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State News Stories

Family: Lawyer wrong to suggest mom staged own disappearance

NEW CANAAN, Conn. (AP) - Relatives of a Connecticut mother of five who has been missing for a month are criticizing her estranged husband's lawyer for suggesting she staged her own disappearance in a plot similar to the book and movie "Gone Girl."

Jennifer Dulos vanished May 24 in New Canaan, Connecticut. Her husband, Fotis Dulos, and his girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, are charged with evidence tampering and hindering prosecution - accused of discarding evidence containing Jennifer Dulos' blood.

Fotis Dulos' lawyer, Norman Pattis, told the New York Post on Sunday that Jennifer Dulos once wrote a novel similar to "Gone Girl," the 2012 book and 2014 movie in which a wife stages her own disappearance to frame her husband for murder.

A spokeswoman for Jennifer Dulos' family on Monday called Pattis' suggestion "false and irresponsible."


AP source: Big East votes to invite UConn to rejoin

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The presidents of the schools in the Big East voted Monday to extend an invitation to UConn to rejoin the conference for basketball and other sports.

A person with firsthand knowledge confirmed that the schools’ presidents voted by conference call on Monday morning. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

UConn has a Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for Wednesday when it is expected to accept the invitation, and an announcement is expected from the Big East as early as Thursday morning.

“I know a little bit about the back and forth on it. I think it could be a great thing for the state,” Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told reporters at an unrelated news conference Monday. “Let’s face it, UConn, in particular UConn basketball, we can compete with anybody. We’re ready to take on the very best. Let’s see how the negotiations go.”

The result of the vote was first reported Monday by CBS Sports.

UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma cautioned that the expected move doesn’t mean a return to the glory days of the old Big East.

The Hall of Fame coach, speaking to reporters at a charity golf event, noted the conference is not the same one that once included schools such as Notre Dame and Louisville.

“It’s like saying you’re moving back to your hometown, but the block that you lived on and half the city is gone,” he said. “It’s not the same.”

Auriemma said his team’s success has never depended on what conference it is in, and he doesn’t see that changing.

The UConn women have never lost to an American Athletic Conference opponent, going 120-0 in the regular season and six conference tournaments.

The conference bylaws require UConn to pay a $10 million withdrawal fee and give 27 months’ notice before leaving. But terms of the departure were still being negotiated on Monday.

UConn is expected to spend at least another season in the AAC before it moves, and junior Megan Walker said keeping that spotless record intact will be a priority. She said the Huskies understand the league’s other teams now have even more motivation to beat them.

“Ever since I got to the University of Connecticut, we’ve always been the black hats, the bad guys,” she said. “I enjoy it. If we didn’t want that challenge, we wouldn’t be here at this university. I’m excited to leave the conference or whatever. Whatever conference we are in, I’m excited to play.”

Trading trips to Tulsa and Tulane for games at St. John’s and Villanova, Auriemma acknowledged, would help the school when it comes to finances and selling fan interest. UConn currently is dealing with a deficit in its athletic division of more than $40 million.

Auriemma said he’s not sure what the move means for the future of UConn’s football program. But the coach said he can foresee a day when all schools, not just UConn, have multiple conference affiliations based on what is best for each sport. UConn already plays hockey in Hockey East and has retained its Big East membership in field hockey and lacrosse.

Auriemma also challenged UConn fans, many of whom he noted have been calling for the Huskies to rejoin the Big East for six years, to back up their preference by attending more games.

“So, if this does happen, there better be 16,000 at the XL Center every night,” he said.


Suit: Generic drug makers used code to fix price increases

BOSTON (AP) - A lawsuit says representatives of some of the nation's largest generic drug manufacturers used code words to collude with competitors to divvy up market share and coordinate price increases.

The code came in emails included in the lawsuit filed last month by attorneys general from more than 40 states. The 510-page federal lawsuit filed in Connecticut was released in full Monday.

The lawsuit says the representatives used phrases like "playing nice in the sandbox" and "fluff pricing" in emails to one another.

Democratic Connecticut Attorney General William Tong says the goal was to artificially inflate prices, hinder competition and restrain trade.

A representative for Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the firms named in the suit, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.


State employees could receive cash for budget savings ideas

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut state employees will soon have a financial incentive to point out wasteful spending in their agencies.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has signed legislation creating a new rewards program for workers who suggest savings exceeding $10,000. In return, an employee will receive a 5% payment of the estimated savings, up to $10,000.

The new law takes effect on October 1. State agencies have until November 1 to designate a program coordinator.

