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Penn president Elizabeth Magill resigns amid backlash over congressional hearing comments

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(NEW YORK) -- University of Pennsylvania president Elizabeth Magill has voluntarily resigned, the school's board of trustees said on Saturday, following backlash over her response during a congressional hearing when asked how she said she would handle remarks in the university community calling for the "genocide of Jews."

"It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution," Magill said in a statement shared by the university. "It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn's vital missions."

Magill will remain a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law, the board of trustees said.

"On behalf of the entire Penn community, I want to thank President Magill for her service to the University as President and wish her well," Scott Bok, chair of the university's board of trustees, said in a letter to the school community on Saturday announcing Magill's resignation as president.

Magill will stay on until an interim president is appointed, Bok said, adding that he will share plans for interim leadership "in the coming days."

Magill's resignation as president comes days after she testified during a House Education Committee on how three university presidents have handled antisemitism on their campuses. Harvard President Claudine Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth also testified.

During Tuesday's hearing, Magill had a tense exchange with New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik.

Stefanik asked Magill to respond "yes or no" if calling for the "genocide of Jews" violated Penn's rules or code of conduct.

Magill replied, "If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment. Yes."

Stefanik followed up: "I am asking, specifically, calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?"

Magill responded that it was a "context-dependent decision."

"It's a context-dependent decision -- that's your testimony today?" Stefanik countered. "Calling for the genocide of Jews is depending upon the context?"

Several of Pennsylvania's elected leaders denounced Magill's comments, with some calling for her resignation.

Stefanik reacted to Magill's resignation, saying it is "the bare minimum of what is required."

"These universities can anticipate a robust and comprehensive Congressional investigation of all facets of their institutions negligent perpetration of antisemitism including administrative, faculty, and overall leadership and governance," Stefanik said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Hours after the hearing, amid bipartisan backlash, including from prominent Democrats, Magill apologized for her response in a video posted on the university's website.

"I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It's evil -- plain and simple," Magill said in the video.

In a reversal, using direct language, Magill said that type of language is "harassment or intimidation."

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania bashed Magill's "absolutely shameful" comments in the back-and-forth with Stefanik.

"That was an unacceptable statement from the president of Penn," Shapiro, who is Jewish, said Wednesday. "Frankly, I thought her comments were absolutely shameful. It should not be hard to condemn genocide."

Shapiro said if calling for the genocide of Jews "doesn't violate the policies of Penn, well, there's something wrong with the policies of Penn that the board needs to get on, or there's a failure of leadership from the president, or both."

Shapiro is a nonvoting board member at the university.

A petition on Change.org demanding Magill's resignation had more than 26,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.

The Republican-led House Education Committee announced Thursday that it is opening an investigation into the policies and disciplinary procedures at Penn, Harvard and MIT after finding testimony from three presidents "absolutely unacceptable."

ABC News' Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Displaced Maui residents find uplifting holiday 'kokua' after wildfires

ABC News

(MAUI) -- For some Maui wildfire victims, the holiday season has been rough, with many residents still displaced from their homes.

But the community has found a way to band together and deliver some kokua, the Hawaiian word for help, in various ways. They're also receiving kokua from all over the world.

Sarah Verrastro, who has been living in a hotel with her 6-year-old son Myles after the devastating wildfires destroyed their Lahaina home and school, says she and her family have been struggling to get into the holiday spirit.

"Santa is really magical and smart, and he's going to know exactly where you are on Christmas. You don't have to worry about that," she recalls telling her son.

Still, Verrastro told ABC News Live that she is mindful of the gifts she has received from helping hands, whether it be donated clothes or financial help from multimillion-dollar charity funds like The People's Fund, started by Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

"They're giving $1,200 a month, and no, that doesn't cover anybody's rental payment by any extent. For us, that's our rebuild," she said.

There have also been direct payments from nonprofit organizations including the United Way and Maui Economic Opportunity, funded in part by Hawai'i Community Foundation which is the largest private recipient of donations, according to Micah Kane, CEO and President of Hawai'i Community Foundation. Philanthropist Mackenzie Scott donated $5 million this week and the Hawai'i Community Foundation says they have raised $163 million as of Dec. 1.

Kane said that the foundation has used $35 million of the funds raised this year toward funding grants for providing direct financial assistance, shelter, grief counseling, and more.

They intend to disburse funds in phases.

"We know that federal funding and state funding will start to dry up," Kane said.

The remaining $125 million will be used over the next few years in a recovery and stabilization mode.

"We want to stabilize people's lives in a way where they can thrive for the next two to three, maybe even four years as their community gets re-envisioned," Kane said.

But some displaced residents, like Nicole Ellison and her mother Monica, have had a tough time getting assistance.

The mother and daughter say they were in transitional housing waiting to move into a new rental when the fires hit and destroyed the shelter. They say they have moved seven times since then, and since their address doesn't match their government IDs, they say they have run into bureaucratic red tape in trying to get assistance

"Me and my family have moved seven times…in the past three and a half months," Nicole Ellison told ABC News Live.

Nicole Ellison and her mom told ABC News Live their finances are now tight.

"I wish we could postpone Christmas just for a little while. It just makes me sad," Monica Ellison said with tears.

Things began to turn around after the nonprofit Project Vision Hawaii was able to help the Ellisons with financial aid for a one-year lease on a home.

"So they will be paying for our rent from six months to a year," Nicole Ellison said.

Holiday kokua has come in other forms.

Linda Higgins, an ICU nurse from San Jose, California, said she wanted to help out Maui residents after seeing the devastation, and as a self-described "Christmas nut," she told ABC News Live that she had a fun idea.

"I just realized they lost all their stockings and they needed something to bring a smile," Higgins said of the younger displaced residents.

She got to work sewing and stuffing, rallying friends and neighbors to help so that every child in Lahaina would have a Christmas stocking.

More than 900 stockings have been transported to the island with the help of Southwest Airlines, and have been distributed to students at Sacred Hearts School, which was destroyed in the Lahaina fire. Stockings will also be distributed to Lahaina public school students.

And as this island tries to heal emotionally, another source of help comes from something from the heart of Hawaiian culture: music.

Friends Ikaiaka Blackburn, a Maui Fire County Department captain, and Marvin Tevaga, a Maui Police Officer and father of five who lost his home in the fires, took part in a special musical performance for ABC News Live.

Blackburn says he texted Tevaga after the fire to say "Sorry."

"He's my brother," Blackburn said.

Tevaga said the Puamana songs, traditional Maui hula songs, are the ones that make him hopeful about the recovery.

"My grandma is buried there and I thought about the times when I was a kid -- my grandma would take me down there and we would pick plumeria," he said.

Blackburn said the community will continue to stand together as they navigate this tragedy

"Kokua means to support. Kokua means to back up, to take care of," he said.

ABC News' Emily Lippiello, Becky Worley, and Derick Yanehiro contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Over 56 million Americans under flood watch Sunday and Monday

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(NEW YORK) -- A flood watch affecting more than 56 million Americans has been issued across 12 states, as a storm system is expected to bring severe weather to the East Coast on Sunday and Monday.

The flood watch is in effect from the Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast, beginning Sunday afternoon and continuing into Monday afternoon. This includes D.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; New York City; Albany, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; Burlington, Vermont; and Portland, Maine.

Rainfall totals could reach 2 to 4 inches, with some rainfall rates of half an inch per hour possible. If this moderate rainfall rate lasts over one area too long it could lead to quick runoff and urban flash flooding.

There's a "slight risk" of excessive rainfall leading to flash flooding for parts of the coastal Northeast on Sunday, the National Weather Service said.

The rain is forecast to hit from the Florida panhandle up to near D.C. around 7 a.m. Sunday. By Sunday evening, moderate to heavy rainfall is expected to fall along the I-95 corridor.

High winds are also expected for coastal Long Island into New England later on Sunday, with wind gusts up to 60 mph possible. All of Long Island, Cape Cod and coastal Maine are under a high wind watch.

Travel from Sunday night into Monday morning is not recommended, when the heaviest rain is expected.

The NYC Emergency Management Department has issued a travel advisory for Sunday and Monday due to the potential for flooding rain and strong gusty winds.

By 7 a.m. Monday, most of the heavy rain is expected to be north of New York City and starting to exit Boston.

Heavy wet snow is also possible in upstate New York and Vermont through the afternoon. Total snow accumulations of 4 to 10 inches, with up to 15 inches locally, are possible.

Elsewhere, a moderate to strong atmospheric river is forecast to bring another period of steady rain to the Northwest late Saturday into Sunday. The most likely scenario calls for 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain falling along the immediate coast, and up to 3 to 4 inches of rain falling across the north Oregon Coast Range.

In the South, severe thunderstorms capable of producing a few tornadoes, scattered damaging winds and large hail are possible Saturday afternoon and evening, from Louisiana to Kentucky.

A tornado watch is in effect until 7 p.m. CT for parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.

A confirmed powerful tornado moved through northwest Tennessee Saturday afternoon. Early damage reports are coming in from Dresden and Rutherford.

This line of storms has the potential to spawn more tornadoes, as well as large hail and damaging winds, into the evening.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

UNLV shooting: Harrowing 911 calls show inside look at chaos on campus

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(LAS VEGAS) -- When gunfire erupted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a woman hiding alone under an office desk called 911 in tears.

"Someone’s shooting inside the office," she said. "Please hurry."

The operator asked her how long ago she heard the shots, and she responded, "They’re happening right now."

The operator asked if anyone else was with her, and she replied, "It’s just me. My boss is working from home."

