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State News Stories

Hartford police LGBTQ liaison alleges sexual harassment

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The LGBTQ liaison in the Hartford, Connecticut police department says she was subjected to inappropriate comments from another officer and the department then mishandled her complaint.

In an internal document obtained by WTIC-TV , Officer Kelly Baerga alleges she was subjected to "derogatory, overt, inappropriate comments and offensive behavior" and homophobic statements by her former supervisor, Sgt. Andrew Rodney.

She also alleges he intended to "out her" to a fellow officer.

She alleges the department did not take swift action on her complaint.

Rodney told the station he did make two specific comments that offended Baerga, but said he didn't intend to offend.

Mayor Luke Bronin says he is aware of the complaint and an investigation is underway. He says "my administration does not tolerate harassment of any kind by anyone."


Man sentenced to prison for making machine guns

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for making machine guns and selling them to felons.

Sean Dey, of Torrington, was sentenced Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage unlawfully in the business of selling firearms and unlawful possession and transfer of a machine gun.

Prosecutors say the 40-year-old man manufactured AK-47-style and AR-style guns, suppressors and other firearms.

They say Dey worked with a partner to sell the firearms to a third man, and not all of the guns have been accounted for.

Dey's attorney asked for a sentence of one year and one day, citing his client's service as a Marine.

The government sentencing memo says Dey's conduct in this case was "antithetical to the Marine Corps' values."

 


Tobacco wholesaler gets prison for cheating state of $6M

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A tobacco wholesaler who cheated Connecticut out of nearly $6 million in tax revenue by underreporting the amount of tobacco he sold has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Rishi Malik, of Fairfield, was also sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation and was ordered to pay $5.8 million in restitution.

Malik, a citizen of India, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud and violating the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act.

Court documents show Malik and a partner operated and assisted a tobacco wholesale business based in Bridgeport for several years, and failed to report more than $5 million in taxes owed to the state.

His partner previously pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Malik faces immigration proceedings after he completes his prison term.


Woman pleads not guilty to starving dogs to death

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - The former president of a Connecticut dog rescue organization charged with starving five dogs to death has pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty charges.

The Connecticut Post reports that 31-year-old Heidi Lueders remained free on $50,000 bond after a court appearance Wednesday.

Police who went to Lueders' Fairfield home last year said they were nearly overwhelmed by the smell. They say the windows were open and fans and air fresheners were placed about the house. Officers say the floor was covered in garbage and animal waste. The decomposed bodies of five dogs were found in locked cages. Police said they may have been there for nearly a year.

Her lawyer said "my client is far from being a horrible person."

Lueders was the president of Bully Breed Rescue.


Body found during search for missing hiker

EAST GRANBY, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut State Police have called off the search for a missing hiker after finding a body.

Trooper Tanya Compagnone says they cannot confirm the body Tuesday is that of 58-year-old Trevor French until an autopsy is performed.

French was reported missing around 5:30 p.m. Monday after he left for a hike at the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in East Granby and didn't return.

Several search and rescue teams looked for the man in the area until the body was found.


Ex-Senate Republican lawyer charged with stealing from PAC

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A former lawyer for state Senate Republicans in Connecticut has been charged with stealing more than $250,000 from a political action committee he oversaw as treasurer.

State law enforcement announced that 56-year-old Michael Cronin was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree larceny.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, the West Hartford attorney took approximately $267,800 from the Senate Republican Leadership Committee PAC from 2012 until 2018 and used the money for personal expenses. Cronin was the PAC's treasurer from 2007 until 2018.

Cronin was fired in December as counsel for the Senate Republican Office following the discovery of the irregularities with the PAC funds.

Cronin is free on $50,000 bond pending a Feb. 22 court appearance.


Gov. to put Conn. on 'debt diet' to reduce long-term debt service payments

Governor Ned Lamont will be presenting a budget to lawmakers on February 20th. He told municipal leaders and legislators at a Waterbury Chamber of Commerce event today that they won't like his proposal, but they shouldn't wait until June to dislike it, and to not like in March so they can get an agreement done on time.

Lamont is proposing to shrink the state’s borrowing by 39 percent, the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars annually.  He referred to it as a self-imposed “Debt Diet” to reduce long-term debt service payments and potentially save the state as much as $2 billion over the next decade.  Between 2012 and 2019, Connecticut averaged $1.59 billion worth of bond authorizations per year. Governor Ned Lamont’s proposed budget will scale that back, bringing annual bond authorizations to $960 million – a reduction of 39 percent.  Lamont says he won't put Connecticut's future on the credit card.

Lamont, who serves as chairman of the state Bond Commission, has canceled the January and February scheduled meetings of the group.  He said the state should limit its bonding agenda to critical needs only and at levels that are within the state’s financial ability to pay.

