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New Haven Teacher's Sexual Assault Charges Disposed


A judge has disposed of the case of a New Haven special education teacher accused of sexually assaulting four students at the MicroSociety Magnet School during the 2011-to-2012 school year.

New Haven public schools special education teacher Robert Schmitt, 48, of Hamden, had turned himself in following a months-long investigation into the alleged sexual assault of three magnet school special education students, including two 12-year-old children and a 14-year-old girl with an intellectual disability who told police he touched her inappropriately in his closed office, authorities said.

A day after he was arrested in September 2013 in connection to those complaints, a fourth student came forward and reported a sexual assault incident involving a Schmitt, leading to another arrest.

In April, a jury found Schmitt not guilty of all charges in the first case involving a 12-year-old student. On Monday, the same day evidence was scheduled to be presented for the second case involving the 14-year-old girl, the prosecutor announced she was dropping the case, according to a news release from New Haven lawyer Diane Polan, Schmitt's attorney. Judge Patrick Clifford ultimately dismissed the remaining three pending cases at Polan's request.

"The State’s case unraveled when the second student’s school reports and records from DCF were finally provided," Polan said in a statement. “Those records showed that the complainant had an extremely low IQ, and that there were serious inconsistencies in reports she had made to school officials and to DCF workers. The State should not have wasted the time of the court and the jurors in this case. The real victim in this case is Robert Schmitt, who was falsely accused of terrible crimes." The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Sanangelo.

 After the fourth complaint, Scmitt's family raised money to post his $200,000 bond and his attorney said "the past two years have been a nightmare for Mr. Schmitt and his family."

Schmitt was charged with two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, two counts of risk of injury to a child and one count of third-degree assault.

“In addition to being falsely accused, he was unable to attend events at his 14 year old son’s school, and he was ultimately forced to resign his job as a teacher in New Haven," Polan said. ".... This case is a textbook example of the terrible consequence of the police and prosecutors’ uncritical acceptance of uncorroborated accusations made by adolescents against teachers. A teacher’s reputation is completely ruined by accusations of this kind, even if they are eventually totally exonerated, as my client was today."

Photo Credit: New Haven Police Department

Former State DSS Employee Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud


A former Department of Social Services investigations director pleaded guilty Monday to federal mail fraud charges after submitting a fraudulent personal mortgage modification application, according to the United States Attorney's office for Connecticut.

Lynwood Patrick Jr., 39, of East Hartford, waived his indictment right in pleading guilty to the crime.

When he was the director of investigations for the state's social services department in the office of quality assurance between October 2012 and May 2013, Patrick Jr. applied to JP Morgan Chase to have the mortgage on his East Hartford property adjusted through the Making Home Affordable federal program meant to help people who have experienced a drop in income with getting lower loan rates, according to the U.S. attorneys office.

He misrepresented the property as being his primary home, when it really wasn't and he didn't live in it, falsified pay stubs from the state of Connecticut, faxed JP Morgan Chase fake documents from work with a DSS fax cover sheet and lied about his assets to make it appear his income was declining when it wasn't, the U.S. attorneys office said.

While with the Department of Social Services, Patrick Jr. coordinated activities to prevent fraud and abuse of the system or over-payments for programs like Connecticut Medicaid, Care4Kids, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance and Connecticut Energy Assistance, according to the U.S. attorneys office.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, partially paid for his salary.

His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 31 and he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

He has been released on a $150,000 bond after his May 6 arrest.

The Connecticut Public Corruption Task Force, which is made up of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development , Office of Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Internal Revenue Service and Criminal Investigation Division, is investigating. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher M. Mattei is prosecuting the case.

Corruption complaints can be reported to the Connecticut Public Corruption Task Force at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Vincent Bugliosi Dies at 80


Famed former prosecutor and author Vincent Bugliosi has died of cancer at age 80, family members said Monday night.

Bugliosi was best known for successfully prosecuting Charles Manson and three followers for the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six other. He later co-wrote the book “Helter Skelter” detailing the Tate-LaBianca murder trial.

Born in Hibbing, Minnesota, Bugliosi moved to LA in the 1960s, where he earned his law degree from UCLA. During his time with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, he successfully secured convictions in 105 of 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder cases.

Bugliosi died Saturday, June 6, at a Los Angeles hospital. 

“He was a workaholic. What was remarkable was he always found time for everyone who needed work. Every fan letter he received, he responded to everyone,” said his son, Vincent Bugliosi, Jr.

Bugliosi went into private practice in 1972, and went on to author or co-author a dozen books, including “And the Sea Will Tell,” “Outrage: The Five Reasons Why OJ Simpson Got Away With Murder,” and “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.”

