State news

Gambling bills get initial OK; more discussion expected

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Bills touching on nearly every aspect of Connecticut gambling, from casinos to sports wagering, appear to have cleared their first legislative hurdle.

The Public Safety Committee approved a host of gambling-related bills Tuesday, noting the proposals remain unfinished and await negotiations underway by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. They include whether to establish a competitive bidding process for another casino and whether to allow the casino proposed by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes in East Windsor to open without federal approval.

There are also bills allowing sports wagering, internet gambling and internet keno. Some proposals study side effects of legalized gambling, create a Commission on Gaming, and create more problem-gambling treatment funding

Some lawmakers say they only voted for the bills to continue the discussion. Voting ends at 5 p.m.

Opponents gear up for battle over tolls ahead of vote

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Opponents of tolls on Connecticut highways are making their opinions known before lawmakers cast their first vote on the issue.

The politically conservative Yankee Institute for Public Policy set up a large inflatable "Toll Troll" on Tuesday on the front lawn of the state Capitol, surrounded by dozens of signs marking proposed tolling gantries.

Organization President Carol Platt Liebau says lawmakers are "very determined" to pass a tolling bill this year. But she says her organization has heard an outcry from angry taxpayers, both Republicans and Democrats.

Neil Tolhurst, of New Hartford, stood outside the Capitol holding a sign that read "Democrats against tolls." He says "no state has 53 or 83 tolls," referring to the various recommendations.

The Transportation Committee is scheduled to vote on several tolling bills Wednesday.

Vaccine forum canceled amid concerns over RFK Jr. appearance

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut lawmaker who supports eliminating the religious exemption from vaccinations for public school students says he had no choice but to cancel a planned forum on the science behind vaccines.

Democratic Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden says he called off Tuesday's planned event at the Legislative Office Building after most of the panel's medical experts canceled.

Elliott says there was concern among the participants about including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and vaccine skeptic, on the panel, saying it would be "legitimizing debunked and bogus claims" about vaccines.

Kennedy still appeared at a separate event organized by two Connecticut lawmakers who question vaccine safety. It drew a large crowd who oppose ending the religious exemption.

Kennedy says his late father taught him that "people in authority lie."


School employee resigns after racial tirade caught on video

EAST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A woman caught on video using racial epithets in an argument at a Connecticut supermarket has been identified as a school department employee who resigned after the video went public.

The white woman is heard using a slur multiple times and spitting during an argument with a black couple in the East Haven, Connecticut, store.

The New Haven Register reports that Hamden Public Schools Superintendent Jody Goeler identified the woman as Corinne Terrone. The district in a statement says Terrone, who was a clerk in the central office, resigned.

It isn't clear what led to Friday's confrontation.

Police say they're aware of the altercation but haven't received a complaint.

The Register says no one appeared to be inside Terrone's New Haven home Saturday. A listed number for her had been disconnected.

Bill barring plastic straws at some restaurants advances

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Legislation that attempts to reduce the number of single-use plastic straws in Connecticut has cleared a key legislative hurdle.

The Environment Committee on Monday voted 22-6 in favor of a bill preventing full-service restaurants from providing the straws unless they're requested by a customer. The bill was changed to make it clear people with disabilities could still obtain a straw to drink.

The bill awaits further action in the state House.

Democratic Rep. Mary Mushinsky, of Wallingford, says lawmakers will eventually have to address fast-food restaurants. She says "take-out straws are really the offender," noting how she often finds straws and plastic lids during a local river clean-up.

The committee also voted 20-8 in favor of legislation barring schools from using plastic foam trays. That bill now awaits Senate action.

Children taken from Connecticut found in Mexico

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - Three children from Connecticut authorities say were taken by their noncustodial mother during a supervised visit have been found safe in Mexico.

Waterbury police Lt. David Silverio said Monday the children ages 7, 5 and 2, were returned to Connecticut over the weekend.

Authorities say the their mother, 29-year-old Crystal McGrath, took them out a side door of a Waterbury's McDonald's on Feb. 16 during a visit supervised by the state Department of Children and Families.

Authorities say she and her registered sex offender boyfriend, 38-year-old Lester Joy, took the children.

They were found in Mazatlan, Mexico, on March 9.

McGrath and Joy are charged in Texas with risk of injury and custodial interference. It's unclear if they have lawyers.

The children are with a legally appointed guardian.

Connecticut medical society now neutral on aid in dying

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The Connecticut State Medical Society is taking a new stance on legislation that would allow terminally ill adult patients to receive medical aid in dying.

After years of opposing the bill, citing the principles of the Hippocratic Oath, the organization's physicians and physicians-in-training have adopted a new policy they're calling ``engaged neutrality.''

