State news

Settlement reached to end Hartford school desegregation case

Connecticut officials say a settlement proposed Thursday in a long-running desegregation case would end more than three decades of litigation over inequities in the region's school systems. The Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation case began in 1989 with a lawsuit naming then-Gov. William O'Neill and challenging the racial and economic segregation and inequalities between Hartford schools and those in its mostly white, more affluent suburbs. Officials say the settlement will resolve concerns about disparities in the magnet school system by making more options available for Hartford students.

2 dead after house fire and reported shooting in New London

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - New London police say two people have died after being found in a burning house where a shooting also was reported. Police Capt. Matthew Galante says officers responded to a reported shooting on Granite Street shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday. They found the multifamily house on fire. One person was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other died at a hospital. Galante says a police officer was treated for smoke inhalation and later discharged. The names of the dead haven't been released. Local and state officials are investigating the shooting and the cause of the fire.

Biden picks 6 lawyers for US prosecutor posts, diverse group

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Joe Biden has nominated six lawyers to run U.S. attorney's offices across the country. The nominees announced by the White House on Wednesday for the top law enforcement positions would run the federal prosecutors' offices in Alaska, Connecticut, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Utah. They are a diverse group and would include several firsts, such as the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney in Utah and the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney in Connecticut. The Justice Department's 93 U.S. attorneys are responsible for federal criminal prosecutions.

Vanessa Avery, a former federal prosecutor who is now a top prosecutor in the Connecticut attorney general’s office, is the chief of the Division of Enforcement and Public Protection at the state attorney general’s office. She was an associate state attorney general and worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut. If confirmed, Avery would be the first African American woman to serve as U.S. attorney in Connecticut.

The last Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney in the state, John Durham, currently serves as special counsel overseeing the investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that shadowed Donald Trump’s presidency for years. Durham left his position as U.S. attorney last year — the Justice Department asked prosecutors appointed by Trump to resign from their posts as the Biden administration moved to transition to its own nominees — but has remained as a special counsel after being appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr.

Auditors find oversight issues at child welfare department

Connecticut's state auditors issued a report Wednesday detailing numerous problems they found with record-keeping and oversight at the state Department of Children and Families. Those include a failure to properly monitor outside agencies who are placing children with serious behavioral or mental health issues in foster care. The audit found that some homes were taking care of more than one such child without receiving the proper waiver from the department. Department spokesperson Ken Mysogland says many of the issues brought forward in the report date back to former Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration and had already been identified and have been corrected by the department.

Police: 100 bags of fentanyl found at deceased youth's home

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Police say about 100 bags of fentanyl have been found at the home of a 13-year-old Hartford boy who overdosed on the drug at school. Hartford police said Tuesday that the fentanyl found at the teenager's home was packaged in the same manner as the bags of fentanyl found at his school after he overdosed on Jan. 13 and had the same identifying stamp. The youth died on Jan. 15, two days after collapsing at Hartford's Sport and Medical Sciences Academy. His name was not released. The teen's death prompted renewed calls for schools to stock the opioid antidote naloxone.

Court: Women-only gym areas violate state discrimination law

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that women-only exercise areas in gyms and fitness clubs violate a state law banning discrimination based on gender. The court's 6-0 decision Tuesday overturned a lower court ruling and an earlier decision by a state human rights official. The case involved two men who complained about women-only exercise areas at two gyms - an Edge Fitness Club in Stratford and a Club Fitness in Bloomfield. The case drew high interest from a variety of advocacy groups. Justices ruled there is no implied customer gender privacy exception to a state law prohibiting discrimination based on gender.

Political consultant pleads guilty in murder-for-hire plot

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A political consultant in New Jersey has admitted paying two men to kill a longtime associate in 2014 who worked with him on various campaigns. Sean Caddle of Hamburg appeared in federal court by videoconference Tuesday and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder for hire. Prosecutors say Caddle solicited a Connecticut resident in April 2014 to commit murder for thousands of dollars. Prosecutors say that person recruited an accomplice from Philadelphia and they stabbed the victim to death and set fire to the victim's apartment the next month. Prosecutors did not release the names of the victim or the suspects, but reported the circumstances of the case matched the death of 52-year-old Michael Galdieri.

