Forgot Password

Not a Member? Sign up here!

Beach 95.1 Your OFFICIAL Station for The Alabama Crimson Tide
Have a smart speaker (Amazon Echo or Google Home)? Just say PLAY BEACH 95-point-1 from TuneIn!
Remember to follow us on Facebook @Beach951
Hungry? See our Preferred Restaurants above

ABC National News

Former Connecticut lawmaker to report to federal prison for stealing $1.2M in COVID funds

WIN-Initiative/Neleman/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A former Connecticut lawmaker is expected to turn himself over to authorities on Monday to begin serving a federal prison sentence for COVID fraud.

Michael DiMassa, 32, the former state representative who served West Haven -- just outside of New Haven -- was sentenced earlier this year to 27 months in prison after stealing $1.2 million in COVID relief and other funds from the city.

DiMassa pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud last month. He is required to pay nearly $866,000 in restitution and, following prison, will serve five years of supervised release, during which he is expected to perform 100 hours of community service, according to court documents.

He is also required to participate in programs for gambling addiction treatment and mental health treatment upon release, the documents show.

DiMassa was originally set to report to prison on July 31 but a judge postponed his surrender date twice so he could take care of his newborn baby until his wife, Lauren DiMassa, was released from prison, according to local ABC News affiliate WTNH.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut said that between July 2020 and September 2021, while serving as a state representative and city employee, Michael DiMassa was authorized to approve reimbursements of COVID costs incurred by West Haven using funds from the federal government's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

During this period, he "conspired with others to steal these funds and other West Haven funds through the submission of fraudulent invoices, and subsequent payment, for COVID relief goods and services that were never provided," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Michael DiMassa and his wife billed the city for a youth violence prevention program and for "Youth Violence COVID-19 Associated Expenses" with invoices that included in-home home counseling, special needs hourly services, a fall youth clinic, Wi-Fi assistance for low- and moderate-income families, equipment rentals, licensing fees, meals and cleaning supplies. The couple received more than $147,000, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Lauren DiMassa pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to six months in prison. She was released in October and is currently in home confinement, according to WTNH.

In another instance, Michael DiMassa and John Bernardo, a former West Haven housing specialist, formed a company and fraudulently billed the city and its "COVID-19 Grant Department" for consulting services provided to the West Haven Health Department that were never performed, according to court documents.

Between February 2021 and September 2021, the city paid the company more than $636,000. Michael DiMassa made several large cash withdrawals from the company's bank account, some occurring around the same time he executed a cash "buy-in" of gaming chips at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, court documents show.

Michael DiMassa also conspired with West Haven businessman John Trasacco to fraudulently bill the city through two companies, both owned by Trasacco, for goods and services provided, including delivering personal protective equipment; maintenance of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units; delivering COVID supplies to the Board of Education; and cleaning school buildings, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

One of those school buildings that was allegedly cleaned had been vacant and abandoned for years, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Trasacco's companies received more than $431,000 as a result of the scheme.

Bernardo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in June 2022 and was sentenced to 13 months in prison in March 2023. Trasacco was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud in December 2022 and was sentenced to eight years in prison in April 2023.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

One security guard killed, one hurt in stabbing at Macy's in Philadelphia: Police

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(PHILADELPHIA) -- One security guard was killed, and another was injured in a stabbing attack at a Macy's department store in Philadelphia on Monday morning, authorities said.

The incident began at about 10:45 a.m. when a man tried to steal hats from Macy's in Center City, Philadelphia police said at a news conference. Security stopped the man, and after a "confrontation," police said, the security officer "backs off, gets the merchandise back, allows the male to go on."

About 15 minutes later, the man returned to the location and attacked two security guards with a knife, police said.

The two guards, both in their 20s, were hospitalized, police said. One of the security guards died at 11:19 a.m., police said, calling it a "tragic situation."

The suspect fled from the Macy's, took public transit and was then apprehended at about noon, police said. His name has not been released.

The security guards were not armed, police said.

The Macy's store has been closed, police said.

This Macy’s location has filed over 250 reports of retail theft this year, police said.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

One-year-old boy among four killed in Dallas house shooting

Sheila Paras/Getty Images

(DALLAS) -- The search was on Monday for an assailant who killed four people, including a 1-year-old boy, inside a Dallas home and left a teenage girl hospitalized with bullet wounds, police said.

The quadruple killing unfolded Sunday afternoon in a southeast Dallas neighborhood. The Dallas Police Department said the carnage appears to stem from an isolated incident and "there is no threat to the public."

The killings marked the 627th mass shooting this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a website that tracks shootings across the nation and defines a mass shooting as an event with a minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed, not including any shooter.

The child killed in the Dallas shooting was identified by the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office as 1-year-old Logan De La Cruz, who became the 272nd child 11 years old or younger killed in a shooting this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The shooting unfolded about 4:20 p.m. on Sunday when police responded to calls of gunfire in the 9700 block of Royce Drive, according to a statement from the Dallas Police Department.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found three adults dead from gunshot wounds inside the house and two children, Logan and a 15-year-old girl, according to the police statement.

Logan was taken to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, police said. The teenage girl, whose name was not released, remained hospitalized Monday in stable condition, according to police.

The others killed in the shooting were identified by the medical examiner's office as Vanessa De La Cruz, 20; Karina Lopez, 33; and Jose Lopez, 50.

No one has been arrested in slayings and a motive remains under investigation.

The number of homicides in Dallas is up roughly 11% this year from 2022, according to Dallas Police Department crime data. As of Sunday, the city had recorded 226 homicides in 2023.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

CBP pausing operations at border crossing in Arizona, announces anti-smuggling measures

RiverNorthPhotography/Getty Images

(LUKEVILLE, Ariz.) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be temporarily suspending operations on Monday at a border crossing in Lukeville, Arizona, in order to free up agents to deal with what they call "increased levels of migrant encounters" at the border "fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals."

Border officials said they are redirecting all vehicle and pedestrian traffic to other ports of entry in the area.

The agency told ABC News that the Tucson sector, where Lukeville is located, is currently seeing the most migrant encounters of any area along the southern border with Mexico.

On Friday, the sector's chief patrol agent, John Modlin, said there had been around 17,500 migrant apprehensions over the course of a week. By contrast, there were 23,411 total migrant encounters for the area in November 2022.

The sector saw more than 55,000 encounters in October, officials said.

CBP's acting commissioner, Troy A. Miller, told ABC News that the agency is helping to execute law enforcement operations targeting transportation networks helping to smuggle migrants through northern Mexico en route to the border.

Smuggling organizations have been exploiting the region in part because of how remote it is, CBP said.

Lukeville is an unincorporated town located about two and a half hours from either Tucson or Phoenix. That has made it more challenging for federal and local officials to surge resources to the area to help process migrants quickly.

The agency said it has been working with nearby Pima County to send additional transportation resources, bringing in Border Patrol entry specialists to speed up processing. They've also been transporting some migrants to CBP facilities in Yuma, Arizona and El Paso, Texas, for expedited removal.

Last week, CBP also temporarily suspended vehicle processing at a checkpoint in Eagle Pass, Texas, to deal with an increase of migrant encounters there.

In an interview last week, Miller told ABC News that tamping down operations at ports of entry, which process numerous people and goods as they arrive into the country each day, is one way the agency can help prioritize apprehending and processing migrants who attempt to cross into the U.S elsewhere on the border.

"This is how we manage our operations," Miller said. "We surged to those locations -- we have to -- for the safety and security of our officers or agents, the migrants we encounter and frankly, to maximize the enforcement efforts that we have underway."

ABC News' Luke Barr and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump fraud trial live updates: Expert testimony leads off last full week of defense's case

ftwitty/Getty Images

(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 04, 8:05 AM EST
Expert testimony leads off last full week of defense's case

Donald Trump's lawyers are scheduled to call three expert witnesses to begin the last full week of their case.

Defense lawyers first plan to call real estate valuation authority Frederick Chin, whose expert report, filed with the court, faults the New York attorney general for taking a "narrow and limited view" of the value of Trump's assets in her complaint against the former president.

Like other defense experts, Chin argues in his report that Trump fairly valued his assets and properly disclosed his valuation approach to his lenders.

After Chin testifies, Trump's lawyers plan to call two experts to testify about Trump's valuation of his Mar-a-Lago property, which has been the subject of bitter debate since the start of the trial. Judge Arthur Engoron, in his pretrial partial summary judgment, already decided that Trump overvalued the property by at least 2,300%, and the defense experts -- Lawrence Moens and John Shubin -- are expected to challenge the judge's findings.

Defense attorneys intend to complete their questioning of the three expert witnesses by Wednesday, when Eric Trump is expected to return to the witness stand.

Dec 01, 3:47 PM EST
Judge to allow testimony from Mar-a-Lago experts

Judge Engoron denied two motions by the New York attorney general that would have precluded testimony from two experts on the value of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property.

In his pretrial ruling, Engoron decided that Trump inflated the value of the oceanfront property by 2,300% by listing its value at least $426 million, despite a tax appraiser determining its value at $27.6 million.

Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly criticized Engoron's finding, arguing that he misunderstood the purpose of a tax appraisal, and they planned to call two experts to support Trump's value of the property: John Shubin to testify about the deed that the state says limits the estate's value because it restricts the use of the property to a club, and Lawrence Moens, one of the top real estate brokers in Palm Beach.

