State news

Agency says no new foods now subjected to meals surcharge

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut's tax department has determined no new foods should be subjected to a new surcharge on prepared meals.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont asked the Department of Revenue Services to reevaluate a recent policy statement that he said ``too broadly interpreted'' a new, extra 1% tax on restaurant meals and prepared foods already subjected to the 6.35% sales tax. Lawmakers raised concerns because it extended the surcharge to food items sold in grocery stores that had never been taxed, such as containers of lettuce.

The revenue service announced Thursday the new surcharge, which takes effect Oct. 1, applies to supermarket catering services; sandwiches, grinders, coffee or tea sold for takeout; and food sold at a supermarket snack bar or food court.

Republicans still contend a special session is necessary to change the law.

Colt suspends production of AR-15 for civilian market

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gunmaker Colt says it is suspending its production of rifles for the civilian market including the popular AR-15.

Colt's chief executive officer, Dennis Veilleux, says it is not permanently ending production but believes there is already an adequate supply of sporting rifles on the market. He said in a statement Thursday the company will concentrate on fulfilling military and law enforcement contracts with its rifle manufacturing.

The West Hartford, Connecticut-based company has received some criticism from gun rights advocates for moving away from the civilian market.

Veilleux said in the statement the company remains committed to the Second Amendment and is adapting to consumer demand.

A national gun control debate has focused on access to AR-15s and other assault-style rifles because of their use in mass shootings.

US mechanic convicted of lying to agents in terrorism probe

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A federal jury has convicted a Connecticut automobile mechanic of lying to federal agents investigating his shipments of medical supplies to his native Pakistan.

The jury in New Haven on Thursday found 61-year-old Fareed Ahmed Khan, of Manchester, guilty of making a false statement. He faces up to five years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.

Prosecutors say Khan, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2003, collected charitable donations for the Islamic Circle of North America, which describes itself as an American Muslim education and social services organization.

Authorities say he lied when denying any involvement with the group during a 2015 interview with federal agents investigating whether his medical equipment shipments to Pakistan were intended to support terrorism.

Khan's lawyer denied the shipments supported terrorism.


Court to hear retrial arguments for home invasion killings

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Supreme Court will hear arguments next month on whether a man convicted of killing three people should get a new trial in part because of taped police calls never provided to the defense.

Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes were convicted in the 2007 killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Mikaela, in Cheshire.

Both were resentenced to life in prison after the state's death penalty was abolished.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys argue the tapes show police failed to respond adequately to a 911 call regarding the home invasion. Komisarjevsky's attorneys say the tapes significantly bolster their argument that police were motivated to undermine the credibility of Komisarjevsky's police statements out of self-interest, guilt, anger and embarrassment.

The Hartford Courant reports that arguments are scheduled for Oct. 17.

Woman describes killings of 3 people in home invasion

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut woman has testified in chilling detail about the killings of three people that led to murder charges against her and her brother.

Ruth Correa, of Hartford, was a key prosecution witness against her brother, Sergio Correa. The testimony came Tuesday in a probable cause hearing in New London to determine if there is enough evidence against Sergio Correa to proceed to trial.

Ruth Correa said she and her brother repeatedly stabbed 21-year-old Matthew Lindquist, then described how Sergio Correa beat Lindquist's parents, Janet and Kenneth Lindquist, with a baseball bat in their Griswold home before they set it on fire in December 2017.

Police said Matthew Lindquist agreed to help the Correas steal his father's guns in exchange for heroin.

The judge did not issue a ruling Tuesday.

Police: Connecticut man neglected elderly, sick mother

NORTH CANAAN, Conn. (AP) - Authorities say a Connecticut man who was supposed to be caring for his severely ill 85-year-old mother instead let her wallow in squalor in a home without heat or running water.

Police say 64-year-old James Irving Madsen is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on a charge of cruelty to persons following his arrest Monday.

Police started investigating when they went to Madsen's North Canaan home on Feb. 24 after getting a call from a relative.

Police say they found Madsen's mother, Catherine Madsen, in bed with bed sores, soaked in urine and covered with dirty sheets.

She was brought to a hospital where she died the next day of congestive heart failure.

Students involved in blackface post apologize to school

SHELTON, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut school superintendent says students responsible for a social media post of a person in blackface have been identified and apologized during a school assembly.

Shelton Superintendent Chris Clouet tells Hearst Media Connecticut the girls responsible apologized Friday at Shelton Intermediate School, the town's middle school. He says the apology featured a PowerPoint presentation, during which a detailed history and meaning of blackface in the African American community was shown.

No names were disclosed.

The photo that appeared on Snapchat last week showed what appeared to be a girl with a black substance on her face. The photo is captioned with a racial slur and the person is making obscene gestures.

