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Trump Admits Similarity to 'Maniac' Sanders


Donald Trump acknowledged during MSNBC's town hall event on Wednesday that he shares a key similarity with Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential contender he has previously called a maniac.

"Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski had asked Trump who she was describing when she talked about a political outsider who tapped into voter anger, delivered a populist message before thousands at rallies, argued for hedge funders to pay more in taxes and called for health care for everyone.

"You're describing Donald Trump," the Republican presidential candidate said.

"Actually, I was describing Bernie Sanders," Brzezinski said.

Trump agreed that "there's one thing we're very similar in: He knows our country is being ripped off big league — big league — on trade."

But Trump said Sanders' problem is that "he can't do anything about it."

He added that he'd rather run against Hillary Clinton "just because I'd love to beat Hillary."

Photo Credit: AP
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Ex-National Guardsman Used Computer to Entice Minors Into Sex Acts


A former member of the Connecticut Air National Guard has plead guilty to using a computer to coax children to engage in sexual activity, according to the United States Attorney's office.

Keith Haessly, of East Hampton, was originally charged in June 2015. On Thursday, the 46-year-old man was found guilty of enticing numerous young boys to engage in unlawful sexual activity, according to court documents.

Haessly posed as a young girl under the alias Amy Finch on Skype and Omegle and would use previously-recorded videos of females to entice the boys, said Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. Haessly would record the boys' sexual activity and gave some of the images to an individual in Virginia. 

Investigators have identified 48 victims so far. 

Haessly pleaded guilty to one count of use of an interstate facility to persuade a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity, an offense that carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years, a maximum term of imprisonment of life and a fine of up to $250,000, according to Daly's office.

A date for sentencing has not been set. 

Photo Credit: File – Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Poll: Sanders Outperforms Clinton in Hypothetical General-Election Matchups


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders does better than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton against Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in a hypothetical general election race, according to a new NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll. 

Photo Credit: AP

Armed Male Reported at UMass


The armed assault of a student led the campus to shut down at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Thursday evening.

Police say two suspects, one of whom showed a handgun, attacked a male victim around 5:15 p.m. in Pierpont Hall.

That handgun, police say, was not fired. The suspects fled the campus.

The victim suffered a laceration to his head. He was taken to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton for treatment of minor injuries.

The university put out an alert that a "hostile armed person" had been reported on campus. Everyone at the school was asked to shelter in place - an order that was lifted just before 7:15 p.m., once officials determined the suspects were no longer present.

"It was really just kind of scary," said Freshman Amy Nickerson. "We got the door shut, though, and everything was OK after that. The police were really helpful."

Police do not believe the attack to be random, and the suspects are not believed to be students of UMass Amherst.

One suspect was described as a male in a dark-colored shirt with a gold chain, showed a handgun. The other, the school said, was wearing a grey sweatshirt.

Stay with necn as this story develops.

Photo Credit: necn
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Foster Mother Suspected in Case of Child Abuse


Police have charged a foster mother with cruelty to persons and risk of injury to a minor after a toddler in her care was taken to the hospital severely malnourished and with broken bones.

Groton police began an investigation on November 11 after family members brought the 18-month-old boy to the Pequot Health Center. Doctors there said the child was seriously underweight and was unable to walk, talk or feed himself, according to an arrest warrant application.

The boy also had an apparent injury to his elbow, scars on his neck, chest and arms, and what looked like a burn mark on his wrist, according to police.

Officers arrested Crystal Magee, 32, of Groton, on February 4 after a months-long investigation.

Magee, who plead not guilty before a judge, told police that the toddler only began losing weight about two weeks before police arrived at her home in November. Doctors told police the child was severely malnourished over a longer period of time, according to the arrest warrant application.

Police also said Magee skipped several doctor’s appointments for the boy.

The boy was removed from Magee's home by the Department of Children and Families in November and placed with an aunt. It was the aunt who then brought the toddler to see doctors.

The boy began to show marked improvement after being removed from Magee's home, police said.

DCF released a statement about the investigation on Thursday:
"The Department is deeply concerned about the treatment of this boy while in the care of a relative foster parent. Thankfully the boy is doing well and receiving all appropriate care and treatment at this time. We are appalled by what happened in the home of the woman who was arrested. Our foster parents and relative foster parents -- with only the rarest exceptions -- provide outstanding care for children, and accordingly, we have high standards and expectations for them. Clearly that trust was violated in this instance," the statement read.

Magee’s brother, Charles Church, spoke exclusively with NBC Connecticut. He says his sister should have never agreed to care for the child, but she did not hurt him.

