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Supreme Court Denies Stay in Florida Same-Sex Marriage Case


Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Same-sex couples in Florida could get married as soon as next month after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to issue a stay.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi had filed for a stay while awaiting an appeal hearing before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court, however, decided by a 7-2 margin not to grant the stay. Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented, saying that they would have granted the application for a stay.

In a statement on Friday night, Bondi said that "regardless of the ruling it has always been our goal to have uniformity throughout Florida until the final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage."

Despite her application for a stay being denied, Bondi said that "the Supreme Court has now spoken, and the stay will end on January 5."

It's not clear whether Florida clerks will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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Patient Exposed to Ebola Released from NIH Facility


Photo by Andrew Councill/MCT/MCT via Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- The patient admitted to the National Institutes of Health facility in Maryland on Dec. 11 was discharged on Friday without having shown evidence of the Ebola virus.

The patient, who was not publicly identified, had been flown to the NIH facility from an overseas location by private medevac. The hospital said at the time that the patient's admission and isolation was done "out of an abundance of caution."

The patient will complete 21 days of monitoring at a private residence in Virginia, the facility said in a press release.

The patient had been providing bedside nursing care in Sierra Leone prior to being flown to the NIH facility.

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UVA Holds Board of Visitors Meeting Regarding "Rolling Stone" Article


Alessandro Drago/iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- The University of Virginia's Board of Visitors on Friday held a meeting to discuss the school's reaction to the Rolling Stone article, which has come under criticism, describing a sexual assault case on campus.

The school's President Teresa Sullivan said on Friday that the concerns about sexual assault didn't start because of the article, noting the 2010 death of women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love at the hands of men's lacrosse player George Huguely. The school also held a public forum on sexual violence in February 2013.

Sullivan also detailed the changes that the university plans to take by January 15 -- the day fraternity rush begins. The changes fall into three categories -- culture changes, prevention and response.

In terms of the school's culture, Sullivan stated her continued frequent meetings with faculty and student groups, a recent Town Hall meeting on sexual assault, and continued review and revision of agreements involving fraternities and organizations.

In order to prevent sexual assaults, the school will upgrade the campus' camera system, enhance lighting and crosswalks near campus, hire ambassadors to provide extra security, intensify University Police Department patrols and implement a "Buddies on Call" program to walk with students at night. Additionally, the school will make their safety app available for personal phones and evaluate and recommend improvements for after-hours student transportation.

Finally, Sullivan said, UVa plans to ask the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the case described in the Rolling Stone article, hire additional counselors to help students who have been the victims of sexual assault and engage national experts to review their internal response process. Sullivan also mentioned that the school will consider a 24-hour call system to aid in ensuring protecting survivors is a priority.

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Sony Says Alternate Means of Releasing "The Interview" Under Consideration


dan_alto/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sony Pictures said Friday that while it has cancelled the theatrical release of The Interview following the hack that the FBI has attributed to North Korea, the idea of an alternate means of releasing the film is not out of the question.

"Sony Pictures Entertainment is and always has been strongly committed to the First Amendment," the statement read. "For more than three weeks, despite brutal intrusions into our company and our employees' personal lives, we maintained our focus on one goal: getting the film The Interview released."

"Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion," the statement added.

Still, on Thursday, after threats of an impending attack on theaters showing the film were leveled by hackers, Sony told theater chains that they did not have to show the film. Several of the largest chains, including AMC and Regal, told Sony that they would not be screening The Interview, which prompted Sony's decision to cancel the Christmas Day theatrical release.

"The decision not to move forward with the December 25 theatrical release of The Interview was made as a result of the majority of the nation's theater owners choosing not to screen the film," Sony said Friday. "This was their decision."

"Let us be clear," Sony said. "The only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it. Without theaters we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice."

Still, Sony maintains that alternate releases are possible. "After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform." The statement also said that "it is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so."

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Staples Says Over One Million Payment Cards Affected by September Data Breach


SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Staples says that more than one million customers' credit and debit cards may have been affected by a September data breach at a number of its stores.

In a press release, the company provided an update on the breach, saying that malware had been deployed to point-of-sale systems at 115 of Staples' 1,400-plus U.S. stores. Two stores were impacted between July 20 and Sept. 16, while 113 were believed to be affected from Aug. 10 through Sept. 16.

In total, the company believes that 1.16 million payment cards may have been affected.

Staples has offered free identity protection services and a free credit report to customers who used a credit or debit card at one of the affected stores during those time periods.

The company also said that its investigation remained ongoing, and that it has retained outside data security experts to investigate.

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Exclusive: Newly Released Ray Rice Video Shows Aftermath of Elevator Incident


Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Turns out there’s even more surveillance video Ray Rice doesn’t want you to see.

