What to know about potential war crimes in Syria by Turkish-backed fighters

omersukrugoksu/iStock(NEW YORK) — Hevrin Khalaf, a 35-year-old Kurdish-Syrian politician and the general secretary of the Syria Future Party, which aimed to transition the government should strongman President Bashar al-Assad be ousted, was riding in a vehicle on the M4 highway in Syria when she was apparently targeted and killed on the roadside, along with others in the car.

The Syrian Democratic Forces claimed she was killed by members of the Islamist militant organization Ahrar al-Sharqiya, an anti-Assad rebel group now fighting for Turkey.

While questions swirled around her death, videos were posted by the Turkish-backed Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya on social media that appeared to be filmed by her killers.

ABC News confirmed that the politician, a human rights advocate, was shot in the face, but reports that she had been raped were untrue.

“Turkish-backed terrorist groups are committing war crimes in NE Syria,” British politician Lloyd Russell-Moyle tweeted on Sunday, the day after the killings. “Filmed sectarian roadside executions recall IS tactics. Future Syria party leader Hevrin Khalaf has been executed. Her killers filmed it on their phones.”

Russell-Moyle’s tweet echoed calls from around the world labeling these killings — and other actions taken by the Turkish military and Turkish-backed fighters — as war crimes. But actually labeling, let alone getting justice for, an action viewed by many as a “war crime” is more complicated, especially given the region’s increasingly complicated politics.

As civil war in Syria continued through the early part of this decade, between attempts to overthrow Assad and the rise of ISIS, the U.S. entered the scene and worked with local forces, including the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, a local militia that worked to protect Kurdish areas from attack. But Trump entered office with the intent of pulling troops out of the country, and in October, seven months after declaring the end of ISIS, he announced troops would be withdrawing.

This announcement came after a call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Within a week of that call, Erdogan announced Turkey had begun an operation in Syria, including targeting the Kurdish forces the U.S. had supported, and Khalaf was dead.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed seeing “reports of the killing of” Khalaf and found them “extremely troubling,” adding that the U.S. will “condemn in the strongest of terms any mistreatment and extrajudicial execution of civilians or prisoners.”

“President Erdogan bears full responsibility for its consequences, to include a potential ISIS resurgence, possible war crimes and a growing humanitarian crisis,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper said in a statement Monday about Turkey’s overall actions in Syria.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949, which included Turkey, clearly state that “murder of all kinds,” “torture,” “humiliating and degrading treatment” and “the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court” of people “taking no active part in the hostilities” are war crimes.

“If a politician is driving away from the fighting, not participating at all, her killing would be a murder, and murder is clearly prohibited in the Geneva Conventions,” Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at Notre Dame, told ABC News.

But “the question of accountability is a complicated one,” Sarah Cleveland, faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, told ABC News.

There are various people who could be held accountable for a war crime — the individuals who committed the actions, their commanders and up through the ranks depending on who’s deemed responsible. Turkish officials could be held responsible for the actions of Syrian fighters if it’s proven they directed the fighters.

Then, there are several avenues through which war crimes and human rights violations can be prosecuted.

Probably the most well-known avenue is that the U.N. Security Council can refer cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. However, Cleveland cautioned, given that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power — and since Russia is playing its own complex role in Syria and in relation to Turkey — it’s less likely that the ICC will see a case.

Another option is that countries not involved in a certain conflict have the ability to exercise jurisdiction over war crimes. Germany, for example, has arrested former Syrian officials for crimes against humanity and is holding trials.

A third possibility, floated by some in the international community, is to set up a tribunal, which can be established within the United Nations to address a broad range of crimes in a particular region. Tribunals were set up for the former Yugoslavia to address war crimes in the Balkans in the ’90s and for Rwanda to address the genocide there in the ’90s, resulting in indictments and imprisonment for dozens.

So far, setting up a tribunal has primarily been discussed in the context of prosecuting ISIS militants, but one could be broadened to also address other potential war crimes in Syria, including actions committed by Assad and his forces and by Turkey and fighters supported by that country.

Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights could take up a human rights-based case should individuals or states submit one.

As O’Connell, the Notre Dame professor, sees it, focusing on individual murders by Turkish or Turkish-supported fighters misses a bigger point: “Turkey’s cross-border operations in Syria are a violation of the U.N. Charter prohibition on the use of force. It is an act of aggression.”

“Aggression is the most serious war crime you can commit,” she continued. “It means that all of the killing, all of the destruction that follows from that unlawful decision to use military force is unjustified.”

She doubts that will be prosecuted, however, as nations like Russia and the U.S. are “not coming to this argument with clean hands” given their military actions in Crimea and in Iraq in 2003, respectively.

Rather than turn to prosecution, O’Connell believes the international community should rally together to use this moment as “a chance for a reset, to get back to the law that everyone was committed to before 9/11.” The international community, she said, should urge Turkey to pull back and be part of regional negotiation to bring an end to the Syrian civil war and ISIS.

This is something Vice President Mike Pence could have the opportunity to do as he leads a delegation to Turkey this week to attempt to negotiate a ceasefire and settlement between Turkey and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.

“If that message isn’t brought home to Turkey, the worst-case scenario is extraordinarily grim,” O’Connell said.

But for Cleveland, of Columbia Law School, focusing only on Turkey’s actions has the possibility of missing an even broader range of potential war crimes and human rights violations committed in the region over the last decade.

“Basically every form of violation of international, humanitarian law possible has been committed in Syria, from the use of chemical weapons to intentional targeting of civilians and hospitals and schools, to indiscriminate bombing of heavily occupied civilian areas,” she said. “The list goes on and on.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Woman wins lawsuit after being fired while struggling with postpartum depression

Courtesy Maria Alves(NEW YORK) — Maria Alves thought the crippling anxiety and worry she said she felt after the birth of her son three years ago were simply “baby blues” that would go away.

When the feelings continued weeks post-delivery and got worse, Alves asked her then-employer, Boston University, for an extension of her maternity leave, which she was granted.

Alves, of Brockton, Massachusetts, was eventually diagnosed with postpartum depression. When she asked Boston University for additional medical leave to give her more time to recover, she was denied the leave and then terminated from her job.

Alves, a single mom, had worked in administrative roles at Boston University for nine years. Her son, Luis, was 4 months old at the time.

“It was a compound effect because you have the postpartum depression and next thing you know I was terminated,” Alves told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “Financially it was drastic. I was maxing out credit cards because I had a newborn I had to feed, and clothes and diapers to buy.”

Alves said she isolated herself while suffering from postpartum depression and had only told her sister and a cousin about her struggles. Her cousin happened to work in human resources in another field, and when she learned Alves had been fired, she encouraged her to seek legal help.

Last month, three years after her firing, a jury awarded Alves, now 40, a total of $144,000 in compensatory damages for lost wages and emotional distress at the end of a six-day trial in Suffolk Superior Court.

The 10-person jury ruled that Boston University violated the Massachusetts discrimination laws, specifically disability and medical condition discrimination, based on Alves’ diagnosis of postpartum depression.

“I believe I did the right thing in holding [Boston University] accountable,” Alves said. “Postpartum depression is really real but unfortunately when you have it you don’t want to talk about it and you don’t want to expose yourself for fear of losing your job.”

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects one in nine new mothers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health. It is considered a serious mental illness during which feelings of sadness and anxiety may be extreme and may interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family

“It’s difficult to explain for someone who has never gone through it,” said Alves. “I really didn’t even know what it was. I just knew that my sister had gone through the ‘baby blues’ and I figured it was going to go away for me in a few weeks and it didn’t.”

While many women do not know what to expect with postpartum depression, even more women don’t know what their employee rights are when they are pregnant or suffering from postpartum complications, according to Joan C. Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law, a California-based research and advocacy organization.

“Women who are pregnant and women who have postpartum depression often have a qualifying disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA),” said Williams. “The ADA imposes a whole new set of duties on the employer.”

