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State News Stories

Man who flew weaponized drones sentenced to prison

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man who created popular online videos of drones firing guns and shooting flames has been sentenced to prison on unrelated charges of assaulting and interfering with police.

The Hartford Courant reports a judge sentenced 22-year-old Austin Haughwout Tuesday to seven years in prison, suspended after he serves one year.

Haughwout was convicted in November after the altercation with officers outside a Clinton library in July 2015 and a fight at police headquarters.

The judge denied Haughwout's request for bail while he appeals, and he was taken into custody to begin his sentence.

His attorney John Schoenhorn says he will appeal the judge's decision and the conviction.

Haughwout's videos of the weaponized drones have been viewed millions of times online. Federal authorities investigated but never filed charges.

Food pantry opens for employees at Coast Guard Academy

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - A coalition of Coast Guard-related nonprofit groups has opened a pop-up food pantry at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to help Coast Guard and academy workers affected by the partial government shutdown.

About 160 of the 260 government-funded nonessential employees at the New London, Connecticut-based academy are furloughed. Most others, including faculty and active-duty Coast Guard personnel, are working without pay.

The Coast Guard, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is not funded during the shutdown.

The southeastern Connecticut chapter of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, the Coast Guard Enlisted Association of Southeastern Connecticut and the Coast Guard Spouses' Association of Southeastern Connecticut, set up the pantry in the academy's Leamy Hall.

Affected workers can pick up donated food, pet supplies and household items.


Connecticut official propose allowing early voting

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut officials have announced a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would allow early voting in elections.

Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Tuesday that the amendment would require at least three days of in-person early voting and remove restrictions on casting absentee ballots. Details of the plan, including exactly when the in-person early voting would occur, aren't yet finalized.

Merrill says 38 other states and the District of Columbia now use some form of early voting.

The state constitution requires voters to "appear on Election Day" unless they meet absentee ballot requirements including sickness or religious restrictions.

Officials say the measure is aimed at increasing voter participation.

The proposal now goes to the legislature and must be ultimately be approved by voters.

Tip leads police to military-style weapon in Hartford woods

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut have recovered what they described as a military-style weapon hidden in a wooded area of Hartford.

Officers responding to a tip found the James Madison Tactical .223-caliber rifle with a scope and stabilizing bipod near Ledyard Street on Saturday night.

Police also recovered a 30-round magazine and 10 live rounds.

Officers are continuing to investigate how the weapon ended up in the woods and who put it there.

The gun is considered a high-capacity weapon, which are illegal in Connecticut.

Police have retained custody of the gun.

Connecticut bill is latest calling for time zone change

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut lawmaker wants to keep alive the idea of ending the practice of moving the clocks forward and back every year.

Stafford Rep. Kurt Vail has again proposed legislation seeking federal approval to change Connecticut's time zone from Eastern to Atlantic standard time. This year, the Republican's bill requires such a move so long as Massachusetts and Rhode Island are on board.

It's the latest in a series of recent proposals across New England to effectively switch to year-round daylight saving time. EST is one hour behind AST.

A Massachusetts panel in 2017 found that changing from EST to AST could be beneficial, so long as other Northeast states followed suit.

Vail says the "conversation keeps going a little further every year" he proposes the time zone change.

State park reopens after damaging storms

WALLINGFORD, Conn. (AP) - One state park in Connecticut has reopened to the public months after a severe storm knocked down several trees.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced Monday Wharton Brook State Park in Wallingford is now open.

The department says hundreds of trees were damaged in the park as a result of the May storms. They say they have done tree cleanup, stump removal and re-grading ever since.

Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, which suffered even more damage in the storms, is expected to reopen in the spring.

Department spokesman Chris Collibee says they have spent about $800,000 so far to clean up the parks.

He says the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse the state for 75 percent of cleanup costs.

Jury deliberating case of man charged with killing teen

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut jury is weighing the case of a Hartford man charged with using a shotgun to kill his teenage girlfriend.

