National News

Black men in 'Groveland Four' case may get rape convictions, indictments dismissed

Marilyn Nieves/iStock

(GROVELAND, Fla.) -- More than 70 years after four Black men were accused of raping a white woman in 1949, Florida State Attorney Bill Gladson has filed a motion to posthumously clear the "Groveland Four" of their criminal records.

"Even a casual review of the record reveals that these four men were deprived of the fundamental due process rights that are afforded to all Americans," Gladson wrote in his motion filed Monday. "The evidence strongly suggests that a sheriff, a judge, and prosecutor all but guaranteed guilty verdicts in this case."

Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, all young Black men, were accused of raping a 17-year-old white woman in the central Florida town of Groveland. Following the accusation, an angry mob shot and killed Thomas before he could be arrested. Records show that the indictment against him was never dismissed by the court, according to Gladson's motion.

Greenlee, Shepherd and Irvin were all put to trial and convicted.

Greenlee, who was 16 years old at the time, received a recommendation of mercy from the jury and received a life sentence. He did not appeal the verdict.

Irvin and Shepherd were sentenced to death and successfully made an appeal. In 1951, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated their convictions and ordered a new trial for each. Following the new indictment, Florida Sheriff Willis McCall shot and killed Shepherd and attacked and injured Irvin. Shepherd's indictment, like Thomas', was never dismissed. Irvin was retried, convicted and again sentenced to death, but later had his sentence commuted to life in prison.

Gladson filed the motion to dismiss the indictments of Thomas and Shepherd, and set aside and vacate the judgments and sentences of Greenlee and Irvin.

Several pieces of troubling information highlighted the problematic nature of their charges and convictions. Gladson argues that the state never had Irvin's pants tested for the presence of semen, even though they could have, and instead left the jury with the impression that Irvin's pants contained evidence of the rape.

The qualification of the prosecution's star witnesses, who made shoe and tire casts from the scene, has also been called into question. One of the defense's expert witnesses stated in the second trial that one of the casts was manufactured to falsely link Irvin to the scene.

Gladson also noted an email from the grandson of the state attorney who prosecuted the Groveland Four case that says state attorney Jesse Hunter and trial judge Truman Futch knew at the time of the second trial that there was no rape.

Now, if the court grants the Gladson's motion, the legal presumption of innocence for these four men would be restored.

"While we are thankful the Florida Legislature apologized and the Board of Executive Clemency granted pardons, full justice depends on action from the judicial branch," Carol Greenlee said in a statement. "I hope this motion will result in that full justice for my father Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis granted posthumous pardons to the men in 2019.

This isn't the first time Black men may have been falsely or unfairly convicted for similar incidents.

In 1972, Federal District Judge Charles R. Scott vacated the convictions of Robert Shuler and Jerry Chatman, two Black men who were convicted of raping a white woman in Florida. The retrial was ordered when the woman hinted the assault may never have been committed.

In the 1980s, the Exonerated Five, previously known as the Central Park Five, were a group of Black and Hispanic teenagers who were convicted and later exonerated in connection with the rape and brutal assault on a white female jogger in New York.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Confederate statue hiding in plain sight near trial of 3 white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery


(ATLANTA) -- A statue of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle in a park less than a mile from the Georgia courthouse where three white men are on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, has been hidden in plain sight, wrapped in sheets of plastic apparently to protect it from vandalism.

The monument that has stood for 119 years in the center of Hanover Square in Brunswick, Georgia, has become a lightning rod for discourse in the Glynn County community since Arbery was allegedly chased down and fatally shot in 2020 while, according to prosecutors, he was out for a Sunday jog.

Brunswick City Manager Regina McDuffie said the marble statue was wrapped in plastic by a local resident.

"A private citizen wanted to try to ensure the statue was not damaged since we just started the trial in the Arbery case," McDuffie told ABC Jacksonville, Florida, affiliate WJXX. "It is not the city's plan. We don't have anything to do with it as far as how long it will stay [wrapped]."

The Brunswick City Commission voted in November 2020 to remove that statue, but no timeline was set. A Georgia Court of Appeals ruling in August that denied a motion to block the removal of Confederate monuments paved the way for the city to uproot the statue.