The ADA, signed into law in 1990, requires employers to work with employees to see if they can create a reasonable accommodation to allow the employee to do the essential parts of the job without creating an undue hardship for the employer, according to Williams.

If, for instance, a woman who is pregnant is a cashier, she could request under the ADA that her employer provide a stool to sit on so she would not have to stand for her entire shift, explained Williams.

“The ADA requires the employer to work with the employee in an interactive process, like, ‘Would this work for you?”” said Williams. “And then the employer would come back with another proposal and say, ‘Well, would this work for you?'”

Alves, who had just been promoted months before her pregnancy, claimed in her lawsuit against Boston University that the university did not work with her to provide a reasonable accommodation. Her attorneys, Matthew Fogelman and Jeff Simons, presented email evidence during the trial and called Alves’ therapist to the stand.

“Their reason [to fire Alves] was that they just couldn’t hold the job any longer, that the department was busy and they needed to fill the position,” said Fogelman. “They tried to argue in the case that there would have been undue hardship on the company but the jury did not find that persuasive.”

Boston University said in a statement to GMA in response to the lawsuit, “The University respects the jurors’ verdict and wishes Ms. Alves the best going forward. Thank you.”

Alves will take home around $182,000 after accounting for interest, according to Fogelman.

“I think it’s notable,” he said of the jury’s ruling. “Employers have to be equipped to know how to handle not only maternity leave but other complications, whether it’s a mental condition or a physical condition after birth. Maybe you have to hire a [temporary employee] for another month or maybe you have to borrow someone else from another department or maybe the person can work part-time or from home.”

Williams’ Center for WorkLife Law has established a website, PregnantatWork.org, and a hotline — (415) 703-8276 — as resources for women to know their rights in the workplace.

Williams wants women to know that even beyond paid maternity leave — which only about 35% of women in the U.S. have, according to the Society for Human Resource Management — and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — which only covers about 50% of workers in the U.S. , according to Williams — they have rights through the ADA.

“That is the big news here,” she said. “What we have found is that OBGYNs often didn’t know that, employers didn’t know that and pregnant women didn’t know that.”

“Not everyone has a cousin in human resources to talk to,” Williams said, referring to Alves.

Alves’ son, Luis, is now 3 and she’s back to work now at a law firm.

Although she has not recovered financially from her termination, Alves said she is on the other side of postpartum depression, no longer isolating herself or living with crippling anxiety.

“Luis is happy. I’m happy. We’re doing good,” she said. “I would hope people with postpartum depression reach out and get help because it is real.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Andrew Wiggins: ‘There’s not 100 players better than me’

AndrewSoundarajan/iStock(MINNEAPOLIS) — Former first overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins was left off of ESPN.com’s annual list of the top 100 players in the NBA, an exclusion he disagrees with.

“I don’t really look at that too much,” Wiggins said Thursday, adding “there’s not 100 players better than me, so it doesn’t matter what people think.”

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Wiggins said. “My job is to come out here and hoop, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

The 24-year-old is in his sixth season in the NBA. Experts have considered him something of an underperformer, especially after signing a $147.7 million contract extension in 2017.

Wiggins averaged 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds last season, and shot the lowest percentage of his career from the field.

He pointed to the trade demand of former teammate Jimmy Butler and the firing of former coach Tom Thibodeau as getting last season off to a tough start for him. But now, Wiggins says, “I would say I enjoy it more than I did last year.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Suspect in custody for Brooklyn street festival shooting that killed one, injured 11

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Three months after gunfire shattered a neighborhood block party, killing one person and injuring 11 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, police say they have a suspect in custody.

Brooklyn resident Kyle Williams, 20, was charged Wednesday with murder, attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment in connection with the shooting, which took place during the neighborhood’s annual Old Timers Day event at Brownsville Playground on July 27.

The incident, which police at the time said may have been gang related, left the neighborhood badly shaken. The shots may have been an exchange of gunfire between two or more suspects, authorities said.

