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National News

Three trains involved in collision, derailment in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley: NTSB

Nancy Run Fire Company/Facebook

(BETHLEHEM, Pa.) -- The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a collision and derailment involving three Norfolk Southern trains on Saturday, the agency said in a post on X.

The derailment occurred in Lower Saucon Township, Pennsylvania, Norfolk Southern said.

There is "no threat to the public, no hazardous material concerns from the railcars, and no reports of injuries to our crew members," Norfolk Southern spokesperson Connor Spielmaker said in a statement to ABC.

Images from the Nancy Run Fire Company's Facebook page show a freight train derailed and off its tracks on Riverside Drive in Lower Saucon Township, Pennsylvania, on Saturday morning.

The train was hauling boxcars and tanker cars, the photos show. No injuries are being reported.

According to Norfolk Southern, a "small diesel fuel leak" at the derailment site has been contained with booms and will be vacuumed out. The company says such a leak is "common when locomotives are involved."

One car containing plastic pellets has spilled its contents onto the ground, which Northfolk Southern said will also be cleaned up. The derailment has led to nearby road closures.

Cleanup crews and contractors with Norfolk Southern will remain on scene over the coming days, Spielmaker said.

"We appreciate the quick, professional response by local emergency agencies," said Spielmaker. "Our crews and contractors will remain on-scene over the coming days to cleanup, and we appreciate the public’s patience while they work as quickly, thoroughly, and as safely as possible. We are always working to advance safety. We will investigate this incident to understand how it happened and prevent others like it."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New York AG sends cease-and-desist over transgender sports ban in Nassau County

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The New York Attorney General's Office sent a cease-and-desist letter to Nassau County over its recent anti-transgender sports ban.

"The Order’s immediate effect is to force sports leagues to make an impossible choice: discriminate against transgender women and girls, in violation of New York law, or find somewhere else to play," said the letter addressed to Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Blakeman announced an executive order on Feb. 22 that bans transgender athletes from competing in events aligning with their gender identity in county-run facilities.

The executive order states that sports leagues, organizations, teams and other entities in the Long Island county must expressly designate teams based on an athlete's sex assigned at birth when applying for a "use and occupancy" permit at a Nassau County Parks property for a sporting competition or event on all levels.

The AG's office argues that the order is "in clear violation of New York State anti-discrimination laws and demands that it be immediately rescinded."

The letter argues that not only will the policy deter inclusive teams from attending events in about 100 venues in the county, but also "by requiring teams and leagues to exclude transgender women and girls as a condition of using covered facilities, it invites invasive policing of the sex and gender identity and expression of all girls and women."

In a social media post, Blakeman defended the transgender sports ban.

"My [executive order] stops the bullying of women and girls by transgender males who have many outlets to compete without putting the safety and security of females in danger," said Blakeman. "In Nassau we will continue to fight for females’ right to be safe, secure, and have a level playing field to compete."

Under the executive order, permits will not be given to any event or competition that allows transgender women or girls to compete in girls' or women's sporting events. This restrictions were set to go into effect immediately, according to Blakeman's office.

The move goes against guidelines from local and national sports associations.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association's transgender policy states that it is "committed to providing all students with the opportunity to participate ... in a manner consistent with their gender identity and the New York State Commissioner of Education's Regulations."

The governing bodies of several national and international sports leagues, including the International Olympic Committee, require transgender women to meet certain hormone levels in order to play on sports teams with cisgender women.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association transgender guidelines vary from sport to sport. Transgender student-athletes typically need to document sport-specific testosterone levels at the beginning of their season and a second documentation six months later, and then another documentation four weeks before championship selections.

There is no clear data on whether transgender women have an advantage physiologically, according to health experts.

One study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that the athletic advantages of 46 trans women over their cisgender counterparts declined with feminizing therapy. However, this study also found they had a 9% faster mean run speed than cisgender women after a one-year period of testosterone suppression.

A different study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that there is not yet any direct or consistent research suggesting transgender women have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition.

Experts wrote in a recent JAMA Pediatrics editorial that preventing trans youth from participating in school sports could be harmful for the mental and physical health of an already at-risk population because they lose out on the developmental benefits of sports participation.

Blakeman, a Republican, said he believes the designation of separate athletic teams or sports based on sex assigned at birth "is necessary to maintain fairness for women's athletic opportunities."

"Women and Girls hard work, on-field achievements, and athletic futures deserve to be fostered, nurtured, and celebrated," Blakeman stated in the executive order.

Local civil rights advocacy groups, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, argued the executive order is illegal.

"Requiring girls who are trans to compete on boys' teams effectively bars them from sports altogether," NYCLU said in a statement to ABC News. "Participating would mean being outed and being denied the same opportunities other girls enjoy: to challenge themselves, improve fitness, and be part of a team of their peers."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Arrest made in murder of pregnant Amish woman found dead in her Pennsylvania home

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images/STOCK

(SPARTANSBURG, Pa.) -- Police have announced an arrest in connection to the death of 23-year-old pregnant Rebekah Byler that has shaken an Amish community in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania State Police announced early Saturday morning that Shawn Cranston -- a 52-year-old man from Corry, Pennsylvania -- has been arrested in connection with the murder of the Amish woman and is now facing multiple charges, including criminal homicide, criminal homicide of an unborn child, burglary and criminal trespass.

Cranston was arraigned Saturday morning and is currently being held without bond at the Crawford County Jail.

On Feb. 26, police responded to a home in Sparta Township, where they found Byler dead, according to Pennsylvania State Police. Byler's cause of death has not been released.

Sparta Township is a small township in Crawford County, just outside of the borough of Spartansburg and about 35 miles southeast of Erie, Pennsylvania.

"Everyone is stunned -- this doesn't happen here," Charleen Hajec, a pharmacist who was born and raised in Spartansburg, told ABC News. "Everyone is talking. It's scary and frustrating."

Hajec said she couldn't believe a murder would happen in Sparta Township, which she called a "tight-knit community."

"The outside world doesn't get in," Hajec said. "To have something this tragic ... it doesn't happen here."

ABC News' Emily Shapiro and Stephanie Ramos contributed to this report.

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

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Americans love bananas: Why bananas have remained cheap amid produce inflation

Catherine McQueen/Getty Images/STOCK

(NEW YORK) -- An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a banana a day is cheaper.

While inflation has pushed prices up in most aisles of the grocery store, the common yellow fruit has impressively defied produce inflation and remained accessible to consumers across the country.

The average price of bananas, per pound, is 62 cents, while neighboring produce section fruits' price tags are significantly higher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reports the average price of apples ($1.32), lemons ($2.08), grapefruit ($1.71) and oranges ($1.55).

"Bananas are a fascinating example of everyday items that most people in the United States take for granted," John Soluri, a history professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of "Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States," told ABC News.

"We don't think too much about bananas, because they are so ubiquitous, not only in grocery stores, but even in popular culture as well," Soluri said, adding that bananas are considered "the poor man's luxury."

Bananas have been a staple fruit in the American diet for decades, with the U.S. importing more bananas by volume than any other country since 1961, according to the USDA.

The average American consumes nearly 27 pounds of bananas each year, which equates to about 90 bananas, and around the world, more than 100 billion bananas are eaten annually, according to Mayo Clinic.

Bananas were first introduced to the U.S. market during the World's Fair in Philadelphia in 1876 as an "exotic" tropical fruit.

With increased market value for bananas, the United Fruit Company acquired huge amounts of land for plantations in Central and South America, according to Britannica, which notes, the term "Banana Republic" originated during this era.

"They started to acquire land, they built railroads, and they created a vertically integrated economy and commodity chain," Soluri said. "They were growing and shipping bananas wholesale to the U.S."

The United Fruit Company became part of the United Brands Company, in 1970, which was renamed Chiquita Brands International in 1990, according to Britannica, which remains one the world's largest banana brands.

Most of the bananas the U.S. imports are grown in Guatemala, which accounts for approximately 41% of America's supply, according to the USDA, which notes, Guatemala is the third largest banana exporting country globally, trailing Costa Rica and Columbia.

Bananas are perennial plants, meaning they live for more than one growing season without needing to be replanted. They also are a high-yield herb, offering up to 240 bananas per plant, according to the Rainforest Alliance.

The abundance of bananas grown in regions with low labor costs intersects with the fruit's short shelf life and makes for a product that producers and grocery stores alike want to sell quickly.

There are hundreds of different varieties of bananas grown around the world, however, America mostly imports one variety -- Cavendish bananas, according to Soluri, who suggests the monoculture of bananas in America makes the import system a well-oiled machine.

"Bananas arrive to grocery stores reliably, every week, and are priced relatively the same, with the quality being more or less the same," Soluri said. "This only happens because a lot of people are working quite hard to make that possible -- and, frankly, leading a lifestyle that would probably not satisfy a lot of the consumers in the United States."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nex Benedict's school district under investigation by Department of Education

J Pat Carter/Getty Images

(OWASSO, Okla.) -- The Department of Education is opening an investigation into Owasso Public Schools where student Nex Benedict, a member of the 2SLGBTQ community, got in a fight with several other students the day before they died, according to a letter from the agency obtained by ABC News.

The investigation follows a complaint from the Human Rights Campaign alleging that the District discriminated against students by failing to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment at Owasso High School during the 2023-2024 school year.

"Nex's family, community, and the broader 2SLGBTQI+ (two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex+) community in Oklahoma are still awaiting answers following their tragic loss," said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "We appreciate the Department of Education responding to our complaint and opening an investigation–we need them to act urgently so there can be justice for Nex, and so that all students at Owasso High School and every school in Oklahoma can be safe from bullying, harassment, and discrimination."

The Owasso Public Schools said in a statement that they received notice of the investigation.

"The district is committed to cooperating with federal officials and believes the complaint submitted by HRC is not supported by the facts and is without merit," the statement read in part.

In a past statement to ABC News, the district also said that the "safety and security of our students is our top priority and we are committed to fostering a safe and inclusive environment for everyone."

"Bullying in any form is unacceptable," the statement read. "We take reports of bullying very seriously and have policies and procedures in place to address such behavior."

In the letter, the Department noted "that opening the complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on the merits of the complaint."

Anti-LGBTQ bullying and violence have been the center of conversation in the aftermath of Nex's death earlier this month, as Nex Benedict's family calls for action and answers concerning the bullying they say Nex faced in school.

"The Benedicts know all too well the devastating effects of bullying and school violence, and pray for meaningful change wherein bullying is taken seriously and no family has to deal with another preventable tragedy," the family said via their attorney in a statement to ABC News.

Authorities are awaiting the full results of the autopsy and toxicology reports for more insight into the circumstances surrounding the teen's death. The state medical examiner's office will determine the final cause and manner of death.

The HRC also joined about 350 local, state, and national organizations in an open letter calling for state Superintendent Ryan Walters' immediate removal from office for, the letter claims, "fostering a culture of violence and hate against the 2SLGBTQI+ community in Oklahoma schools."

The letter – which was created and circulated Wednesday by the advocacy groups Freedom Oklahoma, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) – also demands an investigation into the state Department of Education "to determine what actions and policies have led to a culture where rampant harassment of 2SLGBTQI+ students has been allowed to go unchecked."

