National News

Florida parents file lawsuit against state transgender youth care ban

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(NEW YORK) -- Four Florida families filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court against Florida's Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, Board of Medicine, and Board of Osteopathic Medicine, over the state ban against gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

The ban prohibits puberty blockers, hormones, cross-hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery for people under the age of 18. The families behind the lawsuit have transgender youth who would be impacted by the restriction.

The families say they fear for their children's mental and physical health as some studies have shown gender-affirming care has been found to improve mental health of transgender youth.

According to the press release regarding the suit, the Does are a military family who moved to Florida when John Doe was stationed there as a Senior Officer in the U.S. Navy. Jane Doe said she has concerns about her 11-year-old daughter receiving the care she needs.

"Like most parents, my husband and I want nothing more than for our daughter to be healthy, happy, and safe," said Jane Doe, concerning her 11-year-old daughter, in the release. "Being able to consult with our team of doctors to understand what our daughter is experiencing and make the best, most informed decisions about her care has been critically important for our family."

She continued, "This ban takes away our right to provide her with the next step in her recommended treatment when she reaches puberty."

Another family, called the Boes for anonymity, are also challenging the ban on behalf of their 14-year-old son.

"This ban puts me and other Florida parents in the nightmare position of not being able to help our child when they need us most," said Brenda Boe. "My son has a right to receive appropriate, evidence-based medical care … That has been ripped away by this cruel and discriminatory rule."

Gender-affirming care has been targeted across the country – with at least eight states with policies or laws that restrict it.

However, major national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and over 20 more agree that gender-affirming care is safe, effective, beneficial, and medically necessary for transgender people.

In an email from the Department of Health to ABC News, a spokesperson responded with a gif of Gov. Ron DeSantis that stated "If you want to waste your time on a stunt, that's fine. But I'm not wasting my time on your stunt."

Ladapo, the Board of Medicine, and Board of Osteopathic Medicine have not yet responded to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Rhode Island bill would give autistic drivers option for special license

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(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) -- For autistic drivers, a police stop or emergency while driving can be a scary situation, according to Joanne G. Quinn, the executive director of the non-profit, The Autism Project.

Sirens, flashing lights, and a law enforcement member asking questions can be too much to handle for someone who is autistic, Quinn, who has an autistic son, told ABC News.

"There is no way to know how you'll react in one of those encounters," she said. "And sometimes individuals' reactions or how they answer a question can get them into trouble with an officer who doesn't know they're autistic."

A bill introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives this week would give autistic drivers an option to alert others about their disability with special designations on their license and vehicle.

Lawmakers said it would improve the safety of autistic drivers, however, some advocates argued that in its current form, the specialized license could lead to discrimination and harassment.

Rhode Island House Rep. Samuel Azzinaro introduced the bill that would allow the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to offer an optional driver's license "that is clearly marked 'autism,'" and decals that are "marked 'autism'" that can be affixed to a vehicle in a "conspicuous place," according to the legislation's current language.

Drivers would also have the option of receiving blue envelopes that contain "information regarding ways to enhance effective communication between a police officer and a person with autism spectrum disorder," the bill said.

Connecticut launched a similar blue envelope program for autistic drivers in 2020.

Quinn said she supported the bill's purpose, because it would help resolve an ongoing issue affecting the autistic community, which is communication between them and law enforcement.

She said first responder academies have been improving their training to understand how to communicate with autistic individuals properly, and her group has made videos to educate those departments about the community.

However, Quinn said there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to emergencies, and a designated license and information card would go a long way.

"Either it’s a pullover or a crash, they see the [marker], hopefully, they are educated to know what it is, and in the glove compartment is information about the driver," Quinn said. "The purpose for our community is if it's a stop in the highway it gives the officer a heads up."

During a hearing on the bill Wednesday, some autistic residents also expressed support. Toby Silva, a 17-year-old Rhode Island resident who spoke through an electronic device, told lawmakers that he researched the Connecticut law and said Rhode Island would benefit from similar options for drivers.

"The goal is to avoid misunderstanding between the officer and the driver," he said.

Some advocates, however, warned that putting an autistic person's disability in big letters on an official ID can lead to problems.

Mireille Sayaf, the executive director of the Ocean State Center For Independent Living, sent a letter to the House of Representatives' Health & Human Services Committee Wednesday, noting that such a designation on an official identification document would "lead to stereotyping and breaches of the individual’s confidentiality."

"While the intent behind the bill to improve interactions with law enforcement is good, we feel that there are less intrusive ways to accomplish this goal that would lead to less stigma for persons on the autism spectrum," she wrote.

Quinn said she agreed that the wording or markings on those special licenses and car decals must be more discreet.

"There should be another way, like a blue dot, or strip that is subtle and law enforcement should be informed about it," she said.

Azzinaro, who didn't immediately return messages to ABC News' request for comment, told the committee that the bill's language is not final and he is open to tweaking it based on the community's input.

He also told the committee that he would consider a recommendation for drivers to apply for a special placard on their dashboard.

Quinn said whatever comes of the bill, it is important that lawmakers hear more from autistic drivers and residents, and she encouraged the community to weigh in.

"We need the neurodivergent voice and we need them at the table to tell us what works best for them," she said.

