It’s Thursday, June 23rd - and NBC 6 has the top stories of the day.
No. 1 - The Jan. 6 committee will hear from former Justice Department officials who faced down a relentless pressure campaign from Donald Trump over the 2020 presidential election results while suppressing a bizarre challenge from within their own ranks.
The hearing Thursday will bring attention to a memorably turbulent stretch at the department as Trump in his final days in office sought to bend to his will a law enforcement agency that has long cherished its independence from the White House. The testimony is aimed at showing how Trump not only relied on outside advisers to press his election fraud claims but also tried to leverage the powers of federal executive branch agencies. The witnesses will include Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general during the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. Three days earlier, Rosen was part of a tense Oval Office showdown in which Trump contemplated replacing him with a lower-level official, Jeffrey Clark, who wanted to champion Trump's claims of election fraud. Two other former department officials, Rosen's top deputy, Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, are also scheduled to testify.
No. 2 - Opening statements in the sentencing trial of convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz are scheduled to begin July 6.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer announced the date after three months of jury selection and three previous scheduling attempts. Nearly 40 potential jurors were screened in the third phase of the selection process Wednesday. A handful were excused because of illness or other hardships such as losing a job or finding a new job that would disrupt their commitment to a sentencing that’s expected to run through the end of October. The ongoing uncertainty clearly frustrated the judge who has overseen the paring of more than 1,600 jurors down to about 80. The final group of 40 is expected to be questioned Thursday about their work, backgrounds, feelings, and their ability to make a life-or-death decision for the 23-year-old.
No. 3 - A Broward man accused of a gay hate crime is speaking out after the charges against him were dropped last week, saying he's relieved to be out of jail and hoping the rest of his family will be next.
Vlad Makarenko had all the charges against him dropped last Thursday but his mother, Inna, father Yevhan, and brothers Oleh and Pavlo Makarenko are still facing immigration holds and charges that include attempted felony murder, kidnapping and battery, records show. The family is accused of brutally beating a 31-year-old gay man in Pompano Beach last August, leaving him partially blind. According to court documents, prosecutors believe the family attacked the man when they discovered he was having a relationship with Oleh Makarenko. A judge dropped charges and released Vlad Makarenko after his lawyers proved he was out of the state at the time of the attack.
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No. 4 - Two 18-year-olds are facing battery charges after police said they shot water bead guns at more than two dozen people in Pembroke Pines and Miramar as part of a social media "challenge."
Ryan Quiroz and Andrew Morales, both of Pembroke Pines, were arrested Tuesday on three counts of misdemeanor simple battery as well as felony battery on a person over 65, Pembroke Pines Police officials said. Police said they started receiving several calls around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday involving a gray Chevrolet Silverado shooting at people with a pellet gun. Detectives determined the vehicle’s two occupants were using a SplatRball pellet gun to shoot at around 25 people with Orbeez water pellets. One victim was a senior citizen, police said.
No. 5 - After more than 200 party-goers broke into an $8 million mansion in Florida, sheriff's deputies want to make one thing clear: open house parties are illegal.
The Walton County Sheriff's Office is seeking more information after a wild party was thrown Friday night inside a multi-million dollar WaterColor mansion without the homeowners' knowledge. Authorities were responding to a noise complaint when they discovered the unauthorized gathering. Officials said that by the time officers arrived to the home, many of the party-goers had left. "An open house party in a home you break into is a burglary," the sheriff's department said Monday in a Facebook post along with several videos from the chaotic party and a request to help find those responsible. Snippets of the night's events were captured in videos and photos circulating on social media, which were filmed by the perpetrators themselves. In one video, dozens of young adults are seen partying in the crowded living room of the invaded home.
No. 6 - Dozens of HCA Hospital Northwest staff members lined a hallway leading to an operating room around 5 p.m. Wednesday, as 58-year-old Ralph Harper of Margate was wheeled in.
Moments later, Harper would be taken off life support, and his organs would be harvested for donation. “[He] was a caring, giving, person. He would do anything for anybody,” said Harper’s friend, David Hafling. “… His fiance, she’s torn up and it’s going to be hard. But she’ll get through it, and we will get through it, knowing that he’s helping other people.” Hafling says Harper fell into cardiac arrest last Thursday, and was pronounced brain dead the next day. He tells NBC 6 that family members agreed to carry out Harper’s wishes of being an organ donor, keeping him on life support until he made his donation Wednesday. “We send our condolences to the family,” said CEO of HCA Hospital NW, Kenneth Jones. “But we also really support their recognition that organ donation helps others. This individual donated their kidneys and liver. We’re very appreciative of that and it helps to raise recognition to our community.”
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