In written testimony submitted to the General Assembly's Public Health Committee, the society says ``unanimity within the physician community on the physician's role during the transition from life to death no longer exists.''

The committee is holding a public hearing Monday on this year's aid-in-dying proposal.

Opponents of the bill, including a Nevada physician and Connecticut disability rights activists, are planning a news conference before the hearing to warn against what they call the ``dangers of legalizing assisted suicide.''

Former doctor faces sentencing for $5M Medicaid fraud

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) A former Connecticut doctor who prosecutors say bilked Medicaid out of nearly $5 million and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on women and luxury goods is facing sentencing.

Ramil Mansourov is set to be sentenced Monday in federal court in New Haven. Prosecutors are requesting a prison sentence of nine to 11 years, while Mansourov's lawyer is asking for a sentence significantly below federal sentencing guidelines.

The Darien resident, who ran a practice in Norwalk, pleaded guilty to health care fraud and money laundering in September. Prosecutors say he billed Medicaid for nearly $5 million for services never provided.

State officials are suing Mansourov seeking nearly $15 million in damages for the Medicaid fraud.

State records show Mansourov's medical license became inactive after he failed to renew it.

State's attorney clears officer in 2017 shooting of suspect

NORWICH, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut state's attorney has found a Norwich police officer was justified in using deadly force against a man who prompted a manhunt in October 2017.

The Day reports that a report released Friday by Windham County State's Attorney Anne Mahoney found the ``deadly physical force'' used by the police officer was not the ``proximate cause'' of 25-year-old Brandon Uzialko's death.

The state's attorney's office investigated the shooting because a police officer was involved.

Police say Uzialko was wanted for stabbing and seriously wounding his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend in October 2017.

Days later, he traded gunfire with the Norwich police officer before fleeing on foot. He was found dead a few hours later of a gunshot wound to the head and his death was later ruled a suicide.

Judge revokes former mayor's pension over convictions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut judge has revoked the pension of former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez because of corruption convictions.

Judge Cesar Noble in Hartford issued a ruling Tuesday citing the severity of Perez's crimes and his "disdain for the public good."

State law allows for the revocation or reduction of corrupt public officials' retirement benefits. The state attorney general's office sued Perez seeking to reduce or revoke his nearly $28,000 annual pension.

Perez, a Democrat, was Hartford's first Hispanic mayor and served from 2001 until he resigned in 2010 amid the corruption charges. He pleaded guilty in 2017 to receiving a bribe and attempted larceny by extortion while in office. He received a suspended prison term.

His lawyer says he's disappointed with the ruling, but an appeal isn't planned.

Connecticut firms to repay $1.1 million over high-cost funds

MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) - Two Connecticut-based investment firms are among the 79 nationwide ordered by federal regulators to repay nearly $125 million to clients over an investigation into whether they told clients that lower cost funds were available.

Infinex Investments, of Meriden, has agreed to repay investors nearly $1 million, and Sheldon-based Investmark Advisory Group will repay $100,000.

The Securities and Exchange Commission says the firms purchased or recommended clients buy higher-fee mutual funds when lower-priced options were available.

The violations occurred between 2014 and 2016.

The firms have not confirmed or denied the findings, but have agreed to be censured and repay the improperly disclosed fees.

An Infinex representative said the company has no comment.

Investmark CEO Michael Kusick has not responded to a request for comment.

Lawmakers unveil proposals for legal marijuana system

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana have unveiled a package of legislation, including proposals to tax the drug and clear criminal records of low-level drug offenders.

The group of House Democrats laid out the plan Thursday to allow marijuana to be cultivated, manufactured and sold to consumers in Connecticut. The bills will originate in several committees, but the lawmakers stressed the legislation is not finalized.

Hamden Rep. Michael D'Agostino says one bill creates a pilot program for marijuana sales to adults over 21, beginning the end of 2019. The drafts don't allow people to grow their own marijuana. Rather, lawmakers say it would be modeled after Connecticut's existing, tightly regulated medical marijuana program.

Potential tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales has been estimated to be $30 million to $180 million annually.

Man involved in police shooting pleads not guilty

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A man who was injured in an exchange of gunfire with police officers in Connecticut has pleaded not guilty.

The New Haven Register reports that 22-year-old Marcus Rivera entered his plea Monday to multiple charges, including assault, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest.

State police say officers were trying to arrest Rivera on Jan. 8 for fleeing a traffic stop in December when he pointed a gun at Detective Francisco Sanchez, prompting the officer to open fire.

Rivera was struck in the pelvic area. Police say he also fired at the officer, who was not struck.

A judge set Rivera's bond at $825,000. Rivera's attorney argued for lower bond, saying his client does not have the means to pay higher bond.