Newly released 911 calls provide a heartbreaking look inside the chaos on campus during Wednesday's mass shooting in which killed three faculty members were killed and and one faculty member was injured.

The suspected gunman, Anthony Polito, who was armed with a legally purchased handgun, died at the scene following a firefight with responding officers about 10 minutes after shots were first reported at UNLV's Beam Hall.

The officers were identified on Friday as Det. Nathaniel Drum, who has been employed with the University Police services since 2017, and officer Damien Garcia, who has been on the force since 2018.

Per department policy, both officers have been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into the shooting, according to Adam Garcia, police chief for the University Police Services Southern Command.

"These two officers are heroes," Garcia said during a press briefing on Friday. "They kept the worst from becoming a bloodbath."

A second 911 caller said, "I was getting off the elevator. I heard shots fired and screaming and I ran ... Lots of students are running out ... Two officers ran into the building and I ran out of the building."

Scared parents also called 911 reporting that their children were hiding in classrooms.

One mom said her daughter could hear the gunshots. While the mom was on the phone with 911, she got a text from her daughter saying, "Mom, I’m scared."

The operator said the mother should tell her daughter "to stay calm -- and tell her do not open that door unless she hears them yelling. They will announce, 'Metro police.'"

The investigation is ongoing.

Polito had applied for a college professorship at UNLV but was not hired, according to sources.

Police said Polito had a list of people "he was seeking" at UNLV, but none of the individuals on the target list were victims in the shooting.

Authorities believe Polito spent a few minutes looking for people on the list, but was unsuccessful in finding them and then shot other victims who happened to be in the building, a law enforcement source told ABC News.

ABC News' Vanessa Navarrete and Cory Peeler contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Uproar over university presidents' remarks on antisemitism underscores tensions on campuses

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Four hours of tense testimony on Capitol Hill this week with presidents of the nation's most elite colleges has kicked off a flood of anger from donors, alumni and politicians -- but it's also reignited simmering tensions for students.

College campuses, often the heart of debate in the U.S., have been a central point of protest and dialogue on the Israel-Hamas war for the past two months -- a role that also has brought tension, discomfort and pain, Jewish and Palestinian students said in interviews.

Where they do agree is that they broadly don't feel supported by their school administrations, something the hearing underscored, they said.

"We are concerned that they're not addressing [antisemitism or Islamophobia] because they're so afraid and they're so paralyzed by not upsetting people," said Talia Khan, a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and president of the MIT Israel Alliance. "And that's the problem is that there's no student on campus who's happy -- Jewish students aren't happy, Muslim students aren't happy."

The presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University and the MIT were grilled for hours by the House Education Committee earlier this week. The leaders repeatedly condemned antisemitism, vowing to do more to combat it.

But it was a line of questioning from New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik quizzing them on how they would respond to calls for the "genocide of Jews," that drew the most attention.

Stefanik's question was about chants of "intifada," the Arab word for "shaking off" or "uprising," at protests on campuses.

"Does that speech not cross that barrier, does that speech not call for the genocide of Jews and the elimination of Israel?" she asked. "Is that speech according to the code of conduct or not?"

"We embrace a commitment to free expression and give a wide berth to free expression, even views that are objectionable," said Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard University.

Asked the same question, Elizabeth Magill, president of Penn, said "it is a context-dependent decision." Sally Kornbluth, the president of MIT, said it would be investigated as harassment, "if pervasive and severe."

The presidents refused to give a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Instead, they gave carefully worded responses touching on the tricky issue of free speech.

The viral moment sparked condemnations from donors, governors and senators, as well as calls for the leaders to step down.

Amid the firestorm of backlash, the presidents of Harvard and Penn issued follow-up statements to clarify and walk back their testimonies.

Khan, the student at MIT, said the testimony underscored the university's failure to protect students.

"We're here to study. I'm here to do a PhD in mechanical engineering," Khan said. "I want them to do something to make us feel safe."

This was echoed by a Penn students who spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill earlier this week.

"As a student, I do not feel safe," Penn student Eyal Yakoby said.

Others at the press conference, such as Jonathan Frieden, a Harvard Law student, pleaded for protection.

"Do something," Frieden said. "Protect Jewish people. Protect your students."

It comes as Penn and Harvard -- as well as a growing list of nearly 20 school districts and universities since the war began -- are under investigation for complaints of antisemitism or Islamophobia on campus, both of which have risen at alarming levels.

But Palestinian students at Harvard say that while their schools are attempting to address antisemitism with task forces -- even discussing it on Capitol Hill -- Islamophobia has been treated with far less gravity.

Students say the fears are growing, particularly after three college students of Palestinian descent were shot and seriously injured in Vermont last month.

"We have nothing equivalent for Palestinian, Arab, Muslim students or supporters of Palestine to address or combat the very obvious, very public, very targeted harassment campaigns that we've been facing," said Tala Alfoqaha, a Palestinian-American law student at Harvard.

After at least 30 student groups released a letter, in part, blaming the Israeli regime for "all unfolding violence" in the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, they have faced public outrage and harassment including doxxing. Several groups have since retracted their signatures and the authors later released a statement clarifying that they do not condone violence against civilians.

"Our statement's purpose was clear: to address the root cause of all the violence unfolding. To state what should be clear: PSC staunchly opposes all violence against all innocent life and laments all human suffering," the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee said in a subsequent statement released.

Alfoqaha said her name and face have been broadcast on a truck with a billboard on it that drives around campus, doxxing pro-Palestinian students, and a website has been put up in her name, which has led to professional consequences.

"It feels like we are being collectively gaslit," she said. "I feel like the institution's response, our government's response, the responses of our politicians that refuse to acknowledge Palestinians suffering continue to leave the Palestinian story as less than a footnote in their narrative of events."

She said she watched the hearing with dismay.

"[Stefanik] is asking about, you know, these hypothetical genocides that Palestinians obviously do not support, when there is an actual genocide taking place against Palestinians," she said.

More than 17,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health, amid the Israeli offensive in response to Hamas' the Oct. 7 terror attack that killed more than 1,200 people in Israel, according to Israeli officials.

Lea Kayali, also a Palestinian-American student at Harvard Law School, says she, too, took issue with the line of questioning, which she says conflated protests for Palestinian freedom with antisemitism.

"To be honest, at this point, I have absolutely no faith that the Harvard administration is going to be using their platform to espouse the truth about what students on campus stand for when they say 'free Palestine,'" she said.

"I have no hope that the administration is going to support us or even, you know, try to create space for us to live normally as students and express our outrage about a genocide."

Gabriella Martini, a graduate student in a group called Jews for Ceasefire at MIT -- a group of MIT students and alumni calling for a ceasefire and end of the occupation, according to its Instagram account -- said she's worried the doxxing that's happening at Harvard could make its way down the road to MIT.

"The pattern of institutional support for students who are advocating for Palestine, and not just Jewish students, has been so subpar that I think we're all struggling to fully trust that the institutions will come to our aid," she said.

Martini, along with other students in Jews for Ceasefire, traveled to Capitol Hill for the hearing.

Watching it, they said their perspective on what is happening on college campuses across the country felt ignored. The national conversation has pitted Jewish students against Arab and Muslim students, even though there are a multitude of views, Martini said.

"I really reject the idea that advocating for the Palestinian people is inherently antisemitic," Martini said.

There has been a lot of discomfort and pain on campus, she said, as people realize their views are "in tension" with one another.

Martini said she felt sympathetic to Israeli students on campus or people with friends and family in Israel "who feel like they're really wrestling with grief after Oct. 7 and that it's very painful to be in spaces where people are protesting on behalf of the Palestinian people, like they feel like their experience is not being acknowledged fully."

"But I don't think that's antisemitic," she said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ethan Crumbley sentenced to life without parole in deadly Oxford school shooting

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(PONTIAC, Mich.) -- Ethan Crumbley was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for killing four of his classmates and wounding others in the 2021 Michigan school shooting.

Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty last year to 24 charges, including first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death.

In handing out the sentence, Judge Kwamé Rowe emphasized the "extensive planning" of the school shooting and said Crumbley could have changed his mind at any point but didn't.

"He continued to walk through the school, picking and choosing who was going to die," Rowe said, calling the attack on the classmates an "execution" and "torture."

Rowe previously ruled that the sentence of life without parole was appropriate despite Crumbley's age at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors had said there were no plea deals, reductions or agreements regarding sentencing. The charges of first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death both carried a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years.

Crumbley addressed the court in brief remarks on Friday ahead of sentencing and told the judge he wants the victims to be happy and asked Rowe to impose whatever sentence they asked for.

"I am a really bad person, I have done terrible things that no one should ever do," he said.

Four students -- Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17 -- were killed when Crumbley opened fire at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. Six students and a teacher were wounded in the shooting rampage.

The families of victims and survivors of the shooting provided emotional impact statements ahead of the sentencing on Friday. Parents recalled the agony of waiting to hear what happened to their children that day, only to then learn that they were killed.

In tears, Buck Myre, father of victim Tate Myre, remembered how his wife put her head in her hands and cried, "Not my baby boy," and described the awful toll the shooting has taken on his family ever since.

"For the past two years, our family has been navigating our way through complete hell," he said.

Addressing Crumbley, Buck Myre said: "I understand from journal entries, this was the desired outcome -- for us to feel the pain that you had. I will tell you this: We are miserable. We miss Tate. Our family has a permanent hole in it that can never be fixed, ever."

