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Judge rejects Trump effort to pause Jan. 6 civil lawsuits while criminal case ongoing

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(NEW YORK) -- A federal judge has rejected an effort by former President Donald Trump to pause several civil lawsuits filed against him seeking to hold him accountable for his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, according to a newly posted ruling.

Trump had asked D.C. District Judge Amit Mehta to stay proceedings in the lawsuits -- brought by several members of Congress and police officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6 -- while his federal criminal case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith was ongoing.

Trump's attorneys reasoned that defending himself from the lawsuits could improperly impact his defense strategy in his criminal case, which Mehta rejected in his ruling Thursday afternoon.

Mehta wrote that while, "it is true in a sense—both cases center on the former President’s actions in the lead up to and on January 6, 2021... [Trump ] overstates the significance of that factual overlap in the present posture of these matters."

Trump's team also cited the Supreme Court's upcoming arguments regarding the former president's claims of immunity from prosecution in his criminal case, which they argue could impact how Mehta ultimately rules on Trump's immunity claims for what he believes are "official acts" outlined in the civil lawsuits.

"...There is no reason to wait on the Supreme Court’s decision," Mehta responded. "This court is unlikely to make an immunity determination before the end of the Supreme Court’s term. Thus, if the Court’s ruling on criminal immunity is relevant to the outcome here, it can easily be applied."

Trump faces four felony charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction, in the indictment brought by Smith last year, in which prosecutors detailed what they said was his plot to remain in power after his electoral loss to President Joe Biden. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has denied any wrongdoing.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trader Joe's recalls basil amid salmonella outbreak, investigation


(NEW YORK) -- Trader Joe's shoppers with an affinity for homemade pesto, Caprese salad or other dishes that utilize fresh basil should check their fridge for a newly recalled plastic clamshell container of the organic herb.

"Do not eat Infinite Herbs-brand organic basil sold at Trader Joe's stores in 29 states and D.C.," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned on Wednesday amid an ongoing salmonella investigation being carried out in tandem with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This product should no longer be for sale at Trader Joe's and is likely past shelf-life. If you already bought organic basil from Trader Joe's and removed it from the packaging or froze it and cannot tell if it was Infinite Herbs-brand, do not eat or use it and throw it away," the FDA urged consumers.

The popular grocer announced a voluntary recall of its 2.5-ounce plastic clamshell containers of organic basil on April 17 "as the product may have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella."

The product is marked with the UPC code 8 18042 02147 7 and was sold between Feb. 1 and April 6, 2024, in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

"If you purchased the product during this date range, please discard it or return it to any Trader Joe's for a full refund," the retailer said in its recall announcement.

Those with questions about the recall can contact Trader Joe's customer relations at (626) 599-3817 or by emailing the company through the product feedback form on its site.

Trader Joe's did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for additional comment.

As of time of publication, based on epidemiological information collected by CDC, 12 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium reported in seven states and linked to the Infinite Herbs organic basil.

"Seven of eight cases with information available reported exposure to fresh organic basil purchased from Trader Joe's before becoming ill," the FDA stated this week. "Additionally, traceback data collected by FDA determined that Infinite Herbs, LLC, in Miami, FL, was the supplier of the 2.5-oz packages of organic basil sold at Trader Joe's stores."

According to the CDC, most people infected with salmonella experience diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, and symptoms typically begin six hours to six days after swallowing the bacteria.

Most people recover without treatment after four to seven days. But some -- especially children younger than 5 years and adults 65 years and older, or people with weakened immune systems -- may experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization, the CDC states.

According to the FDA, Infinite Herbs, LLC is cooperating with the agency's investigation and agreed to initiate the voluntary recall.

In a post on the company's website, Infinite Herbs CEO Gregorio Berliavsky wrote, "I am heartbroken at the thought that any item we sold may have caused illness or discomfort. We simply will not rest until we can once again be confident in the safety of this product."

He continued, "All farms we source from must comply with U.S. food safety regulations, meet buyer requirements, and submit documentation verifying food safety practices. We sourced the recalled basil from a single farm, which is no longer in production, and we are working with the farmer to conduct an internal investigation of the food safety practices. Through this investigation, our goal is to determine the cause of this recall and apply measures to prevent it from happening again."

