Review Category : National News

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters meet with authorities over emergency evacuation order

Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota met with state representatives on Thursday, after the governor issued an emergency evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin protest camp.

John Bigelow, media director of the Oceti Sakowin camp, told ABC News that representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and one official from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department attended the meeting outside on the Cannonball River Bridge, along with officials from North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s office, including the executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, Scott Davis.

The meeting was scheduled, in part, to discuss the details of the emergency evacuation order, according to Bigelow.

A source at the camp told ABC News after Thursday’s meeting that the federal deadline of Feb. 22 — the same deadline set by the governor’s order — remains in effect for the camp to be vacated.

Burgum signed an emergency evacuation order on Wednesday night for the Oceti Sakowin protest camp “out of concern for the safety of people who are residing on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) land in southern Morton County and to avoid an ecological disaster to the Missouri River,” according to a statement from the Republican governor’s office.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began coordinating a cleanup in late January, but state officials say it isn’t happening fast enough. Burgum’s emergency evacuation order cited increasing temperatures and the threat of flooding as the impetus in speeding up the camp’s clean-up.

“Warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt in the area of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, and the National Weather Service reports that the Cannonball River should be on the watch for rising water levels and an increased risk of ice jams later this week,” the statement from the governor’s office read.

“Due to these conditions, the governor’s emergency order addresses safety concerns to human life as anyone in the floodplain is at risk for possible injury or death. The order also addresses the need to protect the Missouri River from the waste that will flow into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe if the camp is not cleared and the cleanup expedited,” the statement added.

The Cannonball River is a tributary of the Missouri River.

The Army Corps, in a letter issued Feb. 3, ordered those camping on federal property to vacate to prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the event of flooding in the area.

“The Oceti Sakowin camp needs to be evacuated no later than Feb. 22 in order to allow private contractors to accelerate the removal of waste from the camp,” the statement from the governor’s office read.

Bigelow, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who has been at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp for the past six months, said law enforcement officials on Wednesday moved up the barricade separating protesters from the pipeline construction area to within a few hundred yards of the camp’s north gate, the main entrance. But there was no law enforcement presence south of the barricade ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Bigelow said.

Bigelow said there was some tension Thursday morning when front-load tractors and roll-off trucks rolled in to begin removing garbage and waste from the campground, which is situated at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

“Most folks are concentrating on breaking down their camps to move out of Oceti Sakowin and either back home or to one of the other camps that’s been set up,” he told ABC News Thursday, ahead of the scheduled meeting.

Federal officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs remained south of the barricade Thursday morning and were expected to set up a road block to prevent vehicles from crossing the Cannonball River Bridge during the meeting, according to Bigelow.

The Army Corps granted an easement on Feb. 8 to the developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, allowing it to install the final segment of the 1,172-mile pipeline. Part of this 1.25-mile section will run under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota just upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

“The safety of those located on Corps-managed land is our top priority, in addition to preventing contaminants from entering the waterway,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Commander Col. John Henderson said in a statement at the time. “We appreciate the proactive efforts of the tribes to help clean the protest site ahead of potential flooding along the river, typical during the runoff season.”

The granting of the easement follows a decision on Feb. 7 by Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, to terminate the notice of intent to perform an environmental impact statement and to notify Congress of the Army’s intent to grant permission for the crossing under Lake Oahe. Speer said the decision was made based on a sufficient amount of available information.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement at the time that it will “challenge any easement decision” on the grounds that the environmental impact statement was “wrongfully terminated.” The tribe said it will also “demand a fair, accurate and lawful environmental impact statement to identify true risks to its treaty rights, including its water supply and sacred places.”

If the Dakota Access Pipeline is completed and begins operating, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said it will “seek to shut the pipeline operations down.”

