National News

Ex-Trump adviser Peter Navarro asks court to let him remain free while appealing his contempt conviction

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro has asked the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to allow him to remain out of prison while he appeals his contempt of Congress conviction.

The filing comes two weeks after U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta denied Navarro's request to remain free during his appeal.

"Dr. Navarro respectfully requests expedited briefing and disposition of this matter because he expects imminent direction to report to the Bureau of Prisons to serve his four (4) month sentence," Navarro's attorney wrote to the Court of Appeals on Friday. "Should the Court desire additional time to consider the issue, Dr. Navarro respectfully requests a brief administrative stay of his reporting date pending this Court's disposition of this motion."

Judge Mehta, in his ruling two week ago, wrote that "Defendant's request for release pending appeal is denied. Unless this Order is stayed or vacated by the D.C. Circuit, Defendant shall report to the designated Bureau of Prisons ('BOP') facility on the date ordered by the BOP."

Navarro last month was sentenced to four months in jail and ordered to pay a $9,500 fine for defying a congressional subpoena to cooperate with the House Select Committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In testimony during Navarro's trial, former Jan. 6 committee staff director David Buckley said the panel was seeking to question Navarro about efforts to delay Congress' certification of the 2020 election, a plan Navarro dubbed the "Green Bay Sweep" in his book, "In Trump Time."

Navarro unsuccessfully argued that former President Donald Trump had asserted executive privilege over his testimony and document production.

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Police open investigation after students report AI-generated nudes to school district

Beverly Vista Middle School/Facebook

(BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.) -- The Beverly Hills Police Department said it is investigating after a Southern California middle school reported last week that students were allegedly involved in creating and sharing nude images generated using artificial intelligence that featured the faces of fellow students.

"The Beverly Hills Unified School District notified the Beverly Hills Police Department, and a police report was taken. The investigation is ongoing," Beverly Hills Police Lt. Andrew Myers told ABC News in a statement.

Beverly Hills Unified School District confirmed to ABC News that it received reports from students last week "about the creation and dissemination by other students of Artificial Intelligence generated (AI) images that superimposed the faces of our students onto AI-generated nude bodies."

The district didn't specify the number of students impacted by the AI-generated imagery, the existence of which ABC News has not been able to confirm, but said in a statement that "more victims are being identified" and that they are "taking every measure to support those affected and to prevent any further incidents."

"We want to make it unequivocally clear that this behavior is unacceptable and does not reflect the values of our school community," the district said in its statement, which was co-signed by Beverly Vista Middle School Principal Dr. Kelly Skon, Beverly Hills Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy, and Mark Mead, the executive director of school safety at the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

"Although we are aware of similar situations occurring all over the nation, we must act now," the statement continued. "This behavior rises to a level that requires the entire community to work in partnership to ensure it stops immediately."

The school district said that if "any criminal offenses are discovered, they will be addressed to the fullest extent possible" under the California Education Code, adding that "any student found to be creating, disseminating, or in possession of AI-generated images of this nature will face disciplinary actions, including, but not limited to, a recommendation for expulsion."

AI photography has been on the rise in the last couple of years, and explicit AI-generated images have been a growing concern in schools and among parents, teachers and administrators.

Last November, Francesca Mani, a 14-year-old New Jersey student, and her mother Dorota Mani spoke to "Good Morning America" after a student at Westfield High School, which Francesca attended, allegedly used artificial intelligence to create nude images of the teen and other girls.

AI-generated images of Taylor Swift even drew a White House response last month, and last October, police in Spain warned that young girls have increasingly become targets of fabricated AI-generated nude images as well.

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Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg asks for gag order in Trump hush money case after dozens of threats

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(NEW YORK) -- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Monday asked a judge to impose a limited gag order on former President Donald Trump, who is charged in New York with falsifying business records related to hush money he paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

In their request, prosecutors cited what they called Trump's "longstanding and perhaps singular history" of attacking people he considers to be adversaries, including those associated with his other criminal and civil cases.

The trial in Trump's hush money case is scheduled to get underway on March 25.

Trump is already under a limited gag order in his federal election interference case in Washington, D.C., and prosecutors in Manhattan are seeking a similar "narrowly tailored order restricting certain prejudicial extrajudicial statements by defendant."