He is survived by Gail, his wife of 59 years, and his two children, Wendy and Vincent Jr.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Video of TX Officer Raises Tension


A black teenager in a swimsuit repeatedly cried out, "Call my momma!" as a white police officer pinned her to the ground, only moments after drawing his handgun on other black teens following a pool party in McKinney, Texas.

"On your face!" the officer yelled at the girl, amid screaming from a crowd of onlookers.

The officer's actions raised tensions Monday in this Dallas suburb, where some community activists accused him of racism while others urged calm until the facts are investigated. 

Hundreds of demonstrators have rallied outside an elementary school in protest of the officer's actions. Some who gathered held signs Monday that included the phrases, "My skin color is not a crime," and, "Don't tread on our kids."

A few dozen addressed the crowd through a bullhorn, including Derrick Golden, a pastor from McKinney who met earlier with the city's police Chief Greg Conley. He said Conley "responded appropriately" after the officer was seen in a video pushing a 15-year-old girl to the ground and pointing his gun at other teens. The officer is on administrative leave.

But Golden said Officer David Eric Casebolt should be terminated because of the profanities he used and the fact that he brandished his gun.

The demonstrators marched a mile from the school to the Craig Ranch North Community Pool, where Friday's incident occurred.

About a dozen counterprotesters held signs supporting police.

Earlier in the day Jahi Adisa Bakari, the father of one of the teenage girls at the party, said he would press for the officer to be fired, saying he was "was out of control."

But Benét Embry, a black local radio personality who witnessed the incident, said it was "not another Ferguson" or "another Baltimore," referring to other police encounters that have left suspects dead and fueled a nationwide "Black Lives Matter" movement.

"This whole incident is a pool party run amok," Embry said.

Police said the youths did not live in the area and did not have permission to be at the pool in McKinney, an affluent, predominantly white city.

According to neighbors, Embry said, a woman who lives in the community reserved the pool for a party. The homeowners' association limits the number of guests each homeowner may have at the pool to only two. But about 130 people, mostly kids, showed up for the woman's party, he said.

At one point, several kids began jumping over the fence to get into the pool area and were causing a disturbance, Embry said, and a couple of fights broke out.

"The neighbors did not see an African American party and say 'okay, let’s call the police.' That was not the case security called the police because the fights started breaking out and people started jumping over the fence trying to get access to the pool," Embry said.

While he did not agree with the officer's profanity or belligerence, Embry said, police were right to respond.

"I believe something did need to be done because we had discord out here," he said. "We had people fighting and I really thank God no one was seriously injured in all this melee and/or chaos."

The girl who hosted the end-of-year bash claims a neighborhood woman came up to the her and her 14-year-old friend and started making racist comments.

"So I walked up to them and I told them that's wrong. You shouldn't be doing that. She's 14. You shouldn't be treating her like this. It's not right and they told me 'go back to where you came from. You're immature, you shouldn't be talking to me' and stuff like that," said Tatyana Rhodes. "That's when one of the 40-year-old women came up and hit me in my face and they both started to attack me."

Rhodes mother believes that fight is what led to police being called.

"I feel that it's wrong, we stay in the community, we are part of Craig Ranch. And for my daughter, who lives here, to be treated like she doesn't belong, to me, that's wrong," said LaShauna Burks.

As police broke up the crowd, Casebolt pulled the bikini-clad 15-year-old girl to the ground, then used his knees to pin her down. He also pointed his gun at other teens and cursed.

"It was absolutely wrong doing on both sides. It was wrong for the cop to throw her down, it was for him to draw his gun, it was wrong for the little girl when he told her to leave. She should have just left," said Embry. "And I don't have a problem saying that. Because whenever you as a child put yourself in an adult situation, you're going to be able to deal with those adult consequences."

In a statement, the police department said the video "raised concerns that are being investigated."

Robert Taylor, a criminology professor at the University of Texas at Dallas who has done studies for the McKinney Police Department, said both the officer and the teens at the pool party acted inappropriately.

The teens were not following police orders, he said, but the officer's decision to pull out his gun did not help matters.

"That's not the way we're trained," he said. "We're trained in policing to de-escalate problem encounters like this. ... Obviously, that officer lost his cool. No doubt about it."

Most people were released, except for one man arrested for interference with the duties of a police officer and evading arrest, police said.

NBC 5 confirmed Casebolt is a ten-year veteran of the McKinney Police Department. He joined the police force in 2005. Prior to that, he served almost two years as a state trooper, according to records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Casebolt took eight hours of cultural diversity training at Collin County Community College in February 2009. He has also taken courses in racial profiling and use of force.