“DCF took the baby from the home, brought him to my sister and pretty much begged my sister to care for the baby. My sister who is chronically ill said yes,” Church said.

Church categorically denies the abuse and says any injuries to the toddler had to have come before he was in her care.

“My sister took care of him as best she could. I was over there numerous times and I never saw any burn marks,” Church said.

A DCF spokesperson said the agency is conducting its own investigation into the case.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

State College System Calls for Armed Police at Community Colleges


Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System President urged lawmakers Thursday to vote in favor of a bill that would clear the way for community colleges to employ armed police on their campuses.

The police would have to have certification, and having those armed police on campus wouldn't be a requirement, just a security option.

“This isn’t a mandate" System President Mark Ojakian said. "Campuses can decide whether or not they want to do it.”

The issue has been raised in recent years without much support in the legislature. Ojakian argues this time is different because the support comes from the top and the fact there have been recent shootings on community college campuses in recent years, notably, the incident in Oregon last year. Ojakian added that this proposal is in response to concerns from students and faculty.

“I don’t take it lightly to arm police officers on our college campuses but I see the need to provide this response and make our students and faculty feel safer on their campuses" Ojakian said.

Rep. Roberta Willis, (D - Lakeville), says she has several concerns with the proposal ranging from financial to practical. She prefers setting money aside for college counselors and mental health services rather than for security. Secondly, Willis, who chairs the Higher Education Committee in the Connecticut House of Representatives, says she isn't convinced armed police could stop an attack from taking place.

“In looking at what’s happened across the country, I really haven’t noticed any reports that this in fact has made our campuses safer" Rep. Willis said.

Ojakian contends such police would act as a warning, or a deterrent, as well as provide staff to respond faster.

“While I think we’re never going to prevent with 100% certainty these things from happening it does not only make people feel safer but it increases the responsiveness to events that might occur on their campus.”

Reports: Meriden 911 Dispatch Disorganized


Meriden's mayor says long-standing issues with 911 operations demand quick change for the city.

According to a pair of reports on the operations of the Meriden Emergency Operations Center, there hasn't been a set standard operating procedure in places for many years.

The two reports, one paid for by the city for a private firm and the other consisting of city officials, each concluded that better communication and technology are needed to improve the department.

“There are some clear standards of procedures that we need to create and just a breakdown in communication so we’re taking steps necessary to make sure that we address those problems" said Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati.

The reports said simple things like consistency in how dispatchers answered phones was an issue. There were also concerns raised about the chairs used, as well as the need for the use of Bluetooth headsets.

As for standard procedures, a training manual does not exist for the department, and the only official documents used for dispatchers was a series of 22 memos written starting in 2014.

Problems with the department were raised after firefighters were injured responding to a fire last year that was traced back to communication problems with dispatch.

“It was multiple breakdowns in communication from department heads and then even our city manager and the mayor’s office not even being aware of all of the issues that were taking place in dispatch.”

The head of the Emergency Operations Center has announced his resignation and the mayor says the city council will address technological upgrades during its budget process.

Bloomfield Police Seek Missing Mother and Daughter


Bloomfield police are searching for a mother and daughter who were last seen in January.

Bloomfield police say Annia Florent, 28 and her daughter Mia Mullings, 4, were last seen on January 16. Mullings suffers from several medical conditions and wears leg braces and a feeding tube. Police are looking to make contact with the pair to check on their welfare. A Silver Alert has been issued.

Florent is described as a dark-skinned female, approximately 5’6” and 200 lbs. She often wears dark rimmed prescription glasses. Mullings is described as a dark-skinned female, 3” 75 lbs with brown eyes and black hair normally worn in a short braid.

They are believed to be together and Florent may be driving a white 2015 Honda Accord with CT registration AC29786. Anyone with information should contact the Bloomfield Police Department at 860 242 5501.

Photo Credit: Bloomfield Police

Artist Shares Stories From Segregated South on Leather


Inside his home in New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood, 70-year-old Winfred Rembert is telling his life story through art.

“I just want to do the best I can to for people to know how it was coming up through the 50s and 60s,” Rembert told NBC Connecticut, “and the price that had to be paid for us as black people to be where we are today.”

His carefully carved paintings on leather canvas portray painful memories from the Jim Crow south, such as laboring in the cotton fields as a child in Cuthbert, Georgia and the arrest at a civil rights protest that ultimately landed him in prison for seven years.

“Handcuffed and he was backhanding me,” Rembert said, explaining a painting of him in the backseat of a police car.

As a prisoner, Rembert taught himself how to use hand tools to create detailed designs on leather.

“I learned the craft right there in prison, yes,” he said.