The motion for a limited gag order on Trump's public statements includes an affidavit from NYPD Sgt. Nicholas Pistilli, Bragg's head of security, who noticed "an extraordinary surge" in threats against the DA after Trump began targeting him on social media.

The NYPD Threat Assessment and Protection Unit logged 89 threats against the district attorney, his family or employees of his office in 2023, the first of which occurred the same day Trump posted on social media to "protest, take our nation back!" according to the filing. In all of 2022, the same unit logged just one threat against Bragg, the filing said.

According to the filing, there were some 600 phone calls and emails that were forwarded to police for review in March 2023 alone.

The filing also included photos and screenshots of harassing messages, firearms and handwritten threats that prosecutors said demonstrate the impact of Trump's social media posts and behavior.

The Manhattan DA's office also asked the judge to allow the now-infamous "Access Hollywood" tape to be played for the jury. Prosecutors argued the tape is "highly relevant" to Trump's motive for making the hush payment to Daniels to silence her accusations of a long-denied affair.

"The release of the tape -- and the accompanying concerns about its possible impact on the election -- are thus directly related to the Stormy Daniels payoff, which was executed just a few weeks later," Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo wrote.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts in the hush money case and has criticized Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan, as well as witnesses that include Trump's former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.

"[Trump] has a long history of making public and inflammatory remarks about the participants in various judicial proceedings against him, including jurors, witnesses, lawyers and court staff," prosecutors said in their filing, adding that Trump's remarks "pose a significant and imminent threat to the orderly administration of this criminal proceeding."

In a series of motions filed Monday, prosecutors also asked the judge to bar the defense from introducing evidence or argument about Cohen's credibility. Cohen was accused of committing perjury when he testified in October in Trump's civil fraud trial.

The judge in that trial also imposed a limited gag order on Trump that prohibited the former president from making comments about court staff.

The Manhattan district attorney's office wants the judge to bar Trump from making public statements about witnesses, jurors, court staff and prosecutors other than Bragg.

"As other courts have found, these reasonable prophylactic measures are amply warranted by defendant's past conduct and by the risk of prejudice to the pending proceeding if appropriate protective steps are not taken," prosecutors wrote. "The relief requested here is narrowly tailored to protect the integrity of the upcoming trial while still affording defendant ample opportunity to engage in speech, including speech about this case."

Prosecutors are also seeking a protective order that would prohibit disclosure of juror names to anyone other than Trump and his attorneys.

In a statement to ABC News, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung pushed back on the order, saying that, if granted, it would "impose an unconstitutional infringement on President Trump's First Amendment rights, including his ability to defend himself, and the rights of all Americans to hear from President Trump."

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment made to Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

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Ex-FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, accusing of lying about Bidens, remanded to custody after pleading not guilty

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(LOS ANGELES) -- Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant charged with lying to the bureau about President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, was remanded to custody Monday, pending trial.

Appearing in court Monday, Smirnov said very little except answering "yes" when asked if he understood the case against him. He entered a plea of not guilty to the counts against him.

Smirnov was arrested earlier this month on charges that he concocted "fabrications" about the president and his son accepting $5 million in bribes from the Ukrainian energy giant Burisma -- which Republicans have repeatedly cited as a driving force in their efforts to impeach the president.

After being released by the court following his arrest, he was then rearrested last week and held in custody.

U.S. District Judge Otis Wright had ordered Smirnov to appear in court Monday as the judge considered keeping Smirnov detained. Special counsel David Weiss had asked the judge for Smirnov to be held until his trial date.

His attorneys made a plea Monday for his release, arguing that he has never committed a crime, that he worked for the U.S. government, and that he has never been accused of lying before.

Justice Department officials argued that he is a major flight risk.

The judge agreed with the DOJ.

"There is nothing garden variety about this case," he said, ordering Smirnov held until trial.

In a filing last week, Weiss' office alleged Smirnov had high-level contacts with Russian intelligence officials who they said were "involved in passing a story" to him about Hunter Biden.

"Smirnov's efforts to spread misinformation about a candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States continues," the filing stated. "What this shows is that the misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020. He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November."