He has five days to respond to any administrative complaints against him.

McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller said city officials plan to meet with community leaders to discuss the incident.

"We really need to come together as a community," the mayor said.

Nikki Perez, a black resident of McKinney, attended a City Council meeting Monday to express her concern over the officer's actions.

"I don't excuse the behavior of those teenagers, but if I call 911, then I wouldn't want that cop to respond," Perez said. "He blew his credibility when he opened his mouth and started cursing at the kids."

Photo Credit: Brandon Brooks

17 Arrested in Hartford Protest


Seventeen people were arrested in a peaceful protest at the Old Statehouse on Central Row in Hartford.

Alan L. Benford, 54, of Manchester, Anthony L. Bennett, 49, of Bridgeport, Sofia W. Buyniski, 59, of Colchester, Jan M. Carlsson-Bull, 72, of Middletown, Debra Cohen, 63, of Wethersfield, Christopher J. Doucot, 47, of Hartford, Vanessa Gonzalez, 40, of West Hartford, Brian M. Kavanagh, 71, of Hartford, Cornell Lewis, 65, of Bloomfield, Robin McHaelen, 60, of Manchester, Matthew B. Mclaughlin, 30, of Hartford, Jessica Offir, 50, of Coventry, Joshua M. Paweler, 46, of Glastonbury, John L. Selders, 52, of Hartford, Angela Swagner, 64, of Kensington, Oshun-Anna M. Vicente, 46, of Hartford and Michael T. Walton, 39, of Bridgeport were arrested in the "Black Lives Matter" demonstration.

Police responded to Central Row and Market Street at about 4:01 p.m. after receiving a call about the demonstration.

"It looks like the Ferguson National Response Network chose the capital city to have one of their Black Lives Matter rallies today. It's kind of classic sort of civil disobedience right now where folks are volunteering to be arrested," Maribel La Luz, a spokesperson from Hartford Mayor Segarra's office, told NBC Connecticut early Monday evening.

More officers were required as the demonstrators defied police orders to "disperse," so 17 were arrested, police said.

"This demonstration included an act of civil disorder by the participants who held hands while standing in the crosswalk blocking eastbound and westbound vehicular traffic on Central Row, greatly impeding travel during the traditional onset of the evening commute," according to a news release from Hartford police.

Officers blocked off the area and worked to restore the "vehicle traffic and the commuter traffic," La Luz said earlier in the evening, acknowledging that "it's a headache and kind of a pain for folks who are driving or on a bus."

A Facebook account under the name Moral Monday CT posted a Facebook event page for the protest.

Organizers asked that people keep it a peaceful protest.

Cathy Rion, of West Hartford, said "we want to remind ourselves here that it is not safe and it is not comfortable and we need to keep fighting until every single life is valued."

“It’s a message that is really important and easy to say and harder to figure out what do we do about it," Rion said. "And we need to have real conversations.”

There were no altercations or confrontations between the protesters and officers, La Luz said earlier Monday evening.

"Everybody is volunteering to be arrested, so this was a planned event. It was coordinated ahead of time," La Luz said earlier in the evening. "So there's no issues that we're aware of other than the headache of the commute itself."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Stronger Storms Possible for Tuesday


The storms may have begun fizzling out Monday night, but they could prove more significant on Tuesday, according to NBC Connecticut Chief Meteorologist Brad Field.

A storm front mostly threatened northwestern Connecticut Monday night, with chances of rain and thunder in parts of the state.

Tuesday will also features lots of clouds, some sun and the continued chance for showers. There can be a thunderstorm, with storms likely at their strongest by midday. It will be humid with temperatures bound for 80 degrees. A cold front pushes through the state late in the day.

Monday was mostly cloudy with scattered showers and temperatures well into the 70s. The humidity ticked upwards as the day wore on.

The focus for severe weather was in the Hudson Valley of New York, and points west, including central and eastern Pennsylvania.

Midweek looks perfect, with little humidity and plenty of sunshine on Wednesday. Temperatures will be near 80 degrees across the state.

Yet another cold front comes through on Thursday, resulting in mostly cloudy skies and showers and thunderstorms. Temperatures will be in the 80s with humidity.

Friday looks decent, with clouds and sun. Temperatures will again be in the 80s and humidity will also be present.

Stay with the NBC Connecticut First Alert weather team for the very latest forecast on-air, online and on the app.

Evidence of Squatting Found in Vacant Burning Home


Fire broke out in what was supposed to be a vacant building on Madison Street in Hartford on Tuesday morning and firefighters found evidence that someone might have been squatting at the home.

The fire started at the vacant building, between Washington and Grand streets, sometime after 3 a.m.