He is scheduled to return to court April 29.

Disabled man seeks $13.5M after convictions overturned

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut officials are fighting a $13.5 million demand for compensation by a mentally disabled man who spent 26 years in prison before his murder conviction was overturned and he was freed.

Lawyers for Richard Lapointe are asking the state claims commissioner to approve the compensation, saying DNA testing four years ago exonerated him in the 1987 rape and killing of his wife's 88-year-old grandmother in Manchester.

The state attorney general's office filed documents with the commissioner last month disputing that the testing cleared Lapointe and saying officials still believe Lapointe killed Bernice Martin.

The now-73-year-old Lapointe had served 26 years in prison when he was freed in 2015 after the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction, saying prosecutors withheld key information obtained by police.

Prosecutors declined to retry him.

College denies wrongdoing in eating contest death

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut university is denying wrongdoing in the choking death of a student during a pancake eating contest on campus in 2017.

Lawyers for Sacred Heart University in Fairfield blamed Caitlin Nelson's own actions for her death, in court documents filed Tuesday in response to a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Nelson's mother.

The 20-year-old junior social work major choked on the pancakes during a charity fundraiser in March 2017 and died three days later at a New York City hospital.

Her mother, Rosanne Nelson, of Clark, New Jersey, is seeking an undisclosed amount of money and accuses the Catholic school of approving the contest despite the dangers, and failing to provide adequate medical personnel.

Caitlin Nelson's father, police officer James Nelson, died in the Sept. 11 attacks in Manhattan.

Police disclose names of pedestrians struck in Stonington

STONINGTON, Conn. (AP) - Police have released the names of the couple killed by an allegedly drunken driver over the weekend in Connecticut.

Stonington police say 88-year-old Seth Wakeman and 78-year-old Joanne Wakeman were struck just after 8 p.m. Saturday as they crossed Route 27 to get to the parking lot after leaving a restaurant in the village of Mystic. The Stonington couple was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The driver of the vehicle that struck them stopped at the scene.

Police charged 73-year-old Carol Belli, of Groton, with driving under the influence.

She was released on $600 bond pending a March 20 court date.


1 dead, 2 hurt when car struck by barrage of bullets

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Police say one person died and two others were injured when the parked car they were in was struck by a barrage of bullets.

About 20 shots were fired at the vehicle on Hollister Avenue in Bridgeport at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Police say 21-year-old Tyron Heard was critically injured and died at the hospital. A 22-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were taken to the hospital for injuries not considered life threatening. Their names were not made public.

The vehicle they were in has been seized by police and is being processed for evidence.

The death was the city's seventh homicide this year.

There was no word on arrests.

Teens arrested during mall disturbance

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) - Police say five juveniles were arrested following disturbances at a Connecticut mall over the weekend.

Manchester Police Lt. Ryan Shea says the disturbance happened at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills at around 6 p.m. Saturday.

Shea says a 17-year-old male who was being detained struck an officer in the head, and a 13-year-old female who tried to interfere was pepper-sprayed.

Police also detained two 16-year-old males allegedly involved in the disturbance.

Another 17-year-old boy was charged after refusing to stop for police.

Shea says the teens are facing charges of breach of peace and interfering with police. One teen is facing an additional charge of assaulting an officer.

The mall remained open during the incident.

An investigation is ongoing.

Connecticut inmate who went missing is found

ENFIELD, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut prison inmate who walked away from a furlough program at a community college over the weekend has been found.

Prisons officials say 45-year-old Christopher Somsky was apprehended at a hospital at about 11 p.m. Sunday. He was seeking treatment for a hip injury authorities think he sustained while on the run.

After Somsky is medically cleared and discharged, he will be transferred to Northern Correctional Institution and reviewed for placement under the highest level of supervision.

A prisons spokeswoman Somsky escaped Saturday afternoon while at a second chance day program at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield.

Somsky is considered a low-risk offender. He's serving a maximum nine-year sentence for second-degree robbery handed down in 2015.

Community-based prison furlough programs across the state have been suspended, pending a review.

Shooting suspect released after victim says he didn't do it

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A man charged in a 2014 shooting has been released after the victim told police the suspect did not shoot him.

Police took 28-year-old Tyvonne Gooden into custody in November after a witness identified him as the man who shot Eric Smith in Hartford on June 4, 2014. The Hartford Courant reports Smith, who is serving a federal sentence in New Hampshire, later told investigators he was positive that Gooden was not the shooter.

Prosecutor Chris Pelosi says Smith was adamant that Gooden wasn't even armed at the time of the shooting. Gooden's lawyer argued Thursday that his client should be released in light of the new testimony.

Gooden was ordered released on $100,000 non-surety bail. He is due back in court April 23.

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