While the Army Corps says this area is federally owned land, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cites an 1851 treaty that it says designates the land for Native American tribes. The tribe, which claims its members were never meaningfully consulted before construction began, sued in July to block the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. That lawsuit is pending, and the Army Corps and the company behind the pipeline argued in court papers that they followed a standard review process.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Great Sioux Nation, has joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the pipeline, filing a motion at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Feb. 9 seeking a temporary restraining order “to halt construction and drilling” under and on either side of the land surrounding Lake Oahe.

The tribe argued that the pipeline “will desecrate the waters upon which Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members rely for their most important religious practices and therefore substantially burden the free exercise of their religion,” according to a court document obtained by ABC News.

On Monday, the court denied that motion seeking a temporary restraining order.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a separate motion seeking a preliminary injunction directing the Army Corps to withdraw the easement issued to the pipeline company on Feb. 8. The tribe alleges that the easement granted is “entirely unlawful,” according to court documents.

“The government has granted the easement, and Dakota Access has begun to drill. This court cannot wait until the harm begins to issue equitable relief. When the free exercise of religion is at stake, a threat certain to that right is enough to constitute irreparable harm,” the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe stated in a court document.

“And in view of the threat to the tribe’s and its members’ constitutional right, this court may not wait until the oil is slithering under the tribe’s sacred waters. The law entitles the tribe to relief as soon as the government acts to threaten their rights,” the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe added in the court document.

That motion seeking a preliminary injunction is expected to be heard in court later this month.

In addition, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a motion on Tuesday seeking “expedited summary judgment” on its claims that this easement decision as well as the Army Corps regulatory actions “are arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.”

After receiving the easement to build the pipeline across land on both sides of Lake Oahe, the Texas-based developer, Energy Transfer Partners, announced it would resume construction immediately, and indeed work has resumed.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, which would connect oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois, is expected to be in service in the second quarter of 2017, according to the company.

“The drilling under Lake Oahe will take approximately 60 days,” a company spokesperson told ABC News in a statement on Feb. 8 after the Army Corps granted the easement. “It will take an additional 23 days to fill the line to Patoka, Illinois, enabling Dakota Access to be in service in approximately 83 days.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been at the forefront of massive and prolonged protests over the four-state crude oil pipeline. The demonstrations have drawn thousands of Native Americans, environmental activists and their allies to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. The protesters, who call themselves “water protectors,” argue that the pipeline will threaten the reservation’s water supply and traverse culturally sacred sites.

Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, has said that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local water supply are unfounded” and “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”

In the final days of President Barack Obama’s administration, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, announced on Dec. 4 that an easement would not be granted for the pipeline to cross under the large reservoir on the Missouri River.

She said at the time of the decision that the Army Corps would engage in additional review and analysis, including a “robust consideration and discussion of alternative locations for the pipeline crossing the Missouri River.” Darcy also encouraged the Corps to share company documents containing risk analyses and spill models that had not been made available to the tribes during the initial environmental review.

All these steps, Darcy determined, would best be accomplished by the Army Corps’ preparing a full environmental impact statement allowing for public input — a process that could have take years. She is no longer in the position after the change in administrations.

The move to deny the easement was hailed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other pipeline opponents as a major victory. But on his second weekday in office, President Trump signed a memorandum aimed at advancing the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as one directed at the Keystone XL pipeline.

At a news conference Thursday, Trump told reporters his administration has “taken steps to begin construction” of the two pipelines.

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Russell Simmons teams up with rabbi, imam for anti-Trump rally dubbed ‘I Am A Muslim, Too’

David Livingston/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The 9th Circuit Court may have blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, but a massive rally organized by Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons in response to the travel ban remains slated for Sunday in New York City’s Times Square.

The rally, called “I Am A Muslim Too,” seeks to unite people of all faiths. So Simmons will be joined by Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the non-profit organization Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center, who served as grand marshal of New York City’s Muslim Day Parade last fall.

Religious leaders from more than 50 other organizations will also take part in the rally, “to declare their solidarity with Muslims facing discrimination,” reads a press release for the rally, taking place from noon to 4 p.m. Organizer says they expect thousands to attend.

