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News From Action News Jax

  • The National Rifle Association has abandoned an effort to keep secret the identities of two young adults in a challenge to a state law raising the age to purchase rifles and other long guns. The national gun-rights organization filed a federal lawsuit last year, following the passage of a sweeping school-safety law enacted shortly after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Seventeen students and faculty members were slain in the state's worst school shooting, and 17 other people were injured. The NRA requested the use of pseudonyms for plaintiffs 'Jane Doe' and 'John Doe,' two Florida residents who were 19 years old when the complaint was filed in May 2018, based largely on a declaration filed by the group's Florida lobbyist and former national president, Marion Hammer. Hammer detailed threatening emails she had received.  TRENDING STORIES: Classmate of Taylor Williams' mother: 'She's not the same person she was in high school' Neighbors at Southside apartment complex anxious for answers after second deadly shooting in a week Professional wrestler Randy Orton calls Tony Khan 'Jacksonville Dixie' on Twitter Deaf woman arrested on DUI charges after allegedly hitting pole, mailbox, with child in car​​​​​​​ But the underlying challenge to the age restriction on gun purchases has been on hold for more than a year, after Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker decided that previous court rulings forced him to reject the request to keep the plaintiffs anonymous. The NRA asked the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals to overturn Walker's ruling on the anonymity issue. Last week, however, the NRA filed a notice of voluntary dismissal with the appellate court. 'While the petition to proceed under pseudonyms languishes in the 11th Circuit, the primary case to protect the guns rights of adults between the ages of 18-21 sits idle in the lower court,' Hammer told The News Service of Florida in an email early Tuesday. The 'young plaintiffs are aging out' as the pseudonym issue waited for a hearing, Hammer added. 'Rather than continuing to add plaintiffs that could also age out from delays, NRA chose to withdraw the appeal and allow the primary case to move forward. These young adults are old enough to sign contracts, get bank loans, buy homes, go to war carrying a gun and die for our country, so it is egregious, as well as unconstitutional, to deny them their right to buy a firearm,' she wrote. The controversy over the pseudonyms has been part of the lawsuit filed in March 2018 by the NRA, hours after then-Gov. Rick Scott signed the law that included new gun-related restrictions. The Legislature passed the law just weeks after the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre at the Broward County school. UPDATED: Download the Action News Jax app for live updates on breaking stories ​​​​​​​ The law raised from 18 to 21 the minimum age to purchase rifles and other long guns. It also imposed a three-day waiting period on the sale of long guns, such as the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz --- who was captured on videotape methodically showering students and staff with bullets --- legally purchased a year before the massacre at his former high school. Cruz was arrested and charged with murder. The NRA contends the age restriction in the new law 'violates the fundamental rights of thousands of responsible, law-abiding adult Florida citizens and is thus invalid under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.' The NRA asked Walker for anonymity of the young adults due to fear that public exposure could result in 'harassment, intimidation, and potentially even physical violence.' But the state argued the request for anonymity 'does not provide a sufficient basis for overcoming the strong presumption in favor of open judicial proceedings.' Suggesting that the courts have not kept up with the times, a reluctant Walker agreed. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 'has made it clear that pseudonyms may only be used in ‘exceptional' cases … and that there is ‘a strong presumption in favor of parties' proceeding in their own names,' ' the judge wrote in a 17-page opinion last spring. More than two dozen news outlets and media organizations joined the case as 'interested parties' in opposition to the NRA's attempt to shield the identities of the plaintiffs. Hammer has said she faced threats after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and filed lawsuits over emails she received. In November 2018, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle dismissed Hammer's claims against California attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who sent two emails to Hammer that included photos showing injuries from gunshot wounds. The judge's ruling came four months after Hammer filed a lawsuit against Sorensen