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Three Big Things
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Dozens of tips pour in on missing North Carolina boy with special needs 

Dozens of tips pour in on missing North Carolina boy with special needs 

The search for a 6-year-old North Carolina boy who vanished from a Gastonia park continued for a fourth day Tuesday as authorities sifted through dozens of tips. >> Watch the news report here Maddox Ritch was last seen Saturday at Rankin Lake Park with his father and a friend. Update 10:05 a.m. EDT Sept. 25: Officials said they're using recorded messages from Maddox's mother and father to play during the search, hoping he'll recognize their voices. Neighbors told WSOCTV that the terrain around the park has many deep holes and they were concerned that Maddox could have fallen in one. 'Pray to God that they find him alive,' resident Jerry Stewart said. He said there is a lot of wetland around the park, and that it would be easy for a child to step into a deep drop. 'If you get too close and you miss your step, you are going to go somewhere,' Stewart said. Update 10:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: Officials said they've received 80 leads as of Monday afternoon, and they're looking into them all. 'No piece of information is too small,” Gastonia Police Chief Rob Helton said. “Something that you may think is insignificant can help us.' Later in the evening, local and federal authorities posted to social media outlets asking people to not spread rumors. 'The Gastonia Police Department and the FBI ask the public not to spread rumors on social media about the search for Maddox Ritch,' the post read.  >> On WSOCTV.com: Search for boy with special needs at Gastonia park Original report: Overnight, dozens of people continued to look for the child, and more than two dozen agencies are helping with the search and investigation. Police said Maddox was with his father and another adult, who officials have yet to identify, before he disappeared. Maddox is autistic and nonverbal but officials said there is a special team with the FBI that is highly trained and experienced in mysterious missing children's cases that are working to find him. 'We're going to explore all possibilities, including abduction, but we're also going to make sure we search every inch of land around here to make sure that he's not simply lost,' said FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan. Police said the boy’s family has been interviewed and they are cooperating with law enforcement. >> Read more trending news  On Sunday, search dogs roamed the area near Rankin Lake, where Maddox was last seen. Search boats also checked the lake with divers and sonar devices. Police are asking anyone who may have been at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday and saw Maddox, especially if they have pictures or videos, to call them. 'If you were at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday and saw Maddox or took video or photos of their outing at the park, call us,' Helton said. 'We know a lot of people were in the park and we have spoken to many of them, but we have not spoken to everyone. No piece of information is too small. Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case.” Crews have been searching more than 1,400 acres and will continue Monday morning. Search and rescue crews have been patrolling areas of the park on foot and on ATVs. Maddox was last seen at the park at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with “I’m the man” on the front. Maddox is 4 feet tall and weighs 45 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes. 'They were walking around the lake,” Gastonia spokeswoman Rachel Bagley said. “They got around to the back side of the lake. He started running, according to the parents, and when they started running after him, they lost sight of him, and no one has seen him ever since.' The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's helicopter was used Sunday night once the sun set, and used its infrared technology.  The city confirmed crews are reviewing surveillance video at the park, and crews worked through the night searching on foot and with dogs. Officials said hundreds of volunteer agencies have assisted in the search, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is also helping. Gastonia police said additional search units from around the region have joined the search. They said hundreds of law enforcement, search and rescue teams, and state and federal authorities are now involved.  Officials said they are receiving assistance from the Gastonia Police, Gaston County Sheriff's Department, Gaston County Emergency Management, Gaston County Police, Gastonia and Gaston County Fire Departments, Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, Lincolnton Fire, Charlotte Fire, Stanley Rescue, Lincoln County Land Search team, Spartanburg County Search and Rescue and Search and Rescue Dog Assistance, and Central Carolina K-9 Search Team.  A spokesperson with the city said the park will be closed until further notice as crews continue their search. Police advise the public to stay away from the area surrounding the park as they continue their search in the nearby neighborhoods. Officials are also asking people who live near the park to search areas around their homes where a child might hide. “If you have a shed, barn, wooded area, go take a look and call us immediately if you find anything out of the ordinary,” Helton said. If you have any information regarding Maddox's whereabouts, police encourage you to call the new 24-hour tip line at 704-869-1075. “Every second counts when a child is missing,” Kaplan said. “Our focus is to find Maddox as quickly as possible and to bring him home.”