The statue was vandalized last year, spray-painted with the letters BLM (Black Lives Matter) on its pedestal.

The murder trial of the three men who prosecutors allege chased down and shot Arbery to death on Feb. 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick began last week with jury selection.

The accused are Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, 52.

The three men have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

The jury selection phase of the trial went into its sixth day on Tuesday. No jurors have been selected yet for the high-profile trial, which is expected to last a month.

About 1,000 Glynn County residents received jury-duty summonses in the case. Attorneys are attempting to whittle that number down to a pool of 64 qualified prospective jurors, of which 16, including four alternates, will be seated to hear the case. As of Tuesday afternoon, 32 would-be jurors have been chosen for the qualified pool.

Bryan's attorney Kevin Gough claimed in court on Tuesday that protests occurring outside the courthouse are having undue influence on potential jurors. Gough asked Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley, who was appointed to preside over the Glynn County trial, to "ban all protest or First Amendment activity from this area until the conclusion of this trial."

Walmsley denied the motion.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Water levels jump back up in West after long drought


(NEW YORK) -- A weekend storm that brought extreme atmospheric river and historic rain to Northern California has raised water levels in several water bodies, namely Lake Tahoe, Lake Oroville and Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Falls, which was announced to be "dry" last week by the Yosemite National Park, is back in action with flowing water after receiving at least 5 inches of rainfall from the weekend storm. Webcam footage from the park shows that the falls have water flowing through them again.

Following suit, water levels at Lakes Tahoe and Oroville in California have also risen as a result of the historic rainfall. The water level at Lake Tahoe rose above its natural rim at 6,223 feet after having fallen to approximately 6,222.88 feet.

Water levels at Lake Oroville currently stand at 656.01 feet above mean sea level after this weekend's storm. Over the summer the lake reached a historic low amid exceptional drought causing the state's Department of Water Resources to take a hydroelectric plant offline.

While the storm brought heavy downpour to the West coast, it didn't alleviate the region from its climate concern of droughts and wildfires.

Several counties in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada faced flooding, power outages and property damage. The storm also caused the deaths of two people in Fall City, Washington.

The storm is now headed to the mainland and East Coast, where states have already declared a state of emergency over flash flood warnings. Severe weather is expected in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Jersey and New York.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nor'easter drenching New York City, New Jersey, New England with heavy rain: Latest forecast


(NEW YORK) -- 4From North Carolina to Maine, 45 million Americans are under alert for flooding rain and gusty winds as a nor'easter pummels the East Coast.

In New York and New Jersey, where governors declared states of emergency, roadways were drenched early Tuesday with up to 4 inches of rain.

Flash flooding was reported Tuesday morning in the Metuchen, New Jersey, area, prompting a flash flood warning. Water rescues were reported in New Jersey from Union Beach to Middletown.

The bulk of the heaviest rain and flooding then shifted to Long Island and Connecticut. The heaviest rain Tuesday afternoon will be across New England.

The nor’easter will strengthen off the coast by Tuesday evening, bringing another round of heavy rain from northern New Jersey to New York City to southeast New England.

The strongest winds are expected overnight from the Jersey Shore to Long Island to Cape Cod. Gusts could reach 60 to 70 mph.

The rain will end across most of the Northeast Tuesday night, with lingering showers expected in New England Wednesday morning. The storm will move out to sea Wednesday afternoon.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

9-year-old boy's remains found in home with abandoned siblings, death ruled homicide


(HOUSTON) -- The remains of a 9-year-old boy have been discovered in a Houston home along with his three abandoned siblings, authorities said.

One of the children, a 15-year-old, called the authorities and said his 9-year-old brother had been dead for one year and his body was in the room next to his, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Monday.

The Harris County Medical Examiner's office said the boy's manner of death was a homicide, according to ABC Houston station KTRK-TV.

The 15-year-old and the other two children -- boys under the age of 10 -- were found home alone on Sunday, the sheriff said.

Both younger kids "appeared malnourished and showed signs of physical injury," he tweeted.