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Rapper Taxstone convicted of shooting bodyguard during New York concert

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(NEW YORK) -- Darryl Campbell, better known as the rapper and hip-hop podcaster Taxstone, was convicted Thursday in New York of manslaughter in connection with the 2016 shooting of a bodyguard during a concert at Irving Plaza.

A jury in Manhattan found Taxstone guilty of shooting and killing Ronald McPhatter and seriously injuring three others.

He will be sentenced next month for what District Attorney Alvin Bragg called a "tragic and deadly confrontation in a packed New York City music venue."

The shooting stemmed from a longtime feud Taxstone had with Roland Collins, known as rapper Troy Ave, who testified against him, prosecutors said. McPhatter was Troy Ave's bodyguard.

Rapper TI was performing when the shots were fired. Troy Ave was on deck to perform.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Denver school shooting suspect brought weapon to previous school, sources say

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(DENVER) --  A student who was required to be patted down at the start of each school day allegedly shot and wounded two school administrators at East High School in Denver, authorities said.

The suspect, Austin Lyle, 17, fled the school after the Wednesday morning shooting, Denver police said. His body was discovered in nearby Park County on Wednesday night after an hours-long manhunt, officials said.

"We're going to connect with the parents of Austin this evening," Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero told reporters during a press briefing Thursday afternoon. "I can acknowledge that we failed Austin as a district."

Lyle allegedly shot the school administrators as they patted him down in the school's office area, which officials said is away from other students and staff.

The injured faculty members were both hospitalized. Eric Sinclair remains in serious condition and Jerald Mason has since been released from the hospital, according to the hospital and school district.

The suspect's daily searches were part of a "safety plan" that was a result of "previous behavior," officials said at a Wednesday news conference.

Marrero said that the school had a "regular routine" with the student, but on the day of the shooting the administrator who typically engaged with the student was not available and two different staffers were involved in the pat-down.

Last year Lyle was expelled from Overland High School in Aurora for allegedly violating school policy, a spokesperson for the Cherry Creek School District told ABC News.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that in 2021 Lyle was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon.

It is unclear if that is the same incident that led to his dismissal from Overland High School, but sources told ABC News that school leadership described Lyle to police as "potentially violent" and a "threat to the safety of the school" after a series of events in the 2021-2022 school year, including bringing a weapon to Overland High School prior to his dismissal.

This year at East High School, Lyle appeared to be a "loner" who didn't seem to have friends, according to two East High School students who did not want to be named.

For East High School, Wednesday wasn't the first incident of gun violence for the school this year.

Last month, East High School students went to a city council meeting to call for action on school safety and gun violence after a 16-year-old student was fatally shot near the school, according to ABC Denver affiliate KMGH.

Superintendent Marrero said Wednesday that the school will be closed for the rest of this week, and that the building will now have two armed officers present through the end of the school year.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, in a statement, said removing school resource officers was a "mistake" and said they should be quickly returned.

On Thursday, the Denver Board of Education also voted to suspend a policy that prevented armed police officers from being inside the district's schools. The memorandum will suspend the policy through the end of the academic year.

Marrero announced Thursday that all district schools will be closed Friday for a "mental health day."

"I want to extend my heartfelt apologies to the East High School community and the larger DPS community," he said in a letter. "No student or employee should have to carry the fear of potential violence when they walk into our buildings each day."

Marrero encouraged students to "pause and process the challenging events this year" and provided contact information for multiple support services.

He noted that among the year's "challenging events" was a significant data breach this month that comprised many employee names, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, driver's license numbers and passport numbers. The breach was unrelated to the shooting.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday that the administration's "hearts go out to the families of the two school administrators and in Denver today and to the entire school community."

Jean-Pierre noted that President Joe Biden unveiled another executive action aimed at tackling gun violence last week but that "as the president said in the State of the Union, Congress needs to do something."

The mayor also called on Congress to pass "common sense" gun legislation.

"Parents are angry and frustrated, and they have a right to be," he said. "Easy access to guns must be addressed in our country -- Denver cannot do this alone."

This shooting comes two years to the day after a mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, that claimed 10 lives.

ABC News' Nic Uff and Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.

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Florida woman files lawsuit after infected drops allegedly led to loss of her eye

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(MIAMI) -- A Florida woman has filed a lawsuit against the maker of eye drops that were recalled after they were found to be contaminated and allegedly left her legally blind.

Clara Oliva, 68, of Miami, is seeking damages from Global Pharma Healthcare, which manufactures EzriCare Artificial Tears, as well as the medical center that prescribed her the eye drops and her insurer.

Oliva is one of at least 68 Americans who have used eye drops later found to be contaminated with a drug-resistant form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an aggressive bacterium, and developed infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC's latest update published Tuesday, stated three people have died during the course of the outbreak, eight reported vision loss and four had their eyeballs surgically removed.

Eyedrops allegedly cause infections, nationwide outbreak

According to the lawsuit, reviewed by ABC News, Oliva had taken eye drops for years to address her dry eyes caused by contact lenses.

In May 2022, she was told the eye drops authorized by her insurer had changed and she was prescribed EzriCare Artificial Tears by her regular clinic, Leon Medical Centers in Miami, according to the lawsuit.

