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A federal appeals court blocked the implementation of the Biden administration’s student debt relief plan, which would have lowered monthly payments for millions of borrowers.

In a ruling Thursday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion for an administrative stay filed by a group of Republican-led states seeking to invalidate the administration’s entire student loan forgiveness program. The court’s order prohibits the administration from implementing the parts of the SAVE plan that were not already blocked by lower court rulings.

The ruling comes the same day that the Biden administration announced another round of student loan forgiveness, this time totaling $1.2 billion in forgiveness for roughly 35,000 borrowers who are eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

The PSLF program, which provides relief for teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public servants who make 120 qualifying monthly payments, was originally passed in 2007. But for years, borrowers ran into strict rules and servicer errors that prevented them from having their debt cancelled. The Biden administration adjusted some of the programs rules and retroactively gave many borrowers credits towards their required payments.

Borrowers who are enrolled in the SAVE plan, which was the subject of Thursday’s ruling, will be placed into interest-free forbearance while the case works its way through the legal system, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Thursday.

“Today’s ruling from the 8th Circuit blocking President Biden’s SAVE plan could have devastating consequences for millions of student loan borrowers crushed by unaffordable monthly payments if it remains in effect,” Cardona said in a statement. “It’s shameful that politically motivated lawsuits waged by Republican elected officials are once again standing in the way of lower payments for millions of borrowers.”

Two separate legal challenges to Biden’s SAVE plan have worked their way through the courts. In June, federal judges in Kansas and Missouri issued separate rulings that blocked much of the administration’s plan to provide a faster path towards loan cancellation and reduce monthly income-based repayment from 10% to 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income. Those injunctions did not affect debt that had already been forgiven.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that allowed the department to proceed with the lowered monthly payments. Thursday’s order from the 8th circuit blocks all aspects of the SAVE plan.

The Education Department said it was reviewing the ruling. “Our Administration will continue to aggressively defend the SAVE Plan — which has been helping over 8 million borrowers access lower monthly payments, including 4.5 million borrowers who have had a zero dollar payment each month,” the administration said. “And, we won’t stop fighting against Republican elected officials’ efforts to raise costs on millions of their own constituents’ student loan payments.”

A former Boston lawyer and prosecutor who was once named one of People magazine’s most eligible bachelors was sentenced Monday to between five and 10 years in state prison for rape.

Gary Zerola, 52, was found guilty last month after a jury deliberated for five hours and has been incarcerated since then. He was acquitted of a greater charge of aggravated rape and burglary.

Prosecutors said that Zerola, in January 2021, paid more than $2,000 for a night of drinking with a woman he was dating and her 21-year-old friend who’d just graduated from college. The friend became intoxicated and had to be helped back to her Beacon Hill apartment. Zerola later entered the apartment without permission and sexually assaulted the woman around 2 a.m. while she was sleeping, prosecutors said.

In a victim impact statement that was read in court, the woman said she’d tried desperately to not allow the incident to affect her, or to give Zerola any power over the rest of her life. But she said that participating in the trial had brought up “the significant and insidious effect this event has had on my life.”

“For months after the incident, I experienced nightly recurring nightmares reliving the assault. Even today, I still have nightmares of someone breaking into my apartment and trying to assault me,” the woman wrote. The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual assault.

“These cases are always difficult, and this victim deserves enormous credit for taking the stand and telling the jury what happened to her that night,” Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden said in a statement after the verdict.

Zerola’s attorney Joseph Krowski Jr. said Monday that his client is appealing the conviction. He said the sentence wasn’t what they wanted, but was within or close to the recommended guideline range for somebody without a previous criminal record. He pointed out that Zerola had been acquitted on two of the three original charges.

Krowski Jr. said his client was doing “as well as could be expected under the circumstances” and was going to put his time to good use and come out of the experience for the better.

Zerola had previously been accused of other sexual assaults but wasn’t convicted in those cases. He had faced two rape charges in Suffolk County and was acquitted in 2023, according to the district’s attorney’s office. He also was charged in three sexual assault cases between 2006 and 2007, but was not convicted.