“As Trump wraps up [his] first month in office we call on all New Yorkers to gather and declare ‘I am a Muslim too,'” adds the press release.

61 degrees in NY, this Sunday 02/29. No excuses. JOIN US!! #todayiamamuslimtoo

— FFEU (@FFEUnyc) February 16, 2017

Simmons, who also serves as FFEU’s chairman, said in a statement, “We are living in a time when unity will make America great. This is a special moment for all Americans of good will to band together to promote the kind of compassion and equality for others that we want for ourselves.”

Imam Ali, said, “The Muslim community of New York City is deeply grateful to people of all backgrounds, who will come to Times Square on Sunday to say they will stand with, and even register as, Muslims if this discriminatory pattern continues.”

And Rabbi Schneier, who co-organized the first “Today, I Am A Muslim Too” in 2010, said in a statement, “We must join together at the most famous crossroads in the world to make a collective statement that, ‘Whenever my Muslim brothers and sisters are demonized and vilified, discriminated against or victimized by hate crimes and violence, ‘Today, I am a Muslim too.'”

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Man arrested by FBI after threatening ‘Dylann Roof-style attack’

Horry County Sheriff’s Office(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) — A man with a felony record in South Carolina purchased a gun from an undercover FBI agent with the intention of carrying out an attack in “the spirit of Dylann Roof,” authorities said Thursday.

Benjamin McDowell, 29, who had allegedly become affiliated with white supremacist gangs during his time in prison, purchased a .40 caliber Glock handgun and ammunition, according to an affidavit filed by FBI agent Grant Lowe.

According to the complaint, McDowell was arrested in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina shortly after purchasing the weapon and charged as a felon in possession of a firearm.

The agent said that McDowell had made unspecified threats, once telling Lowe that he might shoot at a gathering of black people.

Authorities began investigating McDowell in December after he threatened a local synagogue on Facebook. Several days later, he again posted to Facebook, complaining that white supremacists were often unwilling to act on their convictions.

“All they wanne (sic) do is stay loaded on drugs the Jews put here to destroy white man and they feast on the drugs. they should be Feasting on the enemy that stole their Heritage and their bloodline and trying to run us off of this Earth,” McDowell wrote. “if you ain’t got the heart to fight for Yahweh like dylann roof did, you need to shut the f— up.”

On or about Jan. 6, 2017, according to the complaint, McDowell had requested an “iron,” a code word for a gun, over Facebook Messenger.

Court records show that since 2008, McDowell’s criminal record included charges for assault and burglary. It also said local authorities had kept tabs on him prior to December because of the alleged white supremacist connections he had made in prison.

Dylann Roof was sentenced to death last month for the 2015 massacre of nine black worshipers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Police search for a man photographed in area where slain Indiana teens had been hiking

Snapchat/Liberty German(DELPHI, Ind.)– Authorities in Indiana have released an image of a man they say was photographed on a nature trail around the same time as two Carroll County teenagers were hiking before they disappeared and were later found dead.

“We are asking help from the public to help identify him so he can be contacted regarding what he might have seen,” police said in a statement Wednesday. “Also, if you were parked at High Bridge
Trail Head on February 13, 2017 between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. we would like to talk to you.”

On Wednesday, authorities identified the bodies of Liberty Rose Lynn German, 14, and Abigail J. Williams, 13, both of Delphi. Police said the FBI was assisting in the investigation.

Police said the girls had been dropped off for a hike around 1 p.m. Monday. About 2.5 hours later, the girls were nowhere in sight when their families came looking for them, police said.

On Tuesday, German and Williams were found around 12:15 p.m., roughly a quarter-mile from an abandoned railroad bridge, near Delphi. Police said they were investigating the deaths as homicides.

They did not release a cause of death and did not detail any wounds or injuries the girls may have sustained.

Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said technology, specifically the girls’ social-media accounts and cell phone records, was important to the investigation.

