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Puerto Rico readies for large protests pushing for governor's resignation as celebrities rally demonstrators

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Jose Jimenez/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — Residents, officials and authorities in San Juan were gearing up Wednesday for what was being touted as large demonstrations in the Puerto Rican capital, as protesters went back to the streets to continue demanding the resignation of embattled Gov. Ricardo Rosello.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told ABC News in a call on Tuesday night that she expected Wednesday’s planned protest to be the largest they have seen yet — with 20,000 people marching from the Capitol building to the governor’s mansion. She credited the involvement of musical artists who had called for protests.

 On Saturday, the nonprofit journalism group Center of Investigative Journalism published nearly 900 pages of conversations from a leaked group chat between Rosello and several top aides that detail efforts to manipulate public narratives, operations to discredit negative press coverage and criticism of opposition leaders.

The conversations, made through the Telegram app, also contain sexist, homophobic and misogynistic comments from the members of the group, according to the report. These messages have not been independently authenticated by ABC News. After the revelation of the messages, Rossello announced the resignation of a number of government officials including Luis Rivera Marin, the secretary of state.

 “I have not committed any illegal acts, or corrupt acts. I committed an improper act,” Rossello said of the Telegram chat group messages.

But by Monday, the Old San Juan streets surrounding the governor’s mansion were filled with hundreds of protesters calling for Rossello to leave. Clashes left nearly two dozen police officers injured.

On Tuesday, Rossello apologized for his involvement in the messaging but insisted that he would not resign his post.

“I’m not proud of what I did. Those were merely comments but they were hurtful comments. And I apologize for what I’ve done. But, I need to move forward, continue on with the work I’m doing for Puerto Rico,” he said.

 He said he understood that Monday night’s protests were a direct message against him and his administration.

“I will continue in my job,” a defiant Rossello said from the governor’s mansion, adding “my commitment is to keep on working.”

On Wednesday, Royal Caribbean said that a second cruise ship — this time, the Harmony of the Seas — would not be stopping in San Juan because of concerns about the demonstrations.

“Due to the ongoing civil unrest in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we have cancelled Harmony of the Seas’ call to San Juan. Harmony will now sail to St. Maarten, her next scheduled port of call. Concern for the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew members is our top priority,” the company said.

The previous day, Royal Caribbean said it that had canceled a planned stop to the city by its Empress of the Seas and would be rerouting to Tortola.

“Our guests will receive refunds for prepaid shore excursions. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will make adjustments as necessary,” the company said in part.

In response to the news that the Empress of the Seas would not be docking in San Juan, Cruz told ABC News Tuesday night that there are times where one has to “forego a little today to ensure a lot tomorrow.”

 White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a written statement on Tuesday that the latest political developments on the island “prove the President’s concerns about mismanagement, politicization, and corruption have been valid.”

The governor responded to the White House’s comments, saying “Corruption is a social evil. It’s a social evil in the private sector, it’s a social evil in local government, it’s a social evil in the federal government.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

'A new beginning': Man convicted of murder in the '90s exonerated thanks to genetic genealogy

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Zinkevych/iStock(IDAHO FALLS, Idaho) — In the 1990s, Christopher Tapp was sent to prison for the rape and murder of Idaho teen Angie Dodge.

Despite his DNA not matching evidence found at the crime scene, he was still convicted based on the theory that multiple people were involved in the crime.

On Wednesday, after decades of proclaiming his innocence and claiming his confession was coerced, Tapp was finally exonerated due to the novel DNA technique of genetic genealogy, which was used to find identify a new suspect in Dodge’s murder.

Stepping out of the courthouse, Tapp told reporters, “I hope that things get learned from this mistake and I hope things get changed.”

“I’m glad I was able to come out the other end and still smile and still be happy,” he said.

“I accepted the fact that I was gonna be a convicted felon,” Tapp said. “Now I don’t ever have to worry about that. It’s a new life, a new beginning, a new world for me. And I’m just gonna enjoy it every day.”

Tapp added, “I hope nobody ever forgets Angie Dodge.”

Mystery DNA and a coerced confession

The case dates back to June 13, 1996, when 18-year-old Dodge was raped and killed in her Idaho Falls apartment.

Semen and hair was collected at the scene and DNA testing showed they belonged to the same suspect, according to the Idaho Falls Police. Detectives canvassed the neighborhood in their search for the killer, but to no avail.

In January 1997, Tapp, then a 20-year-old living in Idaho Falls, confessed to being involved in the rape and murder, according to authorities.