Zerola worked as an assistant district attorney in Essex County for one year, and in Suffolk County for two months in 2000, according to former District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office. He was arrested in January 2021.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for a Texas man 20 minutes before he was to receive a lethal injection Tuesday evening. The inmate has long maintained DNA testing would help prove he wasn’t responsible for the fatal stabbing of an 85-year-old woman during a home robbery decades ago.

The nation’s high court issued the indefinite stay shortly before inmate Ruben Gutierrez was to have been taken to the death chamber of a Huntsville prison.

Gutierrez was condemned for the 1998 killing of Escolastica Harrison at her home in Brownsville in Texas’ southern tip. Prosecutors said the killing of the mobile home park manager and retired teacher was part of an attempt to steal more than $600,000 she had hidden in her home because of her mistrust of banks.

Gutierrez has sought DNA testing that he claims would help prove he had no role in her death. His attorneys have said there’s no physical or forensic evidence connecting him to the killing. Two others also were charged in the case.

The high court’s brief order, released about 5:40 p.m. CDT, said its stay of execution would remain in effect until the justices decide whether they should review his appeal request. If the court denies the request, the execution reprieve would automatically be lifted.

Gutierrez, who had been set to die after 6 p.m. CDT, was in a holding cell near the death chamber when prison warden Kelly Strong advised him of the court’s intervention.

“He was visibly emotional,” prison spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez said, adding he was not expecting the court stay. “We asked him if he wanted to make a statement but he needed a minute.”

“He turned around to the back of the cell, covered his mouth. He was tearing up, speechless. He was shocked.”

She said Gutierrez then prayed with a prison chaplain and added: “God is great!”

Gutierrez has had several previous execution dates in recent years that have been delayed, including over issues related to having a spiritual adviser in the death chamber. In June 2020, Gutierrez was about an hour away from execution when he got a stay from the Supreme Court.

In the most recent appeal, Gutierrez’s attorneys had asked the Supreme Court to intervene, arguing Texas has denied his right under state law to post-conviction DNA testing that would show he would not have been eligible for the death penalty.

Albania’s Supreme Court on Friday upheld a verdict of the lower courts keeping a former elected mayor from the country’s Greek minority in prison after he was convicted of buying votes.

A Supreme Court statement said that it upheld the verdicts of the court of first instance and the court of appeal which had sentenced Freddie Beleris, 51, to two years in prison.

Beleris, who has dual citizenship, is also a member of the European Parliament. He won a Greek seat in the EU legislature in elections last month, representing the governing conservative New Democracy party.

Beleris’ office in Athens said Friday that prison authorities have granted him leave for five days to attend the opening session of the new Parliament in Strasbourg on July 16-21.

In Albania, prison department spokeswoman Fernanda Cenko said Beleris’ leave request was “still being considered.”

European Parliament lawmakers enjoy substantial legal immunity from prosecution, even if the allegations relate to crimes committed prior to their election.

In the case of Beleris, that rule is unlikely to affect the outcome, as he is serving time for a crime committed in a non-EU member country.

Last year Beleris was elected mayor of Himare, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital, Tirana. He was arrested two days before the vote, accused of offering 40,000 Albanian leks (360 euro at the time) to buy eight votes. Beleris was never sworn in because he was under arrest and later sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Beleris has denied the charges, and Athens has described his detention as politically motivated.

After the appeal court verdict, Albanian election authorities stripped Beleris of his post as Himara’s mayor and a new election will be held Aug. 4.

Beleris’ case has strained ties between Tirana and Athens, with Greece saying the case could harm Albania’s application to join the European Union. Albania, a candidate country, is in the process of negotiating full membership.

The second phase of the civil trial against the National Rifle Association and its top executives began Monday in Manhattan, with New York Attorney General Letitia James seeking an independent monitor to oversee the powerful gun rights group.

The Democrat also is seeking to ban Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s former CEO, from serving in leadership positions for or collecting funds on behalf of charitable organizations conducting business in New York.

Judge Joel Cohen also will decide whether ex-general counsel John Frazer should be barred from charitable organizations in the state.

During the first phase of trial earlier this year, a jury in February found LaPierre misspent millions of dollars of NRA money in order to fund an extravagant lifestyle that included exotic getaways and trips on private planes and superyachts.

