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Congresswoman Calls on Marines to End Vulgar FB Page


U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) fired off a letter to the Secretary of Defense, bringing his attention to what she called a "disturbing Facebook page," which includes many negative comments and photos denigrating women in the Marine Corps.

NBC Bay Area is not showing all these photos because they are inappropriate, but one shows a woman's breasts and her fingers flipping someone off in an image that is labeled "F'N Wook," and another shows a female Marine putting a colleague in a choke hold with the words, "This is my rape face." Speier said she did not know who the Facebook page belonged to, and she was tipped off to it by a whistleblower. The page has since been taken down.

Speier's letter (PDF) and accompanying Facebook screen grabs was dated May 8, and sent to Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel, Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos and Principal Deputy Inspector General Lynne Hal brooks. Her letter comes as the national uproar over sexual assaults in the military following a Pentagon report this week saying that 26,000 military members were sexually assaulted last year.

"Many of the pictures imply women only advance professionally by performing sexual favors," Speier wrote. "And otherwise promote the idea that women are inferior and only useful as sexual objects and sandwich makers."

In a statement on behalf of the Marines received by e-mail on Wednesday, Capt. Eric Flanagan said that in general, "We have identified active Marines doing inappropriate posting on social media and they have been punished." 

In some cases, Flanagan said that Marines have faced "office hours" as "non judicial punishments" for unsavory comments posted online.

He said the men have been both active duty and reserve Marines and have been referred to commands for "appropriate action," though he was not specific about what that action was. Flanagan's comments were not necessarily made regarding the "F'N Wook" page, specifically highlighted by Speier.

Flanagan also issued some general facts about the Marines and their social media policies. Marines are responsible for all content they publish online, for example, and there is "no tolerance for discriminatory comments."

Violations of federal law and Department of Defense regulations or policies may result in disciplinary actions, which includes posting "any defamatory, libelous, abusive, threatening or ethnically hateful or otherwise offensive or illegal content."

When the Marines do receive a complaint regarding derogatory comments made online, Flanagan said that his military branch has notified companies such as Facebook about it. However, Flanagan said in an e-mail that "there are difficulties" in finding out the Marine who did it because people use fake accounts and pseudonyms. Social media sites, he said, are not obligated to divulge personal information to the Marines.

His statement added that the Marine Corps has been dealing with social media complaints "over the past ten years."

According to Speier, Amos has been aware of this specific Facebook page and monitoring it for three years. And despite the monitoring, the "cyber retaliation against those who complain about the website's content continues unabated," Speier wrote.

On her website, Speier called for "Hagel and Marine Leadership to Respond," and said that this type of vulgar "humor" seems to "encourage sexual assault and abuse."

Speier has worked long and hard to end what she calls an "epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military," and has authored three pieces of legislation to change the military's justice system's treatment of cases of rape and sexual assault.

NBC Bay Area's Joe Inderhees and Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Facebook/Courtesy Rep. Jackie Speier

New Haven Free Parking


If you ever try to park in downtown New Haven, you know what a challenge it can be.

So one of the owners of Ordinary, a new restaurant on Chapel Street, decided to make it a little easier for customers coming to Wednesday’s grand opening. 

Jason Sobocinski worked with the city to pay for the meters outside his business and offer free two hour parking.

“It's important, because everybody knows parking is a bit of an issue sometimes, to provide something for people, especially when you're trying to get into a neighborhood,” said Sobocinski.

“It can be very difficult to park down here.  It's pretty competitive, especially in the evenings and times when people go to come out to the restaurants and stuff,” said Patrick Sherwood.

So it's a good investment, even if Ordinary's customers aren't the ones parking there.

“People are going to see that, they're going to say, 'Wow, you bought me free parking and then they're going to walk by and see our name, and figure, 'What's that place?” said Sobocinski.

Needless to say, it caused a buzz in downtown.

“We thought it was a cool idea that I've never seen a restaurant do before,” said Steven Becker.

Ordinary says it's willing to pay for the meters again and work with other downtown restaurants to do it once a month. That's something the city's parking department supports.

“We want to have a partnership, so it's not solely a revenue generator, but it's really one that supports the need of businesses to have turn over, to have spaces, to allow customers the opportunity to come down and move spaces,” said Jim Travers, New Haven’s Director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking.


WATCH: House Hearing on Boston Bombings


The House Homeland Security Committee hears testimony from Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Massachusetts Homeland Security official Kurt Schwartz about the Boston Marathon bombings and the investigation that followed.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Former Middletown Cop Charged With Child Porn Possession


A former Middletown police officer has been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography.

Samuel DiProto, 61, of Cromwell, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with possession of child pornography, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney David Fein.

DiPronto was a police officer with the Middletown Police Department from Sept. 21, 1987 to Aug. 19, 2009, according to a statement from the Middletown Police Department.