“One of the worst experiences of my life,” tweeted New York City Council Member Alicka Samuel, who co-sponsored the event with Council Member Inez Barron and was there when the shooting took place. “How does such a beautiful and peaceful event become overshadowed by tragedy in seconds? We have to do more.”

Jason Pagan, 38, was struck by gunfire in the head and pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to the New York Police Department. Eleven other people — six men and five women — were shot and transported to the hospital for treatment, one in critical condition. The victims ranged in age from 25 to 55 years old, police said.

The shooting took place just before 11 p.m., as the crowd of about 2,000 was winding down the festivities.

The Old Timers event, which dates back to 1963, is a week-long festival that includes food booths, musical performances, and a fashion and talent show.

Although regarded as one of Brooklyn’s more dangerous neighborhoods, Brownsville had hosted the annual event for 55 years without incident.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a news conference on the day after the shooting, called the event “an example of everything good about Brownsville.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Asylum-seeker details eight-month odyssey in immigration detention system

Courtesy Miguel Martinez(WASHINGTON) — For asylum-seeker Miguel Angel Giron Martinez, getting to the U.S. border was the easy part.

It was the eight months afterward that he says was a nightmare.

In an interview with ABC News, Giron Martinez — a 23-year-old student activist from Honduras who had his life threatened by the government — claimed that he was kept in cramped conditions where men lined up for hours to use one of only three showers and was bounced around to different facilities in what he described as “endless detention.”

At one point, he says he suffered a botched dental surgery in U.S. custody that was so painful he had no choice but to later extract part of the tooth himself, using only toilet paper to stop the bleeding.

Giron Martinez is one of several named plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief and class certification in a lawsuit against Kevin McAleenan, the former acting director of the Department of Homeland Security who stepped down last week, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcemen (ICE), Matthew Albence, and two other ICE officials.

The plaintiffs claim in the suit, which is ongoing in Washington, D.C. federal court, that the New Orleans field office of ICE has failed to follow agency directives for parole — temporary release for those who have a “credible fear of persecution or torture” — and instead have subjected them to indefinite detention “in remote immigration jails across the Deep South” despite satisfying the grounds for release, according to the complaint.

Giron Martinez claimed he was repeatedly denied parole despite being an ideal candidate; he had no criminal history, had a U.S. citizen willing to sponsor him, and was not considered to be a flight risk, according to his lawyers. He has since been granted asylum in the United States.

But some immigration lawyers say the harrowing details of Giron Martinez’s story raise serious questions about the U.S. treatment of asylum seekers. They say it highlights how unfair it is to deny parole to detainees who have no criminal history, who do not pose a flight risk, and should, under ICE’s own parole directive, be granted parole.

Parole rates for detainees have been plummeting under the Trump administration and conditions under which detainees are held have come under scrutiny by advocates as well as the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.

During his ordeal, Giron Martinez said it was his faith that helped him pull through.

“At nine at night, we would make our own religious circle,” he told ABC News. “Because we were asking God to help us. Because only God could help us.”

The ‘Ice Box’

Giron Martinez was a student political leader and a member of an opposition party who marched for justice and an end to corruption in his home country. In court documents and an interview, he said local police “threatened me with disappearance and death.” But when his friends were murdered and his own life was threatened, he said he decided in October 2018 to leave home and family behind to seek asylum in the United States.

He traveled on foot with a caravan to the American border and said he received “death threats by narcotraffickers” along the way, according to his declaration in the federal lawsuit.

Upon arriving in Tijuana in November 2018, Giron Martinez faced the first obstacle — a flood of migrants, like him, who were trying to enter the United States to seek asylum.

For more than two months, he said he patiently waited his turn. Then, on Jan. 14, 2019, Giron Martinez was granted entry at the San Ysidro port, near San Diego.

His first stop was the so-called “ice box” — also known as the “hielera”– a frigid holding room for migrants inside a facility run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Giron Martinez echoed what other migrants before him said about the “ice box.” He claims he wasn’t provided a bed and had to sleep sitting up. The only thing officials gave him for warmth was an aluminum blanket, he maintained.