“At this stage, we don’t know whether or not they’re, maybe someone, is holding back for fear of something or any other reasons. We honestly don’t know but that picture [of the man] is important for us to be able to move forward in this investigation,” Leazenby said. “Maybe there’s a message that was conveyed, maybe at some point, whether it be social media or any other technology, that we
haven’t uncovered yet.”

Leavenby would not say whether the victims’ cell phones had been recovered. Police would not disclose the source of the photograph of the man whom they would like to interview.

“It’s a very tight-knit, close community,” Leavenby told ABC News today. “It’s not like anything we’ve had in our past. … This one has a different feel to it. … These were wonderful girls. …
This was their innocence taken away from them at a very young age.”

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Denver man arrested in L.A. had knives and explosives

artolympic/iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — A Denver man of Pakistani descent who was arrested in West Los Angeles on Thursday possessed weapons and explosive devices, law enforcement officials told ABC News.

The man, who has not been named, was found with knives and possibly flew to L.A. while following an ex-girlfriend, according to police.

In addition to the knives, law enforcement found explosive devices at a Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver, where he had stayed. None of the devices were detonated prior to being found.

So far, there have been no reports of explosives found in Los Angeles, ABC station KABC in Los Angeles reported.

He is a veteran of the U.S. military and served in Iraq and sources close to the investigation told ABC News that the man had sent letters to Veterans Affairs complaining about his treatment by the

Investigators were trying to determine whether the man was on the radar of law enforcement agencies prior to his arrest.

He was arrested at a Holiday Inn on La Cienenga Boulevard, which is a major thoroughfare that runs North to South through Los Angeles.

A police report has not been issued yet and the FBI has not commented on the man’s arrest at this time. Charges are pending and have not yet been announced. He is expected in court on Friday.

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Justin Ross Harris’ ex-wife Leanna Taylor explains why she still supports him after son’s hot car death

ABC News(ATLANTA) — The ex-wife of Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia man who was found guilty of intentionally leaving the couple’s 22-month-old son to die in a hot SUV in June 2014, is speaking out for the

first time about why she supported her ex-husband through the trial and continues to support him today.

“It never crossed my mind that Ross had done it on purpose,” Leanna Taylor told ABC’s Amy Robach in an exclusive interview. “Never. It was an accident.”

Watch the interview first on “Good Morning America” and then see more on “20/20” THIS FRIDAY, Feb. 17 at 10 p.m. ET

A Georgia jury made up of six men and six women in November found Harris guilty on eight counts, including malice murder and two counts of felony murder, for the death of their son, Cooper Harris.
He was sentenced to life without parole.

The boy was pronounced dead on June 18, 2014, after authorities said he spent about seven hours alone in a rear-facing car seat in Harris’s locked SUV in the Atlanta area. Temperatures in the area
had reached the low 90s outside that day. Authorities ruled that Cooper died of hyperthermia.

Taylor said she first learned something was wrong when she went to Cooper’s daycare that afternoon to pick him up.

“The day care teacher … said, ‘Well, Cooper’s not here.’ and I thought she was joking, and I was like, ‘No really, where’s Cooper?’” Taylor said. “And she just looked me dead in the face and got
my attention. She was like, ‘He’s not here.’ I didn’t know what to think.”

Taylor said her first thought was that someone must have taken him from daycare, and then she said she thought, and admits she said out loud, that Harris must have left him in the car.

“Nothing else that my mind was going to made sense,” she said. “The next place my brain went was, ‘Well, maybe Ross left him at home, like, maybe he just forgot to take him to daycare.’ … he
could be a forgetful person.”

When a detective told her later that day that her son was dead, Taylor said she felt “numb.”

Since 1998, an average of 37 U.S. children have died annually from heatstroke after being trapped inside vehicles, according to the Department of Meteorology and Climate Sciences at San Jose State
University, which tracks heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.