The his retired, according to the affidavit.

On March 12, and April 10, a state police detective assigned to the Computer Crimes Unit logged onto a publicly available Internet file sharing BitTorrent network and downloaded images and videos of child pornography from a computer connected to the network with an Internet Protocol (IP) address assigned to DiProto, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Police searched DiProto’s residence on Tuesday and seized computers, hard drives and thumb drives.  Police found 20 to 40 videos and images of minors in sexually explicit conduct, according to court papers.

He is accused of having photos of prepubescent minors and minors under the age of 12.

After the search, police arrested DiProto.

He appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford on Wednesday and is being detained pending a hearing that is scheduled for May 13.

Prince Harry Arrives in D.C. Thursday


Britain's Prince Harry will begin his week-long trip to the United States with two days in the D.C. area.

On Thursday, Prince Harry will begin his visit with a trip to Capitol Hill. There, he'll tour an exhibit sponsored by the HALO Trust, a group that works to clear landmines and other dangerous war debris.

Harry announced he would become a patron of the charity last month; his mother, Princess Diana, had also been involved with the group, Hello magazine reported. Cindy McCain, who serves on the board of the charity, will join Prince Harry.

Later Thursday, the prince will attend a reception and dinner at the British Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue.

On Friday, Prince Harry will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, and another in Section 60, the burial ground for military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He'll then visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he'll receive a private briefing on recent advances in prosthetics and visit wounded warriors.

Prince Harry's trip also includes stops in Colorado for the Warrior Games -- in which injured servicemembers compete in sports such as archery, cycling and wheelchair basketball -- before traveling to New York and New Jersey, where he'll meet with Hurricane Sandy victims and attend other events.


Mom Arrives Drunk to Pick Up Kids: Cops


Southington police have arrested a woman they said was drunk when she went to pick her children up at school on Monday. 

When Marita Shurkus , 45, of Southington, arrived at a local school to pick up her children, ages 9 and 11, staff at the after school program believed she was intoxicated, police said.

The staff notified police and would not let her leave with the children.

Police interviewed Shurkus, instructed her to perform field sobriety tests and took her into custody.

Shurkus was charged with criminal attempt of risk of injury to a minor and operating under the influence of alcohol. 

She was released on a $1,500 non-surety bond and is due in court on May 20. 

Photo Credit: Southington Police

Weaver Star Asaph Schwapp Dies of Cancer


Asaph Schwapp, who was a football star at Hartford's Weaver High School and went on to play at Notre Dame, died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on Wednesday.

Schwapp, 26, was diagnosed with the form of cancer in March 2012, according to close friends.

Schwapp's former Notre Dame teammate, Mike Golic Jr., told NBC Connecticut's Kevin Nathan he knew Asaph's disease was serious, but was devastated to learn of Schwapp's death on Wednesday. Golic said Schwapp had such a positive attitude about his diagnosis, that most of his former teammates thought he would be alright.

A former Connecticut Player of the Year, Schwapp made his mark as a member of the Weaver Beavers, before choosing to play for Notre Dame, where he was a fullback for the Fighting Irish.

Funeral arrangements for Schwapp have not been announced.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Couple Ran Wolcott Marijuana Grow House: Cops


A husband and wife appeared in court Thursday on charges of operating a drug factory in Wolcott.

The State Police Narcotics Task Force and Wolcott police executed a search and seizure warrant at a home at 41 Manor Lane around 7:30 p.m. and found a marijuana growing operation, according to officials.

Approximately 200 marijuana plants were found in two separate growing rooms in the basement. The rooms were equipped with high-intensity growing lamps connected to electrical timers, circulating fans and dehumidifiers for climate control, police said. The basement walls were lined with foil to reflect light onto the plants and a four-foot tall, large-capacity charcoal filter for air quality and odor control purposes, according to police.

In addition to the plants, processed marijuana was also found, police said.

Police arrested Eric Bierce, 37, and his wife, 35-year-old Michelle Bierce. The couple lives in Waterbury and has two children.

Eric Bierce was inside the home when police raided it.  Michelle Bierce was in a car outside the home, according prosecutors.

The Wolcott house was being used for the sole purpose of growing marijuana and no one was living there, police said.  The couple was renting the house, according to their attorney.

Both suspects are charged with cultivation of marijuana, possession of more than a kilo of marijuana and operating a drug factory.

Each suspect is being held on $150,000 bond and will be back in court May 22.

Photo Credit: Wolcott Police

Boston Bombing Suspect’s Family Didn’t Reach Out on Hamden Grave: Blogger


Police in Worcester, Massachusetts will not disclose where the body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been moved to, but a former Hamden man said no one contacted him on his offer of a plot in Hamden.