When firefighters arrived, no one was inside the house, but investigators found a mattress inside and some other evidence that someone might have been staying there.

The street was closed for more than an hour as crews worked to contain the fire, then began investigating.

No additional information has been released.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Chipotle Expands Benefits, Offers Tuition Reimbursement


Chipotle will soon join the growing list of restaurants that offer expanded benefits to all employees, including tuition reimbursement for students.

The new benefits package will include paid sick days and paid vacation days, as well as a tuition reimbursement to part-time employees, the company said in a press release. The changes will be implemented July 1. 

“We are always working to attract and retain the very best employees we can, and to helping develop our people so they can achieve their full potential,” Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s communication director, said.

Chipotle is joining a small and growing group of fast food restaurants offering more benefits. Earlier this year, Starbucks announced it will pay for a full four years of Arizona State University's online degree program for its employees. Roughly 2,000 Starbucks employees have chosen to take the offer thus far, according to the company's website. 

McDonald’s unveiled a similar college reimbursement program in April. The fast food giant also announced an increase in pay and paid sick days for its employees. 

Chipotle officials hope the new package will encourage their target employee demographic of high school and college students to pursue a career within the restaurant field. 

“We have a lot of people who, if they realize they could make a career with Chipotle, would stick with us while they are in college and take advantage of our tuition-reimbursement program,” JD Cummings, recruitment strategy manager at Chipotle, told Nation’s Restaurant News. “They could find the path to restaurateur is an amazing path that they might not have thought of.” 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

No Signs of Drugs, Alcohol or Fatigue in Wolcott School Bus Crash: Police


One of four people who were injured when a small school bus crashed on Todd Road in Wolcott on Monday afternoon remains hospitalized on Tuesday afternoon and police said the school bus driver had no drugs or alcohol in his system.

The bus, driven by a 57-year-old Oakville man, had just left Tyrrell Middle School when the driver said he veered right to avoid an oncoming car and hit a tree near Route 307 around 3:30 p.m., police said.

Five people were on the bus, including the driver, a monitor and students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade. The monitor and one student were seriously injured and the two other students were also hurt, so all four were rushed to the hospital. The bus driver wasn't hurt.

One of the students was transferred by a LifeStar helicopter to Connecticut Children's Medical Center, and he is in serious but stable condition. The three other passengers have been released from the hospital. 

Police said the bus company, All-Star Transportation, is cooperating with the investigation.

Alcohol and drug tests for the driver were negative, his driving history shows no violations and there was sign of driver fatigue, according to police.

Police are working on getting a search warrant for the driver's cell phone.  The cameras inside the bus at the time of the crash were inoperable, according to police. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

News on Hartford Baseball Stadium Expected Wednesday


News on Hartford's minor league baseball stadium project is slated to be announced on Wednesday.

The Hartford Stadium Authority said a news conference has been called for Wednesday about the stadium and its naming rights.

Authority members were also told the logo for the Hartford Yard Goats should be revealed shortly after the July 4.

The $56 million project remains on track for opening day next spring, according to developers, but they warned there is little room for error if some kind of snag occurs.

Developers also said talks to bring a brewery alongside the stadium, and a supermarket nearby, are progressing, but very slowly.

The news conference is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at Hartford City Hall.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

16-Year-Old Boy Shot in Chest in New Haven


A 16-year-old boy was shot in the chest near a deli in New Haven on Monday night and police are investigating.

Officers responded to Dorman Street at 10:55 p.m. after receiving reports that a person had been shot.

The teenage victim told police he’d been shot near a deli, at Dixwell Avenue and Bassett Street, so police secured the two crime scenes.

As the victim was being taken to the hospital, detectives spoke with people in the area and a Dorman Street resident said she heard gunshots and saw “a group of young people” running around the corner from Dixwell Avenue to Dorman Street.

A young man asked her for water for the victim and she told him she was on the phone, reporting the shooting to police said.

Hamden police also responded to help since the crime occurred close to the town line.

Detectives plan to interview the victim further on Tuesday.

Police do not have a suspect or a description of one and they said the victim remains in stable non-life threatening condition and will not need surgery.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

New London Mayor Announces Hiring Freeze


New London Mayor Finizio has announced a hiring freeze in response to the City Council overriding his budget veto.

Finizio made the announcement during a 2 p.m. news conference in his office and said he is directing members of the finance department to follow all legal means necessary to ensure that the city meets its legally mandated financial obligations in the coming fiscal year.

“The budget adopted by the City Council underfunds mandated expenses by hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Finizio said in a statement. “As Chief Executive Officer, it is my responsibility to ensure that we pay legal obligations including our health insurance premium, our worker’s compensation, and our disability insurance, while simultaneously balancing the budget.”