Principal Dina Marks said the "unfortunate incident does not reflect our school values."

Connecticut reports first 2019 case of mosquito-borne EEE

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut health officials say laboratory testing has confirmed the state's first human case of eastern equine encephalitis this season.

Public Health Commissioner Renèe Coleman-Mitchell said Monday that an adult resident of East Lyme tested positive for the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease. The person became ill during the last week of August and remains hospitalized.

Health officials say it's the second human case of EEE ever reported in the state. The first came in 2013 when an eastern Connecticut resident became ill and died.

Coleman-Mitchell urged people to continue taking precautions against mosquitoes including wearing insect repellent, covering bare skin and avoiding the outdoors at dusk and dawn.

Officials say mosquitoes in 12 towns in the state and horses in two other towns have tested positive for EEE this season.

Lamont seeks to end religious exemption to vaccinations

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont is recommending Connecticut join a growing number of states in eliminating the religious exemption to childhood vaccinations.

The Democrat and state Health Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell on Monday proposed the General Assembly do away with the exemption by the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The decision follows the recent release of state Health Department statistics showing the percentage of Connecticut kindergarteners who were vaccinated against measles and mumps dropped from 96.5% in the 2017-18 school year to 95.9% in the 2018-19 school year.

Lamont and Coleman-Mitchell were joined by leaders of the legislature's Democratic majority, who called the repeal a public-safety issue during the nation's worst measles outbreak in decades.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1905 that states have the right to enforce compulsory vaccination laws.

College bribery scandal revives debate over Connecticut case

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Actress Felicity Huffman's 14-day jail sentence in the college admissions scandal is reviving debate over the case of a black, homeless mother in Connecticut who received a much longer prison sentence.

The Connecticut Post reports that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders retweeted a post Friday comparing Huffman's sentence to that of Tanya McDowell as he called for criminal justice reform. The newspaper notes musician John Legend also alluded to the cases Saturday as he argued that neither woman should have received imprisonment.

Huffman was sentenced Friday in Boston after pleading guilty to paying an admissions consultant to have a proctor correct her daughter's SAT answers.

McDowell pleaded guilty to enrolling her son in Norwalk schools, despite living in Bridgeport and received five years in prison for that and unrelated drug charges in 2012.


Former NASCAR driver killed in single-engine plane crash

STERLING, Conn. (AP) - Modified stock car great Michael Stefanik has been killed in a single-engine plane crash. He was 61.

State police say the crash happened Sunday afternoon in Sterling near the Rhode Island state line. They say the single-engine, single-seat Aerolite 103 took off from the Riconn Airport in Coventry, Rhode Island, and had been turning back toward the airfield when it crashed into a wooded area near the airport. NASCAR confirmed that Stefanik was killed in the accident.

Stefanik won nine NASCAR series championships to tie Hall of Famer Richie Evans for the record, topping the Whelen Modified Tour seven times and Busch North Series twice. He also raced in what are now called the NASCAR Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck series, taking rookie of the year honors at age 41 in the truck series in 1999.

"Mike Stafanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France said in a statement. "His tough, competitive nature and excellence on the race track won him the admiration of cans and competitors alike."

Stenanik holds the Whelen Modified Tour record with 74 victories from 1985 to 2014. A six-time nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, he had 12 victories the Busch North Series.


Police: mother of 2 stabbed by husband dies of injuries

CHESHIRE, Conn. (AP) - Police say a Connecticut woman stabbed multiple times in a domestic attack has died.

WVIT-TV reports that Monica Dominguez, of Cheshire, died after suffering as many as 30 stab wounds Wednesday. She had been in critical condition at a hospital following the incident.

Dominguez's spouse, Emmanuel Dominguez-VillaGomez, has already been charged with first-degree assault, risk of injury, reckless endangerment, and unlawful restraint. He appeared in court Friday and remains in custody.

Authorities say additional charges are possible. It couldn't be immediately determined if Dominguez-VillaGomez has a lawyer.

Police say Dominguez and Dominguez-VillaGomez both sustained knife injuries during the Wednesday night incident and were taken to separate hospitals. They say Dominguez's two young children were inside the home at the time and the eldest one had called 911.

Man sentenced for role in large-scale pot trafficking ring

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man who prosecutors say was part of a marijuana trafficking operation that flew about two tons of pot into the state on a small aircraft has been sentenced to about 2 .5 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors say 34-year-old Terrell Givens, of Beacon Falls, was sentenced Wednesday for his role in the operation in which a pilot flew marijuana from California to Connecticut for roughly two years for Givens and others to sell.

Investigators said the group made millions of dollars in profits.