"As we fight and claw our way through this journey, we realize that we are completely miserable, and there does not appear to be a way out. So to this day, you were winning," he continued. "But today is a day where the tides change. Today, we are going to take hours back. We're all cried out. We're all tired out. "

Buck Myre said that they are working to find a way to forgive Crumbley, his parents and the school.

"What other options do we have? Be miserable for the rest of our lives and rob our family of normalcy?" he said. "We want you to spend the rest of your life rotting in your cell. What you stole from us is not replaceable. But what we won't let you steal from us is a life of normalcy and we'll find a way to get there through forgiveness and through putting good into this world."

Madisyn's mother, Nicole Beausoleil, said she wanted her daughter to be remembered by her name -- and not as a shooting victim.

"Madisyn lives in all of us. Her legacy remains. Her kindness continues, now and forever," Beausoleil said. "She will always be the heartbeat of our family."

She refused to say the shooter's name, calling him "trash" and "waste," and asked the judge to give him the same life sentence that she has received -- one "that I cannot escape from."

"Day by day passes, I hope his life seems more meaningless, lost and forgotten," she said.

The father of Hana St. Juliana asked for life without parole for the shooter's "heinous crime."

"If it were your child who was killed in such a cowardly manner, would you be satisfied that justice was served with anything less than him spending the rest of his life in prison?" Steve St. Juliana asked the court.

In the wake of his daughter's murder, he said he is a "shell of the person I used to be."

"A few paragraphs of words describing Hana can in no way fully capture her truly beautiful, caring soul nor impart her unlimited potential," he said. "Hana was an absolutely beautiful and thoughtful person."

Craig Shilling spoke while wearing a sweatshirt adorned with a photo of his son, Justin Shilling.

"One could venture to say that there are no words that can accurately describe the pain that we feel on a daily basis," he said. "I have PTSD and struggle most days even to get out of bed."

He said he still finds himself waiting for his son to come home each day.

"Never in a million years did I think that something like this was going to happen to me," he said. "There's absolutely no way you can prepare yourself for this level of pain."

He said he believes the punishment should be the death penalty, which is banned in Michigan. In lieu of that, he asked the judge to "lock this son of a bitch up for the rest of his pathetic life."

"His blatant lack of human decency and disturbing thoughts on life in general do not in any way warrant a second chance," he said. "My son doesn't get a second chance and neither should he."

Justin Shilling's mother, Jill Soave, also asked the judge to sentence the shooter to life without the possibility of parole.

"Your Honor, it's almost impossible to find the human words to describe my grief, pain, trauma and rage," she said. "The manner in which my son Justin was so cold-heartedly, methodically executed shows clearly the pure evil and malice of the shooter."

She recounted how her son spent his last moments protecting shooting survivor Keegan Gregory and saved six more lives through organ donation.

"His future was so bright and full of possibilities," she said. "He will always be my little sweetheart."

Keegan Gregory told the court about the moments he and Justin Shilling were trapped in a bathroom with the shooter.

"We were stuck, helpless and cornered with no defense," he said. "It was and always will be the most terrifying moment of my life -- being cornered with no option but to run out of the bathroom as fast as I could, hoping to live."

He said he was in "absolute disbelief and shock" when Justin Shilling was shot, and continues to feel the guilt of surviving.

"I know that if it wasn't Justin's life that was taken, it could have been mine, and I'm forever grateful to him for that," he said. "I almost feel guilty about being alive, knowing that Justin's family is living in grief."

"That guilt is now compounded with sadness, fear, anxiety and trauma," he said, describing how he continues to deal with flashbacks, fear and paranoia and has trouble trusting people.

He asked for a sentence "that makes sure he won't ever hurt anyone again," though hoped that Crumbley receives counseling to understand the impact of his actions.

Nearly 30 victims addressed the court on Friday. Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said more considered speaking but decided they were unable to, "which is further evidence of the trauma."

McDonald urged the judge to "give them the justice they deserve" and sentence Crumbley to life without parole.

Deborah McKelvy, Crumbley's court-appointed guardian, wanted to remind the court that the defendant was 15 at the time of the shooting and said he is not the same person that he was then.

"His life is salvageable, his life is rehabilitable," McKelvy said while arguing that life without parole is not the appropriate sentence.

Amy Hopp, one of Crumbley's defense attorneys, asked the judge to consider a term of years -- which she said could potentially see him released by his late 70s -- as opposed to life without parole.

"Even a term of years is a very, very lengthy sentence, and may very well be a life sentence. But what it does do is give Ethan the opportunity to demonstrate to everyone that he can be rehabilitated, that he is redeemable, that he can make amends and contribute in a positive way to society upon his release," Hopp said.

Earlier this year, during a hearing to determine whether Crumbley could be eligible for life in prison without parole, Rowe highlighted evidence against the teen in which he displayed violence, including Crumbley saying he felt something "between good and pleasurable" when he tortured a baby bird.

"There is other disturbing evidence but it is clear to this court that the defendant had an obsession with violence before the shooting," Rowe said.

Rowe questioned the possibility that Crumbley could be rehabilitated in jail.

"The evidence does not demonstrate to this court that he wants to change," he said.

"The defendant continues to be obsessed with violence and could not stop his violence in jail," Rowe added.

The teen's parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, were also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after allegedly failing to recognize warning signs about their son in the months before the shooting.

Both parents have pleaded not guilty and their trial is set to begin on Jan. 23.

During his plea hearing in October 2022, Crumbley admitted in court that he asked his father to buy him a specific gun and confirmed he gave his father money for the gun and that the semi-automatic handgun wasn't kept in a locked safe.

Days before the shooting, a teacher allegedly saw Crumbley researching ammunition in class; school officials contacted his parents but they didn't respond, according to prosecutors. His mother texted 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, according to prosecutors, a teacher saw a note on his 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.'"

Crumbley's parents were called to the school over the incident, saying they'd get their son counseling but did not take him home.

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Heroic high school students help rescue mom, 2 kids trapped under car

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(NEW YORK) -- A group of high school students are being hailed as heroic Good Samaritans for their efforts to save a mother and her two young children.

The mom and her children, ages 2 and 3, were walking to their car in a school parking lot Tuesday afternoon in Layton, Utah, when they were run over by a car and became trapped underneath, Lt. Travis Lyman of the Layton Police Department told "Good Morning America."

When police responded to the scene around three minutes after receiving a 911 call, a group of teenagers and school officials were already working to lift the car off the mom and her young kids, according to Lyman.

"Three minutes doesn't sound like a long time, but certainly in a critical incident like that, when stress is high, that seems like a really long time," Lyman said, adding of the students, "But they did rally and we're proud of them for getting involved and helping the way they did."

Surveillance video captured by the school, Layton Christian Academy, shows students rushing immediately to the scene to help.

Chris Crowder, the school's CEO, told "GMA" that as soon as he saw that the mom and kids were trapped under the car, he ran to get even more students to help.

"I ran back in the building to grab as many students as possible," Crowder said. "The car was just on top of them and squishing them. It was a small car, so there was very little clearance."

Crowder said that the students helped to lift the car up on one side until it was high enough that a student was able to reach under the car and pull out the mom and one of her children, while the other child was able to escape from underneath the car on their own.

"They knew what to do, that they had to do something," Crowder said of the students. "We’re very proud of them."

Senior Airman Dominique Childress said he relied on his military training when he jumped into action to help after seeing the accident while picking up his children from the school. Childress described the students who ran to the scene to help as the "real heroes."

"They’ve never had that [military] training, and so for each and every one of them to instinctively go out and do what they did in that traumatic experience is what makes them the real heroes of this story," he told "GMA." "Nobody ever told them that they were going to have to deal with something like this. They weren’t prepared for that, and they still did it."

Crowder confirmed to "GMA" that the mom in the accident, whom he identified by her first name only, Bridgette, is an employee of the school.

She was transported to a hospital, where she underwent surgery and is being treated for non-life threatening injuries, according to Lyman.

Both of her children survived with only minor injuries, according to Lyman.

Lyman said the driver of the car, who has not been publicly identified, told police that she did not see the mom and kids in front of her car.

"One of the factors in this that the driver of the car said was a part of the cause for her not being able to see these people walking through the parking lot was the time of day and the fact that the afternoon sun was in her eyes and she couldn't see," Lyman said. "She was traveling pretty slowly through the parking lot but just didn't see these people walking in front of her."

Lyman said the incident has not yet been screened by the city attorney "to determine if any charges are appropriate."

ABC News' Kandis Mascall and Laryssa Demkiw contributed to this report.


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US Department of Education investigates 6 more schools for discrimination amid tensions over Israel-Hamas war

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(NEW YORK) -- Six more schools are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for reports of discrimination on their campuses, according to the agency.

Tulane University in Louisiana, Union College in New York, Cobb County School District in Georgia, University of Cincinnati in Ohio, Santa Monica College in California, and Montana State University in Montana have been added to the newly released list.

The DOE's Office for Civil Rights released the list as part of the Biden administrations efforts to take action amid the "alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and other forms of discrimination" on both college and K-12 school campuses since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, a statement said.

The Department of Education would not release what type of alleged discrimination the schools are being investigated for. However, at least three schools have released statements detailing the incidents.

A district spokesperson from Cobb County told ABC News they are being investigated for a single complaint regarding a reported "anti-Muslim incident."

"All students in Cobb should feel safe and welcomed, we do not tolerate hate of any kind," the spokesperson said in a statement.

A Tulane University spokesperson said that the incident of discrimination in question "took place at a rally organized by a group that is not recognized by Tulane."