Deputies also "found skeletal remains of a small child," the sheriff said.

All three children were taken to the hospital, he said. Their conditions were not released.

Authorities believe the parents hadn't lived in the home for several months, Gonzalez said.

The children's mother and her boyfriend were found late Sunday night and have been interviewed and released, Gonzalez said Monday.

The investigation is ongoing, the sheriff said, adding that no charges have been filed.

At a news conference Sunday Gonzalez called it a "horrific situation."

"I have been in this business for a long time and I had never heard of a scenario like this," he said.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 live updates: Unvaccinated Americans continue to drive infection, death rates

Chaz Bharj/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 4.9 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 737,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 67.2% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Latest headlines:
-Biden administration to ship vaccines for children as soon as FDA approves them
-FDA panel hours away from vote on Pfizer vaccine for kids
-US sees 7th straight week of drop in daily pediatric cases

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

Oct 26, 2:37 pm
Biden administration to ship vaccines for children as soon as FDA approves them

The Biden administration will begin shipping vaccine doses for kids ages 5 to 11 as soon as the Food and Drug Administration gives the green light in coming days, White House officials told governors on a private phone call Tuesday.

Doing so will allow children to begin receiving shots as soon as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signs off, which is expected around Nov. 4.

Jeff Zients, the White House coordinator on the federal response to COVID-19, said one big concern is the shorter shelf life for pediatric doses. In trying to make the vaccine easier for pediatricians to handle, the doses for kids 5 to 11 can be kept for only 10 weeks, compared with six to nine months for adult doses.

"We don’t want to have wastage, so we encourage you to build flexibility into your distribution systems you can move around within your state or territory," he told the governors. Audio of the call was obtained by ABC News. "Just order what you need. We have plenty of supply. We can always get you doses on short notice."

ABC News' Anne Flaherty

Oct 26, 12:00 pm
Kids 5 to 11 account for 8,300 hospitalizations

Officials with the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened Tuesday's FDA panel meeting by explaining how children 5 to 11 years old are impacted by the pandemic. They have accounted for over 1.9 million infections and over 8,300 hospitalizations, about a third of which have required ICU stays, officials said.

Nearly 100 children in that age group have died from COVID-19, making the virus one of the top 10 causes of death in this age range at this time, officials said.

The independent FDA advisory panel on Tuesday is debating whether to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The panel's nonbinding vote is expected Tuesday evening.

After the panel votes on whether or not to recommend Pfizer, the FDA will make a decision. Then, the matter heads to the CDC's independent advisory panel to deliberate and vote, which is scheduled for Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. Once the CDC panel votes, the CDC director is expected to make the final signoff.

ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

Oct 26, 10:18 am
Unvaccinated Americans continue to drive infection, death rates: Federal data

The five states with the highest death rates over the last week -- Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, West Virginia and Idaho -- are also among the states with the lowest full vaccination rates, according to federal data.

People who have not been fully vaccinated are 6.1 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 11.3 times more likely to die from the virus, according to federal data.

Approximately 63.2 million eligible Americans have yet to get the shot, according to federal data.

But hospitalization rates are continuing to steadily trend down, with just over 51,000 Americans now hospitalized with the virus, compared to 104,000 people hospitalized in late August, according to federal data.

ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Oct 26, 9:11 am
FDA panel hours away from vote on Pfizer vaccine for kids

An independent FDA advisory panel on Tuesday will debate and vote on whether to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The nonbinding vote is expected between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET.

Pfizer data submitted to the FDA has shown that this vaccine, which would be administered to children at one-third of the adult dosage, is nearly 91% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. There were no reported adverse side effects in the clinical trial group.

After the panel votes on whether or not to recommend this vaccine for children 5 to 11, the FDA will make a decision.

Then, the matter heads to the CDC's independent advisory panel to deliberate and vote, which is scheduled for Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. Once the CDC panel votes, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to make the final sign-off.

The earliest shots could be in arms is the first week of November.

ABC News' Sasha Pezenik


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Jelani Day's cause of death was drowning, coroner says


(CHICAGO) -- Jelani Day's death is said to have been caused by drowning, according to the LaSalle County Coroner's Office. The 25-year-old college student went missing in August, while studying to be a doctor at Illinois State University.