"Your safety and satisfaction are of utmost importance to us, and we deeply regret any concerns this may have caused," he added.

According to Berliavsky, customers impacted by the recall may contact the company's customer service team at 305-599-9255 (extension 148) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET, or via email at

The FDA and CDC investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and whether additional products are linked to illnesses. The FDA said it would post updates via its online advisory.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump hush money trial live updates: 2nd juror excused, leaving 5 seated for now

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

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

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 18, 5:31 PM
Court recessed for the day

Judge Juan Merchan has recessed court for the day.

Proceedings will resume tomorrow with plans to choose the remaining alternates for the jury.

Apr 18, 5:13 PM
Citing concerns, prosecutors mum on identity of 1st witnesses

Prosecutors are keeping their cards close to vest regarding who the first witnesses called at trial will be.

When defense attorney Todd Blanche requested the names of the first three state witnesses, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass declined to provide the name of the first planned witnesses following opening statements.

“Mr. Trump has been tweeting about the witnesses,” Steinglass said. “We are not telling you who the witnesses are.”

Blanche attempted to ease that concern by vowing that the former president would not post about the likely witness.

“I don’t think you can make that representation,” Judge Juan Merchan said.

On a separate matter, Merchand said that if time permits tomorrow, he plans to hold a planned hearing on the bounds of Trump’s cross-examination if he opts to testify.

Apr 18, 5:06 PM
Judge says goal is for opening statements on Monday

Judge Merchan indicated that his goal is to have opening statements in the trial begin on Monday morning.

“We can't start until every single one of you is here,” Merchan said to the newly sworn-in jury members, urging them to inform him if they encounter any delay.

After the jury was sworn in, former President Trump sat stone-faced at the defense table with his hands locked, staring at the jury as they left the courtroom.

Apr 18, 4:58 PM
5 new jurors include several transplanted New Yorkers

Following the seven jurors chosen earlier, here is basic biographical information on the remaining five jurors, whose identities are being kept private for security reasons.

Juror No. 8 is a former wealth manager who moved to New York in the 1980s. He is originally from Lebanon.

Juror No. 9 is a speech therapist who grew up in New Jersey.

Juror No. 10 has lived in Murray Hill for six years and worked in commerce for an eyewear company.

Juror No. 11 is originally from California and works as a production development manager for a multinational apparel company.

Juror No. 12 is a physical therapist whose husband works as a coach for a professional sports team.

Apr 18, 4:41 PM
12 jurors now seated, alternates to come

A full jury of 12 members has now been seated following the addition of five more jurors.

The court is now working to select the six alternate jurors for the case.

"We have our jury," Judge Merchan said.

The 12 jurors then rose, raised their right hands, and were sworn in.

Apr 18, 4:27 PM
'Oops, that sounds bad,' potential juror says of past social posts

Trump's lawyers sought to strike a potential juror by confronting her with her own social media posts about the former president.

"These posts are vitriolic," defense lawyer Susan Necheles said. "There is no question that this is as strong language as you can get for Donald Trump."

Necheles cited past posts including one where the potential juror said Trump was "anathema" to her beliefs.

"I wouldn't believe Donald Trump if his tongue were notarized," another post allegedly said.

When the potential juror was questioned about the posts, she said that she did not immediately recall making them.

Merchan then asked her to read back some of her posts, including one when she called Trump a "racist, sexist, narcissist."

"Oops, that sounds bad," the potential juror said. "I was in a disturbed frame of mind during that election cycle."

After questioning, the prospective juror apologized to Trump, saying of her posts, "I don't think it's appropriate."

The judge ultimately struck her from consideration for the jury.

"Those were pretty strong views," Judge Marchan said.

Apr 18, 4:20 PM
2 new jurors seated

Two new jurors have been seated, including a man with an MBA in finance who follows Trump on Truth Social and also follows Michael Cohen.

"I do not have any beliefs that would prevent me from being fair or impartial," the man said while answering attorneys' questions.

"Except for following Michael Cohen or someone like that I don't follow any anti-Trump organizations," he said.

The second new juror is a security engineer who is married with three children, whose wife is a teacher.

The new additions bring the number of jurors selected so far back to seven, after two jurors were excused earlier today.

The court is now looking for eleven more jurors, six of them alternates.