"The rally was deliberately staged on public property contiguous to our campus but over which we have no control," the university said. "As a result of assaults against Tulane students and a Tulane police officer at the rally, three individuals unaffiliated with the university were arrested on a variety of charges, including hate crimes."

The university did not make clear in its statement what kind of discrimination is specifically under investigation, however school officials say the university has increased campus security and has increased its training regarding antisemitism.

"Antisemitism and other forms of hate have no place at Tulane University," the university said. "We are proud to be home to a large Jewish population where students can feel safe to express their cultural and religious identities as Jews."

The statement continued, "We will fully comply with the OCR’s investigation and look forward to sharing with them the facts of this incident and our continued effort to support a learning environment that is free of harassment and discrimination based on shared ancestry or national origin."

Union College also released a public statement, saying that it is being investigated over a claim of discrimination toward Jewish students. The complainant, according to Union College, alleged that the school failed to respond to incidents of harassment in October and November.

"We remain confident that our response to the very small number of reported incidents has been consistent with published policies and procedures, and with how we have responded to reports of alleged bias on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion and other protected statuses," the statement said.

It continued, "The College has seen no violence, or threats of violence, on campus since the Oct. 7 terror attacks by Hamas on Israel."

The University of Cincinnati, Santa Monica College, and Montana State University did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment on their respective DOE investigations.

These schools joins at least 9 other schools under investigation concerning Title VI, a law that bans discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any institution or program that receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told ABC News in a past interview that there will likely be more investigations into schools and universities as incidents continue to pop up across the country.


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UNLV mass shooting victims: 3 professors ID'd

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(LAS VEGAS) -- Three faculty members were killed and one faculty member was injured in a mass shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Wednesday.

The suspect -- who had applied for a college professorship at UNLV, but was not hired, according to sources -- died at the scene following a firefight with police.

Here's what we know about the victims:

Cha Jan Chang

Cha Jan Chang, 64, who was known as "Jerry," was a UNLV business professor who lived in Henderson, Nevada, according to the Clark County coroner.

Chang was an assistant professor at UNLV from 2001 to 2007 and had been an associate professor since 2007.

He received both his masters and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.

"Dr. Chang was a longtime educator of management information systems, spending more than 20 years of his academic career teaching a generation of UNLV Lee Business School students," UNLV President Keith Whitfield said in a statement on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Patricia Navarro Velez

Patricia Navarro Velez, 39, was an assistant professor in accounting at UNLV and lived in Las Vegas, according to the coroner.

She had a Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida.

"Navarro’s current research focuses on cybersecurity disclosures and assurance, internal control weakness disclosure, and data analytics," her UNLV biography said.

"Dr. Navarro-Velez, an assistant professor of accounting, had devoted her career to educating the next generation of accountants," Whitfield said. "She joined UNLV nearly 5 years ago as a professor of accounting, where she focused on teaching accounting information systems."

Naoko Takemaru

Naoko Takemaru, 69, a Las Vegas resident, was an associate professor of Japanese studies at UNLV, according to the coroner and the university.

Takemaru oversaw the entire Japanese Studies Program and "received the William Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching from the College of Liberal Arts at UNLV," according to her biography.


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FDA approves two new gene therapies for sickle cell disease, a 'functional cure' for many patients

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(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday announced that it has approved Casgevy, the first CRISPR gene-editing therapy for sickle cell disease, paving the way for thousands of patients in the U.S. to receive a treatment that has been described as a "functional cure" for eligible patients.

The FDA also approved a gene therapy called Lyfgenia. Collectively, these two therapies represent two "milestone" treatments for sickle cell disease, according to the FDA announcement.

Sickle cell disease is a genetic condition that affects approximately 100,000 Americans – primarily Black Americans with African ancestry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers estimate that roughly 20-25% of those with the disease are sick enough that they would be good candidates for the newly approved treatments, which were approved for people aged and older.

Although historic, the new treatments come with significant hurdles and potential risks. The treatment is difficult to manufacture and requires months of preparation for patients and their families. Patients will need to stay in the hospital for several weeks, and will receive preemptive chemotherapy that can place fertility at risk. Because of this, patients will likely be offered preemptive fertility preservation.

Still, in a world with few options, doctors and patients say this is a historic step forward.

"We've had nothing in our field for decades," said Dr. Sharl Azar, Medical Director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) Treatment Center at Mass General Hospital. "So this is part of the reason why this is such a large, seismic shift for us."

According to the CDC, one out of every 365 Black or African American babies born in the U.S. is born with sickle cell disease, which is characterized by abnormal 'sickle'-shaped red blood cells that can clog blood flow, causing severe pain episodes, fatigue, infections, stroke and sometimes organ damage and other complications. The average life expectancy for those living with sickle cell disease is roughly 52 years old.

The only cure is a risky bone marrow transplant – an option that is out of reach for most patients because it requires a donor match, typically an unaffected sibling.

The new treatments are technically not a cure in the same way a bone marrow transplant would be.

"What we are calling it is a 'functional cure,'" said Dr. Haydar Frangoul, Medical Director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Sarah Cannon Research Institute and HCA Healthcare's The Children's Hospital At TriStar Centennial. "I think it is better described by the fact that patients do not have any symptoms."

Many of the clinical trial volunteers who have already undergone treatment say they have a new lease on life.

"I'm literally a different person," said Jimi Olaghere, an early clinical trial volunteer for the Casgevy CRISPR trial, who was treated at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville. "Before, my life was me most of the time in bed writhing in pain, not present because of all the pain medications."

Today, the Atlanta-based father of three says he takes joy in playing with his young children, picking them up and driving them to school.

"After this treatment, I have bounds and bounds of energy that I never imagined I'd ever have in my life," says Olaghere.

The treatment Olaghere received is made jointly by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics and is the first FDA-approved treatment that uses the genetic modification therapy CRISPR. Often referred to as "genetic scissors," CRISPR technology allows for easier and more precise gene editing than previous methods. The researchers behind the system won the Nobel Prize in 2020.

Rather than editing out the genetic mutation that causes sickle cell disease, the treatment instead makes another edit that prompts the body to start making healthy red blood cells.

The second FDA-approved gene therapy, Lyfgenia, made by BlueBird Bio, works differently, using a virus to deliver new genetic material. Both treatments significantly reduced pain episodes and the need for blood transfusions among patients who were treated as part of the clinical trials.

(NEW YORK) -- Fifteen-year-old Jonathan Lubin, who received the CRISPR treatment as part of a clinical trial at New York Presbyterian, says he wasn't intimidated by a treatment that would permanently edit his genes.

"I mean, it was pretty cool," said Lubin. "Maybe the upside would be that I got superpowers! You never know."

Lubin experienced his first pain crisis at 9 months old. Throughout his childhood, he was in and out of the hospital every few months. His parents were fearful he might die.

Since his treatment more than a year ago, he hasn't had a pain crisis. He's been able to enjoy his favorite activities, like basketball, playing the drums, and even swimming – an activity that was always out of reach because the water temperature could trigger a pain crisis.

Doctors say the new approved treatments are the first step toward a more hopeful future for patients with sickle cell disease.

"Well, I am very hopeful and very excited," said Dr. Frangoul. "CRISPR used to be science-fiction correct five years ago, and now it is reality."

Frangoul says the scientific advances wouldn't have happened without volunteers like Lubin and Olaghere.

"The heroes of the story are not the physicians or the basic scientists that discovered this. They are the patients that … showed the world that this could be done," Frangoul said. "I think they are the heroes."


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UNLV shooting suspect Anthony Polito applied for professor job, wasn't hired: Sources

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(LAS VEGAS) -- The deceased suspect in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas shooting has been identified as Anthony Polito, 67, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News Wednesday night. Las Vegas police named Polito as the suspect at a media briefing on Thursday.

Polito had applied for a college professorship at UNLV, but was not hired, sources said.

Polito was armed with a Taurus 9 mm handgun during Wednesday's on-campus attack in which three people were killed, authorities said. The gun was purchased legally last year, authorities said Thursday afternoon.

Sources said investigators have now determined that the victims killed were faculty or staff, not students. Two of those killed were professors, authorities confirmed on Thursday.

During the investigation, authorities determined that Polito had a list of people "he was seeking" at UNLV and faculty from East Carolina University, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Kevin McMahill said Thursday. None of the individuals listed on the list were victims in the shooting, he said.

The suspect was killed in a shootout with police detectives who responded to the scene, authorities said. The gunman fired on police, which is what led them to shoot him, according to preliminary investigative information.

Polito earned a master of business administration at Duke University in 1991, and he received a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Georgia in 2002, according to the universities.

In 2001, Polito started working as an assistant professor at East Carolina University in the College of Business' Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, according to the university. He resigned from ECU in 2017 as a tenured associate professor.

Detectives have retrieved the suspect’s phone and are examining its contents for clues about what motivated the killer to mount his alleged attack.

Police are also combing his professional writings to determine whether something in those texts could shed light on the events that occurred on the UNLV campus.

Authorities said Thursday the suspect was armed with more than 150 rounds of ammunition

ABC News' Jenny Wagnon Courts and Kate Holland contributed to this report.

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Man speaks out after arrest by Alabama police officer goes viral: 'I am really traumatized'

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(NEW YORK) -- A Black man whose arrest in Alabama earlier this month went viral on social media is speaking out amid an investigation into the local police department.

"I try to act OK but I am really traumatized. I don't know how to feel about police now," Micah Washington told ABC affiliate WBMA in Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday.

Washington, 24, said he was on his way to pick up his brother on Dec. 2 when his tire "had a real bad blowout." He said he was on the ground changing the tire when an officer approached him and demanded that he show her his ID.