In a statement to ABC News, Walters called the letter a "standard tactic of the radical left, and they will stop at nothing to destroy the country and our state."

Walters further accused critics of engaging in a "desperate political game" that seeks to "exploit the death of a young Oklahoman. I will never stop fighting, I will not play woke gender games, and I will not back down to a woke mob."

ABC News' Tesfaye Negussie contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Missouri governor commutes sentence of ex-NFL coach Britt Reid in DWI crash that severely injured child

George Gojkovich/Getty Images

(KANSAS CITY, Miss.) -- Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has commuted the prison sentence for former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid, who was convicted in a 2021 drunk driving crash that injured five people, including one child severely.

Reid, 38, the son of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, was sentenced to three years in prison in November 2022 after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated in connection with the Kansas City crash.

He had faced up to four years in prison as part of a plea deal. Prior to taking the guilty plea, he faced up to seven years in prison.

Parson's office announced on Friday that the governor had approved the commutation of Reid's sentence, along with the sentences of two others.

"Mr. Reid has completed his alcohol abuse treatment program and has served more prison time than most individuals convicted of similar offenses," Parson's office said in a statement to ABC News.

Reid will be under house arrest until Oct. 31, 2025, "with strict conditions of probation, including weekly meetings with a parole officer, weekly behavioral counseling attendance, weekly meetings with a peer support sponsor, and stringent community service and employment requirements," the statement continued. "Additionally, Reid's probation requires the installation of an ignition interlock system in any motor vehicle he operates."

Reid's attorney told ABC News they have no comment on the commutation.

In response to the commutation, Tom Porto, an attorney for the victims of the crash, said in a statement to ABC News: "What's different between this criminal defendant and every other criminal defendant in the state of Missouri?"

Reid was driving his pickup truck near Arrowhead Stadium on Feb. 4, 2021, when he struck two vehicles that had stopped along the side of the highway. He had a blood alcohol content of 0.113 and was driving 84 mph in a 65 mph zone at the time of the incident, according to court documents.

Ariel Young, who was 5 years old at the time, was severely injured in the crash. She suffered "life-threatening injuries" and a "severe traumatic brain injury, a parietal fracture, brain contusions and subdural hematomas," according to court documents.

The victims have spoken out against the plea deal at the time and had hoped Reid would receive the maximum sentence. Her mother, Felicia Miller, said in a statement read at his sentencing hearing that he should never have been offered a plea deal and the victims are "offended" he asked for probation.

"Ariel's life is forever changed because of Britt Reid. Her life will be dealing with the damage that Britt Reid did," she wrote.

During a plea hearing in September 2022, Reid apologized for his "huge mistake."

"I really regret what I did," he said, according to Kansas City ABC affiliate KMBC.

At one point he turned to Ariel's family and said, "I didn't mean to hurt anyone that night," KMBC reported.

Reid was a linebackers coach for the Chiefs at the time of the crash and during the team's Super Bowl win in February 2020. He was released by the team shortly after the incident.

Reid has previously served prison time over a driving-related incident.

He pleaded guilty to simple assault and flashing a gun at another driver in a road rage incident in 2007, according to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, court records, and served prison time. While in prison, he also pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of a controlled substance from a separate incident, according to court documents.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Severed body parts belonging to two people found in Long Island park

WABC

(NEW YORK) -- A young girl stumbled across a gruesome crime scene in Long Island on Thursday with the discovery of a severed limb, and the resulting investigation has turned up even more body parts.

A left arm was the first to be found on the eastern end of Southards Pond Park in Babylon, New York, by a student walking to school at around 8:40 a.m. Thursday. When she discovered the limb, the student called her father who responded to the scene and called 911, police said.

Suffolk officials announced they have now completed their search of the area after the discovery of severed body parts belonging to a man and a woman.

The Suffolk County Homicide Squad are attempting to identify the two deceased individuals.

The county medical examiner announced Friday that a severed head, right arm, left leg from the knee down, and a right upper leg found by a Suffolk County Police Canine Section dog at the western side of Southards Pond Park on Feb. 29 are believed to be from an adult woman.

One of the legs was discovered in a mound of leaves on the western side of the park.

The remains found on the eastern edge of the park appear to be from a male.

A right arm was found on the eastern side of the park, about 20 feet away from where the girl had stumbled across the left arm, according to police. Both arms, which had tattoos on them, belonged to a man, police said.

There were no tattoos on the female's arms, police said.

An investigation into the deaths is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Following hearing, judge will weigh moving date of Trump's classified docs trial

Win McNamee/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Attorneys for former President Donald Trump and special counsel Jack Smith argued Friday over moving the May 20 trial date in Trump's federal classified documents case, but the judge in the hearing concluded the proceedings without making an immediate ruling or determination about the when trial will begin.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon heard arguments in a Florida courtroom over the trial date and other issues in the case, during a hearing that was attended by both Trump and Smith.

Jay Bratt of the the special counsel 's office told the judge that holding the trial before the November election would not violate Justice Department policy. Bratt pushed for a July start, saying that holding a trial within 60 days of an election would not violate the Justice Department's typical aversion to bringing politically charged cases so close to an election.

Bratt told Judge Cannon a trial is permissible because the policy does not apply to already indicted matters.

"We are in full compliance with the Justice Department manual," said Bratt.

"This case can be tried this summer," Bratt said, accusing the defense of "trying to wring out of the court" endless hearings that do not need to be held.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche argued that it would be "unfair" to put Trump on trial for mishandling classified documents before the election.

"We very much continue to believe that a trial that takes place before the election is a mistake and should not happen," Blanche said during the scheduling conference in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Blanche said the trial would take between four and five weeks, not including jury selection, and would be better suited to start after the country votes.

"There's no reason this trial can't start until late November," Blanche said.

Smith, in a filing Thursday, proposed a new trial date of July 8, while Trump's legal team is continuing to propose a trial date after the 2024 election -- but said in their own filing that Aug. 12 could be an alternative if Cannon were to disagree with that proposal.

Trump watched Friday's proceedings from a seat at the defense table, hunched forward with his hands clasped together on the table

Smith was seated behind two prosecutors from his team, Bratt and David Harbach. It was the first time Smith and Trump were in the same courtroom together since the D.C. Circuit court heard arguments on presidential immunity.

Trump's co-defendants, longtime aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago staffer Carlos De Oliveira, also attended the hearing.

During the afternoon session, lawyers for the special counsel's office reiterated their concern about potential witness intimidation in the case, though they acknowledged that no witnesses have come forward reporting intimidation or harassment by the defendants.

Harbach said that harassment and intimidation follow "cases in which Mr. Trump is a defendant."

In total, Harbach estimated that roughly 40 witnesses would testify at trial and argued that more than half likely require the redaction of their identities ahead of trial.

"This is not some hypothetical concern -- it is real concern, and they know it," he said.

However, when questioned by Judge Cannon, Harbach noted that no witnesses have so far reported acts of intimidation, though some witnesses have raised concerns about the potential of it.

"It shouldn't take for someone to get threatened," he said, to which Cannon agreed.

Defense lawyer Emil Bove immediately pushed back on the concern about witness intimidation.

"We are not here to try and harm people or cause harassment to anyone," Bove said.

Harbach added that the full list of witnesses would eventually become public closer to trial, but warned against releasing the names early and potentially impacting the witnesses.

"There is going to come a time when witness identities are out there, but now is not it," he said.

Judge Cannon vowed to take the request under advisement given the need for "openness" in criminal trials.

"What is clear is that these issues are complicated," she said before dismissing the parties.

Trump's lawyers have argued in court filings that the case should be entirely dismissed based on Trump's claim of presidential immunity -- an argument that the Supreme Court on Wednesday said they would consider in Trump's federal election interference case.

Trump pleaded not guilty last June to 37 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials, after prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to the nation's defense capabilities, and took steps to thwart the government's efforts to get the documents back. The former president has denied all wrongdoing in the case.

Trump has been attempting to delay the trial for several months, with his attorneys arguing in court filings last year that the extraordinary nature of the case means there should be no reason to expedite the trial. Earlier this month the special counsel's team said that Trump and his co-defendants "will stop at nothing to stall the adjudication of the charges against them by a fair and impartial jury of citizens."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Case dismissed against Florida teen migrant accused of homicide in police officer's death

Philip Arroyo Law

(ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla.) -- The case has been dismissed against a teen migrant from Guatemala almost a year after he was arrested following the death of a Florida police officer, according to Jose Baez, the teen's lawyer.

Virgilio Aguilar Mendez, a 19-year-old migrant, was arrested in May 2023 after Sgt. Michael Kunovich, an officer with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office in St. Augustine, Florida, approached the teen, according to Phillip Arroyo, another lawyer for the teen. Aguilar Mendez, who does not speak English, attempted to walk away from the officer, but a struggle ensued, according to body camera video and audio of the incident reviewed by ABC News.

Aguilar Mendez was thrown on the ground, put in a chokehold and tased on multiple occasions, according to the footage.

Five minutes after Aguilar Mendez was handcuffed and put into the patrol car, Kunovich suffered a heart attack and died, according to Arroyo.

Kunovich died of natural causes after suffering cardiac dysrhythmia, according to an autopsy report reviewed by ABC News, which may have been a result of the severe heart disease, a prior heart attack or heart and lung deterioration due to smoking.

The teen was charged with aggravated manslaughter on the same day he was arrested, which was later reduced to aggravated homicide of a police officer, which is punishable by life in prison.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that the charges against Aguilar Mendez were dismissed "based on concerns about the intellectual capacity of Vergilio Aguilar Mendez and the recent ruling finding him to be incompetent."

Aguilar Mendez was recently declared by the court as being mentally incompetent to stand trial due to his lack of understanding of the American criminal justice system, Arroyo told ABC News.

Aguilar Mendez is from a small Indigenous community in Guatemala and primarily speaks the ancient indigenous language Mam, according to Arroyo.

Though the state charges were dismissed, the sheriff's office said Aguilar Mendez will remain in federal custody pending deportation proceedings.

"There have been attempts by some to portray Aguilar Mendez as a victim and vilify Sergeant Kunovich. I continue to stand behind Sergeant Kunovich’s actions on the night of May 19, 2023," St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick said in a statement. "The danger associated with law enforcement is a risk we assume when we enter this profession. Sergeant Kunovich died a hero protecting the citizens of St. Johns County and there is nothing more noble than that. Please continue to hold our agency and Sergeant Kunovich’s family in your thoughts and prayers."

Police have argued Aguilar Mendez "armed himself with a folding pocket knife, which he retrieved from his shorts pockets," according to police records obtained by ABC News.

Body camera video reviewed by ABC News does not clearly show Aguilar Mendez allegedly grabbing the knife from his pocket, but officers can be heard telling him to drop the knife. The teen can be heard telling officers he needs the knife to cut up watermelon.

ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


California storm could bring 12 feet of snow to Sierra Nevada mountains

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A blizzard warning is in effect in California's Sierra Nevada mountains as a dangerous snowstorm slams the region.

Travel in the Sierras "will be extremely dangerous to impossible" this weekend, the National Weather Service warned.

The blizzard began Thursday and will continue off and on through this weekend. The heaviest snow will be Friday and Saturday, when some areas could see snowfall rates of 3 to 5 inches per hour.

