied a subpoena by hiding more than 100 classified documents from the FBI and even his own legal team, and then having his legal team certify otherwise.
As ABC News reported in September, Corcoran, who was Trump's lead attorney on the matter at the time, allegedly told investigators that he also emphasized to Trump the importance of complying with the subpoena, even warning that authorities might search the Mar-a-Lago estate if he didn't comply.
As described to ABC News, Little told investigators that while meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, she wanted to explain to him that a subpoena from the Justice Department was "different from" what Trump faced over the months before, when officials with the National Archives demanded he return documents taken from the White House.
Little allegedly recalled to investigators that she tried to impress upon Trump how "serious" the matter had become, with sources quoting her as telling investigators that she warned Trump, "You've got to comply."
But the indictment filed against Trump in Florida alleges that he did not comply and failed to turn over all documents in his possession, allegedly opting to obstruct Justice Department efforts. In particular, according to the indictment, Trump tried to "conceal his continued retention of classified documents" and "caused a false certification to be submitted to the FBI" claiming that all classified documents had been returned.
Trump and his co-defendants have pleaded not guilty in the case and denied any wrongdoing.
A spokesperson for the special counsel's office declined to comment to ABC News for this story. An attorney for Little did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
A spokesperson for Trump also did not respond to a request for comment.
'OK, I get it'
Little, a former Georgia state prosecutor, is currently representing Trump in the Fulton County, Georgia, case in which Trump and 18 others were indicted on conspiracy and racketeering charges stemming from their alleged roles in trying to overturn Georgia's presidential election results in 2020.
According to sources, Little was first hired by Trump in March 2021, only a couple of months after he left the White House, and shortly after authorities in Georgia launched their election-related probe. But more than a year later, she ended up briefly helping Trump with other matters.
For most of the year after Trump left office, the National Archives pressed him to return any government documents he still had in his possession. When Trump finally returned 15 boxes of documents to the National Archives in January 2022, nearly 200 classified documents were found inside, triggering the National Archives to refer the matter to the Justice Department, which opened an investigation into Trump's handling of classified materials.
Four months later, believing Trump still possessed even more classified documents, the Justice Department issued its subpoena to him. Little suggested retaining an attorney who had handled federal cases before, so Corcoran was then hired, and she essentially handed over the matter to him, sources said.
On May 23, 2022 -- 12 days after receiving the subpoena -- Little and Corcoran met with the former president at Mar-a-Lago. It was Corcoran's first time meeting Trump in person, and Little allegedly wanted to help ease Corcoran into his new role.
But, as sources described it to ABC News, Little told investigators she had a bigger purpose in going to that meeting: She wanted to explain to Trump that whatever happened before with the National Archives "just doesn't matter," especially because Trump never swore to them, under the penalty of perjury, that he had turned everything over, sources said. But whatever happens now has "a legal ramification," Little said she tried to emphasize to Trump, according to the sources.
As Little recounted to investigators, she told Trump that if -- after a diligent search of Mar-a-Lago -- they found more classified documents and returned all of them, he wouldn't face legal jeopardy, as it would be complying with the subpoena, the sources said.
But, she told Trump, if there are any more classified documents, failing to return all of them moving forward will be "a problem," especially because the subpoena requires a signed certification swearing full compliance, the sources said.
"Once this is signed -- if anything else is located -- it's going to be a crime," sources quoted Little as recalling she told Trump.
The sources said that when investigators asked Little if those messages to Trump "landed," she responded: "Absolutely."
The former president said something to the effect of, "OK, I get it,'" the sources said she recalled to investigators.
According to the indictment against Trump, notes that Corcoran made after the meeting say Trump asked his lawyers what would happen if they didn't "play ball" with the Justice Department, and that he asked them, "Wouldn't it be better if we just told them we don't have anything here?"
Speaking with investigators, Little allegedly said she couldn't recall Trump suggesting they not "play ball," and she allegedly said she remembered Trump's other question as simply wondering, in light of the subpoena, whether it would be better for them to find documents or not.
She allegedly reiterated that whatever the facts were would not be a problem; what mattered was complying with the subpoena, especially if he was going to swear he was in compliance, she allegedly said.
As described to ABC News, Little also recalled to investigators that, during the meeting, Trump claimed he was being unfairly targeted by authorities, repeating a much-disputed claim that any documents he brought with him had been declassified.
Before Little and Corcoran left Mar-a-Lago, Trump agreed that Corcoran, as Trump's lead attorney on the matter at the time, should return to Mar-a-Lago in the coming days to search for any classified documents.