"I was like, this is not a traffic stop, so why do you need my ID?" Washington said, adding that he gave it to her but continued to question why she needed it.

Cellphone video of the incident, which was obtained by ABC News, appears to show a female officer detaining Washington and using a stun gun on him as she holds Washington against a car.

After she shocks him, Washington begins to cry. She asks him, "You want it again?"

"No ma'am," he said, according to the video.

Using expletives, the officer then tells him to shut up.

Washington’s attorney, Leroy Maxwell Jr., told ABC News on Thursday that Washington feared for his life during the arrest.

"The only thing that was going on in his mind was George Floyd, George Floyd, George Floyd," Maxwell said. "Because at one point, [the officer] had her foot on his back while [he was lying] on the ground. And then he was having a hard time breathing. And he was yelling that, and that prompted his brother to start recording."

The 45-second clip of the incident, which was filmed by Washington’s brother, doesn’t show what led to the arrest.

The Reform Police Department officer involved in Washington’s arrest was placed on administrative leave this week, according to a joint statement released by Reform Police Chief Richard Black and Reform Mayor Melody Davis.

The officer was not named but an arrest affidavit obtained by ABC News identifies her as Dana Elmore. ABC News' requests for comment to the Reform Police Department were not immediately returned. ABC News' attempts to reach Elmore directly were not successful.

According to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office booking records, Washington was arrested on five charges: obstructing governmental operations, resisting arrest, marijuana possession, drug trafficking and ex-felon in possession of a firearm. According to court documents, "ex-felon in possession of a firearm" is not listed.

"It looks like the DA’s office did not pursue that charge," Maxwell said, claiming that his client is "not a felon."

Related court records did not show any prior convictions for a felony. Court records also show that the drug trafficking charge against Washington was dismissed.

In a Dec. 4 motion obtained by ABC News, Andrew Hamlin, district attorney for the 24th Judicial Circuit, asked a judge to dismiss the drug trafficking charge, saying that Washington was charged with "trafficking in illegal drugs -- fentanyl" but said that further testing "failed to yield a positive result for fentanyl."

In a Dec. 5 response to the motion, District Judge Lance Bailey dismissed the drug trafficking charge and significantly reduced Washington’s bond from $500,000 to $5,000.

In an arrest affidavit, Elmore claims she found Washington in possession of seven grams of cocaine and fentanyl.

"The claim was that she pulled seven grams of cocaine laced in fentanyl out of his pocket and a gun, so that’s what they charged him with," Maxwell said. "Once the video came out, all of a sudden, those charges get dismissed because the video clearly doesn’t show her pulling any drugs out of his pants."

Maxwell said he plans to take legal action on behalf of his client.

“I just want justice,” Washington said, adding, "I would love an apology."

Police Chief Black and Mayor Davis said in a joint statement that police are aware of the video of the incident, which occurred on Dec. 2, and have asked the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation to investigate.

"The department is in the process of turning over all materials related to this arrest to the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation and has requested a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest," the statement said.

A spokesperson for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency at the Alabama Bureau of Investigation confirmed to ABC News that the ALEA is investigating the incident.

"On Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the request of the Reform Police Department, Special Agents with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) launched an investigation into a situation involving an officer with the Reform Police Department. Nothing further is available as the investigation is ongoing," the spokesperson said.


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Trump fraud trial live updates: Defense's accounting expert to return to witness stand

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million civil lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.

Trump, his sons Eric Trump and and Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump Organization executives are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James of engaging in a decade-long scheme in which they used "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" to inflate Trump's net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. The trial comes after the judge in the case ruled in a partial summary judgment that Trump had submitted "fraudulent valuations" for his assets, leaving the trial to determine additional actions and what penalty, if any, the defendants should receive.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have argued that Trump's alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 08, 8:48 AM EST
Defense's accounting expert to return to witness stand

The defense's accounting expert, Eli Bartov, is scheduled to return to the witness stand for a second day of testimony in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial.

During a full day of testimony yesterday, the New York University professor offered a full-throated endorsement of Trump's statements of financial condition that are at the heart of the attorney general's case, saying, "I've never seen a statement that provides so much detail and is so transparent as these statements."

Of discrepancies like Trump overvaluing his Trump Tower penthouse by $100 million in 2012, Bartov characterized it as a mistake and not fraud.

Trump, in attendance at the trial yesterday, told reporters, "He found absolutely no fraud, accounting fraud of any kind. This is a highly respected man. I don't know him, but he's an expert witness."

Trump is not expected to attend court today for Bartov's cross examination, when defense attorneys are expected to scrutinize his conclusions and his motives for testifying, including over $500,000 in compensation for his testimony.

Dec 07, 6:36 PM EST
Trump credits trial for boosting his poll numbers

Donald Trump, exiting court at the conclusion of Thursday's testimony, told reporters that New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud case against him is a "disgrace."

"There was no problem with the loans. The bank was really happy, they testified. Everything was perfect, and it's a disgrace that this case goes forward," Trump said.

His legal spokesperson, Alina Habba, accused the attorney general's team of hypocrisy for criticizing defense expert Eli Bartov, who testified as a state witness after then-New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood sued Exxon Mobil in 2018 for allegedly defrauding investors. The suit, which James took over when she became New York attorney general in 2019, was unsuccessful.

"We just listened to testimony from a man who has such distinct recognition as an accounting expert that even Letitia James and the OAG team used him themselves as an accounting expert," Habba said. "Today when he was on the other side, they spent the entire day objecting, because he was giving testimony that didn't suit their claims."

Trump, meanwhile, boasted to reporters about "leading by about 40 points" in the Republican presidential primary, which he said was partially driven by the civil trial against him.

"It's driving up my polls because the people of our country get it," Trump said. "My poll numbers are the highest I've ever had."

Bartov is set to continue his testimony on Friday, with Trump scheduled to take the stand as the defense's final witness on Monday.

Dec 07, 5:06 PM EST
'There is no fraud here,' accounting expert testifies

If Donald Trump was a student in Eli Bartov's class, his statements of financial condition would earn him an "A," the New York University professor said on the stand.

"I've never seen a statement that provides so much detail and is so transparent as these statements," Bartov said, praising the "awesome amount of information" in the financial documents that are at the center of the New York attorney general's case against Trump.

"There is no fraud here," Bartov said flatly.

Despite his effusive praise for the statements, the professor attempted to underplay the significance of the documents, emphasizing that lenders would be expected to do their own valuations to decide about lending to Trump. Deutsche Bank's credit memos -- which regularly marked down Trump's asset values by as much as 50% -- proved that the banks used additional information to independently scrutinize Trump's financial statements, according to Bartov.

"It is impossible to argue -- it is really absurd to argue -- that Deutsche Bank or any bank or any lender would make lending decisions based on the SOFC," Bartov said of Trump's statement of financial condition. "This should close the book on this case."

"Everywhere you look, you see this is simply an absurd argument," Bartov said.

Dec 07, 3:07 PM EST
'Gotta lose some weight,' Trump says, examining sketch

During testimony, Donald Trump has been sitting at the defense counsel table with few items other than an unopened, Trump-branded water bottle and a stack of sticky notes.

But during breaks in testimony, he's taken a page from his son Donald Trump Jr., who chatted with court sketch artist Jane Rosenberg when he testified last month.

The former president has done the same, chatted up the court's sketch artists during two breaks in testimony.

Rosenberg said that when Trump surveyed her rendering of him, he offered a simple, "Nice."

Trump also examined a rendering by sketch artist Isabelle Brourman.

"Wow, amazing," Trump said, according to Brourman. "Gotta lose some weight."

Dec 07, 1:52 PM EST
Defense expert tells AG lawyer, 'You ought to be ashamed of yourself'

Donald Trump's accounting expert snapped at a lawyer for the New York attorney general after the lawyer suggested his opinion was bought by the defense team.

As accounting expert Eli Bartov was testifying about Trump's use of disclaimers in his financial statements, state attorney Kevin Wallace interjected, saying, "This is pure speculation from someone they hired to say whatever it is they want."

Still in the witness box, Bartov began yelling at Wallace about the comment as Trump sat watching a few feet away.

"You make up allegations that never existed," Bartov shouted. "I am here to tell the truth. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for talking like that."

Bartov, in his testimony, said that Trump's use of disclaimers functioned "just like the warning from the surgeon general on a box of cigarettes."

The accounting expert said that Trump's disclaimers clearly flagged to his lenders that they should conduct their own due diligence regarding the figures, rather than rely on them at face value. Witnesses from Deutsche Bank -- Trump's primary lender during the 2010s -- previously testified that they conducted due diligence and significantly undercut the valuations Trump provided in his financial statement when deciding to offer him loans.

"I never saw anything that is clearer than that," Bartov said about the language in Trump's disclaimer clause. "Even my nine-year-old granddaughter Emma would understand this language."

In his pretrial summary judgment ruling, Judge Engoron dismissed Trump's argument that disclaimer clauses protect him from allegations of fraud. While multiple defense witnesses have attempted to rebut Engoron's opinion about Trump's use of disclaimer clauses, the judge has signaled he stands by his opinion.

"My summary judgment is the law of the case on the legal effect of this paragraph or these sentences," Engoron said in response to Bartov's testimony, adding that the clauses "would not insulate the client."

Nevertheless, Trump attorney Chris Kise requested that Engoron reconsider his finding.

"I am fairly liberal in reconsidering my opinions," Engoron said before Bartov resumed his testimony.