The executive order states, in part that the personnel administrator and all city department heads are  ordered to cease all hiring procedures for any vacant city positions unless specifically ordered otherwise by the mayor.

“I want our rating agencies to hear me loud and clear: I will not allow the City to deplete its fund balance for operating costs. I am committed to seeing our fund balance grow and our bond rating improve, and I will not destabilize our cash flow or risk raising our interest rates as we head into the Magnet School Pathways construction project,” Finizio said. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

2 Charged in Violent Home Invasion and Burglary


During the early hours of April 24, 2014, a man broke into a Farmington home, held a 66-year-old woman at knifepoint, demanded the combination to her safe and stole $75,000 worth of jewelry, according to police.

Fourteen months later, Farmington police have made two arrests in connection with the violent home invasion and robbery.

Robert Costanzo, 45, of Staten Island, New York, and Geovani Melendez, 45, of New Britain, are facing charges in the case. He appeared in court on Tuesday.

Police started investigating after a 911 call was placed at 4:46 a.m. that morning.

When they arrived at the South Ridge Road home, the victim told police the intruder pulled her from her bed at knifepoint, held a knife to her throat, and demanded the combination to a safe in the home, and locked her in a closet before leaving with the jewelry, police said.

After the woman gave him the combination, the intruder stole thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, estimated to be worth around $76,000.

The victim of the home invasion called the experience the scariest thing she's ever been through.

"It was a horrible experience. Abolutely horrible experience," the victim told NBC Connecticut under the condition we don't release her name.

She said she was thankful to Farmington police for their work on the case.

"I would like to say the Farmington Police Department is magnificent," the victim said. "They never gave up. They cared and they just kept going and going."

A warrant for the arrest of Costanzo was issued on May 18 and he was taken into custody that day as he appeared in a Staten Island Court for an unrelated case, police said.

Costanzo was detained on the warrant out of Farmington, held without bond, taken into Farmington police custody on June 8 and transported back to Farmington, where he was charged with home invasion, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first-degree larceny and first-degree burglary.

He is being held on a $1 million court-set bond and will return to Hartford Superior Court in July.

On May 1, detectives arrested Melendez, who was charged with second-degree hindering prosecution and second-degree false statement.

After posting his $75,000 court-set bond, he was released and is under electronic monitoring.

Police tracked the two down through cell phone records and they have DNA evidence linking Costanzo to the crime scene, according to court records. Costanzo placed a call during the home invasion, the victim told police.

The victim said that the arrests in the case have brought her some relief.

"I was really excited and I just want to make sure that it doesn't happen to anybody else but it always will," the victim said. "It always will. It was the scariest thing in my life."

Police said they are investigating and ask anyone with information about the case to call Farmington Police at 860-675-2400 or leave a message on the FPD tip line at 860-675-2483.

Photo Credit: Farmington Police

Group Boycotts Well Fargo Over Ad


Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's president and CEO announced that his organization has pulled his ministry’s bank accounts out of San Francisco-based Wells Fargo over the bank's recent ad featuring a lesbian couple adopting a deaf baby. 

Franklin Graham took to social media to call for a boycott of the bank and other gay-friendly companies. On Friday, he posted on Facebook that he was moving all the group's accounts out of Wells Fargo, and into another bank because of all the "moral decay" that is being "crammed down our throats."

He also took aim at Tiffany's, which has started advertising wedding rings for gay couples. And he urged Christians to boycott companies that promote homosexuality.

"This is one way we as Christians can speak out—we have the power of choice," he wrote. "Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards." He asked people to share his message if they agreed. As of Tuesday morning, the post had nearly 43,000 shares and 95,000 likes.

For its part, Wells Fargo is standing by its commercial, which liberal sites, like Huffington Post,  deemed "heartwarming." According to CNN Money, this ad made Wells Fargo the first American bank to showcase a homosexual relationship in a national campaign. Since it was published on YouTube on April 23, the video has been watched more than 1 million times, and countless people have seen it on TV.

There are no plans to kill the ad, or alter it in any way. In fact, most people like it, according to the bank.

"The coverage to date has been overwhelmingly positive," Valerie Williams, a Wells Fargo vice president and communications consultant told CNBC. "It exceeded our expectations. We weren't naïve in terms of what to anticipate in terms of response."

Rebecca Rolfe, executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Center, wasn't at all worried by the boycott. In fact, she called the move "desperate," proof that the same-sex movement is winning over the "hearts and minds" of the public, as well as gaining ground in political polls and the courts.