Last July, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, took the unusual step of releasing the confidential FBI informant's unverified claim that, years ago, the Biden family "pushed" a Ukrainian oligarch to pay them $10 million.

The claim -- which Democrats and the White House immediately denied -- has since been cited by congressional Republicans in part to justify their impeachment inquiry into the president.

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Airman dies lighting himself on fire, saying 'free Palestine" outside Israeli Embassy

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(WASHINGTON) -- An active-duty airman has died after authorities say he set himself on fire Sunday outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., in what he described as "an extreme act of protest" over the Israel-Hamas war.

The man was identified by the Metropolitan Police Department as 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell of San Antonio. The Air Force confirmed to ABC News that Bushnell was on active-duty status at the time of his fatal protest.

The incident unfolded just before 1 p.m. ET outside the gates of the Israeli Embassy in northwest Washington, according to statements from the city's Metropolitan Police Department and Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

ABC News has obtained an unedited recording of the video Bushnell livestreamed to Twitch Sunday, showing him dressed in camouflage fatigues and walking up to the embassy gate before dousing himself in a flammable liquid and setting himself on fire.

During the livestream, Bushnell is heard saying "I will no longer be complicit in genocide" and repeatedly screamed "free Palestine" as flames engulfed his body.

"We arrived to find an apparent adult male who had been on fire," the Fire and EMS Department said in its statement.

Members of the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division extinguished the flames before fire crews arrived, officials said.

Bushnell was unconscious when he was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to police.

Police officials did not comment on why the man set himself ablaze.

Police detectives, the Secret Service Uniformed Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the incident.

The police department's Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit was also called to the scene as police investigated a suspicious vehicle in the area that authorities believe is linked to Bushnell. The vehicle was searched, but no hazardous material was found, police said.

The Israeli Embassy released a statement saying the man was "unknown" to embassy staff.

No embassy workers were injured in the incident, and all were reported safe, embassy officials said.

Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, removed the video of Bushnell's act. ABC News has reached out to the social media platform comment, but has yet to received a response.

The video was also posted on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, and Meta's Facebook and Instagram.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement to ABC News that the platform has decided not to remove Bushnell's video from its site.

"We allow images and video of this incident, but include a warning screen so that people are aware the content may be disturbing," Stone said.

Bushnell grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he attended Nauset Public Schools between 2003 and 2014, school officials told ABC News.

"The Nauset Public Schools is heartbroken to learn of the untimely death of one of our former students, Aaron Bushnell," the school district said in a statement. "Our school community is saddened by Mr. Bushnell's death and we offer our condolences to his family and friends."

Bushnell also attended Southern New Hampshire University, taking online courses in 2023 to pursue a computer science degree, the college said in a statement. Bushnell was pre-registered for the upcoming term, which is scheduled to start next week, according to the school.

"We are deeply saddened by the news of Aaron's passing and the SNHU community sends its deepest condolences to Aaron's family and friends," the school said in a statement.

A similar incident occurred on Dec. 1 outside an Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta, where a woman wrapped in a Palestinian flag intentionally set herself on fire in an apparent political protest, according to police. The woman, who was critically injured, ignited herself after dousing herself with gasoline, police said. A security guard suffered burns when he attempted to put the fire out, according to police.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

ABC News' Luke Barr, Sinead Hawkins, Nate Luna and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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Alec Baldwin's manslaughter trial in 'Rust' shooting scheduled for July

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(SANTA FE, N.M.) -- The involuntary manslaughter trial for Alec Baldwin over the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of "Rust" in October 2021 has been set for July, according to New Mexico's First Judicial District Court.

Jury selection is set to begin on July 9 with the trial expected to last from July 10 to 19.

Baldwin was indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 19 on an involuntary manslaughter charge after prosecutors dropped the original manslaughter charges last April.

Baldwin, 65, is accused of fatally shooting Hutchins, 42, on the New Mexico set of the Western in October 2021. The actor was practicing a cross-draw when the gun fired, striking the cinematographer and director Joel Souza, who suffered a non-life-threatening injury.

Baldwin pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter on Jan. 31.

Two others were charged in the on-set shooting, including armorer Hannah Gutierrez and first assistant director David Halls.

Halls pleaded no contest to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and was sentenced to six months unsupervised probation as part of a plea deal. Halls handed the Colt .45 revolver to Baldwin prior to the shooting.