State attorney Kevin Wallace argued that Shubin would offer impermissible legal opinions, and Moens could not offer a traceable process for evaluating the property.

"He is extremely different than a doctor [explaining] how he might conduct a surgery. He is providing evaluation advice," Wallace said about Moens' testimony.

Engoron denied the state's motions, allowing them both to testify -- but said he would enforce objections if they overstep their areas of expertise.

Dec 01, 2:59 PM EST
Bank and judge agreed on Trump's net worth, expert points out

Defense expert Robert Unell testified that both Judge Engoron and Deutsche Bank reached similar conclusions about Donald Trump's actual net worth -- but that Deutsche Bank officials weren't bothered by their determination.

In his partial summary judgment ruling before the trial, Engoron found that the New York attorney general provided "conclusive evidence" that Trump inflated his assets between $812 million and $2.2 billion.

"Even in the world of high finance, this Court cannot endorse a proposition that finds a misstatement of at least $812 million dollars to be 'immaterial,'" Engoron wrote.

Similarly, Deutsche Bank's valuation services group undercut Trump's net worth estimate by roughly than $2.4 billion when they evaluated his 2013 statement of financial condition. Despite that, the bank still loaned Trump millions for three of his properties.

"It would not be unusual," Unell said about the discrepancy identified by the bank.

Engoron cut him off before he could answer whether the discrepancy was within the "adjustment within the range that the court determined."

"I can do the math," Engoron said.

Dec 01, 2:17 PM EST
Trump easily qualified for private banking loans, expert says

The defense's commercial real estate expert pushed back on the state's contention that Donald Trump used fraudulent means to gain access to favorable loan rates through Deutsche Bank's private wealth management division.

Defense expert Robert Unell testified that Trump "clearly qualified" for commercial loans through the bank's private wealth group.

State attorney Kevin Wallace had argued that Trump "lied to the private wealth group to get these loans," which would support an increased fine in the case.

Unell, however, said, "I have not seen or heard any evidence that President Trump did not qualify for the private wealth management group."

Deutsche Bank managing director Dave Williams, whose testimony Unell reviewed before taking the stand, said earlier that Trump easily met the bank's $100 million net-worth requirement for high-net-worth individuals.

Wallace, however, appeared to argue that Trump would have been disqualified from the private wealth division based on the act of submitting an allegedly false financial statement, rather than an inability to meet a net-worth requirement.

Dec 01, 12:40 PM EST
Judge backs argument that Trump fraudulently got better loan terms

State attorney Kevin Wallace, challenging the testimony of an expert witness for the defense, angrily argued that Trump used fraudulent means to gain access to favorable loan rates through Deutsche Bank's private wealth management division.

The exchange came during Wallace's cross-examination of defense expert Robert Unell, who disputed the state's claim that Trump's alleged misstatements cost lenders $168 million in lost interest because, Unell said, the loan rates the state used in their calculation were higher than the rates Trump was entitled to when he used a personal guarantee as a private wealth client.

"Once you are in the private bank, you are in this sort of rarified air, and you get access to these rates ... it is a flawed premise to say you have to compare it to the outside air," argued Trump attorney Chris Kise after Judge Arthur Engoron removed Unell from the courtroom so the attorneys could hash out the permissibility of Wallace's argument.

Shouting at Kise for repeatedly making lengthy objections, Wallace argued that Trump would have not qualified for the private bank rates had he not fraudulently overstated his assets.

"The court has found that Mr. Trump committed fraud," Wallace said. "To get into the private wealth group, he committed fraud."

"He lied to the private wealth group to get these loans. Therefore, we are looking at what the interest rate would have been had he not had access to the group he lied to," Wallace said of the state's calculation.

Overruling Kise's objection, Engoron said that he supported Wallace's theory.

"I think his explanation is correct," Engoron said.

Dec 01, 9:44 AM EST
State to question defense expert on potential fine

State attorney Kevin Wallace is expected to complete his cross-examination of the defense's expert witness Robert Unell, who yesterday provided the most direct challenge to the state's analysis that found that Donald Trump's misstatements cost his lenders $168 million in lost interest.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is expected to use that lost interest analysis to justify part of the fine she wants to levy against Trump -- also known as a disgorgement -- for his allegedly ill-gotten gains.

Unell testified yesterday that he found the lost-interest analysis conducted by the state's expert Michiel McCarty was inaccurate based on real-world market conditions, including the interest rates used by commercial real estate lenders who are "living and breathing these deals daily."

"I have not seen anything to indicate that was an accurate interest rate," Unell said about the interest rates in the state's analysis.

Judge Arthur Engoron twice interjected during Unell's testimony to suggest that Trump still cost his lenders money, saying, "The less collateral for a loan, the riskier it is, and a first principal of loan accounting is that as risk rises, so do interest rates."

Nov 30, 5:00 PM EST
Trump attorney calls NY AG's case 'fraud with no victims'

Following the adjournment of court for the day, Trump attorney Chris Kise criticized the attorney general's case on the basis of testimony from the Deutsche Bank executives who said they were eager to do business with Trump regardless of the contents of his financial statements.

Echoing past comments, Kise described the case as a "fraud with no victims" in comments to ABC News.

Kise also slammed today's appellate court ruling reinstating Judge Engoron's limited gag orders as a "total breakdown of the rule of law."

"Now you have the front-running presidential candidate who can't even comment about why he thinks he's not getting a fair trial," Kise said about the impact of the ruling.

"I'm not sure how much more absurd it can get for President Trump," he said.

Nov 30, 4:14 PM EST
Expert disputes allegation that Trump cost lenders $168M

Robert Unell, an expert in commercial real estate, disputed the analysis conducted by the state's expert, Michiel McCarty, who testified that Trump's alleged deceptions cost his lenders $168 million in lost interest.

"It is really, in my opinion, a very narrow-minded support," Unell, testifying for the defense, said about the assumptions McCarty made regarding the interest rate of the loans.

Unell said that Trump's lenders made money, faced less risk in their investments over time, and sought additional business from the former president and his family. He also criticized the allegation that Trump risked defaulting on any of his loans by offering himself as a personal guarantor of the loans.

"It means the bank got what they wanted ... they had a warm body who was going to stand behind the loan and provide credit support," Unell said about Trump's personal support of the loans.

Judge Engoron interjected at multiple points to question Unell about his findings, at one point noting that the loans would have been pricier for Trump if lenders faced more risk stemming from Trump inflating his assets.

"The more value in collateral, the less risk, the lower the interest rate," Engoron said.

Nov 30, 3:55 PM EST
NY court official says judge's wife hasn't posted about Trump

Over the last week, Donald Trump has made multiple posts on social media about a social media account he alleges belongs to Judge Arthur Engoron's wife, accusing her of sharing multiple posts critical of the former president, including doctored images depicting Trump in prison.

"Judge Engoron's Trump Hating wife," Trump called her Wednesday on Truth Social.

A court official on Thursday denied that any of the posts referenced by Trump were made by Engoron's wife.

"Justice Engoron's wife has sent no social media posts regarding the former president. They are not hers," court spokesperson Al Baker wrote in a statement.

Nov 30, 12:02 PM EST
Closing arguments set for Jan. 11

Judge Engoron has set a date of Jan. 11 for closing arguments in the trial.

Both parties face a noon deadline on Jan. 5 to file their briefs, and closing arguments are scheduled to take place in person on Jan. 11, the judge decided after considering scheduling proposals from both the state and the defense.

Engoron said he plans to issue his decision in the case "a few weeks after" closing arguments.

"I would hope this [January] but no guarantees," Engoron said.

State attorneys had requested closing statements take place Dec. 13, while attorneys for Donald Trump suggested closing arguments be presented 60 days after both parties submitted paper filings.

Nov 30, 11:40 AM EST
Judge says he'll 'rigorously' enforce limited gag order

Judge Arthur Engoron warned that he plans to "rigorously" enforce the limited gag order he handed down last month, after an appeals court reinstated it this morning.

"I want to make sure all counsel are aware, and they probably already are aware, that this morning the Appellate Division First Department issued a decision vacating the stay on the two gag orders that I imposed earlier on this case," Engoron said in court. "So I intend to enforce the gag orders rigorously and vigorously, and I want to make sure that counsel informs their clients of the fact that the stay was vacated."

"We're aware. It's a tragic day for the rule of law, but we are aware," Kise responded.

"It is what it is," Engoron quipped.

Nov 30, 11:06 AM EST
Appellate court reinstates limited gag order

A New York appellate court has upheld the limited gag order imposed by Judge Engoron in the ongoing trial.

The decision reinstates the limited gag order Engoron imposed on Trump and his attorneys prohibiting them from disparaging court staff, particularly his principle law clerk, who has come under attack by Trump on social media.

The limited gag order was temporarily lifted two weeks ago by appellate judge after Trump's lawyers sued Judge Engoron.

Engoron's lawyer wrote in support of the gag order, saying that Engoron and his clerk have been inundated with threats since Trump began his attacks.

"It is ordered that the motion is denied; the interim relief granted by order of a Justice of this Court, dated November 16, 2023, is hereby vacated," the appellate court said in its ruling issued this morning.