Most parts of the Sierras will see 4 to 10 feet of snowfall. The snow could reach a whopping 12 feet in the highest elevations.

The heavy snow is also targeting portions of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington.

Strong winds gusting over 60 mph are forecast to cause dangerous whiteout conditions for hours at a time. Wind alerts are in effect from California to Wyoming, including Sacramento, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

Yosemite National Park has closed through at least midday Sunday due to the snow and high winds.

Meanwhile, heavy rain is expected in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas through the weekend.

In the foothills of Southern California, 1 to 3 inches of rain is possible. Southern California could see some flooding, and with the ground already heavily saturated, mudslides are also possible.

Parts of Northern California and the Northwest could see 2 to 5 inches of rain through Sunday. Flash flooding is possible.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Fulton County hearing live updates: Wade's ex-lawyer mum on when Willis relationship began

Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

(ATLANTA) -- Scott McAfee, the judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's Georgia election interference case, is hearing arguments over motions to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, primarily over accusations from Trump co-defendant Michael Roman that she benefited financially from a "personal, romantic relationship" with prosecutor Nathan Wade, who she hired for the case.

Willis and Wade, in a court filing, admitted to the relationship but said it "does not amount to a disqualifying conflict of interest" and that the relationship "has never involved direct or indirect financial benefit to District Attorney Willis."

Mar 01, 4:25 PM
Hearing concludes, judge says ruling expected within 2 weeks

DA Fani Willis and members of her team stood up and left as prosecutor Adam Abbate concluded his argument on behalf of the state.

Willis looked stern and made no comment as she left the courtroom.

The defense then presented its rebuttal, led by Trump attorney Steve Sadow.

Judge Scott McAfee then concluded the hearing, saying he hopes to have a ruling on Willis' disqualification within the next two weeks.

Mar 01, 4:07 PM
Judge presses DA's office: 'Money has changed hands'

State attorney Adam Abbate said that allegations that DA Fani Willis financially benefited from her relationship with prosecutor Nathan Wade were "all speculation and conjecture" lodged in order to "harrass and honestly embarrass" her.

Abbate said Willis was subjected to irrelevant questioning on the witness stand that was intended "to again embarrass and harass the district attorney in a way that was very public, in a way that was to impugn her character as it relates to that line of questioning in front of the court, in front of anyone watching the proceedings."

But Judge Scott McAfee pressed the DA's office after they suggested Willis' alleged conflict was theoretical or speculative.

"Aren't we past the speculation and conjecture aspect of this, though?" McAfee asked, saying that "the core of the financial allegation was that there is a relationship, and that money has changed hands."

"I think it was conceded that that balance could run in the district attorney's favor -- is that contested?" the judge asked.

The DA's office responded that they did contest that, saying the costs paid by each party were "equal."

But the judge pushed back again, saying the bottom line remained: "It's no longer just a theory that money changed hands."

"It's no longer speculation or conjecture," the judge said.

Willis, seated at the prosecution table, appeared alert and highly engaged during Abbate's arguments, visibly nodding or shaking her head at points.

She at one point scribbled down a note and passed it to Abbate, during his presentation of arguments on behalf of the DA's office.

At the end of his arguments, Abbate mounted an impassioned plea for the judge to dismiss the defendants' claim that Willis sought to live a lavish lifestyle on the taxpayer dime -- citing her relatively humble accommodations during a visit to Napa Valley: a DoubleTree Hotel.

"Most people, when they go to Napa -- if they want to lavishly experience Napa -- stay at the Ritz Carlton, the Four Seasons, things of that nature -- not a DoubleTree. So the allegations and assertions that Miss Willis was living the lifestyle of the rich and the famous is a joke," he said. "An absolute joke."

Abbate added there was "no validity" to arguments that the speech Willis made at the church would prejudice a jury.

"For all the reasons before Your Honor, this motion should be denied because the legal requirements by that are required in order for the district attorney to be disqualified have not been satisfied," Abbate concluded.

Mar 01, 3:20 PM
State attorney says arguments don't prove 'actual conflict'

Adam Abbate, an attorney with the district attorney's office, argued that defendants had failed to meet the "high standard of proof" for disqualification -- calling the narrative they spun about Willis and Wade's relationship "absolutely absurd."

"It doesn't make any sense," Abbate said. "The motions to disqualify should be denied, and Miss Willis as district attorney of Fulton County, and Mr. Wade, as the special prosecutor assigned to this case, should be allowed to remain on this case and continue to prosecute the case."

Contrary to what defense attorneys argued, Abbate argued that they must prove an "actual conflict" of interest to secure a disqualification -- not just the "appearance of impropriety."

"The defense has to show an actual conflict, and in this instance, they have to show in the actual conflict would be that Miss Willis received a financial benefit or gain -- and got it based upon the outcome of the case," Abbate said.

"We have absolutely no evidence that Miss Willis received any financial gain or benefit," he argued. "The testimony was that Miss Willis paid all of the money back in cash as related to the trips."

Judge McAfee seemed skeptical of that argument, citing language that allows for removal based on the "appearance of impropriety" and referencing examples of past misconduct raised by the defendants.

Abbate pushed back, arguing that in each of those cases, the "appearance of impropriety ... arose from the fact that the court found an actual conflict in each of those cases."

Abbate also called into question the credibility of defendants' key witnesses in the disqualification hearings, calling the testimony of Robin Yeartie, ex-friend of Willis, "at best inconsistent."

Mar 01, 3:00 PM
State presenting closing arguments

The hearing has resumed after a short break, with state attorneys now presenting their closing arguments.

DA Fani Willis is seated at the prosecution table, along with other prosecutors including Nathan Wade.

Mar 01, 2:46 PM
Willis enters courtroom

DA Fani Willis, who was not present for the early afternoon arguments, has entered the courtroom.

She entered while the court was on a short break and took a seat at the prosecutors' table.

Court will resume following the break.

Mar 01, 2:41 PM
Attorney says DA has left 'irreparable stain' on case

Earlier, the defense attorney for ex-DOJ official Jeffrey Clark told the judge that the DA's office has put an "irreparable stain" on the case and are now a "global laughingstock."

"Think of the message that would be sent if they were not disqualified," attorney Harry MacDougald told the judge. "If this is tolerated, we'll get more of it. This office is a global laughingstock because of their conduct. They should be disqualified and the case should be dismissed."

MacDougald argued that Willis has six different conflicts of interest in the case, "any one of which warrants disqualification." He alleged the conflicts include a financial conflict, the speech at the church, and her "pattern of deceit and concealment," among others.

"The problem here is that the DA cannot distinguish between her personal interests and ambitions on the one hand, and her public duties as a prosecutor on the other," MacDougald said. "And apparently neither can anyone else in their office."

Richard Rice, the attorney for Trump co-defendant Robert Cheeley, also argued that the volume of alleged texts and calls between Willis and Wade proves their romantic relationship began prior to Wade receiving his job with the DA office.

Mar 01, 2:35 PM
Attorney, citing Willis' church speech, says she 'needs to go'

DA Fani Willis engaged in a "calculated plan ... to prejudice the defendants in this case in the minds of the jurors" when she defended herself and Nathan Wade during a speech at an Atlanta-area church in January, according to Craig Gillen, an attorney for defendant David Schafer.

During her remarks at the church, Willis repeatedly referred to herself as "flawed" and "imperfect" -- but did not directly acknowledge her relationship with Wade.

Gillen argued that her "deflection" strategy at the church merits disqualification because it could improperly "inject" race into the case, which might compromise the impartiality of the prospective jury pool.

"She chose to play the race card and the God card … to deflect away from the allegations" in the motion for disqualification, Gillen said. "She chose to inject race into the minds of the listeners."

Judge McAfee initially appeared skeptical of this argument, asking Gillen directly whether he could cite other instances in Georgia where a prosecutor had been dismissed based on their public commentary on a case.

"Thank goodness it doesn't happen very often," Gillen replied. "Sadly, it's already happened here."

"Prosecutors don't act like this, lawyers don't act like this … and they need to go," Gillen said.

Mar 01, 2:25 PM
Trump attorney argues Willis' testimony 'not truthful'

Donald Trump's attorney in his closing arguments told the judge that DA Fani Willis and prosecutor Nathan Wade were "not truthful" when they testified under oath about the timing of their relationship, urging the judge to use that to disqualify her from the case.

"I suggest to you that the testimony that Mr. Wade gave and Mrs. Willis gave ... that that brought forth a true concern about their truthfulness," said Trump's attorney, Steve Sadow.

Sadow told the judge he doesn't need to find that Willis and Wade lied on the stand in order to disqualify them, but that he only needs to find that a "legitimate concern," telling the judge, "That's enough."

The judge pressed Trump's attorney on what the "limiting" area of that conclusion would be, noting the DA signs every single indictment her office brings.

"Does that mean she would be off every case?" the judge asked regarding Sadow's allegations about her truthfulness. "How does that not spill over into every case the district attorney brings?"

Sadow pointed to the testimony of witnesses Robin Yeartie, and even the testimony of Terrance Bradley, saying Bradley did "everything he could possibly do to evade answering questions" because he knew if he did, the judge would be able to find "that both Willis and Wade lied" about when the relationship started.

McAfee asked Sadow what to make of Bradley's testimony, noting if he takes the view that Bradley's testimony was untruthful, "what's left standing?"

"In these text messages, is it ever definitely shown how he knew this, and whether he did know it?" the judge asked, referring to Bradleys' text messages, read in court, in which he previously told defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant that Willis and Wade's relationship began long before Wade was hired -- before Bradley testified earlier this week that any past statements he made to that effect were "speculation on my part."
 

Mar 01, 1:37 PM
Attorney for co-defendant Michael Roman presents arguments

John Merchant, co-counsel for Trump co-defendant Michael Roman and the husband of co-counsel Ashleigh Merchant, who initially brought the motion to disqualify DA Fani Willis, is presenting arguments for the defense.

Judge McAfee noted at the top of the hearing and before arguments began that the defense would have an hour and a half for arguments today.

The judge said that time will be divided up between each defendant.

Mar 01, 1:01 PM
Wade is in the courtroom as proceedings begin

Prosecutor Nathan Wade is in the courtroom as today's hearing gets underway, but so far DA Fani Willis is not.

Judge Scott McAfee previously told the multiple defense attorneys he would give them one "time block" today for their closing arguments, and that they could "use the time how you think is effective."

The state will also make a closing argument.

Mar 01, 10:17 AM
Judge to hear final arguments today on Willis' disqualification

Judge Scott McAfee will hear what is expected to be final arguments this afternoon on motions to disqualify DA Fani Willis based on allegations that she benefited financially from a romantic relationship with prosecutor Nathan Wade.

Both Willis and Wade testified their relationship began after he was hired for the case in 2021, and that Willis reimbursed Wade in cash for vacations they took that were booked on his credit card.

Defense lawyers initially argued that Wade's former law partner and divorce lawyer, Terrence Bradley, would contradict Wade and Willis' claim on the stand about when the relationship began, but Bradley instead testified earlier this week that any past statements he made to that effect were "speculation on my part."