The trial for Gutierrez, who is also charged with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting, began last week. She was also subsequently charged with tampering with evidence, with prosecutors alleging she handed off a small bag of cocaine after her interview with police following the shooting on Oct. 21, 2021.

Gutierrez, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 18 months in jail on each charge, if convicted.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles claimed last week that the production created a "chaotic scene" by giving Gutierrez props duties that took away from her job as lead armorer. He said she wasn't given sufficient time to train the crew on the firearms, including Baldwin, whom he argued was inappropriately handling the gun by pointing it at the crew.

"You're not going to hear anything about [Gutierrez] being in that church or firing that weapon -- that was Alec Baldwin," Bowles said.

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Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg asks judge to impose gag order Trump in hush money case

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Monday asked a judge to impose a gag order on former President Donald Trump, who is charged in New York with falsifying business records related to hush money he paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump is already under a limited gag order in his federal election interference case in Washington, D.C., and prosecutors in Manhattan sought a similarly "narrowly tailored order restricting certain prejudicial extrajudicial statements by defendant."

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts in the hush money case and has criticized Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan, as well as witnesses that include Trump's former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.

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

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Bronx medical school students to receive free tuition after $1 billion donation

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(NEW YORK) -- A historic, billion-dollar donation to a medical school in New York City has provided students with free tuition moving forward.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx received a $1 billion donation from Dr. Ruth Gottesman, former professor and chair of the school's board of trustees, the institution announced in a press release Monday.

The massive donation -- a "transformational gift," the school said -- is among the largest ever made to a university in the United States and seemingly the largest made to an American medical school, according to the institution.

The $1 billion donation will ensure that no student at Einstein will have to pay tuition again, Dr. Philip Ozuah, president and CEO of Montefiore Einstein, the umbrella organization for Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System, said in the announcement.

All current, fourth-year students will be reimbursed their spring 2024 semester tuition and, beginning at the start of the next term, all students moving forward will receive free tuition at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the school said.

Tuition and fees for one year at the medical school total over $63,000, and more than half the medical students owe upward of $200,000 in student debt after graduating, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine says on its website.

Almost half of students are New Yorkers and nearly 60% of students at the university are women, according to the institution.

"This donation radically revolutionizes our ability to continue attracting students who are committed to our mission, not just those who can afford it," Dr. Yaron Tomer, the Marilyn and Stanley Katz dean at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said in the release.

"Additionally, it will free up and lift our students, enabling them to pursue projects and ideas that might otherwise be prohibitive. We will be reminded of the legacy this historic gift represents each spring as we send another diverse class of physicians out across the Bronx and around the world to provide compassionate care and transform their communities," Tomer said.

The donation comes from Gottesman and her late husband, David "Sandy" Gottesman, who was the founder of First Manhattan Co. and an early investor in Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, before he died in 2022 at 96 years old.

Ruth Gottesman, 93, began her work at Einstein's Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center more than 55 years ago.

"I am very thankful to my late husband, Sandy, for leaving these funds in my care, and l feel blessed to be given the great privilege of making this gift to such a worthy cause," Ruth Gottesman said in the press release.

"Each year, well over 100 students enter Albert Einstein College of Medicine in their quest for degrees in medicine and science. They leave as superbly trained scientists and compassionate and knowledgeable physicians, with the expertise to find new ways to prevent diseases and provide the finest health care to communities here in the Bronx and all over the world," she said.

 

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Biden to make his 2nd visit to southern border on the same day as Trump

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(EAGLE PASS, TEXAS) -- President Joe Biden will make his second visit to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday to make another push for Congress to pass a bipartisan border deal, the White House announced Monday.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, will also deliver remarks at the border on Thursday, sources familiar with his trip told ABC News. Trump will visit Eagle Pass, Texas -- a flashpoint for immigration confrontation.

Biden will visit Brownsville, Texas. He last visited the border in January 2023 when he stopped in El Paso. He faced immense criticism from Republicans for not going to the border as migrant encounters reached a record high in December.

In Brownsville, Biden will meet with Border Patrol agents, law enforcement and local leaders, according to a White House official.