Nov 30, 8:44 AM EST
Defense calling real estate expert to stand

Donald Trump's lawyers are calling real estate expert Robert Unell as a witness this morning.

Unell is one of several defense experts who submitted reports to the court disputing the New York attorney general's findings that Trump committed fraud in the statements of financial condition he provided to lenders.

"The financial information provided to the lenders was correct in all material respects and contrary to the Plaintiff's allegations, therefore the Defendants did not receive any financial benefits on commercial real estate loans based on the submission of any false, inflated, or misleading valuations," Unell wrote in his expert report.

Unell, in the deposition he gave to the defense, also defended Trump's use of a disclaimer -- which Trump has said is sometimes referred to as a "worthless clause" -- that warned lenders that Trump's statements might contain information that does not comply with standard accounting practices.

"I first read it in President Trump's deposition," Unell said regarding Trump's use of the "worthless clause" phrase. "And it kind of stuck. Because, quite honestly, I had never heard it called that, but it is truly what the meaning of it is."

Nov 29, 5:49 PM EST
Trump firm 'in compliance' but under 'enhanced monitoring'

Donald Trump agreed to "enhanced monitoring" of the Trump Organization's finances after the company's independent monitor flagged cash transfers of roughly $40 million over the last 10 months.

Former judge Barbara Jones, the independent monitor requested by the New York attorney general in the case, wrote in a letter to Judge Arthur Engoron that she had identified three separate cash transfers of more than $5 million, totaling approximately $40 million. Jones said the transfers included $29 million in tax payments and roughly $10 million for insurance premiums.

"We have discussed with Defendants why these transactions were not previously disclosed, and I have now clarified (and Defendants have agreed) that all transfers of assets out of the Trust exceeding $5 million must be reported," Jones wrote.

Jones also requested information related to an intercompany loan and flagged the delayed disclosure of tax returns for six of Trump's entities, which defendants acknowledged as their mistake.

"Defendants continue to cooperate with me and are generally in compliance with the Court's orders, and have committed to ensure that all required information, including tax information and cash transfers, are promptly disclosed to the Monitor," Jones wrote.

Addressing a report she issued in August about incomplete financial disclosures by the Trump Organization, Jones added that the Trump Organization took additional steps to remedy and disclose the issue.

"By taking these steps I believe Defendants have resolved the issues identified in the August Report, subject to ongoing monitoring," Jones wrote.

Nov 29, 5:28 PM EST
Trump VP walks back testimony suggesting conspiracy

Trump Organization VP Patrick Birney, testifying for the defense, walked back testimony from earlier in the trial about receiving instructions to inflate the value of Trump's assets from the company's former CFO.

"Did Allen Weisselberg ever tell you that Mr. Trump wanted his net worth on the statement of financial condition to go up?" state attorney Eric Haren asked Birney during the state's case.

"Yes," Birney responded, describing that he received the instruction in Weisselberg's office between 2017 and 2019.

During an argument for a directed verdict earlier this month, Donald Trump's attorney Chris Kise cited that as some of the only testimony to support the New York attorney general's allegation that members of the Trump Organization conspired to inflate the former president's net worth.

Returning to the witness stand for the defense's case, Birney suggested that any changes to Trump's financial statement were based on material changes to assets.

"Were you ever directed to increase a number without there being an underlying basis to increase that valuation?" defense attorney Jennifer Hernandez asked.

"No," Birney said.

Judge Arthur Engoron adjourned court for the day after Birney completed his testimony.

"OK, class dismissed," Engoron quipped.

Nov 29, 3:45 PM EST
Deutsche Bank expected Trump to value assets fairly, banker says

Former Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic testified on cross-examination by state attorneys that Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. secured private financing using recourse -- meaning they were personally liable for the loan.

"Sorry about the recourse issue -- a dirty word, I know -- but it is a requirement in private banking," Vrablic wrote in a 2011 introductory email to Donald Trump Jr.

Vrablic confirmed that each of the Trumps she worked with -- Donald, Ivanka, and Donald Trump Jr. -- used a personal guaranty to secure better financing terms.

"It gives the flexibility to be creative on some solutions because the person is standing behind it," Vrablic testified.

State attorney Kevin Wallace appeared to focus on the personal guaranty during the cross-examination, with the discussion bringing the focus back on the representation of the value of Trump's assets.

While Vrablic confirmed that she never personally reviewed Donald Trump's statement of financial condition, she said the bank still expected it was accurate.

"You would have had an expectation that a borrower like Mr. Trump would present their financial information fairly?" Wallace asked.

"Yes," Vrablic replied.

Nov 29, 2:31 PM EST
Deutsche Bank made money from Trump, defense emphasizes

Defense attorney Jesus Suarez, in his direct examination of Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic, emphasized that Deutsche Bank was eager for Trump's business and made money from the loans they offered him.

"Your family is in the top 10 revenue generating names of Asset and Wealth Management now and he is thrilled with how it's grown," Vrablic wrote in a 2014 email to Ivanka Trump, referring to Vrablic's boss at Deutsche Bank.

That same year, Vrablic estimated that the bank made more than $6.8 million in fees from the Trump Organization.

Vrablic described her role as an intermediary between lenders at the bank and Ivanka Trump, both hunting for deals within the bank and courting the Trumps for increased business.

"Existing customers are the best source of additional customers," Vrablic said about importance of Trump's business, given his connections in real estate and his wealthy family.

Nov 29, 1:50 PM EST
Bank was concerned DC hotel deal could publicize loan terms

Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic expressed concern about the public nature of Donald Trump's 2012 acquisition of the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C., fearing the deal might publicize the favorable loan terms offered by the bank, according to evidence presented at trial.

"Will our terms and conditions with you be made public? Not a credit issue, but we want to be prepared if 'other clients' see it and ask for the same deal," Vrablic wrote in a 2013 email shown at trial.

The Trump Organization won the bidding process with the federal government in 2012 for the property, and Deutsche Bank loaned the firm the money for the renovation of the decrepit building.

"We won! We're very very excited!" Ivanka Trump wrote in a 2012 email to Vrablic.

Vrablic, concerned about the loan terms being publicized, said, "We would not talk about that," regarding the importance of keeping the terms private from other high-net-worth clients.

Vrablic could not recall how the loan term details were protected, but she confirmed that Deutsche Bank made $3.3 million from their loan to the Trump Organization related to the property.

Nov 29, 1:30 PM EST
Scrutiny over Trump's presidency prompted bank to halt relationship

Deutsche Bank decided to stop doing new business with Donald Trump due to the "increased exposure" and "scrutiny" related to his being elected president, according to testimony from Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic.

"It was an unprecedented situation to have a customer who was going to become president of the United States," Vrablic said.

By the time Trump was elected, the bank had made three profitable loans to Trump, making a projected $6.8 million in revenue from Trump in 2014. Vrablic confirmed that by July 2015, Trump had $31 million in cash deposits with the bank, and his associated entities stored $86 million in cash deposits.

However, the scrutiny of Trump's presidency prompted the bank to decide not to increase its exposure, including declining to offer Trump a loan for his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland.

"He was president of the United States -- going to become president of the United States -- and the bank's position was they did not want to increase its exposure at that time," Vrablic testified.

Nov 29, 12:14 PM EST
Deutsche Bank courted Trump for more business, referrals

Deutsche Bank executives courted Donald Trump to attract more business and referrals, viewing the former president as an opportunity to sell services to his family members and other high-net-worth individuals, according to the testimony of former Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic.

"Given the circles this family travels in, we expect to be introduced to the wealthiest people on the planet," Vrablic wrote to colleagues while courting Trump in the early 2010s, according to materials entered into evidence.

Recruiting Trump stemmed from a 2007 effort in the bank to develop a broader commercial real estate financing division for their high-net-worth individuals.

"He would have fit the category of the entrepreneur and investor with a successful track record," Vrablic testified on the stand regarding Trump's profile.

After being introduced to Donald Trump Jr. through Ivanka Trump's now-husband Jared Kushner, Vrablic began pursuing Donald Trump's business.

"We are whale hunting ... Haven't seen him yet. Also maybe Dad will convert like Ivanka did," Vrablic wrote in a 2011 email to a colleague.

"It is a term used when there is a very high-net-worth individual who is a prospect," Vrablic said in explaining why she referred to Trump as a "whale."

Once Trump was on board, leadership from the bank personally courted Trump to do more business with the bank and to connect them to other potential clients. The former CEO of the bank personally met with Trump with the express goal of gaining more deposits from Trump and leveraging Trump's relationships.

CEO Anshu Jain "thought that if Mr. Trump wanted to, there could be additional leverage provided among his world," Vrablic testified.

The effort appeared to work, as the bank made over $3 million in revenue from Trump in 2013, up from only $13,000 in 2011.

Nov 29, 10:32 AM EST
Defense cuts short Deutsche Bank VP testimony

Donald Trump's lawyers decided to cut short their direct examination of former Deutsche Bank vice president Emily Pereless.

Trump's team originally said they planned to shorten their direct examination after Pereless appeared reluctant to answer questions yesterday. Returning to court this morning, they decided to forgo the remaining testimony to avoid "prolonging" the proceedings.

Pereless then faced a short cross-examination about her work attempting to value Trump's Doral golf resort.