CBP has said its facilities are intended to hold people briefly — the goal is no more than 72 hours — until they can be processed and moved to other government facilities. But 2019 marked a radical increase in the number of people trying to cross the border — nearly one million undocumented migrants — almost double the amount in prior years.

Giron Martinez said he spent nearly a week in the “ice box” before being handed over to ICE on Jan. 20.

The Pain

Giron Martinez said he was cuffed and taken to a detention center in Mississippi. From there, he says he was transferred to another detention center, this time in Louisiana, and then another. He would spend the greater part of a year under the jurisdiction of the New Orleans ICE Field Office.

While he was being held in the Jackson Parish Correctional Center in Louisiana, where he was transferred around March 21, Giron Martinez said he started experiencing severe pain in one of his teeth, so he asked to have it removed.

“I was asking every day for six weeks,” Giron Martinez told ABC News. “And they finally came to take it out. And when they took it out, they somehow botched the job. They left a little bit of molar still in there and they sewed me back up.”

He says the pain never stopped. According to his declaration, the dentist told him he needed to see a specialist to have the rest of the tooth removed, but when he was moved to a different facility, Winn, over the summer, he claims he was told there were no specialists.

About three months later, he said he noticed the rest of that tooth was protruding a little. So he decided to take matters into his own hands, removing his own tooth, without anesthetic. To help clot the blood, he shoved toilet paper into his mouth, he said in an interview.

Giron Martinez said he couldn’t access his health records because he had been transferred and was not able to see a dentist at Winn, according to his declaration.

He also claims that he was confined to a room about the size of a tennis court with what he estimated to be 140 other men. There was no air conditioning and only three showers for the men he shared the room with, he claimed. The officers put two giant fans at either end of the room, but it still stunk with heat and sweat, he said.

Giron Martinez said he was rarely away from the stench and was let outside for 30 minutes once a week. Rusted iron bunk beds filled the entire space. Some of the men spent their days laying down, others huddled in conversation, and many lined up for hours waiting for a shower, he said during the interview.

ICE disputes some of the details of the conditions at the Jackson Parish Correctional Center. A spokesman said the room’s capacity was only 100 men and that they were allowed outside for one hour a day, weather permitting. ICE also said Giron Martinez would have had access to six showers and that the air conditioning worked every day but two while he was at Jackson Parish.

Giron Martinez’s description of deficiencies at the detention centers tracks with conditions described by an internal DHS watchdog. In other ICE facilities around the country in 2018, the Homeland Security inspector general reported expired and moldy foods were in kitchen refrigerators and some migrants were kept in “standing-room-only conditions.”

“Cruelty is the point,” said Luz Lopez, a senior attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represents Giron Martinez and others in the federal class action lawsuit.

“They want to be as cruel as possible so everyone will talk,” Lopez said. ”And then they will tell anyone who is thinking of coming to not because the conditions are so horrible.”

0% Parole Rate

Giron Martinez passed his credible fear interview (which is part of an asylum claim), proved his identity and that he was not a danger to society — the general qualifications for parole barring other considerations. He also had a U.S. citizen, Tanya Hartley, willing to sponsor him — a strong indication that he was not a flight risk, according to his lawyers. Hartley told ABC News that she met Giron Martinez in December 2018 at the border where she was volunteering. After a few weeks of ‘vetting’ him herself, she said, she agreed to become his sponsor. Giron Martinez was the first — and is the only — asylum seeker Hartley has sponsored.

But for each of the three times Giron Martinez requested parole from the New Orleans ICE Field Office, he was denied. ICE claims he was a flight risk, but did not give any guidance or specific proof to this claim other than checking a box on his form. He was not the only one. According to a September memorandum opinion by Judge James Boasberg in Giron Martinez’s case, no one has been released on parole by the New Orleans office this year.

Three years ago, under President Barack Obama, the office operated very differently. In 2016, more than 75% of asylum seekers under its jurisdiction were granted parole, Boasberg’s memo said.