"He will discuss the urgent need to pass the Senate bipartisan border security agreement, the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border in decades," the official said. "He will reiterate his calls for congressional Republicans to stop playing politics and to provide the funding needed for additional U.S. Border Patrol agents, more asylum officers, fentanyl detection technology and more."

Biden has been urging Congress to pass the bipartisan immigration deal, which includes changes to asylum protocols, funding to bolster immigration review and hire additional Border Patrol agents as well as new emergency powers for officials.

The deal was the result of months of negotiations after House Republicans demanded foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel be tied to immigration reform. However, Speaker Mike Johnson called the proposal "dead on arrival" and contends it doesn't do enough to enhance border security.

Republicans remain under pressure from Trump to reject it as he looks to make immigration a key campaign issue.

Biden on Friday pressed Republicans to "show a little spine" and pass the bill even if they "reap the wrath" their colleagues to get this bill to his desk.

"Folks, doing nothing is not an option. Compromise is part of the process," Biden said about the deal when speaking to governors at the White House. "I didn't get everything I wanted in that deal. We didn't deal with DREAMers. We didn't do a number of things I think we should do. But you know it's a positive step, a significant step."

Amid the impasse on Capitol Hill, Biden is considering executive action to tighten asylum restrictions, an administration official told ABC News. Speaker Johnson criticized the potential action as "election year gimmicks."

Biden is not expected to announce any new executive actions on Thursday, according to a source familiar with the plans.

Biden faces headwinds on immigration, which has emerged as a top 2024 election concern for voters. An ABC News poll conducted earlier this year found Biden's approval rating on his handling of the border stood at just 18%.

In a post on his social media platform on Monday, Trump -- who has ramped up his anti-immigrant rhetoric this cycle -- continued his claim that foreign countries are sending criminals to the U.S. and attacked the Biden administration as being unable to handle migrants.

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Trump, co-defendants appeal ruling in $464 million civil fraud case

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(NEW YORK) -- Lawyers for former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants are appealing their $464 million civil fraud case.

In a filing Monday, the defendants signaled their plans to appeal the ruling to New York's Appellate Division, First Department.

"This appeal is taken from each and every part of the Order insofar as Defendants are aggrieved," defense lawyers Alina Habba and Clifford Robert wrote in the notice.

In an informational statement filed with the Appellate Division, the defense lawyers asked the court to determine whether the judge in the case "committed errors of law and/or fact, abused its discretion, and/or acted in excess of its jurisdiction."

"We trust that the Appellate Division will overturn this egregious fine and take the necessary steps to restore the public faith in New York's legal system," Habba said in a statement.

Judge Arthur Engoron earlier this month found Trump, his adults, and two former Trump Organization executives liable for a decade of fraudulent business activity, ordering the defendants to pay a total of $464 million in disgorgement and pre-judgment interest. Of that amount, Trump owes $355 million in fines plus approximately $100 million in interest.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing.

On Friday, the clerk for New York County's Supreme Court signed and entered the judgment order in the case, giving Trump 30 days to file his appeal. In order to pause the execution of the fine in the case, the former president needs to post a bond or put cash into an escrow account to cover the fines plus interest.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case against Trump and his co-defendants, told ABC News last week that she is prepared to seize the former president's assets if he is unable to find the cash to cover the fine.

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New home sales ticked up in January, despite elevated mortgage rates

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(WASHINGTON) -- New home sales ticked up in January, despite a twin burden imposed by elevated mortgage rates and expensive housing prices, according to U.S. Census data released on Monday.

Sales of new single-family homes rose 1.8% in January compared to the previous year, data showed. The survey found an estimated 661,000 homes were sold in January.

On a monthly basis, sales climbed 1.5% from December.

The fresh data offers a glimmer of optimism for an otherwise sluggish housing market.

By contrast, existing-home sales declined in January compared to the previous year, the National Association of Realtors said last week.

Mortgage-purchase applications fell 10% from a week earlier, data from the Mortgage Bankers Association on Wednesday showed.

The divergent trends for new and existing home sales trace back to elevated mortgage rates. The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage has soared to 6.9%, rebounding after a steady decline at the end of last year, according to a report from Freddie Mac on Thursday.

Homeowners are largely opting to stay in their current residences because they would rather stick with comparatively low-rate mortgages than shift to high-rate ones.