His DNA didn’t match the semen and hair samples but police said “an existing theory was that multiple people were involved and Tapp was suspected to have been one of those people.”

Tapp — a “kid” “scared for his life” — sat through nine interrogations, his attorney, John Thomas, told ABC News.

“Tapp’s confession matched details from the crime scene and included assertions that he had not acted alone,” said police. “Based on his confessions, knowledge of the crime, and other facts that supported a theory that multiple people had been involved in the rape and murder, Tapp was convicted in 1998 by a jury.”

No information from Tapp — who is now 43 — led to more arrests or the person who left behind DNA, police added.

A proclamation of innocence

In 2001, Tapp said his confession was coerced and that he was innocent, but Idaho’s supreme court affirmed the conviction, police said. The Idaho Innocence Project took up Tapp’s case as one of their first and pushed for his exoneration.

Tapp filed several petitions for post-conviction relief over the years, and in 2017, while a petition was pending, he made a plea deal to amend his sentence.

To secure the deal, Thomas presented new DNA evidence and argued that Tapp’s confession was coerced.

In 1997, after being “coerced and pressured” by investigators, Tapp told police he held Dodge down by her wrists during the rape and murder, Thomas said. Dodge’s hands were swabbed for DNA but were not tested until 2016; that test found DNA was only present from Dodge and the killer — not Tapp, said Thomas. It was unclear why the evidence wasn’t tested at the time.

In the 2017 deal, the rape conviction was vacated, Tapp’s murder sentence was reduced to time served and he was freed, said Thomas.

New technology finds a new suspect

Idaho Falls police say the search for the mystery suspect who left DNA at the crime scene never stopped in the years after Dodge’s killing.

In November 2018, police turned to genetic genealogy.

Genetic genealogy — a novel technique that compares unknown DNA evidence to public genetic databases to identify suspects through their family members — has been called a “game-changer” in the effort to crack cold cases.

Since the arrest of the suspected “Golden State Killer” in April 2018, about 70 suspects have been identified through the technology, according to CeCe Moore, the chief genealogist at Parabon NanoLabs, which investigated the Dodge murder among others.

Moore, who also appeared as an expert in ABC News “20/20” episodes, said she started building family trees of people who shared DNA with the unknown suspect and with each other, and found where those intersected in one marriage. She was spurred on by Dodge’s mother who inspired her to push thru this case even though it was so difficult.

“I knew the suspect had to be a descendant of that marriage, so I narrowed it down to six men who were descendants of that couple. And five of the six on that list lived over 1,000 miles away, didn’t have any connection to Idaho that we could find. One of them did live in Idaho,” Moore told ABC News.

In February, investigators surveilled the man who lived in Idaho, obtaining a wad of discarded chewing tobacco from him, said police.

That man not only was not a match to the DNA at the crime scene, but he was also found not to be close relative to the suspect, Moore said.

While Moore felt like she “was back to square one,” she said she also was “aware of the fact there could be a missing descendant.”

Moore remembered that one of the men in the family had gotten married early and then divorced. While there didn’t appear to be a child from the marriage, she thought it was possible that a child was born shortly after they separated.

“I went back to my research and tried to find what happened to that woman… we finally found her by finding her mother’s obituary, which listed her current name and listed a son,” Moore said.

It turns out Moore’s hunch was correct — that son was from the first marriage but carried his stepfather’s last name — Dripps.

In May, detectives went to Caldwell, Idaho, to investigate Brian Dripps Sr.

Investigators recovered a cigarette butt Dripps threw out of his car window — and the DNA on the cigarette butt was found to be a match to the semen and hair at the crime scene, police said.

As it turned out, Dripps lived across the street from Dodge when she was killed. Detectives even spoke to him five days after the slaying during a neighborhood canvass, police said.

But he moved away from Idaho Falls the year of the murder, police said.

Dripps, 53, was arrested on May 15 and charged with Dodge’s murder and rape, police said. In a police interview, once confronted with the DNA evidence, he admitted to the crime and said he went into Dodge’s apartment alone.

Dripps has not entered a plea and his attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment. He has a motion hearing set for Thursday and a preliminary hearing on Aug. 7.

Also, in May of this year, a key witness in the case reportedly recanted her testimony, according to the Post-Register newspaper.

‘The power of genetic genealogy’

Tapp, who was released from prison in 2017, is married and working at a local plastic bag factory, his lawyer said.