Oliva did not have any issues until early August 2022, when her right eye suddenly became red, swollen and "abnormally watery," according to her lawsuit.

An ophthalmologist at Leon Medical Centers examined Oliva and allegedly told her she likely had a corneal scratch, which is an abrasion on the cornea, or the clear, protective covering of the front of the eye.

She was given a host of medications, which Oliva said did not improve her eye and the infection worsened. A few days later, she said she visited the emergency room at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.

"The pain that I felt was like shards of glass that would move within the eye and it was extraordinarily painful," Oliva told ABC News through her attorney, Natasha Cortes.

The lawsuit said a biopsy of her eye was performed. At first, doctors believed she had a fungal infection, but they came to discover she actually had an infection caused by P. aeruginosa.

Pseudomonas are a type of bacteria found in the environment like in water or soil, with P. aeruginosa being the most common to cause infections in humans. It usually causes outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes.

Oliva loses her eye

Oliva said her doctors thought the cause of the infection had been linked to her contact lenses, but she disagreed.

"I had been using contact lenses for 30 years without any issue and I was always meticulous in my care," she said. "Eventually, they told me that they just didn't know what it was that had occurred, and I was never satisfied with those answers."

Surgeons attempted to remove the damaged portion of Oliva's cornea and replace it with donor tissue, but the procedure was canceled while in progress because they found more extensive damage and the cornea couldn't be safely removed, according to the lawsuit.

Doctors felt they had no other choice but to remove her eye, Oliva said. She said she begged doctors to try to save her eye, but her medical team was worried if they didn't act soon, the drug-resistant bacteria could spread.

"On September 1, 2022, Mrs. Oliva's right eye was surgically removed and replaced with a plastic implant," the lawsuit reads. "Given her decreased visual acuity of 20/200 in her remaining left eye, Mrs. Oliva is now legally blind."

Oliva kept using EzriCare drops on her left eye until January, when Leon Medical Centers, according to the lawsuit, called and told her to stop using the drops because they had been recalled, but she wasn't told why.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning, backed by the CDC, urging health care personnel and the public not to buy EzriCare Artificial Tears or Delsam Pharma's Artificial Tears due to potential bacterial contamination.

Global Pharma Healthcare issued a voluntary recall of both products, notifying distributors and advising wholesalers, retailers and customers who have the products to stop usage.

The company did not respond to ABC News' request for comment. However, in a statement in early February, EzriCare said it first became aware of the ongoing CDC investigation in January and was cooperating with officials.

"As of today, we are not aware of any testing that definitively links the Pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak to EzriCare Artificial Tears," the statement read. "Nonetheless, we immediately took action to stop any further distribution or sale of EzriCare Artificial Tears. To the greatest extent possible, we have been contacting customers to advise them against continued use of the product. We also immediately reached out to both CDC and FDA and indicated our willingness to cooperate with any requests they may have of us."

Oliva says she first found out the reason behind the recall while watching a TV news report with her family.

"I had conflicting emotions," she said. "I knew now what had caused all my symptoms and the ordeal that I had gone through but, at the same time, I felt horrible and horrific that these companies could allow this to happen to me and others."

''There has to be justice"

These are dozens of counts alleged in the lawsuit including negligence and strict liability, which is when a defendant is liable for committing an action regardless of intent.

Oliva is seeking to recoup the cost of her medical care, as well as other damages, but the lawsuit did not state a specific figure.

Oliva said her life has been impacted "1,000%" since the loss of her right eye.

She has had to relearn how to walk, her depth perception has greatly diminished, and she can only drive her car short distances, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, she is under psychiatric and psychological treatment for depression.

"They don't realize the damages that they have caused to me and to others who have been damaged," she said. "Due to their irresponsibility, their negligence and their incompetence they've caused not only deaths, but they've affected my life and its entirety and my ability to be independent and live a normal life and there has to be justice."

In a statement to ABC News, Leon Medical Centers said it "empathizes" with Oliva's condition.

"Upon learning of the advisory from the CDC in January, Leon Medical Centers immediately began proactively reaching out to its patients that may have received Ezri Care artificial tears and instructed them to discontinue the use of the product and return or discard it," the statement said. "We will continue cooperating with and monitoring the public health authorities regarding their multistate inquiry into this matter and will provide additional information to our patients as necessary."

The insurer, HealthSpring of Florida, did not reply to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Miami Beach officials, residents grapple with spring break violence

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(MIAMI BEACH, Fla.) -- Miami Beach, long the epicenter of fun in the sun for college students' spring break respite, is dealing with an increase in violence including two deadly shootings on the iconic Ocean Drive in the past week.

The chaos has left city officials, including Mayor Dan Gelber, at a loss, and has forced the city to declare a state of emergency.

“I don’t think any mayor could say, ‘We did everything we could do,’ when you have deaths like this. I think that what we have not been able to figure out, and I think where we have failed, is how do we stop spring break from happening?” Gelber told ABC's "Nightline."

Local business owner David Wallack has been in the middle of the action for more than three decades. His popular restaurant and night club, Mango’s Tropical Café, is in the heart of South Beach.