Apr 18, 4:13 PM
Prospective juror once stayed at defense attorney's house

After individual questioning, Judge Merchan dismissed a prospective juror after prosecutors raised concern about her preexisting knowledge of the case and asked to strike her for cause.

"I'm worried that I know too much," she said under questioning. "I am worried that it is going to seep in in some way."

Trump's lawyers attempted to strike another juror who previously interacted with defense attorney Susan Necheles in a personal setting.

"She stayed at my house overnight," Necheles said.

Merchan declined to strike the potential juror after she said she could follow the court's instructions and be a fair juror.

"One time in 50 years," Merchan said about the overnight stay.

"I know her husband very well," Necheles acknowledged.

"He is not in the jury," Merchan responded.

Apr 18, 3:55 PM
3rd group of prospective jurors sworn in

A third batch of 100 prospective jurors has just been sworn and sent home, while prosecutors and defense attorneys ponder which potential jurors who they just questioned individually should be excused for cause or with a peremptory challenge.

It's the third group of jurors who have been sworn in for consideration, after 96 jurors arrived Monday and another 96 arrived Tuesday.

The 18 people who were being in the jury box left the room when the new group of jurors entered, creating a brief traffic jam.

Defense attorney Susan Necheles ended her individual questioning by asking prospective jurors if they would be capable of returning a not guilty verdict if the prosecutors did not prove their case.

“If they do not prove it, I will not be returning a guilty verdict,” said a woman.

The court is looking for seven more jurors and six alternates.

Apr 18, 3:49 PM
Trump hears differing views of his personality

Former President Trump, sitting at the defense table, just finished listening to opposite reviews of his presidency and character.

First, a prospective female juror bluntly said, "I don't like his persona," when asked if she has any strong opinions about him.

"The way he presents himself in public ... he is just very selfish and self serving," the prospective juror said. "So I don't really appreciate that in any public servant. I don't know him as a person ... but just how he is in public, and how he carries himself in public, it's not my cup of tea."

Trump seemed to be leaning forward listening carefully to her answer, at times fidgeting. He leaned back and crossed his arms when she finished.

Then, a male prospective juror took the mic and said he found Trump "pretty amazing."

"He was a businessman in New York. He forged his way," the prospective juror said. "He kind of made history ... I’m impressed with that.”

Trump leaned forward again, listening to this new answer.

"I started as an entrepeneur as well ... made a lot of things happen," the prospective juror said. "Just like he has."

A lifelong New Yorker who works in law enforcement, he said that his love of hockey also made him feel warmly toward Trump.

“As a wannabe hockey player, I still thank him for fixing that Wollman Rink that nobody could fix,” he said of the ice skating rink in Central Park that Trump had refurbished in the 1980s.

Apr 18, 3:34 PM
Defense attorney probes jury prospects for bias

Defense attorney Susan Necheles is now questioning the potential jurors to probe for any bias they might have regarding the former president.

"Do you have strong feelings about President Trump?" Necheles asked a prospective juror who lives on the Upper West Side and works in publishing.

"I disagree with most of his policies," she responded, though she added she did not have a strong opinion of Trump personally. "It is purely a political opinion."

A woman who lives in Inwood and works as a paralegal at a major law firm acknowledged that she might have made some negative social media posts about Trump.

"His politics aren't always my politics," she said of the former president.

"Is this going to affect how you are going to look at the evidence of this case, even if you want to be fair?" Necheles asked the jurors broadly.

"Will you keep an open mind?" Steinglass asked.

Few of the prospective jurors took issue with it.

One prospective juror said she's "100% confident" she can keep an open mind.

"I'd have to wait to hear everything and see if it's compelling or not," said another.

Apr 18, 2:50 PM
Court resumes with questioning of prospective jurors

Court resumed after the lunch break with the individual questioning of 18 prospective jurors, who are seated in the jury box.

Assistant District Attorney Josh Steinglass began with a rhetorical question for the group: "How am I considered for this case of all cases?"

Steinglass said the case was not a referendum on the Trump presidency or anyone's politics. "This case is about whether this man broke the law," he said, gesturing toward Trump.

"I could be objective," one of the prospective jurors, the security officer with Rangers seats and a flip phone, said.

Before the questions resumed, Judge Juan Merchan addressed the temperature in the courtroom.

"I want to apologize that it's chilly in here," Merchan said.