Mortgage rates track yields on 10-year Treasury bonds, which are highly sensitive to the benchmark interest rate set by the Federal Reserve.

The Fed says it expects to cut interest rates this year but so far has kept the rates at high levels, since inflation has resisted downward pressure in recent months.

The supply of new homes, on the other hand, is garnering interest from prospective buyers unable to find homeowners willing to sell.

The median sales price of new houses sold in January was $420,700.

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Louisiana inmate escapes custody after pepper spraying deputy, stealing officer's car: Sheriff

Inmate Leon Ruffin in a mugshot from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office

(HARVEY, La.) -- A convicted felon who had been in custody on a second-degree murder charge escaped on Sunday after pepper spraying his transporting deputy and stealing her car, authorities said.

The inmate, Leon Ruffin, should be considered "armed and dangerous," Sheriff Joseph Lopinto of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana, told the media Sunday night at a press briefing.

Lopinto said he doesn't believe the man "has anything to lose" as he could be facing life in prison if convicted on the second-degree murder charge.

Ruffin had been transferred from the medical facility in the corrections center to a local hospital around noon on Sunday on the advice of the medical team after suffering from a possible seizure. After being treated at the hospital, Ruffin created some type of disturbance as he was being driven out of the hospital parking lot, Lopinto said. The female deputy got out of the car and he pepper sprayed her, the official said. The suspect then took the deputy's vehicle, he added.

The deputy fired shots at the car but does not know if Ruffin was hit.

At present, authorities do not know where the suspect got the pepper spray. The deputy still had her pepper spray, taser and weapon following his escape.

Authorities have contacted the family of the victim in Ruffin's alleged second-degree murder case.

Prior to his trip to the hospital, Ruffin had been in the medical unit at the corrections facility, but Lopinto said they believed he was faking his injuries.

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Machine gun or firearm toy? Bump stock creator speaks out ahead of Supreme Court hearing on ban

A bump stocks make a gun fire by sliding the weapon against a fixed trigger finger rather than moving a trigger finger against the gun. -- ABC News

(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) -- To gun enthusiasts, Jeremiah Cottle is an American hero and entrepreneurial success story. To his critics, the decorated Air Force veteran, father of four and inventor of the bump stock accessory is a promoter of mass death.

"I wanted to create a way that people could go out, shoot their gun safely and have fun and shoot as fast as you want to be able," Cottle told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

WATCH: Up close and personal with the bump stock: 'Machine gun' or firearm toy? ABC News Live Prime, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET, streaming on Hulu or the ABC News app.

This week, the fate of the device and Cottle's multimillion-dollar business hang in the balance at the U.S. Supreme Court, which is weighing whether the government can ban bump stocks as "machine guns" under federal law.

"A machine gun is a mechanical definition by law, and it doesn't meet that definition," Cottle argued.

The Biden administration and gun safety advocates strongly disagree.

The National Firearms Act makes it a crime to manufacture machine guns or to possess one made after 1986. Those firearms are defined as any weapon which shoots "automatically, more than one shot, without manual reloading, but a single function of the trigger."

The new case, Garland v. Cargill, turns on interpretation of that definition.

Cottle designed the original, non-mechanical bump stock in 2008 from a piece of wood, PVC pipe and duct tape. It replaces the standard stock on a semi-automatic rifle and harnesses the gun's recoil power to help a shooter fire faster and more accurately.

For eight years, federal regulators approved its sale and patents protected its design. Cottle said he sold his first 500 bump stocks in just four days -- and then more than 20,000 in the first year and more than half a million by 2017.

"Nothing had been on the market that was similar to this," he said of the sales boom, which catapulted him from food stamps to millionaire status. His small business in West Texas, Slide Fire Solutions, Inc., grew to employ more than 40, including his grandparents.

"It's absolutely a Cinderella story," said Cottle. "You take an individual with an idea -- something that they believe others will enjoy -- you put it out there, and it's unbelievably welcomed."

But in October 2017, the deadly power of a bump stock came into horrifying view.

Investigators concluded a gunman in Las Vegas who killed 60 people and injured more than 500 at a music festival had multiple rifles equipped with bump stocks. It remains America's deadliest mass shooting.