Not all suggestions will result in a payout for workers. The bill identifies things like deferred maintenance, personal grievances or complaints or an individual employee's compensation on the list of ineligible savings suggestions.

Also, ideas that conflict with state or federal law or duplicate a suggestion from another employee are among the types of suggestions ineligible for the payment.


Hammonasset reopens after fatal rollover near ticket booth

MADISON, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's largest state beach has reopened after being closed for hours following a fatal crash near the park's ticket booth.

A Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman said Hammonasset Beach State Park reopened early Sunday morning after being closed Saturday night while police investigated the crash. It involved an SUV carrying six people that rolled over in the outbound lane, between the park's rotary and ticket booth, at approximately 7:11 p.m. Two passengers were ejected.

DEEP confirmed one passenger, 18-year-old Nicholas Proto of Higganum, was pronounced dead at Yale New Haven Hospital. The driver and three of the passengers were transported to area hospitals.

The State Police Accident Reconstruction United is assisting DEEP's Environmental Conservation Police with the investigation, which is ongoing.


Lembo predicts new pharmacy deal will be a money-saver

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - State Comptroller Kevin Lembo is predicting a new contract with CVS Caremark, the state's pharmacy benefit manager, will reduce Connecticut's pharmaceutical costs by approximately 10%.

The Democrat administers health care and prescription benefits on behalf of more than 200,000 state and municipal employees, retirees and their dependents.

Lembo is hailing the new agreement as one of the most "innovative and transparent pharmacy benefits contracts in the nation," setting an example for other large employers. It requires CVS Caremark to disclose all revenue sources, including drug manufacturers, with the benefit entirely passed on to the state.

Lembo notes that's in contrast to the current system, where employers and patients "know little to nothing about where their money is going."

The deal also addresses medication waste, limiting first-time prescriptions to 30 days.


Connecticut man charged with assisting relative's suicide

WESTBROOK, Conn. (AP) - State police say a Westbrook man helped a terminally ill family member die by suicide and now faces manslaughter charges.

Authorities say 65-year-old Kevin Conners turned himself in at a state police barracks Thursday and posted $50,000 bail. He is accused of assisting the suicide in September.

Police say the arrest was made following a lengthy investigation.

A legislative proposal to allow medical aid in dying was introduced in Connecticut's General Assembly this spring but did not win approval.

Conners is scheduled to make a court appearance Friday.


Democratic lawmakers ask state agency for vaccine guidance

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut legislative leaders have formally asked the state Department of Public Health to provide additional information and policy recommendations concerning vaccinations for schoolchildren, including whether the state should eliminate its religious exemption.

Four top Democratic leaders issued a letter Thursday requesting the additional guidance before the 2020 legislative session begins in February.

Democratic House Majority Leader Matt Ritter had hoped to hold a vote this year on possibly ending the religious exemption, given the uptick in measles cases around the country and the growing number of religious exemptions in Connecticut. He held off, saying more information was needed.

Lawmakers are asking the health department if the agency needs more authority to increase vaccination rates; how to protect students who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons; and how to handle unvaccinated students already enrolled.


Connecticut pair charged with fentanyl distribution

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut pair is facing charges related to fentanyl distribution that resulted in the death of a man.

Bridgeport residents John Matthews and Deandra Bloschichak face charges of conspiracy to distribute and distributing fentanyl.

A Connecticut medical examiner determined the death was caused by acute fentanyl intoxication, and an investigation revealed that Matthews sold the fentanyl that killed him.

The distribution charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years for each count.

Matthews faces another charge related to the death and faces a minimum sentence of 20 years up to the maximum of life in prison.

Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham said in a news release the office is prepared to charge the "very serious, 20-year mandatory minimum offense."


Lamont admits to a "divide" with lawmakers over tolls

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged Wednesday there is a divide between his administration and Connecticut legislators over the need for electronic tolls to generate more state transportation revenue but vowed not to give up on the issue.

While the Democratic-controlled General Assembly adjourned on June 5 without approving a tolling bill, the Democratic governor and former businessman has held out hope that legislation authorizing tolls will finally be passed during a special legislative session. But it remains unclear whether that will happen.

“I would say there was quite a divide in terms of what we do, and I’m not sure that we’ve found a toll bridge to connect us,” Lamont said, following a two-hour closed-door meeting he organized with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. “But I’m going to try my best. I’ve been doing deals for a long time.”