Dec 07, 12:14 PM EST
Expert 'found absolutely no fraud,' Trump says

During a short break in testimony, Donald Trump applauded the findings of accounting expert Eli Bartov, who testified that he found no evidence of accounting fraud in Trump's statements of financial condition.

"He reviewed fully the documents that this horrendous attorney general has put forward, and he found absolutely no fraud, accounting fraud of any kind," Trump told reporters.

Trump, however, acknowledged that Judge Engoron might not be swayed by Bartov's testimony.

"We will probably go forward and I'm sure nothing will have any bearing on what this judge does," Trump said.

Dec 07, 11:59 AM EST
Trump penthouse misstatement was not fraud, expert says

Donald Trump's overstatement of the value of his Trump Tower penthouse apartment was a mistake, according to accounting expert Eli Bartov -- but not fraud.

"The price was inflated. There is no question about it," Bartov said about Trump more than doubling the value of his triplex apartment on his statement of financial condition, from $80 million to $180 million, between 2011 and 2012.

Bartov chalked up the mistake to the inevitable errors that occur in the process of compiling a statement of financial condition. He said that if Trump meant to commit fraud by inflating the value of his apartment, he would have made some effort to conceal it.

"There is no evidence here of concealment," Bartov said. "It's true this is an error. But it is no fraud."

Bartov instead blamed Trump's external accounting firm for failing to catch the obvious error.

"They submitted to him the supporting documents. Any person that had one year experience in auditing ... will immediately see there is a jump from 80 million to 180 million," he said.

Dec 07, 11:45 AM EST
No merit to NY AG's complaint, defense expert says

The New York attorney general's civil fraud complaint against former President Trump lacks merit, a defense expert in accounting testified.

"My main finding is that there is no evidence whatsoever for any accounting fraud," New York University professor Eli Bartov said. "My analysis shows the statements of financial condition for all the years were not materially misstated."

Bartov's testimony bolstered the defense's contention that non-audited financial statements, like Trump's, are unreliable and represent only a first step in analysis.

"You cannot use the raw numbers in the statements as the basis for making decisions," Bartov said. "If you do that, you are likely to reach the wrong decision."

Judge Engoron asked Bartov whether the attorney general's complaint had no merit.

"This is absolutely my opinion," Bartov replied.

"And why is that?" defense attorney Jesus Suarez jumped in to ask.

"There is not a single reference to a specific provision of GAAP that was violated," Bartov said, referring to the generally accepted accounting principles." "If you allege there was an accounting violation, they have to tell us what provision was violated."

State attorneys objected to the relevance of Bartov's opinion, but Judge Engoron denied the objection.

Dec 07, 10:39 AM EST
Court affirms pausing dissolution of Trump Organization

A panel of five appellate judges has affirmed a judge's Oct. 6 decision that paused the dissolution of the Trump Organization.

Judge Peter Moulton issued a ruling during the first week of the trial pausing the immediate cancellation of Donald Trump's business certificates, as ordered by Judge Arthur Engoron in his partial summary judgment ruling on the eve of the trial.

Trump's attorneys argued in favor of the stay of enforcement action until the end of the trial, and the New York attorney general supported their argument.

Today's ruling formally pushes a decision on the fate of the Trump Organization into the new year, when Engoron issues his final ruling in the case.

Dec 07, 10:17 AM EST
Trump in attendance for accounting expert's testimony

Donald Trump is back in court as a spectator, marking the first time the former president has attended the proceeding in over a month.

Trump entered the courtroom alongside his legal spokesperson Alina Habba and his son Eric Trump, who canceled his testimony that was initially scheduled for yesterday. Notably absent from the courtroom is New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Previewing today's testimony from New York University accounting professor Eli Bartov, Trump said on his way into the courtroom that he has "one of the greatest experts in the country" taking the stand today.

"We did nothing wrong. There were no victims. The bank loves us," Trump said.

Dec 07, 8:34 AM EST
Donald Trump set to attend trial today

Donald Trump is set to return to his civil fraud trial as a spectator today, marking the first time the former president has attended the proceeding in over a month.

Trump has attended eight of the trial's 41 days, including when he testified as the last witness in the state's case on Nov. 6. He is scheduled to return to the stand as the final witness in the defense's case on Monday.

This morning, Trump's lawyers will call New York University professor Eli Bartov as their second-to-last witness.

Trump attorney Chris Kise cited Bartov's testimony in his opening statement as vital to proving that Trump fully complied with all accounting rules and regulations when he submitted his statements of financial condition, which underpin the attorney general's allegations in the case.

"The statements are ... the beginning, not the end, of a highly complex valuation process," Kise said.

Dec 06, 4:42 PM EST
Potential for violence justifies gag order, judge's lawyer argues

Judge Arthur Engoron's attorney argues in a new court filing that the willingness of Donald Trump's followers "to engage in violence to show their support" for Trump justifies the limited gag order in the former president's civil fraud trial.

Trump filed an Article 78 proceeding against Engoron earlier this month to remove the gag orders the judge imposed prohibiting him from commenting on the judge's staff, but a panel of judges vacated a temporary stay of the gag orders last week.

"It is undisputed that Mr. Trump has an inordinate ability to draw attention, fervor, and animosity to those he singles out for attention. Whether he seeks it or not, some of Mr. Trump's followers are willing to engage in violence to show their support," said Engoron's attorney Michael Suidzinski, an assistant deputy counsel with the New York State Office of Court Administration.

Engoron's attorney questioned Trump's need to speak about the judge's staff during the trial or his campaign, adding that the gag order still permits him to criticize Engoron, the attorney general, the case itself, witnesses, and the entire judicial process.

"It is unclear, however, how his ability to talk about Justice Engoron's court staff is necessary for his campaign when this country faces a number of issues more worthy of debate," Suidzinski wrote.

"Given the real and demonstrated likelihood of harm that could come to Justice Engoron's court staff if the gag orders were annulled, Justice Engoron's legitimate and justifiable interest in preventing such harm greatly outweighs the de minimis interference to Mr. Trump's rights," Suidzinski wrote.

Dec 06, 12:07 PM EST
Court is off today after Eric Trump's testimony is called off

Court is not in session today after the defense yesterday called off the testimony of Eric Trump, who was scheduled to be today's lone witness.

Donald Trump's legal spokesperson, Alina Habba, said that testimony from Eric Trump was no longer needed because the court has heard sufficient testimony from defense experts and Deutsche Bank executives.

Eric Trump, who took the stand in the state's case last month, was scheduled to testify for the defense today -- but defense lawyers abruptly called off his testimony yesterday in order to streamline their case, defense attorney Clifford Robert said in court yesterday.

"Although Eric Trump was certainly prepared to testify again, his testimony is no longer necessary. He has already testified fully and well in the case," Habba said.

In a social media post Tuesday night, Donald Trump said he directed Eric not to testify.

"I told my wonderful son, Eric, not to testify tomorrow at the RIGGED TRIAL," Trump wrote.

Dec 06, 11:02 AM EST
Trump confirms he'll testify Monday

Former President Trump has confirmed he plans to testify as a defense witness on Monday.

"I will be testifying on Monday," Trump wrote on his social media platform.

Court is not in session today, but Trump is expected to be in attendance tomorrow.

Trump's plan to testify was thrown into question on Tuesday after Judge Arthur Engoron denied a request from the defense to delay the testimony to accommodate Trump's effort to appeal the limited gag order in the case that prohibits him from commenting on the judge's staff.

"He is not capable of fully testifying because he is subject to the gag order," Kise said, arguing for a delay.

"Absolutely not. No way, no how. It's a nonstarter," Engoron said in response to the defense's request for a delay. "If he is going to testify, it'll be Monday, and that's that."

While Trump's lawyers have attempted to appeal the limited gag order to a higher court, their application to expedite the appeal was denied on Monday, ensuring that the limited gag order will be in place when Trump testifies.

During a campaign stop in Iowa, Trump repeated his claims that his opponents are trying to silence him, describing the gag order as an "honor."

"In many ways, it's an honor because if they wanted to hear me speak, they wouldn't do the gag order," Trump said.

When asked if he's concerned about his scheduled court testimony, Trump said, "No, not at all."

Trump is set to be the final witness for the defense case when he testifies on Monday.

Dec 05, 5:04 PM EST
Defense expert quotes John Lennon, compares Trump to MLK

Prior to his brief cross-examination, real estate valuation expert Lawrence Moens quoted John Lennon's "Imagine" and compared Donald Trump to Martin Luther King Jr. at the conclusion of his direct testimony.

"You may say I am a dreamer, but I'm not the only one," Moens said, quoting the "Imagine" lyrics before comparing Trump to Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr.

"He's a dreamer for sure. If you have a dream and are a great American, I don't think that's a bad thing," Moens said of Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago estate he praised as "something breathtaking" and "amazing to see."

Moens' cellphone went off during his testimony, and he briefly interrupted his direct examination to answer a call.

"I'll call you right back … love you," Moens said in a quiet tone as Judge Engoron watched in disbelief.

Moen apologized to the judge, explaining that the call was from his elderly father.

Court was adjourned for the day after Moens stepped off the witness stand.

Dec 05, 4:45 PM EST
Mar-a-Lago valuation expert is also Mar-a-Lago member

During a short cross-examination of the defense's real estate valuation expert, Lawrence Moens, state attorney Kevin Wallace attempted to highlight flaws in Moens' analysis that valued Mar-a-Lago at $1.2 billion in 2021.

Wallace noted that Moens' analysis added over $100 million in membership dues to the value of the property, while Trump's own statements of financial conduction didn't include the membership fees since they're refundable.