Day was last seen on Aug. 24 at the university's campus in Bloomington, Illinois. His parents reported him missing on Aug. 25 and his car was found two days later in Peru, Illinois.

Day was found dead, floating in the Illinois River on Sept. 4. His body was not identified until weeks later by the LaSalle County Coroner, on Sept. 23.

"Unfortunately, there is no specific positive test at autopsy for drowning," coroner Richard Ploch's statement read Tuesday. "Drowning is considered a diagnosis of exclusion with supporting investigation circumstances when a person is found deceased in a body of water."

The coroner did not find any evidence of intoxication or injury in the forensic autopsy -- no signs of an assault, altercation, strangulation or more -- and it remains unknown how Day ended up in the Illinois River.

Day's family still suspects foul play in the young man's death, and said that his personal belongings were found scattered away from where his body was found.

"Jelani did not just disappear into thin air. Somebody knows something, somebody seen something and I need somebody to say something," Day's mother, Carmen Bolden Day, told "Good Morning America" on Sept. 29.

The case is still being investigated by local police jurisdictions in the area, along with the FBI.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

FDA panel meets to discuss vaccines for kids, kicking off authorization process


(WASHINGTON) -- An advisory panel at the Food and Drug Administration will vote Tuesday on whether to move forward with authorizing vaccines for children ages 5-11.

The vote will be the first step in a regulatory process for the two-shot Pfizer vaccine for kids. If the panel votes in favor of the vaccine after reviewing Pfizer's data from clinical trials, the process will move to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If both agencies support the data, kids could be able to get their first shots in early November.

"If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval, and the recommendations from the CDC, it's entirely possible, if not, very likely, that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November," Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser for the White House, said in an interview on Sunday on ABC's This Week.

Many parents are desperate to protect their children after the delta surge over the summer led to increased cases and hospitalizations among kids. Though the variant is not more deadly, it is more transmissible -- and because kids are unvaccinated, the variant rocketed through schools and camps.

The most recent data from Pfizer's clinical trials found that the vaccine for 5-11 year olds was nearly 91% effective against symptomatic illness.

The vaccine also appeared safe. None of the children in the clinical trials experienced a rare heart inflammation side effect known as myocarditis, which has been associated with the mRNA vaccines in very rare cases, mostly among young men.

The Pfizer vaccine, if authorized for kids, will be given at a smaller, one-third dose.

The White House has purchased enough pediatric doses to vaccine all 28 million children ages 5 to 11. If authorized, it will be distributed to thousands of sites, including pediatricians, family doctors, hospitals, health clinics and pharmacies enrolled in a federal program that guarantees the shots are provided for free.

Some states are planning to provide the vaccine through schools as well.

The 5-11 age group would be the youngest and latest to receive eligibility. The Pfizer vaccine has already been authorized for adolescents 12 and up, and everyone 18 and older is eligible for all three vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna and J&J.

Whether parents will embrace the vaccines for their kids is still a question. In a September poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about a third of parents with kids ages 5-11 were willing to vaccinate their kids right away, while another third wanted to "wait and see." The figures represented a slight uptick in vaccine acceptance among parents of elementary-school-aged kids since July.

Although children are less likely to die of COVID-19 than older adults, pediatricians say there is still an urgent need for a safe vaccine for children. Children can still become very sick and spread the virus to others. So far, more than 6 million children have tested positive in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Trials for children 2 years and up, the next age group that could become eligible, are ongoing. Data from the clinical trials is expected sometime this winter.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Two dead, four injured in shooting at mall in Boise


(BOISE, Idaho) -- Two people were killed and four others, including a Boise police officer, were injured in a shooting at a mall in Boise, Idaho, police said.

The suspect is in custody and is in critical condition, Boise police said Monday night.

The officer has been treated and released.

"I cannot stress enough how traumatic enough this event was for the community at large," Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee said at a news conference.

Police responded to reports of shots fired at the Boise Towne Square Mall on N. Milwaukee Street around 1:50 p.m. local time, authorities said.