Jurors also found the NRA failed to properly manage its assets, omitted or misrepresented information in its tax filings and violated whistleblower protections under New York law.

The second phase of proceedings in Manhattan state court is a bench trial, meaning there is no jury and the judge will hand down the verdict. It is expected to last about two weeks, with Charles Cotton, a former NRA president, first to take the witness stand.

A proposed amendment to New York’s constitution to bar discrimination over “gender identity” and “pregnancy outcomes” will appear on the ballot this November, the state’s high court ruled Thursday.

The decision from the Court of Appeals affirms a lower court ruling from June, dismissing an appeal “upon the ground that no substantial constitutional question is directly involved,” effectively declining to take up the case.

Democrats are hoping the ballot question will drive turnout in their favor this fall as the party frames the “equal rights” amendment as a way to protect abortion rights.

Republicans also have begun to strategize around the proposed amendment, moving to animate voters against the protections it might offer to transgender people.

A Republican state lawmaker had sued to block the ballot question, arguing that Democrats in the Legislature made a technical error when passing the amendment.

The state’s Constitution currently bans discrimination based on race, color, creed or religion. The proposed amendment would add ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes and reproductive health care and autonomy.

It would not explicitly protect abortion rights in New York, where access to the procedure is already considered very safe. Instead, the proposed amendment would stop a person from being discriminated against for having an abortion.

The ballot question has been a crucial part of Democrats’ election strategy in New York. The party has tried to center key House races in New York on abortion access, warning voters that Republicans would try to curtail access to the procedure and betting that Democrats would cast ballots to protect abortion rights after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Republicans in turn have moved to use the proposed amendment to energize their base, with some officials arguing it would allow minors to access gender-affirming health care without parental notification. Supporters of the ballot question have said it would not impact a parent’s involvement in such medical decisions.

In a statement, New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox said the court was wrong to reject the legal challenge and said the proposed amendment “is a radical departure from common sense.”

Former President Donald Trump was the target of an apparent assassination attempt Saturday at a Pennsylvania rally, days before he was to accept the Republican nomination for a third time. A barrage of gunfire set off panic, and a bloodied Trump, who said he was shot in the ear, was surrounded by Secret Service and hurried to his SUV as he pumped his fist in a show of defiance.

Trump’s campaign said the presumptive GOP nominee was doing “fine” after the shooting, which he said pierced the upper part of his right ear.

“I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin. Much bleeding took place,” he wrote on his social media site.

The FBI early Sunday identified the shooter as Thomas Matthew Crooks, 20, of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. The agency said the investigation remains active and ongoing.

Secret Service agents fatally shot Crooks, who attacked from an elevated position outside the rally venue at a farm show in Butler, Pennsylvania, the agency said.

One attendee was killed and two spectators were critically injured, authorities said. All were identified as men.

The attack was the most serious attempt to assassinate a president or presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. It drew new attention to concerns about political violence in a deeply polarized U.S. less than four months before the presidential election. And it could alter the tenor and security posture at the Republican National Convention, which will begin Monday in Milwaukee.

Organizers said the convention would proceed as planned.

Trump flew to New Jersey after visiting a local Pennsylvania hospital, landing shortly after midnight at Newark Liberty International Airport. Video posted by an aide showed the former president deplaning his private jet flanked by U.S. Secret Service agents and heavily armed members of the agency’s counter assault team, an unusually visible show of force by his protective detail.

President Joe Biden, who is running against Trump, was briefed on the incident and spoke to Trump several hours after the shooting, the White House said.

Biden planned to return to Washington early, cutting short a weekend at his beach home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Many Republicans quickly blamed the violence on Biden and his allies, arguing that sustained attacks on Trump as a threat to democracy have created a toxic environment. They pointed in particular to a comment Biden made to donors on July 8, saying “it’s time to put Trump in the bullseye.”

Officials said members of the U.S. Secret Service counterassault team killed the shooter. The heavily armed tactical team travels everywhere with the president and major party nominees and is meant to confront any active threats while other agents focus on safeguarding and evacuating the person at the center of protection.

Law enforcement recovered an AR-style rifle at the scene, according to a third person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

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