"I just see this as a last ditch effort to stir up a campaign of hate," she told NBC Bay Area. "I think the ad is great. Wells Fargo really understands its diverse customer base. The ad is a warm representation of family."

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Paralyzed NY Teen Walks Again


Seventeen-year-old Andrew Wykowski's entire life changed with one dive into the ocean while on vacation with his family in North Carolina last year.

The fun-loving athlete from Garden City, Long Island, jumped into the water and landed on his neck. A wave washed out, and his family found him laying in the water facedown. He wasn't moving.

"I said, 'Are you screwing around?'" his father Paul Wykowski recalled. "He goes, 'No. I can't feel anything.' My heart dropped."

Andrew had suffered a devastating injury to his spinal cord and was paralyzed.

Ten months later, he's not only walking, but he's also passing, catching and jumping, surprising even his own family. On Tuesday, Andrew and his parents were mulling plans to hit the pool as they walked through the city -- simple things they never thought possible to do together again.

The progress has come after months of hard work at Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Medical Center, where Andrew has been going to therapy three hours a days for the last several months.

"The stars really aligned for him, and we feel like it really was a miraculous team effort with his family and all of us here that got him up and walking," said Dr. Joe Taravella at Rusk Rehabilitation.

A big part of Andrew's rehab is a high tech machine called the Locomat.

"It's really cool. The way it moves your legs it really helps you relearn how to walk," said Andrew.

The team at Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Medical Center calls Andrew an inspiration. Watching him move keeps the team motivated as Rusk celebrates its 65th anniversary this week.

"You can't give up. You have to keep going," Andrew said. "You have to think and keep going so you can continue to make progress."

With family and friends in his corner, Andrew is pleased with where he's at but this teen is not satisfied to stop here.

"When I hit 100 percent, I'll be really excited, but right now I'm very happy with how far I've come and I still want to make progress," said Andrew.

Cheer Mom Pleads Guilty


A 42-year-old suburban Pennsylvania mother of three accused of having sex with a 17-year-old soccer player entered a guilty plea in a Montgomery County courtroom Tuesday.

Iris Gibney stood accused of corruption of a minor, dissemination of explicit materials to a minor and trespass by auto. Gibney admitted to corruption of a minor and sending the photos.

"I made a horrible decision and have been in therapy since it happened," a remorseful Gibney told the judge.

By pleading to the lesser charges she agreed to serve five years probation, continue to attend counseling and serve 100 hours community service. She must also pay a fine.

The charges stemmed from her November arrest where an Upper Pottsgrove Police officer allegedly found Gibney and a 17-year-old boy naked, having sex inside a car illegally parked in Hollenbach Park in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, after closing.

As the officer approached the car, he saw Gibney performing a sex act on the teen, according to an affidavit of probable cause obtained from police.

The Pottsgrove High School student said he met Gibney at a high school football game, police said. She had been volunteering as a "cheer mom" for the cheerleading team that her daughter is a part of.

Confronted about the alleged affair, the teen told the officer he couldn't lie and admitted he was having sex with Gibney, according to police records.

Gibney, who works as an associate at Victoria's Secret in King of Prussia, told the officer, "I’ve never been in trouble before. I can't believe I did this. I have three children of my own — I am so, so sorry," according to the arrest report.

Further investigation revealed the married mother of three and the teen communicated through Twitter and a public chat room. Gibney then sent the boy several partially nude photos from her cellphone to his, police said.

As part of their investigation, police confiscated the boy's phone and found the sexts from the Pottstown woman, investigators said.

As part of the plea deal, Gibney can't have contact with the boy.

Photo Credit: Montgomery County District Attorney's Office

Body Lay in Metro Station 4 Days


The body of a man who fell and died inside the Judiciary Square Metro station in Washington, D.C., lay in the station for four days, the man's family claims in a $25 million lawsuit against Metro.

Okiemute Whiteru, 35, died in October 2013. His family said in a recently filed wrongful death lawsuit that Metro should have done more to save the life of the lawyer, who lived in Navy Yard.

According to the lawsuit, Whiteru was ascending an escalator in the Judiciary Square Metro station early the morning of Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 when he lost his balance and fell a short distance onto the train platform.

As he was "attempting to collect himself," he fell again about 8 feet, over a short wall near the edge of the platform, the lawsuit says.

Whiteru's family claims Metro employees saw the accident and that it was captured by surveillance cameras. The body was discovered four days later, on Wednesday, October 23, as News4 reported.

When a Metro station manager is ready to close the station, the manager is charged with walking through the station and making sure everyone is out. Complicating discovery of the body, one entrance of the Judiciary Square station is closed on weekends.

Metro said it cannot comment on the ongoing case. The lawyer for the man's family did not respond to a request for comment.