Lamont and some of his top advisers provided a presentation to the lawmakers about Connecticut’s transportation funding needs, warning that the state faces the possibility of being penalized by the federal government in about 10 years for not keeping enough of its roads and bridges in good repair. The state is on track to spend about $875 million annually on transportation infrastructure, but Lamont’s administration estimates the need is actually about $1.2 billion a year.

The net revenue from tolls has been estimated to be about $800 million annually.

The issue of tolls is a politically contentious one. About a dozen citizens who oppose tolls, many holding signs, showed up at the state Capitol on Wednesday and shouted “no tolls” as Lamont, the legislators and others walked into the meeting. While they credit their lobbying efforts with helping to scuttle a vote during the regular legislative session, the toll opponents plan to keep up the fight.

“It’s a trust issue with me. I’m not going to take it for granted that they’re not going to do anything this time,” said Kevin Kupstis, an informational technology industry worker from Southington, who held signs that read “No Tolls! Cut Spending!” and “Tolls = Tax On Working Poor.”

To help make tolls more affordable and possibly more politically palatable, the package of proposals presented to the lawmakers Wednesday includes a plan for “middle class tax relief” by lowering the state’s lowest personal income tax rate of 3% to 2%.

In Connecticut, the first $10,000 of taxable income for single filers and first $20,000 for joint filers is currently taxed at 3%. Lowering that bottom rate would give all filers a tax break ranging from $90 to $180, according to Lamont’s proposal. There’s also a 20% tolling discount for low-income Connecticut residents; a 30% discount for all Connecticut residents with an EZ-Pass; and a 20% discount for frequent drivers.

The two Republican leaders didn’t appear to know a lot about the income tax proposal, saying Lamont’s presentation ended before the idea was discussed at length. But it didn’t seem to make much of a difference, with both the GOP leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate reiterating they continue to oppose tolls.

Still upset at not being part of the negotiations on the new two-year state budget, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides of Derby said she believes the Republicans were invited to Wednesday’s meeting because the Democrats don’t have enough support within their own ranks to pass a tolling bill.

“Do I believe they want us in that room to have this conversation? Yes,” Klarides said. “But I believe they want us because they don’t have the votes on their own.”

Despite saying there’s a divide with lawmakers, Lamont contends there is enough support among just the Democratic lawmakers to pass a tolling bill, and he’s working with the Democratic leaders to determine the right time for a vote. Asked if he’s confident there will be a decision on tolls in a special session, Lamont answered he’s “very confident.”


Connecticut's 'Facebook fugitive' finally turns himself in

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut man who promised to turn himself in if his wanted poster received 15,000 likes on Facebook has made good on his pledge.

It just took longer than expected.

Torrington police say 29-year-old Jose Simms called Enfield police on Wednesday and asked them to pick him up because he was wanted. Enfield police turned him over to Torrington police, who held him on $30,500 bond.

Torrington police posted Simms' poster on Facebook on May 22. He contacted police through the site and agreed to surrender if the post received 15,000 likes. It quickly surpassed that number.

The post had more than 29,000 likes as of Wednesday.

Simms was being sought as a fugitive after failing to appear in court on several charges. It couldn't be determined if he has a lawyer.


Man sentenced for heroin and gun swap with undercover agent

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man has been sentenced to almost three years in prison after swapping heroin for guns with an undercover federal agent.

Federal authorities say 39-year old Patrick Rogers expressed an interest in accessing firearms during a recorded meeting where an agent bought heroin from him.

Authorities later arranged a deal to swap two guns with Rogers in exchange for 160 bags of heroin.

Rogers, whose last known address is in Waterbury, was on probation when he was arrested.

His previous drug convictions bar him from possessing guns.

Rogers' attorney sought a more lenient sentence arguing her client had entered crime at a young age and served as a lookout for neighborhood drug dealers. She said Rogers couldn't find permanent work after he was released from prison in 2017.

 


Gov. Lamont signs bill limiting police immigration actions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont has signed a bill into law that places limitations on when Connecticut law enforcement officers can hold individuals sought by federal immigration officials.

The Democrat released a video message Tuesday saying he's proud to sign the Connecticut Trust Act, adding "we're a nation of immigrants and refugees and nothing the president does will ever change that." Democrats have been critical of President Donald Trump's immigration policy.

The legislation takes effect on October 1.

Among other things, it prevents law enforcement from detaining someone on a civil immigration detainer unless it's accompanied by a warrant signed by a judge; the person is guilty of a serious felony; or the person is on a terrorist watch list. Critics say they fear Connecticut is becoming a so-called sanctuary state.