When officers arrived at the scene they found someone matching the description of the suspect and there was an "exchange of gunfire" that took place, Lee said. One officer was injured and the suspect was taken into custody, according to Lee.

Both the FBI and ATF are assisting in the investigation. Authorities closed the roads leading to the mall following the shooting.

Officers were working to clear each business in the mall, police said, adding that there's no indication there are additional threats or additional shooters.

The investigation is ongoing and Lee said the police would release more information about the incident as it becomes available.

Boise Mayor Lauren McClean offered her condolences to the victims and her thanks to those in the mall who came to the aid of people inside the shopping complex.

"I want to thank the shopkeepers, the people in the mall that reacted so quickly to take care of folks who were there," she said. "You showed in a tough and chaotic moment how much you care, and what you are willing to do to support and care for strangers."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

El Chapo appeals his conviction, argues for new trial


(NEW YORK) -- Lawyers for the drug kingpin known as El Chapo argued Monday for a new trial, insisting "breathtaking jury misconduct" and an "unparalleled set of stifling defense restrictions" marred his conviction.

Joaquin Guzman, 64, was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty in February 2019 of running an industrial-sized drug trafficking operation, the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world's largest, most profitable and most ruthless drug smuggling organizations.

Guzman's attorney, Marc Fernich, argued El Chapo did not get a fair trial because his solitary confinement in what the lawyer called a "modern dungeon" impaired his "cognitive, emotional and mental" faculties.

"The combination of unprecedented restrictions made it impossible to meaningfully prepare a defense," Fernich said in court Monday.

Under questioning from a three-judge panel of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, Fernich conceded the defense made no specific objections during trial. Prosecutors said the strict conditions of El Chapo's confinement were deemed necessary.

"This judge was presented with a defendant who had already escaped from prison twice in Mexico in dramatic fashion, who had a history of intimidating and killing perceived rivals and who had previously run his criminal enterprise while incarcerated," the Justice Department's Brett Reynolds said in court Monday.

Guzman's appeal also argued the trial judge should have more forcefully questioned whether jurors disobeyed repeated instructions to avoid information about the case that was not included as evidence.

An anonymous juror told Vice News that five jurors consumed news coverage or followed the trial on social media. Fernich called them "5 jurors who don't know the meaning of an oath" and urged the appellate court to pursue an inquiry.

"It's very disquieting in a case like this to do an end-around and let it go," Fernich said. "This guy is going to be in a box for the rest of his natural life. I'm not asking you to play violins for him and I'm not playing any violins for him either. This is very, very serious business for everybody concerned."

Prosecutors argued the Vice article was insufficient to merit an inquiry.

"The evidence here is not competent. It's just not. It's anonymously sourced. It's non-corroborated. It is hearsay and double hearsay," the Justice Department's Hiral Mehta said in court Monday.

There was no immediate ruling.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Charlottesville civil trial over deadly 2017 'Unite the Right' rally set to begin

Jon Rehg/iStock

(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- A dark moment in U.S. history is being revisited as a federal civil trial began in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Monday over a violent 2017 white nationalist rally that ended with an alleged neo-Nazi ramming his car into counter protesters, killing one and injuring more than 30.

Jury selection got underway in the high-profile civil case in the U.S. district court in Charlottesville against organizers and certain participants of the "Unite the Right" rally. Nine people injured over the two-day event are accusing promoters of exhorting followers to "defend the South and Western civilization" from non-white people and their allies, according to the lawsuit.

"There is one thing about this case that should be made crystal-clear at the outset -- the violence in Charlottesville was no accident," contends the suit that is seeking unspecified damages from 24 defendants, including James Alex Fields Jr., the Ohio man who plowed his Dodge Challenger into a group of counter protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants started questioning potential jurors at about 9:30 a.m. Monday and quickly learned that candidates have developed strong views on the case.

The first juror questioned told the court he could set aside his belief that the defendants were terrorists, according to ABC affiliate station WIRC in Richmond. The man was dismissed from the case, but several other would-be jurors expressed similar views, WIRC-TV reported.