But over the next two weeks, before Corcoran searched a basement storage room he was directed to, Trump's two co-defendants in the documents case, Mar-a-Lago staffers Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, allegedly removed dozens of boxes from the storage room -- all "at Trump's direction" and with the goal "that many boxes were not searched and many documents responsive to the May 11 Subpoena could not be found," according to Smith's indictment against Trump.
According to the indictment, Corcoran ultimately found 38 classified documents in the boxes that remained in the storage room, and he handed them over to the FBI, along with a certification -- allegedly endorsed by Trump -- that the former president had now fully complied with the subpoena.
When FBI agents then searched Mar-a-Lago three months later, they found 102 more documents marked classified in Trump's office and elsewhere on the property.
Piercing attorney-client privilege
As described to ABC News, what Little told investigators seemed to corroborate some of what Corcoran separately told them and captured in contemporaneous notes he took following the May 23, 2022, meeting with Trump.
ABC News reported in September that, according to the notes and what Corcoran later told investigators, Corcoran had warned Trump that if he didn't comply with the subpoena, he could face legal trouble and that the FBI might search his estate.
In her discussions with investigators, Little said she also likely told Trump that if he didn't fully comply with the subpoena, "they could just come in and do a search warrant," sources said.
Both Little and Corcoran spoke with investigators about certain conversations with Trump only after, as ABC News first reported, a federal judge ruled in March that the attorney-client privilege was overridden by the need to follow evidence suggesting Trump used his attorneys to commit a crime.
'It's different from before'
At the Mar-a-Lago meeting with Trump to discuss the subpoena, Little allegedly tried to make clear to Trump that because it was coming from the Justice Department, the subpoena for classified documents was not just another request from any government agency.
"This matters now, it's different from before," sources quoted her as recalling she told Trump.
It was also apparently different from other high-profile cases of classified documents being found at homes or offices associated with past presidents or past vice presidents.
For example, when classified documents were found at a home and office associated with President Joe Biden, Biden's attorney notified the National Archives and Records Administration, then helped the government retrieve them, with one of Biden's attorneys writing in an email at the time, "[W]e are prepared to facilitate whatever access you need to accomplish NARA taking custody of whatever materials it deems appropriate."
And when the Justice Department then wanted to search Biden's home in Delaware, Biden and his attorneys granted "full access" to the president's residence, where investigators found additional documents marked classified, his lawyers said in a public statement at the time.
"[From] the outset of this matter, the President directed his personal attorneys to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice," the lawyers said.
The investigation into Biden's handling of classified documents, led by special counsel Robert Hur, is ongoing and no final decisions have been announced. But, as ABC News reported in September, despite investigators finding instances of carelessness, witnesses interviewed in the case said it seemed that classified documents ended up in unsecure locations due to a mistake rather than a criminal act.
Similarly, when former Vice President Mike Pence conducted a review of his own records earlier this year and found "some classified documents" at his home in Indiana, Pence "fully cooperated with the Justice Department, according to Pence.
"I took full responsibility," Pence told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in June, just days after the Justice Department notified Pence that it would not be seeking charges in the matter. "[They] found that it was an innocent mistake."
(AKRON, Ohio) -- The Akron Police Department has finished an internal investigation into the fatal police killing of Jayland Walker, following a car and foot chase by police on June 27, 2022.
Akron Chief of Police Stephen Mylett said the findings showed that "the use of deadly force was in compliance with the policies of the City of Akron Police Department" and officers did not violate department protocol in the fatal chase.
Walker's death sparked protests and outrage from civil rights leaders nationwide.
Walker family attorney Bobby DiCello criticized the findings, calling for justice in his death.
"Everyone should be encouraged to read what the Chief of Police wrote. He said Jayland’s shooting 'was in compliance with the policies of the Akron Police Department,'" said DiCello. "That says it all. While not unexpected, it is exactly this position that makes it critical for us to continue the lawsuit on behalf of Jayland Walker’s family. In fact, it is exactly because of this position, that we look forward to moving this case further through our justice system."
Walker was killed after officers attempted to pull him over for a traffic violation and an equipment violation with his car. Walker refused to stop, according to officials, which set off a car chase, in which Walker allegedly fired a shot from his vehicle.
After later exiting his vehicle and running away on foot, Walker was fatally shot by eight officers. Walker had 46 gunshot wounds in his body, according to an autopsy report. Officials say the officers fired a total of 94 shots at Walker and that he was unarmed during the shooting. Following the shooting, a gun was recovered inside his car.