Bradley, according to text messages read in court, previously told defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant -- who led the charge on the disqualification effort -- that Willis and Wade's relationship began long before he was hired, raising potential credibility issues for Judge McAfee to consider.

"Absolutely," Bradley wrote Merchant in a text message read in court. "[The relationship] started when she left the DAS office and was judge in South Fulton."

Judge McAfee had left open the possibility that he could "reopen" the evidentiary process after both the defense and state submitted motions containing new evidence, telling them they could both "proffer" their evidence at the hearing and that he would make a determination.

Trump's attorney are seeking to admit data from Nathan Wade's cellphone they say shows Wade in the area of Willis' home dozens of times before he was hired, which the state disputes. The state is also seeking to enter an affidavit from a winery employee they say will back up Willis' claims that she paid for her and Wade's excursions in cash.

Feb 27, 4:54 PM
Hearing ends without smoking gun, arguments to be heard Friday

After more than two hours, Tuesday's hearing concluded without providing any revelatory information about the timeline of the romantic relationship between Fulton County prosecutor Nathan Wade and DA Fani Willis, which the defense contends started before Wade was hired, in contrast to what both Wade and Willis have testified.

Judge Scott McAfee said that he plans to hear arguments from the parties on Friday about the case for Willis' disqualification so he can try to make a ruling.

"At this point, I need to start hearing the arguments and the law and what we've heard so far. If I think I'm able to reach a ruling based on that, I will," McAfee said.

He added that the parties could push to continue presenting evidence if needed.

"The intention is that we're still sticking with the argument," McAfee said. "But the parties are free to address some of these issues that have been brought up, post-hearing, if they'd like to."

Feb 27, 4:30 PM
State declines to question Bradley

Following a break, the state declined to question prosecutor Nathan Wade's former attorney Terrence Bradley after the defense wrapped up their questioning.

Bradley has stepped down from the stand after approximately two hours of testimony.

The parties are now debating Bradley's text messages being entered as evidence.

The state is claiming that Bradley did not authenticate the entire text message exchange, and has asked the judge to parse through it to determine its relevance to the case.

Feb 27, 3:07 PM
Trump attorney now questioning Bradley

Former President Trump's attorney Steve Sadow is now questioning Nathan Wade's former law partner Terrance Bradley.

Sadow, who is not present in the courtroom, is questioning Bradley over Zoom.

Feb 27, 2:40 PM
Bradley says he does 'not have the date' when relationship started

Ashleigh Merchant, the attorney for Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, struggled as she began in her direct examination of Wade's ex-attorney Terrence Bradley as the proceedings quickly got bogged down in objections over privilege.

"A lot of this is based on gossip and innuendo ... and privileged information," the state's attorney said while objecting to Merchant's questioning.

The back-and-forth already appears to be frustrating Judge Scott McAfee, who threatened to limit the testimony.

"Ms. Merchant, you don't have much more to pull on here," McAfee said.

"He doesn't remember much of anything right now, and so I'm trying to create a timeline to hopefully piece this together," Merchant responded regarding Bradley.

While Merchant attempted to ask Bradley about past text messages exchanged -- which have not been entered into evidence -- Judge McAfee limited the testimony.

Bradley himself said he could not recall when Willis and Wade began their romantic relationship.

"I can't give you a date if you're asking for a date," Bradley said. "If you're asking me how did I get the knowledge, it would have come directly from a client."

"At this time, I am telling you that I do not have the date," Bradley responded when Merchant pushed on the question.

Feb 27, 2:20 PM
Judge says attorney-client privilege wasn't established

Judge Scott McAfee began the hearing by confirming that both Nathan Wade and his former law partner Terrence Bradley did not meet the burden to establish attorney-client privilege "as it relates to Mr. Bradley's knowledge of any relationship that existed between Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade."

"I didn't see any other choice but to allow the parties to have an opportunity to explore that topic with him," McAfee said regarding Bradley returning to testify.

Bradley then took the stand.

Feb 27, 2:10 PM
Hearing is underway

Tuesday's hearing in Fulton County is underway, with special prosecutor Nathan Wade's former law partner and divorce attorney, Terrence Bradley, expected back on the witness stand.

Wade is present in the courtroom but so far there is no sign of DA Fani Willis. The attorney for Michael Roman, Ashleigh Merchant, is also in court today, and former President Donald Trump's attorney is appearing over Zoom.

For the state, Adam Abbate, attorney for the DA's office, is present.

Feb 27, 12:39 PM
Wade's former attorney to retake the stand this afternoon

Prosecutor Nathan Wade's former law partner and divorce attorney, Terrence Bradley, will take retake the stand at a hearing this afternoon, after Judge McAfee ruled that Bradley must return to the witness stand to testify on topics not covered by attorney-client privilege.

During the hearing two weeks ago, Bradley cited attorney-client privilege in declining to answer many of the defense's questions about Wade and Willis' relationship. Attorneys for the defense have claimed Bradley has evidence that Wade and Willis' romantic relationship began before Willis hired Wade in November 2021, which would contradict Willis and Wade's sworn testimony that their relationship began in 2022 and ended in the summer of 2023.

Judge McAfee said during the earlier hearing that he was "left wondering" about whether Bradley had "been properly interpreting privilege."

Feb 16, 4:43 PM
Court adjourns as judge signals it will resume late next week or week after

Court adjourned for the day as the judge signaled court will resume late next week or the following week.

Judge McAfee adjourned the court after denying the state's request to call a client of Nathan Wade and Terrence Bradley’s law firm who would testify that Bradley allegedly sexually assaulted her.

Feb 16, 4:32 PM
Judge suspends Terrence Bradley's testimony

Terrence Bradley’s testimony has abruptly ended for the day on the request of Judge McAfee, who indicated he now doubts whether Bradley “has been properly interpreting privilege this entire time.”

The stunning development came after Bradley, when questioned by the state, testified about an allegation of sexual assault against him by an employee at the firm he shared with prosecutor Nathan Wade.

That testimony prompted defense lawyers to argue that if the sexual assault allegation is not covered by attorney-client privilege, neither should Bradley’s conversations with Wade about Wade’s relationship with DA Fani Willis.

“He lied,” said prosecutor Anna Cross.

The judge reiterated the need to speak to Bradley in private and suggested he could reopen evidence if he uncovers anything relevant.

He asked Bradley’s lawyer if his client is still in the courthouse and if so to go to the jury room for the private meeting.

Feb 16, 4:22 PM
Judge suspends Terrence Bradley's testimony

Terrence Bradley’s testimony has abruptly ended for the day on the request of Judge McAfee, who indicated he now doubts whether Bradley “has been properly interpreting privilege this entire time.”

The stunning development came after Bradley, when questioned by the state, testified about an allegation of sexual assault against him by an employee at the firm he shared with prosecutor Nathan Wade.

That testimony prompted defense lawyers to argue that if the sexual assault allegation is not covered by attorney-client privilege, neither should Bradley’s conversations with Wade about Wade’s relationship with DA Fani Willis.

“He lied,” said prosecutor Anna Cross.

The judge reiterated the need to speak to Bradley in private - and suggested he could reopen evidence if he uncovers anything relevant.

Feb 16, 4:20 PM
Judge expresses frustration at questioning of witness

Testimony from one of the defense's key witnesses appears to be falling short as the judge seems to grow frustrated with repeated lines of questioning.

"I haven't really heard a point in a while," the judge told defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant amid a prolonged questioning of Nathan Wade's former law partner, Terrance Bradley, about his contract with the DA’s office. "Can we get along to something or we're gonna have to wrap it up."

The defense took a hit when the judge ruled earlier against their crime-fraud exception argument that would have compelled Bradley to testify about text messages with Merchant about Wade's relationship with DA Fani Willis – which Trump's attorney claimed could show Wade perjured himself on the stand about when that relationship started.

But with the judge blocking that testimony for now, instead, the defense has been focused on long-winding questions about Bradley's legal contracts and about whether or not he had dinner with Wade or Willis – seemingly not what the defense had hoped would take up the witnesses' testimony.

At one point, another defense attorney argued to the court that adultery would fall under the crime-fraud exception – but the judge, seemingly growing annoyed, quickly shot it down.

Bradley was first called earlier this morning after the state declined to question Willis but was at a doctor's appointment. A person with Bradley told ABC News he attended the doctor's appointment because he figured Willis's testimony would take up the morning.

The state has forcefully worked all day to invoke privilege to block aspects of Bradley's testimony.

Feb 16, 3:07 PM
Witness 'sure' Wade told him about 'socializing' with Willis prior to Nov. 2021

Terrence Bradley testified that he is “sure” prosecutor Nathan Wade told Bradley about “socializing” with DA Fani Willis prior to November 2021.

“Did Mr. Wade ever tell you prior to November 1 of 2021 that he had socialized or gone out to eat with Miss Willis in anything other than a professional setting?” asked Donald Trump’s attorney Steve Sadow.

“I'm sure he did,” Bradley replied.

Before that, Bradley also testified that he couldn't recall if Wade and Willis met privately in Wade's office.

"Did Miss Willis meet privately with Mr. Wade in his office that you observed?" Sadow asked.

"I can't recall," Bradley replied.

Feb 16, 2:45 PM
Judge says he will review text messages after hearing

Judge McAfee said Friday he would review Terrance Bradley’s text messages with prosecutor Nathan Wade after the hearing.

McAfee indicated the review would happen on-camera but remain sealed unless he’s “ever directed otherwise.”

“In order to preserve the record, at the conclusion of the hearing, I think I can go on camera with Mr. Chopra and Mr. Bradley and we can put in a sealed filing exactly what the extent of those communications were,” he said.

“Those [would] remain sealed until sometime if we’re ever directed otherwise,” the judge said.

Feb 16, 2:13 PM
Trump attorney accuses Nathan Wade of perjury

Trump attorney Steve Sadow accused prosecutor Nathan Wade of perjury on the witness stand, related to when his relationship began with DA Fani Willis.

"Mr. Wade committed perjury on the witness stand," Sadow said standing in court, continuing his argument for why Terrance Bradley's testimony regarding his texts and knowledge of Wade and Fani Willis' relationship.

Bradley has testified that he did not have personal knowledge of the relationship between Wade and Willis. But the defense is arguing the texts would show otherwise.

"A lawyer shall not knowingly failed to disclose and material fact to a tribunal. When disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act," Sadow said.

Feb 16, 2:08 PM
Judge rules that witness' texts do not need to be disclosed

Judge Scott McAfee rejected the defense’s insistence that Terrance Bradley be forced to testify about communications he had with Nathan Wade.

“I don’t think the crime fraud exception covers this,” he said, referring to the legal statute defense lawyers were pushing to force Bradley to disclose his conversations with Wade.

“It does not appear that there’s any evidence that the client ever waived [his attorney-client privilege] and allowed that information to be conveyed to you,” he added later, addressing Mike Roman’s lawyer Ashleigh Merchant.

Feb 16, 1:50 PM
Witness says he has ‘no knowledge’ of when Willis-Wade relationship began

After a long back and forth, Terrence Bradley testified that he does not have any personal knowledge of when DA Fani Willis and prosecutor Nathan Wade began their romantic relationship.