Fields, now 24, was convicted in 2018 of murder and multiple counts of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding and hit and run. He was later sentenced to life in prison.

Fields also pleaded guilty to 29 federal hate crimes in a deal his attorneys worked out with prosecutors to spare him the death penalty.

Among the other defendants named in the civil suit are the alleged key organizers of the 2017 rally; Jason Kessler -- who took out the permit for the rally -- and Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, which the plaintiffs have described in court documents as a white nationalist think tank.

Also named as defendants in the suit are the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina, the East Coast Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and Andrew Anglin of Ohio, founder of the far-right website the Daily Stormer.

The trial marks the first major civil suit to be tried under the Enforcement Act of 1871, which is also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act and passed by Congress in response to a wave of terrorist violence against African Americans in the South.

"These defendants planned violence on social media and on other communication forums and even in-person conversations. They went to Charlottesville, committed that violence and then celebrated that violence," Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, a nonprofit supporting the plaintiffs, told ABC affiliate WRIC in Richmond, Virginia.

The defense

The defendants claim they were exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and their right to self-defense, claiming counter protesters initially turned violent.

"Plaintiffs complaint is long on coarse internet language regarding non-whites and short on allegations of racial violence perpetrated by any moving defendant," defense attorneys argued in a motion to dismiss the case that was denied.

The defendants also said the lawsuit fails to demonstrate that they conspired to incite violence.

"Plaintiffs have failed to make any credible allegation that any moving defendant came to any agreement with anybody, to do anything, other than march and chant in Charlottesville," defense attorneys said in a filing.

Kessler and Spencer both denied the allegations that they helped instigate the violence in their responses to the lawsuit.

Immediately after the Charlottesville rally ended in the deadly hit and run, Kessler released a statement blaming local police for the mayhem.

"The blame for today's violence is primarily the result of the Charlottesville government officials and the law enforcement officers which failed to maintain law and order by protecting the First Amendment rights of the participants of the 'Unite the Right' rally," Kessler said in a statement to WVIR-TV, the NBC affiliate station in Charlottesville.

The "Unite the Right" rally was organized in response to a February 2017 decision by the Charlottesville City Council to consider a petition to remove a statue honoring Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a city park.

Far-right demonstrators from across the country descended on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Aug. 11, 2017, where many were seen marching with tiki torches, giving Nazi salutes, and chanting "white lives matter" and "Jews will not replace us."

Broken legs and emotional distress

Several of the plaintiffs were marching on Aug. 12, 2017, with a group of counter protesters on Fourth Street in downtown Charlottesville when Fields' was recorded driving his car into the protesters at high speed.

Marcus Martin, one of the plaintiffs, was peacefully protesting when he saw Fields' car bearing down on him and pushed his fiancee out of the way right before he was struck by the vehicle, suffering a broken leg and ankle, according to the lawsuit.

Martin's now-wife, Marissa Blair, who is also a plaintiff, was a co-worker and friend of Heyer, the woman killed in the incident. Both Martin and Blair suffered not only physical injuries but also emotional distress from the incident, according to the lawsuit.

Another plaintiff, referred to in court papers as Jane Doe 1, said she was marching with her mother and sister when Field's car plowed into her, breaking both her legs and a knee.

'Very fine people on both sides'

In the aftermath of the violence, then-President Donald Trump came under fire from Democrats -- and many Republicans -- for failing to strongly condemn the white supremacists and said during a news conference that there were "very fine people on both sides."

President Joe Biden has said the turmoil in Charlottesville is the reason he ran for president.

"In that moment, I knew that the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime. I wrote at the time that we're in a battle for the soul of this nation," Biden said in his 2019 campaign launch video.

The civil trial is expected to last at least four weeks, and the aim of the litigation, according to the lawsuit, is to get justice for the plaintiffs and "to ensure that nothing like this will happen again at the hands of (the) Defendants, not on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, and not anywhere else in the United States of America."


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nine-year-old boy's remains found in home along with abandoned kids: Sheriff


(HOUSTON) -- The remains of a 9-year-old boy have been discovered in a Houston home along with three abandoned children, authorities said.