The jury in the murder trial of 24-year-old Torrick Maragh started deliberating on Friday and is expected to continue this week.

Maragh is charged in the January 2016 killing of 18-year-old girlfriend Nasashalie Hoy in the basement of a Hartford home. She was a senior at A.I. Prince Technical High School.

The Hartford Court reports that during closing statements Friday the prosecutor said Maragh was driven by "jealousy and rage" during an argument over Hoy's cellphone and her interest in another man.

A defense attorney said Hoy shot herself and Maragh was genuinely distraught when police arrived. He said the prosecution hadn't proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Benedict Arnold's hometown to mark his 278th birthday

NORWICH, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut hometown of the man whose name has become synonymous with treason is marking his 278th birthday.

The Norwich Historical Society on Monday plans to commemorate Benedict Arnold's birthday by turning off the Christmas lights at City Hall for the season.

Society consultant Regan Miner tells the Norwich Bulletin "turning out the lights" is a somber acknowledgment of Arnold's Jan. 14, 1741 birthday.

Guest speakers will comment on Arnold's ties to Norwich and his significance to history.

Arnold, a major general in the Continental Army, is most infamous for his failed 1780 plot to deliver West Point into British hands and his subsequent defection.

The historical society says Arnold's history is much more complex, and he was a "fierce patriot" as an American officer.

Historic Connecticut theater goes up in flames

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) - A historic theater in Connecticut has been destroyed in an early morning fire.

Firefighters arrived at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford at about 1 a.m. Sunday to find heavy fire in the building that has been closed since the 1980s.

Fire Marshal Brian Lampart says no one was injured. The cause is under investigation.

Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick called the theater's loss "devastating."

The Connecticut Post reports that playwright Lawrence Langner came up with the idea for the theater in 1950, and it was built with the help of Lincoln Kirstein and philanthropist Joseph Verner Reed.

It opened in 1955 and during the 1960s and 1970s, famous actors, including Katharine Hepburn, performed on its stage.

The American Shakespeare Festival Theatre held its final full season in the building in 1982.

Man pleads guilty after alligator threat

BRIDEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A man who police say placed a 3-foot alligator on top of another man in Connecticut as part of an extortion attempt has pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

The Connecticut Post reports 30-year-old Isaias Garcia, of Garland, Texas, entered his plea Thursday to unlawful restraint.

Garcia originally faced kidnapping, assault and larceny charges in what police said was one of the strangest cases they have investigated.

Authorities say a 21-year-old man called his aunt in April to say he had been kidnapped and his abductor was demanding $800.

Police say she received a photograph of him face down in a bathtub, with an open-mouthed alligator on top of him.

Authorities later arrested Garcia at a Shelton hotel.

He faces up to one year in prison during his sentencing March 15.

Grenade found outside Connecticut gym was not explosive

NEWINGTON, Conn. (AP) - Police say a grenade found in the trash outside a Connecticut gym was inert and did not pose a danger.

Police say an employee of LA Fitness in Newington was taking out the trash at about 8 a.m. Thursday and noticed what appeared to be a grenade with the pin still in on top of the garbage bins.

The building was evacuated and the bomb squad was dispatched to the scene. A nearby gas station was also evacuated.

Sgt. Chris Perry says the experts determined that it was a training grenade that did not contain any explosives.

Police are checking surveillance video from the area to see who placed the object in the trash.

2 men connected to death of dirt biker sentenced to 19 days

STERLING, Conn. (AP) - Two men convicted of covering up the death of a teenage dirt biker in Connecticut more than two years ago will spend less than a month behind bars.

Twenty-year-old Dustin Warren and 21-year-old David Howard each pleaded guilty to interfering with police and first-degree reckless endangerment and were sentenced to two years in prison - suspended after 19 days.

The Norwich Bulletin reports the plea deal was scorned by the mother of 18-year-old Todd Allen, the Sterling teen stabbed and bludgeoned to death by 20-year-old Kevin Weismore in December 2016 during a drug robbery.