Nov 29, 9:12 AM EST
Deutsche Bank execs continue on witness stand

Former Deutsche Bank vice president Emily Pereless is scheduled to return to the witness stand for an abbreviated round of questions this morning, after being called as a witness yesterday.

Despite being a witness for the defense, Pereless reluctantly answered questions from defense attorney Jesus Suarez about her work reviewing Donald Trump’s finances between 2011 and 2014.

The defense then plans to call to the stand former Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic, who was considered to be Donald Trump’s lead banker during the period in question.

Trump’s adult children, in their testimony, have described Vrablic as the family’s primary contact at Deutsche Bank. A lender with the bank’s private wealth management division, Vrablic initially became acquainted with Ivanka Trump through her husband Jared Kushner.

Nov 28, 6:34 PM EST
Judge appears dubious of defense's latest argument

Court was adjourned for the day following an afternoon in which Judge Engoron appeared to shoot down one of the defense's main remaining arguments following defense attorneys' request for a directed verdict.

Defense lawyer Chris Kise argued that the state failed to prove that Trump's lenders would have acted differently had they known about the fraud alleged by the New York attorney general -- but Engoron said "the mere fact that the lenders were happy doesn't mean the statute wasn't violated."

Earlier this month, during testimony from the defense's first expert witness Steven Witkoff, Trump's lawyers attempted to argue that Trump had undervalued some of his properties, which balanced out the alleged inflated properties in his statement of financial condition. Engoron, however, declined to allow testimony related to that argument, saying, "The reader of the financial statement has the right to know whether each particular number was accurate."

That same day, Trump's lawyers also presented testimony from expert witness Jason Flemmons that Trump disclosed that the values of nearly 95% of the assets in his financial statements departed from generally accepted accounting practices.

"It's effectively saying, 'User beware,'" Flemmons said.

But Engoron said Flemmons only addressed the methods used in the statements, rather than the numbers themselves, which could have been incorrect.

Defense attorneys are scheduled to call additional witnesses over the next week before Eric Trump and Donald Trump return to the stand as the defense wraps up its case in the next two weeks.

Nov 28, 5:37 PM EST
Ex-Deutsche Bank VP can't describe Trump's due diligence

Former Deutsche Bank vice president Emily Pereless, testifying for the defense, appeared reluctant to offer details about the process of reviewing Donald Trump's bank and brokerage statements between 2011 and 2014.

Pereless physically reviewed Trump's bank and brokerage statements with a colleague, according to documents shown at trial, and signed Deutsche Bank credit reports. Despite being called as a defense witness, she struggled to recall any details about the process and appeared uncooperative on the witness stand.

"I analyzed and compiled the information provided," Pereless testified about a 2014 credit report, saying could not recall the specific steps she took in detail.

Defense attorney Jesus Suarez attempted to refresh her recollection by showing her a document titled "DT Due Diligence Items" that listed steps that included reviewing Trump's personal tax reports, understanding ownership structures for assets, and learning of Trump's financial commitments.

Pereless still said she could not recall specific steps cited in the document, and even struggled to confirm who the aforementioned "DT" was.

"I am assuming it means Donald Trump, but I don't recall specifically," Pereless said.

Trump's attorneys said they planned to shorten their remaining direct examination when Pereless returns to the stand tomorrow.

Nov 28, 4:20 PM EST
For 3rd time, defense asks for directed verdict

Defense attorney Christopher Kise requested Judge Engoron issue a directed verdict at the conclusion of testimony from Deutsche Bank managing director Dave Williams -- marking the third time the defense has asked the judge to stop the proceedings and decide the case in their favor.

"Was an event of default ever declared by Deutsche Bank on the loans to the Trump Organization?" defense attorney Jesus Suarez asked Williams at the end of Williams' testimony.

"No," Williams replied, prompting Kise to jump up and make his request.

"This witness has again testified the bank conducted its own due diligence" and was not defrauded by Trump's statements of financial condition, Kise argued.

"This is a subjective exercise. There isn't a right answer. There isn't an 'Ah-ha, you picked the wrong number,'" Kise said. "The bank is in a relationship whose job it is to make these determinations. It's not the attorney general's job to insert herself into a private transaction ten years later."

Judge Engoron took the defense's motion under advisement but signaled he was unmoved.

"The mere fact that the lenders were happy doesn't mean the statute wasn't violated," Engoron said.

Kevin Wallace, an attorney for the state, took issue with the Kise's analysis of the testimony.

"The witness did not say none of this matters. The witness said he expects clients to tell the truth," Wallace said.

Nov 28, 2:19 PM EST
Trump easily met Deutsche Bank loan requirements, banker says

Deutsche Bank did its own due diligence to estimate Trump's net worth, landing on a figure that differed from Trump's reported net worth by over $2 billion -- but the difference didn't concern the bank, according to testimony from managing director Dave Williams.

Trump reported a net worth of nearly $5 billion in 2013, according to documents shown at trial. The bank's own Valuation Services Group produced an estimate of only $2.6 billion, a difference that Williams described as "not unusual or atypical."

"My reaction was probably pretty measured," Williams said about learning that the bank determined that Trump's net worth was nearly half the estimate provided by Trump. "We are expected to conduct due diligence and verify information to the extent that is possible."

Even with Deutsche Bank's lower estimate, the former president easily met the bank’s $100 million net-worth requirement for high-net-worth individuals, according to Williams.

“He reported both a net worth and investable assets well in excess of our minimum requirements,” Williams said, confirming that the bank set the interest rate for Trump’s commercial loans between 2%-2.5%.

The testimony also appeared to bolster Trump's arguments that his lenders did their own due diligence, diminishing the importance of his statements of financial condition that are at the center of the case.

Nov 28, 12:16 PM EST
Trump never risked defaulting on loan covenants, banker suggests

Deutsche Bank managing director Dave Williams downplayed the possibility that Donald Trump could have defaulted on the net-worth covenants included in his loans.

While both parties agree that Trump never defaulted on his loans, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges that had Trump accurately reported the value of his assets, he could have risked defaulting on a loan covenant that required he maintain a net worth of $2.5 billion.

Defense attorney Jesus Suarez pushed back on that allegation by asking Williams about the severity of a covenant default -- i.e., breaching the terms of the loan -- compared to a payment default triggered by a missed payment.

"Generally speaking, a payment default is a more material default than a covenant default," Williams said. "It speaks definitively to the repayment of the loan."

Williams described a loan covenant as a "guardrail," and suggested that breaching the covenant would have brought Trump back to the negotiating table to adjust the loan terms.

Williams also reiterated that he was not aware of any loan or covenant defaults by Trump.

James is expected to request a fine of nearly $400 million for Trump's allegedly ill-gotten gains, including over $140 million based on the potential interest she says was lost by Deutsche Bank. By proving that the loan agreements were lawful, Trump's lawyers could significantly lower the fine Trump faces.

Nov 28, 11:44 AM EST
Net worth is subjective, banker says

The managing director of Deutsche Bank, which was Trump's primary lender in the 2010s, testified that it would be impossible for the bank to calculate their client's net worth with mathematical certainty.

"I don't believe that is possible," said Dave Williams, testifying for the defense. "I think an individual's net worth as reported is largely subjective, or subject to the use of estimates."

The assertion bolsters a recurring theme of the defense's case -- that determining the value of Trump's assets was less of a science than an art form.

Williams said that, regardless of what Trump reported, Deutsche Bank made more conservative estimates about the value of his assets.

"I think it's a difference of opinion. We expect clients provide information to be accurate. At the same time, it's not an industry standard that these financial statements are audited," Williams said.

Nov 28, 9:24 AM EST
Deutsche Bank executives to testify for defense

A day after Trump lawyer Chris Kise asserted that the only person who believes the former president committed fraud in his business transactions is New York Attorney General Letitia James, that claim will face a key test over the next two days as Trump's lawyers call four executives from Deutsche Bank, Trump's primary lender at the time of the alleged conduct.

Trump's lawyers claim that the executives will prove that the bank would have still done business with Trump despite his inflated claims about his assets.

"They're skipping over the part where they have to establish that the gains are ill-gotten, meaning that the loans would not have been issued in the first place or that the terms would have been different," Kise said in November during an argument for a directed verdict.

James, however, says that the banks lost millions in potential interest based on Trump's inflated valuations.

Nov 27, 6:52 PM EST
Trump Organization VP returns to witness stand

Trump Organization Vice President Patrick Birney returned to the witness stand to describe his role preparing Trump's statement of financial condition between 2016 and 2021.

"Every new year, I would just copy and paste the spreadsheet from the year before," Birney said, testifying this time for the defense.

Birney largely testified about the spreadsheets of supporting data he prepared, as well as the supporting data he cited from year to year.

Court was adjourned for the day following Birney's testimony. He is set to return to the witness stand later this week after the court hears from witnesses from Deutsche Bank.

Nov 27, 5:59 PM EST
Trump exec disputes independent monitor's findings

Trump Hotels chief operating officer Mark Hawthorn disputed an August 2023 report from the Trump Organization's independent monitor that said the company continued to provide incomplete information to lenders.

Hawthorn had earlier testified that the monitor never communicated that they "uncovered fraud or any irregularities."

