Michigan school shooting ‘entirely preventable’, says $100-million federal lawsuit

Reuters) – A deadly shooting rampage at a Michigan high school last week was “entirely preventable,” according to a $100 million federal lawsuit filed on Thursday against the Michigan school district and its employees.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Riley Franz, 17, who was shot in the neck, and her sister Bella, 14, who was next to her when she was shot in the Nov. 30 incident at Oxford High School in suburban Oakland County, some 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Detroit.

The girls’ parents, Jeffrey and Brandi Franz, also are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.

Riley Franz was among 6 students and a teacher seriously injured in the gunfire that killed 4 students.

Ethan Crumbley, a 15-year-old student, was being held without bail after he was charged as an adult in the attack, the deadliest U.S. school shooting of 2021.

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, who gave him the gun as an early Christmas present and are accused of then ignoring warning signs that he was planning a shooting at the high school, were charged with involuntary manslaughter and were being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

The lawsuit was filed against Oxford Community School District, superintendent Timothy Throne, principal Steven Wolf, dean of students Ryan Moore, two unnamed teachers and two unnamed counselors.

The district did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The lawsuit seeks $100 million on behalf of the Franz parents, and Riley – described as a 12th grade honor roll student preparing to enter college – and Bella, said to be a 9th grade star athlete getting ready for driver’s training.

“The horror of November 30, 2021 was entirely preventable,” said the lawsuit filed by Michigan personal injury attorney Geoffrey Fieger.

“Each and every defendant named herein created and increased the dangers then-existing at Oxford High School. The individually named Defendants are each responsible through their actions for making the student victims less safe.”

Among the many detailed accusations in the 44-page lawsuit were several detailing Ethan Crumbley’s threats of violence on social media as well as his search for ammunition on his cell phone.

Throne and Wolf reviewed social media posts and were aware of the ammunition search reported by a teacher prior to the shooting, the lawsuit said. Still, they reassured all parents by email and other correspondence that their children were safe at Oxford, the lawsuit said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Abortion rights advocates sue Texas over 6-week abortion ban

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – Several abortion rights groups filed a federal lawsuit in Texas on Tuesday seeking to block a new state law banning abortion after six weeks and enabling individuals to sue anyone who assists a woman in getting an abortion past that point.

The lawsuit contends the Texas law violates a woman’s constitutional right to get an abortion before the fetus is viable and would cause “profound harm” to providers. It was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, women’s health provider Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and funds.

The law, signed on May 19 and due to take effect on Sept. 1, is one of nearly a dozen “heartbeat” abortion bans passed in Republican-led states. These laws seek to ban abortion once the rhythmic contracting of fetal cardiac tissue can be detected, often at six weeks – sometimes before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

Legal challenges have prevented these bans from taking effect. Judges have ruled that they violate Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark ruling that guaranteed a woman’s right to end her pregnancy before the fetus is viable, at around 24 weeks. Lawmakers who have voted for “heartbeat” measures have said they are intended to prompt the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The high court has opened the door to possibly overturning or narrowing Roe v. Wade, agreeing in May to review Mississippi’s bid to ban abortions after 15 weeks in its next session.

Unlike other state bans, the Texas measure leaves its enforcement largely to citizens, who can sue anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” an abortion that violates provisions of the law, “including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.”

Citizens who win such lawsuits would be entitled to at least $10,000, the law states.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday argues that abortion providers and staff could be forced to defend hundreds of “vigilante enforcement lawsuits” under the law and would consequently “accrue catastrophic financial liability” and “suffer profound harm to their property, business, reputations and a deprivation of their own constitutional rights.”

“If this oppressive law takes effect, it will decimate abortion access in Texas-and that’s exactly what it is designed to do,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

The lawsuit targets state court judges, county clerks, the attorney general and state medical officials and asks that the federal court prevent those entities from enforcing the law or accepting citizen lawsuits.

“We’re confident in the innovative and carefully drafted nature of the Texas heartbeat act that it will be upheld and go into effect in September,” Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate Rebecca Parma said. The anti-abortion advocacy group’s East Chapter director is named as a defendant in the suit.

Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill and celebrated its passage in a video posted on Facebook.

“Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas we work to save those lives.” Abbott said.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by David Gregorio)

Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s book earnings should go to U.S. government, court rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is entitled to more than $5.2 million from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s book royalties, a federal court ruled this week, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a statement, the department said the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Tuesday also ruled in favor of setting up a trust for the government for any future earnings from Snowden’s book, which had been the subject of a federal lawsuit.

A lawyer for Snowden did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In September 2019, the U.S. government sued Snowden, who resides in Russia, over his publication of “Permanent Record”, a book which the United States says violated non-disclosure agreements he signed when working for both NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The United States alleges that Snowden published the book without first submitting it to U.S. agencies for pre-publication review, in violation of agreements he signed when working for the agencies. U.S. authorities did not seek to block publication of Snowden’s book but rather to seize all proceeds.

Last December, a federal court in Virginia found that Snowden did breach his obligations to the CIA and NSA but reserved judgment on possible remedies. In an order issued on Tuesday, the court entered a judgment in the U.S. government’s favor for more than $5.2 million.

The civil litigation over the book is separate from criminal charges prosecutors filed against Snowden under a 1917 U.S. espionage law.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Mark Hosenball, Editing by Franklin Paul and Lisa Shumaker)