Metro rider Patrick Cronin said he was stunned by the lawsuit.

"I'm just surprised it took that long. It's a tragedy," he said.

"It's sad, number one, and, number two, I think there needs to be accountability, and, number three, what can they do to make things better for the future?" said Metro rider Greg Crawford.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington

Mixed Decision in Ezell Ford Case


One Los Angeles police officer involved in the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford in South Los Angeles violated department policy, but the other was justified in firing his weapon, the city Police Commission decided Tuesday.

The decision came during a heated Police Commission meeting at which protesters sang and chanted, demanding action against two Los Angeles police officers and the police chief.

Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed mixed emotions during a press conference after the announcement by the Police Commission.

"My heart goes out to the Ford family for the loss of Ezell,"  he said. "We have a system that can work. Every life matters, but due process matters as well. Nobody is above the law. Everyone can make mistakes.

"The system worked the way it was supposed to. We feel for the Ford family."

Ford, 25, was fatally shot by police Aug. 11 near 65th Street and Broadway. Police said the officers approached Ford, who lunged at one of them and began grabbing for his weapon.

Police Chief Charlie Beck and the department's independent watchdog, Inspector General Alex Bustamante, each concluded that the officers were justified in their actions, although Bustamante faulted the tactics used by one of the officers.

The Police Commission, which has the final say on whether the officers acted properly, met behind closed doors for more than three hours reviewing the investigations, and concluded that some of the officers' actions were within department policy and some were not.

When it came to the actual shooting, the commission decided unanimously that one officer violated department policy, while the other did not, commission president Steve Soboroff said.

"This is a tragedy for all involved, the family, relatives, loved ones and friends of Mr. Ford, as well as the involved police officers," Soboroff said. "To the Ford family, my fellow Police Commissioners and I extend our sincere sympathies for your profound loss."

The commission did not specify which officer was found to have violated policy. The officers involved in the shooting were previously identified as Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas.

Beck will now decide what discipline the one officer will face.

The chief issued a statement Tuesday night.

"The men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department conduct over one million enforcement contacts every year. They do an incredible job in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable," the statement read in part. "Every day I see heroic and selfless actions that bring credit to this City and its Police Department. Occasionally officers are called upon to use force. When that happens those actions are exhaustively reviewed in order to enforce standards and improve training."

He ended the written statement by saying that he respects the process and the commission's findings.

The shooting sparked months of protests and calls by community activists for a swift and transparent investigation. Loud protests at Tuesday's meeting led commission members to walk out of the room during the public hearing and comments period, which included statements from Ford's mother and lasted nearly three hours.

At one point, people in the audience chanted, "Ezell Ford's life matters!" Later, the crowd chanted, "They think it's a game, they think it's a joke." The group later broke into chants of "No justice, no peace," "Shame on you" and "Black lives, they matter."

With the chants continuing and drowning out the meeting, the commissioners walked out of the room. Audience members were urged to calm down so the meeting could continue.

Protesters who camped out for two nights outside the mayor's residence demanded that Tuesday's commission discussion be in public and not in closed session.

The board, comprised of five civilian members, sets overall department policy. Each Tuesday meeting includes a public comment period during which participants can speak for up to two minutes.

Ford's mother addressed the board before walking out of the meeting room.

"I'm begging you, please, please. My son would never grab for no gun," said a sobbing Tritobia Ford. "He wanted to live. That's all he wanted to do was live.

"He walked the streets. I didn't want him to walk the streets around there because I know it was unsafe. That was his right. And he didn't deserve  to die for it. And that's all I have to say. Please, please, I have faith in  you yet."

Ford said her son had been "stopped many times by police before and he lived."

"The officers did the right thing," she said. "These officers  did wrong. His history, Ezell has been stopped and he complies, he's respectful. I taught my son to be respectful, all of my children. As well, I respect the police."

One man stood before the commission and tossed handfuls of speaker cards, saying they represented people who had been killed by police. The man was later detained and removed from the hearing room.

A woman told the commission, "You know what you can do for us? You can  arrest the police who behave as criminals, that's what you can do."

One activist was arrested outside the building on suspicion of interfering with police. The individual refused to enter one of the meeting rooms set up in the building and was running in the hallway, according to police.

When asked to leave the building, he refused and was taken into custody, police said.

After the ruling, the Los Angeles Police Protective League released a statement saying in part: "We are extremely disappointed in the findings of the Police Commission. Unfortunately they allowed the protesters and external political influences to impact their judgment, resulting in a determination that was purely political and self-serving. We believe the Commission's decision was irresponsible and reckless and was solely made to avoid civil unrest."