Givens pleaded guilty in May to drug and money laundering charges. He was one of four men charged in the scheme.

The Connecticut Post reports that Givens' lawyers say he became addicted to marijuana at a young age and has turned his life around.

Health Department says vaping may be linked to 11 illnesses

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's Department of Public Health says it is investigating 11 illnesses that may be related to the use of electronic cigarettes.

Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell issued a warning Thursday, encouraging residents to consider not using e-cigarette or vaping products pending the outcome of state and national investigations.

The department says the first case of lung disease in Connecticut possibly tied to vaping was reported on Aug. 14.

It says seven patients are residents of Fairfield County, three reside in New Haven County, and one resides in New London County. The department says all of the patients are between 15 and 50 years old and all are recovering.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating hundreds of cases of lung illness nationwide that have been linked to vaping.

Trial set for man accused of grandparents' stabbing deaths

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - A three-judge panel will begin hearing evidence next month on whether a Connecticut man charged with fatally stabbing his grandparents was sane at the time.

The Norwich Bulletin reports that 18-year-old Marcus Fisher made a brief appearance on Wednesday ahead of his trial scheduled to start Oct. 30.

State police say Fisher on Jan. 27 stabbed his grandparents, 76-year-old John Piscezek and 77-year-old Gertrude Piscezek, before trying to burn down the Uncasville home they all shared.

Fisher faces several charges, including murder with special circumstances and second-degree arson. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Fisher's public defenders say they plan to put a mental health expert on the stand to help document their client's inability to stand trial.

He remains in custody on $1 million bond.

Prosecutor: Man impersonated dead sister to get benefits

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A 64-year-old Connecticut man has been sentenced to six months in federal prison after prosecutors say he impersonated his dead sister in phone calls to get access to her veteran's benefits.

John Deppert pleaded guilty in April to theft of government property and was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant.

Prosecutors say Deppert had access to his sister's bank account after she died in January 2015.

They say that in October 2017, he called the Veterans Administration posing as his sister, told them she was not dead and convinced the VA to reinitiate benefit payments.

They say he posed as his sister in two other calls with the VA, stealing more than $77,000 through the scheme.

Bryant ordered Deppert to pay full restitution.


Residents urged to limit outdoor activity over virus fears

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut health officials are urging residents to minimize outdoor activities in the evening to avoid mosquitoes carrying eastern equine encephalitis.

The state Department of Public Health issued the guidance on Wednesday.

The virus has been identified in mosquitoes in 12 eastern Connecticut towns and in horses in two other towns.

In one town, Groton, school outdoor activities have been restricted because of concern about the virus.

Mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn. State health officials say the mosquitoes that carry the virus are active until the first heavy frost.


Judge approves exhumation of 2 unknown victims of 1944 fire

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut judge has approved an exhumation request for the bodies of two unknown victims of the 1944 Hartford circus fire in an effort to determine if one of them was a Vermont woman.

Judge Susan Cobb approved the request by Hartford State's Attorney Gail Hardy in a ruling filed Monday. It's not clear when the exhumations at the Northwood Cemetery in Windsor will occur.

The fire in the big top of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus on July 6, 1944, killed 168 people and injured 682 others.

Chief Medical Examiner James Gill will compare DNA samples from the remains of the two women to a sample from the granddaughter of Grace Fifield, of Newport, Vermont, who attended the circus and was never seen again.

New Coast Guard Academy superintendent pushes for equity

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard Academy's new superintendent is pushing to create a more equitable and inclusive campus.

Admiral William G. Kelly tells The Day that the academy has made progress regarding the student body's diversity, but he questions if the campus is inclusive.

Kelly was appointed in June amid a congressional probe into the campus' handling of discrimination and harassment complaints.

The New London school was the first U.S. service academy to undergo a process called the Equity Scorecard, which revealed discrepancies in retention rates, disciplinary action and academic performance.

The data is being used to help the academy evaluate and address inequality.

Kelly says he also hopes to gain insight into the academy's culture by co-teaching a course on morals and ethics.


Ransomware attack hits school district twice in 4 months

WOLCOTT, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut school district's teachers are working without computer access less than a week after a second malware attack targeted the district's servers.

The Republican American reports the district shut any computers connected to the Wolcott school district networks Sept. 4 after a staff member reported suspicious activity on a district computer.

The district was the victim of a three-month ransomware attack this summer that blocked all five Wolcott schools from accessing internal files, as well as staff in the central office and business office.

Superintendent Anthony Gasper says the district might turn on a few computers for school secretaries to use Tuesday, but the remaining computers will remain shut down.

The district has hired cyber security firm Kivu to help them recover from the attacks.


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