Bill Cosby facing as many as 10 years behind bars for drugging, molesting woman

Bill Cosby facing as many as 10 years behind bars for drugging, molesting woman

Comedian Bill Cosby, who was found guilty earlier this year of drugging and molesting a onetime friend in 2004, appeared in a suburban Philadelphia courthouse Tuesday for the second day of a two-day sentencing hearing. >> Read more trending news Update 8:55 a.m. EDT Sept. 24: Cosby arrived at the courthouse Tuesday morning to start the second day of his sentencing hearing on charges of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, told The Associated Press that the 81-year-old comedian doesn’t plan to make a statement in court. Cosby did not testify at either of his trials. Prosecutors are asking for a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. His attorney wants the judge to send Cosby home on house arrest, saying he’s too old and frail for prison. Update 5:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: Comedian Bill Cosby could see less than 4 years in jail after the judge Monday merged the three counts of aggravated indecent assault Cosby was convicted of into one for sentencing purposes because the counts were all connected to one event, according to news outlets. Cosby may not even see any jail time based on criminal guidelines in Pennsylvania and the fact that he has no previous record. He was facing as much as 30 years behind bars. Also during proceedings Monday, victim Andrea Constand and members of her family delivered impact statements. >> Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expels Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski Constand said she just wants “justice” in the case, according to CNN. 'I have testified, I have given you my victim impact statement. You heard me, the jury heard me and Mr. Cosby heard me. All I'm asking for is justice as the court sees fit,' Constand said in court. Her mother, father and older sister also delivered impact statements. >> Temple University rescinds Bill Cosby's honorary degree after sexual assault conviction The defense has not called any witnesses, yet, including Bill Cosby, but could tomorrow.  Original report: Cosby, 81, could spend the rest of his life behind bars. He is facing as many as 30 years in prison, although state guidelines for someone like Cosby, who does not have any prior convictions, call for between one and four years in prison. The sentencing hearing will begin with testimony about Cosby's sex offender evaluation and whether he should be deemed a sexually violent predator. That would make him subject to lifetime counseling and community notification. >> Bill Cosby found guilty in sexual assault trial A jury found Cosby guilty in April 2018 of drugging and molesting onetime friend Andrea Constand in 2004. Constand was in court Monday for Cosby’s sentencing hearing. Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, making his the first conviction of a celebrity accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era. >> Camille Cosby says ‘mob justice, not real justice’ led to Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction The guilty verdict came less than a year after another jury deadlocked on the same charges.  Jurors deliberated for more than 52 hours over six days in June 2017, but they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on whether Cosby drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home, The Associated Press reported. Cosby maintained that he and Constand shared a consensual sexual encounter. Cosby's attorney said Constand was a 'con artist' who leveled false accusations against the comedian so that she could sue him. Dozens of women have made high-profile accusations that Cosby had drugged and assaulted them, but Constand’s case was the only one to result in criminal charges against Cosby.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh in first TV interview repeatedly denies sexual assault accusations

SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh in first TV interview repeatedly denies sexual assault accusations