Lamont plans to adjust and reprioritize the capital budget, which typically includes large scale projects such as school construction and other major infrastructure upgrades.  This will not affect any projects currently under construction.  Governor Lamont plans to continue investments in transportation infrastructure by matching the authorization levels over the last eight years, and will request new authorizations for municipal projects to serve as catalysts for growth and a stronger investment in information technology to bring the state’s aging IT infrastructure into the 21st century.


Man sues over job rejection due to medical marijuana

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man whose bid to become a firefighter in the state's largest city was rejected because he uses medical marijuana has sued.

The Connecticut Post reports that James Bulerin III says in his lawsuit that he passed all eligibility requirements to become a Bridgeport firefighter, but he was denied after he tested positive for marijuana.

His lawyer, Thomas Bucci, says Bulerin has a medical marijuana card, and his client's undisclosed condition does not affect his ability to serve as a firefighter.

Bucci says as long as he's not using pot during work hours, his client cannot be denied the employment opportunity under state law.

Assistant City Attorney John Bohannon declined to comment on the case.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Feb. 21.


Ex-boyfriend held in death of woman in suitcase

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) - The ex-boyfriend of the New York woman whose body was found inside a suitcase in Connecticut is held without bail on a charge carrying a potential death penalty.

Javier Enrique Da Silva Rojas was detained Tuesday in the death of Valerie Reyes after a federal court appearance in White Plains, New York.

The woman's body was found inside a suitcase discarded on the side of a Connecticut road. Da Silva Rojas was arrested Monday in Queens, New York. A defense lawyer did not immediately comment.

Federal authorities say Da Silva Rojas told authorities that Reyes fell to the floor and hit her head after they had sex on Jan. 29 at her residence. They say he said he then tied her and put her in a suitcase.

 


Gov. Lamont proposes DMV, holiday changes

Governor Ned Lamont will be submitting a series of legislative proposals aimed at making state government more responsive to the needs of residents.

One proposal will extend the time between driver’s license renewals from six years to eight years, and the time between registrations from two years to three years.  He also wants to implement an option for residents to “skip a trip” between renewals by renewing their license online. 

Another proposal would make Election Day a holiday in a cost-neutral way by swapping it with another current state holiday.  He is also calling for high school and college credit for students volunteering during and before local elections to help increase the number of available election workers.  He is also suggesting increasing the number of same-day registration locations.

Governor Lamont is also proposing to expand the number agencies able to participate in public-private partnerships – and cut down on red tape around these partnerships – in support of economic development and job creation.

The proposals will be included in the series of bills the governor is planning to submit to the legislature by February 20th.


Restaurant manager charged with embezzling $100,000

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - A former assistant general manager of a restaurant at a Connecticut casino has been charged with embezzling more than $100,000 from the business over a three-year period.

Adam Johnson made an initial court appearance Monday where his public defender entered a not guilty plea to a charge of first-degree larceny. The Griswold man remains free on $50,000 bond.

The 43-year-old Johnson was fired from his job at Ballo Italian Restaurant in Mohegan Sun when the alleged thefts came to light.

Tribal police say Johnson would void items on bills that had been paid in cash, then pocket the difference. He allegedly told police he put some of the money in bartenders' tip jars, but used the rest for family expenses.

His public defender did not return a call for comment.


Review finds fired police captain secretly recorded officers

MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) - Documents show a former Connecticut police captain who says he was wrongfully terminated has violated department policy by secretly recording other officers.

The Record-Journal reports that an internal investigation found Patrick Gaynor recorded a meeting in which Meriden Chief Jeffry Cossette placed him on leave in September 2016.

Gaynor later recorded another conversation with Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos in which Gaynor said he would go after Cossette "personally and professionally" for putting him on leave.

Gaynor's attorney, Daniel Esposito, says taxpayers should be "furious" the city is spending "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to disparage his client.

City Attorney Debbie Moore says she found the recordings while responding to a Freedom of Information request Gaynor submitted.

Gaynor was never disciplined for the recordings.

His case for reinstatement remains under review.


Arbitration board signs off on Hartford teachers' contract

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - An arbitration board has signed off on a new-three year contract between the Hartford Federation of Teachers and the school district.

The contract includes salary raises of about 6 percent over the life of the contract, but will require members to switch to a high-deductible health care plan. The Hartford Courant reports school leaders also agreed to limit class sizes for physical education, arts and music courses.

The arbitration award was issued Thursday. Union President Andrea Johnson says members are happy with the contract.

The contract does not require approval from the Hartford City Council, nor will it require authorization from a state oversight board that oversees many city labor deals.