Prosecutors say they recognize the Allen family's pain, but note the pair was willing to testify against Weismore, leading to his "significant sentence."

Weismore pleaded guilty to murder and is serving 40 years in prison.

Lamont sworn in as governor, urges Connecticut to think big

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Democrat Ned Lamont was sworn in as the 89th governor of Connecticut on Wednesday, pledging to be a “straighter shooter, an honest broker and a good listener” who will not allow the state’s budget challenges to define the next four years.

The 65-year-old former businessman delivered a message of optimism at both his inaugural ceremony and his State of the State Address to a joint session of the General Assembly, saying the change in leadership at the Capitol marks a fresh start for Connecticut.

“What I love about America is that in every generation we get a chance to reinvent ourselves, and every election gives us a fresh start,” he told lawmakers. “This is our chance to reinvent Connecticut, to think big and act boldly.”

Lamont pledged to legislators that he will present them a state budget proposal next month that’s balanced “not just for a year, but for the foreseeable future,” noting he comes from a world where “the numbers have to add up at the end of the month or the lights go out.” Lamont founded a cable television company that provided satellite and telecommunications services to colleges. He now faces the prospect of having to cover a projected deficit that’s roughly $2 billion, beginning July 1.

“Let’s fix this damn budget, once and for all,” he said, promising he won’t play “the blame game” when it comes to Connecticut’s fiscal woes. “It’s real, it’s here and it’s time to confront it head on.”

At the same time, Lamont offered a preview of some legislative priorities for the next five months. The list includes:

— An eventual $15 an hour minimum wage.

— Greater investment in urban centers to attract young people.

— Making state government “all-digital” and encouraging WiFi access in every rural town.

— A 30-minute commute between Hartford and New Haven; New Haven and Stamford; and Stamford and Manhattan.

— A paid-family medical leave system.

— Aligning the state’s education system with the needs of a 21st century workforce.

— Improving efficiency and cooperation in state and local government.

His message was embraced by both Democrats and Republicans. Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven said there was nothing he heard in Lamont’s speech that will be a “nonstarter” for Republicans, who now hold a smaller minority in the General Assembly after the November election. He said he’s optimistic that Lamont will be both collaborative and fiscally responsible, given his business background.

“Any time you have a person who is coming in who looks at the world a little bit differently ... in a more inclusive atmosphere, it’s better for government,” Fasano said.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R- Derby, said she liked a lot of what she heard from the new governor. But she noted how the GOP was optimistic when outgoing Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was first elected. The two sides ultimately clashed.

“We have to make sure we give everybody a chance. I take people at their word until I don’t,” she said. “I do believe that with his financial background, he has a better understanding of where we are and how to fix it.”

But Klarides said she’s concerned about the large number of Democrats who call themselves progressives.

“So, I think it’s going to be very difficult for him to do the things that he thinks are what he calls hard choices and hard decisions when I don’t see them doing that,” she said.

Democratic Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, who praised Lamont’s optimistic outlook, tried to dismiss any Republican concerns about the challenge of reaching agreement with so many left-leaning members. He said the goal for everyone is to do what’s best for the state of Connecticut as a whole.

“It’s all about compromise,” he said. “We see (Washington) D.C. right now. There’s a bunch of political leaders from our president on down that aren’t willing to compromise. That’s not going to be us here in Connecticut.”

Besides Lamont and state lawmakers, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Attorney General William Tong, Treasurer Shawn Wooden, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Comptroller Kevin Lembo, all Democrats, were also sworn into office Wednesday.

Second person dies after Torrington house fire

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) - A man who was rescued from a house fire in Connecticut has died just days after his wife.

Fire officials say 65-year-old John Needham died at a hospital burn unit Wednesday, five days after his 68-year-old wife, Donna Needham, died.

Fire crews were called to the Needhams' home in Torrington Jan. 3 after receiving a report of two people possibly trapped in a burning building.

They arrived to find a raging fire and John Needham outside the home with burns.