State attorney Andrew Amer confronted Hawthorn with the letter from the Trump Organization's independent monitor Barbara Jones flagging inconsistencies.

"Were you aware that Judge Jones had identified such inconsistencies?" Amer asked.

"Yes," Hawthorn answered -- but said that he stood by his initial statement that the monitor never uncovered fraud, claiming that the flagged issues were consistent with accounting practices.

"Did the monitor accuse the Trump Organization of disseminating false and misleading information?" defense attorney Clifford Robert asked on redirect examination.

"No," Hawthorne said.

Trump defense attorney Chris Kise used the disagreement about the monitor's findings to renew his request to question Jones, which Judge Engoron denied earlier in the afternoon.

"What the monitor thinks is clearly and squarely at issue," Kise said, describing the Trump Organization's issues as "minor accounting discrepancies which happen in a large corporation all the time."

"Every time you talk, there's a campaign speech," Engoron quipped following Kise's lengthy argument.

Engoron ultimately stood by his initial ruling, but said he would allow Kise to present cases, if they exist, supporting the defense's right to call the monitor.

"I will decide what reports mean and what implications there are," Engoron said about the monitor's findings.

Nov 27, 3:44 PM EST
Donald Trump to return to witness stand in December

Defense lawyers plan to call Donald Trump as their final witnesses in the former president's civil fraud trial.

Asked to confirm the final witnesses for the defense's case, defense attorney Chris Kise said that Trump is likely to testify on Dec. 11.

"I think we can make that work," Kise said, adding that Trump's exact schedule might change.

Eric Trump will also return to the witness stand on Dec. 6, according to Kise.

Those dates might change if Judge Engoron limits testimony from any of the remaining witnesses.

State attorney Kevin Wallace said that the New York attorney general may present a "minimal" rebuttal case.

Nov 27, 2:43 PM EST
Judge blocks testimony from independent monitor

Judge Arthur Engoron blocked the defense team's plan to call the Trump Organization's independent monitor, describing the last-minute change to the defense's witness list as "untimely" and "inappropriate."

The judge's ruling came after defense lawyer Clifford Robert announced the plan to call former federal Judge Barbara Jones and her associate to testify for the defense.

Before Engoron issuing his ruling from the bench, attorneys from both sides appeared to privately meet with the judge in his chambers.

"I hereby preclude their testimony," Engoron said from the bench, regarding Jones and her associate.

Engoron said that he determined that Jones and her staff are effectively "arms of the court" and thus cannot be called to testify.

He also expressed concern that Jones' testimony could create conflicts of interest that force her to step away from her role overseeing the Trump Organization's finances.

Nov 27, 2:27 PM EST
Defense plans to call Trump Organization's independent monitor

Donald Trump's lawyers plan to call former federal Judge Barbara Jones -- who has served as the Trump Organization's independent monitor since 2022 -- as a witness for the defense case, according to defense attorney Clifford Robert.

Jones was installed as the firm's independent monitor last November at the request of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Though Jones was not originally included in the defense's witness list, Robert flagged the change to the court near the end of the direct examination of Trump Hotels chief operating officer Mark Hawthorn.

Hawthorn testified that he has regularly met with Jones since her appointment, and that the two have a transparent and cooperative relationship.

"We believe everything they deemed as an objection we have responded to diligently and very accurately," Hawthorn said. "No one from that team has ever communicated to us that they have uncovered fraud or any irregularities."

Jones, however, wrote in an August 2023 report that the Trump Organization provided "incomplete" information and did not consistently provide necessary certifications to lenders, prompting Judge Engoron to chastise the defendants in his summary judgment order.

"Even with a preliminary injunction in place, and with an independent monitor overseeing their compliance, defendants have continued to disseminate false and misleading information while conducting business," Engoron wrote.

Robert did not provide a timeline for when Jones might testify, and state attorney Andrew Amer reserved a right to object to the defense team calling Jones as a witness.

Nov 27, 1:53 PM EST
Threats against clerk are 'just part of the game,' said Trump lawyer

In their filing this morning arguing against the trial's limited gag order, Trump attorneys Clifford Robert, Chris Kise, and Alina Habba downplayed Trump's connection to the threats against Judge Engoron and his clerk, and argued that they do not justify the gag order's limit on Trump's constitutional right to free speech.

The arguments appeared to be foreshadowed by remarks made to reporters earlier this month by Habba, who has been a forceful voice for the former president both in and out of court.

"The president has never threatened her safety," Habba said of Engoron's clerk. "This is a high profile case, and unfortunately, this is what comes with it. There is not a day that I don't get a threat. It's just part of the game."

"If she had a real threat, she should get off the bench and stop having her photograph taken, but she hasn't done that," Habba added.

Nov 27, 12:54 PM EST
Trump's lawyers disavow threats against judge, clerk

Donald Trump's lawyers, in a court filing this morning, doubled down on their criticism of the trial's limited gag order while distancing Trump and his co-defendants from what they called the "vile and reprehensible" threats against Judge Arthur Engoron and his principal law clerk.

In a filing arguing against the limited gag order, defense lawyer Clifford Robert said that the attacks -- which he said Trump neither condoned nor directed -- do not justify the gag order's unconstitutional restraint on Trump's free speech.

"Respondents' sole cognizable justification for the Gag Orders is that an unknown third party may react in a hostile or offensive manner to Petitioners' speech," Robert wrote.

While Robert characterized the threats as "disturbing, derogatory, and indefensible," he argued that it could not be proven that Trump's Truth Social post on Oct. 3 -- which prompted the limited gag order prohibiting statements about the judge's staff -- led to an increase in threats. Trump and his lawyers have never called for violence, condoned the attacks, or encouraged threatening behavior, Robert said.

The threatening behavior "merits appropriate security measures," Robert wrote. "However, it does not justify the wholesale abrogation of Petitioners' First Amendment rights in a proceeding of immense stakes to Petitioners," which Robert argued has been "compromised by the introduction of partisan bias on the bench."

Nov 27, 11:58 AM EST
Eric Trump asked hotel exec to revamp firm's outdated bookkeeping

Eric Trump needed help with the Trump Organization's finances after the company's chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was removed from his role following his indictment in 2021, according to Trump Hotels executive Mark Hawthorn.

According to Hawthorn's testimony, the company relied on an outdated and inefficient approach to bookkeeping, including authorizing only three individuals -- Weisselberg, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump -- to write checks for the Trump Organization until as late as 2021.

Weisselberg signed most of the company's disbursements, leaving Eric and Don Jr. in uncharted waters once Weisselberg was removed, Hawthorn said.

"He had a stack of checks [on his desk] to sign that was very high," Hawthorn recalled regarding a summer 2021 meeting during which he said Eric Trump requested Hawthorn's help applying his experience running Trump's hotel division.

"Mark, how do you do this in the hotel division?" Eric asked, according to Hawthorn.

"We don't do it like this," Hawthorn said he replied.

The meeting, according to Hawthorn, prompted him to begin an effort to revise the Trump's Organization's bookkeeping policies to replicate his work in Trump's hotel division, which he ran as its chief operating officer. Following Eric Trump's request, he imposed a standardized paperless approach to bookkeeping, so entities could be compared on an "apples to apples basis," Hawthorn testified.

Nov 27, 9:26 AM EST
Trump Organization execs to return to witness stand

Two current Trump Organization executives are scheduled to return to the witness stand today as part of the defense's case as the trial resumes following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Mark Hawthorn, Trump Hotels' chief financial officer, initially testified for the state's case in October. State attorney Andrew Amer used his testimony as an opportunity to highlight that the Trump Organization had a qualified accountant who could have worked on Trump's statement of financial condition, instead of the top executives who had less accounting experience.

"If any of them had asked you to work with them on preparing Mr. Trump's statement of financial condition, would you have had the knowledge and experience to do so?" Amer asked.

"Yes," Hawthorn responded, adding he was never asked to assist with preparing the statements that are at the center of the attorney general's case.

Patrick Birney, an assistant vice president at the Trump Organization who also testified in October, offered some of the only testimony that supports the attorney general's allegation of a conspiracy to inflate Trump's net worth.

"Did Allen Weisselberg ever tell you that Mr. Trump wanted his net worth on the statement of financial condition to go up?" state attorney Eric Haren asked Birney.

"Yes, I think that happened in Allen Weisselberg's office," Birney said, prompting an objection from Trump's lawyers.

Nov 22, 5:28 PM EST
Judge, clerk subjected to daily threats, official says in gag order filing

An attorney for Judge Arthur Engoron also filed in support of the gag order in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial, arguing that violent threats have increased since the gag order was lifted.

The limited gag order, which prohibited Donald Trump and his attorneys from publicly commenting about Engoron's staff, was issued by the judge last month after Trump posted about the judge's law clerk on social media. Judge David Friedman of the appellate division's First Department stayed the order on Thursday, citing constitutional concerns over Trump's free speech rights.

Engoron's filing includes a report from Charles Hollon of the Judicial Threats Assessment Unit of the New York State Court System's Department of Public Safety. According to the report, Engoron and his principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield, have been inundated with credible, violent and antisemitic threats since Trump began criticizing Greenfield.

"The threats against Justice Engoron and Ms. Greenfield are considered to be serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative," Hollon wrote in the report.