ABC News on Friday exclusively obtained a copy of the security-camera video that shows the ugly aftermath of the assault earlier this year when Ray Rice punched his now-wife in an Atlantic City casino and knocked her unconscious.

The nearly 45 minutes of never-before-seen footage shows a clearly distraught Janay Palmer, Rice’s then-fiancée and now wife, unwilling to talk to him after the NFL star had punched her inside an elevator on Feb. 15 at the now-closed Revel casino.

Palmer is seen physically pushing Rice away from her when he approached her immediately after the incident. Palmer was then protected by hotel security guards as Rice attempted to move closer.

The video then shows Palmer going through something of an emotional evolution in the middle of the night. Almost immediately after the assault, she appears angry. Soon after, Palmer begins to cry. And by the time she and Rice are both escorted into an elevator -- handcuffed -- she appears to kiss and nuzzle the one-time NFL star.

Both Rice and Palmer were arrested that night and charged with one count of assault each. The charge against Palmer was later dropped for “insufficient evidence,” while the charge against Rice was upgraded to aggravated assault.

The former Baltimore Ravens running back is a sports celebrity in New Jersey because of his college career at Rutgers. He was admitted to a probationary program that would allow the criminal charge to be dismissed next year. Once a video of the assault appeared online, the Ravens cut Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The league’s penalty was later overturned.

Rice went to court to stop ABC News from obtaining the recording, but lost. Rice’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg, was disappointed that the new video was made public.

“This is a time of healing and he, quite naturally, doesn’t want another media showing of what must have been the worst event of his life,” Ginsberg said in an interview Friday. “What the media ought to be focusing on is the issue of domestic violence and why the NFL never did anything to construct a personal conduct program that works and why the NFL ignored the issue of domestic violence. Showing yet another Ray Rice video is simply a distraction.”

During a two-hour hearing in Trenton, N.J., on Wednesday, Ginsberg said that Rice “literally does not talk to me about the events [at the casino] without crying -- to this day.”

The new video shows hotel staffers concerned with Palmer’s condition, bringing a wheelchair to her in case she had trouble walking and then giving her first aid. It shows Rice agitated at times, being kept at a distance from Palmer and talking on the phone at one point.

By the time cops and hotel security are prepared to move the player out of the lobby area, Rice is handcuffed and led away by the arm. A cop can be seen pulling the hood of his sweatshirt over Rice’s head.

The startling moment comes in the elevator – the same or similar elevator as the one where the assault occurred – when Palmer stretches her neck so she can kiss and nuzzle Rice. The two are then walked separately to waiting police cars.

The new video was turned over to ABC News in response to a public-records request filed with the N.J. Gaming Enforcement Division.

Since winning his appeal of the NFL’s indefinite suspension, Rice has started re-emerging into public life. He appeared on NBC last month. On Thursday night, aware that the new video would be released, Rice appeared at a charity event in Baltimore and talked about the incident.

"I made a horrible mistake in my life, but if you truly believe in second chances, they will forgive me,” Rice said at the event. “I think all the fans have looked deep into who I am.”

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“The Interview”: FBI Links North Korea to Sony Hacking


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. government has taken the big step of publicly branding the North Korean regime as the driving force behind the massive cyber-attack on Sony Pictures that has paralyzed the film company and raised fears of terrorist attacks inside the United States.

In a rare, official statement issued Friday, the FBI said it "now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions.”

“North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves” and seek “economic and social prosperity,” according to the FBI statement. “Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.”

The statement lays out at least some of the evidence the U.S. government has uncovered tying North Korea to the attack.

The FBI says analysis of the malicious software used in the attack shows it is linked “to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed.”

“The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. Government has previously linked directly to North Korea,” the FBI statement continues. “Separately, the tools used in the [Sony] attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”

This comes as a source close to Sony confirms that company executives received a new message laden with threats, saying, "Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy."

On Nov. 21, Sony executives received an email warning them not to release their new “movie of terror,” referring to the comedy The Interview, which depicts a fictional assassination attempt of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Soon thereafter, Sony was hit with the now-infamous cyber-attack, crippling its computer network and flooding the Internet with embarrassing internal emails and employees’ personal information.

Earlier this month, a North Korean official denied allegations that the government was involved in the hacking, calling it “wild speculation.” Still, the official described the attack as a “righteous deed,” according to a North Korean state news agency.

Then, on Tuesday, a message posted online warned of a 9/11-style attack on theaters showing the film. Sony then decided not to release the movie at all.

Identifying exactly who executed the attack has been a challenging and painstaking task for federal investigators. Based on evidence collected so far, federal sources told ABC News, they believe an individual or small group stationed outside North Korea may have punched the computers keys that launched the attack, which was then likely routed through at least six countries overseas -– Singapore, Thailand, Italy, Bolivia, Poland and Cyprus -– before hitting its target in the United States.