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is under fire as accusations of sexual misconduct cloud what was expected to be a simple nomination process.   >> Read more trending news  The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a hearing at 10 a.m. ET Thursday, in which a woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers will testify about the alleged incident.  >> Related: Brett Kavanaugh nomination: When is the hearing? What happens next? Another woman came forward Sunday to accuse the Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct during a drunken party in a dorm room when they were both freshmen at Yale University. Here are the latest updates: Update 7:40 a.m. EDT Sept. 25: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that President Donald Trump “would be open” to Kavanaugh’s second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. >> Click here to watch The New Yorker reported Sunday that Ramirez, 53, said Kavanaugh made unwanted advances during a drunken party at a dormitory during the 1983-84 school year, when they were both attending Yale University. Update 3:35 a.m. EDT Sept. 25: Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford’s legal team detailed their concerns about the the handling of Thursday’s hearing in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Monday. The letter, written by lawyer Michael Bromwich, questioned the committee’s hiring of an unidentified “experienced sex crimes prosecutor.” The prosecutor’s involvement “is contrary to the Majority’s repeated emphasis on the need for the Senate and this Committee’s members to fulfill their constitutional obligations,” the letter said. “It is also inconsistent with your stated wish to avoid a ‘circus,’ as well as Dr. Blasey Ford’s repeated requests through counsel that senators conduct the questioning,” the letter continued. “This is not a criminal trial for which the involvement of an experienced sex crimes prosecutor would be appropriate.” The letter added that “there is no precedent for this Committee to bring in outside consel for the sole purpose of shielding the members of the Committee from performing their responsibility to question witnesses.” Bromwich’s letter also criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s remarks that the allegations against Kavanaugh were part of a “smear campaign.” >> Read the full letter here Update 7:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh repeatedly defended himself in his first television interview since he was nominated for the high court by President Donald Trump. “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone,” Kavanaugh told Fox host Martha MacCallum during an interview Monday night in response to a question about why college professor Christine Blasey Ford would accuse him of such a thing.  “I never did any such thing,” he said. Ford said the incident happened at a party they were both at during high school. “I was never at any such party,” Kavanaugh said. “I was never at a party like Dr. Ford described.” Ford said Kavanaugh assaulted her at a small gathering at a house in a Maryland neighborhood in 1982. “I’ve always treated women with dignity and respect,” Kavanaugh said throughout the interview.  >> Related: Second Kavanaugh accuser: Who is Deborah Ramirez? “Again, again, I’m just asking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend my integrity and my family’s integrity,” he said repeatedly. Kavanaugh said he’s looking for a fair process to defend his integrity and clear his name. Kavanaugh’s wife Ashley was by his side during the interview and said the sexual assault allegations don’t make any sense. “I know Brett and I’ve known him for 17 years ... (this) is not consistent with Brett,” she said. She also said the allegations have been “incredibly hard” on their family. The couple have two girls together. When asked about a second woman who accused him of acting in a lewd manner at a Yale dormitory party when they were freshman, Kavanaugh again denied the allegation. “I never did any such thing.” In a question about a potentially third accuser who has reportedly alleged Kavanaugh was part of a gang rape culture in the 1980s, he vehemently denied it, calling it “totally false and outrageous.” “I didn’t so this or anything resembling this,” he said. “I’m telling the truth.”  Update 6:00 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: In his first TV interview since becoming a Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh again denied allegations that he assaulted California college professor Christine Blasey Ford at a party while the two were still in high school. “The truth is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise,” Kavanaugh said in an excerpt from the  Fox interview. “I’m not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone in some place, but what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone,” he said. >> Related: New Yorker: Another woman alleges sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh during college years  Kavanaugh also told Fox host Martha MacCallum he was a virgin in high school and college. 'I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter  and the girls from the schools I went to, and I, were friends,” he said. Update 5:00 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley sat down Monday afternoon for their first television interview since Kavanaugh was nominated to the high court.  The interview, with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. ET on Monday and comes amid accusations that the judge sexually assaulted at least one woman and may have behaved inappropriately toward another woman.  The couple is expected to address those allegations during the interview. Update 3:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: In a letter released Monday by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, Christine Blasey Ford reiterated her commitment to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about an encounter she said she had with Kavanaugh when they were teenagers. Ford, a professor at California’s Palo Alto University, told The Washington Post earlier this month that Kavanaugh drunkenly groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party in the 1980s. “While I am frightened, please know, my fear will not hold me back from testifying and you will be provided with answers to all of your questions,” Ford said in the letter, which was dated Saturday. “I ask for fair and respectful treatment.” Ford said she contacted her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo, after she learned Kavanaugh was on the short-list for consideration for nomination to the Supreme Court. “My original intent was first and foremost to be a helpful citizen – in a confidential way that would minimize collateral damage to all families and friends involved,” Ford wrote. “I thought that knowledge of his actions could be useful for you and those in charge of choosing among the various candidates.” Ford said she later contacted one of her senators, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein. Update 3:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Democrats for “aiding and abetting” in what he called a “shameful, shameful smear campaign” against Kavanaugh. 'Senate Democrats and their allies are trying to destroy a man’s personal and professional life on the basis of decades-old allegations,' McConnell said Monday from the Senate floor. Update 2:15 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: In a letter addressed Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh called the allegations against him “smears, pure and simple.” “They debase our public discourse,' Kavanaugh wrote. 