“Any knowledge of Nathan Wade and Fani Willis's romantic relationship beginning while they were both serving as judges– is any knowledge that you have from your own personal knowledge or something that was told to you in furtherance of legal advice?” asked attorney Ashleigh Merchant.

“I have no personal knowledge of when it actually happened,” Bradley replied.

Feb 16, 1:45 PM
State working to block testimony from Wade associate Terrance Bradley

The state is forcefully working to block testimony from Nathan Wade's law partner Terrance Bradley regarding text exchanges he had with defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant in September 2023.

The judge is so far allowing the defense to continue with its questioning of the texts.

At one point, Merchant handed her phone to the state to look at the texts after the state claimed they weren't sure if the texts were being presented in full.

"These exchanges are just two lawyers gossiping about information," the state said, while holding Merchant's phone. "And I'm concerned about it coming into the record in this way.”

The state told the court that they object to the defense even asking questions about the texts because if they were read it would be "inflammatory."

Feb 16, 1:19 PM
Wade associate called to the stand after failing to appear earlier

The defense called prosecutor Nathan Wade’s law partner Terrance Bradley to the stand as the hearing resumed Friday afternoon after a recess.

Bradley was called earlier but did not appear in court. Judge McAfee threatened to hold the witness in violation of a subpoena for his failure to appear. His attorney said he was at a doctor’s appointment.

The state is working to invoke privilege over his testimony.

Feb 16, 12:11 PM
Willis' father testifies he's rarely seen her due to threats

DA Fani Willis' father testified more about the fallout the Willis family has faced in light of the ongoing threats she has faced over her work -- including how it has forced Willis to limit her contact with her father.

Willis' father, John Floyd, said "I've only seen my daughter -- and this is very hard for me to say – but during the period my daughter left, I've only seen my daughter 13 times because I can't."

Floyd testified that even when he's seen his daughter, they've kept their time together short.

"And we've never seen each other for more than maybe three hours because of, you know, the nightmare threats," he said.

Court recessed for a one-hour break after Floyd stepped down from the stand.

Feb 16, 12:05 PM
Willis' use of cash a 'Black thing,' father testifies

DA Fani Willis on Thursday repeatedly testified that when prosecutor Nathan Wade booked their travel or paid for meals, she would repay him with large amounts of cash -- an arrangement that appeared to draw skepticism from defense counsel.

On the stand today, Willis’ father, John Floyd, explained his daughter’s use of cash as “a Black thing.”

“I was trained -- and most black folks -- they hide cash, or they keep cash,” Floyd said. “I’ve told my daughter: 'You keep six months’ worth of cash -- always.”

“And as a matter of fact, I gave my daughter her first cash box and told her always keep some cash,” he testified.

Feb 16, 11:58 AM
Willis' father testifies he didn't meet Wade until 2023

DA Fani Willis' father, John Floyd, testified that he did not meet prosecutor Nathan Wade until 2023.

"Did you ever meet Mr. Wade in the year 2019?" Michael Roman's attorney Ashleigh Merchant asked Floyd.

"Absolutely not," Floyd replied.

"You ever seen Mr. Wade at Miss Willis [at the] Fulton County house in the year 2021?" Merchant asked.

"Never," Floyd said.

Feb 16, 11:54 AM
Willis' father describes 'nightmare threats against her and me'

Fani Willis' father, John Floyd, described in detail the extent of the threats and abuse his daughter faced as her investigation into the former president ramped up, which eventually prompted her to leave her home.

"There have been so many death threats," he said. "And they said they were going to blow up the house, they were going to kill her, they were going to kill me, they were going to kill my grandchildren -- I mean, on and on and on."

Floyd said he lived with his daughter around the time, and that at one point the police sent an officer with a dog to sniff for bombs multiple times each day.

"Did you fear for her safety?" a state attorney asked.

"Absolutely," Floyd replied.

Floyd said that after Willis left the home, he lived there himself until December of 2022 -- when he said the "nightmare threats made against her and me" made the home "uninhabitable."

"I would have to walk around that house looking out of every window" to ensure no intruders were approaching the home, Floyd said.

Feb 16, 11:48 AM
Ex-governor turned down role before it was offered to Wade

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes testified that early in DA Fani Willis' election interference probe, he was asked by Willis about taking the special prosecutor role in the investigation, but that he turned it down.

The former governor initially said he didn't remember the day when that meeting occurred.

But after stepping off the stand, about 10 minutes later Barnes walked back into the courtroom with his phone in his hand and calendar app pulled up, to tell the court the date he had found.

He said that the meeting where he turned down the special prosecutor position was on Oct 26, 2021 -- which would have been a few days before Nathan Wade was contracted for the position on Nov. 1, 2021.

Feb 16, 11:34 AM
Judge slams Wade associate for not appearing

A visibly irritated Judge McAfee threatened to hold a potential witness in violation of a subpoena for his failure to appear at the hearing today.

Terrence Bradley, a former associate of and lawyer for Nathan Wade, took the stand on Thursday and largely declined to answer questions, citing attorney-client privilege. The state intended to call Bradley back to the stand on Friday, but his attorney said he was at a doctor’s appointment.

Bradley’s failure to appear caused a roughly 90-minute delay before proceedings resumed.

“The notice in this hearing indicated it would last at least two days,” McAfee said. “So right now, I think he's in violation of a subpoena.”

An attorney for Bradley said he would encourage his client to return to court as quickly as possible to resume testimony this afternoon.

DA Fani Willis' father is now on the stand.

Feb 16, 11:02 AM
State calls former Georgia governor as witness

Court is now back in session following a break.

The state has called former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes to the stand.

Barnes is the first witness in the state's case, followed by Willis' father, John Floyd III.

Feb 16, 10:19 AM
State was 'satisfied' with Willis' testimony, source says

A source familiar with the state's decision-making process tells ABC News the state did not recall DA Fani Willis to the stand because they were ultimately "satisfied" with her testimony Thursday.

The source said they felt Willis "addressed everything," and that they could stand on that testimony moving forward.

"Why reopen it?" the source said.

As a result of the state deciding not to cross-examine Willis, the defense now won't have a chance to question her again.

Feb 16, 9:26 AM
Former associate of Wade expected to testify next

Less than 10 minutes after the hearing started, the court is in recess until Judge McAfee hears from both parties.

Terrance Bradley, a former business associate of Nathan Wade, is expected to testify but he is not in court yet.

Bradley briefly testified Thursday but the issue of attorney-client privilege came up and he was dismissed.

Attorneys are currently going over the questions for Bradley that won't violate privilege.

Feb 16, 9:19 AM
Willis does not take stand on Day 2 of hearing

After a dramatic and heated Day 1, DA Fani Willis is not taking the stand for Day 2 of the hearing.

The state told the court they have no further questions for the district attorney.

Multiple attorneys for defendants in the case, including Trump's attorney Steve Sadow and Michael Roman's attorney Ashleigh Merchant, are in the courtroom, but Willis is not present.

Judge Scott McAfee said his goal is to finish up the evidentiary hearing today.

Feb 15, 5:35 PM
Court adjourns, Willis will be back on stand Friday

DA Fani Willis stepped off the stand for the day following more than two hours of highly charged testimony.

The DA is scheduled to be back on the stand tomorrow morning for the hearing's second day.

Judge McAfee reviewed other motions for Day 2, then adjourned the hearing until Friday.

Willis did not respond to questions from ABC News after leaving the courtroom.

Feb 15, 5:21 PM
Willis questioned by lawyers for other co-defendants

After Trump attorney Steve Sadow wrapped up his questioning of DA Fani Willis, the attorneys for other co-defendants got their chance -- but the judge appeared to grow frustrated as defense attorneys attempted to find new lines of questioning.

Allyn Stockton, representing co-defendant Rudy Giuliani, asked Willis about contracts given to Wade's law partners.

"Did Wade's law partners, Bradley and Campbell, also get contracts with the DA's office?" Stockton asked.

"Yes but only for a short time after I first became DA. Then I let them go when my office was properly staffed," she replied.

Harry MacDougald, representing co-defendant Jeffrey Clark, briefly questioned Willis about her financial disclosure form before the judge told him to sit down.

"I don't believe she answered that question, Your Honor," MacDougald said.

"She answered as to specific individual gifts," Judge McAfee, appearing more frustrated, responded. "And you're not listening to my answer either. So we're done."

Feb 15, 4:56 PM
Willis says she didn't consider relationship romantic before hiring

Pressed further by Trump attorney Steve Sadow, DA Fani Willis testified regarding prosecutor Nathan Wade that she did "not consider our relationship to have become romantic until 2022."

"I don't consider my relationship to be romantic with him before that," she said of Wade's hiring.

Sadow suggested that Wade and Willis have not been truthful about the timing.

When he asked Willis who she told about the relationship, Sadow suggested her "failure" to notify other members of team suggests that the relationship "was not as its been characterized to the court" and "that it started earlier than what they say."

Willis said her and Wade were friends since at least 2020.

"I want to be clear, because my credibility is being evaluated," she said.

Feb 15, 4:47 PM
Willis testifies early relationship with Wade wasn't romantic

DA Fani Willis was pressed repeatedly by Trump attorney Steve Sadow about whether Willis had a romantic relationship with Wade prior to November 2021.

“I'm asking you whether or not prior to Nov. 1 of 2021, there was a romantic relationship with Mr. Wade?” Sadow asked.

“I didn't consider my relationship with him to be romantic before that," Willis said.

Sadow asked Willis whether Wade visited the condo leased by her friend Robin Yeartie. Willis previously said she took over Yeartie’s lease at one point and paid her rent.

“Would you give us an approximation of how many times Mr. Wade visited you at the condo between the time you moved in and prior to November 2020?” Sadow asked.

“I don't think often, but I don't -- I don't want to speculate,” Willis replied.

Feb 15, 4:35 PM
Trump attorney questions Willis in tense exchange

Former President Trump's attorney Steven Sadow is now questioning Fani Willis on the stand.

As Sadow stepped up to question her, he started with a veiled dig at the DA.

"I'm going to try to ask you questions that you can actually answer without having to explain, OK?" Sadow said.

"Yes, sir. My comprehension skills are pretty good. So we should do all right," Willis replied.

"We shall soon see," Sadow said.

Sadow began questioning Willis about her condo, which Wade testified earlier that he visited before being hired.

At one point when Sadow raised his voice, Willis said, "You don't have to yell at me."

Feb 15, 4:14 PM
Judge urges decorum after heated moment

Following a brief recess, the hearing resumed with Judge Scott McAfee urging decorum following the shouting match.

"I advise everyone -- this being a room mostly full of lawyers -- I urge everyone to keep those principals in line and not talk over each other," the judge told the court.

But as Willis' heated testimony continued, the judge threatened to strike Willis's testimony.

"I'm going to have to caution you -- you have to listen to the questions asked, and if this happens again and again, I'm going to have no choice but to strike your testimony,” the judge told the DA.

Feb 15, 4:02 PM
'You lied," Willis tells defense attorney who filed allegations

DA Fani Willis heatedly told defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant "You lied" just before a shouting match broke out.

"You're confused. You think I'm on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial " Willis said forcefully from the stand.

Speaking earlier about prosecutor Nathan Wade, Willis said she and Wade had a "tough conversation" in August after their relationship ended, but that her respect for him has grown "over the seven weeks of these attacks."