In honor of Black History Month, Rembert’s artwork is on display at the Connecticut State Capitol.

Rembert’s leather paintings have been showcased across the country, he said, including in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. His work is also part of the Yale University Art Gallery's permanent collection.

“I think leather is even, maybe I won’t say better than canvas, but it’s just as good,” Rembert said, “I think leather it really holds its pattern you know so I don’t think it will rot. Leather don’t rot.”

Rembert said he hopes his artwork will teach younger and future generations about a dark chapter in the United States’ history, while his success now can serve as an inspiration.

“Now you can be anything you want to be if you set your mind to it,” he said, “color has nothing to do with it anymore. It’s what you got in side of you.”

The African-American Affairs Commission is hosting a screening and discussion of the documentary “All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert” on Wednesday Feb. 24 in the Old Judiciary Room at the State Capitol.

Both Rembert and the director Vivian Ducat will be in attendance for a Q&A after the film.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Bloomfield Residents Protest Proposed Bottled Water Plant


Some people are fighting a “Water War” in Bloomfield where a bottled water company plans to set up shop.

On Thursday, people attended an organizing meeting at the senior center to figure out ways to stop the plant from opening. Their concerns range from the environment to the water supply itself.

There were many worried faces in the crowd. They sat before a banner which summed up their feelings: “Save our Water.”

“We think the community as a whole, not just Bloomfield, needs to be mobilized about this,” says Bradley Klein of Bloomfield.

Their concern is about what’s planned for a lot off of Woodland Avenue in town. Niagara Bottling wants to build a bottled water plant.

“My concern is not only the water but the plastic. I would think as a society we would want to start reducing the amount of plastic that we produce,” says Cathy Bailey of Bloomfield.

Also, opponents say they worry, especially if there was a drought, that Niagara could pump nearly two-million gallons a day from the water supply.

That resource is managed by the Metropolitan District or MDC.

“The MDC is very confident we have enough water. We believe we have proven that fact,” says Scott Jellison, CEO of MDC.

Some here question how the town even got to this point.

“I’m concerned as to how fast this took place without all the citizens realizing about the water bottling plant trying to come here,” says Elizabeth Landell-Simon of Bloomfield.

The town and Niagara have previously defended the approval process as fair.

On Thursday, the company in a statement wrote in part,
“There will always be a small minority that is opposed to bottled water and who choose to ignore the facts.”

Opponents say their focus will now be on the deals Niagara received including tax breaks and discounted water rates if the plant opens.

“We will see. There’s a lot to be had. There’s a long road ahead and in any case I think citizens need to be mobilized,” says Klein.

Niagara also defends its company and its product. It says the plant and the jobs created will be positive additions to the town.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Bernie Sanders Cuts Into Hillary Clinton's National Lead: Poll


Bernie Sanders has cut Hillary Clinton's national polling lead in half after the results of the first two Democratic nominating contests, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Still, Clinton holds a double-digit advantage over Sanders, with the next race taking place in Nevada on Saturday.  

Fifty-three percent of Democratic primary voters say they back the former secretary of state, while 42 percent of them support the Vermont senator. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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2 Charged in Shelton Home Invasion


Police have arrested two Derby men suspected in an armed home invasion in Shelton just a couple days before Christmas.

Ricardo Llera, 21, and Ray Sosa, 41, have been charged in connection with the Dec. 23 home invasion on Geissler Drive.

The victims, a man and woman, told police that two men held them up at gunpoint, demanded money and stole cash, both victims’ cell phones and other items, police said.

Police identified Sosa as one suspect and searched his home, where they found items stolen from the house on Geissler Drive, police said.

Officers seized the gun they said was used in the crime and victims’ cell phones.

As police continued to investigate, they determined that Llera, who personally knew the victims, was involved in planning the home invasion, police said.

He was charged with first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit home invasion and intimidating a witness.

Sosa was charged with home invasion, conspiracy to commit home invasion, first-degree robbery, first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery and criminal possession of a firearm.

Both were held on a $75,000 bond.

Llera was arraigned on Wednesday and Sosa is being held on unrelated charges.

Police said they expect to make additional arrests.

The victims were not harmed during the invasion.

Photo Credit: Shelton Police

Warm Weekend Ahead, Multiple Snow Threats Next Week


Temperatures will soar to near 50 degrees this weekend, but it won't last as multiple threats for snow exist next week.

The International Space Station will be visible for six minutes this evening. Click here for more.

Clouds thicken tomorrow, and there can be a late-day shower. Highs will be in the 30s.

Saturday should be dry with a blend of clouds and sunshine. Highs will be near 50, which is 10 degrees above average!