and three other unrelated men because of emails she received. Hinkle's dismissal was limited to Sorensen. In the ruling, Hinkle wrote that Sorensen sending the emails 'unsolicited to anyone, even a public figure who advocates gun rights, was inappropriate, indeed disgusting.' But the judge said Sorensen did not threaten Hammer and that the emails were protected by the First Amendment. Sorensen, who works as an arbitrator and mediator, fought the lawsuit and in a court filing argued that the photos 'truthfully depict injuries from gunshots.' He also likened the emails to anti-war protests and pointed to the use of photos to inform the public and protest violence dating back to the Civil War. In February, Hinkle granted an injunction requested by Hammer, banning the two other men from sending any emails to her and ordering the men not to threaten her. Hammer in June appealed Hinkle's ruling about Sorenson to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Jeri Gunderson, 37, of Palm Coast, is facing charges after St. Johns County deputies said she swerved off the road and struck a mailbox used by multiple residents, before striking a Florida Power and Light pole.  STAY UPDATED: Download the Action News Jax app for live updates on breaking stories Deputies say the incident happened after 4 p.m. Sunday at 812 W 12th Street in St. Augustine.  After destroying the mailbox and hitting the pole, she allegedly stopped her car, looked at a witness who saw it happen and drove off.  The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said a deputy stopped the woman driving in the area of Puryear Street and S. Holmes Boulevard.  TRENDING STORIES: Classmate of Taylor Williams' mother: 'She's not the same person she was in high school' Neighbors at Southside apartment complex anxious for answers after second deadly shooting in a week Professional wrestler Randy Orton calls Tony Khan 'Jacksonville Dixie' on Twitter The entire front end of the car was missing and had severe cosmetic damage, but was still functional.  Inside the car was a child sitting in a car seat, according to the Sheriff's Office report. Deputies say Gunderson could not stand without swaying and appeared to be talking to herself.  They also stated she was hostile, kept flipping everyone off and 'acting strange,' according to the report.  Deputies said they were not able to speak with her because she is deaf. After speaking with an ASL interpreter, Gunderson admitted to hitting something with the car but thought it was 'no big deal' and drove off.  Gunderson also admitted to being on Suboxone.  She was arrested and faces the following charges: Leaving the scene of a crash DUI alcohol or drugs DUI damage property  Neglect child without bodily harm 
  • Tropical Storm Sebastien has formed as the 18th named storm of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane season. Tropical Storm #Sebastien has formed over the Western Atlantic. This thing stays out to sea and will have NO IMPACT on the U.S. #FirstAlertWX pic.twitter.com/yKPHS68lZF — Corey Simma (@CSimmaWX) November 19, 2019 Tropical Storm #Sebastien is the 18th named storm of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane season - the most since 2012 when 19 named storms formed #FirstAlertWX pic.twitter.com/ask1VF5hDW — Corey Simma (@CSimmaWX) November 19, 2019 STAY UPDATED: Download the Action News Jax app for live updates on breaking stories

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  • Two jail guards tasked with monitoring wealthy financier and accused child predator Jeffrey Epstein on the night he committed suicide were arrested Tuesday and accused of falsifying records to hide the fact that they apparently slept during their shifts and browsed the internet instead of conducting mandated inmate checks. >> Read more trending news  Prosecutors said guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas falsified records at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York to make it appear as though they carried out the required checks every half-hour on Aug. 9-10. Instead, authorities said, they spent 'substantial portions of their shifts' sitting at their desks, browsing the internet and moving around the common area of the jail's Special Housing Unit. During one two-hour period, the indictment said, both appeared to have been asleep. 'As alleged, the defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center,' U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. 'Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction.' Authorities said video surveillance from the jail showed that no one checked on Epstein between at least 10:30 p.m. Aug. 9 and 6:30 a.m. Aug. 10, despite U.S. Bureau of Prisons protocol mandating inmate checks every half-hour. When Noel and Thomas went to serve inmates breakfast just after 6:30 a.m., they found Epstein dead in his cell with a noose around his neck, prosecutors said. Montell Figgens, a lawyer for Thomas, told The Associated Press both guards are being “scapegoated.” 