Greenfield has been the victim of daily doxing of her personal email address and phone number, receiving dozens of calls, emails and social media messages daily, according to Hollon. Approximately half the harassing messages have been antisemitic, according to Greenfield.

In the report, Hollon wrote that Engoron was the subject of credible threats before the trial had started, but Trump's Oct. 3 Truth Social post directed at Greenfield exponentially increased the number of threats directed at her.

The report included multiple examples of voicemails that were left on the telephone in Engoron's chambers.

Hollon said the messages have created an "ongoing security risk" for Engoron, his staff and family, but that the gag order had been effective in lowering the number of threats.

"The implementation of the limited gag orders resulted in a decrease in the number of threats, harassment and disparaging messages that the judge and his staff received," Hollon said in the report. "However, when Mr. Trump violated the gag orders, the number of threatening, harassing and disparaging messages increased."

Engoron's lawyer, Lisa Evans, said the threats detailed in Hollon's affirmation justify the gag order, which functions as a reasonable limit on free speech.

"The First Amendment does not prohibit courts from limiting speech that threatens the safety of the court's staff," Evans wrote.

Trump's reply to the filing is due on Nov. 27, after which the First Department will decide whether to fully lift the gag order.

Nov 22, 4:53 PM EST
NY AG argues for limited gag order in court filing

A lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James, in a court filing Wednesday, argued in favor of maintaining the judge's limited gag after an appeals court temporarily lifted the order last week.

The limited gag order, which prohibited Donald Trump and his attorneys from publicly commenting about Judge Arthur Engoron's staff, was issued by the judge last month after Trump posted about the judge's law clerk on social media. Judge David Friedman of the appellate division's First Department stayed the order on Thursday, citing constitutional concerns over Trump's free speech rights.

James' court filing Wednesday alleges that Trump and his lawyers continue to harass Engoron’s law clerk "as part of an improper tactic to disrupt trial and undermine the proceedings."

James said the gag order is a necessary and "exceedingly limited restraint" to protect Engoron’s staff, and Trump’s lawyers failed to prove that attacks on judicial staff during a trial are protected by the First Amendment.

"A speedy denial is necessary to ensure the safety of [the] Supreme Court's staff and the integrity and the orderly administration of the proceedings through the end of the trial," James wrote, describing Trump's attacks as "extraordinary and dangerous."

Arguing that Trump has engaged in a "pattern" of attacking civil servants involved in proceedings against him, James cited his attacks on the former lieutenant governor of Georgia, as well as officials in his federal election interference case. She also mentioned Trump’s renewed attacks against the clerk over the last week since the gag order was lifted, including calling for her prosecution, sharing an article suggesting she engaged in drug use, and describing her as "crooked and highly partisan."

Trump's lawyers have defended such attacks as constitutionally protected speech and argued that Engoron failed to articulate how the attacks present a "clear and present danger" to the clerk.

Trump personally sued Engoron last week using a provision of state law called Article 78, which is generally used to challenge New York government agencies. Trump unsuccessfully attempted to use an Article 78 proceeding on the eve of the trial to delay the proceeding; however, his most recent attempt successfully resulted in a temporary stay of the gag order.

Trump's reply to the filing is due on Nov. 27, after which the First Department will decide whether to fully lift the gag order.

Nov 21, 3:27 PM EST
Court adjourns for extended Thanksgiving break

After two days of testimony for the defense, former Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney stepped off the witness stand.

Judge Arthur Engoron then adjourned court until Monday.

When court resumes after the Thanksgiving break, the defense plans to call two Trump Organization executives, followed by several Deutsche Bank employees.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Snowstorms target New England and Pacific Northwest

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Storms are targeting both coasts on Sunday, with rain and snow slamming the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest.

On the East Coast, a rainstorm soaked Philadelphia, New York and Boston on Sunday.

Several inches of snow are piling up Sunday into Monday from the Adirondacks in New York to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine, forecasts show.

Six to 12 inches of snow is forecast for northern New England.

Winter weather alerts have been posted for much of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine through Monday morning. The steady snow is forecast to taper off by Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a series of storms are forecast to bombard the Northwest over the next several days.

Flood watches are in effect in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Another 3 to 6 inches of rain is forecast for western Washington and Oregon.

Winter storm warnings have been issued in Jackson, Wyoming; Park City, Utah, and Aspen, Colorado.

Parts of the Northwest and Rocky Mountain ranges could see an additional 6 to 12 inches of snow through midweek.

High wind warnings are in effect from Montana to Colorado, where wind gusts could reach 60 mph, knocking out power. In some areas, the combination of mountain snow and strong winds could cause whiteout conditions.

There's also an increased risk of avalanches for parts of the northern Cascades in Oregon and Washington due to the recent heavy snow and the rapidly warming temperatures.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

EMT questioned in trial of two paramedics charged in connection with Elijah McClain's death

McClain Family Photo

(AURORA, Colo.) -- One of the EMTs on the scene the night of Elijah McClain's encounter with police was questioned Friday by the Colorado state attorney in the trial of the paramedics charged in connection with McClain’s death.

Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec were the Aurora Fire and Rescue paramedics who injected McClain with 500 milligrams of ketamine on Aug. 24, 2019, in Aurora, Colorado, after McClain was stopped by police.

Daniel DeJesus, one of the EMT firefighters on the scene that night with Cooper and Cichuniec, took the stand as the prosecution's witness. DeJesus, who also was the scribe who jotted down the medical related notes on the scene, testified that his memory of that night was hazy when questioned by the state. But there were times when DeJesus was able to recollect events from the night.

"I was there for the whole scene, but I don't recall that," DeJesus said in his testimony on the stand when the prosecutor inquired if anyone had asked McClain how he was doing.

"Did anyone on the crew ask how could he be helped?" State Attorney Shannon Stevenson questioned.

"No, ma'am," DeJesus replied.

Cooper and Cichuniec are charged with criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault and crimes of violence. Cichuniec is facing an additional charge of manslaughter, according to the indictment. Cichuniec ordered the ketamine, and Cooper injected it into McClain. They have both pleaded not guilty.

"They intentionally injected Elijah McClain, who was laying on the ground, barely moving, struggling to breathe, with an overdose of ketamine without following a single step of their training and protocols," Stevenson said in opening arguments. "They conducted no assessment. They didn't speak a word to Elijah. They didn't put a finger on him. And then they overdosed him with 150% of the dose someone his size should have gotten. And then they failed to even check on him until this pulse was gone. They knew better."

DeJesus said that he assumed Cooper attempted to check McClain's vitals before ketamine was administered, contradicting the prosecution's argument that paramedics never seemed to attempt to check McClain's vitals before injecting him with the sedative.

"I do recall that Cooper a couple of times trying to take a step forward," DeJesus said of the paramedic when asked if he recalls anyone attempting to take McClain's pulse. "It seems like he might have been cut off from looking at the [body camera] videos there and I would, from my opinion, say that he was attempting to get in there but not able to because he [McClain] was fighting and had handcuffs on."

McClain was stopped by police on his way home from a convenience store after a passerby called 911 to report McClain as acting "sketchy" with a ski mask on, according to prosecutors. However, the caller said there was no weapon and that no one was in danger at the time.

Officer Nathan Woodyard, who was first on the scene, placed McClain in a carotid hold, and he and the other two officers on the scene moved McClain by force to the grass and restrained him, according to the indictment. McClain can be heard pleading with officers in police body camera footage, saying he couldn't breathe.

Cichuniec and Cooper arrived on the scene after McClain was restrained and in handcuffs, according to the indictment.

McClain was declared brain-dead days later and died on Aug. 30, 2019.

Cooper and Cichuniec diagnosed McClain with excited delirium, after approximately two minutes on the scene, according to the indictment. Stevenson explained to the jury that the only time paramedics are allowed to administer ketamine is if the patient is suffering from excited delirium and is a danger to themselves and others.

McClain was handcuffed, held on the ground by multiple officers, and did not pose a threat to anyone, according to Stevenson. McClain weighed 143 pounds (65 kg) and as such his weight-based ketamine dose should have been closer to 325 mg of ketamine, rather than the 500 mg injected into the 23-year-old, Stevenson said.

McClain's cause of death, which was previously listed as "undetermined," was listed in an amended autopsy report as "complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint." The manner of death remained listed as "undetermined" as it was in the initial report.

During Woodyard's trial, his defense attorneys argued the ketamine administered by the paramedics that night was responsible for McClain's death. He was charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Woodyard was acquitted by a jury on all charges last month and has since been reinstated to the Aurora Police Department under uniform-assignment restricted duty, according to police officials.

In the first trial in connection with McClain's death, Officer Randy Roedema was found guilty on Oct. 12 of criminally negligent homicide and assault in the third degree. He will be sentenced in January 2024 and could face up to five years in prison and be fined more than $100,000. His employment with the police force was terminated following his conviction.

Another officer, Jason Rosenblatt, was found not guilty on charges of reckless manslaughter, assault in the second degree, and criminally negligent homicide in October. His employment with the police force was terminated in 2020.

The trial for Cichuniec and Cooper will be the last set of criminal charges to be tried by Colorado's attorney general, according to an indictment.