Earlier, when defense attorney Todd Blanche asked to make the courtroom warmer, the judge had said he feared a one-degree bump in the nearly century-old building could increase the temperature by 30 degrees.

Apr 18, 1:16 PM
Prospective juror born in Italy is excused

A prospective juror was promptly excused after he explained he was born and raised in Italy, where he said the media has a "strong association" between Donald Trump and scandal-plagued former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that would prevent him from being fair.

"Now that I'm sitting here, it's going to be hard for me to retain my impartiality and fairness," the man said before he was excused.

Court subsequently recessed for lunch, with the questioning of potential jurors scheduled to resume after the break.

Apr 18, 12:59 PM
Long Island native answers attorneys' questions

After losing two jurors, the selection process is stretching on this afternoon with prospective jurors standing up one-by-one to read the questionnaire.

"This is so bizarre," said a Long Island native when time came for her turn.

The woman is married with two children and has served on a jury three times before. She said her son is some sort of rating analyst, but conceded, "I don't actually know what he does."

Defense attorney Todd Blanche appeared to laugh at that answer. Donald Trump did not.

In response to the question of whether she can put aside bias, the prospective juror answered, "Yes, I will be unbiased. I will be very impartial."

Trump has appeared at times interested in some of the jurors as they work through their questionnaires. As one woman read her answers out loud, Trump turned his body to face her, slid is arm over the back of his chair, and crossed one leg over the other, listening.

Apr 18, 12:18 PM
2nd juror excused, leaving 5 seated for now

Judge Juan Merchan has excused Juror No. 4 after he returned to the courtroom to speak with the judge.

There are now five jurors seated, after Juror No. 2 was excused earlier.

Judge Merchan said the man "expressed annoyance" at how much personal information about him had been publicized.

Trump looked on from his seat, alone, as the attorneys spoke to the judge.

The judge said the sidebar discussion would be sealed and omitted from the daily transcript.

Apr 18, 12:04 PM
Judge, attorneys question Juror No. 4

Juror No. 4, who the DA's office said apparently failed to disclose prior encounters with the judicial system when he was picked for the jury, returned to the courtroom where he was questioned by Judge Merchan and attorneys for the two sides.

The discussion took place at the bench, out of earshot, in a private sidebar. Trump remained seated.

Assistant District Attorney Josh Steinglass questioned the juror, a grandfather originally from Puerto Rico who earlier indicated he found Trump "fascinating."

At one point, the juror broke out laughing. Defense attorney Todd Blanche also appeared to be laughing.

The man was then escorted from the courtroom, after which the judge said he would give the attorneys a few minutes to discuss the circumstances with the juror, who prosecutors determined had ripped down political posters in Westchester County in the 1990s. The posters leaned to the "political right," Steinglass had said.

There was also a prior deferred prosecution agreement the juror's wife entered into with the Manhattan district attorney's office, which he also failed to disclose while responding to the jury questionnaire.

Apr 18, 11:42 AM
Law enforcement officer draws chuckles

"Good morning and thank you for having me," a prospective juror boomed, shaking a sleepy courtroom to attention and drawing a chuckle when he revealed he served as a court security officer.

The man proudly declared he's "born and raised" in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, and has been in law enforcement for 34 years, assigned by the New York State court system to the Court of Claims.

He said he's a New York Rangers season ticket holder and does not have a smartphone.

"I still use a flip phone," he said.

He also said the only news he gets is from the Daily News and the New York Post.

Apr 18, 11:24 AM
MBA, woman in publishing among prospective jurors questioned

A prospective juror with an MBA in finance told the court that he follows Trump on Truth Social but takes no part in political rallies for or against the former president.

"Except for following Michael Cohen or someone like that, I don't follow any anti-Trump organizations," the man said.

"I do not have any beliefs that would prevent me from being fair or impartial," he said.

A woman from the Upper West Side whose husband served as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn said she read "the first ten pages or so of 'Disloyal,'" Michael Cohen's book. The woman, who works in publishing, quickly added, "for business reasons."

Another prospective juror, a woman who lives in Greenwich Village, said she read Trump's "Art of the Deal," decades ago.

Trump appears to be actively listening to many of these responses. At one point he called over a court security officer to ask him something.