In Mylett's executive summary of the report findings, he explained several potential policy violations presented in the investigation that have been deemed unintentionally violated or within department procedures.
"Once Mr. Walker discharged his weapon from his vehicle at or in the direction or in the presence of the pursuing officers, the dynamic of the routine traffic stop dramatically changed from a routine traffic stop to a significant public safety and officer safety issue," Mylett said.
"When questioned about this, the officer stated that he was told by other members of the police department that it was permissible to add an extension to the magazine in his department issued weapon. He fired rounds that did not include training ammunition."
Another concern was that an officer was discovered to have added an extension to his department issue magazine, increasing its capacity up to six additional rounds, according to Mylett. He said the officer also inadvertently had two rounds of "training" ammunition in his magazine. However, the officer told investigators he did not knowingly violate department policies concerning such matters. The agency responded by acknowledging that it lacked clear language on the matter and adjusted accordingly.
"The officer stated he would not knowingly violate agency policies. A review of agency policies and procedures regarding this issue uncovered an absence of clear language addressing the topic. I find that the officer did not intentionally violate any policy or procedure when he added an extension to his department issued magazine. In response to this discovery, the agency conducted a policy review and adjusted policies where needed."
One concern was raised about two patrol cruisers that pursued Walker without authorization from a supervisor -- as well as the failure from two of officers in one of those cruisers in turning on their body cameras in accordance with APD policy, Mylett said.
"Given the totality of the circumstances at the time of the pursuit, to include the significant officer and public safety issues present and the dynamics of the situation, and based on the accounts of the officers involved, I find that no officer intentionally violated agency policies when they entered the vehicle pursuit nor did any officer intentionally fail to activate their body worn cameras," Mylett said.
Another concern pointed to an officer's use of a patrol vehicle's push bumpers to close the driver's door of Walker's vehicle amid the car chase. Walker appeared to be trying to exit his vehicle at the time, according to the investigation.
"Based on the totality of the circumstances, and the information known to the officer at the time of his decision to use his patrol car in such a manner, I find his actions to be reasonable given the situation," Mylett said.
The use of Tasers also came under scrutiny by the department. Two officers deployed their Tasers against Walker to detain him during the foot pursuit though the effort was unsuccessful. The use was found to be within the policies and procedures of the department, according to Mylett.
"While certainly tragic, after having reviewed the BCI investigation and Lt. Lieke’s investigation, and the City’s policy, similar to the Special Grand Jury, I find that the use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and the officers complied with the use of force policy," Mylett said.
Walker's family has continued to call for justice since his death and slammed what they say is a lack of accountability against the officers who shot him.
A Special Grand Jury decided not to file criminal charges against the eight officers involved in June 2023.
The Walker family has since filed a lawsuit against the city of Akron and its police department in Walker's death.
"A year has passed since Jayland Walker was violently ripped away from his family, and still they have not been able to achieve justice and accountability," said DiCello, in the June announcement of the lawsuit.
He continued, "The City of Akron and its police department have been given every opportunity to participate in a fair process to address what went wrong last June 27. At every turn, they protect their officers from accountability. Now, we must engage the judicial process to accomplish what the city was unwilling to do—hold these officers accountable for their actions. We will use the judicial system to ensure that Jayland Walker and his family get the justice they deserve."
The Akron Police Department declined to comment on pending litigation. The City of Akron and the mayor's office declined ABC News' request for comment following the lawsuit's filing.
(NEW YORK) -- Marvel actor Jonathan Majors' trial on domestic violence charges began Wednesday in New York.
Majors, 34, faces misdemeanor assault and harassment charges stemming from an incident in March with his then-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari.
Majors has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could serve up to a year in prison.
The actor entered criminal court early Wednesday in a long black coat and sunglasses accompanied by his girlfriend, actress Meagan Good, and his defense attorney, Priya Chaudhry.
He appeared to be carrying a Bible in his left hand.
Before jury selection began, Majors' attorneys argued the actor's "celebrity status" means the courtroom should be closed while the parties discuss an "evidentiary matter." His attorneys deemed the undisclosed matter so sensitive that anything short of closing the courtroom and keeping it under seal would severely undermine Majors' ability to receive a fair trial.
Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Michael Gaffey agreed to the request of Majors' attorney, ordering the courtroom closed to the public when he hears arguments about the evidentiary matter Wednesday afternoon. Gaffey said less intrusive measures "would not adequately protect the defendant's right to a fair trial" if the press reported on "prejudicial and inflammatory" material that may not even be deemed admissible at trial.
Sealing the hearing and the documents related to the matter is the "only way to prevent tainting the jury pool," Gaffey said.