One firefighter suffered minor burns when rescuing one of the victims.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Judge dismisses opioid crisis lawsuits against drugmakers

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut judge has dismissed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and other drugmakers brought by 37 cities and towns in the state that blame the companies for the opioid crisis and sought to recoup millions of dollars spent responding to the crisis.

Judge Thomas Moukawsher in Hartford ruled Tuesday that the lawsuits were not allowed because they were not filed as government enforcement actions authorized by state public interest laws.

Lawyers for several municipalities said appeals are being considered. Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury are among the plaintiffs.

Purdue Pharma officials said the judge was right to conclude opioid manufacturers cannot be held responsible to municipalities for indirect harms from the opioid crisis.

More than 1,000 lawsuits against opioid makers by state and local governments remain pending nationwide.


Lamont to be sworn in as governor, promising "fresh start"

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov.-elect Ned Lamont is expected to deliver a dual message of optimism and realism as he takes the oath of office, becoming the state's 89th governor.

Wednesday marks Inauguration Day in Hartford, when Lamont, a Democrat, will be sworn in during a ceremony at the state armory.

Following a 19-gun artillery salute, a Connecticut National Guard flyover and a parade, Lamont will later address a joint session of the General Assembly. Wednesday also marks opening day for the new legislative session.

Lamont is scheduled to speak at both events. He says he plans to convey a "spirit of optimism" but also acknowledge the fiscal challenges Connecticut faces. The new fiscal year is projected to carry an approximate $2 billion deficit.

Lamont succeeds Democrat Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who did not seek re-election.

Lawmakers in 9 states unite against offshore drilling

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - A group of nine Democratic lawmakers from different coastal states say they will use their coming legislative sessions to try to block attempts at offshore drilling.

The lawmakers' announcement Tuesday comes as new and re-elected legislators are entering office. It's also about a year after Trump's administration announced plans to expand drilling. The state lawmakers say their bills will seek to limit the possibility of drilling off their coasts.

The lawmakers represent Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island. They say their respective states must do more to encourage renewable energy rather than fossil fuel extraction.

State legislatures are limited in what they can do to stop drilling beyond state waters, but the lawmakers say they're showing a united stand against the practice.

Police: Officer shoots, injures armed suspect

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Authorities say a police officer shot and injured an armed person in Connecticut.

New Haven Police Capt. Anthony Duff says officers were patrolling a neighborhood in the city Tuesday night when they observed a wanted suspect in the area.

Duff says the suspect attempted to flee the scene, and an officer opened fire, striking the person.

The suspect has been hospitalized in critical, but stable condition. His or her name has not been released.

No officers were injured, and the names of the officers involved have not been released.

Duff says a weapon was found at the scene.

An investigation is ongoing.

State picks operator for New London port

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's Port Authority has chosen an operator for the State Pier in New London.

The Day reports the authority reached a 20-year agreement on Monday with Gateway New London LLC. Gateway currently runs the port in New Haven.

Matthew Satnick, co-CEO and chairman of Enstructure, Gateway's financial partner, says they view New London's deep-water port as a potential offshore wind hub.

The state has committed to spend $15 million on improvements that would allow developers to use the pier to deploy equipment for the construction of wind turbines off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

State Pier currently receives shipments of mostly steel, lumber, and salt.

Gateway has agreed to pay the port authority at least $500,000 annually to operate the port, with $250,000 increases every five years.


Murphy, Blumenthal to reintroduce background checks bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's two Democratic senators are reintroducing legislation expanding federal background checks for firearms sales.

U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal acknowledge it will be challenging to pass the bill in the Senate, but they're optimistic there will be political pressure on their colleagues if similar gun control legislation clears the now-Democratic controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

The senators appeared Monday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Their bill expands background checks to the sale or transfer of all firearms by private sellers, with certain exceptions.

House Democrats are introducing similar legislation Tuesday, the same day Murphy and Blumenthal will file their bill. The National Rifle Association says such legislation is ineffective and doesn't stop criminals.

Murphy says the "political pressure is increasingly impossible for our colleagues to ignore."





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