One of the children, a 15-year-old, said his 9-year-old brother had been dead for one year and his body was in the room next to his, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Monday.

The 15-year-old and the other two children -- boys under the age of 10 -- were found home alone on Sunday, the sheriff said.

Both younger kids "appeared malnourished and showed signs of physical injury," he tweeted.

Deputies also "found skeletal remains of a small child," the sheriff said.

All three children were taken to the hospital, he said. Their conditions were not released.

Authorities believe the parents hadn't lived in the home for several months, Gonzalez said.

The children's mother and her boyfriend were found late Sunday night and have been interviewed and released, Gonzalez said Monday.

The investigation is ongoing, the sheriff said, adding that no charges have been filed.

At a news conference Sunday Gonzalez called it a "horrific situation."

"I have been in this business for a long time and I had never heard of a scenario like this," he said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Philadelphia students 'scared to go to school' as gun violence escalates


(PHILADELPHIA) -- Joshua Corneilius, 17, should be enjoying his senior year of high school, but instead, he is constantly worried about the violence occurring both inside and outside of his North Philadelphia school.

In the last year, nine kids at Simon Gratz High School were shot to death -- three of them just last month, the school's principal, Leyondo Dunn, told ABC News.

"It's a war zone, like with the drugs, with the guns, with the violence, it's a real war zone. It's a real dog-eat-dog world, like it's not for anybody that's soft," Corneilius said. "If you live in Philly, you're going to naturally become hard ... like you're going to have armor, like you'll have a shield."

Since 2015, more than 10,000 people have been shot in Philadelphia, and of those, three out of four were Black males. More than 80% of homicide victims in the city over the las year were Black males, according to city data.

Black boys also made up 96% of victims in child homicides in the city, and most of the killings occurred in North Philadelphia, according to Action News data.

"It just happens, so even if you do really sit down and try to process, it's really no time for that," rising senior student Kaliyah Fletcher, 17, said.

"You still have to think about, 'What can I do to make sure that I'm not in that situation?' or 'What can I do to make sure that my future and my life are set so I could get out of the city?'"

With such violence going on in the city and in schools, students, stressed and concerned, rarely get to truly focus on the things they should be thinking about: classes, graduation and college.

Akea Williams, a therapist who was born and raised in Philadelphia, is trying to bring a sense of peace to her city.

In early July, Williams, who has a master's in mental health discipline, started the "Therapy over Revenge" Program, where she gives free therapy sessions to people who have experienced or been affected by gun violence. Among other things, she teaches them decision-making skills and coping mechanisms. So far, she has given sessions to over 350 people.

"They're kind of in a point where they're afraid to go to school, or they're afraid to even leave the house," Williams said of her student patients. "And if they are not afraid, or pretending like they're not afraid, they're going out and they're armed and ready for war."

In 2019, Black children and teens made up only 14% of all children and teens in the city, and yet they accounted for 43% of child and teen gun deaths and are four times more likely to be killed with guns than their white peers, data from The Children's Defense Fund shows.

"The PTSD from the kids ... a lot of kids are refusing to go to school. I am seeing a lot of crisis calls and getting a lot of calls from students who are losing their friends left and right," Williams said.

"I think that the dynamics need to be changed," she added. "I think there needs to be a lot more programs offered. I think there needs to be a lot more safe havens, a lot more availability to mental health professionals for these young people to have the option to speak with them and feel safe."

Philadelphia has seen 41 victims under the age of 18 die from gun violence so far this year, according to the City of Philadelphia's Office of the Controller.

Philadelphia City Council member Kenyatta Johnson helped create the Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention in 2017 to fight gun violence throughout Philly. He is now the chairman of the committee.

"We have to invest in areas that have had a lack of investment over the past several years, so making sure we have quality after-school programs, quality job opportunities for young people, addressing mental health, to trauma care and trauma informed services, those are key areas that we're gonna be focusing in going into the new year," Johnson said. "I'm confident if we all work together, we can reduce the level of gun violence that we are seeing here in the city of Philadelphia."

Dunn, of Simon Gratz High School, is adamant about helping put a stop to the violence.