'We feel this a rush to judgment by the U.S. attorney's office,' he said. 'They're going after the low man on the totem pole here.' U.S. Attorney General William Barr vowed earlier this year to investigate Epstein's death and some 'serious irregularities' in his treatment at MCC. In August, Barr announced the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons had been replaced and reassigned. Epstein died weeks after an earlier suicide attempt, according to investigators. Officers found him with a strip of bedsheet around his neck in July after he apparently tried to hang himself, authorities said in the indictment unsealed Tuesday. Officials briefly placed Epstein on suicide watch after the July suicide attempt, though that status had been lifted before Epstein's suicide in August. Epstein had been housed at MCC since his arrest in July on federal sex trafficking charges. He had been accused of sexually abusing and exploiting dozens of girls as young as age 14 between 2002 and 2005. He had pleaded not guilty and was preparing to argue that he could not be charged because of a 2008 deal he made to avoid federal prosecution on similar allegations in Florida. Epstein’s death prompted a whirl of conspiracy theories from people, including members of Epstein’s family and some of his alleged victims, who questioned whether it was possible that he’d killed himself in such a high-security setting. His death was considered a major embarrassment for the Bureau of Prisons, according to the AP. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The Clay County Sheriff's Office says it has identified a person of interest, nearly a month after a Fleming Island woman was reported missing. Deputies say Susan Mauldin was last seen on October 23 and was reported missing from the Eagle Harbor area the following day. At that time, detectives said they did not believe that Mauldin was in danger.  But now, the sheriff's office says their detectives have identified a person of interest in Mauldin's disappearance, which it says has 'mysterious' circumstances associated with it.  'The facts and circumstances developed during the course of this investigation led us to believe an individual, identified as Corey Binderim, has pertinent information related to this case. Mr. Binderim has cooperated during the course of this investigation, but until recently, he's left the area all of sudden, with no explanation and his whereabouts are unknown at this time, ' says Detective Howard Fryer.  The sheriff's office says their investigation revealed that Mauldin wasn't the type of woman to wander off and has missed several medical appointments.  'She would tell her friends if she had any plans to travel and there's no signs of financial transactions or travel plans made. Mr. Binderim's association with Susan Mauldin was, he is a contractor, contracted to perform a remodeling job in her bathroom. During the course of that contract, he failed to perform all the work. He took a deposit from her, which during the course of that, Ms. Mauldin determined she didn't want to work with him anymore and requested her money back. There's no indication during the course of our investigation that Ms. Mauldin left her home, willingly. Her vehicle is still at the house. There were signs that she was to be there at the house, with no indications of leaving,' says Fryer.  Anyone with information about Mauldin's or Binderim's whereabouts is urged to contact the sheriff's office.
  • A 16-year-old girl has been arrested after authorities discovered her plan to kill people at a predominantly black church in Hall County. >> Read more trending news  The teen, who is white, planned to attack the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, according to Gainesville police. “Our investigation indicated the church was targeted by the juvenile based on the racial demographic of the church members,” police Chief Jay Parrish said Tuesday in a news release. “The church was immediately notified of the incident by Gainesville police to ensure the safety of our community and the current threat was under control.” Students at Gainesville High School told school administrators that the girl had a notebook with “detailed plans to commit murder” at the church, Parrish said. Administrators notified school resource officers of the plan on Friday and opened an investigation. They verified the threat and turned the investigation over to Gainesville police, who took the girl into custody, Parrish said. Her name has not been released. The teen was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder and taken to the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center. “This is an active investigation and a prime example of how strong relationships between the student body, school administration and law enforcement can intercept a potentially horrific incident,” Parrish said.