"We were running over bodies because of how quickly the shots were being fired," said Marisa Marano, a survivor of the shooting. "Had it been one rifle, I do not believe that as many people would have died. Why are we allowing bump stocks to kill? What's the point? What are we doing?"

The same Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that had repeatedly told Cottle between 2008 and 2017 that his bump stocks were not illegal "machine guns" did an about-face after the Vegas massacre.

At the direction of then-President Donald Trump, and backed by the National Rifle Association, the agency reclassified the devices and ordered that the more than 700,000 already created must be surrendered or destroyed.

"That somebody took action and said that we do not need these devices was a wonderful thing," said Geena Springmann, Marano's younger sister who is also a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting. "We need [bump stocks] to be regulated. This converts an assault weapon into a machine gun."

Steve Kling, a retired Army commander of a small arms training unit and a gun safety advocate for the Giffords organization, said ATF's reversal reflects a more accurate analysis of federal law.

"The spirit of the law is to prevent automatic weapons, weapons that have a significant cyclical rate of fire, from being on our streets and possessed by just anyone," he said.

"I've fired a lot of automatic weapons, including ones with bump stocks. There's no question that they're fun. It's fun to drive a supercar at 180 miles an hour down a highway. But we don't allow that either," Kling said.

Michael Cargill, an Army veteran and owner of Central Texas Gun Works outside Austin, cleared his store shelves of bump stocks after the ATF imposed the 2018 ban and surrendered two he owned himself. But he sued the agency in federal court and is leading the fight to get the devices back.

"This is a product that I legally purchased and had it in the store," Cargill said in an interview at his shop, "and all of a sudden an agency within the federal government decided they're going to ban this particular product. I said, 'This is crazy, this is not the America that I know. We've got to do something about this.'"

Cargill insists a bump stock is a firearm accessory that does not render a semi-automatic weapon fully automatic and that the ATF overstepped its authority. He's now asking the Supreme Court to strike down the agency's ban.

"We need to follow the laws that we already have right now and not venture past that point," Cargill said. "An agency within the federal government can't come out and actually turn millions of people into felons overnight or ban a product. We have to go to Congress to do that."

Cottle, who personally questions whether bump stocks were actually used in the Vegas shooting, insists his product is a "safety device" that makes bump firing less erratic than other recreational rapid-firing techniques.

And he maintained that his conscience is clear, despite a connection between his device and the nation's deadliest mass shooting.

"I believe people that are bent on violence will achieve violence regardless of the tools they use," he said.

Cottle said that regardless of the Supreme Court's decision in the case, he may soon get out of the bump stock business to pursue other passions. But in the meantime, he hopes the justices will vindicate his version of the American dream, regardless of the criticism.

"The bump stock gave me the opportunity to do something amazing, to create a business, to get my children off of food stamps, to actually employ people," he said. "It has been absolutely scapegoated."

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Judge declines to grant stay of Trump's $83.3 million judgment in Carroll defamation trial

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Judge Lewis Kaplan has declined to grant a stay of Donald Trump's $83.3 million judgment in his defamation case and requested a written response from columnist E. Jean Carroll's lawyers.

"The Court declines to grant any stay, much less an unsecured stay, without first having afforded plaintiff a meaningful opportunity to be heard," Kaplan wrote in an order filed Sunday morning. Kaplan set a Thursday deadline for Carroll's response and a March 2 deadline for Trump's reply.

A lawyer for the former president requested last week that Kaplan temporarily delay the judgment or permit Trump to post a bond for "an appropriate fraction" of the total damages.

Trump's lawyer Alina Habba filed the motion on Friday, requesting a stay until 30 days after the resolution of his post-trial motions filed in early March, or grant a partially secured stay while Trump posts a reduced bond.

"There is a strong probability that the disposition of post-trial motions will substantially reduce, if not eliminate, the amount of the judgment," Habba argued in the motion.

"Plaintiff failed to offer any evidence that her alleged distress was of any significant severity or duration, or that it resulted in any medical, physical, or clinical consequences—or even any extreme emotional effects," Habba wrote about the emotional damage suffered by Carroll, who described living in a state of fear following Trump's statements.

Habba suggested that the court should project a reduction of the total judgment to $22.25 million, for which Trump could post a $24.475 million bond.