While parole remains largely discretionary and based on a case-by-case basis, Boasberg said it is likely that the New Orleans ICE field office is ignoring ICE’s own parole procedures by denying parole on such a large scale.

“The numbers and the affidavits provide a powerful case – one the Government barely attempts to rebut – that the New Orleans Field Office no longer follows the dictates of the Parole Directive,” Boasberg wrote in the September opinion.

In an order in September, Boasberg granted the plaintiffs’ motions for class certification and preliminary injunction against the New Orleans field office, and ordered them to follow their own rules and grant parole on an individualized basis for ‘arriving aliens.’

The order prohibits the field office from denying parole without going through the parole process for each individual.

In October, Boasberg ruled that the field office would have to produce a report for all parolees denied before Sept. 5, 2019 (the day of the preliminary injunction) and a monthly report for all those who arrive after and give detainees notice of the class action lawsuit and contact information for the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

$31,000 Jail Bill for Taxpayers

Bryan Cox, a spokesman for ICE, declined to comment on the court case, noting that “ICE generally does not comment on pending litigation.” But he advised that ICE complies “with court orders” and that “the agency is currently reviewing the court’s ruling to determine appropriate next steps.”

On Aug. 13, 2019, Giron Martinez was granted asylum by an immigration judge, but he still wasn’t allowed to go free. The Department of Homeland Security appealed the ruling, so Giron Martinez was forced to spend an additional 30 days in detention, according to his lawyer. When asked about the appeal, ICE had no comment.

DHS has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

Finally, on Sept. 13 — almost eight months to the day since crossing the border legally — Giron Martinez was released and granted full asylum. He now lives in Southern California with a U.S. citizen host, Rachel Bruhnke, who knows Honduras well since she lived there for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer. She is providing him housing and support, as well as helping him assimilate to American life. He is currently studying English.

All in, Giron Martinez spent 236 days in ICE custody, costing the U.S. taxpayer roughly $31,621 — based on the average per bed cost for an adult of $133.99 per day according to ICE’s 2018 budget.

Giron Martinez looks at his suffering from a bigger picture.

“I feel like God has always been with me,” Giron Martinez said. “Because no matter what, I seem to be getting out of it.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Ohio voters express angst over impeachment

ABC News(Columbus, OHIO) — Support for impeachment may be on the rise, but the view from central Ohio is strikingly complicated and nuanced.

ABC News Live embarked on a 100-mile road trip through the political battleground state this week, talking to dozens of voters — from downtown Columbus, to the purple suburbs of Westerville, to the Republican-dominant fields of Pataskala.

Nearly all of those voters showed openness to the inquiry into President Trump’s conduct with Ukraine, but few expressed a sense of outrage or urgency. In a word, the Ohio voters ABC News spoke with are cautious about impeachment.

“The facts and the truth. I want to see where it goes,” Columbus retiree and registered Democrat Judy Miller said. “I would just say continue the investigations.”

As clear a case as House Democrats might think they have, we found healthy skepticism of the politics surrounding the process; doubts about the ability of news media to fairly present the facts; and concern about the potential impact a successful impeachment vote might have.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a good idea or not. I don’t know if it would just cause more chaos,” said a 17-year-old high school senior from Pataskala, who will cast a vote for the first time in 2020, and asked not to be named. “I personally don’t think [President Trump] is the best, but I don’t know right now if there would be anybody too much better.”

Many voters who spoke with ABC News seemed genuinely torn: believing it important to enforce norms and uphold principles, but also not seeing a direct stake in the president’s alleged misconduct.

“I think impeachment is important in one sense of the word, because I think it’s important how our president acts and how he conducts himself. But I also realize that there’s a lot of ways in which information is getting filtered in a bunch of different ways,” said Michael Cole, a middle-aged manager for a truck management solutions company in Columbus.

“I don’t really have time for it. So it’s like white noise in the background,” he said of the daily deluge of headlines coming out of Washington. “I don’t know who to trust anymore. That’s really the bottom line.”