Apr 18, 11:05 AM
Attorneys questioning prospective jurors

Attorneys assessing the newest group of prospective jurors are questioning a woman who works at a big law firm, who said she discussed the Trump hush money case "at length" with her coworkers.

The woman said she has both criminal and civil law experience and has "discussed the legal merits of the this case with many co-workers."

Asked by the judge whether she could be fair, the woman pledged to "put that aside" but added "it's hard to un-ring a bell."

The woman, who lives with her fiancé on the Upper East Side, said she took part in the women's march.

She also said she discussed a book by Mark Pomerantz, who had been hired by then-district attorney Cy Vance to work on the Trump investigation. The book was critical of decisions Bragg made about the case, but the prospective juror sought to assure Judge Merchan she could put anything she has heard or read about the case aside.

"I will follow your instructions," the woman said.

Apr 18, 10:53 AM
9 more prospective jurors excused from pool

Nine additional prospective jurors from the second group of 96 were excused after they signaled they could not serve for other, unexplained, reasons.

Fifty-seven of the 96 in the second pool of prospective jurors have now been excused.

The remaining 39 are now giving their responses to the seven-page questionnaire.

Following the departure of Juror No. 2 this morning after she expressed concerns about her ability to serve, the court must now seat six jurors and six alternates. The court deferred dealing with the potential issue over Juror No. 4.

Apr 18, 10:46 AM
Half of new jury group excused due to impartiality

Addressing the new group of 96 prospective jurors, Judge Merchan asked for a show of hands "if you believe you cannot be fair and impartial."

Forty-eight people -- half the pool -- raised their hands.

Apr 18, 10:42 AM
New group of prospective jurors enters courtroom

A new group of 96 prospective jurors has entered the courtroom for the next round of jury selection.

Several in the group registering surprise upon seeing Trump at the defense table.

As Judge Merchan delivered his opening remarks, Trump’s eyes often remained closed. He appeared more attentive when Merchan ticked through the names of potential witnesses, which read like a Who’s Who of the Trump family, campaign and administration.

Apr 18, 10:08 AM
Another juror under scrutiny after one is excused

Following the loss of Juror. No. 2, attorneys are now discussing an issue with yet another juror -- Juror No. 4 -- after Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said the the DA's team did research that "possibly called into question the veracity" of the answers he gave on the jury questionnaire.

Steinglass said a person with the same name as Juror No. 4 -- the Puerto Rican man who said he found Trump "fascinating and mysterious" -- had been arrested in the 1990s in Westchester for "tearing down political advertisements."

“I actually believe the propaganda that was being ripped down was political posters that were on the right -- the political right," Steinglass said.

He suggested that Juror No. 4's answer to question 19 on the questionnaire -- if you have ever been accused or convicted of committing a crime -- then "was not accurate."

Steinglass added they discovered the juror's wife had been embroiled in a "corruption inquiry" that resulted in her "entering in a differed prosecution agreement ... with the Manhattan DA's office."

MORE: Who are the first 7 jurors of Trump's historic criminal trial
Steinglass said they felt they were "ethically and legally obligated to bring this information to the court."

Judge Merchan said he instructed Juror No. 4 to be in court at 9:15, but he still has not shown up.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche said he did not consent to dismissing the juror without first hearing from him. They will revisit the issue later.

Apr 18, 9:58 AM
Prosecutors again accuse Trump of violating limited gag order

Prosecutors are now bringing up what they say are more violations of the limited gag order on former President Trump.

Since they last brought up the issue earlier this week, Trump violated the gag order seven more times, prosecutors claimed.

"It's ridiculous, it has to stop," they said.

Prosecutors said they would like to discuss the seven new posts at the hearing on the matter that is scheduled next week.

"We are asking you to hold the defendant in contempt," they said.

But they indicated they could seek harsher penalties than just financial penalties, saying they are still "considering their options."

Trump attorney Emile Bove pushed back, saying the posts "don't establish there were any willful violations."

Apr 18, 9:44 AM
Jury 'just lost' one member, says judge

"We just lost what would have probably been a very good juror on this case," Judge Merchan said about Juror No. 2, who appears to have been excused.

That would bring the total number of seated jurors down to six, instead of seven.

Juror No. 2 said she "definitely has concerns now" regarding about what has been reported about her publicly. She said she received questions about her identity after colleagues and family said she may have been identified.