Police say Cooper was in the car when Harris drove to work at a Home Depot corporate office that morning, and when Harris went inside, Cooper was left in the vehicle. Surveillance video showed
Harris had returned to his car during lunch to put something away, then went back to work. Later that day, after Harris went back again to his car and drove away from work, then he pulled over in a
shopping center parking lot where he asked for help, authorities say.

Authorities argued that Harris going back to the car at lunch proved he knew Cooper was still there, but Taylor sees it differently.

“The going back to the car part actually for me solidifies that it wasn’t intentional,” she said. “To me, it said the opposite, that he didn’t have a clue Cooper was there.”

Detectives zeroed in on Harris, but said they were also suspicious of Taylor because they thought her actions that day seemed strange. She had told daycare workers that “Ross must have left him in
the car” and detectives said she seemed unemotional when she was told Cooper was dead.

Most suspicious, police said, was that while Harris was awaiting questioning at the police station, Taylor was recorded asking him, “Did you say too much?” Later, at Cooper’s funeral, eyewitnesses
reported that she seemed unemotional, and that she told people Cooper seemed to be in a better place.

Taylor, who was never arrested or charged in the case, said she was just trying to process what had happened.

“Nothing about it felt real. Nothing about it felt like it was happening. It just felt like a bad dream,” Taylor said. “My faith is the only thing that has kept me alive since this happened. The
only thing that could give me any kind of peace was knowing that Cooper was in a good place … People took it as me not wanting him here.

“If I could bring Cooper back to me, of course I would bring him back,” she added.

Since the funeral, Taylor said she has been the target of horrific bullying, both in person and online. She said she was barred at first from getting her son’s belongings from his daycare and she
said someone left a note on Cooper’s grave saying, “If you had been my son, I would have loved you.”

“There’s no way for someone to know how they would react,” Taylor said. “If somebody had asked me the day before this happened, ‘How would you react if this happened to you?’ My explanation of how
I would have reacted and the reality of how I actually reacted would have been completely opposite.”

Because of pretrial publicity, the proceedings were moved nearly 300 miles away from Atlanta to the coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia.

At trial, prosecutors argued that Harris had researched child deaths in hot cars before he left Cooper locked in his SUV all day. They also alleged that Harris was leading a “double life,” having
multiple online affairs, including with an underage girl, and argued that Harris’ behavior showed he intentionally killed his son to escape the responsibilities of family life.

“He was living a double life,” assistant district attorney Chuck Boring told “20/20.” “This wasn’t just an affair type of thing. It was obsession — pervasive acts constantly on the internet and
meeting up with people … I think he just was having less and less time with the family to be able to do as much as he wanted and to live the life he wanted.”

Harris’ defense attorneys argued that Cooper’s death was an accident and that Harris forgot his son was in the car. Harris pleaded not guilty to the charges, which included malice murder, two
counts of felony murder, cruelty to children in the first degree, cruelty to children in the second degree, criminal attempt to commit a felony and two counts of dissemination of harmful material
to minors.

Some of the charges referred to sexually explicit text exchanges from March 2014 through the day of Cooper’s death that, prosecutors said, Harris had with an underage girl.

Despite the accusations against her ex-husband, Taylor took the stand to testify in his defense. In fact, Taylor said Harris was a very involved father from the moment Cooper was born.

“This was never about me defending Ross,” she told “20/20.” “When you get on the stand and you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that’s what you’re supposed to do, and that’s
what I did.”

“I couldn’t get up there and say he was a bad father because it wasn’t true,” Taylor continued. “I couldn’t get up and say that he seemed bothered by having a child because it wasn’t true.”

On the stand, Taylor testified that she was aware that Harris had sexted with other women, that he suffered from a porn addiction, though she claimed she thought it was under control, and said they
went to counseling.

“It is incredibly disappointing to see somebody go down — somebody that you loved, somebody that you trusted, and somebody that you believed in go down a road of that kind of destruction,” she
told “20/20.”