That prompted an objection from Trump attorney Steve Sadow.

Willis than answered by saying "You lied" to Merchant, and a shouting match ensued between Sadow, Merchant, Willis and the judge.

The court then went into a brief recess.

Feb 15, 3:52 PM
Willis testifies that she paid for trips in cash

DA Fani Willis pointedly testified that she paid prosecutor Nathan Wade for the cruise they took and Aruba trip they went on -- in cash -- before they even went.

"Did you pay him back? For the cruise and for Aruba?“ asked defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant.

“Yeah, I gave him his money before we ever went on that trip," Willis replied.

"And so when you got cash to pay him back on these trips, did you go to the ATM?" asked Merchant.

"No," said Willis.

"So the cash that you would pay him, you wouldn't get it out of the bank?" Merchant asked.

"I have money in my house," Willis replied. “For many, many years I have kept money in my house."

"I just have cash in my house," Willis continued. "I don't have as much today as I would normally have, but I'm building back up now."

Willis testified that her father says, "As a woman you should always ... you should have at least six months in cash at your house at all time."

"I don't know why this old black man feels like that. But he does," she said.

Feb 15, 3:41 PM
Willis says she and witness haven't had 'consistent friendship'

DA Fani Willis, in heated testimony, said that Robin Yeartie, who testified earlier, betrayed her friendship and that both of them have not retained a "consistent friendship."

"There's a saying, 'No good deed goes unpunished,'" Willis said. "And I think that she betrayed our friendship."

"I ran into her about 10 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia," Willis said of Yeartie. "So we didn't talk throughout that time period. I didn't see her. I didn't even know where she was."

"And so yes, I have known her probably since 1990, 1991, but we have not maintained a consistent relationship that whole time," Willis added.

Earlier, Yeartie testified that Willis told her about the romantic relationship with Wade.

Yeartie said she saw them "hugging, kissing, just affection."

Willis said at one point said she took over Yeartie's lease and would pay her rent in cash or by Cash App.

Feb 15, 3:34 PM
Willis testifies she and Wade began dating in 2022

DA Fain Willis, on the stand, testified that she and prosecutor Nathan Wade began dating in 2022 -- rebutting an earlier witness who testified the relationship began before Wade was hired.

Speaking about a trip that she and Wade took in April 2022, Willis testified they began dating "right around then."

"When did you start dating?" defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant asked.

"It was right 'round then," Willis responded.

"April 2022?" Merchant asked.

"Around then," Willis said.

Feb 15, 3:20 PM
Willis, on the stand, slams accusations and media coverage

DA Fani Willis began her testimony by slamming the allegations against her, as well as co-defendant Mike Roman's attorney, and the news media for its coverage.

"I've been very anxious to have this conversation with you today," Willis said almost immediately. She also said, "I've been in the office pacing."

Willis plainly accused Roman's attorney, Ashleigh Merchant of lying, and assailed the media.

"It seems today, a lawyer writes a lie and then it's printed to all the world to see," Willis said.

Willis' remarks drew objection from Trump's attorney Steve Sadow.

"I object to the speech making," Sadow said, but Willis kept going.

"It's highly offensive when someone lies on you," Willis said.

Feb 15, 3:06 PM
Willis walks in unannounced, will take stand

As attorneys were arguing over DA Fani Willis' testimony, Willis surprised the courtroom by walking in to the courtroom unannounced, and prosecutors withdrew their motion to quash the subpoena for her testimony.

The DA is now expected to take the stand.

Feb 15, 2:55 PM
Wade testified his income decreased with case

Under questioning from an attorney with the DA's office, prosecutor Nathan Wade testified that his income decreased after signing on to work with Fulton County, and that he had to work "so many hours" that he couldn't get paid for.

"In 2022, your estimated monthly income at that time was $14,000 a month?" special prosecutor Anna Cross asked.

"Yes," Wade replied.

"In 2023, what did that number come to?" asked Cross.

"$9,500," Wade said.

When asked about the hours Wade worked that he didn't get paid for due to a cap, because of a cap, Wade said there were "so many hours" that he worked that he couldn't get paid for.

"This invoice makes me cry," Wade said. "There's so many hours here that I worked that I couldn't I couldn't get paid for."

"This is not the type of job that you can walk away from just because you're not getting paid for it," Wade said.

Feb 15, 2:47 PM
Wade asked about visiting Willis' condo

Trump's attorney Steve Sadow asked Wade about visiting Willis' Atlanta-area condo before November 2021, which would have been prior to his getting a contract with the DA office.

"Did you and Ms. Willis go to the Hapeville condo prior to Nov. 1, 2021?" Sadow asked.

"Yes," said Wade, who said he "maybe went to talk about a document that I received."

Sadow then asked Wade if phone records showed Wade made calls from Willis' condo prior to November 2021 ,would they be wrong.

"Yes sir," Wade replied.

Asked what other reasons phone records would show him making calls from that area if they were not made from Willis' apartment, Wade pointed to the airport near Hapeville.

Feb 15, 2:19 PM
Wade testifies divorce timing was a coincidence

Donald Trump's attorney Steve Sadow asked Nathan Wade why he filed his divorce after being hired by Fulton County.

"Can you answer the question why you waited until Nov. 2, the day after you were hired by Miss Willis. to file for divorce?" asked Sadow.

"I can't," Wade replied.

Wade explained that because his ex-wife had relocated to Texas, he was only able to serve her the divorce papers when she returned to Georgia.

"It was purely by coincidence that I filed the day after the contract with the DA's office," Wade said.

Feb 15, 2:16 PM
Wade pressed on why Willis reimbursed trip costs in cash

In a stern line of questioning, Trump's attorney Steve Sadow challenged prosecutor Nathan Wade on why DA Fani Willis would reimburse him in cash for travel and trips.

"You would have received thousands of dollars in cash from Miss Willis, correct?" Sadow asked.

"Yes, sir," replied Wade.

Trump's attorney then asked Wade if he "knew the source of the cash" – which Wade said he did not, claiming it was "out of her pocketbook."

Sadow followed up, wondering why Willis' form of repayment didn't stand out to Wade.

"The whole time that you she was paying you in cash, you never said, 'Hey, why do you have this amount of cash?'" Sadow asked.

Wade answered that in his law practice, "people come into my law firm all the time with cash" and that he "never questioned where they got it."

Sadow shot back, saying, "But we're talking not about people that come into your law firm -- we're talking about the district attorney of Fulton County, who I'm assuming receives a paycheck. She doesn't get paid in cash."

Wade also testified that he never saw any records of Willis making cash withdrawals.

Feb 15, 2:09 PM
Wade testifies relationship with Willis ended last year

Facing questions from former President Trump's attorney Steve Sadow for the first time, prosecutor Nathan Wade testified that his relationship with Willis ended in the summer of 2023.

"I would say June maybe," Nathan said of the timing.

Sadow and Wade then went through an awkward line of questioning regarding whether Wade had a "personal" relationship after the breakup.

"Are you asking me if I had intercourse with the district attorney?" Wade asked bluntly.

"I was trying not to," Sadow responded. Wade eventually answered no.

Sadow also peppered Wade with questions about who knew about the relationship.

"If it was a legitimate relationship, is there any reason this relationship was kept secret or private?" he asked.

"We weren't trying to keep anything secret, Mr. Sadow," Wade said later.

Feb 15, 2:04 PM
Defense questions Wade on his contract with Fulton County

Craig Gillen, the attorney for Trump co-defendant David Shafer, pressed Nathan Wade on his contract with Fulton County, how much he was paid, and the timeline of his personal relationship with DA Fani Willis.

"During the course of romantic relations, yes or no -- you signed [the] extension on November the 15th, 2022?" Gillen asked, referring to Wade's contract with Fulton County.

"The answer to that question is yes," Wade replied.

"Ater the Aruba trip, you get re-upped with a new contract?" Gillen asked.

"Correct," replied Wade.

Asked by Gillen about an invoice that billed Fulton County for "24 hours of work in one day," Wade said the date reflects when he completed the task of preparing the election case for pretrial.

"Tell the court what you billed for on November 5, 2021," Gillen said.

"On November the 5th, I completed the task of preparing the cases for pretrial," Wade said. "That's the date I completed..." Wade continued, before being interrupted by Gillen, who said, "Just read it."

Feb 15, 1:43 PM
Wade questioned if he had 'sexual relations' with Willis

Prosecutor Nathan Wade was questioned by defense counsel regarding his relationship with DA Fani Willis and specifically asked if he had "sexual relations" with her.

He was specially questioned by Craig Gillen, the attorney for Trump co-defendant David Shafer, about answers he gave on a interrogatory related to Wade's divorce, when Wade was asked if he had any sexual relations with a woman during his marriage and separation to his now-ex-wife.

"Let's just get down to it," Gillen asked Wade. "Did you or did you not, by May the 30th, 2023, have had sexual relations with Miss Willis, yes or no?"

"Yes," Wade replied.

Wade was then asked why he answered "none" on the interrogatory related to the divorce.

"I didn't answer 'no' to the question you just asked," Wade said. "I answered 'no' to the interrogatory question."

Wade was then pressed on the cash payments he earlier testified that Willis made to him to reimburse him for travel costs.

"You don't have a single solitary deposit slip to corroborate or support any of your allegations that you were paid by Ms. Willis in cash, sir? Not a single, solitary one?" Gillen asked.

"Not a single one," Wade replied.

Feb 15, 12:54 PM
Wade testifies he never discussed relationship publicly

Prosecutor Nathan Wade testified that he never talked about his romantic relationship with DA Fani Willis in social settings, after a witness earlier testified that she had observed the relationship.

"Did you discuss your personal relationship, your private personal romantic relationship, with Miss Willis in social settings?" defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant asked Wade.

"No, ma'am," Wade replied.

Merchant then asked if Wade ever discussed his relationship with Willis while around Robin Yeartie, the friend of Willis who testified earlier that Wade and Willis' relationship began prior to the start of the Trump election interference case.

Wade testified that he did not.

Wade said he and Willis are "private people" and said their relationship "wasn't a secret. It was just private. So not at all ... I wouldn't have discussed my relationship with Miss Yeartie or anyone else."

Feb 15, 12:19 PM
Wade testifies Willis often paid him back for their travels

Addressing allegations that he paid for DA Fani Willis' travel when the two of them traveled together, prosecutor Nathan Wade testified that Willis often paid him back in cash or spent money on him in other ways so that expenses roughly "balanced out," insisting that Willis "carries her own weight."

"All of the vacations she took, she paid you cash?" defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant asked.

"Yes ma'am," Wade said.

The defense has accused Willis of improperly benefiting financially from the relationship, by paying Wade a salary that was then used to pay for their travels together.

Speaking more broadly, Wade insisted that throughout their entire relationship, Willis paid her own way, painting it as character trait of hers.

"If you've ever spent any time with Mrs. Willis you understand she's a very independent proud woman, so she's going to insist that she carries her own weight," he testified.

"It actually was a point of contention between the two of us," Wade said. "She was going to pay her own way."

Wade went through the various trips booked on his credit card, one by one, including trips to Napa Valley and Belize. In one instance, Wade testified it was actually Willis who paid for the "entire trip" -- despite the fact that it was on his credit card.