"Some get paid back, and some are nonrefundable," Moens said in response. "I don't know what their methodology is in those numbers."

Wallace also asked if Moens had a membership in the club he had been paid to value.

"Are you a member at the club?" Wallace asked.

"I am," Moens said, adding that he joined in 1995 or 1996.

"I don't go too often. I don't like clubs," he said.

Moens described his process for valuing properties as comparable to a baker making a cake by taste, rather than a recipe. By his own admission, the process was not replicable or scientific.

"You're not running a process that is recreatable ... is that fair?" Wallace asked.

"That's fair," Moens said.

Like during his direct examination, Moens appeared confident and playful on the stand, even taking a job at the profession of a colleague mentioned in an email.

"I think he is still a liar -- I mean a lawyer," Moens said. "Sorry, I apologize, it was really low."

Dec 05, 3:51 PM EST
Eric Trump will not be called as defense witness

Defense attorney Clifford Robert said the defense team was able to "streamline" their case and cut Eric Trump from their witness list.

After being called to the stand by the state last month, Eric Trump had been scheduled to testify for the defense on Wednesday, but now he will not appear.

Trump lawyer Chris Kise also requested that Judge Engoron postpone Donald Trump's testimony until the New York Court of Appeals rules on Trump's appeal of the case's gag order.

"He is not capable of fully testifying because he is subject to the gag order," Kise said.

Engoron flatly denied the request to delay Trump's testimony, which is scheduled for Monday.

"Absolutely not. No way, no how. It's a nonstarter," Engoron said. "If he is going to testify, it'll be Monday, and that's that."

Dec 05, 3:03 PM EST
Defense expert says Mar-a-Lago was worth $1.2 billion

Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club was worth more than $1.2 billion in 2021 -- roughly double the value listed in Trump's statement of financial condition -- according to defense expert Lawrence Moens.

Describing Mar-a-Lago as a castle nestled on 17.6 acres of waterfront property, Moens said he determined the value by considering nearby properties and adding the total value of the club's 500 memberships, which in 2021 cost $350,000 each.

Between 2011 and 2021, Moens' analysis found that Trump undervalued Mar-a-Lago in his statements of financial condition -- but his analysis appeared to be based on Trump being able to sell the property to an individual to use it as a private residence, which the New York attorney general says Trump is prohibited from doing based on a 2002 deed he signed that would "forever extinguish their right to develop or use the Property for any purpose other than club use."

Judge Engoron only qualified Moens as an expert on the value of residential real estate.

Moens spoke with confidence about his ability to value real estate in Palm Beach, saying that he has sold billions of dollars of real estate since his first sale as a broker in 1982. Asked if any broker has sold more Palm Beach real estate than he has, Moens replied, "They don't exist."

"I am on the front lines everyday of selling properties, and I have a pretty good handle of what is going on currently in the market," Moens said.

He later added, "My numbers are usually right."

Moens also put together a seven-minute promotional video about Mar-a-Lago, which was played during his testimony. Set to relaxing music, the video included high-resolution drone shots and dramatic panning shots of the property's amenities. After the video played, Moens highlighted details such as hand-carved stones, gold decorations that cost millions to construct, and other details that required years of work from tradesmen.

"I invited the attorney general's office to come see it anytime. The offer still stands," Moens said. "I will make sure he is not there when you come," he said of Trump.

Engoron appeared attentive to Moen's testimony -- but once Moens left the courtroom, he indicated that he wasn't as concerned about Mar-a-Lago's specific value as he was about whether it was misrepresented.

"I see this case about the documents -- whether the defendants used false documents when transacting business," Engoron said. "I am not trying to figure out what the value is ... I don't necessarily consider it relevant."

Dec 05, 12:31 PM EST
Mar-a-Lago would be residence if club was abandoned, expert says

Defense expert John Shubin attempted to explain that a 1993 agreement preserved Donald Trump's right to sell his Mar-a-Lago social club as a private residence.

The testimony came after Judge Engoron prevented Shubin from sharing his own conclusion about whether Mar-a-Lago was a residence, leading Shubin to read into the record several documents involving the issue.

Shubin suggested that a 1993 agreement between Trump and the town of Palm Beach included a provision that Trump's property would revert from a social club to Trump's private residence if the club was ever abandoned, despite Trump's 2002 deed restricting the property's use to a social club.

Shubin also read into the record documents related to a 2021 Town of Palm Beach town meeting concerning whether Trump could continue to live at Mar-a-Lago as his residence.

"In sum, it is argued that Mar-a-Lago is either a private residence or a club, but cannot be both," Palm Beach Town Attorney John C. Randolph wrote in a report read by Shubin.

"If he is a bona fide employee of the Club, absent a specific restriction prohibiting former President Trump from residing at the club, it appears the Zoning Code permits him to reside at the Club," Randolph's report concluded.

According to Shubin, no action was taken by the town after the meeting, suggesting Town officials concluded that Trump had the right to use the club as a residence.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has accused Trump of valuing the property as a residence worth upwards of half a billion dollars in Trump's financial statements, while treating it as social club worth between $18 million and $28 million for tax purposes.

Dec 05, 11:03 AM EST
'No prohibition' on using Mar-a-Lago as residence, expert says

Introduced as an expert on land use, planning, entitlements and zoning, a witness for the defense immediately pushed back on New York Attorney General Letitia James' chief argument that Trump's Mar-a-Lago property was restricted to use as a social club -- a claim that Judge Engoron called the "ultimate issue on Mar-a-Lago."

"There is absolutely no prohibition on the use of Mar-a-Lago as a single-family residence," said defense witness John Shubin.

Engoron barred Shubin from testifying about legal conclusions and immediately sustained an objection from the state regarding the testimony.

"It absolutely is a legal conclusion," Engoron said, prompting defense lawyer Clifford Robert to unsuccessfully try to rephrase his question.

"Why don't we just look through the documents and run backwards?" defense lawyer Chris Kise suggested.

Shubin's testimony runs contrary to evidence presented by state lawyers that Trump signed a 2002 deed that surrendered his right to develop the property "for any purpose other than club use."

Dec 05, 9:36 AM EST
Defense focusing on value of Mar-a-Lago

Donald Trump's lawyers plan to call two experts, Lawrence Moens and John Shubin, to testify on Trump's valuation of his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida.

Moens is a well-known real estate broker in Palm Beach, and Shubin is an expert on deeds and land restrictions.

The value of the property has been bitterly contested by Trump's lawyers since the start of the trial, after Judge Arthur Engoron, in his pretrial partial summary judgment determined that Trump overvalued the property by at least 2,300%. When Trump testified in the trial in November, he repeatedly lashed out at Engoron for what he called a "crazy" assessment of the property.

"He said in his statement that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million and it's worth 50 times to 100 times more than that, and everybody knows it. And everybody is watching this case. He called me a fraud and he didn't know anything about me," Trump said on the stand.

According to evidence shown at trial, Trump agreed in a 2002 deed to "forever extinguish [his] right to develop or use the Property for any purpose other than club use." While Trump Organization executives were aware of the limited use of the property, they allegedly valued the property as a residence in Trump's financial statements while treating it as a social club for tax purposes, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James.

In Trump's statements of financial condition, he valued the property between $426 million and $612 million, despite a local tax assessor appraising the market value of the property between $18 and $27 million. Engoron, in his summary judgment ruling, wrote that James had proven that Trump was liable for a false valuation of the property.

Trump has repeatedly argued that Engoron misunderstood the purpose of a tax assessment, going as far as to call Engoron's finding "fraud."

"Are you paying taxes on an $18 million valuation of Mar-a-Lago or $1.5 billion?" state attorney Kevin Wallace asked Trump during his direct examination.

"You know that assessments are totally different from the valuation of property," Trump responded.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Native Hawaiians fighting to take control of Maui's water rights amid wildfire cleanup

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(LAHAINA, Hawaii) -- A battle is brewing in Maui over one of the most essential resources for human survival: water.

Four months after West Maui suffered the deadliest natural disaster in the state's history, residents are seeking existing water rights, which many characterize as "stolen" from the native population who have lived on the island for generations in favor of Westerners looking to deepen their pockets.

Water, land and the environment play a special role in Native Hawaiian culture and way of life. They are sacred elements of existence, requiring protection and careful stewardship, local Maui farmers told ABC News.

"As Hawaiians, we believe that everything matters: The air, the wind, the trees, the animals, the species, the humans, the ocean, the fish. Everything matters," Jerome Kekiwi Jr., a taro farmer in east Maui and president of a Maui-based nonprofit called Na Moku Aupuni o Ko'olau Hui that promotes the interests of Native Hawaiians in Maui, told ABC News. "With water, all of that is possible to have in abundance."

Hawaii allocates its water under a "rights" system, similar to other states in the western United States. Residents and companies can own the right to draw water from a source, which is usually located on their own land. But they can't own the water source itself, state law dictates.

Hawaiian law protects traditional and cultural use. But as the wildfire cleanup continues, rebuilding plans come to fruition and climate change threatens the island's future water supply, Native Hawaiians want less water to be diverted to corporations and developments and more to be allocated to residents and local farmers.

"This is like a reset button," Hokuao Pellegrino, a taro farmer in central Maui and a prominent advocate for indigenous water rights on the island, told ABC News.

The history of water rights in Maui

Native Hawaiians would say the trajectory in overconsumption of the island's water resources began when sugarcane plantations began to replace local farmers as the main crop producers in the 19th century, according to Pellegrino.