“Anyone who thinks that, ‘Oh, look at the money they’re making,’ that’s an absolute lie … It is not the case. The only ones who are stuck on the front lines are the businesses and our staff,” Wallack said.

Wallack, who said he did not want to take any chances, decided to close his restaurant early throughout the weekend. A chaotic scene unfolded on surveillance footage just outside.

“We had multiple human stampedes of hundreds of people rushing at you like a tsunami of people. Plates, glass flying. People running over each other. Thank God nobody was trampled. We’re all literally in mortal danger in that kind of a situation,” Wallack said.

Wallack believes that city officials should be doing more to help, such as putting up barricades.

So far this spring break season, Miami Beach police have arrested more than 320 people and confiscated more than 70 firearms, four of them from the deadly shooting scenes.

“Our residents are rarely involved in any of this in any way. We’re policing somebody else’s playground. Our cops have tried to figure out the best ways to clear tens of thousands of people off of streets, the best way to stop public brawling, the best way to stop riotous behavior. But that’s very hard to do,” Gelber said.

It's not the first year the city has had to deal with spring break violence. Last year, five people were wounded in two separate spring break shootings. The year before, police resorted to using pepper balls to try and control the crowds.

After a curfew was imposed on Sunday, the Miami Beach City Commission voted against a curfew for the upcoming weekend. The vote was divided, with some commissioners seeing a curfew as necessary to keep the community safe; others saying it would unfairly punish law-abiding businesses.

Mayor Gelber is pro-curfew.

“I don’t think you can balance public safety against anything else, including what would have been just a few hours, frankly, of bar receipts,” Gelber said.

City officials are bracing for another big weekend as the stage is set for the Ultra Music Festival that draws more than 150,000 visitors. That’s on top of those in town for spring break.

Meanwhile, Gelber said he’s determined to end Miami Beach’s reputation as a spring break destination.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get rid of spring break. Hopefully, this will be the last year we have these issues,” Gelber said.

Next year, Wallack wants to see the city declare an 8 p.m. curfew every weekend from Friday to Sunday.

“If I don’t see that happening, I’m closing Mango’s and putting my staff on their paid vacation,” he said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Chicago residents sound alarm after 2 women found dead, teen missing


(CHICAGO) -- Chicago residents are demanding answers after two missing women were found dead in their Southwest Side neighborhood in recent weeks -- and a teenager now appears to be missing.

"It's hard to believe and hard to comprehend that in the year 2023, we still find bodies of dead women and no answers," Little Village resident Selene Partida said during a press conference Wednesday held outside the area's Chicago Police Department detective division headquarters.

In February, a recent Guatemalan migrant, 20-year-old Reyna Cristina Ical Seb, was found shot to death in a Little Village alley, Chicago ABC station WLS reported. No arrests have been made in the case.

Last week, the body of 21-year-old Rosa Chacon was found after she went missing on Jan. 18, according to her family and the private detective they hired after growing frustrated with the police investigation.

Her body was also found in a Little Village alley, tied up and wrapped in a white sheet in a shopping cart, her family told WLS. Relatives said they identified her by the tattoos on her body, and that the Cook County medical examiner will determine her cause and manner of death.

No arrests have been made in that case, as well, as her family calls for justice.

A Chicago Police spokesperson told ABC News that the deaths remain under investigation by area detectives and there are no updates on the incidents at this time.

"Who did this? Why did they do this?" Chacon's older sister, Elizabeth Bello, said during Wednesday's press event. "Regardless of her past, she is a human being. She is a person and we need justice."

Now, 15-year-old Azreya Lomeli has not been seen for more than a week, according to the Little Village Community Council, which held Wednesday's press event with the teen's family.

The police spokesperson did not have access to missing person's reports and was unable to confirm if one had been filed for Azreya.

Activist Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council, accused local police of not doing enough to investigate the cases.

"We demand that they pay the same attention that would have done when somebody gets killed in Lakeview or in Wrigleyville or in the Gold Coast," he said.

Activists and residents plan to meet with police later this month to discuss their concerns over violence in the community, WLS reported.

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Officer who retired before termination hearing in Tyre Nichols case faces decertification

Courtesy Kris Volker

(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The Memphis Police Department said it will move to decertify a former police officer who retired with benefits ahead of a possible termination hearing over the death of Tyre Nichols, police officials said Thursday. The decertification would cause the officer to lose all law enforcement-related licenses or certificates due to alleged misconduct.

Lt. DeWayne Smith, who was at the scene of the traffic stop where Nichols was brutally beaten by officers in January, is one of several officers facing decertification in the aftermath of the incident. He has not been charged in the case.

The MPD had initially rescinded the request for the officer's decertification, according to the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards & Training Commission (POST). That decision prompted city officials to demand answers from the police department.

At the Thursday hearing called by POST officials, MPD officials said Smith has been found to have violated department policies, accusing him of "neglect of duty;" "unauthorized public statement;" and failure of "compliance with regulations" concerning body cameras

According to ABC affiliate WATN in Memphis, which obtained documents concerning Smith's decertification, Smith allegedly heard Nichols saying "I can't breathe," but failed to get him medical care or remove his handcuffs.