Judge Merchan admonished the press for revealing too much information about the jurors, and asked the press to "please refrain" from writing about jurors' physical appearance. He also said there was "no need" to mention one of the jurors had an Irish accent.

"It has become a problem," Marchan said.

Merchan then said he would be redacting some information from the public, including questions 3a and 3b from the jury questionnaire.

Apr 18, 9:39 AM
Juror tells court she has 'concerns' about serving

Court is off to a rocky start this morning after Judge Merchan said the court received a call from already-seated Juror No. 2, who conveyed that "after sleeping on it overnight, she had concerns" about serving on the case.

Marchan said he called that juror back this morning. She is now answering questions.

"I don't believe at this point that I can be fair and unbiased," the juror said.

Apr 18, 9:31 AM
Court is back in session

Court is back in session this morning for Day 3 of jury selection. Former President Trump is in the courtroom in his usual seat between Todd Blanche and Emile Bove.

Two members of Trump's campaign, Jason Miller and Steven Chueng, are also in the courtroom on the last bench in the back of the room.

Trump sat conferring with his attorneys as he waited for Judge Marchan to take the bench.

"Good morning Mr. Trump," the judge said as he gaveled in in proceedings.

Apr 18, 7:37 AM
Jury selection to resume

Jury selection resumes today in former President Trump's criminal hush money case when a new batch of 96 prospective jurors tackles the seven-page questionnaire that begins the whittling-down process.

Seven jurors were seated and sworn in on Tuesday. They were told to be prepared to return to court as soon as Monday when opening statements could begin.

Among the seated jurors is a school teacher, an oncology nurse and a grandfather born in Puerto Rico who said he found Trump "fascinating and mysterious."

The court needs five additional jurors and six alternates.

On Tuesday, each side used six of its 10 peremptory strikes, which eliminate a prospective juror from the pool for almost any reason. The judge may give each side additional peremptory challenges for seating alternate jurors.

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.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

USC valedictorian speaks out after school canceled her commencement speech

USC Valedictorian Asna Tabassum. Via ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The University of Southern California's campus has been in the spotlight after school administrators canceled a student valedictorian's commencement speech due to safety concerns over her pro-Palestinian views.

Asna Tabassum, a first-generation South Asian-American Muslim, was scheduled to give a speech on May 10. School administrators, however, decided to cancel her speech citing safety concerns.

"The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement," Andrew T. Guzman, the school's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said in a letter to students on Monday.

"This decision is not only necessary to maintain the safety of our campus and students, but is consistent with the fundamental legal obligation – including the expectations of federal regulators – that universities act to protect students and keep our campus community safe," he added.

Tabassum has openly criticized the decision and several Muslim rights groups have also called out the school. Pro-Israel associations, however, have commended the school for its decision.

The college senior spoke about the situation with ABC News Live's Phil Lipof on Wednesday.

ABC NEWS LIVE: I want to start with this statement that the college provost said, in part, that "The intensity of the feelings around allowing you to speak escalated to the point of creating substantial risk relating to security and disruption at the commencement, pointing out harassment and violence seen on other campuses."

But I know you had a meeting with them. I'm wondering, did they tell you anything specific, a specific threat that was made against you, or have you had any specific threats made against you?

ASNA TABASSUM: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. I will have to say no. Nothing specific was offered to me, no specific details regarding security threats or safety concerns were offered to me.

Another person created this [site], we should point out you did not create it, you posted it to a site [that] some believe contains anti-Semitic views, really some violent anti-Semitic views, including calling for the abolishment of the State of Israel.

So do you think that's part of it? And do you believe the State of Israel should be abolished?

TABASSUM: So when it comes to abolishing the State of Israel, I do want to point out the rest of the link, and so the very next sentence talks about the peaceful coexistence of Arabs and Jews.

And I think it points to what I've been saying since the beginning of this issue, which is that I'm committed to human equality and to human rights. And so this link, I encourage people to look at it in its entirety rather than looking at one specific example.

For example, it's discussing both the one-state and the two-state solution and it's discussing the history of the region. And I think that there's important information for people to understand on their own and come to their own conclusions about.

When it comes to abolishing the state of Israel. I will say I want to abolish apartheid.