Paul Keane, a graduate of the Yale University Divinity School and owner of three plots at Central Burying Grounds on Whitney Avenue in Hamden, told New England Cable News via e-mail that no one has contacted him to take him up on the offer.

Tsarnaev, one of two brothers suspected in the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April, died in a shootout with police. 

Keane, a Hamden native who now lives in Vermont, writes the blog, “The Anti-Yale,” and posted an entry on Monday offering a plot to the Tsarnaev family

That prompted protests from families of those buried there.

On Wednesday, Keane posted another entry, offering his plots for soldiers killed while serving the United States.

Should reports that the funeral director in Worcester declined his offer be accurate, Keane wrote, he wanted to offer three plots he owns to the mayor’s office in Hamden to be used for U.S. soldiers “who have died in the service of our country and cannot afford a plot of their own.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

WATCH: Man Steals $500 from Toddler in Liquor Store


New York police are looking for a man seen on surveillance cameras snatching $500 from a 3-year-old boy's hand at a liquor store in the Bronx. 

The child had taken the cash from his mother's jacket pocket without her knowledge while they were inside Discount Liquors on East 163rd Street in Hunts Point last Friday, according to authorities.

The suspect spotted the toddler with the money, then took it from his hand and ran out of the store. 

The store owner said the boy actually tried to play with the thief before he swiped the cash. 

"The baby tries to give him a toy to play with," said Rashad Alghazali. "He sees in the other hand of that baby, he has something."

Surveillance video shows the man grab the money from the child's hand. Moments later, the boy's mother realizes her money's gone. 

"She said, 'I lost my money, I have no money to buy,'" said Alghazali. "Other customer told her, 'One guy, he took the money from the baby's hand.'" 

The suspect is described as being in his early 30s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 240 pounds.


Teacher in Rant Video Placed on Leave


A Texas student will face no disciplinary action for a rant at a teacher — which was caught on video and uploaded to YouTube before being shared nationally on social media.

The teacher, the district said Thursday afternoon, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation about what led to the outburst.  The district, which has not revealed the teacher's name, said the action is standard procedure in such an investigation.

The original video was taken off of YouTube, but various postings online show the video (embedded below) has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times by people across the country.

In the video, recorded at Duncanville High School outside of Dallas, student Jeff Bliss expresses his frustration with the way his teacher communicates with students.

"If you would just get up and teach them instead of handing them a freaking packet, yo," Bliss said in the video. "There's kids in here that don't learn like that. They need to learn face to face."

"You've gotta take this job serious," Bliss continued in the video. "This is the future of this nation. When you come in here like you did last time and make a statement like, 'Oh, this is my paycheck' - indeed it is. But this is my country's future and my education."

While Bliss continued on, the teacher repeatedly asked him to leave the room.

"I'm telling you what you need to do," Bliss said in the video. "You want kids to come into your class, you want them to get excited for this? You gotta come in here, you gotta make them excited. You want a kid to change and start doing better? You gotta touch his freaking heart. You can't expect a kid to change if all you do is just tell 'em."

On Thursday, officials with the district said Bliss met with the school principal, is facing no disciplinary action for his comments in the classroom and is attending his normal class schedule.

Thursday, the district said they expect no further action to be taken against the student. On Wednesday night, they released the following statement:

"As a district with a motto of engaging hearts and minds, we focus on building positive relationships with students and designing engaging work that is meaningful. We want our students and teachers to be engaged, but the method by which the student expressed his concern could have been handled in a more appropriate way."

The district said it will remain open to listening to students regarding their concerns about their education.

Watch the complete video embedded below:

More Stories:

 NBC 5's Frank Heinz contributed to this report.

49-Year-Old Man Killed in Lyme Crash


A 49-year-old Lyme man was killed in a crash on Boston Post Road in Old Lyme early Thursday morning.

Police said David Bojorquez crossed from the southbound lanes of Boston Post Road near Four Mile River Road to the northbound lanes around 4:15 a.m. and went into the woods, according to state police.

The car rolled on the driver’s side and hit a tree, according to police.

Bojorquez was extricated and LifeStar helicopter transported him to Yale-New Haven Hospital, but the injuries were fatal.
Police are investigating.

Moose Spotted Near I-84 in Farmington


A moose was spotted in the area Town Farm Road in Farmington, about 2.5 miles from Interstate 84, and state officials are urging drivers to use extra caution.

“Moose near roadways pose a particular danger because once struck, they are more likely to collapse through a vehicle windshield due to their tall stance,” a news release from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says. “They are also difficult to see when driving at night because of their dark color.”

The moose population in Connecticut is estimated at 100 to 150 animals, according to DEEP, and they are mostly found in the northeastern and northwestern wooded corners of Connecticut, but have been seen in most other parts of the state.