High school athletes file complaint over transgender policy

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Three Connecticut girls who ran high school track have filed a federal discrimination complaint, saying a statewide policy that forced them to compete against transgender athletes cost them top finishes and possibly college scholarships.

The conservative Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom filed the complaint on behalf of the girls Monday with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights. It seeks an investigation and actions to make competitions fair.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference governs high school sports in the state. It says its policy follows a state anti-discrimination law requiring students to be treated in school according to the gender with which they identify.

The complaint says transgender athletes have been consistently winning track and field events and the policy violates federal protections for female athletes.


Lamont signs bill increasing Connecticut's smoking age to 21

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont has signed legislation that increases the age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

The bill signed into law Tuesday by the Democrat also prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes and vaping products to anyone under 21. The new law takes effects on Oct. 1.

Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, says such "Tobacco 21" laws are "more important than ever" given the increase in youth e-cigarette use. He says adolescents and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction, making Connecticut's legislation "an important, life-saving measure."

The law also bans smoking on the grounds of child care centers and schools.

Critics of the legislation have complained it violates the rights of adults ages 18 to 21.


Man accused in killing of 1986 girl held on $5 million bail

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut judge has ordered a Maine man detained on $5 million bail in connection with the 1986 rape and killing of an 11-year-old girl.

The decision came Monday in Norwalk as 53-year-old Marc Karun made his first court appearance in Connecticut since being arrested last week near his home in Stetson, Maine.

Karun is charged with murder and kidnapping in the sexual assault and strangling of Kathleen Flynn. Police say the sixth-grader was killed while walking home from Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk on Sept. 23, 1986.

Karun has not yet entered pleas and his lawyer, Todd Bussert, declined to comment on the allegations Monday.

Police say Kathleen was killed in an attack similar to attacks on four other women of which Karun was convicted.


Couple seeks to stop release of more vaccine data

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut couple is seeking to stop the state Department of Public Health from publicly releasing additional information about immunization rates at private and public schools.

Brian and Kristen Festa, of Woodstock, have filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary injunction. The parents of an unvaccinated son say they've suffered "mental and emotional distress due to the vitriolic and hateful statements from the public" since the agency released immunization data on May 3.

The couple's 7-year-old son attends a private school in Meriden for students with autism spectrum disorders where 18.5% of students claim a religious exemption from vaccinations, one of the highest exemption rates in the state. They say it's "reasonable to presume" their son and other students will be harassed.

Attorney General William Tong's office declined to comment.


New Jersey man pleads guilty for food stamp fraud

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - A New Jersey man has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges for letting customers on food stamps sell their benefits for cash and buy restricted items at a Connecticut store.

Federal authorities say at the WB Trade Fair Grocery in Waterbury, 50-year-old Muhammad Shahbaz and other employees allowed customers to purchase restricted items like cigarettes and sold them at double the normal price.

According to a release, during a normal year, the store could normally receive $120,000 to $240,000 per year in food stamp benefits. During 18 months starting in 2015, redemptions totaled $3.2 million.

Three other store employees have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud. Shahbaz, of Jersey City, New Jersey, will be sentenced by a federal judge in October. He faces up to five years in prison.


Suspect in 1986 killing of girl expected in court

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The suspect in the rape and killing of an 11-year-old Connecticut girl more than three decades ago is expected to appear in court to face charges.

Authorities say 53-year-old Marc Karun will likely appear Monday in Superior Court in Norwalk to face charges of first-degree sexual assault and murder in the 1986 slaying of Kathleen Flynn in Norwalk.

Karun was arrested at his Stetson, Maine, home last week and extradited to Connecticut on Friday. He has been held over the weekend on $5 million bond.

Police allege Karun, a former Norwalk resident, killed the girl as the sixth grader was walking the roughly half-mile home from Ponus Ridge Middle School.

 


Connecticut trooper hurt while helping disabled vehicle

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut State Police trooper has suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries while helping a motorist who had pulled over.

Police say Trooper Gregory Sawicki was helping the occupants of a car that had pulled over in the median of Interstate 95 in Fairfield at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

Sawicki stopped his cruiser behind the disabled vehicle and activated his emergency lights.

A third vehicle, an SUV that was driving in the left-hand lane of the highway, struck the cruiser from behind, pushing it into the first car.

Sawicki was taken to Bridgeport Hospital for treatment of undisclosed injuries.

Two occupants of the disabled car and the driver of the SUV that struck the cruiser also suffered minor injuries.

The crash remains under investigation.


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