While native farmers who cultivated taro, an indigenous root vegetable known as "kalo" in the Hawaiian language, had traditionally used neighboring streams to irrigate their crops, the emergence of mono-crop farming on the island established a centuries-long legacy of stolen land and water that persisted for decades, Pellegrino said.

Native Hawaiians stress the importance of restoring balance to the island -- a notion far removed from the tendencies to "take take take" displayed by the foreigners who came to do business in Maui, Pellegrino said.

Indigenous populations diverted water themselves, said Pellegrino, who farms on his family's ancestral lands. They had to in order to cultivate wetland taro, a staple in the Hawaiian diet that can't thrive without an adequate water source.

But when the sugar plantations were established, the developers dug deeper into the water sources. Instead of taking the water supply needed to cultivate the crops, they "ended up taking the whole stream along with it," Pellegrino said.

"We went from a time that our people lived in balance, and had a high level of respect for our water resources, to an era that looks at water as a commodity," he said.

Indigenous and local communities are often the most vulnerable to water shortages, especially because government water management and distribution processes don't formally recognize customary water rights -- traditional rights held by indigenous communities, Sandra Thiam, vice president of research and policy at the Environmental Law Institute, told ABC News.

In 2003, Pellegrino and other Hawaiian farmers embarked on a decade-long battle against plantations and local water companies to reclaim the water rights. A lawsuit against a water company and a sugar company aiming to amend the stream-flow standards to better reflect traditional flows was heard by the Hawaii Supreme Court in 2012, which resulted in a mediated agreement between the parties two years later.

By 2021, the state water commission established a water plan that recognizes traditional water rights and protecting stream flows. While the move is a step in the right direction, millions of gallons of public freshwater are still being sold for private profit, and the current water system is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, local activists say.

Currently, three regions in Maui are involved in "huge battles" with corporations on the island, Pellegrino said. East Maui, where most of the streams and rivers are located, is attempting to fight off an offshore company that bought the last sugar plantation with plans to grow citrus on 30,000 acres, he said. In addition, central Maui and West Maui are among the regions in which water, the public trust, is being sold by corporations back to residents as their drinking water, according to Pellegrino.

How water rights play into the aftermath of the wildfires

The water situation during the fire and in the immediate aftermath proved chaotic.

At the height of the fires in August, the water ran dry, with nothing flowing from hydrants when the firefighters needed it most. In Lahaina, the historic district and former Kingdom of Hawaii at the center of the destruction, electricity was shut off to prevent the continued spread of the fire in high winds. But the decision left the pumps powerless to move water through the pipes.

Limited access to water by landowners, in combination with drought, likely contributed to the dry fields that made the wildfires so explosive, Clay Trauernicht, a specialist in fire ecology at the University of Hawaii, told ABC News in September. Invasive grasses also play a role in the rapid spread, Abby Frazier, a climatologist at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, told ABC News in August.

"The Lahaina fire is a grim reminder of the way that the changing climate can complicate ongoing environmental pressures and result in compound disasters," Thiam said.

Just weeks after the fires broke out, West Maui residents identified developers on the island as public enemy No. 1 during discussions for revision or adjustments to the water rights -- namely Peter Martin, the most prominent developer who began buying land in the region nearly 50 years ago, according to hundreds of testimonies given at community meetings since the wildfires.

During testimonies given during a nearly 12-hour state water commission hearing on Sept. 19 in Honolulu, Native Hawaiian farmers, environmental activists and Maui residents lambasted Martin for his role in water divisions in West Maui, labeling him as "the face of evil in Lahaina."

Neither Martin nor the State of Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management immediately responded to ABC News' request for comment.

While most residents in the region are serviced by the county public water system, developments built by Martin draw water from private utility systems controlled by Martin that siphon water from underground aquifers and mountain streams -- just one of the examples of inequality on the island, Pellegrino said. One of his luxury developments, Launiupoko, uses about 1.5 million gallons a day toward landscaping -- more than half of all the water used in the neighborhood, according to a 2022 report by the state water commission.

The companies owned by Martin, a millionaire who made the bulk of his fortune from the island's real estate market by turning what was previously farmland into luxury homes, own more than 5,500 acres of land around Lahaina, according to an analysis of county records by nonprofit environmental news magazine Grist. Martin's companies are known to push back against water regulations intended to protect the rights of Native Hawaiians, Grist reported in November.

Hawaii's state constitution and state water statutes have some notable protections for traditional and customary water use. The state constitution establishes water as a "public trust" that state officials have "an obligation to protect, control and regulate the use of."

In 2018, the state water commission set strict limits on water diversion in West Maui, issuing fines -- up to $5,000 daily -- to developers when the rules were violated, to prevent already oversubscribed aquifers from further depletion.

In his interview with Grist last month, Martin likened the public who criticized him to a "mob" that state commissioners couldn't help but listen to.

"When you're around a gang of people, a mob, the commissioners just listen to the mob," the 76-year-old told the magazine. "They don't listen to reasoned voices."

What needs to be done, experts say

One of the most important facets of maintaining a healthy ecosystem and watershed is making sure the water system retains mountain-to-sea, meaning the water is not diverted to the point where those flows can't make that necessary journey, farmers say.

"Water is life," Kekiwi said. "If you break that connectivity, you're pretty much breaking that life source."

Protecting the island's water supply from over-extraction and continued drought will also need to be a priority, Pellegrino said.

"Strong, effective governance is increasingly vital to successful, equitable water allocation," Thiam said.

"Proactive strategic planning and enabling policies and programs to changing circumstances are increasingly critical to effective and equitable water allocation," she said.

In addition, establishing healthy communication with the corporations and utility companies would help the island make strides in ensuring its water supply going forward, Kekiwi said.

The communication has improved, he said. East Maui Irrigation actually calls his organization to let them know what diversions they are working on, Kekiwi said.

"That's what we need more of," he said. "More of the positive communication and collaboration."

Residents say they'll continue to fight

The power and will of Native Hawaiians have been put on display in the fallout of the wildfire destruction.

On Aug. 10, just two days after the fires broke out, an executive for one of Martin's companies wrote a letter to the water commission stating that the request to fill its reservoirs on the day of the fire had been delayed and asked the state to loosen water regulations during fire recovery, the document, obtained by Grist, shows.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green then suspended the water code in an emergency proclamation and temporarily reassigned the water commission's deputy director, Kaleo Manuel, whom the company executive had implied in the letter had impeded firefighting efforts by withholding the release of water.

Manuel was later reinstated following an investigation by the state attorney general and public backlash over his removal, including public testimonies submitted by hundreds of people, and the water code was put back in place.

That passion was also displayed last year, when a six-hour debate over West Maui water rights led the state water commission to vote unanimously to take control of the region's ground and surface water in June 2022.

The impassioned people of Lahaina can change the face of the island, Pellegrino said, describing the community as "resilient."

"Whatever they say is going to happen, they're going to make it happen," he said.

The fight is worth it, Pellegrino added.

Today, residents in east Maui have more than 50% of their major streams flowing again, and flowing from the mountains to the sea -- an effort more than 20 years in the making, Pellegrino said.

Activists are aware they need to remain vigilant, because well-moneyed corporations have the resources to swoop in and reverse their hard work, while the state does not have the resources to constantly monitor them, Pellegrino said.

"We have the knowledge to be able to keep these corporations in check," he added.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Man arrested after shots fired outside New York temple

Kali9/Getty Images

(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- A man was arrested Thursday afternoon after he allegedly fired off a shotgun in the parking area of an Albany, New York synagogue, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

The FBI has identified the suspect in Thursday's incident as Mufid Fawaz Alkhader, who is being charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

An initial court appearance has been scheduled for today at U.S. District Court in Albany.

No one was injured during the incident at the Temple Israel around 2:27 p.m. and the suspect, only described as a 28-year-old local man, was quickly arrested the governor said.

"As we've talked about before, after the Oct. 7 attacks I've ordered our state police as well National Guard to be on high alert," Hochul told reporters at a news conference.

The suspect allegedly made "threatening statements," during the incident, Hochul said. The suspect, who has a criminal history, is pending an arraignment, according to the governor.

"Thanks to the swift coordination between the ATF, FBI, and our partners at Albany Police Department and New York State Police, Mufid Fawaz Alkhader has been arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. More information will be provided by the United States Attorney's Office following an initial appearance scheduled for tomorrow at U.S. District Court in Albany," said the FBI in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

An early childhood center located on the premises was forced to lockdown but parents were later able to pick up their kids, according to the governor.

Hochul said she spoke with Rabbi Wendy Love Anderson and reassured her that her congregation would be kept safe. The governor said there is no other ongoing threat.

"And I remind everyone, as New Yorkers this is not who we are. This must stop. We reject hate, anti- Semitism [and] Islamophobia. All hate crimes must stop, and all violence in every form must cease," she said.

The governor noted that the temple previously was the target of a bomb threat in September. Hochul noted that the incident also came at a sensitive time for the Jewish community as it was the first night of Hanukkah.

During the news conference, Eva Wyner, the deputy director of Jewish Affairs for the New York State Executive Chamber, lit the first candle of the menorah.

"We can not be intimidated. We can not be threatened in holding these traditions," she said.

Meanwhile, Hochul has put authorities on high alert for potential attacks and disruptions during Hanukkah.

“I am immediately directing the New York State Police and New York National Guard to be on high alert and increase the existing patrols of at-risk sites we had planned for the Hanukkah holiday, including at synagogues, yeshivas and community centers, and working closely with local law enforcement," Hochul said in a press release announcing her actions.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



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