Colin Gardner, an IT specialist and independent voter from Pataskala, chatted as he picked out pumpkins with his wife at Lynd Fruit Farm.

“I feel like regardless of the result of the impeachment, if we don’t have an impeachment inquiry we may have a constitutional crisis,” Gardner said.

“I’m gonna have a kid in the next month and I want him to grow up in the kind of place where leaders are held accountable for their actions,” he added, motioning to his wife who is 8 months pregnant with their first child.

We also observed near-universal Trump scandal fatigue.

“There is interest,” said Westerville Mayor Craig Treneff of his constituents’ familiarity with the impeachment push, “but when I talk to people going door to door, they’re mostly focused on local matters that affect them more directly than the national politics.”

Vickie Whaley, a dental hygienist in New Albany, said she thinks it’s all “dirty politics.”

“I think that I’d let it just be fought out in the election,” she said.

“I truly believe they have been trying to impeach this man from day one,” said Todd, a pro-Trump kitchen worker at the Westerville Grill. “The truth will come out, and I hope that [Trump] prevails.”

Few of the dozens of voters ABC News spoke with could describe even the most basic, key details of Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine now at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

None could name the president of Ukraine when asked to identify him.

Anna Webber, a special education teacher in Westerville, said she supports an inquiry into Trump’s actions for the message it will send to politicians throughout government.

“If we don’t follow through with this,” she said, “if they’re not accountable to the public and feel they can do whatever they want, that’s very scary.”

Madison Lovell, a 28-year-old nurse in New Albany, said she doesn’t approve of a president asking a foreign government for help investigating a rival, but considers it no worse than other Trump behavior she doesn’t like.

“I’m half for Trump because I don’t agree with some of the stuff that he does,” she said. “At the same time, there’s things I really agree with.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Scoreboard roundup — 10/16/19

iStock(NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Wednesday’s sports events:

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION PRESEASON
Detroit 116, Charlotte 110
San Antonio 128, Houston 114
Atlanta 100, New York 96
Memphis 124, Oklahoma City 119
Portland 126, Utah 118
Sacramento 124, Melbourne 110
L.A. Lakers 126, Golden State 93

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
Columbus 3, Dallas 2
Pittsburgh 3, Colorado 2 — OT
Washington 4, Toronto 3
Edmonton 6, Philadelphia 3
Anaheim 5, Buffalo 2
San Jose 5, Carolina 2

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

School district reverses transgender-friendly bathroom policy amid death threats

mrtom-uk/iStock(NEW YORK) — A Georgia school district backtracked on its progressive transgender bathroom policy on Wednesday after staff members said they received death threats over the issue.

Pickens County Superintendent Carlton Wilson reversed a decision that allowed transgender students to use the restroom that best matches their gender identity, claiming the move had caused harassment, vandalism and even death threats.

The district had implemented the policy in the wake of the Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County case, which ruled that Drew Adams, a transgender student at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, could use the boys’ bathroom during his final year there.

Pickens County cited “many serious safety concerns” in a statement on Wednesday when it announced its decision to roll back the pro-trans gender policy.

“School board members, staff, and students have been threatened due to the administration’s implementation of Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County School District,” the Pickens County Board of Education said in a statement Wednesday. “There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property.”

The district, which said it has several students who identify as transgender, said it will revert back to its previous bathroom procedures “until it can consult with law enforcement and other safety professionals so that these concerns can be addressed.” The reversal means transgender students will go back to using single-stall private bathrooms that were once reserved only for faculty members.

“The district understands and acknowledges that it has the responsibility to protect its staff and students. However, the district has concerns that it may not be able to meet these increased demands,” the statement said. “We ask that all of our stakeholders exercise patience and discretion until these matters can be resolved.”

Wilson told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV that he was shocked by the extreme hatred ignited by the policy. He said he experienced the threats firsthand.

“The way some called names has been embarrassing and disappointing to me, and that’s hard to get over,” Wilson said. “One of them said, ‘You know, situations like this brings out crazy people from both sides and sometimes people die.'”