Taylor said Harris did apologize to her for what happened and she accepted, but “it’s not going to change anything.” She remains steadfast that Harris never would have killed their son on purpose.

“There was evidence in our relationship that would suggest that he would be capable of being unfaithful to me,” she said. “There was no evidence in our relationship that suggested that he would
harm anyone, much less his own son.”

Today, her son Cooper has been gone longer than he was alive. Taylor said she slept with his blankets every night for months and it took her two years before she could bring herself to wash his
dirty clothes.

“At this very moment, there is a sippy cup on my kitchen table that still has the water in it that he had drank the day before or the morning of, and I just can’t wash it,” she said. “There’s some
of him in it and that may seem weird … and nobody touches it. It’s like they know better.”

Taylor got a tattoo of Cooper’s right footprint on her right foot so that she said he will always be “walking with her.” She has a second tattoo, a semicolon on her wrist, which has been used as a
symbol of suicide prevention. Taylor said she came very close to committing suicide but in the end decided she didn’t want to put her family through more heartache.

Her mission now is to spread awareness about “Forgotten Baby Syndrome,” the clinical term for parents accidentally leaving children in cars, to make sure what happened to Cooper serves as a warning
to other parents.

“[Cooper] deserves a better legacy than ‘the boy whose father intended to kill him,’” Taylor said. “People don’t believe that it can happen to them, and not believing that it can happen to you is
putting your child in danger.”

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Boston University students catch alleged art gallery thief after Super Bowl

ABC News(BOSTON) — A man who allegedly attempted to steal art from a Boston art gallery after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LI was stopped by three Boston University students on their way home from celebrating the Patriots’ win over the Atlanta Falcons.

“I yelled out to him, ‘Hey what are you doing? Did you just take those?'” Mackenzie Thompson, one of the students, told ABC News. “And he turned around and once he saw us running after him he actually dropped the paintings and started to run away.”

Thompson was walking down Boston’s Newbury Street just after midnight on Feb. 6 when he and fellow students Chris Savino and Jesse Doe heard an alarm ringing and saw a person who looked suspicious exiting the Galerie d’Orsay art gallery.

The three students caught the suspect and held him until police arrived, authorities said.

Surveillance video taken inside Galerie d’Orsay shows the suspect using a brick and then his own hand to break in the front door after his attempts to kick the door down failed.

The suspect, identified by police as Jordan Russell Leishman, is then seen grabbing two pieces of artwork before he goes into a second room and grabs another two pieces.

“He comes into the second room, walks past the beautiful, $90,000 Picasso [and] instead grabs another small $1,800 [Joan] Miró,” Camille Super, a fine art consultant at Galerie d’Orsay, told ABC News. “It didn’t seem like he knew what he was doing.”

The suspect walked out of the gallery with four paintings valued at nearly $21,000, according to the police report. The paintings were not damaged.

Leishman, 29, of New Hampshire, entered a not guilty plea in court on Wednesday. He is charged with breaking and entering, larceny over $250 and being a fugitive from justice due to a warrant in New Hampshire on a separate incident, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

Leishman, who remains in jail, is due back in court on March 20 for a pretrial hearing.

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Teen girls found dead on hike in Indiana investigated as double homicide

iStock/Thinkstock(TERRE HAUTE, Ind.) — The bodies of two teenage girls who went missing while hiking in Indiana were found Tuesday, and their deaths, which shook their community, are now being investigated as a homicides, according to police.

State Police Sgt. Kim Riley said autopsies conducted in Terre Haute, Indiana helped to identify the girls as Liberty Rose Lynn German, 14, and Abigail Jay Williams, 13 of Carroll County.

German and Williams were found roughly three-quarters of a mile from an abandoned railroad bridge, near Delphi, where they were dropped off Monday to go hiking. It was unclear who dropped the girls off.

Police said they are still collecting evidence at the scene of where the bodies were found.

Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said authorities do not yet have a suspect or suspects in the girls’ deaths.