Prosecutors mentioned that the fire medics had been notified that McClain had been vomiting before they arrived at the scene. One of the causes of McClain's death, in addition to the ketamine, was forcible restraint, according to the autopsy. The prosecution is arguing that restraint caused McClain to vomit, which eventually obstructed his airway.

"No, nothing was done to check his airway," DeJesus said when asked if any medics took action to clear his airway when they were told McClain had vomited. "No, there's been no visual assessments."

ABC News' Aisha Frazier contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Bus involved in deadly Ohio crash had emergency exit-related violations: Inspection report

kali9/Getty Images/STOCK

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- The coach bus involved in the deadly crash on I-70 in Ohio had multiple violations before the incident, according to an examination report from state inspectors obtained by ABC News on Friday.

The document, released by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in response to a public records request over the November crash, says that the Pioneer Trails bus had "inadequate" marking issues on three emergency exit window labels, including incorrect operating instructions.

The report also says that three windows on the passenger side of the bus and two windows on the driver side "contain emergency exit marking labels but are not functioning emergency exits," while a fire extinguisher on the bus had an "invalid tag date of 2019."

Roadside emergency reflective triangles were also reportedly missing from the bus.

Pioneer Trails did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

The collision occurred on Nov. 14 in Licking County, east of Columbus.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol says that the bus, which had been transporting students from Tuscarawas Valley High School to a conference in Columbus, was "slowing for traffic" alongside other vehicles when it and a car were hit from behind by a Mid State Systems truck. This is believed to have caused the bus to hit another car and another truck.

A massive fire broke out and six people died, including three students.

Although the inspection of the bus that resulted in these violations being found occurred after the collision, state officials believe the violations in question were not caused by the incident, while other issues like a missing emergency exit on the rear roof of the bus are believed to be the result of the crash itself.

It is not yet clear whether fines will be issued in connection with the alleged violations, according to the commission.

Another report released Friday by the commission said that the Mid State Systems truck, which was traveling from Topton, Pennsylvania to East Liberty, Ohio, was transporting lead-acid batteries and that "acid from batteries was released as a result of the crash."

"The truck and trailer are a total loss," the report added. "The axle 2 and axle 3 brake chambers on the truck were melted away. All remaining brakes were unable to be measured."

Trucks owned by Mid State Systems were cited prior to the collision by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for issues such as defective brakes, according to documents obtained earlier this week by ABC News.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families [affected] by this tragic accident," Lee Zazworsky of Mid State Systems told ABC News by email on Thursday. "Since this matter is still under investigation, we will reserve further comment at this time."

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are conducting investigations into the crash.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Judge rejects Trump's motion to dismiss his federal election interference case

Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's federal election interference case has rejected Trump's motion to dismiss the case based on presidential immunity.

The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, came in a strongly worded opinion Friday evening.

"Whatever immunities a sitting President may enjoy, the United States has only one Chief Executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong 'get-out-of-jail-free' pass," Judge Chutkan wrote. "Former Presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability,"

"Defendant's four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens," wrote Chutkan.

Trump in August pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a "criminal scheme" to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called "fake electors," using the Justice Department to conduct "sham election crime investigations," trying to enlist the vice president to "alter the election results," and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged -- all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing and denounced the charges as "a persecution of a political opponent."

In their motion to dismiss, Trump's attorneys argued that Trump's challenging of the election results were part of his official duties.

"Breaking 234 years of precedent, the incumbent administration has charged President Trump for acts that lie not just within the 'outer perimeter,' but at the heart of his official responsibilities as President," Trump's attorneys said in their filing. "In doing so, the prosecution does not, and cannot, argue that President Trump's efforts to ensure election integrity, and to advocate for the same, were outside the scope of his duties."

Trump's trial is currently scheduled to get underway on March 4.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Three men experiencing homelessness fatally shot by potential serial killer in Los Angeles: Police

Kali9/Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) -- Police in Los Angeles said they're searching for a potential serial killer who targeted three men who were all experiencing homelessness.

All three victims were sleeping alone on a sidewalk or an alley when they were killed this week, the LAPD warned at a news conference on Friday.

The first victim, 37 years old, was killed at about 3 a.m. Sunday. The second victim, 62 years old, was attacked at about 4:55 a.m. Monday, and the third, a 52-year-old man, was killed around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, police said.

The lone suspect was seen in a car at all three locations, police said. The suspect approached each victim on foot, shot and killed them, and then fled in the car, police said.

Police are asking the public to review these images to help identify the suspect.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is urging LA residents to try to contact any of their relatives experiencing homelessness.

"We need you to contact them today -- we need you to tell them about this danger," Bass said at the news conference.

"Do not sleep alone tonight," Bass said. "Seek shelter. Seek services. Stay together."

"Living on the streets we already know is dangerous," the mayor added.

"This is a killer who is preying on the unhoused," Bass said. "We are calling Angelinos to come together. The city and the region is mobilizing to find this individual. ... We will find you, we will catch you and you will be held accountable."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Man charged with stabbing Derek Chauvin 22 times in prison: DOJ

Jason Marz/Getty Images

(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- An inmate at FCI Tucson has been charged with allegedly stabbing Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of killing George Floyd, according to the Justice Department.

Chauvin was allegedly stabbed 22 times by 52-year-old John Turscak on Nov. 24.

Turscak was charged with attempted murder after he allegedly used a knife he crafted to stab him.

Chauvin was not named in the complaint and only appears as "DC," but a law enforcement source confirmed he was the one who was attacked.

Turscak allegedly approached Chauvin while he was in the law library and stabbed him. He allegedly told officers that if they hadn't responded so quickly he would've killed him.

However, after he waived his Miranda rights, he said something different, officials said.

"At that time, TURSCAK denied wanting to kill D.C. However, TURSCAK stated that he had been thinking about assaulting D.C. for approximately one month because D.C. is a high-profile inmate. TURSCAK stated he saw an opportunity to assault D.C. in the law library," the complaint says. "Turscak stated that his attack of D.C. on Black Friday was symbolic with the Black Lives Matter movement and the Mexican Mafia criminal organization. D.C. received emergency medical treatment for his injuries at a local hospital."

Chauvin was listed in stable condition in the days after the stabbing and officials said he would recover.

Turscak pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiring to kill a gang rival after previously working as an FBI informant against the Mexican Mafia organization, according to The Los Angeles Times. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2001.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the prosecution of Chauvin on state charges, said in a statement after the stabbing that he was "sad to hear that Derek Chauvin was the target of violence."

MORE: Timeline: The impact of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis and beyond
"He was duly convicted of his crimes and, like any incarcerated individual, he should be able to serve his sentence without fear of retaliation or violence," Ellison said.

Chauvin has been serving a state and federal sentence at FCI Tucson in the death of Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody on May 25, 2020.

Floyd's death triggered a string of racial reckoning in the country and months of protests across the country.

ABC News' Pierre Thomas and Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Suspect allegedly appeared intoxicated at casino before Las Vegas crash that killed 2 troopers

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

(LAS VEGAS) -- The suspect accused of striking and killing two Nevada state troopers with his SUV appeared intoxicated at a Las Vegas casino and evaded the resort's security to access his vehicle just before the deadly crash, prosecutors alleged in court Friday.

The incident occurred shortly before 3:30 a.m. local time on Thursday in Las Vegas. The officers were conducting a traffic stop on a motorist who appeared to be sleeping behind the wheel when a Chevrolet HHR collided with the troopers, police said. The driver then fled the scene, police said.

One officer was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other died after being transported to a local hospital, Las Vegas Deputy Chief Brandon Clarkson told reporters during a briefing on Thursday. The officers were identified as Sgt. Michael Abbate, a 10-year veteran of the Nevada Highway Patrol, and Trooper Alberto Felix, a U.S. Air Force veteran who joined the department in 2019.

The suspected vehicle was found Thursday morning unoccupied at an apartment complex near the scene of the collision, and a suspect was later taken into custody, Clarkson said.

Jemarcus Williams, 46, was booked into the Clark County Jail Thursday on two counts each of DUI resulting in death, reckless driving resulting in death and duty to stop at the scene of an accident involving death.

During his initial court appearance Friday morning, Williams appeared to be crying and looking down.

Prosecutors told the court that police were able to trace Williams' behavior six hours prior to the crash. Williams had allegedly been drinking at the Palms Casino and appeared "highly intoxicated" in video footage, prosecutors said. He appeared to have trouble holding himself up and, at around 3 a.m., appeared to be lost, prosecutors said.

Around that time, Palms security escorted Williams out and advised that if he got into his vehicle they would call police, prosecutors said. Security watched as he walked toward the sidewalk and past his vehicle and believed he had left, prosecutors said. Though Williams allegedly hid behind a tree before driving off in his vehicle, prosecutors said. Williams allegedly hit the brake "slightly" in the collision but then continued driving, prosecutors said.

When Las Vegas officers tracked him down hours after the crash, Williams reportedly said, "I didn't kill them, you should be figuring out who did," before the officers even explained why they were there, prosecutors said. He then allegedly claimed his friend was driving the vehicle, before ultimately stating, "It was me, I f----- up, I was driving, I wrecked 'em, I wrecked 'em," prosecutors said.

His vehicle had "extensive" damage, prosecutors said.