All collisions involving moose and deer should be reported to local, state or DEEP Environmental Conservation Police Officers. You can reach DEEP at 860-424-3333. 

Earlier this week, moose antlers were found in the area of the parking lot of the Homewood Suites in Wallingford.

A wildlife expert from DEEP believes the antler might not have come directly from a moose, but from someone who dumped the antler in Wallingford. 

Residents throughout the state are encouraged to report moose sightings on the DEEP Web site at www.ct.gov/deep/hunting.

Photo Credit: Dr. Scott Lindsay

Heavy Rain Moving Through


Heavy rain is falling in Old Saybrook and spreading north through Connecticut.

The storm system is expected to continue affecting the state until this evening, bringing thunder and lightning, according to NBC Connecticut Meteorologist Bob Maxon.

Be cautious when driving. The rain could cause flooding on the highways, as well as on local streets and in urban areas.

To see which areas are being affected by heaviest precipitation, check the interactive radar.

If you see severe weather, take a photo and send it to us at photos@nbcconnecticut.com.

Dramatic Photos: Missing Women Freed

Three long-missing women, Amanda Berry, 27, Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32 and a 6-year-old daughter, apparently born to Berry in captivity, were found alive in Cleveland. The women are believed to have been abducted years ago and held captive at a man's home, according to police. Click to see dramatic photos from the scene.

Fire Damages Vacant House in Waterbury


Dozens of firefighters responded to a fire at a vacant triple-decker house in Waterbury on Thursday morning and representatives of the fire department said it appeared suspicious.

The second and third floor of 61 Giles Street suffered heavy damage, while the first floor sustained water damage.

The fire was reported just before noon and is believed to have started on the third floor.

No injuries are reported.

The fire marshal is investigating the cause.

Giles Street is blocked as firefighters respond.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

WATCH: Cleveland Mayor Holds News Conference


Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was holding a news conference Thursday on the three missing women in Cleveland, Ohio found alive. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus told investigators they were chained in the basement before ultimately being allowed to live on the second floor of Ariel Castro’s Cleveland home, NBC News reported. Castro was arraigned on kidnapping and rape charges Thursday. This livestream has concluded. Visit NBCNews.com for more coverage.



Photo Credit: AP

WATCH: Obama Speaks to Students in Texas


President Barack Obama was set to address students at Manor New Tech High School in Austin, Texas on Thursday. The president kicked off his "Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tours" in Austin where he was scheduled to visit high-tech facilities and promote his plans for education and research funding. This livestream has concluded. Visit NBCNews.com for more coverage.


Church Youth Group Leader Charged With Child Porn Possession


Bristol Police have arrested a youth group leader from a Plainville church man after finding more than 500 images and 13 videos of child pornography on his computer.

Jonathan Spann, 28, of Bristol, appeared in court on Thursday to face an illegal possession of child pornography charge and has been ordered to have no contact with anyone under the age of 16. He is also prohibited from using a computer. 

Police started investigating in February 2012 after a special agent from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in Hartford called local police about a local IP address accessing a child pornography Web site, according to an arrest warrant application.

When police seized Spann’s computer, they recovered around 3,000 images of child porn from “unallocated space” on hard drives, indicating that the files had been deleted, according to police.

Police returned to Spann’s home in December 2012 for more evidence and Spann admitted that he was responsible for downloading and possessing child pornography on the computers that were seized and said he wanted to take responsibility, according to court documents.

Spann told police that he downloaded thousands of images and videos depicting child porn over a period of seven years, especially pornography of young boys with adult men, according to court documents.

“Information has come forward since then that he was involved in a youth group in his church in Plainville,” Lt. Donn Watson, of the Bristol Police Department, said.

Spann is affiliated with New Life Fellowship, a nondenominational church in Plainville. His current role with the church is unclear. NBC Connecticut has contacted the church, but has not received a call back.

Spann expressed remorse and told police that he often becomes disgusted with his behavior, so he rarely saves the images, and hopes to get help for his problem. 

According to court documents, Spann’s wife told police that she recalled one concerning incident about four years earlier when she found an inappropriate cell phone photo of a young boy, spoke with her husband about it, they worked through their issues and she was unaware of any further incidents.

Police said Spann turned himself in to Bristol Police because of an outstanding warrant for his arrest on April 22. He was held on $20,000 bond and appeared in court on April 22.

On Thursday, he walked out of Bristol Superior Court, holding his wife's hand and had no comment on the case.

Spann is next due in court on May 23. 


Photo Credit: Bristol, Connecticut Police

Top Sports Photos 2013

Spain Madrid Open Tennis: Andy Murray from Britain reacts during the match against Gilles Simon from France at the Madrid Open tennis tournament, in Madrid, Thursday, May 9. Click to see more great sports photos.
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