Smith also allegedly failed to get use-of-force reports from other officers, and told Nichols' family that he was driving under the influence even though there is no evidence of that, according to WATN.

Body camera footage from other officers shows Smith telling Nichols "you done took something" when the officer arrived at the scene, according to official documents, which also claimed Smith violated department policy by not wearing his body camera.

Some Memphis City Council members criticized Smith for retiring ahead of his apparent termination hearing.

Nichols, 29, died in early January, three days after a violent traffic stop caught on body camera footage. All five officers who were directly involved in the beating have been charged with second-degree murder. The officers all pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance on Feb. 17.

Seven other police officers were terminated following the incident, according to city of Memphis chief legal officer Jennifer Sink.

"We're accountable to the people who pay taxes," Memphis City Council Vice Chairman JB Smiley, Jr. told ABC News. "And if we're wronging the people who pay taxes, we shouldn't be allowed to receive dollars that are ultimately theirs."

When reached by ABC News in a phone call, Smith declined to comment.

ABC News' Tesfaye Negussie and Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.

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Langston University clears over $4.5 million in student debt balances

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(LANGSTON, Okla.) -- Langston University has announced the clearance of over $4.5 million in student debt balances.

The historically black institution will, for the second time, use funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to cancel student account balances. The first time Langston University canceled student account balances was in August 2021, with a clearance amount of $4,654,112.

The amount of debt cleared through the new initiative is $4,587,485. The two debt clearance initiatives, August 2021 and March 2023, total over $9.2 million in cancelled funds.

This year's initiative will impact students enrolled throughout the summer 2022, fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters.

In a memo released Wednesday, Kent J. Smith, president of Langston, said the institution "has sought ways to lessen the burden and remove barriers to degree completion" for students.

Founded in 1897, the university is the only historically Black college or university in the state of Oklahoma and enrolls approximately 3,000 students across three campuses. About 70% of the student body are first generation college students.

University officials say they will not be refunding or reversing past payments already made on balances.

The new clearance "includes students not currently enrolled at the institution as well as those enrolled during summer 2022 or fall 2022 who will now be cleared of any hold preventing them from receiving an official transcript due to a balance," Smith's memo reads.

Smith's memo also mentioned an additional structural change made in "means of removing obstacles" for students.

The university registrar will now consider late applications for graduation due to the award's timing. Any students now eligible to apply for graduation as a result of debt clearance will have until March 31 to apply for commencement.

Dozens of other HBCUs--including Clark Atlanta University, South Carolina State University and Spelman College--have cleared student account balances with grant funding since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Trump live updates: Grand jury will revisit case next week, sources say

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(NEW YORK) -- A grand jury is continuing to weigh charges against former President Donald Trump in connection with the Manhattan district attorney's probe into the 2016 hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

No current or former president has ever been indicted for criminal conduct.

Here is how the news is developing. All times Eastern. Check back for updates:

Mar 23, 3:43 PM EDT
Officials closely watching 'online environment' surrounding potential indictment

Senior administration officials at the Department of Homeland Security are continuing to "watch closely, particularly in the online environment" surrounding a potential indictment against former President Donald Trump, a senior administration official said.

There is nothing "that rises to the level of being credible and specific" or "actionable," the administration official said. However, the official said that online "there are always things that emerge that will cause people to take note and possibly raise concern."

As the grand jury continues, the lines of communication with local authorities like the NYPD and Capitol Police have been "wide open."

"It's been a several day period of, I'd say, very open and continued information exchange between and among federal and state partners, focused on this issue," a senior administration official said.

-ABC News' Luke Barr

Mar 23, 11:31 AM EDT
DA says compliance with GOP's requests for information would interfere with investigation

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s general counsel responded to House Republicans Thursday, telling them compliance with their requests for information would interfere with a legitimate law enforcement investigation.

General counsel Leslie Dubeck noted the House inquiry only resulted from former President Donald Trump’s social media post.

“Your letter dated March 20, 2023 (the "Letter"), in contrast, is an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution," Dubeck wrote. "The Letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene. Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry."

Mar 23, 9:50 AM EDT
Grand jury won't meet about Trump case this week

The grand jury hearing evidence of former President Donald Trump’s role in alleged hush money paid to Stormy Daniels will not meet about the case for the remainder of the week, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

The grand jury is meeting Thursday to consider a different case, the sources said. The grand jury news was first reported by Business Insider.

The grand jury is expected to reconvene Monday to consider the Trump case, at which time at least one additional witness may be called to testify, the sources said.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment.

It is not uncommon for grand juries to sit in consideration of multiple cases at once.

Mar 23, 7:37 AM EDT
Manhattan grand jury expected to reconvene Thursday

The Manhattan grand jury weighing charges against former President Donald Trump is expected to reconvene on Thursday, sources tell ABC News.

Mar 23, 5:28 AM EDT
Trump could still be elected president if indicted or convicted, experts say

According to law, former President Donald Trump can be elected president if indicted -- or even convicted -- in any of the state and federal investigations he is currently facing, experts tell ABC News. But there are practical reasons that could make it a challenge, experts say.

Trump said earlier this month at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that he would "absolutely" run for president even if he were to be criminally indicted.