In asking for $1 million bail, the state noted that Williams was convicted in a 2007 DUI case in which an officer had to "swerve off of the road" to avoid being hit by the defendant before pulling him over. Prosecutors noted the prior conviction was not recent but said the "similarities are very poignant."

Williams' defense attorney argued for a maximum of $20,000 bond, saying he is a life-long resident of Las Vegas who has family and community support and has maintained stable employment as a bell captain and valet for 13 years.

The judge set his bail at $500,000. If posted, Williams will be on electronic monitoring and won't be able to drive or possess or consume any alcohol. His next court appearance is Dec. 5.

Williams' family members declined to comment following the hearing, telling Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV that they are requesting privacy at this time.

When asked for comment on the incident, the Palms Casino told KTNV: "This matter is an active criminal investigation. Please contact the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for information."

ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Protester sets self on fire in apparent 'political protest' outside Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(ATLANTA) -- A protester is in critical condition after setting themselves on fire in an apparent "political protest" outside an Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta, police said.

The protester was outside a building that's home to businesses including the Israeli Consulate on Friday afternoon when a security guard noticed the individual was attempting to set themselves on fire, Atlanta police said at a news conference.

The security guard tried to stop the protester, but both the guard and protester suffered burns and have been hospitalized, police said.

Authorities said there is no "nexus to terrorism," but the incident was "likely an extreme act of political protest."

A Palestinian flag that was part of the protest was recovered at the scene, police said.

The protester suffered severe burns and is in critical condition, police said. The security guard was burned on the wrist and leg.

Gas was used as an accelerant, according to authorities.

Everyone inside the building is safe, police said, adding that there's no apparent threat.

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

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Felicity Huffman reflects on her guilt from college admission scandal, applauds women's rehab organization

© 2011 Dorann Weber/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Actress Felicity Huffman broke her silence on the college admissions scandal that gripped the nation four years ago, discussing serving 11 days in jail for paying to help get her daughter into college.

In an exclusive interview with Los Angeles ABC station KABC, Huffman said she owes an apology to the academic community and students and families that sacrifice and work hard to get into college.

"It was sort of like my daughter's future, which meant I had to break the law," Huffman told KABC. "I know hindsight is 20/20 but it felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn't do it. So, I did it."

Huffman explained -- for the first time publicly -- why she paid a $15,000 bribe for a proctor to correct wrong answers and falsify the results on her daughter’s SAT test, which ultimately landed her in prison.

Huffman described the guilt she remembered feeling while driving her unknowing daughter to take that test.

"I kept thinking, turn around. Just turn around. And to my undying shame, I didn't," Huffman said of her actions back in 2017.

The following year, the FBI was at her home and Huffman said that the agents woke her daughters up at gunpoint before taking her into custody.

"I literally turned to one of the FBI people in a black jacket and a gun and I went, 'Is this a joke?'" she recalled.

Just a few years earlier, Huffman played Lynette Scavo on the longtime hit show “Desperate Housewives.”

Huffman was one of the 33 parents, including actress Lori Louglin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, who faced federal charges in the so-called "Varsity Blues" scandal that made headlines in 2019 and both pleaded guilty to their involvement in 2020.

Huffman, whose husband William H. Macy was not charged, pleaded guilty to federal charges and paid a $30,000 fine and served 11 days in prison.

As part of her mandated community service, Huffman worked with New Way of Life, an organization that assists formerly incarcerated women.

Susan Burton, founder of New Way of Life, embraced the opportunity to help Huffman.

"I know that she's had a hiccup, but it's not the hiccup, it's how you come through the hiccup," Burton told KABC.

Huffman said that helping these women and their families in the organization has given her own life new meaning and she has joined its board of directors.

"They heal one woman at a time and if you heal one woman, you heal her children and you heal her grandchildren and you heal the community," Huffman said.

Huffman's daughter, Sophia Grace Macy, who was initially turned down by every school she applied to at the time of the scandal, has since retaken the SAT and now studies drama at Carnegie Mellon University.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New York City's potter's field, where hundreds of AIDS patients are buried, opens to public

DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- New York City's Hart Island -- the burial site of more than 1 million people who were unclaimed, unidentified or unable to be buried elsewhere -- is opening to visitors after decades of being shrouded in mystery and stigma.

For Elsie Soto, whose father died of AIDS complications in the '90s, the public tours being held on the island signal a step in the right direction toward shedding light on the stories of marginalized groups in New York City.

Her father, Norberto, is one of potentially thousands of AIDS patients buried on Hart Island.

The island is not only the largest potter's field in the U.S., but it is also believed to be the single largest AIDS burial site, according to the NYC Parks Department.

Soto says she was just 10 years old when her family had "no choice" but to bury Norberto on Hart Island.

"During that time, my mom already had six children. It wasn't like we had money saved up, particularly for a funeral which can run -- at that time -- $5- or $6,000," Soto told ABC News.

She continued, "We were reaching out to multiple funeral homes and, unfortunately, the second that they found out that my dad passed of HIV-AIDS complications, it was like: 'We have to charge extra because of the embalming process or we have to wear extra protective gear.'"

Hart Island has been a public burial site since 1869, and families whose loved ones are confirmed to be buried there can schedule a visit to the grave with a Parks Department escort.

Many of those buried on Hart Island come from marginalized groups, according to Urban Park Ranger Kasha Pazdar, who will be leading the bimonthly tours.

It's unclear exactly how many people who contracted AIDS are buried on the island due to a lack of records, according to Pazdar, but it is estimated by the city to be in the thousands.

The AIDS epidemic in particular disproportionately affected the already stigmatized LGBTQ community, as well as intravenous drug users, according to the CDC.

The island is also the grave site of indigent Civil War veterans, people who died from COVID-19, impoverished and unhoused individuals.

"You have a lot of individuals who are not being accepted, not being claimed by their families at their time of death," Pazdar said.

Shame surrounding HIV-AIDS has long led to misinformation and inadequate treatment concerning the illnesses, according to the CDC.

Soto remembered the misinformation perforating her own understanding of her father's illness when she was young: "I remember one time my dad gave me a hug, and it was during the summertime, and he was sweating. And my mom kind of pulled me to the side and wiped me down with alcohol swabs."

In death, as in life, some people who were diagnosed with AIDS and buried on Hart Island faced discrimination.

In 1983, the New York State Funeral Directors Association urged its members not to embalm the bodies of those who died from AIDS-related causes, making it difficult for families to find a funeral home that would accept them for a private funeral.

The AIDS Discrimination Unit of the New York City Commission of Human Rights was established that same year to combat this inequity, according to an interview of unit officials in the book "AIDS: Cultural Analysis / Cultural Activism."

"We sued a number of funeral homes for discrimination, hoping to use it as an educational tool for the funeral industry, and indeed we wound up speaking to 200 funeral home directors about the issue," commission official Katy Taylor said in the book.

However, not all people who contracted AIDS were refused service or sent to be buried on Hart Island. Across New York City, several institutions and individuals -- such as those at Redden's Funeral Home and St. Francis Xavier Church-- provided services for AIDS patients while others refused.

Stigma against AIDS patients can also be seen in the way that some of those who died from AIDS-related illnesses were buried on Hart Island.

On the southernmost tip of New York City's Hart Island is the grave site for dozens of unidentified AIDS patients who were buried in individual graves far from the other burials in the 1980s, at the height of panic over the illness.

They were buried deeper than the others, 14 feet deep, "which from what we understand is the deepest that the backhoe -- the machinery that was being used -- it was the deepest that the backhoe could dig," said Pazdar.

The choice to bury the individuals farther away from the other bodies "was out of a fear of contagion, which is not founded in any scientific basis and was not founded in scientific basis at the time," Pazdar added.

NYC Parks announced the start of free public tours of Hart Island in part to address these historical stigmas and share the history of those who are buried there.

"The problem with Hart Island is that it wasn't accessible for so long," said Melinda Hunt, who runs the Hart Island Project. The yearslong project documents and raises awareness about this history. "It wasn't really functioning as a cemetery. It's functioning as a place where people disappeared."

She continued, "It really made people feel as though they were being discarded."

Hunt has played a major role in advocating with city officials for expanded access to the cemetery.

As visitors hop on the ferry and land on the shores of the island in the limited tours available, she hopes they feel more connected to the communities that those buried there come from.

"The purpose of cemeteries is to mend the holes in the social fabric," she said.

Norberto was a proud Puerto Rican man, according to Soto, who taught his daughter how to stand up for what is right.

One of the final letters he sent young Soto inspired her to go into public health advocacy, where she now says she fights to ensure "that the communities like ours, Latin communities, Black communities are not ignored."

She continued, "Just because he's buried on Hart Island, just because he died of HIV-AIDS complications, does not make him any less of a father, does not make me love him any less."

The tours will not yet visit the southern part of the island due to the demolition of several structures that has limited their ability to do so, according to Pazdar.

However, NYC Parks told ABC News it has proposed a master plan for the island to potentially build a memorial space, a visitors center, and develop new visitation practices.

"When we are able to confront and look at our past and take a look at Hart Island, we can celebrate all of those who are buried there and the lives that they lived," Pazdar said.

They encourage visitors "to look to the future and see what Hart Island can become because it's going to be up to all of us, up to all of the city to decide what happens to Hart Island next."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30