On the Napa trip, Wade testified that Willis paid for the excursions, "so the expenses sort of balances out." He said it was like any relationship: "In a relationship, you don't -- particularly men -- you don't go asking back," Wade said. "You're not keeping a ledger."

Feb 15, 11:45 AM
Wade testifies his relationship with Willis began in 2022

Prosecutor Nathan Wade, refuting earlier testimony claiming his relationship with DA Fani Willis started before she hired him on the election interference case case in November 2021, testified that the relationship started in 2022.

"When did your romantic relationship with Mrs. Willis begin?" defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant asked him.

"2022," Wade replied.

"When?" Merchant pressed.

"Early 2022," Wade responded.

"What's early?," Merchant asked.

"Around March," Wade said.

Wade was then asked about conversations he and Willis had around their first meeting in 2019. He testified that they spoke two or three times in 2019.

"She felt comfortable calling for advice," he testified.

He said the calls progressed and they spoke more frequently. He testified that in 2021, the discussions between him and Willis became "frequent."

Feb 15, 11:29 AM
Wade testifies he's 'not recalling' traveling with Willis in 2021

Special prosecutor Nathan Wade, asked if he traveled with DA Fani Willis around the time prior to the Trump election interference case being launched, stated that he's "not recalling" that after being pushed to answer "yes" or "no."

When asked by the defense if he traveled with Willis in 2023 or 2022, Wade said he did -- but he gave a different answer when asked about 2021.

"Did you travel with her in 2021?" defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant asked.

"I'm not recalling any travel in 2021," Wade replied.

"It's not yes or no, you just don't remember?" Merchant pressed.

An attorney for the DA said during Merchant's questioning, "We're going pretty far field into divorce matters." But the judge let questioning continue.

Feb 15, 11:05 AM
Nathan Wade takes the stand

Special prosecutor Nathan Wade is now on the stand.

Fulton County prosecutors made a motion to quash the subpoena for Wade to testify, but Judge Scott McAfee rejected the motion, saying the "evidence in front of the court at the moment" is that a witness testified that the relationship predated his hiring, which contradicts their court filing.

"I don't see a way around the relevance of his testimony," said the judge.

Feb 15, 11:00 AM
Witness testifies Willis told her of relationship with Wade

Trump's attorney Steve Sadow drilled down into the testimony from Former DA office employee Robin Yeartie that Willis told her repeatedly that she and Wade were in a relationship before he was hired in 2021.

"Told you that in the year of 2020?" Sadow asked.

"Yes," Yeartie said.

"In the year of 2021?" Sadow asked.

"Yes," Yeartie said.

"Are you certain that Mrs. Willis told you about the romantic relationship with Mr. Wade prior to November 1 of 2021?, Sadow asked.

"Yes," Yeartie said.

Yeartie also testified she saw them "hugging, kissing, just affection."

All before he was hired?

"Yes," Yeartie said.

Feb 15, 10:48 AM
Former employee testifies that Willis, Wade were dating earlier

Former DA office employee Robin Yeartie testified that Fani Willis and Nathan Wade began dating prior to the Trump election interference case -- contradicting the claim in the state's court filing that the relationship started after Wade was hired.

"You know their personal relationship began shortly after" they met at a conference in October 2019, attorney Merchant asked the witness.

The witness, who said she was a old friend of Willis, replied, "Yes."

Yeartie is testifying via Zoom after she didn't appear in the courtroom.

The state is objecting to questions from the defense seemingly at every chance they can, which is significantly slowing down the proceedings. The judge has remained patient, but Michael Roman's attorney Ashleigh Merchant appears to be growing frustrated with the state's strategy.

Feb 15, 10:34 AM
Wade associate invokes attorney-client privilege

Terrance Bradley, a former law partner of Nathan Wade, is declining to answer questions about Fani Willis and Wade's relationship, citing attorney-client privilege.

"I was advised by the bar … I cannot reveal anything that I saw or learned," Bradley said. "I am here because I also have a law license and I'm not trying to lose that."

The judge pushed back, saying, "That's a broader representation of attorney-client privilege than I've ever heard."

The debate has drawn the first comments from Donald Trump's attorney Steve Sadow, who said of Bradley's view of attorney-client privilege, "There is no such case law."

Sadow even suggested Bradley be held in contempt if he continues to refuse to answer questions.

Feb 15, 10:07 AM
Associate of Wade's takes the stand

Michael Roman's attorney Ashleigh Merchant called her first witness in the effort to disqualify DA Fani Willis -- a former DA office employee named Robin Yeartie, who Merchant says has firsthand knowledge that Wade and Willis’ relationship began before he was hired, in contradiction to Wade’s sworn affidavit -- but Yeartie is not in court yet.

As a result, a new first witness has taken the stand: Terrence Bradley, a former business associate of prosecutor Nathan Wade who represented him in his divorce case.

"It wasn't my choice," Bradley said of having to testify today.

The state has objected to Bradley's testimony, saying it is protected by attorney-client privilege. But Roman's team says the information is not related to his representation of Wade in the divorce matter.

Feb 15, 9:39 AM
Hearing is underway

The evidentiary hearing is underway in front of a packed courtroom.

DA Fani Willis has not yet entered the courtroom, but special prosecutor Nathan Wade is present, along with multiple attorneys for defendants in the DA's election interference case, including Trump attorney Steve Sadow and Mike Roman's attorney Ashleigh Merchant.

Two of Trump's co-defendants in the case, Harrison Floyd and David Shaffer, are also in attendance.

Feb 15, 9:24 AM
Trump attending NYC hearing

Former President Trump's attorney has arrived for the Fulton County proceedings, but his client won't be attending the hearing.

Instead, Trump is attending a hearing in his criminal hush money case in New York.

The former president is not required to be at either of the two hearings taking place today.

Feb 15, 8:45 AM
Attorneys have clashed in court filings

The district attorney's office and attorneys for the defendants have traded accusations in a series of court filings leading up to Thursday's hearing.

Trump co-defendant Michael Roman has accused Fani Willis and Nathan Wade of violating "laws regulating the use of public monies" and says they "suffer from irreparable conflicts of interest." Specifically, he alleges Wade paid for multiple trips for him and Willis, including to Napa Valley and Belize. Credit card statements later revealed Wade paid for at least two flights for Willis on his credit card.

Wade, in an affidavit submitted to the court, said expenses between him and Willis were "roughly divided equally" and that he used his personal funds. The affidavit also said the relationship started after he was hired on the case in 2021, and that he and Willis have never cohabitated.

However, Roman's attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, has alleged some of the statements in Wade's affidavit were inaccurate. Merchant says she a witness ready to testify that the relationship predated Wade's hiring, which would dispute Wade's affidavit.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Michelle Troconis trial: Woman convicted of helping boyfriend cover up Connecticut wife's murder

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(NEW YORK) -- Michelle Troconis, who stood trial in connection with the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos, her live-in boyfriend's estranged wife, has been found guilty on all counts.

Troconis was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, tampering with physical evidence, conspiracy to commit tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution.

"We have lost a mother, daughter, sister, cousin, and cherished friend," Carrie Luft, a spokeswoman for Jennifer Dulos' family and friends, said in a statement Friday.

Luft said the "verdict represents the meticulous collection, analysis, and presentation of evidence to illuminate an unconscionable series of crimes."

"That immense body of evidence also serves to highlight the gaps that remain in this case -- most important, that Jennifer Farber Dulos still has not been found," Luft said. "It is our hope that the resurgent public interest in this case might spur new, viable leads."

Jennifer Dulos, a Connecticut mother of five, disappeared on May 24, 2019, during a custody dispute with her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos. Her body has never been found but a judge has declared her legally dead.

Fotis Dulos died by suicide in January 2020, weeks after he was charged in Jennifer Dulos' murder. Prosecutors allege Fotis Dulos killed his estranged wife in her garage on May 24, 2019.

At Troconis' trial, the jury saw interrogation video in which Troconis admitted to lying about seeing Fotis Dulos at their home on the morning Jennifer Dulos vanished, New Haven ABC affiliate WTNH reported.

"I have no idea where Jennifer is, and that's 100%," Troconis said in the interrogation video, according to WTNH. "I just know that I went as the stupid girlfriend to help him out, because he told me, 'Come and clean the house,' and I did."

"[Fotis Dulos] told me Jennifer is a monster," Tronocis said in the interrogation video, according to WTNH. "He hated her."

Police testified that surveillance footage showed Fotis Dulos driving, with Troconis in the passenger seat, in Hartford later on the day Jennifer Dulos vanished, with Fotis Dulos making stops to throw out alleged evidence in trash cans, the Hartford Courant reported. In court, jurors were shown zip ties, gloves and stained clothing prosecutors said were pulled from the trash cans.

Defense attorney Jon Schoenhorn said Troconis never denied being in the car with her boyfriend, but said that she denied having any involvement in or any knowledge of crimes Fotis Dulos may have committed.

In closing arguments, prosecutor Michelle Manning reminded the jury of the garage where investigators believe Fotis Dulos killed his wife and the blood-soaked items thrown in the trash.

"There's blood spatter throughout the garage, throughout the undercarriage of two cars, footprints and swipes of blood," Manning said. "Her blood-soaked shirt and bra thrown out ... along with zip ties, sponges and duct tape. Make no mistake: This was a deliberate, intentional murder."

"Jennifer is dead. And Fotis and Michelle Troconis intended that to happen. They agreed to work together to make it happen," Manning said. "This trial is very simple: It's about a conspiracy and about a cover-up. It's about Michelle Troconis' actions and about how she and Fotis Dulos conspired together to murder the woman who was standing in their way. It's about the frustration of Fotis Dulos not seeing his kids ... and every time those kids came around, Michelle Troconis had to leave her home ... and we know she was sick of it."

"The frustration turned to anger and hatred," Manning told the jurors. "Listen to her own words in the [police] interviews -- how she describes Jennifer -- someone she has never met. She describes her as manipulating, angry, toxic."

Schoenhorn, the defense attorney, stressed in closing arguments, "Whatever Fotis Dulos' role was in the disappearance -- and I'll say the likely death of Jennifer Dulos -- Michelle Troconis did not know. She did not know that Fotis Dulos planned to harm her."

"There's nothing to suggest that Michelle would even think that Fotis was capable of doing anything like that," Schoenhorn said.

"This is not Fotis Dulos' trial," he continued. "Because it's Michelle Troconis' trial, [to convict her] you must find beyond a reasonable doubt that Michelle conspired with Fotis Duos, not just to cause harm to Jennifer Dulos, but to murder her."

To convict her, he told the jury, "You have to find beyond a reasonable doubt, various elements that Michelle was part of a plot to get rid of evidence -- some microscopic, some in opaque garbage bags -- but that she knew what was in it, knew its purpose. And what she did was the same exact intent as whatever Fotis Dulos had planned."

After the verdict, Paul Ferencek, state's attorney for the Stamford/Norwalk Judicial District, said in a statement, "While it's our hope that today's verdict brings Jennifer's family and friends some peace, we also hope that someday we can provide resolution to the still unanswered question of where Jennifer rests. I assure you the State of Connecticut and this office will never stop looking."