Sunday's also a warm day, but there will be more clouds than sun. Temperatures will be near 50 degrees, and rain and snow are likely at night.

It's a fast-moving clipper system that will bring the snow and rain lasting into Monday morning. The hill towns likely see a slippery layer of snow while the valley and shoreline simply sees rain with a few harmless snow flakes.

Some sunshine is expected later Monday with highs well into the 40s, which will promote melting of any snow that falls.

Tuesday should start dry, but a bigger storm will threaten come the middle part of the week. Click here to read more.

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Ex-Player Sues Over Bullying Claim


A former high school baseball player from New Jersey is suing his previous coach and school district for allegedly creating a culture of bullying. It comes after other former students say they tried to get the administration's attention about the matter. 

David DeFranco, who graduated from Columbia High School last June, filed his suit last week against his former school, baseball coaches and the South Orange-Maplewood school district.

Other former players and parents say they have long been complaining about coach Joe Fischetti. Grainy video shown to NBC 4 New York Thursday shows the coach speaking aggressively to his team last year: "Don't question about why I do what I do, that's horse----."

Randy Nathan, whose son, Alex, is a former player, said the administration investigated Fischetti and found six instances when Alex was bullied or harassed. It's not clear what, if any, consqeuences Fischetti faced after the probe, as officials cited a private personnel matter. 

Nathan said Alex started as a junior, but was cut as a senior when his father spoke up for others making bullying claims. The effects on his son have been noticeable.

"He's an angry kid; it's taking a long time. He, even to this day, he has some challenges from his transition as a freshman in college," said Nathan. "It's very sad."

DeFranco's lawsuit makes similar claims about Fischetti. It says he was cut from the baseball team his senior season because he complained about a bullying problem the previous year.

He was only allowed back on the team after he suggested to school officials he was cut for this reason, and that coaches made sexist, racist and demeaning comments to the baseball team players, the suit states. Four coaches even allegedly cornered DeFranco to interrogate him about his complaints. 

School and district officials didn't step in, despite his and other players' complaints, the lawsuit adds. 

The problem, DeFranco alleges, continued this year, evidenced by a sign posted in the school's locker room that singles out "losers" who "complain." 

"It's ridiculous how frequently the board was on notice and did nothing," Jeffrey Youngman, an attorney representing DeFranco, told NJ.com.

The allegations of bullying came to a head at a school board meeting last year. But the coach, who won a championship last year, had his defenders at the same meeting. 

"They were my teachers on the baseball field. They helped me through experience on the baseball field and off the baseball field," one former student said.

While Nathan has been frustrated by the more-than-yearlong investigation, the school system has athletic reforms on next Monday's agenda. Officials say they've since taken steps to fully comply with a 2011 law passed in order to curtail harassment and bullying.

"Over the last few months, the Board has drafted several policy changes that impact our athletic programs including on Athletic Department and Coaches, Sportsmanship, Athletic Code of Conduct, and Volunteer Athletic Coaches," district spokeswoman Suzanne Turner said.

"The health, safety and wellbeing of all of our students — whether in the classroom, or on the field of play — is our highest priority," she added.

But Nathan is not convinced.

"They don't care about respect, they don't care about character," he said. "What they care about is winning, and becacuse they think they know how to win, they're going to do whatever they can to destroy kids." 

The coach and his staff declined to speak to NBC 4 New York, and a school spokesman said Fischetti's status this year is a personnel matter. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF
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Syria Cease-Fire on Agenda at Russia-U.S. Talks


U.S. and Russian military officials held talks in Geneva Friday aimed at securing a cease-fire in Syria, but the United Nations has warned it would be "extremely difficult" to monitor any deal, NBC News reported.

International powers pledged seven days ago to try to bring about a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria's five-year civil war this week, but aside from an increase in aid convoys there has been little sign of progress on the ground.

It was hoped that a temporary truce would begin by Friday, allowing the resumption of diplomatic talks in Geneva by Feb. 25. But a major practical complication is that the cease-fire would not apply to U.N.-designated terror groups including ISIS or the al-Nusra Front.

Photo Credit: AP

Dow Futures Fall 100 Points as Oil Rally Falters


U.S. stock index futures indicated a lower open on Friday as low oil prices weighed, CNBC reported.

U.S. crude oil futures for March delivery traded 3.5 percent lower below $30 a barrel as of 8:57 a.m. ET. Dow futures were down by about 100 points, while the S&P dropped almost 11 point. NASDAQ futures were also on the decline, dropping 26 points at the opening bell.

The U.S. dollar held mildly higher against major currencies, with the euro at $1.107 and the yen at 113.00 yen against the greenback.