ABC NEWS LIVE: If there is one-state and two-state in there, you could see a two-state solution. I think the abolishment of Israel is what bothered a lot of people. But you would advocate for a two-state solution, so Israel would still exist, and then there would be a Palestinian state? Is that what I'm hearing?

TABASSUM: So no, I'm not necessarily committing to a one-state or a two-state solution. I'm simply saying that this information on the website offered information from multiple perspectives, and so my endorsing of any one single perspective is unfounded.

ABC NEWS LIVE: OK. So USC has said this is not meant to infringe upon your free speech. Do you feel like it's doing just that?

TABASSUM: So in its most technical terms, the ability to give a speech at commencement is a privilege, right?

It's not necessarily free speech, but what I will say that I expressed my views and I express my views online, and the hatred that was leveled at me because of myself expressing these views I think ultimately was part of the reason why USC caved in.

And so whether free speech in its most technical terms is being debated here is maybe up for debate. But I will say speech is an issue and speech is being stifled.

ABC NEWS LIVE: What were you going to speak about? There's a lot of talk about what you posted, that link, and what your beliefs may be. Were you going to talk about that at graduation, or were you going to give a different kind of speech?

TABASSUM: So, the valedictorian honor is ultimately a unifying honor, right? It's emblematic of USC's unifying values. And I think I take that to heart.

I wanted my speech to be in the genre of a valedictory speech, and so that being said, I wanted to impart a message of hope. I also wanted to impart a message of responsibility.

We are given a wonderful set of higher education. We have been given the knowledge of learning how to learn. And so I wanted to encourage my peers to learn about the world and come to their own conclusions and then act to change the world in the ways that they see fit.

And so ultimately, taking in my role as valedictorian, I wanted to be a unifying voice for all students, and that was preemptively taken away from me.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

LAPD officer who killed teen bystander with stray bullet will not be charged

avid_creative/Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) -- A Los Angeles police officer will not be charged after a stray bullet he fired killed a 14-year-old bystander during a police-involved shooting in December 2021, the California Department of Justice announced.

In a report released Wednesday, the state DOJ said it had concluded that criminal charges were "not appropriate" following a thorough investigation and cited "insufficient evidence" for criminal prosecution of the officer.

However, the state DOJ said it recommended that the LAPD "improve lines of communication in response to Immediate Action and Rapid Deployment scenarios" and "should consider updating their communication training bulletin and any related training to account for the type of situation presented during this event."

The teen, Valentina Orellana Peralta, was struck by the stray bullet while Christmas shopping with her mother in North Hollywood on Dec. 23, 2021, after police officers responded to a report of an active shooter at a Burlington Coat Factory, according to the state DOJ. Officers found another injured victim covered in blood and the 24-year-old suspect, Daniel Elena Lopez, holding an object in his hand, the report said. An officer then fired at the suspect, fatally shooting him.

The LAPD previously released surveillance video, body camera footage and the 911 dispatch audio of the incident, which showed the suspect attacking shoppers with a bike lock inside the Burlington Coat Factory store. He did not have a gun in his possession, according to investigators.

Orellana Peralta, who was hiding in one of the dressing rooms inside the store, was struck by one of the officer's bullets that bounced off the floor and penetrated through the wall of the room, according to police.

"This case was a particularly challenging one to process as this involved the loss of two lives," California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in the press release. "Any loss of life is a tragedy, and my heart goes out especially to the family of Valentina Orellana Peralta, who tragically lost her life and whose only involvement in this incident was by being at the wrong place at the wrong time."

The California Department of Justice said the evidence in their investigation "does not show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer involved acted without the intent to defend himself and others from what he reasonably believed to be imminent death or serious bodily injury."

"Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution of the officer," the state DOJ said. "As such, no further action will be taken in this case."

The LAPD and the family of the victim did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

"We at the LAPD would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and profound regret for the loss of this innocent victim ... There are no words that can describe the depth of the sorrow we feel for this tragic outcome," an LAPD spokesperson said in a video statement after the shooting.

The young teen had come to the United States with her mother just six months before her death, her family told reporters.

"I only want justice for my daughter," Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, the teen's father, told reporters at a press conference after the shooting.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tornado threat on the move: Latest severe weather forecast

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Millions are bracing for a new round of storms after at least 25 confirmed tornadoes touched down this week in Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.