Schoenhorn said Troconis was "devastated" by the verdict.

"We are certain that she is innocent," Troconis' sister, Josie, added.

Bond was set at $6 million cash surety. The judge granted additional conditions requested by the state: house arrest, electronic monitoring and surrendering her passport.

Troconis' sentencing is set for May 31.

Jennifer Dulos' mother now has custody of the five Dulos children, who were ages 8 to 13 in May 2019, according to The Associated Press.

Kent Mawhinney, Fotis Dulos' friend and former lawyer, is also accused of helping cover up the crime. He pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and is awaiting trial.

ABC News' Jason Volack contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'Rust' director Joel Souza recalls on-set shooting during armorer's trial: 'Nothing made sense'

ABC

(SANTA FE, N.M.) -- "Rust" director Joel Souza recalled the "chaotic" scene and confusion after he and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were shot on the set of "Rust" during the involuntary manslaughter trial of armorer Hannah Gutierrez.

"There was an incredibly loud bang that was not like the half and quarter loads you hear on the set," Souza said while testifying in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Friday. "This was deafening."

Actor Alec Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw in a church on the set of the Western movie in October 2021 when the gun fired a live round, striking Hutchins and Souza, who was standing behind her.

Souza told the court it felt like somebody had hit his shoulder with a baseball bat.

"I still didn't quite know what had happened. Nothing made sense," he said.

He recalled seeing crew members helping Hutchins and didn't realize she had been wounded at first.

"I remember initially thinking she had been startled by it," he said. "Then I saw the blood on her back."

Souza described the scene as "very chaotic" and that there was "a lot of panic." He recalled Gutierrez looking "distraught" and apologizing to him after the shooting. He was transported to a hospital, where he was informed he was likely struck by a live round. He said he was in disbelief.

"I kept insisting, it's just not possible it's a live round. It just can't," he said.


Hutchins, 42, was transported via helicopter to a hospital in critical condition and died that day.


Souza spoke admirably of Hutchins and told the court he first took note of the cinematographer's work in the trailer for the film "Archenemy."

"I was impressed visually," he said. "It fit my style."

He said he considered several cinematographers for "Rust" but told producers he wanted to hire Hutchins for the film.

"She was very keen to do a Western, which I think all filmmakers are, because it's just really interesting visually," he said.

Souza's testimony comes a day after David Halls, the film's safety coordinator, took the stand for the state. Halls had conducted the safety check on the Colt .45 revolver and testified that he did not see all the rounds in the gun before it was handed to Baldwin.

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Halls was charged with negligent use of a deadly weapon and sentenced in March 2023 to six months of unsupervised probation as part of a plea deal.

Asked by prosecutors on Thursday why he accepted that plea deal, he responded, "I was negligent in checking the gun properly."

Gutierrez had shown Halls the revolver during the safety check but was not in the church at the time of the shooting. During an interview with the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office hours afterward, she said she was outside the church due to COVID-19 restrictions. Halls testified Thursday that he was unaware at the time that she was not inside the church and did not tell her to leave.

Souza testified Friday that he did not know of any COVID-19 protocol on set that would have required her to leave the church.


Gutierrez, 26, was charged with involuntary manslaughter last year in Hutchins' death following a lengthy investigation. She was subsequently charged with tampering with evidence. Prosecutors allege she handed off a small bag of cocaine after her interview with law enforcement following the shooting.


She has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Prosecutors have claimed that the armorer did not always adhere to "essential" safety procedures on set and unwittingly brought several live bullets onto the set, including the one that struck Hutchins.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles said during opening statements last week that the production and state have made Gutierrez a "scapegoat" in the tragic shooting.

He has denied that she brought the live bullets on set and has argued that the production created a "chaotic scene" by giving Gutierrez props duties that took away from her job as lead armorer.

The defense has also argued there is no proof that cocaine was in the bag and that she was charged with the offense "in an effort to cause unfair prejudice" to the defendant during the trial.

Baldwin, who starred in and was a producer of the film, has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins' death. He has pleaded not guilty.

His trial is scheduled to start in July.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


As threats against judges soar, some speak out

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(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- A Greenville, South Carolina, man pleaded guilty on Friday for sending a threatening letter to a federal judge that read, in part, "I have watched you leave the courthouse numerous times and plotted to get my revenge."

Authorities say the handwritten letter goes on to say, "you best to make sure they lock me away for good cause I'm going to kill you or blow that courthouse up."

That man, Alvin Parks, was already being held at the Greenville County Detention Center on other charges.

Judge Laura Beyer, who sits on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Charlotte, North Carolina, told ABC News that the case, while not involving a bankruptcy judge, is a reminder that "these threats are real."

"I think we all feel pretty protected at the courthouses when we are here, but it's the unknown threat, when we are away from the federal courthouse," she said.


The incident, just one of the skyrocketing number of threats to federal judges, underscores just how dangerous the judicial profession has gotten.

The cases before federal bankruptcy court judges, in particular, deal with very personal issues, from divorce proceedings to someone's business and that could raise someone's temperature, according to two judges who spoke to ABC News.

"The bottom line is whoever is in front of a federal bankruptcy judge is in a very stressful situation," said Judge Mitchell Herren, whose bankruptcy court is in Wichita, Kansas. "Their businesses, their homes, their cars, their financial independence, those things are all often at stake."

The people who appear before bankruptcy judges can range from wealthy lawyers to people who might not have a lawyer at all.

"The process of bankruptcy is very complicated and tedious," Herren said. "And the folks that don't have lawyers, often, there's no one to shepherd them through that process. That, right there, can create a unique kind of security concern because people are very stressed. They're oftentimes at threat of losing something very near and dear to them be it their home or their car or their business or their retirement account if they thought someone's payment of a debt to them was going to be their retirement."


Herren said it is "very easy," under these circumstances, "for emotions to run very high."

"When people have trouble understanding that process, sometimes distress kind of overwhelms them and it just becomes easier to call it all a conspiracy theory. And the judge who might have made a decision against them can often become the bad person in the mix in their eyes," Herren said of what can happen in bankruptcy court. "And so that's one of the ways to describe the security threat that occurs in bankruptcy courts and we live in a day and age where people seem at times increasingly willing to lash out emotionally instead of trying to handle their frustrations in other ways."

Threats to federal judges and prosecutors saw a triple-digit increase in 2023, according to statistics released by the U.S. Marshals Service in February. In 2023, there were 457 federal judges targeted with threats and 155 federal prosecutors, the agency said.

Judge Beyer told ABC News security for federal judges starts with engaging with the U.S. Marshals whose responsibility it is to protect judges.

She cited the widely publicized case of a county judge in Nevada who, when handing down a sentence, was seen on video being attacked by a defendant who lunged over the bench.


"We really have to react and not just an active shooter type situation, but a situation like happened in Nevada, or what if there's a medical emergency in the courtroom, or what if there is a fire while we have a court room full of people, but I've been on the bench since 2011 I don't remember talking about these things so much in the past, and just seems to be front of mind these day," Beyer said.

Both judges say they don't believe threats to federal judges are going to hinder the quality of candidates wanting to be federal bankruptcy judges.

"I do not think that it has served as a hindrance or as something that has prevented otherwise qualified candidates from applying," Beyer said, citing her conversations and reviewing applications from an open position on her bench. "And frankly, if someone called me and asked me, should that be something that keeps them from applying for the position, I would say, no , I mean, am I sort of conscious and aware of my surroundings and do I try to be vigilant at all times? Yes, but do I feel uncomfortable? I don't."

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Brown U. professor discusses systemic racism and its deep roots

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(NEW YORK) -- Brown University professor Tricia Rose has spent decades studying race, gender, and class in America.

Her new book "Metaracism: How Systemic Racism Devastates Black Lives – and How We Break Free," which will be released next week, provides an account of American inequality and what people can do to change it.

Rose spoke with ABC News' Linsey Davis about her book and her research.

ABC NEWS LIVE: So in plain language, for us to explain what metaracism is.

TRICIA ROSE: Metaracism is the outcome of systems that produce effects that are greater than the sum of their parts. So if you are thinking about health care and how access to health care might have an impact on jobs and jobs might have an impact on schools and schools might have an impact on housing, those interactions and interconnections produce effects that are more powerful than if you had any one of these alone.


And so instead of just adding them, you have to think these are compounding effects. And that's one of the things that my research has been able to reveal is that we can't think as if these moments of discrimination in each individual place is, in fact, to be understood separately. When you see them together, that's when you get the devastation.


ABC NEWS LIVE: And you've been doing this research now for more than a decade. Why did you decide now is the time that you were going to write a book about it?

ROSE: Well, I had been really looking for ways to think about how systems can produce consistent kinds of outcomes. And when I realized that no matter what the policies were, and I looked at over 100 of them in the last 25 or 30 years, and I wanted to see how they interacted and how they impacted Black people in particular. And I realized that across the board, almost 100% of them created containment, extracted resources and punished Black people disproportionately.

So it wasn't just containment. It was containment and punishment. It wasn't just punishment. It'd be punishment and extraction. And you start looking at these combinations, and that's where the meta effects become clearer.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You picked several people in particular, like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, in order to be able to tell a very specific story, to explain the larger problem. How did you go about choosing the individuals?


ROSE: Yeah, that's a great question. Systemic thinking, once you get the hang of it, it's really quite intuitive. But it takes a minute because we tell stories in this country that talk about individual responsibility for racism, and we talk about individual people who want to harm or have, say something problematic. And we don't have much energy and focus around the bigger picture.

So I'm going to retell these stories for you, and I'm going to say, let's raise up the conversation from the intention of [George] Zimmerman or the "what was in Zimmerman's heart," or was he afraid to say, well, let's look at the policing in the schools that Trayvon was in.

So, for example, in his high school, he should have never been suspended for the infractions that he was suspended for. When you look at the continuous form of containment, punishment and extraction that goes on where he left, at his mom's house in my Miami Gardens, you see that the incident was not just about Trayvon when he got to Sanford, Florida, but was, in fact, about a system that puts many Trayvons in that kind of situation.

ABC NEWS LIVE: As you're well aware, over the weekend, former President Trump made some comments that were deemed controversial. I want to get your take on it after we take a listen.


From Feb. 23, 2024, DONALD TRUMP:- And a lot of people said that that's why the Black people like, because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as I'm being discriminated against. It's been pretty amazing. But it possibly, I don't know, maybe there's something there, you know, who embraced it more than anybody else? The Black population, it's incredible. You see Black people walking around with my mugshot, you know, they do shirts.


ABC NEWS LIVE: I interviewed a panel of Black conservatives after this. None of them said that those comments were racist. Your thoughts?

ROSE: I think when you trade in racial stereotyping that results from racist policy, right, mass incarceration was a policy of hyper-incarceration with lengthy sentences, with limited resources for poor people to defend themselves in court, that targeted African-Americans and other poor people as well…it absolutely disproportionately had a profound effect on Black people.

It began in the 1980s largely as a massive expansion of incarceration. So to make jokes about the affinity of people who've been subjected to that kind of system is really to reinforce the illusion that it's like a cultural practice rather than the origin being society's discrimination.

Who [Trump] is, whether he's a racist, that's not my business. That's for him to worry about.

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