'They are also a threat to any man or woman who wishes to serve our country. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination -- if allowed to succeed -- will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service.' At least two women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in incidents that happened three decades ago. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at California’s Palo Alto University, told The Washington Post earlier this month that Kavanaugh drunkenly groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when they were teenagers in the 1980s.  The New Yorker reported Sunday that Deborah Ramirez, 53, said Kavanaugh made unwanted advances during a drunken party at a dormitory during the 1983-84 school year, when they were both attending Yale University. 'I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process,' Kavanaugh wrote Monday. 'The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats against my family will not drive me out. The last-minute character assassination will not succeed.' >> Read the full letter from Kavanaugh to the Senate Judiciary Committee Kavanaugh and Ford are expected to appear Thursday for an open hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Update 9:10 a.m. EDT Sept. 24: President Donald Trump reiterated his support of Kavanaugh on Monday, telling reporters that the judge is “an outstanding person, and I am with him all the way.” >> Related: Who is Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court? “I think it could be, there’s a chance that this could be, one of the single-most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate to happen for anything, but I am with Judge Kavanaugh and I look forward to the vote,” Trump told reporters at the United Nations in New York. “People who  come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago and 30 years ago and never mentioned it, all of the sudden it happens. In my opinion it’s totally political.” Update 2:24 a.m. EDT Sept. 24: The White House on Sunday again defended President Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Kavanaugh after new allegations surfaced. Earlier Sunday, The New Yorker reported reported that Deborah Ramirez, 53, said Kavanaugh made unwanted advances during a drunken party at a dorm during the 1983-84 school year while they both attended Yale. “This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man,” said White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: White House denounces ‘smear campaign’ against Kavanaugh Meanwhile, attorney Michael Avenatti, who recently made headlines as porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, “claimed to represent a woman with information about high school-era parties attended by Kavanaugh,” The Associated Press reported. He told the AP that he would reveal more details, including the client’s identity, in the next few days and later clarified that his client is not Ramirez. Update 8:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 23: An unredacted letter of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh has been released. Update 8:05 p.m. EDT Sept. 23: Officials are looking into another sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Deborah Ramirez, 53, said Kavanuagh made unwanted advances toward her during a drunken party at a dorm during the 1983-84 school year, while they both attended Yale, The New Yorker reported.  >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: White House denounces ‘smear campaign’ against Kavanaugh “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so,” Kavanuagh wrote in a statement, The New Yorker reported. “This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name -- and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building -- against these last-minute allegations.” Update 1:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 23:  The Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed that a public hearing will be held Thursday on a sexual assault claim made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, according to The Associated Press. >> Related: Who is Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser? Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford said Sunday in a statement that their client will testify in an open hearing Thursday morning, CNN reported. The statement -- from attorneys Debra Katz, Lisa Banks and Michael Bromwich -- came after a call with staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sunday, CNN reported.  Original report: Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify next week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ford’s lawyers said in a statement released Saturday afternoon. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had previously said the committee would hold a hearing Monday on allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh unless a last-ditch effort to negotiate with Ford and her attorneys was reached by 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Grassley had extended the deadline multiple times as both sides negotiated the details of Ford’s possible appearance before the committee. In a new development reported by NBC Saturday morning, Garrett Ventry, a GOP communications aide and adviser who has helped coordinate the party’s messaging amid Ford’s claims against Kavanaugh has resigned. Ventry allegedly was fired from a previous job due to a sexual harassment allegation, NBC reported. Ventry denied any misconduct. >> Related: Trump casts doubt on Kavanaugh accuser: 'Very hard for me to imagine anything happened' “Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay,” Grassley said in a statement earlier this week. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Republicans press for Kavanaugh vote if accuser won't testify  California college professor Christine Blasey Ford said she was assaulted by a drunk Brett Kavanaugh at a party in the early 1980s when the two were still in high school. Another person, Mark Judge, was present at the time, but Judge has refused to testify about what happened in a bedroom when the three were present. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, saying the incident never happened. “It would be a disservice to Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, this committee and the American people to delay this hearing any further,” Grassley said, according to media reports. >> Related: Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford wants FBI investigation before testifying in Senate Ford’s attorney, Lisa Banks, said the professor is willing to testify, but believes a “full, non-partisan investigation” is needed first. >> Related: Trump: FBI shouldn't investigate Kavanaugh allegation “The committee’s stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good-faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceedings,” Banks said. Late Friday, Grassley set a Saturday afternoon deadline for Ford to decide whether she’ll testify next week.

Kavanaugh won’t withdraw as judge heads for Thursday showdown hearing

Defiantly denouncing new allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against him as a political ‘smear,’ Judge Brett Kavanaugh went on a media offensive on Monday to tell Senators and the nation that he will not withdraw from consideration for the U.S. Supreme Court, as Kavanaugh heads for a historic hearing on Thursday, which draws obvious parallels to the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill Supreme Court sexual harassment showdown in 1991.

“I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process,” Kavanaugh wrote in a Monday letter, as he said the latest charges against him “are smears, pure and simple.”

“There is now a frenzy to [More]