In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was down 1 percent on Friday. The European Union is currently holding crunch talks in Brussels that could determine whether the U.K. stays or leaves the 28 country body.

Photo Credit: AP

12-Year-Old Shot While Playing Tag


A 12-year-old boy was shot in the chest while playing tag Thursday night in a drive-by shooting on Chicago's Southwest Side.

The boy was outside in the 3000 block of West 54th Street of Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood playing tag with friends around 9 p.m. when a red car pulled up and the driver took out a gun, witnesses told police.

Some of the children were even younger than 12, according to authorities. The boy was the only one struck by a bullet. He was hit in the chest and rushed to Mt. Sinai in critical condition, authorities said.

Family members said the boy is in school and does not have a criminal history.

Chicago police detectives were on the scene for several hours Thursday night. There are no suspects in custody and a motive is unclear, according to authorities.

The warm weather in Chicago is a big concern for Andrew Holmes with the community group Chicago Survivors, who worries mild temperatures could set the stage for more violence.

He hopes it isn't a precursor to a bloody weekend in the city.

"First and foremost, I just hope that he can heal up," Holmes said. "Anything can change overnight. Anything can change in the morning. But, then again, you have to look towards the weekend when the weather's getting warm. And children haven't been outside in a while. So it's getting warm and they're going to want to be outside a little longer."

Photo Credit: NBC 5

Hearing Today Tackles Crumbling Foundation Problem


A legislative committee is taking on the issue of crumbling concrete house foundations during a public hearing on Friday.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters broke the story in July about the issue that has plagued hundreds of residents from East Hartford to Ashford who live in houses that were built between the early 1980s to the late 1990s.

Homeowners said cracks begin a decade or more after the house foundation was placed and insurance companies deny claims for coverage.

Out-of-pocket costs to replace it are in the hundreds of thousands dollars.

See prior coverage of the crumbling foundations issue here.

A bill to address the issue is on the agenda for a planning and development committee hearing at 11:30 a.m.

The proposal would require that the names of businesses that poured concrete foundations of new buildings be provided to local building officials. In the case that the information is not provided, building officials would deny certificates of occupancy.

Legislators want to hear from people who are affected.

People who live in homes with cracked concrete and deteriorating foundations are asked to attend the meeting in Room 2A of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Anyone who wants to speak during the hearing must be there at 10 a.m. and participate in the lottery system.

Following is the language of the bill:

“Prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for a new residential or commercial building for which a concrete foundation was poured, the applicant shall provide the building official with documentation of the name of the individual or entity that poured the foundation and the date or dates upon which the foundation was poured. On and after October 1, 2016, no certificate of occupancy may be issued for a new residential or commercial building for which a concrete foundation was poured unless such documentation has been provided in accordance with this section.”

Trump's Lead Slashed in South Carolina: Poll


Donald Trump is now leading Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary by 5 points — down from his 16-point lead in the state a month ago, according to results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.

Trump gets support from 28 percent of likely Republican primary voters in the state, while Ted Cruz gets 23 percent. They're followed by Marco Rubio at 15 percent, Jeb Bush at 13 percent, and John Kasich and Ben Carson at 9 percent each. 

In South Carolina's Democratic primary — which will be held on Feb. 27 — Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders among likely voters by 28 points, 60 percent to 32 percent. That's down slightly from Clinton's 64 percent to 27 percent advantage last month.

The poll has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.6 percentage points among the Republican primary voters surveyed. It was 4.8 percentage points among Democrats.  

Photo Credit: AP

Professional Soccer Coming to New Britain


Soccer fans, get excited. The city of New Britain is adding a professional soccer team, which starts this Spring.

The city of New Britain and the American Soccer League have agreed to bring the Connecticut United Football Club to Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, starting April 2.

The stadium is located next to the New Britain Bees stadium, which formerly housed Rock Cats baseball.

The team would be Connecticut’s only professional soccer team after the Connecticut Wolves left New Britain back in 2002.

Another team, the Hartford City FC indoor professional soccer team, was supposed to come to Connecticut, but it will not play this season at the XL Center.

The league is a professional development league and many of its players go on to Major League or international soccer teams.

“The guys are only training for a very short period of time, where this is going to be a year- round thing, where even in the off-season, we’re going to be training,” the team's general manager, Dan Hoskins, said.

“This is a very, very exciting thing for New Britain. We are truly making ourselves the sports capital of Connecticut and I am very excited to welcome them to our city,” Mayor Erin Stewart said.

There are 10 other teams in the American Soccer League including in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.

Tryouts for the team will be this Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m. at Chesley Park.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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