Police are not releasing a cause of death, and are not detailing any wounds or injuries the girls may have sustained.

“The investigation is still in its baby steps, so to speak, and we don’t want to put that information out yet,” Leazenby said.

Police urged the community to contact police with any tips they might have to help authorities in the investigation.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of this. We feel confident. And we’re going to do everything within our resources to reach justice in this situation,” Leazenby said.

Riley said that the deaths have sparked fear in the quiet, rural community.

“I feel safe for this community,” he said, and added that people should remain “alert and watchful.”

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Fearing deportation, undocumented mother of four takes refuge in Denver church

iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) — An undocumented mother of four who has lived in Denver, Colorado, for 20 years took refuge in a church Wednesday after U.S. immigration officials rejected her request to remain in the country.

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Jeanette Vizguerra, 45, said she skipped her scheduled check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier out of fear that she would be deported.

She has three U.S.-born children — Luna, 12, Roberto, 10, and Zury, 6 — and a 26-year-old Mexican-born daughter, Tania Baez, who reportedly is not a citizen by birth, but has a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Vizguerra, a native of Mexico and an immigrant rights activist, said she plans to live in the basement bedroom of the First Unitarian Society in Denver until she has legal documents that allow her to walk freely.

Taking refuge in a church is a common tactic to avoid deportation.

Under U.S. government policy, immigration authorities are supposed to avoid entering places of worship and other “sensitive locations,” unless they have prior approval from a supervisor or face “exigent circumstances” that demand immediate action.

Undocumented Colorado mother of 3 U.S. citizens on deportation fight: ‘It will not end today’: #Denver7

— Denver7 News (@DenverChannel) February 16, 2017

Vizguerra’s attorney, Hans Meyer, said the government had granted his client six stays of removal since she was ordered to leave the country in November 2011.

Meyer said Vizguerra also has a pending U-Visa application she filed 13 months ago. U-Visas are typically set aside for victims of certain crimes and people who are helpful to law enforcement.

Vizguerra was allegedly the victim of a past assault.

ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said Vizguerra was an “enforcement priority” based on two misdemeanor convictions, including what her lawyer says is the common practice of using a fake social security number to get a job.

Meyer said he blames President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, which he says eliminated due process.

“She’s not a danger to the United States. She’s a mom,” Meter said told ABC News on Wednesday. “We need to protect the community from Trump’s deportation machinery.”

ICE spokesman Neudauer did not say if Vizguerra’s request for an extension was denied due to a change in policy.

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Melania Trump, Sara Netanyahu visit African-American museum

MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — While President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basked in their bromance Wednesday, their wives also appear to have a seemingly similar affinity for each other.

Following the joint Trump-Netanyahu press conference in the East Room of the White House, Melania Trump hosted Sara Netanyahu on a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The wives were accompanied by museum director Lonnie Bunch and Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton.

After husbands’ joint news conference, Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu visited the National African American Museum

— ABC News (@ABC) February 16, 2017

“Mrs Sara Netanyahu met at the White House with @FLOTUS Melania Trump, who surprised her with a visit to @NMAAHC,” read a tweet from Netanyahu’s office, along with a trio of photos of the leaders’ wives at the museum and the White House.

Mrs Sara Netanyahu met at the White House with @FLOTUS Melania Trump, who surprised her with a visit to @NMAAHC

— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 15, 2017

The first lady reportedly said in a statement afterwards of the visit, “As we remember, with deep humility and reverence, the historic plight of slavery which the Jewish and African-American people have known all too well, we rededicate ourselves to those powerful words that both our nations hold dear: “NEVER AGAIN!”

Mrs. Trump also tweeted, “It was an honor to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History @NMAAHC.”

During their husbands’ press conference, President Trump gave Mrs. Netanyahu accolades, saying, “I also want to thank Sara, can you please stand up? You’re so lovely and you’ve been so nice to Melania, I appreciate it very much.”

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