“He’s doing well,” his lawyer, Thomas told ABC News on Tuesday, but getting back his family’s name will mean a lot to him.

“It is a huge thing for him and his mom. They’re the last two Tapps of his particular line,” he said. “He hasn’t had any children. He’s an only child for his mom.”

“It’s hard for me to fathom or believe it still,” Tapp told ABC News hours before the exoneration hearing. “For me it’s just the disappointment I’ve received over the last 22.5 years…. I just didn’t know what was gonna happen, if the state or the judge or anybody would do the right thing.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a judge approved prosecutors’ motion for post-conviction relief, making Tapp the first person to be exonerated for murder thanks to genetic genealogy, said Moore.

Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Clark said he believed there was clear and convincing evidence of Tapp’s innocence.

Tapp was accused of helping with the murder, not being the sole killer, and Clark says investigators believe Dripps’ alleged confession was to acting alone.

Ethically “my obligation is to remedy that conviction,” Clark told ABC News before the hearing. “That’s a very sobering thing to be involved in, no doubt.”

Moore called Tapp’s case a highlight of her career.

“I’m more excited and exhilarated about this than I think anything else. It’s just such an incredible feeling to be a part of clearing an innocent man’s name,” she said.

Moore believes genetic genealogy will help with more exonerations going forward.

“There’s been so much focus put on arresting the violent criminals — which is very important — but I always thought there wasn’t enough attention put on the fact that when we do that, we’re clearing a lot of other potential persons of interest, or even suspects,” Moore said.

“So it’s been less formal with all the other cases, but there are many other cases where people’s names have been cleared thanks to genetic genealogy, people who have carried burdens for years,” she said. “So I think this is very important to demonstrate the power of genetic genealogy, not just to convict people, but also to exonerate.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Watch now: Devin Dawson leaves his mark on "God's Country"

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ABC/Image Group LA; Warner NashvilleWhile “God’s Country” is spending its second week atop the country chart, Devin Dawson’s putting his own spin on the monster hit, which he co-wrote for Blake Shelton.

Devin delivers a stripped-down, acoustic take on the tune he authored with HARDY and Jordan Schmidt in a new video now available on YouTube. Shot on producer Scott Hendricks’ farm, the clip shows Devin sitting on a stool in the shallows of a shaded creek as he accompanies himself on guitar.

“God’s Country” is Devin’s first number one as a writer. Previously, he made it to number two as both an artist and a songwriter with his platinum-selling debut single, “All on Me.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apple TV banks on 'The Banker' starring Samuel L. Jackson, Nia Long and Anthony Mackie

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ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) — Apple TV has added a major addition to its growing slate.

According to Deadline, the provider has acquired the rights to George Nolfi’s fact-based period drama The Banker for their upcoming streaming service Apple TV+. The film stars Marvel movie co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie, as well as Nicholas Hoult and Nia Long.

The Banker is based on the true story of Bernard Garrett and Joe Morris, two African-American entrepreneurs in the 1950s who attempted bypass the “racial limitations of the era” by hiring a working-class white man to serve as the head of their business. The two men were able to build their real estate empire while they posed as a janitor and a chauffeur.

Mackie is set to play Garrett, while Jackson will play Morris. Long will play Garret’s wife, who had a “key role in setting up the enterprise.”  Michael Harney, Colm Meaney, Paul Ben-Victor, and Jessie T. Usher have also been cast.

Although the film is set for a streaming release, sources tell Deadline that the film will have a significant theatrical release during awards season.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sex assault charge dropped against actor Kevin Spacey

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Nicole Harnishfeger-Pool/Getty Images(NANTUCKET) — Prosecutors in Nantucket, MA on Wednesday dropped a felony sexual assault charge against the actor Kevin Spacey.

The decision from Cape and Islands D.A. Michael O’Keefe came after Spacey’s accuser declined to testify at a pre-trial hearing about evidence.
 
Spacey had been accused of groping the young man at a Nantucket restaurant on July 7, 2016. The accuser told police he had gone over to ask the actor for a photo after his shift at the restaurant ended. He said Spacey bought him drinks, even though he was under 21 at the time, tried to get him to come home with him and then unzipped his pants and groped him for three minutes.

Spacey had pleaded not guilty.

The accuser declined to testify at a hearing earlier this month about exculpatory text messages the defense said were deleted, which raised questions about the viability of the case.

The hearing came days after the accuser dropped a civil suit he had filed against Spacey.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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