Bishop lists names of 43 priests who faced abuse allegations

NORWICH, Conn. (AP) - Diocese of Norwich Bishop Michael Cote has released the names of 43 priests who have served in the Connecticut diocese and have had "allegations of substance" made against them about the sexual abuse of minors.

The list of priests accused of abuse since the diocese was established in 1953 was posted Sunday on its website www.norwichdiocese.org .

He said no priest or deacon currently in active ministry in the diocese is the subject of an allegation of substance regarding the sexual abuse of a minor. Thirty-three of the priests are dead.

The Day newspaper reported Cote said in a letter in church bulletins Saturday that since 1977 the diocese has paid about $7.7 million in settlements to victims in nine cases. Twenty-three cases are pending.

Cote said he was "grievously sorry."


FBI and Yale announce law enforcement academy for teens

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - The FBI in New Haven and Yale University police are inviting teenagers to take part in a youth academy aimed at sparking interest in law enforcement careers.

The fourth annual Future Law Enforcement Youth Academy is set for July 14 to 20 at Yale. The application deadline is April 5.

The free academy is an overnight camp chaperoned by police and FBI employees. Students must be 15 to 18 years old, full-time Connecticut residents, returning to high school in the fall and have at least a 2.7 grade point average, among other requirements.

Officials will accept 13 boys and 13 girls into the program, which will include lessons on forensic investigations, crime-fighting cyber technology, civil rights and other subjects.

Application Information is available on the New Haven FBI's website.


Man facing 30-year sentence for ex-girlfriend's stabbing

DANIELSON, Conn. (AP) - Prosecutors are seeking a minimum 30-year prison sentence for a Connecticut man convicted of stabbing his former girlfriend.

The Norwich Bulletin reports that a jury previously found 55-year-old Angel Alvarez guilty of attempted murder, assault and violation of a protective order in connection with the September 2016 stabbing.

Prosecutors say the woman was stabbed three times in the back with a kitchen knife at her apartment in Willimantic.

Prosecutors say Alvarez harbored deep contempt for the victim and "intended to let her suffer and die."

He previously rejected an offer to plead guilty in exchange for 15 years in prison.

Alvarez's sentencing was originally set for Wednesday, but it was pushed back to May 13 due to scheduling issues with his attorney.


Design firm to help create memorial to gun violence victims

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A partnership of Connecticut mothers is teaming with a design firm to create a memorial to honor victims of gun violence.

The firm Svigals Partners has been working with the New Haven group pro bono since April 2018 to help plan The Lost Generation Memorial Garden. The New Haven Register reports efforts to build a memorial began with New Haven school teacher Marlene Miller Pratt, whose 18-year-old son was killed in 1988.

Firm official Julia McFadden says Pratt and other involved mothers hope the garden may serve as a place to honor and remember their loved ones.

A $300,000 state grant was approved to help with the creation of the garden during a meeting of the Connecticut State Bond Commission last year.


Officials say worker took photos of dead body

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) - A town public works employee in Connecticut has been placed on administrative leave after officials say the worker took photos of a homicide victim whose body was found in a suitcase.

Greenwich officials said in a statement Thursday that the employee is on leave pending an investigation that will determine whether discipline is warranted. Officials would not identify the worker.

Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei called the employee's actions thoughtless, insensitive and inexcusable.

Police say town workers found the body of 24-year-old Valerie Reyes, of New Rochelle, New York, in a wooded area Tuesday morning. Authorities say she had been reported missing last week after she failed to show up for work.

No arrests have been announced.

It's not clear how Reyes died. Autopsy results are pending.


Commerce chamber leader on leave after misogynistic posting

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) - The president of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce has been put on leave for a misogynistic posting on Facebook made during the State of the Union address.

Republican Timothy Stewart is the father of current New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, who has also asked for her father's resignation from two city committee appointments Wednesday.

Stewart said in a follow-up posting that he regretted describing a group of 50 congresswomen at the annual address using a sexist term. He says he will be deleting his social media accounts and will apologize to his wife and daughter.

Republican Mayor Erin Stewart says she is "embarrassed and mortified." Her father previously served as mayor of New Britain.

The chamber says it will hold a special meeting to discuss Timothy Stewart's future.


Senate Democrats making push for legal pot in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Democratic senators in Connecticut are making a concerted push to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.

The caucus on Wednesday unveiled legislation allowing adults 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. The bill would also allow individuals to possess a limited number of marijuana plants.

Senate President Martin Looney says legalized marijuana is "already on our doorstep," referring to neighboring Massachusetts. He says the drug should be treated like other adult products - regulated and taxed.

Democrats predict a tax on marijuana would generate up to $70 million in the first year and potentially more than $150 million annually afterward.

Democrats also want to expunge certain criminal records for marijuana-related offenses.

Republican Rep. Vincent Candelora, who opposes legalization, questioned the connection between the two issues.


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