Woman's death on date ruled accidental, police investigating

Connecticut's chief medical examiner's office says the death of a Black woman whose family has accused Bridgeport police of a lack of responsiveness was caused by drugs and alcohol and has been ruled an accident. The agency says that 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields died accidentally Dec. 12 from "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine and alcohol." Police are investigating to see if any criminal charges are warranted. Smith-Fields' family says police never notified them of her death and haven't explained why a man who called authorities to report finding her unresponsive is not a suspect.

Former victim advocate pleads guilty to child porn charge

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A 58-year-old man who worked as a victim advocate in the Connecticut state court system has pleaded guilty to a federal child pornography charge. Robert Eccleston, of Canton, pleaded via video conference Monday to one count of distributing child pornography. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 19. Eccleston was identified by the FBI in 2020 as someone sharing child porn to groups on the social media site "Kik." Prosecutors say he served as an administrator of one of those groups and required prospective members to send him videos of child sexual abuse for group access.

Family of Black woman found dead questions police response

The death of a 23-year-old Black women in Bridgeport has her family and the community asking questions about policing, race and victims rights. Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead after a man she met online called police on Dec. 12. He said he awoke to find Smith-Fields unresponsive in her Bridgeport apartment. Smith-Field's family said police never notified them of her death. About 100 people rallied Sunday outside the city's government center demanding answers. The city said in a statement that they are awaiting the result of toxicology tests to determine the cause of Smith-Fields death and that the investigation is continuing.

Author out with new book based in NYC landmark

New York Times bestselling author Fiona Davis is out with a new novel titled The Magnolia Palace.  The story takes place in the Frick, a mansion built in 1914 and home to industrialist Henry Clay Frick, which he left to the City and went on to become known as The Frick Collection, with works by Degas, Vermeer, and Rembrandt.  There are 34 Vermeers in the world, and three are at the Frick.  In addition to the history of this New York City building, Davis tell the stories of two women, both models, whose experiences at the Frick are separated by nearly fifty years.  One is a celebrated model who become caught up in a scandal.  The other is a fashion model in the 60s who gets snowed in during a blizzard.  The third major character in this story is Henry Frick's daughter, Helen Frick.  She was a temperamental woman, who created an art reference library, travelled to France with the Red Cross during WWI and served refugees. The artworks mentioned in the novel are still at the Frick, though the museum is closed for renovations.  The works have temporarily been moved to Madison Avenue, but can also be seen through a virtual tour on the museum's website.  Davis says that was particularly helpful writing during the pandemic because she could revisit at any time.  Davis says it's like the mansion was frozen in time and visitors could almost expect the Frick family to walk in from a dinner party at any time.  Davis includes an Author's Note at the end of the novel to explain what scenes were taken straight from history and which parts of the story were fictionalized.


Pandemic struggles proving too much for some Conn. breweries

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - The pandemic has finally proved too much for several of Connecticut's breweries. Three have closed or announced closings within the last month, and a fourth announced it is leaving its current space and assessing options for the future. It's a blow to an industry that has ben thriving in the state in recent years. Brewery owners tell the New Haven Register it's due to a decline in taproom business and the challenge posed by a state requirement to serve food to comply with post-lockdown guidelines. There's some good news, though, as business has picked up recently and some new breweries are expected to open this year.

Youth's overdose death renews pleas for Narcan in schools

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The death of a Connecticut seventh grader from an apparent fentanyl overdose has renewed calls for schools to carry the opioid antidote naloxone. The 13-year-old student in Hartford died Jan. 15 after falling ill in school two days earlier. The school did not have naloxone, which is known by the brand name Narcan. But now city officials are vowing to put it in all schools. Fatal overdoses among young people in the U.S. have been increasing amid the opioid epidemic but remain relatively uncommon. Advocacy groups are repeating previous calls to have naloxone in all schools and to train teachers and students on recognizing overdose symptoms.