A group calling itself “Guardians of Peace” has claimed responsibility.

Last week, the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, John Carlin, said the Sony hack “has our full attention.” Two days later, FBI officials held a meeting in New York with executives from across the entertainment industry to brief them on cyber-related threats to their companies, sources told ABC News.

In addition, just hours before Sony’s decision on Wednesday to pull the plug on its Christmas Day release of the movie, the FBI issued its first official message about the Sony hack to joint terrorism task forces across the country -– comprised of federal, state and local officials that the FBI describes as “our nation’s front line on terrorism.”

“The FBI’s investigative team believes these [latest threats] increase the threat level” inside the United States, according to the message. But, FBI officials emphasized, the threat to movie theaters was not deemed credible, and the message distributed Wednesday by the FBI was simply precautionary and informational.

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LAFD Says Apartment Complex Fire Was Arson


Photo by David McNew/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- The Los Angeles Fire Department determined on Thursday that the Dec. 8 apartment complex fire was an act of arson.

The fire destroyed a seven-story apartment complex that had been under construction, and also damaged at least one nearby structure and the 110 Freeway.

Investigators from the LAFD and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' National Response Team say they have sufficient evidence to determine that the blaze was set on purpose.

The fire caused between $20 and $30 million in damages, just to the destroyed apartment complex.

Investigators are seeking information on two potential witnesses who were spotted in video footage taken the morning of the fire. Those two people are not considered suspects or persons of interest, the LAFD says.

"The work at the crime scene is finished, however our investigation is not over," ATF Special Agent in Charge Carlos Canino said. "ATF will continue to work together with our state and local partners to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice."

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Aurora Theater Shooter James Holmes 'Is Not a Monster,' Parents Say


Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office(NEW YORK) — The parents of James Holmes, the man accused in a 2012 movie theater rampage in Colorado, said their son “is not a monster” and expressed hopes that he gets institutionalized in their first public statement since the attack.

“We love our son, we have always loved him and we do not want him to be executed. We also decry the need for a trial,” said Robert and Arlene Holmes in a statement released Friday through a lawyer, Lisa Damiani.

The Aurora, Colorado, attack left 12 dead and 70 injured. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

His parents, who declined previous interview requests, said a trial would be devastating for relatives and survivors.

“A lengthy trial requires everyone to relive those horrible moments in time, causing additional trauma. In the criminal justice system, the prosecution and defense can agree to a sentence of life in prison, without parole, in exchange for a guilty plea,” Robert and Arlene Holmes said. “If that happened, our son would be in prison the rest of his life, but no one would have to relive those horrible events at a trial the media has permission to televise.”

The parents said they are aware that people want their son to be executed.

“We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster. He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness. We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill,” the statement read.

Earlier this month, the judge overseeing the case refused to delay the trial, despite defense attorneys’ request for more time to review massive amounts of evidence.

"This case has been pending for 2 1/2 years," Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. wrote in his 20-page order. "Counsel, their skilled experts and their staff have had a considerable amount of time to prepare for trial."

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Orion Returns from Road Trip: What's Next for 'America's Spacecraft'


NASA(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- After a trip to space, a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean and a cross-country road trip, the Orion spacecraft is finally back home in Florida.

Nicknamed "America's spacecraft," Orion completed the final installment of its epic maiden voyage when it arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

The capsule could one day ferry as many as four astronauts to deep space, however, engineers are currently focused on conducting a thorough post-mission analysis to refine Orion's design.

This entails removing the back shell of the spacecraft so engineers can inspect the nuts and bolts of Orion, including its cabling, fluid lines, propulsion system and avionics boxes, according to NASA.

Sample pieces of the heat shield, which had to endure temperatures as high as 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit, were already sent to a laboratory, according to NASA, where they will be carefully examined by scientists.

Orion blasted off on an unmanned test mission earlier this month, where it was put through a series of stress tests, including traveling through temperatures twice as hot as molten lava before it triumphantly splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

The spacecraft's next unmanned flight is slated for 2018.

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Facebook Friend Request Spat Leads to Arrest


Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(LARGO, Fla.) — A spat over a Facebook friend request resulted in a 72-year-old woman being slapped and another woman being arrested, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities say Rachel Anne Hayes, 27, became upset when the alleged victim refused to accept her friend request on Facebook because she felt the name Hayes was using was "inappropriate."

"The victim told Hayes she would be willing to accept the request if she would change the name," the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

Hayes left the home where the two were arguing and returned a short time later, according to authorities, at which point she allegedly continued the argument at the front door.