“They’re kids. They are all kids and none deserved to be treated the way some of them have been treated,” he added.

Multiple federal courts have ruled students should be able to use bathrooms that match their preferred genders, but many Pickens County residents said they disapproved.

“I think the boys ought to go to the boys’ and girls ought to go to girls’ bathroom,” Pickens County resident Barbara Padgett told WSB.

Similarly, Becky Hernandez, a Pickens County parent, suggested a separate, but equal type of policy.

“There are multiple bathrooms throughout schools,” she said. “Make one set your transgender bathrooms and keep the other ones so everyone has an option.”

“I’m not against the transgender students. … I want to make sure everybody’s safe,” she added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

State trooper rescues man from tracks just seconds before train collision

Utah Highway Patrol via Twitter(CENTERVILLE, Utah) — An officer with the Utah Highway Patrol said he was still trying to “process” the terrifying moment when he pulled a man out of the path of an oncoming train.

The rescue of the dramatic save was caught on Utah State Trooper Ruben Correa’s dashboard camera.

The video, taken Wednesday around 6:50 a.m. in Centerville, Utah, showed Correa stopping his patrol vehicle and racing up a short embankment toward a car that was parked on the train tracks with its lights on.

Correa risked his life to pull the man out as a train barreled toward them.

Correa had been making a traffic stop when a call came in about a car stuck on the tracks, he told Salt Lake City ABC affiliate KTVX-TV on Wednesday after the incident.

“I looked to my left, and I was able to observe that train was coming fast. Anywhere from 50 to 80 miles an hour,” Correa told KTVX.

In the dashboard video, lights from the front of a train can be seen growing brighter as it gets closer.

The video shows Correa reaching the car and tugging on a person in the vehicle. Correa said later during the news interview that the driver was unconscious.

“Let’s go! Get out of here! We’ve got a train coming! We’ve got a train coming!” he can be heard yelling desperately as the train sounds its horn. “We’ve got a train coming!”

With just seconds before the train struck the vehicle, dragging it along the tracks, Correa could be seen pulling the man’s body from the car. The two tumbled down the embankment and rolled into a fence. The train could be seen stopping.

“Come on! Come on!” Correa tells the man, who has started to move and walk, as the two try to get away from the train.

“I got the driver out,” he can be heard saying on his radio.

Correa estimated that the car had been thrown about 30 feet in front of him and the driver.

“I was within seconds of that collision. Maybe just a second later it would have been a different outcome,” he said.

KTVX-TV said there were no known injuries to the driver or to those on the train. Correa said it appeared that the driver of the vehicle, who has not been identified, had been suffering an “unknown medical condition.”

He said the driver was grateful for being rescued and a little confused about the incident. As for Correa, he said he was just doing his job.

“I’m still trying to process everything that happened,” Correa said. “I’m just very grateful I was able to get him out alive. He’s back with his family now.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Gambler robbed after women spike drink at South Florida casino

Broward Sheriffs Office(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) — Two women spiked a tourist’s drink at a South Florida casino before bringing him back to his hotel room and robbing him of $1,000 cash and a Rolex worth $15,000, authorities said.

Newly released surveillance video from the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood shows the victim talking to the pair after they approached him while he was playing poker.

Afterward, the group moves over to the slot machines. The surveillance video, recorded Sept. 13, shows one of the women pouring a substance into the man’s drink and giving it to him, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

The man told police he began to feel the effects of the drug and had difficulty moving. The video shows the women escorting the victim to a vehicle outside the casino. All three of them were dropped off at the man’s hotel in nearby Dania Beach, authorities said.

According to police, the man says he lost consciousness after returning to his hotel room. When the man woke up the next day he realized he was missing $1,000 as well as a gold and silver Rolex worth about $15,000.

Detectives released security video of the incident hoping that someone might help identify the women. A reward of up to $3,000 has been offered in the case.

Authorities did not say what substance may have been added to the man’s drink.

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Posted On 17 Oct 2019