Meat Loaf, former Conn. resident, dies at 74

NEW YORK (AP) Meat Loaf, the rock superstar loved by millions for his ``Bat Out of Hell'' album and for such theatrical, dark-hearted anthems as ``Paradise By the Dashboard Light'' and ``Two Out of Three Ain't Bad,'' has died at age 74. A family statement provided by his longtime agent says the singer born Marvin Lee Aday died Thursday night. ``Bat Out of Hell,'' his mega-selling collaboration with songwriter Jim Steinman, came out in 1977 and became one of the bestselling records in history. He was also known for his role in ``The Rocky Horror Picture Show'' and the 1993 single ``I'd Do Anything for Love.''  Meat Loaf lived in Redding in the 1990s, and later in Fairfield and Stamford. He was also a girls baseball coach in Stamford, Westport and Redding.

Norwalk official charged with murder in fatal shooting

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - A public official in Connecticut was charged with murder Thursday after a man was shot to death Thursday inside a home she owns. Ellen Wink was being held on a $1 million, police said. It was not immediately clear if the 61-year-old has hired an attorney. Wink is the city's deputy Republican registrar of voter and served as city clerk from 2009 to 2011. Police say they were responding to the report of a domestic disturbance when they found a man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds around noon. They say Wink was detained at the scene.

Lamont: Vax mandate for state employees, teachers can expire

Gov. Ned Lamont won't push for lawmakers to renew executive orders requiring certain state employees and teachers either get vaccinated or tested for COVID-19. He said that's due to both the large number of people who've gotten the COVID-19 shots and the "significant administrative burden" placed on state agencies and schools to regularly test unvaccinated staff. Lamont said Thursday he still wants mandatory vaccinations for long-term care workers and employees at state-run hospitals. Lamont has provided legislative leaders with 11 executive orders he hopes they will extend.

Lamont: Nursing home visitors must be vaccinated or tested

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Visitors to nursing homes in Connecticut must soon show proof they've been vaccinated for COVID-19 or they've recently tested negative in order to entre the long-term care facilities. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order on Wednesday that imposes the new requirement, effective Saturday. Visitors must provide proof they're fully vaccinated and, if eligible, have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster. If not, they must provide proof of a negative test. If that's not possible, visitors can take a rapid antigen test at the nursing home. The Department of Public Health plans to distribute 50,000 tests, beginning Friday, to all nursing homes for visitors.

State to help train insurance brokers for underserved cities

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont and Connecticut's health care exchange announced plans for a training program for licensed independent insurance brokers in the state's three largest cities. These brokers will be certified to sell insurance on the state's health care exchange and won't be tied to any particular insurance carriers. James Michel, the chief executive of Access Health CT, said the Broker Academy will expand access to health insurance in greater Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford. The first class launching in June will include 100 students. Those chosen will receive free training, a three-month apprenticeship with an experienced insurance broker, and professional development.

Stefanowski running for governor in likely expensive race

Connecticut voters may see another expensive election now that Republican businessperson Bob Stefanowski says he's running for seeking a rematch against Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. The 2018 GOP gubernatorial candidate announced his candidacy for the 2022 election on Wednesday morning. Stefanowski says he's spending at least $10 million of his own money on his latest bid and plans to raise even more. Lamont is a successful businessperson who spent more than $12 million in 2018 and is expected to spend millions this time as well.

WCSU grad accepts insanity plea in Mar-a-Lago breach

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - The Connecticut opera singer who drew law enforcement fire when she sped through a checkpoint outside then-President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Florida has been found not guilty by reason of insanity. Florida prosecutors accepted Hannah Roemhild's plea during a brief hearing Tuesday with the 32-year-old singer appearing by Zoom from her home state. Federal prosecutors accepted a similar plea deal in August. Her attorneys have said she has a history of mental illness. Roemhild only spoke to acknowledge her presence during the three-minute hearing in West Palm Beach. Under terms of the agreement, she must undergo psychiatric treatment and counseling and take medications, with monthly blood tests to confirm compliance.  Roemhild graduated from Western Connecticut State University in 2011

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