  • President Donald Trump checked into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday for medical tests as part of his annual physical, White House officials said. >> Read more trending news   The trip, which was not on the president's public schedule, sparked speculation about the 73-year-old's health. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump is 'anticipating a very busy 2020' and wanted to take advantage of 'a free weekend' in Washington to begin portions of his routine checkup. Here are the latest updates: Update 12:45 p.m. EST Nov. 19: At a Cabinet Meeting on Tuesday, President Donald Trump complained about speculation that he might have suffered a heart attack over the weekend. Speculation swirled after Trump visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for two hours Saturday. The trip had not been on Trump's public schedule, though White House officials said the visit was routine. 'I went and did a very routine -- just a piece of it, the rest takes place in January -- very routine physical,' he said, according to CNN. When he returned to the White House, he said, 'I get greeted with the news, 'We understand you had a heart attack.'' 'These people are sick and the press really in this country is dangerous,' Trump said. 'We don't have freedom of the press in this country. We have the opposite. We have a very corrupt media.' Update 11:33 p.m. EST Nov. 18: In a memorandum, President Donald Trump's physician said Monday the president's visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday was merely part of a 'routine, planned interim checkup, several media outlets reported. 'This past Saturday afternoon the President traveled up to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a routine, planned interim checkup as part of the regular, primary preventative care he receives throughout the year,' Sean P. Conley wrote in the memo, CBS News reported. 'Due to scheduling uncertainties, the trip was kept off the record. 'Despite some of the speculation, the President has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues,' Conley wrote. 'Specifically, he did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations.'  Update 2:05 p.m. EST Nov. 18: White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham deflected rumors about President Donald Trump's health, saying it is “absolutely not” true that the president's visit to a doctor Saturday was anything other than a routine procedure, The Washington Post reported. Grisham also said the President is “healthy as can be,' the newspaper reported. In a statement Saturday, Grisham said Trump, 73, had “a quick exam and labs” and “remains healthy and energetic without complaints, as demonstrated by his repeated vigorous rally performances in front of thousands of Americans several times a week,” the Post reported. Grisham said rumors about the president 'are always flying.' 'He is healthy as can be,' Grisham told Fox News Channel host Jeanine Pirro on Saturday. 'I put a statement out about that. He’s got more energy than anybody in the White House. That man works from 6 a.m. until, you know, very, very late at night. He’s doing just fine.” Update 12:56 a.m. EST Nov. 17: Trump took to Twitter early Sunday, just hours after his visit to Walter Reed Medical Center. 'Visited a great family of a young man under major surgery at the amazing Walter Reed Medical Center,' he tweeted shortly after midnight. 'Those are truly some of the best doctors anywhere in the world. Also began phase one of my yearly physical. Everything very good (great!). Will complete next year.' According to The Associated Press, the two-hour appointment did not appear on the president's public schedule like his previous annual physicals.  Original story: 'Anticipating a very busy 2020, the President is taking advantage of a free weekend here in Washington, D.C., to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam at Walter Reed,' Stephanie Grisham, White House press secretary, said in a statement, CNN reported. Trump’s last physical was in February at Walter Reed. He weighed 243 pounds with a body mass index of 29.9, and 30 is considered obese, USA Today reported. He also had increased his use of a statin that helps control his cholesterol. 'I am happy to announce the president of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency, and beyond,' Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, wrote at the time.  The visit Saturday is different than the president’s previous physicals. The last two physicals were announced beforehand and noted on the president’s calendar. Trump usually takes the Marine One helicopter to Walter Reed, but this time, a motorcade dropped him off unannounced, CNN reported. 
  • One of two women accused of cutting an infant out of an expectant mother's womb earlier this year has given birth to a child of her own, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news  Cook County Sheriff's Office spokesman Joseph Ryan told the Chicago Tribune that Desiree Figueroa, 25, gave birth Nov. 1 at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. She has been in custody since May, when she and her mother, Clarisa Figueroa, were arrested and charged in the death of 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez. Desiree Figueroa has since been returned to jail, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Additional information was not immediately available. Prosecutors said Clarisa Figueroa, 46, lured Ochoa-Lopez to her home on Chicago's Southwest Side in April after they met through a Facebook group geared toward young mothers. Authorities said the Figueroas strangled Ochoa-Lopez and cut her baby from her womb. Clarisa Figueroa later called 911 to falsely claim she'd given birth to a child who was not breathing, investigators said. Tests later confirmed the newborn was Ochoa-Lopez's son. The baby, named Yovanny Jadiel Lopez, died in June of severe brain injury. Both Figeuroas have been charged with one count each of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, dismembering a human body and concealing a homicidal death. They pleaded not guilty to the charges on June 26, the Tribune reported. Clarisa Figueroa's boyfriend, 40-year-old Piotr Bobak, was also arrested and charged with one count of concealment of a homicide. He has also pleaded not guilty, according to WTTW.

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