Authorities said Hayes slapped the alleged victim "several times" before she was able to retreat inside the home and lock the door.

Hayes was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on Thursday afternoon on suspicion of felony aggravated battery on an elderly person. She has been released on $10,000 bond.

She has not yet entered a plea and it was unclear whether Hayes had hired an attorney.

The Facebook name that allegedly set the argument in action was not released by authorities. However, Facebook has a well-known policy of requiring users to use the name they identify with in real life.

"Asking everyone to use their real name grounds the community in reality and ties it back to all the real-world relationships that we have," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a town hall earlier this month.

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America Conducted Fewest Executions Since 1994


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Death Penalty Information Center on Thursday released its annual report, which found that America conducted the fewest executions in 20 years in 2014.

The report says that just 35 executions took place in 2014 in seven states, the smallest number of people put to death since 1994. Also in 2014, only 72 people received death sentences, the smallest number in the 40 years of the modern death penalty.

Three states -- Texas, Missouri and Florida -- accounted for 80 percent of the country's executions.

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Ohio Supreme Court Says Traffic Camera Can Stay


Timothy Epp/iStock/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- The Supreme Court of Ohio on Thursday upheld the city of Toledo's automated traffic camera system used to catch drivers who run red lights or commit speeding violations.

According to the court documents, the court heard arguments from an Ohio man who claimed that the policy "usurps the jurisdiction of the municipal court, is unconstitutionally vague and violates due process." The crux of the complaint is that the appeal process through which a motorist would have to go if they were to contest a camera-issued ticket is established by the Toledo Police Department.

The state supreme court says that the Toledo law "does not offend...the Ohio Constitution" and that cities are within their rights to establish automated ticketing systems.

Three justices wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that the city council did not have the power to limit a municipal court's jurisdiction, as they believe the Toledo system does.

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Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Appears in Court


FBI(BOSTON) -- With a slight, scruffy beard and long, tousled hair, accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in federal court Thursday -- the first time he’s been seen in public in a year and a half.

The 21-year-old politely answered the judge’s questions in a final status conference, what is expected to be his last pretrial hearing before jury selection in his case begins in January.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to a litany of charges connected to twin explosions that ripped through the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, killing three, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring more than 260 others.

Investigators say that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planted the bombs and followed the horrific attack up with a series of other crimes.

Four days after the explosions, investigators say, the Tsarnaevs murdered MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, carjacked a Mercedes SUV driver, and led police on a high-speed chase in Watertown where a bomb and bullet battle erupted in the street. Tamerlan was killed in the firefight.

Dzhokhar fled the scene and hid for more than 16 hours until his capture on a dry-docked boat, where he appeared to explain his motive for the crime with a note written inside, according to prosecutors.

“We Muslims are one body. You hurt one of us you hurt us all," read part of a note allegedly written by Tsarnaev on the wall of the boat amid bullet holes. “Know you are fighting men who look into the barrel [of] your gun and see heaven.”

Court documents filed in March gave a potential hint of at least part of the defense strategy Tsarnaev’s legal team could use: saying Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was under the control of his older brother -- “an all-powerful force who could not be ignored or disobeyed.”

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'Slender Man' Stabbing Suspects Competent to Stand Trial


iStock/Thinkstock(WAUKESHA, Wis.) -- Two Wisconsin girls who allegedly stabbed a friend over Slender Man were found competent on Thursday to stand trial.

A Wisconsin judge found 13-year-old Anissa Weier competent, while the second suspect, Morgan Geyser, waived her right to a hearing and was, as a result, ruled competent.

Testimony from three doctors who evaluated Weier -- one hired by the prosecution, the other two by her defense -- presented their findings before the judge.

The prosecution's doctor found her competent, while the defense's doctors found her incompetent.

When Weier herself was asked by Judge Michael Bohren if she considered herself competent, Weier said, "I consider myself incompetent, sir."

By stating such, under Wisconsin law, Weier set a very high burden of proof for the prosecution to clear and the judge ruled that they had met the burden.

Later in the day, a second hearing to determine Geyser's competency was waived by the teen's lawyers, agreeing with a doctor's opinion that she is competent. The judge agreed and as a result Geyser was ruled to be in fact competent.

According to investigators, Geyser and Weier from Waukesha, Wisconsin, decided they wanted to be with Slender Man, a fictional horror character born from a dark corner of the Internet.

In stories they read about him online, Slender Man kidnaps and kills children. Not only did the girls believe he was real, police said, they were convinced the only way to get in his good graces was to kill someone.

But Slender Man isn’t real. And their friend, a girl named Payton Leutner, survived being stabbed last May with a large kitchen knife 19 times.

All three girls were 12 at the time.

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