"I wouldn't even think about leaving," Trump told reporters ahead of a speech. "Probably it will enhance my numbers."

Mar 22, 12:51 PM EDT
Manhattan grand jury to reconvene as early as Thursday

The Manhattan grand jury weighing charges against former President Donald Trump in connection to the Stormy Daniels hush payment investigation is not meeting on Wednesday, sources told ABC News. The earliest the grand jury would reconvene is Thursday, sources said.

The grand jurors were called Wednesday morning and told they were not needed during the day as scheduled, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. The grand jurors were told to be prepared to reconvene on Thursday when it’s possible they will hear from at least one additional witness, the sources said.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing grand jury matters.

-ABC News' John Santucci and Luke Barr

Mar 22, 8:25 AM EDT
With Trump case looming, what is an indictment?

Criminal prosecution proceedings typically start with an arrest and a court appearance, but legal experts say that on many occasions, especially in white collar crimes, suspects aren't hit with charges or a visit from an officer until long after an official investigation is underway.

Typically, if a crime is being investigated, law enforcement agents will make an arrest, file initial charges and bring a suspect to be arraigned in court, Vincent Southerland, an assistant professor of clinical law and the director of the criminal defense and reentry clinic at NYU School of Law, told ABC News.

After this arraignment, prosecutors would impanel a grand jury for a formal criminal indictment. Southerland, who has been practicing law in New York state for 19 years, said this process includes giving the jury evidence, possible testimony and other exhibits before they can officially charge a person with felonies.

A Manhattan grand jury is currently investigating Trump's possible role in the hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The former president has denied any wrongdoing and having an affair with Daniels. His attorneys have framed the funds as a response to an extortion plot.

-ABC News' Ivan Pereira

Mar 21, 6:11 PM EDT
Pence discourages protests if Trump indicted

Former Vice President Mike Pence discouraged any protests should a grand jury indict Donald Trump.

"Every American has the right to let their voice be heard. The Constitution provides the right to peaceably assemble. But I think in this instance, I would discourage Americans from engaging in protests if in fact the former president is indicted," Pence said Tuesday when asked by ABC News if Americans should protest a possible indictment.

Pence said he understood the "frustration" while calling the case "politically motivated."

"But I think letting our voices be heard in other ways, and in not engaging in protests, I think is most prudent at this time," he said.

-ABC News' Libby Cathey

Mar 21, 11:00 AM EDT
McCarthy grows frustrated as Trump questions persist at House GOP retreat

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy again ripped into Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg when asked about the potential charges against former President Donald Trump at a Tuesday press conference at the House GOP retreat in Orlando.

When McCarthy was asked directly if had concerns about Trump's alleged conduct regarding the alleged hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, he didn't answer the question and instead pivoted to talking about Hillary Clinton and Bragg.

"What we see before us is a political game being played by a local. Look, this isn't New York City, this is just a Manhattan," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he hasn’t spoken to Trump in three weeks.

When asked if Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party, McCarthy took a jab at the press: "In the press room, for all of you, he is."

-ABC News' Katherine Faulders and Will Steakin

Mar 21, 10:14 AM EDT
Grand jury to reconvene on Wednesday

A grand jury will reconvene on Wednesday to continue to weigh charges against former President Donald Trump in connection with the Manhattan district attorney's probe into the 2016 hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, paid $130,000 to Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign to allegedly keep her from talking about an affair she claimed to have had with Trump.

Trump has denied the affair and his attorneys have framed the funds as an extortion payment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is mulling whether to charge Trump with falsifying business records, after the Trump Organization allegedly reimbursed Cohen for the payment then logged the reimbursement as a legal expense, sources have told ABC News. Trump has called the payment "a private contract between two parties" and has denied all wrongdoing.

Trump this weekend wrote on his Truth Social platform that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday.

The U.S. Secret Service is coordinating security plans with the NYPD in the event of an indictment and arraignment in an open courtroom in Manhattan, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. The two agencies had a call Monday to discuss logistics, including court security and how Trump would potentially surrender for booking and processing, according to sources briefed on the discussions. White collar criminal defendants in New York are typically allowed to negotiate a surrender.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Record number of demands made to ban or censor books in 2022: Report

Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images, FILE

(NEW YORK) -- A record-breaking 1,269 demands were made to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since the American Library Association began collecting data over 20 years ago, the association said.

A record 2,571 unique books were targeted for censorship in 2022, a 38% increase from 2021 when 1,858 titles were targeted.

"Of the overall number of books challenged, 90% were part of attempts to censor multiple titles," the ALA said. "Of the books challenged, 40% were in cases involving 100 or more books."

In 2021, there were 729 attempts to ban or restrict library materials, up from 156 attempts in 2020, according to the ALA.

"Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color," the ALA said in a press release.

The most frequently challenged title was challenged 151 times. While 144 titles received nine or more challenges. 

This is an uptick from data collected between 2011 to 2020, when the most frequently challenged title of the year received an average of eight challenges.

"Overwhelmingly, we're seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media," said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

"Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation's conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color," Caldwell-Stone said.

The books challenged include 550 children's titles and 1,604 young adult titles.

Of the reported book challenges, 58% targeted books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries or school curricula.