NBC4's John Cádiz Klemack, Jason Kandel, Willian Avila and City News Service contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV

Ex-School Van Driver Arrested on DUI Charge Again


A school van driver who was charged with driving while under the influence of drugs after crashing a van full of children into a utility pole last September has been arrested again, accused of driving her two young grandchildren while she was under the influence, according to police.

Police identified the woman as Catherine Caron, 53, of Baltic, and said the smell of alcohol was emanating from her breath as she spoke to police. She was held in custody and arraigned in Danielson Superior Court on Tuesday.

Willimantic police responded to the Chucky’s gas station on Jackson Street at 8:37 p.m. on Monday to investigate several 911 calls about a possible drunken driver leaving the store with two small children. ages 4 and 6, in her red Chevrolet Prism, police said.

Surveillance footage from the gas station shows Caron walk into the store with her two grandchildren around 8:30 p.m. on Monday. Then she spoke briefly to the clerk and left the establishment.

"There were several people that were grossly concerned about this woman’s demeanor within the store," Cpl. S. Francis Parizo Jr. said.

When officers arrived, they heard a witness say, "Stop. You can't drive off with those kids. You are drunk," according to the arraignment report and affidavit. 

Then the witness positioned his purple pickup truck along the woman's bumper to keep her from leaving. Meanwhile a second witness was on the phone calling police.

"He actually pleaded with her at one point to please let me bring your children home. I’ll bring him home," Parizo Jr. said. "Don’t drive with your children in the vehicle."

Caron also had a clear bag with several prescription pill medications that were not in their prescription containers, police said. The UConn Poison Control Center tested them and identified them as methadone and clonazepam. Police seized the pills.

Police also noticed alcohol on her breath and arrested her. She refused to take a breathalyzer test.

Caron was charged with operating with a suspended license; illegally obtaining or supplying drugs, fraud/conceal; possession of narcotics and two counts of risk of injury/impairing the morals of a child.

The children, identified as her grandkids, were turned over to a family member and the state Department of Children and Families was notified.

"This is a serious incident involving this DUI arrest with two small children in the vehicle.  We have the moral obligation as adults to live up to the expectations of our children.  Having said this, society expects and demands that we protect our children,"   Parizo, Jr. said in a statement.

On Nov. 6, Caron was arrested in Willimantic and charged with driving under the influence, possession of a controlled substance and risk of injury in connection with a crash in September. 

Caron was driving a school van for the regional education service center EASTCONN when she crashed into a pole in the area of 90 Quarry Street on Sept. 10, 2014, according to police.

Four children between the ages of 8 and 15 were in the van and all four were treated at Windham Hospital.

Following the crash, Caron was placed on paid administrative leave and later fired, according to EASTCONN.

She pleaded not guilty to those charges and is due back in court on June 16.

Her charges were read to her at Danielson Superior Court on Tuesday and her bond was set at $25,000 in this case.

Her next scheduled court date is June 24.

Photo Credit: Willimantic Police

Storms Knock Out Power to Thousands


A slow-moving cold front brought showers and thunderstorms to the state late afternoon Tuesday into the evening, causing some power outages, but much-improved weather is moving in.

The severe storm threats are over and a few lingering showers are possible into the evening.

At one point Tuesday, more than 2,000 Eversource customers in Meriden were without power, but that number had dropped to 1 by 6:34 p.m., according to the power company's outage map. There are 169 outages reported in Andover and some scattered ones elsewhere, amounting to 431 Eversource customers affected in total, as of 6:34 p.m.

Our Avon Mountain sky camera captured footage of some intense dark clouds swirling over the Farmington Valley, which almost looks like a small rotation. First Alert Meteorologist Monica Cryan said that is a result of some clouds getting stuck under the rest during an updraft.

There were briefly severe thunderstorm warnings in Litchfield and Hartford Counties and thunderstorm watches elsewhere that have expired.

The clouds move out Tuesday night, as the humidity vanishes and temperatures fall back into the upper-50s and lower-60s.

Wednesday looks splendid, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures well into the 80s. Smoke from Canadian wildfires could obscure the sun, especially south, but that isn’t a definite.

Another cold front brings showers and storms Thursday, some of which could be strong to severe once again. It will be humid with temperatures well into the 80s.

Friday looks like a great finish to the work week with lots of sun, but it turns unsettled once again on Saturday. It certainly looks like an up-and-down weather pattern.

It certainly looks like an up-and-down weather pattern.

If you spot severe weather, send photos to shareit@nbcconnecticut.com or upload them here.

Stay with the NBC Connecticut First Alert weather team for the very latest forecast on-air, online and on the app

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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