On Thursday, the new storm system is moving into the Midwest and parts of the South, bringing a threat of tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail.

The severe weather will stretch from Texas to Indiana, with the highest threat for tornadoes in Missouri and Illinois.

Damaging winds and hail will be possible near Dallas and Little Rock, Arkansas.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

911 outages in several states caused by company installing a light pole

Piccell/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Several states experienced 911 call outages Wednesday evening, which emergency call system service provider Lumen said were caused by a light pole installation done by a third party.

A Lumen spokesperson said Thursday in a statement to ABC News, "Some customers in Nevada, South Dakota, and Nebraska experienced an outage due to a third-party company installing a light pole -- unrelated to our services."

"We restored all services in approximately two and a half hours," Lumen said. "Our techs identified the issue and worked hard to fix it as quickly as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate our customers' patience and understanding."

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating.

The outages impacted areas in Nevada, Nebraska and Texas, as well as the entire state of South Dakota.

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

"All of the individuals who called during the outage have been called back and provided assistance," Las Vegas police said.

Nevada State Police also confirmed that service had been restored for southern Nevada's Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and Henderson.

The entire statewide emergency calling system in South Dakota experienced an outage, according to police. By early Thursday morning local time, the state's highway patrol said service had been restored.

Dundy County, Nebraska, and surrounding areas experienced outages, but both cellular and landline 911 service were later restored, according to authorities.

Multiple cities in Texas also had outages, including Del Rio and Kilgore. A few police departments in Texas have yet to announce whether cell and landline services were back online.

ABC News' Darren Reynolds and Victoria Arancio contributed to this report.

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Oklahoma man arrested in pipe-bomb attack on Massachusetts Satanic Temple

Via U.S. Department of Justice

(NEW YORK) -- An Oklahoma man has been arrested on charges of allegedly throwing a pipe bomb at The Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts, according to federal prosecutors.

The suspect, 49-year-old Sean Patrick Palmer of Perkins, Oklahoma, was arrested Wednesday morning in Oklahoma, authorities said.

The attack, captured on a security surveillance camera outside of the temple, occurred at 4:14 a.m. on April 8, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement.

The security camera recorded a man walking toward The Satanic Temple (TST) wearing black pants, a black jacket, a black face covering, and a tan-colored tactical vest and gloves.

"He ignited a pipe bomb – a type of improvised explosive device or IED – threw it at TST's main entrance, and then ran away. Seconds later, the pipe bomb partially detonated causing minor fire and related damage to TST’s exterior," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office statement, citing the charging document filed against Palmer.

The pipe bomb, according to the charging document, appeared to have been constructed from a section of plastic pipe covered with metal nails taped to the casing. The pipe was filled with a powder-like substance, preliminarily identified as smokeless gunpowder, according to the document.

No injuries were reported.

"A single human hair was allegedly located on the pipe bomb containing a DNA profile from a Caucasian male," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Investigators also found a note left in a flower bed at the scene claiming the temple was bombed on orders from God, according the federal prosecutors.

"A photograph of Palmer, who is a Caucasian male, posted to a social media website shows him wearing a tan-colored tactical vest like the vest worn by the suspect in the TST surveillance video," federal prosecutors said. "Palmer also allegedly comments frequently on a social media website about religious matters and themes similar to those contained in the handwritten note found outside of TST on April 8, 2024."

Palmer was identified as the suspect through surveillance footage that captured a black Volvo sedan, allegedly registered to him, driving erratically near the temple before and after the attack, federal prosecutors said.

Investigators, according to the charging document, allege that on April 3, Palmer purchased PVC pipe and matching caps, like the materials used in the pipe bomb thrown at the temple, at an Oklahoma home improvement store.

Palmer was charged with using fire or an explosive to cause damage to a building used in interstate or foreign commerce, and made his first court appearance in Oklahoma on Wednesday, prosecutors said. He is expected to be brought back to Massachusetts to face prosecution, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

If convicted, Palmer faces a sentence of from five to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, according to prosecutors.

"There's just no justification for doing this kind of thing. There's no justification for even attempting," Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple, told ABC affiliate station WCVB in Boston. "Clearly, the intention was to do the maximum amount of damage and there was a complete disregard for human life."

It was unclear Thursday whether Palmer has an attorney.

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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.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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.

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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.

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