"ALA began documenting the book challenges reported to us over two decades ago because we want to shine a light on the threat of censorship facing readers and entire communities. Book challenges distract from the core mission of libraries: to provide access to information," ALA President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada said in a statement. "While a vocal minority stokes the flames of controversy around books, the vast majority of people across the nation are using life-changing services that public and school libraries offer. Our nation cannot afford to lose the library workers who lift up their communities and safeguard our First Amendment freedom to read."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

LA schools strike enters third day as bargaining resumes

Stella/Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) -- More than 30,000 picketing Los Angeles school service employees are expected to return to work on Friday after a planned three-day strike prompted the city's mayor to intervene and jumpstart labor negotiations.

The job walkout by the Service Employees International Union Local 99 -- which includes bus drivers, cafeteria workers and special education assistants -- began on Tuesday, forcing the Los Angeles Unified School District to cancel classes for 420,000 students for three straight days.

"SEIU Local 99 school workers plan to return to schools Friday, March 24," the union said in a statement.

While no contract settlement has been reached, both sides have returned to the bargaining table at the urging of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. No specifics on the negotiations were made public.

Bass' office released a statement saying the mayor "will continue to work privately with all parties to reach an agreement to reopen the schools and guarantee fair treatment of all LAUSD workers."

Max Arias, president of SEIU Local 99, issued a statement Wednesday evening welcoming Bass' involvement in the negotiations.

"We are grateful that the mayor has stepped in to provide leadership in an effort to find a path out of our current impasse," Arias said. "Education workers have always been eager to negotiate as long as we are treated with respect and bargained with fairly, and with the mayor's leadership we believe that is possible."

School district officials also released a statement, saying, they "have been in conversation with SEIU Local 99 leaders with the assistance and support of Mayor Bass."

"We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities, maintains the financial stability of the district and brings students back to the classroom," the LAUSD's statement reads. "We are hopeful these talks continue and look forward to updating our school community on a resolution."

The striking service employees, backed by the powerful United Teachers Los Angeles union, began the final day of the strike by gathering at the school district's bus yard. The workers are planning to hold a large rally later Thursday at the Los Angeles State Historic Park in downtown Los Angeles with plans for a "unified call for LAUSD to bargain fairly," according to a statement from the union.

This week's labor action is the first major work stoppage for the nation's second largest school district since a 2019 strike by the 35,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union.

The service employees have been working without a contract since June 2020. In December 2022, the union declared an impasse in negotiations, prompting the appointment of a state mediator.

The service workers' union said many of its members earn "poverty wages'' of $25,000 per year and are demanding a 30% pay hike, with an additional pay increase for the lowest-paid workers.

The school district's most recent offer calls for a 23% wage increase, along with a 3% "cash-in-hand bonus.''

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Fifty million people under severe weather alert after California tornadoes, mudslides

FILE, Rosmarie Wirz/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than 50 million people across a large swath of the nation were on alert Thursday for tornados, large hail, damaging winds and flooding after a severe weather outbreak spawned by a "bomb cyclone" in California moved east, leaving a wake of destruction from mudslides, tree-toppling gusts and the largest twister to hit the Los Angeles area in 40 years.

Residents of Texas and Oklahoma and up to Pennsylvania are bracing for large hail, flooding and tornadoes Thursday night.

The wild weather system is the same one that blew in from the Pacific Ocean in Northern California as a "bomb cyclone," packing powerful winds that toppled more than 700 trees in San Francisco and killed at least five people in the Bay Area who were either struck by falling limbs or uprooted trees, officials said.

The storm pummeled the Golden State for two days, flooding farmland in the San Joaquin Valley and generating two confirmed tornadoes in Southern California, one just 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

The LA-area twister, the strongest to hit the area since March 1983, was rated an EF1, which is on the lower end of the Enhanced Fujita tornado damage scale, according to the National Weather Service. Yet the 110 mph winds the tornado generated wrecked 17 structures, including 11 that sustained significant damage, according to the National Weather Service.

The ferocious Southern California funnel cloud touched down just after 11 a.m. local time in Montebello, just 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, and stayed on the ground for about three minutes, sending debris, including an industrial-size rooftop air conditioning unit, swirling into the air, according to the weather service.

The tornado touched down in an industrial park, completely collapsing the roof of one warehouse, snapping a power pole and uprooting trees, officials said. One person suffered minor injuries as a result of the tornado activity, according to the Montebello Fire Department.

"This was crazy. I mean we're used to earthquakes, but not tornados," Mike Turner, who was working in one of the damaged warehouses, told ABC Los Angeles station KABC.

Turner said the twister ripped off an estimated 5,000 square feet of the factory's roof.

"It got real loud. Like I've never heard before and for about 30 seconds to a minute," Turner said. "Then we kind of all were in the office and then after it died down, we went outside, and there was debris everywhere. It was like dust bowl in the factory."

A second tornado, rated an EF0, touched down in Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County, generating 75 mph winds and damaging 25 mobile homes, according to the National Weather Service.

Compared to the South, tornadoes in California are rare. There have been 469 tornadoes in the state since 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since records began in 1950, California averages 6.4 tornadoes per year. But in the last 30 years, the state has averaged 10 twisters per year, according to NOAA. Los Angeles County has had the most of any country in the state with 46 since 1950, followed by nearby Orange County with 31. 