"The figure awarded to Ms. Carroll is egregiously excessive," Habba said in a statement to ABC News. "The Court must exercise its authority to prevent Ms. Carroll from enforcing this absurd judgment, which will not withstand appeal."

The request comes amid a renewed spotlight on the former president’s finances following two costly New York civil trials. On Friday, New York's Supreme Court entered the judgment in Trump's civil fraud case, in which he owes $355 million in fines plus approximately $100 million in interest.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing and has said he doesn't know who Carroll is.

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Suspect charged with murder after woman who went on run found dead on University of Georgia campus

Augusta University

(ATHENS, Ga.) -- A suspect was taken into custody a day after a woman who went for a run on the University of Georgia's Athens campus was found dead due to "foul play," school officials said Friday.

The victim, Laken Hope Riley, 22, was found in a wooded area on campus on Thursday with "visible injuries," the university said. She died from blunt force trauma, according to University of Georgia Police Department Chief Jeffrey Clark.

A suspect in her death, 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra, has been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, obstructing an emergency call and concealing the death of another. He was denied bond during an initial court appearance on Saturday and is being held at the Clarke County Jail.

Clark told reporters Friday evening they took three to four people into custody in connection with the murder but only plan to arrest Ibarra, who is from Venezuela.

"The evidence suggests that this was a solo act," he said.

Police do not believe he knew the victim and do not have a motive, according to the chief.

"I think this was a crime of opportunity, where he saw an individual and bad things happened," Clark said.

"Key input" from the community, physical evidence and video footage from campus security cameras helped lead investigators to the suspect, who lives in Athens, the chief said.

"There are no indications of a continuing threat to the community related to this case at this time," Clark said.

The Justice Department said Saturday that Ibarra's brother, Diego Ibarra, had also been arrested during the course of the investigation for presenting a fake green card after officers approached him because he matched the description of the suspect. Diego Ibarra has been charged by federal complaint with possessing a fake green card and is in state custody.

In a statement Sunday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Jose Ibarra had been arrested on Sept. 8, 2022, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) "after unlawfully entering the United States near El Paso, Texas."

"He was paroled and released for further processing," ICE said.

"On Sept. 14, 2023, [Jose] Ibarra was arrested by the New York Police Department and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation," the statement continued. "He was released by the NYPD before a detainer could be issued. On Feb. 23, 2024, ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations] Atlanta encountered Ibarra pursuant to his arrest by the University of Georgia Police Department and being charged with murder and other crimes. ERO Atlanta lodged a detainer."

A friend reported Riley missing shortly after noon on Thursday when she failed to return home from a run at the school's intramural fields earlier that morning, the university said.

University police officers subsequently found her behind a lake near the fields "unconscious and not breathing," the university said. Officers attempted to provide medical aid but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Riley was a junior at the Augusta University College of Nursing who studied at its Athens campus, the school said. She had previously attended the University of Georgia.

"This sudden loss of one of our students is truly heartbreaking," the Augusta University College of Nursing said in a statement on Friday.

She graduated from River Ridge High School in Woodstock, Georgia, in 2020, where she ran on the school's cross-country team for four years.

"Her passion for health care science and running are to be admired," River Ridge High School cross-country coach Keith Hooper said in a statement to ABC News. "She will always accompany us as we run."

Classes were canceled at the nursing school on Friday, with counselors available to staff and students.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Athens-Clarke County Police Department are assisting in the homicide investigation, the university said.

"We have been fully briefed on this terrible situation," the university said in a statement. "We want to assure you that the safety and welfare of our campus community is our top concern."

The incident follows the "sudden death" of a student in the campus' Brumby Hall Wednesday night, the school said. A cause of death has not been released.

Chief Clark said there is no connection between the two deaths.

Classes will resume on Monday, the school said, calling the past 24 hours a "traumatic time" for the university.

University officials recommended that students travel in groups when possible and download the school's safety app.

Clark urged anyone with information on the incident to contact the University of Georgia Police Department.

There has not been a homicide on the campus in the past 20 years, according to Clark.

ABC News' Luke Barr, Alyssa Gregory, Jason Volack and Nick Uff contributed to this report.
 

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