"I recognize that gun violence in North Philadelphia existed before our current mayor existed before our current police commissioner, and it's going to exist long after that," he said. "But we as a community have to recognize that we are at war with guns, and right now we're not winning that war, and it's going to take every single leader, principals, staff members elected officials appointed officials hired officials to come to the table and prioritize this issue and do all that we can to protect and keep young people safe."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Hate crimes against Asians rose 76% in 2020 amid pandemic, FBI says


(WASHINGTON) -- Hate crimes against people of Asian descent rose by 76% in 2020, according to newly republished data by the FBI.

The FBI previously issued hate crime data in August, but due to an error in reporting Ohio's statistics, the data was incomplete. The FBI has now corrected the technical problem in Ohio's reporting system.

In 2020, 279 hate crime incidents against individuals of Asian descent were reported, compared to 158 incidents reported in 2019.

More than 60% of hate crimes in the United States were carried out on the basis of an individual's race, according to FBI data released Monday.

"Every hate crime is an attack on the community," Jay Greenberg, deputy assistant director of the FBI's criminal division, told ABC News' Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Greenberg said most hate crimes are directed at African Americans, but acknowledged there was an uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes due to COVID-19.

In total, there were 8,052 single-bias incidents -- crimes motivated by one type of bias -- involving 11,126 victims. Comparatively, there were 7,103 single-bias incidents involving 8,552 victims in 2019.

The FBI said 20% of the hate crimes targeted a person's sexual orientation and 13% of the hate crimes that occurred in 2020 were due to religious bias.

More than half of the offenders were white, and 21% of the offenders were African American.

Greenberg said they are working to make sure there is trust not only in the FBI, but in local communities as well.

"Because a hate crime is defined as a violent or property crime with a bias motivation, that crime could be categorized a number of different ways," he explained. "We would like the public to reach out to us if they believe that they are a victim of a hate crime. It's not for the public to make that determination; we will work with our state and local partners and help determine how best to investigate that."

When someone is a victim of a hate crime, people have different reactions, according to Regina Thompson, the head of the FBI's victim services unit.

"Everybody has their own way of reacting and on their own timeline, so sometimes people will react immediately in the aftermath of a crime," said Thompson, who was named head of the unit last year. "Sometimes they'll go immediately into crisis and crisis intervention will be needed. Sometimes the full impact isn't felt for hours, days, weeks, sometimes even months after the criminal event and the way that they react, there's absolutely no normal."

Greenberg said that while they don't discuss the number of cases they are currently investigating, leaders at the FBI "have brought a renewed focus to enforcing the civil rights program consistently across all our offices, and we have seen the number of cases rise in the last year."

The bureau takes a victim-centered approach to hate crimes, the two senior FBI officials explained.

"The FBI does have a victim services division that is focused on assisting and supporting the victims of federal crime and that when they are a victim of a federal crime, we are there to assist them and they can expect us to do that with understanding, dignity, fairness and respect," Thompson said.

Thompson said that hate crimes are especially unique because it is a direct assault on someone's identity and individuality.

"It really strikes at the fundamental core of who the person is, which makes it very different from some of the other violent crimes," she explained. "It is an attack on something that is within the person's identity, something that's very immutable about them and often something that they can't even change. So that has a very deep psychological effect."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

1 dead, 7 injured in shooting at off-campus party near Georgia university


(GEORGIA) -- One person is dead and seven others injured after a shooting at an off-campus party near a Georgia university.

The incident occurred early Saturday morning in Fort Valley, near Fort Valley State University, authorities said.

Several students suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the university said.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting, shared a photo from the "active scene" on Twitter Saturday morning, showing a house located several blocks from the campus.

GBI also confirmed the deceased was not a Fort Valley State University student, though did not share further details.

The university's campus was temporarily placed on lockdown "until campus police determined there was no threat to the campus community," school officials said.

The lockdown has since been lifted.

The shooting occurred during the state university's homecoming weekend.

School officials announced that its Saturday morning alumni breakfast and homecoming parade had been canceled. There will be "increased security protocols" at the homecoming game, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, it said.

"Our thoughts are with the students and their families as they recover," the university said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.