The storm system was accompanied by torrential rain throughout the Los Angeles region, triggering a mudslide in San Bernardino County and prompting the rescues of 17 farm animals -- including horses, cows and bulls -- that got stuck in the mud, according to the San Bernardino County Animal Control.

As the menacing storm moves into Texas and Oklahoma Thursday evening, residents are being warned to expect large-size hail and the possibility of more tornadoes forming from Dallas to Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Widespread flooding is expected over the next few days from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania.

A flood watch is in effect for parts of 10 states from the Mississippi River Valley to the Ohio River Valley, where several inches of rain are forecast.

As the storm moves farther east on Friday, a strong threat of tornadoes is expected for parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, officials said. Among the cities bracing for twisters are Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Memphis, Tennessee.

The severe weather is forecast to bring rain and snow to Chicago, the Great Lakes and Northeast over the weekend. Heavy rain and gusty winds are expected from Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to New York City and to Boston.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Katelyn Markham's fiance arrested for her murder more than a decade later

John Allen Carter was arrested on March 22, 2023, in connection with the 2011 death of his then-fiancee Katelyn Markham, in Ohio. -- Butler County Sheriff's Office

(HAMILTON, Ohio) -- More than a decade after an Ohio woman disappeared, her then-fiance has been arrested in connection with her death.

John Allen Carter, 35, was arrested Wednesday and booked in the Butler County Jail in Hamilton, Ohio, where he remained in custody as of Thursday, according to online jail records. It was unclear whether he has an attorney.

He has been charged with two counts of felony murder, according to Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO, which cited the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office. ABC News has reached out to the prosecutor's office for comment.

Carter was believed to be the last person to see Katelyn Markham alive before she vanished in the summer of 2011. Markham was a 22-year-old college student residing in the Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield and was engaged to Carter at the time of her disappearance.

"We all suspected that he had something to do with it," Markham's father, Dave, told WCPO on Wednesday.

Carter called 911 to report Markham missing after she stopped responding to his text messages and didn't show up for work on Aug. 14, 2011, two days before her 23rd birthday. The couple had plans to move to Colorado in November, after Markham was expected to finish her bachelor's degree in graphic design.

"I went to her house and she was gone without her car, without her purse, without her keys," Carter told ABC News during an interview in August 2011.

"My gut feeling is that she's alive and that she's OK," he added. "I have to believe she's alive. I have to believe that I'm going to have her in my arms soon."

Authorities and volunteers, including Carter, searched for Markham for years. On April 7, 2013, Markham's remains were found in garbage bag at a dump site along Big Cedar Creek in southeastern Indiana, near the state line with Ohio, about 30 miles west of her home. Markham's death was ruled a homicide but the cause was unknown, according to WCPO.

The case went cold for years despite being featured in television shows and a documentary, the efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies and a $100,000 reward for information.

Then, in February, one of Markham's friends -- 35-year-old Jonathan Palmerton -- was arrested and charged with felony perjury in connection with her death, WCPO reported. That same day, authorities executed search warrants at Carter’s former home in Fairfield, where his mother lives, as well as at other residences of friends' relatives. Investigators also excavated the backyards looking for evidence. Carter was not arrested at that time, according to WCPO.

Upon learning about Carter's arrest on Wednesday, Markham's father said he felt "relieved."

"Everybody's thrilled that this is ending," he told WCPO. "I think myself and a lot of other people were expecting this and were waiting for this for 12 years."

ABC News' Ahmad Hemingway and Jessica Hopper contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Parents of Michigan high school shooter Ethan Crumbley will go to trial, judges rule

James Crumbley, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are seen in photos provided by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. -- Oakland County Sheriff's Office

(PONTIAC, Mich.) -- Jennifer and James Crumbley have pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Nov. 30, 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School.

Their son, Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time, allegedly used James Crumbley's semi-automatic handgun to kill four students and injure several others.

Jennifer and James Crumbley are accused of making the gun accessible and failing to recognize warning signs.

In a written opinion, Judge Christopher Murray said Jennifer and James Crumbley's "actions and inactions were inexorably intertwined with" their son's actions.

The parents "were actively involved" in their son's "mental state remaining untreated," Murray said. The parents also "provided him with the weapon he used to kill the victims" and "refused to remove him from the situation that led directly to the shootings," Murray wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Michael Riordan wrote that although parents typically cannot be held liable for a child’s crime, Jennifer and James Crumbley were aware of “visual evidence…that [Ethan Crumbley] was contemplating the act of gunshot wounds being inflicted upon someone.”

Days before the shooting, a teacher allegedly saw Ethan Crumbley researching ammunition in class, and the school contacted his parents but they didn't respond, according to prosecutors. But Jennifer Crumbley did text her son, writing, "lol, I'm not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught," according to prosecutors.

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

The Crumbleys were called to the school over the incident, and said they'd get their son counseling, but they did not take him home, prosecutors said.

Mariell Lehman, a lawyer for the Crumbleys, declined to comment on the ruling, citing a gag order.

Last year Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to all charges against him, including terrorism and murder.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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