An attorney for media organizations had argued the defense has been making public statements "like crazy," so there was no issue about excessive publicity.
The judge also agreed to a request from Chaudhry to prevent prosecutors from referring to Jabbari as the "victim," arguing "it is highly prejudicial for the jury to hear her as 'victim.'" The judge will allow prosecutors to say Jabbari was the victim of third-degree assault and aggravated harassment, as charged.
Other pretrial motions dispensed prior to jury selection may include whether prosecutors will be allowed to call so-called "prior bad act witnesses," other women whose prior accusations against Majors are not part of the misdemeanor assault charges.
Jury selection will follow the discussion of the evidentiary matter. Opening statements are expected to begin on Thursday.
Majors was arrested after officers responded to a 911 call in Manhattan for an alleged domestic dispute. He is accused of twisting Jabbari's arm behind her back, striking her in the head and pushing her into a vehicle, a criminal complaint alleges. She was treated at a hospital for minor neck and head injuries, including a cut to her ear, police said.
The Marvel star has denied the assault and filed a cross-complaint against Jabbari, alleging he was the one assaulted.
"For an excruciating four months, Jonathan Majors, the real victim in this shameful ordeal, has had his life, career, and reputation torn apart," Chaudhry said in a statement in August. "Yet he remains unwavering in his determination to be absolved from this harrowing ordeal."
His attorney had previously sought to delay the trial, saying prosecutors weren't "timely" in turning over evidence.
Jabbari was arrested in October in New York on multiple charges, though the Manhattan district attorney's office subsequently said it decided not to prosecute her because the case "lacks prosecutorial merit."
"The matter is now closed and sealed," the office said in a statement in October.
The judge has yet to rule on a request from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to prohibit the defense from mentioning Jabbari's arrest.
Chaudhry said Majors is heard on police body camera footage telling officers "She slapped me" and "She ripped my coat" before they arrested him. The defense has claimed that authorities failed to properly evaluate his account before moving forward with misdemeanor charges.
Majors is known for his roles in the "Ant-Man" films, as well as starring in the Disney+ TV show, "Loki."
In the role of Kang the Conqueror, Majors is scheduled to appear in "Avengers: The Kang Dynasty" and "Avengers: Secret Wars."
Majors also was nominated for an Emmy for his role in the HBO series "Lovecraft Country" and starred in the films "Creed III," "Da 5 Bloods" and "The Harder They Fall."
Disney is the parent company of Marvel and ABC News.
(NEW YORK) -- A federal judge in New York on Wednesday will hold the first hearing in a closely watched case about copyright concerns raised by artificial intelligence.
A group of well-known authors, including David Baldacci, Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham, George R.R. Martin and Jodi Picoult, is suing OpenAI over the alleged misuse of their work to train the popular chatbot ChatGPT.
The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in September on behalf of the authors by the Authors Guild and accuses OpenAI of copying works of fiction without permission.
"Defendants then fed Plaintiffs' copyrighted works into their 'large language models' or 'LLMs,' algorithms designed to output human-seeming text responses to users' prompts and queries," the lawsuit claims. "These algorithms are at the heart of Defendants' massive commercial enterprise. And at the heart of these algorithms is systematic theft on a mass scale."
OpenAI argued its training of ChatGPT with material found online qualifies as fair use under copyright law, but the authors said OpenAI should pay a licensing fee.
"Unfairly, and perversely, without Plaintiffs' copyrighted works on which to 'train' their LLMs, Defendants would have no commercial product with which to damage -- if not usurp -- the market for these professional authors' works. Defendants' willful copying thus makes Plaintiffs' works into engines of their own destruction," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit signals a growing concern for artists when it comes to artificial intelligence. One of the main tenants of the recently settled actors strike also centered on the use of AI.
"The Authors Guild serves to protect the literary landscape and the profession of writing. This case is merely the beginning of our battle to defend authors from theft by OpenAI and other generative AI," said Maya Shanbhag Lang, president of the Authors Guild.
An OpenAI spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News at the time of the lawsuit's filing that the company has held constructive discussions in general with creators and remains confident its technology will prove beneficial to them.
"Creative professionals around the world use ChatGPT as a part of their creative process. We respect the rights of writers and authors, and believe they should benefit from AI technology," the spokesperson said. "We're having productive conversations with many creators around the world, including the Authors Guild, and have been working cooperatively to understand and discuss their concerns about AI."
The plaintiffs have requested a jury trial and an award of statutory damages up to $150,000 for each infringed work, among other relief, according to the lawsuit.